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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In the Stars Wars galaxy, evil is on the move as the Galactic Alliance and Jedi order battle forces seen and unseen, from rampant internal treachery to the nightmare of all-out war.

With each victory against the Corellian rebels, Jacen Solo becomes more admired, more powerful, and more certain of achieving galactic peace. But that peace may come with a price. Despite strained relationships caused by opposing sympathies in the war, Han and Leia Solo and Luke and Mara Skywalker remain united by one frightening suspicion: Someone insidious is manipulating this war, and if he or she isn’t stopped, all efforts at reconciliation may be for naught. And as sinister visions lead Luke to believe that the source of the evil is none other than Lumiya, Dark Lady of the Sith, the greatest peril revolves around Jacen himself. . . .

Excerpt

Chapter One

Outside Corellian Space Star Destroyer Anakin Solo

It wasn’t exactly guilt that kept Jacen awake night after night. Rather, it was an awareness that he should feel guilty, but didn’t, quite.

Jacen leaned back in a chair comfortable enough to sleep in, its leather as soft as blue butter, and stared at the stars.

The blast shields were withdrawn from the oversized viewport of his private office, and the chamber itself was dark, giving him an unencumbered view of space.

His office was on the port side, the bow was oriented toward the sun Corell, and the stern was pointed back toward Coruscant, so he’d be looking toward Commenor, Kuat, the Hapes Cluster, the length of the Perlemian Trade Route . . . But he did not try to pick out these stars individu- ally. Astronomy was a lifelong occupation for people who spent their entire existences on only one planet; how much harder must such a study be for someone like Jacen, who traveled from star to star throughout his life?

He let his eyelids sag, but his mind continued to race, as it had every day since he and his task force had rescued Queen Mother Tenel Ka of the Hapes Consortium from an insurrection, instigated by treacherous Hapan nobles aided by a Corellian fleet.

In the midst of all those events, believing that Han and Leia Solo had been part of the plot, Jacen had ordered the Anakin Solo’s long-range turbolasers brought to bear against the Millennium Falcon. Later, he had heard compelling evidence that his parents had played no part in that plot.

So where was the guilt? Where was the horror he should have felt at an attempted act of patricide and matricide? What sort of father could he be to Allana if he could do this without remorse?

He didn’t know. And he was certain that until he did know, sleep would continue to elude him.

Behind his chair, a lightsaber came to life with its characteristic snap-hiss, and the office was suddenly bathed in blue light. Jacen was on his feet before the intruder’s blade had been fully extended, his own lightsaber in hand, thumbing its blade to life, gesturing with his free hand to direct the Force to sweep his chair out of the way.

When it was clear, he could look upon the intruder—she was small enough that the chair had concealed all but the tip of her glowing weapon.

On the other side of the desk stood his mother, Leia Organa Solo. But she did not carry her own lightsaber. Jacen recognized it by its hilt, its color. It was the lightsaber Mara Jade Skywalker had carried for so many years. Luke Skywalker’s first lightsaber. Anakin Skywalker’s last lightsaber.

Leia wore brown Jedi robes, and her hair was down, loose. She held her lightsaber in a two-handed grip, point up and hilt back, ready to strike.

“Hello, Mother.” This seemed like an appropriate time for the more formal term, rather than Mom. “Have you come to kill me?”

She nodded. “I have.”

“Before you attack—how did you get aboard? And how did you get into this office?”

She shook her head, her expression sorrowful. “Do you think ordinary defenses can mean anything at a time like this?”

“Perhaps not.” He shrugged. “I know you’re an experienced Jedi, Mother, but you’re not a match for any Jedi Knight who’s been fighting and training constantly throughout his career . . . because you haven’t.”

“And yet I’m going to kill you.”

“I don’t think so. I’m prepared for any tactic, any ploy you’re likely to use.”

Now she did smile. It was the smile he’d seen her turn on political enemies when they’d made the final mistakes of their careers, the feral smile of a war-dog toying with its prey. “Likely to use. Don’t you know that the whole book of tactics changes when the attacker has chosen not to survive the fight?”

Her face twisted into a mask of anger and betrayal. She released her grip on the lightsaber hilt with her left hand and reached out, pushing. Jacen felt the sudden buildup of Force energy within her.

He twisted to one side. Her exertion in the Force would miss him—

And then he realized, too late, that it was supposed to.

The Force energy hurtled past him and hit the viewport dead center, buckling it, smashing it out into the void of space.

Jacen leapt away. If he could catch the rim of the doorway into the office, hold on there for the second or two it took for the blast shutters to close, he would not be drawn out through the viewport—

But Leia’s own leap intercepted his. She slammed into him, her arms wrapping around him, her lightsaber falling away. Together they flew through the viewport.

Jacen felt coldness cut through his skin and deaden it. He felt air rush out from his lungs, a death rattle no one could hear. He felt pain in his head, behind his brow ridge, from his eyes, as they swelled and prepared to burst.

And all the while Leia’s mouth was working as though she were still speaking. For one improbable moment he wondered if she would talk forever, rebuking her son as they twirled, dead, throughout eternity.

Then, as in those last seconds he knew he must, he awoke, once again seated in his comfortable chair, once again staring at the stars.

A dream. Or a sending? He spoke aloud: “Was that you?” And he waited, half expecting Lumiya to answer, but no response came.

He turned his chair around and found his office to be reassuringly empty. With a desktop control, he closed the blast shutters over his viewport.

Finally, he consulted his chrono.

Fifteen standard minutes had passed since the last time he’d checked it. He’d had at most ten minutes of sleep.

He put his booted feet up on the desktop, leaned back, and tried to slow his racing heart.

And to sleep.

Coruscant Galactic Alliance Transportation Depot, Near the Jedi Temple

The Beetle Nebula settled down to a landing on an elevated docking platform adjacent to the blue, mushroom-shaped transportation depot. The maneuver was smooth and gentle for a craft so large—at two hundred meters, the Freebooter-class transport was an awkward-looking vessel anywhere but in space. From above, she looked like a crescent moon bisected by a knife blade, the blade point oriented in the same direction as the crescent tips, and her wide, curved stern put observers in mind more of fat-bottomed banthas than of sleek, stylish vessels of war.

But that wide stern could carry large volumes of personnel and matériel, and in the moments after the ship settled onto her landing pylons, a dozen loading ramps came down and began disgorging streams of uniformed soldiers—many on leave, others, riding repulsorlift-based medical gurneys, being guided to hospitals.

From a much smaller platform fifty meters from the Beetle Nebula’s starboard bow, Jedi Master Kyp Durron watched the event unfold. At this distance, he could barely see facial features of the new arrivals, but could distinguish enough to see faces light up with happiness as they recognized loved ones in the crowd below.

And through the Force he could feel the emotion of the day. It swelled from the Beetle Nebula and her surroundings. Pain radiated from shattered bones and seared stumps that had once been connected to organic limbs. Pain flowed from remembrances of how those injuries were sustained and of how friends had been lost forever to battle.

But more than that, there were sentiments of relief and happiness. People were returning home from battle, here to rest and recover. They were veterans of the extraordinary space battle that had so recently been waged in the Hapan system. Some of the veterans knew pride in their role in that battle, some knew shame or regret, but all were glad it was over. All were glad to be here.

And for a few quiet moments, Kyp relaxed, letting the emotions from the other platform wash over him like a cool, refreshing stream in summertime. The muted nature of the sounds of welcome from that platform, of Coruscant air traffic not too far away, of transport and commerce from the adjacent depot, allowed him to stay comfortable, detached.

Then he felt new presences in the Force, specific presences for whom he had been waiting. He glanced away from the depot and up, toward the origin of that sensation, and saw the Jade Shadow on an approach angle straight toward him.

The craft approached the depot at a speed slightly faster than safe, then rapidly decelerated and dropped to a smooth repulsorlift landing atop the platform, mere meters from Kyp. He grinned. Whoever was piloting—probably Mara—had either playfully or maliciously made the approach as intimidating as possible, the better to spook him into sudden retreat. Of course, he hadn’t budged. He waved a hand at the shapes within the cockpit, indistinct behind its viewscreens, and waited.

Soon enough the boarding ramp descended and down trotted Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade Skywalker. They were dressed simply, Luke in black, Mara, for once, in the standard two-shades-of-brown Jedi robes.

Kyp offered a smile and extended a hand to Luke. “Grand Master Skywalker.”

Luke took it. “Master Durron.”

“And Master Skywalker.”

Mara gave him a nod of greeting, but Kyp detected a trace of irritation or impatience. “Master Durron.”

“That’s a new hand, I take it.” Kyp released his grip. “I heard about your injuries. How does it compare with the old one?”

Luke held up his right hand and looked at his palm. “The neural matrix is more sophisticated, so it feels even more like flesh and blood. But—you know how a droid whose memory is never wiped tends to become more individual, more idiosyncratic.”

Kyp nodded. “You’re not suggesting that a prosthetic hand does the same thing. It doesn’t have enough memory.”

Luke shrugged. “I don’t know what I’m suggesting. Maybe through the Force my brain developed a familiarity with the old hand that exceeded what’s normal. Regardless, this one doesn’t feel right yet.”

“Meaning,” Mara said, “that he’s dropped from being the most accomplished lightsaber artist in the galaxy to, well, still being the most accomplished, just a little less so for the time being.”

“Aunt Mara? Oops. Hello, Kyp. Master Durron.” The voice was Jaina Solo’s, and Kyp looked up to see the diminutive Jedi at the top of the boarding ramp.

“Jaina.” Kyp gave her a friendly nod. He steered his thoughts away from the time, years ago, when he had fixated on her, when she was still a teenager, when he was a younger, more self-centered man who hadn’t recognized that his interest in her was more about loneliness and self-appreciation than it was about anything else.

Here today, he pretended that she had never meant anything more to him than the daughter of his oldest surviving friend should. She, perhaps, didn’t have to pretend. Giving Kyp a brief smile, she returned her attention to Mara. “So can I take Zekk and Ben to the Temple now?”

Mara nodded. “I think so. Kyp, any reason to delay?”

“No.” He glanced to the left, where the nearby Jedi Temple was clearly visible just past the Jade Shadow’s stern. “Unless you’d like to save your engines—I can just pick you up and set you down over there.” He reached out with his hand, palm up, an overly dramatic gesture, and the Jade Shadow vibrated for a moment, moving under the pressure he exerted with the Force.

Jaina gave him a reproving look. She turned around, and the boarding ramp lifted into place, concealing her.

“How is Zekk?” Kyp asked.

Mara looked unconcerned. “He’ll make a full recovery. The surgeons on Hapes were very proficient. But he’ll be out of action for a while.” Her expression became concerned. “How many people know how it happened?”

“Just me, for the moment.” Kyp gestured to the far side of the platform, adjacent to the depot. “My speeder’s over here.” Once they were all moving toward his vehicle, he continued, “I was assigned the investigation on this one.” All lightsaber accidents that caused any harm to a living being had to be looked into, and any Master on duty at the Temple might be randomly assigned the duty of investigation.

Mara’s face set. “Everybody who witnessed it said it was an accident.”

Kyp nodded. “Of course, and Luke’s report makes it pretty clear what happened. So I should dispense with our customs, not investigate at all, take the day off?” They reached the platform edge and Kyp’s airspeeder, a long, narrow yellow vehicle with comfortable seats in front and a backseat that looked as though it were scaled for children. Kyp hopped into the pilot’s seat and extended a gallant hand for Mara.

She gave him an admonishing look and leapt past him into the front passenger’s seat. “No, of course not.” She sat. “I’m just a little touchy about it, I suppose. My son has a lightsaber accident. Suddenly I feel the eyes of all the Jedi in the galaxy on me.”

Luke stepped into the backseat and settled behind Kyp. “So what is this all about?”

Kyp sank into the pilot’s seat, activated the speeder, and pulled straight back in a speedy reverse that put them within meters of the nearest cross-traffic stream. “You don’t want to sit right behind me. Trust me.” He swerved so he was pointed in the direction of the traffic stream’s travel and accelerated, as though he were playing a Millennium Falcon simulator, to merge with the stream.

“Why not—oh.”

Caught by the wind, Kyp’s hair was pulled from where it lay within the hood of his Jedi cloak. Stretched to full length, its tips whipped mere centimeters in front of Luke’s eyes and occasionally tickled his nose.

Luke slid sideways to the center of the seat. “You’ve grown it out.”

Kyp reached up to give his hair an indulgent stroke, then grinned at his simulated display of vanity. “I’ve been seeing a lady who likes it long. And doesn’t mind all the gray in it.”

“Congratulations. So again, what is this all about?”

“Chief Omas and Admiral Niathal wanted to see you on your return from Hapes. They asked me to bring you. You can opt out if the timing isn’t good.”

Mara gave him a puzzled frown. “Is this about what happened on Hapes?”

“Sort of.” Kyp gave her a broad, trouble-loving smile. “This time, they want Luke to make Jacen a Jedi Master.”
Aaron Allston|Author Q&A

About Aaron Allston

Aaron Allston - Exile: Star Wars (Legacy of the Force)

Photo © Mark Richmond

Aaron Allston is the New York Times bestselling author of the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force novels Betrayal, Exile, and Fury; the Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Enemy Lines adventures Rebel Dream and Rebel Stand; novels in the popular Star Wars X-Wing series; and the Doc Sidhe novels, which combine 1930s-style hero-pulps with Celtic myth. He is also a longtime game designer and was recently inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design (AAGAD) Hall of Fame. He lives in Central Texas.

Author Q&A

Interview with Aaron Allston author of Legacy of the Force: Exile (Book 4 of the Legacy of the Force series)

Q:With Exile, you've almost reached the midpoint of the Legacy of the Force series. I know that you and your co-writers, Troy Denning and Karen Traviss (along with editors Shelly Shapiro and Sue Rostoni), plotted the series out in detail prior to beginning. How closely have you stuck to that outline, and how smoothly has the collaboration worked so far?

Aaron Alston:There have been some modifications to the outline. Some big, some small. A lot of them arise because, once we’ve had months, rather than days, to think about things, we come up with better or cooler ways to accomplish things. Sometimes we didn’t get approval to do some of the things we originally wanted to and had to drop back and punt–rethink what we were going to do. At San Diego Comic-Con in 2006, we had a second story conference where we did some revising to our plans for the second half of the series.

But in general, we’ve hewed pretty closely to the direction and intent of the very first story conference. I’d say 60% of what was decided at the first conference is still in the series, which is a lot for a nine-book, multi-author series.

The collaboration process between the three of us has been pretty painless. We’re in regular, sometimes constant, e-mail communication, and nobody’s interested in upstaging anyone else or playing a big ego card. It’s been good.

Q:Do you outline extensively with all your fiction, or just the Star Wars stuff?

AA:All of my long fiction, certainly. Though my outlines aren’t truly extensive. For every chapter of a finished book, my outlines tend to have one or two paragraphs describing them.

My outlines used to be much longer–about ten percent of the finished length of the novel. I got over that about twelve years ago; I no longer felt the need to put every thought or character nuance into the outline.

I don’t outline my short fiction at all.

Q:In Exile, Ben moves even more to the center of the action . . . and faces a number of choices that will affect his future as a Jedi or a Sith. That choice seems to be drawing nearer for him. Can you set the stage a bit for readers?

AA:Essentially, Jacen and Lumiya decide that they need to know in which direction Ben will jump–how he will react to certain challenges and problems. So they separate him from his parents and send him on a solo mission to a nightmarish environment. It’s especially nightmarish for someone so young, and it’s not the sort of test where failure means the lights go up and the whole situation is revealed to be a holodeck or Danger Room drama–Ben could die, certainly answering the “survival of the fittest” aspect of the test.

Q:A lot of the action of Exile takes place on the planet Ziost, the ancient home world of the Sith. Considering how dangerous that planet has proved to be in the past, why haven't the Jedi destroyed it?

AA:Because they don’t have a Death Star?

No, seriously, to the Jedi, I think that would be akin to destroying Alderaan because there are a handful of rebels on it. Should they snuff out the lives of every animal, every plant on Ziost, all of which are part of the Force, to eliminate it as a possible threat? I don’t think so.

Also, Luke knows the value of these weird sources of Force influence, even the dark ones. After all, a similar spot on Dagobah probably helped Yoda hide out for the twenty years of his own, um, exile.

Q:Jacen, meanwhile, has already made the choice that still looms ahead for Ben. Have you been following the contest at www.darthwho.com to choose his new name as a Dark Lord of the Sith? Do you know when the winner will be revealed? And are their plans for more fan involvement in major events in the Legacy and/or future series?

AA:I’m aware of the contest and have seen the list of finalist names. But, no, I don’t know about the announcement, or about plans for future fan involvement.

Karen, Troy, and I had our own silly-names version of the contest a while back. I forget what all the suggestions were–my favorite was “Darth Twee,” and it’s one of the reasons the new starfighter in Betrayal was nicknamed the Twee.

Q:Maybe I'm just sentimental, but even after Tempest, I sort of half-believed that Jacen would wake up to what was happening to him and pull back from the edge. But Exile slams the door on that possibility pretty strongly. If you look back and try to focus on one thing that led Jacen to the dark side, what would it be?

AA:Well, I wouldn’t say that Exile slams the door on that issue, no. But if there’s a factor that has led more than anything to Jacen’s slide down the dark path, it’s his own arrogance–arrogance he doesn’t recognize in himself and therefore cannot counter in himself.

Basically, he sees things that are wrong–in the Jedi Order, in the galaxy as a whole–and says, “These are wrong.” Which is fine, everybody does that. But then he hits on a solution and tells himself, “These are right,” with no self-doubt.

A lot of things contribute to this, including being the son and nephew of very famous people (with an associated need to overcompensate for living in their shadows), the training at the hands of Vergere and Lumiya, perhaps a genetic predisposition inherited from Anakin Skywalker.

Q:I used to agree with Luke that the old Jedi rules against marriage and families were outmoded, but this storyline has caused me to think that those old Jedi were on to something. After all, from Darth Vader on, the emotional attachments that inevitably go along with families have proven a deadly impetus to the dark side. Was Luke wrong to permit and even encourage these kinds of attachments?

AA:I don’t think so. I think the dispassionate nature of the old Jedi Order had just as many bad consequences. But any major change in a society, even as small a society as the Jedi Order, is going to take years, decades, to shake out and stabilize.

What the Jedi probably need is some sort of oversight mechanism, where older, wiser Jedi have the opportunity to observe and even the right to intrude into relationships in order to head off real attachment-oriented difficulties. But that, of course, would be a type of personal intrusion that would appall the people in those relationships, at least for the first fifty or a hundred years of the custom, as well as appalling modern readers, who have grown up on a presumption of unfettered emotional freedom.

Still, one of the things the three of us are trying to do by series’ end is establish the difference between healthy emotional relationships and “attachment” relationships among the Jedi.

Q:Has his embrace of the Sith philosophy turned Jacen into a sadomasochist, or was that quality always part of his character?

AA:He’s not a sadomasochist. A sadomasochist is someone who derives pleasure from inflicting or receiving pain, and that’s not Jacen’s bag. He accepts that the pain of sacrifice is one of the things that keeps him centered, keeps him humane, so he suffers it as a necessary condition of the bad things he’s doing. But he doesn’t enjoy it. (And, of course, he’s delusional when he thinks that it’s keeping him humane, because he doesn’t recognize how he is increasingly willing to make those sacrifices.)

I am alarmed to discover that my word processor’s auto-complete feature pops up the rest of the word “sadomasochist” by the time I get to the “d.” What were those programmers thinking?

Q:Once again, Alema and her twisted notions of balance play an important part in events. Yet for all the pain and suffering she's caused, I can't help liking her somehow. . .

AA:It took me a while to warm to her, but there’s something very brave and quixotic about her. Just about every major figure who is her enemy is far more powerful and experienced than she is–she wouldn’t last five seconds in a fair lightsaber duel with some of them. Yet in spite of the odds stacked against her, she keeps pursuing her goals. What she could have been had she not been mangled and gone crazy . . .

Q:You are one of those writers who somehow manages to maintain a blog in addition to being incredibly prolific with published work. Two questions. First, how do you manage to blog and write? And second, your blog is called “When All Else Fails, Complicate Matters”: do you try to put that into practice in your writing?

AA:Well, I only blog when I do have time. I haven’t had time now in several months, partly because of work schedules and partly because of complications from eye surgery I had in December. But once my third novel for this series is done, I hope to return to it a bit more often.

“When All Else Fails, Complicate Matters” is a motto I adopted, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, for plotting and game-mastering role-playing games. It makes for more interesting RPG adventures, so long as you remember the “when all else fails” part and don’t leap too soon to the “complicate matters” part.

Q:As Jacen's teacher, Lumiya is a pivotal character: yet her motivations remain somewhat mysterious to me. Her knowledge of the dark side and the ways of the Sith are so deep that I wonder why she hasn't assumed the Darth mantle herself. Why does she need Jacen?

AA:At least partly, it’s because she’s more machine than woman, and therefore somewhat less connected to the Force than someone who is mostly biological, and consequently cannot learn some of the techniques of the Sith masters.

Q:Thus far in the series, we haven't seen too much of Jacen's twin sister, Jaina, the Sword of the Jedi. I know you can't give anything away, but would I be way off if I guessed that she's going to play a larger role in the upcoming books?

AA:You would be right. The thing about a sword, or any weapon, is that it’s a good idea to keep it in its sheath until it’s ready to be used.


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