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Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan battle pirates in exclusive “Star Wars” excerpt

"Star Wars: The Living Force" passage shows the duo in fine form.

Before Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi started chopping up Battle Droids and saving clumsy Gunguns in The Phantom Menace, they were busy battling pirates and trying to prevent the entire Jedi Council from being assassinated. That story is about to be told in the upcoming novel Star Wars: The Living Force.

The novel, written by Kenobi author John Jackson Miller, is set one year prior to the events of The Phantom Menace, and we have an exclusive excerpt from the book featuring three gang members with the grave misfortunate of hijacking a ship with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan on it. But first, the official description of Star Wars: The Living Force, which is available April 9.

<p>Lucasfilm Ltd./courtesy Everett / Everett Collection</p> Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson in 'Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace'

Lucasfilm Ltd./courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson in 'Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace'

In the year before The Phantom Menace, Yoda, Mace Windu, and the entire Jedi Council confront a galaxy on the brink of change.
 
The Jedi have always traveled the stars, defending peace and justice across the galaxy. But the galaxy is changing, and the Jedi Order along with it. More and more, the Order finds itself focused on the future of the Republic, secluded on Coruscant, where the twelve members of the Jedi Council weigh crises on a galactic scale.

As yet another Jedi Outpost left over from the Republic’s golden age is set to be decommissioned on the planet Kwenn, Qui-Gon Jinn challenges the Council about the Order’s increasing isolation. Mace Windu suggests a bold response: All twelve Jedi Masters will embark on a goodwill mission to help the planet and to remind the people of the galaxy that the Jedi remain as stalwart and present as they have been across the ages.

But the arrival of the Jedi leadership is not seen by all as a cause for celebration. In the increasing absence of the Jedi, warring pirate factions have infested the sector. To maintain their dominance, the pirates unite, intent on assassinating the Council members. And they are willing to destroy countless innocent lives to secure their power.

Cut off from Coruscant, the Jedi Masters must reckon with an unwelcome truth: While no one thinks more about the future than the Jedi Council, nobody needs their help more than those living in the present.

<p>Random House World </p> 'Star Wars: The Living Force' book cover

Random House World

'Star Wars: The Living Force' book cover

Excerpt from "Star Wars: The Living Force" by John Jackson Miller

While on a routine mission helping to close a decommissioned Jedi outpost, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi encounter hijackers attempting to steal their transport.

In the past, Qui-Gon Jinn had encouraged his Padawan to use the quieter moments on their journeys to get to know people. To connect with them. It wasn’t that the young man had problems making friends; Obi-Wan had a natural ability in that regard. But the structures that turned younglings into Jedi Knights also tended to isolate them—and that could give them the wrong idea about their places in the galaxy. That was why Qui-Gon often chose commercial transport, such as the inaccurately named Regal Zephyr, one of a dwindling number of pas­senger vessels serving the Ootmian Pabol, once a key route leading from the Slice to Coruscant. A seemingly endless flight aboard a ship that smelled like a trash compactor was both humble—and humbling.

Doors opened on Qui-Gon’s right. He and Obi-Wan watched as a haggard man entered from the galley, carrying a squirm­ing child in each arm. Ignoring the two Jedi as he trudged past, the man approached a woman Obi-Wan had spoken with. After passing a tod­dler to her, he displayed a single food pouch, one of the meager rations offered by the galley concessionaire. The reunited family looked ex­hausted but also hungry. They tore into the pouch and emptied it in seconds.

Qui-Gon walked down the aisle and approached the young parents. He drew a pair of tokens from the folds of his cloak and got their atten­tion. “Pardon me. You dropped your meal vouchers.”

“Those aren’t mine,” the man said, eyeing him. “I just used our last one.”

“Then these must have stuck to your shoe. Easy to believe, around here.” He looked to the hungry children—and back to their parents. “Please. They shouldn’t go to waste.”

The wary mother stared for a moment before taking the tokens. She rose. Daughter on her hip, she trotted off to the galley. Qui-Gon re­treated to his previous station.

Obi-Wan smirked. “We’ll be skipping breakfast, then.”

“You wouldn’t have enjoyed it.”

“You’re probably right.” He surveyed the surly faces around the cabin. “I’m afraid I lack the common touch, Master.”

“There’s that phrase again.” Qui-Gon shook his head. “Every being is your better, Obi-Wan. Remember that, and service becomes second na­ture.”

“I never tire of hearing that one.” Obi-Wan spied another open seat, nearer to where the two Jedi stood. He straightened. “Back into the fray.”

“Try a bit more energy this time. The galley’s out of caf.”

“Done.”

Qui-Gon watched as his apprentice gamely stepped over and sat be­side a large huddled figure. The Jedi Master had seen him earlier: a mas­sive member of the Houk species, with leathery blue skin and no apparent ears or nose. None of that was visible now, as he was wrapped in a cape and cowl—odd choices, given the warmth in the cabin.

Checking quickly to ensure that the Houk wasn’t asleep, Obi-Wan adopted an antic smile and addressed the passenger. “Hello there!”

Beady yellow eyes went wide. The bruiser growled—and abruptly rose to his towering height. The Houk threw off his cloak to reveal a blaster holstered to his chest.

Obi-Wan’s eyes widened. “If you wanted to be left alone, you only had to say so.”

“Quiet!” The muscular Houk turned to face the rest of the cabin and shouted, “Now!”

Two more cloaked passengers rose and shed their disguises. A scar-faced Klatooinian and a horned Devaronian reached for their weapons. The latter had his blaster in his hand first. Golden eyes and sharp fangs flashed as he shouted, “Nobody move!”

Qui-Gon saw Obi-Wan start to rise—only to pause. His Padawan looked instead to him. Qui-Gon had his hand near his lightsaber, still hidden inside his robe—but he, too, waited. He shot a look he knew his student would understand. No bloodshed. Not with so many innocents about, with nowhere to go.

“What’s the meaning of this?” an elderly passenger demanded.

The Devaronian waved his blaster. “Lemme introduce myself. I’m The Lobber—that’s right, that Lobber. This ship is now under the con­trol of the Vile!”

The Vile. Qui-Gon knew it as one of several interstellar gangs active in the Slice, the colossal wedge-shaped fan of star systems stretching from the Core Worlds to the Outer Rim. It wasn’t an outfit many from Coruscant would have heard of, and it didn’t sound like a great name for recruiting purposes. But clearly the passengers knew what it was, given their anxious reactions.

The name also seemed to unsettle someone else: the Houk standing near Obi-Wan. “The Vile?” he asked. “I thought we were doing this for the Skulls.”

“The Skulls?” the Klatooinian grumbled in a low voice. “We talked about this, Ghor. The Filthy Cred gang will pay more than either.”

“Shut up, Wungo.” Lobber waved his blaster at the Klatooinian. “Save it until we’re done.”

The Staved Skulls. The Filthy Creds. Qui-Gon knew the names. More operations from a regional underworld that was increasingly aboveground. He surreptitiously nudged the metal case he’d been traveling with under a nearby seat. There was a play here, the Jedi Master knew. He just had to find it.

“This is madness,” the young father declared, clutching his wailing son. “We’ve got nothing to steal!”

“That’s obvious enough.” Lobber gestured to the ceiling with his blaster. “We’re stealing the ship.” He pointed to the Houk. “Ghor, you know what to do.”

Ghor grabbed an empty canvas bag from beside his seat and moved into the aisle with it. “Any weapons, give ’em.” He had turned away from Obi-Wan—a stroke of luck, Qui-Gon thought—but it was still too soon to act. Wungo the Klatoonian was in motion, too, with a sack of his own—only he was demanding valuables.

“You just said you only wanted the ship,” a Rodian passenger snarled.

Wungo snapped, “Shut up!”

An elderly traveler began to weep. “What—what’s to happen to us?”

Lobber laughed. “We’re going to put you all out at the nearest stop.”

“Where?” the young father asked. “What’s for us there?”

Flustered, the Devaronian raised his voice. “Quit your moaning. You’re lucky we don’t just space you all!”

Qui-Gon had seen and heard enough. The hijackers had no plan or even any agreement on whom they worked for. Amateurism often meant recklessness and the potential for harm—if he didn’t act quickly and smartly. He cast another look he knew his Padawan would recog­nize and took a step from the bulkhead.

Putting his open hands before him, he spoke calmly. “My friends, there’s no need for this.”

Lobber glowered at him. “Who are you?”

“Just someone who wants a pleasant ride.” Qui-Gon crossed his arms. “I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”

“The only person who’ll get hurt is you,” Lobber declared.

Ghor pointed his weapon at Qui-Gon. “All right, brave guy. Where’s your blaster?”

“I usually do without one.”

The giant guffawed. “You’re that good, eh?”

Lobber snarled. “Teach the big hero a lesson—then get to the cockpit.”

“You’re the one who knows how to fly,” Ghor said.

“Just do it!”

Lobber’s companions had only started to advance toward Qui-Gon when the door to the galley behind him opened. He looked back to see the mother holding her squirming child. She was three steps inside when she saw the blasters being raised in her direction.

“Leerah, go back!” her husband shouted. Panicked, she took a wrong step back across the threshold and lost her balance, causing her daugh­ter to slip from her hands and tumble toward the metal deck. The woman shrieked.

Righting herself quickly, she stared up in marvel at what had hap­pened to her daughter. The toddler bobbed upside down, floating in the air so close to the floor her hair brushed against it.

“People keep dropping things around here,” Qui-Gon said, his hand poised in the air.

The little girl giggled in delight until her mother snapped her up.

The others in the cabin watched, spellbound—but none with more interest than the hijackers. Lobber’s mouth hung open. “He’s a Jedi!

“Actually,” Obi-Wan said, “he’s a Jedi Master.” He rose from his seat. “And not just any Jedi Master. They once asked him to be on the Jedi Council. Have you heard of that?”

Lobber’s frown indicated he had. “They’re supposed to be the best. The bosses.”

Ghor stared at Qui-Gon. “Then what’s he doing out here?”

“He told them no,” Obi-Wan replied. “He thought it would take time away from his major pursuit.”

“Which is?”

“Commercial spacecraft security. There’s never been a single hijack­ing on his watch.”

Ghor snorted. “Security! Jedi don’t do that kind of stuff.” He looked to the Devaronian. “They don’t. Do they?”

“Of course not.” Lobber sneered. “The Jedi barely bother with this route these days.”

“And yet here we are,” Qui-Gon said.

Wungo looked in panic between Qui-Gon and the girl he’d res­cued. “Did you see how he made her float? I didn’t know they could do that.”

“Jedi don’t go around showing off,” Obi-Wan said, stepping forward. “But word gets around. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors.”

Lobber frowned. “What rumors?”

“Of secret Jedi powers. Some are quite amazing. Disarming you of your weapon with just a few words, for example.”

Ghor gripped his blaster more tightly. “Is that so?”

Qui-Gon shook his head. “I won’t be doing that. Or anything . . . flashier.”

Wungo stared. “Like what?”

“Don’t worry yourself.” Qui-Gon clasped his hands together. “What was the planet called where you were going to drop everyone off?”

Lobber had the answer. “Randon.”

“Wonderful. I’ll make sure the pilot stops there. And then you three will disembark—and find passage back to wherever you came from.” He raised an eyebrow. “Hopefully, on a vessel you have permission to board.”

“‘Disembark’?” Lobber repeated.

“That means get off,” Obi-Wan interjected.

“I know what it—” The Devaronian stopped himself and laughed. “We’re not getting off this ship.”

“Oh, I think you’ll definitely want to.”

“And if we don’t?”

“The alternative is . . . unpleasant,” Qui-Gon said. He looked to Obi-Wan. “My colleague can attest to that.”

Ghor followed Qui-Gon’s eyes. “You’re his colleague?”

Obi-Wan bowed.

“Another Jedi Knight?” Lobber asked.

“Sort of.” Obi-Wan flicked at his Padawan braid. “It’s complicated.”

Lobber swore and looked about. “Great. Any more around here?”

“Forget that,” Wungo said. “I still wanna know about this ‘unpleasant alternative.’ ”

“I’m not sure you do,” Obi-Wan responded, with visible apprehen­sion. “Master, tell me you’re not considering doing what I think you are.” He winced and gave a shudder. “I would rather not have to clean up the mess.”

“I didn’t say it was something I preferred,” Qui-Gon said, shaking his head. “It’s a last resort.”

Lobber looked unconvinced. “Another secret thing Jedi know how to do? Why have I never heard of it?”

“An excellent question,” Obi-Wan said. “Is there a reason you might not have heard of it?”

“It doesn’t exist!”

“Or?”

It took a beat for the three hijackers to work it out. Wungo had it first. “Nobody you’ve ever done this thing to has survived?”

“Certainly not.” Qui-Gon glanced uneasily at Obi-Wan. “I should say definitely not.”

Obi-Wan looked sick. “I mean, even if you did survive, you really wouldn’t want to.”

Wungo lowered his blaster. “That’s it. I’m out.”

“Yeah,” Ghor said, following suit. “I’m not doing this.”

Lobber was beside himself. “What are you fools talking about? You work for me. We just shoot them!”

“Or maybe we shoot you,” Ghor barked. His blaster rose again—this time, pointed at Lobber. “Who put you in charge, anyway?”

Qui-Gon raised his hands. “There’s no need for any of that. There’s a way out.”

“For starters, we’ll need those weapons,” Obi-Wan added. He ap­proached Ghor and opened his hand. “For safekeeping.”

Reprinted from Star Wars: The Living Force by John Jackson Miller. © 2024 by Lucasfilm Ltd. Published by Random House Worlds, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

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