Read Crosscurrent Online

Authors: Paul Kemp

Crosscurrent

Star Wars: Crosscurrent
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

2010 Del Rey Mass Market Edition

Copyright © 2010 by Lucasfilm Ltd. & ® or ™ where indicated. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization.

Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

D
EL
R
EY
is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-307-79601-1

www.starwars.com
www.delreybooks.com

v3.1_r2

Contents

dramatis personae

Drev Hassin; Jedi Padawan (Askajian male)

Jaden Korr; Jedi Knight (human male)

Kell Douro; assassin/spy (Anzat male)

Khedryn Faal; captain,
Junker
(human male)

Marr Idi-Shael; first mate,
Junker
(Cerean male)

Relin Druur; Jedi Master (human male)

Saes Rrogon; Sith Lord; captain,
Harbinger
(Kaleesh male)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …

THE PAST:
5,000 YEARS BEFORE THE BATTLE OF YAVIN

T
he crust of Phaegon III’s largest moon burned, buckled, and crumbled under the onslaught. Sixty-four specially equipped cruisers—little more than planetary-bombardment weapons systems with a bit of starship wrapped around them—flew in a suborbital, longitudinal formation. The sleek silver cruisers, their underbellies aglow in reflected destruction, struck Saes as unexpectedly beautiful. How strange that they could unleash annihilation in such warm, glorious colors.

Plasma beams shrieked from the bow of each cruiser and slammed into the arboreal surface of the moon, shimmering green umbilicals that wrote words of ruin across the surface and saturated the world in fire and pain. Dust and a swirl of thick black smoke churned in the atmosphere as the cruisers methodically vaporized large swaths of the moon’s surface.

The bright light and black smoke of destruction filled
Harbinger
’s viewscreen, drowning out the orange light of the system’s star. Except for the occasional beep of a droid or a murmured word, the bridge crew sat in silence, their eyes fixed alternately on their instruments and the viewscreen. Background chatter on the many
comm channels droned over the various speakers, a serene counterpoint to the chaos of the moon’s death. Saes’s keen olfactory sense caught a whiff of his human crew’s sweat, spiced with the tang of adrenaline.

Watching the cruisers work, watching the moon die, Saes was reminded of the daelfruits he’d enjoyed in his youth. He had spent many afternoons under the sun of his homeworld, peeling away the daelfruit’s coarse, brown rind to get at the core of sweet, pale flesh.

Now he was peeling not a fruit but an entire moon.

The flesh under the rind of the moon’s crust—the Lignan they were mining—would ensure a Sith victory in the battle for Kirrek and improve Saes’s place in the Sith hierarchy. He would not challenge Shar Dakhon immediately, of course. He was still too new to the Sith Order for that. But he would not wait overlong.

Evil roots in unbridled ambition
, Relin had told him once.

Saes smiled. What a fool his onetime Master had been. Naga Sadow rewarded ambition.

“Status?” he queried his science droid, 8K6.

The fires in the viewscreen danced on the anthropomorphic droid’s reflective silver surface as it turned from its instrument console to address him.

“Thirty-seven percent of the moon’s crust is destroyed.”

Wirelessly connected to the console’s readout, the droid did not need to glance back for an update on the information as the cruisers continued their work.

“Thirty-eight percent. Thirty-nine.”

Saes nodded, turned his attention back to the viewscreen. The droid fell silent.

Despite
Harbinger
’s distance from the surface, the Force carried back to Saes the terror of the pre-sentient primates that populated the moon’s surface. Saes imagined the small creatures fleeing through the trees,
screeching, relentlessly pursued by, and inevitably consumed in, fire. They numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Their fear caressed his mind, as faint, fleeting, and pleasing as morning fog.

His fellow Sith on
Harbinger
and
Omen
would be feeling the same thing as the genocide progressed to its inexorable conclusion. Perhaps even the Massassi aboard each ship would, in their dim way, perceive the ripples in the Force.

Long ago, when Saes had been a Jedi, before he had come to understand the dark side, such wholesale destruction of life might have struck him as wrong. He knew better now. There was no absolute right and wrong. There was only power. And those who wielded it defined right and wrong for themselves. That realization was the freedom offered by the dark side and the reason the Jedi would fall, first at Kirrek, then at Coruscant, then all over the galaxy.

“Temperature in the wake?” he asked.

The science droid consulted the sensor data on its compscreen. “Within the tolerance of the harvester droids.”

Saes watched the cruisers slide through the atmosphere and light the moon on fire. He turned in his command chair to face his second in command, Los Dor. Dor’s mottled, deep red skin looked nearly black in the dim light of the bridge. His yellow eyes mirrored the moon’s fires. He never seemed to look up into Saes’s eyes, instead focusing his gaze on the twin horns that jutted from the sides of Saes’s jaw.

Saes knew Dor was as much a spy for Naga Sadow as he was an ostensible aide to himself. Among other things, Dor was there to ensure that Saes returned the Lignan—
all
of the Lignan—to Sadow’s forces at Primus Goluud.

The tentacles on Dor’s face quivered, and the cartilaginous ridges over his eyes rose in a question.

“Give the order to launch the harvester droids, Colonel,” Saes said to him. “
Harbinger’s
and
Omen
’s.”

“Yes, Captain,” Dor responded. He turned to his console and transmitted the order to both ships.

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