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"Backlash": Book 4 in the Fate of the Jedi series


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chapter 25:
 
The comm jamming ends.  Ben contacts his father to tell him there’s an information gathering of chiefs up here.  In the gathering, Tasander and Kaminne are wed.  The Jedi banner is taken down and the new banner of the Bright Suns Clan is raised.
 
Any clan member wanting to reform Broken Columns or Raining Leaves is welcome to leave and do so, but no one does.  Since the camp is no longer a Jedi one, Luke returns.
 
He tells Ben they will have to figure out what Vestara’s connection to the Nightsisters is.  Then they will have to convince Olianne to let her leave or Vestara to come with them.  Getting information about the Sith from her will be even more difficult.
 
They determine she’s not trying to kill either of them as she’s had many opportunities to do so.  It’s likely she wants to turn them over to her people.  The only way she knows of to get off planet is through the Jade Shadow or her supposedly-crashed ship which may be the one at Monarg’s. She’s made no move to go after either.
 
Luke suspects she’s not planning to leave the planet and is just delaying everyone.  In fact, it’s very likely she landed her ship, gave it to Monarg in exchange for making a hypercomm message that will bring her people here instead.
 
She’s kept the data from the Maw with her so that the Sith will still think she is a valuable asset and be counted on to retrieve her.
 
When the scouts move out, they will have to tail Vestara and see what she does.
 
But Vestara is not sent out.  Halliava is, though, so Luke and Ben trail her, leaving Dyon behind to watch Vestara.  Dyon, however, is a busy man, so Vestara slips away when he’s not looking and meets with Halliava in the forest.
 
Halliava has managed to elude her two pursuers, bringing Vestara’s lightsaber and datapad.  A message is waiting for Ves from a Sith woman designed to remind the Witches of a woman of Dathomir.  She explains that they’ve received her reports and are wiling to aid Vestara’s new sisters.
 
They are compiling the weapons now and will choose a Sith Saber to stay behind in trade for a Nightsister so both groups can learn from each other.  They are in the Dathomir system now.
 
Vestara tells Halliava that they need to find a place for the Sith shuttles to land.
 
When she returns, Dyon spots her bringing water down.  She reminds him the call for water bearers came out.  He knows this.  Dyon doesn’t, however, mention that he knows she was already gone when the call came out.  When she is out of earshot, he comms Luke and Ben.
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chapter 26:
 
Ben watches Halliava and Vestara the next morning, but they show no signs of being in communication.  The Nightsisters have fled, but there’s little doubt among the chiefs that they’ll be back.
 
Daala, Dorvan, Han and Leia meet in her office.  Daala, noting that she is considered callous and unfeeling, wonders why the Jedi aren’t asking for any recourse should she not keep her word.  Leia reminds her that this is just a preliminary meeting and expects that negotiations will continue so both sides can get more concessions.
 
However, Leia suspects that Daala is stalling for time.  Daala admits she is, but not because of any trap she’s laying.  Dorvan explains he’s putting up a poll to ask how the public thinks about the Jedi being released from carbonite.  There have been several differently worded ones, including some emphasizing the violent nature of the attacks, some specifying Jedi who’ve committed no crimes. 
 
Han points out that basing her decision on the outcome of a poll is unwise….only he’s not diplomatic about it.  Leia excuses his lack of tact, but reminds Daala that he has a point.  Daala assures her that the poll data is only one variable involved in her decision.  For now, early results show a simple majority favoring releasing the Jedi.
 
Daala gives them a counteroffer.  Jedi Saar is turned over and is not frozen, but studied, allowed access to an advocate, a medical scientist provided by the Order and a Jedi liaison.  If he shows no propensity for mayhem after thirty, they will unfreeze one of the Horns.    After thirty days under the same terms, they will unfreeze the other.
 
Leia agrees to take the offer to Hamner.
 
On the way out, Leia tells him that not everything Daala said was a lie.  The poll results may be more important than she admitted or she could be stalling for another reason.  It could just be a case of her hoping time will change her approval ratings.
 
That night, a cargo speeder arrives on Coruscant disguised as a Mon Calamari diplomatic vessel.  It contains Moff Lecersen and Senator Treen.  Their pilot is a Quarren with an identity card matching one of the Mon Cal embassy employees.  If the ruse doesn’t work, the pilot will just drop the shell and they merge with traffic like any other of a number of cargo vehicles.
 
From inside the ship, they pick up a feed from the Pangalactus Restaurant which is designed to replicate several different famous settings.  This particular one shows the control chamber of the Death Star.
 
The man there is Kester Tolann, the grandson of late Commander Wister Tolann who wasn’t nearly as efficient as he could have been. He ended up in waste management under Pestage and Isard.
 
As it was Grand Admiral Thrawn’s fitness reports that were responsible for that, young Tolann isn’t a fan of the Chiss or anyone connected to them.  This also makes him antagonistic to Head of State Jagged Fel.
 
 When Fel’s dinner party arrives, they’re going to be told the GA Security has learned of their plans, prompting them to insist on a change of dining chambers that will put them next to young Tolann who will doubtlessly fail to kill Fel.
 
Fortunately, killing Fel is not the plan.  That’s going to look like a diversion when an attack is made against the Solos instead.  
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chapter 27:
 
The Solos, Jaina and Jagged arrive with Allana, Threepio and Artoo in two, along with two security agents.  Jag is told of the disruption of their plans by a waiter and requests any other room.  A protocol droid believes that the next room’s occupants could be persuaded to change.  Jag graciously offers to foot their bill if they are amenable.
 
In the new chamber, the scene is adjusted to Jag’s requested preference:  a beautiful scenescape of Alderaan. 
 
Lecersen and Treen watch from their monitor as the party enters their new dining room.  With no holocam feed from the inside, they have to use their operative now.  Kester Tolann is watching a video recording of Grand Moff Tarkin threatening the world of Alderaan to a captive Princess Leia Organa. 
 
Treen is amused, particularly at how inappropriate it is.  Lecersen agrees, telling her it’s put together from the Princess’s memoirs and from reports filed by Vader and Tarkin.  It’s quite popular among admirers of the Palpatine era, but one must request it specifically.  When the planet is destroyed, Tolann is supposed to act.
 
Tolann pulls out a detonator as the Death Star’s green beam spreads out and hurls it into the wall.   
 
Jaina grabs Allana when the wall explodes.  A tall, lean man jumps through the smoke and fire.  Jag and her father each pull two blasters.  The security agents have one each.  The intruder jerks, his life measured in seconds, when two YVH droids burst through the wall behind him. 
 
The man buckles to his knees as the YVHs head toward Jaina’s parents.  Jaina has to decide whether or not to defend her parents or protect Allana.  She pushes the child to the floor, ignites her lightsaber and joins her parents and Jag.  Leia already has her lightsaber out.
 
By the time it’s over, security arrives and Han thinks he knows why Daala was stalling.
 
Th entire thing is watched by Treen and Lecersen.  Lecersen points out the obvious difficulties of taking down Fel when his girlfriend is present.  Still, the assault went well.  The newsfeeds will spin it a dozen different way for different audiences and most will not make Fel look good. 
 
It won’t fool the Jedi who will blame Daala.  He does admit, however, that he didn’t know the little girl would be there.  He’s glad she survived.  Treen points out that, if she’d died, Solo would have removed Daala for them.
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          •    On occasion, I’ve noticed that Allana refers to Han and Leia by their first names.  She did so at the dinner in this chapter.  Typically, when Allana is in public with her grandparents, she calls them Dad and Mom, in the guise of them being her adopted parents.  Privately, of course, she calls them Grandpa and Grandma.
          •    I realize that there are retro-fads that emerge and that may explain the tackiness of a casino allowing those in old Imperial gear, dressed as Vader or the Emperor.  I also realize that the Chief of State is a former Imperial.  However, it seems a bit insensitive for an upscale restaurant on Coruscant even having a program that allows one to be anywhere at all on the Death Star, much less displaying a reenactment of the destruction of Alderaan.  
 

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chapter 28:

Jag and Jaina drop her parents, Allana and the droids off at their safehouse.  Jag blames himself, knowing he should have cancelled the dinner as soon as her father told him Daala knew about the reservations.

It's possible that the Moffs are working with her.  She may not be as eager to have the Empire brought into the GA as she claims.  On the other hand, Jaina got the impression that the human intruder was surprised to see the YVHs.

On Dathomir, Luke, Ben and Dyon follow Halliava through the Force and electronically.  While Luke spoke with her and Ben made sure Vestara wasn't watching, Dyon put his comlink set to location broadcast in the woman's gear.  Luke stops, opens his eyes and tells them something is changing.

When Halliava meets wth Vestara who contacts her people to inform them of the number of Nightsisters who will be joining them and heads off to the landing field.  Over time, they realize the two Jedi are following them, despite their constant change of direction.  Vestara surmises they have a tracking device following them.  They will keep it for awhile and then stick it on a bird to elude their trackers.

On the way, Vestara asks why Halliava rejects change, even when it could bring her more power.  The Nightsisters could leave Dathomir and rule many more people.  Halliava tells her that she does not reject men, but there cannot be too many rulers.  When change is brought in, it inspires others to gain the skills needed to rule.

Leaving this planet requires her to learn again, like a child.  She's been one once and has no desire to do so again.  Vestara asks if she would have killed her friends if the two clans hadn't merged.

Halliava says that Kaminne stopped being her friend shen she accepted a man without the Arts as her mate.  Killing her will make Olianne her enemy.  Firen is a follower of the heart and would follow Halliava.

Vestara finds the tracking device in the Force.  Then she hits Halliava with the hilt of her lighsaber and binds her new friend.  She stuffs a cloth in her mouth, explaining she's doing Halliava a big favor.  Being a Nightsister is primitive compared to being a Sith.  Halliava and the others will have to learn to accept men as equals, but ridding them of their provincial traditions will be the responsibility of their teachers.

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chapter 29:
 
The Nightsisters gather to board the shuttles that are waiting for them.  A female Sith emerges and introduces them to Lord Gaalan.  Insulted by the presence of a man, the head Nightsister, Dresdema, orders an attack.
 
The Sith woman sends lightning at her chest.  The Sith emerge, killing the rancors and bringing the Nightsisters’ weapons down with lightsabers. 
 
By the time Vestara arrives, there’s only one shuttle left, two Sith and several rancor bodies.  After greeting Lord Gaalan, she goes back to retrieve Halliava’s bound body, only to return to see her comrades watching Luke, Ben and Dyon climb up the meadow.
 
Not wanting all her half-truths abandoned so easily, she worries about whether she should return to the shuttle to help the Sith or hide. 
 
The Jedi and Sith move before she can decide.  Lord Gaalan greets Luke and claims he’s the last man he will ever meet.  Luke disagrees.  They battle together, Luke hardly having met his match.
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