By Joshua Rivera
September 03, 2014 at 11:51 PM EDT

Now that the Star Wars franchise has jettisoned the Expanded Universe  and taken a new unified approach to any and all new stories going forward, it’s time to start diving into the new official canon of what happens off-screen in that galaxy far away. Out this week from Disney Publishing Worldwide, Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller is the first installment in the franchise’s new adult fiction line. Taking place just before the beginning of the upcoming animated series Star Wars: Rebels (which in turn takes place between the original and prequel trilogies), A New Dawn tells the story of how Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla—two of the lead characters from Rebels—meet.

Want a sneak peek? Courtesy of Random House, EW has an exclusive excerpt from the novel in both text and audio format. Vanessa Marshall, who voices Hera on Star Wars: Rebels, recorded the audio.

Star WarsA New Dawn is on sale now.

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Hera wasn’t about to bring her ship into the Cyndan mining complex for an unauthorized landing. Joining the convoy, however, had gotten her close, and once out of sight of the Star Destroyer, she’d parked in orbit. Her ship’s small excursion vessel had taken her the rest of the way to a little maintenance outbuilding on the surface.


She’d studied just enough about the mining trade to know what to pretend to be: a maintenance tech for bulk–loader droids. The rest she’d thought up on the spot.


“This is the wrong entrance,” the guy inside the airlock had said.


“Oh, gosh, I’m sorry. It’s my first day, and I’m late!”


“And where’s your badge?”


“I forgot. Can you believe it? My first day!”


The man had believed it, letting her pass with a smile that said he hoped she’d keep making wrong turns in the future. People of several different species found Hera appealing to look at, and she was happy to put that to use for a good cause.


But as she walked carefully through the mining complex, she increasingly realized how difficult that cause had become. Gorse and Cynda produced a strategic material for the Empire, yes, but they were well away from the galactic center. And yet Hera spied one surveillance cam after another—-including several that the workers clearly weren’t intended to see. If Coruscant–level security had made it out to the Rim worlds, that would make any action against the Empire all the more difficult.


Another good reason to visit my friend on Gorse after this, she thought, darting lithely beneath the viewing arc of another secret cam. A rendezvous with any mystery informant was dangerous; she’d learned that quickly enough in her short career as an activist. But her contact had proven knowledge of Imperial surveillance capabilities, and she’d need that to get to the important stuff, later on.


Finding out more about Count Vidian’s methods, though, she’d have to do through old–fashioned skulking. He was on Cynda now, she knew: She’d seen him once already from afar, passing through the caverns with a tour group. It was tough to get closer. The transparent crystal columns were pretty to look at but lousy cover.


Darting through an isolated side passage, she thought she’d found a shortcut to get ahead of him. Instead, she found something else.


“Halt!” A stormtrooper appeared at the end of the corridor, his blaster raised.


Hera stopped in her tracks. “I’m sorry,” she said, putting her hand to her chest and exhaling. “You scared me!”


“Who are you?”


“I work here,” she said, approaching as if nothing was wrong. “I may be in the wrong place. It’s my first day.” She smiled.


“Where’s your badge?”


“I forgot.” Dark eyes looked down demurely, then back up. “Can you believe it? My first day!”


The stormtrooper studied her for a moment—-and then saw the blaster she was wearing. She moved before he did, delivering a high kick that knocked the blaster from the startled stormtrooper’s hands. Seeing his weapon clatter away, he lunged for it. She easily sidestepped him—-and pivoted, leaping onto the armored man’s back. Losing purchase on the crystalline floor, he stumbled, her full weight driving his head into the side wall. His helmet cracked loudly against the surface, and he slumped motionless to the ground.


“Sorry,” Hera whispered over the fallen trooper’s shoulder. “Charm doesn’t work on everyone.”