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"Traitor": Book 13 in the New Jedi Order

chapter discussion thread

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#1
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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Prologue: The Embrace of Pain:
 
Jacen Solo is in pain.  Besides the intense physical pain he endures, there is also the pain of betrayal by Vergere whom he had trusted and the pain of his brother, Anakin’s, death.  He had faced losses before, but they had always been mistakes, misunderstandings or tricks.  Then Chewbacca died and it was as if his family suddenly became vulnerable, culminating in the death of his brother.
 
He cannot remember where he is.  It’s hard to remember his past – being captured on Belkadan, being rescued by his uncle, Vergere bringing him to the voxyn queen and that memory leading him to Anakin’s corpse. He knows he once lived outside the white pain but he only exists there now.
 
Jacen tries to call upon the Force to help him, feels his sister dwelling in Darkness and urges her to hold on and mutes himself so that she won’t feel his agony and go darker still.
 
Vergere touches him.  She tells him that there are some aboard this ship who think that Jacen has earned the honor of begging for death, while the warmaster wants to sacrifice him to the gods.
 
Jacen tells her he trusted her.  Vergere knows this and wonders why.  He reminds her she saved Mara.  She points out that she could have had any number of reasons for doing this.  As for the death of the voxyn queen, he has no way of knowing what her motives were there.  Perhaps, she did everything so that she could bring him to the Embrace of Pain.
 
Jacen asks why he is here.  She tells him that she is a messenger, a herald, a mourner.  Jacen is already dead to those who know him.  The Force is life and has nothing to do with him.  He opens himself up anyway and finds a connection in her.  He notes she is also a Jedi.  Vergere answers that there are no Jedi here. 
 
Suddenly, the universe is empty.  She has cut off his connection to the Force.  He doesn’t understand how.  Vergere tells him that everything she tells him is a lie and every question is a trick.  If he believes nothing else, he should believe this.
 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  • According to Wookiepedia, this novel takes place 28 years ABY.  Problem is that it’s happening during Dark Journey and the Enemy Lines duology and those allegedly take place 27 years ABY.  Unless, of course, we were dealing with an end-of-the-year kind of thing.  28 ABY definitely makes Jacen and Jaina 19 years old.

 


#2
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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Part I: Descent
 
chapter 1: Cocoon:
 
A yorik coral vessel blinks into existence and then jumps into hyperspace.
 
Jacen Solo is beginning to work out how the pain works.  The Embrace of Pain seems to understand when he’s reached the limit and drops him into reality. Creatures tend to his wounds and nourish him while he rests.  Though he doesn’t have the Force, he can use the training to meditate and hold his mind outside the pain.  Vergere is sometimes there when he drops.  Sometimes she is kind to him, but he knows they are being watched and wonders if she would be kinder still without the eyes.
 
Mostly he sits or lies waiting, naked and completely hairless.  He once asked how long he’s been here.  Vergere tells him it’s irrelevant because time and space belong to the living.
 
At one point, she told him that the gods decree that life is suffering and give pain to demonstrate that truth.  Some seek favor by seeking pain, such as Domain Shai, who were rumored to enjoy the pain too much.  Pain can be a drug.
 
She never seemed to care if he didn’t answer.
 
The times of rest are almost as painful as the being in the Embrace when his body moves back into shape.  Besides, these times are when he thinks of Anakin and what that has done to Jaina and their parents. 
 
He asks why the Yuuzhan Vong utilize the Embrace of Pain.  He’s been through a Breaking which makes some kind of sense to him, but why torture him if they don’t want information from him.  She tells him that the words he uses mean something to him, but they may mean something different to their masters.
 
He smiles and tells her if she doesn’t think this is torture, she should try it sometime.  She asks what makes him think she hasn’t.  She tells him to consider that he’s not being tortured, but taught.  The Yuuzhan Vong believe that no lesson is truly learned until it has been purchased with pain.
 
Another time, she asks him what pain is for.  Some believe it’s the last of the gods.  She thinks that pain is a god.  To be beyond it is to be dead.  Jacen answers that she may say he’s dead, but the pain still hurts.
 
She points out that it’s a matter of faith that the dead are beyond pain, but there’s really only one way to know for sure.  She thinks that he is like an infant wailing for someone to help him.  He must realize that he is beyond hope because people think he’s dead. 
 
She has given him the gift of being free of the hope of rescue.  Jacen isn’t sure they are speaking the same language.  Admitting that may be the problem, Vergere tells him of how she was very young once and found a shadowmoth within the cocoon.  Through the Force, she could feel its pain.  It could feel that she was near and cried out for help.  She couldn’t refuse and gave it what she thought it meant by help.  She cut the cocoon open. 
 
Jacen knows how this story ends.  A shadowmoth needs the struggle to break the cocoon as it forces ichor into its wing veins.  She admits that the shadowmoth emerged crippled, never able to fly.  She cared for it as best she could while it was sad and bitter.  She robbed it of its destiny because she helped it.
 
Jacen tells her that help means something different.  Vergere argues that she saw a creature in agony and tried to ease its pain.  Maybe he doesn’t understand what help is.  Jacen explains that, in that instance, she didn’t know what was happening.  Vergere reminds him that the shadowmoth didn’t either.  If she had known what was going on, what would have been considered helping the shadowmoth?
 
Jacen thinks about that and admits that she could have kept the cocoon safe from predators and let it fight its own battle.  Vergere adds she might also have protected it from other well-meaning people who might want to help it the way she had.  Or to stop by from time to time and let the suffering creature know it’s not alone.
 
Jacen realizes what she means now.
 
She prepares to go as he begs her to stay and talk.  He tells her that shadowmoths are native to Coruscant.  She could not have found one unless she’d been there. Vergere reminds him that everything she tells him is a lie and the Embrace takes him again.
 
It’s amazing to Jacen that he can think while he’s in the Embrace, but gets to work on figuring out pain.  He considers that he has been freed from the trap of childhood and waiting for someone else to save him.  He is not helpless, just alone.  He doesn’t have hang here and suffer because he can do something.
 
She may have lied to him but, within that lie is a truth.  He knows the truth of pain not just from his own life but from watching his father and Anakin after Chewie’s death.  He remembers hours of lightsaber practice with aching muscles and his Uncle Luke telling him that it isn’t right if it doesn’t hurt. 
 
The worst ones are the ones that cannot be run from.  He remembers his mother’s story of standing on the bridge of the Death Star, watching her homeworld destroyed.  He remembers Uncle Luke propelled by the pain of his family’s murder to face his destiny.
 
He wonders how this will affect him.  He’s been running from pain, like his father and Anakin.  Is he strong enough to allow the pain to make him stronger, the way his mother and uncle did?  He begins to fight back against the pain now.
 
Nom Anor reads the analysis on Jacen Solo’s experience in the Embrace, then reports to Tsavong Lah.  The warmaster is a true believer in the gods and Nom Anor knows how easy it is to manipulate those who believe in things other than themselves.
 
He interprets the data for Lah, explaining that the data shows that Jacen Solo has not only become capable of accepting torment, but thriving on it.  He has discovered the resources within himself.  Their plan will work and Jacen will turn to the True Way.  Lah reminds him that they’ve tried this before with Wurth Skidder and Tahiri.  Anor reminds him those failures were the fault of shapers.  The failure with Tahiri was due to the heretical research involved.  The Solo project will work because he will remain human, yet fully embrace the truth.
 
Lah doesn’t understand why he should desire this.  Anor explains that Jacen is a significant person in this galaxy.  Besides being a Jedi, a hero alongside his twin sister and the son of a woman who was once the ruler of this galaxy.  Their family has dominated galactic affairs for about a quarter of a century.  Luke Skywalker is often credited with defeating a more rational government called the Empire.  This is fortunate for them as the Empire was much more organized, powerful and lacking the internal divisions that made toppling the New Republic easy for them.  The Empire may very well have crushed them immediately.
 
In this way, this preeminent family served the gods without ever knowing it.  What would happen if this Jedi hero announces that they have all been deceived and that the true gods are the only way.  The New Republic would finally sicken and die.
 
Jacen will become the warrior fighting in service to the gods while his sister plays the Trickster.  It is the essence of Yun-Yammka and Yun-Harla.  Jacen will capture his sister and drag her to the altar, sacrificing her himself.
 
Lah tells him he will do this and not fail, or it will be Nom Anor sacrificed to the gods.  No one who has heard of this plan will live.  Anor considers how fanatics are easy to manipulate but always take things too far.
 
He and Vergere acknowledge they will face either total victory or destruction together.
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  • I’d like to talk about this idea that the Empire would crush the Yuuzhan Vong.  It seems clear to me, based on looking over Outbound Flight, that the implication was that Palpatine knew about this potential threat, knew the Old Republic, which he had had a stand in destabilizing, would not be strong enough to resist it and decided to build a strong, central government that would be able to resist the threat.  I call hogwash!  I do not believe for one moment that the Yuuzhan Vong threat was the sole reason why Palpatine turned the Old Republic into an Empire.  The Sith plot had been going on a long time, well before Palpatine could have been made aware of this enemy.  It’s doubtful that the timing of their appearance was anything more than a coincidence. Secondly, we know that there were corrupt factions within the Empire that looked out for themselves, just as there were within the Old Republic.  We read that in the books taking place during that time.  Would the Empire have really been able to crush the Vong?  They might have taken them more seriously than the New Republic did, especially with Palpatine’s inside knowledge, but I’m not convinced that they would have been quickly victorious.

 


#3
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 2: The Nursery:
 
The small vessel of yorik coral changes course to intersect a huge sphere in space and is swallowed by it.
 
Jacen opens his eyes and finds Vergere there.  She tells him he’s looking well.  Jacen mentions he hasn’t seen her for awhile.  She gives him a robe and tells him he is leaving this place for now.  He can’t believe they are leaving the Embrace of Pain.  He pulls on the robe and it hurts but he doesn’t notice anymore.
 
He does, however, notice a bailing hook in her hand.  She denies she has anything and he finds he can barely see it now.  They walk through the hallway of this vessel which Vergere calls a seedship.  This is an egg that will give birth to the Yuuzhan Vong homeworld. 
 
They step through into a room that smells horrible.  He looks up and sees a world turned inside out.  It looks like a swamp and jungle with no horizon.  There are creatures roaming in the hills.  He realizes they are human, Mon Calamari, Bothan, Twi’lek and other species. 
 
These are slave gangs, mournfully digging and moving from task to task.  Vergere calls it magnificent but Jacen doesn’t see how she can.   She tells him she sees beyond what it is.  He asks what this place is for.  She tells him it’s a playground.  After all, this is what playgrounds in the New Republic are for, teaching boundaries, learning politics, the madness of mobs and peer pressure, as well as the final lesson in the unfairness of life.  He doesn’t think any value can be had out of pointless suffering.
 
They come across a huge pond circled by warriors.  Shapers climb among blocks, carrying sacs of liquid or bundles.  Jacen realizes the large blocks contain some kind of living creature.  Vergere explains that the Yuuzhan Vong homeworld will require a brain.
 
The creatures are called dhuryams and are related to yammosks.  They are bred for more complex types of coordination than war coordinating.  In this pond, the dhuryams learn to hone their skills and coordinate many types of life-forms.  One of them will later use those skills as the World Brain.  The dhuryams play deadly games and only one of them will survive.
 
Jacen rejects that this is anything other than a perversion of life.  He serves only the Force, not the masters that Vergere apparently does.  He will never obey them or learn anything from this place.  She tells him this is not his schoolroom, but his new home.  She pulls out the baling hook that was there all along and stabs him in the chest.
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#4
Jedi Cool

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chapter 3: The Garden:
 
The seedship falls beyond the reality of the universe begins its journey to the center of the galaxy.
 
Jacen sees Vergere coming toward him in the nursery.  He looks down at the wound in the slave he is treating, telling them they’ll be alright.  He tells the slave to stay away from the amphistaff grove.  There’s always a choice.
 
It’s been weeks, maybe months, since his first day in the Nursery and hasn’t seen Vergere since then.  He uses sacworms to pinch the slave’s belly together.  The amphistaff grove here is different from the one on Myrkr.  Those were domesticated, but there’s nothing here that’s tame. 
 
The slave protests that he may be sent there.  Jacen tells him that the slave seed is only hooked to his nerves to cause pain.  The amphistaffs will kill him.  The slave doesn’t want the pain either.  Jacen knows this, but tells the slave that no one makes him do anything.  All they can do is hurt him.
 
Jacen is used to being resented by the slaves.  He never has to do anything.  They bring their wounded to him, but otherwise avoid him. 
 
Vergere approaches and he tells her to stop where she is.  She asks about his chest.  It has healed weeks ago, but he can still feel the hook impaling him.  It had implanted a seed coral in his chest.
 
It had sprouted in seconds above his heart and he’d been left there.  The seed tells him what is required of him and hurts him when he doesn’t.  The only way to escape the pain is to learn what the dhuryam wants.  He tries one activity after another until he finds one that doesn’t hurt.  Sometimes that takes a long while.
 
He doesn’t want her coming near him, but she can use the Force to feel the infection growing in him.  She uses her tears to heal him.  She explains that the females of her species can alter their tears to produce a wide range of pheromonal signals to use on their males.  Her control through the Force is very precise and she can match the molecular structure of her tears to whatever she wishes. 
 
He starts to ask her about the other slaves who are very ill or have been severely injured.  She refuses to help them.  It’s the difference between a flower and weed. That is the choice of the gardener.  Jacen points out that these are people, not weeds. 
 
She asks why he came to be the medic for this group.  He tells her there’s no one else who can do it.  It took some doing to convince the dhuryam that he should do this.  It realized that Jacen could not be moved by pain so it started using the seed to control him by causing spasms.
 
Unfortunately, it did this so much that the nursery was being neglected and realized that taking too much time with Jacen costs too much.  By this time, it determined that Jacen was useful.  Healthy slaves work harder, after all, and the domain began to improve.  So long as it advanced the dhuryam’s interests, Jacen could do whatever he wanted.
 
He asks if she’s a Sith.  He thinks all this talk about flower and weeds is that talk of a person who believes they are above other people.  Vergere notes that Sith and Jedi are not the only two choices.  There is more to the Force than just light and dark. 
 
Jacen tells her he’s wasted too much time on those arguments and got nowhere.  All of his answers fell short of the truth.  She is excited and asks him if the Force is life, how can there be life without the Force.
 
Since he is the gardener, he has a responsibility to choose flower over weeds and to determine the difference. 
 
He spends his days tending wounds as the domain flourishes well beyond those of its neighbors.  He ponders Vergere’s question, longing for the Force.  The absence in his life is punctuated every time he could have used it to ease the pain of a suffering slave. 
 
It haunts him how he can live without the Force.  In the end, he knows he can’t and doesn’t because the Force is still there.  He just can’t feel it.  The Force must be less than what he was taught if the Vong exist outside of it.  But he knows it’s not less, it’s more.  It’s about life. 
 
Over time, the dhuryam seems to enjoy his company and even sends Jacen to find moss and crabs that are helpful for healing.  It’s as if it’s trying to help him. Jacen soon begins to see it as another lifeform, a dangerous species but not necessarily hostile.  It has intelligence and is able to partner with him.
 
There is no life without the Force.  The Vong must participate in a part of it that is beyond the range of the Jedi senses. Jacen currently participates that way, too. This means that there’s a part of the Force he can touch.  He reaches down to the slave seed and links to the dhuryam, intending to make friends.
 
Nom Anor watches the activity in the Nursery with satisfaction.  He asks Vergere if the second step is complete with the dhuryam’s seduction.  Vergere indicates that he could have befriended dhuryam instead, but it doesn’t matter which way as the empathic bond is what’s important.
 
Anor mentions this gives Solo an alarming degree of freedom, especially since he seems to be aware of it.  He doesn’t know how the young man could threaten the ship, but he’s learned not to underestimate the Jedi, especially the ones in this family. 
 
He doesn’t trust the easy victories and orders her to watch Solo carefully.  He has warriors in ooglith masquers begin infiltrating the slave gangs in the nursery.  They are to stay away from him and wait. 
 
As weeks pass, Jacen and the dhuryam have learned to communicate through the slave seed, via emotion and images.  They have bonded deeply.  They fought initially over him treating the slaves of other dhuryams, but he had chosen the difference between flowers and weeds.  All slaves are flowers.
 
Soon, the dhuryam gives Jacen help by having members of the slave gang gather medicinal mosses and herbs.  When one such helper is wounded by a warrior and dies a couple of minutes later, Jacen decides the Yuuzhan Vong are weeds and he is going to show them what gardening is.
 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 


#5
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 4: The Will of the Gods:
 
On Coruscant, dovin basals are grown that start pulling the moons away and changing the gravity and orbit.  The planet slows and becomes warmer.  Meteors fall toward the planet, the mineral falling away, losing crystalline structure and causing natural rain to fall on the planet for the first time in a thousand years.
 
The moons are moved into complex orbits and soon resembles the long-long homeworld of the Yuuzhan Vong.  Only the surface should be remade now to bring life to the machine city so it can bear the name Yuuzhan’tar.  
 
In the nursery, the Day of Comprehending the Will of the Gods has arrived.  Teams of shapers begin evalusating each dhuryam.  To make sure the slaves are not used to sabotage the other dhuyram’s territory, they are compelled through pain to move out of the way.  It doesn’t matter whether their dhuryam is chosen or not as they are not intended to live.
 
Nom Anor wonders why Jacen doesn’t do something.  He surely knows that the slaves will be killed.  Vergere agrees that he knows.  The Jedi is standing in the middle of the amphistaff grove, but the polyps are not attacking.  Anor doesn’t feel reassured that he has apparently reached an understanding with them.  Vergere explains that it is telling that Jacen is not standing with the slaves, but among the lifeforms of an alien galaxy.  The fate of the slaves may no longer concern him.
 
Anor doesn’t believe it.  He tells Vergere that she doesn’t know the Jedi the way he does.  She smiles and admits she may not.  Anor orders the slave in the grove to be bound and returned to Anor’s coralcraft.
 
He explains to Vergere that he feels Solo needs to be removed before the executions in case he gets ideas about heroism.  Vergere quotes a proverb her people have about counting glitterflies when one only has maggots.  If he looks through the viewspider at the ceremony, he will find out what that means.
 
Jacen stands and watches.  He feels compelled to run to the rest of the slaves, but stands his ground.  Four slaves suddenly step away and walk without pain. Jacen knows this because they are not really slaves.  The ooglith masquers peel apart and walk toward him.
 
Jacen closes his eyes and feels his father ruffle his hair, his mother’s arm around his shoulders, Jaina and Lowie groan while he tries to tell a joke to Tenel Ka. Chewie isn’t there and neither is Anakin. 
 
They call him to come out.  When he doesn’t, they start killing slaves to make him do it.  Jacen remembers his dream about freeing Yuuzhan Vong slaves and how disappointed he was on Belkadan when it didn’t happen.  It turns out he was only impatient.
 
He steps out of the shadows to the edge of the grove but will not move beyond it.  A warrior orders the death of another slave.  Jacen tells him he’s not a warrior, but a coward from a species of cowards which murders the helpless.  Warriors win battles without killing the weak.
 
The warrior lunges at Jacen who falls back and pushes the Vong over him and into the amphistaff grove where he is eaten alive.  Jacen stands up and asks the other three what they are going to do.  Two squads of armored warriors appear.
 
Jacen uses his empathic bond to persuade them to move to his back.  The creatures entwine around Jacen and envelop him in a type of armor the Vong don’t have. He parts his hands and a mature amphistaff stretches between them.
 
Nom Anor watches from his chambers, angrily.  Vergere offers to go to Jacen, but he refuses.  This project is supposed to be secret.  She can’t go running through the Nursery trying to save him.   Obviously, Solo has learned nothing if he’s going to through his life away for slaves.  He’s as weak as any other Jedi.
 
Vergere tells him that he’s not a Jedi and she’s not concerned about his life.  Anor argues that he cannot win that battle.  To demonstrate, he shows her how Solo has now vanished.  She explains that he may no longer have the Force, but that’s not his only weapon.  He has been trained as a warrior. 
 
He may not realize this but he is the greatest of all the Jedi and is more dangerous without the Force than anyone knows.  She has to stop him from destroying the seedship.  He’s not running away, he’s attacking.  They watch a lone shape racing across the grove to meet the warriors.
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#6
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 5: Seedfall:
 
Jacen runs toward them making an image in his mind.  The amphistaff matches itself to this image and works as Jacen wills it.  He downs several warriors before giving himself over to the seed-slave and dropping.
 
Anor mocks Vergere’s belief that this was the greatest of all Jedi.  He tells her the warriors will scoop him up and bind him.  She asks why they aren’t doing that now.  Pointing out how the light in the nursery has changed, she shows how this new light comes from fire. 
 
The slaves are revolting.  Vergere tells him that the warriors were never his target.  He has killed the shreeyam’tiz controlling the slaves.  She did warn him and, after all, he should have learned that everything she tells him is the truth.
 
The nursery is in chaos.  The dhuryams are severed from their telepathic links with the shreeyam’tiz and are forced to wait to see which had been chosen the WorldBrain.  But when the blast bug bandolier had burst, sending the explosive creatures into the tank of shreeyam’tiz, only one of the dhuryams guesses what’s going on.  Only one is not shocked.  It is desperate and ruthless.
 
Dhuryams are practical creatures with no sense of loyalty or betrayal.  Each one knows that only one will survive and a dozen to one odds are not favorable.  So this one made a deal with Jacen Solo.  The death of the shreeyam’tiz is the signal.
 
It sends its slaves running off to ooglith masquers that had been persuaded to conceal stacks of crude weapons.  They had been gathered over several days, along with sparkbees and sacworms.  The sacworms burst on impact, spraying sparkbee honey everywhere and burst into flames on contact with the air.
 
Fire is everywhere.  This dhuryam’s slaves cluster around Jacen who drags himself to his feet and moves toward the lake.  The others burn the coraltree basals down.
 
Nom Anor is told they are running out of time.  He turns to Vergere and reminds her that Tsavong Lah will slaughter them for this.  She thinks he’s being optimistic if he thinks they’ll live that long.  He needs to have the warriors escort her to the nursery, call his commander to get her through the guards and hope it’s enough time. Jacen is clearly going to wipe out the dhuryams, the brains of this ship.  Nothing else is worthy of his life.
 
Anor tells her that the death of the World Brain will destroy this ship and Solo with it.  She need only to utter the name Wurth Skidder to remind Anor that this is not at all unusual for a Jedi to give his life in this way.  Anor finally sends her to go get him or kill him if she must.
 
When she’s gone, he runs for his coralcraft.
 
Jacen can feel the murder of the first dhuryam, but it gets easier after that.  All his Jedi training screams at him not to kill a defenseless creature.  As the dhuryams die, though, the frenzied mobs of violent slaves begin to dwindle and they regain their own minds. 
 
He reaches the top of the hive island and plants his last amphistaff as if it were a battle flag.  Then the universe turns white.  He knows its secrets.  He raises the amphistaff to kill the last dhuryam when he hears Anakin’s voice imploring him not to kill the one that had been his friend.
 
Jacen feels the pain and can perfectly clear again.  He can see the bodies of warriors and shapers and knows he did this.  He can see Vergere and knows that it was her.  It wasn’t Anakin, it was her.  She asks him in the story of his life, if this is his best ending. 
 
He remembers his dream to free the slaves and how he’d dealt with the dhuryam in order to spare their lives and send them to the planet in exchange for Jacen’s help.  That memory seems like a dream.  He prepares to bring down the amphistaff once more when Vergere tells him to stop before he kills his friend.  That’s not who he is. 
 
He tells her it’s not a friend but a monster.  When he kills it, he kills the Yuuzhan Vong homeworld.  Letting it live would betray all who have died.  She reminds him his choice is to betray a government or a friend.  Jacen argues it doesn’t even know what a friend is.  She reminds him that he does know.
 
If she kills the dhuryam, he dooms every life on this ship, including those of the slaves.  After all, wasn’t he trying to save lives?  Jacen remembers that everything she tells him is a lie, so he chooses to bring the staff down.  She springs forward to intercept the blow and he hesitates.  She reaches up and wipes her tears on his cheek.  But her tears are not paralytic-based and Jacen falls into blackness.
 
Coruscant is now a warm tropical world with seas forming where there had once been towers and offices.  Three moons now form a rainbow bridge in the sky.  A shooting star flares as a globe of yorik coral enters the atmosphere and sends a shower of chunks to the surface where they root and begin to grow. 
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#7
Jedi Cool

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Part II: The Cave:
 
chapter 6: Home:
 
Jacen opens his eyes after a long time.  In his dreams this takes thousands of years before he wakes up and is able to move his muscles.  He finds himself in comfortable settings and wonders where he is.  Looking at the sunlight, he sees that it is like the light that illuminated the nursery.  He’s on Yuuzhan’tar, formerly Coruscant.
 
He steps out to view the alien world.  The young jungle doesn’t seem real.  He sees a bridge in the form of a rainbow that fills a third of the sky.  There are planetary rings around this world now.  He thinks he understands something about the Vong that always puzzled him before.  Primitive species on ringed worlds often mistake the rings for magical bridges built by the gods.  Looking on this beauty, he is sympathetic to that sentiment.
 
Vergere comes up behind him.  She tells him how the shapers had to give the dhuryam immediate control of the seedship and how it had quickly dispatched the seedling, having no time to round up the slaves.  It had herded them to safety, fulling its end of the bargain Jacen had made with it.  Hundreds died in the battle on the ship, but thousands of slaves were able to ride the shipseeds to the surface. 
 
Jacen doesn’t feel like a hero.  He admits he didn’t feel like stopping the killing once he started it.  He only did because she stopped him.  He doesn’t want to kill her.  He’s grateful to her for saving him.
 
Vergere tells him to stop making excuses.  He just doesn’t want to admit he’s the stype of person who could do such things.  It’s a lie.  He reminds her that everything she tells him is a lie.
 
Vergere explains that may be, but everything he tells himself should be the truth.  What he did back there had nothing to do with a lack of self-control.  Jacen believes that self-control is what being a Jedi is all about.  She tells him he’s not a Jedi.
 
Jacen thinks that being a Jedi isn’t about just using the Force.  It’s a commitment and a way of looking at things.  It’s valuing life. What he was doing on the ship started off as saving lives, but it ended up with him trying to hurt them.  For a Jedi, that is wrong.  It’s the definition of the Dark Side.  That’s what she saved him from. 
 
Vergere tells him she only saved his life.  His ethics are his own business.  He seems to be telling her that what he does is not as important as why he does it.  If he had the goal of saving the slaves the way a true Jedi does, what would he have done differently?  Or would he have only felt differently?
 
It doesn’t matter to the dead whether he kills them in a frenzied rage or with cool Jedi detachment.  Jacen’s argument states that he can do whatever he wants so long as he maintains calm and tells himself he’s valuing life.  It’s a little sick to say that he can kill infinitely so long as he doesn’t lose his temper.
 
He will never have an answer to that question, but he can be an answer.  He helped make this world that he sees.  He took the decision away from the shapers, destroyed all rivals   and gave his friend, the dhuryam, the rule of this planet which takes its shape from the personality affected, in part, by Jacen’s friendships.  He may not have planned it that way, but that’s what happened.  Of course, according to him, only the whys should concern the Jedi.
 
Around him is a reflection of himself.  It is an artificial construct of the New Republic made into something new.  He asks her where they are.  She tells him to look and see.  He spots hawk-bats flying in the air and the distant mountains that turn out to be buildings in ruins on a planetwide city that’s buried beneath a jungle.  He realizes he’s on Coruscant.
 
Hours later, Jacen ponders how this is the most beautiful world he’s ever seen and he hates it.  He’d nursed in his mind that Chewbacca wasn’t dead and that Jaina wasn’t falling to the dark and that his parents’ marriage was strong.  His brother is off somewhere with Chewie and the whole family would be together again.  This world ends that dream because it will never be home again.  Even if the New Republic retakes it, it won’t be the same world they lost.
 
Nothing can remake him into the person he’d been, though he’d give anything to be a kid again for a little while. 
 
When Vergere approaches, he doesn’t want any more games.  He knows she’s been training him for something, but he doesn’t know what.  She spars verbally with him about learning what he must learn and doing what he wants.  She tosses him his slave seed, matured and gone.  He wants to throw it away but doesn’t.  It was a part of him while it was inside and, though he’s glad to have it out, he didn’t want it dead.
 
She tells him he’s feeling freedom.  He asks what good that does him on a ruined world with no friends or ship or weapons or even the Force.  Hving lost his taste for her verbal games, he walks away and starts pulling at the manual release on a wall that reveals a door.
 
She asks what he’s doing and he doesn’t answer.  It’s been years since he prowled the lower levels with Jaina, Zekk, Lowie and Tenel Ka.  He starts down the stairs before stopping and asking if she’s coming with him or not.
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#8
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 7: The Crater:
 
The master shaper, Ch’Gang Hool watches the viewspider and can’t believe this was Jacen Solo of Duro and who also sparked a slave revolt that spread infidels across his pristine planet.
 
He was the shaper of this world, after all. 
 
He demands to know of Nom Anor how this Jedi came to be on the planet and how he’s survived so long.  Anor explains the warmaster wants all resources devoted to capturing him.  Hool believes himself to be the ultimate authority on this world until the warmaster comes to take possession so orders really aren’t important.
 
Anor reminds him that he is responsible for this planet and he may wish to consider a dangerous Jedi loose on this planet to be a threat to all he has done.
 
Jacen looks at the crater and has a bad feeing about it.  He knows this used to be government offices.  There was an air taxi stand nearby.  But this crater is big enough to swallow a Star Destroyer and drops forever below them. 
 
Vergere tells him no place on the planet is more dangerous.  But she can feel that through the Force.  How does he know that?
 
He has spent weeks on the planet, hardening his muscles, his hair and beard growing out, streaked gold by the ultraviolet light coming down.  He wears some boots he’d found, but nothing is as durable or useful as the robeskin that keeps him warm at night, cool during the day, self cleans and self-healing when ripped.
 
He is able to pull strips from it to make socks and a knapsack that he stuffs with food.  They wander the lower levels sometimes, Vergere content to let him direct the journey.  He’s found some useful items, such as a glow rod, electrobinoculars, power cells and an old datapad that has a holomap of Corsucant on it.   
 
He uses the binoculars to look down into the crater.  Jacen has tried to avoid Vong lifeforms whenever he can because most have unpleasant qualities.  The warriors themselves patrol midlevels, armed.  Jacen avoids them and the furtive humans he spots here and there.
 
There are mosses and patchy foliage on the inside of the crater.  It looks threatening but not the sense of dread he’s getting. Jacen gives up and asks Vergere what’s so dangerous about the place.
 
They watch a predator stalk its quarry and kill it. She tells him the Dark Side is very powerful here, possibly more powerful than any other place in the galaxy.  He tells her that a predator stalking food is nature, not darkness.  The Dark Side is taking joy in killing needlessly. 
 
Vergere asks if the line of nature of Dark Side is one of degree.  How much food does a predator have to kill before it’s of the Dark Side?  Jacen answers that killing more than necessary is the line.  She asks how one determines what constitutes need.  She wonders if they are back to their argument of whys again.
 
Jacen says it’s not so simple but that he knows it when he sees it.  She tells him he didn’t see it this time.  A thunderburst erupts and he asks what thiat is.  Corik vessels the size of his father’s ship are flying around the crater.  They are spraying small seedpods which turns into filaments, spreading seeds to the wind.  The seeds open up to reveal warriors.  There are thousands of them.
 
Vergere warns him they are hunting him.  Jacen tells her he’s not going back to the Embrace of Pain.  She assures him they are not interested in his pain, but in his death.  He could escape.  It seems an updraft from the crater is blowing the podtroopers outward.  He could go down.
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#9
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 8: Into the Dark:
 
In the icy rain, he waits, hidden in a broken corner, while Vergere goes to look for an escape route.  He can feel the Yuuzhan Vong closing in.  It’s like he’s all of them at one time.  Aceepting their feelings, he doesn’t feel the cold anymore and he’s not afraid.  He sees a warrior through his eyes creep toward a human shivering in a corner and suddenly realizes that it’s him.
 
He swings his knapsack around, filled with cans and equipment, into the warrior’s face, then swings again.  The staff meets the sack and tears it in half, destroying much of what’s in it.  The datapad explodes, sending shock waves up the staff and burns the warrior’s hands.  Jacen feels that pain, too.
 
He slams through three warriors and hits the ground running. They pursue him while he considers that it would be a good time for Vergere to show up.  A hand shoves his shoulder and knocks him into a stagger and he is dropped to the ground.  The floor collapses under him and dumps him four meters down.  A section of wall slides open, revealing a dimly lit room.  Vergere tells him to come in from the storm.
 
He dreams of running through the planet in darkness, losing Vergere and catching sight of her. 
 
When he wakes up, he finds her watching him.  He can’t get his breath here and tells her he can’t do this the way she can.  He’s tired of her training and lessons and sick of her.  He nearly throttles her before he realizes what he’s doing.  She reminds him that the Dark Side is very strong here. Jacen thinks he has more to fear from that than from the Yuuzhan Vong.
 
She doesn’t understand why he fears it.  Jacen tells her how his grandfather, Anakin Skwyalker, became a Dark Lord of the Sith named Darth Vader.  She is saddened at the loss of the potential that was in little Anakin.  She met him once when he was 12 or 13 not 500 meters above them right now.
 
Jacen wonders what Anakin would be doing on Coruscant.  She asks if he doesn’t know where he is.  She leads him through several chambers and tells him this is the remains of the Jedi Temple.  He asks if she’s a Jedi.  She says she is not and she is also not a Sith.  She is Vergere.
 
He is adamant that there be no games.  She says she’s not playing one but that all life is a game.  The game they are on now is the one that’s been on the board since Myrkr.  Who is Jacen Solo?
 
He tells her he knows who he is.  Even without the Force, he is a Jedi.  She sighs and tells him the game is over and he loses. 
 
The room lights up and he is in an elaborate chamber full of Yuuzhan Vong.  There is a male in black who begins to speak.  Jacen doesn’t need to understand.  He’s seen this one before on Duro with his mother’s lightsaber.  He knows his name and tries to say it before he is hit with surge of red.
 
He floats through it.  His hands hurt but he can’t quite see them.  He can smell scorched meat in the air.  He realizes his left hand has a burn in the middle that is blackened and oozing blood. 
 
Vergere asks him what it’s like to touch the Force again. 
 
She is laying on the floor, clothing shredded and burned flesh.  He asks what happened and remembers.  He had seen her with Nom Anor, chatting as though they were friends and the betrayal had channeled through him rage directed at her.  He remembers the electricity fired at her and how his own hands burned, feeding his anger, and how good it felt.  There was no more wrestling with right and wrong.  Everything was simple. 
 
He becomes tearful, telling her he warned her about this.  She tells him not to make excuses.  He had pulled the ceiling down, tried to kill Nom Anor and his warriors, but the electric arcs wouldn’t touch them.  The storm above answered and blew the Vong into a corner of the chamber as he brought the building down around them. 
 
He stands up and tells her he has to leave now because the Dark Side is too strong here.  She asks him why the Jedi Council would build its temple upon a nexus of the Dark Side.  The answer is simple.  They wouldn’t.  There is no Dark Side.  The Force is one and everything.  It doesn’t take sides because it doesn’t have sides. 
 
What humans think of as the Dark Side is just the raw, unrestrained Force that they access when they give themselves wholly over to it.  Jedi control limits power because it requires limits to passion.  True greatness requires the surrender of control.  He must leave his limits behind.
 
If surrendering his control results in death, it’s not because the Force has a Dark Side, it’s because he has one.  That’s the only Dark Side he should fear. 
 
He realizes that he is right and that hurts him more than the Embrace of Pain.  He runs. 
 
Nom Anor tells Vergere that she promised him there would be no danger.  She reminds him that he’s alive and relatively uninjured.  Her tears heal her burns as she speaks.  He thinks she should have warned him how unpredictable the power of a Dark Jedi could be.
 
She thinks Jacen would have been more dangerous in possession of his lightsaber and wielding the calm detachment of the Jedi.  Anor doesn’t understand the point of spurring this crisis.  He is lying to the Shaper Lord, manipulating his troops and lurking around with his life in danger just to trigger some emotional turning point in Jacen Solo. 
 
Vergere tells him that Jacen has to unlearn lies before he can learn truth.  Anor asks if she means their truth.  The True Way.  She asks if there is any other.
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  • This philosophy of the Force is the same that Palpatine espoused in Cloak of Deception all those years and books ago.  It doesn’t fit with what we know of Palpatine before or since that time, but there it was.  Should we be concerned that Vergere thinks the same way?

 


#10
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chapter 9: The Belly of the Beast:
 
Jacen staggers from a stairwell, gasping, not remembering how long he’d been running.  He hangs from a catwalk and wonders if he should let go, when he hears a voice calling him.  He looks over and sees Anakin standing on a balcony. 
 
Jacen says he’s not real.  Anakin waves him over and tells him he’ll be safe here.  Remembering how Luke had gotten guidance from Obi-Wan Kenobi after he died, Jacen reaches out through the Force and feels nothing.  He decides Anakin is a Vong. 
 
He jumps up, ready to unleash his rage upon the one who dares pose as his brother.  He unleashes a storm and springs, following Anakin through a doorway.  His brother is far ahead of him and urges him onward.  They race through the corridors until Jacen loses him. 
 
He ecides he’s been had.  He stands in the cooridor and sees several rings closing around him, and realizes he’s in a throat.  He hears screams begging for help and knows he’s sliding down to a stomach.  He finds himself deep in a cavern with a girl who looks as real as Anakin did. 
 
Jacen doesn’t believe she’s real.  She is just bait.  He wonders why the universe is so cruel that it won’t let him die in peace.  It must hate him so he decides to hate it back.  This screaming girl isn’t even real so he reaches out to silence her with the Force.  Then he realizes he can feel her in the Force.  She is real.
 
He is stunned and quickly apologizes.  He tries to pull her up, but he can’t stand.  Jacen feels useless, knowing this girl had to remain on a planet under bombardment, survived for weeks while the world was reshaped, avoiding disease and starvation and warriors only to find herself trapped in this beast’s stomach. Now, at the moment of death, she found hope that someone would help her only to find a broken ex-Jedi. 
 
He gets angry and this time he doesn’t fight it.  He has all the power he needs.
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#11
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Jedi Cool

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chapter 10: Home Free:
 
Jacen is home.  At least, he’s where home used to be.  His family apartment is still almost intact.  He hadn’t known what he would do once he got there, but part of him thought that he would be safe there.  He just sits there and feels lost.
 
Anakin walks in while Jacen sits in his seat at the family dinner table, trying to remember a regular family dinner in this room which is covered with Vonglife.
 
Jacen admits he’d hoped that Anakin would guide him the way Obi-Wan Kenobi had Uncle Luke.  At least, he’d wanted to see Anakin one last time.  That’s why he fell for Vergere’s trick in the Nursery and the telepathic bait of the creature.
 
Anakin asks how he knows those were faked.  After all, maybe the Force was using Vergere.  He asks what would have happened if he hadn’t appeared on the balcony.  Jacen admits he would have fallen.  Anakin points out that seeing him there saved Jacen’s life.
 
And Jacen saved the life of the girl.  Jacen knows that, but the others in the belly weren’t happy.  He’d pried her from the creature and wrapped her in the healing robeskin he wore, only to find about 50 people looking at him.  Some of them were holding blasters.  He explains they were living in there.
 
The cavern beast is conservative in that it doesn’t always need all the food it captures.  The survivors can live for a long time inside and, in fact, they help the cavern beast live.  When it needs extra nutrition, it just grabs a captive.  Most of the captives were downlevel refugees who couldn’t evacuate.  Some had been escaped slaves from the seedship.
 
Occasionally, the beast swallows an animal and that is fed to it instead.  Sometimes there isn’t an animal.  The rule is the last to arrive is the first to into the belly.  The girl had gotten there only a few hours before he did but some of them had been in there for weeks.  That means they had done this to other people.
 
They just knocked her on the head and threw her in.  Anakin answers that people often rationalize whatever they can.  Jacen goes on to say she woke up before the stomach closed over her and screamed.  He wasn’t going to let anyone put her back in or anyone else, but the stomachs were opening and everyone was being slid into the gullet.  Since he was the last one in, they tried to throw him in.
 
He didn’t let it get that far.  He’s changed and he can’t excuse it.  Anakin tells him that whatever has happened, Jacen is still his big brother.  Jacen doesn’t feel that way.  Anakin was always so sure of himself and Jacen looked up to him because he always seemed to know what to do.  Jacen wanted to be sure.  Anakin admits he never was a questioning type of person.  He was just wanted to be a weapon like Uncle Luke.  But things are different now.  Doing things the old way just gets people killed.
 
Jacen thinks he’s better off dead than what’s happening to him.  He admits that he did something bad under the old Jedi Temple.  He wasn’t sure that it was evil.  He was exhausted and panicked.  Finding the Force again when he thought he’d lost it sent him out of control.
 
He did save the girl after all.  He only hurt himself which is part of being a Jedi.  He hasn’t fallen that far, yet.  He had used Darkness for strength, but held on to his temper when he found out what they had been doing.  What turned him was when the girl turned on him and reminded the others that Jacen had now become the last person in. 
 
Anakin asks if he blamed her.  Jacen can empathize with her, but yes, he blamed her and all the others.  He set out to hurt them.  He enjoyed it.  The beast had vomited them up and they found themselves tangled together outside its teeth, their refuge taken from them.  Anakin points out that it’s better for them to face death from Yuuzhan Vong warriors rather than buying their lives with innocent blood.
 
Jacen argues that he wanted them to suffer.  He can’t even blame the Dark Side.  Anakin knows this.  That’s not really how it works.  Jacen laments that he gave in to his own darkness.  Anakin points out that he could have killed them all, including the cavern beast, but he didn’t.  When Jacen protests that one can’t fight darkness with darkness, Anakin says that’s Uncle Luke talking.  His job is to fight darkness.  The Vong aren’t dark, they’re alien.
 
He doesn’t have to fight them.  Jacen gets angry and can’t believe he’s arguing with a hallucination.  He needs to know what to do know, what to believe, what is real.  Anakin tells him he may be a hallucination, but that doesn’t mean he’s not him. 
 
The Force is one and concompasses all opposites.  Jacen tells him it’s a lie.  Anakin admits it is.  But it’s also the truth.  Jacen won’t accept that because Anakin would never speak like that.  Anakin tells him if he’s not real than Jacen is only talking to himself and is saying what he believes.
 
Over time, Jacen wakes up and finds Vergere there.  She admits she used the portions of the planetary database to find him and it was not hard to figure out he would come home.  Most wounded animals come home to die and Jacen is inflicted with the greatest wound a Jedi can have:  freedom.
 
It is uncertainty that sets him free.  No one chooses the wrong.  He’s not going to die as he’s dead already.  He’s been passing through the lands of the dead for many months now and it’s time for new life. He is healed.  She tells him to rise up.
 
He doesn’t think it matters.  Nothing does as the Force doesn’t care.  She asks if he does.  He admits he does, but why should it.  He doesn’t matter.  That brings the question around to who he is. 
 
She tells him he has to decide where else he can look if it’s not here.  Jacen finds himself in a calm stor.  He finds the living Force that binds him to everything. Twelve warriors fill the room with Nom Anor.  He looks at them and understands. 
 
Anor explains that Jacen’s despair comes from his meaningless religion that has no purpose.  It is corrupt with the rot of this galaxy.  There is a reason to get up and he can find it.  Nom Anor can share it with him.  Jacen realizes Nom Anor has been listening.
 
Anor goes on to say that it’s time to leave behind the useless Force and take his place as the God he is.  He gives Jacen a lightsaber.
 
Jacen recognizes it as Anakin’s.  He can take it.  He can feel the Yuuzhan Vong through it.  He can feel the Force. He knows he could be pure warrior and be greater than his brother.  He could use dark power and surpass Uncle Luke and the Jedi Knights of old.  He asks himself if that’s who he wants to be.
 
He uses the Force to pull the hilt but Vergere pulls it away.  He looks at his image in the dining room table and stands up.  He agrees to go with them.
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  • Vergere’s argument about freedom cripples the Jedi is similar to Palpatine’s seduction of Anakin in Revenge of the Sith.  When Palpatine offered Anakin the freedom to do whatever he wanted and to have whatever he wanted, he knew this was what stymied the Jedi.

  • The chapter refers to the city as Galactic City.  The place has been called Imperial City for as long as the Emperor had been in power and for years afterward.  When did they stop calling it that?

 


#12
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Part III: the Gates of Death:
 
chapter 11: Traitor:
 
No one knows for certain how many people lived on Coruscant prior to the invasion.  The bombardment killed billions, as did the resulting groundquakes and the those killed by starvation, hunting packs, Vonglife and other planetary dangers.  Billions more have been enslaved or held captive.
 
There are still 900 billion people left over.
 
The camp ships pop in and out of hyperspace for months, carrying refugees from Coruscant that no responsible world can turn away.  Some ships may have jumped to uninhabited systems and no one wants to think about that.  Jedi explore the galaxy and try to find any missing ships, but there aren’t many Jedi and most of them are busy fighting the war. 
 
Still, the New Republic systems do what they can with resources spread thin.  The ships are roomy and hold air so they are kept where they are while the systems do their best to supply them with necessities.  In essence, they become orbital refugee camps.  Life is hard there with food that must be rationed, water that has been recycled repeatedly and very few are allowed to leave.  No planet wants to find among a refugee population spies, Peace Brigadier or infiltrators.
 
Ganner Rhysode has been following it for weeks.  He’s backtracked rumors until he reaches the curtain that passes for a door on the ship.  He’s not the same Ganner that would have swept aside the curtain, announced himself and asked questions.  He slips inside and sits down quietly and reaches out into the Force.  He feels humans inside and can’t tell if there are five or not. 
 
He does have the feeling he’s about to die.  No one will know what’s happened to him, except maybe Jaina who just dismissed the rumors as a stupid lie.  Ganner wanted to check it out anyway as it could be good for the morale of the New Republic.
 
He had told her that her mother felt that Jacen was still alive.  Jaina reminded him that her mother lost both sons on the same day and hasn’t gotten over it.  She probably never will.  She warned him not to say anything that will get back to her and get her hopes up.
 
Jaina explained that the Vong kept Jacen alive for a long time after his capture.  She could feel it through the Force and never told her parents.  Anakin’s death was cleaner.
 
She felt Jacen die.  He was there one instant and gone the next as if he were never there.  If he were alive, she wouldn’t need Ganner to come and tell her about it. Jaina threatened Ganner not to talk about it again.
 
He had walked away, struck by how Jaina, who had always held herself together, had turned so aggressive.  He decided to look into it himself and set out alone, cautiously, making sure he is chasing the rumor because the New Republic needs hope, not because he wants glory.  He cannot forget the dark glint in her eye.
 
Jedi have dealt with darkness in the past.  Kyp Durron struggles to stay in the light every day.  But Jaina looked Ganner in the eye and threatened his life.  That hurt him because the Solo kids are supposed to be invulnerable, always doing the right things. Now Anakin and Jacen are dead and Jaina is reminding Ganner how she is the granddaughter of Darth Vader.  To give her hope, he can try to find her brother. 
 
That’s what’s brought him into this room on a camp ship.  He explains that he heard that there’s someone in here to saw Jacen Solo alive on Coruscant after the invasion.  The men in here all wear identicial white tunics.  They refuse to help him.
 
He explains he’s a Jedi and just needs information.  He suddenly finds himself jogging down the hallway with no memory of how hegot here.  He realizes that someone back there could use the Force.  He stops and wishes he’d brought along backup.
 
There is only one presence in the room now.  He withdraws from the Force and creeps back.  There is a powerful Force user here and maybe masqued Yuuzhan Vong with him.  He enters the room again and uses his lightsaber to put it at the man’s throat, telling him they are going out into the corridor to talk.
 
The man addresses Ganner by name and tells him they can’t go outside.  If he steps outside the chamber, a Vong pilot watching them will trigger a dovin basal that will collapse the whole ship.  They don’t trust him yet and he can’t even kill himself or the same thing will happen.
 
Ganner explains he only wants to hear what he knows about Jacen Solo.  The man stands up and the ooglith masquer peels away to reveal Jacen himself.  He tosses a small pad to Ganner which turns out to be a small living creature that contains a sedative that will knock Ganner unconscious soon.
 
Jacen turns to the others and tells them to contact Nom Anor that they’ve been discovered.  Other Jedi will come and they must return home.  They will take this one with them.
 
Jacen cuts through Ganner’s lightsaber and tells them they will take the Jedi to Yuuzhan’tar to be killed. 
 
A ship soon leaves the campt ship with four warriors, one pilot and two humans.  Ganner lays paralyzed and unconscious, not knowing where he’s going but holding on to one truth.  Jacen Solo is a traitor.
 ----------------------------------------------------------
 
 


#13
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chapter 12: The Light of the True Way:
 
Ganner Rhysode dreams and dreams of aliens and Vong and traitors who are Jedi, hearing conversations that are about possibly killing him.  Nom Anor points out that the warmaster will question the traitor’s motives for bringing the Jedi back here instead of killing him outright.  The traitor points out the benefit of a sacrifice and Vergere backs him up. 
 
Ganner tries to reach into Jacen’s heart and finds only warmth.  Yet Jacen talks about this sacrifice being a precursor for Jaina.  Ganner recognizes that there is a set up going on here.  Nom Anor doesn’t like a rehearsal sacrifice as it exposes the secret.  Jacen counters that his conversion is pointless if it remains a secret.  He must practice if the ceremony is to be flawless.
 
In the meantime, he must speak with the Jedi so that he will understand the true way. 
 
When Ganner awakens, he finds Jacen there, telling him that not to fear but rejoice because his day of Blessed Release has arrived.  The True Gods give Life, Pain and Death.  Death is the release of the burden of pain and the curse of life.
 
Ganner asks what they did to him and urges him to listen.  They can bring him back.  He doesn’t know what’s going on with his family.  Everyone needs him. Jacen’s eyes open and he winks.  Then he closes his eyes again.
 
Then the eyes on each end of the vines at the ceiling fade.  Jacen quickly asks how he feels and if any strength is coming back.  They can talk now but only for a limited time.  He’s persuaded the creatures watching them to nap for now.
 
He explains that the Vong have decided he’s the avatar of one of their twin gods.  He begins applying treatment to Ganner’s wounds and tells him that someone will come to investigate why they’ve lost contact with this chamber.  They have to be ready.
 
He gives Ganner a robeskin for his walk to the Well of the World Brain.  Ganner isn’t prepared for that.  He thinks this is a trick.  Jacen confesses that it is and that everything he’s telling Ganner is a lie.  Everything that is said is a lie because the truth is always bigger than the words they use. 
 
Ganner can’t get around this.  Jacen says that he is Jacen Solo, but not the boy who once knew Ganner.  He died at Myrkyr and just hasn’t gotten around to lying down.
 
Jacen quickly explains on the way.  The rumors leading to the trap on the camp ship hadn’t been intended to catch anyone.  Jacen had only been stalling for time, hoping that Nom Anor would lose patience and pull him out.  Capturing Jaina is easy because he only needs to open their Force Bond.
 
He has to keep that closed because she will come after him and be killed.  Ganner asks what would have happened if Jaina had shown up on the ship.  Jacen tells him that he would be having this conversation with her and Ganner would have lived to a ripe old age. 
 
Jacen had known Ganner was coming and tried everything for days to keep him from doing so, but nothing worked.  Ganner mentions that Jacen does understand that he’s not really dead.  Jacen explains that coming back to the chamber on the ship is what killed him.  The warriors were going to kill him right there but Jacen prevented them.  If he’d helped Ganner escape, he would have shown them he was still a Jedi which would have destroyed the ship and the millions of people on it.
 
The sacrifice is a sham in order to get into the Well of the World Brain.  It’s a master computer that manages the ecology of the recreated homeworld.  Jacen has been trying to find a way to get inside the Well which is a type of bunker designed to protect the World Brain.  The Vong would not let him anywhere near the place because they don’t really trust that his conversion is real.  Ganner isn’t sure that it isn’t real.
 
With Ganner as a sacrifice, Jacen has the ability to get inside for a few minutes.  He plans to teach the Yuuzhan Vong a lesson about the way the universe really works.  Ganner will not go along with this.  Jacen points out he doesn’t need his cooperation.  Ten minutes after they walk through the door of the Well, they’ll both be dead whether he plays along or not.
 
Ganner knows Jacen is strong but also points out he could jump Jacen now and make him kill him right now.  Jacen tells him to choose to die here for nothing or choose to die changing the galaxy.  Trusting him will have to be a matter of faith.
 
Jacen gives Ganner Anakin’s lightsaber, telling him to use it if he wants.  It’s not a trick.  Jacen lost his on Myrkyr and weapons are irrelevant for what he has to do anyway. 
 
Nom Anor arrives with warriors, concerned that they lost contact with the room.  Jacen brushes him off and they prepare for the ceremony, Ganner playing along.
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#14
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chapter 13: Glory Sickness:
 
Ganner looks solemn, though he feels nauseous.  He is trying to think of something else as warriors follow along with Nom Anor and the shaper. 
 
Jacen speaks quietly on the way, his lips barely moving.  Ganner can’t remember most of it and can’t concentrate.  He touches the grip of the lightsaber in his sleeve. He had thought he’d be ready for his first view of Coruscant as he’d heard many stories from the refugees.    Knowing what had happened is different from actually experiencing it. 
 
The air, the light, the surroundings are different.  The heavily-guarded Well of the World Brain sits where the Galactic Senate used to be.  The dome was heavily fortified even before the invasion and the yorik coral only solidifies it.  There are also dovin basals seeded inside.  Some of the conversion is not ready due to weak points in the structure that occurred as a result of the proton bomb that exploded in Fey’lya’s office.
 
Ganner didn’t know there had been a bomb and asks when that happened.  Jacen chuckles and says it’s said that Fey’lya detonated it himself and took out 25000 troops and officers with him.  The Yuuzhan Vong have testified to that and admire him for his bravery.
 
Ganner says maybe the Vong didn’t know Fey’lya as well as they did.  Jacen answers that they maybe didn’t know him like they should have.
 
Ganner isn’t reassured when he finds out that Jacen’s understanding of the upcoming procedures comes from Vergere.  Jacen admits he’s not sure what side she’s on, but she knows what he’s planning because he doesn’t think she’ll betray him.
 
When Ganner drops, Nom Anor rushes over and claims he lied to the Shaper Lord that this is how humans show reverence.  Jacen needs to get this pathetic Jedi up.  Jacen tells Anor that Ganner is ill due to weeks of sedation. 
 
Ganner tries to reach for Anakin’s lightsaber to cut through himself, but Jacen picks him up and carries him through the Force.  In the grip of the Force, Ganner feels humiliated.  He’s only ever wanted to be a hero.  That’s what’s making him sick. 
 
Jacen leads them into the Great Door and then slams it shut behind himself and Ganner.  He has Ganner follow him quickly.  Ganner struggles to keep up as they fall into the Grand Convocation Chamber.  There is a pool of glowing slime where the Chief of State’s podium used to be.  York coral climbs up the walls and a fleshy bulge moves inside the pool. 
 
Jacen heads down to the dhurykan in the pool and tells Ganner to go to the Kashyyyk Senator’s private office where he’ll find a private turbolift shaft behind a secret door next to his desk.  The shaft will take Ganner to the tunnels where he could live for a while or even escape.
 
They’ve only got a couple of minutes before Nom Anor gives up pretending nothing’s wrong and they’ll blow the door open.  Ganner refuses to let Jacen sacrifice himself without explaining why.  The New Republic needs heroes and Jaina needs him.
 
Jacen says that isn’t true.  He has his own path to follow.  Ganner has to go now.  Once he starts to become who he is, he will learn that there is nothing to fear.
 
When the door starts to burst open, Ganner understands.  He knows the power of who he is and chooses to be a hero.  He lifts up Anakin’s lightsaber and tells him they only lose unless someone doesn’t let the Vong inside.
 
Jacen points out that playing the hero may kill him.  Ganner admits that was always his weakness.  Jacen tells him that it can also be his greatest strength.  Ganner tells him he always thought Jacen was wishy-washing and soft.  Jacen confesses he thought Ganner was a playacting glory hunter.  Ganner laughs and says he was right. Jacen says Ganner was right, too. 
 
Ganner promises him a show they won’t forget.  Jacen only needs ten minutes as the World Brain lifts him up. 
 
Nom Anor squints through the gape of the Great Door as several warriors enter and don’t return.  He steps in to see a human figure, standing in the archway of the Well.  He is surprised to find Ganner Rhysode, the weak Jedi who couldn’t even walk, standing there.  He doesn’t look weak or foolish now.
 
Anor yells that there are thousands of warriors here and he cannot stop them.  Ganner calls back that he doesn’t have to stop them, just slow them down.  He challenges them to bring on the warriors at once or one at a time.  Regardless, none shall pass.
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#15
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Jedi Cool

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chapter 14: Path of Destiny:
 
Warriors come at him one at a time, then two at a time before the bodies become a pilot than a rampart, then a fortress.  Nom Anor is appalled and fascinated at the same time.  He asks the commander if they just can’t blow him up.
 
The commander will not do that to a warrior who faces them with honor.  Anor doesn’t care at this point as Jacen Solo is in the Well with the World Brain. Ch’Gang Hool assures him that the World Brain can defend itself.  Besides, they cannot use potent explosives or gas, lest they cause greater danger to the World Brain than the Jedi poses.
 
Anor is livid at this difficulty and more upset at Vergere.  She tells him that it doesn’t matter who is really at fault as it matter who Tsavong Lah will blame for it.  If he’s leaving, he should take her with him because she saved the life of Luke Skywalker’s wife.  They might not kill him immediately if she’s with him.
 
She knows he has a coral ship hidden in the chamber and, if they do not flee now, there won’t be a ship because Jacen will steal it.
 
The World Brain wraps Jacen in its tentacles as Jacen admits he taught it to trust and then betrayed him. He also reminds Jacen that a part of each dhuryam was connected to Jacen and he felt their deaths.  They are One.
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#16
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 Epilogue: Lessons
 
Jacen sits in the coralskipper watching Vergere, not knowing if she’s sleeping or if he’s even ever seen her do so.  He remembers finding Nom Anor bound in the well, pleading with them to take him with them.  After all, he will die here.
 
Jacen had told him he would just receive his Blessed Release.
 
Anor had cursed him as a traitor then, just as Vergere is one.  Vergere had happily admitted that she could not teach treachery unless she’d experienced it herself.
 
Not knowing how he would even acclimate to his former life again, Jacen stops himself from reaching out to Jaina.  Who knows what has happened to her.  He doesn’t know how he can face his mother, his father or Uncle Luke.  Or tell them how Ganner had died.
 
He chats with Vergere about how he’s having trouble reconciling the Ganner he knew with the one who sacrificed himself.  Ganner hadn’t even liked Jacen.  Vergere tells him that one does not need to like in order to love.  She’s had a vision of the future in which Ganner serves as an invincible god before the gates of the Vong afterlife with the words None Shall Pass in Basic above the door.
 
Several days later, Jacen asks her what she was really after.  Vergere tells him that she wanted him to be exactly what he is.  He doesn’t know the answer to that question and is frustrated when she won’t tell him what she thinks he is.  She is curious as to what he did with the World Brain. She didn’t know quite what he would do:  kill it, kill himself, sacrifice Ganner.
 
He admits that he seduced the World Brain.  It will be working for them now.  The Yuuzhan Vong are fanatics.  Everything is black and white to them.  Trying to fight fanatics only makes them more fanatical. So the World Brain is going to teach them a lesson.  Their terraforming of Coruscant isn’t going to go quite according to plan.  There will always be something just a little bit off about it.
 
They will have to learn to compromise.
 
She hugs him, telling him that she is proud of them, surpassing her teachings.  He wonders if that’s what she is to him, a teacher.  She believes that student and teacher are one and the same.  He wishes the lessons she taught him were less harsh.  Vergere suggests that, perhaps, he might teach her another way.
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  • Vergere telling Jacen she just wants him to be what he is is quite similar to what Palpatine told Anakin Skywalker in the Revenge of the Sith novelization. 

 
End of Book 13




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