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The Lost Ones

Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta

To our editor Ginjer Buchanan,

for her support and enthusiasm, which made this entire project possible in the first place, and for extending the series to let us tell the whole story … and for just being a really neat person.

Acknowledgments

To Lillie E. Mitchell, for her fast and furious typing; Jonathan MacGregor Cowan, for being our test reader and providing youthful excitement; Karen Haber and Robert Silverberg, for allowing us to mangle their monikers (sort of); Sue Rostoni and Lucy Wilson at Lucasfilm Licensing, for their sharp eyes and helpful suggestions … and Norys Davila at Walt Disney World Celebrity Programs, for having such a nifty first name we couldn’t resist using it.

1

As the jewel-green moon of Yavin 4 dwindled behind them in the Millennium Falcon’s rear viewscreens, Jaina Solo gave a happy sigh. “Excited to be going back home, Jacen?” she asked, looking into the liquid brown eyes of her twin brother.

Jacen ran long fingers through his tousled brown curls. “Never thought I’d say it,” he admitted, “but a month on Coruscant with Mom and Dad and our kid brother does sound kind of nice.”

“Must be a sign of maturity,” Jaina teased.

“Who, me?” Jacen said, pretending to take offense. “Nah.” Then, as if to disprove her theory, he flashed a lopsided grin that made him look like a younger version of their father, Han Solo. “Want to hear a joke?”

Jaina rolled her eyes and tucked a strand of straight brown hair behind one ear to keep it away from her face. “Don’t suppose you’d take no for an answer?” Then pretending to have a brilliant idea, she snapped her fingers. “Say, why don’t you go up to the cockpit and tell it to Tenel Ka instead?”

She knew full well that the young warrior woman, one of their closest friends at the Jedi academy, had never even smiled—much less laughed—at Jacen’s jokes, though he tried daily to coax a chuckle from her.

“I want you to be a test audience first,” he said. “Then I’ll go try it on Lowie—wherever he is. He’s got a pretty good sense of humor for a Wookiee.”

“Shouldn’t be too hard to find him,” Jaina said. “The Falcon’s not that big, and you can be pretty sure he’s somewhere near a computer.”

“Hey, you’re just trying to distract me from telling my joke,” Jacen said. “You ready?”

Jaina heaved a long-suffering sisterly sigh. “All right, what’s the joke?”

“Okay, how long does Uncle Luke need to sleep?”

She gave a puzzled frown. “You got me.”

“One Jedi night!” He laughed out loud, proud of his joke.

Jaina gave a melodramatic groan. “I don’t think even Lowie will laugh at that one.”

Jacen looked crestfallen. “I thought it was one of my best jokes so far. I made it up myself.” Then his face brightened. “Hey, I wonder if Zekk is still hanging around back on Coruscant. He always laughed at my jokes.”

Jaina smiled at the mention of their mischievous friend, a street urchin who had been taken in and cared for by old Peckhum, the man who brought supplies to the Jedi academy. A couple of years older than the twins, Zekk had proven to be a resourceful scamp, despite his disadvantaged life. Jaina would sit and listen to Zekk for hours as he regaled her with stories of his childhood on Ennth and how, when the colony had been devastated by a natural disaster, he had escaped on the next supply ship.

Jaina had to admire Zekk’s determination. The wild dark-haired boy never did anything unless he wanted to. In fact, when the captain of the rescue ship had suggested that Zekk might be better off in an orphanage or a foster home, Zekk had jumped ship to another outbound freighter at the very next stop and stowed away on it. From then on he had traveled from planet to planet, sometimes working as a cabin boy, sometimes stowing away, until one day he had met old Peckhum, who was on his way to Coruscant. Though both were independent, somehow a friendship had formed, and they had been together ever since.

“Okay, Zekk might laugh at your joke,” Jaina agreed at last. “He has a strange sense of humor.”

Leaving the Jedi academy far behind on Yavin 4, Jaina and Jacen watched the view-screen in silence as the stars stretched into starlines and the Millennium Falcon flew into hyperspace, taking them toward Coruscant. Toward home.

Sitting at the hologame table in the rec area, Jacen studied the board. He racked his brains for a strategy to counter Lowie’s previous gambit.

“It is your turn,” Tenel Ka pointed out, her voice low and matter-of-fact.

Jacen had been hoping to impress his friends by winning a game or two, but he found it hard to concentrate with Tenel Ka beside him. She crossed her bare arms over her reptile-skin tunic, watching his every move. Her reddish-gold hair, tamed into numerous braids, dangled wildly around her head and shoulders every time she spoke or shifted position.

Across the table, Jaina stood behind Lowie and conferred with the ginger-furred Wookiee in a whisper, pointing from one holographic gamepiece to another. The tiny wriggling figures on the table seemed impatient for Jacen to make his next move. A thin film of perspiration formed on his forehead and upper lip. Jacen knew he didn’t stand a chance against the computer whiz—especially not while Jaina was helping Lowie.

“We’ll be coming out of hyperspace in about five standard minutes,” Han Solo announced from the cockpit. “You kids ready?”

“Hey, Dad, can we try some target practice?” Jacen leaped to his feet, glad for the interruption. Finally, something he was good at!

Jacen loved this game their father had devised for them. Whenever he brought them back to Coruscant in the Millennium Falcon, Han let the twins sit in the two gun wells. As the ship approached orbit, Jacen and Jaina scanned for floating chunks of metal and debris left over from the space battles that had raged over Coruscant years before, during the overthrow of the Empire.

“We hardly ever find enough debris for both of us to shoot at,” Jaina grumbled.

“Oh yeah?” Jacen said, giving her his most challenging smile. “You’re just worried because last time I hit something and you didn’t. I’m sure we’re going to find some wreckage to shoot at today. I have a good feeling about this.” He shrugged once. “But if you’re just not up to it …”

Jaina’s eyes narrowed as she accepted his challenge. A smile tugged at one corner of her mouth. “What are we waiting for?” she said. With that, she dashed toward one of the gun wells, leaving Jacen to scramble to the other. Tenel Ka followed him, while Lowie loped after Jaina, eager to help.

Behind them, the blurry monstrous figures on the hologame table hunkered down and waited for somebody to make a move.

Jacen settled into the overlarge seat of the bottom gun well. He strapped in and leaned forward to take the laser-cannon firing controls as Tenel Ka dropped into place beside him. Her granite-gray eyes narrowed, intent on the weaponry. “Watch that screen there,” Jacen said. “Help me get a target. There’s plenty of debris left, but it’s all pretty small.”

“Even small, such wreckage could be deadly to incoming ships,” Tenel Ka said.

“This is a fact,” Jacen answered with a grin, echoing his friend’s often-used phrase. “That’s why we clear it out every chance we get.” Loud explosions sounded from the other gun well as Jaina began firing her quad lasers. Jacen heard a loud Wookiee roar of encouragement.

“Hey, how did she target so fast?” he said.

“Honing in,” Tenel Ka said, pointing at glowing lines on the tracking screen.

“Oh! Well, I could fire too—if I was paying attention,” Jacen said. He swung the four-barreled weapon into position, then watched the targeting cross move closer and closer. Maybe it was an old shielding plate from a blown-up Star Destroyer, or an empty cargo pod dumped by a fleeing smuggler. He tracked in closer….

“Stay on target,” Tenel Ka said. “Stay on target … fire!”

Jacen reacted instantly, squeezing the firing buttons, and all four laser cannons shot focused beams that vaporized the hunk of debris. “Yahoo!” he yelled. A similar whoop of delight came from the other gun well.

“It would appear that Jaina also hit her target,” Tenel Ka said.

“Don’t get cocky, kids,” Han shouted good-naturedly from the cockpit. His copilot Chewbacca roared agreement.

“Just making the galaxy safe for peaceful navigation, Dad,” Jacen called.

“We’re at a tie,” Jaina said. “We need one more shot each. Please, Dad?”

“You twins are always at a tie,” Han answered. “If I let you keep shooting until one of you scores and the other doesn’t, we’ll be circling the solar system for years. Come on back up to the cockpit. We’re almost home.”

As the Millennium Falcon settled onto a clear rooftop, Lowbacca unbuckled his crash restraints and groaned. The landing on Coruscant had been smooth, and he had enjoyed his time optimizing the Falcon’s computers—but he was anxious to get back into the open air. Even city air, as long as he could be high enough off the ground.

By the time Lowie reached the ship’s exit ramp, Jacen and Jaina had managed to u ...