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


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chapter 26:
 
After explaining the necessity to have the Squibs watched and watched someplace other than here, Han and Leia see Allana off to bed. 
 
A meeting is going on regarding Dorvan’s election that has lasted about seven hours.  Something is wrong.  Senator Treem said she didn’t want the job, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t want someone else to get it.
 
That’s the only reason she can think of for the Senate to still be in session.  It’s the middle of the night when Senator Wuul calls her to tell her what she already knows.  Dorvan didn’t get the job.
 
It had seemed like an open-and-shut deal, but Senator Suldar stepped up to offer that the GA needs a fresh new face that isn’t associated so much with Daala’s administration.  Despite the fact that he’d only be doing it for two months, it was felt that he wasn’t what was needed.  To add to that, the Senate still has an anti-Jedi faction in it and Suldar agreed that they didn’t someone too pro-Jedi either.
 
Leia points out that accusing him of being too pro-Daala and too pro-Jedi doesn’t make sense.  Nevertheless, the Senate debated for twelve hours and put Padnel Ovin in office instead.
 
Desha Lor comes to Dorvan with news that Ovin is here.  The new Acting Chief of State admits that he would do anything for his people, but he’s not a diplomat.  He accepted the nomination because he saw what was going on and didn’t like it. 
 
He saw selfishness and lies.  Ovin knows Dorvan should have been elected, but, if he’d turned down the nomination, someone else’s name would have been tossed on the table.  He thinks he was nominated because someone is hoping he can be easily controlled.
 
 It is true that he will not be corrupted with power, but he will not mindlessly obey either.  He believes in having people around who can advise him.  At this time, he needs Dorvan to stay as Chief of Staff to help.
 
So far, Admiral Bwua’tu has been successful in making his doctors think that he doesn’t remember anything about his attack.  Eventually, they will figure it out, though.  Dorvan is with him today as Eramuth has been called to provide the court with any information he has about Tahiri Veila. 
 
They’re watching the news in which it seems that the Senate has magically sprung to life now that the triumvirate has gone.  There are anti-Jedi sentiments expressed and a committee has been formed to look into Jedi abuses during their time here.
 
Bwua’tu thinks this is about finding all the Jedi, but Dorvan can’t figure out why.  Bwua’tu reminds him that he was attacked by two fake Jedi and now a committee is being formed that seems intent on putting them down.
 
Dorvan notes that all the senators on that committee are new, including Suldar.  That lends some credence to Ovin’s belief that someone is hoping to pull strings here.  There are some different players on the scene and they may not be working together.
 
For example, the Senate poisoning incident that was believed to have been the fault of Seha Dorvald was pushed under the rug when the coup occurred.  Admiral Parova came on the scene then to provide security instead of GAS. 
 
They both realize they’re on to something.  Bwua’tu comms his aide, Asokaji, to ask him to find out if Admiral Parova has had any contact with Moff Lecersen.
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     •    So, the Senate is full of anti-Jedi sentiment to the point where Bwua’tu thinks that the new committee is intent on crushing them.  Does that sound like an atmosphere in which the Jedi should have remained on Coruscant the way Dorvan was trying to convince Luke to a couple of chapters ago?
 

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chapter 27:
 

Treen and Bramsin dine at the Indigo Tower Restaurant, mulling over their situation.  Lecersen isn’t in touch and Suldar isn’t giving them much back considering what they’ve done for him.
 
Treen is going to try to reach the Moff and then decides they’ll have to remind Suldar of his place.  When she returns home, she finds a message from General Thall.  He tells her that he suspects Lecersen has sold them out.  He’s gotten news that he’s working with Admiral Daala. 
 
Thall also believes Suldar is playing them. He hasn’t even promoted anyone for them.  With both him and Lecersen abandoning the plot, Thall doesn’t trust their plans to work.  He wants to stay where he is now and eliminate anyone who can bring him down.
 
They need to start with Bramsin who is likely to blurt out everything in the middle of a press conference without realizing it.  Sadly, Treen knows he’s right.
 
Bramsin returns home, reflecting on the nice evening, wondering why Lecersen hadn’t joined them.  After insisting to his butler droid that he doesn’t like the brandy the droid insists he ordered last week, Bramsin’s problem is solved when Treen invites herself over for a nightcap.
 
Leia wakes up in the middle of the night, tells Han that someone is coming and to get Allana.  She thinks she’s going away for a while.  When she opens the door, she invites the GAS officers inside.
 
Han tells Luke that Leia has been arrested on a bunch of trumped-up charges that range from conspiracy to spice smuggling.  Luke reminds him that she is a well-loved public figure and the new Chief of State is on their side.  She’ll be released soon.
 
He urges Han to go see Ovin and Dorvan.  He doubts he can do anything for them right now.  Vestara adds that Han should bring his child.  It will be harder for them to turn her down.
 
Luke reminds an angry Ben that the people of Coruscant don’t hate them, but someone in power does.  They turn on the news to see footage of Leia’s arrest.  When the camera focuses on Senator Kameron Suldar, Vestara starts.  She identifies him as a Sith Lord from the Lost Tribe named Ivaar Workan.
 
Luke knows this and was counting on it.  That’s why he made a big deal about the Jedi leaving Coruscant.  It lured the Sith in.  They are in one place.  He will deal with Ship and Abeloth first, then come back to Coruscant to take care of the Sith.
 
Vestara reminds him that Sith do not run from a fight.  Luke doesn’t know how many are there or how powerful they will become while he deals with Ship.  Luke asks if she thinks she can identify most of the Lords by sight.
 
She thinks she can.  Luke knows that she has a certain amount of pride in them and that this is a difficult time for her.  But this is one strike on one planet by the Jedi they think are gone.
 
He told Leia and the Masters so they would be prepared.  Vestara believes Workan took her into custody because she’s the last Jedi on Coruscant and he would want her watched.  She doubts he will harm her for now, she’s a valuable bargaining chip and killing her will look suspicious to the public.  Vestar does warn Luke that it’s unlikely he will release her soon, though.
 
Jaina is less analytical about it.  She can’t believe Luke let her mother be captured by Sith.  Luke points out that the Sith don’t know it was done on purpose.  They’ll be lulled into a false sense of security that needs to stay that way.  This is why he didn’t tell her father.
 
They will need to get to Upekzar and deal with Ship so that Abeloth won’t show up on Coruscant and help the Sith.
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chapter 28:
 
Han really wanted Luke to tell him that the Jedi are coming back and busting Leia out of jail. Luke tells him it’s not something he can do right now and suggests Han speak with Dorvan.  It turns out Han already has.  Neither Dorvan nor Ovin will do anything that doesn’t involve a vast bureaucracy that will accomplish nothing.
 
Luke tells him to trust him that Leia will be alright. For now, Han needs to concentrate on keeping Allana safe.  Han decides to make that a priority.  Then he’ll rescue his wife.
 
Leia would be proud of how patiently he waits outside of the Chief of State’s office.  Wynn Dorvan approaches him and asks about his little girl.  Han admits she’s staying with friends just in case a committee is formed that decides an eight-year old child is a threat.
 
He insists on walking with Dorvan, telling him he’s going to get his wife out of prison before the GA does to her what they did to Tahiri.  Dorvan is only his enemy if he stays in the way.  Dorvan tells him that he and Ovin are doing what they can to legally get her released.  He cannot help Han in an official capacity. However, he does invite him to come along while he visits an old friend.
 
Leia’s cell is better than the one on the Death Star but she still wants out of it just as much.  She is surprised at how quickly the Sith had grabbed her.  They’ve obviously gotten here much faster than expected.  Han won’t be happy when he learns the truth, but his emotions would give them away if he had been told.
 
Padnel Ovin arrives and orders her shackles removed.  The guards have their orders, though, and Leia assures him she’s fine.  He does order the guards out at once.  When they are alone, he apologies to Leia for all of this.  He didn’t even know until he was briefed this morning.
 
If he were back on Klatooine, he would have dealt with this mistake in a few minutes.  Leia points out that the legal system is different here, but that she doubts this is a mistake.  This is just part of someone’s plan.
 
Ovin offers that he knows he was elected because someone thought he would be a good puppet, but he cannot be deceived.  He knows they will not find evidence against her because there isn’t any.  Whatever game they are playing won’t work.  If it comes to it, Ovin will pardon her.
 
He’ll stay in the way until the election is held and then it’s all Dorvan’s problem.  He leaves as Eramuth Bwua’tu arrives.  He starts off by bringing a message from Han that he once broke a Princess out of prison as a younger man and can do it again, but for a better reward.
 
He goes on to say that the prosecution has three days to bring court-admissible evidence against her or else drop the charges.  Since they both know that no evidence exists, that means they have three days to get her out of here or expose the conspiracy.  There are actually two of them going on.  He wonders if Leia would like to join a very elite club.
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     •    Does no one think of trumped-up charges?  False evidence?  That kind of thing?  I’m really surprised that they think that the court will be fair about this if the Sith are in charge.
 
 

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chapter 29:
 

At the Jedi Temple, Sith Saber Taneka Shirru complains that it’s too large and wasteful.  Her companion, fellow Saber Mor Akrav reminds her that they’ve had centuries to add on.  They are exploring the tunnels with Jashvi and Rulin.  Lord Vol will arrive here soon and Workan wants a detailed map by then.
 
The Jedi haven’t made it easy.  They’ve taken everything of value and left everything else well-protected.  The Sith that tried to access the library triggered a protective virus that deleted information as it went.
 
They managed to stop the process, but no one wants to try again until they know what they’re doing.  Of course, the human Sith are busy posing as Senators and aides.  That leaves the Keshiri in hiding at the Temple.  Shirru doesn’t like the reminder of the past when the human Sith held themselves better than the Keshiri.
 
Though Vantsuri Shia, commanding the mission, had commandeered Master Skywalker’s room, the others had no problems.  It seems everyone had their own room here, unlike Sith apprentices who share one large one.  No wonder the Jedi are soft.
 
Shirru decides the tunnel exploration is pointless. They will request permission to seal it off if they can’t find anything useful here.  Then the sound of something ahead alerts them.  They wonder if the Jedi left guardians behind.
 
They pull their weapons and hear a scratching sound.  Shirru reports that they’ve encountered some kind of life.  Suddenly, Jashvi cries out.  Mor and Rulin fire their blasters into the darkness.
 
Metal and rock splash down.  Shirru yells at them that they sealed the passage.  They cannot come back the way they came now.  Mor’s eyes widen.  Shirru turns too quickly as something pounces on her.
 
In the offices of Senator Suldar, High Lord Workan is unhappy.  A Sith team of four was lost in the tunnels below the Jedi Temple.  A recovery team vanished, too.  Now, Riki Kem is coming and the entire Senate seems entranced by her.
 
He decides not to let it bother him.  If the teams reappear or never return, it doesn’t matter.  If the public wants to be distracted by Roki Kem, let them. 
 
His assistant is Lady Enara Massar.  She brings news that Senator Bramsin is dead and Senator Treem has resigned. The details are coming in. They can get their own puppet news organization, BAMR, to cover it the way they want, but it’s not easy to do that with the others.
 
Senator Bramsin was found dead this morning of what looks like natural causes.  The droid butler has revealed that he had been drinking with Senator Treen the night before.  Treen issued a statement about her friendship with the senator and how the loss was a sign she should withdraw from politics.
 
Workan orders her brought to his office at once.  Enara explains Treen left an hour ago.  He swears at length, wanting to drag her kicking and screaming from Kuat, but he can’t spare time or resources right now.
 
He has Sabers assigned to monitor Parova, Jaxton and Thaal at all times.  He also wants to know what happened to Lecersen.  He also wants to find out what Roki Kem’s favorite drink is.  Enara tells him that Kem doesn’t drink alcohol.
 
The way things are going today, of course, she doesn’t.
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        •    Once again, mention that this Temple is centuries old.  The tunnels probably are if they lay dormant during the Imperial/New Republic years.
 
 
 

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chapter 30:
 
Ovin is uncomfortable at the amount of credits spent to welcome one Senator.  Dorvan reminds him that it’s technically a reception for all the new ones, but obviously, Rokara Kem is among the most respected.
 
In fact, the little Club Bwua’tu is already talking about when to bring her into their confidence.
 
When she gets a huge ovation, Roki thanks everyone, but reminds them that they are all equals here.  She seeks out Dorvan personally who introduces her to Padnel Ovin. Having both come from oppressed species, he thinks they will work together very well.
 
In his guise as Senator Suldar, Workan is already thinking about whether to kill or just discredit Senator Kem when she approaches him with a warm greeting.  She shoos off compliments, but Workan knows there’s something false about her.  Her people may not lie, but he thinks she is.
 
She asks for a word alone with him.  In private, she tells him to stay out of her way.  They banter a bit about the nature of politics, but, when she tells him to rattle his saber and find out how connected she is, he begins to worry.  If she knows who and what he is, he will have to get rid of her soon.
 
When he returns to his quarters, he contacts his Grand Lord Vol at once.  He explains that they are in key positions on the world, directing information, have a hold on the unimpressive Chief of State and have imprisoned the only Jedi left on the planet.
 
There is, however, no sign of Abeloth.  Further, a new Senator has arrived who puts on a very noble public face but seems to be a very skilled charlatan.  He cannot detect a Force ability in her, but she may know who they are.  Dealing with her may be difficult without causing a backlash due to her popularity.  Vol chastises him for letting one two-faced alien woman get to him. 
 
Not wanting his lord to think he can’t handle his own problems, Workan vows to eliminate her himself. 
 
Thus far, the Perre Needmo Newshour has not been censored, but Needmo doubts it will stay that way.  As it is, there is more bad news than good these days.  Tonight’s show will close with an upbeat story on newly-arrived Senator Rokari Kem.
 
 He opens with a story that Madhi Vaandt began about the troubles in Coruscant’s undercity. She had followed a young person named Tarynd around to show viewers how life exists there.  There had been some attempts to improve the situation, but that ended. Now, things are worse than ever.  The news camera catches Tarynd among a group of gang members beating a hapless resident that couldn’t get away fast enough.
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chapter 31:
 
Admiral Parova is commed by Rynog Asokaji who tells her that Admiral Bwua’tu is lucid and wants to see her.  He claims to know who sent the fake Jedi and why.  She prepares to comm. Jaxton and warn him but stops.
 
Bramsin had been old, so his death wasn’t all that surprising.  But Treen’s sudden departure is suspicious.  She hasn’t heard from Lecersen either.  Parova wonders what is happening to their little conspiracy. 
 
She will have to find out what Bwua’tu thinks he knows about the attack.  Then she’ll contact Jaxton and Thaal.  When she sits down in the hovertaxi, she yelps as a needle pricks her.  She yells at the driver who turns out to be Han Solo.  Her vision blurs.
 
When she comes to, she finds herself in an apartment with Rynog and Wynn Dorvan.  Dorvan tells her she’s in the asylum block of the Jedi Temple in the same cell that Seff Hellin used to occupy. 
 
Via holocomm, Bwua’tu confronts her about her role in the conspiracy involving Moff Lecersen, General Jaxton, Senators Treen and Bramsin.  She tries to deny any malicious connection.  It’s pointed out to her that three of those were mysteriously poisoned which put her in a position to head up security instead of GAS. 
 
They suspect it was Treen who killed Bramsin, though the autopsy is inconclusive.  Since she’s not cooperating, Dorvan would like to know what Bwua’tu wants them to do with Parova.  He suggests they leave her there for right now.
 
After they leave, she visits the refresher and finds four humans there.  One of the men explains Senator Suldar was concerned about Bramsin and Treen, so had them keep an eye on her in case something happened.  They followed her here.
 
The senator is grateful that she didn’t implicate him.  She will continue to serve even in death.  They ignite their red lightsabers and spring.
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     •    In retrospect, it was foolish to house Parova in the Temple, considering the Sith are there.  Of course, neither Dorvan nor Asokaji knew that.  One does wonder how they got her to the asylum section without the Sith in the Temple noticing?  Did the four Sith assigned to watch Parova comm. them first and say, “Back off”?
 

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chapter 32:
 
On the Gilad Pellaeon, Jag would have hoped tracking down an escaped convict would be easier.  Tahiri reminds him that Daala is no ordinary escapee.  Ashik has contacted the Meridian sector, most of whom have fond memories of Daala.
 
That’s just another in a long line of bad news that includes poor Padnel Ovin, who has no business running the GA, being put in office, his future mother-in-law being arrested by this sudden subcommittee and this odd new BAMR news that is quite partisan in favor of the new government.  There’s only so much even Dorvan can do.
 
Then he finds a story of Admiral Parova’s body being found on the steps of the Jedi Temple with lightsaber wounds.  Senator Suldar comes on to accuse the escaped prisoner, Tahiri Veila, of carrying out a personal grudge against the Galactic Alliance.
 
Jag decides to meet with Moff Getelles to see if he can be swayed to join them.  It’s time for him to play his trump card.  He has Ashik begin to get things in readiness.
 
That evening, Jag thanks Moff Getelles for his show of support when Daala was incarcerated.  They eat aboard the Pellaeon.  Getelles admits it’s been a long time since anyone bothered to talk with him anyway.  However, the Jedi did them all a favor.  Women shouldn’t be running things
 
Jag acknowledges the bit of history that Getelles has trailing him.  They all know he’d tried to direct the Death Seed plague in his bid to take over the Meridian sector.  Getelles assures him he doesn’t have the time left to him anymore to run around and conspire.
 
Jag holds out the vial of serum he got from the Squibs.  He wants them both to stop pretending that they don’t know anything.  He also has a recording of Getelles speaking with Daala a week ago.
 
Getelles admits that he really has no real holdings or influence.  He doesn’t know why Daala sought him out, except that she may be trying to gather as many allies as possible, if only to reduce the number of those supporting Jag. 
 
The vial represents the only area in which his holdings actually rank highly: the sciences.  Jag knows that many of the scientists who worked on the nanoviruses targeting the Fetts and the Hapan Royal Family have moved to Antemeridias.
 
He knows that Getelles has never been a fan of Daala.  He wonders what changed his mind.  Getelles admits it’s different when she’s in the Meridian sector threatening to either wipe him out or elevate his station.  He was supposed to befriend Jag and turn against him at the last minute.
 
He’s willing to work with Jag if the charges are dropped and he gets the vial back.  When Jag agrees, Getelles calls him a fool and shoots him. 
 
He asks if Daala got everything.  She confirms it and asks how he’ll get out.  Getelles decides to feign an emergency that’s called him back to Antemeridias.  He’ll be away before they know there’s a problem.  Daala will meet him in twelve hours.
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        •    Isn’t the Meridian sector where the Yevetha were? 
 

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chapter 33:
 
Admiral Daala stands aboard the Chimaera for the first time in years.  She has several older vessels at her disposal, too.  She’d always kept contingency plans in place due to the way fate changes constantly. 
 
Assassinating Jagged Fel wouldn’t have been her first choice, but it was necessary.  Nothing has been reported on the news, though.  There is no response from the Solo family.  Leia is in jail, Han has dropped out of sight and Jaina is probably with the Jedi.
 
The rendezvous point is Exodo II which looks even worse post-Vongforming.  Lecersen’s flagship, the Empire Maker, arrives.  Daala tells him they’ve wasted a lot of time attacking each other when they should have been fighting a mutual enemy.
 
Moffs Vansyn, Getelles and Trevin will be joining them along with a few more sources, but she’s not revealing everything yet.  She also wants him to know that Jagged Fel is dead.  One of her sources got invited aboard the Pellaeon, killed Fel when the droids were in sleep mode and took off before the body was discovered.
 
Obviously, his people don’t want to announce it until they know how to present it.  Vansyn and Trevin arrive with their own ships before Moff Getelles does.  Daala announces to her fleet that they will step forward to pursue the path of imperialism.  She wants them to know that Head of State Jagged Fel is dead.
 
A familiar voice responds that Jaina wouldn’t like that as she really wants her wedding.  Daala orders the transmission traced.  She tries to get Fel to speak with her openly.  He won’t show himself, though.
 
He sends in several Chiss Star Destroyers with several more Clawcraft.  He tells her it’s the vanguard of the Empire of the Hand.
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chapter 34:
 
Daala thinks it makes sense, and it’s ironic seeing that the Chimaera was once commanded by Grand Admiral Thrawn.  She decides to target the main Star Destroyer but is stunned when she is attacked from behind by Getelles.
 
Lecersen turns his ships on Getelles’s, quipping that, at least they know how Fel survived.  Daala orders the ships saved if possible. Then more lights appear.  She recognizes the Bloodfin, Admiral Pellaeon’s former flagship.   Admiral Vitor Reige comes on the comm. to accept her surrender.
 
Ashik had thought that bringing every ship they could and quickly disabling Daala’s fleet would work best.  Jag, however, explained that they needed to humiliate her and shock enough Moffs into joining Getelles.  It’s psychological.
 
Ashik doesn’t really trust Getelles, though.  Neither does Jag, but he has the wisdom and the motivation to know a good idea when he sees it.  It had worked, too, at first.  Until the baradium missles had hit the Gilad Pellaeon and the ship had become a deathtrap. 
 
Jag, Ashik and Tahiri are among those headed to the hangar, grab TIE Defenders and take off.  Jag warns Tahiri he better see her aboard the Bloodfin.
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     •     Remember Vitor Reige from the Legacy of the Force series and a man Pellaeon suspected might be his son?
 
 

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Chapter 35:

The Bloodfin reports that Ashik has come in, but not Tahiri.  Jag is about to be escorted in when he suddenly finds himself spinning out of control.  He nearly hits large chunks of debris that he thinks, at first, are pieces of spacecraft.  When the Bloodfin tractors him in, he realizes it's rock.  Daala has blasted apart Exodo II's moon.

Daala had thought Lecersen was crazy to want to send baradium missles into the moon's structural weak point.  He pointed out to her that it would create chaos and blow apart many ships due to the debris.  It certainly causes chaos, but her fleet isn't in the best shape.  There are several seriously-damaged ships that cannot go to hyperspace, including the Chimaera.  She hasn't heard from the other Moffs she'd contacted.  Then she gets an idea for how to use Lecersen's interdictor cruiser.

Jag gets aboard the Bloodfin where Riege welcomes him, telling him that Tahiri is in the brig.  Understandable as Riege had been Pellaeon's aide and protege.  They receive a report that the pieces of moon are being removed.

It looks like Lecersen is moving the chunks of rock to barricade the other ships inside.  Jag tells Riege to stop the interdictor.

Ashik offers to start blasting chunks of rock.  Tahiri points out that Daala has probably called for reinforcements based on what Getelles was able to tell them about her resources.  

Getelles comms them and they joke about how this arrangement started.  Jag had awakened not long after Getelles had completed his conversation with Daala.  Tahiri had rushed in with her lightsaber.  Getelles had put his blaster on the table, held his hands up and explained to Jag that Daala wanted him assassinated and now thinks it's done.  If his people will play along, Getelles will be able to tell him where she'll be and switch sides when the time comes.

To solidify that, Jag played the recording he had of Daala promising Vansyn Getelles' limited holdings in exchange for his cooperation.  Now Getelles wants the real serum back.  He knows the one Jag gave him is a fake.  Jag explains that he only promised to give that specific vial back.  He reminds Getelles that he is dropping all of the serious charges against him for working with him on this.  Getelles gets to keep his holdings, his reputation, his liberty and his head.  

The Moff is resigned but agrees to the terms.  Tahiri asks what's so important about the serum.  Jag tells he it will make a family very happy.
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chapter 36:
 

Grand Lord Vol and High Lord Workan walk along the Great Hall of the Jedi Temple.  Despite the setbacks, Vol knows that Workan had a huge task set to him and has done well.  Sadly, the capital city of Kesh has been abandoned.  Abeloth has only made them stronger, though. 
 
He does want to know about this Rokari Kem.  Workan explains how she presents the image of a loving, gentle, unambitious woman, but she’s nothing like that.  He’s been watching her sway more and more of their allies every day.  Thus far, though, there is no evidence that anyone, except perhaps her, knows the Sith are here.
 
Vol recognizes the arrogance of youth.  He reminds Workan that Leia Organa Solo is no ordinary Jedi.  However, she’s not a big priority right now.  It’s best that the whole of Coruscant remain ignorant for now.  He can deal with Rokari Kem but wants to be sure she’s not a Force user.
 
Workan assure him no one has sensed a thing.  Vol tells him there is another wave of Sith waiting to either attack or infiltrate once Kem is eliminated.  Vol will handle that tonight. 
 
Workan begins his celebrating early and is awakened in the middle of the night by a call from Roki Kem.  She tells him she found something that belongs to him and holds up Vol’s head.
 
She tells him that she is the Beloved Queen of the Stars.  If he wants to know more, he can meet her tomorrow.
 
Of course, this makes Workan the highest-ranking Sith on the planet which is to his advantage.  However, he doesn’t know how she defeated Vol.  She either took advantage of a serious mistake by Vol or she is a powerful Force-user herself and they were unable to detect it.
 
She warned him to stay away from her and now she wants to meet with him.
 
They meet at a little restaurant over breakfast.  She tells him that she wants to rule.  Workan admits that he was, in part, responsible for Padnel Ovin’s elevation to the interim post.  When she puts her name in for the official Chief of State position, her popularity will likely put there there. 
 
Roki admits that she does want that, but she doesn’t want to wait two months.  She wants it now.  Then she will take the Beloved Queen of the Stars.  Then Goddess.
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chapter 37:
 

Upekzar is much a much better locale.  Natua has spent long hours studying this world in the library.  Luke tells his Jedi that it’s not the first time several Jedi have worked together, but it’s the first time that most of them have worked toward a single goal.  They will explore that volcanic cave where the Sith held their rituals and try to find where Ship is hiding.
 
Vestara is now nervous.  She is no longer a Sith visiting a Sith world.  She doesn’t know what she is.  She had wept with Ben the night she’d killed her father.  It was something she’d never done before.  Weeping was a weakness to the Sith.  Vestara is tired of being limited by their expectations.  Keeping her guard up all the time is too difficult.
 
Ben asks how she feels going after Ship. Vestara tells him that Ship is a danger so long as he can be commanded by Abeloth.  She doesn’t think the Jedi can commandeer him.  That requires a bending to the will that the Jedi are simply unwilling to do.  She will regret his loss because he changed her life forever, but she will still destroy him.
 
The evil is ever-present here.  All the Jedi can feel it.  Luke knows this is a bad thing.  The power is coalesced right here.   Saba wonders if Ship has inadvertently awakened something. 
 
They are all wearing masks to be on the safe side.  Crowded before the abandoned city and the mountain before it, they wait.  Luke splits them up into small groups.  Some move to the northeast, others to their ships.
 
Luke tells Ben that air support will be needed in case the ground teams fail.  They cannot allow Ship to return to Abeloth.  Ben, Vestara and Natua will start exploring the caves.  Ben accuses his father of keeping Ves away from Ship.
 
Vestara stops him, explaining that they can’t risk something going wrong.  Besides, she can be of help if they run across any Sith artifacts.  She is an asset there, whereas she could be a liability if they find Ship.
 
Luke assures her it’s not about trust, but about the pull of the Dark Side.  It’s going to be very powerful here and he knows how hard it is to resist.  To test her here would be like asking a recovering spice addict to go to a party with the stuff everywhere.
 
He will not set Vestara up to fail.  She can consider this a first order from a Master.  Vestara decides that, if she could obey Lady Rhea, who cared nothing for her, she can obey Luke, too.
 
Luke is relieved that all three of them will be separate from this unnerving darkness he feels around them.
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chapter 38:
 
Natua is curious to see what’s down there.  She started studying history to have something to do, but, of course, she also doesn’t have a lot of fuzzy feelings about Abeloth.
 
In the caverns, they find dust, debris, relics and lightsabers.  Vestara translates the writing which advises initiates to leave their weapons and former selves here or else depart forever in shame.  Ben asks if those too afraid were the ones who left their weapons.
 
Vestara tells him she thinks the ones too afraid had their weapons taken away.  These are the ones left by the owners who didn’t survive the initiation.  Natua thinks that sounds like the Sith.  They don’t take care of their own.
 
Vestara agrees that they don’t.
 
Natua decides to make some recordings.  Vestara admits to Ben that she’d rather be hunting Ship.  This place is creepy.  Natua decides they’ve made as much progress as they can without becoming lost. Ves knows she’s trying to be kind.
 
She explains that nobody needs to coddle her.  There’s no need for them to sit around waiting for Luke and the others. Here, they can be useful.  As the tunnels continue, they begin to hear a low groaning.  They ignite their lightsabers. 
 
A wave of Dark –Side energy crashes over them.  One of the shadows rears above with mandibles clicking.  Vestara yells for Ben.  Natua charges and gets part of her leg chopped at.  Vestara tries to force the creature away from Ben.  He sustains an injury on his arm.
 
Ves can feel it.  It has to be a mutated rhak’skuri, evolved over the centuries of concentrated dark-side energy.  She calls for it.  It shoves Ben and Natua back, recognizing her as Sith.
 
Vestara and Natua attack, Ben is frozen, his mouth open, his mask torn away.  He’s inhaling the pheromones that represent how the creature feeds.  It’s like Abeloth, feeding off a victim’s terror.  Vestara knows it wants a sacrifice.  She and Natua will have to defeat it or it will take Ben.
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chapter 39:
 

Jaina doesn’t sense Ship itself here but doubts she could sense the Sith here either.  Luke knows this concentration of energy is new for this world.  Octa Ramis believes Saba was right in that Ship has stirred something.
 
The team has not been attacked yet, though.  Jaina reminds them that the Sith typically leave traps or guardians behind.  It doesn’t make sense for them to leave a bunch of dark entities here with orders to just sit.
 
Luke almost wishes he’d brought Vestara, but that would have been risky.  He has them stop at a fortress with markings on it.  He reaches out and opens it.  They move into the city quietly.
 
He urges them to remain calm.  They know something is centered here and is waiting for them.  When they find a large open area, Luke remembers that Ben had called Ship forth from such a place like this.
 
He extends his hand and commands it to come forth.  It refuses, but Luke insists.  The ground cracks and a Keshiri female appears, begging for help.  Luke is momentarily taken aback.  A Keshiri Sith that has been imprisoned and torture and, yet, is clearly the source of the dark energy they sense.  Jaina warns him this could be a trick.  He wonders if it could be a test instead.  

The woman implores Luke for help.  She tells him she’s Tola Annax, who had served under Gavar Khai and gotten his command when he died, only to be be disposed of by Abeloth.  Luke  realizes that she’s beyond help as she’s already dead.

The dark-side energy has been compressed into her body.  Luke calls to retreat, knowing that attacking her will cause an explosion that they won’t survive.  Everyone runs back to the gate.  When the explosion occurs, they are all tossed in the air.  

The volcano erupts, tossing lava into the air; an ominous cloud above it.  Luke uses the Force to cool the air to the best of his ability.  Two Jedi grab at their throats, suffocating in the superheated air before Luke creates a barrier around them with the Force.  

Saba reaches the gate first, blown it apart with the Force and the other Jedi run through the opening.  When Luke gets to his ship, he calls for Ben.  With no response, he asks Raynar to get to the cave entrance and get Ben, Vestara and Natua.  
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Chapter 40:

Vestara will not allow the Dream Singer to have Ben.  He’ll never know what she has done for him.  She attacks and cuts through Natua’s mask.  She only stumbles back, being a Falleen.  Now Natua is on the attack, knowing they should never have trusted Vestara.  

That’s when she is overcome with the horror of the creature.  Vestara leaves her to it and can sense when her mind snaps.  Only after Natua is dead does Ves attack the creature.  Ben is safe.

Ben does know if this is a monster or another sentient being.  He doesn’t know if Natua is dead or if he can really see a lightsaber slash across her or if he’s imagining everything.  Vestara grabs him and tells him they have to leave now.  He doesn’t know if she’s real.

When he moves with her, they race toward the entrance, only to have to dodge to avoid a quake.  They are knocked back. When they get up, Ves finds that her lightsaber is gone.  When Ben gets his, they see that they are trapped.  He promises they will get out.  After all, he said he would help her become a Jedi.  When he cuts through enough, they use the Force to push through the crack only for the wall to explode outward with incredible power.  

Corran Horn is on the other side, tells them to hurry up and gives Vestara back her lightsaber.
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Chapter 41:

Merratt Jaxton learns the value of keeping his head down.  Clearly, things have gone horribly wrong.  It can’t be Tahiri Veila.  It’s not the other Jedi.  There’s only two of the team left now and he’s not willing to trust Suldar, who was supposed to be the new guy and, yet, is somehow now in charge.  

Finally, he comms General Stavin Thaal and tells him he doesn’t like this.  Thaal doesn’t see the problem with their cohorts being dead.  When Jaxton expresses his concerns about the likelihood of their own deaths, Thaal agrees to meet with him soon.  

For the rest of the day, Jaxton keeps a low profile.  That evening, he opens the door to find Thaal with two others he claims are bodyguards. At blasterpoint, he forces Jaxton to write his own suicide note, explaining he tried to topple Daala’s corrupt regime and implicating Senator Bramsin and Admiral Parova.  Jaxton wonders why he isn’t writing Treem and Lecerson’s names down.  Thaal admits that they are alive and will stay quiet, unlike Jaxton.  The suicide is a noble attempt to join his fellow conspirators in death, something Jaxton doubts anyone will believe.  

But, deep down, he knows that Thaal is right.  He’s a coward and would have talked immediately.  Wishing he’d just gone to Dorvan and confessed everything, he obeys Thaal’s orders to put a blaster in his mouth and pull the trigger.

Leia’s cell is uncomfortable, but she’s more concerned about Eramuth’s strange words. Though he said they’d get her out of here, she doubts Ovin has the ability to clearly see the conspiracy.  Then she hears footsteps and the sound of Padmel Ovin ordering the guard to open the door. 

He tells her that there may be good news.  He knows she thinks he doesn’t listen and, sometimes that’s true, but he’s thought about what she’s said and shared her words with Dorvan. It appears there’s some kind of club that has formed around her concerns.  Leia confirms that it’s Club Bwua’tu.  Padnel admits he isn’t all that eager to know more.  Dorvan and the admiral have found a connection between Bramsin, Lecerson and Jaxton.  

Leia wonders if the poisoning was designed to discredit the GAS.  Parova used her people and now she’s dead, Bramsin is dead, Treen and Lecerson have disappeared and only Jaxton is left.  He’s put a listening device in Jaxton’s office and was able to hear part of a conversation in which Jaxton was supposed to meet someone.  He doesn’t know who as the other person used a droid voice as a disguise. Leia guesses it’s Suldar

There’s enough to bring in Jaxton for questioning.  Padnel assures Leia that he never doubted her, but that he thought she was mistaken about a conspiracy.  His comm pings and he receives the news that Jaxton is dead.  He orders the body brought in for an autopsy.  It looks like suicide, but that’s doubtful.  

He apologizes to her, saying he had hoped he was doing the right thing.  He is going to make the Senators listen tomorrow.  
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Chapter 42:

Workan can’t believe how easy it is to manipulate the political system here, even without the Force.  Enough popularity and connections can get a being anywhere.  

He’d managed to get Padnel Ovin chosen as interim Chief of State until a new election could be held.  He will have to introduce a motion to choose Roki Kem instead.  With the amount of love that follows her, he could be able to get the three-quarters majority needed to replace Padnel Ovin.

He’ll handle whatever Beloved Queen of the Stars means later.

The chair of the Senate, Nensu Kaatik, reads the agenda and asks if there is anything else to list.  Workan signals and is recognizes as Senator Suldar.  Workan explains that he had hoped that his earlier suggestion of Padnel Ovin, an outsider, would provide a fresh perspective during a unique crisis.  He has come to regret that decision due to Ovin’s connections to the Jedi, terrorist activities and with the recent high-profile deaths.  He nominates Rokari Kem to replace Ovin.  She accepts the nomination before being interrupted by Luewet Wuul who protests getting rid of Padnel Ovin so quickly before he’s had a chance to do anything.  Kaatik points out that the motion has been made so it must go forward.   Wuul suggests that they require a four-fifths majority instead since this is an unusual situation.  

The vote is approved, however, and Workan rushes to get more of his followers here as quickly as possible.  That’s when Padnel Ovin arrives.  He explains that he’s just learned of the motion to replace him and demands the right to speak to the Senate.

He announces that he will begin with a history of his people and the Treaty of Vontor.  Workan doesn’t mind as it gives him time to make more arrangements.

Knowing that Ovin will take all day, Dorvan sneaks into the Chief’s office and taps the code to the secret exit on a blank wall.  He heads down the corridor before being confronted with Han, Lando and Zekk.  They’re going to follow Dorvan until he gets to the prison section go through the secret entrance and overpower three guards, taking their uniforms.  Everything works well until they see the guards – one of them is a Chadra-Fan whose short stature prevents the uniform from working well.

Plan B involves Dorvan, Han and Lando, the latter two in guard uniforms, bringing an unconscious Zekk to the Chief of Security. Dorvan hands over an order from the Chief of State’s office requiring that he be incarcerated with Leia.  

Leia can sense Han’s presence as soon as he enters the building.  When they drag Zekk into the cell, she asks what took them so long.  They start opening cell doors to create a distraction which only causes alarms.  Dorvan tells them which corridor in the secret exit to take to the Jedi Temple gardens. He’s got to get back and see how Ovin is doing.  

Feeling good about how well he’d done today and looking forward to a comfortable sleep, Dorvan heads back to the Chief of State’s office.  When he pushes open the door, he is confronted with three Sith and their lightsabers.

Unfortunately, Han didn’t listen well enough to Dorvan and gets them lost on the various levels in this secret corridor.  Lando suggests they just take their time and wait.  Leia doesn’t think they have time because they’re being following.  

She leaps up the stairs and returns, having laid a false trail.  Then they decide to push open a door at random and exit in the undercity.  The violence has gotten much worse down here of late, but Needmo’s show hadn’t mentioned the growth of flora down here encompassing everything.
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     •    Did the Chief of Security not recognize Han Solo and Lando Calrissian when they carried Zekk into her office?  Did they wear helmets or something?
 

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Chapter 43:

Roki Kem is growing impatient.  Workan assures her that there are waiting for a couple of more colleagues that will give them the four-fifths majority needed for the vote.  He tells Lady Enara that he wishes Roki would appreciate the pleasure of the hunt.  

Meanwhile, Ovin has moved on to his brother’s martyrdom.

Finally, the two Senators have taken their seats.  Workan reports to Roki that their people are here.  Once Ovin shuts up, she will be securely installed as Chief of State.  She is tired of waiting.   While speaking, Ovin suddenly stumbles and asks for some water.  

Workan realizes that Roki is Force-sensitive.  Somehow, she managed to hide this from him.  Outwardly, she’s the picture of shock and sympathy at Ovin’s distress as the Chief clutches his chest before collapsing.  There is chaos as the medical droids work until Kaatik calls for order and explains that Ovin is being taken to a medcenter.  

Wuul immediately proposes the vote be postponed until his recovery.  Workan can’t allow that as Ovin’s death before Roki’s confirmation would cede the office to Wynn Dorvan.  He counter proposes that the vote go forward.  Kaatik agrees.  Nevertheless, Workan is concerned.  Most of his supporters are just newcomers to the Senate looking for leadership.  They may decide to settle on Dorvan to be on the safe side.  

His fears are unfounded.  She is confirmed with no problems.  Taking the stand, she explains that she will be taking the Jedi Temple as a base of operations.  It’s been abandoned anyway and she feels she can use the resources better.  After all, there are consequences for decisions. She also addresses the problem of Jedi in custody.  She feels that a Senate subcommittee should consider that Jedi who remain on Coruscant should be prepared to obey the law or face execution.  

Workan is trying to use the Force to nudge his followers’ in the right direction, but Roki is going too far and he can tell they are starting to reconsider.  Roki decides to end the session at that point so everyone can go home.  Workan approaches her and warns her that she needs to move slowly and at least give the appearance that she is working for the people.

Her eagerness to enter the Jedi Temple makes him realize that she hates the Jedi as much as the Sith do….and that makes him nervous.

When she arrives at the Temple, ignoring reporters, she is given the news that Padnel Ovin is dead.  She is also told that Leia Solo has escaped.  Workan warns her that Leia’s rescuers couldn’t have known about her new Jedi policy when the escape was made.  She does’t see the difference.  The Sith bring Wynn Dorvan before her.  

Roki smiles and tells him that she knows he knows much and that he can be useful to her.  If he learns to love her, she might let him live.  She grips his chin with hands that became tentacles and eyes that turned into black holes.  He realizes the GA is now being run by Abeloth and the Lost Tribe.

Vestara wonders if she’s just numb from the stress of doing something so horrible, but then just realizes that she’s not sorry.  

She doesn’t even have a good justification.  She’d murdered a Jedi deliberately and coldly in order to distract the rhak-skuri and save Ben.  There were other options that she could have taken.  She would do it again and there’s no doubt that Ben would object if he knew.  He would have chosen to die rather than be responsible for someone else’s death.  This is why she had to do this and he never needs to know.  

She can still hear the hissing in her mind, the urging to go with the creature.  But she hadn’t.  She wanted to stay with Ben and be a Jedi and it frustrates her to know that she can never be that.  She never will learn to think like Ben and he will never be a Sith.  So she will have to stay with Ben as long as she can until they can no longer walk together and will have to be enemies.  That’s when she’ll have to kill him.
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End of Book 8

 

  • This was an interesting way to follow Vestara's journey.  It illustrates the innate selfishness of the Sith.  They want what they want until it no longer serves their purpose and then they embrace the sacrifice they have to make in order to further their own interests.  


 

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