In answer, Jaina increased the magnification on the forward screen, and instead of the unremarkable dots of light, there appeared an image of two planets, one mostly blue and white, the other reddish in hue, seemingly so close together that Leia wondered how it was that the blue-and-white one, the larger of the pair, had not grasped the other in its gravity and turned it into a moon. Parked halfway between them, perhaps a half a million kilometers from either, deck lights glittering in the shadows of the blue-and-white planet, loomed a Mon Calamari battle cruiser, the Mediator, one of the newest ships in the New Republic fleet.
"They're at their closest," Mara observed, referring to the planets.
"I beg your indulgence," came a melodic voice from the doorway, and the protocol droid C-3PO walked into the room. "But I do not believe that is correct."
"Close enough," Mara said. She turned to Jaina. "Both Rhommamool and Osarian are ground based, technologically--"
"Rhommamool almost exclusively so!" C-3PO quickly added, drawing a scowl from all three of the women. Oblivious, he rambled on. "Even Osarian's fleet must be considered marginal, at best. Unless, of course, one is using the Pantang Scale of Aero-techno Advancement, which counts even a simple landspeeder as highly as it would a Star Destroyer. Perfectly ridiculous scale."
"Thank you, Threepio," Leia said, her tone indicating that she had heard more than enough.
"They've both got missiles that can hit each other from this close distance, though," Mara continued.
"Oh, yes!" the droid exclaimed. "And given the proximity of their relative elliptical orbits--"
"Thank you, Threepio," Leia said.
"--they will remain within striking distance for some time,"
C-3PO continued without missing a beat. "Months, at least. In fact, they will be even closer in two standard weeks, the closest they will be to each other for a decade to come."
"Thank you, Threepio!" Mara and Leia said together.
"And the closest they have been for a decade previous," the droid had to slip in, as the women turned back to their conversation.
Mara shook her head, trying to remember her original point to Jaina. "That's why your mother chose to come out now."
"You're expecting a fight?" Jaina asked, and neither Leia nor Mara missed the sparkle in her eye.
"The Mediator will keep them behaving," Leia said hopefully. Indeed, the battle cruiser was an impressive warship, an updated and more heavily armed and armored version of the Mon Calamari star cruiser.
Mara looked back to the screen and shook her head, unconvinced. "It'll take more than a show of force to stop this catastrophe," she replied.
"Indeed, it has been escalating, by all reports," C-3PO piped up. "It started as a simple mining dispute over mineral rights, but now the rhetoric is more appropriate for some kind of a holy crusade."
"It's the leader on Rhommamool," Mara remarked. "Nom Anor. He's reached down and grabbed his followers by their most basic instincts, weaving the dispute against Osarian into a more general matter of tyranny and oppression. Don't underestimate him."
"I can't begin to give you a full list of tyrants like Nom Anor that I've dealt with," Leia said with a resigned shrug.
"I have that very list available," C-3PO blurted. "Tonkoss Rathba of--"
"Thank you, Threepio," Leia said, too politely.
"Why, of course, Princess Leia," the droid replied. "I do so like to be of service. Now where was I? Oh, yes. Tonkoss Rathba of--"
"Not now, Threepio," Leia insisted, then to Mara, she added, "I've seen his type often."
"Not like him," Mara replied, somewhat softly, and the sudden weakness in her voice reminded Leia and Jaina that Mara, despite her nearly constant bravado and overabundance of energy, was seriously ill, with a strange and thankfully rare disease that had killed dozens of others and against which the best doctors in the New Republic had proven completely helpless. Of those who had contracted the molecular disorder, only Mara and one other remained alive, and that other person, being studied intently on Coruscant, was fast dying.
Excerpted from Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore. Copyright© 1999 by R.A. Salvatore. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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