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"Outcast": Book 1 in the Fate of the Jedi series


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Darkness is eternal, all-powerful, unchangeable.  She stares unblinking and afraid, determined that it not claim her as she’s resisted it for years.  Nevertheless, the Force has said that change will take place.
 
chapter 1:
 
Above Coruscant, the Gilad Pellaeon has arrived from the Imperial Remnant.  Jaina Solo waits with several others in a government shuttle, watching.  She can’t help but think this is just a bunch of show.
 
When the Imperial Head of State, Jagged Fel, disembarks, Jaina greets him and introduces her companion, Senator Tiurrg Drey’lye of Bothawui. 
 
After a couple of hours, Jag is able to convince the Senator and his entourage to take a tour of the ship so he can have a private consultation with the Jedi representative.  Once the door is closed, sealed and restricted, they fall into a kiss.
 
Jag tells her he’s here in part to ask for a Jedi presence in the Empire.  It’s not really for protection. He’s had the job for two years and isn’t dead yet.  Jaina isn’t sure the Empire can have a Jedi presence without Alliance approval. 
 
He reminds her the training academy is in Hapan space despite the Hapans not rejoining the GA.  Jaina tells him that the government may withhold permission just to spite the Remnant not joining.  Besides, it’s just a matter of time and money to move the school back to Alliance space.
 
She thinks he just want to have an excuse to have her assigned to set it up.  He tells her that it would be helpful for the Moffs to get used to the woman he loves.
 
It is morning on Coruscant.  Corran and Mirax Horn are going to be giving depositions at the Unification Summit on the state of the relationships between the Galactic Alliance and the other galaxy governments. 
 
On this morning, Valin Horn wakes up, walks into the kitchen and greets his mother.  Except, she’s not his mother.  There’s no danger in the Force, but that doesn’t mean the real Mirax Horn isn’t in trouble.
 
The facts are that his mother has been replaced by an imposter who looks just like her.  She could be a volunteer who underwent surgery, a clone, a droid or a shapeshifter.  He can’t tell what tipped him off, worries his father and sister might not be able to see through the deception and wonders if he would be judged insane if he can’t prove it.
 
He runs to his room, finds his lightsaber is still there and intact and goes back into the dining room with it. .  He ignites it and shrivels his hotcakes, warning the fake Mirax that flesh does the same thing.  Mirax asks him what’s wrong.
 
He demands to know what she’s done with his mother.  Corran Horn arrives and tells him to put the blade down.  Except it’s not Valin’s father either.  Fearing his parents are dead, he lunges with the lightsaber.
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          •    The time is now 43.5 years ABY.  Luke and Leia are about 63, Han is about 73, Jaina is almost 35. 
 

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chapter 2:
 
Valin is devastated to see that the Fake Corran is using his father’s lightsaber.  He tries to slash at his opponent’s head, but is kicked backward onto the sink.  Not wanting the imposters to have time to call reinforcements, he kicks out the wall into the living area, jumps onto a speeder and demands the pilot’s comlink.
 
The Fake Corran jumps onto the deck, yelling at the tourists that the man is not well.    He seems reluctant to take openings that Valin is giving him, proving he’s studied the real Corran well.  Valin admits he admires the attempt to show he can do everything but telekinesis.
 
Then he’s hit from behind by his mother’s airspeeder that she’s rammed into him.
 
In the Senate building, Luke Skywalker attends the Unification Summit with his 16-year old son, Ben.  Ben notes the Hapans aren’t here.  Luke explains they were invited, but the request didn’t make them look important enough, so they will probably attend a later summit.
 
Leia Organa Solo leans over and tells Ben that the slight was probably deliberate despite the diplomatic corps’ assurances that it wasn’t.  The GA doesn’t want the presence of the Hapans to minimize the importance of the Imperial Remnant.
 
Chief of State Natasi Daala is at the table, having done a good job over the last few years of restoring normalcy in the wake of the economic and political upheaval of the Second Galactic Civil War.  Jagged Fel, Head of State of the Imperial Remnant, is next to her.  Turr Phennir is the Supreme Military Commander of the Confederation and the closest they have to a leader right now.
 
Luke hadn’t noticed until now that all three are Imperials.  He’d fought them for decades and now they are in charge of everything.  Leia notes she thought of that two years ago.  There wasn’t anything she could do about it, though.  The symbolism doesn’t change who they are inside.  After all, Crix Madine, Mon Mothma, Jan Dodonna and even herself served the Empire.
 
Still, that doesn’t mean the good people up there want the same things Luke and Leia want.  She wonders if Palpatine’s ghost is laughing at them right now.
 
Over the years, Luke has tried to convince himself that the definition of an Imperial has changed over the years.  While the Moff and sector governors are still as self-serving as they were decades ago, most of the military men and women are people who want an orderly society more governed than the Alliance.
 
Kyp Durron, Jaina, Han, Kam and Tionne Solusar are here.  The Horns are not.  Luke wonders what happened to them.
 
Two hours later, the party steps out into the sunlight.  Luke turns on his comlink which beeps several times.  Jaina’s is doing the same.  Luke feels a ripple in the Force.  Jaina and the Masters feel the same sense of disquiet.
 
Luke tells Ben to blend in with the crowd and call Nawara Ven. 
 
Four nearby personnel carriers swing by them, troops step out, exposing several civilians inside. Luke assumes they are bounty hunters.  A GA captain approaches Luke with a warrant for his arrest.
 
Luke cooperates, but hands his lightsaber to Leia who points out to the arresting officer that the warrant will not specify the lightsaber.  Clearly, the bounty hunters want a fight.  When one of them accusing the very compliant Luke of resisting, the other Jedi ignite their lightsabers to protect their Grand Master.  A nervous young security officer fires, his both deflected by Kam Solusar and his weapon destroyed by Han’s blaster.
 
One of the civilians in the truck, a woman holding a lightsaber, smiles, and holds the Quarren bounty hunter at bay.  The officer makes them all put their weapons down, but lets a non-Jedi, Han, accompany Luke.
 
Inside the truck, they hear the officer berate the young trooper for his firing mishap.  When he gets inside and the trucks take off, Han asks the troopers if any are interested in a sabacc game.
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          •    The chapter mentions the Solusars are recovered from the mutilations they received at the hands of the GA in the Legacy of the Force series.
          •    I’m sure we remember former Rogue Squadron pilot and attorney Nawara Ven from the X-Wing series.
 

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chapter 3:
 
Luke is taken to a GA security building, searched, holorecorded and put in a solitary confinement cell alone.  After a long period of time, Nawara Ven enters.  He doesn’t have good news.
 
Though Luke had thought the GA was charging him with dereliction of duty over leading fighter squadrons against the Alliance during the war, trying to topple Jacen, Nawara tells him that they are actually referring to his failure to recognize the moral and ethical degeneration of Jacen that led to his abuse of power.  In a way, he’s being held responsible for everything Jacen did during his short time in charge.
 
Luke feels hurt, knowing that some of that is valid.  He should have recognized Jacen’s excesses for what they were, but many others didn’t either.  Some had, though.  Ben wasn’t listened to.  Mara had chosen not to reveal her concerns and died because of it.  He does blame himself for her death.
 
Nawara thinks they can beat the charge anything.  It’ll just be harder and require more mudslinging.  To be honest, everyone associated with Jacen bears some responsibility for what he did, including several people in the wartime government who aren’t being charged.  He believes that Luke is being singled out because he’s the head of the Jedi Order.
 
He goes on to explain that not everyone recognizes the accomplishments of the Jedi the way he does.  From a military point of view, they are irritants.  The Alliance’s military leaders don’t like resources they can’t control.  Chief of State Daala may be behind this, but she has a lot of support.
 
If Luke mounts a successful defense, a lot of dirt is going to be spread around that will cost the Jedi support.  The GA might offer to let Luke go free and run the Jedi under the supervision of the government, they might keep him in prison or they might let him run off into hiding and hope he fouls up.
 
This has been in the works for awhile.  The timing of the arrest was done to send a message to those who are considering rejoining the Alliance that the Jedi are being reined in.  This probably explains why the Hapans were manipulated into staying away, so that Queen Mother Tenel Ka would not be here to show her dissatisfaction.
 
Luke isn’t sure the Jedi can or should change the way they operate.  They serve a higher cause than the Galactic Alliance.  It is not characterized by self-interest the way military and civilian authorities often are.  Nawara reminds him that history has shown that individual Jedi often demonstrate selfish and destructive impulses.  Like Jacen Solo, they just stop calling themselves Jedi.
 
He does suggest Luke change his standard black garments into something more cheerful and that doesn’t remind the judge of Jacen.
 
Leia, Han and Ben wait at the arraignment where Luke is released on his own recognizance with instructions to appear at hearings later. 
 
At the Jedi Temple’s medical center, Valin Horn is strapped to a gurney while Cilghal does neurological scans on him.  She explains to his family, Luke, Leia and Ben that Valin is delusional, believing that everyone he knows has been replaced by an imposter.
 
Leia remembers how Seff Hellin went on and on about Mandos when they encountered him on Taris.  Cilghal shows them a scan of Valin’s brain that is comparable to a dead person, but he is not dead. 
 
Luke admits he’s seen this type of scan before while Jacen was being scanned during the Killik crisis.  He wonders if Jacen taught it to Valin.  Jysella explains that Jacen didn’t run in the same circles she and her brother did.  While he was out fighting the Vong, they were hidden at the Shelter in the Maw for most of the time.  They didn’t see him at all for years after that and, even then, not much.
 
Valin and Seff studied together at the Maw, but they weren’t close.  Luke notes that Seff knew a technique that Jacen had learned, too.  Since Luke didn’t teach it to them, it might be a good start to try to fill in the gaps in Jacen’s missing years.

Cilghal admits there’s nothing she can do to help Valin right now.  They need psychological experts, lab work and a complete brain scan.  Luke asks Ben to look into the bounty hunters they encountered.

Cilghal assures the Horns that Valin will be monitored by her staff and should be secure sufficiently to keep him from escaping.  

Even in his state, Valin is alert, knowing they don’t know what he can do.  He looks through the Force and found insects.   Searching, he seeks for ones he can convince to eat through a little bit of one of the straps holding him.

In the middle of the night, Cilghal comms Luke to tell him the Valin is gone.  Of all days, it has to be this one.  They don’t know where he went, but they had put a tracker inside him in case this happened.  He’s harder to track now since he’s in the undercity and the signal isn’t consistent.  Luke orders all the Knights assembled, for Han and Leia to be called and to leave the Horns out of it.

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          •    Valin learned how to influence insects as a boy in the Dark Tide book Onslaught.

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chapter 4:
 
Seha glares at the Senate building watching people arrive and none of them are Valin.  Octa Ramis sits with her, admonishing Seha that she’s not calm.  That makes her less alert. 
 
Octa asks if she has a crush on him.  Seha says she did once, but she’s more embarrassed that she once had one on Jacen Solo.  Octa tells her not to be embarrassed.  Jacen was once a thoughtful person and quite good-looking.  She herself used to have a crush on his father. 
 
Seha doesn’t think it’s a good idea for her to develop these types of attachments after what happened to Jacen and now to Valin.  Octa tells her how she used to love a Jedi who was tortured by the Yuuzhan Vong and drowned fighting them.  She didn’t stop loving or caring.
 
Seha finds something on her tracker.
 
Enneth Holkin is the aide to Denjax Teppler, co-Chief of State of Corellia .  He walks along to the Senate building, holding his panic ring just in case right before he’s kicked in the jaw.
 
Valin Horn takes the man’s clothes and bag, ignoring the metal ring on the topcoat.
 
Security at the Senate picks up data on Enneth Holkin and his entire record.  An agent heads out to find a man lying on the ground in his underclothes, still alive.  He calls in an alert. 
 
A few seconds later, he learns that a popular, but controversial entertainer, is leaving with the Senator of Commenor.  A member of the Imperial Remnant delegation happens to be there for no good reason.  Valin Horn is on level two.  Octa Ramis is walking with a young woman to the entrance.  The agent has no instructions about media stars or senators, but he does have very new orders about Jedi.
 
He calls the Special Operations office of the Chief of State.
 
The guard at the Senate building is not helpful.  Neither is the other.  There’s a lockdown and they aren’t weak-willed enough for the Jedi Mind Trick to work.  Octa and Seha know Valin is here somewhere and start searching for him through the Force. 
 
A shuttle suddenly comes crashing through, clipping both wings and heads to the permacrete.  Octa rushes after it.  Then another sound is heard and an X-Wing comes from the hangar, slamming against Octa who grabs at the nose.
 
Valin is in the cockpit, staring in surprise. 
 
The shuttle comes down on the plaza.  Octa thrusts her weapon against the canopy of the X-Wing.  Valin doesn’t make it easy by his flying, but she does manage to sheer a hole in it.  She slips off as he lifts up at a high altitude.  Jedi techniques for slow falling weren’t going to help here.
 
When she wakes up, she finds she doesn’t even have a broken bone. Seha is very good at telekinesis and caught her partly.  Valin got away but he won’t be able to make space.  Others will have bring him back to the ground.
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          •    Octa Ramis was introduced in Ruin.  Her lover was Miko Reglia who died in Vector Prime.
          •    Seha Dorvald first appeared in Exile and was the girl who was helping Jacen by giving him information and sneaking things in and out of the Temple.
          •    I see Denjax Teppler is still a bigwig on Corellia.  They really went with that co-Chief of State thing there?  That was being discussed during the Legacy of the Force series.
 
 

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chapter 5:
 
Han brings the Falcon around, while Leia monitors comm. traffic.  Valin has been found.  He’s in an X-Wing with a hole in the cockpit.  He keeps changing course, but Leia has a line on him.  Han knows the course changes are to confuse any pursuers.  He knows exactly where Valin is going.  If the kid stole a starfighter, he wants to make space.  He can’t do that in a ship with a hole in it, so he’s going to the spaceport to steal another one.
 
Luke and Ben are on their way there, too.  Ben points out there are a lot of vehicles at the spaceport, including the media, Jaina and one of the bounty hunters.  A rarely-seen Skakoan.  Somehow, everyone knows where Valin is which means comm. channels are open and being monitored.  This has to be Daala’s people’s doing.
 
Upon spotting the X-Wing, Luke stands up and leaps across the air onto the nose of the ship.  Valin pops the canopy and ejects.
 
Leia tells Han to go after Valin, but Han tells her that Luke won’t have enough controls left to land the X-Wing.  They’ll have to help him first.
 
Jaina watches Valin and heads toward him in her airspeeder.  Master Kyle Katarn is with her, pointing out that, if she’s planning to catch him in the speeder when he falls, she should know that a nearby cargo hauler appears to have the same idea.
 
Valin begins dropping, relishing the look on the Fake Luke Skywalker’s face when he’d ejected.  He pulls his lightsaber when the cargo hauler maneuvers itself beneath him.  He unbuckles himself and flips off the pilot seat before it reaches the hauler.
 
There are two bounty hunters waiting there with their YVH combat droid.  An airspeeder passes by, dropping a Jedi, lightsaber out, toward him.
 
Jaina lands right where Valin had just been, warning the bounty hunters not to try anything.  The Quarren fires at her with an electrical charge net that hits her and separates her from her Force powers.  She falls over and drops into empty space.
 
Valin, having pulled the ejection seat over the cargo hauler at the last second, rides it down until he finds a news crew speeder.  A reporter asks him if he’s on a rampage.  Valin tells her to get him out of here and he’ll give her a great scoop.
 
A speeder flashes by the cargo hauler, causing the driver to veer quickly, knocking the Quarren over the side, his female companion nearly so and doing nothing to the YVH.
 
Luke flips into the cockpit, asks the astromech to kill the thrusters and leave the repulsors running.  Ben comes alongside him in his speeder, telling him where Valin is.  Luke leaves the X-Wing to the droid and leaps back to Ben.
 
Leia watches all this with disbelief.  Han moves the Falcon after the news speeder and the cargo hauler following it, telling Leia to take the belly lasers if the YVH causes a problem.
 
Having been caught by Master Katarn who is now driving, Jaina shouts to get this thing off of her.  Kyle is driving, though, and is pursuit of Valin.  The cargo hauler is towing the Quarren along who is clutching at a cable. 
 
He finally releases Jaina.
 
The news speeder finally reaches the edge of the business district and changes lanes, follows by the cargo hauler with the frantically clinging Quarren, the airspeeder with Kyle and Jaina, the Millennium Falcon, Luke and Ben, and a swarm of speeders with Jedi, security, media and bounty hunters.
 
The YVH finally opens fire only to be destroyed by the Falcon.  Jaina spots another speeder with a couple of bounty hunters in it which angles forward.  The passenger begins firing at the news speeder, damaging it.
 
Luke knows Valin will abandon it soon.  He has Ben bring them alongside the speeder, jumps onto the other vehicle and cuts through the hilt of the saber Valin swiped from the apprentice who was watching him.  Luke knocks Valin out with the hilt of his own weapon.
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chapter 6:
 
The pilot of news speeder lands with most of the other ships alongside it.  Jaina, Kyle and Ben join Luke to hold back everyone else.  Kyp Durron and Doran Tainer arrive with other Jedi behind them.
 
The female bounty hunter and her Rodian passenger land.  Her name is Zilaash Kuh and she has orders from the Chief of State to take the Jedi into custody.  A legal argument erupts over who has jurisdiction over Valin.  Cilghal is able to sedate him, but no one is allowed to carry him out.
 
Captain Savar appears.  Hoping he can be of help, Luke suggests that he escort them back to the Temple and observe while they study Valin to see what’s wrong.  Savar isn’t comfortable with letting the Jedi study a prisoner belonging to GA security.  Leia proposes a compromise in taking Valin to Mon Mothma Memorial Medical Center as a netural site with both Jedi and GA security to watch him. 
 
Sadly, all that can be done for hours is watch the news feeds which show Valin’s outburst the previous day, the theft of the X-Wing and shuttle, different angles of the speeder chase and several shots of Jedi with lightsabers looking menacing.  Luke’s arrest is touched on while many commentators muse as to why Valin wasn’t turned over to security the day before.
 
Though the Jedi Order itself is portrayed as being made up of entitled superbeings, little criticism is directed at Luke himself who is too well-loved to be attacked very badly.  Still, he’s portrayed as being kind, but out-of-touch with the modern sensibility.
 
Leia tells Luke he’ll have to prepare for a fight.
 
The doctors find exactly what Cilghal had.  The next day, the number of people watching Valin are reduced.  The Horns stay with their son.  Luke returns to his duties.
 
As a case is prepared against Valin and dockets are cleared to make way for Luke’s first hearing, Nawara Ven warns that the prosecutors are going to exploit this incident.  He explains that the public is still recovering from a terrible war that only worsened by the actions of Jacen Solo.  They want someone to be held accountable for him, to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. 
 
Public sentiment shows that they are responding to the anti-Jedi newscasts.  Jedi are booed in public, speaking engagements canceled, investigations impeded through lack of cooperation, conspiracy theorists gain popularity all while Valin Horn sleeps.
 
The Unification Summit proceeds with a stronger show of support from the Remnant and the Confederation.
 
A week later, Luke walks the halls of the Temple during the night, finally making some quick calls before heading to the Senate building.  There, he meets with Chief of State Daala, telling her he had a leaning from the Force that he should be meeting with her.
 
Though he detects no aggression or strong emotions in her, Luke does have to assure her that he does not think she is an imposter. 
 
Daala tells him that she has always respected him.  The legal action isn’t personal and she readily agrees that his contributions to the galaxy have been beneficial.  Luke thinks she wants the Jedi to be a mindlessly obedient branch of the government.
 
He points out that not being able to detect a Jedi slowly turning evil is really comparable to not seeing the slow descent of an Imperial into the callousness needed to destroy an entire planet as an example.
 
Knowing that he’s speaking of Tarkin, Daala grows still.  Luke knows that her respect for Tarkin was left behind a long time ago after his atrocities were committed, but he also knows she’s trying to exchange blows here.
 
Daala tells him it’s not about that either, but will likely come up at the trial as evidence of the charges against him.  She tells Luke that the Jedi, under his leadership, have a history of subverting the rule of law.
 
She points to how Jedi often deal with altercations by pulling out their lightsabers and maiming people.  Surely the Force offers them better ways of handling a problem than cutting off arms.  Luke explains that the Force alerts a Jedi as to the true danger of a situation. 
 
Daala argues that the Force can’t be called to testify about the things it tells a Jedi.  Or a Sith, for that matter, as the Force also speaks to Sith.  Assuming that the Jedi in question is only listening to the light side of the Force, the fact is that they are using lethal force, leaving  the state responsible for funding prosthetics and physical rehabilitation while getting minimal cooperation from the Jedi themselves.
 
Jedi like Seff Hellin take off and never report back to the authorities for a full statement.  This may seem minor, but it’s frustrating to law enforcement because it shows the Jedi are above the law.  She refuses to accept that they have to trust the Jedi are making the right decision.
 
She takes Luke back 30 years to how Kyp Durron killed everyone on Carida.  Was his crime mitigated by the fact that the Imperial system in question belonged to the New Republic’s enemy?  Yet Luke forgave Kyp and welcomed him back solely on the basis that he has some mystical ability to see into the hearts of people and decide if they are going to be good people or bad people.  The Jedi don’t answer to the citizens they claim to protect, they don’t pay for their mistakes and only obey laws when they are convenient.  This is wrong and would rightly label them a criminal organization if they were anything other than Jedi.
 
Without the Force, that’s exactly what they would be.  Luke knows this.  He now sees what the Force brought him here to see.  The process of setting the Jedi up as being above the law could become toxic and encourage abuse.
 
He sees how young Jedi would assume that Kyp didn’t suffer at all for his crimes.  They would have to take Luke’s word that Darth Vader died a Jedi and not a Sith.  They would see their masters getting away with things and assume they had the right, too.
 
He asks if she’s going to prosecute Kyp next.  Daala tells him she’s not, but the Imperial Remnant has presented her with a request for extradition so he can be charged by them.  She would rather not if there was a better example made.
 
Luke sees that there is a way to deal with this now.
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          •    Much of what Daala tells Luke is what Fyor Rodan tried to tell him in Destiny’s Way.

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chapter 7:
 
In the Hall of Justice on Coruscant, Luke watches the proceedings before the judge announces that there is a negotiated agreement that has been approved by all parties.  The revised list of charges has been reduced to reckless endangerment of a population.  Luke pleads guilty.  His sentence is to be exiled from Coruscant for no less than ten years beginning the next day.
 
He will not act as Grand Master or have a position of authority or consultation with the Jedi Order. He cannot approach any world that has a Jedi facility or school upon it.  He cannot establish any news facilities that are used or could be used after his sentence is over.
 
Kenth Hamner will take over his duties and Luke cannot have any influence over him. A violation will result in his incarceration in a maximum-security facility for the rest of his sentence.
 
His sentence can be commuted if, during his exile, he can demonstrate to a board of inquiry that he has determined the nature of the events that caused Jacen Solo’s destructive behavior.
 
Leia is determined to fight it, but Luke tells her that he agreed to this already. 
 
That evening, he convenes the Jedi Masters’ Council.  He is withdrawing as Grand Master until he is able to return to Coruscant.  Kenth Hamner will be taking his place.  He wants no wild parties in here.
 
Hamner isn’t excited, but they all know that his military career appeals to Daala. 
 
While Luke is gone, he plans to determine what brought Jacen to the Dark Side and set up guidelines to help determine when the same thing is happening to someone else.  He may even be able to find out what’s happening to Valin and Seff.  He will be starting by retracing Jacen’s travels during the five years he was gone.
 
Hamner will set up an account for him on a world not part of the GA.  Luke will be taking Mara’s ship. 
 
Ben decides he’s coming with his father.  He was Jacen’s apprentice and won’t be able to rest until he learns the reason why either.  Luke knows he’s right.
 
He leaves his room largely unchanged as he packs.  Cilghal arrives to tell him that she’s found some references to the odd behavior matching Valin and Seff.  Jedi Master Plo Koon was a Kel Dor and did an interview with a Jedi Knight who was creating a documentary about the different species with the Jedi Order.  He explained that his order knows how to keep an electroencephaloscan at bay, but it involved not demonstrating that their brains were functional.
 
The documentary was never completed, but Plo Koon’s references to his order seem off.  He wouldn’t have been talking about the Jedi Order, not to another Jedi anyway, and there is no other reference to this ability in the archives.  Luke is familiar with the Jedi Master and those who were contemporaries of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
 
He speculates that Plo Koon might have studied with the Baran Do Sages before joining the Jedi.  He might as well start there.
 
Cilghal offers to continue searching the archives and sending information to him.  After all, he is not allowed to advice, but there is no restriction on him being advised by someone else.
 
Before he leaves, he finds the grand chamber filled with every Jedi available, from those he personally trained in the very beginning to apprentices whose names he barely knows.  The Masters are here, non-Jedi friends he’s made, such as Wedge, Jagged Fel and Talon Karrde, as well as Jaina, Han and Leia. 
 
Kenth reminds him that this Order exists today because of Luke.  Remove Luke from the history and everything looks much different.  He’s not alone. 
 
Han and Leia will be taking care of Artoo. Jaina assures Luke that Daala will end up with a mess she can’t solve and realize how much she needs Luke soon enough.
 
At the Jade Shadow, the systems are checked, supplies are loaded and the two passengers board, lifting off from Coruscant.
 
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          •    Well, Luke’s exile should be quick then because Leia can tell the court all about Jacen’s fall, right? She did a fairly accurate job of explaining it to Allana in Millennium Falcon, after all. 
          •    And, even if Leia can’t provide detail, Luke really should.  Let’s look at what Luke knows about Jacen.  He knows that Jacen was tortured by the Yuuzhan Vong under the supervision of Vergere who introduced a very relativistic thinking to Jacen.  That was a type of thinking that Luke’s own Jedi Order embraced for several years after the Vong war ended and that Luke finally started phasing out around the time of the Dark Nest trilogy when he saw the problems with it.  He knows that Jacen had visions of the future that he felt he could interpret accurately.  He knows that Jacen spent five years reinforcing his multiple-paths philosophy by traveling all over the galaxy studying with other Force users.  He knows that Jacen had a secret relationship with Tenel Ka that produced a child whose paternity was kept hidden due to the danger. He knows that Jacen was being manipulated by Lumiya.  He should know that Jacen was working with Lumiya, though we really have no evidence that Ben ever told him that. So, how’s this for a reason to present to the board of inquiry:  After his torture at the hands of the Yuuzhan Vong, Jacen Solo embraced a philosophy that taught that the ends justified the means, expanded by his travels among other Force users that strengthened his abilities,  increasing his willingness to do whatever it took to achieve a desired result, which was manipulated by the Sith Lady Lumiya who preyed upon Jacen’s fears for the future, augmented by visions, particularly those related to a secret daughter he was desperate to protect.  Sound accurate?
          •    How did Luke learn all about those Jedi living around the time of Obi-Wan?  The chapter specifically mentions Plo Koon and Qui-Gon Jinn. This was information we never had evidence still existed, much less that Luke knew about.
          •    Ben was never Jacen’s apprentice.  We’ve been over this again and again.  At least, he was not an official apprentice.
 

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chapter 8:
 
After Luke leaves, Valin is released from custody and returned to the Jedi.  At the Temple, he is put under Cilghal’s care.  The bounty hunters are being referred to in the media as a type of special missions force that answers to the Chief of State.
 
 Master Hamner calls a meeting of the Masters that also includes several influential Knights, such as Leia and Jaina.  He explains that there seems to be a certain ignorance about the public concerning the Jedi.  He is hoping to demystify them by having a Master-Apprentice team be the subject of a documentary.  He is hoping that they will look more sympathetic.
 
Octa Ramis volunteers.  Hamner tells them that he was approached by a producer who wanted to create a holodrama that sounds like a bunch of mindless entertainment, but he thinks it will work in their favor. The crew does not have permission to peruse the archives or film in the Temple, but he will ask a Master to serve as a technical advisor.  Kyp Durron’s volunteering for this assignment wins Hamner a bet.
 
Finally, the bad news is that the government is insisting that Jedi be accompanied by observers.  One per each team and per Jedi operating on their own.  They will not have access to the secure areas of the Temple, but will be able to be with the Jedi most of the time.
 
For right now, Nawara is working on a suit to strike down the measure, but, until then, they will have to endure.
 
The next morning, C-3PO wakes Han and Leia up with news that Lando is comming from offworld.  Groundquakes on Kessel are increasing in strength and frequency.  Lando still has his operation there.  Han encourages him to give up on it, but there’s still profitability there.  It’s the only source of glitterstim anywhere.
 
Han doesn’t want to go, but Leia insists.  He reminds her that they have Allana to think about.  Leia realizes she hadn’t considered what to do with Allana.  With Jaina leading a dangerous life and Luke and Ben gone, she decides they will take her with them.
 
Han points out that they both agreed they could drag the child all over the place solving other people’s problems.  Leia knows this, but she is frustrated at not being able to help Luke or solve this bureaucratic nightmare that’s going on.  They can, however, help a friend.
 
If they leave now, they can avoid being assigned their government spy.  That’s going to be better for them and Allana all around.
 
Jag and Jaina arrive at a tall building near the Temple to visit Tahiri Veila who is living on her own now. She admits she thought about coming by the Temple to bid Luke farewell, but doubted she’d have been welcome.
 
When told they’ve come to get an idea of Jacen’s thought processes in order to help Luke, Tahiri tells them that people have been coming to her for the last two years for that.  They’re all Jedi, government investigators, doctors and the press.  She wasn’t able to help them either.
 
At this time, she doesn’t have any friends.  Jaina doubts she will make any more if she’s determined to be a bounty hunter.  She urges Tahiri to come back to the Temple.  Tahiri won’t until she knows who she is.  For years, she’s been other things to other people.  She needs to get rid of all of her previous identities and learn to think.
 
Tahiri doesn’t think it matters when Jacen turned.  She thinks he actually broke.  When that happened is a mystery.  It could have happened in childhood when he was abandoned with his siblings to nannies and droids.  It could have happened during the Vong war.  It could have happened at some unknown point when he decided the galaxy was a terrible place and he needed to do terrible things to fix it.
 
Lumiya may have shaped him, but he was broken already by the variety of circumstances he’d experienced.  Just as Tahiri’s experiences have broken her each time, Jacen had those little moments that led to him being shaped by outside forces. 
 
Jaina embraces Tahiri on the way out.  At the turbolift, Jag admits he cannot forgive her so easily for killing a man he respected.  Jaina knows the loss of Admiral Pellaeon stung, but she can’t be sure that it was the woman sitting in there now who killed him or the person she was two years ago.
 
Jag thinks they’re both linked.  She can’t absolve herself of responsibility just because she realized she was wrong.  Jaina points out that neither have been through the type of experience that would damage their core selves the way she did.  In her situation, either of them might be capable of the same thing.
 
Jag thinks the Jedi put too much faith in redemption.  Jaina hopes she never makes a really big mistake in front of him, then.
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          •    I could point out that Jaina’s dark journey after the death of Anakin and having to kill her own brother could be considered breaking points.  Jagged also spent two years marooned on Tenupe running around after crazy Alema Rar, knowing he couldn’t go back to his family.  Not the same as Vong-shaping, I know, but still…
          •    Just because someone is no longer following the same philosophy they did a couple of years ago should not mean that person shouldn’t be held accountable for his or her crimes while operating under that philosophy.  Yes, Tahiri was being manipulated by Jacen for some of the LotF series, but she still knew that murdering Admiral Pellaeon was breaking many laws and still did it.
 

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chapter 9:
 
Jaina goes over all the data Ben assembled on the bounty hunters.  The Quarren is Dhidal Nyz who specializes in inventing capture/imprisonment technologies.  Zilaash Kul has no criminal record, but carries a Jedi lightsaber modeled after Obi-Wan Kenobi’s which was thought lost when the Death Star exploded.  The Skakoan is Hrym Mawaar, a bounty hunter of several decades. The YVH droid turns out to be a human in disguise.  His name is Vrannin Vaxx, mercenary from Dorvalla who had served well in the Vong war but was burned and maimed during a shuttle crash late in the war.  He uses the droid body as a type of cybernetic shell.
 
Jaina is interrupted by a chime.  She calls for the person to enter and watches her dead brother, Anakin, walk into the room.  He re-introduces himself as Dab Hantaq who had been used by Viqi Shesh during the war in an attempt to kidnap the infant Ben.
 
He explains that he has been assigned her observer.  He is a licensed investigator and a documentarian.  He understands that she may feel awkward with him as her observer.  Her name came up randomly in the drawing, so he offers to put in for someone else.
 
Jaina tells him this whole process isn’t going to work.  She won’t let him record anything that could be turned into the government.  He tells her he’ll be in the waiting room Master Hamner has set up.  She’s supposed to tell him if she leaves the Temple and he has to check in on her at random intervals to be sure she hasn’t.
 
Jaina does not believe she was saddled with her dead brother’s ringer by chance.
 
Tahiri gets a chime at the door to find an elderly officer named Commander Trinnolt Makken of the Imperial Navy.  He’s been assigned her observer.  She reminds him she’s not a Jedi.  He points out the order applies to Sith, too.  She insists she’s neither and won’t let him in.
 
Jaina confronts Hamner about her observer, but the Master is more concerned about the whereabouts of her mother.  While she goes on about how Dab can’t help it and that it would be a good idea if her parents not see him, Hamner tries to find out where Han might be to find Leia or where they should have Dab avoid going so they won’t see him.
 
She drags him to the waiting room and shows him the man that looks just like her dead brother.  She wants a change immediately, asking Hamner how he’d like to be followed around by a dead relative. 
 
He tells her she has her mother’s smart mouth, but this is important.  He needs to know where Leia is.  The Millennium Falcon took off this morning with both Solos and their ward.  A message was left to contact Lando Calrissian at Tendrando Arms, but Calrissian can’t be reached either.
 
Having had enough of Jaina’s lack of help, he moves on.
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          •    Dab Hantaq was a child who looked so much like Anakin Solo that corrupt Senator Viqi Shesh used him to manipulate the Solos into taking him with them when they evacuated Coruscant at the end of Star by Star so she could kidnap the infant Ben Skywalker.  He used the name Tarc then.  Dab then joined the legendary holodocumentarian Wolam Tser during the Enemy Lines duology.  It was never made clear whether or not Dab naturally looked just like Anakin Solo, something that surely would have changed as he got older, or if he had been surgically altered to look like him.
          •    Skakoans have come up a couple of times here.  They are the species represented by Wat Tambor of the Techno Union during Attack of the Clones.
 

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chapter 10:
 
The Millennium Falcon lands on Kessel.  While Allana plays with Chance, the adults talk.  Tendra tells them how she, Lando and Nien Nunb are equal partners here at Kessel.  The downside is that there’s no real government here to help them out when things go wrong and that they stand to lose a lot of money when that happens.
 
When the glitterstim supply runs out, it will not only create a medical crisis for those who need the drug for legitimate health needs, but also cause a huge problem with addicts who will try to find a replacement.
 
The first quakes started the day Centerpoint Station was destroyed.  They’ve gotten worse and no one knows what’s causing them.  There are natural caverns down below the mines that have collapsed which could be causing some of the problems. 
 
Leia doesn’t understand how there could be caverns if Kessel has never had any water to dig them.  Lando can only guess the energy spiders dug them so they would have a place to spin their webs without light hitting them, but she doubts they evolved on the surface with photoreactive webs and dug out cave systems after figuring out the light destroyed the webs while waiting for prey to come down.  They had to have been down there originally and for a long time.
 
She wonders why Lando hadn’t put money down to determining some of the mysteries of this planet a long time ago.  He admits they probably need an archeological team here to investigate the strange tombs that attract the few large avian creatures that live here.  Until then, he’d like Han and Leia to go down there and figure out what his science teams couldn’t.
 
Han doesn’t want to go in those tunnels again, but agrees so long as they are given a vehicle with sophisticated sensors and non-energy weapons.  Lando already has it set up.  Though Allana wants to go with him, this time, she will have to stay behind.
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chapter 11:
 
Kenth Hamner is settling into the role of Grand Master.  Every morning, there are briefings after breakfast.  On this day, he lets everyone know that a case is being prepared against Valin Horn which the Jedi are resisting on the grounds that he is obviously disturbed.  Both the government and the Order agree his mental state should be evaluated.
 
He also lectures Jedi who have made it difficult for their observers to follow them.  Tahiri Veila has refused an observer and her unusual status is being taken up by Nawara Ven in a suit between her and the government.  In the meantime, he has new assignments for Saba, Tyria Sarkin-Tainer and Tekli.
 
Jaina sneaks off to see Jag in a small conference room.  He tells her she can always resign and come live with him in the Empire to set up a rival Jedi school.  Jaina tells him she can’t abandon her responsibility.  She may have been the only one who could have stopped Jacen.  Next time something only the Sword of the Jedi can do pops up, she can’t be off on a vacation. 
 
Then she’s commed by Dab to make sure she’s still here.
 
Ben thinks Dorin is the ugliest inhabited planet he’s ever seen.  The sun is set between two large black holes.  Luke explains that Force-users tend to dislike them because they represent a cessation of life.
 
He remembers the caretakers at Shelter told him the young Jedi children didn’t like being in the Maw surrounded by black holes and cried a lot. 
 
After landing, the ship is inspected by security.  Ben can’t help but feel put-out that no accommodation is made for his famous father.  Luke takes everything in stride, telling his son that it’s better than being met by blasters.  Besides, getting used to the benefits of fame is a pitfall that causes one to make mistakes trying to regain them when they’re taken away.
 
He sets his son to searching for information on the Baran Do while he checks out the breath masks. 
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chapter 12:
 
Han explains the spice-mining operation to Leia as they head down the shaft.  Leia looks over her research into the energy spiders, trying to understand how they work the way they do.  They are going to go all the way down or until she feels something in the Force.
 
Han would rather take Allana and go home. 
 
Leia uses the prospectus Tendra gave her to locate feeding regions they should avoid.  She suggests a small route that hasn’t been explored recently.
 
Wearing a backpack that sends canisters of air into his breath mask, Ben feels like an outsider.  He and his father hike to the nearest Baran Do Sage temple.  He admits he thinks the people here are ugly and knows he shouldn’t.
 
Luke suggests he think of how the Dorin view him with his unlined skin, jagged white things in his mouth and strange fur on the top of his head.  Ben notes that, for a man who’s worn a bowl cut for most of his life, Luke is one to talk about hair.
 
Luke introduces himself and Ben to Tristura Paan who is told that they are looking into the travels of Jacen Solo.  Tistura would take her before her mistress if Luke can prove he is who he says he is.  She would not likely be able to beat Master Skywalker in combat.  Luke explains that it wouldn’t work because she is unworthy to face him.
 
However, if a former apprentice of his can do it, it should work.  Luke tells Ben to go beat her up.  He walks off, while Ben and Tristura scrabble at each other. She pulls his breath mask off and he ends up using it to knock her off her feet.
 
He tells Ben that rival schools would often refuse to render aid to each other until the requester proved their worth. Luke couldn’t fight her or he’d been saying he wasn’t her master’s equal.  He’d never see the sages then.
 
Now, Tila Mong will see them.
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chapter 13:
 
Han is perturbed when Leia gets out of the lift to go after a bogey which then takes off, leaving them in darkness.  Her lightsaber won’t ignite.
 
In the office of Mistress Mong, the elderly Kel Dor expresses her sorrow over Luke’s misfortunes. He tells her that they relate to the recent events surrounding his nephew, Jacen Solo.  In an effort to retrace Jacen’s steps, they’ve come here, believing he may have learned an unusual Force technique from the Baran Do.
 
She acknowledges that he did come here about nine years ago, seeking their wisdom.  This would have been near the end of his journeys before he returned to GA space.  He was taught by a master who has accepted death.
 
To the Baran Do, accepting death is to decide one’s time has come, make preparations, say farewell and to die.  Concerned that this may be something different to the Kel Dor than it does to him, Luke asks what dying means.  She tells him that their life energy merges with the Force and the body perishes.  The body is cremated.  Jacen probably didn’t learn this technique, though.
 
He was more interested in extending his senses, detecting danger or evil intent and keeping himself from being detected.  He was a good man, so they didn’t hesitate to teach him what they knew.
 
Under ordinary circumstances, teaching Luke wouldn’t be an issue.  Considering what Jacen became, however, they cannot be sure that their techniques don’t affect the human mind in adverse ways.  For that reason, she cannot risk letting Luke Skywalker learn something that could affect him in the same way.
 
Ben volunteers to learn as he’s not as powerful as his father or Jacen.  Luke believes it needs to be someone better educated in the Force.  It took Jacen years to become Darth Caedus, during which there were signs that were missed or ignored.  If he’s affected somehow, it will be gradual enough that the signs will be there.
 
Ben doesn’t want to take the chance that it will be a sudden change to Darth Starkiller.  Luke points out it would be Ben’s responsibility to handle the situation, even if it means killing him.  If he can’t promise that responsibility, he may have to go back to Coruscant.
 
Ben knows this is about attachment.  The same things that Jacen and Darth Vader couldn’t give up and that meant more than any other innocent life.  He promises.
 
On the way out, Ben tells him that he should say something as soon as possible if he starts to feel evil.  Ben doesn’t want to wait until his hand is cut off first.
 
Luke asks if he noticed the Mistress was lying.  He wasn’t sure at first, but it was a conviction that grew.  She is hiding something.  Ben quips that Masters of orders that study the Force never have secrets or things to hide.
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          •    Yes, it took years.  Yes, they missed the signs.  What else does Luke need to know?
 

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chapter 14:
 
At the Temple, those in the eating hall watch Wolam Tser report on how the Galactic Court has overturned the Guilty By Association rider to the executive order limiting the powers of the Jedi.  Former members and Alliance citizens with training in Jedi arts are free of those limitations.  While possessing a certain skill or knowledge does not limit a person’s rights, those in possession of sensitive information could still be declared a danger.
 
While Kyp Durron thinks it’s a move in their favor, Cilghal isn’t so sure.  They head out the steps of the Temple where official vehicles and some of the bounty hunters are gathered.  A security captain confronts them about a warrant that grants them entry to arrest Valin Horn.
 
Cilghal points out that the Jedi and the government haven’t yet decided on how to handle that.  As Captain Savar is nowhere in sight, Cilghal insists the officer identify himself first.  He is Capt. Oric Harfard and earns her disdain quite quickly by calling her Fish-Head.
 
While she transmits the orders to Master Hamner, she uses the Force to give him the urgent feeling that he needs to use the refresher. 
 
When Jaina arrives, Dab in tow, she can feel the agitation from above.  A group of Jedi is waiting nearby.  Kyle Katarn tells her that the government is retaliating for this morning’s decision by deciding to seize Valin.
 
Master Hamner emerges from a life, accompanied by Valin’s gurney, several Jedi and a couple of bounty hunters.  Valin is grousing from the gurney about how everyone will see through their deception soon. 
 
Dab notes the very public way this was handled.  Jaina accuses him of being part of the problem.  Dab points out that she could be getting an observer with a grudge against the Jedi.
 
Passing by Hamner, Jaina mutters that this is just going to get worse.  Hamner tells her that he has to do it anyway to prove to Chief Daala that there isn’t any resistance to her measures.
 
She’s glad to know that Hamner isn’t just a government stooge.  Dab notes she seems happier now.  She asks if he’s ever gotten permission to do what he was going to do anyway.  She lies that she’s going to have lunch.
 
----------------------------------------------------------------------
 
           •    Nice to see Wolam Tser is still among the living.
 
 

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chapter 15:
 
Half an hour later, the bogey’s energies fade enough that Leia’s lightsaber comes back on again.  She’s not ready to go back up yet since they’ve not really found anything.  She felt more of them in the Force, though.
 
Allana is alone with Threepio and Artoo while Chance takes a nap.  She’s tired of waiting and wants to go outside.  She grabs her breath mask as Artoo undermines Threepio by suggesting they can protect her.
 
Allana leads them down the empty corridors to a hatch that leads outside.  She jumps around, opening herself up to the Force.  After a time, she starts feeling something not too far away.  Near one of the tombs, she gets a feeling creeping into her mind.  Something asks who she is and what her name is.
 
Threepio catches up with her and thanks the Maker she is unharmed. Allana points out that he always refers to the Maker and wonders who that is. Threepio tells her he doesn’t recall, but he has been made so it follows that he had a Maker.  Doubtless, he was a benevolent and forward-thinking.
 
Leia and Han continue to search the tunnels.  Leia is certain that these are natural features worn by water.  She believes Kessel must have been part of one larger planet at some time.
 
As they find cracks in the rocks that were made recently, a groundquake begins that causes the flooring beneath them to give away.  The vehicle drops into the blackness.
 
At the Baran Do temple, Luke and Ben take a look around.  Though there are students training in combat, not all of them do.  Tistura explains that their role is one of advice and warning.  The earliest Baran Do predicted impending storms.  Over time, they became scholarly.
 
Master Plo Koon, along with many members of his family, have been Baran Do, too.  It was said that he never tired of living among oxygen breathers.  Tila Mong will be teaching Luke in the hassat-durr technique which Ben will not be learning. 
 
Luke agrees to an accelerated course that does not include rituals or training artifacts.  The hassat-durr techniques will produce low levels of electromagnetic radiation in his body.  She warns him it could also disable prosthetics or implants.    He is given a metal ball to attach to his hand.  It’s a teaching tool that is attuned to electromagnetic energy by someone who’s practicing the technique correctly.
 
The first thing he will do is channel energies that let him lift the ball off a plate.  About thirty seconds later, he lifts it up.  That’s about eight weeks of training bypassed, but he will have to stop the ball spinning, maintain it at an altitude of one centimeter and sustain the output without tiring himself for days, weeks or longer.
 
He asks if this is how Jacen learned it.  He can feel something in her mind shut down.  She says he did and it was in about three days.  Luke thinks he would like to break that record.
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chapter 16:
 
Allana is sure something has happened to her grandparents.  Lando tries to keep her calm, but she thinks they should just go down and look.  Lando tells her that they are carrying transceivers on their vehicle that they don’t know about.
 
When he and Tendra stopped receiving signals, they did go down to look.  There’s a lot of stone between them and Han and Leia.  They will have to be dug out. None of their miners are here right now, so they’ve called for volunteers. 
 
Allana is sure she could find them.
 
Valin Horn is decreed not competent to stand trial, but his abilities make him dangerous enough that a conventional facility may not be able to hold him.  Therefore, he wlll be encased in carbonite until a treatment can be found.
 
Nawara Ven protests this form of incarceration as inhumane.  The judge orders everyone to remain silent.  She tells them that he will be brought out of stasis any time there is a new test to perform and at least twice per year, regardless.
 
The speeder finally stops at the bottom with no sensors, recycled air and a busted control board.  Han and Leia sneak off carefully.  Leia grabs a glow lamp that shows the hole in the ceiling has been plugged by stone.
 
Following a source of life, the tunnel meets a huge cavern at a rise.  They climb up several meters before finding huge blocks of equipment.  The cavern is lit by patches of greenish material that could be organic. 
 
Something must be powering the equipment.  They start looking for cables when a bogey emerges and hovers there.
 
On the Jade Shadow, Luke asks Ben what he learns.  Ben talks a little about his combat training, but does mention that one of the Baran Do Masters, Charsae Saal, is going to do that thing where he wills himself to die.
 
He gave Tistura a datacard with his memoirs on it.  She seems pretty sad about it.  Ben admits he told the Master it was sad to see a good person die and take their knowledge with them.  Saal told him the knowledge was being left behind and that he would be seeing his family someday again.
 
Apparently this is happening tomorrow.
 
Ben asks what his father learned.  Luke learned to make ball float at a constant altitude, but not to stop making it spin.  He also realized that something about Jacen’s visit, or the person who taught him, isn’t being revealed. 
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  • Isn't carbonite encasement dangerous?  Weren't there concerns that Han Solo wouldn't survive?  Additionally, the novelization of Return of the Jedi indicated that there were dangers bringing someone out of carbonite freezing.   This seems like something Nawara should bring up.


 

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chapter 17:
 
Leia approaches the bogey which does not retreat.  She doesn’t sense anything hostile.  In fact, when she speaks, the bogey changes color.  After it flies off, she tells Han that it reminded her of a datacard.  There’s a lot of energy there.  It has the ability to communicate and has stored large amounts of data.  She believes it’s done so from this huge cabinet.
 
Leia decides she needs to find another one.
 
They explore more, finding life forms down here and an energy spider that is more concerned with eating the fungus than anything else.  She keeps getting the sense that something is winding down.
 
She suddenly mentions Centerpoint.  Leia realizes that she is sensing gravity wells all over the galaxy.  This may be a huge observatory down here.  Centerpoint was all about gravity.  It could be this place was built by the Celestials.
 
They find an antenna that emits a magnetic pulse.  A bogey emerges from the base and makes contact with her.  She tells Han she can see the sequence. Much of what she says doesn’t make sense, but she does tell him they’ve got to get to the surface.  The cavern is going to blow up, then the rest and that will be the end of Kessel.
 
The antenna is an electromagnet that will yanks all the machinery off the walls when it starts spinning.  If the makers of this place were responsible for Centerpoint, this could be equally as destructive.  The barrels in the cavern are full of explosives of some kind. 
 
By the time they reach the entrance, the antenna is already spinning, starting to pull them back by their metal gear.  Leia records the phenomenon with a holocam as she leads him away to the wreckage of their speeder.  The tunnel walls light up, the rock mound begins to collapse.
 
Allana wakes up and tells Artoo that something isn’t good.  A groundquake starts.  The walls shake and she clamps her hands over her ears.  When the rumblings stop, she sees Lando enter the room to check on her.  Allana asks if she can sleep on the Falcon from now on.  He agrees and wishes he could, too.
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chapter 18:
 
On Dorin, Ben notices that the Kel Dors seem rather agitated.  Alarms start to wail and the announcement is made that a severe storm is approaching.  Tistura explains to them how they protect lives during these types of events.  It goes on for hours.
 
When it’s over, there are some injuries, but no deaths.  Luke and Ben have been invited to the farewell ceremony of Charsea Saal.  Ben admits that, while they were waiting out the storm, he got a strange feeling about it.  While Tistura and others like her were sad, the Masters felt different somehow.
 
It’s as if they were even sadder.
 
At nightfall, Charsae Saal walks around, greeting his guests.  When he addresses them all, he thanks them for making sure that he is not dying alone.  He prays they remember him fondly.
 
He flips his hood up, lays on the platform and slows his breathing.  His Force presence slowly fades until it is gone.  A casket-like box is maneuvered over him and then lifted clear, carried to a funeral pyre and left.
 
Mistress Mong starts the fire with her hands.  When it finally collapses, the flame dies and the Kel Dors begin to leave.  Luke tells Ben he hates being lied to.
 
On the way out, he explains that Charsae Saal didn’t die and wasn’t cremated either.  Though he vanished in the Force, it didn’t mean he was dead.  An empty casket was placed on the pyre and burned.  He has a feeling this is related to what Jacen learned here.
 
After dinner, they’re coming back to find out the truth.
 
A couple of hours later, they return and examine the platform to see if there’s a mechanism to lower a body.  Finding it, they rapel down several meters to a stone floor. They find themselves in a storage chamber with large crates.
 
Force presences are nearby so Luke decides to barge in.  The next chamber reveals Mistress Mong, Master Saal and two other masters.  Luke apologizes, but he needs answers.  If Master Saal is not dead, then the master who taught Jacen, Koro Ziil, might not be either. 
 
Saal explains that he will be climbing into a large silver transport and be swept away to another life below ground.  He will no longer be Charsae Saal, but someone else.  Luke asks if Koro Ziil took a new name, too.  He would like to speak to that person now, whoever he is.
 
Tila Mong will allow this if they are willing to climb into a transport and ride to where Saal is going.  Luke accepts, but is told that both he and Ben must go.  Ben insists he be allowed.
 
Saal climbs into his transport, the lid is lowered, he is pushed along rails until it enters a hole in the wall,disappearing.   Ben and Luke each climb into their own.
 
The children eat their breakfast, served by See-Threepio.  Lando yells and runs in, telling Allana to get her breath mask.  They are taking Lady Luck down to get her parents.
 
Ten minutes later, she is in the cockpit with Lando, Tendra, and Nien Nunb, landing by Han and Leia. 
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chapter 19:
 
Once they hear the story, an order is placed for sensor drones that arrive two days later.  Tendra gets their programming prepared and the Falcon takes them to the sensor access tunnel, releasing them into the shaft.
 
The drones transmit recordings to the surface.  Tendra shows them a cavern system.  Though some are already destroyed, not all of them are.  There may be time to disarm the explosive devices.
 
If enough of the caverns blow up at the same time, it could cause a fault line down there to crack.  He would prefer to save the planet.  Han suggests they blow up the patches in random order that will keep the fault from cracking.
 
Lando thinks they can dig a shaft down to the tunnel nearest the surface and get teams of experts to set off the explosives safely.  Leia suggests Jedi, but Han and the others put a stop to that.  The Jedi have observers now and, if the government finds out that Centerpoint-style technology is here, they’ll want to study it until the whole place blows up.
 
Ben and Luke travel in unlit coffins for over two hours.  When his lid opens, Ben finds a stone tunnel ending in a blast-door exit.  Charsae Saal is already speaking with several others. 
 
They are led into a circular chamber where they are treated civily.  A Kel Dor male tells them that they are dead now.  They are in the place after life.  He used to be Koro Ziil, but has now transcended his identity.  They will have to choose new titles now.
 
Luke assures him they will not be staying.  He is told there is no way to do that.  He may seek his answers here, but will not be able to tell anyone.
 
Tekli shows up giving Jaina the code word that Jaina had arranged among a few Jedi she trusted.  Seff Hellin was seen outside the prison dressed as a workman.  Doubtless, he’s trying to break out Valin. 
 
Jaina agrees to mobilize some people in their little Darkmeld conspiracy.  When they bring Seff in, they’ll have to have a place to hold him.
 
Jaina, Jag, Tahiri and Winter Celchu gather in a tapcaf.  Jaina is inhibited by an observer, which Tahiri is not.  Jag can provide financial resources, Winter has intelligence contacts.  Between the four of them, they will have to set up observation of Seff, grab him and get him into the Temple.
 
It will also have to be done without him being alerted.  Winter thinks she can arrange for holocams to watch him.  Tahiri reminds her that Seff may know how to flash holocam feeds.  Jaina explains they have the software used to track Alema Rar when she was sneaking around Errant Venture.
 
Jag gives Winter a credcard that isn’t an official expense account.
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chapter 20:
 
Two days later, they all have more useful information.  The drones continue to trace the network of tunnels.  Six YVH droids are put into service investigating the demolition mounds.  Bogeys arrive each time they do and crash the droids’ systems.
 
One pair of droids are assigned to a cavern that is safe to destroy and use a missle launcher to fire on that mound.  It doesn’t work very well.  They try a small thermal detonator after that.
 
It works better, but not totally.  Further, the bogeys start going after the droids.  Both of them go offline.  Han thinks they should refit the Falcon and Lady Luck to launch thermals.
 
Nien Nunb believes they can get some smaller ships in there with pilots, too.  Leia warns them they will have to rig the detonators to go off on a mechanical timer.
 
Charsae Saal calls himself Chara now and takes his first look around the chambers.  The Hidden One, the former Tokra Hazz, has lived down here for some time.  Twenty years ago, Koro Ziil told Chara about the place. 
 
He was just a child on the day when the Jedi disappeared from the galaxy.  Master Hazz was horrified, having felt their deaths through the Force.  The loss of knowledge was devastating.  It was thought that the entire Jedi Order was gone and that Palpatine would move against other Force users in turn. 
 
The solution was to hide underground.  There are stores of food and supplies here.  If the Empire came to destroy the sages, there would be a cell underground to continue.  The rails that brought them here are also comlink connections with the surface.  The Hidden One also knows a technique to communicate mind-to-mind.
 
Tunneling equipment was used to dig.  It’s about 200 kilometers long and goes in a circular pattern and eventually raches the natural caverns that were going to be used as the center point for the complex.  His intent was to recruit only those who were fully dedicated.
 
There was the chance, though, that someone would change their mind.  Leaving through that tunnel would be too difficult.  One wouldn’t be able to carry enough food or drink and would die.  If someone finds a way to ascend through the tunnels, the Hidden One can trigger explosions that seal it forever.
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chapter 21:
 
Gathered at Kessel are Wedge Antilles, Hobbie Klivian, Inyri Forge, whose family had been evacuated as the groundquakes had gotten worse, Kell Tainer, Cheriss ke Hanadi, Nrin Vakil, Rhysati Ynr and Maarek Stele, a former Imperial who’d served on the moon and as a TIE fighter pilot.
 
Lando has a mixed bag of fighters that will be paired with a subsonic airspeeder which will precede them into the cavern, activate the sonic systems and drive out the animal life.  It’s possible that bogeys will knock down one of the subsonics, so there will be rescue transports sent in for any downed pilot.  The detonations will be handled by a mechanical timer.
 
They are prioritizing keeping the planet and the pilots intact first. 
 
Leia and Han explain to Allana that they cannot keep her safe while they’re firing off bombs.  She’s going to be safe on the garrison moon in case of groundquakes.  Allana protests that there’s something waiting for her up in space that scares her. It spoke to her through the Force when she went outside the other day.
 
Knowing that Allana could be right, the Solos are torn.  They could leave her here which is dangerous, take her on the Falcon with them which is equally bad or send her to the garrison moon where something may come after her.
 
Han decides they should chose the one that allows them to look after her themselves. 
 
Seff Hellin steps through the hole he’s burned and replaces the metal sheet covering it up.  Watching the holorecordings, he’d just known that that this was the true Valin and not an imposter. 
 
He is relieved to see that his rigging is still here, but a faint stirring in the Force tells him there are people nearby waiting for him.  Pulling his lightsaber, he sees that the metal sheet is gone.  Tahiri Veila steps through the hole.  Or, at least, someone pretending to be her.
 
Seff doesn’t recognize the burly man with a hood that follows her, assuming it’s a Mando. He uses the Force to push the stranger back.  The Fake Tahiri ignites her lightsaber and urges him to surrender.  The presumed Mando fires a shot that Seff deflects onto the Fake Tahiri and knocks her out.  He runs back to the blast door into the prison, hits the open button and the trigger to the thermal detonation but nothing happens.
 
He tosses one from the other side at them which causes a cave-in that separates him from his enemies.  Then he gets to work on the blast doors with his lightsaber.
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           •    We last saw Inyri Forge in Balance Point.  Nice to know her family’s origins on Kessel haven’t been forgotten. Still rather amazed they stayed there.  Kell Tainer was last seen in The Unifying Force and is married to Tyria Sarkin-Tainer and father of Jedi Knight Doran Tainer.  Cheriss ke Hanadi was seen in Fury.  Nrin Vakil was last seen in X-Wing: Isard’s Revenge.  Rhysati Ynr is married to Nawara Ven and was last seen in Isard’s Revenge.  This is the first appearance of Maarek Stele in a novel.  He was introduced in the video game “Star Wars: TIE Fighter”.  Most of these characters made their debut in the X-Wing series.
          •    A couple of times Han and Leia refer to each other by first names when speaking with Allana.  During those times they are alone and use her real name and not her assumed name of Amelia.  Shouldn’t they be referring to each other as Grandpa and Grandma as they normally do?
 

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chapter 22:
 
Jag yanks off his hood, rises up and pulls a glow rod.  The Mandalorian breast plate protected him somewhat.  Tahiri is still alive.  Winter comms them and Jag reports that Seff is still on the loose. 

Seff races through the prison, knocking out or disabling guards as he goes, surprised the no more fake Jedi are coming after him.  Tahiri shows up again, but he ducks into the chamber that contains Valin’s carbonite form.  He starts pushing buttons on the panel when the Mando comes in.
 
Seff tries to slash this enemy, but a crushgaunt stops him. Fake Tahiri pulls the weapon out of his hand.  Seff sends the rack with the carbonite on it down against the Mando and runs off, knowing prison security will slow them down.
 
Dab doesn’t know what the rush is when Jaina weaves her speeder through traffic.  He assumes she’s meeting Jagged Fel for a romantic encounter, but she tells him there’s a rooftop park nearby that he likes.  Dab accuses her of wanting to provoke a criminal into attacking her by walking in a rundown neighborhood at night.
 
She decides that excuse will work and tells him to hide.  She takes the turbolift down to the surface. 
 
Seff is stopped by Alliance security until he uses the Force to throw debris at them.  He darts through his hole, knowing more are after him.
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          •    Jag is wearing the beskar and crush gaunts that Boba Fett had sent to Han in the Legacy of the Force series.
 

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chapter 23:
 
Mirax Horn drives a stolen speeder around the Isard Correctional Center.  Winter had told her only that she helped the Jedi in a situation related to her son’s condition.  Someone codenamed Slicer tells her that their target is coming out and they have to grab him.  Be careful because he’s armed and dangerous.  The rest will be there shortly. 
 
When the young man pops out of a worker’s hole with a blaster rifle, Mirax tries to think of how to handle him.  She aims for him with her speeder but is sideswiped from the left and the speeder heads straight for a government building.  She shakes her dizziness off, rights the speeder and wonders what happened.
 
Jaina watches the whole thing happen.  Zilaash Kuh drove a cargo hauler and sideswipes Mirax’s garish speeder, knocking it off course.  Dhidal Nyz is on the flatbed and fires at Seff who springs to one side, but still is caught by the net. 
 
Jaina comms Mirax to follow them.
 
Jaina throws her lightsaber at the cables holding the net and Seff drops to the ground.  She catches her weapon and runs to Seff, knocking him out with her hilt, then bundling him into Mirax’s speeder.
 
Jag, Tahiri and Winter commandeer a security vehicle.
 
Jaina confirms that she is Slicer and has Mirax avoid the Quarren while making their getaway.
 
Having joined the pursuit of the cargo hauler, Jag, Tahiri and Winter are last in the line of security vehicles.  Jag has lost his blaster, but has some grenades.  Tahiri moves their vehicle close to the cargo hauler which is now after Mirax’s speeder.  Jag puts his arm under the hauler and uses his crush gaunt to squeeze the repulsor nozzles out of shape.
 
It slows and he can see Zilaash Kuh pounding on the yoke.  Jag blows her a kiss before getting back in the speeder.
 
Tahiri uses the Force to push the last pursuing speeder out of the way.  Jaina guides Mirax to a shadowy spot where the two speeders stop and rest.  Mirax will drop Jaina off where she originated, Jag at the Remnant Embassy and will be let into the Temple hangar with Tahiri by Tekli.
 
Winter removes forensic evidence from the speeders, Jag pulls off his armor and assures Jaina that his double is hard at work pretending to him at his quarters.  Jaina notes that her mother didn’t use a double.  He decides Leia was a crazy woman, then.  Winter proposes a toast to crazy women and the pilots who pursue them.
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chapter 24:
 
Ben and Luke are using pickaxes to hack away at the rock in order to carve out their permanent quarters here.  This could take years, but Ben doubts they will be here that long.  He asks his father what his plan is to get out of this hole.
 
Luke reminds him that their mission is to find out what happened to Jacen.  If they demand to be released and were somehow accommodated, they will have failed. They are under no time pressure, so they should act logically.
 
At midday, they go to eat.  The Hidden One admits it’s nice to speak with those newly arrived.  He understands they want to know about Jacen Solo.  Jacen had come here very sure of himself, wanting knowledge of the Force as it was understood outside the Jedi Order.
 
There were scars on his spirit, but they seemed to be healed.  Although Jacen’s childhood had been unsettled, it appeared that he had removed himself from most of the bad memories. 
 
Jacen was taught how to anticipate weather and to sense energy piling up in the natural worlds, such as heat in sea water or cyclonic storms.  He wanted the lightning-rod technique, too. 
 
The Hidden One trained against him in combat, having been, in life, the teacher of Charsae Saal.  He learned that the lightsaber is a weapon of the Force and must be countered with the Force.
 
At the time, Jacen was a man at peace.  He had been talking about returning to Coruscant, but there was something else that interested him.  He’d heard that there were places where the energies of the Force linger.  He may have found something in his studies of materials that didn’t belong to the Baran Do, but mentioned no names or places.
 
Ben asks the Hidden One if he will kill the Jedi who come searching for his father and him.  They will come and, not getting answers, will likely send someone with investigative skills, like Corran Horn, who will likely figure this out. 
 
The Hidden One tells Ben that he is too young to know what it’s like to face the threat of annihilation.  His experiences with the Yuuzhan Vong and the subsequent conflicts are not the same.  The Jedi are facing a new purge.  Ben may not understand that, but Luke should know better.  Luke assures him that Chief of State Daala has no agenda in that direction.
 
The Hidden One reminds him that Chief of State Daala is not the only influential person in the government.  All of her advisors came to prominence during the Second Galactic Civil War which had been exacerbated by a Jedi.  They get the holofeeds here, too.  Luke has been discredited, weakening the Jedi Order which is deprived of his counsel and wisdom when he is exiled.  Now Jedi are being accompanied by observers who report their whereabouts, making them vulnerable to attacks.  In the name of Alliance safety, they may be subjected to even more horrific methods of tracking.
 
Ben asks if he is opposed to the destruction of the Jedi.  If he’s not, he surely realizes he’s helping that destruction along by keeping Luke here. 
 
On Kessel, Nrin’s wife, Koyi Komad, is acting as Mission Control.  The pilots start their descent to the bottom of the shaft. 
 
Han and Leia are last in the Falcon.
 
The first several caverns are not a problem for Wedge as he carries out his mission.  At the fifth, he finds large numbers of animals and one big spider.  They are fleeing, but he approaches cautiously, in case the subsonic speeder has attracted a bogey. 
 
A centipede a meter long drops on his canopy.  When it crawls back to the end of the ship, the astromech zaps it.
 
Later, he sets down to greet Rhysati Ynr who introduces him to a young man named Drathan Forge.  He’s Inyri’s great-nephew and works for Lando as a mechanic.  Wedge admires the Eta-5 interceptor Rhysati is flying.  She offers to trade him for the rest of the operation, quipping that Lando can’t do anything to them.
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          •    Koyi Komad was last seen in Isard’s Revenge.
 
 

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chapter 25:
 
At the Temple, Tahiri and Mirax carry Seff in, led by Tekli.  Jaina appears and they all head to the medical level.
 
They put Seff in a radiation storage chamber that no one is allowed in, even Master Hamner.  Mirax and Winter are let out through the hangar.
 
Jaina asks Tahiri if she misses the Temple yet.  She does, but cannot come back yet.  They are surprised by the appearance of Dab Hantaq whose resemblance to Anakin chills Tahiri.  Jaina realizes this and reminds her that this was the boy on Borleais using the name Tarc.
 
She’s gotten used to how he looked and didn’t even think about it when putting Tahiri on the team.  Tahiri tells her that it took a couple of years getting used to not seeing Anakin after becoming addicted to the flow-walking.  She can’t come here if he’s going to be around every day.
 
She lost her lightsaber in the cave-in, but it’s a brand-new one that doesn’t have her fingerprints on it, anyway.  Jag’s blaster is designed to blow up if separated from him for a few seconds.  They should be fine.  Tahiri thinks it’s time to leave, telling Jaina to let her know when Dab is gone forever.
 
Having completed their mission, Han decides to wait until everyone else is out first.  Koyi comms them and tells them that one team is offline.  Moving to investigate, they find a young man running frantically.  Drathan Forge boards the ship and tells them to go. A big blue spider destroyed his loader droid.
 
Wedge comms the Falcon, telling Han there’s a spider coming his way.  He moves the Eta-5 into the cavern and spots the spider.  It comes down on the cockpit viewport.  Han switches on the energy deflectors.  He has no concussion missles, lasers are at full power, the antipersonnel blaster is operational, but he can’t bring anything against the spider due to its location.
 
He notes the deflectors aren’t coming up because the spider is drinking all the energy.  He has Leia increase power to the shields.  Wedge tells them he has a shot.  With nothing else to lose, Han tells him to take it.
 
It doesn’t work.  Han tells him he’s just going to head up.  With the Eta on its tail, the Falcon flies up the shaft, the blows of the spider’s legs beating on the viewport.  But no cracks are appearing and the ship really isn’t sustaining any damage.
 
He flies up into the sunlight and rolls over, refusing help from the other ships.  When the spider ejects pure spice on the viewport, Han decreases altitude and fires the reverse thrusters, tossing the creature off the ship and onto the ground.
 
He explains to Allana that the spider was just hungry, not evil.  He lets her on his lap to help with the landing.
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