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"Abyss": Book 3 in the Fate of the Jedi series


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chapter 1:

In the Jedi Temple, Han and Leia watch Seff Hellin and Natua Wan try unsuccessfully to breach their cells with their hands.  Depriving them of access to the Force seems cruel, but it’s one of the few ways to keep them under control.  It’s hard to see these young people suffer so much through no fault of their own; it’s too close of a reminder of their inability to save Jacen.

Cilghal asks after “Amelia” and is concerned when told she is being watched by Bazel Warv, also known as Barv.  He’s very gentle and good with the little girl, but Cilghal points out that the only connection she’s been able to identify between the affected Jedi is that all of them were hidden at Shelter during the Yuuzhan Vong war.  

The Maw Installation had been the site of a secret Imperial base for years; it’s possible something left by the Empire when it was abandoned affected the students.  There’s no way to know.  Barv is a good friend of Valin’s and Jysella’s, though not of Natua’s.
Leia notes that R2 is with Amelia and Barv, too.  

Cilghal proceeds with her demonstration.  Seff is improving.  A few day after being isolated from the Force, he and Natua went through a terrible withdrawal, but he is now calm.  Han asks if she’s really implying that they’re addicted to the Force.  It’s only a theory, but Tekli points out that the Force may be carrying the illness or could be a trigger for it.

They need to scan Seff to see how calm he is and would like Han and Leia to distract him.  In the meantime, Natua has been hissing.  Since she could be talking to herself, Tekli would like C-3PO to see if he can translate what she’s saying.

Han and Leia are given stun sticks and taken into the cell block.  They first encounter Raynar Thul, the many surgeries having restored a semblance of a plastic face and synthetic hair.  Leia grows angry when she thinks that someone who sacrificed so much for the Alliance would likely also be frozen in carbonite by Daala had she been in charge during the Killik Crisis.  

He greets them.  Leia asks if there’s something she can get him.  Raynar tells her he’s allowed to do that himself, but he’d appreciate it if they could silence Natua’s scratching.  Leia wonders why he doesn’t just change quarters.  That hadn’t occurred to him.  Cilghal assures him that there are open quarters upstairs and they’ll probably be needing his cell soon enough.

Raynar isn’t sure if he’s ready or if the others are ready to accept him back.   Nevertheless, he goes to pack.

Natua implores Han to let her go.  When he refuses, she hisses again.  This time, C-3PO is able to translate that she is threatening them all in Ancient Hoosh – ceremonial language in the noble houses of Falleen.  Leia tells him to keep listening to Natua while she and Han go down to see Seff.  

Seff seems alright. He knows Cilghal is knocking without seeing her.   He admits he doesn’t quite remember how he felt before he got here.  He knows he’s in the Asylum Block in the Temple.  The last thing he remembers is trying to rescue Valin Horn and then running into someone who looked like Jaina.  

Cilghal assures him he’ll be okay.  She asks if he would like visitors.  He’s surprised when she and the Solos enter.  They talk to him about his progress and hope he’s feeling better.    Cilghal asks if he remembers where he last saw the Solos.  He remembers the pet show on Taris.  Han and Leia quickly ad lib an argument over which animal won the show.  Seff is initially distracted by the spat, but Leia spots his gaze slowly focusing on the wall and realizes why he knew Cilghal was knocking earlier.  She tries to get his attention back on her by apologizing for how an old married couple sometimes argue, but he quickly attacks.  He nearly gets the stun stick on her back before Han pulls his own.  He stuns Seff pretty good, but Leia gets some of the jolt when Seff pulls her into the path of the stick.  

Seff remains on his feet, elbows Han and kicks him in the stomach before preparing to barrel through Tekli and Cilghal.  Leia’s remaining functional arm grabs her stick.  Suddenly a tranquilizer dart hits Seff which distracts him enough for Leia’s stun stick to hit his legs, causing him to drop.

But, at least, they have their answer.
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          •    All of a sudden, stun sticks are a thing now, huh?  Luke and Ben dealt with stun sticks in the last book.
 

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chapter 2:

In the Maw, Luke and Ben feel that something is watching them.  Luke admits he’s actually eager to meet the Mind-Drinkers that the Aing-Tii warned them about.  Ben can’t help but feel awe at how calm his father is, but he snaps when Luke asks if Ben felt this when he was at Shelter as a child.  He had been a very little child.  Something had frightened him, though, enough to keep him afraid of the Force for many years.

He meditates on the Maw Installation, having no conscious memories of the place when he lived there, until he finds a long-buried instance of holding a stranger’s hand while his mother and father leave in the Jade Shadow.  He reaches out in the Force to them; they reach back to him.  Then a dark tentacle of something wends its way into that space, wanting to bring him close and hold onto him.

Luke asks if he sensed anything familiar;  Ben changes the subject.  He isn’t sure they should be looking for any beings called Mind-Drinkers.  Finally, he admits that there was something watching him at Shelter; it might be the same thing they’re feeling now.  

Luke wonders if Ben just created an imaginary friend to cope with missing his parents and felt guilty about it.  Ben snaps back that, perhaps, Luke doesn’t want to believe this dark tentacle was real because he feels guilty about leaving his little son someplace dangerous.  Two-year olds don’t feel guilty about anything.

Luke still doesn’t think it’s anything to worry about.  Ben points out that Luke made him rediscover it in the first place. Luke counters that Ben is the one still afraid of it.  It’s a point well taken.  His fear of this thing caused him to withdraw from the Force and allowed Jacen to manipulate him.

They analyze the riddle Tadar’Ro gave them.  Looking among the black holes, Ben wonders if “The Path of True Enlightenment runs through the Chasm of Perfect Darkness” could refer to the place beyond an event horizon.  But they doubt they are meant to fly a black hole.  

Luke realizes that they probably have to fly between two black holes.  There’s only one stable zone among these rifts.  Luke mentions that the Chasm of Perfect Darkness is an Ashla parable.  It references the perils of ego and ignorance.  The Tythonians believe it is a deep dark canyon.  The only way to stay in the light is to go down the middle.

Luke has Ben navigate the ship  - a hard thing to do in this area.  Ben grumbles when Luke reminds him to use the Force.  They joke a bit until Ben feels a strange presence.  He asks if Luke feels it, too.  Luke is reminded of the Killiks.  Not for the first time this hour is he tempted to pull back from the Force.  

But this doesn’t feel like  Killik hive mind.  Before Ben can mention that to Luke, he is grasped by something cold and dark, a feeling of betrayal and anger at the intrusion.  He rides the Force, seeing the small opening and heads toward it.  Luke becomes alarmed at the speed and temperature of the ship. Ben is confident he has this.  

Flying through the stable zone, they encounter the body of a Duros floating and holding a missile launcher.  They are reminded of Qwallo Mode, a young Jedi that disappeared on a simple courier mission a year ago.  Suddenly, the missile launches and hits the ship.  The body and the missile launcher float by.  It’s not a hallucination, but they’re not sticking around to get again just to find out if it’s really Qwallo.

There are too many mysteries. Is he still alive? Why doesn’t he need a helmet? Why is he shooting at them?

Ahead, there’s another object.  The mass is huge.  Ben tries to weave in order to avoid colliding with it and to prevent being a target.  The yoke suddenly jams forward and sticks.  Ben is forced to dump the control system’s reservoir into space in order to gain control, then hits maneuvering thrusters hard.

They are in a debris field.  It looks like it might be a mid-sized transport.  As they grow closer, however, Ben sees a space station.  A number of ships are nearby.  The nearest one doesn’t appear to have been damaged.  Luke thinks the station looks like Centerpoint Station. 

Ben suggests tossing a missile at it like Han would do.  Luke reminds him that Han’s not a Jedi.  Ben knows this…sometimes he just thinks they should consider his way of doing things.  If this was built by the same beings that build Centerpoint, the best thing to do would be to destroy it.

Luke ponders that option, but they will have to fix their ship after finding a place to dock it.
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chapter 3:

As Ben struggles to deal with the station’s rotation in order to dock, Luke can sense the writhing, needy tentacle through the Force.  This must be what Ben felt while at Shelter, but he can’t tell what it actually did to him.

Upon landing, Ben concentrates on repair reports.  Luke thinks repairs can wait; he asks if Ben is experiencing more memories.  Ben assures him he’s not trying to avoid anything out there, but the ship needs to be ready to leave in a hurry if they encounter something bad.

Luke wishes Ben were willing to face his demons head on.

In any case, there are abandoned vehicles everywhere which means that the crews are either being taken or lured away before finishing repairs.  Luke and Ben probably won’t have time to fix the Shadow.  They shouldn’t make the same mistake everyone else did.  Jedi, after all, are unpredictable.

After stepping out of the ship, they find that there is no artificial gravity.  It’s created by axis rotation just like Centerpoint Station.  They camouflage the ship with dust to make it look like it’s been there for a long time.   Arriving at the airlock at the back of the deck, they wait for a valve to open and equalize pressure.  Instead, the motion-sensitive lights turn off.

Luke pulls down a lever and a ceiling opening reveals itself.  Luke jumps up into it, followed by Ben.  It’s a concern that this is becoming too easy.  It could be that the equipment is very reliable; it is designed just like Centerpoint.  Luke mentions that this station can’t be very useful sitting between two black holes.  There’s no way to target anything.  Ben points out that they can’t, but, then again, they aren’t the ones who built it.

As they navigate through the station, lights appear and fade in different colors.  They wonder if it’s a means of directing them or of warning them of dangerous areas.  Luke worries that Ben is sensing something.  Ben quips that, besides the presence they felt when they first arrived, the fact that they’re wandering around a derelict station with no way to tell anyone and that someone or something powerful worked hard to keep this place a secret, he’s fine.

Eventually, they encounter a detention area.  Inside are cells with exoskeleton parts that remind them of Killiks.  When Raynar was Unu, he had revealed the Killiks were involved in building both the Maw and Centerpoint Station.  

A large membrane floats everyone around them.  They both sense the growing hunger snaking inside them.  Luke touches the membrane, believing it’s a type of pressure seal.  He pushes himself in slowly until he is able to move reasonably well.  Ben follows him.  

They find themselves in a chamber that appears to be the primary access point to the control sphere.  Walking together, they get close to a hatch with a flashing red glow.  There’s a quiet buzzing come from inside.  Determining that he can tolerably survive the atmosphere, Luke lifts his faceplate.  The air reeks of decay he hasn’t smelled since Dagobah.  The buzzing turns out to be an alarm.

They end up on the observation platform of a large room with a viewport displaying purple light filled with static discharge and surrounded by shooting flame.  There are tall cabinets made up of unrecognizable material.  There are clothes and empty containers, but no corpses, on the floor.

At each station, a holographic representation of the facility itself appears.  At one, messages in a strange language are displayed; at another a detailed schematic of the station showing what appears to be damage alerts.  At a third, a hologram instead shows gravity vectors that Luke realizes are a group of black holes.

He is able to view the system they are in and spots a crescent-shaped gap nearby with no letters or characters.  With no idea what they mean, he’s beginning to worry that he may not want to know.  The Ben explains that he’s found a bunch of bodies.
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chapter 4:

Jedi Knight Bazel Warv is having a great day, having spent the morning with Amelia Solo and the afternoon with his friend, Yaqeel Saav’etu, a Bothan Jedi.  Yaqeel seems out of sorts today.  He isn’t sure if she’s irritated with him or at being unable to complete her assignment of getting into Tahiri Veila’s apartment to determine why she wasn’t returning Jaina’s calls.  It hadn’t helped that the Toydarian landlord didn’t succumb to the Jedi Mind Trick, became offended and has vowed to watch the place all day.

He wonders if she’s just worried about the public trying to avoid them once people realize that two Jedi are out and about.  She tells him it’s actually the people she knows are shadowing them.  Barv knows what she means.  The Solos have been following them around.  It’s not a surprise.  They’re clearly worried more Jedi are going to go insane the same way their friends have.  

She is walking very quickly, too.  It’s almost as if she’s trying to leave him behind which hurst his feelings.  He catches up to her and spins her around before she can reach the Temple.  He can tell she’s frightened of him.  She admits she’s not, but she’s sensed a change in them.  

They can’t let them know they know what they really are and make the same mistake the others did.  Barv realizes what’s happening.  He tries to rush her into the Temple, away from the prying eyes of the newsvans left behind by Javis Tyrr while she plots to free Seff and Natua before getting Valin and Jysella. Knowing he doesn’t have much time, he waves a hand at the newsvan with its camera aimed at them and uses the Force to send a flash that wipes his image and any other footage it’s taken.

Unfortunately, he’s too desperate to get her inside the Temple quickly because she suddenly uses the Force to jolt his arm powerfully.  She accuses him of having been got to by the others.  Barv tries to convince her that they aren’t going to free anyone by fighting to get into the Temple.  They have to fool the other Jedi.

He knows that she’s using the Force to probe to see if he’s telling the truth and comes to the conclusion that he can lie to her as long as he believes in the lie.  He doesn’t know where he learned that. He agrees to help her.  At the threshold of the speeder hangar gate, Jaina Solo and Jagged Fel are hugging and kissing.  

Barv stops Yaqeel from pulling her lightsaber by pointing out that the two are clearly only interested in each other.  She wonders about a nearby cleaning droid, pointing out that something’s not right.  Jaina opens her eyes and flutters her hand at them without breaking off the kiss.  Barv realizes that he and Yaqeel are surrounded by the shadowing Solos and by Jaina and Jag.  

Jaina plays off like they aren’t really interrupting anything, but Barv suddenly realizes that he’s been fooled.  He determines this isn’t really Jaina and it’s not really the Solos following them.  He mentions to Yaqueel that they are probably walking into the trap which sets her off.

The Solos manage to bring down Yaqeel with a tranquilizer gun, but don’t realize that Barv is infected, too.  They want him to take her into the Temple so they can distract GAS.  That’s when Jaina arrives, surprising her parents.  She meaningfully suggests they let her take Yaqeel.  They turn to Barv, he tries to fight them off and run before the tranquilizer gun darts get him, too.
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chapter 5:

When Barv falls, however, he lands on Jag’s speeder, putting a sizable dent in it.  Jag assures Han that the speeder is easily repaired.  He’s just relieved Barv didn’t land on Jaina.  Jaina assures him that she’s tough enough to handle it.  Privately, Han muses on whether it’s a good idea for those two to be married.  He knows the rigid duty-bound type enough to know that Jag’s responsibilities will always come first, even over Jaina.

Jaina goes to grab Barv, asking her father to retrieve Yaqeel. Jag instructs his driver to keep his weapon down and stay quiet about this whole mess.  There’s a quick moment where Han trips over the cleaning droid, rejecting Jag’s help because he’s not old.  While Jag tries to assure him he’s making no assumptions about Han’s age, Jaina yells at him to stop trying to spare the old man’s feelings and help them get these two Jedi inside before the GAS show up and spot him here.  Jag takes the lead while Han shoots the droid a menacing look before they move the Jedi inside past two uncertain apprentices at the entrance.

When they come back outside, Leia is being confronted by a GAS officer standing on the threshold of the entrance.  GAS troopers are there as support, some holding Jag’s driver at blasterpoint.  She denies anything has happened here.  Captain Atar pulls out a datapad showing video of a green blur hitting Jag’s speeder, Jaina rushing out with a torn dress and the Solos holding tranquilizer pistols and looking worried.

Han realizes that security cams didn’t take that footage and realizes that the cleaning droid is probably bugged.  Jag takes charge, demanding to know what happened to his vehicle.  The captain denies they did anything and offers to show him the video.  Jag plays the dismissive executive part well, taking no interest in the footage and tossing the datapad down a tunnel where it breaks.  He points out that his driver is being detained by Atar’s men.

Atar claims ignorance of the vehicle’s ownership until Jag points out that the diplomatic code on the speeder is clearly visible.  At this, Atar points out that Jag doesn’t have the right to interfere in his investigation.  Jag counters that he is happy to allow the GAS to proceed once his vehicle and driver have been released.

He moves aside but doesn’t leave.  Atar demands that the Jedi turn over Bazel Warv and Yaqeel Saav’etu, identifying them by name.  Leia argues that there’s no one in imminent danger here, so the captain will need a warrant.  He happily provides one issued within the last five members that is properly filled out up to and including the two Jedis’ names and their species. 

Han doesn’t recognize the judge’s name – Lorteli – which Atar explains is a new appointee by the Chief of State to handle Jedi matters.  They aren’t sure what to do at this point, but it seems that they don’t have much of a choice.  Leia tells Atar they’ll be right back.  By this point, he’s moved from the threshold so she uses the Force to close the gate in front of him.
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chapter 6:

On the way out, Jaina waves to Captain Atar from the inside of Jag’s speeder.  She can tell he’s angry, especially since his men haven’t been able to get the gate open.  Jag can’t believe Daala would be foolish enough to send an officer so easily manipulated by the Jedi Mind Trick.

Jaina explains that it wasn’t the Force, it was a trick her father learned years ago.  

The speeder is now blocked by GAS forces.  The driver offers to fly over them, but Jag doesn’t want them to think they are being threatened.  Jaina admits that she probably shouldn’t have ticked off Atar by waving.

Jag can’t believe she was so bold to do that.  He explains that she’s got to stop antagonizing Daala’s people.  Escalating the tension between her government and the Jedi Order won’t do anyone any good.  She knows this already, but senses he’s holding something back.  If they’re going to be married, they can’t keep major secrets from each other.

Jag agrees, but it must stay between them.  They can’t have a repeat of Qoribu when her broken promise had resulted in his exile from the Chiss.  She just stares at him, her eyes focusing on a weird metallic strip in the car that’s probably a glow rod knocked loose when Barv hit the roof. He overheard plans in Daala’s office yesterday to hire a company of Mandalorians to handle the Jedi.  

He didn’t tell her before because he didn’t want her to have to bear the burden of keeping this a secret.  She can’t believe he’s actually expecting her to stay silent.  But he is.  Jag tells her he’s trying to negotiate a membership in the GA, but on an autonomous basis.  Daala wants full cooperation, though, because she thinks divided loyalties caused the last war.  

Jaina asks if this could be some kind of ruse for his benefit to see if he tells the Jedi.  Jag doesn’t think so as he heard it while Wynn Dorvan was having a conversation, not Daala.  Jaina warns him that Daala could have used Dorvan to pull a trick.  Jag doesn’t think Dorvan is that kind of person. 

Jag can’t sublimate the Empire to a government led by Daala or the Moffs will definitely rebel.  He’s fortunate to have the little support he has now.  The time is right to do this now since the galaxy is at peace.  If Daala finds out that he passed on this intelligence to the Jedi, she will not trust the Empire to partner as equals.  This is more important than the Jedi; he thinks even her uncle would agree.

Jaina thinks it’s more likely Luke would want her to take it to the Council and trust the Masters to make the best decision.  The fact is that Luke isn’t in charge right now.  Kenth Hamner has given in to Daala’s demands so many times that she wonders if he wouldn’t turn everyone over to the GA.

Nevertheless, she promises she won’t tell.  She wouldn’t keep that secret for anyone else.

They are interrupted by the approach of a HoloNet news crew that includes Javis Tyrr.  Jag decides they need to leave.  He tells Jaina to grab his driver while he takes the wheel.  Exiting the vehicle, he’s surprised when Jaina suddenly tackles him, having heard a small click.   A small cleaning droid flies out of the vehicle which reveals to Jaina how Tyrr has been getting images rom inside the Temple.   She uses the Force to pull the droid to her over Tyrr’s protests and jumps back into the speeder.

They refuse to give it back, Jag pointing out that this type of spying is illegal in the Empire and is probably illegal here, too.  Captain Atar arrives and makes sure the Jedi aren’t harassing Tyrr.  Jag mentions that the reporter has been spying inside the Temple with an altered cleaning droid; Tyrr denies it.  Atar refuses to let Jaina leave and wants the droid, too.  Jaina reminds him that the droid is inside a diplomatic vehicle and is Imperial property now.  Atar gives up, but tells her that she won’t be able to hide behind her boyfriend forever.  Eventually, the Empire will join the GA and, when it does, his forces will be there.
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chapter 7:

Bazel Warv, though comatose, is having convulsions which have caused damage to many of the vehicles in the hangar.  The two apprentices at the entrance have tried to help.  Melari Ruxton apologizes for hitting Barv with a second tranquilizer dart when he kept trying to get up.  Leia and Han assure her that she did the right thing.  If she hadn’t, Barv could have recovered and run outside.

The other apprentice, Reeqo, agrees that he’d rather be in a comfortable cell in the Temple than hanging somewhere in carbonite.  Leia realizes the impact all this has had on young Jedi, having to worry if or when they will be the next ones to go berserk.  She tells them that Cilghal will find out the origin of this sickness.  Barv and the others will recover and he will thank them for keeping out of carbonite.  

Han seconds that, telling them that anything is better than being frozen in carbonite, especially if there’s no way to get out.  They seem to understand.  Leia has them work on getting Yaqeel prepped for Cilghal.

That’s when Kenth Hamner arrives.  He’s angry that there’s a GAS squad out there demanding the release of Barv.  Han and Leia explain that Barv and Yaqueel succumbed to the sickness within minutes of each other.  Neither of them harmed anyone or caused significant damage before they were subdued.  The GAS never had them in custody.

Hamner points out that they ignored a GAS arrest warrant and did so on live holocam.  It makes the Order look bad, as if they are above the law.  Leia argues that the alternative is to have Yaqeel and Barv frozen in carbonite where Cilghal and Tekli can’t help them.  

When Cilghal and Tekli arrive, Cilghal objects to having either Jedi turned over to GAS, especially so that Hamner can score PR points.  She insists that the warrant is meritless.  It’s not just Hamner’s decision; it is the Council’s.   Until they get it sorted out, she’s taking her patients.

That’s when Han yells out that they’ve lost two more.  Melari’s and Reeqo’s robes and lightsabers are lying on the floor.  Hamner worries that they’ve now got to find them before the GAS does.  Cilghal assures him they are fine.  With the addition of Yaqeel and Barv, she can now statistically point to the young Jedi who were hidden at Shelter during the Vong war as the ones in danger.  It doesn’t seem any Jedi who were already adults are very susceptible to it, either.  

Hamner demands to know why the apprentices left if they aren’t ill.

Han ventures a guess that they seem to have quit.
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chapter 8:
 
The Eternal Crusader floats through the colorful whirls, searching for Ship. Vestara Khai reaches out and finds his presence.  The ship is basking in the Dark Side energy of a new entity, filled with hunger and longing.  She realizes that this Dark Side presence commanded Ship.
 
It will not return to her.  Lady Rhea’s executive officer, Yuvar Xal, questions whether Vestara can really sense Ship.  Vestara assures him it is Ship.  There is a great deal of political maneuvering on this vessel, something that all the Tribe must become adept at as it is part of their society.  Xal, the master of Vestara’s friend, Ahri, is, by nature, Rhea’s rival.  He is not yet adept enough to challenge her openly, but he could try to get to Rhea through killing Vestara surreptitiously.
 
They debate over whether or not Ship is leading them into a trap and wonder why it had led them into the Maw.  Vestara suddenly senses a dark hunger out here, a tentacle of need drawing her in and urging her to be safe here.  The bridge gasps collectively and she knows they sense it, too.
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chapter 9:
 
Luke and Ben are standing inside the chamber, watching floating bodies drift around them, but they are certainly living bodies.  As they break the seal, the odor of some decomposed bodies hits them, but it is largely drowned out by the overpowering scent of many that have remained unclean for a long time.
 
A large energy source seems to be fixed above, reminding them a bit of Glowpoint at the former Centerpoint Station.  Ben starts to lead the way in, then jumps back, telling his father that he thinks his old friend has found him.
 
Luke senses a cold tentacle of longing, urging him to surrender.  It feels ancient and powerful, something familiar, though, as if it knows him and wants his companionship.  They find Qwallo Mode bleeding nearby. 
 
Qwallo panics when he sees them.  Luke and Ben wonder if he might have been among the first to fall ill from the strange sickness that is befalling the young Jedi.  An old Gotal nearby wears tattered Jedi robes.  Luke tries to get him to help.
 
The Gotal explains he was once Seek Ryontarr whose name Luke recognizes from the Jedi holocron.  He had vanished while on a mission.  Ryontarr explains he finished his mission.  There are many things they do not understand here.  They should leave Qwallo alone, lest they do more harm than good.
 
There are blasters discharging in the room as some start shooting themselves.  The others explain that they are beyond the shadows now and it is nothing to die here.  It is terrible to live trapped in a body.  Ben guesses that they are meditating and that he and his father are interrupting that.
 
A man explains that they are Mind Walking, but that they are being interrupted.  When they are kept bound to their bodies, their awakening is disrupted.  Luke promises to leave them all alone, not sure he really understands, but asks Qwallo why he didn’t complete his own mission.
 
Qwallo explains he became confused, confirming that he thought he was being surrounded by imposters.  He knows better now.  Since he’s gone beyond shadows, he’s seen the truth.  None of them are real.  Only the Force is and it’s beautiful.
 
He fired on them to free them from their attachments to the physical world.  It’s their dreams that lead them astray, just as Jacen’s dreams led him astray.  He was convinced he had to return to the unreal galaxy.
 
The Aing Tii had told him the same thing they told Luke and Ben.  That the inhabitants here are Mind Drinkers.  Jacen came here to find the cold thing in the Force that he had sensed when he visited the Aing Tii. 
 
Luke surmises that Jacen didn’t find it, otherwise it wouldn’t have let him come back.  It’s confirmed that Jacen saw something dark coming that he believed only he could stop.   Luke remembers his own dark nightmares at the beginning of the last conflict during which he’d seen a dark figure whose identity remained a mystery until Jacen had taken the name of Darth Caedus.
 
Luke laments how he had let Jacen believe that the weight of the galaxy was his alone to bear.  He never should have let Jacen wander alone after all he’d suffered.  In doing so, Jacen became the darkness he’d feared.
 
The others tell him that Jacen’s motives were pure, so he himself didn’t become the darkness.  They can show him.  They can help him see what Jacen saw beyond the shadows.  When that happens, Luke can look into his heart.
 
Ben warns his father that Jacen is dead.  This is obviously some kind of lure.  Luke understands that, but hopes to understand Jacen better.  First, he wants to know what the people here want from him and Ben.
 
He realizes they are dangling Jacen in front of him.  They ask him if he can resist the temptation.  Knowing that the answers could be there, Luke decides he’s going in.  Ben will stay behind to fix the ship.  If something goes wrong, Ben must go back to Coruscant and tell the Masters what has happened.
 
Ben does ask the people here how long they have before the place blows up.  The alarms going off are a dead giveaway.  They are told the alarms have been going off for a little over two years now.  Since that coincides with the destruction of Centerpoint, it doesn’t make Luke or Ben feel any better.
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chapter 10:
 
Moff Lecersen can’t help but admire intelligence and ambition completely devoid of morality in Javis Tyrr.  He’s also quite irritated to see the footage of the Solos locking the GAS out of the Temple, hindering the same law they themselves always insist others follow.
 
Lecersen himself would like to be in a position to make sure Han Solo can never hold a blaster on him again as he had on the Anakin Solo.  Jagged Fel isn’t ruthless enough to head the Galactic Empire too much longer.  When he inevitably makes a mistake, Lecersen and several others will be waiting to plunge the dagger into his back.
 
Tyrr is sitting on Lecersen’s couch, sipping a drink.  The moff congratulates him on making the Solos look bad without revealing that there were no grounds for an arrest.  Tyrr assures him that not everything got on the air, but there’s a lot more of interest.  The rest of the recording reveals Jagged Fel revealing Daala’s plan to hire Mandalorians.  The cleaning droid fell into Fel’s hands.  This upsets Lecersen who warns Tyrr that the spy droid cannot be linked to the Imperials.
 
Tyrr also has footage of two former Jedi apprentices getting past security by telling the captain they have resigned from the order because they don’t like the way Daala is taking charge of everything.
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chapter 11:
 
The last of the Nexu cubs is named Anji.  Her quills have been dulled, her claws clipped and she wears a dental implant that prevents her from biting hard enough to draw blood.  The sight of her granddaughter with the cub makes Leia tear up as she remembers how good Jacen was with animals.  She cannot help but think of her grown up on a throne, surrounded by people of all kinds. 
 
Allana confesses her fear that she might go crazy the way Barv and Yaqeel did and be put in carbonite.  Han tells her that Anji would never let that happen to her.  Leia reveals that they’ve asked her mother to allow Allana to keep Anji as her pet.
 
In what has become a tradition, the three of them sit together and watch the Perre Needmo Newshour.  The elderly news anchor reports on the incident at the Jedi Temple where Han and Leia moved two Jedi suffering from paranoid delusions into the Temple where the the Jedi Council is debating the legal ramifications of honoring the warrant to turn the Jedi over to the GAS.
 
The news also reports the resignation of Melari Ruxon and Reeqo Swen, contemplating what a mass resignation of Jedi would do to the stability of the government.  Additionally, Chief Daala believes that Jedi should remain subject to government authority even after they resign in the same way that high –ranking military officers are.
 
This leads to the topic of the arrest of Tahiri Veila for killing Admiral Pellaeon.  Han turns the program off, leading Allana to question why this is upsetting news.  So far as Allana understands it, Tahiri worked for her father during the war and was the one responsible for killing Admiral Pellaeon.  She wasn’t a soldier and Admiral Pellaeon wasn’t taking sides yet, so Tahiri shouldn’t have killed him and should stand trial for it.
 
Han explains that Tahiri was spying for Jacen who told her to kill Admiral Pellaeon when he refused to bring in the Imperial Remnant on Jacen ‘s side.  She was just following orders. 
 
C-3PO arrives to explain that Wynn Dorvan is calling to speak with them.  The Solos know Dorvan who had been an honest bureaucrat during the time when Leia was Chief of State and had risen through the ranks steadily since then.
 
Dorvan wonders if the Jedi are trying to convince Daala she has no other choice but to hire a company of Mandalorians.  He’s trying to delay her, but she’s ordered funding to be secured ever since the two apprentices resigned.
 
It’s clear to him that Han and Leia know nothing about this.  It turns out that Dorvan had allowed Jagged Fel to overhear a conversation about Daala’s desire to hire Mandalorian mercenaries.  He assumed Fel would tell Jaina or the Solos themselves, given his relationship with Jaina.
 
That apparently hasn’t happened.  Dorvan believes it would be dangerous for the Jedi Order to disband and that is a very real possibility if Daala gets her way.  She would rather have them under her control, but will consider letting them go away, too.  Unlike her, though, Dorvan doesn’t thinks Sith are just Jedi in dark robes.  There are too many dark things in the galaxy, but not all of them are related to the Jedi.
 
He would like the Solos to use the information he’s given them and, by all means, pass it on.
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  • It was Jacen who envisioned his daughter sitting on a throne.  Granted, Leia has some experience with monarchy, but I find it odd that she would think of her granddaughter sitting on one, especially after all she has done to try to restore the Republic.

 
 

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chapter 12:
 
Ten minutes later, the Solos reach the Jedi Temple to find that Jaden Korr is the one guarding the entrance to the Council Chambers.  Two apprentices normally do this which leads the Solos to believe that Master Hamner doesn’t want to be bothered by them in particular.
 
He admits that he was told specifically not to let the Solos in.  Han and Leia tell him that they have information that the Masters may want to consider before making their decision about Barv and Yaqeel.  Korr reluctantly agrees to carry in the message for them.  They are upset to find that Hamner is now using the title Grand Master, on top of occupying Luke’s office.  Clearly, he has enough votes to do what he wants if he can get the Masters to do that.
 
Jaden explains it was felt that Hamner may be given a bit more consideration in the GA if it was felt the other Masters deferred to his judgment. 
 
Han takes Jaden aside and tells him that they have it on good authority that Daala is going to hire Mandalorians to deal with the Jedi.  Knowing the Council must hear this, he allows them in where they find a the Council in the middle of an argument.  Hamner and Katarn are glaring at each other, Saba looks incensed, Corran looks defeated and Kyp Durron is on his feet, pounding his fist.
 
Kyp is arguing that they should not allow Tahiri to be tried when she helped them win the war at Shedu Maad.  Kenth Hamner tries to be calm as he reminds Kyp that Tahiri’s turn at the end does not negate everything she did during the war, up to and including killing Pellaeon.
 
Kyp points out that a lot of killing occurred on both sides.  Cha Niathal was Jacen’s co-Chief of State and just as guilty, but isn’t being charged with anything.  Tahiri is clearly intended to be made an example of. 
 
Cilghal thinks Daala is getting her buttons pushed by the resignations of the two apprentices.  She wants to control the Jedi, not see them disband and roam the galaxy as free agents.
 
Kyp thinks they need to support Tahiri.  Saba agrees and feels Nawara Ven should be sent to represent her.  Katarn also thinks they should make sure the media is reminded that Cha Niathal worked with Daala after the Battle of Fondor and doesn’t seem to be held responsible for her actions during Jacen’s seizure of power.
 
In the meantime, the Solos’ revelation that Daala is putting together funding to hire a company of Mandalorians is stunning, but doesn’t change their minds about the arrest warrant for Barv and Yaqeel.
 
Saba explains that they need Leia to contact Queen Mother Tenel Ka for them.
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chapter 13:
 
Jaina disables the cleaning droid and determines how it works.  She just can’t figure out how Javis Tyrr got hold of such a sophisticated one.  A little more research determines Moff Lecersen to be the source.
 
She comms Jag and insists he come to the Temple right away.  Jaina wishes she knew how much of their conversation in the limo had been passed along to Tyrr.  Lowie would be able to help her with this, but then he would have to find out about the Mandalorian deal.
 
Her parents come in, looking unhappy.  They sit with her, not really interested in the news about the cleaning droid being the means by which Tyrr was getting images inside the Temple.  Leia explains that Jag has been keeping information from her about how Daala is going to hire Mandalorians.
 
Jaina tries to defend Jag’s precarious role as Head of State of the Empire, but that only leads Leia to realize that Jaina has known this news all along.  This upsets Han, who storms out and runs smack into Jag, coming to see Jaina.
 
Leia explains that her daughter seems to think that he had a good reason for staying quiet, but he may want to avoid the Temple for awhile.  Jag agrees, but would like to speak with Jaina.
 
He knows Jaina didn’t tell them. She admits she doesn’t know how they knew about the Mandalorians, but shows him the evidence she found inside the cleaning droid.  Even Jag recognizes it as being linked to Lecersen.
 
She thinks he should show it to Daala and hope it does some good.
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chapter 14:
 
Vestara can feel Ship out in the jungle, but he doesn’t want the Tribe here.  He’s taught them what they need to know to restore the Sith Empire.  Abandoning him here is not within their orders, though.  The Eternal Crusader has been sent to find Ship and return him to Kesh.
 
Vestara admits to Lady Rhea that Ship is trying very hard to push them back.  This planet, sadly, is not the type of place that they would prefer to be.  Having brought Xal on the landing party so she could keep an eye on him, Rhea contacts Crusader to have it prepare a tractor beam when they find Ship.
 
Rhea tells her landing party that one of them will find Ship and will have to have the force of Will to keep it from fleeing.  Whoever finds it must contact her at once.
 
They’ve already lost four members of the party to the carnivorous plants on this world.  Rhea warns them all that, if they must die, do so quietly if they want their family to be spared punishment.
 
Soon enough, a Sith Saber is taken by dangerous vines.  As she doesn’t even whimper when pulled to her death, Rhea has Vestara make a note that the Saber’s son, a Tyro, find his Master when they return.
 
She tells Xal that Vol doesn’t care who finds the Ship only that someone does.  If he or Ahri find it, Rhea will only mention their names in her report.  If someone else does, she’ll be sure to mention their names regardless.  It’s likely Xal may find some way to betray that agreement, but for now, their mission takes precedence over politics.
 
He and Ahri move out then, defending themselves against the world’s plant-life.  Seeing where the attacks originated from, Vestara follows, using her lightsaber and glass parang to slash at anything within a meter of her.  Lady Rhea follows, saving Vestara from a near-fatal step that would have sent her upon some poisoned barbs.
 
This world is strong in the Force, but clearly hazardous. Doubtless, Ship came here for a reason.  Vestara doesn’t think Ship wants them here, but Lady Rhea believes this is a test to make sure they are worthy of the Return.
 
The native Keshiri believe that a group of beings called Destructors return every few eons to wipe out civilization and return all beings to their original primitive states.  The Lost Tribe had landed on Kesh and had been greeted as the Protectors destined to defend Kesh when the Destructors returned.
 
The Tribe had taken advantage of this belief but had found archaeological evidence over the centuries that gave credence to the the myths.  However, Vestara wonders if this is the home of the Destructors.
 
Ship might have been working for them all along, hoping to preempt the destiny of the Lost Tribe by luring them here.  Rhea thinks that’s an interesting thought, but Ship has only helped their destiny.  They were trapped on Kesh until Ship arrived, now they are stronger, roaming the galaxy.  And only one frigate is here, not the whole Tribe.
 
Still, sometimes enemies have foolish notions and she doesn’t want Vestara keeping her own counsel when something may be of benefit, so long as she doesn’t voice her concerns in front of others.
 
Vestara does sense Ahri waiting ahead.  It seems Xal has abandoned the path Rhea assigned him and moved on.  She thought Xal had accepted the deal.  Rhea admits that she offered the deal, knowing he wouldn’t honor it, but now he’s playing her game which is beneficial.
 
And Ahri is Vestara’s friend which is no doubt why Xal chose him as an apprentice.  Doubtless, he’d hoped that he would gain some insight into Rhea’s way of thinking by having his apprentice a close friend of her own.  She knows that Vestara has never told Ahri about her Master which is why he’s such a disappointment to Xal.
 
However, it might be nice to progress her relationship with Ahri along. After all, Xal will be coming for Vestara and it would be nice to have a little warning.  Vestara goes up ahead, finds Ahri who explains that Xal went into the cave to bring back Ship himself.  Ahri was supposed to warn him when Rhea and Vestara arrived, but he can’t sense anything.
 
There’s something inside that cave that is not Xal nor Ship.  Rhea appears then and Ahri confirms that Xal is inside the cave.  They walk in to find Xal cocooned inside some grey silk.
 
Ahri cuts through it and Xal falls to the ground.  Vestara turns herself around to find a beautiful woman staring at her.  Ahri jumps in front, slashing into the woman only to find himself pushed back into the cave wall.
 
Vestara leaps in to attack, but is pulled up into the air, staring into the mystery woman’s gray eyes before being tossed to the floor.  She wonders if Ship brought them here to free the Destructors.
 
The woman apologizes, stating that she wasn’t sure any of them were real.
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chapter 15:
 
Luke remains a manifestation of Force energy that is more real than the body he’s left in the meditation chamber.  Time goes by slowly and it’s hard to tell how much has passed.  Seek Ryontarr leads Luke into the meditation. 
 
When Luke feels his body fall away, anything inanimate appears in shadow.  Seek explains that the gatherers here come from all belief systems in the Force.  Many from places that believe the Force is a rainbow, with multiple aspects.  However, Seek tells Luke that there is only one Force and many ways to see it.
 
The Force will sustain his body so long as part of him still inhabits it.  Some here have emaciated forms that only indicate they’ve lost their attachment to physical things.  Returning to his body is easy; it’s leaving that’s hard.
 
Luke knows they aren’t telling him the whole truth, however, this is how he must find Jacen’s path.  They walk him toward the purple light and a tentacle of light touches his chest, leaving him without fear or pain.  At the Font of Power, he is urged to drink of it and have the strength that can accomplish anything.
 
He finds, however, that the font is imbued with Dark Side energy.  Of all people, Ryontarr should understand that.  The old Jedi, however, tells him that drinking of it will save the Jedi Order from extinction.
 
Luke believes that drinking from the fountain will only make the Jedi Order dependent on him to save it.  He must let it go through the struggle without him.  Luke tells Ryontarr that the Jedi Order is strong enough to save itself.
 
He does wonder, however, if Jacen did drink from it.  He reaches the basin, a dark cloud emerging from it, forming a human head.  Cold tentacles of nothingness reaches out to him, wrapping itself around him.  He tries to pull away, but only pulls it along with him.  Or rather, pulls her along with him.  It is clearly a she with a broad smile and stubby arms that end in tentacles.  She calls his name and beckons him to come.
 
He steps backward.  That wasn’t Jacen.  He’s told that Jacen wasn’t even tempted. However, Luke did the right thing and, in the end, that’s what’s important.
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chapter 16:
 
Two Mind Walkers, siblings, Rolund and Rhondi Tremaine, wait with Ben aboard the Jade Shadow, eating.  He doesn’t blame them for wanting food, but, if they don’t slow down, the Shadow will have to reprovision when it leaves this place. 
 
The inhabitants calls this Sinkole Station.  He’s learning a lot from the Tremaines, but doesn’t entirely trust them.  His father’s IV nozzle keeps falling out of his mouth and puts him at risk of being dehydrated.  The Tremaines look rather guilty at this news which rather confirms to Ben that one of them is removing it.
 
They don’t seem as interested in killing Luke as in letting him die.  There is a difference and Ben suspects that it will help him figure out what the Mind Walkers are doing here.  He’s already learned that the siblings were born in the Maw at a secret colony Daala had established near the end of the warlord era.  Force-sensitive, they were deemed unfit for military service and had been groomed for intelligence work instead. 
 
They’d been sent out to spy and did well enough to keep the colony supplied and growing while she assembled her fleet in secrecy.  During the Second Civil War, the Force-sensitive agents started suffering terrible longings to return home.  The agents became paranoid and deserted, following an urge to go to the heart of the Maw at Sinkhole Station.
 
The others were just strong Force-sensitives who had been drawn to the Maw and lived an ascetic existence communing with the Force presence here.  Then, a couple of years ago, they started to see the truth that all life is an illusion.  Their presences began leaving their bodies as they meditated, going to a place with no pain or suffering. 
 
Ben suspects that the destruction of Centerpoint changed something important in the Maw that rippled across the galaxy, affecting the minds of hundreds of Force-sensitives.  It bothers him greatly, knowing that he had lived in the Maw for two years.
 
He asks them why they don’t want his father on an IV.  They are evasive, but tell him that the Force will sustain Luke and he doesn’t really need one.  Ben knows better than this, pointing out that neither of them would be eating the ship’s stores dry if that were true.
 
He challenges them to return to their former position beyond the shadows and not eat or drink anything else.  If they last more than a week, he’ll believe them.
 
He doesn’t want to be paranoid, but the frightening thought occurs to him that all the Mind Walkers may need to die if he’s to save his father.  It’s a crazy notion, but very little seems crazy here in the Maw.
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chapter 17:

Jagged Fel arrives at Tahiri Veila’s arraignment and offered a seat next to Chief Daala.  He sees the Solos in the spectator seats, sitting far from Jaina.  He feels badly about the rift in their family, but his duties to the Empire didn’t give him much of a choice. 
 
Still, none of them would have missed the arraignment.  Jag knows how close they’ve been to Tahiri since the death of their son Anakin.  A combination of what she meant to him, guilt over how Jacen had manipulated her and gratitude about her change of heart that had saved lives at the end of the war probably brought them here.
 
Jag is here, hoping to persuade Daala to drop the charges.  It’s the right thing to do and helping Tahiri might redeem him in the eyes of his future in-laws.  He admits to Daala that he believes using the judicial system as a political weapon is tantamount to tyranny.
 
The Judge, Arabelle Lorteli, arrives, presider over the Court of Jedi Affairs.  Lorteli immediately comments on the number of spectators that surprises her, wondering if her own reputation precedes her.  It’s obvious, however, that it’s not the case.  Jag immediately worries about the abilities of this particular judge.
 
Lorteli amends her statement to explain that she had wondered why a simple arraignment would be so interesting.  Nawara Ven jumps in to offer that the public is outraged at this blatant abuse of political power.
 
Lorteli goes on to ask Nawara who he is, resulting in his telling her that she knows exactly who he is as he’s appeared before her a dozen times this week.  She moves on to question him about how the clients have all been Jedi.  They are doubtlessly paying him for his services, as well as for defending Tahiri.
 
Nawara assures her the Jedi have discussed no payment with him and he assumes Tahiri will be paying for her own legal fees.  The judge questions Tahiri about her past as a Jedi.  Nawara objects that it has no bearing.  Lorteli overrules him because she hasn’t yet accepted him as Tahiri’s representative and may not.
 
Jagged turns to Daala and tells her that anyone can see she is trying to force her own will and not the law here.  Even the Senate has noticed that Cha Niathal, with whom Daala worked closely during the war, hasn’t been brought up on charges.  This looks like she’s repaying a political favor to one culprit while making an example of another.
 
Daala seems concerned about this.  He advises her to dismiss the charges against Tahiri and try Jedi through a regular court system. If she wants Jedi to obey the same laws as everyone else, the only way to show that she is genuine in her claims to make the GA a just society is to stop using the courts to enforce her political views.
 
He also shows her the recording device inside the cleaning droid Jaina captured.  He explains that Lecersen gave it to Javis Tyrr so that he could get images from inside the Jedi Temple.    He’s been playing her and the Jedi against each other and he’s probably not the only one.

Daala suggests he handle this then.  Jag realizes she’s not giving up this pursuit of the Jedi.  She tells him that no one planted the idea of bringing the vigilantes under control in her mind.  It’s time someone stopped the power struggles that inevitably causes problems for everyone else.
 
Jag assures her that the threat of the Sith is real and the Jedi are needed to keep them at bay.  Daala agrees on the first point, but reminds him that history has proven that it’s the Jedi who need to be watched if protection against the Sith is needed.
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            •    A couple of things here.  First of all, Jag is right in that, if the Jedi are to follow the same laws, they need to be tried by the same courts.  This special Court of Jedi Affairs is unnecessary and a blatant political move.  That being said, I do agree with Daala that Tahiri needs to be brought to justice.  I do understand her past history, her manipulation by Jacen and all that fun stuff.  But as Fyor Rodan and Daala herself tried to explain to Luke, you cannot have Jedi wandering around the galaxy, doing whatever they want, with no accountability when they commit horrible crimes. 
 
 

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chapter 18:
 
Abeloth lives in a cave on the side of the volcano, living here because she loves the water and because the plants are not so dangerous here.  She takes the search party down to the river every morning to splash in the water and bask on the beach.  In her presence, the carnivorous plants never attacked.
 
To be honest, the party, though still searching for Ship, would rather be here in the protection of Abeloth.  Vestara knows they should be concerned, but the respite is nice.  When she receives the summons through the Force from Lady Rhea, she is with Ahri, taking advantage of her master’s urging to spend more time with him.  Of course, he asks leading questions that Vestara is careful in answering.
 
She has not revealed that nothing has be felt from Ship since the day they were led into Abeloth’s cave.  In fact, Abeloth herself is standing on the boulder as though she were in charge.  Her features change often, nose, hair color, eye color, to match someone with whom she’s spent time. 
 
Lady Rhea explains that their efforts have failed and they are going back to the ship.  They are to gather their things and head to the shuttle.  Abeloth can’t believe they’re going without Ship.
 
Rhea explains that they are running low on fuel and supplies.  Abeloth intimates that Lord Vol will be unhappy.  Rhea would have thought that someone marooned here for 30 years would be happy to get back to civilization.  Abeloth admits that’s true, but she doesn’t want her new friends to return to condemnation for their failure.
 
Vestara knows that the acquisition of Abeloth will make up for Ship.  They all know that Abeloth is not an ordinary woman.  There are times that she is more like Force energy that takes the form of a woman.  Other times, she appears to be exactly what she claims to be: a lonely castaway who’d assumed she was hallucinating when Ahri and Vestara entered her cave.
 
Still, there are questions that Abeloth has not answered well.  She’s not explained how she was able to imprison Xal or why she claimed not to sense Ship near her home but accepted that it had led the Tribe here.
 
Vestara gets Ship in her mind again.  It warns her she shouldn’t have come because now she can never leave.  She doesn’t tell Lady Rhea this when the decision has already been made to leave, but the Crusader comms the Master to tell her they’re tracking Ship now.
 
Rhea sends the party in ascribed directions.  Abeloth follows Lady Rhea, Vestara close behind, taking advantage of Abeloth’s presence to concentrate on Ship and not the dangerous plants.
 
She knows Ship wants to obey her, but cannot because he’s afraid of a much stronger power. 
 
Lady Rhea falls into a crimson whirlpool.  Abeloth urges Vestara to continue, but Vestara knows she cannot let Rhea die.  Xal would become mission commander and her life would be forfeit for certain.  She dives in and frees Rhea from a large plant growth.  This is too suspicious.  No plant life bothers them in Abeloth’s presence.  Vestara is certain they have been betrayed. 
 
At the surface, Rhea promises her anything for rescuing her.  Vestara would rather leave the river alive.  Ahri uses the Force to bring them to the shore, his master fuming.  Abeloth stands behind them, looking far more menacing than the beatific being she’s been.
 
She, however, is the only one who sees Abeloth this way.  While Rhea gets a lightsaber salvaged from one of the fallen, Vestara spots Ship coming.  She asks why he betrayed them.  He explains he was commanded to and had to obey.  She tells him to come to her now and take them back to Kesh.
 
Ship approaches, but streaks low over their heads, telling Vestara that her strength in the Force pales in comparison.  As the Sith rush across the river after Ship, Abeloth puts her slimy tentacles around Vestara, offering to lead her safely across.
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chapter 19:
 
Everyone knows that the blockhouse across from the Galactic Justice Center is actually a secret prison.  Kyp thinks it’s a psychological deterrent.    Cilghal agrees, but isn’t sure that’s where Valin and Jysella are being held.  Jaina thinks it is as Daala is trying to do everything by the book.  They have the writ which Saba wants Jaina to keep as it is her plan.
 
Actually, it was Jag’s plan, but she didn’t mention that.  The masters are already upset at his willingness to withhold the Mandalorian deal from them.  He’s not allowed to enter the Temple anymore and, while Jaina hasn’t been banned from seeing him, she has been encouraged to rethink whether or not a Jedi should be married to the Imperial Head of State.
 
The cinch in the plan is that the Horns are here and it’s asking a lot of them to expect them to look upon their entombed children.  Jaina goes inside first, spots Javis Tyrr and the other media who had only needed to find that the Horns and several Jedi were gathering in front of the building.
 
It takes a moment for the officers pretending this is a storage facility to admit that this is a secret prison.  Jaina produces the writ that allows Valin and Jysella to receive visitors.  GAS shows up, conveniently under the supervision of Captain Atar.
 
He tries to delay them, but her writ alows immediate access just the same as any other facility.  Javis Tyrr is interested to find out if Atar is trying to claim that GA Security is not bound by judicial writs.
 
Atar assures them he will escort the visitors himself.  They note that the Horn siblings are not being held in the infirmary section but in the executive offices.  In fact, Jaina and the Masters know exactly what that means.  Atar does try to prevent the media from going with Corran, Mirax and the Jedi, but Tyrr is easily manipulated into wanting to know what Daala is trying to hide.
 
In the executive officers, the Jedi, the Horns, the embarrassed security and the news media find exactly what Jaina knew they would.  Valin and Jysella’s carbonite forms are hanging on the wall of the director’s office right above an aquarium just as much a form of decoration as Jaina’s father had been for Jabba decades ago.
 
The director, Colonel Retk, insists he wanted them here so he could personally see to their maintenance, but no one believes that, particularly Mirax who knocks him unconscious. The GAS wants to take her into custody, but the Masters aren’t folding.  Jaina finds Tyrr, offers him a scan of the writ if he will just ask one question.
 
He quickly scans it with his recorder and runs off while Jaina shows the others the writ, too.  Tyrr puts his microphone in the face of the GAS security captain and asks her if the GAS is going to file charges against a mother who slapped a Yaka three times her size after finding out he was using her children as office décor.
 
Chief of State Daala appears and announces that won’t happen.  Wynn Dorvan is at her heels as she explains that Mirax’s grief is both understandable and forgivable.  She then goes on to say that the Jedi barging into a detention center is not. 
 
Jaina produces the writ signed by a legitimate judge.  Daala intimates that the Jedi Mind Trick could easily have resulted in a legal document being signed.  Tyrr points out that the writ was signed by Arabelle Lorteli, head of the Jedi Affairs Court, and an appointee of Daala herself.
 
Daala assures them she has every confidence in Lorteli’s abilities and is just as concerned about the public institutions disregarding laws as she is the Jedi disregarding them. 
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          •    I’m really surprised that the reporters there didn’t question Daala more.  If she believes the writ to have been signed as a result of a Jedi Mind Trick on a weak-minded judge, then she’s saying that her own appointee is weak-minded.  What would that say about Tahiri’s ability to get a fair trial?  If she were to be exonerated, would Daala claim that Tahiri used the Force to influence Lorteli?  If Lorteli is not weak-minded, then the writ is legal and the Jedi did nothing wrong despite Daala’s assertion that they did.  What does it say about the rights of the Jedi being respected if they’re going to be accused of getting their legal documents by manipulating the Force? 
 

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chapter 20:
 
Though surrounded by ysalamiri, Leia cannot help but feel that something as they prepare to move their three Jedi patients.  Han notes that there are a couple of expensive rental vehicles near the grungy-low-price hostel nearby.  One obviously doesn’t go with the other.
 
Leia doesn’t think it’s logical for Daala to be using high-tech surveillance on them, but a lot has happened lately that she wouldn’t have thought possible.  Han doesn’t think it’s GAS anyway.  Daala has called most of them back to her hidden prison, fearing Jaina is going to try to rescue Valin and Jysella.
 
She takes after her father that way.  Though Han is still miffed that Jaina didn’t tell them about the Mandos and at Jag for making her promise not to, Leia is more conciliatory.  She remembers falling in love with a man with different loyalties than her own.  Gradually, Han’s values came more in line with hers and they were able to work out the rest.
 
That may not happen with Jag who has built his life around his personal honor.  To ask him to turn his back on his current duties to the Imperial Remnant would be like asking him to stop being himself.  Jaina’s loyalties may have to start merging with Jag which means she may move further away from her parents and the Jedi.
 
Han worries more that the BeamStreak vehicles parked on the hostel’s roof are more indicative of someone offworld.  It could be the Mandos.  This is sooner than expected and not convenient as the intent is to move the Jedi patients to Shedu Maad and out of Daala’s reach.
 
Right now, Tekli, Raynar, Jaden Korr and Avinoam Arelis are carefully moving Bazel Warv out.  Leia can feel through the Force that the BeamStreaks are being used as an observation post.
 
It’s also very possible that Daala has given the Mando team some advanced wallscopes that would allow them to see through the FloatVans leaving.  Since Fleet Command doesn’t even have those, it could be considered a treasonable offense.  Leia doesn’t think there’s any reason for them to set up across from the mirrorfield facing this side of the Temple unless they have a way to see through it.
 
When Leia is sure that they are being observed through the walls, Han decides to get some Jedi to help as backup.  They will have to take out any vessels on the roof to keep from being followed.  Soon, Leia can sense about half-a-dozen presences coming from the hostel.
 
They are fired upon first.  Leia and Han try to deal with the Mando threat, but Leia realizes that they will try to grab the wallscope so there’s no evidence Daala supplied them with the technology.  Bazel is becoming uncooperative with all the shooting going on.  Leia tells Tekli to leave without him if she has to.
 
Sure enough, the Mandos leave behind a comrade who sacrifices himself so they can grab the wallscope.  Han, Jaden and Avinoam try to fight the rest but are distracted when Bazel Warv tumbles in and tries to help.  He rushes off, Jaden and Avinoam after him.
 
He grabs a Mandalorian, his fingers crushing through the beskar in a way that even his great strength shouldn’t be able to accomplish.  When the two Jedi approach him, he tosses the Mando aside without even a hole in the beskar’gam.
 
He turns to Leia and recognizes her.  He warns her to stay away from Jaden and Avinoam.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t think and assures him that the two Jedi are fine.  He accuses her of working with them.  Raynar tells him that they all  are working together.  They are taking Yaqeel away.  If Barv doesn’t want anything to happen to her, he will have to get into the FloatVan, too.
 
Still loyal enough not to leave his friend behind, Barv groans and lets the others load him into the van and into a stasis bed.  Leia suggests Raynar may be helpful at Shedu Maad.  Raynar isn’t sure he’s ready to leave the Temple yet.
 
Besides, anyone can manipulate the stricken Jedi.  It’s just a matter of working within their reality which thinks of the Jedi as evil.  Since Daala probably already know they’re moving, Han and Leia have to get on their way.  Jaden and Avinoam are left to deal with the mess.
 
They’ll have to come up with a way to explain the dead Mandalorian with the intact armor.  This is not something Jacen ever demonstrated an ability to do.  She’s never even heard of such a talent.  Raynar admits the Killiks have.  They used the Force to change the state of matter when they created the Maw.
 
Leia asks if it was the Killiks or the Celestials.  Raynar tells her it depends on whose reality she’s in.  The important thing is that Bazel seems to be able to do it.
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chapter 21:
 
Luke cannot measure time at all, but he knows she is here.  It’s that familiar presence calling to him, desperate and hungry.  They are in the front of a grotto.  His escorts remind him that Jacen went inside, but that doesn’t mean Luke has to.
 
Luke admits that, at his age, intense feelings of this kind are always more welcome than frightening.  They are in a world where the jungle rises all around them.  Luke gets the feeling they are moving much more slowly here in order to savor their surroundings.
 
Ryontarr wonders if Luke fears the cause of the feelings.  After all, he lost his wife not long ago.  Luke knows that Mara would never exhibit the selfish cravings he’s feeling from inside. 
 
On the other hand, she is dead and who knows what that means.  He isn’t sure he would want to see what’s left of her vibrant soul.  He is told to go inside and bathe in the pool to get the answers he seeks.
 
Knowing that he will have to find the answers, he goes inside.  In the reflection, he sees his face, withered and dying.  Ryontarr explains that is the husk of his physical body.  A woman nearby that resembles the phantom from the Font of Power appears. 
 
She reaches for Luke, somehow so familiar to him.  He’s compelled to wonder if this is where the afterlife begins, wanting to know who she is, what happened to Jacen and what would become of Ben.  He doesn’t know any of this, but he does know that Jacen made a choice here that was his undoing. 
 
He backs away, refusing to approach the female voice anymore.  He tells his escorts that he is only willing to follow Jacen so far.  He is told that Jacen didn’t bathe in the pool either.  He didn’t want to know everything, least of all become a Celestial.
 
However, he did stay at the pool until he had seen what he came to see.  Ryontarr invites Luke to have another look.  Luke won’t tolerate any more delays.  He knows they are trying to keep him here.  Luke demands to know what they think is going to happen in there.  He hasn’t believed they are just trying to help him since he started.
 
The escorts explain that she may be hiding from Luke.  Luke asks if they may the phantasm.  They assure him that she is no phantom, but very real.  He should look for the Throne of Balance on which sits the course of the future.
 
Luke peers into the water until he sees a white throne in a lit chamber surrounded by hundreds of beings of many different species.  A tall woman with red hair stands at the center of the crowd, looking very much like Tenel Ka.  He knows that this is Allana.
 
Luke doesn’t understand why Jacen would be bothered by his daughter building a throne of peace in the future. He’s told that Jacen didn’t see that.  He saw a dark man in armor sitting on a golden throne surrounded by acolytes.
 
No one knows whose face he saw, but he saw someone and it frightened him enough to leave.  He left the Maw, saying he had to change what he saw and it would probably kill him.
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           •    We know Jacen saw a vision of Allana on a throne later on in the LotF series.  Leia also thought of Allana in this way in an earlier chapter of this book.
           •    That Luke now knows that Jacen saw a vision that he felt evoked a dark future and that he was the only one who could change it, should fit in with all else that Luke knows about Jacen.  Really, he has all the information he needs about how Jacen fell.  I don’t understand why he can’t put the pieces together and realize it himself.
 

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chapter 22:
 
Ben makes as many preparations as he can considering that Sinkhole Station may blow up at any moment.  He doesn’t know how much longer his father can last.  The guides died a week ago.  Rhondi sits nearby, looking healthy, cuffed to a floor beam.
 
She asks what he’s doing.  He doesn’t really know yet.  He promised his father that he would not go beyond the shadows and that he’s supposed to report back to the Masters.  That had been before the paranoid delusions started.  His thoughts haunt him with accusations that they are both in danger.  Still, he knows the Mind Walkers are trying to kill them.
 
No one has attacked him, but they’ve done other things.  The medsupplies on the Shadow have been depleted.  The foodstuffs are gone.  Ben has had to loot the other ships in the hangar for sustenance.  The water has been reduced due to so many that have drank and left.
 
Rolund is welded inside a sleeping cabin triggered with a tamper guard.  It’s really not all that healthy, but it is necessary if Ben has to go through with his plans.  He cannot return to Coruscant alone in his delusional state.  If he even remembers to report his father’s situation, he wouldn’t be believed anyway.
 
Rhondi implores him to at least bring him in here so Rolund can see the meditation chamber and bring himself beyond the shadows.  Otherwise, he will starve to death.  Ben reminds her that if Ben dies beyond the shadows, then Rolund will die, too.  This makes it important that Ben does not die.
 
He rigs some IV bags to himself and tells her that Rolund has enough food and water to last a month.  He wants Rhondi to tell him what to do.  She begins the meditations and takes him through the steps until they walk together toward the light.
 
A voice calls to him.  He releases Rhondi’s hand and finds he’s no longer possessed by the same sense of urgency as before.  He knows his life is in danger and his father is growing weak, but those concerns are far behind.
 
He stops by his father’s side at the lake.  There is a female human ahead of them.  Ben marvels at the trip. Luke reminds him he wasn’t supposed to find out.  Neither of them seems particularly concerned.  Ben admits he felt that people were trying to kill him.  Seeing as how everyone from Shelter seems to have the same feeling, he isn’t sure going to Coruscant would have been helpful.
 
Luke reminds him that they are really in danger so that doesn’t mean Ben is paranoid. Besides, his escorts have been trying to trap him since they left.  He’s still here because he has a few questions.  Rhondi doesn’t want to wait.  She tells Ben that she kept her part of the bargain and they need to go back now.
 
Ben tells his father that they really need to go now because he’s dying.  Luke wants to know first why his guides have been trying to trick him.  If they don’t,  he’s leaving now.  Ryontarr points to the lady in the mist.  Ben would rather not as he thinks she’s what was reaching out to him while he was at Shelter.
 
Luke wants to know what she wants.  She may be the key to what happened to Jacen and to what is currently happening to their young Jedi Knights.  Ben will not leave without his father.
 
Rhondi leads him into the water.  They explain to him that this is the Lake of Apparitions.  There are images of many different beings of different species.  At the other end is the Mirror of Remembrance.  The guides lead them through the water, cautioning them about falling into the Depths of Eternity where even they cannot pull a victim back.
 
As the group moves forward, Ben looks down, careful where he steps, then stops when he sees Anakin Solo’s face looking up at him.  Luke is shocked to see his nephew.  Anakin tells Ben to learn from his mistakes.  Ben admits he’s learned from the example Anakin set.  To be honest, his sacrifice was a terrible blow to the Jedi Order.
 
Anakin is concerned. No one Jedi should be the Order’s light.  Each one must be his own shining luminescence.  Too much died with him because the Jedi put their hopes in him.  He tells Ben not to let anyone push him into being anyone more than he is.
 
Luke thanks him for his wise words and for saving the Jedi Order.  Anakin reminds him he wasn’t alone and asks about Tahiri.  Ben tells him that she will be alright.  Anakin wants her to know he still loves her.  He also tells Luke that there’s not much time left.
 
He sinks into the water.  Luke can’t say whether it was a Force Ghost or not.  But it was Anakin. 
 
The continue on before Luke’s leg drops to the thigh.  Ben grabs him, looking down to where Luke is peering and sees what his father sees.  His mother.  Mara Jade Skywalker floats up and tells them that neither of them should be here.
 
They want to know what this place is.  She expects it’s different for every person.  For her, it’s a place of reflection.  There are things that still cause her pain.  Though she left her life with Palpatine behind a long time ago, she’s not led a noble life entirely.  She went after Jacen as a killer, not a Jedi.  He wasn’t a Sith Lord then and that isn’t even why she did it.
 
She wants Ben to learn from her actions.  It’s not the result but the action.  Jacen had noble goals, believing he was doing what was good for the galaxy.  His actions were horrible.  Nothing can change that.  The stain caused by him last even if the galaxy is now at peace.  It darkens him for eternity.
 
She will be at peace as long as Ben lives a good life.  Now, they both have to go.  She tells Luke to forget about the woman.  She’s one of the old ones.  
 
Luke will not go back.  Rhondi tries to pull him back, telling him that, if his own wife didn’t want him going into the Mists of Forgetfulness, then he should honor her request.  Luke wants Ben to go back to the Shadow.
 
Ben refuses to leave his father behind.  If they go, they go together.  But no more stops.  They’ll be here forever if Luke insists on stopping and talking to every dead person he knows.
 
They travel along before Luke stops again.  Looking down, Ben sees the Solo nose, the brown hair and the yellow Sith eyes.  He has no desire to speak to Darth Caedus, but, when Luke says Jacen’s name, the eyes turn brown and he floats up.  Jacen tells him that he’s not asking for forgiveness..
 
He brought no anger or hate with him here and he forgives Jaina.  Ben doesn’t know what Jaina would need forgiveness for.  Luke stops his son from continuing his rebuke.  Ben knows that his father has been preparing to encounter Jacen from the beginning.  This isn’t a good idea.  Nothing his cousin will say will be the truth.
 
It is clear that Jacen doesn’t believe anything he did was wrong.  Luke does, however, want to ask him what he saw when he looked into the Pool of Knowledge.  Jacen asks who he saw.  Luke admits he saw Allana surrounded by beings from all over the galaxy, looking very happy.
 
Jacen doesn’t think it matters who he saw then.  It wasn’t Luke, though.  Luke tells him that it wasn’t.  Ben realizes he’s lying.  Ben does, however, want to tell Jacen he forgives him.  Jacen tells him that he’s released a burden and to go with the Force.
 
Ben tells him to do the same.  Jacen reminds him that he’s already with the Force.  He wants to know if Ben has a question for him.  Ben did, but he didn’t want Jacen to think he was buying an answer.
 
Jacen tells him that he can’t help him because he doesn’t know who the woman is.  However, it he keeps walking, he could find out.  They’ve got all the time in the universe.  Ben tells him to have a peaceful whatever.
 
Jacen supplies the word damnation.
 
Knowing that if Jacen tells them they have all the time in the universe, they really don’t.  Luke decides it’s time to leave.
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           •    Anakin doesn’t seem like an altered version of himself.  Mara doesn’t seem like an altered version of herself either.  Jacen is vague, haughty, encourages Ben to use his anger and isn’t sorry for what he did.  If this place doesn’t alter the person, then it would seem that Jacen really didn’t become himself when he died.  There is no redemption.  Jacen admits himself that he is damned.
          •    As for Mara telling Luke that Jacen wasn’t a Sith Lord when she hunted him down, I’m not sure how accurate that is.  In my opinion, there wasn’t much to distinguish him beyond the fact that he hadn’t made that so-called needed sacrifice and taken his Sith name.  I’m still not clear on what difference that made.
 

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chapter 23:
 
In the Millennium Falcon, Allana straps in wearing a vac suit and a battle harness.  It breaks Han’s heart that his granddaughter is having to learn the ways of the galaxy so early, but Tenel Ka feels that the heiress to the Hapan throne must do just that.
 
He cannot help but think back on his children and how they grew up too fast, drawn by a destiny while they were still too young.  She is helping him boot up the Falcon for their trip to Shedu Maad.
 
Leia is taking another ship with the Jedi patients.  In the gun turrets, Dordi and Zal, former members of Saba’s Wild Knights squadron, wait.   Wilyem is in the tail. 
 
The Falcon, under the guise of Longshot, takes off quickly, attracting the attention of Galactic City ATC.  He explains to Allana that they need to at least make Daala feel like they think she’s smart when they take off.  She’ll send everything she’s got after the Falcon and that’s when Grandma will get away in the Gizer’s Gut.
 
Allana tells him he’s trying to flatter Chief Daala.  Grandma always tells her that a smart woman never believes it when someone flatters her. 
 
She’d rather have a backup plan. Han tells her that her grandmother is in charge of those.
 
GC ATC demands they proceed to an impound station, but Han takes off quickly.  He has Allana change the ship’s transponder codes to put it under a different name.  The pursuers are not fooled by the name Star Princess
 
Han tells the Barabels to activate their targeting computers, but they cannot hit anything.  The starfighters pursuing them get hit with StealthXs, something Han claims no knowledge of. 
 
He does, of course, know what’s going on.  He has Wilyem drop a low-powered proton torpedo and detonates it.  Han claims that one of the starfighters pursuing him caused a hull breach and the ship is out of control.  The squadron commander doesn’t believe him until he says he has his young daughter aboard.  Allana screams on cue and Threepio doesn’t have to be prompted to fret.
 
They send rescue ships, but Han tells them that his damage control team is bringing things under control.  The squadron commander asks if any Jedi patients are aboard.  He reminds them that his child is here with him.
 
The commander had considered that Solo was crazy enough to try it.  Han tells him he was just taking the child for a joy ride.  The Falcon jumps to Shedu Maad with no problems.
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chapter 24:
 
Vestara knows Ahri will have to die.  It’ll break her heart to do it, too.   However, she can tell that Xal is going to make a move against Lady Rhea soon.  Only 15 members of the crew are still alive.  A power struggle right now will cut into that number, but Xal has an opening as Lady Rhea’s stature has been reduced by the plantlife on this world.
 
The last two weeks have had the entire crew brought down to search for Ship, leaving only one pilot left aboard.  Ahri keeps trying to get Ves to clarify her position with Ship.  She knows that she cannot let him think that just anyone can command the sphere.  If Xal thinks that, she is useless to him.
 
Abeloth wanted to fleet the planet when she thought they couldn’t find Ship.  Rhea had ordered the remaining pilot to bring a shuttle down and retrieve them all, but the shuttle had collapsed on top of an old lava pit, the pilot jumping to safety, but the last shuttle gone.
 
Ahri sees Ship coming.  Ves assures him she didn’t call it so they’d better get back.  Finding Lady Rhea’s contingent smaller than ever and Xal’s quite large, Vestara knows they’ve got one chance here.  She tries to persuade Ship to come to her.  
 
It serves the Sith even if it serves Abeloth.  She knows that they have no chance of getting off this world without Ship.  Abeloth has them trapped here as her pets.  Amused, Ship comes to her and opens up.  She almost wonders if this is another trap, but the others are not as suspicious.
 
Rhea invites Xal’s supporters on board and gives him a look promising a slow death later.  Abeloth, however, will not leave until they have captured Luke Skywalker and his son Ben. 
 
Abeloth seems under the impression from Xal that their mission was to capture the Skywalkers.  Rhea clarifies that, had that been their mission, it would have been to kill them.  That assignment was superseded by the mission to recover Ship.  Abeloth points out that they have recovered it.  Now Ship can help them with the Skywalkers.  The Circle of Lords will be pleased when they return to Kesh with all.
 
Abeloth will help them.  Only Vestara is able to see her true nature and how Abeloth is tricking them.  She’s tried to warn her master many times, but has resigned herself to the fact that no one else can see her as she is.
 
Abeloth isn’t a castaway, but the manifestation of an ancient power.  Vestara thinks that Abeloth has only kept her alive because she’s entertained by her struggle to remain sane in this environment. 
 
Abeloth promises Xal a lordship and Rhea the title of High Lord.  She walks off whispering into Xal’s ears.  Vestara confronts her master, telling her that Abeloth is setting another trap for them.  Rhea has excuses, but Vestara slaps her, then holds her parang to her master’s wrist, begging for two minutes.  She wants to know how many shuttles they’ve lost and how many crew members are left on Crusader.  Rhea is forced to admit all the shuttles are gone and there is no crew on the ship.  Vestara asks if she would ever make such foolish mistakes while in her right mind.
 
Rhea thinks and knows that it is true.  She warns Vestara, however, never to try this again.  Vestara promises she won’t.  Ship is totally under Abeloth’s control.  They are trapped here unless Ship can take them to the Skywalkers who must have come here in a ship of some kind.
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chapter 25:
 
Ben opens his eyes to see the alarm lights in the control room of Sinkhole Station.  His father is still lying motionless no the gurney.  Ben and Luke have trouble getting blood back to their muscles.  Rhondi tells them it’s always like this at first.  They’ll have to wait a minute.
 
Ben rather feels guilty for how he treated her.  They sip hydrate packs.  He asks Luke if all they saw was real.  Luke tells him that he’s the detective and should work it out.  Ben relates how they both saw the same people but can they really trust that since they were outside their bodies.
 
After all, he doesn’t know if he really spoke to his mother or a manifestation that someone there wanted him to see.  Rhondi points out that the place must be real if someone there can make him see anything.  Ben admits that he felt a presence there that had been in the Maw when he was in Shelter.  It was what made him withdraw from the Force.
 
Rhondi tells Luke that the Jedi are not sick, they’re just being called home.  Ben notes that Qwallo didn’t just come here by accident.  Nevertheless, he’s not affected because he withdrew from the Force.  It doesn’t explain why Kam, Tionne or any of the adult Jedi who were there aren’t infected.  They may have had defenses in their training that kept them safer.
 
The timing is when Centerpoint was destroyed.  That’s when the alarms started going off.  That’s when Rhondi and her brother felt compelled to come here.  Something leaked out from Shelter and beyond the Maw.
 
Rhondi explains they all return to the Force when they die.  Sometimes those who are strong in the Force show themselves in the Lake of Apparitions. She believes they are real.  Eventually, however, they don’t show themselves anymore. 
 
She demands that he release her brother now.  Ben goes to unweld and unbooby-trap the door first, but she has beat him to the door and is burned through by a red beam.  She falls dead.  A red lightsaber begins cutting through the hatch.
 
Luke stand with his own lightsaber, still weak, asking Ben who that is.
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