They were people I had come to bond with. But I had promised Alison to keep our intended marriage a secret, and keeping secrets was about to become a way of life for me. As I passed through, I was given a nod of approval and respect by two officials who had recognised me from the cable-television broadcasts on the previous weekend. I acknowledged their gesture, headed for Gate , and was slumped down on a seat by ten past ten after a quick glance through the large window at my aircraft.
This was an hour before my departure time. Seat 41C, an aisle position this time, awaited me for at least fourteen hours of sitting. But I was quite content to remain where I was until boarding commenced, rather than go walkabout around the area. I even thought briefly about going to the bar for a beer, but dismissed the idea.
The drinking age in America was twenty-one, yet eighteen on the Qantas aircraft, so I decided to wait. But with the inactivity of waiting, came the recent memories of my time in California. Once again, I saw the flames and the face of a dead child, heard the crackling of the massive flames that surrounded the Furnace, smelled wood smoke, tasted ash in my mouth, and felt radiant heat on my face.
I sighed, wishing desperately for the images to go away. Help only came, eventually, when the public-address system announced that flight QF was boarding. As I rose to my feet, a happier memory came to mind. It was Alison and me on Venice Beach, and the smile on her face as I had my butt tattooed with her name in a little green boomerang. I strode along the aerobridge to the aircraft and took my seat, resigning myself to the expected, unavoidable bombardment of questions from family and friends to which I would be subjected upon arrival at Melbourne.
I knew these questions would stir up the memories and cause me to relive some of the horrors.
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The grilling back home was something I was not looking forward to, and I hoped some more quick counselling sessions as soon as possible would help. For the coming flight, though, after the previous night with Matt, and having rejected the offer of alcohol at the now-destroyed hotel in Lake Isobel, I decided to bluff a few shots of bourbon from the flight attendants during the meal service.
As the jumbo jet backed away from the terminal, there was no hint of the coming controversy that was about to erupt. It was a controversy both in Melbourne and California over my presence at the fires. Saturday, 30 September — QF cruised quietly over the western suburbs of Melbourne, having entered the circuit pattern for Tullamarine Airport after an uneventful flight. The time was approaching eight thirty in the morning. The city was a welcome sight after thirteen hours of darkness outside as I peered across the two passengers on my left to look out through the window.
I had slept better than expected. This was due, I reckon, to the four Bourbon-and-Cokes I had ordered and been served without question by the flight attendants during the meal service. I was actually surprised that I had been so successful in obtaining alcohol. All the adults in my life had often said I looked younger than my seventeen years, despite being a hundred and eighty centimetres tall. Still, I felt slightly guilty about breaching the liquor licensing laws, but did not complain. Jom Barell is in the atmosphere above Akiva.
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He and his fellow five commandos make a jump from a shuttle into the air, and right as they jump, the shuttle that they jumped from blows up. Then the bright flash of turbolaser, and one of his fellow commandos is shot down. Soon, Barell is the only one left alive, and he makes a very rough crash landing on the planet surface below. On the planet Sevarcos , a site where the Empire used slaves to mine spice, a battle between the New Republic and Empire rages.
Three slaves are huddled away from the battle, torn about what to do. One of them says they must run before the Empire wins and sends them back into the mines. However, the Wookiee among them suggests they charge into battle, believing they should help the Republic soldiers defeat the Imperials. He runs out, ducking laserfire, to release some rancors kept captive by the slavers, and unleashes them onto the battlefield. The tide of the battle is turned, and the New Republic wins. The three slaves decide to explore the galaxy on their own, free to do as they please now.
The shooting down of the commandos has sent the meeting of the Imperial Future Council into even more chaos. Pandion suggests they fight the New Republic head on, knowing that they will soon send their fleet, but Shale believes this will only lead to the defeat of the Empire once and for all.
Sloane tries to calm everyone down and pretend that nothing bad is happening, and finally they agree to once again start the meeting. Meanwhile, Jom Barell wakes up from his crash landing to see three stormtroopers standing in front of him, which he quickly disposes of despite the pain he is in. Norra and Jas travel together through Myrra, the capital of Akiva. They see a random citizen throw a rotten fruit at a pair of stormtroopers, a good sign that the people are fed up with the Imperial occupation.
Jas heads to Temmin's shop, where she clears out the thugs who were attempting to drill their way to the lower half of his shop, where the real goods lie. They then head to the rooftops, where two TIEs are parked. While Norra distracted the pilots, Jas used her sniper to take them down.
Norra then steals one of the TIEs. Meanwhile, Sinjir walks up to an Imperial communications station, telling the stormtroopers he is an Imperial and demands to see their officer. Grudgingly, they call up their officer, and when the scans ensure that he really is Sinjir Rath Velus, who is supposed to be dead, they let him in. Inside, Sinjir steals the officer's pistol, shooting him in the back, and Mister Bones jumps in, taking care of the two stormtroopers.
Once in the comm station, they make a holovid showing a supposed stormtrooper shooting an innocent kid in the back and laughing. They then broadcast this across Myrra, planting the seeds for an uprising. On the planet Taris , three Acolytes of the Beyond , Sith worshippers, purchase a lightsaber from a dealer who claims the lightsaber belonged to Darth Vader before his death. They say they plan on destroying it, so that it can return to its master in death.
However, while the lightsaber's blade is red, there is no guarantee it was actually Vader's. At the comm station, Temmin, Sinjir, and Mister Bones head to the rooftop to escape. On the roof, they hear the distinctive sound of TIE fighters, as two appear in the sky. They take cover as the TIE's shell the comm station with laserfire, intent on destroying it before more propaganda can be spread.
Mister Bones jumps into the air as the second TIE passes, breaking its windshield and taking it to the ground. A third TIE enters the fray and starts shooting at the first, blindsiding it and taking it out of the sky: Norra has entered the fray. She takes off for the satraps palace, but is dogged by two more TIE's. Taking down one, she aims for the shuttles that are the Imperials' only lifeline off this planet. Admiral Sloane sees this from the ground and, thinking quickly, fires a turbolaser at Norra from the ground, totally destroying her right wing and sending her into a death spiral.
Norra aims for the shuttles as her crash site, with one last wish that they actually put ejector seats in these fighters. Sloane looks out from the palace windows to survey the damage.
All three Imperial shuttles have been taken down, but fortunately Crassus' yacht wasn't on the planet and is still functional. She notices a growing crowd outside of the palace; Akivans who are ready for change, creating a dull roar of noise. She returns back to the meeting and tells the rest of them that they will be leaving on Crassus' yacht as soon as it arrives back on the planet. In hyperspace, Han Solo and Chewbacca travel to Dasoor.
As soon as they pull out of hyperspace, they receive a transmission from an old friend named Imra. She mentions that she has a job on Kashyyyk , the home of the Wookiees , with a very small window. Han tells Imra to gather everyone they know, and tells Chewbacca to gather some fellow freed Wookiees, so that they can head down to the planet and free their homeworld. After the TIE fighter crash into the palace, the power went out temporarily, freeing Wedge from his shackles. He sneaks around the palace, narrowly avoiding being caught by stormtroopers looking for him.
Once he comes across a secret passage, he uses it to ambush Sloane's personal assistant, Adea Rite , wounding her and stealing her holoscreen, allowing him to send a message to the New Republic calling them to war. Sloane soon finds his body, crumpled up on the ground, with the holoscreen open to a rebel frequency.
Temmin starts to break down into tears, when the door opens and a cloaked figure sits down at the end of the table. When Norra pulls back the veil and reveals that she is still alive and that TIEs truly do have an ejector seat, Temmin launches himself towards her to embrace her in a huge hug. On Coruscant, Jak walks through the most dangerous underworld levels on the planet.
Using a special card, he is allowed entrance to meet the Thorn , where he asks for a weapon, having saved the life of one of Thorn's closest companions. He wants to use it to take out power in Coco-Town with the help of the Anklebiter Brigade , a group of very young kids fighting against the Empire. Back on Akiva, the planet is consumed in turmoil. People burn effigies of the satrap and Darth Vader in the streets, chanting and raging at the Empire and the satrapy. Jas watches it all, proud of herself and her new friends for setting the spark to set Myrra ablaze. Meanwhile, Sinjir tells Norra to trust him, because even though he was an Imperial, it was his job to hunt down other Imperials, to find the weakness in other Imperials, and then punish them accordingly.
When Temmin returns from his shop with maps of the catacombs below Myrra, they plan on how to sneak into the palace using the catacombs. However, their plan involves traveling past the old underground droid factory, which is supposedly haunted and nobody has returned from alive. They will use some thermal detonators from Temmin's shop to blow holes into the walls of the palace once they get there.
On Naboo , two kids from the Anklebiter Brigade are meeting potential parents, people who could adopt them. One of the kids feels entirely out of comfort with all of the rich nobles around, and decides to run away from it all, hoping to find a transport back to Coruscant where he can rejoin the hot war between the rebels and the Empire. Finally beginning their trek into the catacombs, Jas pulls Temmin back and asks him about his crate. When he says it's a weapon, she tells him that's he's wrong, and opens it for him. What's inside are data cubes, and they agree to sift through the information on them and sell them to the right client as soon as this is over.
When they near the droid factory, Sinjir begins to probe Temmin, thinking he's hiding something secret from them down here. He throws a stone at the droid factory entrance to prove it isn't haunted, but then a mechanized howling comes from inside, and they all start running. Admiral Ackbar has received Wedge's transmission, a very short message calling for help. He decides now is the time to act, sending a small fleet to Akiva, with more in reserves, ready to arrive at any sign of trouble.
In the palace, Sloane is still attempting to calmly control the situation as the others of the IFC grow increasingly restless and angry with her. The shuttle is taking too long to arrive, she thinks, but nothing can be done about that. She decides to call the three Star Destroyers back into the system, ready for battle when it arrives. Jas turns to fire at the oncoming horde.
At first they look like droids, with glowing eyes and mechanized wails, running along the walls like spiders. However, as they approach, she realizes they're not droids, but creatures, noseless with a mouth full of sharp teeth, identified by Temmin as Uugteen. They keep getting closer and closer, an entire hive, and she can't stop them.
Temmin comes back, tugs on her shoulder, telling her to come along, and she relents. As they start running, he realizes they have a box of detonators. Pulling Mister Bones along, who wants to stand and fight to protect Temmin, he pulls one detonator out of the box, setting it, and then throwing it back into the box. They all sprint for safety. When the tunnel explodes, a huge collapse happens and the Uugteen are blocked off from following them. With no explosives to blow their way into the palace, Sinjir decides that he will head to the surface to contact the palace himself, pretending to be an Imperial once again.
His plan is to tell them to open the doors to the catacombs from the inside, telling them it's their only path to safety. On Tatooine , a man named Adwin Charu , a member of a new local mining company, is attempting to buy goods from the Jawas in one of their massive sandcrawlers. Knowing there are real goods hidden in there, he keeps trying to tell them that he doesn't want the junk they have on display, but they won't listen. A local named Cobb Vanth shows up and tells him that he must build rapport with the Jawas by first buying small stuff, before they'll let him see the good stuff.
He offers to take Adwin in, and they go. Soon, they start arguing over a set of Mandalorian armor , and Cobb shoots Adwin. Styling himself Sheriff Vanth, he tells Adwin that he won't let the crime syndicates come to Tatooine under the guise of mining companies and take over his planet after the fall of the Hutt Cartel.
Back on Akiva, Jom Barell is trying to save the day singlehandedly. Knowing the coordinates of one of the turbolasers, he takes out the three stormtroopers guarding it while injured, with the goal of shooting down any Imperial ships. When he sits down in the console, he sees a large yacht with an Imperial code descending towards the palace. Instead of firing at the ship, the turbolaser makes a clicking sound, showing that it was damaged by the fight with the stormtroopers. He races to fix it.
Jas, Temmin, Norra, and Mister Bones lie waiting to ambush stormtroopers outside of the palace, so that they can then sneak in. Before Dengar can stop her, Jas escapes with the freighter and goes to find Norra. The Red Key raiders' leader Lorgan Movellan wants to exploit Tatooine as a source of dilarium oil , silicax oxalate , and slaves.
With the tables turned, Cobb confronts the defeated Lorgan and tells him that he and Malakili have struck a deal with the Tuskens to keep slavers out. As a parting "gift", Cobb carves a message into Lorgan's face with his blade. After dreaming of a skittermouse , the broken Mister Bones begins to reboot and his body parts automatically repair and reassemble themselves. After reassembling himself, Mister Bones attacks Norra's Imperial captors and kills them. As revenge for his disintegration, Bones personally tears the Imperial officer Effney apart from limb to limb.
Bones then frees Norra from her cage. The following morning, at the planet's main Imperial base, Counselor to the Empire Gallius Rax meets with his former master Anchorite Kolob tells him that he has been stealing children on Jakku. Kolob believes in the light side of the Force and is defiant towards Rax.
In the presence of the dark side-adherent Yupe Tashu , Rax executes Kolob by stabbing him to death. Rax then confers with one of the late Emperor's Sentinel droids , which are programmed to display the Emperor's visage. The Sentinel droid informs him that the perimeter has been breached. Meanwhile, Sloane and Brentin travel with Niima's procession to the Observatory. When Sloane complains about the slow progress of their journey and toys with idea of assassinating Niima, Brentin points out they have no weapons.
Sloane suggests stealing two wheel-bikes but Brentin insists on sticking with their original plan to accompany Niima's procession. The Imperial and rebel also discuss their motives for wanting to take out Rax. Seeking to retake control of their situation, Sloane hijacks a wheel-bike and is attacked by Niima's slaves. Brentin comes to her aid and the two find themselves fighting Niima, who puts up a surprisingly fierce fight. The fighting is interrupted when Rax's Imperial forces begin bombarding Niima's convoy with turbolasers.
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Far away on Christophsis , five pilgrims including an MA-B0 cargo lifter droid called Mabo , Addar the human , Jumon the Iakaru , Madrammagath the Elomin , and Uggorda the Duros return kyber crystals that had been stolen from the planet by the Empire. The pilgrims are members of the Church of the Force and have been sent on this mission by pastor and philanthropist Brin Izisca.
During their pilgrimage, they are hunted by a Force-sensitive creatures known as the Kyaddak , which kills Madrammagath, Uggorda and Jumon. After thirteen arduous days, the surviving pilgrims finally reach a broken crystal wall where they return the excavated crystals to their home site. Back at the Jakku kesium gas ring, Norra and Mister Bones free the prisoners including Gomm and the skull-eyed alien.
She and Bones find a speeder bike and travel through the deserts of Jakku for several hours. Norra eventually sights a shuttle in the distance and reunites with her friend Jas Emari. After reuniting, Jas tells Norra that she had spotted a disguised Sloane in the company of Niima's followers. The two then discuss their next plans. Ruling out the easy option of returning home, the two women decide to continue the hunt for Sloane.
Bones agrees to join them after giving Jas and Norra a hug. Barell had been discharged from the Special Forces for taking part in an unsanctioned mission to Kashyyyk and has lost his sense of purpose. Sinjir has found a job with the Galactic Senate's security pool and needs Jom's help for a sensitive mission on Nakadia. Meanwhile, Chancellor Mothma travels with her political opponent Senator Tolwar Wartol on his Ganoidian tri-deck cruiser to the Republic's new capital on Nakadia. After some resistance, Wartol defiantly admits to manipulating these five senators and to planting a listening device on Organa and Solo's protocol droid.
Knowing that a re-vote has been scheduled to take place on Nakadia, Wartol is confident that Mothma's vote to secure military intervention on Jakku will fail again. However, Mothma pulls a card up her sleeve by revealing that she has smuggled some pta fruit aboard Wartol's yacht.
Due to Nakadia's strict biosecurity laws, their ship is not allowed to land, thus delaying the vote. After Conder sliced into the electronic ledgers of these senators, he found unusual credit deposits in the accounts of Ashmin Ek and Dor Wieedo. Despite the economic downturn, these senators seem to be profiteering. The five spies agree to fan out across Nakadia's capital Quarrow and spy on these senators to discover illegal activities and connections. Sinjir, Conder, Temmin, and Jom follow four of the Senators into a popular restaurant called Izzik's and watch their movements.
After hours of watching their quarries, they receive word from Han Solo that two Nikto and a Klatooinian were seen heading toward Wieedo's ship. Outside, Sinjir spots Ek and Nim Tar talking down a backstreet alley. He walks to confront them but is knocked out by an unidentified person. After a failed escape attempt, a despondent Amedda waits in his chambers. He is soon accosted by the Anklebiter Brigade , a group of street children who are part of the resistance movement against the Empire. The Anklebiters have come to assassinate the Grand Vizier.
However, Amedda convinces the children to help him escape to the New Republic in order to bring an end to the Galactic Civil War. At the Observatory, Counselor Rax monitors the movements of Niima and Sloane using his security screens. Niima and her surviving slaves are hiding in the shadow of the western plateau while Sloane and Brentin are hiding behind the eastern pillar. All his opponents are trapped and pinned down by turbolasers. Rax then summons the former Commandant Brendol Hux and inquires about the progress in the training of the children he had kidnapped on Jakku.
When Hux tells Rax they need more time, Rax warns him that the price of failure would be spending the rest of his days wandering the barren desert world. Meanwhile, Norra and Jas fly their shuttle over the charred remains of Niima's caravan. The two women decide to kidnap the fugitive Grand Admiral Sloane and investigate the Imperial presence on Jakku. At the eastern pillar, Sloane and Brentin resolve to reach the Observatory and discover what Rax is up to. While Jas flies the shuttle over the eastern pillar, Norra spots her husband and Sloane together. Before they can intervene, Imperial forces led by Rax arrive in shuttles and take Sloane and Brentin prisoner.
Rax also orders his stormtroopers to kill Niima and her entourage. Niima manages to topple one of Rax's shuttles with her bare strength before being shot by Imperial blaster bolts. Following the massacre, Norra and Jas ponder on the falling out between Rax and Sloane and Brentin's involvement in this conflict.
The two women also encounter the wounded Niima who convinces them to take her back to her temple in return for getting the clearance codes to the Imperial Observatory. Back on Nakadia, Temmin finds the wounded Sinjir in the alleyway and the two discover they have lost contact of their comrades after losing sight of Ashmin Ek and Nim Tar.
Shortly later, the two find an unconscious Han Solo in a trash bin outside a landing bay. Rethalow confesses that he along with Ek and Wieedo were bribed into voting against the New Republic intervention on Jakku in return for a favorable trade deal. Rethalow also reveals that Nim Tar's child and Senator Sorka's jerba were kidnapped in order to force their cooperation.
Sinjir manages to convince Rethalow to help them find his friend Conder by claiming to be an adviser to the Chancellor and threatening to expel Frong from the New Republic. In return, Rethalow tells him that Black Sun and Red Key orchestrated the negative votes in order to profit from a prolonged conflict. Meanwhile, Nakadian inspectors complete their biosecurity search of Senator Wartol's ship. Despite the setback, Wartol tells Chancellor Mothma that her efforts are futile. Sinjir, Solo, and the others fly the Millennium Falcon and track Conder's signal to an agricultural warehouse two streets away from the Quarrow Senate house.
On the way, they fly over Chancellor Mothma and Senator Wartol, who are addressing members of the media including Tracene Kane. After fighting a Herglic guard, Sinjir and his team free the captives. The wounded Conder agrees to help Sinjir slice into the senators' records. After a period of waiting, Auxi informs her that the vote passed this time; setting the stage for the Battle of Jakku. Among the Acolytes is the young Pantoran recruit Kiza , who had participated in the Coronet City revolution.
The Acolytes are outfitted with the artifacts and relics of ancient departed Sith. Kiza receives the mask of Viceroy Exim Panshard , which is imbued with the dark side of the Force. Remi is jealous and demands the mask. Tashu chastises the younger man for angering the "venerable specters" and forces him to surrender the Sith lightsaber. Armed with clubs, machine shop blades, and axes, the Acolytes attack the New Republic outpost. Kiza personally strikes down people with her lightsaber and also kills her former lover Remi.
Back on Chandrila, Leia senses the presence of the Force in her unborn son.
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Shortly later, Solo returns to inform her that the New Republic is intervening in Jakku. Meanwhile, Sinjir treats Conder's wounds and the two reflect on their role in securing the passage of Mothma's bill to send forces to Jakku. Posing as the Chancellor's adviser, Sinjir had gotten Conder to send the five senators a missive offering to pardon them if they voted with the Chancellor.
Sinjir told Nim Tar his child was safe and claimed that Sorka's prized jerba had been rescued. In truth, the jerba had ended up the butchers' black market. Sinjir wants to follow Temmin and Jom to Jakku but Conder reassures him he is not a fighter.
Elsewhere, Temmin convinces Captain Antilles to take him to Jakku. Rax forces his two prisoners and to watch as his brainwashed Jakku child soldiers execute a contingent of stormtroopers in cold blood. Rax then informs his captive audience that they will be watching the impending showdown with the New Republic.