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.Can you be absent for such a long time?""I'll give my proxy to Cilghal," Luke said."She'll speak and vote for me, and for Saba, who gave me her proxy when she joined."The strain between Luke and Cal hadn't affected the running of the High Council.Cal seemed perfectly friendly, if a bit reserved.But he no longer shared confidential information with Luke—if there were military or political secrets that Luke wasn't already a part of, then they were never mentioned in Luke's presence.The trust was gone.Luke didn't know whether he would ever win it back.Luke, for his part, still had hopes of convincing Cal not to use Alpha Red at all.But if necessary, Luke would poll the other Jedi members privately.The influence of the council as a whole might tip the balance against Dif Scaur and his plan.Together, they might be able to take a principled stand against the use of the weapon.But that was for the future.For now, Luke was dedicated to making sure that Ackbar's plan was carried out.If the Yuuzhan Vong were defeated, then the arguments against Alpha Red would bear all that much more weight.Luke turned to Han."Speaking of Ackbar," he said, "he asked me if you'd do him a favor."Ice rang in Han's glass as he drained it."Anything," he said."He'd like you to resume your military rank and take command of a squadron."Han placed his glass firmly on the table next to his seat."You know, I never did take to the military," he said."And the military never took to me.If Ackbar just wants to make both me and the fleet miserable.""He'd like you to take command of the squadron contributed by the Smugglers' Alliance," Luke said."Talon Karrde, Booster Terrik, and the Errant Venture.They're a hard bunch, anarchic and rebellious and undisciplined.The ships are a heterogeneous jumble, and any tactics would have to be improvised by the squadron commander."Leia, a little grim, turned to her husband."I'd use the word never if I were you.""Lando's part of it, too," Luke added."You know he'd make mincemeat out of a regular fleet officer.Anyone who could control that bunch would have to be as rough as they are, and as experienced.The commander would have to be able to fly the pants off any of them, and—""And whip fifty times his weight in angry krayt dragons," Leia finished.She looked at Han."You see what my brother's trying to do, don't you?" she said."He's trying to flatter you into taking this job.He's trying to tell you that only Han Solo could possibly be tough enough for this assignment."Han smiled."He's right of course," he said."But the word never is still on the tip of my tongue."Luke sighed."You're going to force me to fight dirty," he said."I really didn't want to do this."Han laughed."Hit me with your best shot."Luke made an apologetic gesture."During the upcoming operation, the Smugglers' Alliance squadron will be in support of Admiral Kre'fey's fleet.Which includes your children.Sorry."Han looked stricken.Leia narrowed her eyes and glared at her brother."That is really underhanded, Luke," she said."I know," Luke said."We had both gotten out.We were going to have time together.We were going to be happy"''"Sorry.""And now.'' She clenched her fists."Now it's all up to us again, isn't it?"Luke smiled."The fate of the galaxy may well rest in your hands.Yes.It's unfair, but that's the way it is."Leia raised a fist."When this is over," she said, "remind me to hit you."Luke raised his hands peaceably."Kyp's first in line," he said, "but when this is over, take all the shots you want."Jacen was returning from Kashyyyk to the Ralroost when he was commed by Kyp Durron."I need all Jedi on Man Adapyne for a meeting.It's urgent.""Can I wash and change first?" Jacen asked."I've been down on Kashyyyk, and I'm kind of a mess.""I said urgent? Kyp snapped."We need you now."Jacen considered the small figure of Vergere, who was crammed into the cockpit on his lap.better make yourself very small, he thought."Acknowledged," he said.Vergere managed to avoid discovery when Jacen landed his X-wing in the cruiser's capacious docking bays.She remained in the cockpit, ducking down out of sight as he dropped to the deck and went in search of his fellow Jedi.Kyp, seated at the end of one of the mess tables, had assembled the other Jedi in a corner of the officers' mess.Jacen entered cautiously and saw Corran Horn along with Jaina, Tesar, Lowbacca, and the other newly made Jedi.As he entered, Saba and her squadron of Wild Knights turned to stare at him with glittering reptilian eyes.Jacen tried to calm the panic that fluttered in his rib cage, and said, "What's going on?"Kyp looked at him."I have an urgent message from Master Skywalker.He said that Vergere has run away from Mon Calamari, and if we see her we're to detain her and take her to Mon Calamari or to New Republic Intelligence."Even though he'd known approximately what the message would contain, still Jacen felt an unpleasant surge of emotion at Kyp's words.In the last few months, Jacen had become an expert at deception.He'd lied to the Yuuzhan Vong, and he'd lied to Ganner Rhysode in order to capture him for the enemy.Rut lying to an entire room of Jedi—Jedi alongside of whom he'd been fighting for the last months—was a new ordeal."Vergere?" he said, calming himself."What's she done?""Master Skywalker didn't say.But it has to be important, because Vergere is now our number one priority.If we have any notion where she might be, we're to drop everything and go in search of her.But we're not to search alone—Vergere is to be considered dangerous and should be apprehended by Jedi working as teams."Saba Sebatyne raised a hand."We are not to break into packz and search the galaxy now, are we?""No.We're to stay with the fleet until we hear from Vergere or until we hear of her.And then we're to get her secured and back where she belongs." He turned his eyes to Jacen, and Jacen felt a cold hand brush his spine."You're closer to her than anyone here," Kyp said."Master Skywalker thought she might try to contact you.""She'd have to be out of her mind to come to Kashyyyk," Jacen said, with perfect truth."There are too many Jedi here.""Right," Kyp said, though Jacen still sensed his suspicion.Kyp rose from the table."It's unlikely that we'll see her—we're all moving out, anyway."Jacen stood quietly motionless on the deck."Moving out?""Right, brother," Jaina said."We're on continual alert.Something big's happening—the whole fleet's getting ready to move.""Rumor says it's the Core," Corran Horn said."But we know how accurate rumor's been in this war."Jaina, on her way out of the meeting, slapped Jacen on the shoulder."See you when we get there," she said.Wherever there is, Jacen thought.And wondered, now that the whole fleet was on alert, how he was going to get Vergere off his ship.* * *Chapter 24We're installing blastproof doors here," the engineer said."Once you get your people inside, you can drop the doors and be perfectly safe for, oh, several hours at least.""Several hours at least," Jaina repeated.In the frigid air, her breath misted out in front of her as she spoke.She looked at the busy droids, which were lifting huge, clattering pneumatic hammers to widen the old mineshaft [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]