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FIRST LOVE    |    EXCERPTS
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The buzzing hum of Zekk's lightsaber filled Jaina's ears as her
former friend brought it slowly down toward her neck. "You never
understood, Jaina… You can't understand. You've always been so protected.
The dark side is like a scar that's on the inside."
Zekk's eyes locked with hers. His hand remained steady, and he
began speaking in a low voice, his words barely audible. "But those
are scars that can't be healed," he went on. "You can try to cover
them up" - hum; buzz - "but they're still there…underneath,"
A swarm of angry insects buzzed near Jaina's right ear - but it
was only the lightsaber, no longer above her head but continuing
its excruciating slow descent.
Then, as if from a distance, Jaina heard new sounds: a crackle
of static, and then a booming voice coming from a comlink.
"This is the Lightning Rod, callin' anyone who can hear me. Better
clear everyone from the landing field real quick. We're comin' in.
Oh, and if you got any of those energy shields back up, you better
put 'em down now - we've had more'n our share of problems already
today. My arm's broken so the young Solo kid is flying - but our
wings're clipped, and I'm not sure how maneuverable this baby is."
In that moment of delight and surprise, Zekk's lightsaber wavered
and lifted away from her. A droning sound caught his attention,
and Jaina glanced back over her shoulder to see the Lightning Rod
coming into view above the treetops, sputtering and wheezing.
"Come on in, Lightning Rod," Jaina heard Luke say into his comlink.
"You're clear to land."
Zekk stared in amazement to see the battered old ship still intact,
then shook his head. He reached out his free hand toward her. "Jaina,
I didn't mean to-"
Just then, a concussive boom split the air, obliterating all other
sounds. The ground vibrated beneath Jaina's feet, lurching with
tremors and shock waves.
"Get down!" Zekk shouted.
She drove toward the courtyard wall and hit the ground, gasping
at the jolt of pain that speared through her. She rolled, looking
upward to see the gouts of smoke that erupted from a huge explosion
inside the Great Temple. The crumbled remnants of massive stones
tumbled down its sides I an avalanche.
Zekk ran for cover, too, but the hailstorm of rock moved faster
than he could dodge. A large chunk of stone struck him I the head,
while other fragments pummeled his body. As Jaina watched the dark-haired
young man sink to the ground, it came to her in a flash: he had
Zekk had known the temple was going to blow up.
And he had saved them all.
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