• Title: Fury (Star Wars: Legacy of the Force, Book 7)
  • Author: Aaron Allston
  • Released: 2007-11-27
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 384
  • ISBN: 0345477561
  • ISBN13: 978-0345477569
  • ASIN: 0345477561
About the Author Aaron Allston is the New York Times bestselling author of the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force novels, Betrayal and Exile; 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. Visit his website at www.AaronAllston.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. chapter two

Chief of State’s Briefing Office, Coruscant

The adviser’s voice was like the droning of insects, and Darth Caedus knew what to do about insects–ignore them or step on them.

But in this case, he couldn’t afford to ignore the drone. The adviser, whatever her failings as a speaker, was providing him with critical data. Nor could he raise a boot to crush the source of the drone, not with Admiral Cha Niathal, his partner in the coalition government running Coruscant and the Galactic Alliance, sitting on the other side of the table, not with aides hovering and holocam recorders running.

To make matters worse, the adviser would soon wrap up, and inevitably she would address him by the name he so disliked, the name he had been born with, the name he would soon abandon. And then he would once again feel, and have to resist, the urge to crush her.

She did it. The blue-skinned Omwati female, her feathery hair dyed a somber black and her naval uniform freshly pressed, looked up from her datapad. “In conclusion, Colonel Solo–”

Caedus gestured to interrupt her. “In conclusion, the withdrawal of the entire Hapan fleet from Alliance forces removes at least twenty percent of our naval strength and puts us into a game of withdrawal and entrenchment if we are to keep the Confederation from overrunning us. And the treachery of the Jedi in abandoning us at Kuat is further causing a loss of hope among the segments of the population who believe that their involvement means something.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Thank you. That will be all.”

She rose, saluted, and left silently, her posture stiff. Caedus knew she feared him, that she had been struggling to maintain her composure all through the briefing, and he approved. Fear in subordinates meant instant compliance and extra effort on their part.

Usually. Sometimes it meant treachery.

Niathal addressed the other aides present. “We are done here. Thank you.”

When the office door whooshed closed behind the last of them, Caedus turned to Niathal. The Mon Calamari, her white admiral’s uniform almost gleaming, sat silently, regarding him. The stare from her bulbous eyes was no more forbidding than usual, but Caedus knew the message that they held: You could fix this mess by resigning.

Those were not her words, however. “You do not look well.” Hers was the gravelly voice so common to her species, and in it there was none of the sympathy that Admiral Ackbar had been able to project. Niathal was not expressing concern for his health. She was suggesting he was not fit for duty.

And she was almost right. Caedus hurt everywhere. Mere days before, he had waged the most ferocious, most terrible lightsaber duel of his life. In a secret chamber aboard his Star Destroyer, the Anakin Solo, he had been torturing Ben Skywalker to harden the young man’s spirit, to better prepare Ben for life as a Sith. But he had been caught by Ben’s father, Luke Skywalker.

That fight . . . Caedus wished he had a holorecording of it. It had gone on for what had felt like forever. It had been brutal, with the advantage being held first by Luke, then by Caedus, in what he knew had been brilliant demonstrations of lightsaber technique, of raw power within the Force, of subtle Jedi and Sith skills. For all his pain, Caedus felt a swelling of pride–not just that he had survived that duel, but that he had waged it so well.

At the end, Caedus had lost a position of advantage– Luke had slipped free of the poison-injecting torture vines with which Caedus had been strangling him–when Ben had driven a vibroblade deep into Caedus’s back, punching clean through a shoulder blade, nearly reaching his heart.

That had ended the fight. Caedus should have been killed immediately. For reasons he did not understand, Luke and Ben had spared his life and departed. It was a mistake that would cost Luke.

Bearing dozens of minor and major wounds, including the vibroblade puncture, a lightsaber-scored kidney, and a fierce scalp wound, Caedus had been treated and resumed command of the Anakin Solo, only to experience more injury–emotional injury, this time. In Kashyyyk space, his Fifth Fleet had been surrounded by Confederation forces. Late-arriving Hapan forces could have rescued him . . . but the Hapan Queen Mother, Tenel Ka, his comrade and lover, had betrayed him. Swayed by the treacherous persuasion of Caedus’s own parents, Han and Leia Solo, she had demanded a price for her continued military support of the Alliance, and that price had been his surrender.

Of course he had refused. And, of course, he had battered his way out of the encirclement, leading the remnants of the Fifth Fleet back to the safety of Coruscant.

So when Niathal said he did not look well, she was correct. He keenly felt his worst injury. Not the vibroblade wound, not the scalp tear, not the kidney damage–all three were healing. All three were the kind of pain that strengthened him.

It was the wound to his heart that plagued him. Tenel Ka had turned on him. Tenel Ka, the love of his life, the mother of his daughter Allana, had forsaken him.

Niathal’s severe expression didn’t waver. You could fix this mess by resigning.

He gave her a tight smile. “Thank you for your concern, but I’m recovering quickly. And I have a plan. We’ll need to follow the recommended protocol of a fighting retreat for the next few days . . . at which time the Hapans will come back into the war on our side. Our job today is to figure out how best to employ them when they return to the battlefield. Since the Confederation thinks they are staying on the fence, we can utilize the Hapans for one devastating surprise attack. We need to decide where that attack will take place.”

“You are sure the Hapans will rejoin us.”

“I guarantee it. I have an operation in motion that will ensure it.”

“What resources do you need to carry it out?”

“Only those I already have.”

“Have I seen details of your operation?”

Caedus shook his head. “If I don’t forward a file, no one can intercept it. If I don’t speak a word of detail, no one can overhear it. Too much is riding on getting the Hapans back for me to wreck things by divulging details too freely.”

Niathal remained silent. A more incendiary personality would have taken offense at Caedus’s implied questioning of her ability to handle secret matters. Niathal chose not to recognize it as an insult. She merely turned to the next matter on her agenda. “Speaking of secrets . . . Belindi Kalenda at Intelligence reports that Doctor Seyah has been pulled off the Centerpoint Station project. Seyah reported that he had come under suspicion of being a GA spy.”

“Which, of course, he is. What’s his new posting, and can he get us any useful information from there?”

Niathal shook her head in the slow, somber way of the Mon Cals. “Kalenda ordered him out. He is already back on Coruscant.”

Caedus resisted the urge to break something. “She’s an idiot. And Seyah is an idiot. He could have stayed, weathered whatever investigation they brought against him, and begun feeding us information again.”

“Kalenda was certain that he would be arrested, investigated, and executed.”

“Then he should have stayed in place until arrested! Who knows what his cowardice has cost us? Even reporting on ship and troop movements could provide us with the critical advantage in a battle.” Caedus sighed and pulled out his datapad. Snapping it open, he typed a brief note to himself.

Niathal rose and leaned over so that her bulbous eyes could peer, upside down, at his screen. “What is this?”

“A note to myself to have Seyah arrested. He provided Kalenda with false information that led her to extract him from a danger zone, which is the equivalent of desertion under fire. He will confess. He will be executed.”

“Ah.” Niathal resumed her seat, but offered no protest.

Caedus appreciated that. Niathal was clearly growing to understand that Caedus’s approach was best–it kept subordinates motivated, kept deadwood out of the ranks. “What next?”

“Bimmisaari and some of her allied worlds in the Halla sector just announced they were defecting to the Confederation.”

Caedus shook his head dismissively. “Not a significant loss.”

“No, but it’s more unsettling as the possible first sign of a trend. Intelligence has detected more communications traffic between Corellia and the Imperial Remnant, and between Corellia and the worlds of the Corporate Sector, which may be nothing more than an increased recruitment effort by the Confederation. Or it may have been initiated by the other parties, a prelude to negotiations and more defections.”

“Also irrelevant.” Caedus felt a flash of irritation. Yes, these were matters that the joint Chiefs of State needed to address, but they would all be resolved when the Hapes Consortium came back into the fold. “Anything else?”

“No.”

“Excellent.”

When the meeting was done and Niathal had departed, Caedus remained in the office. He stared at the blank walls. They soothed him. He needed soothing.

Inside, he was ablaze with anger, resentment, a sense of betrayal–all the emotions that fueled a Sith.

In the days since his fight with Luke, he had come to the realization that he was all alone...

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