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"Vortex": Book 6 in the Fate of the Jedi series

Jedi Cool

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chapter 1:
When the Rockhound leaves the Maw, Jaina is disturbed to see they are nearer to Kessel than to Coruscant.  RN8 confirms the course was set for the capital.  She plays back Lando’s order to redirect.
The voice is Lando’s but with emphasis on the wrong syllables.  It would seem someone tried to impersonate him.  They assume this is some plot of the Sith.  Having taken care of Abeloth, they will likely want to cover their tracks. 
Lando wants to go back, but Jaina tells him Luke won’t trust Taalon indefinitely.  He’ll be prepared for a betrayal.  Their mission is to get back to Coruscant.  If they’ve been sent someplace easy to find, it could mean that they are being tracked.  RN8 confirms that ship’s sensors are offline due to an order from Lando less than two minutes ago.
Jaina decides to get to her damaged StealthX to give Lando time to get the Rockhound back to normal and get his droids to stop accepting falsified orders.  When she gets to the hangar, she finds a maintenance droid removing her laser cannons, per Calrissian’s orders.
She comms the bridge and knows she’s getting a Lando impersonator back.  She confirms with the maintenance droid that utility mouse droid was brought aboard before they left Klatooine. Lando assures her on the bridge that he did not order a mouse droid.
He realizes they are dealing with pirates, not Sith.  Jaina jumps into her StealthX with only three engines, no laser cannons and four shadow bombs.  In space, she finds that she is targeted every time she uses a shadow bomb.  She’s being tracked through the Force.
Jaina comms Lando and tells him to jump as soon as he can.  They’re dealing with Sith pirates.

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chapter 2:
Ben is careful with Vestara now.  She points out that his father knew Taalon would betray him at some point.  He just didn’t expect it to happen until Abeloth was dead.  Ben tells her it was a stupid idea for Taalon to try to capture her.  Vestara happens to agree.
She gets an odd look on her face and tells Ben her father touched her through the Force.  Ben doesn’t believe her.  She tells him that she could be killed for revealing too much to him.  She has to promise not to tell Taalon she told him.  Ship is coming back.
She doesn’t know why or if they can even control it.  No longer under Abeloth’s control, it may have its own agenda.  The Jedi should be careful.  Ben decides to warn his father, but she is going to come with him. 
Vestara tells him that someone will have to take care of Dyon.  Ben goes in to check on his friend first who is slowly recovering, but cannot see.  Vestara uses the opportunity to cut through the medbay door and head off the ship.

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chapter 3:
As the dead Sith are burned on a funeral pyre, Lord Taalon comments that he would have thought Luke would find it satisfying.  Luke tells him he does not relish the death of anyone, not Lady Rhea’s team on Sinkhole or the eventual death of Taalon and Khai.
Taalon tells him that’s how they differ.  He is looking forward to killing Luke.
Luke’s attention is drawn to reliefs carved on the rock.  Taalon doesn’t know if they are related to Sith lore, but the symbols here could mean many things, most of them deadly.  He explains the history of the Destructors.  The symbols here have always been associated with them.
However, Abeloth seems a bit small to be one of the Destructors.  Though drawn to the fountain, Luke suggests going back to the cave.  Taalon isn’t fooled, though.  Luke reminds him that the fountain isn’t what caused his Jedi to fall ill.  Taalon suggests that the fountain could be her source of power.
Luke doesn’t want to be responsible for what happens to them if they drink from it.  They both step forward.  Luke warns him that someone tried to trick him into drinking from it, promising the power to achieve anything. 
Taalon thinks Luke is trying to trick him.  When several sets of eyes appear, he doesn’t believe that Luke doesn’t know what is going on.  Luke becomes alarmed when it’s clear the darkess is speaking to Taalon who doesn’t believe their promises.

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chapter 4:
Vestara detests her weakness.  As much as she would love to say that she just wanted to get to Lord Taalon quickly, the fact is that she just didn’t want to kill Ben.  On the way, she plots to lay in wait for Ben and rectify her mistake so her father would never know.  She gets splat in the eye by a planet, wrapped in vines and trapped.  She tries slashing through them until Ben arrives.
He warns her that she is hanging over a cliff.  He’s not inclined to cut her down himself and would like to know where she’s going.  They both know she was running to Taalon to tell him about Ship. 
Ben came after her because he was worried about her.  She’s just an apprentice, after all, and there’s plenty of time to redeem her.  He wants a reason to cut her down, though. She will have to give her word that there will be no more betrayals. 
Knowing she can’t promise that forever, he’ll accept until Ship arrives.  Vestara would rather agree only until Ben can tell his father. 
They walk across the forest toward the pyre.  Ben knows the Vestara fears making mistakes over dying.  She’ll honor her agreement and then will figure out how good it feels to keep a promise.  He will have her then and draw her into the light a little at a time just like his father had done to his mother.
When they reach the scene, neither Khai nor Taalon are happy that the two abandoned their posts.  They both make up lies about how Ben trapped her in the medbay and she escaped to pursue him. 
While Taalon takes her away to determine the reason for her disobedience, Ben mouths to his father that Ship is coming.   Under the pretext of making sure that Vestara isn’t punished for her disobedience, Luke steps across the courtyard.  Gavar Khai argues with him about it.   Ben uses the opportunity to grab Abeloth’s body through the Force.
It is just too dangerous to allow the Sith access to it.  Vestara notices, though, and the Sith start pulling the body back.  A clash ensues that is stopped by Vestara when the shroud over Abeloth’s body tears.  Luke and Khai rush to find out what’s going on.  Vestara tells them that the bodies have been switched.  The corpse belongs to Dyon Stadd.

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chapter 5:
A thousand Mandalorians wait outside the Temple.  GA security arrives, escorting Chief of State Daala.  Hamner has to caution Han that they want to urge Daala to end the siege, not antagonize her.
He actually would prefer to send someone else as Han isn’t a Jedi and lacks patience.  The others do not agree.  Han prepares to head out, reminding Turi and Sothais to behave normally and wait for his signal. 
He meets Daala at the steps, confirms that Master Hamner only offered to turn over the affected Jedi and lets Sothais and Turi outside. A xenopsychiatrist is on hand to examine them.  At first, Daala thinks they are imposters who’ve had plastic surgery.  The medical professional can tell right off the bat that they have not had plastic surgery and, after some questioning, determines they are in their right minds.  To prove it, he knees Saar in the groin.
Daala sends him inside to make sure there are no other insane Jedi inside.  When Han demands she release the Horn siblings, she reminds him that she has no idea what this cure entails.  Until she is sure, they are staying put.

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chapter 6:
Kenth Hamner knows he never should have taken the job.  All that’s happened is that all the masters are reminded that he’s not Luke Skywalker.  The whole council is here, sans Luke, including its newest member, the Yuzzem ]Barratk’l.
Octa Ramis protests that the Horns are still being held despite the fact that the Jedi no longer pose a danger.  Hamner doesn’t want to cause another problem with Daala now that the Mandalorians have left.  The others disagree.  The time to push their advantage is now, while publicity is still in their favor.
Hamner argues that raiding a GA facility could endanger the lives of the security there.  While some masters agree, Corran Horn demands to know what Hamner does intend to do.  Kyle Katarn reminds Hamner that Daala intends to keep the Jedi reined in.  Unless he plans to allow that, they will have little choice but to confront her.
Hamner would prefer to avoid a war with the GA. They’ve just forced the siege to end.  She’s not happy and it’s very possible that she believes they were behind the attempt on Bwua’tu’s life. 
They are interrupted by Han and Leia who storm into the chamber with news that the Octusi slaves on Blaudu Sextus are on the march.  Madhi Vaandt is reporting that Mandalorians are assaulting the place.  Since the Octusi are extreme pacifists, this seems a bit excessive.
Saba explains that the Octusi are largely quasi-sentient.  They would be protected under Galactic Alliance law, though. Nevertheless, the Blauduns own their Octusi, but treat them as pets.  They aren’t necessarily imprisoned, but have to be supervised some.  They don’t try to escape as there’s nowhere to escape to.  It’s a mining world with plantlife unsuited to eating.  

Kyp thinks it sounds like slavery.  Saba maintains the Octusi ask to be taken from their home world which affords a brief life span.  Their arrangement with the Blauduns give them a longer life.  It’s against the law to mistreat the Octusi, though there are bad beings in every species.  

Leia points out that this revolt isn’t the problem, the Mandalorians are.

Saba explains that it is strange that the Octusi are doing this.  They are not forced to stay with the Blauduns.  They seem to be demanding freedom, something they don’t understand that they already have.  Kenth Hamner illustrates the point by showing an Octusi protest march which includes a sign with broken shackles on it.  The Octusi are never shackled which means they likely don’t know what shackles are.  Something has instigated this.

Hamner brings up Freedom Flight.  Leia points out that it has a very high profile because of Madhi Vaandt.  A quick review of a recent interview of a Blaudun by Vaandt seems to support her belief that it was the galaxy-hopping activist that explained to the Octusi they are repressed.

Kyp doubts that as there far too many places worse than this for her to exploit.  Han interjects that this is a scenario in which Daala will have to send troops eventually.  If the Octusi won’t back down and the Blauduns don’t have sufficient security forces, there will eventually be a confrontation that will inevitably be broadcasted on the HoloNet.  

Kyle Katarn silently wonders if Barratk’l, coming from a species once enslaved, would be a part of something that could potentially cost the lives of thousands.  Saba has no qualms about eyeing the new Council Member and noting that this will end in a slaughter.   Barratk’l takes exception to the implication that she helped Freedom Flight plan this.  Saba advises that she is saying that Freedom Flight has made a misguided mistake here and that they need to know that before things get out of hand.

Kyle thinks that’s exactly what Freedom Flight wants.  Public outrage over Daala’s suppression of pacifist beings wanting freedom is just what will force a quick change.  It seems odd that Daala would fall for it, though.  On the other hand, it’s not like this grouping knew much about the Bladu system before today.  

Hamner argues that, before he would send in troops, he would certainly try to find out more information.  There is something more going on here.  Why the Mandalorians, for instance?  Likely she wants to end this quickly and without fanfare.  It’s possible that she had them as backup anyway in case the Alliance military decided to part ways with her.  After all, the Mandos do have the ability to put down the revolt and not do any hand wringing over how it’s done.  This is as far as Hamner dares to go without breaking Bwua’tu’s confidence.

Leia notes that this means that Freedom Flight knew about the Mandalorians, especially since Madhi Vaandt got there quickly.  There must be a spy in Daala’s office.  

Hamner considers that, regardless of the state of slavery in other parts of the galaxy, they cannot allow this revolt to be brutally suppressed.  None of the others object, but Saba believes they can act by getting the Mandos off the planet rather than being put in a position of seeming to support them and Blauduns. If they do that, the tension between the two species may die down.

There is a brief conversation about who to send with Saba emphasizing the unavailability of her Barabel colleagues, insisting that they are about private business.  Hamner must insist that she disclose what is going on.  Leia explains that, given recent events, it’s important to know if Tesar, Dordi, Zal and Wilyem are undertaking some private mission behind everyone else’s backs.  Saba advises that they are not, that they are in the Temple and will be for months.  

The others agree not to intrude for now.  Sothais Saar and Avinoam Arelis will be sent to Blaudu Sextus to try to calm down the Octusi.  Barratk’l offers to go herself since a Master might be good to have hand, she understands the issue and there is also the concern of a relapse for Arelis.

Kenth would rather have all masters on hand to deal with the Lost Tribe when the time comes.  They’re not doing that now as they have no way off Coruscant without fighting.  Kyp argues that they may as well just send Barratk’l now as there’s no way to get off the planet without going through Daala.  Hamner wishes they would trust him a bit longer.  He maintains that this situation between the Jedi and Daala isn’t necessarily as inflexible as it looks.  He cannot explain more, but he does have something working.  It’s clear many don’t believe him.  

In fact, Kyp Durron wants Han and Leia to leave so that the Council can hash this out with him.  The Grand Master should not be keeping secrets from the rest of the Council.  Hamner knows that this is awkward, but he gave his word that he would not reveal his source and he hopes they will give him the benefit of the doubt.  Corran thinks he’s just stalling; Saba demands they launch now.  She argues that what Master Skywalker is facing is more important than Mandalorians and the Sixth Fleet in orbit.  If they don’t act soon, it will be the Sith ruling Coruscant again.

The other Masters follow.  Hamner knows that they are tired of sitting around doing nothing and that, at this point, disclosing his secret will do no good.  He puts his hand on his lightsaber and tells them, “No”.  He tells them he was put in this office by Luke Skywalker and is not leaving it unless he’s removed the old-fashioned way.

This gambit nearly fails, too, when eyes turn to Corran and Kenth realizes his fate now rests in the hands of a man who may not consider restraint and honoring the political process to be important enough when faced with a man who allowed Horn’s children to be encased in carbonite.  But Corran decides that the time has not yet come for conflict between them.

  • First appearance of Barratk'l.
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chapter 7:

Because use of the Force is not permitted in the courtroom, Leia cannot determine if Eramuth Bwua’tu is sleeping while Dekkon examines an Imperial Communications Intelligence expert, but it certainly seems like it.
Lt. Pagorski cannot reveal too many details due to issues of military security, but she does testify that she intercepted a communication between Tahiri and Darth Caedus after Admiral Pellaeon ordered Imperial forces to assist Admiral Niathal.  Tahiri has already denied making such a transmission.  Pagorski makes a number of speculative statements that Eramuth doesn’t offer any objections to. 
She states that Jacen Solo told Tahiri not to kill Pellaeon because he was valued too highly by the Imperial Navy.  She believes that Tahiri killed him anyway over frustration at failing at her mission to sway him to assist Solo instead.
Eramuth rolls his head and lets out a loud snort.
Judge Zudan finally attempts to awaken him before having Tahiri do it herself.  He jolts up, claiming to be concentrating.  The judge offers to have the last few minutes worth of testimony read back to him.  He tells her he was resting his eyes, not his ears.
On cross-examination, he asks Pagorski if she has the ability to sense the Force.  She admits she doesn’t.  He goes back to the defense table, with no other questions at this time. 
Zudan asks both advocates to approach the bench.  While the discussion goes on up there, Leia and Han fret that Eramuth missed several opportunities to discredit Pagorski.  They wonder if it might be a good idea to get him some help with this case.
Eramuth returns to the table, upset that Judge Zudan has ordered him to get a medical evaluation to make sure he’s still competent.

  • First appearance of Lt. Pagorski.
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chapter 8:
The Sith are convinced that Luke has hidden Abeloth’s true body.  By the time they all agreed to go back to the Jade Shadow, their prisoner had fled.  Now, they are walking through the forest on a hunt for her again. 
Luke thinks they should change tactics, but the Sith thinks this is just an attempt to get rid of them.  They finally agree to go back to the ships for now.  Ship is there, waiting.  It’s damaged from its fight with Jaina.  Luke challenges the Sith in their belief that they control Ship.
It seemed surprised to see Ben here.  It could be that Abeloth summoned it, but couldn’t use it once it was damaged.  Taalon doubts that Abeloth would pick now to leave this place after living here for millennia.  They point out the damage to Sinkhole Station and to its eventual destruction.  They believe that Sinkhole was designed to contain Abeloth here.  Over time, she began trying to break free.
Now that the station is gone, she needs only a ship to leave the planet.  Luke would prefer to meditate on this, thinking that Callista’s presence may still be inside the living Abeloth.  He could probably track her that way if he has some quiet.  Taalon thinks Ship is better suited to help them.
Even Vestara isn’t convinced that Taalon’s will is enough to control Ship.  The vessel is suitably vague, not denying that Abeloth is alive, but claiming not to know where she is.  Luke feels the dark tentacle and suspects that Ship is still under her influence.  Ship suggests they start where Luke has been before.  It’s the Pool of Knowledge.  Ship offers to take them there.


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chapter 9:
Ship hovers over the beginning of the pool as the forest is too dense for it to land.  Luke was here while Mind Walking, but he’s hesitant to give the Sith access to it.  He was told before that this will allow one to see all that is passed and all that will come.  Besides, the more time they take, the more time Abeloth will have to recover.
They finally agree to split up, sending Ben and Vestara upstream while the adults go downstream.
Her father lowers her down the gorge using the Force.  Luke and Ben roll their eyes at such casual use of the Force, but Vestara shouldn’t be able to go off alone.  Ben jumps off the ramp after her.
Vestara thinks they should try across the stream.  She can smell a cool breeze similar to a cave.  He goes along to keep her out of trouble.  Vestara tells him that’s why the Jedi will lose this galaxy:  because they’re afraid of trouble. 
Ben is so sure that if he can show her how strong the Light Side of the Force is, his patience will bring her over.  She is ready to head into the Pool when he cautions her that knowledge can be dangerous.  She thinks knowledge is nothing more than memory and thought.  Ben points out that, if she knew something about her mother, that she’d been unfaithful, for example, she would have to tell her father.  That would be knowledge that destroys.
Vestara asks if the Pool can do that.  Ben realizes his mistake; that no knowledge is forbidden to a Sith.  They cannot be allowed to enter it at all.  That’s why Ship brought them here.  It knew they would fight.
He tries to convince Vestara that Ship brought them here deliberately for that reason and that it would be best if they forgot they were ever here.  Taalon assures him it’s too late for that.  He, Gavar Khai and Luke appear.  Vestara had summoned them as soon as she’d found it.  She reminds him that young Sith are taught to obey orders.
He wonders when they are taught to think.  Taalon answers that it comes after they are taught to obey.  He insists they all go in, Ben first.  Luke believes the only traps are those of their own making.  Inside, Ben finds an image of himself a couple of decades in the future.  Vestara’s image is there, too.
Luke reminds them they are here to find Abeloth and nothing else.  Ben sees Vestara’s image morph into something grotesque.  He sees Abeloth running along a sandy beach.  Ben yelps that they were brought her to give her time to get to one of their ships.
Vestara, distracted by the images in the pool, thinks he’s right.  Ben looks in the pool and sees what is upsetting her.  A reflection shows a city  with walls, glass spires and living tree sculptures.  It’s Kesh.
Khai accuses them of treachery, starting to blast Ben with Force energy.  Luke uses the Force to toss him against the wall and pin him there.  He warns Khai that, with the odds more even than they were before, he will not allow his son to be threatened.
Taalon is enraptured by an image of a white throne.  A beautiful red-headed woman is sitting there, surrounded by Jedi of all species.  Taalon demands to know who she is.  Knowing that Ben is about to lie to him, he ignites his lightsaber. 
Ben pulls his own, forces Vestara out of his way and push her weapon arm against her flank.  He can see the disappointment in her eyes, the confusion when she realizes that their flirtations mean nothing now. 
When he starts to dive into the pool after Taalon, who is swimming to the far end, Luke warns Ben to stop.  Khai fires bolts of lightning at them. Ben fires his blaster at him, then has to fire at Vestara who comes at him with her own lightsaber.
He pushes her back into Taalon who has come leaping out of the water.  Both are knocked into a wall.  Taalon punches Vestara who groans in pain.  Luke jumps at Taalon while Ben fields a parang from Vestara’s father.  Khai uses the Force to move the shard into Ben’s chest.
Ben uses his lightsaber to absorb a bolt of lightning.  Luke tells him to go, tells him Vestara will survive and starts cutting the pillar beneath the entrance.

     •    The vision of the red-haired female Jedi on a white throne surrounded by multiple beings appears again.  Jacen Solo saw it, Luke saw it, Leia seemed to see it and now the Sith are seeing it. 

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chapter 10:
Jaina cannot help but notice the tension in the air before she and Lando give their briefing to the Council.  Kenth Hamner is indulging this briefing because he knows that they have urgent news, but cautions Jaina that they will discuss her unauthorized mission later.
Kyp summarizes what they already know about her trip til now, including the fact that whatever happened in the Maw has released the captive Jedi from their paranoia.  She hadn’t come to tell them that, but is glad to hear that it’s happened.  Lando explains that they have something else.
They explain how a droid was put aboard the Rockhound to impersonate Lando’s voice, sabotage ship’s systems and redirect the ship when it came out of the Maw.  They were ambushed by pirates at that location who seemed to, not only know where they would be, but had the ability to detect Jaina when she used a shadow bomb. 
She and Lando have worked to map out where the attacks have occurred and which ones they have reason to believe are the fault of Sith.  The evidence thus far leads Corran to believe the Sith are building a war fleet.

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chapter 11:
The Solos and Lando wait in Sullustan Senator Luewet Wuul’s meeting room.  Jaina brings them up to speed on her meeting with the Council.  Hamner had accused her of sabotaging his attempts to resolve the disupte with Daala.  Though Jaina admits he’s under a lot of pressure, she is worried about this belief that he can cut a deal with her.
Han doubts that will work.  The only thing that will resolve the matter now is taking her out of the equation; something that he should have done after she attacked them with Allana there.
Leia reminds him that they have no evidence that Daala was behind that attack.  Even if he is right, no one is going to support a coup started by a Solo and the Jedi will not be able to help him lest the public believe Daala was right to fear them.
For this reason, Lando believes they should be reaching out to Senators who are friendly to the Jedi.  If Daala decides to retaliate against the Senate, that’s when the Jedi can come in to save the day.  Now that Abeloth’s gone, this should be easier.  Her attack on the Shelter children was actually more beneficial than they thought because it brought the Sith out in the open.  Luke and Ben would never have been in a position to find the Lost Tribe if Luke hadn’t been exiled.
Senator Wuul arrives, eschewing all pretense.  They explain that Luke and Ben have encountered a large group of Sith that seems to have developed over the last few thousand years out of contact with the rest of the galaxy. 
Wuul asks if they are responsible for the afflicted Jedi and is told that a now-dead being named Abeloth had influenced the younglings while they were hiding in the Maw during the Vong war.  Since Abeloth is no longer a problem, they have to concentrate on the Sith.
He understands that the Jedi cannot combat this problem while Daala is causing them grief.  As the chair of the subcommittee on mineral taxation, he doesn’t know what he is able to do to help them.
Fortunately, he owes Lando a favor over a sabacc bet, so he compiles a list of everyone in government and the military who owes him a favor.  After clarifying that this is not a coup, he speculates that they want someone not normally aligned with the Jedi to present a bill writing the current status of the Jedi Order into law, with guarantees of financial support and military cooperation.  It will also need to have the support of a lot of people so that Daala’s inevitable veto will be overridden.
The catch is, of course, that Daala is intelligent and will eventually hear about what they’re doing.  When that happens, the bill will have to be  presented before she can gather enough support to stop a vote. 
He’s rather surprised that the Jedi don’t just leave Coruscant and go to their friends in the Hapes Cluster or in the Empire, considering the attempt on Bwua’tu’s life.  Jaina starts to blame Master Hamner’s limited vision, but Leia explains that he wants to try to work out a political solution.  She’s confused as to how that relates to Bwua’tu as rumors persist that even Daala doesn’t believe his attackers were really Jedi.
Wuul confirms that the Chief of State has mentioned that the Jedi are not that incompetent, but that doesn’t mean anything.  It just proves she thinks they cannot fail.  She’s worried that someone out there wants to make her think it was the Jedi or that there is some plan the Jedi are enabling that she doesn’t understand.
As it is, Bwua’tu’s aide,  Asokaji, accused her of being behind it on order to cut a deal with Hamner.  From what Wuul has heard, Bwua’tu got Hamner to promise not to launch the StealthXs to break the siege in exchange for promising to keep the military from being used against the Temple.
The deal itself doesn’t upset Leia, but the fact that Hamner hadn’t consulted the Council and essentially abandoned Luke and Ben in the Maw facing an entire tribe of Sith.    Wuul does add that he’s getting his information second-hand from General Jaxton, so he may not have everything quite right.
Leia assures him that he should continue to pursue the matter.  The Council will agree to the deal even if they learn he’s kept things from them.  Lando adds that it’s the best solution to the problem for now.  Wuul wants their promise that no Alliance citizens will be endangered.  He wants to be sure this creature they mentioned is dead.
Lando admits they only have Luke’s word for it, but it does appear that everyone has returned to sanity.  Wuul decides they will have to distract Daala and the integration of the Empire might serve well here.  It looks like Jag has gotten the political capital to bring the Empire fulling into the GA.  Since that will only strengthen Daala’s position against the Jedi, it is necessary to derail those negotiations until after the Senate passes this Jedi bill.
It might be helpful to convince Head of State Fel to toss in some quibbles here and there to delay the process.  He’s sure Jaina can convince him.  Leia admits that their engagement has been broken off.  Wuul expresses his sympathy, but knows that, as a Jedi, Jaina can probably convince him to take her back.

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chapter 12:
Dr. Ysa’i has been responsible for treating Bwua’tu’s injuries: from his damaged organs to his amputated arm.  Right now, the admiral is in a coma and Ysa’i really can’t answer Daala’s question about when he will recover.
There is brain activity, but it’s deep and nonreactive.  Something is happening, but it’s not related to what is going out in the real world.  Rynog Asokaji is here, on good terms since Daala commended him for his courage in confronting her, noting his own passing familiarity with brain wave scans.
Wynn Dorvan doesn’t think fitting someone in a coma with a prosthetic arm is beneficial.  Daala advises that she wanted the process of waking up to be as psychologically easy on Bwua’tu as possible.
When she squeezes her friend’s knee to say good-bye, the brain-activity jumps.  Ysa’I wants the neurologist, Dr. Javir, brought in immediately and for her to keep touching the adrmiral.
Daala tries to wake her friend, urging him to tell them what he knows about the attempt on his life.  His pupils move and they realize he’s watching the vidscreen.  The Perre Needmo Newshour is on.  Daala fumes when she sees Madhi Vaandt, whom she’d wanted supressed, on the screen while Octusi flee oncoming Mandalorians.
Dorman assured her that Needmo offered to pull her off the assignment, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.  It was only an informal request anyway as Needmo would have challenged a formal order in court.  That, of course, would risk his funneling the credits to hire the Mandalorians becoming known. 
Daala wants the Galactic HoloNet Commission monitoring the program for anything that might warrant pulling Needmo off the air.  Ysa’I recommends they not do that until Bwua’tu wakes up as he seems rather riveted by the news.
They soon realize that the admiral is fixated on Mahdi Vaandt.  Daala thinks it might be connected to the attempt on his life. 
Vaandt is reporting that the Mandalorians claim to have been hired by one of the planet’s mining companies, but she finds that unlikely as the nearest mining interest is a significant distance from here.  She finds the Mandalorian action at the Temple and then here to be too much of a coincidence. 
Daala is insistent that Vaandt be pulled off the air.  Dorvan reminds her that there are few legal ways to do that without demonstrating to the GA that the reporter is right on the mark. 
Daala notices that Bwua’tu has blinked.  She is sure it’s connected to Vaandt.  Asokaji suggests that it’s possible the Jedi really are behind the attack and just wanted to incapacitate him. 
Not all Jedi support Hamner.  A splinter group might have taken matters into their own hands.  If they have gone after Bwua’tu, they may attack Daala, too.  Dorvan reminds both of them that no one knows that the Jedi were behind the attack and there is evidence that they weren’t.
Daala tells Asokaji that she doesn’t see the point in a Jedi trying to fake a Jedi attack.  Whoever assaulted Admiral Bwua’tu will pay, but it will be the real enemy.  They need to find out who that is and she has some ideas about how to frighten them.

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chapter 13:
Vestara is sent flying by the punch.  She wouldn’t dream of begging for mercy, especially with her father far worse the wear after his fight with Luke Skywalker. 
They walk around her, determine they’ve done enough damage to play Ben Skywalker’s sympathy and query Vestara as to the nature of her relationship with him.  She tells them that Ben believes he can pull her to the Light Side.
However, she thinks she’s falling in love with him and doesn’t want to.  Taalon encourages her to do so as Skywalker will sense it in the Force.  So long as she uses what she feels, he has no objection.  She must learn everything she can about the Jedi queen that he saw in the Pool of Knowledge.
It’s obvious that the Jedi know something of her or they would not have tried to keep the Sith from coming here.


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chapter 14:
When they reach the edge of the jungle, at the edge of the sandy bank, there are dozens of drendek lizards flying over the river.  On the beach itself, reptiles are drinking.  Not far from shore, is the Sith ship, Emiax.  Jade Shadow is gone.
Force lightning rings past them. Ben suspects the Sith are chasing Vestara.  Luke suggests it could be a ruse to make them think that.  He wants Ben to prep the Emiax.  Ben assures his father that he saw Taalon hit Vestara during the fight. 
Luke reminds him that, if the Sith thought that she was truly working with the Jedi, she would be dead now.  There’s nothing wrong with hoping she will change sides, but she was raised to be a Sith and that’s not likely to happen.  They’re going to keep tricking the Skywalkers into thinking she has until it stops working.
Ben argues that she could provide valuable intelligence.  Luke can’t argue with that, but warns Ben that she’s on a short leash.  Luke watches when she emerges from the jungle.  He sees enough of her body language to know that she is in no danger from her comrades.  It hurts to think of how Ben will feel when he finally realizes this.
It’s a lesson he can’t really protect his son from.
He waits until it’s safe to grab her.  She does look like someone in need of help, but he isn’t fooled regardless of how sorry he feels for her.  He tells her that Jade Shadow is gone so she will have to help them with Emiax.
He takes her lightsaber, making it clear that he knows her game and reminds her that she doesn’t want to be here when Taalon and her father show up, having failed in her assignment. 

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chapter 15:
The good thing about the slave revolts is that it is attracting attention away from Tahiri’s trial.  The courtroom is barely packed today.  Eramuth arrives, looking bright and fashionable.  Tahiri comments on how he looks better rested today.
Eramuth tells her he’s not been sleeping poorly, but Dekkon will be.  They are distracted by the arrival of the Solos, Lando and a female attorney named Sardonne Sardon, whom Eramuth greets with courtesy and admiration.
She is surprised to find such a distinguished advocate is aware of some of her cases.  He is less happy when he learns she is here to assist him.   Eramuth is adamant that he does not need help.  Tahiri expresses her concern that he is falling asleep in court and her life is on the line.
When Judge Zudan comes in, she asks for acknowledgement of the new arrival.  When Sardonne explains she will be working with the defense, Eramuth announces that she will actually be taking the entire defense.  He is withdrawing as of today.
He claims the attack on his nephew has caused conflicts that make it difficult for him to keep up with the defense.  No one believes this, least of all Judge Zudan.  Sardonne is not prepared to take on this task on such short notice.  Zudan denies the request.

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chapter 16:
Mahdhi Vaandt watches the recreation area where thousands of Octusi are gathered.  Tyl Krain, her mentor and now-cam operator, begins to record.  She asks if he sees the Jedi yet.  He tells Shohta to get the power generator going for a live HoloNet feed.
Several Mandalorian assault sleds are hovering nearby.  This area is a mandated assembly place provided for the Octusi by the Blauduns.  Knowing what’s about to happen, Mahdi suppresses the urge to implore the Octusi to flee or to at least announce to the Mandos that they are here recording live.
Shohta wonders why they don’t do something to stop it.  The others explain that their role as journalists is merely to record, not to get involved.  He doesn’t understand why they can’t interfere.  There isn’t anything wrong with saving innocent lives. 
They point out that interfering here will cost them their lives and prevent footage from reaching the people of the Galactic Alliance who are in a position to demand change.  Saving these slaves here on this day may doom slaves on hundreds of other worlds to continual suffering. 
When the feed is up, Madhi explains where she is and focuses on Belok Rhal.  He announces he’s been hired to put down the revolt.  He gets into a debate with one of the Elders and shoots him as readily as he did Kani Asari.
Rhal continues to fire on Elders.  Madhi relates what is happening to the viewers up to the point where the Mandalorians open fire on the whole crowd.  When Rhal realizes he and his commandos are being filmed, the news crew comes under fire. 
The team tries to change location, Shohta covering the equipment with his body.  Rhal cofront them and demands they turn off the camera.  She notices a blue and green light start to cut through the stairwell.  Hoping to delay until the would-be rescuing Jedi arrive, Madhi peppers Rhal with questions until he shoots her.
Her team rushes to her side as the Jedi cut through and face the Mandalorians.  She asks if Tyl got the shot.

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chapter 17:
Zekk and Tekli bring several recovered Jedi back from their temporary home at Shedu Maad.  Sadly, the Jedi waiting on the Temple’s landing pad are distracted by the death of Madhi Vaandt.
Watching on their datapads, the feed shows Shohta explaining how the team is hiding in a shop nearby, after Madhi was killed trying to report on what’s happening here.  He shows how the two Jedi are battling the Mandalorians in a stairwell.  Shohta tells the audience how Madhi had impressed upon him that a journalist must report the story, not interfere with it.  He hopes she forgives him.  Then he kicks Rhal down the stairs toward the Jedi.
He tells the audience how Madhi died trying to report on the terrible truth of slavery.  Now, the Jedi have answered the call.
On the landing platform, the Jedi watching know that Sothais and Avinoam were only sent to investigate, but had obviously been caught up in circumstances beyond their control.  Now, they are shown doing what Jedi should be doing. 
Hamner knows why they did it, but fears that Shohta’s drawing the wrong conclusion will only encourage more revolts that the Jedi will be expected to assist.  Saba thinks that’s not a bad thing.  Maybe the Jedi should stop worrying about what’s convenient and just do what’s right.
Several are upset when Hamner says he’s already sent word that Rhal and his men are to be turned over to the Blaunduns for prosecution.  Han questions whether that’s justice to have him tried by the same persons who hired him.  Allana points out that Jedi must obey planetary laws.  Leia adds that the Blauduns will be pressured to truly punish the Mandalorians or they will be accused of approving.  Besides, it also keeps the Jedi from looking like that went out there desiring vengeance.
There is a bigger problem here, though.  Daala is probably seeing the same videofeed and drawing the same conclusion Shohto is.  If she thinks that the Jedi are going to back up slave revolts, she may assume it’s an attempt to destablize her government. 
He wants to comm her immediately and assure her that this was not the case.  Saba counters that she feels the Hand of the Force in all of this.  It’s time the Jedi act with their hearts.  Hamner is adamant that he’s the one left in charge and has to make the decision.
Han challenges him to tell them about the deal with Bwua’tu.  Hamner admits that the Mandalorians saw the StealthX launch being prepared when they stormed the Temple.  Bwua’tu contacted him afterward, hoping to prevent a battle over Coruscant.  If Hamner didn’t allow the launch, the admiral would use his influence to get Daala to be more reasonable.
The other Masters are offended that he has held the Order back and kept information from the Council during this dangerous time, especially considering that Bwua’tu is in no condition to arrange anything right now.
The Masters want him to resign.  He refuses.

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chapter 18:
Jagged Fel meets Daala outside her office, looking at the Jedi Temple.  He jokes that it’s not wise to attempt a paraglider attack on the Jedi.  She asks if he’s seen the HoloNet news. 
He has been watching it, but it really doesn’t affect the Empire.  Daala thinks it does, considering his relationship with Jaina Solo.  Jag admits she broke off their engagement not long after the attack at the restaurant.  Daala hope he doesn’t think she was responsible or that attempt on his life. 
He points out that it isn’t clear that the attack was directed at him.   A lot of fire was directed at the Solos, too.  She assures him it wasn’t her.  Since Dorvan thinks that it was an attempt directed an undermining her government, she’d very much like to find out who was responsible.  This pro-Jedi bill she’s been hearing about certainly makes her think there’s a conspiracy afoot.
Jag suggests she stop doing things that reinforce the belief that she’s a monster.  Daala needs his help, but he won’t agree to use Imperial resources to put down a slave revolt.  She tells him there’s more going on here.  The Rim is about to explode.  If she releases the fleet in orbit of Coruscant, it just frees the Jedi to to continue to incite Freedom Flight.
Jag doesn’t believe the Jedi would do that.  Daala asks why they’re working with the Sith now.  She gives Jag the report on the incident at Klatooine in which Jaina Solo sat in judgment and released half a group of Sith.  He is stunned at what he reads, but wonders why she’s showing him this.
Daala tells him the galaxy is finally at peace and he is going to help her keep it that way.

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chapter 19:
The Emiax tracks the Shadow’s signal to a moon  near Almania.  Luke thinks that, rather than the moon Auremesh, she’s gone to Pydyr.  A debate erupts over whether they  can trust Vestara.  It ends when she rushes to the refresher. 
Luke assures Ben he’s disabled the engineering hatch and the auxiliary comm station.  Besides, he needs to send a message to Cilghal.  Ben asks why he thinks Abeloth is going to Pydyr. Luke tells him he knows what she’s looking for.
When Ves returns, she finds the hatch locked.  Ben stalls while Luke gets the message from the Temple, telling them about the Mando siege, Daala’s refusal to release the Horns when all the other Jedi have recovered and a no-confidence vote in Master Hamner.
They finally let her in.  Luke asks if there’s something wrong with the refresher because her hands don’t smell like sanitizer as normal.  It’s clear she went somewhere else.  Luke offers to escort her back so she remembers.
Ben handles the approach to the world of Pydyr which is still recovering from the destruction leveled by Kueller years ago.  He’s told to divert because Pydyr is under quarantine due to an epidemic.  Luke tells him to stay on course.  He informs the spaceport who he is and insists he’s going to land and recover a stolen ship. 
He’s told that no star yachts landed within the last week.  Luke is adamant that they are going to land anyway.  For one, he never told the spaceport what kind of ship they were seeking.
     •    Kueller appeared in The New Rebellion.

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chapter 20:
In the spaceport, Luke sees one other ship in the hangar.  The crew is peering out of the viewports, looking fearful and tired.  He immerses himself in the White Current to see things as they are.  He finds that the crew members only believe they are sick. 
Luke tells the two teenagers to stay here while he goes to find the Shadow.  He sees that others here also appear to be covered in blisters and sores.  Considering how powerful Abeloth’s illusions are, he doubts that he should be able to see through the guise this easily if it were her doing. 
He tells the portmaster that he knows the thief is here and that she’s the carrier of this disease.  She’s immune, though, and Luke has been sent to bring her back to a lab for study.  The portmaster tells him that the ship landed near the seashore.  Luke guesses that it landed near a temple.  Abeloth is probably trying to find the Fallanassi in the hopes of hiding among them.  If so, they are in danger.
The portmaster decides to cooperate.

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chapter 21:
Vestara secretly follows Luke and his guide while wearing a bright orange hazard suit.  She’s already sent a message to the Lost Tribe, telling them that the Skywalkers have tracked Abeloth to Pydyr. 
When she tries to steal an landspeeder, however, she finds Ben inside.  He insists they go back, but she points out that she’s not going willingly.  Unless he wants this to get deadly, he can come with her.  They are only following his father to make sure he doesn’t walk into a trap.

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chapter 22:
At the sea, the portmaster tells Luke that the Shadow is in a cave.  He leaves quickly enough that Luke wonders if Ben’s warning through the Force might not indicate that he’s going to be betrayed. 
When he arrives, he is greeted by his old friend, Akanah. She’s unhappy he’s brought weapons here.  Luke tells her he’s tracking a very dangerous being.  Akanah wonders what she has to do to convince him he’s got nothing to fear from her.  Luke would rather she convince him that she is who she says she is.  He asks her what the name of his mother was.
Akanah hoped he’d gotten over that.  Luke smiles, knowing that Abeloth may have known the facts of their meeting years ago, but not about how he’d felt about being tricked.  Still, he cannot convince Akanah that Abeloth is dangerous.

He knows they are creating the illusion of the plague here.  She accuses him of playing with the Current. He’s just as arrogant as he was before, despite the fact that it’s cost him his wife and two nephews.
He knows he’s made mistakes, but the Jedi do not hide from the galaxy the way the Fallanassi do.  They are compelled to defend the galaxy.  Akanah wonders if it’s really about control.  Surely Luke realizes that the Jedi lost their way,  It started when they decided they were beyond light and dark.
Luke reminds her that the Jedi do not believe that.  A Sith had attempted to corrupt their beliefs.  Akanah thinks she succeeded.  After all, a Jedi now rules the Hapes Cluster, Jacen Solo tried to change the flow of the Current and the Grand Master is working with the Sith.
Luke knows these accusations are true, but he doesn’t know how she can know them.  Abeloth may have told her.  He asks if she knows what Jacen was seeking here.  She admits she sensed a shadow in him when he arrived.  But he was Luke’s nephew and Akanah thought she could help him find the light again.
He left before he was prepared, though. She had wanted him to accept his limitations.  But Jacen had too much fire in him.  He thought he was responsible for saving the galaxy.  That attitude is why so many Jedi become monsters.  They take their vow to protect so seriously that they bring on more burdens than they can handle.  That leads them to desire control which ultimately makes them the ruler, not the protector.  She points to what has happened to Kueller, Tenel Ka and Raynar Thul.
The galaxy pays when a Jedi thinks that they have to rule to defend.
Luke asks if she thinks the Jedi should stand by and allow evil to triumph.  She counters that one cannot fight evil without becoming evil.  The Jedi should have learned their lesson from the Yuuzhan Vong war.  All they did was prevent change from coming to the galaxy. 
Luke asks if that change was necessary enough to allows trillions to be sacrificed to the Vong gods.  Akanah tells him it means the Current is not theirs to control  They can only trust its purpose and not try to bend it.  That’s what Jacen was trying to do and she thinks he succeeded.
Luke must go and leave the ancient one with them.  She may be able to undo the damage.  Luke realizes that Abeloth must have promised to correct the Current.  He doesn’t know if that’s possible, but it’s certainly not a good idea.  Jacen had seen a dark man in armor sitting on a throne.  When Luke had looked into the Pool of Knowledge later, he’d seen Allana on the throne surrounded by friends. 
He reminds Akanah that the future is always in motion.  They cannot know that the course Abeloth will change it to is any better.  Akanah tells him they are sure.  She knows about the vision of the white throne.    Jacen changed the future to one of his choosing.
Luke reminds her that it doesn’t mean he’s actually done it.  Even if he has, Abeloth changing it back doesn’t mean anything.  The course she sets it to will be ever-changing, too. 
He knows Akanah realizes the truth behind the lie that Abeloth is telling them.  She decides that Abeloth is beyond his understanding.  Luke suggests she explain it to him.  Instead, Akanah pulls the rapelling Ben and Vestara down toward the rocks.  Luke uses the Force to direct their fall.
Akanah points him toward the Jade Shadow, telling him that no one can explain Abeloth.

     •    Of course, Luke met Akanah in the Black Fleet Crisis books.  We last saw Akanah when she was working with Jacen Solo in Betrayal.

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chapter 23:
With Kenth Hamner no longer obeyed, the Jedi Council has sent the Solos to the Detention Center to retrieve Valin and Jysella Horn.  The Masters are working on a plan to send help to Luke without having to fight the GA. 
Corran and Mirax are helping behind the scene.  Natua Wan, recently returned from the Transitory Mists, insisted on being here for the rescue mission. Artoo reports that the tracking devices on the carbonite pods show that they are moving around. Zekk thinks the GA is on to them. 
Han notes how Jaina looks at Zekk and Taryn with envy now.  It’s not that she’s jealous of Taryn, but she is missing her relationship with Jag.  Han knows that those two are not going to work this out until they realize that they have to put their relationship ahead of anything else. 
Jaina doubts there’s anything unusual here beyond just being cautious.  See-Threepio is at the entrance to the office suite, to make sure no one else is allowed in.  Seff Hellin is nearby.  Zekk points out that the moving pods make it difficult for this to be a simple grab.
Taryn asks if they’re abandoning the mission because she won’t leave the poor Horn girl stuck here.  Han starts to come up with another idea when he realizes that one of the trackers has been found.  Then they discover that the pods are being separated.
That’s when Jagged Fel comes in with Ashik and several bodyguards.  He assures them that the GAS doesn’t know anything about this.  He does want to know if it’s true that they are working with the Sith.
Han interrupts an argument about to brew between Jag and Jaina over why they broke up.  Leia explains to Jag how Luke and Ben encountered an entity named Abeloth whom they believe is responsible for afflicting the young Jedi who lived in the Maw during the Vong war with the madness that has been erupting among them lately. 
Luke, without reinforcements from the Jedi, entered into a temporary alliance with a tribe of Sith who claimed that their apprentices were suffering the same way.  It turns out that it was a ruse to try to capture Abeloth instead.  Luke thought she had died, but she fled to Pydyr where he believes she’s hiding among the Fallanassi.  The Sith don’t know that yet, but they will soon.  This isn’t just a couple of Sith, but thousands.  For this reason, the Jedi have been trying to launch their StealthXs.
Jag tells them they need to launch now because Daala has the holovid of Jaina and Lando presiding over the trial on Klatooine.  She wants him to send Imperial forces to put down the slave revolts because she thinks the Jedi are trying to destablize her.  Apparently, she believes that she can secure his cooperation by not releasing the holovid to the public.  For the last three days, it’s worked. 
He would prefer for the Empire to have a good relationship with the Jedi.  Daala’s going to figure out what’s going on soon enough.  He wanted them to know before she did.  It does jeopardize the integration between the Empire and the GA, but, the more he sees her, the more he realizes that the Moffs are right this time. 
They will have to release the Horns quickly and right now.

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chapter 24:
Two young Jedi guard the operations hangar when Kenth Hamner arrives.  They confront him over not being in his quarters.  Hamner was requested to remain there with two guards, now unconscious, watching the door, but he assures them that it’s not true.
He tells them that launching the StealthXs is an act of treason.  The Arcona Jedi, Vaala Razelle, reminds him of her name.  He is chagrined to find out the other Jedi, the Bothan Yantahar Bwau’tu is a relative of the admiral.
They refuse to let him enter.  He uses the Force to pull their lightsabers away and knock them out.  Inside the hangar, he finds the squadrons preparing to leave.  Lowbacca, Izal Waz, Wonetun and many of the Order’s best pilots are here.  Jaina Solo isn’t, but he’s surprised to see Raynar Thul among them.  He spots four masters, Octa, Kyle, Kyp and Barratk’l, planning to fly, too.  Corran Horn is gone.  The Solusars are with their students on Ossus.
Saba and the others are in their robes.  If she’s planning to take charge, Kenth fears that she will be aggressive in her defense of the Temple.  Raynar Thul spots him and just smiles.  Hamner doesn’t know what that means.  Thul is a strange one. 
He climbs up to the support level, pondering whether it might be necessary to take out Saba.  He opens himself up to the Force and hears about the extraction team.  He assumes an attempt is being made to recover the Horn siblings.   It appears that Booster Terrik is involved in this plot, too.  They are sending Jedi teams to the Outer Rim to help with the slave revolts.
Cilghal reports that the Solos have been told by Jagged Fel that the Empire will not be joining the GA if it’s led by Daala. Kenth’s surprise echoes in the Force with the others and he knows Saba realizes he’s here.
Fel is preparing to leave orbit soon and that may distract Daala long enough that they can coordinate their departure with his.  Saba tells them to have Captain Terrik start the sabacc tournament now.  They all go in ten minutes.
Kenth steps up and tells them he can’t let them do that.
     •    A couple of things here.  First, there was a brief mention in the chapter about the Arcona Jedi not having the glassy look that most of her species have, indicating that she has resisted the salt addiction so many of her people have.  The first mention made of an Arcona was in the first Jedi Apprentice book, The Rising Force.  In it, we met an Arcona who explained that salt was as essential to his people as water.  They will die without it.  There was nothing to indicate that the Arcona were addicted to salt, merely that they needed it to survive.
    •    Secondly, it says the Solusars are on Ossus with their students.  I didn’t know the academy on Ossus still operated.  There’s been no indication in any of these books that it’s been reopened since Jacen sent the GAG to hold it in the LotF books.

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chapter 25:
On the Errant Venture, Booster Terrik is determined to free his grandchildren if it means crashing the ship into the Chief of State’s office.  The last guest boards and it’s an uninvited one.  Wynn Dorvan tells Booster that a 50 million credit tournament attracts attention, especially since no one learned that it would be hosted here until after they paid their entry fee.
The Venture was nearly denied orbit until General Jaxton happened to pull some strings.  He happens to be one of the players.  Booster has an aide check to see if there’s an available seat.  There’s something up here.
He gets word that their friends down below want the tournament to start now.  Senator Treen isn’t here yet, but they are rather insistent.  Booster understands something has changed on the ground.  It may be the reason Dorvan is here, but he doubts the Chief of Staff would be sent to sabotage a Star Destroyer.
He has Senator Treen’s entry fee refunded and allows Dorvan to take his place.  He does, however, ask him to stay on the bridge for a few extra minutes as there’s something he must see. 
He turns the Venture to an orbiting mirror station and blasts the mirrors with his turbolasers.  Then he takes the ship to the next station. Dorvan tells him that he could have killed someone.  If he thinks Daala is going to let this pass, he’s wrong.  The whole Sixth Fleet is out here and they will blast this ship to bits.
Booster reminds him that, if they do, they will also blast both of them, Senator Bramsin, Moff Lecersen, General Jaxton and almost a hundred other very important people.  And, after all, the invitation to the tournament did specify no early departures.
He’s getting his grandchildren back if he has to blast every single mirror out here.
The security brought aboard by the players have already been taken care of with coma gas.  If Dorvan likes, he can contact his boss and send her  list of everyone on board this ship. 

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