Shards of Alderaan
Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta
Marina Fitch and Mark Budz—colleagues, fellow dreamers, and friends
Lillie E. Mitchell for her flying fingers, which continue to transcribe our dictation; Sue Rostoni at Lucasfilm for watching over all the details, in conjunction with Lucy Wilson and Allan Kausch, to keep these stories in line with other Star Wars adventures; Dave Dorman for his wonderful cover art, book after book after book; Mike Farnham for all the unexpected U-turns; Ginjer Buchanan and the folks at Berkley/Boulevard for their wholehearted support and encouragement; Bill Smith and West End Games for background material; and Jonathan MacGregor Cowan for being our most avid and insistent test reader and brainstormer.
Morning mists clung to the rubble of the Great Temple, making the huge stone blocks dangerously slippery as the repair crews set to work.
In the aftermath of the battle against the Shadow Academy, the jungle moon of Yavin 4 had been wounded and scarred. But now all of Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi Knights worked together to heal … to rebuild.
Jaina Solo, already sore and sweaty from hours of hard work, climbed to the top of a fallen stone block and surveyed the wreckage around her. Surely the damage couldn’t be as bad as it looked from here….
The ancient temples had withstood the jungle’s best efforts to tear them down for thousands of years. Two decades earlier, the Great Temple had served as a secret base during the Rebellion’s initial struggles against the Empire. Years later, Jaina’s uncle Luke had established his Jedi academy in the abandoned pyramid—making the small world a target for the remnants of the Empire once again.
Ancient as the temples were, the recent attacks by the Second Imperium and the Shadow Academy had been the most devastating the great monuments had ever suffered.
Although the battle had taken its toll, the survivors of Master Skywalker’s academy worked day and night—not with despair, but hope. They had defeated the dark side of the Force. Now they had time to rebuild, to make everything stronger, because their enemy had been vanquished.
Halfway up the remains of the stair-stepped temple, cleanup crews climbed scaffolding made from saplings lashed together in a design Jaina herself had helped create. Clusters of Jedi students cleared battle debris from their headquarters while waiting for crews of New Republic engineers, architects, and laborers to arrive from Coruscant.
Tossing her head to keep her straight brown hair from getting in her eyes, Jaina stood watching for a moment with her hands on her narrow hips. She brushed a palm across her forehead to wipe away perspiration. Out in the surrounding jungles, other Jedi trainees hunted for shards of carved stone blasted from the Great Temple, cataloguing them so the pieces could be reassembled properly.
The task of rebuilding seemed enormous. Jaina found it hard to believe so much destruction could be caused by a single person. An Imperial commando had crept into the grand audience chamber during the height of battle, secretly planted his powerful explosives, and blown up the topmost levels of the Great Temple, killing himself in the process. Debris had pelted the battle-weary Jedi trainees, who had thought the day’s devastation over.
Including Zekk, she thought with a pang.
The rain of shrapnel had seriously injured Jaina’s friend-turned-enemy, Zekk, who had been threatening Jaina with his lightsaber at the time. Only after the blast did she realize that Zekk had actually saved her and the others … by preventing them from going into the temple he knew was doomed to explode.
Zekk had received medical attention at Lando Calrissian’s GemDiver Station, but had suffered a relapse on his return to Yavin 4. Jaina wondered if the dark-haired young man had simply been overwhelmed by the weight of his own gloom and guilt because of the evil work he had done for the Shadow Academy. Now he recovered in a restored room in the lower levels of the pyramid.
But Zekk had much to atone for, and he seemed intent on accepting the blame for all that had happened….
Up on the scaffolding Jaina saw her Wookiee friend Lowbacca and Tenel Ka, the one-armed warrior girl from Dathomir, assisting each other in shoring up a high, unstable section of wall.
Near them, balanced precariously on a wooden shelf, worked Raynar Thul. The son of a former noble from Alderaan, the boy traditionally wore garish and colorful costumes—though at the moment his robes were dusty and dirty. It seemed that his recent ordeal had begun a change in him for the better. He had been utterly humiliated in the struggle against the Shadow Academy, thrown into the river mud and discarded as an incompetent foe. Since then, Raynar appeared more subdued and was doing his best to pitch in, as if he had become aware that perhaps he wasn’t as important and talented as he had considered himself.
In the temple clearing a towering reptilian beast of burden moved about nervously. The ronto had been donated by a trader from Tatooine to assist the Jedi academy in its reconstruction efforts. The massive creature was skittish and difficult to handle at times, but its brute strength proved useful. Jaina watched the ronto tugging against ropes to move a huge block of stone into place beneath the main scaffolding supports.
She heard the shouts and calls of other Jedi trainees conferring as they bustled about. Their voices were clear in the misty air. The jungle itself seemed to watch in stunned silence as the Jedi academy tended its wounds and prepared to come back better than ever.
As the morning mist burned away and sunlight painted the forest floor, Jaina turned to see Luke Skywalker in his Jedi robe standing alone and motionless atop one of the tallest blocks. The sun shone directly into his clear blue eyes, but he didn’t blink. The Jedi Master watched the complex activity intently as his trainees pulled together to rebuild.
The Jedi academy would be strong again; its future was wide open. Jaina knew that now, after the final defeat of its greatest enemy, the New Republic could at last enter a golden age of peace and prosperity.
The scaffolding creaked beneath Tenel Ka’s bare feet, and she adjusted her balance, feeling her muscles ripple. Physical exercise always felt good, challenging, refreshing. Today she did not assume a fighting stance, but a careful acrobat’s posture that allowed her to scramble along the narrow log platform to the wall’s outermost stone blocks.
While some of the larger stones at the bottom of the rebuilt wall looked less stable, she knew her own layers of the reconstruction were solid. She had learned to pay careful attention to details, lest her own actions strike back at her. The sloppy and hurried construction of her first lightsaber caused it to explode during a practice session, and she had lost her arm. Now she knew mistakes could cost her life.
From above, Lowbacca grunted and reached down to haul up a pallet of stone adhesives that would cement the construction materials together. Moving with an easy grace, the lanky, ginger-furred Wookiee swung down from a carved rock ledge onto the scaffolding. He parted his lips and bared his teeth at Tenel Ka in a broad smile.
“Master Lowbacca, I do believe you’re showing off,” said Em Teedee, the miniaturized translating droid attached to Lowie’s fiber belt. The Wookiee chuffed in amusement and dangled from the scaffolding, smearing the thick adhesive into a crack between two large blocks lower on the wall.
Still hanging, Lowie turned about to find himself eye to eye with the towering ronto. The giant beast blinked and snorted in surprise, then plodded away, leaving Lowie to wrinkle his black nose in distaste at its bad breath.
“Oh, my!” Em Teedee wailed. “If only my olfactory sensors could shut down! They must surely run the risk of overloading from that dreadful stench.”