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"The Emperor's Plague": Book 10 in the Young Jedi Knights series

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chapter 1:

Jaina is released from the bacta tank where she has been recovering from her injuries on the dayside of Ryloth. Zekk meets her there. Lusa has been here and so have her parents and Master Skywalker.

Tenel Ka and Jacen end their turns in the tank, too. Jacen quips he’s glad they’re all bacta normal. Tenal Ka goes to visit her parents, Isolder and Teneniel Djo, who have arrived from Hapes. Her grandmother already has her spies at work uncovering information about the Diversity Alliance.

Lowie and Sirra go to visit Chewbacca while the twins return to their home to spend time with their parents and brother. This leaves Zekk alone to work on the Lightning Rod. He is surprised by the arrival of his old friend, Peckhum.

Aryn Dro Thul has come out of hiding to visit her son at Bornaryn headquarters. She asks what he knows. He explains that Nolaa Tarkona has formed a political organization called the Diversity Alliance that was intended to right the wrongs inflicted on non-humans in the past. Instead, she is focused on punishing humans.

A trader named Fonterrat found a cache of a virus that was designed specifically to kill humans. He gave two samples to Tarkona to prove what he had. He would only give her the location of the cache through an intermediary. Tarkona arranged for Bornan Thul to be the intermediary, sending a time-locked credit case with him. In exchange, Bornan received the navicomputer from Fonterrat’s ship with the location of the cache programmed into it. Fonterrat must have told Bornan what it was because he never met Nolaa Tarkona at the trade conference to give it to her.

She put out the bounty on him, but had the last laugh on Fonterrat who unknowingly carried his payment, tainted with one of the samples of the virus, to the all-human colony of Gammalin which was soon wiped out. Unfortunately for him, he was locked up by the colonists when they realized what happened and died when no one was left to care for him.

There’s already been an attack on Lusa at Yavin IV by someone wearing a New Republic uniform. They cannot be certain the Diversity Alliance does not have spies within the government.

If Nolaa Tarkona gets that virus, she will use it to kill all humans.

At the Solo house, See-Threepio serves nerf sausages that Han declares just like the ones Dewlanna used to make. The twins are surprised to learn that they will be speaking to the New Republic Senate tomorrow.
  • Dewlanna was the female Wookiee who took Han under her wings when he was young. She appeared in The Paradise Snare.
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chapter 2:

The Senate chambers are packed the next day. After they give their testimonies, however, the young Jedi are disappointed at the tone the proceedings take. Many senators accuse them of interfering with the government of Ryloth, especially since they went there unannounced and uninvited.

They were subject to the laws of Ryloth. They may have been forced to work in the mines, but it appears to have only been for a few days and weren’t denied food, water or sleep.

Ambassador Cilghal suggests that, if the government of Ryloth and the Diversity Alliance are peaceful, then they should not object to a diplomatic inspection. She thinks this fact-finding mission could work to dispel concerns about the troubling accusations against them.

She suggests a multi-species delegation visit the planet.
  • Cilghal was one of Luke’s first students at the academy.
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chapter 3:

Raynar agrees to accompany Zekk to try to persuade his father to return to Corsucant. He refuse to let anyone else come along with them. He and Raynar have to go, but the others will just be put in danger needlessly.

Jaina points out that Luke, Sirra and Lusa are in danger for accompanying the delegation to Ryloth. They will all be in danger if the plague gets loose.

Zekk tells her that he endangered her life too often while working for the Shadow Academy. He will do what he can to save Bornan Thul, but he may have to destroy the ship to keep the plague from getting out. If that happens, he and Raynar could die.

Zekk and Raynar leave together. Along the way, Zekk shows him how to operate some of the ship’s systems. Raynar tells him they must make it back because he promised Lusa. And, of course, Jaina can’t stay out of trouble too long.

They follow the trace to Bornan Thul’s ship to find that two vessels have already found it. Slave IV is one of them.

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chapter 4:

Under fire from Boba Fett and another bounty hunter named Shakra, Bornan Thul decides to take his chances with Zekk. When he hears his son’s voice, he decides to destroy the ship and take an escape pod over to the Lightning Rod.

At least, he can destroy the location of the storehouse where the plagues developed by Evir Derricote are housed.

He’s about to climb into the pod when he notices someone is slicing into his computer. He’d hoped to destroy the evidence first.

Slave IV goes after the escape pod as Shakra boards the empty ship in the hopes of stealing information. She realizes too late that the ship is set to self-destruct and cannot back to her own vessel in time.

Zekk flies toward the escape pod, locks onto it with a tractor beam and pulls it to safety. Fett fires on the Rod which knocks out the shields. Then the Rock Dragon arrives and fires on Slave IV.

Fett vanishes into hyperspace as Raynar goes to the lifepod to be reunited with his father.

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chapter 5:

As the Lightning Rod docks with Rock Dragon, Raynar opens the pod to find a blaster at his chest.

The others reunite and go to find Raynar whose father has the blaster and fears his son is being held captive by the bounter hunter. When he’s assured that Raynar is not a prisoner, he admits he brought the navicomputer module with him.

He took it because someone was slicing into them while he was trying to escape. It was probably Boba Fett. However, even if he’d destroyed the system, Nolaa Tarkona would have kept searching for the supply depot so she could get the plague for herself.

He went there to try to destroy it, but couldn’t. He left in order to get supplies that would allow him to blow it up. This means the coordinates were in his own ship’s logs and Boba Fett has them now.
  • They worry that Fett will give the coordinates to Nolaa Tarkona, but there’s no indication that’s what the bounty is for. She put the bounty on Bornan Thul and the navicomputer return. There’s no evidence that she told what the information was on the navicomputer that she wanted. Why would Fett give that data to her? He wouldn’t know the importance of it.
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chapter 6:

Tarkona summons her closest aides, Rullak, Kambrea and Corrsk, and tells them that the New Republic delegation is coming. She urges themto make a stand here. They will eliminate the New Republic team and then declare Ryloth neutral.

Boba Fett arrives and explains that Thul got away with the navicomputer but he was able to get the coordinates that Tarkona wanted. He hands her a chip and confirms her business with him is concluded. She quickly dismisses him and he leaves.

She plans to go directly to the storehouse and take as many samples as they want. Kambrea will stay here to delay the inspectors. The slaves have to be removed from the mines and replaced with volunteers, the weapons have to be hidden and as much time as possible should be spent in the cliff cities.

Once she gets the plague samples, they won’t have to worry about humans again.
  • I would have thought that Tarkona would have declared Ryloth a neutral world already. After all, if it’s not a member of the New Republic, it doesn’t have to accept a delegation of inspectors, right?
  • And, as we’ve discussed, why Boba Fett knew what specifically Tarkona was looking for is a mystery. Perhaps, he put the pieces together like Zekk did.

chapter 7:

Even though they are supposed to bring Thul to Coruscant, it’s more important to destroy the storehouse first. New Republic reinforcements will have to meet them there.

They send an encrypted message to Bornaryn headquarters and make several hyperspace jumps to reach the hidden asteroid.
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chapter 8:

Leia Organa Solo wants to make it clear she will not tolerate political games. Armed escorts bring the delegation to Ryloth where the cities will be searched to see if there is evidence of any crimes.

Lusa is nervous, having escaped twice from the Diversity Alliance. Kur, denied the death he’d been expecting, is coming back with soldiers. Senator Trubor warns Luke that they had better find what they’re looking for; otherwise the Chief of State will look like she is judging the Diversity Alliance for what they believe in.

Luke agrees, but reminds him that the charges are severe enough that they must make sure they are not true.

Cilghal reminds Trubor that she will keep an open mind and hopes that he will, too.

Kambrea comes on the screen and explains Nolaa Tarkona is away and cannot stop her work to answer the lies of a few human children. Cilghal assures her that a crime is a crime and must be investigated, regardless of who the perpetrator or the victim is.

Kambrea greets them on the ground with her own team, none of which includes Twi’lek. She is brusque, accusing the Chief of State of singling the Diversity Alliance out and is insulted that they have included Lusa, Sirra and Kur in the landing party.

She accuses Lusa of incompetence, Sirra of sabotage and Kur of cowardice for not following his people’s custom of exiling themselves to the Bright Lands to die when they are defeated.

Luke explains that the delegation includes those they feel are necessary. He asks to be shown the areas they wish to see and they will make their own observations.

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chapter 9:

Aryn Dro Thul receives her husband’s coded message and contacts Leia Organa Solo. She explains that it appears they will need assistance because there is a risk of spies or saboteurs taking action. She doesn’t know who is helping Bornan, but has a feeling the young Jedi have caught up with him.

Leia agrees to send reinforcements under the command of her husband.
  • Leia refers to Han as General Solo. Is Han a general again? Or is this just honorific?

chapter 10:

In the storehouse, they walk through the storehouse containing Derricote’s viruses. Since it’s a weapons depot, they will use the munitions here to destroy the whole base.

Em Teedee breaks the code into the weapons facility where they find all the explosives they’ll need.
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chapter 11:

Nolaa Tarkona and her team lands on the asteroid and spreads out to find both the virus and the weapons that were stored here. Along the way, she spies the decomposing bodies of non-humans that Derricote had experimented on. Just another example of human cruelty.

Raaba orders the other ships in the armada to fall in line while sitting on the flagship. As they orbit the asteroid, she spots two ships that she knows are the Lightning Rod and the Rock Dragon.

She sends a transmission quickly to Nolaa Tarkona.

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chapter 12:

They plant explosives all over the place. Lowie thinks he should plant the ones closest to the virus so as not to endanger the humans here. The others are in enough danger with the munitions.

Inside, he finds a tube labeled as the Krytos virus. Obviously, there are more than just human-killing ones here. If Nolaa Tarkona gets her hands on these, she could force even non-human worlds to acknowledge her leadership.

Meanwhile, the others continue to set up detonations near weak points.
  • Wasn’t the Krytos virus engineered on Corsucant? Why would a sample of it be here? Did Isard know about this storehouse? If she did, I can’t imagine why she wouldn’t have used it.

chapter 13:

Jacen asks how many thermal detonators it takes to blow up an Imperial weapons dump. The answer, of course, is all of them.

They hear footsteps approaching and realize that someone is coming. It is Rullak leading several intruders. During the fight, Tenel Ka injures her ankle.

Jacen defends her with his lightsaber and they help her run down the corridor through a safety interlock before sealing it.

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chapter 14:

Lowie can sense he’s not in the room alone anymore. He is attacked by Corrsk who has brough a huge blaster. Em Teedee warns that they risk unelashing any of these viruses if they’re broken in a fight.

Knowing that Corrsk cannot be alone here, either, Lowie worries that Nolaa Tarkona is on the way. The two beings struggle together until Corrsk has him pinned down. Lowie bares his fangs and sinks them into Corrsk’s shoulder.

Then he bats his hands against Corrsk’s ears. Lowie breaks off and runs quickly to the door. Corrsk pulls his blaster and fires, causing bolts to ricochet all over the chamber but, thankfully, do not hit any canisters.

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chapter 15:

Luke is impressed with how nicely the Diversity Alliance has cleaned up. Kambrea shows them where slavers who’d once sold Twi’lek females are now imprisoned. The slave trade here has been halted.

In the mines, they find Twi’leks chipping away. Kambrea tells them that all who work here volunteer and are paid quite well. Senator Trubor is convinced there is nothing to worry about here, but Lusa insists they are hiding things.

Sirra asks to see the loading dock. They find crates with supplies of food and medicine intended for other worlds. Sirra pounds a crate open and it splits to reveal power packs and laser rifles.
  • For all the work they did to make it look like everything was above-board, it was really foolish not to replace the crates of weapons with real food and medicine. They knew Sirra had found the weapons before she left.
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chapter 16:

Tenel Ka rushes Jacen and Jaina to an intersection full of weak points and tells them to set explosives there. The Rock Dragon is only 100 meters away. They won’t be able to get out of here in time unless they do a full takeoff.

They’ll have to come back for Zekk and Lowie. After setting the detonations, they run until they enter the Dragon’s open hatch and take off.

They watch the explosion flare up and wait for the aftershocks. Then they find another dock to land on, only to see a group of ships heading for them.

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chapter 17:

Raaba brings her fleet around, determined not to disappoint her leader. She notices, however, that one of the human ships is gone. Raaba is torn.

She is glad the humans hadn’t died in the ryll mines but it has been hard to accept her lifelong friends would abandon her so easily for humans. She would have done the same for either of them.

Still, she cannot allow the Rock Dragon to interfere with the Diversity Alliance. She decides to disable the ship, not destroy it.

She is helpless to control the other ships, though. Nolaa Tarkona had ordered them to shoot to kill.

Rock Dragon moves to put the asteroid between it and the enemy ships, knowing they won’t fire on the asteroid while Tarkona is down there. They are rescued by the New Republic fleet which arrives with Jacen and Jaina’s father in command.

He tells them to get out of the line of fire. They warn him that Lowie, Zekk and Raynar are still down there.

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chapter 18:

Lowbacca is thrown to his knees when the shockwave hits and he finds himself without gravity. Corrsk pushes himself through an open door. At a dead end, Lowie ignites his lightsaber and deflects the bolts from Lowie’s saber.

Lowie tries not to kill Corrsk with the saber, but he doubts there will be any other end to it. He slams Corrsk into the wall and then gets pushed back himself. On the other side of a sealed pressure door, there is an open vacuum.

He severs an arm and Corrsk grabs his blaster with his other hand, reminding Lowie that he will regenerate anyway.

Em Teedee flies free and pushes buttons on the control panel, sending hot steam into the Trandoshan. Lowie pushes himself off the floor and heads to the control panel himself. Just as Corrsk reaches the blaster, the doors open and he is sucked into space.

Lowie grabs Em Teedee and shuts the door. He feels badly for having killed a sentient being, but the damage to the door is done. He cannot get back in to finish his job.

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chapter 19:

The station rocks and Zekk and Raynar wonder if something’s gone wrong. They go to find Lowie and run into a Gamorrean Guard instead. Bornan thinks quickly and grabs the blaster away from the being before it can react and shoots it.

The Diversity Alliance must be here already. They run to the plague chamber to find Nolaa Tarkona inside, disconnecting the explosives.

Her team had been outraged to find detonators everywhere. Nolaa is excited to find viruses for all kinds of species here. She can use the one to unite all non-human species at first, but she will likely encounter resistance from some. She decides to take samples of these other viruses, too.

chapter 20:

Lowie hotwires the door and gets back in, but he still has to find a way back into the plague station. Along the way, they are encountered by IG-88 who was sent to find Bornan Thul. Fortunately, the reprogramming has worked and the droid does not fire on them.

Em Teedee asks him to help them get past a barricade of doors separating them from the central chamber. IG-88 pulls the doors aside easily and moves with them to find Bornan.


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chapter 21:

Kambrea orders the guards to stop everyone. The tense guards bring their weapons up quickly, but the Gamorreans start firing without even aiming. The delegation jumps for cover as Luke Skywalker throws himself backward.

With sadness, he ignites his lightsaber, knowing that many of these guards have been manipulated into fighting for Tarkona. Cilghal has her saber, too. New Republic soldiers protect the Senator and Kur.

Luke urges the Diversity Alliance guards to surrender. Kambrea tells them that the humans will destroy them all if they do. She orders them to go after Sirra and Lusa who are traitors.

Luke and Cilghal protect them as they can. The untrained Lusa uses the Force to bring down crates on Kambrea, but too many fall and she is killed underneath them. The Diversity Alliance soldiers begin to fire in retaliation. Senator Trubor steps out and tries to surrender but is killed by Gamorreans.

Finally, Kur steps out and tells everyone to cease fire. He chastises aliens for killing aliens when the Diversity Alliance is supposed to build trust among species. It’s time to stop trying to place blame for the injustices of the past and work together on a future as equals.

Those guards who are merely idealistic aliens fighting for what they believe in toss down their weapons and join Kur.

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chapter 22:

In space, Raaba has few successes. She tries to contact Nolaa Tarkona on the asteroid base but there is no answer. Raaba doesn’t understand what all this fighting is for. People on both sides are dying so she decides she will go down and find Tarkona herself.

Leaving the tactical officer in charge, she leaves the bridge and heads to the Rising Star.

chapter 23:

Bornan Thul believes that either Lowie is dead or unable to finish the job. He is going in to destroy the plague chamber. Raynar tells him not to get himself killed. Bornan hopes he doesn’t but he has to seal the door behind him to make sure no plague gets out.

Hearing the door open and shut, Tarkona sends Rullak after the intruder. Thul scatters among the rows of cylinders, hoping for a shot at Tarkona. The Diversity Alliance will fall apart without her.

Rullak confronts him and they struggle. A blaster shot goes awry and breaks several canisters. Tarkona yells to stop firing lest he let lose contaminents that will kill them all.

Bornan’s breath feels hot in his lungs. He’d dodged the spray of virus that emerged from the broken canister but some droplets hit him. He lurches to Tarkona, realizing he has no blaster on him. Thul grabs a cylinder for support and sees his son watching him with despair.

IG-88 rips the sealed door of the central chamber and spots his quarry, Bornan Thul, struggling inside the plague station. He heads toward the wall and Lowie leaps on him. Zekk shouts that he cannot breach the chamber or the corridors will be flooded with the plague.

IG-88 does not listen. He hammers on the wall repeatedly to break it open.

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chapter 24:

Raynar is helpless to do anything for his dying father. He hears Zekk yelling for IG-88 to step. Bornan staggers to the wall, hits the two-way intercom and tells his son to leave now. He is not going to make it. He’s proud of Raynar and leave stopping Nolaa Tarkona to him.

Zekk yells that IG-88 is programmed to save Bornan. If he breaks down that wall, the contaminant will spread to everyone else. Bornan tells the droid to save his son. IG-88 clanks over and grabs Raynar, dragging him away from the chamber.

Zekk leads the way to their ship. When they reach it, the droid spins around and goes back where he came as he cannot escape his primary programming to try to free Bornan Thul.

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chapter 25:

Raaba lands on the asteroid and walks through the tunnels until she finds a sealed doorway. Noola Tarkona exits a chamber and is happy to see Raaba. She explains that Rullak is dead and so is Bornan Thul.

Raaba wonders how this happened, but cannot think when blaster bolts zing past her. She sees the assassin droid is back. Nolaa Tarkona fires at it, but Rabaa will not let her leader face danger. She pulls her own blaster out and pushes Tarkona behind her.

Firing as she moves both of them into a tunnel, she is surprised to hear the aggressive fire stopping. The droid moves into the plague chamber.

Not understanding what it’s doing, Raaba leads Nolaa down the corridors and explains how the New Republic fleet had arrived. They make contact with their armada and prepare to board the Rising Star.


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chapter 26:

Han is surprised when the Diversity Alliance fleet presses an attack. The Rock Dragon flies close to the Millennium Falcon, harrying the enemy where it can, when another group of ships arrived.

It is the Bornaryn fleet.

Jaina docks the Rock Dragon on the asteroid and comms Lowie. Em Teedee explains that several plagues have been unleashed and she shouldn’t try to come inside. Lowie wants them to save themselves.

Zekk leads Lowie and Raynar back to the Lightning Rod. Diversity Alliance soldiers still here start firing on them. Zekk fights back, wondering what his life is going to mean. He’d tried to go home to Ennth. He’d tried a new career, but being a bounty hunter would force him to stop caring about the people he has to hunt.

Then Boba Fett shows up. The Diversity Alliance soldiers stop firing in order to let Tarkona’s hired gun do the job. Zekk fears those weapons more than any others as Fett aims his blasters at him. Then the bounty hunter whirls around and takes down guard after guard.

Raynar is stunned. He thought Fett was working for Tarkona. Fett tells him that he gave Tarkona what she wanted. The location of the depot. His work for her is finished.

Zekk asks what made him come back and fight against her. Fett tells him that Tyko Thul hired him to bring Raynar and his father back safely.

Raynar tells him that his father is dead of the plague. Fett shrugs it off and says that he will complete his mission. He offers to cover their retreat.

Zekk asks if it doesn’t bother him to fight against a former employer. Fett tells him that he doesn’t judge between right or wrong. He just does his job. Zekk knows now that the life of a bounty hunter is not for him.
  • See? Here Fett says specifically that Nolaa Tarkona wanted the location of the weapons depot. I still have a hard time believing her bounty was that detailed.
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chapter 27:

Raaba throws her engines into reverse and moves the ship off the asteroid. Nolaa Tarkona coughs and writhes, but insists that they get back to the armada to relish in their victory.

Raaba realizes Tarkona has been exposed to one of the plagues in the depot. She asks how many plagues were released there. Tarkona doesn’t know for sure. Many were destroyed, but she has the one that matters.

Raaba sucks in a breath and coughs herself. She realizes that Nolaa must have been exposed to an alien-targeting plague. One that targets Quarren and, maybe even Wookiees. Raaba might have exposed herself by even going in the chamber.

Getting the message from Em Teedee, Jacen, Jaina and Tenel Ka throw themselves into the Rock Dragon and take off. They run into the Rising Star in orbit.

Nolaa Tarkona urges Raaba to fire on them. Raaba asks if she doesn’t realize how many have died already today. When Jacen Solo comms Raaba and asks if she needs help, inviting her aboard, Tarkona hisses to Raaba to accept the offer. They can begin spreading the virus with the Jedi.

Raaba makes her decision, speeds up the Rising Star and jumps to hyperspace.

Meanwhile, with all hands off the supply depot, the New Republic fleet destroys it.

Boba Fett watches from Slave IV and muses about how people devote themselves to causes. It’s a waste of energy and so unprofitable.

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chapter 28:

Raynar doesn’t know how he’ll tell his mother that his father is dead. He meets her and his uncle Tyko at the Tradewyn. He can tell she already knows. Both she and Tyko are wearing their sashes about their left arms.

They embrace Raynar and tell him how proud they are of him. They promise to return him to the Yavin IV school soon. After a Ceremony of Waters to celebrate his father.

Kur has been appointed head of Ryloth and sends two representatives to Coruscant. Jacen, Jaina and their friends spend time welcoming delegates themselves, interviewing former members of the Diversity Alliance and finding out why they joined.

A Cooperative Council has been formed to work for the betterment of all species. After many weeks, the students finally return to Yavin IV.

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chapter 29:

Lowie waits and stares into the starry night, hoping Raaba will return.

Master Skywalker tells Raynar to go ahead. The young man ignites his own lightsaber built by his hands. He is told that Lusa has decided to stay and work on her own abilities. The two of them decide to go for a walk.

On a small planet, Raaba built a cairn for Nolaa Tarkona who died of the plague the day before. Nolaa had grown worse each day, demanding she be taken to Coruscant to get medical care. Raaba could not do that and risk others being infected. The disease had obviously crossed the boundaries of many species.

She had feared dying herself, but had somehow overcome the disease. She doesn’t know if she is a carrier, though. Or her ship. She will have to stay here and wait.

Someday, she will return to Lowie.

Zekk asks Luke to teach him the truth of the Force.

The friends congregate together, telling stories and reminding each other of their past adventures. Jacen wonders what the future will bring and Tenel Ka surprises him by kissing him.

Zekk decides that he doesn’t know about his future, but he’s looking forward to it.

End of Book 10

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