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The Sun Crusher plunged into the Caridan system like an assassin’s knife into an unsuspecting heart.
Old beyond his years, Kyp Durron sat hunched over the controls with dark eyes blazing, intent on his new target. With the might of the superweapon—as well as powerful techniques his spectral mentor Exar Kun had taught him—Kyp would extinguish all threats against the New Republic.
Only days before, he had annihilated Admiral Daala and her two Star Destroyers in the Cauldron Nebula. On the fringes of the explosion, he had dropped off one of the Sun Crusher’s coffin-sized message pods so that the galaxy would know who was responsible for the victory.
As his next target, Kyp would challenge the Imperial military training center on Carida.
The military planet was a largish world with high gravity to toughen the muscles of potential stormtroopers. Its untamed land masses provided an appropriate range of training environments: arctic wastelands, trackless rain forests, splintered mountain crags, and searing desert hardpan crawling with venomous multilegged reptiles.
Carida seemed the opposite of Kyp’s peaceful homeworld of Deyer, where he and his family had lived in raft colonies on the calm terraformed lakes—but that peace had been shattered years ago when Kyp’s parents had chosen to protest the destruction of Alderaan. Stormtroopers had crushed the colony, whisking Kyp and his parents to the spice mines of Kessel while conscripting his brother Zeth for the stormtrooper training center.
Now, as he orbited the military planet, Kyp’s face bore the tight, hardened look of a person who has been through the raging fire of his own conscience. Shadows rimmed his eyes. He did not expect to find his brother still alive after so many years—but he intended to learn the truth.
And if Zeth was not there, Kyp had enough power to destroy the whole Caridan solar system.
A week ago he had left Luke Skywalker for dead atop the Great Temple on Yavin 4. He had stolen design parameters of the Sun Crusher from the mind of its naive creator, Qwi Xux. And he had blown up five stars to incinerate Admiral Daala and her two Star Destroyers. At the last moment Daala had tried to flee the exploding stars, but to no avail. The shock waves had been intense enough to blank the Sun Crusher’s viewscreens even as fire overtook Daala’s flagship, the Gorgon.
Since that awesome victory Kyp’s obsession had gained momentum, and he had set out on a hyperspeed course toward annihilating the Empire.…
The Caridan defense network spotted the Sun Crusher as Kyp entered orbit. He decided to transmit his ultimatum before the Imperial forces tried anything stupid. He broadcast on a wide range of frequencies.
“Caridan military academy,” he said, trying to deepen his voice. “This is the pilot of the Sun Crusher.” His mind searched for the name of the ambassadorial buffoon who had caused a diplomatic incident on Coruscant by tossing his drink in Mon Mothma’s face. “I wish to speak to … Ambassador Furgan to discuss the terms of your surrender.”
The planet below made no response. Kyp stared at the comm system, waiting for noise to burst from the speaker.
His alarm consoles flashed as the Caridans attempted to lock on to the Sun Crusher with a tractor beam, but Kyp worked the controls with Jedi-enhanced speed, oscillating his orbit at random so they could never get a positive lock.
“I am not here to play games.” Kyp’s hand bunched into a fist and slammed down on the comm unit. “Carida, if you do not answer within the next fifteen seconds, I’ll fire a torpedo into the heart of your sun. I think you’re familiar with the capabilities of this weapon. Do you understand?”
He began counting out loud. “One … two … three … four …” He got up to eleven before a brusque voice came through the comm system.
“Intruder, we are transmitting a set of landing coordinates. Follow them precisely or you will be destroyed. Relinquish control of your ship to the stormtroopers immediately upon landing.”
“You don’t seem to understand what’s going on here,” Kyp said before he bothered to stop laughing. “Let me talk to Ambassador Furgan now or your planetary system is going to be the galaxy’s newest bright spot. I’ve already blown up a nebula to wipe out a pair of Imperial battle cruisers—don’t you think I’d destroy one minor star to get rid of a planet full of stormtroopers? Get Furgan, and give me a visual.”
The holo panel flickered, and the wide, flat face of Furgan appeared, shoving aside the comm officer. Kyp recognized the ambassador by his heavy eyebrows and fat purplish lips.
“Why have you come here, Rebel?” Furgan said. “You are in no position to make demands.”
Kyp rolled his eyes, losing patience already. “Listen to me, Furgan. I want to find out what happened to my brother, Zeth. He was conscripted on the planet Deyer about ten years ago, and he was brought here. Once you have that information, we’ll discuss terms.”
Furgan stared at him, knitting his heavy spiked brows. “The Empire does not negotiate with terrorists.”
“You don’t have any choice in the matter.”
Furgan fidgeted and finally backed down. “It will take some time to access information that old. Maintain your position in orbit, and we’ll check.”
“You have one hour,” Kyp said, then signed off.
On Carida, in the main citadel of the Imperial military training center, Ambassador Furgan looked down at his comm officer, frowning with lips the color of fresh bruises. “Check that boy’s words, Lieutenant Dauren. I want to know the capabilities of that weapon.”
A stormtrooper lieutenant marched in with a precise military stride that sent shivers of admiration down Furgan’s spine. “Report,” he said to the captain.
The helmet speaker amplified the stormtrooper’s voice. “Colonel Ardax announces that his assault team is ready to depart for the planet Anoth,” he said. “We have eight MT-AT vehicles loaded into the Dreadnaught Vendetta, along with a full compliment of troops and weaponry.”
Furgan tapped his fingers on the polished console in front of him. “It seems an extravagant effort to kidnap a baby and overcome a single woman who’s watching him—but this is a Jedi baby, and I will not underestimate the defenses the Rebels may have emplaced. Tell Colonel Ardax to prepare his team for immediate departure. I have a minor irritation that needs to be dealt with here—and then we can go fetch a young, malleable replacement for the Emperor.”
The stormtrooper saluted, whirled on one polished boot, and exited through the chamber doors.
“Ambassador,” the comm officer said, scanning readouts, “we know from our spy network that the Rebels had a stolen Imperial weapon called the Sun Crusher, which can supposedly trigger the explosion of a star. And there was a mysterious multiple supernova in the Cauldron Nebula less than a week ago—just as the intruder claims.”
Furgan felt a thrill of anticipation as his suspicions were confirmed. If he could get his hands on the Sun Crusher and the Jedi baby, he would have more power at his disposal than any of the squabbling warlords in the Core Systems! Carida could perhaps become the center of a blossoming new Empire—with Furgan at its helm as regent.
“While the Sun Crusher pilot is distracted and awaiting news of his brother,” Furgan said, “we shall mount a full-fledged assault to cripple his craft. We can’t let such an opportunity escape us.”