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"Ascension": Book 8 in the Fate of the Jedi series


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chapter 1:
 

At the Circle Chambers in the capital city of Kesh, the Lords meet.  Grand Lord Darish Vol meets with the remaining High Lords and Sabers.  Some believe that Abeloth is a savior.  Even Ship obeys her and it is the Ship of destiny.  Others insist that it is their destiny to rule the galaxy, not Abeloth’s.
 
Vol thinks it would be foolish not to learn as much as they can from this ancient being.  The most recent High Lord, Ivaar Workan, points out that she is not Sith.  At least, not in the same way, they are.  They cannot allow themselves to become dependent on her.
 
It is largely believed they should use her and get rid of her when she cannot teach them anything else.  Lord Yur suggests they string her along and unlock her secrets.  Workan reminds them that they have lost many Sith who have interacted with her.  If that keeps up, they won’t learn much.
 
Vol learns that Ship has made contact.  Abeloth and her escorts will be arriving soon.  He has decided that they will invite Abeloth her and give her a grand welcome.  That will give them time to learn more.  When they do, they’ll decide what’s best for the Lost Tribe.
 
Gavar Khai is glad to be home.  He’s spent his whole life here until two years ago, but he’s still drawn to his homeworld with its beautiful glass sculptures, purple sands, music, culture and orderliness.  The Tribe has lived here for 5000 years, with little choice in the matter, and made the best of it.  They dominated this world, embracing and subjugating the native Keshiri.
 
Those who are Force users can find a place in this society.  Those who are not are at the mercy of those who rule.  But sometimes there is love, along with mercy, as is the case between Khai and his wife.  She had supported him unwaveringly and had raised their daughter, Vestara, well.  Vestara had been the most precious possession of Gavar Khai.
 
He had never had to lay a hand on his daughter who had excelled so well in everything.  He’d once had great plans for her. 
 
Grand Lord Vol contacts him, with news of the parade and masquerade they will be holding in Abeloth’s honor.  Khai knows this is a trap to test his loyalties.  To force Abeloth to wait that long would be to put her in her place.  He explains that Abeloth might be insulted to have to wait three days.  Vol reminds him that he should do his best as a Sith Saber to assure her that this is necessary to show her the respect due her.
 
Abeloth already knows about this conversation when she meets with Khai.  He tells her that they are hoping she grants them three days to prepare to meet her in the manner in which she should be welcomed to Kesh. 
 
She is intrigued by the idea of a masquerade.  It’s very fitting.  She does encourage him and any others aboard to take the time to visit anyone on the planet they would like to see.  She doesn’t think will be tarrying too long.
 
He often wonders what she means when she says things like this.
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chapter 2:
 

Gavar Khai takes the time to visit his estate. His cybernetic arm is doing very well and he may become even stronger with it.  If that happens, the taboo regarding disfigurement may not affect him so much.
 
The nearby fountain can only remind him of the one on Klatooine that Lord Taalon had foolishly tried to harvest.  It had cost them a full ship full of Sith that might have been the deciding factor in battling Abeloth. 
 
His wife, Lahka, comes to him, asking if he’s worried.  He admits he is.  Holding her, he tells her about his concerns for Vestara.  Lahka believes it’s possible that the Jedi boy will be swayed to their side.   Her husband fears he may sway their daughter instead.  There are times he knows she is their daughter and times he thinks she will betray them all. 
 
She assures him that their child may falter, but she will always find her way back to the right path.
 
After his wife returns to sleep, he goes to Vestara’s room, remembering the day he’d come here to tell Vestara she’d been accepted for training.  The servant girl, Muura, had been dismissed without a recommendation. But she’d been sent with clothing and food for several days and a couple of his friends with daughters had been told about her availability.
 
She had had such promise then.  She would have inherited everything and become a powerful woman.  He doesn’t know if she still could.  She is clever enough to continue to dupe Master Skywalker into letting her stay with them.  She could bring his son to the side of the Sith.  Is she playing the game they arranged or is her father the one being manipulated?
 
If she failed in her assignment, he is the one who will pay. 
 
He walks out into the night, into the uvak corral.  There are two, one is his, the other is Tikk, the hatchling that had bounded with Vestara when she was younger.  She had loved the creature, using it to take her to the Temple to begin her training.  Khai had known she would go through a type of hazing where the beast would be threatened.  When he was told to come pick up the creature, he was proud to know his daughter had successfully passed the test.
 
He lulls the uvak to sleep, then cuts off its head with his lightsaber.  It dies painlessly as it had done nothing deserving suffering.  Now, Gavar Khai can sleep.
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chapter 3:
 
The City of Glass on the world of Kesh has come alive with the celebration.  In typical Sith fashion, much of this was accomplished with the ruthless disregard for life.  The crowds gather to see the arrival of Abeloth.
 
She floats out in her golden-haired form, greeted by Lord Vol.  Delicate Sith Victory flowers are tossed.  Gavar Khai’s wife grabs three, crushes them to get their sweet scent.  Abeloth is puzzled by this until Lord Vol shows her.  She pinches a flower herself.  Gavar Khai cannot help but shiver.
 
The parade is spectacular, with Abeloth taking several forms to please her audience.  Lord Vol invites her to their masquerade.  She floats up to him, looking over the city, watching fireworks.
 
The masquerade is the final event of the day.  The next day would be getting down to the business of negotiating this agreement between them.  For now, though, the Sith Temple is filled with revelry.  Gavar Khai arrives alone wearing the costume of the Dark Tuash of Alanciar.
 
In Keshiri folklore, there is a Bright Tuash and a Dark one.  They are giant birds that bring messages about the coming of the Destructors.  The Bright One brings news of their defeat.  The Dark One does not.
 
Abeloth makes the perfect entrance behind him.  Taking the form of a colorful wind.  It’s a Fallanassi illusion.  Lord Vol approaches her in plain brown and tan robes.  Abeloth tells him he would never be mistaken for a Jedi.  He can’t help but think that no one would mistake her for an ally either.
 
Vol compliments Gavar Khai on his costume whom the latter admits was his daughter’s favorite story.  Vol gathers it means she’s doing well.  Khai truthfully admits there have been times when he found it hard to know which side she was on, but his family have always been adept at hiding their feelings.  Her killing of Lord Taalon was necessary as he was becoming useless very quickly.  With the alliance with the Jedi over, she will bring the Skywalkers here.
 
Vol introduces Abeloth to Master Yur who runs the Temple.  She expects he’s proud of the younglings he’s trained, such as Vestara.  Such a teacher could die happy knowing his students excel.  Vol can see that Yur now realizes what he has already.
 
He changes the subject to the Masque.  A play is about to begin.  After all, theatre is all about pretending to be something one isn’t.
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chapter 4:
 
The Sith gather in front of the stage which features a small replica of the Omen which crashes on the world of Kesh.  Lord Vol doesn’t pay attention to it but watches Abeloth’s reaction.
 
He is surprised that Gavar Khai hasn’t told her about their history.  He explains to her that the Sith landed her millennia ago to be greeted by the ancient Keshiri as Protectors.  Their mythology holds that the Protectors would defend them when the Destructors came back.  These Destructors appears every so often to wipe out civilizations on inhabited worlds and return them to their natural primitive states.
 
It may or may not be a legend, but their research on this world shows that it has endured at least one planetwide catastrophe in its history.  The Sith, nevertheless, embraced the myth as it gave them influence over the Keshiri.
 
Abeloth turns to Lady Sashal, a Keshiri Sith, to see how she feels about her ancestors being exploited.  Sashal explains that the Sith allow opportunities for those with merit.  This allows the humans and Keshiri to stand together as Sith.  Genetics need not hold one back.  The Sith also brought technology, art and civilization to Kesh.  Her people are the better for it.  The Sith are destined to conquer this galaxy and Abeloth can be part of that.
 
Vol can’t help but note Abeloth’s amusement.  Though one of her strongest advocates, Lady Sashal hasn’t noticed she just treated Abeloth with a certain condescension.  This allows Vol to watch his enemy more easily. 
 
In his private quarters later on, Vol communicates via hologram with the five beings he trusts the most to get their thoughts.  Workan doesn’t trust Gavar Khai.  Some of his comrades have questioned Vestara’s true loyalties.  He may be having trouble detaching himself from the daughter over which he doted. 
 
Vol arranges to have a couple of Tribe members keep an eye on him.  After a few more discussions, Vol retires to meditate.  He thinks about the last few days, learning about Abeloth.  When he sleeps, he finds himself on the shore of the ocean with his lightsaber in his hand. 
 
Abeloth is there, appearing as a Keshiri, but he knows it’s a mask.  He sees her as the nightmare she is.  She tells him that he is silly to think that anyone could conceive of her vastness.  She will be the Protector and Destructor of Kesh.
 
She means to destroy him, but he dives into her mind after wrapping himself in the Force.  She surges forward and he feels the anguish that tears at her heart.  She has a great need for love and companionship, for anyone or thing to adore her and never leave.
 
Something that had been a part of her was gone forever.  He attacks her mentally, telling her that no one loves her.  Anyone who claimed they did lied to her.  Luke Skywalker saw her as she really was and hunts her in order to rid the galaxy of her.
 
She convulses, stopping her attack to try to escape.  Vol throws himself into the attack to try to kill her.  She pushes him back with her pain.  He surges out of the dream and finds himself on the floor next to his bed.  He sits up and summons a servant, telling him that Abeloth appeared in his dream.  He wants to be taken to his ship and the Lord to be awakened.  She is threatening the city.
 
The servant carries the weakened Grand Lord to his ship as quickly as he can.  Vol weeps, wondering why he thought he could use her. 
 
Abeloth had been wandering the city when she attacked Lord Vol.  She hadn’t been prepared for him to use the same technique Skywalker had, but with less care. The results send her thrashing about, unable to hold her form, releasing energy upon the city.
 
The Force energy sweeps through the City of Glass, making the Sith suffer as she had suffered. 
 
Gavar Khai is aboard his ship, asleep, when Abeloth’s agony wakes him up.  His crew can feel it, too.  They can see the city melting.  The ships at the landing area are taking off.  Ship tells him through the Force that they must leave now.
 
Khai knows he could stand with Lord Vol and defend his people.  Or he can side with Abeloth.  He finally decides they will leave.  Ship sends coordinates.  Those ships not leaving with the frigates fire on Khai’s followers. 
 
He orders them to fire on any ship that does not follow them.  Then they escape into hyperspace.
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chapter 5:
 

Having severed ties with everything and everyone he’d ever known, Gavar Khai is understandably sober.  Tola Annax confirms they won’t be able to go back.  He knows that Abeloth probably attacked Vol, but, for now, Vol will have to made out as the aggressor.
 
He asks that they hail Ship.  He goes to his quarters to speak with Abeloth.  She assures him that he will be something greater than a Lord of the Lost Tribe.  She orders him to lead their enemies on a chase while she recovers.  The Lost Tribe may ally itself with the Jedi again.
 
He does wonder what she plans to do with the Jedi Queen.  She reminds him that all that is in the past.  That pursuit was Taalon’s obsession, not theirs.  Any queen that emerges from the Jedi will be a fly buzzing around Abeloth’s greatness.
 
What Abeloth is not telling him is how badly wounded she was after the attack by Vol.  She will recover, but it will take time.  To pass time, she has Ship gives her newsfeeds from all over the galaxy.  She learns.
 
On one station, she finds an interview with a female of the Jessar species who planet of Qaras had recently gone through a revolution.  The Jessar had overthrown their slaver masters the Minyavish.  It had been a relatively civilized coup and this female was in the center of it.  Her name is Rokari Kem, a lovely-looking creature, who tells Perre Needomo that words are important.  Her people never speak anything that is untrue.
 
They do not even have a word for deception in their language.  As a result, many slaves remained silent when asked questions that would require them to lie.  This often resulted in their deaths.  The Minyavish understood this practice and exploited it.  This is why they must leave the planet.  There is too much of a history of hate between the two peoples.
 
The Jessar do not know how to interact with the Minyavish as anything other than slaves.  They have to learn who they are, separate from their former masters.  It is the best thing for them both. 
 
She is thoughtful, sweet and peaceful.  She is going to Coruscant to take a position as a Senator.  Perre Needmo closes with a snippet of the celebrations on Qaras.  The Jessaran song celebrates Roki Kem as their mother and urges the children to come home.
 
Abeloth sees how much Roki Kem is loved and adored.  She is her people’s mother.
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chapter 6:
 
As Acting Chief of State, Wynn Dorvan promises his meetings will be productive.  He is replacing General Jaxton at Saba’s request, to the relief of the general himself. 
 
The transition of power at Coruscant is pleasant enough compared to those happening on other worlds where the replacement government sometimes is worse than the previous one. 
 
Now, Leia Organa Solo is here, substituting for Saba, Senator Treen, Gavin Darklighter, General Jaxton, Admiral Parova and Admiral Bwua’tu’s aide, Rynog Asokaji. General Thaal, Chief of Staff of the Army, is here for the first time.  His droid voice, replacing the lost voicebox due to an assassins’s blade, seems cold and intimidating.
 
Tycho Celchu and Carlist Rieekan are in attendance, as well.
 
Dorvan first would like them to focus and start prioritizing issues so that emergency meetings don’t become so commonplace that they overlook something really important. 

They have 14 worlds applying for membership to the GA.  B’nish is one, having been a slave world of little note.  Its representative is a pleasant man named Kameron Suldar.
 

They go through the list as quickly as possible until they reach Klatooine.  He asks Leia about her insights.  She gives a brief summary of the 25,000- year old Treaty of Vontor that was broken in the eyes of the Klatooinians when the Sith violated the Fountain of Hutt Ancients.  Despite a ruling that the Hutts weren’t at fault, the emotional Klatooinians revolted. 
 
They are not used to running an organized government, but she has hopes for them.  The Klatooinian elders are respected, but they are seen as being out of touch by the more passionate members of their species.  The assembled are unhappy, though, to see that Padnel Ovin is being put forward as a candidate.
 
Leia assures Dorvan that she got to know Ovin well during her time there.  She also points out that Ovin’s Sapience Defense Front isn’t so much different from the Rebel Alliance.  Whether they are a terrorist group or a freedom movement depends on how one looks at it.
 
She believes Padnel’s heart is in the right place.  Rieekan isn’t sure this process should be rushed, though.  It will be harder to remove Klatooine from membership if it doesn’t work out.  They should be able to wait a little longer to make sure they are ready.
 
Leia thinks they have a right to come to the table as equals after so long the slaves of the Hutts.  Going on Leia’s experience and instincts, Dorvan allows for Klatooine’s membership so long as it obeys GA law.
 
The planet Qaras is next.  They all know that Rokara Kem is submitted for a Senator position.  It is a divided world, though.  The Minyavish weren’t violent toward their slaves but are now being forced off the planet.  The assembled representatives don’t have much trouble approving Qaras’s admission, though.
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  • Riekkan is still alive, then?  Yikes.
  • I would also like to point out that General Jaxton’s relief at not being part of the triumvirate doesn’t seem to bode well for his part in the Lecersen Conspiracy.  With him and Parova both being conspirators, they were in a position to stymie Saba.  Do the conspirators think they can count on Dorvan, loyal to Daala, to support their position?

 
 
 

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chapter 7:
 
Moff Lecersen meets with his guests on his estate.  Senator Treen, General Jaxton, General Thaal, Senator Bramsin and Admiral Parova are gathered here.  Jaxton assures them all that Dorvan doesn’t know anything about this. His position is delicate anyway.
 
Those present at the earlier meeting can report on all the issues discussed, but it’s better to see if any situation can be turned to their advantage.  There’s nothing really to exploit on B’nish, whom none of them have heard of, but there is something about the would-be Senator Kameron Suldar that makes them think he belongs among them.
 
None of them want anything to do with the Klatooinian Ovin.  Thaal thinks that he could do them a favor, though, without realizing it.  The newsvids will keep their eye on him.   He’s going to bungle a few things, especially if he has help.
 
These liberated worlds throwing their orderly planets into chaos reminds them too much of the fall of the Empire.  Jaxton wants to throttle whoever founded Freedom Flight.  Lecersen actually admits that he founded it himself.
 
He tries to keep tabs on all places and he learned that there were isolated slave issues on small, distant worlds.  He realized he could turn this to his advantage.  These revolts became a big problem for Chief Daala.
 
He and Senator Treen had kept a few brewing crises in store to hit Daala with when they needed to.  All Lecersen did was organize a few things at the beginning and let it take a life of its own.  The chain of command had only a few clear links.
 
The assassination attempt on Bwua’tu, when he wouldn’t cooperate, distracted Daala who reacted by making bad choices that turned the public against her.  But Freedom Flight has a life of its own now.  Lecersen really can’t direct it at this point, much as he’d like to.
 
Treen still thinks there might be a way to exploit this.  There are corruptible being on every world.
 
When his guests leave, including the sleeping Senator Bramsin who had insisted he was resting his eyes, Lecersen finds that someone left him a note in a flowerpot.  It tells him that his unknown writer believes there is something to discuss to their benefit and asks to meet with him.
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chapter 8:
 
Jaina is certain the Sith ships have to be somewhere.  Ben and Vestara are playing dejarik and Luke doesn’t like it.  He tells her she could be doing some good by telling them where her homeworld is. She reminds him that, according to him, she is Sith and Sith don’t do good.
 
Luke thinks that, if she really wants him to believe that she has rejected that life, she will want to help them.  Vestara explains that she has done everything she can do to the point where she does not allow her people to fall into danger of being wiped out by the Jedi. 
 
Luke reminds her that the Jedi do not condone genocide, as they’ve been the victims of it more than once.  Vestara knows that Ship told her that the Order 66 which wiped out the Jedi the last time was issued by a Sith and carried out by a Sith who was Skywalker’s father.  For that reason, he would certainly be motivated to want to kill everyone on her world.
 
Luke thinks that Vestara still thinks of them as her people and it will be a long time before she doesn’t think of them that way.
 
Ben argues that they all want to find the strike team and Abeloth, so they should concentrate there.  Vestara agrees but points out she’s shared everything she knows there.  The Sith haven’t trusted her with the details of their grander plans.
 
Luke asks her what she thinks based on her knowledge of her people.  Vestara knows that history is important to the Tribe so they may go where they can learn more about other Sith.  The original plan was to capture and enslave Abeloth, but, if they felt it was to their benefit, they could work with her.
 
That would put Abeloth in charge of where they go, though.
 
Jaina asks about Ship.  It’s what Abeloth and the Sith have in common.  She may control it, but Ship doesn’t seem to care for her.  Abeloth doesn’t fit within his parameters of finding Sith and training their younglings. 
 
Vestara agrees that Ship was designed to serve the Sith.  Abeloth’s will is too powerful for him to break, but he would come to Vestara if he could.  Ben had once bonded with Ship the way Vestara had, when he found him on Ziost.
 
Ben’s will had been enough to resist the urgings of the dark side.  He’d given Ship to Jacen when he returned, but Ship hadn’t seemed to like Jacen.  Jaina believes that finding Ship will lead them to Abeloth. 
 
She would like to work with Natua Wan to do some research.  It’s important that those integrated back into the Jedi Order after being influenced by Abeloth feel that they are important.
 
At the Temple, Natua understands the worry that she sees in the eyes of others when they look at her.  She knows she endangered lives when she believed that the people she knew were imposters.  The librarian, Markre Medjev, has reminded her that the Jedi will eventually come to believe in their hearts that the afflicted Jedi are cured.
 
It is Medjev who pulls her aside with news of a request for Natua’s specific services.  Jaina Solo needs help researching the Sith and Ship.  Glad to know she is playing a part to destroy the being who violated her mind, Natua accepts.
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chapter 9:
 
The list just gets worse:  Dromand Kaas, Ziost, Krayiss II, Khar Delba, Korriban and on.  Ben is uncomfortable watching Vestara learn more about these places.  He would have thought she already knew about most of them.
 
She tells him that the Omen’s data bank suffered some damage and information was lost.  They didn’t have the technology to recover lost data until recently.  Ship prioritized bringing them up to speed on what is happening now rather than what has happened in the past.
 
She still has information on Sith worlds not listed here, but what she told his father still stands.  She does not want every Jedi converging on Kesh and destroying her friends and family.
 
Ben reminds her she is putting all of them at risk, especially if the strike team and Abeloth have returned to Kesh.  Vestara asks if he would be willing to guarantee that those who have not coorperated with Abeloth would be safe.
 
Ben really can’t do that and Vestara knows it. On the other hand, if they each had something on the other, it might work.  Ben could tell her who he thinks the Jedi queen is.  Ben tells her that the difference there is that Kesh is real and the Jedi queen is a figment of Taalon’s imagination.
 
Vestara isn’t so sure.  She knows that he and his father were uncomfortable when the subject was brought up.  Ben considers this and determines what the best outcome for each scenario is.  Finding Abeloth and the Sith fleet would benefit the Jedi, but Vestara could arrange the murder of someone who might be important to the whole galaxy. That’s not a good trade.
 
He asks where she thinks Ship might go.  He doubts there’s anything on Ziost as whatever is there would have freed Ship long ago.  Jaina interjects that Korriban is their best bet.  It’s the homeworld, after all.  Ben can sense Vestara’s heart light up at this news, but he doesn’t know if Jaina can.
 
When Ves admits she’d like to go with Jaina when she does explore, Ben is shocked when his cousin agrees.
 
Luke isn’t happy with this.  Jaina reminds him that Vestara probably knows more about the ancient Sith than they do. She can be trusted to protect her own interests.  If they come across something dangerous, she’s likely to reveal what she knows.
 
Besides, Ship has a bond with her.  If they get near him, he will find her.  Luke knows all this is true, but he’s still wary. Vestara is still a Sith, no matter what she may tell them right now.  He doubts she will throw her entire life aside so easily. 
 
Jaina doesn’t think Vestara is any different from Mara, Kyp Durron or Anakin Skywalker.  If Luke thinks they are, it could be because he’s worried about his son getting hurt.
 
Luke doesn’t deny he’s worried about Ben.  It’s not that he thinks his son will fall to the Dark Side, but because he wants Vestara to join the Light so badly that he could be hurt, both physically and emotionally.
 
Jaina reminds him that the power of love pulled two Skywalkers back from the Dark Side.  It shouldn’t be underestimated and neither should Ben.  If he believes Vestara can be redeemed, it could be because she can be.
 
Luke gives in.  Vestara can come with them, but he’s watching her every minute.
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     •    I have to agree with Luke that there is a difference here.  He points to Vestara being raised a Sith.  We’ve been over the theory that Mara never was a Sith.  Kyp Durron and Anakin Skywalker were not raised Sith (Kyp never was a Sith) and had been good people before then.  They were brought back to the Light by appealing to the person they once were.  Vestara has never been anything but a Sith.  I’m not saying she can’t change sides, merely that Luke’s concern isn’t so easily dismissed, in my opinion.
 
 

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chapter 10:
 
None of this makes Luke happy.  Vestara is dangerous.  There’s a chance she can be won over, but the odds are stacked against it.  Years ago, he’d banned all navigational data about Korriban from Jedi computers and asked the GA to do the same.  That’s making their task hard now.  He almost hoped Natua Wan would fail to find anything in the old records, but she did.
 
They are on their way now.  Luke had asked Vestara what she knew about the place.  Ves explains that the Sith were red-skinned beings who were native to Korriban.  The current Sith are descendants of Jedi who followed the Dark Side of the Force.  When the Dark Jedi were exiled, they arrived on Korriban and were treated like gods by the natives.  The Lord of the Sith title refers to those humans who became the masters of the native Sith.
 
Over time, the Sith species itself became extinct.  There was a strict caste system among those who now called themselves Sith.  There was no transitioning between them which Vestara thinks is an inferior life to what the Lost Tribe developed.  Anyone on her world can rise according to their ability in the Force.
 
The Sith Empire thrived until it was discovered by Gav and Jori Daragon which led to the Great Hyperspace War which the Sith lost.  The Omen crashed during that time and she knows nothing else.
 
Ship told them some things but only what it thought was important.  He wanted them to live in the present, not the past. 
 
Luke tells her that the Sith on Korriban haven’t existed for a long time.  They are headed to their burial grounds which are likely to be dangerous anyway.  There are what can only be described as demons there.  There are also creatures known as terentatek that look like rancors twisted with Dark-Side energy.  There are also tuk’ata that guard the tombs. 
 
Jaina remembers encountering one on Yavin IV that understood the Sith language.  But it left them alone after Jacen healed it.  There are other things there too, most of them unpleasant. 
 
When they arrive at Korriban, they head right to the Valley of the Dark Lords.  Luke warns them not to split up or wander off.  They are to report anything they sense in the Force immediately.
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     •    We last visited Korriban in Riptide, but it’s appeared many times, including in the LoTF series, the Jedi Quest series, the Darth Bane books.
 
 

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chapter 11:
 
In the medcenter, Admiral Bwua’tu sometimes wonders if he’s still in the nightmare where someone cut off his arm with a lightsaber.  He remembers Daala’s voice, his aide, Rynog Asokaji and images of a reporter.
 
When he wakes up, his uncle, Eramuth, is there.  Bwua’tu asks if he doesn’t have a trial to attend.  His uncle chuckles that the trial is over, his client convicted, but somehow managed to escape.  He doesn’t know where she is now.
 
It’s been a few weeks for Nek Bwua’tu.  When Asokaji enters with caf, he’s surprised to find his superior awake.  The doctors arrive shortly afterwards to welcome him back to consciousness. 
 
Eramuth does his best to insinuate there could be brain damage.  His nephew, perceiving this could be important, plays along, not answering when asked if he knows who he is.  All scans show normal, though.  Eramuth offers to stay behind and tells some old stories to jog his nephew’s mind.
 
When the doctors leave, Eramuth and Asokaji bring him up to speed on what has happened.  Bwua’tu remembers the newscast that played when Daala visited him.  The Mandos had been hired to represent the interests of a local mining company during the slave revolts. 
 
Of course, Mahdi Vaandt thought otherwise.  Given the similarities between this assault and the one on the Temple, it’s clear she suspected Daala.  Bwua’tu can’t say for certain, but he suspects it’s true. 
 
They tell him that her excessiveness led to a bloodless coup by the Jedi who had managed to cure the madness afflicting some of them.  A triumvirate made up of Senator Treen, Wynn Dorvan and Saba Sebatyne has been formed in the interim.  Daala was imprisoned but escaped at the same time Tahiri Veila did when someone appearing to be Boba Fett springed her.
 
No one really knows who it was.  Dorvan is holding up as well as can be expected.  He really doesn’t have any enemies and gets things done.  The Jedi are not out to destroy the GA.  Bwua’tu knows that and wishes Natasi had understood that, too.
 
They bring a hologram of Dorvan into the meeting.  Bwua’tu tells them all what he remembers about the attack.  It started when he left Daala’s residence late one night.  No one reacts too surprised at the revelation that the two were involved. 
 
He doesn’t think anyone knew he would be there, though.  He had pressed an emergency signal button when he thought he was being attacked by Jedi but knows it couldn’t be.  He killed one.  Dorvan confirms the other was never found. 
 
They know the attackers weren’t really Jedi.  For this reason, they would like for Bwua’tu to pretend that he doesn’t remember anything.  Either Eramuth or Asokaji must be with the admiral at all times.  Dorvan might get a Jedi to stand guard if he can.
 
Bwua’tu rejects that as whoever they get will be honor-bound to tell Master Sebatyne.  He’s not a good enough actor to fool a Jedi.    He does ask that he be given some time to rest.  Blackness is already picking at the edges of his mind.  Dorvan’s droning sets him off to sleep.
 
Padnel Ovin doesn’t mean to complain, but he admits to Han and Leia that Wynn Dorvan put half the Senate asleep today.  They tell him many feel the same way and Dorvan would admit to that, too.
 
Ovin knows that what Dorvan has to say is often important, but a leader needs charisma.  Leia remembers how Dorvan raced to the Jedi Temple to save Raynar Thul from being blasted and tells Ovin to give him time.
 
Ovin hopes that he can honor his brother’s legacy by creating his own.
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chapter 12:
 
On Korriban, Ben feels like the air is choking him.  It’s worse than Ziost.  Luke is focused, Jaina somewhat less and Vestara is full of emotions.  She both shrinks from the Dark-Side energy and wants to embrace it.
 
There are smaller energies here that Luke thinks are animal forms.  They walk to the citadel and find that the Force will not allow them to open the door.  Jaina suggests they just cut themselves in.  It’s slow going, but it works. 
 
There’s no one there, though.  Luke thinks the Sith tribe members are on this work, but not at this site. 
 
They head down the Valley of the Dark Lords. Ben doesn’t understand why this feels wrong.  He was sure they would find them here.  Luke thinks they’re hiding among the ruins in small groups.  Vestara agrees that it would be something her father would do.
 
They pass by one tomb that is still sealed tightly.  Luke senses nothing living inside.  There’s no ventilation anyway.  They are soon attacked by tuk’ata.  Vestara runs toward them and calls in the Sith language.  She speaks to them.  They cower. One sniffs her hand and runs off.
 
She calms herself and explains that she told them to lead the Sith to them if there are any here.  The tuk’ata told her there are no Sith on Korriban.  They were upset because they couldn’t please her.
 
Luke reveals that their Force presences reflected this.  Whatever she asked of them, they were not able to do.  Luke thinks he would be able to distinguish the essences between human, Keshiri and the various Dark-Side energies here.
 
They’re not here.
 
They get the same response from the other search parties on various worlds.  Jaina suggests they went back to Kesh to lick their wounds.  Luke isn’t sure that would be rewarded and Vestara agrees that failure is punished quite severely. The strike team would stay away until they could come home with something.
 
Luke decides to see if they can narrow the search down. Vestara excuses herself to get some rest.  Luke knows she’s been of help, but he’s going to wait and see what she does when they have found Abeloth.  Until then, he is taking any redemption theories with a grain of salt.
 
In her cabin, Vestara is exhausted.  She had been so tempted to yield to the song of the Dark Side.  It had never occurred to her that the Dark Side had ice to it.  This new perspective traveling with Ben and Luke is affecting her.
 
Though she hadn’t lied to Luke, she hadn’t told him the whole truth either.  She had spoken to the tuk’ata, telling them to stay away from her and anyone she was with.  She asked them to find the Sith, but they could find none here.  However, she hadn’t volunteered that she’d also told the hounds to seek out any of her people who come here and warn them to hide.
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chapter 13:
 
Allana insists she’s not tired. Han tells her that she only uses that voice when she is tired.  When Leia comes in, she shows Han that she received a message offering information that she will want to have to guarantee her family’s safety.
 
It came in on her private channel.  She decides to reply for more details.  The return message reads, “Old friends make the best bargains”.  It would appear that someone wants to sell them information.  Leia thinks this is familiar somehow.
 
Old friends would say who they are, though.  The Solos have more old enemies than old friends.  She wants more and is told that they know where Daala is.
 
They will make their partners a fine offer.  That settles it.  Han and Leia can’t believe it.
 
Leia meets with Wynn Dorvan to tell him that they have connections that claim to know where Daala is.  Dorvan admits being able to fairly try Daala would add some legitimacy to this government.  He gives his blessing to her trying this out.
 
Moff Lecersen is told by his droid that someone is here to meet with him.  It’s a Minyavish.  Lecersen hadn’t expected that.  After chastising his droid for commenting on a guest’s personality, he has the being shown in.
 
Tiyuu’cha Mahlor is introduced.  He expresses his dissatisfaction with the way his people are being treated now that the Jessar have overthrown them.  Lecersen suggests he take it up with the GA.
 
Mahlor would rather speak with Lecersen. He blames Freedom Flight for this and blames Lecersen for Freedom Flight.  He has information that link the Moff to the movement.  He knows that Lecersen created it and continues to fund it.
 
His people would be willing to make the evidence disappear if Lecersen will assist them. The Jessar had never before expressed a deep-seated need for freedom until the Freedom Flight started stirring up trouble.  Now, the Minyavishi are not only removed from their positions of power and wealth, but they’re being kicked off their own planet.
 
They are not a violent people.  They will leave Qaras if they are not wanted there, but they have no place to go.  No one is offering to shelter them and they do not have the funds to settle another world.  Since Lecersen is responsible for their plight, he will find them one.
 
Lecersen points out that there’s nothing in it for him or for anyone else he could enlist to help.  Besides, no one is going to fault him for doing a little good in the galaxy.  Mahlor argues that nothing about this was done for altruistic reasons.  Lecersen wanted to de-establish Natasi Daala’s government at a bad time, knowing how she would react. 
 
He also knows that Senators Treen and Bramsin were in on this.  If Lecersen will not negotiate with him, one of them may.  If he happens to die within the hour, his cohorts will present the deal to one of them.
 
Lecersen decides against it.  He has a YVH brought him to stun Mahlor so he can learn all he can from him.
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chapter 14:
 
Kameron Suldar of B’nish has never heard of the Indigo Tower Restaurant.  Senator Treen has brought him here in the hopes of recruiting him to their little conspiracy. 
 
They are escorted in, Treen noticing something ugly flash across his face for a brief moment when they are led passed a group of nonhuman performers.  Senator Bramsin has them sit with him, complimenting the food, the staff not so much.
 
Treen sees that look again and knows what it means.  She explains that she and Fost don’t much care for nonhumans.  Suldar admits with relief that he really doesn’t either.  Only humans live on B’nish so he’s really not used to anyone else.  He would like to be more open-minded, but the non-humans he’s met so far are just so inferior.
 
Several hours of interrogation shows that Mahlor is a lot tougher than he looks.  Ultimately, though, Lecersen is told he’s willing to talk.
 
Mahlor admits there were no cohorts.  Lecersen knows this as neither Bramsin nor Treen contacted him within the hour and are still eating dinner.  The evidence does exist, though.  He spills the names of witnesses, the recordings saved on datachips and that all the evidence is located in a safe deposit box.  He gives the name of the bank and box number.
 
He has the code but will only give it if he is released.  Lecersen leaves him to the droid.
 
A few hours later, he’s enjoying a nightcap when he learns that the code was extracted and the subject terminated once the information was verified. 
 
Senator Treen calls to report on her dinner with Suldar.  She tells him that their company was just as ruthless as they thought.  He’s charming and makes a good impression on those who are not as ambitious as he is.
 
In fact, he’s been working with Padnel Ovin of Klatooine.  Lecersen tells her about the visit from Mahlor.  He’s sure he got everything, but, if one being can get information like this, it’s possible someone else could, too.
 
He’s going to send someone to take care of the evidence and then head to Imperial space. 
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chapter 15:
 
Admiral Daala stares out of Slave I.  she has been busy calling in old favors from friends and enemies alike.  She’s not the female version of Palpatine.
 
Daala will work with any species of any gender so long as they were willing to uphold the law.  She doesn’t endorse slavery.  She would have used due process of law on the new governments once she’d brought the Jedi to heel.
 
She’d fooled herself to think she could finally be able to love someone that wouldn’t be ripped away from her.  She knows she owes Fett a lot for this.  He admits she does but can make the payment a bit better to handle for the information he has.
 
First of all, Moff Lecersen is not her friend.  He’s been operating behind the scenes, plotting her downfall, for a while.   To that end, he’s the one behind Freedom Flight.  The fact that the movement happened to do some good is purely coincidental.  Likely, he started it or hijacked it in order to create fires all over the place that she would have to respond to.
 
The Mandos learned a few things when they were sent to crush the uprisings.  The slaves didn’t know much due to the chain of communication involved, but one Minyavish learned a few things that linked the Moff to them. 
 
Someone went to a lot of trouble to implicate the Jedi in the assassination attempt on Nek Bwua’tu.  It also explains that attempt on the Solos and/or Jagged Fel at the Pangalactus Restaurant.  Fett is surprised she had nothing to do with that.  She coolly tells him that she’d never put a child in the line of fire even if she did want the others dead.
 
He knows some of her plans and that she may be in a position to help him.  Once she’s head of the Empire, he wants her to work on finding a cure for the nanovirus that prevents himself and his granddaughter from setting foot on Mandalore. 
 
She can understand that.  They all want a home.  She does want him to know that it cannot be a top priority until she has the power and funds to do it.  He knows that, too. 
 
On Roonadan, Leia wants to pretend they are on a family vacation.  They are perusing a menu at a café.  Zekk and Taryn are nearby in disguise.  The Solos start to bicker over their order when the Squibs arrive.
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     •    The Squibs can only be Emala, Grees and Sligh whom we last saw in the Dark Nest trilogy.
 

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chapter 16:
 
Emala, Grees and Sligh are introduced to Allana as they pull chairs up to the table.  When Emala mentions they’ll be traveling together, Leia objects.  The deal was the selling of information, that’s it.
 
There’s a predictable amount of negotiating about what it will take to get the information before Grees gives their terms.  They want to be taken back to Coruscant, given enough credits to buy a ship and supplies and that Jagged Fel be told who helped him out.
 
Leia senses that they are afraid.  Squibs are usually overconfident.  She asks what they’ve gotten involved in, then is interrupted by blasterfire.  Han turns the table over, grabs Allana and races for a large duracrete pot that holds a shade tree.  Leia and the Squibs follow behind, firing their blasters.
 
Behind the pot, they know they won’t last long.  Han tells Allana she’s going to have to run for the Falcon. They’ll cover her and meet her there as soon as they can. 
 
Allana braces herself, grabs Emala and points.  Emala signals the others.  On the count of three, Allana runs for the kitchen door.  The Squibs follow her quickly.  Inside, Allana stops to make sure their attackers aren’t here, too.  She leads them through the corridor and out the back door.
 
She comms her grandparents when she’s at the spaceport.  The Squibs are with her on Zekk’s ship.  She noticed him and Taryn this time because their disguises weren’t very good.  Han lets Zekk know where Allana is.  They are going to draw off fire and double back to the spaceport.
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chapter 17:
 
Ben reminds his father that, not only did Vestara not turn on them at Korriban, but she helped save their lives from the tuk’ata.  Luke knows this, too, but it hasn’t changed his mind about Vestara yet.  They are approaching the planet Dromund Kaas.  Both Kyle Katarn and Mara had been here before and had barely escaped.
 
He’s not sure that the Jedi are ready to explore this mystery, much less a Sith girl.  He admits to Vestara his concerns.  Dromund Kaas had been an obscure Sith colony until after the Great Hyperspace War when it was rediscovered by an armada that had been wandering around for two decades.  They rebuilt it and it became the capital of the new Sith Empire until that fell, too.  The Dark Force religion was founded here later by someone who rejected the Rule of Two.
 
There’s a temple left that was serviced by the Dark Prophets that is so dark in its energy that it interferes with all weapons and technology except for lightsabers.  There’s a chance that it’s powerful enough to lure Vestara back to the Dark Side.  It caused Kyle Katarn to succumb to the point where it took Mara to bring him back.
 
There are not many good choices, though.  If Luke doesn’t kill her, he will have to leave her behind with someone to watch her which reduces their numbers.  If she’s going to be lured back, it’s going to happen regardless.
 
There are also few places down there to actually search on solid ground.  If the Lost Tribe has arrived there, it’s likely they will run into each other.
 
Vestara thinks the dark temple will call to her people.  They may end up in the city, but they’ll go to the temple first.  Ben is glad to hear her volunteer this.  He has faith in her ability to overcome her past.  He has felt how she’s grown.  She is at risk, true, but she’d been at risk on Korriban, too.
 
On the ground, they cannot sense the presences of anyone else, but there are ysalamiri here.  They are careful to avoid the creatures in their trees when leaping from dry spot to dry spot.  At the temple, they are all touched by the huge nexus of dark energy. 
 
Vestara has to be called out of her reverie.  She doesn’t sense either the Sith or Abeloth, but the dark energy here drowns everything else out.  They look around for ordinary signs of activity but can find none.  Half a dozen places searched with no sign of anything.
 
Luke suspects that they’re hiding.  That means they’re working together and that is something that troubles even Vestara.  Ben doesn’t think they are going to be found here.  Then a voice tells them they already have.
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     •    Mara and Kyle’s adventures on Dromund Kaas occurred in the video game Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
     •    We remember Dromund Kaas in the Old Republic books, such as Revan and Fatal Alliance. Though it said that it rained constantly on the planet, there wasn’t anything that indicated that there were few dry spaces.   I suppose that makes sense.
 

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chapter 18:
 

Ten Sith Sabers look down on them, one of them is Gavar Khai.  Vestara denies summoning them.  She and her father look at each other, their weapons drawn.  Khai admits his daughter, though malleable, does not lie. 
 
He laments the promise and the disappointment of his daughter, telling her that her mother is dead.  He can replace both her and Vestara anyway and start anew.  He leaps down and charges at his daughter.  Luke, Jaina and Ben battle the other Sith.
 
Though it’s unwise to not concentrate in a battle with several Sith, Luke knows these opponents have had little opportunity to fight anyone other than each other.  There’s a lot they have to learn.
 
Vestara is stunned as her father jumps at her, yelling that she has betrayed him.  She pushes her thoughts away, focusing on the anger and using it.  She wonders if her father’s loyalties have left the Lost Tribe.
 
She uses her mixture of emotions, knowing her father had loved her, but had used her for his own ends.  He had not forgiven mistakes because that’s not what Sith do. 
 
Ben handles his own opponents, while keeping an eye on the other fights.  His father and Jaina are doing fine.  He watches Vestara cut through her own father and he collapses to the ground.
 
When the fight is over, Luke is gentle as he approaches her, doubting Gavar Khai let himself be killed just to prove his daughter would not betray her new allies.  She is dazed.  Ben can think of nothing to say.
 
Jaina comes to her and tells her that she had to kill her own brother to save her own life and the lives of others.  She still misses him, just as Vestara will miss her father.  But she will always wish there had been another way.
 
The main flotilla must be here somewhere. Vestara believes that the Tribe has thrown its lot in with Abeloth.  She sensed a change in her father. 
 
Luke suggests they regroup and go back to Coruscant.  Someone there may be able to find some more Sith history.  On the way back to the ship, Ben holds Vestara’s hand.
 
Abeloth already knows Gavar Khai has failed.  She tells Tola Annax that it doesn’t matter and that they will prevail.
 
Meanwhile, she has other plans.  She continues to watch the holonews channels, focusing on faces.
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chapter 19:
 
Aboard the Jade Shadow, Vestara cannot wrap her mind around the fact that she’s an orphan.  She takes the time to compose one more letter to her fictional father when Ben comes in.  He demands to know what she’s doing.
 
She deletes her last letter and tells him it’s nothing to do with him.  Despite assuring him that it’s not related to the Jedi or him or Luke in any way, he doesn’t believe her.  They struggle until she finally tells him to go ahead and read them.

He’s ashamed when he understands that she’d only been writing letters to the man she wished her father was.  He holds her and apologizes for everything.  She asks him if he thinks she can be a Jedi.  He knows she can and offers to be with her every step of that journey.
 
Luke checks in with Leia who tells him that things on Coruscant are calming down.  She and Han are looking into Daala’s whereabouts.  After the call, Jaina tells Luke that Natua thinks she may have a lead on Ship.  Luke thinks they’ll go back to Coruscant anyway.   Recent events have been hard on Ben and Vestara.
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chapter 20:
 
In the Corporate Sector, Han threatens to leave the Squibs here if he doesn’t like the information they have.  After some last-minute negotiating that is typical of them, they explain that they know that Daala is headed for Pedducis Chorios in the Meridian Sector.
 
Besides being where she was reunited with Liegeus, it’s where Moff Getelles is located.  She’s not a big fan of him, but it looks like she’s going to try to recruit him anyway.  They intercepted some of her transmissions and have them recorded.  She also contacted Moff Vansyn who used to be friends with Lecersen but is feeling brushed off lately.
 
Daala promised Vansyn that she would give him Getelles’s territories if he suports her bid to become Head of State of the Empire.
 
Leia confirms that she has just learned from Ashik that the Squibs were actually working for Jagged Fel.  Further, the people who attacked them at the café work for Moff Getelles.  The Squibs are probably hiding something, but they generally do anyway. 
 
Luke isn’t sure he believes that Vestara wants to be a Jedi.   Vestara acknowledges that she expected that.  In the past, it would have been a trick for her to come to him with this request.  In the time she’s spent with them, she’s grown to like helping someone for the sake of helping them.   These ideals are things she didn’t have growing up.
 
She has seen a lot of her people’s beliefs in Abeloth and that exposed the type of man her father really was.  With time, she hopes to be able to prove herself.
 
Luke tells her she can start by dropping her guard.  He knows she’s strong in the Force.  She can prove herself by not hiding things from them anymore.  He examines her in the Force and agrees to train her himself when they return.
 
Ben assures her that she will win people over eventually.
 
Luke asks Jaina how her parents handled it when they realized she was noticing boys.  Jaina admits her dad was overprotective but thinks that any problems that existed with her parents in that way was because they were not around a lot when she was young.  She and her brothers grew up too quickly and her parents were not ready for any of them to be adults.
 
That’s why they are spending a lot of time with Allana.
 
Luke tells her he’s thought a lot about what she said about the power of love.  He senses no deception in Vestara this time.  Jaina reminds him that she’s 16 and just had to kill her father after he tried to kill her.  She’s cut off from her culture and smitten with Ben who is a good influence on her. 
 
Luke thinks he may just be too set in his ways.  Jaina tells him the word is crochety.
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chapter 21:
 
It has been a long time since Luke stood in the Jedi Temple.  His quest to track Jacen’s travels have exposed them to new teachings.  He knows now that his nephew’s fall was inevitable. 
 
They should have known all of that in the first place.  Vergere’s torture had introduced Jacen to a new morality that set him on the path he followed.  Being told his uniqueness made him feel that he was a man of destiny who had the right to get rid of whatever stood in his way. 
 
He had started the Swarm War to try to prevent a dark future.  At the end of his life, he was willing to sacrifice everything but Allana to stop the vision of the dark man on the throne. 
 
Master Sebatyne meets him and presents herself for judgment in the death of Master Hamner.  He has been told about the situation and asks if she thinks Hamner would do anything to harm the Jedi Order.  She doesn’t think he would knowingly do that, but the fact is that he did.
 
Luke knows the Masters feel the same way.  Master Hamner, a military man, would never abandon a post to which he was assigned.  He did what he did because he felt sincerely that the others were wrong.
 
He would never try to escape.  He knew that he would either win the battle or die trying.  He died performing his duty as he saw it. 
 
Saba thinks Luke would have found another alternative.  Luke reminds her that Jedi cannot be bogged down in the useless exercise of playing What-If.  Reflection is important if one wants to learn.  But the truth is that Luke, while he may have found another way, wasn’t there.  Saba was.
 
She did what she had to do to protect the weak and the innocent.
 
The other Jedi Masters approach him in warm welcome.  Luke is grateful for all they tried to do in his absence.  He has brought back all the information he has on Abeloth and the Sith.  He also wants to know that he has brought back a girl who has been raised a Sith.  Vestara has expressed interest in becoming a Jedi.
 
Kyle Katarn is concerned about her sincerity.  Luke explains that she had to kill her own father to defend herself and he has determined through the Force that she is genuine. 
 
He also wants to let them know that he’s come to a couple of conclusions. First is that the Jedi should not be in charge of the Galactic Alliance.  Once they have transitioned out of government, they need to leave Coruscant for good.
 
Doing so will make it clear to everyone that the Jedi are not political.  They are not a separate branch of government.  Whoever takes on the mantle of Chief of State needs to be able to do things themselves without leaning on the approval of the Senate or the Jedi.
 
Leaving Coruscant also protects them from attempts to direct them, from being trapped in the Temple again by a government intent on making them weapons.  Saba vehemently refuses to leave and says the other Barabels won’t either.
 
Luke knows there’s some mystery involving the Barabel Jedi.  He indicates that they may stay as long as necessary, guarding the Temple, so long as they promise not to take any action against the government.
 
Luke also asks that the guard grates on the water supply mains be removed so they have a backdoor inside.  He will go over details of the move later.
 
In the library, Ben, Vestara and Jaina find Natua Wan, lost in her research.  She believes she’s found Ship.  Looking into a forgotten world called Upekzar that is largely pleasant, save for a ring of volcanos that the ancient Sith focused on. 
 
There are a series of caves there containing an insect that caused hallucinations.  The Sith found the area significant.  Every settlement was located near an elaborate cave system.  Cold Rites were performed in the south pole, the Rites of Fire at the equator, the High Rites at the temperate zone.  The most powerful Sith lived in the latter.  She thinks it may be the best place to search.
 
She’s found evidence that at least one Sith training vessel has been there in the past.  The insects are called Rhak’skuri which Vestara translates as Dream Singers.  She explains that the Sith view nightmares as opportunities to make one strong if they can be conquered or directed.
 
Jaina would like Natua to come along with them.  Ben offers Vestara a tour of the Temple, starting with the cafeteria.
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     •    Okay, I can go ahead and accept what Luke learned about Jacen.  He’s also absolutely right that he should have understood that before he left on his journey.  However, Jacen’s fall being inevitable, I’m not sure I agree with.  I think there were many steps that were taken post-Vergere that could have diverted Jacen’s path. 
     •    At one point, Vestara comments that the Jedi Temple is much bigger than the one on Kesh.  Ben tells her the Jedi have been here a long time.  She points out that the Sith have been on Kesh for 5000 years.  The Jedi Order has technically been on Coruscant for millennia, too, but it’s been my understanding that the Jedi Temple was destroyed after the Clone Wars.  We don’t really know when that was for certain, but it’s obvious that the underchambers remained since Jacen found them in Traitor.  I was somewhat confused then as to what had happened to the Temple.  The New Republic Jedi didn’t relocate here until after the New Jedi Order books when a new Temple was built by the Galactic Alliance on top of the old remains. 
    •    And hasn’t Luke had this no-political stuff philosophy before?  I seem to recall that he couldn’t help but be dragged into it even when the academy was located on Yavin IV.  There were all kinds of political games played up to and including aid being withheld from them when they under the threat of a Vong attack.
 
 

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chapter 22:
 

Han isn’t happy that Allana is playing sabacc with the Squibs until Leia points out that they aren’t using credits and that she’s winning.
 
In the meantime, they call Jag who happens to be with Jaina at the time.  She tells them that they arrived a couple of hours ago.  Luke is talking with the Masters while Ben is wandering the Temple with Vestara who wants to become a Jedi.
 
They tell Jag that they have some news to share with him. He offers to meet them in his office the next morning.  Then they call Luke who tells them he just finished up with the Masters.  He tells them the Jedi will be withdrawing from any official involvement with the government.  He prefers that Wynn Dorvan become the new Chief of State and would like Leia there when they tell him.
 
To that end, the Jedi are leaving Coruscant.  When that’s taken care of, he’d like Leia to join them. 
 
When the Solos arrive, Leia accompanies Luke and Saba into a meeting room to meet with Dorvan.  He introduces them to Senator Treen from whom Luke gets a bad vibe.  Luke explains that the Jedi never intended to rule the GA and hold only a transitional role.  The triumvirate has worked very well, but he is removing the Jedi from that role.  The Order will be responsible only to itself and those it serves.
 
He tells them that the Jedi Order must be autonomous so it can be free to follow its convictions.  The threat posed by Abeloth and the Sith doesn’t just threaten the Galactic Alliance.  Dorvan agrees that Daala tried to overextend her reach and made many more mistakes from that point.  He does wonder where that leaves the Galactic Alliance.
 
Luke assures him that, if the GA needs them, they will be willing to help.  The only difference is that they are not confined to helping only those the Alliance wants them to help.
 
Treen agrees that the Jedi should not be treated as droids or hired thugs.  Disentangling them from the GA may take time, though.  Leia suggests that they should hold an election now that the emergency has passed.
 
Both Dorvan and Treen insist the other take the emergency position of acting Chief of State until that time.  Leia believes Dorvan is best suited to the job for now and Luke reminds him he doesn’t have to run for office when the election is held.  It’s just a temporary assignment.
 
With all in accord, they quickly determine dates and itineraries.  After the meeting is over, the three Jedi walk back to the Temple together.  Leia and Saba both agree that they don’t quite trust Senator Treen.  They’re not sure what her game is, since she turned down an offer of power when it was given, but Luke assures Leia that they will have a private meeting with Dorvan soon about a great many things.
 
The Perre Needmo Newshour breaks the news, interviewing Luke for the segment.  Luke announces to the audience his decision regarding the status of the Jedi Order and his reasons for doing so. 
 
Needmo assures him that the public has never felt the Jedi were trying to gain power.  Daala’s attempt to control what happened on Coruscant are almost universally seen as unnecessarily harsh.  He points out that some beings may feel the Jedi are abandoning them.
 
Luke explains that the only abandoning the Jedi will be doing is on the restraints that have been keeping them from helping where they are called.  The slave revolts are a perfect example. 
 
Anyone who thinks that the Jedi will now become an organization of vigilantes are likely those like Daala who just want the Order under their thumb.  For now, they are working closely with Senator Treen and Wynn Dorvan to set a smooth transition.  When Needo shows the clip of Dorvan racing up the Temple steps to protect Raynar Thul, Luke knows everything will be fine.
 
Treen is speaking with Senator Suldar while watcing the news herself.  Master Skywalker is so naïve but his news is good for their side.  They both will need to be able to handle their rise to power.
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chapter 23:
 

Jag meets Jaina at the safe house where the Solos have been living for some time.  She tells him that she has to show a united front with her uncle and will be leaving Coruscant for a time.  He understands how important that is.
 
Besides, he has a feeling he may not be hanging around Coruscant much longer anyway.  He doesn’t know what’s waiting for him in Imperial Space either. 
 
For now, he’s never seen a safe house with such a well-stocked liquor cabinet.
 
After a short time, Allana is sent to bed.  It’s then that Leia brings out Tahiri Veila.  Leia explains that they are sorry to spring this on Jag, but Tahiri came to them for help.  She took advantage of the chaos of Daala’s own escape.  Not wanting to put Eramuth in a bad position, she came to the Solos instead.
 
Jag isn’t happy to see her.  Tahiri knows that he’s upset that she’s trying to avoid her death sentence from being carried out.  She explains that nothing she does will bring back Admiral Pellaeon, but she wants to make amends. 
 
It seems appropriate that she be tried in an Imperial court.  Until those arrangements can be made, she’d like to spend her time assisting the Empire.  She’ll abide by whatever decision he makes.  He will have to realize though that, if she turns herself in, she’ll have factions using her to advance their own agendas until her eventual execution.  At least with him, she can serve him with her life and get a fair trial when it’s done.
 
Jag thinks it’s time he heard the rest of the story.  When it’s done, he summarizes:  some Squibs they met many years ago contacted them and claimed to be working for Jag without his knowledge, have information that Daala is targeting his job and ticked off Moff Getelles’s people to the point where attempts are being made on their lives. 
 
The Solos admit they waited to tell him because they wanted to make sure all of the evidence was genuine.  Ashik confirmed the Squibs’ involvement.  However, Dorvan has enough on his hands right now than go after Daala who seems to be under the protection of the Moffs. 
 
Jag will have to find Daala, especially if she’s being shielded by a Moff who’s supposed to be loyal to him.  As for Tahiri, he already has a good security detail.  Tahiri points out that none of them are Jedi.  He asks if she is.
 
That’s the important question.
 
Tahiri admits she’d like to be one again.  Jag considers that the negotiations to bring the Empire into the GA fell through which means that the Empire is not bound to Alliance laws.  A trial is unlikely as Daala is trying to control the Empire, so, until that can be done, he will take custody of Tahiri so long as she agrees to obey every order.
 
He’ll meet the Squibs tomorrow.  For now, he’d like to enjoy the rest of the evening as a family.
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     •    This whole issue of a fair trial for Tahiri amuses me.  Despite Dorvan’s telling Luke in the last chapter that the public generally does not view the Jedi as power-hungry, recognizing the issues with Daala, Tahiri was still convicted, possibly due to the jury finding out about the Jedi coup that made them think the Order was taking over.  Granted, they are a few people and not necessarily represented by the whole population, but it indicates two things to me.  The first is that public opinion of the Jedi is either not as favorable as Dorvan thinks or it’s just too fickle to be trusted.  The second is that, if Tahiri can’t get a fair trial in the GA, why do they think she will get one in Imperial space where affection for Admiral Pellaeon is likely going to be much stronger, where jockeying for power and position is commonplace and where Jedi have never had much of a presence or prestige?
     •    Is there some reason why Ashik didn’t tell Jag about the Squibs?
 

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chapter 24:
 
At the ceremony, Senator Treen announces that, with the departure of the Jedi and the emergency over, it is time to dissolve the triumvirate.  The Senate will elect an interim Chief of State until a formal election can be held.
 
Luke admits that he will miss Coruscant, but allying the Jedi Order with the Galactic Alliance bound them to it in a way that made serving beings of all species and creeds too difficult. He leaves still on good terms with the GA and confident that they will be able to handle the transition well.
 
Jaina and Luke are leaving with the Jedi.  Leia is staying behind to help with the interim government.  Besides the Barabels, that will make her the last remaining Jedi on the planet.  Jag promises not to let Daala get the jump on him.
 
The Solos take him to the Falcon where they are greeted by the droids.  Jag is introduced to the Squibs.  They explain how they’ve known the Solos for decades.  Jag is impressed at their slow aging which causes Leia to realize that it’s their age that’s been bothering her.
 
They’ve gotten younger somehow.  She realizes Getelles must have helped them which would indicate that he’s smuggled drochs off of Nam Chorios.  Han grabs Grees and demands to know if it’s true.
 
They admit he’s not breeding them but won’t give up anything else without payment.  Jag points out that if they were never released from their contract with him, he will have to take action if they do not tell him what they know.
 
Grees explains that there are some scientists working for Getelles who had also developed the nanovirus that killed the daughter of Tenel Ka.  The Moff is hoping to use drochs to prolong life and rejuvenate older beings.
 
The Squibs volunteered to be test subjects.  They escaped as soon as they had what they needed to tell the Head of State.  The experiments were successful, so they wanted all Squibs to have the same opportunity.  That’s why they stole some vials. 
 
Their children aren’t getting any younger and nobody wants to outlive their kids.  That sentiment is painful for Han and Leia who have outlived two of their children.  Jag insists they turn the vials over to him.  No part of the deal they arranged involved stealing Imperial property.
 
They’ll be compensated fairly, but he has an immediate use for this unless they’d rather deal with Daala.
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       •    Of course, we know that Allana is Tenel Ka’s daughter, believed to be dead, but virtually no one else does. 
 

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chapter 25:
 
Moff Vansyn hosts Moff Lecersen at his estate in Imperial space.  Vansyn admits he suspects Lecersen is up to something and would like in on it. Neither of them is a fan of Jagged Fel.  With Daala run off somewhere, there’s a big leadership hole to fill.  Is it just a coincidence that Lecersen has returned to Imperial space?
 
Lecersen admits things are working in the direction of him taking over.  Senator Treen has been able to bring in several influential people who meet regularly at the Gleaming Fortress Casino or Obrigadar’s Simulator Palace in costume.
 
Daala’s problem was that she behaved like an Imperial admiral rather than a Chief of State.  He wonders if Tarkin would have seen such a thing coming and what he would have done about it.
 
If she’d just embraced the uprisings rather than try to smash them, he wouldn’t be here now.  When Vansyn suggests that Fel and Daala just go after each other and make things easier, Lecersen gets a bit suspicious.  Vansyn doesn’t do a good job of covering his tracks.  Lecersen realizes he’s walked into a trap.
 
Admiral Daala is here.  She urges him to continue enjoying his wine, explaining that she came to Vansyn after Lecersen so readily abandoned him.  However, she and Jagged Fel will be going after each other soon enough and she wants to know if Lecersen will join her or be dead.
 
He supposes she is going to tell him she’s recorded their entire conversation.  Daala tells him that she did that and that she also knows he is behind Freedom Flight, that Senators Treen and Bramsin conspired with him and that the other influential people involved won’t be too hard to uncover.
 
She intercepted the agent he sent to Qaras and grabbed the safe deposit box with all the evidence.  The Minyavish did have cohorts that he wasn’t aware of.  She’s fine with leaving the GA in the hands of his conspiracy, but he shouldn’t have moved so quickly.  Treen seems to be doing very well in his absence, the Jedi are leaving Coruscant and Dorvan may not do very well if he’s ambushed on a dark night by two fake Jedi.
 
Lecersen realizes she knows far more than he ever feared she would.  He does point out that Bwua’tu is still alive.  She reminds him that an incoherent, brain-damaged being isn’t what the admiral deserves to be. 
 
She is keeping Lecersen alive to use him.  If he serves her well, he lives.  Her base of operations is elsewhere.  He may not understand loyalty, but she has many who are loyal to her or willing to be for the help she can give them. 
 
She has an opening on her team or a blaster.  It’s time for him to choose.
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