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5th January 2021 brings us A Test of Courage, the first middle grade entry in the tales of the High Republic and Justina Ireland discusses the book and reveals an excerpt from the book, featuring Avon Starros and Vernestra.

“Hey, stop her!”

The sense of calm shattered and Vernestra opened her eyes to see a maintenance droid chasing a small, dark-skinned human girl riding a scoot speeder built of odds and ends. The girl’s hair framed her face in a halo of riotous curls, and she held a brightly shining power crystal in a single gloved hand. The expression of joyous triumph on her face was one that Vernestra knew all too well.

Avon Starros, daughter of Senator Ghirra Starros, was once again up to no good.

Avon had not yet seen Vernestra, and the Jedi used that to her advantage. Vernestra raised her hands, palms flat toward Avon, and pushed with the Force. The girl went flying backward off of her homemade contraption, but instead of letting her fall hard onto the deck, Vernestra kept Avon suspended in the air while the vehicle froze in the middle of the docking bay.

“Avon,” Vernestra said sweetly. “What is going on?”

Avon twisted around in midair, her happy expression souring when she spied Vernestra. “Ugh, I thought you were already on the ship.”

“No, I decided to take one last walk through the outpost before we left. I can see I am not the only one. What did you do?”

“Nothing! I didn’t do anything. By the stars, I don’t know why you always think everything is my fault, Vern.”

Vernestra gritted her teeth against the terrible nickname. Master Douglas Sunvale called her that, and while she was not about to correct a Jedi Master, she had no such qualms about correcting a girl younger than her. “Please don’t call me that.” She released her hold on the Force and let Avon fall to the ground, which was not all that far. The scoot speeder, which Avon had no doubt built from taken materials left unattended around the port, crashed into a nearby stack of shipping crates.

“You are the worst,” Avon groaned, splaying her limbs out dramatically on the ground.

“It wasn’t that far,” Vernestra said, even though it had been a bit mean to let the girl fall.

“I will take that,” the maintenance droid said, plucking the crystal from Avon’s gloved hand before stomping back the way it had come. Vernestra walked over to Avon and offered her a hand up, but the younger girl just glared at her and picked herself up on her own.

“One day, when I am the galaxy’s foremost inventor, I am going to create a device that blocks the Force,” Avon said. “And then let’s see how you like that.”

Vernestra laughed. “Avon, we’ve discussed this. The Force is all around and inside of us, as well. It isn’t like your power crystals. It’s impossible to block the Force. Also, why did you take that droid’s energy crystal?”

Avon huffed. “It’s for an experiment, and it’s not like I’m going to tell you, Jedi. I know you’ll find a way to ruin it somehow. Besides, can’t you just read my mind?” The girl crossed her arms and Vernestra sighed. She and Avon always butted heads. It wasn’t because Vernestra didn’t like the young girl. Quite the opposite—she found Avon’s many inventions and theories to be endlessly fascinating. But Avon did not like to be told no, and she had ended up in Port Haileap precisely for that reason. Her mother, Senator Ghirra Starros, had sent her there, hoping that some time spent on the edge of space would make Avon more appreciative of her life on Coruscant. All it had done was make Avon more determined to do as she pleased, which was usually inventing machines from bits of other things.

There was no real reason for Avon to accompany the delegation to Starlight and then back to Coruscant; her mother hadn’t sent for her and she had no official role on the journey, but Master Douglas, the marshal of the outpost, had asked to have Avon accompany them specifically because the Dalnan ambassador’s son was twelve, as well. He was hoping that the two would become friends and soften the Dalnans’ view of the Republic.

Vernestra was hoping so, too. Mostly because Avon needed a friend.

“Mistress Avon! You are late. If you do not get on board that ship this instant I will uncouple your linking hoses and then let’s see how well your scoot speeder runs.”

A pinkish-gold droid as tall as Vernestra stomped over to where they stood. J-6, Avon’s protocol droid, was half warden, half nanny, all attitude. She spoke like no protocol droid Vernestra had ever met, and she suspected that Avon had something of a hand in that.

Avon sighed heavily and pushed her unruly hair out of her face before walking over to her scoot speeder and righting it to climb on. “Well, looks like the jig is up. I got it, Jay-Six, no sabotage necessary. You coming, Vern? You don’t want to be late.”

Vernestra smiled and nodded. She was excited to see Starlight Beacon, even if it meant she would have to work extra hard to keep Avon out of trouble. “Let’s go.”

As they walked toward the boarding ramp for the Steady Wing, Vernestra stumbled and gasped. Avon gave her a sidelong glance. “Everything okay?”

Vernestra put a hand to her chest and looked over to where an Aqualish mechanic was tinkering with an access panel near the boarding ramp. He stared back at Vernestra with three unblinking eyes. His lower right eye was missing, and blue-tinted scar tissue occupied the space instead. There was nothing else about him that was remarkable; he wore the same orange coveralls as every other member of the docking station’s maintenance crew.

“I’m fine,” Vernestra said, finally, in answer to Avon’s query. Vernestra gave the Aqualish man a small smile, and he turned away without reaction, going back to whatever he was doing. Something about the man made Vernestra feel more alert than was necessary, a spiky sensation that she couldn’t explain. She was just nervous and excited about the mission to Starlight, since this was her first real Jedi mission and she didn’t want to mess it up. That was why she was fixating on random mechanics doing their jobs.

At least, that was what she told herself, even if she didn’t truly feel it.

Pushing the strange feeling aside, Vernestra accompanied Avon and J-6 onto the Steady Wing and tried to focus on making sure the young girl did not try to escape before departure. Vernestra had her hands full enough without seeing phantoms in every corner of the Force.

Star Wars The High Republic: A Test of Courage
  • Hardcover Book
  • Ireland, Justina (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 01/05/2021 (Publication Date) - Disney Lucasfilm Press (Publisher)