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toward the monster, seemingly without a care in the world.

"This creature means no harm," Luke said, his voice quiet but firm. He never took his eyes off the beast. "It's just frightened and confused. It doesn't know where it is, or why we are here." He drew a deep breath. "There's no need for killing."

Jacen's stomach knotted with unbearable tension as Luke approached the monster. The thing's long eyestalks waved at him, and its six tree-trunk legs took ponderous steps like an Imperial walker.

The beast lowered its triangular head, shaking it from side to side so that the pointed tusks seemed to scratch holes in the air. It let out a strange, soft blat of puzzlement.

Jacen hissed with fear, and his sister's entire body clenched. He had used his own talents with the Force to confront many strange animals out in the jungle, but never anything as powerful as this monster, never such a boiling mass of anger and confusion.

But Luke stepped right up to the shaggy, angry thing, within touching distance. The Jedi Master looked incredibly small, yet un afraid.

Beside the battered freighter, Peckhum fell to his knees. The discarded blaster rifle was at hand, but he didn't dare pick up the weapon again. He looked from the monster to Luke, then to the three watching teens-then off into the jungle, as if terrified that another one of the creatures might appear.

Luke stood in front of the nightmarish beast and took a deep breath. He didn't move. The monster held its ground and snorted. Its eyestalks waved unblinking, pointing slitted pupils down at him.

Luke raised his hand, palm out.

The monster snuffled and waited, motionless, its wicked tusks less than a meter away from Luke Skywalker.

The jungle fell silent. The breeze died away. Jacen held his breath.
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