What’s the difference between a lightsaber and a glowrod? A lightsaber impresses girls!
–Jacen Solo, age 14 (shortly before he cut off Tenel Ka’s arm in sparring practice)
HE HAD MADE A FEW MISTAKES. CAEDUS COULD SEE THAT NOW.
He had fallen to the same temptation all Sith did, had cut
himself off from everything he loved–his family, his lover, even his
daughter–to avoid being distracted by their betrayals. He could see
now how blinding himself to his pain had also blinded him to his
duty, how he had begun to think only of himself, of his plans, of his
destiny . . . of his galaxy.
That was the downfall of the Sith, always. He had studied the lives
of the ancients–such greats as Naga Sadow, Freedon Nadd, Exar
Kun–and he knew that they always made the same mistake, that
sooner or later they always forgot that they existed to serve the galaxy,
and came to believe that the galaxy existed to serve them.
And Caedus had stepped into the same trap. He had forgotten
why he was doing all this, the reason that he had picked up a lightsaber
in the first place and the reason that he had given himself over to the
Sith, the reason that he had taken sole control of the Galactic Alliance.
Caedus had forgotten because he was weak. After Allana had betrayed
him by sneaking off the Anakin Solo with his parents, his pain
had become a distraction. He had been unable to think, to plan, to
command, to read the future . . . to lead. So he had shut away his feelings
for Allana, had convinced himself that he was not really doing this
for her and the trillions of younglings like her, that he was doing
this for destiny–for his destiny.
It had all been a lie. Even after what Allana had done, Caedus still
loved her. He was her father, and he would always love her, no matter
how much she hurt him. He had been wrong to try to escape that.
Caedus needed to hold on to that love whatever it cost him, to cling to
that love even as it tore his heart apart.
Because that was how Sith stayed strong. They needed pain to keep
the Balance, to remind them they were still human. And they needed
it so they would not forget the pain they were inflicting on others. To
make the galaxy safer, everyone had to suffer–even Sith Lords.
And so there would be no angry outbursts when he confronted
the Moffs over their unauthorized adventures, no demonstration killings,
no Force chokings or threats to have his fleets attack theirs, no
intimidation of any sort. There would be no consequences at all, for
how were they to know of the worrisome things he had been seeing in
his Force visions lately–the Mandalorian maniacs and the burning asteroids,
his uncle’s inescapable gaze–if he failed to tell them? Whether
blunder or master stroke, the taking of the Roche system was as much
his doing as the Moffs’, Caedus saw now, and he was beyond punishing
others for his mistakes. Starting today, Darth Caedus was going to
rule not through anger or fear or even bribery, but as every true Sith
Lord should, through patience and love and . . . pain.
Caedus finally crested the winding pedramp he had been ascending
and found himself looking down a long tubular tunnel coated in
the gray-yellow foamcrete the Verpine reserved for their royal warrens.
At the far end–guarding one of the shiny new beskar-alloy blast
hatches that had done absolutely nothing to stop the Remnant’s
aerosol attack–stood a squad of white-armored stormtroopers. Their
gray-striped shoulder plates identified them as members of the Imperial
Elite Guard, and the two tripod-mounted E-Webs set along the
walls suggested they were serious about preventing unauthorized access
to the chamber beyond.
The stormtroopers were still turning in his direction, no doubt
trying to decide whether the single black-clad figure striding toward
them was anything to be alarmed about, when Caedus raised a gloved
hand and made a grasping motion. The squad leader raised his own
hand as though returning the greeting–then was knocked off his feet
as both E-Web supply cables tore free of the power generators and
came flying down the corridor with weapon and tripod bouncing
along behind them.
The remainder of the squad swiftly moved to firing positions,
dropping to a knee in the middle of the corridor or pressing themselves
against the tunnel wall, and brought their blaster rifles to their
shoulders. Caedus sent a surge of Force energy sizzling down the corridor,
reducing the electronic opticals inside their helmets to a blizzard
of static. They opened fire anyway, but most of the bolts went wide,
and those that did not Caedus deflected with the occasional flick of a
He was still ten paces away when the squad leader pulled his helmet
off and, bringing his weapon to bear, began yelling for the others
to do the same. Caedus raised his arm, catching the leader’s bolts on
his palm and deflecting them harmlessly down the tunnel. As the second
and third man prepared to open fire, he flicked a finger toward the
leader’s blaster and sent it spinning into them. It slammed the second
man into the wall and knocked the third’s weapon from his hands.
Caedus summoned the leader forward with two fingers, using the
Force to bring the astonished soldier flying into his grasp.
“I have no intention of harming anyone beyond that door,” Caedus
said, making his voice deep and commanding. “But I have no time
to waste, so I won’t hesitate to kill you or your men. I trust that won’t
The sergeant’s eyes bulged as though his throat were actually
being squeezed shut–which it was not–and his face paled to the
color of his armor.
“N-n-no, sir. N-not at all.” The sergeant motioned for his men to
lower their weapons. “S-s-sorry.”
“No apologies necessary, Sergeant,” Caedus said. “Obviously, you
haven’t been informed of the new chain of command.”
Caedus set the sergeant’s boots back on the tunnel floor, then
turned to look at each of the others in the squad. He made it appear
that he was requiring each man to look into his yellow eyes, but actually
he was Force-probing their emotions, looking for any hint of
anger or resentment that suggested there might be a hero in the
group. He was down to the last two when he sensed a fist of resolve
tightening inside one.
“Don’t do it, trooper,” he said. “There aren’t enough good soldiers
in the Alliance as it is.”
The fist of resolve immediately began to loosen, but the trooper
wasn’t too surprised to say, “With all due respect, Colonel, we’re not
“Not yet.” Caedus gave him a warm smile and turned toward the
blast hatch, presenting his back to the entire squad. “My escorts will
be along shortly. Don’t start a firefight with them.”
When he felt the squad leader motion the hero and everyone else
to lower their weapons, Caedus nodded his approval without turning
around. Then he circled his hand in front of the blast door, using the
Force to send a surge of energy through its internal circuitry until a series
of sharp clicks announced that the locking mechanisms had retracted.
A moment later, a loud hiss sounded from inside the heavy
hatch, and it slid aside into the wall.
Caedus stepped through without hesitation and found himself
looking down on a sunken conference pit where a couple dozen
Imperial Moffs–most of the survivors of the slaughter aboard the
Bloodfin–were rising to their feet, some reaching for their sidearms
and others looking for a place to take cover. Across from them, a small
swarm of insectoid administrators from other Verpine hives squatted
on their haunches, their shiny heads cocked in confusion and their
mandibles spread wide in an instinctive threat display.
“No, please.” Caedus extended his arms toward the Moffs and
motioned for them to return to their seats–using the Force to compel
obedience. “Don’t get up on my account.”
The Moffs dropped almost as one. Most landed in the chairs they
had been occupying, but a couple missed and landed on the floor. Several
of the aides standing behind the Moffs’ chairs were pointing holdout
blasters in his direction, looking to their superiors for some hint as
to whether they should open fire or stand down. Caedus swept his arm
up and sent them all flying out of the conference pit onto the surrounding
“I’m afraid this will be a confidential conversation,” he said.
When the aides did not instantly obey, he gestured at one of those
who had been pointing a blaster at him and sent the man tumbling out
The remainder of the aides scrambled for the door, many without
bothering to stand. Caedus watched them go, his attention divided
between them and the Moffs, ready to pin motionless anyone who
even thought about raising a weapon. Once the aides were gone, a
simple glance was all it took to send the Verpine administrators scuttling
after them, leaving him and the Moffs alone with a single huge
Verpine with age-silvered eyebulbs and a translucent patch on her thorax
where the carahide was growing thin. She showed no inclination to
rise from her position at the far end of the conference table, where she
lay stretched along a heavily cushioned throne pedestal.
“Jacen Solo, where will the hives ever gather the wealth to settle
our account?” The Verpine spoke in an ancient, thrumming voice that
seemed to resonate from the very bottom of her long abdomen. As the
High Coordinator of the Roche system’s capital asteroid, she was effectively
the hive mother and chief executive officer of her entire civilization,
outranking even the Verpine’s public face, Speaker Sass Sikili.
“First, you rescue us from the Ancient Ones, and now you come with
your fleet to send away the whiteshells. Welcome.”
“Thank you, Your Maternellence. But the name now is Caedus.
The hive mother inclined her head. “We have heard you went
through a metamorphosis. It is hard to believe you were just a larva
when you saved us before.” She unfolded an age-curved arm and gestured
at the Moffs. “The hives will be happily rid of these wasps. Proceed.”
“I wish it were that simple,” Caedus said. He turned his attention
to the Moffs, who were studying him with expressions ranging from
impatience to annoyance, depending on whether they were brave, astute,
or just plain foolhardy. “But you’re misinterpreting our presence.
My fleet and I aren’t here to free the Roche system–we’re here to
It was difficult to tell who was more outraged, the mandibleclacking
hive mother or the grumbling Moffs. Caedus raised his hand
and–when that failed to produce quiet–used the Force to muffle the
As soon as he could be sure of making himself heard again, he said,
“This will be best for everyone. The conquest of the Roche system has
given it a significance far beyond the value of its munitions factories.”
The hive mother raised her thorax off her couch and demanded,
“What significance? The hives are neutral! We have nothing to do with
“You have been selling munitions to all sides–and profiting handsomely,”
interrupted a combat-trim Moff with close-cropped gray
hair. “That makes you a legitimate target.”
“Moff Lecersen makes a good point,” Caedus said. “And I did
warn you that the Mandalorians lacked the strength to protect you.”
Before the hive mother could argue, he turned to Lecersen. “But the
Moff Council should have consulted with me before acting. There
have been indications in the Force all along that this invasion would be
“Because you want the Roche munitions factories for yourself ?”
scoffed a youthful Moff.
Caedus recognized him from intelligence holos as Voryam Bhao.
With his honey-colored complexion, curly black hair, and a sneering
upper lip just begging to be ripped off his face, he looked even
younger than the twenty-three standard years listed in his file.
“Spare us your dark prophecies, Colonel Solo,” Bhao continued
boldly. “Everyone at this table sees what you’re trying to do.”
The bile began to rise in Caedus’s throat, but he reminded himself
of his resolution and resisted the urge to snap the young Moff’s
neck–as he had Lieutenant Tebut’s not so long ago.
Instead, he said in a calm, durasteel voice, “You really should listen
more carefully, Moff Bhao.” He made a dipping motion with his
index finger, and Bhao’s head sank toward the table as though he were
bowing. “It’s Caedus now. Darth Caedus.”
If Bhao’s older peers were amused, they did not show it–not even
in the Force. They simply glared at Caedus, and another of the
Moffs–this one a round-faced man with a roll of red neck-flab hanging
over the collar of his buttoned tunic–shook his head in open disapproval.
“We are all aware that you are very powerful in the Force, Darth
Caedus,” he said. “But you seem to be forgetting that we are quite
powerful in our own right. If not for us, that catastrophe at Fondor
would have been the end of you and the Galactic Alliance.”
“Nor do we need to consult with you about anything,” Moff
Lecersen added. “The last I checked, the Empire was an ally of the
Galactic Alliance, not its territory. We don’t need your permission to
conduct our operations . . . and we surely don’t need your fleets to
hold what we take.”
Caedus brought his anger under control by reminding himself that
he deserved such a rebuke. He had not failed at Fondor because of
Niathal’s treachery, or his admirals’ lack of boldness, or even because
of Daala’s surprise attack. He had failed because of his own blindness,
because he had allowed his anguish over Allana’s betrayal to make him
arrogant and selfish and vindictive.
And then, once his thinking had cleared, he began to see how the
situation must look to someone who did not have the Force. To someone
who could not look into the future and see Luke hunting him
down, or see Mandalorian maniacs bursting from walls and asteroids
burning as bright as stars, Caedus’s assertion might be hard to believe.
Without such foresight, it might be easy to convince oneself that this
lonely cluster of rocks could not be as important as all that–that the
balance of an interstellar war could never hinge on what was about to
After a moment’s silence, Caedus said, “You don’t believe me.”
His tone was more disappointed than angry. “You think this is about
Lecersen exchanged suspicious glances with several of the other
Moffs, then asked, “You don’t really expect us to believe you came out
here to protect us, do you?”
Caedus had to stifle a laugh. While he hadn’t been thinking of it
in those terms, he realized that was exactly what he was doing here–
protecting the Moffs and their crucial fleets.
“I suppose that does sound absurd.” Realizing that only events
themselves would convince the Moffs of his sincerity, Caedus turned
and started toward the exit. “The truth so often does.”
From the Hardcover edition.