It is a golden age. Intrepid hyperspace scouts expand the reach of the Republic to the furthest stars, worlds flourish under the benevolent leadership of the Senate, and peace reigns, enforced by the wisdom and strength of the renowned order of Force users known as the Jedi. With the Jedi at the height of their power, the free citizens of the galaxy are confident in their ability to weather any storm But the even brightest light can cast a shadow, and some storms defy any preparation.
When a shocking catastrophe in hyperspace tears a ship to pieces, the flurry of shrapnel emerging from the disaster threatens an entire system. No sooner does the call for help go out than the Jedi race to the scene. The scope of the emergence, however, is enough to push even Jedi to their limit. As the sky breaks open and destruction rains down upon the peaceful alliance they helped to build, the Jedi must trust in the Force to see them through a day in which a single mistake could cost billions of lives.
Even as the Jedi battle valiantly against calamity, something truly deadly grows beyond the boundary of the Republic. The hyperspace disaster is far more sinister than the Jedi could ever suspect. A threat hides in the darkness, far from the light of the age, and harbors a secret that could strike fear into even a Jedi’s heart.
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HYPERSPACE. THE LEGACY RUN.
3 hours to impact.
All is well.
Captain Hedda Casset reviewed the readouts and displays built into her command chair for the second time. She always went over them at least twice. She had more than four decades of flying behind her, and figured the double check was a large part of the reason she’d survived all that time. The second look confirmed everything she’d seen in the first.
“All is well,” she said, out loud this time, announcing it to her bridge crew. “Time for my rounds. Lieutenant Bowman, you have the bridge.”
“Acknowledged, Captain,” her first officer replied, standing from his own seat in preparation to occupy hers until she returned from her evening constitutional.
Not every long-haul freighter captain ran their ship like a military vessel. Hedda had seen starships with stained floors and leaking pipes and cracks in their cockpit viewports, lapses that speared her to her very soul. But Hedda Casset began her career as a fighter pilot with the Malastare–Sullust Joint Task Force, keeping order in their little sector on the border of the Mid Rim. She’d started out flying an Incom Z-24, the single-seat fighter everyone just called a Buzzbug. Mostly security missions, hunting down pirates and the like. Eventually, though, she rose to command a heavy cruiser, one of the largest vessels in the fleet. A good career, doing good work.
She’d left Mallust JTF with distinction and moved on to a job captaining merchant vessels for the Byrne Guild—her version of a relaxed retirement. But thirty-plus years in the military meant order and discipline weren’t just in her blood—they were her blood. So every ship she flew now was run like it was about to fight a decisive battle against a Hutt armada, even if it was just carrying a load of ogrut hides from world A to world B. This ship, the Legacy Run, was no exception.
Hedda stood, accepting and returning Lieutenant Jary Bowman’s snapped salute. She stretched, feeling the bones of her spine crackle and crunch. Too many years on patrol in tiny cockpits, too many high-g maneuvers—sometimes in combat, sometimes just because it made her feel alive.
The real problem, though, she thought, tucking a stray strand of gray hair behind one ear, is too many years.
She left the bridge, departing the precise machine of her command deck and walking along a compact corridor into the larger, more chaotic world of the Legacy Run. The ship was a Kaniff Yards Class A modular freight transport, more than twice as old as Hedda herself. That put the craft a bit past her ideal operational life, but well within safe parameters if she was well maintained and regularly serviced—which she was. Her captain saw to that.
The Run was a mixed-use ship, rated for both cargo and passengers—hence “modular” in its designation. Most of the vessel’s structure was taken up by a single gigantic compartment, shaped like a long, triangular prism, with engineering aft, the bridge fore, and the rest of the space allotted for cargo. Hollow boom arms protruded from the central “spine” at regular intervals, to which additional smaller modules could be attached. The ship could hold up to 144 of these, each customizable, to handle every kind of cargo the galaxy had to offer.
Hedda liked that the ship could haul just about anything. It meant you never knew what you were going to get, what weird challenges you might face from one job to the next. She had flown the ship once when half the cargo space in the primary compartment was reconfigured into a huge water tank, to carry a gigantic saberfish from the storm seas on Tibrin to the private aquarium of a countess on Abregado-rae. Hedda and her crew had gotten the beast there safely—not an easy gig. Even harder, though, was getting the creature back to Tibrin three cycles later, when the blasted thing got sick because the countess’s people had no idea how to take care of it. She gave the woman credit, though—she paid full freight to send the saberfish home. A lot of people, nobles especially, would have just let it die.
This particular trip, in comparison, was as simple as they came. The Legacy Run’s cargo sections were about 80 percent filled with settlers heading to the Outer Rim from overpopulated Core and Colony worlds, seeking new lives, new opportunities, new skies. She could relate to that. Hedda Casset had been restless all her life. She had a feeling she’d die that way, too, looking out a viewport, hoping her eyes would land on something she’d never seen before.
Because this was a transport run, most of the ship’s modules were basic passenger configurations, with open seating that converted into beds that were, in theory, comfortable enough to sleep in. Sanitary facilities, storage, a few holoscreens, small galleys, and that was it. For settlers willing to pay for the increased comfort and convenience, some had droid-operated auto-canteens and private sleeping compartments, but not many. These people were frugal. If they’d had credits to begin with, they probably wouldn’t be heading to the Outer Rim to scrape out a future. The dark edge of the galaxy was a place of challenges both exciting and deadly. More deadly than exciting, in truth.
Even the road to get out here is tricky, Hedda thought, her gaze drawn by the swirl of hyperspace outside the large porthole she happened to be passing. She snapped her eyes away, knowing she could end up standing there for twenty minutes if she let herself get sucked in. You couldn’t trust hyperspace. It was useful, sure, it got you from here to there, it was the key to the expansion of the Republic out from the Core, but no one really understood it. If your Navidroid miscalculated the coordinates, even a little, you could end up off the marked route, the main road through whatever hyperspace actually was, and then you’d be on a dark path leading to who knew where. It happened even in the well-traveled hyperlanes near the galactic center, and out here, where the prospectors had barely mapped out any routes . . . well, you had to watch yourself.
She put her concerns out of her mind and continued on her way. The truth was, the Legacy Run was currently speeding along the best-traveled, best-known route to the Outer Rim worlds. Ships moved through this hyperlane constantly, in both directions. Nothing to worry about.
But then, more than nine thousand souls aboard this ship were depending on Captain Hedda Casset to get them safely to their destination. She worried. It was her job.
Hedda exited the corridor and entered the central hull, emerging in a large, circular space, an open spot necessitated by the ship’s structure that had been repurposed as a sort of unofficial common area. A group of children kicked a ball around as adults stood and chatted nearby; all just enjoying a little break from the cramped confines of the modules where they spent most of their time. The space wasn’t fancy, just a bare junction spot where several short corridors met—but it was clean. The ship employed—at its captain’s insistence—an automated maintenance crew that kept its interiors neat and sanitary. One of the custodial droids was spidering its way along a wall at that very moment, performing one of the endless tasks required on a ship the size of the Run.
She took a moment to take stock of this group—twenty people or so, all ages, from a number of worlds. Humans, of course, but also a few four-armed, fur-covered Ardennians, a family of Givin with their distinctive triangular eyes, and even a Lannik with its pinched face, topknot and huge, pointed ears protruding from the side of its head—you didn’t see many of those around. But no matter their planet of origin, they were all just ordinary beings, biding time until their new lives could begin.
One of the kids looked up.
“Captain Casset!” the boy said, a human, olive-skinned with red hair. She knew him.
“Hello, Serj,” Hedda said. “What’s the good word? Everything all right here?”
The other children stopped their game and clustered around her.
“Could use some new holos,” Serj said. “We’ve watched everything in the system.”
“All we got is all we got,” Hedda replied. “And stop trying to slice into the archive to see the age-restricted titles. You think I don’t know? This is my ship. I know everything that happens on the Legacy Run.”
She leaned forward.
Serj blushed and looked toward his friends, who had also, suddenly, found very interesting things to look at on the absolutely uninteresting floor, ceiling, and walls of the chamber.