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The huge orange sphere of the gas planet Yavin heaved itself over the horizon of its fourth moon. Soft, misty light shone across the ever-stirring jungles and the ancient stone temples.
Luke Skywalker used a Jedi refreshing technique to remove weariness from his body. He had slept soundly—but the future of the New Republic and the fate of the galaxy weighed heavily upon him.
Luke stood atop the squared pyramid of the Great Temple that had been abandoned millennia before by the lost Massassi race. During the Alliance’s early struggles against the Empire, they had built a secret base in the ruins, from which they had launched their desperate attack against the first Death Star. Now, eleven years after the Rebels’ departure, Luke had returned to the fourth moon of Yavin.
Now he was a Jedi. A Jedi Master. He would be the first of a new generation, like those who had protected the Republic for a thousand generations. The old Jedi Knights had been respected and powerful, until Darth Vader and the Emperor had hunted and slaughtered virtually all of them.
Luke had received support from Mon Mothma, the New Republic’s Chief of State, to seek others who had a potential to use the Force—trainees who might become part of a new order of Jedi. Luke had managed to bring a dozen students to his “academy” on Yavin 4, but he felt uncertain about the best way to train them.
His own instruction by Obi-Wan and Yoda had been abbreviated, and Luke had since discovered facets of Jedi lore that made him realize just how much he still did not know. Even a great Jedi like Obi-Wan Kenobi had failed with his student and had let Anakin Skywalker become a monster named Darth Vader. Now Luke was expected to instruct others and make no mistakes.
Do or do not, Yoda had said, there is no try.
Luke stood on the smooth, cool stones of the rooftop and looked out across the awakening jungle, smelling the myriad sharp and sweet scents as the air warmed in the morning light. The spicy tang of blueleaf shrub and the perfume of lush orchids drifted up to him.
Luke closed his eyes and let his hands hang at his side, his fingers spread. He let his mind open and relax; he drew strength from the Force, touching ripples made by the life-forms crowding the jungles below. With heightened senses he could hear the rustle of millions of leaves, twigs scraping, small animals scurrying through the underbrush.
Letting out a yelp of pain and terror, a rodent thrashed and died as a predator crushed it in its jaws. Flying creatures sang mating songs to each other through the dense treetops. Large grazing mammals fed on leaves, tearing tender shoots from high branches or grubbing for fungi in the forest debris.
A wide warm river, sapphire-blue overlaid with muddy swirls of brown, flowed past the Great Temple, barely visible under the thick trees. The river bifurcated to send a tributary past the old Rebel power-generating station, which Luke and Artoo-Detoo had repaired during their preparation for the Jedi academy. Where the river sloshed around a submerged, half-rotted tree, Luke could sense a large aquatic predator lurking in the shadows, waiting for smaller fishlike creatures to swim by.
The plants grew. The animals flourished. The moon awakened to a new day. Yavin 4 was alive—and Luke Skywalker felt energized.
Listening intently, he heard two people approaching from far off in the dense foliage. They moved quietly, without speaking, but he could sense the change in the jungle as two of his Jedi candidates made a path through the undergrowth.
Luke’s introspective moment had ended. He smiled and decided to go down and meet them.
As he turned to go back into the echoing stone halls of the temple, Luke looked up at the sky to see the streaking trails of a shuttlecraft descending through the humid atmosphere. He realized with a start that they were due for another delivery of supplies.
Luke had been so focused on training new Jedi that he had lost touch with galactic politics. Upon seeing the shuttle, he felt a deep longing to know about Leia and Han and their children. He hoped the pilot would bring news.
He shrugged down the hood of his brown Jedi cloak. The garment was too warm for the jungle humidity, but Luke had stopped noticing minor physical discomfort. He had walked across fire on Eol Sha and gone to the spice mines of Kessel, and he could not be bothered by a little perspiration.
When the Rebels had first set up their hidden base in the Massassi temple, they had scoured the thick plant life from the chambers. Across the river stood another prominent temple, and according to orbital surveys, more structures lay buried under the implacable vegetation. But the Alliance had been far too wrapped up in its war against the Empire to bother with detailed archaeological inspections. The vanished race of temple builders remained as much a mystery now as when the Rebels had first set foot on Yavin 4.
The temple’s flagstoned corridors were uneven but remarkably unscathed after centuries of exposure to the elements. Luke took a turbolift from the pinnacle down to the third level, where other students slept or meditated in the early morning. As he stepped out of the turbolift, Artoo-Detoo puttered out to greet him. The droid’s wheels hummed along the bumpy flagstones, and his hemispherical head rotated back and forth, chittering at Luke.
“Yes, Artoo, I saw the shuttle coming down. Would you go down to the clearing to meet it for me? Gantoris and Streen are returning from their sojourn in the jungle. I want to greet them and learn what they’ve found.”
Artoo acknowledged with a bleep and trundled over to a stone ramp. Luke continued through the cool confines of the temple, smelling the mustiness of the enclosed air, the powdery tang of crumbling stones. Along the halls, some of the old Alliance banners still hung outside empty quarters.
Luke’s Jedi academy was by no means luxurious; in fact, it was barely even comfortable. But he and his students had concerns that absorbed their energy far more than simple conveniences. Luke had not repaired all of the damage caused by time, but he had refurbished the glowpanels, water systems, and food-prep facilities the Alliance had installed.
When he reached the ground level of the temple, the partially raised hangar-bay doors stood like the dark slit of a mouth. Luke sensed echoes of the past inside the hangar bay, a faint residue of starfighter fuel and coolant, clinging dust and grease in the corners. He stepped outside to the jungle, blinking in the washed-and-faded sunlight as evaporating mists rose from the damp undergrowth.
Luke’s timing was perfect. As he walked through the lush foliage, he heard his two Jedi trainees approach.
As an exercise in resourcefulness and as an opportunity for uninterrupted concentration, Luke sent his students in pairs into the wilderness. Alone, with no other abilities but their own, they worked on powers of concentration, sensing and studying other life-forms, touching the Force.
Luke raised his hand in greeting as the two stepped through feather ferns and thick blueleaf shrubs. Tall, dark Gantoris parted heavy branches and came forward to meet Luke. His high forehead had been shaven clean of eyebrows; his skin looked chapped and weathered. Though Gantoris had calmly lived among geysers and lava flows on Eol Sha, he seemed startled to see the Jedi Master; but he covered his reaction instantly.
On his hellish world, Gantoris had used an innate talent with the Force to keep a small group of forgotten colonists alive. Gantoris had had nightmares of a terrible “dark man” who would tempt him with power and then destroy him. At first he had thought Luke was that man—Luke, who appeared in his dark Jedi robe, striding through a geyser field to ask Gantoris to come to his academy. Gantoris had tested Luke by making him walk across lava and climb through geysers.
Behind Gantoris came Streen, the second candidate Luke had found in his Jedi search. Streen had lived as a gas prospector in an abandoned floating city on the planet Bespin. Streen had been able to predict eruptions of valuable gases from deep within the cloud layers. Luke had tempted him with the ability to shut off the clamoring voices Streen heard in his head whenever he went to populated areas.
As the trainees bowed, Luke clasped their hands. “Welcome back. Tell me what you’ve learned.”
“We found another Massassi temple!” Streen said breathlessly, looking back and forth. His wispy pale hair was tangled, matted with flecks of vegetation.
“Yes,” Gantoris said. The man’s ruddy face and his braided dark hair were smudged with sweat and dirt. “The new temple isn’t as large as this one, but it seems more potent somehow. It’s made of obsidian, sitting out in the middle of a shallow glassy lake, with a tall statue of a great lord.”
“A site of great power!” Streen said.
“I felt the power too,” Gantoris added. He straightened, tossing his thick braid behind him. “We should learn all we can about the Massassi race. They seem to have been very powerful, but they vanished entirely. What happened to them? Is there something we need to fear?”
Luke nodded gravely. He, too, had sensed the power in the temples. The first time he had come to Yavin 4, Luke had been little more than a boy thrust headfirst into the Rebellion against the Empire. He had barely realized the extent of the Force; in fact, he had learned of its existence only days before.
But he returned to the jungle moon a Jedi Master, and he could sense many things that had been hidden to him before. He knew the dark power that Gantoris had detected, and although he told his students they must share what they learned, Luke felt that certain knowledge could be deadly.