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The Dark Nest Trilogy #3: "The Swarm War"

chapter discussion thread

26 replies to this topic

#1
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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Prologue:
 
On the Iesei nest world, Jaina, Jacen, Zekk, Tahiri and Tesar gaze at the Chiss megaweapon sitting on the sand dune above.  Jacen insists they follow the summons they have been getting for hours to return to Ossus.  The others at least want to check out this bomb.
 
Jacen argues that it could be a Chiss trap, but Jaina and the others are determined to investigate.  While the Iesei are not the Taat, the nest feels like a sibling to Jaina and Zekk.  They note that Jacen seems to be in a hurry.  Jacen doesn’t allow them in the twin bond anymore and, after the raid on the Thrango Supply Depot, they no longer trust him.
 
They jump up the dune, only to be met with turbolasers from orbit.  The other Jedi, along with the rest of the Iesei nest, head up after them.  Chiss gunners had almost hit the half-buried bomb and a sonic boom sounds above.  A drop ship is coming down.
 
It’s clear they want to eliminate this weapon quickly without leaving pieces that can be analyzed.  The Jedi are halfway up the dune when the turbolaser fire ends.  A Star Destroyer appears above, firing on the Chiss.  They sense a Killik nest and UnuThul aboard it.
 
It’s clear that this may be the reason Luke has been trying to call them home.  Jaina still thinks they need to find out what the bomb is.  Jacen wonders if it’s them that wants to know or UnuThul.
 
When the dropship lands, Jaina and Zekk are surprised to see Jagged Fel in command.  Zekk and Jaina are saddened, thinking that they had gotten over Jag.  They also don’t understand why the ship landed when the laser cannons could have taken out the bomb better.
 
Zekk yells that vape charges are coming.  They are the Chiss version of thermal detonators and will disintegrate the megaweapon.  Jaina uses the Force to push sand into the laer cannons then charges up the dune. The drop ship is shaken as the cannons explode and the ship rolls back on its belly.  The Chiss commando squad lays down fire on the slope while the other attackers begin laying a linked line of charges around the bomb.
 
Jaina and Zekk hear a groan from the dropship’s hull.  It rolls away, exposing a large hole.  They spot Jacen looking at the ship and nodding in their direction.  They find Jagged Fel staggering out, stunned and scorched.
 
He activates a button on his forearm and jumps over the far side of the dune.  The Jedi run quickly.  Jaina and Zekk find Jacen and accuse him of planning the vape charge assault.  They tell him he was helping Jag.  Jacen tries to placate them by saying he was trying to save Jag’s life. 
 
The two Jedi try to grab the vape charges in the Force, but are too late.  The bomb is completely zapped into ashes.
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  • The Star Destroyer with the nest aboard is probably the [i]Admiral Ackbar[/b], boarded by Killiks in the last book.

 
 


#2
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 1:
 
Luke and Mara walk along the path on Ossus, deciding to have Ben brought to the assembly, too.  The other children will be there, after all.  Jacen arrives, sans Jaina and Zekk. 
 
He admits that he was the one who came up with the idea of the raid on the supply depot.  He had a vision of a conflict that drew the Galactic Alliance in the middle of a war.  He saw the galaxy die.  He convinced Jaina and the others to help him so that the future would change.
 
Luke reminds him how dangerous vision interpretation can be.  He knows Jacen is protecting smething.  Jacen indicates the academy around him, noting that he’s really not protecting anything, but everything.
 
Luke wonders if Jacen knows if he actually prevented what he saw from happening.  Jacen can’t be sure, but the future is still in motion.
 
In the hall, less than 300 are present.  Luke tells them how he became the custodian 35 years ago of the Jedi Order that had once lasted a thousand generations.  It had been brought down by the wiles of a Sith Lord who had disguised himself as a friend and ally.  The Jedi Order Luke had continued had changed with the times because Luke had felt it was necessary.  He thought that Jedi served the Force best by following their consciences.  He was wrong.
 
When Jedi are at odds with each other, they are at odds with the Force.  When that happens, they cannot serve at all.  To that end, he wants every one of them to make a choice.  If they cannot follow the direction of their superiors, put aside other duties and loyalties or be a Jedi Knight first and foremost, they should leave.
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  • I want to point out something here that’s very important.  Luke and Mara know what Jacen went through with the Yuuzhan Vong, they know the moral relativism that Vergere educated the confused and tormented young man with, they know he has been studying the Force with many different users over the last five years and they now know that he is having visions that he may or may not be misinterpreting.  They know that he is powerful enough in the Force to hide himself and do many other things that most of the Jedi cannot.  I’m pointing this out because, from this point on, we will be examining the extremes that we know Jacen Solo is going to in context to what his teacher and uncle knows about him and his past.

  • I also wish Luke had told the assembled Jedi that they will no longer be taking an ends justifies the means approach that he has recently determined to be dangerous and counterproductive.

 


#3
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 2:
 
Leia decides to talk some sense into Luke before this gets out of hand.  She enters the library to find Mara waiting with Luke.  She is stunned to find out that this is just a gambit to force the masters to learn to get along.  Luke doesn’t want to take over the Jedi Order, but he will if he has to.
 
Leia warns him that crowning himself King of the Jedi will not help things.  Luke maintains he wants the Jedi to put the Order first.  Right now, they are all putting it last.  Corran thinks they should serve the Alliance, Kyp thinks they should serve their own consciences and Jaina’s team thinks they should protect the weak from aggression. 
 
He’s trying to unite the masters against him so they will work together. 
 
The first comes to him.  Danni Quee explains she was never really part of the Jedi Order and would like to return to Zonama Sekot.  Luke appreciates this and admits, though valuable during the war, they’ve all known her destiny lies elsewhere.
 
Tenel Ka is next, giving Luke her lightsaber and telling him that she cannot devote herself entirely to the Jedi Order and rule the Hapes Consortium at the same time.  If she were to step down from the throne, blood would be spilled over who would take her place.
 
He hands her back the weapon, telling her she earned it, but understands her position.  He hopes she will be in a position someday to return to the Order.  She suddenly embraces Han and Leia, telling them they mean more to her than she will ever be able to tell.  They assure her that they will still see her in the future and will even visit Hapes to get a chance to meet her baby.
 
Something about this makes Tenel Ka nervous, but she leaves before more can be said.  Han suggests maybe there’s something about the baby she doesn’t want them to know.  She may not be thrilled about acknowledging the father, whoever he is.  They are all saddened by the life of loneliness the Queen Mother must have when Corran Horn appears.
 
He apologizes for his role in the recent power play that he was too foolish not to see Chief Omas finagling.  He fears his presence may be a divisive element now.  Luke reminds him this is not the first time Corran has felt leaving the Order was for its own good.  If there’s a third time, he may not stop him.
 
Luke points out that it is not Corran’s fault that the Yuuzhan Vong destroyed Ithor.  The current problems are as much Luke’s mistakes as anyones.  Corran needs to stop trying to shoulder the entire galaxy’s problems himself as it does make him look a bit pompous.
 
So, he decides Corran is staying and will just put the Order first from now on.  The Jedi do have a duty to support the GA and Corran represents that viewpoint well.  Corran thanks him and tells him that the other masters would like to see him in the auditorium.
 
When Luke arrives, the others ask him to clarify how family fits into this idea of how committed they are to the Order.  He assures them that they do not have to abandon their loved ones.
 
Han notes to Jacen that Tenel Ka has left.  He knew she would as Luke didn’t leave her much choice.  Leia mentions that they have all known for some time that her duties have made participation in the Order extremely limited anyway.  Knowing where she is going with this, Jacen assures his mother that he is not leaving.
 
She has a hard time concealing her relief, then asks what he knows about Tenel Ka’s daughter, Allana.  He asks why they think he knows anything.  Leia and Han both have noticed she clams up when the subject is broached and Jacen would not try so hard to dodge their questions if he didn’t know something.
 
Jacen suggests they respect her desire to keep her daughter out of the public eye.  Leia asks if Allana is afflicted in some way that requires Tenel Ka to keep her hidden.  The Hapans do place an unreasonable amount of emphasis on physical beauty.  They hope she knows that they are willing to help if needed.
 
Jacen insists he knows no details.  Tenel Ka has the wealth and friends necessary to take care of herself. 
 
By this time, Luke and the masters have agreed that any action during a crisis is to respond united.  To that end, he thinks that they need to decide how to handle the Killiks. Jacen is asked to describe his vision.
 
Jacen explains how he saw the Chiss launch a massive surprise attack against the Killiks that failed to destroy the Colony.  The Killiks counter attacked and drew the Galactic Alliance into the war.  This is why he planned the raid on the supply depot.
 
Kenth Hamner doesn’t see how that helped anything.  The Chiss are still attacking, the Galactic Alliance is still being drawn into the war and the Chiss think they gave the Ackbar to the Killiks.  If anything, Jacen just hastened the war and made things much more complicated.
 
Corran calms people down by pointing out that debating past actions won’t solve anything.  They need to talk about how to get a handle on this conflict before it gets out of control. 
 
No one seems to want to open up a debate that will lead them down the same divisive path as before.  Jacen pipes up and says he has an idea.  They have to kill Raynar Thul.
 
This surprises many as the prospect of killing Raynar had been discussed as a backup plan when Luke and Han were on Woteba.  Jacen explains that Raynar’s becoming a joiner affected the Colony.  It caused their population to explode and that’s why they are intruding on Chiss frontiers.  The change in the Colony is a behavior learned through Raynar who is the only one that really values individual life anyway.  If they remove Raynar, they unlearn the behavior because his ability to project his will is what binds the individual nests to the Colony.
 
The nests will revert to their natural states without him.  Corran asks what will keep Lomi Plo from using the Dark Nest to take over.  Jacen acknowledges that they will have to take out her and Alema Rar, too. 
 
So the Dark Nest will have to be destroyed, along with Raynar and his nest.  Reasoning with him will not work.  His mind was shattered during the crash of the ship and the Killik concept of truth is very fluid.  He does not think rationally.    It all boils down to there being a Dark Nest because there is an Unu.  Cilghal confirms this.  The Colony is a collective mind and it has created an unconscious one.  The unconscious mind cannot be destroyed without also eliminating the conscious one.  To that extent, Jacen’s theory fits with what they have observed.
 
Corran still doesn’t think assassinations are what being Jedi are all about.  Leia reminds him that Raynar is a Jedi and they are responsible for stopping him.  Corran argues that killing him cannot be the only choice they have.
 
After all, Jaina and Zekk are Joiners.  They could easily take over for Raynar if he dies and Corran doubts that Leia would argue for killing them.  Kyle Katarn agrees, but Kyp thinks Jaina and Zekk have proven they are Jedi first. 
 
The argument grows until it involves two large sides against each other.  Luke stops it by thanking them quietly.  He has considered their suggestions and will make the decision soon.  They realize that he is taking over.
 
Han turns and stomps off, Leia after him.  She explains to Saba that she is going after her daughter.
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  • I know that Jacen has learned to stifle his presence in the Force and keep others from sensing his thoughts.  However, I’m really surprised that his parents have not yet considered that he might be the father of Allana.  After all, they are both well aware of Jacen and Tenel Ka’s budding romance when they were teenagers.  This is a case of him protesting too much.

  • I’m also surprised that, though they know Jaina and Zekk are Joiners, there is very little questioning of how reliable the two are.  They may still be Jedi, but they are obviously influenced by the Colony. 

 
 


#4
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 3:
 
At the exclusive Yuza Bre on Coruscant, Luke and Mara find themselves the guests of Aryn Thul and her brother-in-law, Tyko.  Reservations are very hard to get which is why they are surprised to see the place deserted.  Aryn Thul explains they purchased the restaurant this morning so they could speak privately.
 
Besides, it’s also Chief Omas’s favorite restaurant and buying it is her way of voicing her displeasure at how he’s handling this situation, particularly since he refuses to meet with her.
 
Luke and Mara aren’t sure that she isn’t privy to what the Jedi have been contemplating doing with regard to this situation.  She is aware of how they kept the nest ships trapped in the Nebula, but the Thul family’s loyalties have always been with their business.  They’ve outlasted three galactic governments and plan to outlast this one, too.
 
Luke notes that they must also have some loyalty to Raynar, too.  Tyko reveals that they purchased the Xtib processing copany that produces TibannaX, the special isotope used in Jedi StealthX engines to conceal their ion trails.
 
Mara wonders if that’s a threat.  Luke adds that they must be aware of their discussions regarding Raynar.  He does not contemplate such actions lightly, but they must do what they can to bring the war to an end.  Madame Thul takes some heart in knowing that he is reluctant to do so.
 
Mara would like to know who has been their source for all this information they are getting.  Aryn explains it was Tesar and Lowbacca.  They have good hearts and she’s sure they didn’t betray Luke’s confidence for no reason.
 
Mara thinks it’s more likely that they are under the Colony’s control again.  The Skywalkers, knowing where they stand now, prepare to leave, but Aryn Thul wishes to give them something.  They may be at odds now, but she considers Luke her friend and has her bodyguard bring out an ancient astromech droid.
 
Bornaryn recently purchased the company Industrial Automaton.  Their records were virtually useless, but the warehouse contained this droid: the Artoo-O, the prototype for the Artoo series.  It contains the original Intellex 4 droid brain that she hopes will be useful in resolving Artoo-Detoo’s memory problems.
 
Mara notes that they’d been told the Artoo was an Imperial design.  Tyko offers that Imperial Intelligence was very good at obscuring history, especially when it came to the origins of their military technology.  No one knows who the designer was and they can’t really say he never became an Imperial or was forced to work with them. 
 
Luke can only thank Aryn for her kindness. She tells him that every man should know his mother, but offers that it was Tesar and Lowie who passed Luke’s droid problems onto her.  As she said, they have good hearts.
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  • Of course, we knew that the Artoo series could not have been an Imperial design.  I suppose we can allow that the Empire tried to claim it was.  I find it hard to believe that worked, though.


#5
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 4:
 
In a ship borrowed from Lando, Leia and Han are in disguise as an Arkanian and a Falleen, preparing to try to sell weapons to the Lizil.  While Threepio and Leia debate how Han can land this odd ship at the berth, Han notices a ship nearby that looks like the one Lando had gotten for Juun who had sold it to the Squibs for another ship. 
 
He still appreciates Leia, even after thirty years of marriage.  She can sense that gratitude through the Force. He tries to play off that he’s just glad she came along with him.  She wonders why he thinks he wouldn’t.  Jaina is her daughter, too.
 
Han mentions how Luke’s Jedi Come First philosophy would affect that.  Leia knows he has to do what’s best for the Order, but she has to do what’s best for Jaina and Zekk.  She cannot support Luke making himself Grand Master.  When he dies, someone else will take over and they may be more susceptible to the Dark Side.  Han jokes that the Order won’t last a year without Luke.  Leia knows this and that worries her, too.
 
The Noghri are disguised as awkward-looking Ewoks.  Three Killiks board the ship and the Solos show them the magnetic coil artillery.  The Killiks aren’t interested in that, but will take the repeating blasters and thermal detonators in the secret weapons locker inside the wall.  They leave their offer of payment at the foot of the boarding ramp.
 
Han starts to protest this, but Leia holds him back through the Force, telling him that they will have to find another way to sell the gun.  Han realizes that she’s keeping him for jeopardizing themselves and says he thinks he knows where they can start looking.
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#6
Jedi Cool

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chapter 5:
 
Luke has asked Tesar, Lowbacca and Tahiri to meet him at the Jedi Temple.  He and Cilghal watch the three for awhile, discussing their options.  Luke needs to know if they are Joiners.  If their minds are being controlled by Raynar, he’ll know they aren’t at fault. Otherwise, they told Madame Thul about the discussions regarding Raynar of their own will and he will have to deal with that.
 
He approaches Tesar and Lowie while Tahiri practices with a remote.  Luke is content to let her stay there as Aryn Thul had not named her as her source.  He tells them they likely know already why they’ve been asked here.  Lowie admits it’s because of what they told Raynar’s mother.
 
Tesar and the Wookiee explain that destroying the Colony and assassinating a friend would be immoral.  Luke reminds them that the decision wasn’t theirs to make.  Jedi Knights serve the Force, but they are now serving it through the Jedi Order.  Their enemies multiply when Jedi go in different directions.
 
Tahiri joins them, explaining she didn’t participate only because she hasn’t been told.  She tells him that he listens to Jacen Solo as though he were a Master.  Jacen cannot be trusted.
 
They explain that Luke and Mara seem to give more weight to Jacen’s opinions, apparently under the impression that his five-year abandonment of the Order makes him a better Jedi than the ones who’ve stayed and served.  Luke admits he values Jacen for what he knows about other Force-using traditions.  He doesn’t confess that he also finds Jacen important because he’s the only one Ben trusts to teach him to use the Force.
 
He does ask them what they think Jacen’s agenda is.  They cannot be sure but they believe he’s lying about this vision he claims to have had.  They haven’t actually caught him in anything beyond the fact that the attack on the supply depot was suspicious.  The Chiss were still stocking fuel when they arrived and most of the frigates hadn’t even been fired up yet.  Luke is familiar with innuendo as a form of character assassination.  Much of what they have told him fits with Jacen’s vision anyway.  He doesn’t believe Jacen is lying about that, but, even if he was, they had no right to betray the confidence of the Masters by going to Aryn Thul with what was discussed within the Temple.
 
He wonders what he has done wrong, how he had failed them in a way that left them unprepared for the Yuuzhan Vong war and the ability to resist the Will of Raynar Thul.  The trio are angry, Tesar hissing that Luke is a fool to trust Jacen, especially with his son.  Lowie tries to stop him, mentioning he’ll just make Luke angrier.  Luke wants to know what they mean.
 
Tahiri explains they didn’t see it for themselves, but Jaina and Zekk saw Jacen perform a technique with the Force that blocked some of Ben’s memories.  Jacen told them Ben saw something upsetting and that he learned the technique from the White Current. 
 
Luke knows she’s telling him the truth.  Jacen’s return was marked by young man with amazing skills but a far more mysterious personality.  It’s as if he doesn’t believe anyone who hadn’t gone on a retreat has any right to share in the wisdom he’s found.
 
Luke promises to look into this, but he still thinks they are trying to blame Jacen rather than admit the Colony is going to plunge the galaxy into war.  Cilghal jumps in to point out that they cannot know that the three Jedi are not still being influenced by the Colony. 
 
Tahiri can’t believe Luke is going to base his decision on his belief that they might be Joiners.  Luke tells them there are many questions about why they did what they did, but no questions as to whether they did it.   They tried to influence his decision by hoping Madame Thul would pressure him and this makes him doubt if they really want to be Jedi.  He’s decided to send them to Dagobah to meditate on what it means to be Jedi Knights.  When he sends for them, they can come back and he warns them that failure to obey will be interpreted by him as a resignation.
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  • Can we go back to chapter 1 and my comments as to what Luke and Mara know about Jacen?  Luke admits he believes Tahiri that Jacen might have modified Ben’s memory, yet he still refuses to consider that there may be problems with Jacen or his interpretation of this vision?  I’m not justifying Tesar and Lowie’s going to Raynar’s mother, but I think Luke is allowing his son’s progress in the Force to blind him to how very different a person Jacen is. 

 
 


#7
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 6:
 
 
Han pushes through the hangar of the Lizil nest toward the suspicious ship, searching for the Squibs.  Leia has Threepio and the Noghri stay with their ship for now and follows.  They push their way aboard the ship where Grees, Sligh and Emala are dealing with two Verpine over a cargo that needs to be delivered to Tenupe.  A Lizil is there, as well.   
 
The Verpine don’t want to go too close to Chiss lines, especially since there’s no one else out there who will want TibannaX.  Han knows that it’s only used for Jedi StealthXs and offers to take the cargo instead.
 
Though they are still in disguise, Leia reminds the Squibs where they’ve met before.  It is clear the Solos are remembered despite the near 30-year span it’s been since the trio saw them.   In fact, the Solos would love to speak with them about a couple of contract employees right now, something the Squibs do not want to do in front of the Lizil.
 
Emala’s son, Krafte is here, with her daughter, Seneki.  Leia uses the Force to push Seneki back, indicating they really should speak about the employees.  After all, the Colony wouldn’t want the magcannon ending up with the Chiss or GA.  Han explains they’d like to see the StealthXs at Tenupe.  If the Squibs can find a buyer for it instead, it would free them to take the delivery. 
 
The Squibs decide to go ahead and vouch for the Solos, Grees declaring they’ll take their secrets to the grave if they disappoint.
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  • Like I mentioned in The Unseen Queen, we first met the Squibs – Grees, Emala and Sligh – in Tatooine Ghost.

 
 


#8
Jedi Cool

Jedi Cool

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chapter 7:
 
Luke is so engrossed in Ghent ’s work that he doesn’t notice Jacen has appeared.  Ghent asks if he doesn’t want to see if the omnigate works.  Luke certainly does and is advised not to leave as it’s deteriorated and won’t last long.   Jacen asks if they’ve found a way to unlock Artoo.
 
Ghent thinks what they’ve been given will either do that or lose Artoo’s entire memory.  It depends on how much they trust Aryn Thul that this is an actual Intellex IV prototype.  Jacen doesn’t think Madame Thul would get any advantage in erasing Artoo’s memory, though.
 
Ghent goes ahead and tinkers.  In a few moments, he thinks he’s got it.  He flips Artoo’s circuit breaker and the droid comes to life.  Luke asks to show what happened between his parents after the incident at the Jedi Temple .  Artoo tries to be coy about it, but Luke insists.
 
The holo shows Anakin embraces Padme who asks what is going on.  Jacen is momentarily distracted by a golden protocol droid that he thinks might be Threepio.  Anakin tells Padme that the Jedi Council tried to overthrow the Republic.  His loyalty is with the Senate and with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.  Many Jedi have been killed, but he doesn’t know about Obi-Wan.
 
He tells her there are many traitors in the Senate, too, and she needs to distance herself from those she thinks are her friends.  She points out that she has been opposed to this war, too.  Anakin assures her that he will make sure nothing happens to her.  He is gaining new knowledge of the Force and will soon be able to protect her from anything.  He tells her to have faith. He is going to the Mustafar system to deal with the Separatists once and for all.
 
He tells her to wait for him.
 
Mara tells Luke that Anakin’s whole attitude gave her the creeps.  Jacen saw only a man concerned for his wife’s safety.  Mara and Luke both found Anakin to be somewhat controlling.  Jacen admits he doesn’t have all the context, but he knows Anakin Skywalker probably had the power to do what he wanted.  It may not have been the right thing to do, but he understands what Anakin was thinking.
 
Luke allows that they sometimes forget that Anakin was a human being.
 
They want to move on to the next holo but Ghent warns them the omnigate probably won’t last more than a couple of more times.  He could make a backup file, but that would take time.  Luke hates to let his personal quest interfere with the very timely concern of the war, but he wants his doubts to be clear.  Though Mara is certain she had nothing to do with his mother’s fate, it’s also possible that Padme might have lived under an alias for years and that Mara, while serving as Emperor’s Hand, might have assassinated her without realizing it.
 
Luke tells him to work on it while he speaks with Jacen who seems to know already what he wants.
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  • It’s cute that part of the holo includes some backstage fretting by See-Threepio that wasn’t in the novel.  The scene in question is, of course, the conversation between Anakin and Padme after he returns from the Jedi Temple and before he takes off for Mustafar. 
  • However, Luke and Leia found records specific enough to lead them to Padme Amidala.  I’m shocked that they didn’t find records that indicated her death.  Obviously, they didn’t if Luke thinks his mother might have survived to live under an alias.
  • And why would it give him piece of mind to find out what happened to his mother before going back to the Killik conflict?  So what if Mara had been responsible for killing a woman she didn’t know was Padme Amidala?  Does that make her any more at fault than for anyone else she killed in the past that Luke isn’t holding against her?


#9
Jedi Cool

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chapter 8:
 
In a private hangar, Han notices something odd about the Killiks nearby.  C-3PO confirms that the Killiks in question are boarding the transports, not loading them.  In fact, he’s counted 127 so far which would make for a large number if all the transports are being loaded.  Although it’s suggested they warn Commander Fel, Han thinks the Chiss are on their own until he finds his daughter.
 
The magcannon is gone, probably off to a pirate base where Lando has assured them it will blow up the first time it’s live-fired.  Disguised as Fefze, Tarfang and Juun meet Han and Leia.  Juun explains Bwua’tu always sends them when the mission is likely to be fatal.
 
They’ve come because the Squibs have put a death mark on the Solos.  Their Flakax bodyguards, Tito and Yugi, will probably be the attackers.  They redisguise themselves and prepare to leave when Tarfang takes violent exception to the Noghris’ Ewok disguises. 
 
Juun has to persuade him to leave it alone or they’ll be in trouble with Admiral Pellaeon.  Leia guesses that the Grand Admiral is hoping to find out where the Killiks are headed so he can convince the Chiss that the GA has nothing to do with this. 
 
What they don’t understand is why the Squibs would want to kill them.  They had a deal, after all.  Han thinks they’re only going to find out what it is by asking the Flakax.  Which, by the way, are here.  Six of them are carrying crates that probably conceal their weapons.
 
Leia asks about the cargo, pulls the crates away with the Force which exposes the weapons, causing Han and the Noghri to get the drop on them.   Han and Leia explain that the Squibs are going to kill the Flakax, too.  Tito tells them that the Squibs wanted to kill them because Lizel decided not to send the Solos to Tenupe after all.  The humans are better use on the convoy being sent to the Alliance.
 
If the convoy is headed to Alliance space, all this weaponry could be used to support a coup.  Leia knows they have to warn Luke.  There are a lot of insect species here.  If those governments fall, the Alliance will be too busy to carry a war to the rest of the Colony.
 
Han wonders why it always has to be them.  There should have never been any doubt that Leia would want to do the right thing.  She acknowledges she can’t let the Colony topple those governments.  They’ll get to Tenupe at some point.  Han decides that they’ll send Tito back to the Squibs.
 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 


#10
Jedi Cool

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chapter 9:
 
First, Luke confronts him about lying to his fellow Jedi about the supply depot.  Jacen admits that his vision was true but that he did alter one detail.  He couldn’t see who attacked first.  Mara wonders that he just up and decided to be the one to start it.
 
He argues that it already had started but no one else seemed to understand that.  Luke is unhappy that Jacen is cutting himself off from the Force, a clear indication that Jacen is hiding something from them.
 
He explains that Jacen had to know what he was doing was wrong or he wouldn’t have had to trick his sister into helping. Jacen points out that there was nothing else to do with Luke gone and the other masters fighting.
 
Luke insists that what Jacen did will not happen again, regardless.  Still, he knows there’s more that Jacen is hiding. He asks if it has to do with why he wants to kill Raynar so badly.  Jacen doesn’t think that’s a secret.  Killing Raynar is the only way to stop the war.  Lowie and Tesar don’t want him to die because he was a friend.  It’s unlikely Raynar is influencing them.  The two aren’t Joiners and are far from his influence.  He can’t read minds either.
 
Of course, it’s also likely that Madame Thul has communicated the danger to him.  Considering that only Luke and Mara knew about this, they wonder how Jacen knew about this.  Jacen admits that wasn’t a secret either and is surprised to find out Tahiri was sent to Dagobah when she didn’t do anything.
 
Mara asks how he knows that.  Jacen confesses that he and Tahiri still talk sometimes.  Mara interprets that as Jacen is using Tahiri to spy on the Order.  Jacen quotes his mother as saying many times that spying builds trust. After putting a stop to that, Mara demands to know what else Jacen is hiding and if it has to do with what he did to Ben.
 
Jace lies and tells his aunt and uncle that, while camping on Endor, a Gorax attacked and Ewok village and killed half of them.  Jacen couldn’t help them because Ben was with him and there was another Gorax in the forest.  So he hid both of them.  The memory of the Ewok slaughter and what they experienced started causing Ben to withdraw from the Force again.  He thinks that Ben blames the Force for the bad things he feels inside it sometimes.
 
He performed a mind rub that he learned from the White Current Adepts.  Luke isn’t happy about this, but Mara is perfectly fine and assures Jacen that she wouldn’t keep Ben from him over this.  Nevertheless, there is still something he’s hiding.  Jacen says there is but it would betray a confidence.  It won’t affect the Jedi Order anyway. 
 
Luke senses a feeling of guilt coming from the office and quickly moves inside to find Ghent lying under the writing table, doing something.  When he spots Luke and Mara, he bangs his head on the table, grabs a small device and swallows it.
 
Mara demands to know if he was planting a listening device here.  Ghent admits that Chief Omas put him up to it, threatening not to let him work on Artoo if the didn’t.  Luke decides to let him finish the work.  After all, spying does build trust.
 
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  • Marriage and Motherhood makes the strong women of this galaxy complete morons.  Etain-Tur Mukan turned her back on the entire Jedi Order once she fell in love with Darman and gave birth to his son.  Padme couldn’t handle Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side.  Now Mara, the most suspicious person the SW galaxy has ever created, quickly turns from anger that Jacen altered her son’s memory to insisting she trusts no one more with him.  All because Jacen has been successful opening Ben up to the Force.  This is not a good thing.  In light of everything they know about Jacen that we discussed in chapter 1, they should not be trusting him with their son.

 
 


#11
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chapter 10:
 
They’d put Tito out of the ship and taken off.  Shortly thereafter, the Real Deal hails them.  Grees tells them turning Tito on them was crafty, but he got Krafte and Seneki before they could stop him. 
 
They have an offer that they doubt Han and Leia will refuse.  Jaina is still in colony space and they can help find her…or they could get to her themselves.  Leia tells Han that they Squibs vouched for them with Lizil.  If they tell the Alliance what is going on, it will harm them.
 
They’re just trying to delay them for awhile.  Han realizes they are going to have to keep going.  Leia reminds him that Jaina can take care of herself.  He knows this, but it leaves a bad taste in his mouth to put the Alliance ’s welfare over his daughter’s safety.  He tells Leia is must run in Jaina’s blood.  Being Jedi is going to keep both Jaina and Leia putting duty first.
 
Of course, they’re not the only ones and Luke won’t even give Han a lightsaber.
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#12
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chapter 11:
 
Luke, Mara and Jacen are at the Verpine capital in the Roche system, watching a convoy.  Mara can tell there is something wrong here.  The ships, Slayn & Korpil Gatherers, look like foragers more than an assault force, but she can only sense s few presences aboard each ship.  Some of them are a little different from Verpine.
 
They can’t be sure there will be an attack as Leia’s message was garbled enough that they couldn’t confirm it was really her.  Luke has sent a team to each insect world, however, to be sure.
 
Mara sees a white light appear at the front of the convoy that might be a detonation, but there’s been no warning of one.  She asks her astromech if there’s some kind of battle going on at the surface. 
 
Luke’s shock and anger through the meld answers that question.  There is no battle on the surface and Jacen had attacked the convoy without provocation.  Mara urges him to withdraw, but she fires another shadow bomb instead.
 
She breaks off contact due to her anger.  Luke uses the battle meld to disapprove and urge Jacen to withdraw, too.  Then Mara spots a Gatherer vessel and several Killiks on the surface.  She is relieved that Jacen had been right and ashamed about her reservations.
 
She and Luke move forward to attack.  They get a communication from the Verpine queen who explains the heart chamber is under attack by Killiks and Verpine traitors.  Mara assures her they will hurry.  The queen returns that she can see a Jedi here now with a lightsaber.
 
Mara realizes that Jacen has already landed and is preventing the coup.  A GA task force arrives.  Supreme Commander Gilad Pellaeon announces they are on a peaceful mission.  Jacen comms him back with confirmation that there has been a coup attempt here, but the Jedi have everything under control.
 
Pellaeon advises them that his garrison intercepted Master Horn’s team before they could prevent the Killiks from landing on Thyferra.  The Colony has taken control of the bacta supply.
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  • The GA still hasn’t diversified where bacta is produced?  How many times does Thyferra have to change hands before they realize it’s not a good idea to produce the most-used medicine in the galaxy on one single planet!

 
 


#13
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chapter 12:
 
On Tenupe, Jaina prepares to fight for the Colony against the Chiss.  There are all kinds of insect species here.  Some Jooj, Rekkers, Wuluws, Geonosians, Snutib and a few Kamarians who keep asking about her father.
 
She sees a couple of Squib here, too, who can’t seem to take their eyes off of her.
 
Her danger senses prickles and she tries to open up to Zekk who is a hundred meters away.  Their Joiner bond doesn’t work well with distance.  She asks her Wuluw partner to make sure UnuThul knows she’s having danger ripples in the Force.
 
UnuThul is not and worries that she is trying to trick him.  She insists she wants to destroy the landing force, too.
 
When the drop ship crashes down, it fires its cannons.  Jaina hruls mud down at the cannons which cause the weapons to explode.  The insect species begin springing onto the ship.  Jaina reaches out to see if she can sense Jagged Fel aboard.  Though they are military enemies now, she still doesn’t want him to die.
 
She drags her partner along into the heart of the Chiss landing zone.  As the Chiss troops burst out in color-shifting, fractal-pattern armor that makes them difficult to see, she snenses about a hundred enemy soldiers scattered throughout the area.
 
A jolt shakes the ground as a nearby drop ships erupts in flames.  Mass death occurs, including Jaina’s Wuluw partner.  She jumps up, eager to blast the Chiss and make them pay for the the deth and for so many others. 
 
The Chiss don’t understand that each Killik can lay 1000 eggs each month.  If the Chiss want to survive this war, they have to withdraw to their own borders and sue for peace.  The Jooj attack with their flesh-dissolving enzymes.  Killiks reinforcements start puring out the pit.
 
Jaina battles a trio of Chiss using her lightsaber, slashing at them brutally until Zekk sends his revulsion into the battle meld.  She understands that she is surrendering to the rage that had almost consumed her after Anakin died.
 
She shuts down her weapon and tries to treat the wounded, assuring them that the Colony will help them.  The Chiss know exactly how the Colony will repair their wounds and use a vape charge to end their lives. 
 
She can’t believe they really thought the nest would harm them.  She feels the danger sense again and turns to find the two Squibs looking at her.  She tells them to be careful because she senses something dangerous.  They assure her she is lucky to have them looking after her.
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  • I know danger can sometimes be vague to a Jedi, but I’m surprised Jaina doesn’t sense the danger coming from those two.

  • Nice bit about the Kamarians asking about her father.   It’s a callback to Han’s inadvertent water-religion experience.

 
 


#14
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chapter 13:
 
Luke, Mara and Jacen are escorted to the Planning and Analysis Room in the deep Defense Force command compound where Han and Leia are already waiting with Admiral Pellaeon and Chief Omas. 
 
They are introduced to the senator from Thyferra who assures the Jedi that he knows the fall of his world was not due to them.  Pellaeon thanks them for their help in responding to the coup attempt.  Chief Omas is grateful the Jedi considered the Galactic Alliance for once.
 
Luke acknowledges that the issues have not always been clear and the Order has sometimes taken a long view without taking Omas into consideration.  He regrets those mistakes.
 
The Senator explains how the Killiks seized power quickly with the help of traitors in the capital city.  The danger is that black membrosia will likely be plentiful now and the Vratix will become addicted Joiners.  Since they are insects, they may succumb faster than other species.
 
A conventional battle could disrupt the bacta production, so the GA was hoping the Jedi would be able to intervene there.  Luke agrees to do this and Mara adds if that’s what Omas and Pellaeon think is best.
 
Pellaeon wonders what the Jedi think is best.  They explain that they feel that part of the Colony’s tactic is to distract the Jedi Order.  They sense that something major is best launched.  Pellaeon confirms that Admiral Bwua’tu thinks the Colony is going to try to breakout of the Utegetu Nebula again.  He agrees that these coups are a distraction.
 
Luke is certain that they can destroy the strength of the Colony without killing all the Killiks.  They will have to kill Raynar Thul and Lomi Plo.  They elaborate the plan to use the Alliance ’s Jedi and what they need from the Defense Force.
 
Omas is glad to hear that Luke considers the Jedi part of the Alliance.  Luke admits that, though Jedi serve the Force, they cannot serve in a vaccuum.  The Jedi and GA need each other.
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#15
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chapter 14:
 
More than a week after the Swarm had pured out of the ground, the battle continues.  The Killiks are dotting the forest floor in places so thick that Jaina cannot walk.  The Chiss keep pulling back, so they will eventually run out of room, but she thinks she might run out of Killiks first.
 
UnuThul’s Will compels them to attack mindlessly, so they often run into walls of fire utilizing little to no strategy.  She turns to her newest Wuluw communicator who is hiding.  The two Squibs who have attached themselves to her are nearby.
 
Jaina tries to convince Wuluw to tell UnuThul that this isn’t working.  Wuluw communicates that Unu is going to be out of touch for awhile.  She thinks he needs to know that the Chiss keep fighting after after being injured and force the Killiks to kill them.  They seem to think they are going to be harmed.  She reminds Unu about what they saw on Kr, but the Will comes back suggesting the caves were dark and she didn’t understand what she was seeing.
 
She knows he’s forcing a conclusion on her, but Zekk is too far away to share her thoughts and help her, so she lacks the strength to resist Unu’s Will. 
 
When the fire of charric weapons fade and there doesn’t seem to be any Chiss anywhere, Jaina orders the advance to halt.  Heavy artillery begins.  Jaina orders her troops into the treetops and commissions Wuluw to communicate that to the others.
 
She asks what her partner knows about the Squibs. It’s not like any species to come across the galaxy to fight someone else’s war, especially not Squibs.  The Wuluw is not helpful here.
 
An AirStraeker squadron moves thrugh the sky.  Jaina tries to push one through the Froce at its wingmate.  The rest of the squadron opens fire.  She asks that Zekk get the Swing Swarm down here quickly.
 
Jaina tries to use the Force to shove the ships into clouds, but they drop back into view quickly.  Zekk and his StealthX is out there, but it hasn’t arrived in time to stop the AirStraekers from burning the air around Jaina.  Thousands of Killiks die.  Wuluw is lost and Jaina gest angry again.
 
Zekk touches Jaina, reminding her that vengeance is not important. 
 
The battle continues with both insect and Chiss bodies lining the ground until the Colony breaks through the enemy line.
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#16
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chapter 15:
 
Jacen watches his uncle and aunt speak with Saba and his parents before they head off on Luke’s crazy scheme.  He waits his turn, knowing his parents are older, but also experienced.  They’ve been doing this since before Jacen was born.  They had sacrificed and had to choose between evils.  He wonders how many secrets they are still hiding.
 
It’s time for Jacen’s generation to take charge and carry the burdens that their parents have had to bear for far too long.  He isn’t even worthy to do so.  The upbringing his generation has had is nothing like the ones his parents and uncle had to have.
 
Han worries that Jacen is having another vision, but his son admits he’s just distracted.  He didn’t realize how emotional he would be to bid them good-bye.  He does caution them that Raynar will not believe them even though they are telling the truth.
 
Luke asks if Jacen would like to come with him and Mara to see the final holo.  The question of the death of his mother is something that has to be resolved now before Luke confronts Lomi Plo.  Jacen believes he should be the one to do this instead.  Vergere had taught him to have no doubts.
 
They find Ghent, distracted as usual, but able to show them what they want.  Artoo displays a holo of Padme meeting Anakin on Mustafar where she reveals that Obi-Wan told her Anakin was falling to the Dark Side and had killed the children at the Temple.  Anakin accuses her of betraying him, insisting his powers were enough to protect her the way he couldn’t protect his mother.
 
They don’t have to hide anymore, but he can bring peace to the Republic on his terms and even overthrow the Chancellor. 
 
Luke recognizes the pure arrogance in these statements and sees why his father was led down the dark path.  Jacen cannot help but admire Anakin Skywalker who understood his own strength and tried to use it to bring peace.  Vergere would have approved because unused power is wasted power.
 
When Anakin reaches out to attack Padme and Obi-Wan confronts him, Artoo stops.  The omnigate is down for good.  Ghent is happy that they at least know that Mara wasn’t the one who killed Luke’s mother.  He doesn’t understand that the loss of the gate is not what is upsetting Luke so much.
 
Artoo offers to show the rest.  He’s been trying to keep that from Luke for a long time.  Since the secret is out now, there isn’t a need to keep it any longer.  Luke decides he has seen everything he needs.
 
Jacen isn’t sure Luke will be ready to fight Lomi Plo until he has seen it.  He must embrace the pain.  He knows Luke isn’t prepared to kill Raynar and that’s a mistake.
 
Luke explains that the war in Jacen’s visions will not come to pass even if it means not killing someone who used to be Jacen’s friend.   He thinks that Vergere may have saved his life and, perhaps, her instructions helped them win the war against the Yuuzhan Vong, but her teachings are not right for the Jedi Order.
 
The ruthlessness of what she taught reminds him too much of what Palpatine taught Anakin Skywalker to believe.  The problem is that her teachings do not take morality into account.  Being a Jedi is not about making decisions. 
 
To Jacen, his uncle is just putting back on the ancient shackles of principle and responsibility that Vergere had taught him to shake off.  Luke thinks Jacen needs to spend some time meditating on what a Jedi really is.  For starters, they are not bounty hunters.
 
Jacen suggests that he definitely be the one to kill Lomi Plo.  Luke thinks Jacen is being fair about his opinion, but that doesn’t mean he’s doubting anything.  Luke is going to be the one to kill Lomi Plo.
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  • I don’t suppose Leia might have wanted to see any of that holo before she left?

  • Note here:  Jacen, tutored by Vergere to believe that the ends justify the means, admires Anakin Skywalker for wanting to use his power to enforce peace, even if it’s a peace under Anakin’s terms.

  • It would appear that the omnigate destruction doesn’t remove Artoo’s abilities to show Luke the holos since he offered to show the rest.  Does this mean that Artoo’s problems were not mechanical, but….psychological?

 


#17
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chapter 16:
 
The Chiss have holed up on a small island behind defenses that are formidable.  Jaina tries to think of the plan that will not require UnuThul pushing his Will over the Killiks.  Her new Wuluw communicator comes with her as she asseses the Chiss defenses.
 
In the water, however, Jaina is attacked by blasterfire.  She realizes the Squib are using the opportunity to attack her.  Fortunately, they aren’t very good and Jaina forces them to explain what’s going on.  They tell her they are under contract by their great-great-great grandparents, the Squib known as Grees, Sligh and Emala.  Jaina knows the names.  The two Squib don’t know the specific reason but it probably has to do with money or, since they’ve been sent after the kid, her parents probably didn’t heed a warning.  Jaina doesn’t owe anyone money, but her father, notorious for not heeding warnings, may have caused this hit to be made.
 
Her parents are probably working to end the war quickly so there is some hope.  She lets the Squibs go with a warning, finds her Wuluw partner dead and a new one to take its place.  It turns out the Squibs are let go by the Killik via catapult onto the Chiss island where they are immediately taken prisoner.
 
Jaina notices the island is nearly underwater.  She puts into the Force that she has an idea, but UnuThul’s impatience is forcing the Swarm to go on the offensive.  Jaina finds Wuluw and tells her to have the troops withdraw.  They are going to dam the river and flood the Chiss off the island.
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#18
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chapter 17:
 
The Falcon arrives at Tenupe in the middle of the battle.  Along with Saba, Juun and Tarfang are along at Luke’s request.  The Chiss Zark Squadron demands the ship power down and prepare to be boarded.  Han won’t tolerate that.  He knows his daughter and Zekk are down on the planet in the thick of things.
 
Leia thinks he shouldn’t aggravate the Chiss more than they already are.  He has Saba and Tarfang go to shut down the number four nacelle as the ship starts shaking, then remove the vector plate.
 
Juun is stunned to find that Han isn’t going to decelerate as they head into the atmosphere.  Threepio points out that Captain Solo never does I a crisis because he seesm to enjoy seeing how close they can come to crashing without doing so.
 
Jagged Fel comms them and insists they stop.  It turns out he’s Zark Leader despite being a captain.  Han realizes that Jag knew they were coming.  Only a handful of people knew this, so they’ve been betrayed somehow. 
 
Han avoids a trap that Jag is trying to draw them into.  Jag acknowledges he told his superiors it wouldn’t work.  He urges Han to stop.  He knows things didn’t work out between him and Jaina, but he still thinks fondly of her parents.
 
Leia thinks Jag is trying to keep them alive, but doesn’t know why.  Jag thinks that should be obvious.  They are valuable prisoners, just as Saba and the Ewok and the Sullustan will be.  He knows they came to find Jaina and Zekk and, in fact, knows their entire plan.  Smuggling a Killik commando squad into a Chiss command center will not prove how difficult winning a war against them will be.  If Master Skywalker thinks it will be easy for him to force a peace on the Colony and the Chiss, he’s mistaken.
 
Han had hoped that someone in a hangar had just overheard a few things, but Jag knows enough that someone close enough to know the entire plan had betrayed them.  Since he knows the whole plan, there’s no reason to not vaporize the Falcon.  He thinks that the Chiss made a deal with whoever gave them the information not to kill Han and Leia.
 
He suspects it’s Omas.  It could be Pellaeon or a Jedi, but Pellaeon never double-crossed anyone even when he was an Imperial.  Jag interrupts, musing how Jaina must get her insane tactics from Han.
 
He urges them not to try taking refuge in a cluster of moons nearby.  The gravitational instability of the area has squashed every scout ship they’ve sent there.  Leia confirms that the area is dangerous.  An old moon appers to be shattered.  Leia can sense something wrong there and tells Han to surrender. 
 
The moons are full of insects.
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#19
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chapter 18:
 
In the Utegetu Nebula, the Jedi StealthXs appear, searching for sentiries.  The plan is to sneak into position around the Dark Nest vessel and wait for Admiral Pellaeon to arrive with the Megador and the strike fleet.  At that moment, the starfighters will destroy any ship attempting to leave the Gorog nest.  They will go inside and flush out Lomi Plo at that point.
 
But the place is too quiet and Luke realizes that they’ve already made the needed repairs and are breaking off to challenge the blockade. 
 
Luke moves down with Mara and Jacen behind him.  Kenth Hamner moves his squadron behind the first two ships, Kyle Katarn’s goes to the far side of the planet, Tresina Lobi’s go in the opposite direction. The rest continue to the original target.  Luke reaches out to Cilghal who is on the Megador with Tekli.  Pellaeon will listen to her if she tells him the fleet has to jump now.
 
Luke is glad to have Artoo back in the socket.  The droid reminds him that Luke survival has been improbable without him.  Along the way, they deal with enemy fire.  Artoo doesn’t spot any dartships and points out that he is sure of this.  He had only been following his owner-preservation routines before.
 
Luke knows this but Artoo cannot protect people from the truth.
 
The attack on the Dark Nest is severe enough that the other ships stop challenging the blockade.  Luke calls the other Jedi back to the original target.  They descend into the hull of the ship while the other StealthXs veer after dartships until Artoo points out the enemy now has B-Wings. 
 
It’s no real surprise that a Verpine corporation builds the ships.
 
Luke’s craft is damaged severely, some of the flying parts hit Jacen’s canopy.  Mara tells Luke that the canopy is smashed, but the visor is down and Jacen may be alive still.  Luke hopes he doesn’t have to tell Leia about the loss of another child. 
 
They land, Mara helping Jacen.  They jump out of the fighters, Kyle Katarn comming him.  Luke reveals Jacen is out right now.  Then he senses Lomi Plo.
 
He calls Kyp and Corran and the others through the battle meld.  Huge Gorog fighters emerge.  Power blasters take them down before they can get to Jacen.  After pulling him out, Mara checks his vac suit, guessing it’s just a blackout or concussion.
 
Jacen tries to get up and knows Lomi is here.  Luke can’t see anything, but then spots her floating nearby, surrounded by Gorog.  She ignites a lightsaber.  Luke tells Mara to keep the bugs off of him. Jacen can see her, too.
 
Lomi and Luke battle for supremacy while Mara and Jacen fight off the Gorog.  Luke gets caught in a net of Force energy that he remembers the survivors of the Myrkr strike team describing.  He pushes against the Force. 
 
A weapon developed by Cilghal called a Dazer cuts Lomi off from the collective mind of the Gorog, but not from the Force.  Luke uses the Force to send a lump of rock hurling into her head, but Lomi deflects it and it hits Mara.  He feels her surprise and pain, then begins to rage.  He pushes and the net dissolves, flying at Lomi and terrified he won’t be fast enough to finish her off and save Mara.
 
Lomi turns on him and seems to be the size of a rancor now.  He tries to counter her, but is too frightened for Mara.  He cannot move, even as Jacen deflects her lightsaber blade before she cuts down Mara.  Even as Lomi’s blade pushes through Jacen’s back.
 
Mara shoots Lomi in the chest, then patches Jacen’s vac suit.  Kyle arrives with half a dozen other Jedi.  Luke reaches out for Jacen’s presence, but it is characteristically gone and Jacen seems to have lost a lot of blood.  Jacen tells him not to worry about him, Luke allowed Lomi to see his weakness and she used it against him.
 
Mara assures Luke she’ll take care of Jacen.  Luke turns, quiets his thoughts and searches for the cold stillness.  But she’s gone.
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#20
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chapter 19:
 
In an interrogation cell, Leia is met by an interrogator who obviously intends to intimidate her.  He shows her a screen on which is displayed another interrogator with Han.  He threatens that Han will suffer if Leia doesn’t cooperate.
 
She is incensed when the young officer cuts a small scrape on Han’s face.  Leia has the urge to show him who’s really in charge, but assures him she is perfectly willing to tell him what he needs to know.  He is, after all, already familiar with their mission anyway.
 
She expands her awareness, knowing there are two Chiss guards behind Han, the two behind her, the two Noghri lurking in the ventilation duct.  She begins speaking to her interrogator, using the code words that will send the Noghri off on their mission.
 
She tells him that whatever he does to Han will happen to him.  The interrogator, Commander Baltke attempts to inject her with a hypo that will make her more cooperative.  She uses the Force to make him inject himself, but out of eyeshot of the guards.  He becomes more relaxed, but not necessarily under her control.
 
He asks her why the Jedi are forcing the GA to side with the Colony.  Leia assures him they are not. Baltke claims she’s lying and tells the other officer to cut something off.  Leia insists she is not lying.  He confronts her over the Star Destroyer the Killiks have.  She explains it’s the Admiral Ackbar and that the Killiks tricked Admiral Bwua’tu out of it.
 
Baltke finds that unlikely and has the other officer start cutting at Han’s ear.  Leia thinks that, since he knows the Falcon’s mission, he might try asking his source and stop torturing Han while he does.
 
Baltke admits only Captain Fel knows who the source is.  The other officer removes Han’s ear completely.  Leia hopes Baltke remembers her warning.
 
He would rather ask her why Jaina is leading the Killik ground swarm.  Leia doesn’t know.  Her daughter is a Joiner, after all.  Even if she wasn’t, the Jedi do not condone speciecide.  They’d rather end the war by restoring the Killiks to their earlier disorganized state.
 
Baltke isn’t convinced this can be done.  She tells him that their mission was to attack one command center using a variation on the same tactics used to seize the Ackbar.  The idea was to get the Falcon captured so that small Killik commandos would sneak out of the smuggling compartments to infest the facility.
 
However, it relied on getting in touch with Jaina, something they haven’t been able to do yet. 
 
The ship starts to shudder and Baltke is told they are entering the atmosphere.  He is nonplussed and asked why they thought capturing one command center would destroy the Colony.  She tells him that it was a distraction that would give the other Jedi team time.
 
Luke is using this time to attack the Dark Nest with both new weapons designed to disrupt the collective mind and an Alliance attack fleet for support.  After that, he will remove Raynar Thul from his role as the leader.  Once he is not able to exert his Will on the Colony, it will revert to its prior state.  Attacking a command center was meant to show the Chiss that the Killiks are capable of infiltrating their most secure facilities, to point out that they can infest an entire planet and make the population Joiners.
 
She reaches out to Saba in the Force who assures her Han is fine. This isn’t what Leia is seeing, though.  Baltke tells her he’ll pass her warning onto his superiors, but he has to get to the duty station to await casualties.  He’s a battle surgeon normally.
 
The Chiss have their own way of dealing with the Killiks.  They’ve developed a parasite that will spread among the Colony within a year.  They’ll still have to fight for some time, but they’re planning to use the obvious ambush the Colony is planning while hiding in the moon cluster to plant the parasite.
 
She uses the Force to free her restraints.  The door open and she finds herself facing Han, completely intact.  The Noghri slip in to take care of Baltke and the guard.  Han makes sure she’s okay, takes a look at the display and comments on how the guy on screen looks just like him.
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  • The drug that Balkte injected himself with doesn’t work all that well.  It made him more relaxed, true, but he was still able to say and do many things outside Leia’s control. 

 


#21
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chapter 20:
 
Mara awakens to her doctor, Ogo Buugi, speaking with Cilghal.  She’s on a hospital bed in the infirmary ward of a medical ship.  Jacen appears in a repulsor chair with a drainage bag attached to it.  Mara will have to grow a new kidney.  Her recovery will take about a month. 
 
She’s unhappy with this because she knows Luke will want to go quickly.  Intelligence has shown a skiff leaving Gorog right before they hit it.  No one will be taking her or Jacen’s place on the team either.  There are Jedi dispersal teams ready to harvest the nanotech that will keep the Killiks in check in the long run.
 
Admiral Pellaeon is taking the fleet to Tenupe alone with Rogue and Wraith Squadrons. 
 
When Luke arrives with Artoo, Mara tries to convince him to wait until she and Jacen are up and about.  Luke doesn’t think they can wait that long.  He is getting something from Leia that indicates that things are coming to a head soon.
 
Jacen agrees as Luke can’t solve anything if Raynar or Lomi Plo kills him.  Mara is more impressed with Jacen every day and is starting to wonder if he might be a good second-in-command someday.
 
Luke thinks he’ll have to take them one at a time.  Lomi is not going to be any weaker than she is right now.  Jacen doesn’t think he’s ready.  To prove it, he brings Luke’s fear to the surface that makes Luke think Mara is dying. 
 
The panicked reaction is enough.  Jacen tells him that Lomi Plo did the same thing to him on the Dark Nest ship and it immobilized him.  Luke has to eliminate his fear in the same way that Jacen learned to eliminate his pain.
 
Luke refused to see what happened to his mother after his father attacked her.   If he fears  this knowledge, it’s something Lomi can use against him. 
 
Luke agrees and Artoo shows the last holo.  An argument between Obi-Wan and Anakin is heard as the droids carry Padme into a ship.  Some time later, Obi-Wan appears.  In an observation room, Obi-Wan waits with Yoda and a man that Mara recognizes as Bail Organa.  They are told Padme has lost the will to live and they will have to work quickly to save her twin babies.
 
The birth of her children isn’t enough to strengthen her resolve and she passes away after telling Obi-Wan that there’s still good in Anakin.
 
Jacen tells him he cannot change what he saw, but he can accept it.  He has to use his anger and grief to make him powerful.  It’s how he can defeat Lomi Plo and Raynar.  Luke tells him that’s Vergere’s way of using the Force, not his. 
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#22
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Jedi Cool

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chapter 21:
 
Jaina and Zekk are flying their StealthX’s close enough to restore their mindlink.  Leia and Saba reach out to them, warning them that something is coming and must be stopped.  They will have to warn UnuThul, but decide not to mention her mother or Saba. 
 
Jaina has Wuluw warn Unu, then follows Zekk up to the top of the jungle.  Four squadrons of clawcraft are escorting a pair of Chiss defoliators.  Jaina and Zekk know this is what they are supposed to intercept.  They swing to intercept, a dark pressure rising to push them after the defoliators.  They struggle to resist Unu’s Will until they are in a position to succeed.
 
They race forward when the time is right, Jaina arming proton torpedoes.  Four clawcraft move into intercept, three stopping them by crashing into them.  It’s obvious the Chiss want those defoliators to deliver their payloads.
 
Jaina senses a human presence in one of the clawcraft and knows it’s Jagged Fel. She asks what he’s trying to do.  Jag tells her he’s trying to shoot her down.  She tells him not to take this whole thing personally.  Their relationship was over before she and Zekk met the Taat.
 
He assures her that he doesn’t care about that, but she did betray her honor.  He had thought the Jedi had at least that, but she broke the parole that Jag had secured for Lowbacca after Qoribu.  His family’s reputation has suffered.
 
She realizes this, but the situation was so urgent she didn’t think about it.  She does urge him to eject, though.   She and Zekk open fire but he’s already gone into a spin and vanishes into the clouds.
 
The Dark Pressure returns and they know Unu wants them to attack now.  Jaina and Zekk have to use the Force to strengthen their resolve.  Leia and Saba are tense and worried. 
 
UnuThul arrives with the Moon Swarm, launching his attack early in the hopes of diverting the Chiss’s attention.  It sounds like the Falcon has gotten caught in the middle of it.  Then a new presence joins the meld and they know it’s Alema Rar.
 
If anyone personifies Luke’s belief that the Jedi have been wrong the last few years, it’s the massive failure that is Alema.  They understand that Alema is the one who has been sent to handle the defoliators.
 
Leia and Saba reach out to urge them to resist Unu’s will.  They push forward, attempting to handle it themselves.  They battle Chiss clawcraft while Alema streaks up out of nowhere and shoots both defoliators out of the sky.  One of the wings survives and plunges down toward the planet with its two bombs intact.
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#23
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chapter 22:
 
Leia, Han, Juun, Tarfang and Saba watch the Falcon in the hangar with a circle of Chiss guards around it.  Leia can sense Alema Rar has joined the battle med.
 
They use the Force to distract the guards and get aboard the ship, the Noghri having already slipped aboard.  Threepio tells them that a Chiss searching party has torn the place apart looking for smuggling compartments.
 
The Noghri has them now.  Leia tells Han she and Saba will handle it. Han initiates a cold start while Leia checks the rest of the ship, confirming that the Chiss search party has indeed caused a lot of damage.
 
She kicks them off the ship and the Falcon rises, headed toward the planet.  Leia can sense Alema close by and how determined Raynar’s Will is affecting Jaina and Zekk.  She urges them to be cautious.  Alema keeps pushing through the meld. 
 
The Falcon moves in their direction, watching the StealthXs pursuing something.   They see a wing with two bombs attached to it.  Han would much rather ensure Jaina’s safety, but they all know they can’t let either parasite bomb land.
 
It heads forward, Saba using the cannons to shoot down clawcraft at twice the rate Leia can.  Leia can sense a familiar presence in one of the ships and knows it’s Jagged Fel.  She comms him and tells him that he should eject now.  He retorts back that Solo women keep telling him that.
 
She fires and the clawcraft is destroyed, but she doesn’t feel his death.  There is an EV unit flying off.  Han doesn’t know if he ejected or not.  They will have to go down anyway as the bombs are down there somewhere now.
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#24
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chapter 23:
 
Luke meets Admiral Pellaeon who is viewing the battle and admiring the Colony’s abilities.  Luke thinks it almost makes him believe they did build Centerpoint Station or the Maw.  Pellaeon wonders why he doesn’t think that’s true. 
 
Luke points out that Killik memories are a bit jumbled.  Besides, they clearly don’t have the technology.  Pellaeon reminds him that much can change over twenty-five thousand years.  He shouldn’t underestimate his opponent, something Pellaeon has learned since the Rebellion.
 
Luke is actually here to ask him to rethink his stragegy.  They need to concentrate their resources on retaking Ackbar and neutralizing Raynar.  Pellaeon doesn’t think all of their forces are needed for that.  Luke reminds him that destroying the fleet will not end the war, just delay it.
 
If they concentrate their resources his way, the Chiss will see that the GA is not siding with the Killiks and they will stop pressing the war down on the planet.  Pellaeon thinks Luke is suggesting they let the Chiss go at this alone.  Luke agrees that it would be best. 
 
With their parasitic weapon compromised, they don’t have much choice.  He thinks it might be good for them to get a good bloody nose.  It may give the Ascendancy pause.
 
Pellaeon assures Luke that he himself is not so much eager for the killing of a war, but he does admire the choreography of strategizing a perfect battle against a capable opponent.  He supposes he got some of that from Thrawn. 
 
He does remind Luke, though, that the Unknown Regions are dangerous and the Chiss are likely to be damaged for a long time.  Luke thinks that will make them more agreeable to working with their allies.
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#25
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chapter 24:
 
On the ground, Leia and Saba hunt for the bombs while Han flies cover over the jungle.  They find the wing but the bombs are nowhere in sight.  They split up to search.  On the way down a branch, Leia senses something dangerous and quickly cuts a snakebird into two pieces.
 
Then her danger ripples continue when Alema Rar jumps out, her missing lekku, her useless arm, her flight suit two sizes too small. 
 
Alema tries to persuade her to combine their forces to search for the bombs.  After all, they both want to destroy them.  This is reasonable, but Leia remembers how the Dark Nest often makes reasonable suggestions that will only harm the target.
 
If Alema really wants to help, she can hand over her weapons.  Alema won’t budge there.  They battle while Han keeps comming Leia to find out how the hunt is going on.  Leia slashes part of Alema’s foot off and is then hurled into a tree.  Her vision doubles and she has to fight to retain consciouness.
 
Alema points out a bomb nearby.  They can call a temporary truce to destroy it, then kill each other.   Leia regrets moving forward when the branch she’s on starts to sag.  Alema pushes the advantage, moving Leia back who then realizes that there must be some kind of predator at the top of the limb.
 
Leia refuses to let a Twi’lek dancing girl beat here.  She goes on the attack, springs off the branch, brings her lightsaber down, then kicks Alema into the shaggy predator.  It grabs her sword arm and drags her into its mouth.
 
Leia brings her lightsaber to bear on the branch which falls into the jungle.  She looks for the bomb only to find it sinking in the river.  Saba tells her nothing goes according to plan so she shouldn’t plan at all.  She destroyed the other bomb while Leia was wasting time battling bughuggers and knocking herself in the head.
 
Leia asks why she just stood there.  Saba admits she was watching and is very proud.  She thinks she did a good job considering what she had to work with.  Saba tosses a thermal detonator into the water and a detonation sounds.  No way of knowing if they got the bomb, but the Chiss won’t be able to find it at this point either.
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