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"Balance Point": Book 6 in The New Jedi Order

chapter discussion thread

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#1
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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Prologue:
 
In battle, Jaina Solo loves being a Rogue where her family name and her ability to use the Force have no bearing.
 
She is flying escort for refugees fleeing Kalarba when she’s hit and ejects.
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  • The time is officially 26 years ABY, so Jacen and Jaina really should be 17.

 
 
 
chapter 1:
 
After the disaster at Centerpoint, Jacen Solo fled Coruscant to the planet Duro where a refugee camp is set up.  He watches his father trying to settle a dispute between two Ryn clans, headed by Mezza and Romany.
 
Jacen is hit with a sense of Jaina in pain and then the pain winks out.  He hears a voice and sees a vision of his uncle fighting a Yuuzhan Vong warrior.  More warriors arrive and Jacen sees the balance held by Luke Skywalker being weighed down.  Luke tosses his weapon at Jacen who misses.
 
Weaponless, Luke uses the power of light overwhelmingly and the power tips even further.  Jacen hears him tell him to hold firm.  He knows this battle is spiritual, not physical.
 
His father gets his attention and asks what’s wrong.  Jacen doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do.  He doesn’t want the Force is warning him against a dangerous course.  Maybe he’ll cause a catastrophe by trying to prevent it.   Jacen tells him to contact Rogue Squadron because he thinks Jaina’s been hurt.
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  • The chapter says that Jacen is, indeed, 17 years.

 
 


#2
Poe Dameron

Poe Dameron

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Depressing bit of personal trivia.  I was reading this book after getting home from work while the 9/11 attacks happened.



#3
Jedi Cool

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I think we all remember what we were doing that day.  :(

 

chapter 2:
 
Han and Jacen go to a Ryn named Piani to try to get a message out.  She tells him she has applied for authorization to do so from Admiral Darez Whut who is in charge here and isn’t particularly helpful to the refugees.
 
Randa the Hutt is here, helping man the comm. hoping to find some information from Nal Hutta.  After being assured by Jacen that this is important, Han decides to go check and see what they can do on the Falcon.
 
It’s hard for Jacen to be there.  Memories of Chewbacca, his death and his father’s weeks-long self-destructive behavior come back to him here. 
 
While they wait for Colonel Darklighter to pick up, Han asks Jacen why he’s avoiding using the Force.  Jacen can’t say for certain.  Since darkness can’t be fought with darkness, he wonders if violence should be fought with violence.  He doesn’t know where strong action becomes the aggression that leads to the Dark Side.
 
Darklighter’s office comms back and explains Jaina’s X-Wing was destroyed and she went EV.  She is in a bacta tank and should recover.  They can’t seem to find her mother, though.
 
Having not spoken much to his wife lately, Han can’t help them.
 
As it happens, Leia is also on Duro where conditions are appalling.  To make matters worse, the technicians working to help reclaim the planet’s barely habitable surface are bickering over the use of resources and land area.  The plant geneticist, Dr. Dassid Cree’Ar has missed every weekly meeting, sending his information via datapad. 
 
Cree’Ar had worked with Dr. Williwalt to develop a bacteria capable of eating through the toxic sludge of the planet.  He is likely getting tired of the bureaucratic nonsense coming from Coruscant, too.
 
In her makeshift quarters, C 3PO has supper prepared.  He asks if Captain Solo will be joining them at any point.  Leia has not heard from him and wonders why C 3PO would even care considering their past relationship.
 
The droid explains that Captain Solo was instrumental in helping to save several deactivated droids on Ruan who were going to be presented as a peace offering to the Vong. 
 
She hasn’t had time to go looking for Han, but she does miss him terribly.  She hopes his work with the Ryn is helping him recover. 
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#4
Jedi Cool

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chapter 3:
 
On the war vessel Sunulok, Tsavong Lah receives a report from Nom Anor who tells him that Duros is bringing more from Fondor. It’s been two months since the disaster there and Tsavong Lah still can’t understand if the infidels finally understood the need for sacrifice or if this had been something else.
 
His spies tell him that a mechanical installation at Corellia called Centerpoint was responsible for the destruction of half his ships.  They cannot explain how it works but have advised him to find a staging point beyond Centerpoint’s line of fire.
 
It just so happens that Anor is on such a world now.  He is wearing a non-human masquer right now.  The human contact on Corusucant had promised to send additional captives there.
 
As soon as Lah arrives, he will sort the worthy from the unworthy.  Perhaps then, Yun-Yammka will let him reach the Core. 
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#5
Jedi Cool

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chapter 4:
 
Mara Jade Skywalker survived Palpatine’s training one day at a time when she arrived on Coruscant.  Now, Coruscant is ground zero for the Yuuzhan Vong. 
 
Luke has been gathering Jedi every few days in secluded places due to the scrutiny the public views them with.  The destruction of Ithor, combined with Kyp’s Dozen and the bad intelligence Talon Karrde had provided with them regarding an imminent attack on Corellia have not served to esteem them.
 
Right now, they are discussing strategy.  Kenth Hamner explains that the Fondor shipyards are gone and the hyperspace routes are mined. Rodia is in dangerous.  Anakin points out that Corellia being safe doesn’t make the situation better as Thrackan Sal-Solo is likely to expel all non-humans and lock out the entire system.
 
Mara knows Anakin blames himself for not firing the station when he could have, leaving Thrackan to become a hero which has led to the ousting of Governor General Marcha.
 
Hamner assures Anakin that he made the best decision.  Centerpoint may well be the Core’s last defense.  Hutt space is embattled and the Rodia is threatened which leaves Bothawui in danger, too.  Kyp’s Dozen are out there waiting for a fight.
 
Mara is far more impressed with Anakin than Kyp. Anakin, who’d saved her life on Dantooine, and who is saluted by strangers and approached by beings of all kinds.
 
Luke is here, along with Cilghal and her apprentice, Tekli.  The healers are busy all of the time, but not with Mara whose illness has been in remission for three months.  She doesn’t really want to admit she’s cured, but she feels good and that’s enough for now.
 
Luke discusses the situation regarding other Jedi.  Daye Azur-Jamin hasn’t reported from Nal Hutta for a week so his son Tam is being sent to check on him.  Lowbacca and Tinian are fine on Kashyyyk.  Tenel Ka and Jovan Drark are watching at Bilbringi and Markre Medjev is on Bothawui.  Supply lines to Mon Calamari are still cut.
 
Tekli isn’t sure if she should report this but she overheard a strange conversation between a couple of Rodians in Dometown regarding a human in a tapcafe that led her to suspect they may have spotted a Vong in an ooglith masquer.  Since Tekli doesn’t have much Force talent, she suggests a more capable Jedi go investigate.
 
Luke sends Mara and Anakin.  She and Luke discuss how Anakin is bearing the burden of both Chewbacca’s death and the fiasco at Centerpoint.  He blames himself for listening to Jacen and that hasn’t helped the disagreement between them.
 
Mara is more concerned about Jacen who left Coruscant two months ago and hasn’t been heard from since.  But that doesn’t mean Anakin isn’t troubled.  With his good looks and victories in battle, he is becoming a popular public figure courted by Kyp Durron for his squadron.  But the dark pursues him as it did Luke because of his unconventional childhood and power in the Force.
 
Mara suggests they take the agent alive if there is one.  They might get more out of a live captive than another.  Luke reminds her that they cannot experiment on prisoners.  However, it would be nice to know if they can be stunned.  Since their armor deflects blaster bolts at full power, a low energy stun might get through.
 
Mara and Anakin get off the train into JoKo’s Alley where Tekli had seen the Rodians.  She senses the tension in the air as she and Anakin walk through Dometown as if they were a mother and son.
 
That leads her back to her illness and whether or not it would prevent her from having one of her own.  She has talented nephews and a niece.  She and Luke have sponsored thirteen-year old Malinza Thanas who was left orphaned years ago after the original Centerpoint crisis.  Though she was adopted by a Bakuran family, Luke still feels responsible for her.
 
She wonders if the Vong would have life energies that might have made them vulnerable to the Ssi-ruuk.
 
Inside a tapcafe, they don’t spot droid servers which is unusual.  She and Anakin fixate on a human server that seems hunched over. When they sense nothing through the Force, they decide to finish their dinner and see if there are any cohorts in the kitchen.
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  • Malinza Thanas was the daughter of Gaeriel Captison who was killed during the Corellian Trilogy.

 


#6
Jedi Cool

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chapter 5:
 
Randa the Hutt shows up in the Solos’ shelter while Jacen is getting a comlink.  Among his complaints are that the rations he’s been given are too little and that the New Republic is abandoning Nal Hutta.
 
He doesn’t understand why Jacen isn’t out there doing more, considering that he’s a Jedi and his family has done great things.  He knows that the two of them could do well on Coruscant with the Hutt resources.  If Jacen won’t help, he insists he will leave and find Kyp Durron.
 
A comm. comes in from Piana who tells him a message is here.
 
He and his father are apprised that Jaina’s vision will clear up but she will be out of action for several weeks.  They are furloughing her to family care for now so she will be coming to Duros.
 
Mara slips into the kitchen.  Though she gets a shadowy feel to one of the cooks, he’s not a Yuuzhan Vong.  Still he may have something else going on.  It appears the server is the only one without a Force presence.  She asks Anakin if he’s set for stun.
 
Outside, they watch for the late-shift workers until they spot the suspect human.  They follow him until he spots them and takes off.  Anakin tries to stun him, but it doesn’t work.  The Vong uses his amphistaff to strike until Mara disables it and Anakin uses a stokli-stun web on him.
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#7
Jedi Cool

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chapter 6:
 
Dr. Eicroth looks over the captured Vong as Mara tells her they found out that a stun burst won’t bring them down.  Lt. Col. Kalenda arrives and urges them to make sure they are recording all of this.
 
Mara approaches the warrior and tells her that she knows she can understand Basic.  She offers to help the warrior who only screams out and fights her restraints.  Her arm stretches out and a claw forms that she uses to slash her own throat.
 
Later, Luke and Mara look over the body.  They determine the claws are parasites embedded in the bones.  The Vong seem built for pain and this one was young. Probably why she was chosen for undercover work.
 
When they return home, she vents about how the people on Coruscant can’t think about anything but how to survive.  What affect does this have on the Force?  What counters the Dark Side as it gets stronger?
 
Luke tells her the only thing they can do is serve every day and defend those who cannot defend themselves.  She tells him staying alive isn’t everything.  They’re only trying to prevent the subtraction of life.  He points out that her life has added to his.
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  • The chapter says Anakin is 16, so he’s had his early birthday!

 
 


#8
Jedi Cool

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chapter 7:
 
Jacen can finally sense Jaina and she’s mad.
 
Jaina refuses to be coddled as she’s helped down the ramp.  She can tell her father and Jacen apart through the Force.  She can only see shadows now, but it’s getting better.  She thinks it was a waste of time to send her here.
 
She is sheltered with an elderly Ryn woman who needs company.  Jacen asks what’s been going on.  Jaina tells him that she fried her own ship chasing a skip at Kalarba.  Druckenwell is gone now.  Falleen is, too, and the Vong have reached Rodia.
 
He brings her up to speed on the projects going on here, assuring her they need mechanics.  She tells him her place is in space vaping skips.  He and their father should be there, too. 
 
Her roommate, Clarani, reminds her that who they are fighting to save.  Jaina admits she’s just worried that she won’t be able to adjust to being back in an X-Wing.  She lost her astromech, Sparky, too. 
 
Right now, she needs to sleep and wants Jacen to help her with a healing trance.  She knows he’s trying not to use the Force but she is his sister and needs his help.  He admits he saw a vision and describes, but she still wants help.
 
After she’s asleep, he considers that he would be a good healer, but knows that being good at it doesn’t make it his calling.
 
The next morning, Jacen leads her to breakfast where she’s treated like a hero for having been in Rogue Squadron.  They talk about her prognosis and about how the New Republic can’t get ahold of their mother. 
 
Jacne tells her that she’s working with refugees somewhere.  It’s hard to keep communications going.  Then Randa the Hutt shows up and Jacen warns her that he will try to recruit her.
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#9
Jedi Cool

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chapter 8:
 
Two days later, Jacen is waiting for a supply shuttle.  He’d turned Randa down again.  He cannot turn to aggression and betray everything he stood for.  He just doesn’t know how he can fight without the Force.
 
Randa tells him the shuttle isn’t coming.  Nal Hutta is under remote bombardment.  Most of his clan have already left.  Some of them went to Rodia which is now under attack, too.  The word has come that Kyp’s Dozen held off an attack long enough at Kubindi so that the Kubaz got every spaceworthy ship offplanet. 
 
Jacen admits he doesn’t admire Kyp who was responsible for killing millions.  Randa reminds him that Kyp was young then.  He laments the Jedi are dividing.  He points out the warrior Wurth Skidder who was able to kill a yammosk.
 
He thinks Kyp is the only Jedi who is really trying to fight the Yuuzhan Vong.  He doesn’t know how long Coruscant will hold out under attack.  Jacen tries to explain to him how a Jedi must be careful about using the Force.  Many of the things they are doing with the refugees and gathering intelligence are the right thing to do.  Kyp’s people are well-intentioned, but they are sliding into the Dark Side.
 
Randa tells him he should act like a Jedi or get out of the way of others who trying.  He himself wants to follow Kyp’s example and form a squadron that will wreak havoc on the Vong.
 
He thinks fate has delivered a Jedi to him.  They can take ships from the Gateway camp which is better maintained than theirs.  Jacen tells him he won’t steal or be a pirate.
 
When he finds out that the Duros have diverted the shuttle, he tells his father they may have to go up and speak with Admiral Wuht.  Tired of dealing with the admiral, Han says they’ll just borrow some from Gateway.
 
Tsavong Lah watches the images of the microbes that will reshape Nal Hutta and its technologically-ridden moon.  Nom Anor reports that three Jedi are on Duros by his agents.  Leia Organa Solo is here, but the other two are her offspring.  The injured daughter and the cowardly son. 
 
He has developed a new organism that will break down the protective domes and let in the atmosphere.  He would like to test it in the dome in which the two Jedi are housed.  For now, the research complex where their mother is working serves the Vong’s long-term purposes.
 
Lah warns him to be careful as the Jedi are learning how to recognize them through the ooglith masquers.  He would do best to avoid her for now.   In the meantime, destroying Duro’s ship-building facility will harm them in many ways.
 
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#10
Jedi Cool

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chapter 9:
 
Mara and Luke sit through a briefing with Admiral Nylykerka of Fleet Intelligence.  He confirms that Kalarba, Druckenwell and Falleen are lost.  Rodia can’t be protected.
 
Fey’lya is put on the defensive as another Rim world is sacrificed to protect the Core.  Triebakk of Kashyyyk points out that they have to protect the Kuat Drive Yards with the loss of Fondor.
 
Senator Rodan asks about the status of Centerpoint Station.  The Corellian senator, Chelch Dravvad, explains that a malfunction being attributed to Sal-Solo’s mishandling has occurred at Centerpoint.  It is imperative that the Vong not know about this as it’s beneficial for them to continue to consider the Corellian system off-limits.
 
The situation at Kubindi is well known.  It is believed that the Kubaz, with their history of genetically engineering insect bodies, made them appealing to the Vong.  Major Hallis Saper of NRI explain that their campaign of disinformation may or may not be working because they don’t know what the Vong consider good or bad omens.
 
Councilor Pwoe urges once again that Master Skywalker exercise better control over his Jedi.  Besides the disaster caused by Corran Horn and Kyp Durron’s jumping into battles uninvited, the two Solo boys were the ones at Centerpoint.
 
Pwoe and Rodan argue that the Jedi seem to be making arbitrary decisions on who to help and who not to.  Luke points out that the Jedi are answerable to the Force, not to him.  That being said, he has tried to make them more organized but has been prevented from doing so by those who think they would be a danger.
 
The Jedi must rescue when peace and justice are threatened and that means they must defend whole worlds.  Some Jedi have rationalized extreme behavior to that end but he’s done his best to correct them.  If they have the freedom to choose, they must be free to choose wrongly. As it is, his nephew Jacen has sworn off using the Force for fear of where it could lead him.
 
This government has struggled to decide how to use its powers and even it has chosen to defend some systems at the expense of others. So long as it defends peace and justice, however, the Jedi will answer to it.
 
Senator Narik protests that his world is about to be attacked.  Luke reminds him that his homeworld is probably going to be next as Tatooine is not very far from Rodia.  While Narik doesn’t think that’s his concern, Luke is concerned about all worlds.
 
Mara sits in a chair afterwards in one of the floating docks and watches a woman approach them.   Luke tells her it’s Tresina Lobi. Mara feels something alive clinging to her body and tries to brush it off.  Lobi tells them she’s got back from Duro with her apprentice, Thrynni Vae
 
Mara still can’t figure out what is there and presses to her belt.  Tresina says they’ve been keeping watch on Duros shipping concerns and it’s becoming complicated.  While Mara struggles to determine whether or not the illness is returning, Tresina explains how SELCORE’s contractor, CorDuro Shipping, has been intercepting shipments and reselling to other refugee groups.  There are rumors that goods are being stockpiled, as well, in an orbital city in which Thrynni heard a mechanic claim he’d been working on multiplying the drive power.
 
Mara thinks that they want to take it out of orbit if the Vong attack the planet.  Tresina explains they were doing some follow-up work on that when Thrynni vanished.
 
Maar excuses herself and goes back to her suite where Artoo greets her.  She uses the Force to examine herself, feeling the cells thicken in her uterus like a tumor.  She probes and finds a human life-signature there.  It is Luke’s.  She’s pregnant.
 
She doesn’t know how this happened with all the precautions she’s taken.  She has no idea what her child will be after the illness has transformed her molecues and cells.
 
Luke comes in quickly and asks what’s going on.  She tells him to use the Force and tell her what has happened.  He realizes what is going on.   She frets over what could happen to the baby, but he reminds her that anything could kill any of them.   He doesn’t feel anything dangerous about this.
 
It’s possible Vergere’s tears made her vulnerable to the Force.  She makes him promise not to tell anyone.  He urges her to at least see Cilghal. 
 
She refuses as Cighal really couldn’t help with the disease and she’s not going to lie down and rest either.
 
They both vow to make sure the child will not be damaged. 
 
Later, she asks if Leia could be aware of the shipping problem.  He thinks she might have already solved it or had Han looking into it.  Still, he’d like to have it checked out.  They agree to take Anakin and go find out what Tresina and Thrynni stumbled upon.
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  • Remember Hallis Saper, the two-headed journalist from Starfighters of Adumar?

  • First appearance of Tresina Lobi.

 


#11
Jedi Cool

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chapter 10:
 
Randa watches the Ryn at the communications board fall asleep and then he switches the to a private frequency and waits until one of the orbital cities is out of the way so he can send a message home.
 
Jaina Solo, like her brother, had turned him down, too.  Since the news out of Nal Hutta is grim, he has to find a way to use self-righteous Jacen to help his people.  He finally gets ahold of his parent, Borga, and tells her he’s on Duros.
 
There are two young Jedi here and he might be able to deliver one in order to buy some concessions from the Vong.  Borga praises his ingenuity and explains that the invaders aren’t really consumers of Hutt trade goods.   Right now, the Hutts are trying to win Tatooine as a safe world.
 
Leia is tired of dealing with the research scientists here.  Dr. Cree’Ar has not shown up again and she’s beginning to see why his co-workers resent him.   The rest of them just bicker about how their projects are being interfered with by others.
 
A few hours later, she finds out that the rest of the supply allotment is being delayed. 
 
Meanwhile, Nom Anor has set up an underground office using small organisms that feed off of small rock, then decompose and perform the miracles that are delighting the people here.   Right now, he’s busy organizing a disaster at Settlment 32 where Leia Organa Solo’s children are living.
 
He picks up one of the small creatures and pushes into a ceiling crack where it will help bring down long stretches of ceiling. 
 
Meanwhile, Jacen is collecting wormlike creatures off the wall that seem to be eating the synthplas.
 
He finds his father working with Jaina and Romany, the other clan leader.  Romany can’t tell him what the worms are, but she’s better than sending it to Gateway.
 
Jacen suggests bribing young ones to look for more of these.  Meanwhile, he tells Jaina it’s time to go find their mother.
 
Randa is happy when Admiral Wuht has a soft-spot for injured military personnel and lets Jaina have immediate access to the outsystem relay.  She asks to contact their mother.  Senator Viqi Shesh appears and is delighted to see both Jaina and Jacen there. 
 
When Randa pushes himself forward and starts to make demands, she tells them that they cannot keep the line open for nonessential communications and says her staff will call them back.
 
After she disconnects, Jacen points out to his sister how Shesh is the head of SELCORE which hasn’t been doing stunning work lately. Her tone and pose seemed false, too.  They reminded him of Palpatine’s holoimages when he was on his way up.  Since she’s the one who arranges for deliveries and who put them on Duros in the first place, neither of them like this.
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#12
Jedi Cool

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chapter 11:
 
Tsavong Lah makes contact with Senator Shesh who informs him they are withdrawing from Kubindi and Rodia.  They would like some assurances that the invasion is nearly complete, however.  Surely, his people have home and sustenance enough now and can live in peace with this galaxy.
 
Lah tells her that the ultimate need involves the system she has already prepared.  From Duro, he plans to eliminate the Kuat Drive Yards in Shesh’s own home system and strike at the weapon at Corellia.
 
She doesn’t know this, of course.  He reminds her she has promised that Centerpoint will be sabotaged.  When this galaxy has peace, her role in it will be widely honored.  She reiterates that no one must know until the peace happens.
 
He can’t help but wonder if she’s afraid of what exaltation will mean for her, then decides she just doesn’t want her people to know that her loyalties have changed.  He’s about to sign off when she tells him she’s learned that there’s a Jedi at Duros’s SELCORE settlement that has sworn off using his abilities.
 
Since he already knows this, he asks if she has anything else.  She tells him she doesn’t like delivering individuals, but she is, after all, a businesswoman.  He doesn’t think this counts as news-worthy and cuts off the villip.
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#13
Jedi Cool

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chapter 12:
 
Jacen wakes up with the feeling that something is wrong. He wakes up Jaina and asks her to come outside.  He can tell that there’s some kind of danger to the whole colony.  She senses it through him, but not herself.  She hopes there aren’t Vong on the way.
 
They go to the control shed and tell the nigh tech about it and asks him to keep a tight watch.  Jacen pulls off a set of macrobinoculars and heads up the shed’s wall as Jaina illuminates the night.
 
He spots some large flying creatures gathering around one of the daylights.  They remind him of young mynocks.  He realizes the worms are turning into these creatures.  He tells her to wake their father up and activate the emergency repair droids.
 
When Han and Romany arrive, they decide to hold a breach drill and hope people believe that’s all it is.  They struggle to find rebreathers for the sensitive Vor lungs before Han decides to move them out of the area completely. 
 
Jacen contacts the Gateway settlement and tells them that there’s a breach pending due to an infestation of some kind.  They need evacuation crawlers.  Randa asks what’s going on and Jacen tells him the dome is being evacuated.  There’s some kind of creature eating the underside of it.
 
Randa suggests he use the Force to crush them.  Jacen tells him there are too many.  He suggests Randa either help with the evacuation or get out of the way.
 
Randa is not particularly helpful and refuses to stay out of the way.  Jacen tells him it’s important that he keep the people from wandering away from the gate. 
 
When the crawlers arrive, however, Randa tries to push forward.  Han holds him back as the evacuees board.  Jacen convinces a guard to let a small pet pass, too.
 
When Randa makes it difficult on the crawler, Jacen stuns him to everyone’s approval.
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#14
Jedi Cool

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chapter 13:
 
Along the way to Gateway, Jacen is commed and asked about the breach again.  No one managed to get a sample, so he describes what they encountered.  Concerned that a pupa could get through on one of the hairy Ryn, they advise him that they have a sealable processing area inside the dome, but no decontamination chemicals.
 
They can disinfect everyone in baths or they can shave and irradiate with low-energy lamps.
 
The Ryn refuse to be decontaminated in medical baths, so the shaving must commence.  Jacen and his father refuse to allow species to be treated differently, though, so that means everyone.
 
At the processing area, Jacen and Jaina sense their mother with the administrators.  She is in a sealed suit that Han doesn’t even recognize until she pulls off her mask.
 
They hadn’t parted on good terms.  She flings her arms around him and backs away when he remains stiff.  Her children are less formal. They urge her to fix things with him first.
 
She shows him through the quarantine area and explains how they are hoping to reseed the planet. The Duros aren’t happy to have them here but that’s because they haven’t shown much in the way of results yet.
 
He asks her if Isolder has shown up yet.  He saw the holovid of her and the Prince stepping off the Hapan ship together.  She asks why he can’t trust her.  The HoloNet was using that clip as a publicity stunt to help her get the help she needed.
 
Han admits Jacen took what happened with them pretty hard. He shows her the misery around her and reminds her that she accused him of having a fling with his past.  She tells him it’s just being really hard lately.
 
He knows she probably won’t forget some of the things he said, but he was hoping she’d forgive them.  They kiss.
 
They talk about the refugees need for basic services, then move to their children.  She asks how badly Jaina was hurt and offers to get her through decontamination quickly. Han insists that no special treatment be given, especially not for their family.
 
She’s not happy to see Randa the Hutt here, either.  Han tells her that he claims to be a defector, but they both know better than that.  The sick and injured will be processed first that way they can include Jaina who might be better off in quarantine anyway rather than get her head shaved.
 
Since Leia’s been walking around unshielded, she’ll have to cut her hair, too.  Han assures her it’ll grow back.  She asks if he’ll stick around while it does. 
 
He tells her he’ll probably lose his, too, someday and winks.  While the sick and injured are herded first, she finds Jaina standing against the wall.  Jaina tells her that Coruscant’s med center couldn’t do anything for her. 
 
Leia explains she can really use Jaina’s help right now.  Jaina tells her that Leia will never catch up with even a dozen assistants because she takes on everyone else’s problems.  When Jaina needed her, she couldn’t be found.  She vents her frustration at how SELCORE is run and how Viqi Shesh blew them off.
 
Leia lets her express herself, knowing that Shesh had really done very little to help.
 
Jaina goes on about the refugees, especially the old ones.  She doesn’t want any special treatment.  Leia assures her that she is trying to help everyone, including Jaina.  Jaina doesn’t want help anymore.  She learned that she had to do without her mother and did.
 
Leia points out that she is undergoing the same decontamination process as everyone else.  They may be too much alike to live in the same place again, but she is important to Leia.
 
Jaina tells her that she should talk to Jacen, too, not least of all because Jacen got a really negative feeling about Senator Shesh.  Knowing that the senator is one of the Jedi’s strongest supporters, Leia still can’t overlook the supply shortages and communication snafus.
 
She agrees to talk to him.
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#15
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chapter 14:
 
Over dinner, Droma finds it fascinating that Leia could have married royalty and chose Han instead.
 
Jacen reports that Randa was the first one out of quarantine as soon as the sick were tended to.  He’s been locked up now after trying to get outside the dome.  Jacen offers to go back to the settlement and find possessions.  Droma brushes him off and tells him it’s more important to find space-worthy ships left.
 
At Settlement 32, Jacen is angry at the damage to the dome.  He and several other techs are wearing protective suits and helmets while scanning for lifeforms.  They are to gather as many belongings as possible and get back before dark.
 
They get several huts packed up when Mezza coms Jacen and tells him to get over to her.  Inside a shelter, he finds fefze beetles grown to enormous sizes.  Mezza and her partner hadn’t noticed it when they first entered and are trapped.  It obviously is using this place to nest.
 
He ignites his lightsaber and attracts the creature, telling the other two to finish packing.  The beetle doesn’t have an evil intent.  He gets another call for help and finds two Vors on a roof looking down on five beetles. 
 
Since these creatures are attacking the Vors, Jacen lits his saber again and wonders how to fight without the Force.  He just swings and cuts up the beetles, telling the Vors to get back to the crawler.
 
Too late, he realizes they are attracted to the lightsaber.  Droma uses his vibroblade to help him and tells him to shut down the saber.  He makes Jacen throw it aside for now as they make their escape.
 
Jacen is torn whether or not to use the Force to retrieve his weapon.  He finally lets it fly to his hand before they leave.
 
The next day, he goes through decontamination before visiting his mother who is now wearing a wrap around her head.  She tells him that a freighter just landed with only a third of its cargo and wonders if he can get anywhere with administration at CorDoro.
 
He admits he’s not very experienced with negotiation, but she thinks he can probably handle it.  Besides, she can empathize with learning to do non-Jedi activities.  Jacen had learned from his mother that not every one with the talent for the Force makes the time to follow that path.
 
Randa ends his incarceration to find he’s temporarily excluded from the communication center here at Gateway, the one place where he needs to be to find out what’s going on at home.  He needs to get off this world.  To do that, he needs a pilot. 
 
Randa goes inside his quarters and finds a Yuuzhan Vong villip there.  There must be an agent within the dome, masquerading as a human. He touches the villip and sees Tsavong Lah there.
 
Lah asks if he can actually deliver the Jedi.  The Hutts will have to work hard to re earn the trust of those they have betrayed.  Randa assures him that he can do what he offered and, in return, Tatooine is hardly worth the Vong’s time.
 
Lah tells him he’s not worthy of any Vong honor but he will take the Jedi. Randa does have to wonder if he’s made a mistake here. Knowing the Jedi could change his mind at any time, Randa decides to get some defenses.  He heads ot the admin building to find two techs speaking to a woman he recognizes as Senator Viqi Shesh via hologram.
 
He tells her he’s discovered a Vong agent on Duro and she must double their defenses here.  Shesh sends him to Leia Organa Solo.  He decides to give her the villip and let her deal with it. 
 
Senator Shesh ends her transmission and uses her villip to tell Tsavong Lah what Randa told her.  Lah expected no less from the Hutts who are full of nothing but treachery.  She doesn’t tell him about Centerpoint malfunctioning for fear they may strike Coruscant before she is ready.
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#16
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chapter 15:
 
Disguised as Kubaz, the three Jedi get through customs on Duros and feel the resentful eyes on them.  Mara and Luke had flown in the Jade Shadow, a yacht that Tendra Calrissian had named after admiring its gray hull.  Talon Karrde had gotten the armaments that make this ship almost like the Jade’s Fire.
 
It carries Luke’s fighter in the bay.  Anakin flew his as an escort before they landed.  They find Drall and Selonian refugees who have fled Corellia while they still can, Wookiees and Devaronians.
 
Luke leads them until they find a Dorus on a platform giving a speech about the dangers of interdependence.  Everyone must take responsibility for their own clans and not depend on others to help them.
 
They lament that this type of thinking will doom the New Republic.  Still, this is one firebrand.  Nom Anor certainly did a lot of damage on Rhoomamool, but some troublemakers can be reasoned with.
 
Artoo reports that the dome where Han and Jacen were staying has been evacuated due to some kind of infestation.  Luke can sense Jacen has already arrived here.  For now, though, their priorities are to find Tresina’s missing apprentice and to figure out what’s happening her on Duros politically.  They’re probably both related.
 
Luke will talk to CorDuro Shipping as he suspects that Jacen is on his way there anyway.  He and Anakin will use their Kubaz disguises. Mara has other disguises and decides to use them to find out why other worlds aren’t opening up to refugees.  She steps out of the refresher after a time in the guise of a Kuati. 
 
After both Luke and Anakin stop staring, she promises to send Artoo a message if she needs help.
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  • At one point, the conflict on Rhomamool is referenced as well as the fact that Nom Anor died.  We may remember in Vector Prime that Nom Anor actually got away, his work stirring up trouble on Rhomamool complete.

  • Whatever happened to the Jade Sabre?  Wasn’t Mara flying that for awhile? 

  • Nice to know that Tendra Calrissian still exists!

 
 


#17
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chapter 16:
 
In the office of the Vice-Director of CorDuro Shipping, Durgard Brarun, Luke and Anakin, wearing their Kubaz disguises, explain that their people have set up camp on Yag’Dhul but they are in need of supplies and were told they can be bought here.
 
The official tells them it will be very expensive.  When two humans appear, Luke recognizes in their eyes the same hopelessness he’s seen in the Peace Brigade and other collaborators.
 
Brarun tells him he must usher in another guest he’s kept waiting on purpose and deal with him first.  Luke agrees and sees Jacen walk in. He is concerned because the young man is dampening himself in the Force even more than before.  He reaches out and nudges him.
 
Having tried to reflect on his vision while waiting, Jacen wasn’t anymore certain of his path than before.  Here, in the office, he senses his uncle and Anakin dressed as Kubaz.
 
Jacen explains he’s here to solve the conditions the refugees are experiencing on the planet.  Brarun explains that he is not responsible for SELCORE’s issues.  They were the ones who decided that the Duros wanted their planet reclaimed without even asking them.
 
The Duros were happy with their orbital cities and, if the planet is made habitable again, it might attract the Yuuzhan Vong.  Jacen explains the need for food is urgent and that’s all he’s asking for.  The Duro official tells him that his world is tired of dealing with young Jedi who think everything is urgent and think nothing of using their power to force solutions.  His sister is a great speaker who is persuading many to reject the philosophy that the Jedi are saviors. 
 
He remembers Emperor Palpatine as a human who could keep order.  He did go to extremes sometimes, but the Vong wouldn’t have stuck a toe in this galaxy if he were still alive.  The Duros can move their cities elsewhere if need be.
 
Jacen tells him that he’s seen what the Vong do to technology like the orbiting cities.  He’s seen them sacrifice whole shiploads of captives as part of their religion.  The Vong will not leave the Duros alone.
 
Jacen tries to negotiate a small tariff to ensure the supplies are received, even though he’s not authorized to do so.  Brarun offers to consider it and will treat him as a guest until his mother or Coruscant can be contacted.
 
Mara had had no trouble finding a Duros willing to talk, especially after she’d complained that someday she will wake up and find Kuat littered with refugee camps.  He had given her freely all of his philosophy and offered to forward to her the lastest word of wisdom which arrives the same day each week.
 
In the rental unit, she slices into the Duros communications system to find out what always comes on the day of the week specified. Finally, she finds one of the scientists down on the planet is using an old Rhommamoolian military code.
 
Reading through the text, she recognizes some of the same phrases they’d heard from the Duros speaker.  Someone here has connections to Rhommamool.  She leaves Luke a message with Artoo.
 
Meanwhile, Han tells Jaina to threaten Randa for crashing the comm. center. Inside the Hutt’s tent, she finds him and holding a villip.  He gives it to her and tells her to take it to one of her mother’s security people.  Jaina asks how long he’s been working for the Vong.  Randa tells her he hasn’t been, but only contacted them hoping to negotiate and was rebuffed.
 
Jaina realizes that’s why he warned Senator Shesh that there was an agent here.  He tells her that she assured him reinforcements were coming.  Jaina isn’t sure there will be if Jacen’s feelings about Shesh are right. 
 
She takes the villip and heads to the admin center.
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#18
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chapter 17:
 
 
At Gateway, Mara is ordered not to land at the main gate, but is directed to the decontamination area.  She finds Leia and explains what she found.  Leia relates her recent troubles with Han and Jaina.  Mara reminds her that Jaina is a grown up.
 
She asks about Dr. Cree’Ar.  Leia tells her he’s a miracle worker but they’ve never met personally.  Jaina appears and explains about her accident briefly and about her new hairstyle:  short brown buzz.  Leia explains they all went through decontamination as a mark of solidarity for the refugees.  It’s been 25 years since Alderaan was destroyed and a lot of people have forgotten that Leia has no home either.
 
The Ryn are having problems anyway because of the legends about them.  They are generally shunned.
 
Mara turns the subject back to Cree’Ar whom she’d like to meet.  Jaina offers to go with her, but Mara isn’t sure she should.  If he’s connected to Rhommmamool, their reception may not be much different.
 
Dressed as a Kuati servant, Jaina accompanies her to the lab where they are told the doctor is out.  They decide to wait.
 
Two hours later, they are still waiting.  A tech, tired of seeing them, recommends they take some breath masks and go search for him in the tunnel.  In character still, they wind their way through the tunnel as directed until Mara finds a tall Duros working on an experiment. 
 
She explains that she has come here having heard of his work.  She is concerned about Kuat becoming a dumping ground for refugees just like his world.  Some of her contacts indicate he is a close disciple of someone who is looking to change that.
 
In the Force, Jaina cannot feel him at all.  She has never heard of a Vong using an ooglith masquer to pose as a Duros, but that doesn’t mean anything.  She uses the Force to try to flicker at where the seam for the masquer might be.
 
When it bursts, the Duros stands up. The Vong posing as Cree’Ar recognizes Mara when she ignites her lightsaber.  He asks why she is still alive.
 
They realize this is Nom Anor who posed as a human on Rhommamool.  He tells her that he was responsible for her infection as he was the other beings at the reception. In his hand is a flask full of coomb spores that will certainly kill her even if the earlier infection didn’t.
 
He races out of the room towad a door.  Mara wants to follow, but senses danger.  They race out the way they came in as the ceiling begins to collapse.  Rocks begin to fall until Jaina can’t cut anymore and they are buried underneath a Force bubble.
 
Jaina points out that he may have cut his own passage which will be shorter.  Mara thinks he wanted them to go that way which means there are a lot more horrors to face.  But she knows that he infected her just as she knows there’s nothing wrong with her baby.
 
She comms Leia and Gateway but the stone is too thick.  Mara asks Jaina to help her slide rocks off the back of the bubble while she lifts the ones ahead. 
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#19
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chapter 18:
 
Luke can sense that Mara is caught in another crisis, but he can’t do anything about it now.  Once Brarun had finished with Jacen, his meeting with them hadn’t gone long.  He had nothing to sell them and that seems to confirm their suspicions that the Duros are stockpiling goods in the hopes they can move their cities and leave the planet.
 
He had sent R2 a message to search CorDuro records for anything that looked like the Peace Brigade was involved.  Right now, they need to find Jacen.  They find the hallway where two tall Duros guards are standing at a door and puts them to sleep.  He leaves Anakin there to handle any one who shows up after that.
 
He enters the room and asks Jacen what he’s trying to accomplish here.  Jacen explains his vision and how he felt he slipped toward the dark side of the balance point there.  Luke reminds him that the Force is their heritage.  If they don’t use it they don’t have a better way to guard peace and justice than regular security forces.
 
Jacen reminds him that many Jedi are misusing their powers and that he can show by example that the Force should not be used aggressively.  He is willing to risk his life for this cause.  The Jedi should be the proponents of law and order.  Those who flaunt the law will just lead society back to a galaxy ruled by bullies.
 
Luke warns him to be careful, because, if he really believes this, then he shouldn’t use the Force at all.  Any act that doesn’t come from absolute faith can lead to fear and darkness.  Jacen thinks that they should be answerable to the Force itself. If they can learn to understand it, they would know how to use it rightly or not at all.
 
Luke points out that Jacen is coming from a position of pride.  He’s dealing with the heart of what it means to be a Jedi.  He should not sacrifice his gifts to help others see his truth.  His heritage is a responsibility and Luke’s glad that Jacen sees it that way.  He’s learned that it’s important to teach their apprentices the importance of ethics when using their powers.
 
Jacen wants to stay here and convince the Duros to keep their promises.  Luke warns him he could be in danger here.  An apprentice has already vanished while looking into missing deliveries.  He’s getting a Peace Brigade vibe off of the humans in Brarun’s office.
 
He will have to choose to either use the Force or not at all. 
 
Jacen decides to leave it alone.  Luke gives him a comlink and warns him that people will assume he can do things he’s not able to do anymore.  He also mentions that if he chooses not to do what he can do, he will endanger the ones he loves most.
 
Nom Anor tells Tsavong Lah that one of the settlements has been disbanded and the cowardly Jedi is being detained aboard the orbital city Bburru City.  He has also killed Mara Jade Skywalker and Jaina Solo.
 
Lah questions whether or not he saw them die and cautions him that the Jedi have supernatural abilities.  Anor had originally set it for Ambassador Organa Solo, but is certain they will die slowly.  Meanwhile, he has arranged for riots on Duros.
 
The agents are going to deal with the planetary shields and the Hutt will need to be disciplined.  Anor has promised the Duros they will leave the orbital cities if they surrender their weapons.  It doesn’t matter as Yun-Harla, the Trickster, approves of such treachery.
 
Slowly, they move rocks down in the tunnels.  Mara wishes Anor hadn’t gotten away.  Jaina realizes he’s been stirring up trouble just to distract them.  When they get out, they try the comlink again with no answer.  Mara tells her to go back up the tunnel.
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  • I’m surprised that Luke is just now seeing the importance of teaching ethics to apprentices. In the 17 years he’s been training Jedi, it never occurred to him?

 
 


#20
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chapter 19:
 
Mara explains to Leia over the Shadow’s comlink how she uncovered Nom Anor before the transmission breaks up.  Jaina mentions that her mother didn’t ask about her and says some women shouldn’t have children.
 
Her entire life, she was an inconvenience to be handed over to Winter, C 3PO or Chewbacca.  Mara reminds her that some mothers can’t stay with their children and points to the refugee women as an example.  Jaina points out mothers who are too important to raise their children should sign them over to someone else.
 
Mara points out she’s awfully childish for someone who thinks she’s that wise.  Jaina mentions that she has lost friends in this war.  Her mother has a vision-impaired daughter and a son who is afraid to use the Force. Mara reminds her that her weakness is temporary.  She can take risks for herself but shouldn’t commit someone else to fighting if their edge is gone. 
 
After reuniting with Luke and Anakin, they explain how Nom Anor is really a Yuuzhan Vong agent and infected her with the spores.  Luke gives her a report that indicates that CorDuro Shipping is diverting SELCORE supplies to orbital habitats.  Right now, he’s trying to verify a link to the Peace Brigade.
 
Artoo has cross-referenced some names and tracked their travels.  Ylesia seems to be a common venue. Luke doesn’t want to send anyone out there in case it delivers nothing.  Jacen is being detained by Brarun but he’s not in any immediate danger.
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#21
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chapter 20:
 
It is constant work after Mara sends word that Nom Anor is alive and a Yuuzhan Vong agent. C 3PO is set to work analyzing every report of Dr. Cree’Ar’s to see if he could have sabotaged the reclamation work in some way.
 
Further, with him involved, it is looking like Duros is a target more than anything else.  Randa the Hutt points out that the Vong didn’t invade Rhommamool.  Han reminds him that they didn’t have to.  All they did was incite the locals like they’re doing with the Duros here.
 
Randa is currently being given limited freedom rather than being locked up permanently.  Leia allows for the fact that he is also a refugee but she doesn’t trust him and would rather he be someplace where he can be watched.
 
She is going to talk to the Duros High House and they will have to make plans for an evacuation.  SELCORE left several ships behind that they felt were unusable.  Leia wants Han to put as many beings as possible on the ships, starting with the Vors because their lungs are ultra-sensitive and they may not be able to handle the Duros atmosphere.
 
Han adds that they will need to put droids aboard, too, so that they won’t suffer if the Vong arrive.  Leia turns to C 3PO and tells him to get on board now because they need him.
 
He doesn’t need to be told twice.
 
Mara contacts Admiral Wuht’s office and explains to his aide the importance of getting his battle group on alert.  Luke and Anakin return with the news of Thrynni Vae’s death.  They will have to get Jacen now, but Luke suspects that the authorities will be watching for him. He and Mara can create a diversion while Jaina and Anakin go pick up their brother.
 
Along the way, Mara asks about Jacen.  Luke can only tell her he didn’t answer when Luke tried to com him not long ago, but that could just mean the comlink was taken away. 
 
They find the Duros speaker with a crowd and Luke counters her calls for independence by telling the crowd that two are stronger when they can help each other.  She recognizes the Jedi and tells them they are weak because they are pulled in too many directions.
 
Luke points out that the Duros can have their planet if they can keep shuttling supplies to the surface, particularly since it’s her brother who runs the shipping company in the first place.
 
Mara watches Anakin and Jaina arrive, but Anakin moves into the crowd instead of going with Jaina.  When Anakin jumps to the stage, he and Luke give a lightsaber demonstration to the entranced crowd.
 
Mara worries that that this could get out of hand soon.
 
Jaina appears at Jacen’s door and tells him they are leaving.  He explains he’s waiting to speak with Brarun right now.  Jaina tells him they’ve exposed a Yuuzhan Vong agent down on the planet and Luke believes that the Peace Brigade is connected to the vice-director. Clearly, Brarun wants to hand over a Jedi in his custody.  She can’t believe Jacen hasn’t figured this out himself.
 
He tells her he stopped using the Force completely.  He needs to wait for something to happen.  Jaina tells him that another invasion is going to happen and he’s coming with her.  She pulls her blaster and sets it for stun, telling him he may want to be a tragic hero, but she will make him come with her.
 
He agrees to go and tells her about the Sunesi’s offer of a hoverpod.
 
Mara hears someone fire a weapon which Luke deflects.  Mara disarms the gunman as more agitators show up to create a mob.  Mara tries to avoid being knocked down as she uses the Force to toss blasters out of the way.  Artoo protects himself with his electric discharges.  Then the mob finds a street-sweeping machine.
 
Jacen and Jaina sneak through the hallway and make their way to the hoverpod.
 
Once Mara confirms the twins are leaving, she protects Artoo from the street-sweeper.  They jump aboard their hoverbikes and think about how to get to the Shadow.
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#22
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chapter 21:
 
Jacen warns Jaina that there are hoverpods following them.  She should fly them to a private dock instead of the main one.  Jaina warns him that Mara has the Shadow docked at the main shipping one.
 
Along the way, she tells him that Thrynni is dead, Brarun is working for someone that isn’t SELCORE and their mother is loading evacuation ships again. 
 
Jacen contacts Mara and tells her that they’re on their way but they can’t get to the Shadow.  They will find some other way to get to the Gateway settlement.
 
With Artoo’s help, Luke finds an empty room they can hide in until the action in the city dies down.  Mara is tired, but she admits it’s hard to sit back and let the young people run things.  He reminds her that he wasn’t really ready when Ben Kenobi died, either.  He had a lot of faith in Luke.  That’s why he’s worried about Jacen.
 
In the end, no matter what they do, it’s his life.  Knowing she’s tired, Luke uses the Force to give her some strength.
 
Jacen and Jaina abandon the hoverpod and get to the private dock where they take a small shuttle.  At the settlement, Leia asks them how much room they have for more people.  The settlement is being evacuated now and she wants them to load up the shuttle and get offworld.
 
They debate that for a few moments until it becomes moot.  The Vong ships have arrived. 
 
Jaina finds that the planetary shields are around every habitat except Bburru and the cities on either side.  That area includes Gateway. Leia sends Jacen to find his dad.
 
Jacen helps refugees along the way until he runs into Han who tells him the Ryn have been digging a tunnel for several days.  They can hide the refugees down there.
 
Jaina watches the chaos, wishing she was in her X-Wing.  The Vong come over the channel, telling everyone to stay where they are.  If they attack and try to flee, they will be destroyed.
 
Leia receives word that the New Republic ship Poesy has been ordered to stand down and withdraw by Admiral Wuht.  At least, it can still cover several retreating settlements even if it can’t help Gateway.
 
Leia tells any ships already out there to leave if they can and all crawlers to take their people to settlement 32.  Jaina has already sent the shuttle off, so she and Leia will have to go underground.
 
Tsavong Lah heads down to the planet and assures the people there that he has no interest in the orbital cities, only the unclaimed surface. He has his ships destroy several domes and a few crawlers heading away from the main settlement. He orders his troops to destroy only those who attack and take the others to a holding and purification area.
 
Then he orders Tu-Scart and Sgauru to be off-loaded.
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#23
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chapter 22:
 
Mara had dropped Anakin at his X-Wing and heads off to see what’s happening now.  There is little to defend this world from the small Vong force here.  Luke joins her in his own X-Wing.  They try to help but Wuht has bought the Vong claims of only wanting the planet and orders all forces to disengage.
 
Mara is furious that he’s not even going to try to help Gateway evacuate.  She tells Luke he can’t possibly believe the Vong only want the planet itself.  New Republic reinforcements have been called for but who knows when they will arrive.
 
She decides to speak with Wuht directly.
 
Kenth Hamner knows the vote will go against him and, when it does, tells the Advisory Council that they will regret this decision if Coruscant falls to Vong forces attacking from Duro.
 
Jaina, Jacen and Leia head through the tunnels until they reach Han who’s in charge of a small Ryn group hiding out here. They’ve only got a few more feet to cut through, but don’t dare use mechanical equipment.
 
Leia tells him the Vong took out all three crawlers.  Luke, Mara and Anakin are still in the air and may be able to fly escort.  There are Vors down here and some humans, but no Randa. 
 
Mezza explains that they’ve traced a route through the tunnels to the SELCORE ship lot where they may be able to get a transport.  Han and Droma decide to go find where Leia has a hauler hid.  As soon as the work crew breaks through, people need to move through the mines quickly.
 
Nom Anor leads Lah toward the laboratory past where Sgauru and Tu-Scart, the beater and the biter, attack other artificial constructs here. 
 
Anor has several warriors dig a pit and explains that two of his coworkers refused to work on removing poisons from the planet when he unmasked himself.  For some reason, the infidels don’t want to face their destiny.  They expect a word they call mercy. 
 
Lah takes a tkun creature, bred for individual sacrifices, from a priestess and has the first researcher brought to him.
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#24
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chapter 23:
 
Han and Droma head off.  Leia turns to Mzza and Romany to have bolt-holes drilled out so that someone can get to a transmitter.  She needs volunteers.  Jacen suggest they find the mining laser that SELCORE was using to drill for water.  He maintains that using it is rescue and he won’t be using the Force anyway.
 
Leia’s Noghri bodyguard, Olmahk, reminds them that the firing of the laser will bring the Vong down on them.  He volunteers to be the one to man it.  Jacen remembers his vision of a galaxy tipping toward darkness and asks his mother if she’s sure there’s no way to negotiate. He reminds her she’s a professional.  Leia points out that she knows enough to know when it won’t work.  One doesn’t waste more contact parties when the ones you send don’t come back alive.
 
She leaves Mezza and Romany in charge while Jacen, Jaina and Olmahk follow her.
 
Han and Droma climb out of a bolt hole and think about how to get past the admin building.  They spot prisoners being marched, Vong warriors with no weak Imperial Stormtrooper armor and two huge creatures destroying buildings.
 
They get to the edge of the bluff toward the abandoned ships when they have to face Vong warriors.  They race down the bluff into the marshes until they find the old cargo hauler.  It’s not much, but it’s all they’ve got.
 
On board the Port Duggan arm of Bburru City, Mara leaves the Shadow and bullies her way to the turblift that will get her to Admiral Wuht.
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#25
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chapter 24:
 
Leia watches several bodies be carried from the biodome and wonders to what god they were sacrificed to.  Jaina sneaks up on her and asks if the destruction of this settlement reminds her of something.  Leia remembers Rhommamool and the pit full of droids.  They have to get these people out of here. 
 
Jaina suggests lifting something out of the pit and dropping it on the Vong.  Leia thinks they could be better used to free some prisoners. When she explains her plan to Jacen, however, he tells her he cannot do that.  Jaina can do it and even draw on his power to do so, but I can feel that this is the critical moment where he cannot misstep.
 
Jaina tells him to help or get out of the way and calls him a deserter.  Leia wonders at the bad example she’s set for her son.  She and Jaina together lift an ore-smashing droid which causes Yuuzhan Vong to scatter. The creatures demolishing buildings snap at it but miss. Refugees begin to run, too, bring the Vongs attention on them rather than the mechanical device flying through the air.  Before the Force stops flowing and the machine comes down on five warriors, many of the refugees are able to get away and hide.
 
Leia tells them where the laser should be and tells them that she will show them the way out.  She wants both of them to get away and help carry on the new generation of Jedi.  She leads them down into the mine tunnels under the admin building where she is discovered by a Vong warrior.  Olhmahk lunges at him while Leia slams the duracrete door between herself and her children before the alien grabs her and shoves her against the door.
 
Running down the corridor, Jacen tells Jaina he’s going back.  Jaina reminds him their mother has sent them away again.  Jacen doesn’t think this feels right and its going back.  He tells her to warn everyone else what’s going on.
 
Leia wakes up and finds Nom Anor waiting.  Stalling for time for her children to get away, she asks many questions about Vong biotechnology, especially the way it has been able to clean Duro the way the New Republic couldn’t.
 
Anor tells her that the warmaster could choose decontaminate the entire planet if he wished.  He takes her to the warmaster whom she tries to address.  He is not interested in listening to her.  He knows she is one of the Jedi he hopes to sacrifice.  Leia tells him that she is not really a Jedi, only a little training in her past, but they have learned to live alongside other species in this galaxy and tries to persuade him to consider this.
 
Tsavong Lah tells her they do not live side by side with impurity.  Their galaxy is polluted and built on abominations.  The Yuuzhan Vong will cleanse it.  Their machines mock life because the Gods created all that exists by sacrificing parts of them.
 
Leia realizes this is why the Vong mutilate themselves. 
 
She presses forward by telling him how they admire the biotechnology; it’s possible the Vong could learn from them, too.  Lah knows only that they deny the truth of pain and death.  She argues that they can only have this debate because they are living, that their gods cannot be served by non-living things and that life is the highest truth.
 
He tells her that they will cleanse this world and use the refugees to labor before purifying the world of the machines in orbit and using it to take the Core worlds.  Leia realizes they mean to take everything.
 
He tells her that she will speak to the gods soon and be able to tell them that more Jedi will crawl into their presence.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
 




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