Today's Reading

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

The tragic events of the Republic Fair have galvanized the galaxy. The Jedi and the Republic have gone on the offensive to stop the marauding NIHIL. With these vicious raiders all but defeated, Jedi Master AVAR KRISS has set her sights on LOURNA DEE, the supposed Eye of the Nihil, and has undertaken a mission to capture her once and for all.

But unbeknownst to the Jedi, the true leader of the Nihil, the insidious MARCHION RO, is about to launch an attack on the Jedi and the Republic, on a scale not seen in centuries. If he succeeds, the Nihil will be triumphant, and the light of the Jedi will go dark.

Only the brave Jedi Knights of STARLIGHT BEACON stand in his way, but even they may not be enough against Ro and the ancient enemy that's about to be unleashed...
 
PROLOGUE
 
The Longbeam cruiser slipped into the Nefitifi system as smoothly and silently as a sharp needle piercing black cloth. Only a few million years before, a star in this previously binary system had exploded, leaving behind a nebula of extraordinary scale. Trails of deep-purple and dark-blue gases laced between the planets, radioactive and opaque, hiding the entire system within swirls of mist.

Many smugglers had, in the past, taken advantage of that mist.

The Jedi now believed the Nihil were using it, too. It was their last place to hide.

"Any signals?" Master Indeera Stokes asked her Padawan.

Bell Zettifar, next to her, shook his head. "Nothing on any frequencies.

It's completely quiet out there."

"It shouldn't be." Master Nib Assek shook her head, her gray hair painted silver by the shadows in which they stood. (When a Longbeam ran on half power to avoid attention—as this one now did—lighting dimmed accordingly.) "Gunrunners have used this part of space for a long time. You'd expect beacons, tagged cargo in asteroids, something of that sort. Instead...nothing."

Bell glanced over at a fellow Padawan, the Wookiee Burryaga, who stood by Master Assek's side. Their shared look confirmed that they understood what was implied: The Nefitifi system was too quiet. Finding no activity here was like landing on Coruscant and finding it deserted: proof positive that something was very wrong.

Here it could only mean that the Nihil were near.

"They must be using silencers," Bell said to Master Indeera. "Satellites or shipboard?"

"Shipboard, I suspect. We'll soon find out." His Master squared her shoulders; her Tholothian tendrils rippled down her back. Bell felt the shiver of anticipation that went through the Jedi cohort aboard; the Force was warning them of what was about to come. Master Indeera put her hand on her lightsaber hilt. "The other Longbeams report similar readings—or lack thereof. The Nihil must be very near."

Finally, action. A chance to move on the Nihil. Bell had wanted this—needed it—ever since the loss of his former Master, Loden Greatstorm. Not for vengeance. Greatstorm would never have wanted that. For the knowledge that Bell had done something, anything, to counteract the evil that had robbed his Master of his life. The Nihil were already beaten, it seemed—Master Avar Kriss seemed on the verge of capturing their leader, the Eye, at any moment—but neither Bell nor the rest of the galaxy would be at peace until the threat had been laid to rest forever.

The debacle at the Republic Fair months ago could've damaged confidence in the Republic—and in the Jedi—past repair. Instead the Nihil were now on the run. The corner had been turned. This entire part of the galaxy would soon be wholly safe once more.

Once everyone else had regained their confidence and security, maybe Bell would, too.

As the Longbeam passed through another thick golden cloud of gases, Master Indeera was the first to say, "They're above us. Almost directly overhead." Burryaga growled in assent.

Ship sensors almost immediately began to flash, but the true warning came to them through the Force. Bell's senses heightened; his muscles tensed. Readiness galvanized him on every level.
...

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