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Trouble on Cloud City

Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta

This one is for Dave Dorman

whose brilliant cover art has made the Young Jedi Knights series shine


Special thanks to Matt Bialer of the William Morris Agency, without whom this third story arc might never have seen the light of day; Sue Rostoni, Allan Kausch, and Lucy Autrey Wilson at Lucas Licensing for their valuable input; Ginjer Buchanan and Jessica Faust at Berkley for their support throughout this series; Dan Wallace for his research and resource materials; the work of Brian Daley, Al Williamson, and Archie Goodwin in providing background for our story; Debra Ray at AnderZone for her personal support and cheer-leading when we needed it most; Catherine Ulatowski and Sarah Jones at WordFire, Inc., for keeping everything running smoothly; and, as always, Jonathan Cowan for being our first test-reader.


Jaina Solo, daughter of the legendary pilot and smuggler Han Solo, ran through the dense jungles of Yavin 4 as if her life depended upon it. Crashing sounds in the nearby underbrush bore testament to the fact that she was not alone.

Her mother, former princess of Alderaan and the New Republic’s current Chief of State, would have been aghast at Jaina’s disheveled appearance. Her straight brown hair dripped with sweat. Leaves, branches, and trailing vines whipped at her face, though she hardly seemed to notice.

She let the Force guide her footsteps. The rich spicy scent of jungle foliage filled her lungs. Jaina ran headlong through the alternating light and shadows of late afternoon, out of breath.

The crashing sounds came not from pursuing enemies, however, but from her companions: the ginger-furred Wookiee Lowbacca, and Tenel Ka, princess of the Hapes system and warrior from Dathomir.

Still, Jaina fled—not from her friends or from the Jedi academy where she trained, but from a feeling that she couldn’t shake, a sense that something was not right. The feeling hounded her like a nek battle dog snapping at her heels. From far behind, Lowie bellowed a suggestion, and Jaina veered off onto a narrow path that would lead them to a clearing near the river.

“Got it! Almost there,” she yelled without slowing down. The unpleasant feeling still followed her like some vicious beast ready to pounce. She hurdled a Massassi tree that had fallen across the path. Tenel Ka and Lowie converged behind her and leapt over the fallen tree. Jaina and her friends burst through the dense foliage and into the clearing by the broad, slow-moving river.

Near the water stood a boy, about Jaina’s age, with a round face and spiky blond hair. Beside him was a centauriform young woman whose rich cinnamon hair matched the color of her glossy flanks. Her long mane flowed down her bare back. The two had been skipping stones on the water, but at Jaina’s approach, the blond-haired young man looked up.

“Well, well, well. Glad you could make it,” he said.

“Hi, Raynar, Lusa,” Jaina said, coming to a stop and panting hard.

“Are you all right?” Raynar asked.

“The opportunity to exercise was most welcome,” Tenel Ka said.

Lowie and the Wookiee’s miniaturized translating droid, Em Teedee, added their greetings. Lowie combed his long fingers through the dark streak in his windblown fur.

Lusa gave them a measuring look. “Is anything wrong?”

Jaina shrugged uncomfortably, still unable to pinpoint the source of her disturbing feelings. Avoiding her friends’ gaze, she took off her flightsuit and removed her boots.

Raynar glanced around. “Where are Jacen and Zekk? Didn’t they come with you?”

Jaina sighed and waded into the river. Once in the shallows, she dug her toes into the mud and pondered. This, of course, was the heart of the problem.

“Our friends Jacen and Zekk opted to assist Anja Gallandro with her lightsaber training,” Tenel Ka explained. “She already owns a weapon, but wishes to become more proficient in its use.”

Raynar looked disappointed. “Couldn’t they have done that later?”

“It was their choice,” Tenel Ka said simply. Removing her lizard-hide boots and armor, she plunged into the river water without the slightest hesitation.

“They could have invited Anja along to go swimming with us,” Raynar said. “It might have made her feel welcome, more at home.”

At last Jaina said what was on her mind. “Anja’s been at the Jedi academy for weeks now, and I don’t think she’ll ever feel at home. I’m not even sure she wants to. I’ve tried to be friendly and show her around, but most of the time she just ignores me—except when she wants to complain about something. Like the weather: she hates the humidity. Or the food: it’s not prepared properly. And our lessons: it’s stupid to ‘sit around thinking at rocks all day.’ Not to mention the entertainment: there’s nothing to do on Yavin 4.”

Lowie rumbled a comment. “Indeed,” Em Teedee translated. “Master Lowbacca has also made every effort to befriend Anja Gallandro, but to no avail.”

Tenel Ka surfaced and shook back her red-gold warrior braids. “I, too, have been rebuffed.”

“She has not spoken five words to me,” Lusa said.

Jaina sighed again. “She seems perfectly happy to spend time with Jacen … and Zekk.”

“And they with her,” Tenel Ka pointed out. Jaina couldn’t tell whether or not she detected a note of jealousy in the warrior girl’s comment.

Raynar opened his mouth as if he were about to ask something, then seemed to think better of it. He simply said, “Oh.” The blond-haired boy looked curiously from Jaina to Tenel Ka for a moment, then added, “Well, I hope they know what they’re doing.” He flushed slightly. “I… I mean, lightsaber practice with someone who isn’t really trained in the Force can be pretty dangerous.”

Jaina looked up and flashed him one of the lopsided grins for which the Solos were so famous. “Zekk assured me he was just going to coach. And I don’t think we need to worry about my brother. He’s fought some of the most ferocious creatures alive with his lightsaber.” She chuckled. “Including Tenel Ka.”

“This is a fact,” Tenel Ka said, raising her single hand as if it held the rancor-tooth lightsaber hilt that normally hung at her waist. The warrior girl’s other arm had been cut off above the elbow in a lightsaber training accident.

“Now,” Jaina continued, “why don’t we all swim. That is why we came, isn’t it? Anyway, Zekk and Jacen are Jedi. I’m sure they won’t let anyone get hurt.”

“Ow!” Jacen yelped, pulling back with the hand that held his emerald-green lightsaber. “You singed the hair off my arm!”

A bland smile was fixed on Anja Gallandro’s face, a smile that did not reach her large, sad eyes. She seemed not the least bit perturbed. “Then I guess you should have moved a bit faster, huh?”

Zekk approached the two combatants. His intense green eyes flashed an emerald fire as cutting as that of Jacen’s lightsaber. “That was a foolish risk, Anja,” he said. “This practice is to learn about control with the weapon.”

Anja shook back the silky hair that fell to her waist. Her dark hair, highlighted with streaks of honey gold, was held out of her eyes only by a strip of leather bound about her forehead. She gave Zekk a haughty look. “You’re just angry because I don’t need to control my fighting, and it makes you real Jedi look bad.”

“No. That move was unnecessarily risky,” Zekk said in a stern voice that Jacen had rarely heard him use before. “Not only did Jacen almost lose a chunk of his arm, but if he had been trying to hurt you, you left him the perfect opening to sweep back with his lightsaber like this”—he demonstrated with a stun stick he was holding—“slice through your ribs, and cut you into two neat pieces.”