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Read on for an exciting excerpt from Star Wars: Riptide by Paul S. Kemp. Available October 25 from Del Rey Books. Khedryn burst through the cockpit door of the supply ship, breathing heavily. The captain, gray-haired and overweight, whirled to face him. The copilot, younger and thin, almost fell out of his chair with surprise. “I know how this looks,” Khedryn said. “But you’ve got to listen to me. Get this ship off the pad, right now!” The captain’s initial fear gave way to a look of confusion. “What?” Khedryn had no time to talk about Sith-Jedi clones, so he lied. “I’m with building security. Criminals are making their way up through the facility right now. They want this ship. Get it out of here.” That seemed to register. The copilot spun in his chair, starting work at the instrument panel. The captain said, “It’ll take a few minutes to get the engines back online and close the cargo doors. She won’t fly with the cargo doors open. Corporate safety feature to preserve accidental dumping of cargo.” Khedryn pinched his comlink. “How much time do they have, Marr?’ No response. “Marr?” Khedryn cursed. “We could just seal the cockpit until the authorities come,” the copilot offered. Khedyrn shook his head. He knew what a lightsaber could do. If the clones got aboard, there’d be no keeping them out of the cockpit. “Get off,” Khedryn said. “What?” the copilot said.

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“No,” the captain said, shaking his head. “We can’t abandon the cargo—it comes out of our pay.” “That’s why corporations have insurance, man. Get off, now. There’s no pay to collect if you’re dead.” When the captain hesitated, Khedryn drew his blaster and leveled it at him. “Now. I’m sorry, but this is for your own good.” That did it. The captain and copilot stood and Khedryn pushed them through the ship, down the lift, through the corridors, and into the cargo bay. “Marr?” Khedryn called over his comlink. “Marr?” “Where are we supposed to go?” the copilot asked. “If they’re coming up the stairway, how do we get out of here?” “Hide somewhere out on the deck. They don’t care about you. They just want the ship. Marr, do you hear me?” The captain and copilot ran down the ramp, the captain’s belly bouncing every which way. They stopped at the bottom of the ramp, looked around. The copilot pointed to a stack of shipping containers near Junker and they sprinted toward it. “Marr, if you can hear me, the crew is off the ship but we can’t get her away in time.” Still no response. Khedryn began to worry. He did not head back to Junker. Instead, he ran for the east stairwell. Before Khredyn reached the access door to the stairs, it exploded outward from its hinges and clattered on the landing pad. He ducked and shielded his face from flying debris. The clones hurried out of the doorway, one of the males bearing a wounded adult, the female carrying a child of about nine. The male clones each held a sparking red lightsaber in hand.

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“Stop there,” Khedryn said, leveling his blaster. They did not stop, so he fired at the foremost male— one shot, another, another. The clone, a towering human male with long hair and a thick beard, deflected the shots into the air and started to run toward Khedryn. Khedryn backed toward the supply ship as fast as he could, still firing. Deflecting every shot, the clone closed on him rapidly. The other clones moved more slowly behind him. Khedryn kept hoping that Jaden and Marr would emerge from the stairway, but neither did. He was in deep water and he knew it. Shots came from somewhere in the sky above. They put black streaks on the landing pad near the clone’s feet and knocked him down. Khedryn looked up to see two police officers on armed swoop bikes circling back for another pass. “Yeah!” he said, and fired at the clone again. From his knees, the clone deflected his shots without so much as looking at Khedryn, then made a seizing gesture with his off hand. Above, the swoops’ engines screamed, warring with the clone’s power and losing. The clone made a cutting gesture, his teeth bared in a snarl, and slammed both swoops to the ground near the stack of shipping containers. A fireball blossomed, consuming bikes and riders. The clone stood, his eyes fixed on Khedryn. Very deep water. Khedryn turned and sprinted for the supply ship, firing wildly over his shoulder as he went. He had no idea what he would do once he got aboard the ship—seal it up, maybe buy some time for more police to arrive, for Jaden and Marr to get there. A blast of power hit him in the back and drove him face-first into the metal of the landing pad. His nose crumpled and exploded blood. His teeth scraped along

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the pad. Only a surge of adrenaline kept him conscious. He got to all fours, turned, and aimed his blaster at the approaching clone. Before he could squeeze the trigger, the clone gestured and Khedryn’s blaster flew from his hand and into the clone’s. Khedryn knew he could not get away. He staggered up onto unsteady legs, swallowed, and resolved to die with defiance. When the clone had closed to within a few paces, Khedryn spat at his feet. Blood and one of his teeth went with the spit. “Blast you, pal!” The clone snarled and made a cutting gesture that blew Khedryn backward ten meters and slammed his head against the landing pad. Pain and blurry sparks, then blackness.

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