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"Conviction": Book 7 in the Fate of the Jedi series


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chapter 26:
 
Sul Dekkon doesn’t look good.  Tahiri hopes that means she’s won.  Eramuth warns her that Dekkon has something new in mind.
 
He rests the prosecution’s case.
 
Eramuth is granted a few minutes to confer with Tahiri, telling her that the fact that the jury has been sequestered does not mean that the events of the past few days couldn’t have reached them. Now that the Jedi are working on a transition government, the way the jury views this case may have changed, especially since the only version of the story they have is that the Jedi have taken over the government.
 
Dekkon shows up in court, looking unhappy, abruptly rests his case and that could persuade the jury that he believes the Jedi will arrange Tahiri’s release regardless of the verdict. 
 
There have already been inquiries made about dropping the case against her and ending Master Skywalker’s exile.  Dekkon could very well believe in his heart that justice is going to be interrupted.  Or he could be acting.  Either way, his chances of winning today are better than they were yesterday.
 
They can rely on those odds or they can either hope the charges against her are dropped or that the Jedi do not lose the sympathy of the public in the next few weeks it takes the trial to wind down.
 
He tells the court that the defense rests.  Neither he nor Dekkon offer any closing arguments. 
 
At the Jedi Temple, the Jedi assemble to give Master Kenth Hamner a respectful funeral.  There is no word of Valin and Jysella.  Their transmitters have been removed so it seems that their being in carbonite when the other Shelter Jedi were freed of their illness prevented the two siblings from being cured themselves.
 
Senator Treen, General Jaxton and Head of State Fel are here.  Jag lets Saba know that his people really didn’t want him in such an obviously dangerous place with the triumvirate of the GA.  He also explains that there is an investigator assigned by the Department of Justice to look into Hamner’s death.
 
The Senate is already tabling any of its debates which is gong to make more work for her, Treen and Jaxton.  Any problems that erupt during this time is going to be blamed on the triumvirate. 
 
Saba would rather have not taken the job at all.  She asks Leia to go to Klatooine.  Though the Mandos have been called off, many species that have fought for their own freedom are going to be gathering there.  Saba hopes to normalize relations with them now that Daala is gone. 
 
Leia reminds her that they will have to offer something significant to prove that they are genuine.  Saba suggests she find a group that is closest to breaking away from their masters and can easily transition to self-government.  Offer them provisional Alliance membership and a Senate seat.
 
It will show they are serious and set a precedent for others to follow.  Leia adds that it could also divide the groups so they do not present a united front against the GA. 
 
Izal Waz lights the funeral pyre and says a few words honoring Hamner.
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chapter 27:
 
Vestara writes a real letter to her father, telling him that Abeloth is on Nam Chorios, posing as Master Nenn of the Theran Listeners and has taken her followers into hiding in a pumping station someone on the planet.  She just can’t bring herself to send it.
 
She finally does when she hears Ben calling her.  Vestara produces a list of pumping stations on the planet.  Luke appears, telling them that Sel is sleeping, but can’t cause any trouble while she is.  There’s not point in waking her up as she’ll just fall under Abeloth’s sway as soon as she does.
 
This was so much easier when they were younger and could just take what they had, knowing the blame would fall on Black Sun or a corrupt Imperial official.  He tells them they will get rest tonight, then swipe a vehicle from an Oldtimer.
 
The Mon Calamari judge informs Admiral Daala that her plea of not guilty has been entered, but she will be held without bail in recognition of the risks involved in her getting support from Imperial extremist groups.
 
Daala’s defense attorney expresses that this could prejudice a jury against her.  The judge advises they will all have to take steps to keep that from happening.  In Daala’s opinion, the conspirators still conspire.  She asks him to deliver a message for her without reading it.
 
He agrees, but cautions her about taking action regarding her case that don’t involve him.
 
She is transferred to the Armand Isard Correctional Facility where she undergoes the routine scanning while mentally composing letters to her regular attorney, her banker and Boba Fett.
 
She is put in the cell opposite from Tahiri Veila who waves at her.
 
When Luke wakes up, he feels better.  Ben hands him the text of a recent set of news stories.  It reveals that the Jedi have seized control of the government, Daala has been arrested and that Luke’s exile has been overturned. 
 
Luke thinks this is a disaster.  The Jedi are not politicians in general.  Though he’s happy he can return home at any time, they have to take care of Abeloth first and that means he can’t offer Saba the support she needs right now.
 
They leave Sel asleep and take off in a pilfered vehicle with supplies from Sel’s kitchen. It feels like old times.
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chapter 28:
 
In the main hangar of the Rakehell, Javon Thewles is sitting in a beach chair wearing his body armor listening to Leia Organa Solo.  He tells her he’s never been the bodyguard of a child before.  He’s also concerned about the safety of bringing their adopted daughter into an armed camp with many different interests involved.
 
Leia understands this.  She doubts Coruscant would be any safer right now.  Besides, when Seha told them that their actions had cost him his job, they decided to make amends by offering him the chance to head up their security detail.
 
She also understands that he has some thoughts about the poisoning.  Thewles tells her that he suspects it was part of a plot to discredit GA security as a whole.  He had thought the Jedi were responsible since the involvement of Fleet Intelligence made it much easier for the Jedi to infiltrate the Senate Building.  Seha has assured him that it wasn’t part of the plan at all, which means that there are still poisoners out there.
 
There appears to be an unidentified player on the board who has reason to want to alter security. 
 
At Klatooine, Han jokes that it reminds him of Tatooine where he met a nice guy once and got a wife out of the deal.  He might look for a second wife here.  Leia tells Allana that, while she deals with freedom fighters and Grandpa looks for another wife, she will have to stay with Threepio and Artoo.
 
The Falcon lands along with a shuttle with GAS troopers and a shuttle with some civilian security, including Javon Thewles. 
 
A crowd waits at the camp below.  GAS comes out first, its commander assessing that Leia should take off at once as there are armed beings everywhere, the crowd is chanting anti-Jedi statements and local security seems nonexistent.
 
Leia tells him they’ll be right down.
 
She is greeted by Padnel Ovin, leader of the Sapience Defense Front.  Leia offers her condolences on the loss of his brother.  He introduces her to his aide, Nialle Aker, and the leader of the Freedom Advocacy Movement, Reni Coll.  Ovin goes on to present a droid leader of the Munumission Mandate Militia, Naysay,  and Azmar Huun from Freedom Flight, along with many others.
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chapter 29:
 
Moff Lecersen blasts Jag’s attendance at Hamner’s funeral and his speaking out in favor of the action against Chief of State Daala.  He accuses Fel of sabotaging the reunification process.
 
Not everyone agrees with him.  Moff Getelles of Antemeridias is in support of the Jedi, but he’s a minority.  Jaina comes in and tells him he’s damaging support for the reunification process by speaking in favor of the Jedi.
 
Jag reminds her he’s here in GA space and had to give some kind of statement.  Did she expect him not to say that Daala was out of control?  She thinks he should be more politically savvy so that he doesn’t have the Moff Council aiming blasters at him.  That’s not something Jag is very good at. 
 
He notes that she seems to get angry with him whether he supports or doesn’t support the Jedi.  He’s not angry that she didn’t tell him about the plan to remove Daala from power.  In supporting that action, he did what he had to do.  She admits she’s angry because she can’t be here to give him support when he needs it.  She has an assignment.  She can’t talk about it, no.
 
Though found not guilty of several minor charges, Tahiri is found guilty of premeditated murder.  Someone else has always defined Tahiri:  the Tuskens, the Jedi, the Vong and Darth Caedus.  Now a group of beings who have never spoken to her.  She’s never had control over who she was.
 
Eramuth assures her that they still have sentencing and the appeals process.  He intends to prove that the ousting of Chief Daala colored the jurors.  She apologizes for being his only loss in this courtroom and surrenders herself to the bailiff.
 
Kandra, Valin and Jysella, the latter two under assumed names, are welcomed to Nam Chorios and sent to orientation.  Kandra can’t believe they’ve gotten through so easily, especially with the terrible fake ids the Horns have.
 
They admit they got them from a peddler on Coruscant.  But they just need to test how lax security is.  Jysella will stay in orbit to check out the Golan platforms.   Kandra and Valin will go down to the planet.
 
Kandra is getting irritated at the non-answers they have been giving her.  They seem to agree with whatever conclusion she guesses.  She asks if they can at least tell her where to put their cam so they can get the best view of the story they were promised.
 
Valin’s eyes focuses on a group of beings in Corporate Sector-style outfits.  He says there’s a ripple in the Force.  All three have pouches the right size for lightsabers.  He tells her to stay away from them as they are dangerous.
 
She has her cam operator keep her unit on the suspicious group at all times.
 
Then she looks over a brochure of recommended local businesses, turns to ask Valin his opinion and finds he’s gone.
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     •    Moff Getelles was working with Seti Ashgad via Loronar Corporation in Planet of Twilight.
     •    Valin and Jysella’s fake ids really are bad.  Valin is “Hal Cyon” his father’s family name separated into two names.  Jysella’s is “Jes Cyon” which is almost as lame.
 

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chapter 30:
 
When Allana finishes her assignment early, Threepio offers her a break.  She wants to go outside.  That’s why she has guards, after all.  After getting her desert garments and spraying her with ultraviolet shield, the two droids escort her down the ramp.  Anji tumbles out with her.
 
They are met by Javon Thewles and three other operatives.  Allana thinks their body armor should be hot.  Javon assures her there are small cooling units inside.  Besides, they can pick each other out in a crowd easily and sometimes a show of force is a good idea.
 
On the other hand, it also means that the volatile species in the crowd are not seeing the operatives who are mingling among them in less conspicuous gear.  Hiding their strength is good strategy here.
 
They walk along, seeing a tent where a 2-1B droid drones on about the rights of droids, complaining about memory wipes and reprogramming, challenging the crowd to imagine being taken as a small child to a dark room where they are reverted back to infancy in seconds, knowing only how to obey and losing everything that made them unique.
 
It notes Allana with the two droids and asks if they belong to her.  She tells him that they take care of her so it could be that she belongs to them.  When asked if they’ve ever had memory wipes, Threepio amuses the crowd by saying he doesn’t remember.
 
The 2-1B goes on to relate a droid horror story so Javon suggests they move on before attention is turned back to her.  She did well, though.  The crowd won’t think much of the attempt to embarrass a child and was impressed by her ability to handle it with humor. 
 
Threepio, in fact, recorded the incident.
 
Reni reminds Leia that the Alliance’s pretty words are very nice but the reality is that they are dealing with enslaved populations.  Leia acknowledges that her words are hypothetical, especially since the GA does not have governing authority in this area or in many areas where there are freedom movements.  She points out that some of those movements are violent.
 
Padnel Ovim blurts out that they all know she’s referring to the Fireborn.  Leia asks if he commends or condemns his brother destroying hundreds of lives just to prove a point to Daala.
 
He explains he didn’t even know it was going to happen.  Leia tells him that she will condemn the slave practices of the Hutts if he can condemn the final act of his brother.  In the interests of promoting a civilized galaxy, of course.
 
Reni argues that the Alliance condemning the Hutts costs them nothing, while Padnel will lose much ground if he condemns his brother.  Leia will not give up the idea of sparing the lives of innocents just to praise the ideal that slaves have the right to struggle against their bonds.
 
Reni thinks Leia should back up her words with a military force that would defend Klatooine from retaliation by the Hutts.  If it costs the GA the potential revenues that would entail, Padnel could take the loss of support condemning his brother would cost him.
 
Leia believes that a freedom movement must be strong enough and have enough support to liberate itself before being admitted to the Alliance.  Reni notes that the Jedi have a history of operating without the approval of the prevailing government.  She wonders if they would support a freedom movement even if the GA does not.
 
Leia pretends to think about it, then specifies that a Jedi Knight and apprentice would be assigned to the system to support a movement if the native government of a world is able to seize control of the capital and declare independence.  Reni would rather have two recognizable Masters assigned and two full Knights.  Leia negotiates it down to one Master and two knights within a week of the declaration, but only if the Senate is in session.
 
Padnel refuses.  There are no guarantees here.  He points to how the Jedi are ruling now and they are not known to be even-handed ones.  They declare themselves Sith like Palpatine and Jacen Solo.  Leia tries to tell him that Jedi and Sith are not the same thing.
 
He challenges her to tell him what is the difference when they both use magic and lightsabers to determine the fate of others.  She assures them that the triumvirate will last only until a new Chief of State is elected.  One can look to Tenel Ka of the Hapes Consortium as an example of a Jedi who can be a successful ruler.
 
They decide they want Tenel Ka here, then. 
 
At lunch, Han offers his sympathies only to learn that Leia is thrilled.  She hopes Tenel Ka comes as she will probably support their recommendations and can spend some time with Allana. 
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     •     They use Tenel Ka’s full name here: Tenel Ka Chume Ta’ Djo.
 
 
 

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chapter 31:
 

Corran reports to Saba that the Errant Venture has returned and asks to be give a few days to visit her with Mirax.  Saba gives him leave, but tells him she will need him very soon.  With Hamner dead and Leia gone, he’s the best resource she has for handling galactic politics.
 
She goes to the Chief of State’s office every day to meet with her co-Chiefs only to find that the Senate is doing absolutely nothing.  Corran tells her it’s their way of making sure that she gets blamed for anything that goes wrong while she’s in office. 
 
Saba understands that which is why she, Senator Treem and General Jaxton are making quick decisions.  This job isn’t as hard as she thought it would be and it’s made her suspicious.  At first, she suspected that Treem and Jaxton just cooperate in order to get her out of the office quickly each day, but she thinks it’s more than that.  It’s as if both of them are sure there is something behind them.
 
Corran promises to keep his eye out for problems.  Then he gets a comm. that Tahiri has been sentenced to death.
 
At the Kesla Vein Pumping Station, Vestara is the first out of the hatch.  Ben follows, then Luke.  This has been a habit for them, investigating every station on the list.  This one is small and completely automated, the only drochs are tiny and there’s no sign that Abeloth or the Listeners have been here.
 
They find their speeder where they left it, but there’s another one nearby.  It’s not running and a line connected to it descends to the floor of the ravine.  Vestara pulls her lightsaber while Luke points out that snipers probably already have them in their sights.
 
A high-pitched wail coming from the ravine walls calls Vestara by name.  a woman jumps down and lands on their airspeeder, calling Vestara a traitor.  Ves recognizes Tola Annax, a fellow Sith.
 
Tola demands she turn herself in so they can determine whether it was her or her father who killed Lord Taalon.  Vestara explains that Taalon was changing.  Tola assures her that they are aware of the mutations affecting the High Lord.  If Vestara surrenders now, she might be acquitted.
 
Since the Sith clearly don’t know who killed Taalon, that means her father didn’t tell anyone.  Vestara is surprised and confused that he seems to be protecting her. 
 
Three Sith jump from behind the airspeeder.  Ben and Luke respond with their own lightsabers.  She and the Jedi are careful with the Force, lest they cause a storm.  This really doesn’t matter to Ves, but she suppresses overly using it.
 
Tola gets away.  Then their airspeeder explodes.  Ben thinks Tola was watching them fight just like Luke did at the Temple on Dorin, to see how the enemy fought.  Luke notes she was happy enough to sacrifice her comrades, though.  As it is, it was good to run into the Sith here.  However, the people of the area will show up soon to investigate, so it’s a good time to leave.
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chapter 32:
 
In the Hapes System, Querdan Dei and his second, Haar,  watch three Battle Dragons leave the planet.  One is disguised as a medical frigate.  It appears that the Queen Mother is leaves Hapes.
 
Dei has his crew plot a course as closely as they can so they can determine where the flotilla is jumping to when it does leave the system.  This captured Corporate Sector ship does frustrate Dei at times, but it was assigned to him specifically by Gavar Khai, doubtless a sign of his faith in Dei’s abilities.
 
This Jedi Queen project is iffy, but Khai is determined to follow up on Lord Taalon’s vision.  He believes that the vision showed a woman similar in appearance to Tenel Ka who had once been a Jedi.  She is not the Jedi Queen herself, but she might have a child.  Having lost one child in a recent war, she may have another.  Their assignment is to take up position until they can gain access to the Queen Mother and kill her.
 
When the flotilla jumps, they plot a proximity to the planet Klatooine in Hutt space.  It’s a desert world that recently underwent a slave rebellion.  It was also the site of an interaction with the Sith and the Jedi.
 
Allana screams in her darkened room. Leia reaches the cabin with her lightsaber in her hand.  Anji looks ready to pounce.  Leia holds her granddaughter, telling her she’s just having a bad dream. 
 
Allana wakes up, telling her that she dreamed that a woman was on fire.  It was her mother.  She believes this wasn’t just a dream.  Her mother was wearing robes like those the people here wear and was smiling at her.  She was on the sand and Allana ran to her.  A man made of fire jumps out, grabbed her mother and she started to burn. 
 
Leia guesses that Allana may be getting a Force impression from when Tenel Ka lost her arm.  She does, however, admit that her mother is coming here.  Allana is sure the man on fire wants to kill her.  Leia thinks that they will stop anyone like that. 
 
After getting Allana back to sleep, Leia goes into the cockpit and tells Han they have a new problem.  Han asks if he can shoot it.
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chapter 33:
 
Kandra interviews Mayor Snaplaunce who is certain that Master Skywalker and his companions were not responsible for his injuries.  He explains that he saw them take off when the vibroblade hit him.  It was someone here in the city.  Fortunately, it was someone trying to kill a human, not an Ithorian, and stabbed him in the wrong place.
 
Kandra doesn’t understand why the Skywalker party is still under an arrest warrant.  He tells her that they are still investigating the murder of Dr. Wei.  The increase in Force storms corresponds to when Luke was here decades ago under an assumed name and the theft of speeders is probably related to the increase in visitors here, too.  The warrant remains in effect until he has the answers to these mysteries.
 
She tells her cam operator that this wasn’t anything she couldn’t have gotten elsewhere.  The Newcomers/Latecomers don’t have any info, the Oldtimers aren’t talking, the Listeners have disappeared and Valin Horn is nowhere in sight.
 
After lunch, she looks into the rise of speeder theft and finds it is increasing.  One was found destroyed outside the Kesla Vein community.  She finds that, at the moment of the explosion, another Force Storm erupted at sites around Nam Chorios.
 
She also finds that Crystal Valley has had the lowest incidence of reports, but only within the last few days. They will go to Kesla Vein first, then Crystal Valley.
 
After renting a high-speed landspeeder, Kandra and Beurth, her Gamorrean cam operator, head to Kesla Vein.  She is commed by security which warns her of the speeder theft problem and their suspicions that there’s a murderer loose. 
 
Kandra would really like to speak to Luke Skywalker.  She asks Beurth about a frequency Valin had given them if he needed to contact them.  She composes a message, in the hopes that it’s a general use Jedi frequency, asking Master Skywalker to meet with her.  She uses the name he’d used on his first visit to Nam Chorios: Owen Lars.
 
A couple of minutes later, she gets a response asking for her identity.  She texts back who she is.  She gets an agreement to meet.
 
She isn’t so happy when it’s time to meet Skywalker and finds herself in the middle of a battle between the legendary Jedi, his comrades and a man wielding a red lightsaber.  Luke jumps into the speeder, orders Kandra to the back and Beurth to drive.  He calls Ben and Vestara when another man jumps on the speeder.
 
Vestara deflects the blade, lands in the speeder, Ben lands on Beurth’s lap and tells him to move over.  Then Ben takes off in the pilot’s seat.  Luke cuts the transponders off so they can’t be tracked.
 
When they get far enough away for Kandra to tell her story, Luke has Ben set course for Crystal Valley.  In exchange, he offers Kandra the story of a monster from the Maw, the lost tribe of the Sith and a galaxywide threat. 
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chapter 34:
 
Dei has the Cryptic Warning approach Klatooine in Stealth mode.  The Hapan vessels make several orbits before sending landing craft from the flagship.  Dei has a parallel course plotted down. 
 
They recognize the Millennium Falcon’s configuration. Since the Solos are friends of the Queen Mother’s, it increases the odds that she’s aboard.  He has them land nearby, but far enough that they will be hidden from the camp.  Then, he hikes to a ridge to confirm the landing craft have arrived.
 
He spots several people milling about.  Five humans, two droids.  He spots the adults armed, the child has an animal hovering about her.  The adults separate and move around the landing craft while the child and the two droids head up the ramp.
 
In the entry lounge, Allana leaves Threepio and Artoo and takes Anji into the small antechamber to greet her mother.  Tenel Ka scoops her daughter to her.  Allana doesn’t tell her about the fiery man.  Her mother is strong and can take care of herself.
 
An hour later, Dei watches the child leave, then goes back to his own ship.  He summons the crew and takes reports.  The others have found that this is a gathering intended to negotiate without the consent of the governing authorities who have chosen to ignore it. 
 
Dei looks over a map of the camp and determines he will have to get into the camp somehow so he can get close enough to Tenel Ka with something powerful.  He’s warned that she used to be a Jedi which means she has the ability to perceive danger.  She may feel it if he approaches her with an intent to kill. 
 
He’s provided instead with a false Corporate Sector identity showing he’s a journalist.  He tells them he saw a delegation visiting the Hapan craft, but only a child and two droids boarded for about an hour. 
 
That night, Allana wakes up again, but doesn’t scream.  She rubs her eyes to wipe the tears away.  This time, the man of fire was back but approached her mother from behind.  She had been behind him, watching.  She had screamed and thrown herself on his back, only to burn herself.  Her mother felt her pain and turned.
 
She doesn’t know whether it would be her mother or her that dies.  She cannot go to her grandmother who will only tell her not to worry.  She is definitely going to do that.
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     •    Ever since the chapter in which Tenel Ka’s full name is used, people have been calling Tenel Ka by the name Tenel Ka Djo.  It seems strange as she’s never been called that before.
    •    I would think that Leia would be more careful about dreams that could be prophetic plaguing her granddaughter. Even if she doesn’t know that Jacen had the same problem with visions, she’s had enough experience with the Force to know that Force-sensitives sometimes have them.
 

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chapter 35:
 
In the corridor leading to the visitors meeting halls, Daala catches up with Tahiri who is still shackled at the wrist and ankles, escorted by a YVH droid.  They exchange barbs before Daala is escorted into a square chamber with a series of booths separated by partitions in front of a sheet of transparisteel. 
 
At booth number six, she meets her attorney, Otha Tevarkian.  Or, at least, a man who says that’s who he is.  He’s about sixty with thinning hair, expensive clothing and a briefcase that matches.  Daala admits she doesn’t know who he is.  He says that Tevarkian contacted the man’s employer to have him visit her today to discuss her escape.
 
He points out the several considerations that go into prison-building that make all manner of escapes possible, such as the proximity of this room to one of the facility exits.   From a  psychological point of view, it’s better for the prisoners to receive support from family and friends who are more likely to visit if they are not inconvenienced by lengthy security procedures. 
 
From a security point of view, it’s not a good idea.  He takes out some laminated documents and presses one against the transparisteel.  He pulls it down, leaving the laminated portion behind.  The security cameras are not sensitive enough to see that.
 
It’s laced with a potent material.  After pulling off several pieces against the transparisteel, he tells her there will soon be nothing separating the two of them and the facility will seal up.
 
That shouldn’t be good, but there are times when a civilian prison will not shutdown.  Suppose, for example, there is a poisonous gas released.  Shutting off ventilation would be catastrophic.  All prisons operate by GA Department of Corrections’ standard operating procedures.  They use the same computer system throughout. 
 
In a moment a signal will be sent to someone in the DoC who believes that Daala should still be in charge and will generate an alarm that the prison has been attacked by poison and has been cut off from all support due to a Yuuzhan Vong attack.
 
At that point, there will be a detonation and his employer will take over.  He himself will not look like he is now. 
 
When the countdown reaches one, they both duck under the table.
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     •    Is there no monitoring of communications between Daala and her visitor?  I know there’s a security cam that they counted on the visual feed not being good enough to see the lamination left behind, but they had a very incriminating conversation there that I would think would be important.
 

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chapter 36:
 
Tahiri is meeting with Eramuth Bwua’tu at the same time.  He tells her he’s working on a way to get her out of the stuncuffs, as well as appealing the jury’s decision.  He is sure they will prevail, but it will be more difficult the longer the Jedi remain a presence in the Chief of State’s office.
 
He asks if she feels she’s in danger here.  She admits she probably isn’t any more than any other prisoner here, but it’s possible the Force could fail to alert her of an oncoming attack and she is limited in her ability to defend herself with these shackles on.
 
She wonders if she was meant to die here.  Bwua’tu thinks she’s letting the depression get to her.  He goes over the process of appeals, getting some unofficial Jedi help and getting a documentarian in here to do a feature on her that might enlighten the public as to what was going on while they were focused on the takeover of government.
 
She suddenly tells him to get down.  He jumps to the floor just as a booth explodes to the right.  She rolls around and sees Chief Daala scrambling through a gap in the transparisteel booth, escaping.  Tahiri scrambles after her, only to fall on her face due to the ankle cuffs.
 
The YVH droid starts firing, so she uses it to sever the cable between her cuffs and drops to the floor, finding a suit jacket and a blond wig there.  She lets the droid sever her wrist cuffs, too, and takes off.
 
Daala spots the man who had posed as her attorney with different hair now.  She crawls across the clothes he left behind and spies Boba Fett flying into the hall. 
 
The YVH droid is coming for Tahiri when she uses the Force to push it back.  Then she sees Boba Fett arrive.  The droid goes after him instead only to get a missile for its trouble. 
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chapter 37:
 
Tahiri watches Fett leave, a man jump onto a gurney and a woman in a prison jumpsuit leap on after it.  The repulsor gurney follows Fett.  Tahiri tries to follow it, grabs the collar of the man operating it and pulls him off, jumping on the gurney in his place.
 
Fett flies through his exit, Daala behind him.  The former Chief of State is unhappy to see Tahiri escaping at the same time.  Tahiri jumps, lands in an airspeeder and tells the occupants she’s a dangerous federal prisoner.
 
Daala realizes that the ship that looks like Slave I really isn’t.  This is probably not Fett either.  He tells her to come with him anyway if she wants to escape.
 
GAS inexplicably is able to ground the ship it believes is Slave I.  They find it’s a decoy.
 
Daala, wearing a blond wig, had been escorted by the real Fett a couple of kilometers away to a shuttle.  She understands the plot.  Though initially intimidated by seeing Boba Fett, the GAS forces will study the holocams and determine that it wasn’t the real Fett.
 
Combined with the decoy Slave I.  The freelancer posing as Tevarkian got away.  The real Slave Iis in the Coruscant system where they’ll rendezvous with it to get her away. 
 
He asks her if she intends to regain her political power. She tells him she’s going to fight to regain leadership.  That’s what the galaxy needs.
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     •    Another use of the decoy Slave I.
 

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chapter 38:
 
Querdan Dei is wearing clothing suitable to the planet now, within the camp, watching.  He analyzes the defenses here, watches a group of children play a ball game and spies the Solos arriving with their entourage, including the two droids he’d seen the night before.
 
When an errant ball gets too close to the entourage, a Hapan security officer jumps on it herself.  The astromech moves closer to one of the robed Hapan figures who seems to try to console him.  Dei cannot see if she has a missing arm or not.
 
When the situation is over, he thinks about how the droid seemed to want to protect the Hapan instead of its owners.  He suspects she may be Tenel Ka Djo.  That the droid cares about her and her about him is unusual.  He forms a plan. 
 
When the boy who tossed the errant ball approaches him, Dei gives him a few credits and tells him he’ll contact him if he needs him again.
 
Today, the security detail is dressed in desert garb to throw off anyone looking for predictability.  She looks around, spots a man walking away.  He seems familiar to her, like her father who had been alone and dark.
 
There is something about him.
 
Javon asks if she’s okay.  She decides to take them  in another direction that leads them closer to the strange man.  She sees him again up the path.  He is human, but doesn’t look much like her father. 
 
He passes by her and she feels something in the Force.  She tells Jovan she’s doing exercises.  Reducing her presence in the Force, she watches the man walk away until deciding she wants to go back inside to finish her lessons.
 
Inside the tent, Tenel Ka admits that any leader in the Alliance or the Jedi Order can be replaced at any time.  For that reason, neither she nor Leia speak in absolutes.  Padnel thinks an oath should be forced upon all participants, to be broken on the pain of death.  Leia reminds him that it may be the Klatooinian way of doing things, but they are not all Klatooinian.   Even when they all speak Basic, there are nuances that differ from culture to culture.  Padnel thinks that means they should speak as Klatooinians do.
 
Han and Leia meet during a short recess.  She tells him that, because Klatooine is most likely to end up the most viable world to be accepted into the Alliance, there must be a leader chosen.  The Council of Elders wants someone who can be blamed if something goes wrong. 
 
Both contenders are flawed.  Reni Coll is smart, but she lacks charisma.  Padnel Ovin has plenty of charisma, but he is turning off potential supporters because he insists on sticking to certain points.  He wants blood oaths that he’s not likely to get.
 
Han thinks he can fix this.  He approaches Padnel, Reni and Nialle and says he’s figured out that the problem is that Padnel has the brains of a sand flea.  Padnel reaches for his holster, but Han is faster.  He presses his own against Padnel’s snout, ignoring the guards pulling their own weapons and telling Padnel that this is where he can prove he’s smarter than they think. 
 
After all, Reni just has to sneeze, one of the guards gets twitchy and fires at Han who reacts by firing at Padnel.  Then Reni becomes the leader. She assures them that she would not behave so dishonorably.
 
Han tells the guards to holster their weapons.  He explains that he did this to make a point. Despite being a slave, Padnel would never have obeyed Han if he’d been ordered to fail to pull his blaster from his holster and look like an idiot.  Yet, Han made him do that just now because he wanted to.
 
That illustrates how much of a slave Padnel is.  Not just to the Hutts, but to his predictability.  His refusal to condemn his brother’s act makes him predictable enough that everyone here can manipulate him.  Nothing will change and he will never grow up to be a free man.
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chapter 39:
 
Jysella Horn gets aboard the Golan platform and uses the Force to get past the guard.
 
In Crystal Valley, Luke watches the nearby pumping station.  Ben and Kandra lay near him.  Beurth wants to leave.  Luke thinks both journalist and cam operator should get back to Hweg Shul and file it when ready.  Trying to get recordings of Abeloth may be the last thing they do.
 
Vestara reports that they should wait for the next big dust flurry and sneak in, slice into the city networks and find out where the hatches are.  It solves two problems:  Kandra can get her footage of Abeloth and get it from a safe distance that doesn’t endanger her life.
 
They’ll set up some datalinks to relay images out of the pumping station. 
 
An hour later, the three Force-users leave the crew behind.  Ben would rather just leave the two behind, but Luke claims they need the relay setup for themselves and the galaxy.  He won’t say why.
 
After setting up the relay, the Skywalkers and Vestara enter the hatch and close it behind them before moving into the pumping station.  Luke asks Vestara if she can contact Tola or her colleagues.
 
Vestara claims she is not in contact with her, but she knows the comm. frequencies they use.   If she sends a message, one would eventually reach her.  Luke has her send one telling them where they are and that Abeloth is here.  He knows that she summoned the Sith to Nam Chorios because she knew their power was needed.
 
He’s not angry or disappointed.  Her decision was the best one for the galaxy and he was hoping she would do it.  He was counting on the Sith following them here. 
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chapter 40:
 

The crew of the Cryptic Warning have been working in the interim.  They’ve identified the droids as See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo, property of the Solos and their family for decades.  It stands to reason that they have achieved a special status in their owners minds and may be allowed certain privileges.
 
Dei has them work on getting more funds and building an explosive charge that will burn, not project.  There are rumors of an imminent change and he needs to be in place quickly before the Queen Mother leaves.
 
In the meantime, Kyp, Sothais Saar, Bandy Geffer and Raharra Lapti arrive on Klatooine.  The last is an apprentice so young she still has a training lightsaber and had been pulled from her lessons on Ossus.  But she’s Klatooinian and the impression that gives here is important.
 
Leia greets the group, telling them that there’s been some progress.  She shows them a recording of Padnel Ovin explaining that they can still honor their predecessors while acknowledging their imperfection.  For that reason, while he loves and honors his brother, he cannot condone the use of the Fireborn and the loss of life to make a point.
 
This is good because now they can show the four Jedi as examples of those that will be assigned to this system to help. 
 
Allana explores again with the droids in tow.  Javon checks to make sure she doesn’t need anything.  She tells him that she’s learned this could be going away soon and she wants to see more first.  She wishes she could confide in him, but he’s a grown-up and won’t take her seriously.
 
This is probably why Jedi travel alone…they don’t have to ask permission to act.   She walks so fast, she leaves the droid behind.  Javon catches up and tells her that.  She says they’re too slow and should go back to the Falcon.  Artoo rolls into view, but there is no sign of Threepio.
 
At the Falcon, Leia assures her that no one is going to hurt a protocol droid.  Allana reminds her that her Grandpa has threatened to many times.  Leia has to make an appearance with the other Jedi.  She’ll be back after that to look for Threepio.
 
It may take time that Allana doesn’t want to wait.  She even turns down an invitation to come with Leia, even though her mother will be there.  She is left aboard the ship with several guards around and only Artoo to help her do something.
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chapter 41:
 
In the tunnels, Luke, Ben and Vestara find the Oldtimers laying on the floor, looking dazed and in despair.  They are horrified to find Sel among them.  Ben wonders if they should break the people out of it.  Luke reminds him that they are still under Abeloth’s control.
 
This does, however, mean they are close.  More bodies, those of Theran Listeners, are further ahead.  Among them walks an energetic Valin Horn.  He no longer believes the Jedi are imposters, but have merely been corrupted by an alien intelligence cutting them off from the true Force.  They will be cured as he and Jysella have been.
 
Grand Master Callista Ming is here and will hand over the title once Luke is cured.  Abeloth is nearby, maintaining the cure. 
 
Callista appears, greeting Luke.  Luke asks her to tell Abeloth to go back to the Maw.  He knows there is a part of Callista still in there, the one that loved him and will not attack him.  She agrees that it’s true.  Both she and Abeloth want Luke to join them.  She is so lonely and it’s her that gives Abeloth the little affection she has for Luke.  If he joins in, she will have a better perspective for his point of view.
 
The whole droch thing was just a lure to keep him occupied while Abeloth took control of the Listeners. 
 
Luke reminds Callista they’ve lived a lifetime apart.  He doesn’t think they were meant for each other.  His presence reaches out to embrace her.  Ben is able to see and sense the things of the past as his father lived them. 
 
Vestara nudges him to indicate that Valin is using a comlink.   There are the sounds of blasterfire nearby.  Valin accuses them of bringing Jedi.  Ben tells him that there are no other Jedi here and that it must be the Sith.  Valin thinks he’s lying and attacks him.
 
Ben has to defend himself.  Though concerned about the fight, as Valin has more experience than Ben, Luke concentrates more on Callista.  He knows Abeloth is hiding in here.  He reaches out and tears at Callista, pulling her Force essence from this body.
 
She shrieks as she’s pulled out.  The part of her that is pure Callista looks on Luke with love and gratitude before disappearing.  The body is still there, but morphs into Master Nenn who grabs a lightsaber and impales himself with it.  Valin collapses.
 
They hear Abeloth screaming.  Then Tola Annax arrives with a couple of dozen other Sith.  Ben asks if his father has any ideas this time.
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chapter 42:
 
At nightfall, Allana heads down the ramp with Anji and greets Javon.  He reminds her that she’s supposed to stay here until the Solos get back.  He also knows Allana is going to cause him problems if he tries to make her stay.  So, he has the troops form up to let her look around for See-Threepio.
 
Javon tells her they will have to think of places where the droid would want to go, but he will not let them spread out.  She would rather go to the ridge where she’d seen the dark man, but she goes with Javon.  Half and hour later, they find Threepio arguing with the Manumission Mandate Militia.
 
Javon pulls the restraining bolt off the the droid and demands to know from the 2-1B droid what is going on.  The droid explains they wanted to demonstrate how easily droids who claim to serve of their own free will can still be enslaved.  Threepio assures his friends that his captivity wasn’t all that unpleasant were it not for the disorganized leaps in logic he’s been subjected to.
 
The 2-1B droid demands that restraining bolt sockets be removed from droids or be fitted for organics.  Threepio finds that there are several messages for him, one from Princess Leia wanting him in the main assembly. 
 
Javon starts to take Allana back to the Falcon, but, when he looks away for a few moments, she slips under the back of a tent and runs out the front into the night.
 
The Klatooinian delegation is pleased with young Raharra Lapti.  Leia gets a comm from Javon, telling her that Allana gave them the slip.  She sends Han to the Falcon to prep for launch in case they need support from the air.  Fortunately, Allana doesn’t know that Leia can track her comlink.  She quickly locates her moving eastward.
 
Tenel Ka would love to go with them, but she cannot be seen giving too much attention to the Solos’ adopted daughter. 
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chapter 43:
 
Kandra is upset that they’ve gotten a feed including some Callista person but no Abeloth.  The signal has cut out and this is not what Skywalker promised them.  A Corporate Sector gunship has arrived now.
 
Beurth wants to leave, but she refuses until they get something worth recording.  A man asks them what that would be.  He ignites a red-bladed lightsaber and cuts their cable, telilng them to come with him.
 
Aboard the ship, Gavar Khai finds that the ships of his flotilla have arrived safely.  His goals are to capture or destroy Abeloth, kill Master Skywalker and retrieve his daughter.
 
They cannot establish contact with Tola Annax, though.  Suddenly, he’s told there’s a foreign device on the sensors.  A weapon detonates.  There are multiple signals indicating starfighters everywhere.  This has to be an ambush.
 
Vestara warns Luke a Force attack is coming in ten seconds.  As she counts down, Luke and Ben struggle against the attacking Sith, some of whom find Abeloth and lose their lives quickly. 
 
At the ten second mark, the Force hits Luke and knocks him to his knees.  The Sith spasm and fall.  Abeloth screams.  Vestara tells them to hurry before the others recover.  Luke sensd Ben to get Valin. 
 
While Luke and Vestara support each other and Ben carries Valin, Ben asks what that attack was.  It was like what happened with Ship attacked the tsil.  He realizes that Vestara took the spook crystal from the mining plant. 
 
She admits she took it, a compacitor from the TIE shuttle and a comm receiver to act as a timer and trigger.  Luke tells her that she killed an innocent being when she used the tsil.  Vestara argues that she cannot destroy Abeloth.  He might, though, which means he has to live and, since they were about to be killed, she did what it took to win that battle.
 
He shouldn’t criticize her for being hard enough to do that when he tricked her into luring her own people here, knowing that some of them would die.  When they reach the surface and determine there is a battle above, she realizes that the Jedi were lying in wait.  He waited to expose his own people until hers were discovered.  He’s more Sith than he wants to admit.
 
Luke tries to contact Kandra, but there is no reply.  He assumes she’s gone back to Hweg Shul.  He does get ahold of Jaina for extraction.
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chapter 44:
 
See-Threepio’s optics are sending transmissions to Dei.  They had grabbed the droid, powered him down, put a restraining bolt on him and used a weapons vendor to install the relays and an explosive charge.  They finally handed him to a member of the MMM that had been bribed.
 
Fortunately, the Solos’ little girl had found him.  Dei can’t help but notice the similarity in appearance between Amelia Solo and the Queen Mother Tenel Ka.  He begins to wonder if Tenel Ka has secretly borne a second child or if the first one, presumed dead, is still alive.
 
He will have to kill both of them to be sure.  For now, he’ll deal with the mother.  He reaches for the remote and finds it’s gone.
 
Allana had reached the top of the eastern ridge, the Millennium Falcon and the camp seeming to be so far away for now.  Anji is with her, but flops on the sand to groom her fur.
 
She reaches out to the Force and feels the darkness.  Following it, she spies the dark man.  Withdrawing her presence, she approaches and sees him using a datapad.  Her mother is on it.  His thoughts are open to her.  He’s not the fiery man, See-Threepio is.
 
She takes a step toward the remote.
 
Leia reaches the top of the hill.  She cannot sense her granddaughter’s presence, but can sense Anji and something dark nearby. 
 
Dei turns around sees the girl with the remote in her hands. He demands she give it to him.  She refuses.  He knows that she fears for her mother.  Dei explains that she would probably grow up to be like her mother and he does approve of both intelligence and beauty.  But his duty comes first and he has to kill both of them.
 
She runs.  He charges, but gets a face full of fur for his trouble.  The thing holds on, digging its claws into his face.  He flings the thing off as his face bleeds.  He burns with anger.  Leia Solo is here now, with her lightsaber lit. 
 
They fight quickly and strategically, but the damage caused to his eye by the girl’s pet is his undoing and he falls to Leia’s blade.  His last image is of the little nexu staring at him.
 
As his death is felt on the Cryptic Warning, Allana sits on her grandmother’s lap, telling her that she knew it had to be her.  Leia holds her, silently crying that this is happening too soon.  Allana assures her she’s alright, but they have to get the bomb out of See-Threepio.
 
It’s over by the time they return to camp.   Javon and the security forces have escorted the droid into the desert and disarmed him. But the Hapans will not allow their Queen Mother to remain after an attempt on her life, so they are leaving.  Allana takes a moment to find her mother’s sad face and gives her a wave.
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chapter 45:
 

Taryn Zel lands and helps Ben carry Valin up into the shuttle.  Jaina is with Zekk and Tyria Tainer.  Luke has Tyria come down so he can take her starfighter. Ben worries that his father hasn’t really recovered from his injuries fighting Abeloth the first time.  He shouldn’t be flying. 
 
Luke gets in the air anyway and spots Ship rising into the dark sky.  Abeloth is aboard, suffering with the loss of Callista, Nenn and the tsil.
 
Gavar Khai is told that two frigates have been destroyed, two crippled, but there is communication from Tola Annax.  He orders all withdrawal of forces from Nam Chorios.  He knows he was mistaken to rely on the Jedi being too distracted by the problems on Coruscant.  He won’t underestimate them again.
 
One of the Golans, Herkan Base, is firing, probably automatically.  Kyle Katarn, Raynar Thul and others are up in StealthXs, while Taryn is told to keep the shuttle away. While Raynar fires a shadow bomb, Luke takes a shot while Abeloth is distracted, but his ship spins.  His S-foils are knocked off by the explosion and he passes out.
 
When he wakes up, he finds himself on the supply ship, Verity.  Jaina tells him that Abeloth  got away while she and Zekk were working on saving him.  Some of the Sith frigates got away but they damaged several before that happened.  Luke has been dunked in bacta and had a lot of sleep.
 
Valin and Jysella are back to normal, along with the Theran Listerners.  They lost no StealthX pilots during the engagement. 
 
He wishes Abeloth had finally been destroyed, but Ship could’ve been damaged by the combined forces of the shadow bomb and Luke’s lasers.  At least, with the loss of Callista, Abeloth is not only damaged, but Luke’s old love is free to be one with the Force.
 
As the Millennium Falcon leaves Nam Chorios, R2 keeps making jokes at Threepio’s expense.  Threepio says the droid told him he had an explosive temper.  Artoo keeps it up, leaving Threepio to protest that he does not blow up at the slightest provocation and he is not going to pieces over it. 
 
Having enough, Threepio thinks the Manumission Militia may be correct and he’s going to have to assert himself.  He tells everyone he’s going to plan Allana’s next lesson himself and cuts off Han to say he will do it despite the recommendations of the GA Department of Education. 
 
Han points out that the droid interrupted him.  Threepio curtly says he’s so very sorry and walks off.  Artoo follows him, calling him a ball of fire.
 
Allana wishes they hadn’t come here.  Leia tells her that, if they hadn’t, the Klatooinians might have remained slaves.  Allana knows the concept of duty very well, but she prefers flying around on the Falcon.  Han tells her that, when he’s too old, he’ll give her the ship and she can fly it around, avoiding duty.
 
She asks if she has to take Threepio.
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Epilogue:
 
The Sith flotilla forms up in a far-off sector.  Gavar Khai wonders what his failure will cost him.  He’s told that Ship is hailing them.  Abeloth invites him to discuss their mutual enemy.
 
On Coruscant, Tahiri finds a small forgotten room between two turbolift shafts.  She’s got nothing, reduced to scavenging and stealing to live.  The HoloNet reports that her only remaining family is returning to Coruscant.  She’ll have to creep through the shadows to ask them for help.
 
For now, at least she’s barefoot again.
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 End of Book 7
 
 

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