Traitor (Star Wars)

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9780099410355: Traitor (Star Wars)

From the depths of catastrophe, a glimmer of hope. After the capture of Coruscant, the mighty heart of the New Republic, a stunned galaxy fears that nothing can stop the Yuuzhan Vong. Still, that crushing defeat produces one small miracle: Jacen Solo is alive. Yet he can scarcely imagine himself in stranger circumstances. The young Jedi Knight is in the care of Vergere, a fascinating creature of mystery and power, her intentions hard to fathom, her cruelties rarely concealed. But this master of inscrutable arts has much to teach the young Jedi...for she holds the key to a new way to experience the Force, to take it to another level - dangerous, dazzling, perhaps deadly. In the wrong hands, the tremendous energies of the Froce can be devastating. And there are others watching Jacen's progress closely, waiting patiently for the moment when he will be ready for their own dire purposes. Now, all is in shadows. Yet whatever happens, whether Jacen's newfound mastery unleashes light or darkness, he will never be the same Jedi again...

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About the Author:

Matt Stover is the author of four previous novels, including Heroes Die and The Blade of Tyshalle. He is an expert in several martial arts and lives in Chicago.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE COCOON

In the dust-swept reaches of interstellar space, where the density of matter is measured in atoms per cubic meter, a small vessel of yorik coral blinked into existence, slewed through a radical curve that altered both its vector and its velocity, then streaked away, trailing a laser-straight line of ionizing radiation, to vanish again in the gamma burst of hyperjump.

Some unknown time later, an unguessable distance away, in a region indistinguishable from the first save by the altered parallax of certain stellar groups, the same vessel performed a similar manuver.

On its long journey, the vessel might fall into the galaxy any number of times, and each time be swallowed once more by the nothing beyond.

Jacen Solo hangs in the white, thinking.

He has begun to riddle out the lesson of pain.

The white drops him once in a while, as though the Embrace of Pain understands him somehow: as though it can read the limit of his strength. When another minute in the white might kill him, the Embrace of Pain eases enough to slide him back into the reality of the room, of the ship; when the pain has crackled so hot for so long that his overloaded nerves and brain have been scorched too numb to feel it, the Embrace of Pain lowers him entirely to the floor, where he can even sleep for a time, while other devices—or creatures, since he cannot tell the difference anymore, since he is no longer sure that there is any difference—bathe him and tend wounds scraped or torn or slashed into his flesh by the Embrace’s grip, and still more creature-devices crawl over him like spider-roaches, injecting him with nutrients and enough water to maintain his life.

Even without the Force, his Jedi training gives him ways to survive the pain; he can drive his mind through a meditative cycle that builds a wall of discipline between his consciousness and the white. Though his body still suffers, he can hold his mind outside the pain. But this wall of discipline doesn’t last forever, and the Embrace of Pain is patient.

It erodes his mental walls with the inanimate persistence of waves against a cliff; the Embrace’s arcane perception somehow lets it know that he has defended himself, and its efforts slowly gather like a storm spinning up into a hurricane until it batters down his walls and slashes once more into everything Jacen is. Only then, only after it has pushed him to the uttermost limit of his tolerance then blasted him beyond that limit into whole new galaxies of pain, will the Embrace slowly relent.

He feels as if the white is eating him—as if the Embrace eats his pain, but never so much that he can’t recover to feed it again. He is being managed, tended like wander-kelp on a Chadian deepwater ranch. His existence has become a tidal rhythm of agony that sweeps in, reaches an infinite crest, then rolls out again just far enough that he might catch his breath; the Embrace is careful not to let him drown.

Sometimes, when he slips down from the white, Vergere is there. Sometimes she crouches at his side with the unblinking predatory patience of a hawk-bat; sometimes she stalks around the chamber on her back-bent legs like a dactyl stork wading through a swamp. Often, she is incongruously kind to him, tending his raw flesh herself with oddly comforting efficiency; he sometimes wonders if she would do more, would say more, if not for the constant monitoring stares of the eyestalks that dangle from the ceiling.

But mostly he sits, or lies, waiting. Naked, blood seeping from his wrists and ankles. More than naked: utterly hairless. The living machines that tend to his body also pluck out his hairs. All of them: head, arms, legs, pubis, armpits. Eyebrows. Eyelashes.

Once he asked, in his thin, weakly croaking voice, “How long?”

Her response was a blank stare. He tried again. “How long . . . have I been here?”

She made the liquid ripple of her flexible arms that he usually took for a shrug. “How long you have been here is as irrelevant as where you are. Time and place belong to the living, little Solo. They have nothing to do with you, nor you with them.”

His questions always meet with answers like this one; eventually he stops asking. Questions require strength, and he has none to spare.

“Our masters serve stern gods,” she said, the second or fifth or tenth time he awoke to find her at his side. “The True Gods decree that life is suffering, and give us pain to demonstrate their truth. Some among our masters seek favor with the True Gods by seeking pain; Domain Shai was legendary for this. They used the Embrace of Pain the way you or I might take a bath. Perhaps they hoped that by punishing themselves, they might avert the punishments of the True Gods. In this, one must suppose they were . . . ah, disappointed. Or perhaps—as Domain Shai’s detractors like to whisper—they grew to enjoy the pain. Pain can be a drug, Jacen Solo. Do you understand this yet?”

Vergere seemed never to care if he didn’t answer; she seemed perfectly content to prattle away endlessly on any random subject, as though interested in nothing beyond the sound of her own voice—but if he so much as lifted his head, as soon as he croaked an answer or murmured a question, the subject somehow turned to pain.

They had plenty to talk about; Jacen had learned a great deal about pain.

His first actual clue to the lesson of pain came once when he lay upon the corded floor, trembling with exhaustion. The branchlike grips of the Embrace of Pain still held him, but loosely, maintaining contact, no more. They hung in slack spirals overhead, dangling from bunched, knotted bundles of vegetative muscle that shifted and squirmed above the leather-barked ceiling of the chamber.

These periods of rest hurt Jacen almost as much as the Embrace’s torment: his body slowly but inexorably dragged itself back into shape, resocketing his joints and achingly releasing the overstretched tension of his muscles. And without the constant agony of the Embrace of Pain, he could think of nothing but Anakin, of the gaping wound that Anakin’s death had opened in his life—and of what Anakin’s death had begun to do to Jaina, driving her toward the dark—and of how his parents must be suffering, having lost both their sons—

More to distract himself than out of any desire for conversation, he had rolled over to face Vergere and asked, “Why are you doing this to me?”

“This?” Vergere gazed at him steadily. “What am I doing?”

“No—” He closed his eyes, organizing pain-scattered thoughts, then opened them again. “No, I mean the Yuuzhan Vong. The Embrace of Pain. I’ve been through a breaking,” he said. “The breaking makes a kind of sense, I guess. But this . . .”

His voice broke despairingly, but he caught himself, and held his tongue until he could control it. Despair is of the dark side. “Why are they torturing me?” he asked, clearly and simply. “No one even asks me anything . . .”

“Why is a question that is always deeper than its answer,” Vergere said. “Perhaps you should ask instead: what? You say torture, you say breaking. To you, yes. To our masters?” She canted her head, and her crest splayed orange. “Who knows?”

“This isn’t torture? You should try it from my side,” Jacen said with a feeble smile. “In fact, I really wish you would.”

Her chuckle chimed like a handful of glass bells. “Do you think I haven’t?”

Jacen stared, uncomprehending.

“Perhaps you are not being tortured,” she said cheerily. “Perhaps you are being taught.”

Jacen made a rusty hacking sound, halfway between a cough and a bitter laugh. “In the New Republic,” he said, “education doesn’t hurt this much.”

“No?” She canted her head to the opposite angle, and her crest shimmered to green. “That may be why your people are losing this war. The Yuuzhan Vong understand that no lesson is truly learned until it has been purchased with pain.”

“Oh, sure. What’s this supposed to teach me?”

“Is it what the teacher teaches?” Vergere countered. “Or what the student learns?”

“What’s the difference?”

The arc of her lips and the angle of her head might have added up to a smile. “That is, itself, a question worth considering, yes?”

There was another time—before, after, he could never be sure. He had found himself huddled against the leathery curve of the chamber’s wall, the Embrace’s grips trailing upward like slack feeder vines. Vergere crouched at his side, and as consciousness trickled through him he seemed to recall that she had been coaxing him to take a sip from the stem of an elongated, gourdlike drink bulb. Too exhausted for disobedience, he tried; but the liquid within—only water, cool and pure—savaged his parched throat until he gagged and had to spit it out again. Patiently, Vergere had used the bulb to moisten a scrap of rag, then gave it to him to suck on until his throat loosened up enough that he could swallow.

The vast desert inside his mouth absorbed the moisture instantly, and Vergere dampened the rag again. This went on for some considerable while.

“What is pain for?” she murmured after a time. “Do you ever think about that, Jacen Solo? What is its function? Many of our more devout masters believe that pain is the lash of the True Gods: that suffering is how the True Gods teach us to disdain comfort, our bodies, even life itself. For myself, I say that pain is itself a god: the taskmaster of life. Pain cracks the whip, and all that lives will move. The most basic instinct of life is to retreat from pain. To hide from it. If going here hurts, even a granite slug will go over there; to live is to be a slave to pain. To be ‘beyond pain’ is to be dead, yes?”

“Not for me,” Jacen answered dully, once his throat opened enough that he could speak. “No matter how dead you say I am, it still hurts.”

“Oh, well, yes. That the dead are beyond pain is only an article of faith, isn’t it? We should say, we hope that the dead are beyond pain—but there’s only one way to find out for sure.” She winked at him, smiling. “Do you think that pain might be the ruling principle of death, as well?”

“I don’t think anything. I just want it to stop.”

She turned away, making an odd snuffling sound; for half a moment Jacen wondered if his suffering might have finally touched her somehow—wondered if she might take pity on him . . .

But when she turned back, her eyes were alight with mockery, not compassion. “I am such a fool,” she chimed. “All this time, I had thought I was speaking to an adult. Ah, self-deception is the cruelest trick of all, isn’t it? I let myself believe that you had once been a true Jedi, when in truth you are only a hatchling, shivering in the nest, squalling because your mother hasn’t fluttered up to feed you.”

“You—you—” Jacen stammered. “How can you—after what you’ve done—”

“What I have done? Oh, no no no, little Solo child. This is about what you have done.”

“I haven’t done anything!”

Vergere settled back against the chamber’s wall a meter away. Slowly, she folded her back-bent knees beneath her, then laced her fingers together in front of her delicately whiskered mouth and stared at him over her knuckles.

After a long, long silence, during which I haven’t done anything! echoed in his mind until Jacen’s face burned, Vergere said, “Exactly.”

She leaned close, as though to share an embarrassing secret. “Is that not the infant’s tactic? To wail, and wail, and wail, to wriggle its fingers and kick its heels . . . hoping an adult will notice, and care for it?”

Jacen lowered his head, struggling against sudden hot tears. “What can I do?”

She sat back again and made more of that snuffling noise. “Certainly, among your options is continuing to hang in this room and suffer. And so long as you do that, do you know what will happen?”

Jacen gave her a bruised look. “What?”

“Nothing,” she said cheerfully. She spread her hands. “Oh, eventually, you’ll go mad, I suppose. If you’re lucky. Someday you may even die.” Her crest flattened back and became blasterbore gray. “Of old age.”

Jacen stared, openmouthed. He couldn’t face another hour in the Embrace of Pain—she was talking about years. About decades.

About the rest of his life.

He hugged his knees and buried his face against them, grinding his eye sockets against his kneecaps as though he could squeeze the horror out of his head. He remembered Uncle Luke in the doorway of the shed on Belkadan, remembered the sadness on his face as he cut through the Yuuzhan Vong warriors who had captured Jacen, remembered the swift sure pressure as Luke gouged the slave seed out of Jacen’s face with his cybernetic thumb.

He remembered that Uncle Luke wouldn’t be coming for him this time. Nobody would.

Because Jacen was dead.

“Is that why you keep coming here?” he muttered into his folded arms. “To gloat? To humiliate a defeated enemy?”

“Am I gloating? Are we enemies?” Vergere asked, sounding honestly puzzled. “Are you defeated?”

Her suddenly sincere tone caught him; he raised his head, and could find no mockery now in her eyes. “I don’t understand.”

“That, at least, is very clear,” she sighed. “I give you a gift, Jacen Solo. I free you from hope of rescue. Can you not see how I am trying to help you?”

“Help?” Jacen coughed a bitter chuckle. “You need to brush up your Basic, Vergere. In Basic, when we talk about the kind of things you’ve done to me, help isn’t the word we use.”

“No? Then perhaps you are correct: our difficulties may be linguistic.” Vergere sighed again, and settled even lower, folding her arms on the floor in front of her and arranging herself on top of them in a way more feline than avian. Secondary inner lids shrouded her eyes.

“When I was very young—younger than you, little Solo—I came upon a ringed moon shadowmoth at the end of its metamorphosis, still within its cocoon,” she said distantly, a little sadly. “I had already some touch with the Force; I could feel the shadowmoth’s pain, its panic, its claustrophobia, its hopelessly desperate struggle to free itself. It was as though this particular shadowmoth knew I was beside it, and screamed out to me for help. How could I refuse? Shadowmoth cocoons are polychained silicates—very, very tough—and shadowmoths are so delicate, so beautiful: gentle creatures whose only purpose is to sing to the night sky. So I gave it what I think you mean by help: I used a small utility cutter to slice the cocoon, to help the shadowmoth get out.”

“Oh, you didn’t, did you? Please say you didn’t.” Jacen let his eyes drift closed, sorry already, for how he knew this story would end.

He’d had a shadowmoth in his collection for a short time; he remembered watching the larva grow, feeling its happy satisfaction through his empathic talent as it fed on stripped insulation and crumbled duracrete; he remembered the young shadowmoth that had emerged, spreading its dusky, beautifully striated wings against the crystalline polymer of its viewcage; he remembered the shadowmoth’s thrilling whistle of moonsong, when he had released it from its viewcage and it had soared away under the mingled glows of Coruscant’s four moons.

He remembered the desperate panic that had beat in waves against him through the Force, th...

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Book Description Cornerstone, United Kingdom, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 178 x 110 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. From the depths of catastrophe, a glimmer of hope. After the capture of Coruscant, the mighty heart of the New Republic, a stunned galaxy fears that nothing can stop the Yuuzhan Vong. Still, that crushing defeat produces one small miracle: Jacen Solo is alive. Yet he can scarcely imagine himself in stranger circumstances. The young Jedi Knight is in the care of Vergere, a fascinating creature of mystery and power, her intentions hard to fathom, her cruelties rarely concealed. But this master of inscrutable arts has much to teach the young Jedi.for she holds the key to a new way to experience the Force, to take it to another level - dangerous, dazzling, perhaps deadly. In the wrong hands, the tremendous energies of the Froce can be devastating. And there are others watching Jacen s progress closely, waiting patiently for the moment when he will be ready for their own dire purposes. Now, all is in shadows. Yet whatever happens, whether Jacen s newfound mastery unleashes light or darkness, he will never be the same Jedi again. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099410355

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Book Description Cornerstone, United Kingdom, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 178 x 110 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. From the depths of catastrophe, a glimmer of hope. After the capture of Coruscant, the mighty heart of the New Republic, a stunned galaxy fears that nothing can stop the Yuuzhan Vong. Still, that crushing defeat produces one small miracle: Jacen Solo is alive. Yet he can scarcely imagine himself in stranger circumstances. The young Jedi Knight is in the care of Vergere, a fascinating creature of mystery and power, her intentions hard to fathom, her cruelties rarely concealed. But this master of inscrutable arts has much to teach the young Jedi.for she holds the key to a new way to experience the Force, to take it to another level - dangerous, dazzling, perhaps deadly. In the wrong hands, the tremendous energies of the Froce can be devastating. And there are others watching Jacen s progress closely, waiting patiently for the moment when he will be ready for their own dire purposes. Now, all is in shadows. Yet whatever happens, whether Jacen s newfound mastery unleashes light or darkness, he will never be the same Jedi again. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099410355

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Book Description Arrow. Book Condition: New. 2002. Paperback. After the capture of Coruscant, the mighty heart of the New Republic, a stunned galaxy fears that nothing can stop the Yuuzhan Vong. Still, that crushing defeat produces one small miracle: Jacen Solo is alive. Yet he can scarcely imagine himself in stranger circumstances. Series: Star Wars. Num Pages: 320 pages, maps. BIC Classification: FLS. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 176 x 107 x 20. Weight in Grams: 180. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780099410355

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Book Description Cornerstone. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Traitor, Matthew Woodring Stover, From the depths of catastrophe, a glimmer of hope. After the capture of Coruscant, the mighty heart of the New Republic, a stunned galaxy fears that nothing can stop the Yuuzhan Vong. Still, that crushing defeat produces one small miracle: Jacen Solo is alive. Yet he can scarcely imagine himself in stranger circumstances. The young Jedi Knight is in the care of Vergere, a fascinating creature of mystery and power, her intentions hard to fathom, her cruelties rarely concealed. But this master of inscrutable arts has much to teach the young Jedi.for she holds the key to a new way to experience the Force, to take it to another level - dangerous, dazzling, perhaps deadly. In the wrong hands, the tremendous energies of the Froce can be devastating. And there are others watching Jacen's progress closely, waiting patiently for the moment when he will be ready for their own dire purposes. Now, all is in shadows. Yet whatever happens, whether Jacen's newfound mastery unleashes light or darkness, he will never be the same Jedi again. Bookseller Inventory # B9780099410355

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