Star Wars Legacy of the Force #1: Betrayalby Aaron Allston, Marc Thompson, Random House Audio Publishing
This is the era of Luke Skywalker’s legacy: the Jedi Master has unified the order into a cohesive group of powerful Jedi Knights. But as the new era begins, planetary interests threaten to disrupt this time of relative peace, and Luke is plagued with visions of an approaching darkness. Evil is rising again–out of the best intentions–and it
This is the era of Luke Skywalker’s legacy: the Jedi Master has unified the order into a cohesive group of powerful Jedi Knights. But as the new era begins, planetary interests threaten to disrupt this time of relative peace, and Luke is plagued with visions of an approaching darkness. Evil is rising again–out of the best intentions–and it looks as if the legacy of the Skywalkers may come full circle. Honor and duty will collide with friendship and blood ties as the Skywalker and Solo clans find themselves on opposing sides of an explosive conflict with potentially devastating repercussions for both families, for the Jedi order, and for the entire galaxy.
When a mission to uncover an illegal missile factory on the planet Adumar ends in a violent ambush–from which Jedi Knight Jacen Solo and his protégé and cousin, Ben Skywalker, narrowly escape with their lives–it’s the most alarming evidence yet that sparks of political unrest are threatening to ignite into total rebellion. The governments of numerous worlds are chafing under the strict regulations of the Galactic Alliance, and diplomatic efforts to enforce compliance are failing. Fearing the worst, the Alliance readies a preemptive display of military might in a bid to bring the rogue worlds in line before an uprising erupts. The designated target of this exercise: planet Corellia–renowned for the brash independence and renegade spirit that have made its favorite son, Han Solo, a legend.
Something of a rogue himself, Jacen is nevertheless duty bound as a Jedi to stand with his uncle, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, on the side of the Galactic Alliance. But when the wary Corellians launch a counterstrike, the Alliance’s show of force–and a secret mission to disable Corellia’s crucial Centerpoint Station–give way to an armed skirmish. Once the smoke clears, the battle lines are drawn. Now the specter of full-scale war looms between a growing cadre of defiant planets and the Galactic Alliance that some fear is becoming a new Empire. And even as both sides struggle to find a diplomatic solution, mysterious acts of treachery and sabotage threaten peace efforts at every turn.
Determined to root out those behind the mayhem, Jacen follows a trail of cryptic clues to a dark rendezvous with the most shocking of revelations . . . while Luke grapples with something even more troubling: dream visions of a shadowy figure whose Force power and ruthlessness remind him of Darth Vader–a lethal enemy who strikes like a dark spirit on a mission of doom. An agent of evil who, if Luke’s visions come to pass, will bring untold pain to the Jedi Master . . . and to the entire galaxy.
Read an Excerpt
Leia Organa Solo, one-time princess of the world of Alderaan, former Chief of State of the New Republic, now a Jedi Knight, stood dressed in all-white robes, suitable to either a Jedi or a politician in informal surroundings, before the portal. It was not an ordinary door; though in appearance it was identical to billions of dwelling exterior doors found on the world of Coruscant, in reality it was not. In the recent past, the original low-cost, composite-material door had been replaced with this innocuous-appearing thing of armor. It would hold against blaster assault–for a while, anyway. The cool blue it was painted belied its defensive function.
Leia’s husband, Han Solo, one of the most famous men in the galaxy, moved up beside her. He was wearing his favorite clothes: dark military trousers decorated with the red Corellian Bloodstripes he had earned when he was a younger man, light long-sleeved shirt, black vest, practical black boots. Except for the lines in his face and gray in his hair, honestly earned through deeds as well as accumulated over the passage of time, he was indistinguishable from the man she’d met aboard the first Death Star so many years ago.
Her spirit lifted. No matter how badly things went, they were always better with Han at her side.
Not that she’d necessarily tell him that. His ego hadn’t diminished in all those years, either.
Han looked gravely at the door. “You figure that’s how they’re going to come at us?”
She nodded. “That’s the only approach that makes any sense, and you know it.”
“Well, the only strategy that makes any sense is for us to just open the door for them. They’re less likely to attempt some sort of sneaky side entry if the front is open. We can pick them off as they’re framed in the doorway. Once their numbers become too great for us, we can manage a staged retreat through the inner chambers.”
Leia considered. “I don’t know. Maybe I should be up front and center to bat back their blaster assaults while you fire on them from the side.”
“Oh, my.” This third voice was higher-pitched than Han’s and carried just a hint of alarm. “If I may ask, has there been some change of plans?”
Han and Leia turned. Entering the outer chamber was C-3PO, the gold-toned protocol droid who had served them faithfully–if fussily–for four decades.
C-3PO moved up to them, his every action accompanied by the barely audible sound of whining servos, and added, “I thought that the plan was to admit them, then feed them the appetizers I have labored for so long to assemble. Appetizers that are laid out in the kitchen. Was I wrong? Will there be shooting?”
Han and Leia exchanged a glance. “Appetizers would be easier,” Han admitted.
“Fewer blaster bolts hitting the walls, fewer repairs,” Leia said, nodding. “We could do it that way.”
“All right, Goldilocks.” Han clapped C-3PO on one shining shoulder, rocking the droid in place. “We’ll do it your way. This time.”
“You’re toying with me again, aren’t you, sir?” C-3PO’s sigh was audible.
Han nodded. “It’s more fun and less destructive than hanging meat around your neck and letting the war-dogs loose on you.”
“Humpf.” The droid turned back toward the door through which he’d entered. “Not very sporting, I must say.”
A chime filled the air–the delicate first five notes of “Path to the Sky,” a ballad from Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan.
Han heaved a sigh. “Not too late to change your mind. We could hold them off for days.”
Leia smiled at him. “Hush.”
First through that door were Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade Skywalker. For this occasion, Luke wore his black Jedi robe and accoutrements, a stark contrast to his still-fair complexion and bright blond hair. Mara wore more traditional Jedi robes in browns and tans, and a red belt that set off her red hair.
With them was R2-D2, the plug-shaped astromech who had variously served Luke and the Solos for decades, and the little droid made as many musical, wheetling noises of appreciation during their tour of the Solos’ new quarters as the humans made verbal comments.
Next to arrive, just a few minutes later, were Jacen and Ben. Led from room to room by C-3PO, Jacen made noncommittal noises about the antechamber, living chamber, master bedroom, bedrooms for Leia’s Noghri bodyguards Meewalh and Cakhmaim, guest bedrooms, library, refreshers, furnished balcony, kitchen, dining room, and communications center, all but the last decorated and furnished in warm-colored hardwoods, some with dark carpets and some with pebbled flooring. The communications center, where the majority of the household’s computers and electronics repair equipment was kept, was more modern, all steely surfaces and blue metal rolling racks.
Ben’s only comment was, “Where are the secret chambers?”
C-3PO stopped short and leaned awkwardly to look at the boyman. “I don’t quite understand, young sir.”
“C’mon.” Ben grinned up at the droid–not far up, as he’d grown centimeters since the last time he’d seen the protocol droid. “Uncle Han is a smuggler. I bet this place is stuffed with secret chambers. They’ll all have blasters in them. Some of them will have identicards in fake names, and credcards, and secret electronics gear, and maybe a disassembled scoutspeeder. Some of them will be hidey-holes for the Noghri.”
C-3PO’s voice was stiff, even for the droid. “I can assure you, sir, that there are no secret chambers.”
“Aha!” Ben held up an accusative finger. He sounded as though he’d just found the essential clue to solve a murder. “I can assure you isn’t the same thing as There are no. C’mon, Threepio, say it. Say ‘There are no secret chambers.’ ”
“I can assure you, sir, that there–”
The droid shot Jacen a look that, a far as Jacen could interpret droid body language, looked hurt. “I say, sir, must every generation of Solos and Skywalkers act like this?”
Jacen nodded. “Pretty much, yes.”
In the living chamber, as C-3PO held out his carefully arrayed tray of geometrically shaped cheeses and fungus crackers to Mara, Leia said, “Jaina just called in. She and Zekk are just a few minutes out.”
Han straightened, irritably, on the couch. “And Zekk. Who, may I ask, invited Zekk? He’s not family.”
Luke and Mara managed to say “Not yet” simultaneously.
Han glared at them.
“I invited him,” Leia said. “Just now. Otherwise, he would have gone off to the Temple, been alone in whatever tiny chamber they gave him, been eating bland Jedi cafeteria food, all alone–”
“While rain poured on his head wherever he moved and sad synthesized music filled the hallways.” Han shot her a scornful look.
Leia merely smiled at him, the maddening smile of a politician who won’t be budged from her position. “Han, he’s her partner. Her Jedi partner. If he were her, say, smuggling partner, would you send him off ?”
“Depends on how he looks at her. Y’see, here’s the problem. A father’s got a right to terrorize any young bantha who’s following his daughter around.”
Leia shook her head. “Jaina says they’re friends. Just friends.”
Han’s scowl deepened and became almost comic. “Jaina’s got herself blinded. It’s got to be one of those Force abilities–they say the Force can have a profound effect on people who don’t want to believe the truth.”
Luke snorted. “No, they don’t.”
“Anyway, it’s my right to scare Zekk out of his hide, but Zekk’s a Jedi. He doesn’t scare easily. So what do I do?” Han considered, then looked around. In corners of the room, motionless, inconspicuous, stood Leia’s bodyguards, Meewalh and Cakhmaim, members of the Noghri species–gray-skinned, no taller than R2-D2, shrouded in concealing cloaks. Like hold-out blasters, they were small, hard to detect, and deadly. “Maybe we could get Meewalh and Cakhmaim to rattle him.”
“Give it up, Han,” Mara suggested. “Leia, I like your quarters.”
“Thanks.” Leia settled on the couch beside her sulky husband. “It’s really nice to have someplace that’s permanent, not the hotel of the month, or quarters aboard some political ship, or the living compartment on the Falcon. It’s the first place we’ve been able to really call home since Coruscant fell.” A shadow crossed her face. Coruscant had fallen to the Yuuzhan Vong at almost the same time the Solos’ youngest son, Anakin, had died. Those had been dark times.
“We almost decided on Corellia,” Han said. “A planet where you can move more than three meters without hitting a wall. But we have too many family and friends here.”
The door chime rang again.
“Speaking of which . . .”
This time it was Jaina and Zekk. Jaina, too, was in standard Jedi robes, hers made of hard-wearing cloth suited to travel and styled to be less conspicuously those of a Jedi Knight. She was of about the same height as her mother, and more slender of build, with dark eyes and delicate features. Zekk, her partner, was in his late twenties, slightly younger than Jaina, but was otherwise her opposite in almost every way–tall enough for his scalp to scrape the top of the doorway as he entered, his long black hair pulled back in a ponytail, he would stand out in any crowd regardless of the cut and color of his traveler’s robes, and so made little effort to conceal his cheerful, energetic appearance.
But he was, in contrast with his good nature, quiet almost to the point of shyness during the tour he and Jaina received of the quarters. His one comment was to Leia: “I take it that the Vongforming has pretty much been beaten back from this area?”
At the height of the Yuuzhan Vong war, when Coruscant had fallen, the Yuuzhan Vong had used their arts to alter the very nature of the world, installing a World Brain to coordinate the reshaping of the planet. Under the brain’s guidance, they introduced overwhelming quantities of fauna and flora to erode the construction that nearly covered Coruscant’s surface and replaced indigenous species with Yuuzhan Vong species, attempting to eradicate every sign that any species but the Yuuzhan Vong had lived here. The process, called Vongforming, would have been complete within a few standard decades, save that Jacen Solo, who had befriended the World Brain during his captivity, convinced it to turn on its makers and help the newly formed Galactic Alliance recapture the world. Now, the Vong-forming was slowly being reversed by the aggressive use of technology and toxins, but everywhere on Coruscant there remained signs of the World Brain’s influence–alien molds that lived in cracks and gaps and culverts, insect species that had become a part of Coruscant’s ecosystem, odd and dangerous life-forms who now dwelled in the darkness of the sewers and other subterranean infrastructure.
Leia shrugged. “A few kilometers from here, you get weirdly overgrown ruins and some areas I can only think of as alien parks. It’s much more normal around here,” she said. “The nearby areas that were, before the change, dangerous after dark or too deep for sunlight to reach are just slightly more so now. It’s like Coruscant used to be . . . except the shadows have a little more in them, you know what I mean?”
Zekk nodded, smiling slightly. “I know all about that.”
The argument began over spiceloaf.
Spiceloaf was not the cause of it. The traditional Corellian dish, a dense ground meat spiced to the heat tolerance of the diners, was, as Leia had prepared it, both mild and savory, and was not likely to cause disagreement all by itself. It was merely the course that was on everyone’s plate at the point Han decided to become argumentative.
He set his fork down and looked suspiciously at his nephew Ben. “You were doing what?”
“Making sure they did what the government said.” The boy returned his uncle’s stare, unintimidated. “Stopped making weapons except for the government.”
“Well, that’s an oversimplification,” Jacen said. “This Adumari company was producing explosive ordnance beyond what was permitted for delivery to the Galactic Alliance armed forces or otherwise legal as per Order GAO-eleven-thirty-three-B–that is, beyond the amounts necessary for their own planetary defense. In other words, they were assembling proton torpedoes and other missiles for sale to other planets, not for delivery to the GA.”
“So?” Han asked. “That’s not business for the Jedi. That’s a problem for politicians with nothing better to do. Next thing you know, we’ll have Jedi walking the government halls on Corellia and telling us what to do.”
Leia smiled. Han hadn’t lived on Corellia for decades, but in his heart, he was all Corellian, embodying the swagger, the cockiness, the carefree attitude that the citizens of that system considered essential elements of their culture. His exploits during the Rebellion and up through the present day had made him dear to the hearts of the people of that system. The second best-known Corellian hero of the same era, Wedge Antilles, did live in the Corellian system, but he was more reserved, less brash, and simply hadn’t captured the public’s affection as Han had.
But Luke wasn’t as amused. “Han, the Corellians are playing a dangerous game. They’re demanding all the advantages of Galactic Alliance membership–trade benefits, use of the GA communications and travel infrastructure, citizenship rights, all of it–but not contributing their fair share of Alliance overhead. They’re dragging their heels on supplying ships and personnel to the military, on providing tax revenues–”
“See, that’s the thing.” Han pointed his fork at Luke’s chest as if intending to jam it in and probe around the heart and lungs. “We can maintain our own military, and not the tiny peacekeeping and police force the new laws are calling for. When the time comes for military action, the Corellians have always brought our forces up, under our own colors, even when we weren’t members of whatever government was swinging the biggest stick at the time. We did it for the Old Republic and the New Republic. We did it in the Vong war.”
Jaina grimaced. “Not a good example, Dad. How many lives, how many whole systems were lost in the Yuuzhan Vong war because governments couldn’t work together, didn’t have standardized weapons, communications, tactics?”
Han turned his scowl on his daughter. “How many lives, how many whole systems were lost,” he asked, his tone mocking hers, “because the New Republic government was so bloated, impersonal, and stupid that it couldn’t see when it was getting its rear end kicked and didn’t care when millions of its people got killed? How many members of Borsk’s old Advisory Council ran off to their homeworlds with personal yachts packed with treasure and left people behind them to burn?”
“Which is exactly what Corellia is doing,” Luke said, his voice soft but his expression unrelenting. “They’re trying to pack up their treasures and avoid the economic toll that rebuilding civilization is taking on the rest of the Galactic Alliance, while they’re throwing up a shield of planetary pride to convince people that their decision is based on something other than selfishness and irresponsibility. And other systems are starting to look to Corellia in a leadership role. It’s foolish to cast the Galactic Alliance as the Empire and Corellia as the Rebel Alliance. Because that’s what it might come to, a rebellion–a stupid and unnecessary one.”
“Luke,” Mara said. Her voice was a whispered note of caution.
“Is that the position of the Jedi order?” Han asked, voice rising. “What the galaxy needs is one language, one system of measurement, one uniform, one flag? Should we just cut the word no out of the language and substitute Yes, sir, right away, sir instead?”
“Han,” Leia said. “Not nice to argue in front of a guest.”
“Zekk’s not a guest. He’s the man chasing my daughter all over the galaxy.”
“I think–” Han paused and looked around the table, finally aware of all the eyes on him. He plunged his fork into the last piece of spiceloaf on his plate and hurriedly swallowed the piece of meat. “I think I’m done. I think I’m going to wash some dishes.”
“Please,” Leia said.
Han rose and took his plate and utensils with him.
When the kitchen door slid shut behind him, Mara asked, “Is he all right?”
qLeia shrugged and took a sip of wine. “It’s been getting worse as things have been heating up between Corellia and the GA. On the one side, the fact that his own cousin is Chief of State of Corellia and is playing this slippery, deceptive political game bothers him a lot. On the other hand, Han doesn’t really trust any interplanetary government anymore, not since the Yuuzhan Vong war. Not that he ever did, but it’s worse now. And since Anakin died–” She stopped, shot Luke a regretful look.
Luke sat back. Years ago, during the worst days of the war with the Yuuzhan Vong, Han and Leia’s youngest son, Anakin Solo, named for his grandfather, had led a unit of fellow Jedi on a mission to a Yuuzhan Vong world. There, they’d exterminated the queen voxyn, preventing the creation of any more of the Force-sensing, Jedi-killing beasts.
There, Anakin had died.
Luke, however reluctantly, however regretfully, had signed off on that mission.
“Ever since Anakin died,” Luke said, “Han has never really trusted the Jedi order, either. Has he?”
Leia shook her head. “It’s strange. He trusts you, his old friend Luke. But Master Skywalker, head of the Jedi order? Not so much.” Then her smile returned. “Not that he can talk too much about Jedi, not with every member of his immediate family being a Jedi.”
Jacen smiled, too, and raised his wineglass in the direction of the kitchen door. “Here’s to irony, Dad.”
Meet the Author
Aaron Allston is the New York Times bestselling author of the Star Wars Enemy Lines novels: Rebel Dreams and Rebel Stand; novels in the popular Star Wars X-Wing series; Web of Danger, game-based fiction supporting the Top Secret/S.I. game line; and Hitman: Killer Brand, based on the blockbuster video game. He is a former editor of The Space Gamer magazine, which won the H. G. Wells Award for Best Role-Playing Magazine in 1982. He lives in Central Texas. Visit his website at www.AaronAllston.com.
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