Padawan Ram Jomaram has been through a lot, from the Great Disaster to the attack on his homeworld of Valo during the Republic Fair.
But instead of being awash in emotions, Ram feels…nothing. A void where a roiling sea of feelings should be, waiting to be brought into balance by the teachings of the Jedi Order.
In StarWars.com’s exclusive excerpt from Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon, the forthcoming young adult novel by Daniel José Older, young Ram seeks the guidance of his master, Kunpar Vasivola, and a distraction from his friend, Zeen. Read the preview below, and pick up your own copy when Midnight Horizon, part of wave 3 of books and comics in the High Republic initiative, arrives February 1, 2022.
“Ram? What’s the matter?”
“Hm?” Ram Jomaram looked up from the tiny reactor core he’d been taking apart and putting back together for the past . . . he’d lost track of how long. The flickering hologram of his master, Kunpar Vasivola, blinked back at him, concern in his wrinkled old eyes. “Nothing,” Ram said, and went back to fiddling.
“Vakateebakbak!” one of the small furry Bonbraks — Tip, probably — yelled from across the room. False statement, basically, which normally would’ve riled Ram up, but he couldn’t be bothered. What was the point?
“Your little friend is right,” Master Kunpar said. “I’ve known you your whole life, Ram Jomaram. And I know when something’s wrong, even if you refuse to admit it.”
“I . . .” Ram stood and pulled his goggles up to his forehead. His Padawan robes were covered in grease, as always — no matter how many times he washed them, the stains stayed where they were.
“It’s just . . .” He’d fully intended to explain himself when he opened his mouth. But then, as had happened so many times recently, the words dried up and evaporated. Maybe language just couldn’t encapsulate what he felt and he should stop trying. But then he’d keep hearing about how he was stubborn from Master Kunpar and the Bonbraks and anyone else who felt like piling on, too, probably. V-18 was gone as usual, otherwise he’d surely join in. Since they’d left Valo, Ram’s droid had spent most of his time rummaging through Starlight’s scrap bin, looking for new upgrade parts.
Ram shook his head, trying to clear it. “I don’t know,” he finally said.
The old Ongree nodded sagely, stroking his face tentacles like he always did before saying something incredibly wise that would take Ram about eight years to untangle the meaning of. “That’s a good start!”
Ram scoffed, picked up the rusted metal casing around the core, then released it, letting the Force hold it midair in a slow spin. “It’s like . . . I’ve faced down Nihil, right?” he said, watching the core instead of his master. “And the Drengir. I’ve been shot at, almost eaten. Arrested. Had things exploding all around me more times than I can remember . . . and that’s just in the past couple months!”
He wasn’t even exaggerating. Ever since the Nihil had attacked the Republic Fair on Ram’s home planet, Valo, he’d been trying to stay alive and keep balance in a galaxy that had seemed to go from peaceful to war-torn overnight. In the midst of that battle, Ram had met Lula Talisola, a Padawan from Starlight Beacon, and she’d been so poised in the storm of fighting — somehow a compassionate warrior and the very essence of what Ram imagined the Jedi were supposed to be — he’d realized he had to do whatever he could to help make the galaxy safe again, just like Lula was doing.
So he joined her and her friend Zeen, who was Force-sensitive but not an actual Jedi-in-training like Lula and Ram, when they returned to Starlight, and he’d been with them ever since, running missions and making more friends than he’d ever thought he’d have in his life — and almost getting killed in every way imaginable (and a few more).
But somehow, none of that was the problem.
“It’s been a very difficult time for the whole frontier,” Master Kunpar said, “but especially you young people caught up in the fighting.” He shook his old head sadly. “It shouldn’t have been like this.”
“But that’s not it,” Ram said, trying not to let the frustration he felt singe his voice. After all, if he couldn’t find words or meaning behind what was wrong, how was his master supposed to? Ram sighed and the tiny core casing clattered to the desk.
“Fraka-botá!” yelled the other Bonbrak, Breebak. That was a Bonbreez word that was best left untranslated.
“Sorry,” Ram called. He looked back at the holo of his master, scrunched up his face, and spat out the words without thinking about them: “The problem is the opposite. I don’t feel anything, not right now. Not even when we got into battle. I don’t feel fear, I don’t feel sadness. I’m not excited when we win. I barely even . . .” He shook his head, letting the words turn to dust again, wishing the thoughts would, too.
“Go on,” Master Kunpar said kindly.
“I barely even feel good when we save people.”
Ram wasn’t sure when it had started, this terrifying emptiness. During the attack on the Republic Fair, it had seemed like he felt all the emotions possible at the same time. Lonisa City, his city, was under attack; people were dying all around, and it seemed like the Nihil had come to stay. He was heart-broken and terrified, and he was meeting new friends, friends he was pretty sure he’d have for the rest of his life — he just wasn’t sure how much longer that would be. And together they had really made a difference, restoring planet-wide communications so the Republic could organize its counterattack. Death and destruction were all around, but they’d been part of the solution, and it had felt amazing to be able to help.
And then at some point he’d arrived on Starlight Beacon, somewhere amid all those explosions and rescues and shootouts — a change had happened inside him. It felt like someone else had taken over his body. Someone cold. “I know we’re supposed to be unattached and all that,” Ram said. “But this feels like . . . something else.”
“Mmm,” Master Kunpar said, eyes closed. “You are striving for balance, young Ram.”
“I guess. But what do I do?”
“Keep searching, Ram. Don’t stop.”
“Ramamalamaaa!” Zeen Mrala sang, sliding in through the open door and executing a near-perfect pirouette across the room. “We have a mee-eeting!”
Zeen had grown up among people who hated and distrusted Force users, so she’d kept her abilities secret for most of her life. Then her home planet, Trymant IV, was nearly demolished by an Emergence from the Great Disaster and she’d been taken in by the Jedi. She’d helped Ram and Lula fight off the Nihil when they attacked Valo, and Ram had felt close to her ever since. She was a relative newcomer to the space station, just like him, and she always knew how to cheer him up. Unlike Ram, she somehow managed to always look fashionable and clean, whether she was wearing her flight jacket and had blasters strapped to each hip or was in the sleeping robes Lula had loaned her or, like now, had on just a casual flowy robe over a sleeveless shirt.
“Yeah,” Ram said, already putting the reactor core parts away in their box and getting up.
“Is that my favorite Mikkian?” Master Kunpar said, his little holo form squinting as Zeen sailed past with a graceful lunge.
Zeen laughed, popping back up over Ram’s shoulder; her head tendrils brushed lightly against his cheek. “Hey, Master Kunpar! How many Mikkians do you know?”
“Enough to have a favorite!”
Zeen beamed and got back to her dance.
“You know, you can take a break if you need to,” Master Kunpar said, turning back to Ram. “Come back to Valo, help the rebuilding effort.”
Ram nodded, but he knew that wasn’t going to help him find balance. The very notion of going back home made him nauseous. There was so much happening out here that the Jedi needed his help with. “Thanks, Master Kunpar.”
“A break would be absolutely wizard!” Zeen said, using Ram’s favorite word for when something was completely amazing and the best possible thing ever. She only did that when she was trying to make him feel better. Zeen winked at Master Kunpar, who stared blankly back at her over the holo connection.
“What’s wizard?” the old Jedi asked. “That something you kids are saying these days?”
Zeen looked scandalized. “Ram! I thought that was something people on Valo said!”
Ram had to laugh. “No, I totally made that up. Isn’t it wizard?”
“All righty, I’ll just be going now,” Master Kunpar said. “May the Force be with you both.”
“Can’t believe you made up a whole slang word and didn’t tell us,” Zeen said, clearly using the Force to elevate her flying cartwheels a little higher. “You okay?”
Ram shrugged off the compliment and the question and picked up his holoprojector. “You’re such an amazing dancer, Zeen. Can I take a holo to send back to Valo?”
“Of course,” she said, twirling. She stretched her arms wide. “Send it out to the whole galaxy! Haven’t you ever dreamed of being a star, Ram?”
“Absolutely not,” he said, sidestepping to keep her in view.
“I have. I don’t think I’d really love it, but I always wanted to try, just for a day or two. Be like those fancy singers on the holos, with the whole galaxy cheering.” She pirouetted again, then spun into an elaborate bow.
“I’ve always thought maybe in another lifetime, I would’ve been a famous star!” A sad smile crescented her face; then she looked away. “But that’s not for me, not really. . . .” She shook off whatever fantasy she’d gotten lost in and directed a sharp glare at Ram. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you dodged my question.”
“I . . .”
“Hey!” Lula Talisola popped her head in from the hallway. “They just upgraded this to a mission briefing. Something happened on Corellia. We going or we dancing?”
Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon arrives February 1, 2022, and is available for pre-order now.
Visit Lucasfilm’s official hub for all things Star Wars: The High Republic at StarWars.com/TheHighRepublic.
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