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Force Heretic III: Reunion: Book 17 in The New Jedi Order

chapter discussion thread

23 replies to this topic

#1
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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Prologue:
 
Tahiri and Riina stare at each other, each refusing to stand down, advancing on each other, one with a lightsaber, the other with an amphistaff.
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Part I: Infiltration:
 
1.
 
Han is in the middle of the strangest game of sabacc he’d ever played and still wins.  After a brief altercation over whether or not his win was the result of pure luck, he’s taken to the boss of the establishment on the run-down world of Onadax.
He’s pushed into a room where a voice speaks to him from the other room. 
 
The boss notes that the Falcon has been here one day longer than a GA frigate that was docked here.  He wonders if there’s a correlation.  Han assures him there isn’t.  He is, however, looking for a Ryn who was supposed to meet him here.
 
The boss seems familiar to Han, though and he asks his name.  The bouncer takes Han out and tosses him onto the street.  Leia comm.s him to make sure he’s out in one pice.
 
The Jade Shadow emerges from hyperspace with the Widowmaker behind her.  They have tried three times to jump the last parsec to the empty system of Klasse Ephemora where they hope to find the lost world of Zonama Sekot.
 
They’ve failed each time because it seems that something is keeping them out.  There seem to be anomalies in this area that is leading Luke to wonder if the world chose this place deliberately.
 
Dr. Hergerty thinks it might be dark matter. 
 
Jagged Fel sits by Tahiri when he’s startled by a comm. from Jaina who is in the middle of a conversation with her parents.  Jaina is insisting that Han’s win at cubic sabacc was too convenient.  She thinks someone let him win so he could be accused of cheating and expelled from the bar.  The owner might be behind it. 
 
Unfortunately, there’s no sign of the Ryn and there’s also a disturbance of some kind going on in the city.  Jaina picks up word that a riot has started at the docking port and a mob is headed their way, convinced that a GA agent has made off with a fortune.
 
They decide someone may be trying to whip up trouble against them.  Jaina is going to head for the Selonia.
 
Meanwhile, Jacen tries to contact Mon Calamari for news of Ben and can’t reach it.  He decides to contact Csilla and see if they can reach the capital.  Danni appears and they both feel something roll through them.  It’s coming from the Force and it’s getting stronger.
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#2
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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2.
 
Saba wakes up with a feeling that someone is trying to crack her skull.  No alarms are ringing so she reaches out with the Force.  Luke, Mara, Jacen and Danni all feel it.  Only Dr. Hegerty, not being Force-sensitive, isn’t disturbed.
 
Saba tells them that Zonama Sekot is crying out.  It’s frightened and angry.  Luke opens a line to the Widowmaker and tells Yage they’ve got a lead.  The Jedi meld together, the ships rattle and they jump.  Emerging, they find a world fighting its attackers…Yuuzhan Vong vessels.
 
Shimrra is torturing a Shamed One he believes to be a heretic and then has him tossed into the charnel pits.  He turns to Ngaaluh, congratulating her for the investigations exposing the enemy inside his court.
 
Nom Anor watches all of this from the secret villip the priestess is concealing.  She is one of the last to leave the court.  Kunra notes how valuable she has become.
 
Shoon-mi is more concerned with the Shamed Ones who are being tortured and killed.  Anor reminds him that the reward of the faithful is often mere pain.  He should be satisfied that his infiltration of Shimrra’s court has been successful, but there’s something unnerving him.
 
He has worked hard to spread his version of the Jedi heresy and to eliminate plugs, but he still wakes up certain that Shimrra is closing in. If he does survive this, hehas no idea who he will be the leader of.  Hedoesn’t know if he will be happy being the leader of an army of Shamed Ones and misfits.
 
Han refuses to leave until he knows Jaina is safe.  Leia reminds him she’s on her way to the Pride of Selonia and he is putting them at risk by staying here.   They are supposed to be spreading a peaceful message.  They don’t know why the Ryn hasn’t met them, but Goure might have gotten it wrong.
 
Someone pounds on the ship door and they let him in.
 
Luke is dragged out of unconsciousness by Captain Mayn calling him over the comm..  Saba , Danni and Tekli are all out cold, but Jacen is alert and Mara is at the controls.  She tells him that they were all knocked out by something powerful enough to keep them that way.  She woke up to find Jacen taking instructions over the comm..  He thinks Zonama Sekot is responsible for all this.
 
When he told them that he wasn’t the best person to pilot the ship, she woke up.  The ship’s recording shows the Yuuzhan Vong ships breaking off and being destroyed by the planet’s defenders. 
 
They are landing now with a great deal of questions.  Jacen explains that he wasn’t given a name when he was contacted, only coordinates for a landing field in the Southern Hemisphere, the area destroyed by the Yuuzhan Vong the last time they were here.
 
The Widowmaker is to stay in orbit where its crew suffered none of the effects of the Force punch. Two beings approach them.  A female asks who they are and her male companion tells them they are not welcome.  They were forced to allow them to land because Sekot has willed it.  Sekot is the mind of the planet Zonama.
 
A woman appears and tells them that the inhabitants of this planet are the Ferroans.  She is the Magister.  She is an older woman but projects much vitality.  Luke explains how they were told of this world by the Jedi Knight Vergere whom the Magister confirms visited them once and is remembered fondly.
 
She drew the Far Outsiders away for a long time so they could prepare to defend themselves.  The other two, Rowel and Darak think the Jedi bring omens of doom with them as they always do.  The Magister explains that there have been other Jedi who have visited this world and have always proven to be their friends.
 
The Crossings have been hard on their world, causing upheavals, such as plagues and famines.  Zonama has had no visitors for many years and now conflict returns to them.  They are invited to the village to discuss their arrival here.
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#3
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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3. 
 
Jaina reaches the frigate right before the mob does and is told her parents are in orbit.  The ship lifts off and Jaina is reunited with Jag.  Her parents confirm she’s safe and explain they picked up a passenger as they left orbit.  It’s Droma.
 
Jacen help Danni up, while Luke rouses Saba and Tekli.  As they step out on the planet, Jacen warns them that the locals are not really happy to see them.  Dr. Hegerty wakes up  of her own accord on the Jade Shadow which had been moved by Sekot and is now tethered to the ground by fronds.  Tekli is asked to stay behind to watch the ship.
 
Droma tells how his family moved from place to place toward the Core and then to other, safer area before hearing about the Ryn network which is based on the Jedi Great River .  He doesn’t know who they were supposed to meet here, but he came here to apply on behalf of his family to become part of the network.
 
Unfortunately, he was turned away.  He wasn’t able to identify the boss, but guesses he likes to keep a low profile after all the work he’s done against the Yuuzhan Vong.  Droma does ask for a ride to the Juvex sector.  After all, Esfandia is surely on their route.
 
He’s surprised to find they don’t know what’s going on there.  He’d overheard a message coming through while he was being interviewed.  The Generis communications center has been destroyed and Esfanida is under attack.  Those are the only relay stations servicing the Unknown Regions. 
 
Jacen walks along Darak and tells her that he has been told she remembers Vergere.  Darak says that she was a child when Vergere and the other Jedi came and she was half a world away then.  She’s heard stories, but dismisses them as tales for children.
 
He’s not able to get much else from her.  They pass Ferroans working on gondolas that are secured to large airships called kybo.  Jacen meets the pilot of one and realizes the ship is a sentient creature.
 
The life on this world makes him feel very small.
 
On the Pride of Selonia, Jaina watches over Tahiri and says it’s like her body is on fire.  She decides to reinforce her through the Force.
 
Tahiri feels something has changed.  Riina tells her something is coming and they could fight it together.  While they fight, Tahiri can hear someone calling her name.  Riina is relieved that this new opponent doesn’t want her. 
 
Then the voice sounds again and Riina yells that she wont’ allow her to kill them.  She runs and Tahiri chases her. 
 
Han and Droma catch up on each other’s story since their separation while Leia considers the problem on Esfandia.  The last message was that it was under attack, but it was designed to resist.  There are Imperial AT-ATs there and the base can be gone to ground if needed. 
 
They emerge, however, to find a huge Yuuzhan Vong force in orbit bombarding the planet with mines.  Leia thinks they might be able to get down to the base and rescue the forces there before the Vong find them.  Droma reminds her that will put them in the same position as those in the base.
 
He tells them there are incoming ships.  They turn out to be two Imperial Star Destroyers, one of them Right to Rule with Grand Admiral Pellaeon on board.  He tells them he’s been chasing this group across the galaxy.  He gives them a yammosk-bearing vessel to target.  Pride of Selonia and Twin Suns moves out to engage.
 
Han reminds Droma it’s more interesting when the odds are stacked against them.
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#4
Jedi Cool

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Part II: Confrontation:
 
4. 
 
Nom Anor comes into the lifth of Yuuzhan’tar and breathes in deeply.  Ngaaluh is taking him, Kunra and Shoon-mi with her as she goes on a supposed investigation into a sector of this world.
 
It’s perfect cover that a supplicant of the Prophet is being entrusted by the Overlord with this duty.  There are five unreliable or mentally unstable heretics selected to be her prisoners.  They’d been sent out to spread a perverted version of the heresy and Ngaaluh’s spies had caught them. 
 
The entourage runs into a brief difficulty as their authorization is challenged. Ironically, the only thing about them that is authentic.   They finally pass through the gate where Nom Anor notices a wide dark pool that is further indicative of the malfunctioning worldbrain.
 
Twin Suns heads out to counter the forces at Esfandia.  Jag warns the pilots that their primary responsibility is to protect the Selonia. As the yammosk begins to concentrate on the skies above the planet, the bombardment stops and the Falcon slips down.
 
Nom Anor and his associates slip away, leaving three Shamed Ones in their place.  No one will notice the difference.  Underneath the priestess’s room, they pass through a series of basements transformed into something more organic.
 
He’d left some minions in his place to oversee the other adherents of the movement.  Anor is tired of questioning what will replace the belief in the gods because he doesn’t believe in the Jedi heresy either.  This is a means to hurt those who hurt him. 
 
The priestess joins him later to tell him that Jakan has assured Shimrra that the heresy will end soon.  There are plans on a ban to access to the lower levels.  Once all authorized personnel have been evacuated, Jakan wants to send wild spinerays into the tunnels so they will breed and kill anything down there.
 
Of course, that leaves them with wild, dangerous spinerays that could make their way to the upper levels.  This certainly means they are desperate.
 
She has found the intendent Anor had directed her to and found him to be as self-serving as described.  He will be brought down by those sympathetic to her cause put on his staff.
 
She has also heard that there is a Jedi mission in the Unknown Regions that seems unrelated to the Chiss.  They may be rumors, but they are persistent ones.  A battle group had been sent there and recently returned.  The commander boasted of finding the long-lost world of Zonama Sekot. 
 
Anor objects that this is just a legend.  He wanted an audience with the Overlord and then disappeared.  He tells her to report back if she learns anything important.  Shoon-mi comes calling when the Prophet didn’t ask for an evening meal.  He has taken the ooglith masquer for refreshing as it was starting to look shabby and then leaves.
 
Anor sleeps and dreams that night of his own face with Shimrra’s eyes on them.
 
The Falcon heads down passed a large orange void, passing flower shapes, until Leia picks up what might be a digital signal.  Droma goes to get Threepio to translate, then points out that a couple of Vong ships seem to be coming down the same way they did.
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#5
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5.
 
Saba can feel the life around here.  She walks with Dr. Hegerty when a darkness suddenly comes over them.  The doctor explains they’ve fallen into the shadow of Mobus.  Rowel tells them it’s called Sanctuary.
 
As they finish their journey through the tampasi, the village appears.  The buildings are grown which reminds Saba quite a bit like the Vong.  Darak and Rowel lead them to the largest habitat and tell them they will meet in one hour.
 
There are places to sit and food to eat inside.  Luke tells them that things have obviously changed since Vergere was here.  They will need to be on their toes for this meeting. 
 
Not long after entering, Jace notices children peering through the door.  Saba mentions that she feels Sekot on the surface and beneath it, too.  Jacen agrees there is life below them as well as above them.  This life is actually in the rock itself which would certainly explain Sekot’s ability to defend itself.
 
Of course, there are many questions about Sekot itself, such as where it came from and why there aren’t more planets like this.  There’s nothing particularly special about the Ferroans beyond the fact that they live here.
 
Two of the children have left but a young girl remains.  She asks Jacen about his lightsaber, telling him that the older ones tell stories of the Jedi.  He offers to show it to her but she says they’re dangerous.  He promises he would never hurt her or anyone else with it, but she tells him Jedi have other ways to hurt people.  After all, Anakin killed the Blood Carver without a lightsaber.
 
Jacen doesn’t know how his brother could have come here without him knowing it and he starts to hope that Anakin has been able to manifest himself the way his uncle’s teachers have.  Then he realizes who she might mean. He asks the name of the other Jedi and is told it was Obi-Wan Kenobi.
 
Before he can question her further, she is called away. He goes back inside to tell the others what he’s learned.
 
Pellaeon surveys the battle, having pursued Commander Vorrik from Imperial Space.  He orders a yammosk jammer to affect the northern flank of the battle.  The Millenium Falcon has gone to ground on the planet so he contact Captain Mayn and asks if she can spare three fighters.  He offers her backup in return when he senses her reluctance.
 
He asks if she thinks that the GA, Chiss and Empire can work together.  She says they’ll find out soon enough.  Jagged Fel is asked to distract the yammosk until they are close enough to affect it.  As to how he does it, Pellaeon just asks that Fel surprise him.
 
Thinking about what Jaina would do, he tells a couple of his fighters they aer going to pick a fight.  He finds a dead gunship moving along and says they need some skips.  He tells them to behave normally and he may go into a spin for no reason.  He just needs cover while he’s playing dead.
 
Then he swoops toward a group of coralskippers harassing a nearby squadron.
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  • Anakin Skywalker killed the Blood Carver in Rogue Planet when he and Obi-Wan Kenobi had come to Zonama Sekot to look for Vergere and investigate the grown ships constructed here.

 
 
 


#6
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6.
 
Jaina struggles through the blackness of this meld, calling her friend’s name.  She can tell they are on the worldship at Myrkr where Anakin died.  She finds Tahiri hunting her mirror image and realizes she cannot get out of this place.
 
Luke’s mind is cluttered and tangled by the time he is to meet with the Magister.  He can understand Jacen assuming the child had meant Anakin Solo, but they both know that’s impossible.  It had to have been Anakin Skywalker who had come with Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Luke can’t imagine why. 
 
The group of Ferroans arrive and sit in a circle.  The Magister notes that the Jedi tend to bring more questions than answers.  She knows some want her to ask Sekot to send them away because they are a threat to their way of life.  They have had to defend themselves three times in their history.  Each time, the Jedi were present. 
 
Luke assures her that they had no idea the Yuuzhan Vong were here when they arrived.  He asks that he be allowed to tell their story in the hopes they can find a common bond.
 
The Magister agrees and tells him her name is Jabitha.  He begins at Belkadan where Danni Quee first met the Vong agent and through the war years with its many losses, not only in worlds and lives, but in principles and ideals.
 
Jacen explains that they have come here because his former teacher, Vergere, suggested that this world might provide the answer to their problems.  Jabitha does not understand what they can be expected to do.  Their defenses are purely to protect the planet which is traumatized by conflict  
 
Luke understands their desire to avoid that, but the Yuuzhan Vong could not have stumbled across their world twice by pure chance. They must be searching, too, and if only one ship survived the battle, they will be back.
 
Jacen explains that the living Force demands that they help find an answer.  Jabitha wonders what gives him the right to speak for the Force.  Luke jumps in to ask about the third time the planet was attacked.  He knows two involved the Vong.  She answers that the other time was by forces of the Republic led by Commander Tarkin.
 
Luke confirms that this was after Vergere’s visit and asks about the Jedi who followed her, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
 
Jabitha tells of how the two Jedi came to search for Vergere and to investigate the living ships grown here.  Anakin was particularly attractive to the seed partners used to grow the ship that was quite beautiful.  He was her friend for a brief time, saving her life from a Blood Carver sent to kill him.  He used the power of his mind to do it, something they never knew possible.
 
Luke explains the use of such power is forbidden among the Jedi and, if Anakin did this, it came at a cost.  She knows that Luke is his son and that Jacen is also a descendant.  Sekot sensed this about them which is why they were allowed to land.  But the Anakin she knew loved this world and she will not allow his memory to be condemned.
 
Luke explains that his father was originally a good man but he became an agent of oppression for many years and that hangs over them. He bears Anakin Skywalker no ill will now, but he cannot allow that to lead him to make the same mistakes.
 
Jabitha decides to speak with the council about this.  Mara warns her that they will want to be careful.  The Yuuzhan Vong do not keep treaties or take prisoners. They will destroy this world and everyone on it if they can.  If the Ferroans wait too long, there will be no one left to be their allies.
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  • Jabitha was a young girl in Rogue Planet.  Her story fits what happened in that book.

 
 


#7
Jedi Cool

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7.
 
Tahiri rocks back as Riina tells her the shadow is here.  They can fight it together.  Tahiri doesn’t want be a warrior anymore.  It had cost her Anakin.  Riina won’t let her die because she would die with her.  They are bound together.  She must accept it.
 
Tahiri won’t, so Riina takes two steps back and brings a lightsaber up and it comes down.  She reaches for it, but misjudges the distance and it catches her hand before falling to the floor. Tahiri screams.
 
C-3PO easily understands the signal which turns out to be at least 17.  They are all trinary codes with their own unique variations.  It appears there are lifeforms on this world communicating with each other.  Leia asks if they can communicate with them.  The droid doesn’t see why not. 
 
Han decides they’ll try it on a low frequency and only about the base so they don’t waste time.  The droid communicates a request asking for the location of the relay base.  The Brrbrlpp are a sociable species and are happy to talk, but they won’t reveal the location of the base until it is confirmed no harm will come to it.  It seems the ship has caused the deaths of 15 of their number since arriving.
 
Leia realizes he means the flower shapes. She tells Han to cut the engines quickly.  He tells Threepio to explain to them that they didn’t know what they were and couldn’t have known.  One of the shapes drifts toward them.  Droma and Han aren’t sure this thing can’t hurt them and Leia knows that, having killed their friends and family, sorry may not be enough.
 
After supper, Luke and the doctor stay up to talk.  Saba is tired but stays awake because she doesn’t trust their hosts yet.  She hears part of the conversation about how the Potentium had come up in conversation between Vergere and Jacen.
 
Dr. Hegerty notes that it appears they’ve been contacted in their past by strangers six times.  Three times by Jedi, twice by the Yuuzhan Vong and once by Tarkin and the Old Republic .  Three times they were attacked and each time the Jedi were present.  She doesn’t blame them for being suspicious.
 
Saba finds herself drifting off, trusting Master Skywalker to keep an eye out for trouble.
 
Jag stutters his engines as though he’s been hit and tumbles across the battlefield, hoping that those around him think this is a genuine kill. Right before colliding with a gunship, he fires his cannons boiling yorik coral in a great plume.  Fortunately, his shields handle it.
 
His wimgmates click back and searches the wreckage briefly before firing up his engines and pushes the gunship forward, hoping no one notices.  He starts using his laser cannon as a scalpel and carve the interior of the ship.
 
Pellaeon is told that it appears Fel is using the gunship to ram another craft.  The Yuuzhan Vong have collision avoidance systems and will probably blow it up first.  Pellaeon has confidence in the young pilot.  In fact, considering the Vong forces still outnumber his, he would rather ram another ship than let them keep this world.
 
Captain Mayn assure him they’ve gotten transmissions from the Falcon ordering them to prevent any further incursions into the atmosphere.  He hates being left in the dark, but it appears she doesn’t know any more than he does what the Solos are up to.
 
His aide then tells him that Colonel Fel has signaled to get ready.  He glances up to see the gunship suddenly explodes.
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#8
Jedi Cool

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8.
 
Han reminds Leia that sending that transmission was risky, but she points out that they cannot risk any more of the Brrbrlpp dying.  Han warns her that they cannot stay down here indefinitely. 
 
She says to send another message, telling Droma they’re going to try to draw the Yuuzhan Vong in.  The message will tell the Selonia to look for a convergence in their location.  It’ll make the Vong a perfect target when they swoop in to find the Falcon.  They’ll extend their shields to protect the natives.
 
Threepio warns them there are nesting plains nearby that have them worried, too.
 
Saba wakes up from a disturbing dream about her burning world to feel her scales stiffening.  She reaches out and realizes that the habitat is dead.  She jumps up and ignites her lightsaber, feeling something come down on her.  She fights back and understands someone has killed the habitat and tried to bring it down on them.  In the glow of her lightsaber, she sees a male Ferroan. 
 
Dr. Hegerty is her priority now as she is being dragged away.  Saba intercepts the kidnappers and frees the doctor who wonders what they wanted with her.
 
Saba knows they went after the weakest one first, but takes her back to the village where Luke and Mara arguing with a group of Ferroans.  Jacen confirms that they have to find their attackers as they’ve taken Danni Quee.
 
The Imperial forces aboard the Right to Rule are unhappy to see the gunship blow up with Colonel Fel inside.  They are also surprised when the ship breaks up into large chunks with two of them heading for the cruiser.  The largest is tumbling toward the corvette.
 
The Vong collision avoidance systems come up, but Pellaeon sees the plasma fire sucked into nothing.  He realizes that they are being absorbed by dovin basals lingering on the fragments of the hull. 
 
He orders all fighters in the northern flank, concentrating all power on the weak spots on those two targets.
 
Jag rides the third fragment toward the corvette firing as he goes.  The fragment hits and he nearly loses his shields, blacking out for a moment.  He fires his way out of the impact point and into the corvette.
 
The ship burns in many places and is about to break up with Imperial fighters pounding it from the outside.  He blows out and Pellaeon tells him to consider him surprised.  There’s going to be a stalemate here, but it will allow the ground crew to find the base.
 
Captain Mayn tells him they haven’t heard from the Falcon.  A garbled transmission came through a short time ago but it was jammed and they couldn’t decipher it.  Jag thinks they may be calling for help.  He asks if Jaina is nearby, but Mayn isn’t sure what to tell him about her.
 
She’s unconscious and they don’t know why or when it happened.  Jag docks quickly and runs to Tahiri’s room.
 
Shimrra’s palace has undergone some change since Nom Anor was here before.  Still, Ngaaluh has no problem smuggling a villip inside as she gives her report on the sector she’s investigated.  She claims to have found numerous cells of heretics in the consul’s staff at all levels.
 
She produces five prisoners to prove it.  All declaring their devotion to the Jedi.  Ngaaluh has no proof that their superior, Prefect Ash’ett, is involved, but she suspects it.  He orders them thrown into a pit and Ash’ett brought to him.
 
The entire family will be executed as a reminder not to allow laxity to take hold in one’s jurisdiction.  This is severe even for Shimrra.  Nom Anor is delighted as it means he can destroy many of the Overlord’s staunchest supporters with just a word from the priestess.
 
To make matters worse, the dhuryam is still causing problems here and Anor has been helping it by using heretics to cause disruption, as well.  He may not be responsible for everything the World Brain does, but he is happy to take credit for it.
------------------------------------------------


#9
Jedi Cool

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Part III: Abduction:
 
9.
 
Jacen runs through the tampasi in the rain, searching for Danni.  He senses her up ahead and finds her lying on a stretcher, not moving.  Her kidnappers are ready to fight and they do outnumber him.  A dark shape roars out of the trees and Saba cuts through the air.
 
Half of them run at the sight of the huge Barabel, the rest raise their clubs and lightning rods. 
 
Jacen urges them to lower their weapons as they do not want to die tonight.  He pulls one of their weapons to himself.  They tell him they don’t want him here, even if Sekot has invited them.  He gets the idea that someone named Senshi is in charge. Offering to go with them to speak with Senshi and spare lives, he hands over his lightsaber.  He and Saba carry the stretcher with their captors.
 
Jaina doesn’t understand what has happened.  She’d seen the two confront each other and Riina sustain a wound, but now Tahiri has one, too.  She can’t do anything to help, but cannot believe her presence here isn’t important.
 
Jaina knows that Riina fights with the skills of an alien warrior with the Force.  Both stir and Jaina sees Tahiri has the same wound as Riina but on the opposite arm.  She realizes that neither can win this battle.
 
The scene changes and they are fighting again.  Jaina hears Jag’s voice calling to her, telling her he loves her. 
 
Leia holds on as another shock wave rattles them while Han tinkers with the shield generator power couplings.  Droma points out that the shields are the only thing keeping them alive right now.  He could take them down by accident if he’s not careful.
 
There has been no response to her message to Captain Mayn so far.  She slowly ups the shield strength.  C-3PO reports that the Brrbrlpp tells him that they are managing well enough, but they fear it will only be a matter of time.
 
There aren’t any better suggestions.  Knowing they’ve dug themselves a grave, Droma starts to tell them something when Threepio says the Brrbrlpp have a suggestion.  They can take shelter in a nearby nesting area.  It’s underground and should be large enough to fit the ship.
 
Slowly, the ship moves toward the nesting areas, the passengers hoping the Vong won’t win the fight in space, lest they be stuck there for a long time. 
 
 -------------------------------------------------
 


#10
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10.
 
Riina wants her to attack the dark shadow coming at her.  She warns Tahiri that, apart, they are nothing at all.  Neither wants to lose who she is.  Anakin would have known what to do.  Tahiri tries to hide the pain of his death, wishing she could have done something to save him.
 
Riina tells her that Anakin thought he killed her, but he just forced her down deep into Tahiri’s consciousness.  She felt dead, but she began to surface and that’s what’s been affecting Tahiri.  As Riina recovered, Tahiri weakened which is why she had blackouts.  Fighting back forced Tahiri into this shadow world where Riina realized that Tahiri’s guilt chased them both.  That’s when she knew they were not separate beings at all. 
 
They are both Jedi and Yuuzhan Vong;  and they are neither.  They must embrace the hybrid they have become and be someone new. The shadow-creature roars.  Tahiri knows it’s her guilt for living when Anakin died, leaving that kiss he wanted undone.  Riina assures her this has nothing to do with a lost kiss, but with Tahiri moving on with her life.  She doesn’t feel guilty for living, but for living without Anakin.  She has to let go.
 
Tahiri hates Riina for revealing the truth.  She throws her lightsaber angrily, but picks it up and sees the shadows part.  It’s not a creature at all.  It’s Jaina.  Riina warns her that Jaina will want to help her in ways that will make things worse.  They have to face this together.
 
Meanwhile, Mara is insistent that the Ferroans must know something about who is responsible for these kidnapping attempts.  Getting nowhere, Luke asks if it’s possible to speak with Sekot.  He is told that it is resting and so is the Magister.  He urges Darak to wake her as it is probably important that she know what’s going on.
 
Rowel assures them they have notified surrounding communties to watch for anyone walking through the tampasi.  Luke gets a sense of Jacen in the Force.  He knows his nephew is safe but doesn’t think he’s on the way back. 
 
Darak returns in panic to report that the Magister is missing.  Luke suspects that the attack on the Jedi were a distraction in order to get to Jabitha in the confusion. 
 
Jag finds medics in the room, looking over Jaina who is lying next to Tahiri.   Dr. Dantos Vigos explains that they found Jaina unconscious shortly after arriving insystem, but it wasn’t noticed initially due to the fighting.  There are no physical abnormalities, but their brain activity is high.
 
She thinks that Tahiri has retreated into herself while her split personality fights for dominance.  Jaina may have melded with her to help her survive.  They do not know why she doesn’t respond.
 
Jag decides he will try to talk to her.  He sits down beside her and holds her hand, telling Jaina he’s here and not going anywhere until she wakes up.  He tells her he loves her and asks her to come back to him.
 
Saba stays alert as they travel through the tampasi, to a bridge formed from a tree trunk stretched across a river.  They come to a cliff face hidden by a group of boras.  A large group of Ferroans wait.
 
An old male steps forwards and chastises the team for allowing themselves to be swayed by the words of a Jedi.  He is Senshi.  He claims the actions against this world speak louder than their words.  They are all outsiders in his eyes. Thunder rumbles and rain begins to crash down.
 
Another group arrives bearing a stretcher on which hold the Magister.  Senshi tells them that Magister has forgotten the pain they endured the last time strangers came here.  The storms, groundquakes, hurricanes and deaths will occur again if she risks their sanctuary.
 
He lost his whole family the last time and he was spared to endure the search for a peaceful place.  They have seen what the combination of the Jedi and Far Outsiders do.  They have only the Magister’s word that Sekot welcomed them here.
 
When she awakens, she will have to listen.  Jacen warns them that they are risking the domination of this galaxy by a force more powerful than they imagine.  The Far Outsiders will return for them in numbers too great to resist.
 
Fortunately, Jacen doesn’t need to convince Senshi, but Sekot.  They can afford to be patient for now.  Senshi decides to wait until the Magister wakes up.
 
Riina urges Tahiri to kill Jaina who is vulnerable here.  Tahiri argues that this will not relieve her grief, but compound it.  It will send her to the dark side.  She asks Riina if this is why she clouded her sight in this world.  She knows she can never be separated from Riina, but succumbing to the Dark Side will make her a prisoner of these shadow lands and make Riina the dominant personality.
 
She would rather they both stay here together.  Riina tries to pull away, but Tahiri grabs her and says she’s tired of being lost.  Their wounds heal and their fingers melt into each other.  They must embrace each other.
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#11
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11.
 
Droma and Threepio are sure this is a trap as they are engulfed by a gaping mouth.  Leia thinks she know what’s going on.  They are inside the base.  They are contacted by Commander Ashpidar of Esfania Long-Range Communications.  She explains that they are sorry to be here so late.  They had been sheltered in some nesting plains several kilometers away and had to negotiate the tunnels.  There are 15 left.
 
When the bombardment stops, it can only mean the Vong are coming down for a closer look.
 
Luke and Mara stay close while the Ferroans try to locate the kidnappers.  Airships move about checking the ground.  Communications travel from bora to bora.  Reports start coming back of a possible conspiracy that seems to have been prepared to act quite quickly considering they didn’t know the Jedi would be coming.
 
Darak describes Shensi as being very vocal about his ideal of a perfect and pure Zonama, free of any outsiders.  He’s known for his stories about the early Crossings and has quite a few supporters.  His plantation, though, has no sign that he’s there.
 
Captain Yage reports no sign of the Yuuzhan Vong or any word from Mon Calamari.  It’s possible the relay bases between here and home have been taken out.  Tekli reports the Jade Shadow is still held to the ground, but nothing unusual has happened.
 
Dr. Hegerty suggests that Senshi had a reason for kidnapping the Magister and, if it wasn’t to harm or ransom her, he may just want to talk. 
 
Pelleaon is cautious about the temporary reprieve that allows Imperial troops to relax for the moment.  The Yuuzhan Vong have withdrawn to the western hemisphere for now, the bombardment has stopped but it makes finding those attempting to enter orbit much easier.  It also prevents anyone from leaving the planet.  Telemetry shows that two landings were made during the battle.  One was probably Falcon.  The other was a landing craft. 
 
Pellaeon contacts Capt. Mayn to tell her they may have found the Millennium Falcon on the surface and would like to know what she is doing there.  He reminds her they are on the same side.  She admits they went down to help the crew of the relay base and haven’t been heard from since.
 
There was a garbled transmission that may have been from them, but they can’t decipher it.  Pellaeon tells her that there was a landing party sent after them.  He offers help should they decide to mount a rescue operation.
 
Then he raises Commander Vorrik to ask about a possible withdrawal, punctuated by several comments that diminish the commander’s intelligence and importance.  The commander rages while Pellaeon is satisfied that his superiors will eventually remind Vorrik that his orders do not include wasting time on some minimal world in the middle of nowhere.
 -------------------------------------------------------
 
 


#12
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12.
 
Jacen and Saba spend time lending strength to Danni and exploring the life fields of the planet.  They hear the Magister’s voice asking to speak with Senshi.  He appears and notes she was listening in on them.  She tells him he should have covered her ears as he covered her eyes if he didn’t want her to know what they were saying.
 
He removes the blindfold, but won’t untie her.  She doesn’t understand why he opposes Sekot’s wishes.  The Jedi are friends recognized by the planet.  They participate in the endless flow of life.  The Far Outsiders do not.
 
Senshi does not think Sekot has willed this.  Jabitha tells him that she has been the world’s interface for decades with no dissension.  She wonders what she’s done to make him so distrust her.  Senshi tells her she hasn’t changed with the times. 
 
Jacen agrees.  It’s time for Sekot to leave its place of security and join the rest of the galaxy.  They will be risking their lives in this war and may not win, but they will definitely lose if they do not.  Jabitha knows what the Crossings cost them, but she cannot send these people away when they come for help.  She has counseled Sekot to be cautious, but they cannot make new enemies. 
 
Senshi will not allow her to do this.  He speaks, hoping that Sekot is listening.  They are prepared to do what’s necessary to protect their peace.  The Jedi can leave or stay if they wish, but she is coming with them. 
 
Pulling their lightsabers back to them, the Jedi assure him they were never prisoners.  They will come along and make sure no harm comes to the Magister. 
 
Jaina wakes up. Jag hands her water and sees Tahiri’s eyes open, wondering if it’s her or Riina now.  Jaina thinks it will be alright.  The medical taem checks both of their vital signs.  Jaina tells Jag she heard him talking to her. 
 
Tahiri struggles with her name and Vong comes out.  Jag wants to end this right now before Riina kills them all with a lightsaber.  Tahiri chokes out that she’s not just Tahiri or just Riina.  She’s someone new.  Jaina explains the two minds needed to merge to survive. 
 
Tahiri feels whole for the first time in years and offer Jaina her gratitude for helping her. 
 
Jag tells them where they are and what has happened so far.  Jaina’s parents went to look for the relay base on the planet and are trapped on the surface. 
 -----------------------------------------------------------
 


#13
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13. 
 
Nom Anor wakes up in a dark room to sense someone in the room.  He is attacked by two sides by assailants trying to hold him down. When the lambent glows, he is surprised to see Shoon-mi there.  The Shamed One tells his lackeys that this Prophet is no god.
 
He could have been, though.
 
Anor assures him that he may be at a disadvantage now, but Shoon-mi is doomed if he thinks this will work.  Shoon-mi plans to kill him and use the oogligth masquer to pose as the Prophet.  He offers them nothing more than what they had under Shimrra.  People came to them and were used as though they were nothing.  He sacrificed them without bothering to learn their names, though they believed in him. The Jedi would never have done what he has done.  This is only about his own glory.
 
Anor tells Shoon-mi that he will never convince Shimrra to give him his honor back.  He will not care about what he’s wants.  Any power he gets tonight will vanish upon his death.  Shoon-mi thinks Anor is trying to trick him.  Something jolts him from behind and he falls across Anor’s body.
 
There are sounds of a struggle that finally end.  Anor rolls out from under his would-be assassin to find Kunra there, having taken care of the intruders.  The warrior explains he was jumped in his room, but not killed right away.  He assumes they just wanted to keep him out of the way until Shoon-mi killed Nom Anor.
 
He admits listening outside the door for a short time, thinking about letting Shoon-mi kill the Prophet.  He might have taken over for him at some point.  He does, however, ask Anor about what he said about the Overlord not listening to them.
 
Anor claims to have been bluffing, but Kunra knows him better than that.  Anor confesses that no one knows what will really happen.  It’s possible they may convince Shimrra.  For now, though, they need to get rid of these bodies before people get the idea that the Prophet is vulnerable.
 
Luke listens to the boras, noting that Senshi has to be up to something though he’s made no attempt to speak to anyone.  Mara thinks it would help if they knew where he was going.  Darak assures them they are narrowing the paths down. 
 
There are some rogue boras not far from here that Sekot allows to encourage genetic diversity.  The kidnappers may be there.  Of course, wild boras are dangerous, especially during a thunderstorm.
 
Mara wants to take Jade Shadow there so they decide to ask Sekot.
 
Yage comms Luke to tell him there are telemetry readings on the third moon.  She wants to send TIEs to investigate.  Darak will not allow it, stating that they will detect any  gravity waves themselves and decide what to do.
 
Sekot will protect them.  Mara wonders who will protect Sekot.  Rowel reminds her that she doesn’t know what the planet is capable of. They only know what they have from old rumors.  It all comes down to giving Sekot a reason to trust them. 
 
Luke wonders what Obi-Wan would have done in his place.  What happened when he was here before and does it have any bearing on what’s happening now?  Was his father’s fate bound to what happened to him here?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  • I’d mentioned in my summary of Rogue Planet and the subsequent books that the Jedi Council failed to properly investigate unusual instances of Anakin killing others.  One example was his killing of the Blood Carver in that book.  Though he acted in defense of another, it doesn’t seem that the circumstances were simple enough to be dismissed so easily.

 


#14
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14.
 
Leia walks through the corridors of the base to meet the commander.  Ashpidar is there with three Sullustans and five Ugnaughts.  One Noghri security chief and two Klatooinians make up the security with two humans and a Twi’lek rounding off the staff.
 
The commander shows her and Droma the extravehicular bay with speeder bikes and environmental suits.  She explains how signals are broadcast from the Unknown Regions into the known space.  They’ve lost 13 of their sensors. 
 
In her office, the commander shows her a villip.  This is how the Vong knew they were here.  They found it two days ago hidden well.  The person who used it must know by now it’s been discovered but hasn’t revealed himself. 
 
She’s kept it here where no one can access it but her.  Leia offers to utilize mouse droids to search for hidden Yuuzhan Vong agents.  A message from the Falcon comes in to show the Imperial and Vong forces in orbit, as well as a small Vong force down on the planet.
 
Leia can sense Jaina’s presence up there.  She tells the commander that there should be no stray emissions let out that might betray them. They will need to focus on the traitor inside the base for now. 
 
The Noghri, Eniknar, escorts them back to their ship.  Droma admits he doesn’t like the chief.  Leia asks Meewalh and Cakhmain if they recognize his clan.  Neither knows him.  Droma thinks they should set the droids on him. 
 
Leia admits they would only sense a Yuuzhan Vong under an ooglith masquer, something she would have been able to notice already.  If he’s just a traitor, the droids won’t help and he’ll have to reveal himself another way.
 
Capt. Mayn brings Pellaeon up to date while Jaina listens in with Jag and Tahiri in the medical wards.  Jaina’s mother had managed to open contact using a modified research droid.  It lasted only a few moments before being cut off.
 
No sign of ground troops anywhere, but it won’t last.  Pellaeon is sure that Vorrik is impatient enough to want results soon.  Tahiri advises them exactly where the Vong will start looking and how they will proceed.
 
Jaina thinks someone should get down there to help them.  If they take too much of Vorrik’s time, he might decide that finding the base isn’t worth it.
 
Jag is more worried about the traitor on the ground.  Jaina says her mother has an idea who it might be and is keeping an eye on him. Pellaeon adds they can’t do anything about it anyway.  For now, their priority is getting a team on the ground.
 
Tahiri thinks she can help with the use of a hulk they can find in orbit.  Pellaeon admits there are several to choose from but he doubts the Vong will be fooled after what Jag pulled.  She isn’t planning to do the same thing, but actually needs the living villip choir from one.
 
She will tell Vorrik that she’s planning to lead the ship and the base into a trap.  He may be suspicious but can’t afford to not take advantage of the offer.  Jaina understands why Pellaeon doesn’t seem convinced as it’s very possible that Tahiri may actually betray Han and Leia.
 
However, at some point, they will have to trust her.  He lets them organize the details with the ground and asks that he be advised of the outcome.  They may have any assistance they require.  Jaina assures him they need his help and asks for another TIE squadron to support Twin Suns.
 
Jag wonders what that was all about and Tahiri tells him it’s a matter of trust.  Making the Imperials feel left out will make them wonder if secrets are being kept.  This is why peace accords with the Empire in the past haven’t always lasted.  It’s not the absence of fighting, but the last of trust.
 -------------------------------------------------
  • The only peace accords I know of is the one signed about 10 years ago during Vision of the Future.  While the Empire may not necessarily have become the New Republic’s best friend, there is no indication that they fell apart.

 


#15
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15.
 
Jaina immediately renames the picket ship the Collaborator.  Tahiri looks over the villip choir and activates it.  She identifies herself as Riina of Domain Kwaad.  She tells them she has gotten the trust of the infidels and will betray their conspiracy.  It takes time while she is moved up the hierarchy until she is handed over to Vorrik.
 
She explains that she has convinced the Jedi that she will provide safe passage to the surface.  She will betray them and reveal the location of the relay base. 
 
Though Vorrik is loathe to trust her, he will give her the chance.  He will allow her craft to enter the planet’s atmosphere.  They prepare to let the ship descend in a controlled burn that will look like simple space debris.
 
Han and Droma are taking enviro-suits and speeders bikes out, leaving Leia on the ship.  One of the humans, the Noghri Eniknar and one of the Klatooinians are going with them.  They will be on a comm. blackout and keep their emissions low to avoid detection.
 
Ashpidar had tried to keep Leia company for a short time, talking about her past.  Leia asks about the Brrbrlpp, known to the crew as the Cold Ones.  The commander explains that the previous base commander, Commander Si was an exiled Gran and lonely.  He studied the Cold Ones and learned that they had a culture despite leaving any physical implements.  He taught them to communicate in trinary which is easier to understand and keeps the team abreast as to what they are doing.  There aren’t a lot of them, but there are probably a few thousand.  The world isn’t huge so it can’t support a large ecosystem.  The Vong have disupted all this.
 
Ashpidar has tried to encourage them to take shelter for the time being, but their young ones are curious and venture out at the risk of their lives.  Leia ponders that it’s not much different from her own children.
 
The kidnappers lead the Jedi group into a dark area that makes Jacen feel uncomfortable.  Senshi explains they walk from here, but neither Jacen nor Saba are sure it’s a good idea.  Senshei is tired of empty threats from them.  They can leave if they want, but, if they stay, they need to stay out of the way.
 
Saba feels they are all in danger.  Senshei explains that the boras are a complex species that channel lightning to to fuel their organic processes.  There are malignant boras, too, that are generally safe so long as their seeding grounds are left alone.  The group happens to be standing on those seeding grounds now.
 
Saba ignites her sabre, telling Jacen they can’t stay here while Danni needs help.  Jacen doesn’t know how he can communicate to Saba that she needs to trust him here.  They hear a low chant celebrating the greatness of the Potentium.  Senshi grabs Jabitha’s throat and preses one of the organic lightning rods against the Magister’s head.  
 
Jabitha wasn’t expecting this.  
 
Darak returns and whispers to Rowel who tells Luke and Mara that there is no gravitic anomaly detected.  Their information comes from Sekot itself, so it makes more sense that the Jedi were either misinformed or are lying.
 
Luke orders Captain Yage to investigate the anomaly over Rowel’s objections.  Rowel reminds them that they are only here at the acquiescence of Sekot.  Mara accuses Rowel of trying to provoke them into upsetting the planet.  
 
When he resorts to chanting, Luke explains to Darak that they just want to help.  The Far Outsiders find out what’s here, they will send more ships and even Sekot may not have the strength to fight off endless waves of them.
 
Tekli reports from the Shadow the results of the investigation.  There is a regular pulse coming from behind a moon.  It’s nothing they’ve seen before, probably not Yuuzhan Vong.  The TIES find the source in a pit.  Suddenly, a coral skipper flies out of it.
 
Rowel and Darak do not believe there is a ship at all.  This must be a trick as it doesn’t appear on their sensors.  Dr. Hegerty suggests that the Yuuzhan Vong may have been watching them for a long time and developed bioscreens.  Darak maintains that Sekot will handle any intruders if it so desires.
 
Luke can’t get his mind off this reverence for the Potentium which recognizes no dark side.  The ends justifies the means doesn’t quite seem right.  After all, Anakin killed with his mind and they’d never known that was possible.
 
Luke decides that Sekot cannot destroy the coralskipper.  It must be told to leave it alone.  He contacts Yage to have her recall the TIEs.  Shortly, Tekli informs him that the skip is about to leave the system.  Luke knows the risks of the Vong finding out where Sekot is, but he’s more concerned about Sekot turning to the dark side.  
 
Tekli interrupts his musings to report that something is happening.
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#16
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Part IV:  Revelation:
 
16.
 
Nom Anor has called Ngaaluh to his quarters to inform her of Shoon-mi’s betrayal.  She doesn’t want to believe it’s possible.  Kunra reveals that Shoon-mi wasn’t the only one to feel that they are not progressing quickly enough.
 
Nom Anor doesn’t feel that Shoon-mi was intelligent enough to come up with this on his own.  They must find whoever is behind this.  There are some acolytes who could take power if the opportunity arose.
 
Ngaaluh still doesn’t believe that it’s true.  Betrayal is not the Jeedai way.  This is what Nom Anor values in her: the pureness of a fanatic.  
 
Kunra suggests that Shimrra could be behind it.  Nom Anor argues that this is not really Shimrra’s usual method.   Allowing any word of this beyond his quarters would inflame the acolytes.  They aren’t ready to attack Shimrra yet.  Ngaaluh disagrees.  Nom Anor doesn’t like this martyr complex among the fanatics.  Jedi like Anakin Solo and Ganner Rhysode have set a bad example.  
 
In the meantime, the campaign against Nom Anor’s rival, Zareb, is going well.  Kunra cautions wasting resources against minor officials.  It may give those loyal to the heretics a chance to rise in their place, but what they really want is to be free.
 
Nom Anor understands their impatience, but throwing their lives away on a pointless attack on Shimrra is not something he will endorse.  If they do it on their own, that’s their business.  He doesn’t want any more of this conversation, especially since he is moving Shimrra into the position where he wants him and would an acolyte not get a lucky shot that results in an unknown quantity like Nas Choka taking over.
 
Ngaaluh reports that a courier has verified that Ekh’m Val didn’t just claim to have found the planet of Zonama Sekot, but brought a piece back from it.  Unfortunately, it seems to have disappeared.  A ship was impounded about that time and at the same time a ship called the Noble Sacrifice arrived at Yuuzhan’tar.  It was destroyed because it thought to contain infidel spies, but the impounded ship did come from that vessel.
 
It isn’t like Nas Choka to bury information like this.  And Commander Val’s body was found in a yargh’un pit.  
 
Nom Anor isn’t convinced Val wasn’t executed for some other offense.  He does, however, tell her to look into it more closely just in case.
 
After she leaves, Kunra tells Nom Anor he’s sure Ngaaluh isn’t the one after his throne.  For the time being, Nom Anor will accept that and tells him to make arrangements for the next congregation.
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#17
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17.  
 
Though the ride down is bumpy, it’s going well so far.  
 
 
The team is diverse:  Jag and Jocell for the Chiss, pilot Arth Gxin from the Empire, Jaina and Enton Adelmaa’j for the Galactic Alliance and Tahiri kind of represents the Yuuzhan Vong.  
 
They board the speeder bikes stowed on board and allow themselves to be sucked out into the air, leaving the ship to crash.
 
Soon, they are joined by Han and Droma.  Jaina is concerned when she sees the Cold Ones floating like kites.  Han assures her that they will get out of the way when necessary.
 
After handing out the mines and making sure the area is clear, the transponder is ready.  Jag takes it on faith that whatever the message is Tahiri gives in Vongese is correct.  
 
Once the mines are set, they head out to the second location.  Jag barely arrives when the transponder emits Tahiri’s message.
 
On Right to Rule Pellaeon decides to trust Jaina that Tahiri is saying what she’s supposed to be saying.  Suddenly, a detonation is detected.  High-energy weapons fire is coming from all around the target.
 
Senshi insists on hearing what the Jedi have to say.  Jacen tries to look beyond himself to find a way to end this without aggression.  He reaches out with the Force to the angry boras.  They recoil at the violation of their privacy.  Jacen assures them they are fine and that they are strong enough as they are.  He warns them that isolation leads to stagnation which leads to corruption which leads to death.  He tugs the threats of the boras into new directions that momentarily startle them.  The threat ends, though Saba would prefer to remain on guard.
 
Then they are surprised by a familiar voice.  Vergere tells him this is only the beginning.
 
When the yorik-trema responds to Tahiri’s message, it bursts out so quickly, the detonations launch the speeder bikes out of their hiding place.  The team pairs off with Jaina sticking with Eniknar, the Noghri her mother suspects of being a traitor.
 
Pursued by tsi, seru, she dodges plasma fire, but clips a rock formation and goes flying.
 
Tahiri heads off with Gxin.  Three tsik seru swoop at her. She uses the Force to close the nozzles that emit the plasma fire which causes an explosion.  She repeats the tactic on the other two fliers, then Droma arrives on a wobbly bike that has a damaged steering vane.  Feeling Jaina in trouble, Tahiri heads off to find her.
 
Tekli explains that the coralskipper is changing shape.  Yage is sure they are ready for it.  A newcomer, a boy around 12 is sure they aren’t.  Rowel is angry that someone else has arrived.  
 
Luke knows this is the image of young Anakin Skywalker taken by Sekot in order to speak to him.  Sekot explains the image was chosen because of the choice everyone with power faces.  It’s different for everyone and only emerges in time.   Anakin Skywalker looked like this years ago.  He and Sekot faced the same choice and are still waiting to find out if the choice was right.
 
Yage reminds Luke that the vessel is still approaching the planet and will not respond to hails.  Luke orders her to stand down; the ship will not attack.  He asks Sekot if they have performed to its satisfaction.  Sekot wonders what Luke would do if the answer was no.
 
Luke believes it’s all dependent on the choices he had.  Sekot tells him he doesn’t have any.  Luke points out the question is meaningless then.  Sekot thinks it’s learned more about why the group is here than they wanted it to know.  They want to know more, but there’s no easy answer.  It agrees to tell them what it knows.  After they are sat down, Sekot begins to speak.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 


#18
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18:
 
Jag evades until he can shoot off reptoids attacking Tahiri’s group. When he gets down, he finds Jaina has been injured.  Her suit is leaking and with her bike a wreak, he offers the use of his bike. Droma offers to take her.  He warns them to keep an eye on Eniknar and takes off. 
 
Leia wishes there’s something she could do.  She felt Jaina falling unconscious, then relief when her daughter woke up.  Too far to be of any help, she can only be frustrated.
 
She busies herself by checking the stats sent from Pellaeon’s feed, hoping the Cold Ones are staying out of the way.  Deciding to share the intel with Ashpidar, she finds there’s no response.
 
Jabitha recognizes that this is Sekot.  Sometimes it appears to her as her father or as young Anakin or even as herself.  Jacen remembers that Vergere told him she’d been present at the birth of the planet’s consciousness.  It had assumed the form of the dead Magister and communicated with them.  
 
He also realizes that it wasn’t Jabitha Luke and Mara spoke to upon arrival; it was SEkot in her form.
 
Jacen asks if they are being tested.  Sekot confirms it is testing him.  He explains to the others, including Danni, who has now regained consciousness, that Sekot was testing him to see how he would react under danger.  
 
Jabitha admits she convinced Sekot to test them, but did not know how it would be done.  
 
Jacen wants to know why; Sekot admits it wanted to know what kind of warrior he wants.  It debates his protests that he is not warrior.  After all, does’t he fight for freedom or for peace.  Jacen believes there are other ways to do that than fighting.
 
He admits he hasn’t found those ways yet.
 
Sekot decides to tell them a story.
 
In space, the Imperials engage the Yuuzhan Vong to make it look like the decoy was worth defending.
 
Jaina wakes up again and realizes she’s moving.  Droma tells her not to be upset about being injured before the fight began.  It can happen to anyone.  They’re headed back to the Falcon because her suit is leaking.
 
After they graze a yorik trema, Jaina wants to loop around and distract them.  Droma would rather get her to safety before she gets frostbite.  Jaina would prefer that, too, but the Vong aren’t going to give up that easily.
 
Jaina manages to free her lightsaber after they are hit by netting bugs.  They have to set down to make sure they’re clean.  After they’re clear, more threads fall around them.  Jaina uses her lightsaber to cut them off.  Then the tsik seru backs up. She knows it’s going to fire.  Droma suggests she do what Tahiri did and close their throats.
 
She tries it and it works.  But after the explosion they are confronted with the injured Vong warrior.  It gets momentarily distracted enough to give Jaina a chance to ignite her lightsaber again, but then the cold of Esfandia freezes him to death.
 
She and Droma decide they’ve had enough good luck for one day and should get out of here.
 
Tahiri’s team is struggling to fight off the reptoids when Han’s team arrives.  They decide to leave the area to go with Plan B.  They don’t have much time if, in fact, Eniknar, really has betrayed them.  
 
The communications tech reports that the transmission for arming the charges seems to be blocked.  They will have to be armed manually.  Tahiri volunteers to go; Jag offers to go with her.  She knows why.
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#19
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19:
 
When Sekot became aware, only the First Magister was able to communicate with it.  It was with the Second Magister, Jabitha’s father, that it was made aware of its potential.  This was how it was able to survive the first attack by the Far Outsiders.
 
It left, taking the inhabitants with it, revealing itself to them and using the time to think.
 
Jabitha’s father believed that Sekot emerged from the Potentium – a physical incarnation of the life energy- an explanation that doesn’t seem complete.  After all, there don’t seem to be any other living planets in the universe.
 
Anakin had called it an immensity and a unity.  Sekot wouldn’t be the same without the boras and the people.  It needs them as much as they need it.  Its existence might not have been possible without them.  If things had been different, its growth would have been stunted like the boras Jacen has met.
 
Luke realizes that Sekot is also in contact with the other team.
 
Jag and Tahiri reach the transponder infrastructure and start to set the autodestruction controls.  A Yuuzhan Vong warrior attacks and manages to damage the controls before he’s killed.  There may be another way to activate it.
 
They are interrupted again by another distraction.  It’s Eniknar.  He starts to collapse, his comm is gone, but manages to whisper that there is a manual release.  It’s coded and will set off the bombs, but there’s no delay.  Whoever activates it will die.
 
He offers to do it.  Jag tells him Tahiri can use the Force to depress the button from farther away.  Tahiri doesn’t think they have time and they certainly don’t have the room on a speeder for three beings.
 
Jag isn’t sure they can trust Eniknar; but Tahiri is certain this isn’t a trick.
 
Besides, he’s not likely to live much longer anyway.
 
She gives the Noghri a Yuuzhan Vong blessing before they leave.  Jag isn’t comfortable with the idea of a noble sacrifice; the Chiss just don’t do that.  But he’s also disturbed because they don’t know who traitor is if it’s not Eniknar.
 
Sekot tells Jacen that Luke is asking about him.  It believes that the Ferroans’ presence caused the original awakening.  It doesn’t know how it came to be, though.  The Second Magister’s philosophy of the Potentium is still revered by the Ferroans in the present day, but Sekot was shown by the Jedi that evil does exist.  Did it come from the Force?
 
And, if it began its awakening before the presence of other life, did it just go back to sleep?  After all, could it be alive without anyone to consider it so?
 
Jacen understands that what’s important is how beings treat each other.
 
Sekot chooses to live in peace.  It wants to grow, become wise, love and be loved.  It can also choose to run or fight if it is threatened.  It has done both.
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#20
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 20
 
Aboard the Falcon, Leia senses trouble, especially when she cannot contact Ashpidar.  She leaves 3PO on board with instructions to only let Han aboard, then goes in search of answers.
 
She encounters a Sullustan engineer named Gantree who suggests Ashpidar may be sleeping.  Leia doubts that at a time like this.  Her concerns increase when it’s discovered that the door is locked from the outside.
 
Forcing the door open, she and the engineer find Ashpidar unconscious and covered with fine wires.  Gantree expresses disgust that someone would use electromagnetic shocks on a Gotal, essentially torturing her.  
 
Then Leia finds the safe open and the villip gone.  After quickly explaining the problem to Gantree, she and the Noghri realize that Eniknar was not the traitor after all.  Someone on board is and has the villip.  That being could bring the Yuuzhan Vong down on all of them.
 
She orders the base to move someone else, anywhere else.
 
In the process, however, they find their traitor.  An Ugnaught called Tegg, probably a Peace Brigader, is in a vacuum-sealed airlock, ready to escape.  Leia uses her lightsaber to try to gain entry, but not before the Ugnaught leaves.
 
He’s soon back, though, as Jaina, in an evac suit arrives.  She explains that she could sense something was wrong.  Droma says there’s fighting going on above.  
 
Leia wonders why Commander Vorrik is still there.  If the transponder has been destroyed, it’s really not necessary to stick around.
 
There’s still something that’s gone wrong.
 
Jacen worries that Sekot has decided to fight.  The image in the form of Vergere explains that that’s not what it said.  It has tried both options: fight and flight.   After fleeing, its sanctuary is still violated.  
 
Jacen reminds Sekot that they are there to help, not destroy like the Yuuzhan Vong.  Sekot admonishes him that he doesn’t know why the Yuuzhan Vong are here or what they demanded of the planet.  
 
Nevertheless, Sekot remembers the Jedi fondly as do the inhabitants of this world.  The Yuuzhan Vong may be invisible to the energy known as the Potentium to some and as the Force to others, but they’re not total abominations.  Sekot has spent time examing their technology in order to find some way to understand them better.
 
The question is what does Jacen want from Sekot?
 
He wants the fighting to end, yes.  But he also has grown tired of the endless death and destruction. Sekot has the ability to form weapons to use to help the Galactic Alliance.  Jacen isn’t sure what the answer is.
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#21
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chapter 21:
 
Luke, on the other hand, cannot bear to see a galaxy in pain under the heel of the Yuuzhan Vong. He will happily accept the offer.  Sekot is happy to offer.
 
Darak and Rowel are horrified; Mara is suspicious.  Didn’t Sekot want to be left alone?  It agrees that it does, but it cannot have peace while this is going on or while the Far Outsiders are here.  
 
This may be a sanctuary, but it’s been shattered.  Sekot reveals that the coralskipper escaping wasn’t all that fictional.  One did escape and is probably bringing the others back here.  
 
It’s difficult for Darak and Rowel to realize that, not only would Sekot be willing to help the Jedi, but also that it wasn’t able to prevent the coralskipper from escaping.
 
Sekot admits it’s not all-powerful;  It wonders if Luke and Mara find it disturbing that they are not either.
 
Satisifed at the destruction of the transponder, Pellaeon wonders whether Vorrik will flee or try to avenge his pride at the hands of the infidels.  To his pleasure, the [i[Kur-hashan[/i] begins to come about.  
 
He orders the signal sent.  Only his aide knows what’s going to happen next.  When the [i[Kur-Kushan[/i] bears down on them, he experiences a brief moment of pause, worrying if he’d gotten the message right.
 
Suddenly, dozens of hyperspace signatures signal and, on their heel, an outdated fleet of ships arrives to engage the enemy with gung-ho spirits.  One of the drone freighters slams into the midsection of the [i[Kur-hashan[/i].  It’s then that an incoming transmission comes in from Vorrik.
 
He swears that they will never surrender to the infidels.  Pellaeon knows that he will blow his drives and orders all ships to pull up full shields.  For the loss of Kur-kushan and the lives aboard it, the explosion only knocks Right to Rule a little off.
 
Captain Mayn calls from the Pride of Selonia to congratulate him.  Pellaeon admits he didn’t know for sure what Vorrik would do, but he knows the type well enough to know that flexibility is not a strong point.  Going out with the bang is more suited to them.
 
As for the arrival of this surprise fleet, he wasn’t sure what to expect, but he had been assured of reinforcement if he sent a signal with a certain phrase attached to it.  Mayn admits the only thing she knows is that they call themselves the Ryn Network.  He should probably ask Princess Leia and Captain Solo about it when he sees them.
 
He intends to.
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#22
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22.
 
Jacen answers yes.
 
Saba and Danni don’t understand why he would agree to allow millions to live in misery.  He feels that he made the right decision.  He remembers Wynssa Fel asking how a man who professes to live by peace could carry a weapon.  And even Luke had once pondered how they could fight such an enemy without becoming as brutal as they.
 
It’s not an easy decision. Even Sekot doesn’t understand why he would come so far to ask for help only to reject the offer.  
 
He doesn’t think military might is what is needed here and it’s pointless to stop destruction with more destruction.  
 
Sekot understands.  But it has decided to fight.  It does not know what it can do, but it’s tired of running.  They must find a way to end of the war, not just for themselves, but for the entire galaxy.  Jacen sees fathomless wisdom in the eyes of his former teacher, he’s just not reassured by it.
 
Nom Anor watches smugly as Ngaaluh reports to Shimrra on the failures of Prefect Zareb.  The hidden villip in her robes gives him all the information he needs.
 
Shimrra goes from one audience member to another, pondering how the Shamed Ones, flesh and blood beings with no supernatural power, could be corrupting some of his most trusted servants.  
 
Nash Choka points fingers at the intendant class; High Prefect Drathul blames a renegade shaper; Master Haper Yal Phaath assures him that all the shapers are firmly devoted to him and the gods.
 
Shimmra turns to Jakan, telling him that the gods are certainly displeased at his inability to root out the Prophet.
 
Turning to Drathul, he wonders if he’s not being betrayed by someone in this room.  Drathul allows it’s possible, but Shimrra is certain that it is happening.  He can feel the hidden eyes upon him.  
 
Suddenly, the guards surround Ngaaluh. Shimrra explains that she did her job too well.  He was concerned when she had such convincing evidence against Ash’ett, Drosh Khalii and Zareb.   After the witnesses were interrogated, they admitted that they were planted in order to incriminate the accused.
 
Ngaaluh may be accusing them of heresy, but that doesn’t mean she herself isn’t a heretic.  Realizing that she is exposed, she takes her poison.  Shimrra isn’t too concerned.  It’s not like a priestess of deception would have given them much reliable information.  But this will teach whoever sent her that he is not so easily deceived.
 
Kunra approaches Nom Anor who isn’t in the mood to talk after losing his most important operative.  He had been on the verge of revenging himself on his enemies and it has slipped through his fingers.
 
The villip is still active and he can see the view from Ngaaluh’s body in the charnal pit with the other false heretics, like Ash’ett, Khalii and Commander Ekh’m Val.  How long would it be before the Prophet finds himself there.
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#23
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Epilogue:
 
23.
 
The strike force is being mopped over over Esfandia.  Millennium Falcon is docked on the Selonia for the time being.  Leia hopes the lifeforms on the planet below have been able to return to their lives.
 
Ashpidar comms her to explain that Gantree has verifies that the antenna array is ready for a test.  Leia is able to connect to Cal Omas who was asleep and isn’t in the mood to be awakened by a fuzzy holo of Leia reporting about a repaired communications base.
 
She tells him about the battle.  She and Han interrogated Tegg the Ugnaught traitor.  All they could get out of him is that he was supposed to send a distress call once Ashpidar was knocked out claiming that the base was under attack by the Chiss. At some point, the base would have been destroyed for real.  It appears to be the same divide and conquer strategy that has worked among some of their allies in the past.
 
Ashpidar wants to test the array away from the Core, but Leia is interrupted by Han before she can call out again.  He’s looking for Droma.  She tells him she’s about to contact Luke.   It takes longer to reach the Jade Shadow than it did Mon Cal, but Mara answers the call.
 
Saba is relieved to finally have the mission over.  Sekot has agreed to help and Saba is finally able to go home.  She appreciates the offer by Jabitha to stay; the planet is comfortable.  She just isn’t sure.
 
During her ride on the Elegance Enshrined, she sees the damage done to the world during the Crossings.  The airship pilot describes hiding in the tunnels and everyone’s relief when they finally arrived at Sanctuary.  He isn’t worried about having to return to the shelters.  Once the war is won, they can return to their lives.
 
Rowel and Darak will learn to accept it, too.  If they do not trust Sekot, they shouldn’t be living here.
 
Jaina pressures the doctor to tell her when she can fly again. He gives her one more day to give her balance time to return.  Without much to do, she watches the clean-up effort.  Then Tahiri comes to see her.  
 
Tahiri apologizes that her split personalities came to Jaina on Mon Calamari.  They had just identified her as someone who could help.  Jaina wonders if it was Riina who told her Anakin was trying to kill her.  Tahiri also thinks part of her was there, too.  She still felt guilty for abandoning Anakin by moving on with her life or that, perhaps, she should have done more to save him or even have died with him.
 
Neither wanted the other to survive.  
 
But Tahiri is a new person now, a combination of both her old self and Riina.  She thanks Jaina for hearing her out.  
 
Han arrives, asking about Droma.  Tahiri slips out, leading to his wondering if she’s going to be alright.  Jaina thinks so.  She recommends he check with the Selonia crew; Droma dropped out of sight after they docked.   When she asks about her mother, Han directs her to the Selonia’s bridge where Jaina can bore herself watching them test the antenna array.
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#24
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24.
 
 
Grand Admiral Pelleaon is flummoxed that Captain Mayn can’t really identify anyone in charge of the Ryn Network.  Apparently, the members can’t really do so either.  They are all individuals who, at one time or another, owed someone a favor and were asked to show up at this time and place.  It’s a safe way to run a covert network, but there must be someone in charge somewhere.  
 
This war seems to produce surprising allies.  Captain Mayn admits that she was wary of working with Pallaeon.  She hopes he will forgive her initial suspicions.  He tells her he doesn’t care what people think of him so long as they follow orders.  She’ll happily follow good ones.
 
In all of Sekot’s travels, there’s never been a culture that didn’t erupt in hostilities at some point.  Peace does not seem to be the natural state of the universe.    Luke is surprised that a being so in touch with the Living Force would feel this way. Sekot thinks it’s surprising that one so small as he should claim to have such insight.
 
Luke counters that the living Force chooses anyone it wants.  Yoda was the wisest being he’d ever met and would have been the smallest one here.  Sekot may have a great power but that doesn’t mean its connection to the Force is greater.
 
They both agree they have much to learn from each other.
 
The Ferroans are slowly acclimating to the team now that Sekot has embraced them.  
 
Contact with Mon Calamari has been reestablished.  Leia has contacted them.  The group catches up with what has been going on with Han, Leia, Droma, Jaina and the Ryn Network.  Jacen reveals they’ve found Zonama Sekot.
 
It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be on a living planet, all Jacen can say is that it’s wonderful.
 
Danni is speaking with a young Ferroan girl named Tescia when Jacen appears.  The child wants to see where Anakin came from. Danni isn’t sure Coruscant is the same now.
 
Jacen wonders where he would go once there is peace in the galaxy again.  His memories of Coruscant are both good and bad.  Part of him wonders if the planet should be torn down and something else built in its place.  But who should be the one to decide that.
 
Sekot appears again in Vergere’s form.  Jacen admits that he finds it disturbing that it takes that form.  Anakin’s appearance isn’t any beter.  Sekot tells him that it is far beyond what he can comprehend so it’s better to appear in a familiar shape.
 
Does Jacen know what it craves?  Jacen can only guess: peace, knowledge, a clear conscience.  Sekot admits those things are required for a good life, but there’s a price to pay.  Jacen asks if Sekot wants to pay the price and earn that good life.   The planet thinks that’s what they all want.
 
Tahiri is trying to meld fighting styles between her personalities when Han arrives and asks her why she let Droma go.  He knows she requested an escort for a Ryn ship called Fortune Seeker and he suspects Droma was on it.
 
She can only tell him that Droma asked her to.  Han is confused as to why Droma wouldn’t even stay to speak to him.  
 
Tahiri reveals that Droma is the head of the Ryn Network.  It’s important that it stay a secret.  Han is part of the system he’s trying to work around.  For the time being, he has to work apart from Han until the day they can work together again.
 
He was the one who encountered Han on Onadax.  He caused the riot to cover Han’s getaway and his own.  His work with Han has given him a high profile and the Ryn need some kind of leadership.  But the more people know about it, the more dangerous it becomes.
 
It clearly wasn’t too dangerous to let Tahiri know.  After Bakura, and Galantos, Tahiri admits, Droma offered her a place in the movement, but she turned him down.  It’s too early to decide what she’s going to do.
 
Han admits it is hard not being able to say good-bye to friends in a time when you never know if you will see them again.
 
Tahiri assures him he will see Droma.  All wounds heal with time, after all.  Guilt fades and opposites become one.  Han challenges her to tell that to those who changed her.
 
Tahiri thinks she may actually do that.
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End of book
 
 
 




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