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. . . .
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February 26, 2007
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Excerpt from Exile: Star Wars (Legacy of the Force) by Aaron Allston
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The blast shields were withdrawn from the oversized viewport of his private office, and the chamber itself was dark, giving him an unencumbered view of space.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.