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Star Wars: The Approaching Storm

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9780099446866: Star Wars: The Approaching Storm
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The Approaching Storm: Star Wars A prequel to the upcoming movie, "Star Wars(: Episode II, " this exciting Jedi adventure--written by beloved "Star Wars" veteran Alan Dean Foster--features a new character from the new film. "The Approaching Storm" opens as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are dispatched to the planet of Anision to deal with border disputes. Full description

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Chapter Two

"Haja, sweet scent--what're you hiding under that big ol' robe?"

Luminara Unduli did not look up at the large, unshaven, rough-hewn, and unpleasantly fragrant man
or his equally coarse and malodorous companions. She treated their knowing grins, the eager forward tilt of their
bodies, and their leering eyes with equal indifference--though
their collective body odor was some-what harder to ignore.
Patiently, she raised the spoonful of hot stew to her lips,
the lower of which was stained a permanent purplish black.
A series of interlocking black diamonds tattooed her chin,
while more intricate markings decorated the joints of her
fingers. The olive color of her skin contrasted strikingly
with the deep blue of her eyes.

These rose to regard the younger woman who was seated on the other side
of the table. Barriss Offee's attention shifted between her teacher and
the men crowding uncomfortably close around the two of them. Luminara
smiled to herself. A good person, was Barriss. Observant and thoughtful,
if occasionally impulsive. For now, the young woman held her peace, kept
eating, and said nothing. A judicious reaction, the older woman knew.
She's letting me take the lead, as she should.

The man who had voiced the impropriety whispered some-thing to one of
his friends. There was a ripple of crude, unpleasant laughter. Leaning
closer, he put a hand on Luminara's cloth-draped shoulder. "I asked you
a question, darlin'. Now, are you gonna show us what's under this lovely
soft robe of yours, or d'you want us to take a peek ourselves?" An air
of pheromone-charged expectation had gripped his companions. Huddled
over their food, a few of the establishment's other diners turned to
look, but none moved to voice outrage at what was happening or to
interfere.

Spoon pausing before her lips, Luminara seemed to devote greater
contemplation to its contents than to the insistent query. With a sigh,
she finally downed the spoonful of stew and reached down with her free
right hand. "I suppose if you really want to see . . ."

One of the men grinned broadly and nudged his hulking companion in the
ribs. A couple of others crowded closer still, so that they were all but
leaning over the table. Luminara pulled a portion of her outer robe
aside, the intricate designs on the copper- and bronze-colored metal
bands that covered her upper forearms glinting in the diffuse light of
the tavern.

Beneath the robe was a metal and leather belt. Attached to
the belt were several small and unexpectedly sophisticated examples of
precision engineering. One of these was cylindrical, highly polished,
and designed to fit comfortably in a closed hand. The aggressive
spokesman for the group squinted at it, his expression slightly
confused. Behind him, a couple of his heretofore hopeful cronies
abandoned their leering expressions faster than a smuggler's ship making
an emergency jump to hyperspace.

"Mathos preserve us! That's a Jedi lightsaber!"

Expressions falling like hard rain, the band of would-be aggressors
began to back off, split up, and drift hurriedly away. Unexpectedly
deserted, their erstwhile leader was unwilling to admit defeat so
quickly. He stared at the gleaming metal cylinder.

"Not a chance, no. A 'Jedi' lightsaber, is it?" He glared belligerently
at the suddenly enigmatic object of his attentions. "I suppose that
would make you a 'Jedi Knight,' sweet splash? A lovely, lithe Jedi at
that!" He snorted derisively. "Sure and that's no Jedi lightsaber, is
it? Is it?" he growled insistently when she failed to respond.

Finishing another spoonful of her meal, Luminara Unduli carefully set
the utensil down on her nearly empty plate, delicately patted both her
decorated and her untouched lip with the supplied linen napkin, wiped
her hands, and turned to face him. Blue eyes peered upward out of her
fine-featured face, and she smiled coldly.

"You know how to find out," she informed him softly.

The big man started to say something, hesitated, reconsidered. The
attractive woman's hands rested, palm downward, on her thighs. The
lightsaber--it certainly looked like a Jedi light-saber, he found
himself thinking apprehensively--remained attached to her belt. Across
the table, the younger woman continued to eat her meal as though nothing
out of the ordinary was taking place.

Abruptly, the gruff intruder became aware of several things
simultaneously. First, he was now completely alone. His formerly
enthusiastic companions had slipped away, one by one. Second, by this
time the woman seated before him was supposed to be anxious and afraid.
Instead, she only looked bored and resigned. Third, he suddenly
remembered that he had important business elsewhere.

"Uh, sorry," he found himself mumbling. "Didn't mean to bother you. Case
of mistaken identity. Was looking for someone else." Turning, he hurried
away from the table and toward the tavern's entrance, nearly tripping
over a scraps bowl on the floor next to an unoccupied serving counter.
Several of the other patrons watched him go. Others eyed the two women
fixedly be-fore finding reason to return to their own food and
conversation.

Exhaling softly, Luminara turned back to the remnants of her meal.
Making a face, she pushed the bowl and what remained of the meal away
from her. The boorish intrusion had spoiled her appetite.

"You handled that well, Master Luminara." Barriss was finishing up her
own food. The Padawan's perception might occasionally be lacking, but
never her readiness to eat. "No noise, no fuss."

"As you grow older, you'll find that you occasionally have to deal with
an excess of testosterone. Often on minor worlds like Ansion." She shook
her head slowly. "I dislike such distractions."

Barriss smiled gaily. "Don't be so somber, Master. You can't do anything
about physical attractiveness. Anyway, you've given them a story to
tell, as well as a lesson."

Luminara shrugged. "If only those in charge of the local government,
this so-called Unity of Community, were as easy to persuade to see
reason."

"It will happen." Barriss rose swiftly. "I'm finished." Together, the
two women paid for the meal and exited the establishment. Whispers,
mutterings, and not a few awed words of admiration trailed in their
wake.

"The populace has heard we're here to try to cement a permanent peace
between the city folk of the Unity and the Alwari nomads. They're
unaware of the far greater issues at stake. And we can't reveal the real
reason for our presence here without alerting those who would oppose us
to the fact that we know of their deeper intentions." Luminara drew her
robe tighter around her. It was important to present as subdued yet
impressive an appearance as possible. "Because we can't be completely
honest, the locals don't trust us."

Barriss nodded. "The city people think we favor the nomads, and the
nomads fear we're on the side of the city folk. I hate politics, Master
Luminara." One hand fell to her side. "I prefer settling differences
with a lightsaber. Much more straightforward." Her pretty face radiated
a zest for life. She had not yet lived long enough to become inured to
the new.

"It's difficult to persuade opposing sides of the rightness of your
reasoning when they're both dead." Turning up one of Cuipernam's side
streets, chaotic with traders and city folk of many different galactic
species, Luminara spoke while scanning not only the avenue but also the
flanking walls of commercial and residential buildings. "Anyone can
handle a weapon. Reason is much more difficult to wield. Remember that
the next time you're tempted to settle an argument with a lightsaber."

"I bet it's all the fault of the Trade Federation." Barriss eyed a stall
dripping with jewelry: necklaces and earrings, rings and diadems,
bracelets and hand-sculpted flash corneas. Such conventional personal
ornamentation was forbidden to a Jedi. As one of her teachers had once
explained to Barriss and her fellow Padawans, "A Jedi's glow comes from
within, not from the artificial augmentation of baubles and beads."

Still, that necklace of Searous hair and interwoven pikach stones was
just gorgeous.

"What did you say, Barriss?"

"Nothing, Master. I was just expressing my dissatisfaction at the
continuing scheming of the Trade Federation."

"Yes," Luminara agreed. "And the Commerce Guilds. They grow more
powerful by the month, always sticking their money-hungry fingers in
where they're not wanted, even if their immediate interests are not
directly involved. Here on Ansion, they openly support the towns and
cities that are loosely grouped together as the Unity of Community even
though the law of the Republic guarantees the rights of nomadic groups
like the Alwari to remain independent of such external influences. Their
activities here only complicate an already difficult situation." They
turned another corner. "As they do elsewhere."

Barriss nodded knowingly. "Everyone still remembers the Naboo incident.
Why doesn't the Senate simply vote to reduce their trade concessions?
That would settle them down a bit!"

Luminara had to fight to keep from smiling. Ah, the innocence of youth!
Barriss was well meaning and a fine Padawan, but she was unsophisticated
in the ways of governance.

"It's all very well to invoke ethics and morals, Barriss, but these days
it's commerce that seems to rule the Republic. Sometimes the Commerce
Guilds and the Trade Federation act like they're separate governments.
They're very clever about it, though." Her expression twisted. "Fawning
and bowing before emissaries of the Senate, issuing a steady stream of
protestations of innocence: that Nute Gunray in particular is as
slippery as a Notonian mudworm. Money equals power, and power buys
votes. Yes, even in the Republic Senate. And they have powerful allies."
Her thoughts turned inward. "It's not just money any-more. The Republic
is a soiled sea roiled by dangerous currents. The Jedi Council fears
that general dissatisfaction with the present state of governance is
giving way to outright secession on many worlds."

Barriss stood a little taller as she strode along beside her Master. "At
least everyone knows that the Jedi are above such matters, and aren't
for sale."

"Not for sale, no." Luminara sank farther into preoccupation.

Barriss noted the change. "Something else troubles you, Master
Luminara?"

The other woman mustered a smile. "Oh, sometimes one hears things. Odd
stories, unaccredited rumors. These days such tales seem to run rampant.
This political philosophy of a certain Count Dooku, for example."

Though always eager to display her knowledge, Barriss hesi-ated before
responding. "I think I recognize the name, but not in connection with
that title. Wasn't he the Jedi who--"

Stopping sharply, Luminara threw out a hand to halt her companion. Her
eyes flicked rapidly from side to side and she was suddenly no longer
introspective. Her every nerve was alert, every sense on edge. Before
Barriss could question the reason for the action, the Jedi had her
lightsaber out, activated, and fully extended before her. Without moving
her head, she raised it to a challenge position. Having drawn and
activated her own weapon in response to her Master's reaction, Barriss
searched anxiously for the source of unease. Seeing nothing out of the
ordinary, she glanced questioningly at her teacher.

Which was when the Hoguss plunged from above--to spit itself neatly on
Luminara's upraised lightsaber. There was a brief stink of burning
flesh, the Jedi extracted the beam, and the startled Hoguss, its now
useless killing ax locked in a powerful but lifeless grip, keeled over
onto its side. The heavy body made a dull thump as it struck the ground.

"Back!" Luminara started to retreat, the now anxious and alerted Barriss
guarding her Master's rear and flanks.

The attackers swarmed down from rooftops and out of second-story
windows, came bursting through doorways and up out of otherwise empty
crates; a veritable flash flood of seedy infamy. Someone, Luminara mused
grimly as she retreated, had gone to considerable trouble and expense to
arrange this ambush. In the midst of genuine concern for herself and her
Padawan, she had to admire the plotter's thoroughness. Whoever it was
clearly knew they were dealing with more than a couple of female
tourists out for a morning's sight-seeing.

The question was, how much did they know?

There are only two ways for non-Jedi to defeat Jedi in battle: lull them
into a false sense of security, or overwhelm them with sheer force of
numbers. Subtlety obviously being a notion foreign to their present
assailants, a diverse rabble of bloodthirsty but untrained individuals,
their employer had opted for the latter approach. In the crowded, active
streets, the large number of attackers had gone undetected by Luminara,
their inimical feelings submerged among those of the greater crowd.

Now that the attack had begun, the Force throbbed with an enmity that
was out in the open as dozens of well-armed hired assassins fought to
get close enough to their rapidly withdrawing targets to deliver a few
final, fatal blows. While the narrowness of the street and the aimless
fleeing of panicked bystanders eliminated a clear line of retreat and
kept the two women from sprint- ing to safety, it also prevented those
of their attackers who were wielding firearms from setting up a clear
shot at their intended targets. Had they been tacticians, those in front
swinging blades and other less advanced devices would have stepped aside
to give their more heavily armed comrades room in which to take aim. But
a reward had been promised to the ones who made the actual kill. While
this served to inspire the truculent rabble, it also made them reluctant
to cooperate with one another in achieving their ultimate objective,
lest it be a colleague who claimed the substantial bonus.

So it was that Luminara and Barriss were able to deflect bursts from
blasters as well as blows struck by less technical weaponry such as long
swords and knives. With high walls shielding them on either side and
merchants and vendors continuing to run for cover, they had room in
which to work. Bodies began to pile up in front of them, some intact,
others missing significant portions of their anatomy, these having been
neatly excised by whirling shafts of intensely colored energy.

Barriss's exuberance and occasional shouted challenge were complemented
by Luminara's steady, silently ferocious work. Together, the two women
not only kept their attackers at bay, but began to force them back.
There is something in the hushed, frighteningly efficient aspect of a
fighting Jedi that takes the heart out of an ordinary opponent. A
would-be murderer has only to see a few blaster shots deflected by the
anticipatory hum of a lightsaber to realize that there might be other
less potentially lethal ways to make a living.

Then, just when the two women were on the verge of pushing the remaining
attackers around a corner and back out into an open square where they
could be more effectively scattered, a roar of antic...

Présentation de l'éditeur :

In the years since the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the Republic has continued to crumble and, more and more, the Jedi are needed to help the galactic government maintain order. As Star Wars: Episode II opens, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker have just returned from a mission on a world called Ansion. Written by beloved Star Wars veteran Alan Dean Foster, and starring a new character from the Episode II, The Approaching Storm tells the story of that daring mission. The Republic is decaying, even under the leadership of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who was elected to save the galaxy from collapsing under the forces of discontent. On the tiny but strategic planet of Ansion, a powerful faction is on the verge of joining the growing secessionist movement. The urban dwellers wish to expand into the prairies outside their cities - the ancestral territory of the fierce, independent Ansion nomads. If their demands are not met, they will secede - an act that could jump-start a chain reaction of withdrawal and rebellion by other worlds of the Republic. At the Chancellor's request, the Jedi Council sends two Jedi Knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luminara Unduli, to resolve the conflict and negotiate with the elusive nomads. Undaunted, Obi-Wan and Luminara, along with the their Padawans Anakin Skywalker and Barriss Offee, set out across the wilderness. Many perils lie waiting to trap them. The Jedi will have to fulfil near-impossible tasks, befriend wary strangers, and influence two great armies to complete their quest, stalked all the while by an enemy sworn to see the negotiations collapse and the mission fail.

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9780345442994: The Approaching Storm: Star Wars Legends

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