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Jedi under Siege

Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta

To Letha L. Burchard

a supporter, fan, and friend who “knew us when” …

and is still speaking to us

Acknowledgments

The usual round of thanks to Lillie E. Mitchell, whose flying fingers transcribe our dictation and whose dedication to our characters and stories keeps our interest focused; Lucy Wilson, Sue Rostoni, and Allan Kausch at Lucasfilm for their above-and-beyond-the-call helpful suggestions and open minds; Ginjer Buchanan and the folks at Berkley/Boulevard for their wholehearted support and encouragement over the course of this entire series; and Jonathan MacGregor Cowan for being our most avid test reader and brainstormer.

1

In the uncertain predawn light, Jaina watched her uncle, Luke Skywalker, maneuver the Shadow Chaser into the Jedi academy’s hangar bay at the base of the Great Temple. Her father, Han Solo, and Chewbacca had not even stayed long enough to perform that chore after the young Jedi Knights returned from the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk.

With the Shadow Academy on the move, they had no time to lose.

Jaina found it hard to believe that barely two days earlier Kashyyyk had been under attack by Imperial forces led by none other than her friend Zekk, now a Dark Jedi in the service of the Second Imperium. When she’d confronted the dark-haired young man in the forest underlevels, he had warned her not to return to Yavin 4 because the Shadow Academy would soon attack.

Jaina had to believe the warning was a sign that Zekk still cared about her and her twin brother Jacen.

She and her friends had been back on Yavin 4 for only a few minutes. None of them had gotten much sleep on the swift hyperspace flight back, but they all ran on adrenaline. Jaina felt as if she would explode if she couldn’t do something right away. So many preparations to make, so much to plan.

Standing beside her near the entrance to the hangar bay, Jacen gave her a nudge. When she glanced at him, his brandy-brown eyes looked straight into hers. “Hey, it’ll be okay,” he said. “Uncle Luke will know what to do. He’s been through plenty of Imperial attacks.”

“Sure, that makes me feel a lot better,” she answered, not believing it for a minute.

As usual, Jacen resorted to one of his favorite weapons to get her mind off the battle that was sure to come. “Hey, want to hear a joke?”

“Yes, Jacen,” said Tenel Ka, striding up to join them. “I believe humor could be of some use now.” The warrior girl from Dathomir glistened with perspiration from having spent the last ten minutes running “to stretch her muscles” in an effort to work off her own tension.

“Okay, Jacen. Fire away,” Jaina said, pretending to brace herself for the worst.

Tenel Ka pushed back her long, reddish-gold braids with one arm. Her left arm had been severed in a terrible accident during lightsaber training, and she refused to accept a synthetic replacement. She nodded to Jacen. “You may proceed with the joke.”

“Okay, what time is it when an Imperial walker steps on your wrist chronometer?” Jacen raised his eyebrows, waiting. “Time to get a new chronometer!”

After a heartbeat of dead silence, Tenel Ka nodded and said in a serious voice, “Thank you, Jacen. Your humor was quite … adequate.”

The warrior girl never cracked a smile, but Jaina thought she detected a twinkle in her friend’s cool gray eyes. Jaina was still groaning in mock agony when Luke and the young Wookiee Lowbacca climbed out of the Shadow Chaser.

Deciding there wasn’t a moment to lose, Jaina hurried over to them. Apparently Uncle Luke must have felt the same way—when Jacen and Tenel Ka trotted up behind Jaina, the Jedi Master began to speak without preamble.

“It’ll take the Second Imperium some time to install the new computer components they stole for their fleet,” Luke said. “We may have a few days yet, but I don’t want to take any chances. Lowie—Tionne and Raynar went out to the temple on the lake for a training exercise. I’d like you to take your T-23 and go bring them back here. We all need to work together.”

Lowie roared an acknowledgment and sprinted for the small skyhopper his uncle Chewbacca had given him. From the clip at Lowie’s waist the miniaturized translating droid Em Teedee said, “Why certainly, sir. It would be Master Lowbacca’s great pleasure to be of service. Consider it done.” Reprimanding the little droid for its embellishments with an absent growl, the young Wookiee climbed into the small T-23 and closed the canopy.

Luke turned to the warrior girl from Dathomir. “Tenel Ka, gather as many students as you can and give them a crash course in ground combat against terrorist attacks. I’m not sure what strategies the Shadow Academy will use, but I can’t think of anyone better to teach them about commando tactics than you.”

“Yeah, she was great against those Bartokk assassins on Hapes,” Jacen said.

Tenel Ka surprised Jaina by blushing pink before she gave a curt nod and sped off on her assignment.

“What about Jacen and me, Uncle Luke?” Jaina asked, bursting with impatience. “What should we do? We want to help.”

“Now that the Millennium Falcon is gone, we need to get the new shield generators back up and running to protect us from an aerial attack. Come with me.”

The primary equipment for the Jedi academy’s new defensive shield generators was located in the jungle across the river, but the shields were controlled from the Comm Center. Han Solo had recently brought the components from Coruscant as a stopgap measure while the New Republic scrambled to assemble a major defense against the impending Imperial attack.

“Hey, should I send a message to Mom?” Jacen asked, sitting down at one of the consoles.

“Not until we know more,” Luke answered. “Your dad and Chewie were going to contact her and explain everything once they were under way. Leia has her hands full mustering troops to station here as permanent protectors for the Jedi academy. At the moment, we’ve got to do everything we can to guard it ourselves.

“Meanwhile, Jacen, monitor all the communications bands. See if you can pick up any signals, especially ones that might be Imperial codes. Jaina, let’s get those shield generators powered up and running.”

“Already on it, Uncle Luke.” Jaina grinned at him from the control station. “Shields are up and at full strength. Guess I should run a complete readiness check, though, just to make sure there are no gaps in our defenses.”

Jacen put on a headset and began scanning through the various comm frequencies. No sooner had he begun than a loud crackle erupted from the earpiece, followed by a familiar voice.

“… requesting permission for landing and all that usual stuff. Here I come. Lightning Rod out.”

“Hey, wait!” Jacen said into the voice pickup, on the verge of panic. “You can’t do that—I mean, we have to drop our shields first. Give me a minute, Peckhum.”

“Shields? What shields?” the old spacer’s voice came back. “Me and the Lightning Rod been doin’ the supply run to Yavin 4 for years now. Never had to worry about shields before.”

“We’ll meet you down at the landing pad and explain everything,” Jacen said. “Hang on a minute.”

“Am I going to need a code to get in?” Peckhum asked. “No one gave me any codes before I left Coruscant. Nobody told me about any shields.”

Jacen looked up at Luke. “It’s old Peckhum in the Lightning Rod” he said. “Does he need a code to get in?”

Luke shook his head and motioned for Jaina to drop the shields. Jaina bent over the control console, her lower lip caught between her teeth. After a minute she said, “There, that ought to do it. Shields lowered again.”

For some reason, now that the shields were down Jacen felt a cold tingle of vulnerability run up the back of his neck. “Okay, Peckhum,” he said, “you’re clear to land. But make it quick, so we can power up again.”

When the old spacer stepped out of his battered supply shuttle, he looked the same as every other time Jacen had seen him: pale skin, long lanky hair, grizzled cheeks, and rumpled flight suit.

“Come on, Peckhum,” Jacen said. “I’ll help you get the supplies inside. We need to hurry, before the Imperials get here.”

“Imperials?” The spacer scratched his head. “Is that why you’ve got energy shields up? Are we under attack?”

“It’s okay,” Jacen said, impatient to get the Lightning Rod unloaded. “The shields are back up. You just can’t see them.”

The old spacer craned his neck to stare up into the misty white sky of the jungle moon. “And the attack?”

“Well, we heard a rumor—a pretty solid one.” He hesitated. “From Zekk. He’s the one who led the raid on the computer fabrication facility on Kashyyyk—and he warned Jaina that the Shadow Academy is on its way. We’d better get inside.”

Old Peckhum looked at Jacen in alarm. The teenager Zekk had been like a son to him; they had lived together in the lower city levels on Coruscant … until Zekk had been kidnapped by the Shadow Academy.

As a familiar cold tingle crept up the back of Jacen’s neck, Peckhum whispered, “Too late.” H ...