[1] There was only one thing he could do, and although he knew he wasn't likely to survive, he didn't hesitate. What was death when the love of his former life was at stake? Besides, anything was possible. Dying, as he had thought once before, always seemed to bring out the best in him.

With his mind and all the power of the Force, Starkiller embraced what remained of the frigate beneath him-and blew it into a billion pieces.

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[2] But in failing to forsee Luke's defiance, the Emperor reveals that his own powers are fallible, and a wounded Vader realizes Palpatine can be defeated.

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[3] EMPEROR: Obi-Wan foresaw my destruction at your hands, young Skywalker, but it seems his vision was clouded... Perhaps there is still another Skywalker. Why can I not see, could the netherworld have influenced my perception? Another Skywalker... your father!

The Emperor turns around to see Lord Vader flying at him. The lightning bolts around Luke disappear as Vader hits the Emperor, knocking them both into the fiery lake of lava. The hideous screams of the Emperor are soon muted. Luke struggles to his feet and stares at the spot where his enemy and his father disappeared into the cauldron of molten rock.

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[4]



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[5] The night air gently curls around the twisted shards that are all that's left of the door; its whispering passage darkly echoes the violence that still hums in the Force around me.

I dare not meditate. The dark is too deep here. It has a tidal pull: a black hole that I've taken up too tight an orbit around, and it's tearing me in half. Gravity draws the near half of me in toward an event horizon that I'm afraid to even glimpse.

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[6] Night had deepened upon the jungle, and around them glowvines began to pulse faintly. To use Vaapad now, out here, was incredibly dangerous-almost as dangerous as not using Vaapad.

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[7] It was too dark here. Too dark everywhere: thick and blinding, choking like the black smoke plume from the volcano's mouth above. He could find no light at all except the red flame that burned in his heart.

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[8] Suffice it to say that Kar had somehow used the Force-used pelekotan-to persuade the fever wasp larvae that they were in the wrong place to hatch: using the same animal tropism that draws them from the site of the wasp sting to cluster along the victim's central nervous system, Kar induced them to migrate-Out of Besh and Chalk entirely.

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[9] Kar Vaster led my grasser on foot; he was able to find a path through the densest, most tangled undergrowth so effortlessly that we could move at a steady trot. After a time, I began to believe-as I now do-that his ability to move through the jungle was only half perception; the other half was raw power. Not only could he sense a path where none could be seen, I believe he could at need make a path where none had existed.

Or perhaps make is the wrong word.

I never saw this power in action; I never saw trees move, nor knots of vines unbind themselves. Instead I felt a continuous current in the Force: a rolling cycle like the breath of some vast creature alone in the dark. Power flowed into him and out again, but I did not feel him use it any more than I feel my muscles use the sugars that feed them.

And that is exactly how it seemed: that we were carried through the jungle effortlessly, like corpuscles in its veins. Or thoughts in its infinite mind.

As though we were pelekotan's dream.

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[10] It was earlier this evening that I learned the real truth of Kar Vastor. Not only who he is, and why he is-But what he means.

Somewhere along our line of march Kar had located a cave that he deemed adequate to shelter a fire from gunship or satellite detection, and that night he set about curing Besh's and Chalk's fever wasp infestation. Besh and Chalk had remained in thanatizine suspension, tied to a grasser's travois like a bundle of cargo. The crude hacking Terrel had done to them had been mostly repaired with tissue binders from a captured medpac, though of course the wounds could not heal; the body's healing processes are suspended by thanatizine as well.

Depa was in attendance, as was I, as well as a select few others. A pair of the Akk Guards had carried her, chaise and all, in from her howdah. She lay back with one slim arm across her eyes; she was having another of her headaches, and the light from the fire of tyruun, the local wood that burns white-hot, was causing her pain. I suspect she might have preferred to skip the whole business.

Even so, when Kar laid the still forms of Besh and Chalk facedown on the mossy floor of the cave and tore open the backs of their tunics, Depa stirred and sat forward. Though she continued to shade her eyes, firelight gave them glitters of silver and red. She watched raptly, her small white teeth fixed in her lower lip, worrying the corner of her mouth near the burn scar.

Kar simply squatted beside the two, humming tunelessly under his breath, while a Korun I did not recognize injected them with the antidote. Vastor's humming deepened, and found a pulsing rhythm like the slow beat of a human heart. He extended his hands, and closed his eyes, and hummed, and I could feel motion in the Force, a swirl of power very unlike any I've felt from a Jedi healer-or anyone else, for that matter.

A streak of red painted itself along their spines, and a moment later this red suddenly blossomed into the glistening wetness of fresh blood oozing through their skin-and details, I suppose, are unnecessary. Suffice it to say that Kar had somehow used the Force-used pelekotan-to persuade the fever wasp larvae that they were in the wrong place to hatch: using the same animal tropism that draws them from the site of the wasp sting to cluster along the victim's central nervous system, Kar induced them to migrate-Out of Besh and Chalk entirely.

And such was his power that the entire wriggling mass of them-nearly a kilo all told-squirmed its way straight into the tyruun blaze, where the larvae popped while they roasted with a stench like burning hair.

In the midst of this extraordinary display, Depa leaned close to me and whispered, "Don't you ever wonder if we might be wrong?"

I didn't understand what she was talking about, and she waved her fine-boned hand vaguely toward Vastor. "Such power-and such control-and never a day of training. Because what he does is natural: as natural as the jungle itself. We Jedi train our entire lives: to control our natural emotions, to overcome our natural desires. We give up so much for our power. And what Jedi could have done this?"

I could not answer; Vastor has power on the scale of Master Yoda, or young Anakin Skywalker. And I had no desire to debate with Depa on Jedi tradition, and the necessary distinction between dark and light.

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[11] A respected Jedi with powers on a par with those of the vulnerable Yoda, Mace Windu was a senior member of the Jedi High Council whose wisdom and judgment were legendary.