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On the Outer Rim, the planet Lanteeb has no strategic value, no political power, and one enormous problem: It has been invaded by an emboldened Separatist Alliance. To find out why, Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi have snuck onto Lanteeb—and now look oblivion in the eye. . . .
Hiding their lightsabers beneath their dusty disguises, Anakin and Obi-Wan draw on their Jedi skills to stay one step ahead of Lok Durd’s droid army on Lanteeb. The Jedi know that a captive scientist has given Durd the keys to a terrifying bioweapon. Durd knows that the Jedi are on his planet. With Yoda calling on the powers of the Jedi Council, with a new Separatist technology jamming the Guardians’ communications, and with a traitor at the heart of the Republic’s government, the wheels of war are turning. But the Separatists have blockaded Lanteeb. The finishing touches are being put on a weapon to destroy whole worlds. And it will be up to the two Jedi Knights and their most trusted comrades to liberate Lanteeb or forever suffer the consequences.
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Karen Miller was raised in Sydney, Australia, where she still lives today. She has worked in the horse industry, in local government, in publishing, in telecommunications, and ran her own science fiction/fantasy/mystery bookshop. She is the author of eight fantasy novels.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Anakin couldn’t believe it.
More than three standard hours—really, closer to four—since their desperate escape from Lok Durd’s droid army and they were still flying instead of falling. What a shame Obi- Wan wasn’t awake—he was in the mood for a little not- undeserved boasting. But despite putting up a strong fight Obi-Wan had succumbed to sleep nearly two hours earlier. In the groundcar’s dim console light his mentor looked washed out. Burned out, or close enough. Their last-stand battle in the Sep compound had taken him to the edge of endurance and then pushed him right over.
Good thing I’m the Chosen One or we might be in trouble.
Well. More trouble. Another glance at their stolen vehicle’s power-cell readout sent his spirits into a swift downward spiral. If they were lucky—ha—they had roughly one more hour of propulsion remaining. And after that . . .
The Lanteeb night continued thick and dark around them. To conserve their precious power—and remain hidden from prying eyes—he hadn’t turned on the rigged groundcar’s headlights, trusting instead to his instincts and the Force. And so far so good. Neither had steered him wrong. It was Obi-Wan’s decision to get them as far away from the city as possible before ditching their makeshift speeder, and since he didn’t disagree with that strategy it was exactly what they’d done. With the city falling farther and farther behind them, together they’d stretched their overstretched senses, trying to determine the best direction to take. To find safety, or what might pass for it, on what had without warning become the most hostile of worlds.
The kidnapped scientist’s betrayal was just one more pain, burning in chorus with the others. At least, that was what he tried to tell himself. But really, it was a lie. That particular pain burned brighter than all the others combined.
Bant’ena, how could you do it? I trusted you. I tried to save you.
Slumped beside him in the passenger seat, Obi-Wan stirred. “Don’t,” he said, his voice slurry. “What’s done is done, Anakin. Let it go. Now—how are your engine modifications holding up?”
“We’re still flying.”
“True,” Obi-Wan conceded. “And for that I sincerely thank you. But it seems to me there’s a rough note sounding in the primary coolant valve.”
Stang. Trust Obi-Wan to notice. “It’s fine. It’ll hold.”
“If you say so.” With a stifled curse, Obi-Wan sat up. “Anyway. Where are we?”
Anakin sighed. “You’re kidding, right?” “No, not really,” Obi-Wan said, then smothered a yawn. “How long have I been sleeping?”
“Oh, you know,” he said vaguely. “Not that long.”
“Anakin.” Obi-Wan glared. “I am not a decrepit relic.”
Oooh. Sticky ground. “I didn’t say you were. But Rex says a smart soldier eats and sleeps every chance he gets. You want to argue with someone, argue with him. I’m just following his advice.”
“Well, now you can follow my advice,” Obi-Wan snapped. “That’s twice on this mission you’ve conspired to stay awake while I slept. Do it a third time and there will be repercussions.”
Repercussions or not, he’d do it as many times as he had to—but that was a fight for another time and place. To keep the peace here and now, he nodded. “Whatever you say.”
And that earned him another sharp look—but sharp looks he could live with.
Obi-Wan raked his fingers through his hair. “How many more villages have we bypassed?”
“Since you fell asleep? Two. They didn’t feel right, so I kept going.”
“Good,” said Obi-Wan. “Let your feelings guide you, Anakin, and you won’t go far wrong.” He muffled another yawn. “But even so, I think circumstances are going to force our hand soon enough. No pun intended.”
“You’re right,” he said, and tapped a finger to the power cell’s readout. “We’re just about flying on fumes. How much longer do you want to keep pushing our luck?”
“Until we hear it scream for mercy,” said Obi-Wan, frowning. “I know we’ve already traveled a good distance from Lantibba City but right now there’s no such thing as too far.”
Actually, I’m starting to wonder about that. “I don’t know. We’ve got a long hike back to the ship as it is. Assuming it’s still there, and some spaceport official hasn’t impounded it. Maybe we should be thinking about—”
“I am thinking about it,” said Obi-Wan, testy. “Now hush a moment. I’d like to get a sense of who and what’s ahead.”
Even tired to the bone, Obi-Wan used the Force the way a surgeon used a laser scalpel, neatly and cleanly cleaving his way through the night.
“There,” he murmured, eventually. “Can you feel that?”
Anakin nodded. “That’s the largest village we’ve sensed so far, I think.”
“And there’s safety in numbers,” said Obi-Wan, opening his eyes. “I don’t feel any immediate danger surrounding the place, do you?”
He was already angling the groundcar in the distant village’s direction. “No.”
Ominously, the controls were feeling sluggishly heavy now, less responsive than ever. Without warning the vehicle lurched, then dropped. Cursing, he wrestled it back under control.
“Blast,” said Obi-Wan, checking the power-cell indicator. “Are you sure this gauge is accurate, Anakin?”
Teeth gritted, arms aching, he fought the groundcar against another precipitate plunge. “Depends what you mean by accurate. And sure.”
A third lurching drop, then a stomach-churning sideways twist as their makeshift speeder tried to fishtail its way through the night. Obi-Wan grabbed the passenger-door handle. “So is this the point where we start falling instead of flying?”
He hated to admit it, but—“Yeah. I think it is.”
“Wonderful,” Obi-Wan muttered. And then he sighed. “Well, at least turn on the headlights. It seems a pity not to see death rushing to meet us.”
“Pessimist,” Anakin said, fiercely grinning, and flooded the endless dark with light. “Now hold on, Master Kenobi. Things are about to get a little bit interesting.”
Anakin was a brilliant pilot, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t use some help. Ignoring his leaden exhaustion, the warning ache in his bones, and the drag in his blood, for the second time that night Obi-Wan discarded prudent self-preservation and abandoned himself without reservation to the Force. Its power howled through him, setting his nerves alight. And howling with the power was the starkest of warnings: Danger ahead, Jedi. Danger all around.
Sweating and swearing, Anakin fought the crippled, dying groundcar. They were down to the dregs of its power cell now, encased in a shell of unresponsive metal. The headlights were fading fast and with them any hope of making some kind of informed landing. Darkness poised to swallow them. Death, too, if they didn’t find a way to control their out-of-control descent.
I may be a pessimist but it’s not without cause.
And then the groundcar’s shielding gave out in a defiant spray of sparks, like fireworks.
There. You see? Wonderful.
“Sorry,” said Anakin, his fingers bloodless on the stricken vehicle’s control yoke. “I thought we had a bit more juice left than this.”
Obi-Wan managed an encouraging smile. “Never mind. You’re doing fine. Just—”
With an ominous grumbling of stressed metal joints the groundcar’s nose dropped, sending them into a sharp dive. On a desperate gasp he wrapped the Force around them, swaddling the groundcar as once he’d swaddled Bail’s starship coming in powerless to a space station dock. Except this time was different. It might’ve handled like a flying brick but at least Bail’s small ship had been in a controlled glide. Their improbably rigged-up groundcar was falling like a brick. And when bricks hit the ground from a great height they had the disconcerting habit of smashing to splinters and shards.
“Okay!” Anakin panted. “You’ve got it. Hold it there, Obi-Wan. If you can just hold the barve right there I can—”
“Forget it, Anakin. This thing is past flying. All we can do now is cushion the blow.”
“No—no—I’ve still got it. I can do this. Just hold on to it, Obi-Wan—don’t let go of the blasted thing, whatever you do!”
If it had been anyone other than Anakin . . . but it was Anakin, so Obi-Wan poured his will into cradling the machine as his former apprentice bullied it it into cooperating. The console lighting failed next—and then last of all the headlights. In the moment they winked out he caught a final glimpse of the onrushing tree-scattered ground. Heard a curdling scrape of high branches along the groundcar’s belly.
And then the groundcar’s power cell died.
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Book Description Random House Audio, 2010. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0739376853