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Dark Tide II: "Ruin"

chapter discussion thread

36 replies to this topic

#1
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 1:
 
 
Facing the worlds of Dubrillion and Destrillion, the Yuuzhan Vong warrior, Shedao Shai, allows himself a moment of conceit as Yun-Yammka as promised them this galaxy as their home.
 
The Vong had traveled in great worldships seeking this home.  Over 50 years ago, scouts had located this place and the survivors had brought their report back to the Supreme Overlord.  Agents infiltrated it and brought back data while a whole generation was trained to cleanse it of infidels.
 
Here at Dubrillion, Nom Anor, of the intendant class, had conspired to usurp the warrior caste.  He launched a premature attack which was repulsed by the New Republic.  Shai had been forced to shift his assaults to worlds where they were driven off so that their conquest would be complete.
 
The Chazrach are the reptoid slave class used by the Vong as soldiers.  Shai looks through the memories of one of them to view the battle to pacify Dubrillion.  There were many things to be learned from the way the infidels fight.
 
Most intriguing are the jeedai who claim to have mastery over life but use mechanical lightsabers to inflict death.  Two of them had interrupted the quest to retrieve the bones of Shai’s grandfather who had been a scout on an early mission to these worlds and had died there. 
 
He takes solace in the Embrace of Pain to bring reality to him.  The infidels try to protect themselves from it, that’s why they are an abomination. 
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#2
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 2:
 
After watching Corran Horn and Mara Jade Skywalker spar with lightsabers and then debate the wisdom of some kinds of strategy, Luke greets Kyp Durron who informs him his people are here for the council of war.
 
Luke reminds him Jedi do not go to war, they are protectors.  Kyp dismisses it as an issue of semantics.  The Vong are here and intend to conquer the galaxy.  He points out how defending Dantooine failed while attacking on Bimmiel worked.
 
Luke tells him he will meet with them tomorrow and Kyp quickly leaves.  Corran and Mara debate the best use of telekinesis to kill a man. Luke reminds them that Kyp and the younger Jedi grew up thinking that the best way to battle evil was the way Luke did.  They should know better, but the Vong having no Force presences makes that difficult.
 
The fact that Anakin was able to kill several of them on Dantooine just encourages some of the others to underestimate the enemy.  Luke argues that he serves the Force whether his enemies are part of it or not.
 
He believes they should be confined to evacuations and coordinate defensive positions.  Scouting missions are possible but he has fewer than a hundred Jedi.  It’s hard to decide where to send them.
 
Unfortunately, they’ll be criticized regardless of what they do.
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#3
Jedi Cool

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chapter 3:
 
Jacen Solo should feel at home on Coruscant, but the truth is that he spent a lot of his childhood traveling with his family and the last few years at the Jedi Academy.  Anakin is watching speeder traffic, immersed in his own thoughts.  Jaina bubbles with excitement about her posting with Rogue Squadron.
 
She tells him how she is using the Force to weed out candidates that don’t react well to the Yuuzhan Vong combat data.  Wedge and Tycho seem to be able to do the same thing without the Force, though.
 
Jacen points out that experience can help anyone learn from mistakes and not repeat them.  Anakin tells them that it’s a good thing some mistakes can’t be repeated.  They get on him about taking responsibility for Chewbacca’s death. 
 
Anakin knows that he’s not at fault, but can’t help but feel that he could have done something to save him.
 
Jacen reminds him that he was able to save Mara on Dantooine.  Anakin reminds Jacen that he and Luke saved them at the end. 
 
They are interrupted by the appearance of their father who looks tired and unkempt.  He offers them drinks which they don’t accept.  Jaina asks what the urgent message was.  He tells them that he was unnerved by Chewie’s death because it made him think of everyone he could lose.  He’s not used to being afraid. 
 
They try to assure him that they understand, but he’s already shut them out again.
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#4
Jedi Cool

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chapter 4:
 
Leia Organa Solo gives her report.  There is nothing coming in from Belkadan, Bimmiel, Dantooine or Sernpidal.  This is not surprising. Some data is being received from Dubrillion but that won’t last.  It’s thought that the Vong will be using it as a headquarters.  Garqi is under their control, too.
 
Admiral Kre’fey explains that reports of slaves and some collaborators being used as the main attack force are coming in.  Chief of State Borsk Fey’lya comments that some will always flock to the strongest force around.  That was something they encountered under the Empire, too.
 
Leia reminds him the Vong are worse.
 
Before another argument erupts, Elegos A’Kla points out that General Antilles seems to have a lot of material to go over.  Wedge doesn’t understand why Sernpidal was destroyed by its moon. 
 
Fey’lya thinks it was just a message in the same way Alderaan was.
 
Wedge argues that it doesn’t make sense considering the amount of resources required to grow the creature used.  Analyzing their ships and weapons, they’ve determined none of them have the type of power that would be required to do such a thing.  That type of power cannot be easy to create, otherwise their ships would be more powerful than they are.
 
Since the creature died, it indicates that the Vong never intended to recover it which leads him to believe there’s something else going on. Kre’fey points out that the Vong may not think the same way. 
 
Leia believes that expanding their view of the Vong is important, however, it would seem that they do need the resources of the worlds they’ve seized.  Fey’lya admits that there is value in learning more, but he would prefer to contain them right now.
 
Kre’fey tells him the New Republic is staging from Agamar and sending out to patrols to get refugees.  However, it’s nearly impossible to intercept Vong forces and drive them back because of the time it would take to hit any number of worlds.  For this reason, they are organizing defenses on worlds they are likely to hit in the hopes of driving them back while they are transitioning from space to surface.
 
Wedge points out that this brings them back to not knowing enough about their enemy to know what they want.  Leia thinks they can set up operations for Jedi to find out more. 
 
Fey’lya will not allow the Jedi to be involved.  He knows they were instrumental in saving the refugees on Dantooine, but those who are opposed to the Jedi will read that they were ineffective in every other way.  He tells her people don’t respect the Jedi.  Fey’lya points to the inability to free the enslaved peoples, the genetic-tampering on Bimmiel and the ineffectiveness of the Force against the Vong all lead to a lack of confidence in them.
 
The New Republic will have to organize its own operations.  Fey’lya cannot stop the Jedi from acting on their own, but any actions by the Order will not be sanctioned by him.  Leia asks if her mission to Bastion is out now.  He assures her that he will endorse any attempt to enlist the help of the Imperial Remnant.
 
She knows that he comes out ahead regardless of how this mission turns out.  She’s also unhappy that Elegos will not be coming with her. The senator explains that all of their discussions fall back on the same problem:  no one knows that the Vong want.  He is going to Dubrillion to ask them.
 
Leia and Kre’fey do not believe this is a good idea.  After all, they tried communicating with the Vong at Dubrillion and there was no response.  They may not understand the concept of truce and it’s already known that captives are not treated well.
 
He’s responsible for millions of lives and would like to see them spared.  If he succeeds, all will be saved. If not, then his fate won’t matter compared to what will come.
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#5
Jedi Cool

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chapter 5:
 
In the auditorium, Luke realizes that leaving the set-up to Kyp was a mistake.  Kyp, Ganner, Wurth and the Twi’lek Jedi, Daeshara’cor are sitting on one side.  The other side has Corran, Kam Solusar and a third chair that Luke thought Mara would take, but senses her watching from the shadows instead.
 
There is a podium in the center that Kyp indicates Luke should take, but Luke prefers to stand, facing the auditorium and the Jedi gathered there watching the stage.  Once he’s welcomed the 60 spectators, Luke sits on the floor.  Corran and Kam join him which then pressures the other four to do the same.
 
He explains that the set-up seems too much like a council of war.  The Jedi are meant to protect and defend, but the difference between protectors and warriors is how one avoids the temptations of the Dark Side.
 
Kyp’s faction wants to use proactively defensive tactics, but Luke points out that they cannot do that until the Vong’s focus becomes specific.  The Jedi do need to be on the front so they can react when danger is detected.
 
In a way, Luke himself has set up a wrong impression of the Jedi because he emerged from the Rebellion a hero painted as a warrior that subsequent missions did little to change.  People learned to call on a Jedi because the service was free and because collateral damage was something one tried to avoid.
 
Daeshara’cor reminds him that a lot about the Jedi was lost during the Imperial era, but even Tionne’s ballads of the ancient Jedi shows a warrior tradition that carried through to Luke himself.
 
Kam tells her that the history they do have doesn’t make the gaps whole.  Just because they know of martial battles doesn’t mean the entire history of the Jedi was focused on war.  Besides, Miko died fighting the Vong and Kyp almost did because they engaged in a fight without knowing what they were dealing with.
 
Luke also points out that the New Republic is not going to sanction any Jedi operations.  Kyp is outraged and Octa Ramis points out they’re better off without government interference if that’s their way of thinking.   Luke agrees that it’s easier this way, even without government resources.  In the past, the Jedi were tossed at a problem and expected to solve it.
 
While this is inconvenient, they can take heart that the New Republic military is sympathetic to them.  And taking care of refugees will free up the military forces to do other things.
 
Otherwise, there are no other active missions save Corran who is going to Garqi because he’s been recalled to active duty.  He will be leading six Noghri commandos and two civilian observers to study the Vong, coordinate with resistance movements and get people off the planet.
 
Corran would like Ganner and Jacen to be the civilian observers.  Luke is preparing assignments for the others now.  He knows that they may not like what they are going to be doing, but the tasks are important. 
 
Daeshara’cor still doesn’t think this is the right course of action.  She feels that the Yuuzhan Vong will be on Coruscant.  If the Jedi act, that won’t happen.  Luke warns her that such a course of action could produce an army of Darth Vaders instead which should be more frightening than the Vong.
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  • First appearance of Daeshara’cor.
  • I know Luke does not want his Jedi acting aggressively and I do realize that the Clone Wars may not be the best example of this, but we do know that the Jedi led armies during the war and not all of them became Sith Lords.  I do question his belief that going on the offense will lead to the Jedi Order becoming corrupt.


#6
Jedi Cool

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chapter 6:
 
On the Ralroost, Jaina finds Jacen in the meditation room.  He tells her that he is overwhelmed by what they are facing.  The Vong are a bigger threat than the Empire.  She points out that they’ve always had the Force on their side.  Now they have to muddle through like everyone else.
 
Fortunately, she has good examples.  The Rogues are used to doing things the hard way.  She’s one pilot in a squadron and cannot think beyond that.  He wonders how she cannot feel burdened with carrying the traditions of Rogue Squadron.
 
Jaina wonders why all this is bothering him now.  He’s always looked beyond.  Even after being injured on Belkadan, he wasn’t concerned about his health but why his vision failed.  He’s still trying to find a way to become the ultimate Jedi.
 
Jacen asks if she never questions what they’ve been taught.  He doesn’t understand why she doesn’t want to push herself beyond.  She asks what constitutes beyond.  He isn’t sure.
 
Jaina surmises he’s looking for something that may not exist.  She does each job as it comes along.  He needs to fixate on this job coming up, not worry about the next one.  This mission will help him because he has two different Jedi to learn from.  She wants him to give himself a chance.
 
In the galley, Corran comes in to get a drink and speaks with Jaina about her Rogue experience.  Jacen asks if he prefers to be in the military as opposed to being a Jedi.  Corran assures him he is still a Jedi in this uniform.  This way allows him to do what needs to be done.
 
Jacen assures him he’s examined his equipment and studied Garqi so he will be prepared.  Corran warns him this isn’t a game.  Jacen needs to be willing to follow orders and not go running off just because he thinks he knows what to do.
 
The mission requires them to be in and out before the Vong know they are there.  No heroics.  Corran cautions him to be prepared to deploy.  After he leaves, Jacen and Jaina talk about how they are playing by different rules now.
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#7
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chapter 7:
 
Aboard the shuttle Chandrila Moon, Leia, Danni and two Noghri bodygards, Olmahk and Basbakhan head toward Bastion.  They had arrived in the system aboard the Protector, captained by Aril Nunb, and were confronted by an Imperial Star Destroyer.  After Leia explained she had information for Grand Admiral Pellaeon, they allowed only one shuttle to enter the system.
 
Captain Nunb really feels this is an unreasonable request and puts Leia in enemy hands, but Leia remembers the risk that Elegos is taking. Danni is coming along to provide first-hand accounts of the Vong and they hope the Remnant will find her convincing.
 
Though there are economic disparities between the Remnant and the Republic, much of the political rhetoric has died down thanks to the Intelligence Exchange run by Talon Karrde.
 
She is met by Miat Temm aboard the Chimeara who takes her to Admiral Pellaeon.  Along the way, Leia realizes that Temm seems to be blocking her through the Force and wonders if Pellaeon’s enemies are aware of this level of protection.
 
Pellaeon admits that he had agents on Dubrillion and the ExGal station on Belkadan, so he knows there’s something going on.  She explains the Yuuzhan Vong and what they know about them so far.
 
Pellaeon understands that she’s here to ask for help.  She is honest about the problems within the New Republic and how they are dealing with some internal issues.  An invasion will bring people together but it may be too late by then.  When he asks about the Jedi, she admits that the Vong are resistant to Force powers.  The Jedi are doing what they cab, but there are not enough of them.
 
Pellaeon explains that his two aides, Colonel Harrack and Major Pressin, have warned him about military alliances with the New Republic which they believe will only try to conquer Imperial space. 
 
She points out that she would not have allowed her 16-year old daughter to join Rogue Squadron if the situation were not dire. 
 
Pellaeon tells her he is not unsympathetic, but he will have to review the data.  The New Republic may have rejected the Empire, but the Empire has not rejected them.
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  • Nice to know that the Karrde organization is still working out well.
  • We met Aril Nunb in X-Wing: Wedge’s Gamble.


#8
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chapter 8:
 
Luke has realized being a bureaucraft is much harder than saving the galaxy.  He reaches out to refresh himself through the Force after dealing with Jedi unhappy with their assignments.
 
Mara brings Anakin to him with a problem.  Anakin had been working on a way to assign up-to-date datafiles to Jedi who are being sent on missions.  Unfortunately, he’s found data regarding an information search that was deleted after being accessed.  Someone has gone into the library to search for information on Imperial superweapons.
 
Maar surmises that it could have been Octa Ramis who was involved with Miko Reglia to an extent.  It doesn’t make much sense to build a superweapon to use against the Vong, though.  It would take years but Maw Installation is gone and Luke can’t imagine someone destroying stars just to get rid of the Vong.
 
Octa is on her ship and headed to her assignment, but Daeshara’cor, who has been her teammate on several missions, seems to have slipped through the cracks.  She was going to Bimmisaari when her ship had a drive failure.  Ships are being sent to ferry the passengers onward, but they’ve found that there are no Twi’lek females listed on the passenger manifest.  They assume she altered some memories after boarding and left before it departed.
 
Luke has Artoo find out what ships left the docking within four hours of her assigned ships departure.
 
They head to the docking bay where Luke senses a cloaked man through the Force.  He thinks this man can help him.  Chalco admits he saw a Twi’lek female board a ship, but not get off.  However, he spotted her later and got aboard a ship called the Lucky Star II which was headed to Ord Mantell.
 
Luke recruits Chalco to come with him and help find the Jedi.  She grew up around docking bays and knows her way around.
 
As it happens, Luke isn’t convinced that she’s headed to Ord Mantell, but there is a world that would help here.  The world of Vortex.
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  • Leia and Admiral Ackbar visited Vortex in the JA trilogy.

 


#9
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chapter 9:
 
On Dubrillion, Shedaeo Shai prevents a human slave from killing him and sends him to the priests for inculcation.  He may not survive, but, if he does, embracing his insignificance is a first step toward being given a new purpose. 
 
He tells his aide, Deign Lian, that they cannot misjudge the New Republic. They fight oddly, despite the intelligence provided by Nom Anor. He’d attacked along the corridor that divided the Republic from the Imperial Remnant, yet neither government has retaliated. In the few engagements, thus far, the Republic has fought in rearguard actions.  Still, they are admirable and, on Datooine, proved they can fight well.
 
In the aquarium building on Dubrillion, Shai enters and introduces himself to the strange creature who allowed himself to be brought here. The creature calls himself Senator Elegos A’Kla of the New Republic. 
 
Shai is impressed that A’Kla respected their traditions by communicating with them through a villip, not a machine.  The senator explains he’s here to promote understanding between their peoples and hope that peace is possible. 
 
Shai doesn’t believe that the differences separating them would make peace possible.  He is, however, impressed, at Elegos’s devotion to the mission above the preservation of his life. He agrees to allow the senator to learn of the Yuuzhan Vong.  In return, he will learn of the peoples of this galaxy.  Shai will protect him, teach him and learn from him so they will understand each other.  Their first stop is the Embrace of Pain.
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#10
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chapter 10:
 
On the Lost Hope, Corran avoids touching anything so as not to interefere with the false traces of biomatter sprayed all over.  He heads to the main cargo hold and boards a small shuttlecraft where all six Noghri was waiting already. 
 
The Hope will leave here and head down before suffering engine failure.  It will break apart in Garqi’s atmosphere while the shuttlecraft, the Best Chance, will fly free. 
 
There is no hyperdrive on the Chance which will make extraction tricky, but they hope they won’t need a fast escape.
 
Rogue Squadron flies interference for the Lost Hope and intercepts ten skips coming their way.  Jaina and her wingmate, Anni Capston[, head to cover the Hope, destroying both skips following it.
 
Then Jaina spots the ship breaking part and falling toward the planet.
 
Jacen can feel his sister’s sense of shock and grief.  He wants to reach out to her and assure her he’s fine, but cannot.  He shuts down his presence in the Force.  No one knows how much the Vong can read via communications or emotional presences.  The Jedi may not be able to sense them through the Force, but that doesn’t mean the opposite is true.
 
He has to listen to the Ralroost recall the fighters and his sister tell them the freighter is in danger.  He also has to hear them tell her it broke up with no life signs.  Corran knows he feels badly about this but Jaina will be told the truth when she reboards the ship.
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#11
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chapter 11:
 
Mirax Horn flies Luke, Mara, Chalco, Anakin and Artoo to Vortex aboard the Pulsar Skate.  They have clearance to land, taking comfort in the knowledge that the Vors have put up a two-kilometer no-fly zone around the Cathedral of Winds.
 
Luke and Mara are going to the small spaceport to find out what kind of information Daeshcara’cor wanted.  She’s not here anymore. When they find out, they’ll need Chalco.
 
On the ground, they are greeted by Qwi Xux who came here because it was the only place where she could find peace.  She confirms Daeschara’cor came here to ask her about superweapons.  The Twi’lek had felt that the Emperor rarely had only one of anything produced. There were two Death Stars and two original Super Star Destroyers before the latter began being built regularly. Qwi doesn’t know of a second Suncrusher, but Daeshara’cor seemed to think it was possible that another Eye of Palpatine exists.
 
Qwi wasn’t able to help her because Kyp Durron had purged her memories from that time.  She still possesses her scientific foundations. She knows how she did what she did by reviewing files, but she will never produce another superweapon anyway.  Mara doesn’t understand this, especially in the face of an overwhelming opponent like the Vong.
 
Luke thinks it’s better that she has developed a principle against the weapons rather than being a tool for others.  He asks Mara if she thinks Palpatine would have built another Eye. She thinks it’s possible, but they‘ve got nowhere to start looking.
 
Qwi hopes they find it before someone uses it.
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  • I’m sure we remember Qwi Xux from the JA trilogy.

 


#12
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chapter 12:
 
Anakin watches Luke, Mara and Mirax take off in the landspeeder and hates being left behind.  Chalco decides to look around and won’t listen when Anakin reminds him of his instructions.
 
He points out that Luke may leave without him if he’s not here when they return and the Vors are wary of strangers.  He won’t have much luck getting off the planet.  Too many people think the Jedi are responsible for saving them from their own stupidity.
 
He thinks Chalco lives for today without thinking of the consequences.  He’s concerned about his image, the way many Jedi are now. Anakin asks if it wears on him the way it does on the Jedi.
 
Chalco admits that he gets tired of people pushing him.
 
Anakin adds that his father has had the same problem and the Jedi do, too.  People are either afraid of them or try to test the reputation. Chalco knows Han Solo and mentions how he seems off since the death of the Wookiee.
 
Anakin confesses that it’s been hard on his father having to get used to not having Chewie around.  He was like a rock.  Chalco reminds him that he still has his parents and uncle.  Anakin points out that even Chalco has seen how distant his father is and his mother and uncle are busy with other things.
 
Admiral Pellaeon addresses the Moff Council.  Moff Crowal of Valc VII is farthest from the Vong threat and urges Pellaeon to defend their own worlds.  Moff Flennic thinks that should allow the Republic to fall and that this threat wouldn’t exist if the Emperor were still here.  Moff Sarreti argues that the New Republic defeated the Empire.  If the Yuuzhan Vong can defeat them, they can defeat the Empire, too.
 
Crowal accuses him of wanting to provide aid to their enemies.  Sarreti points out that he came of age during the period of Rebellion.  He sees things differently, not through the painful lens of the past.  The New Republic may not operate the same way, but they could have crushed the Empire six years ago when the actions of a few nearly tore them apart.  They allowed an honorable peace which now allows them to ask for assistance.
 
The fact that they’ve asked shows they consider the Empire as equals. 
 
Pellaeon is convinced this is not a trap.  He is mobilizing their forces, activating their reservists and calling on their covert forces.  He hopes it doesn’t come to them having to defend their worlds. It would be convenient if the Vong would lie down and die.  At least then, warriors like Pellaeon can fade away and the young builders of the Empire can take over.
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#13
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chapter 13:
 
Emtrey escorts Jaina to Colonel Darklighter’s cabin.  Gavin explains to her that he would have made the same decision to keep the plan from her even if he hadn’t been ordered to from above.  At first, she is angry, but comes to realize that her Jedi abilities do not make her more deserving of consideration than any other pilot.
 
Gavin tells her he came into Rogue Squadron with the Darklighter reputation on the line.  He was young enough to think he could do anything.  His fellow Rogues helped him.  Though his parents weren’t anyone important, hers helped save the galaxy.  Despite that, her mother’s political enemies made sure to weaken her image and that of the Jedi as soon as she left office.
 
There are those on this ship that support her but others who think of her as a privileged Jedi.  He needed to make sure that they knew that no favorites were being played here.  They all sympathized with her when they thought her brother died and they all will sympathize when they learn it was a trick she wasn’t told about. 
 
He’s lost people in his service with the Rogues.  This situation shows that no one is invincible and that sacrifices are inevitable.  People who think they cannot die make stupid mistakes and tend to take others with them.
 
Two hours later, they exit hyperspace at Sernpidal. The Rogues scout out the area to see wht’s going on there.  They find some kind of shell growing on the debris field rocks.  It looks like they are growing a huge ship. 
 
Right now, they can do nothing, but someone in the New Republic is going to have to figure this out.
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#14
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chapter 14:
 
On Garqi, Corran’s contact is late.  He, Jacen, Ganner and the Noghri have set up a perimeter.  They’ve hidden their ship in buildings where harvester droids had been housed near an agri-combine.
 
They don’t know what the Vong are doing here.  They aren’t harvesting the food because that would require the machines.  They’ve not seen any people since landing, but they’d kept their com frequencies to those set up in case Garqi was ever overrun by the Remnant.  After a few days, a coded message had come through directed at anyone who survived the crash.
 
At least Corran can count on the Noghri as being predictable.  He’s uncertain as to what to expect from Ganner or Jacen.  A man approaches them, introduces himself as Rade Dromath.  His mother was Dynba Tesc whom Corran had met once here. Rade tells him she was killed in the first wave of Vong fighting.  But she’d prepared in case the Remnant ever came back and that helped the survivors form a resistance.
 
He takes them to an old bunker that the Vong haven’t been near.  Jacen and Ganner wonder what they’re up to.  Rade confirms the Vong are growing things, but here, they are growing an army.
 
He leads them to a hillside where the Garqi Agricultural University is still standing.  Men and women march out of the buildings herded by the reptoid creatures.  They have growths on them just like the slaves on Bimmiel and Belkadan. 
 
Some are picking produce to feed peole.  The best are harvested and transformed to continue the work.  The resistance can rescue people but they can do nothing about those who have been transformed. 
 
Jacen points out they can attack their station, but don’t know if that will be a major setback or if the Vong will retaliate against the locals.
 
Ganner thinks it’s worth a risk if they can ruin the work and take away samples.  Corran thinks that they are on the right track but that they cannot hit the station lest the Vong know they’re here.
 
He thinks they should get samples of their genetic work here so that scientists can come up with some way to inoculate against it.  The next time war games are held, Corran thinks they should grab a coupe of prisoners and get out.  No one will notice a couple of missing bodies then.
 
Jacen points out that heading to the battlefield heightens the risk of discovery.  Ganner tells him that the Vong won’t know they were here until it’s too late. If they do, they’ll learn how dangerous three Jedi can be.
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#15
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chapter 15:
 
Shedao Shai watches Elegos A’Kla perform mindless, back-breaking work so he will understand the nature of pain. 
 
He turns to Deign Lian and tells him that he is aware that the New Republic forces found the shipwomb on Sernpidal but is not very concerned about it.  Lian points out that the ship at Sernpidal was the same one that was at Garqi.  The Shapers have analyzed patterns and determined parameters for travel. He believes they wil be able to pinpoint locations in the future.
 
Shai wonders why the Shapers don’t study the infidels’ machines instead.  Lian points out that this would be blasphemy.  Shai thinks they should just atone for it later considering the boon this would give the battle against the enemy.
 
Lian suggests that Shai’s association with the alien has clouded his judgment.  He has shown the creature many things and shared secrets with him.  This could be a problem if he escapes and takes this knowledge back with him.
 
Shai doubts that A’Kla can escape from this place and lectures Lian about his fear of this stranger. Shai sends Lian to bring Elegos to him and then go to the Embrace of Pain.
 
Elegos and Shai discuss the realities of pain and the inability of the rational mind to diassociate oneself from it.  The gods are aspects of pain and of the universe.  A being transcends the physical form when it is in pain. 
 
They also discuss the recent New Republic force that arrived at Sernpidal.  He does not reveal that the force found what it was looking for but they talk about Admiral Kre’fey.  Shai has learned much of the Bothan species which Elegos urges him not to judge Kre’fey, a capable warrior, by. 
 
Shai admits some of his people think he is being tainted by spending time with the Caamasi.  Elegos admits it’s possible.  He also admits that he has not learned enough of pain to willingly share it with others.  Even if it means saving those under Shai’s authority from an early death to spare them a later inevitable one.  Shai knows Elegos has learned much and so has he.  He has realized that the New Republic population has a troublesome resilience that he is eager to test.
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#16
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chapter 16:
 
 
Luke, Mara and Mira return to the Skate to discuss where Daeshara’cor may have gone.  Belsavis was a stop for the Eye of Palpatine, but it would surely raise an alarm if another one showed up.  Besides, a second Eye of Palpatine may not have the same mission.
 
Garos IV seems a likely stop to Anakin.  The University there is largely intact despite having not joined the New Republic until after the Thrawn campaigns.  Many scholars go there to complete studies on Imperial history.  Daeshara’cor may try to access the files there.
 
Anakin is unhappy not to be accompanying his uncle again.  Chalco reminds him that they aren’t just here to keep Whistler company. Daeschara’cor knows spaceports.  She’s not had much formal training outside the academy, so university is not going to be a place comfortable for her.  She will probably find a way to have records delivered to her.
 
Chalco thinks they can find her if they expand their search area to a little bit beyond the spaceport. 
 
After getting Anakin looking scruffed up, Chalco leads him to the cantinas and bargains for information.  He finds out that Daeschara’cor was here a few hours ago and was sent to someone who won’t be around for another half-hour.
 
They wait for her at a cantina where Chalco goes to meet someone.  Spotting some lekku of her coloration, Anakin rushes out down an alley and realizes she tricked him into seeing her flee.  She’s behind him and knocks him down, telling him that she knows Master Skywalker must be here, too. 
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#17
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chapter 17:
 
One good thing about the Vong’s aversion to technology is that they don’t understand it.  The resistance has made use of several holocams that only needed to be replaced because the Vong had failed to rip out the cables holding the cams.
 
They sent all recordings to the Best Chance and hope they can get a live soldier. 
 
Jacen has had experience dealing with the Vong slaves.  The human ones on Belkadan tended to get stronger the longer they existed.  The reptoids on Dantooine seemed to be in a symbiotic relationship with their masters so long as the command vehicle was intact.
 
But the ones here feel more like the reptoids.  Theirs is a very simple plan, but Jacen can’t help but think that Rade wants the Jedi to sanction whatever he wants to do. In fact, Ganner seems to be itching for a fight, too, asking Jacen about his experiences with the Vong warriors. 
 
He’d been captured by them on Belkadan and the slaughter on Dantooine hadn’t really been much of a fight.  He can’t reconcile the fact that he is now acting more like the Jedi of the old legends. The survivors of Dantooine certainly see him as a hero but he doesn’t know if that’s what he wants.
 
He struggles with the paths open to him.  Most of them are not ones he wants to take and that leaves him in one spot, going nowhere. They watch three warriors march a cadre of reptoids that are then attacked by the human slaves.
 
They begin driving the humans back.  Jacen watches via holocam as the resistance begins an ambush during the war games.  Ganner rises through a conduit and takes on one of the warriors.  The Noghri move as killers among the slaves.  Jacen battles reptoids.  Then the Vong warrior in command calls to the slaves and they turns on the resistance members.
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#18
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chapter 18:
 
Luke leaves the director’s office, wishing she’d just let Artoo jack into the system, and answers his comlink.  Daeshara’cor tells him that Anakin is sore, but unharmed.  She knows that he will not understand what she’s trying to do, but doesn’t blame him for him.  She just wants information.  In exchange, she’ll release Anakin.
 
Mirax contacts Whistler who says Chalco talked Anakin into looking into the local scenery for information.  That was an hour ago. 
 
Luke explains that Daeshara’cor wants to trade Anakin for any information they get from the university, but the director seems to be indicating that they don’t have any.  Mara also points out that she won’t let Anakin go because they won’t let her get away. 
 
Mirax offers to dummy up a card with all the keywords on it.  She asks if they think Anakin is in danger.  Mara does, but Luke doesn’t. Mara argues that Daeshara’cor is seeking superweapons, after all.
 
Luke doesn’t think she’s thought that far.  They should try to find out what set her off.  He goes back into the director’s office and has Artoo jack into the most technical material he can find.
 
Meanwhile, Anakin is trying to get Daeshara’cor to explain why she’s doing this to him when Chalco bursts in and tries to stop her by wearing an ysalamiri skin.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work after the creature is dead.  She injures him quickly and turns back to Anakin.
 
She tells him that Anakin and his family have been heroes for years.  He doesn’t know what it’s like to have no expectations put on him. Anakin tells her he doesn’t understand why she wants to find a weapon that can kill billions.
 
She asks him if he wouldn’t do that to protect his parents or bring back Chewbacca.  Anakin tells her that nothing will bring him back and no lives will equal his heroism. 
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#19
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chapter 19:
 
Jacen uses the Force to push slaves away, vowing he won’t kill whom he’s come to protect.  He, Ganner, Corran, the Noghri and the resistance members battle Yuuzhan Vong warriors, as well.
 
Two prisoners among the slaves are grabbed, but it’s two hours until they can be picked up so they retreat to the Ithorian grove where the people have Ithor have transplanted a bafforr grove.  The Vong commander appears and explains he is Krag Val.  They will surrender and live.  Ganner tells him he’s a Jedi and Val won’t get to his leader but through him.  A Noghri commando adds his voice to Ganner’s. 
 
During that battle, Ganner is injured, the Noghri is killed and Corran nearly dies himself before Jacen kills the warrior.  They turn on the others and see that the pollen of the grove is doing their job for them.   Some type of reaction to the bafforr pollen swells up the limbs of the warriors until they topple over. 
 
Corran guesses the living armor had an allergic reaction to the pollen.  He tells everyone the grove has to be burned down.  They cannot let the Vong realize the danger of these trees to them.  Jacen worries that the grove might be unique, so Corran tells him to take samples with him, if he wishes. 
 
The Vong will figure out eventually what happened here and then the planet Ithor will be doomed.  He hopes they can get enough time to mount a defense of the world.
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#20
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chapter 20:
 
Their two captives have been sedated, but it’s not enough to keep them from moving.  Ganner has a bandage on his face.  Rade refuses to abandon his people here.  They will remain to harass the Vong and to welcome people back when the enemy is repulsed.
 
Corran tells Jacen to give the last dose of sedative to Ganner so his pain will not cause accidental bursts of telekinesis.  Jacen is almost tempted to think Corran is motivated by the friction between himself and Ganner, but then he realizes how difficult being in charge is. Corran makes decisions, yes, and has all the power, but he’s also responsible for everything that happens.  Uncle Luke faces the same problem.
 
Ganner refuses the sedative, preferring to have one of the Noghri help him with a cauterizer.  Jacen warns him that he’ll have a scar that way.  If Ganner is upset because he made the mistake of being injured, that won’t happen again.
 
Ganner tells him that he’s wanted to prove that he was better than the Vong from the beginning.  He was angry that he couldn’t engage them on Bimmiel, so Garqi was his change to prove how superior he was. 
 
Now he realizes that he’s been treating Luke and Corran and the others in the same way.  They could have proven at any time how much better they were, but didn’t because they are nice.  He took that as a sign of weakness.  He’ll accept the scar so that he will be reminded that the old arrogant Ganner is gone.
 
Now that he’s made this experience memorable, he’ll take the sedative.
 
On the Ralroost, Admiral Kre’fey and Wedge wait.  Fighters are alerted, but they hope to see the Best Chance soon.
 
Jaina and Anni are scrambled, along with the rest of the Rogues.  Jaina tries hard not to reach out to her brother.  Anni reports that there’s a contact coming up from the planet and it looks like their people.
 
Then Sparky alerts Jaina that several more contacts have arrived. It’s the Vong.
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#21
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chapter 21:
 
Jacen counts the Vong ships and Corran offers to Kre’fey that they can go back down to the planet.  Kre’fey orders them to come in as fast as they can as this situation did not catch them unprepared.
 
Meanwhile, Deign Lian is surprised to find ships here.  He’d been sent by Shai to check on how Krag Val was doing.  He had hoped to prove that reistatance is still a problem on Garqi, shaming Val and bringing Shai’s judgment into question.  However, Shai had insisted that Lian take a task for with him with no explanation.
 
Somehow, Shai knew that there would be problems here.
 
Kre’fey gives more orders as Wedge expresses his concern that their reinforcements won’t be enough.  The admiral tells him they’re not trying to win, but buy some time.  He has the sensors give him a feed of the system and relay tactical data to Coruscant via a drone.
 
He thinks they may not be able to kill the Vong, but they can hurt them.
 
Jaina and Anni try a few surprises before being pushed back to conventional tactics.
 
When Republic reinforcements arrive, Lian isn’t concerned because it will just take longer to kill them.
 
Via holographic display, Admiral Pellaeon watches the battle at Garqi and plans out an ambush.  For years, he’d dreamed of finding a New Republic task force this vulnerable.  Doubtless, everyone will be surprised.
 
Corran is wishing one more sedative was left when Jacen tells him Imperial Remnant forces have arrived.
 
Modified TIEs appear and Jaina is told by Spike Squadron to get clear.  The Chimaera and the Ralroost target the large Vong warship together.  When Rogue Leader orders all rogues back to the ship, Jaina cannot help but feel somewhat patronized when Spike Leader assures them they can go home safely.
 
She asks who they are.  The voice tells her they are a phalanx from a Chiss House on loan by the pilot’s father, Baron Soontir Fel.
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#22
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chapter 22:
 
Shaedeo Shai had come down to Garqi in a shuttle to find a black scarred area.  He is told by a subordinate that Krag Val died but demands to know why the subordinate himself is still alive. 
 
The subordinate explains he was ordered to stay to provide data.  He relates how Krag Val was confronted by three jeedai – Silverblade, Yellowblade and a third one who killed him. 
 
When the slaves ran, the infidels burned the grove with all the bodies.  Shai grows irritated when Lian cannot determine what really happened here.  He explains that the New Republic came here to retrieve the jeedai and were confronted by a superior Vong force. When a second wave comes in, it’s not enough to help them.
 
He believes the second wave came from the Imperial Remnant which showed up on a whim.  He knew there would be activity here because the arrival of the cruiser made no sense and did not follow the scouting pattern of the appearance at Sernpidal.   That ship came here to rescue the downed craft.  The warriors here never realized that because they were too afraid of being tainted by the machine.
 
Shai tells him that organic material on the crashed ship is pointless since they could have gotten into escape pods.  But there were none on that ship which is another anomaly.  However, it does make sense that there was an escape ship hidden inside and the biological material spread as a ruse.
 
Lian is sent to determined why this place was burned.
 
Shai turns to Elegos and asks what he makes of it.  Elegos doesn’t understand the destruction of the garden.  It had no military value.  He thinks they were pursued here, made a stand and the destruction was merely collateral.
 
Shai insists he’s not a fool.  He doesn’t understand how Elegos can stand the company of the others.  As a thoughtful and peaceful creature, it must be difficult to spend time with those who are not as honorable as he.
 
The Vong have rituals for death that he has described to Elegos.  Yet, the forces here burned all bodies, including their own dead.  Elegos explains that the New Republic forces would not know how the Vong treat their dead and, while humans also have death rituals, they could not perform them at the time.
 
Shai also notes that Elegos seemed to react slightly when the one called Silverblade was mentioned.  He assumes Elegos knows this person and the fact that he is being coy about it, means he cares for this person as well.  Shai believes this was the jedaii who killed his scouting party on Bimmiel.
 
Elegos explains that the man’s name is Corran Horn.  He is not a stupid or dishonorable person.  The Jedi and the New Republic leaders are not, either.  He urges Shai not to assume that ignorance of Vong ways sway his opinion of them.  Elegos has learned much of Vong ways and thinks there can be an accord between them and the New Republic.   He would be willing to be an ambassador.
 
Shai thinks this is a good idea.  He invites Elegos to come with him to prepare a message that the jeedai will not misunderstand.
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#23
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chapter 23:
 
It’s hard for Corran to get used to seeing Admiral Pellaeon aboard the Ralroost, even though there has been peace for the last six years.  Pellaeon greets Kre’fey and Master Skywalker before turning to Corran and acknowledging that he’s read the Garqi report.
 
The New Republic force and the Imperial task force had rendezvoused together, plotted a course for Ithor and Kre’fey had sent a call to Coruscant for reinforcements and scientific teams which had raised an alarm in the government.  Now, Fey’lya and other officials are headed there, too.  There’s no doubt they will interfere with the military operation.
 
Neither government will be happy that Pellaeon is helping to defend Ithor.  They are in a difficult position.  Kre’fey assures Pellaeon that, despite rumors to the contrary, the New Republic has none of the old Empire’s superweapons.  Pellaeon admits they don’t have them either and they were difficult to use as defensive weapons anyway.
 
There’s also the problem with the bafforr trees.  They take a decade to mature before they produce the pollen that appears to have killed the Vong warriors.  Corran points out that Ithorians are known for their skill at cloning and manipulating botanic life.  Luke explains that they also worship nature and may not agree to manipulate it in order to kill another living thing.
 
Further, Relal Tawron, the priest who replaced Momaw Nadon, is willing to allow them to harvest pollen and create new groves because the trees on Garqi clearly consented to opposing the Vong.  But he will not modify other tenets of their faith. He is reluctant to allow anyone to set foot on the planet itself. 
 
Knowing that the Vong probably won’t care about their beliefs, he will consent to the New Republic team going there so long as they are blessed and observe restrictions.  That’s likely to last until the fighting starts anyway.
 
Kre’fey asks Pellaeon to be in charge of the defense since he is the senior officer and has more experience.  Kre’fey will be second and the matter turns to what the Jedi will do.  Corran thinks they have to help defend the planet.  Nothing about that is of the Dark Side and it’s doubtful that there are any innocents among the Vong.
 
Remembering how warriors had disguised themselves as refugees on Dantooine, they know they are dealing with different rules of engagement.  Pellaeon wonders what Grand Admiral Thrawn would have made of Vong artwork. 
 
As it is, the Chiss seem eager to help.  When he issued a recall, this contingent of Chiss showed up with Fel’s son in command.  Luke knew that the Chiss were out here, admitting that he’d found Parck and Fel overseeing an effort set up by Thrawn to counter a threat in the Unnknown Regions. 
 
Pellaeon can stage at Yaga Minor and Kre’fey at Agamar, but it’s likely that Agamar will be conquered, bringing the Vong all the closer. That will also cut off a key hyperspace route from the Remnant.
 
As it is, they have two weeks before the politicians arrive.  None of them like the binders that their governments will put on them, but Pellaeon prefers his own binders so he can slip out of them.  He has a feeling that, if he can’t do that, they are all doomed.
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  • Luke is, of course, referring to the Hand of Thrawn that he and Mara found in Spectre of the Past/Vision of the Future

 


#24
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chapter 24:
 
Jaina is tired of the reception aboard the Ithorian herd ship, Tafanda Bay .  For one, she hates her formal Jedi robes.  For another, the ridiculousness of having a reception on a planet that is likely to be attacked isn’t escaping her.  And, lastly, she was invited here purely because she is a Solo and a Jedi.  Colonel Darklighter is here, representing the squadron, but no other pilots were invited.
 
Ganner Rhysode notes her discomfort.  She expresses her sorrow over his injury, but he assures her that he is not sorry.  He learned a valuable lesson about his own invicincibility.  It’s one that his friends, Kyp, Wurth and Octa Ramis, haven’t learned because they haven’t been hurt yet.
 
Jaina has no such illusions herself.  In simulations, she does well against the Imp fighters, but the Chiss vape her every time.  Both factions will be here soon so they can get a look at them.
 
After the New Republic dignitaries are introduced, the Imperial Remnant’s contingent arrives.  It’s clear Admiral Pellaeon would rather be planning defense strategies, but he greets Kre’fey warmly, before moving to Gavin, Luke and Wedge and then more formally to Jaina’s mother.  The moffs look tired, save Moff Sarreti who is young, enthusiastic and surprises the New Republic officials by his knowledge of them and their homeworlds.
 
Then the Chiss arrive with a human commander.  He is presented to Relal Tawron who turns to introduce him to Chief of State Fey’lya, but the young man walks past the Bothan until he reaches Admiral Kre’fey, greets him, Master Skywalker, Colonel Darklighter and then creates a stir when he says a few things to Wedge and they embrace.
 
He turns to Admiral Pellaeon briefly before ignoring the moffs, leaves the platform and heads straight to Jaina.  He introduces himself as Jagged Fel and is fascinated that she is a superior pilot and a Jedi, too.
 
He’s a couple of years older than Jaina and took command of his squadron two years ago.  Wedge steps down from the platform and tells him he should go back and greet the dignitaries he failed to before.  He’s giving off the impression that he ignored them because they are aliens.  Jagged insists he bypassed them because they are politicians.
 
Pwoe, Borsk Fey’ya and a Sullustan Senator take exception to this.  They point to his uniform and the family heritage he has as indicative of his belief that the Imperial way is superior.
 
Jagged tells them that he is in the minority in Chiss space and had to prove himself worthy of their standards.  The men and women who are with him competed to join his squadron because of that.  It is the Chiss who have handled the problems in the Unknown Regions which make the Yevethan crisis look minimal. 
 
He points out that they have overlooked that he greeted the Ithorian priest and the Bothan admiral.  He accuses them of seeing what they wish to see, some spectre of the past come back to haunt them.  He came to fight a war, not play political games. 
 
Leia intervenes and assures him they want his help, along with any help the Remnant and the New Republic can muster together.  Jagged assures Jaina they will win the battle for Ithor, saving it may not be within their control.
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  • I do not believe that Jagged Fel greeted Leia, either.
  • When Wedge returns to Jagged to confront him over ignoring the politicians, Jagged refers to him as Uncle.  Of course, we know that Jagged, being one of Soontir Fel’s children, is also the son of Wedge’s sister, Syal.


#25
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chapter 25:
 
Jaina does not appear at Luke’s summoning of the Jedi on Ithor.  Jacen knows she is engaging in flight simulations, but rather resents her prioritizing flying over her duties as a Jedi.  Still, he’s proud of her.
 
He knows he must try to be the kind of Jedi that Corran and his Uncle Luke are.  He had done necessary work since this war began, but he is still haunted by the dissatisfaction of slaughtering on Dantooine.  He knows he had to, but the deaths still bother him.  If the Jedi Code says, there is no death, there is the Force, why did the deaths on Alderaan and Carida shock so many Force-sensitives?
 
He is roused from his musings by Relal Tawron’s arrival and, then, by Daeschara’cor, who has been in seclusion ever since her capture. Luke has spoken to her but she has given no explanation for her superweapon search.
 
Luke introduces Tawron who speaks to them about the reverence they have for the Mother Jungle.  Pilgrims do visit the world, tending forests and surveying storm damage.  They prepare themselves spiritually ahead of time.
 
He wants them to renounce the parts of themselves that keep them from becoming one with the world.  Wurth Skidder finds this pointless, but Kyp finally holds him back.  Luke renounces responsibility. He’s felt weighed down by being the heir to the Jedi.  They are all his coheirs.
 
Anakin renounces self-assuredness.  He wants to be right all the time, but has to acknowledge he’s on a journey.  Daeshara’cor renounces the hatred she felt when the Yuuzhan Vong took slaves as her own mother was enslaved.  Corran renounces the fear of failure.
 
Ganner renounces pride.  Octa Ramis renounces the continual mourning for her dead friend.  Jacen finally renounces the need to know what will happen in the future because it distracts him from the present.
 
Not everyone is so transparent.  Wurth rejects weakness and Kyp rejects pride, but in a way that is intended to bring them all together, not produce real healing.  Tawron must realize this but ignores it. 
 
Afterwards, Luke compliments his nephews on their insights.  Daeshara’cor thanks Luke for letting her participate.  She never realized how her hatred of slavery made her as much a slave as her mother.  Luke tells her that they all need to remember that because this battle will demand the best.
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