Champions of the Force Revisited
by Grand Admiral Sean

Chapter 15

The news didn't really come as a surprise. Ever since the crisis had begun, he knew it was coming. It was his destiny.

Not that he believed in such things at first. But since his transfer to the planet Boelis years before, events had unfolded to convince him otherwise. He knew of the planet's reputation even then, but chose not to believe the planet was jinxed. The seemingly accidental death of Governor Wyns a week after his arrival was written off in his mind as a coincidence. The surprise attack on Governor Nillin's shuttle by pirates five months later and his subsequent ejection into the vacuum of space also qualified as coincidental. But with Governor Kig's death at the beginning of a short-lived uprising following the Battle of Endor, his mind started pondering the possibility that curses really did exist. Between that time and the beginning of Grand Admiral Thrawn's campaign, Governors Unid and Frent perished in suspiciously similar "accidents" while inspecting construction sites, one year to the day apart from each other. After all that, Governor Techs murder by a group of rebellious Noghri commandos was no surprise. And when Governor Ryjerd was summoned to the Deep Core during the Emperor's resurgence, there was never any doubt that he would never return. Word of his death eventually did get back to Boelis, where the next Governor had already been selected in anticipation of the news.

Hess was initially shocked to learn that the governor of Boelis was typically chosen by literally drawing straws. But after the loss of so many, it became clear that it was the only way to fill the important position for which no one would ever volunteer. After Ryjerd's death, he was moved up into the pool of contenders for the position of Governor. When the stormtrooper arrived to hold the straws, he had closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, praying he wouldn't draw the short one. But he did. And amid the obviously mocking, sarcastic, better-you-than-me congratulations of the "losers" (three of whom had somehow managed to be losers for at least as long as Hess had been on Boelis), he was installed as the new Governor.

So when the Sun Crusher scourge began, Hess knew his time was at hand. The curse of the planet Boelis was poised to strike yet another governor. The question, of course, was never "if," but "when." The only thing that surprised Hess was that it hadn't come sooner.

But this time, the governor had advanced notice. Time to prepare. His number was up, of that he had no doubt. But perhaps he could do something to make a difference before death claimed him.

Recently, he had been putting a lot of thought into that difference being the transfer of the planet Boelis over to the New Republic. One year ago, he would have considered even the thought of such a thing treasonous. But with the Empire fizzled away to squabbling warlords who delighted in asserting their dubious power over each other, always with disastrous results, the stability the Republic offered looked better all the time. From discreet investigations he had made, it seemed the general public opinion was also beginning to lean that way. In fact, he would have attempted a bid for membership months ago, were it not for his lingering reservations concerning the Republic's reverence for the Jedi. It didn't matter anymore, though. The New Republic was not to be in his future.

He looked at a wall monitor, which showed the Sun Crusher at approximately 1 hour out. It was said that a Dark Jedi flew the thing, one who was supposedly indestructible. Same thing they said about Vader and the Emperor. For him to effectively strike at such a person was a hopeless proposition. But since he wouldn't survive the encounter anyway, there was nothing to lose in trying. At least he would be remembered as one who refused to stand by as another Dark Jedi tried to overthrow the galaxy.

He took a deep breath, then sent orders for the stormtroopers at the garrison to meet him in the main courtyard of the capitol building. He stood and straightened his uniform, then walked to a display case on the other side of his office. From it, he withdrew the largest vibroblade he had which would fit in his sleeve: a finely tooled weapon from his homeworld, intricately detailed, built from the finest materials. Though made for display, it was nevertheless the sharpest in his collection. Carefully sliding it into a wrist sheath, he took one last look around his office. The room's ever-present aura of impending doom felt especially strong, as if mocking him. He shook his head, knowing that the office was one of the things he certainly wasn't going to miss. And his friends and family wouldn't miss him much. They'd been treating him as if he was past tense since the day he became governor. With a heavy sigh of loneliness and gloom, he headed for the courtyard, and his destiny.


For the first time, there was actually cooperation. It's about time, Kyp thought. But deep down, he was a little disappointed. The encounter with Skywalker and Solo had been quite exhilarating, to say the least, and replaying the recording of their last moments gave him ample entertainment during the trek through hyperspace at those times he got bored or frustrated with building his lightsaber. Kyp had really been looking forward to drawing some blood upon arrival at Boelis. But instead of the typical defiant response to his demands, he had actually been invited down, and given escorts which, surprising enough, were just what they appeared to be: escorts. None tried to shoot him in the back. Perhaps the Empire has finally accepted his invulnerability? Or perhaps the trap would come on the ground, when he stepped out of his impenetrable shell of a spacecraft. Oh, well. It wouldn't do them any good there, either. Only the most pathetically foolish dared oppose the Dark Lord of the Sith!


Dr. Qui Xux's ethereal beauty was as unchanged as that of the planet Ithor itself since he had last seen it. But unfortunately, so was her mental condition.

"Do you remember anything else?"

"I'm sorry, Wedge, I can't," the Omwati scientist exclaimed from her bed in the herdship Tafanda Bay's acclaimed medical clinic. "But I don't think it's getting worse. I can remember everything since..."

She shook with fear about the encounter that left her mind a blank. Of all that had happened, the feeling of absolute terror was the only thing she could remember. It worked its way into her dreams at night: a deep and all- encompassing feeling of evil and death, but without shape or substance. More often than not, she found herself waking up in tears. But Wedge was here again. Someone she knew. Or, at least, someone she now knew.

"It's going to be all right," Wedge comforted, his arms around her. "I won't let anyone hurt you again."

"What do the doctors say, Wedge? Will I ever remember the past again?"

"Don't worry. It'll come back eventually."

"No, Wedge. I want the truth. What did they really say?"

Wedge swallowed hard. She wanted to hear it, all right, but could he bear saying it? "Uh, Qui..."

"Please, Wedge, tell me. I need to know."

"Well... they... they say there's... not a lot they can do. They say it's one of the worst cases of memory loss they have ever seen. It's not just that you've forgotten. They have techniques for treating amnesia. But they say your mind is just blank. It's not that you're having trouble remembering what's in there. It's that there seems to be nothing left in there to remember. It's like a droid with an erased memory."

"So it's hopeless," she sobbed.

"No! Never say that! You'll beat this thing! I know you will!"

"But what if I don't? Will you still love me?"

"Of course I will! How could you think that?"

"I didn't," she said, smiling. "I just wanted to hear you say it."

"Why, you little..." He chuckled. "I'll have you know..."

The door chime and subsequent entry of an Ithorian nurse interrupted him.

"Visiting time is over," the nurse rumbled in barely decipherable Basic through dual mouths. "She must rest for her tests tomorrow."

"Oh, of course." Wedge leaned over Qui, and delivered a small kiss on her cheek. "You get plenty of sleep, okay? And I don't want to hear about any more nightmares, all right?"

"Believe me, I don't either," she laughed. "But with you nearby, I'm not afraid."

Wedge smiled again, and gave her hand a gentle squeeze before leaving. Her last words of the evening echoed in his mind as he walked out the door. But I was nearby when it happened, he thought. And what good did I do then?

He slowly walked to a nearby window and looked out at the clear sky and the stars that were just beginning to appear in the increasing darkness of nightfall. That Qui's condition was not the result of an accident or disease, he was certain. No, somebody did this. Someone with the power to destroy minds from the inside. He had a pretty good idea of who that person was. And who taught him how to do it.


The hospitality with which the leaders of Boelis treated Kyp was almost sickening. Everyone was so eager to please him that he began to despair of ever drawing his new, albeit incomplete, lightsaber during his visit. Well, the people were eager, but certainly not happy. As Exar Kun had predicted, fear was making the Imperials do what he wanted. Which was just fine by him. After all, what kind of revenge creates happiness in the targets?

But the complete cooperation left him longing for the true master/slave relationship, doling out punishment on those who refused to submit. As it was, they had completely re-stocked the Sun Crusher with fresh supplies within an hour of his arrival, and the electronic components for his lightsaber were ready well before his demanded deadline. For quite some time after that, he had paced about the Sun Crusher's cockpit, pondering ways to get someone to provoke him. Obviously, the people wanted him to leave as soon as possible, and he didn't want to give them the satisfaction, but the waiting around was getting on his nerves. Occasionally, he would tinker with the saber, but it couldn't keep his interest away from the planetful of Imperials in need of his justice. Something would happen. Something had to happen.

Finally, something did.

A warning chime from the Sun Crusher's sensor monitor was a most welcome distraction. Though nothing serious; merely Governor Hess and General Homis seeking an audience; at least it was a diversion from the boredom that filled his entire time on Boelis. Perhaps the Governor was finally disgruntled about something. He pulled on his black cape and headed for the hatch, leaving behind the disassembled lightsaber. It would take some time to finish up the work on it, and if the Governor was in a bad mood, such a delay might provide time for his emotions to cool down. No, Kyp thought, provocations only come when the temper is hot.


It's now or never, Hess told himself, as he approached the Sun Crusher. The people had done precisely as he had ordered, affording the self-proclaimed Sith Lord every courtesy and obeying his every whim without question. Of course, the fact that his chief "advisor," General Homis, agreed with that course of action lent a great deal to its success.

Homis was one of the three longtime "losers," but had always maintained a position as the governor's advisor. In fact, in many ways, Homis actually was the chief-of-state of Boelis. New, inexperienced governors always looked to him for advice, and he gladly obliged them, picking up all the real power, but leaving the governors themselves with the accountability. And though he maintained that he did not believe in the governor's curse, the fact that he himself had never volunteered indicated otherwise.

Hess had come to dislike the man intensely, but knew better than to oppose such a locally popular leader. For quite some time, he had figured on somehow arranging for Homis to become the next governor. But now that his certain death was just around the corner, he had no time for such things. That pompous old windbag would outlive yet another governor. And, of course, by appearing before the Sith Lord, and acting particularly humble and subservient, he would get in with his good graces as well.

The two men stood patiently in the Sun Crusher's harsh, angular shadow, waiting for the craft's lone occupant to emerge. When the black-caped man came out sooner than expected, Hess lost a beat, which Homis was more than willing to pick up.

"My Lord, we are holding a reception in your honor. It would give us great pleasure if you would attend."

"A reception? For me?"

"Yes, my Lord. We, your humble servants, merely wish to show our gratitude for favoring our world with your presence."

Hess rolled his eyes, hoping against hope that this Sith Lord was as fed up with the general's boot-licking as he was and would put him out of his misery in some manner befitting a Dark Jedi. But he was denied even that small pleasure, as the visitor merely agreed to attend.

As they began their journey to destiny, Hess noticed a familiar face out of the corner of his eye. A quick glance told him that it was Lieutenant Karns, one of the better of his aides, cautiously watching from a side corridor. Though he was supposed to be at the reception, Hess chose to ignore him. So you don't want to dine with the Sith Lord, Hess thought. Can't say that I blame you.

They walked through a hallway lined with a stormtrooper honor guard to a sizable banquet room, lavishly decorated with the finest treasures Boelis and several other planets had to offer. The assembled officials rose as they entered, all bowing their heads in deference to their new Dark Lord.

"I am impressed," Kyp said, his hands raised for effect. "You have been the first to accept my rule over you. And as such, yours shall be my most favored world. A model for the rest of my empire to emulate."

After a second of silence, a single person began clapping. General Homis was gradually joined by the other officials, who, a few at a time, added their hands to the swell of applause that filled the chamber. Soon, everyone was cheering Kyp. Pure hypocrisy, of course. There was no love for him in this room. But he didn't care. They would obey out of fear. That was all that mattered. Well, he thought, perhaps this isn't so bad after all.

A flicker of murderous intent was all the warning he got.

The applause gave Hess the chance he needed to strike. From where he stood, a little to the left and behind Kyp, he was in the perfect position to take instant, lethal action. In a swift, fluid motion, he drew his vibroblade and thrust it deep into Kyp's side.

The applause disappeared in a universal gasp as the Sith Lord fell to his hands and knees. Blood streamed from the gash the weapon had torn in the dark man's side, staining the ornate floor with a wash of crimson. He gasped and trembled, sinking closer to the floor.

Hess stepped back, not knowing what to expect from the assembly once the shock had worn off and the Master of the Sun Crusher lay dead. They would probably kill him, of course. But what if someone had taken the initiative to slay Vader before he achieved the fullness of his power? Certainly, those loyal to him, even if only through fear, would have avenged the deed on its perpetrator. After all, who wanted to risk the wrath of a ghost Jedi? But that man's sacrifice would have saved how many billions? Yes, the name Hess would be remembered long after his death. Which was all he really wanted from the cursed office of governor.

The stricken man gasped and trembled again. It'll come soon, Hess thought. As soon as he rolls over dead, they'll take me. He took a deep breath and stood at attention to wait for the Jedi's final breath, proud of his service. The Governor of Boelis would finally die a hero.

But it didn't happen that way. A growling came from beneath the black cape. Slowly, he began to rise, his breathing heavy and labored, but increasingly strong and determined. And when his head finally came up, sheer, petrifying terror gripped the entire room. Kyp's eyes sparkled with a fierce electrical light, darkening his face except where perspiration reflected it, highlighting key features, especially the grotesque scar. And with his teeth clenched in a hideous scowl, he looked absolutely demonic.

He moved his hand to his side, wrapping it carefully around the hilt, then yanked the vibroblade from his side, just barely cringing as he did so. He held the knife loosely for a moment, then squeezed his hand tightly, almost as if he intended to crush it with his bare hand. The blade began to glow with an unholy light, then burst into sparks. He threw the hilt, now merely a scorched stump, to the ground, the sound of it skittering across the floor tearing through the deathly silence.

Hess stood with his jaw dropped, his proud defiance gone. His eyes grew wide as the Sith Lord turned to him, bearing down fiendishly. He wanted to run, but his legs refused to move. For a second that seemed like an eternity, the man who should be dead stared at him, as if sizing him up for an appropriately appalling punishment. Finally, the dark one's hands began to rise, stretching out in his direction. Hess started to shout...

...a shout that was abruptly overpowered by a near-deafening, inhuman scream as Kyp let loose a burst of pure energy. Hess was instantly thrown across the room, where his charred corpse slumped to the ground, leaving a black mark of vaguely human shape like a shadow on the wall.

Kyp continued to breath heavily, blood still oozing out of his wound. He looked around the room, apparently unsure of what to do next. The sound of someone clearing his throat drew his attention to General Homis, who had somehow found his voice where no one else had.

"M... m... my Lord, we must get you medical attention at once. You..."

Quicker than anyone could blink, Kyp unleashed another burst of energy, looking to all the world like a blue turbolaser burst coming through his arms and out his hands. But unlike Hess, Homis completely disintegrated from the raw fury of Kyp's attack, with only a smoking, reeking, blackened pile of ash to mark the spot he stood in.

Paralyzing terror gave way as sheer panic struck the banquet room. The officials ran screaming toward any exit or potential exit near them, clawing over each other to escape the wrath of the Dark Lord of the Sith. Kyp let off two more bursts, taking down five more politicians and officers before the stormtroopers entered the room. He snapped his head around to find two dozen blasters being raised at him. In the space of a heartbeat, he clenched his hands into fists in a well-practiced focusing of his dark side powers. The troopers clattered to the ground, preceded by the sickening wet snap of twenty-four necks breaking simultaneously.

Kyp turned back to face the banquet room once more, only to find the room empty except for a few officials too injured in the rush to move. Rather than finish them off, he clenched his wounded abdomen and staggered back to the Sun Crusher. They would all pay dearly for this vile betrayal!


Major Oran began taking up his collection immediately after his briefing. That the mission was of the utmost urgency was clear to all. But his in particular was especially important: gather up ysalamiri from designated sites on the Chimaera and set them up with portable nutrient frames for issue to the stormtrooper platoons of the landing party. A daunting task, to be certain. Unfortunately, he was as close to an "expert" on the care of the creatures as anyone aboard the ship got. He and his small team of assistants were the only ones qualified for the job, and with some of them transferred to other ships to assist the even smaller teams aboard them, the job was overwhelming. Over one thousand of the creatures had to be made ready by the time the fleet arrived at its destination. It had been a long voyage, but now, with only three days left, they still needed a little over 300 to fill the quota, and pickings were beginning to get slim.

Oran carefully slid a transfer plate under a ysalamir, going slowly enough for the creature to pull its long, anchoring claws out of its nutrient tube in one of the Chimaera's forward mess halls. A glance over his shoulder at the sergeant on the other side of the room told him that meeting the Grand Admiral's deadline was going to require a miracle. He was working too slowly, being a little too careful. Understandable, of course, considering how two days ago he had nearly taken the head off of a corporal who had gone far too fast, killing three of the creatures. And if that wasn't bad enough, he tried to hide them, then lied when questioned about it. Sending him to the brig had increased the caution of the rest of the team to the point that it was now taking them nearly double the amount of time to do what they had been doing correctly in the first place. Yes, he would need to talk to that sergeant, but first...

"Ahh... there we go," he said, as the ysalamir finally let go of the tube. With a proper mixture of caution and haste, he moved the creature to a position of alignment with a similar tube on a nutrient backpack. Then he moved the plate out from under the creature, allowing its claws to contact and dig in to the tube, spending no time without contact with either it or the plate.

Oran stood up and stretched. The lack of sleep and constant standing and stooping in odd positions had certainly been taking their toll on his back. He needed to have it looked at in medical, but there was no time for that now. He signaled to the private standing near the door to pick up the nutrient pack and carry it away, then started toward the sergeant, who had just now gotten his ysalamir loose. He was halfway there when the rapid footsteps of someone approaching from behind called for his attention.

Lieutenant Thams, the only other officer on his team, was nearly running, his face showing excessive worry and confusion. Oran prepared himself for genuinely bad news: Thams was the best ysalamiri handler beneath him, and if he was worried...

"Sir, we have a problem."

"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Oran sighed. "What is it?"

"I think you'd better see for yourself, sir."

It was an interesting predicament to say the least. Thams led him to a particularly large cargo bay between the Chimaera's main hanger bay and smaller shuttle bay, then stopped in the middle of the room. It only took a second for Oran to see that there were no ysalamiri in the compartment. He was about to ask Thams again what the problem was when something moving caught his eye. He took a few steps to his right to get a better view of the thing that was creeping behind a crate...

"Is that what I think it is?"

"Yes, sir. It's a ysalamir."

"What... how..."

"We don't know, sir. They were creeping around the place when we got here. I thought the things were exclusively sessile."

"Most of the time, yes. The blasted things must think it's mating season in here or something. Find out what the climate in here is like, what's in the crates... and anything else you can think of that might have triggered it."

"As you wish, sir."

"But first, how many were we supposed to remove from here?"

"Forty, I think. Maybe more. I'll have to check my datapad to be sure."

"Blast! Where are we going to find forty replacements?"

"I don't know, sir," replied Thams, who was picking up his datapad from atop a nearby container. "I was under the impression that we were already removing all the expendable ones. At least, the ones Grand Admiral Thrawn considers expendable."

Major Oran snatched the datapad away from Thams and started punching in commands. "Yes, but there's always the possibility that they left a few out by accident. Let's see..." Oran mumbled as the ysalamiri location map of the entire ship came up on the datapad's screen. "They want to keep them in the bridge, of course. And the engine room, the main sensor and turbolaser banks, the hangars themselves..." He stopped suddenly, then keyed a zoom-in on a section of the ship, relatively close to where they now stood. "Looks like they overlooked one just down the hall. Here."

He handed Thams the datapad and pointed out the gray mark designating an undeclared ysalamir. It almost blended in with the white lines detailing the ship's structure, especially when compared to the stand-out blue color of the "removes" and red of the "do not removes."

"There are probably a bunch of others like this one. Maybe forty, if we're lucky. Get on it, Lieutenant. On the double!"

Thams saluted sharply as the Major turned to leave. Once he was away, Thams returned his attention to the datapad. He zoomed out the map, hoping he could pick out the gray markers by eye. With a little squinting, he found it possible, but not easy. Of course, a less structurally cluttered area might be easier to search. He keyed for another level, then another...

"Wait a minute," he mumbled. Though far from uncluttered, he couldn't help but notice a concentration of gray in an area below the conning tower. He keyed a zoom-in, which brought up the schematics of the detention block.

Odd, to be certain. Some of the rumors going around the ship suggested that the mission was to capture some Jedi, not just to kill them, in which case the detention block ysalamiri should be marked red. Likewise if there were currently a Jedi prisoner aboard. But if neither case were true, why not call for their removal?

A corporal clearing his throat cut short Thams' ponderance of the datapad's cryptic revelation. "Yes?"

"Sir, what do we do now? The Major said..."

"I am well aware of what the Major said, Corporal." He looked at the datapad briefly, then handed it to the man. "We're going to the detention level. There are more than enough there to make up for the loss here."

"Sir? Can we do that?"

"According to this," he waved the datapad for effect, "there's nothing to say we can't, and our security cards will clear us. Due to the present crisis, I'm taking that as an affirmative. Now let's go, we've wasted enough time already."


The Sun Crusher's cockpit reeked horribly of ozone and burnt flesh, though that wasn't quit as noticeable to the pilot as the pain in his side. He had succeeded in cauterizing his own wound with a small, but intensely painful, burst of Force lightning, but had lost a lot of blood. But with his rage and the Dark Side as his crutch, he remained conscious, and therefore, dangerous.

Even before the sky turned from the blue of Boelis's atmosphere to the star-speckled black of space, Kyp was preparing the Sun Crusher's targeting computer. It didn't take long to warm up, but it promptly informed him that he was still too close to the planet's gravity to plot a completely accurate targeting solution. At least, that's what he thought it said. Random blotches clouded his vision, refusing to go away, even with the coaxing of the Force. Reading words on the screen became largely a matter of guesswork. But he knew the controls well enough. It wouldn't be long now...


"Master!" Kyp intoned.

"What are you doing?"

"I am going to destroy this system, Master Kun. For their treacherous attack on me."

"You will do no such thing! How will the news of your own growing power in the Dark Side spread without witnesses?"

"It doesn't matter. They tried to kill me. They must die for their crime!"

The targeting computer's message had changed, to what Kyp assumed to read "armed-and-ready." A light blinked somewhere in his periphery, but he paid it no mind. He pushed the launch button determinedly...

Nothing happened.

He looked down in annoyance, pushing the button again. Again, nothing happened. Now furious, he slammed it with his fist several times. Finally, he leaned back in his chair, staring at the console in disbelief. The blinking light caught his attention again, and he leaned forward to find out what it was.

It simply read: "Magazine Empty."

"NO!!!" Kyp shouted, slamming his fists onto the control panel. "Impossible! This can't be happening!"

"What is it, Kyp?" came the strangely smug voice of Exar Kun

"The Sun Crusher... it's out of torpedoes!"

"You knew it would happen eventually."

"But not so soon! Without them, I'm bluffing! And if anyone found out..."

"Then you need to get some more, of course," Exar Kun chided.

"Yes, of course," Kyp replied thoughtfully. But then he realized the magnitude of what the long-dead Sith Lord had just said. "Wait! I can't!"

"And why is that?" Kun asked accusatorily.

"Because I wiped the mind of the only person who knows how to make them. Master, what have I done?!"

"You were deluded with Light Side influences. You weren't thinking clearly."

"I wanted to eliminate superweapons! I wanted to prevent the creation of any new ones! And I didn't even consider how important they would be in my revenge! How could I have been so naive!"

"I tried to warn you back then, but you wouldn't listen. You just had to go ahead and try to take revenge on a person who was no threat to you, and who might, as you see now, have been of genuine use."

"So it's hopeless, then."

"Not so. When you tried to erase Dr. Xux's memory, you were inexperienced, not completely in tune with the Dark Side. Though you couldn't sense it, I prevented you from completely destroying her mind, as you intended, and from killing her outright, as you would have done for lack of control."

"You mean, her memory can be restored?"

"Yes, but it will not be easy. Even with the advances you've made since then, you will still need my help to do it."

A smile crept across Kyp's face. Fate had granted Boelis a reprieve for the moment. But within a few days, he would have the Sun Crusher's inventor as his slave. And then, the systematic subjugation of the Empire would begin anew!


It had been a long time since he had seen stars in the sky. The mottling of hyperspace got boring very quickly, and Pellaeon was anxious to see it end. The timer indicated drop out in 3 minutes. He turned to pace back toward the tactical station when he heard a door slide open. Just in time, he thought.

Grand Admiral Thrawn exited the turbolift, staring briefly out the curved panel of viewports that surrounded the walkway above the crewpits on the Chimaera's bridge before heading for Pellaeon. A calm expression on his blue- skinned face and a thoughtful, controlled glow of his red eyes told the captain that he was ready for the coming operation, and that he felt that his troops were likewise ready.

Which amazed him. The equipping of over a thousand stormtroopers with ysalamiri had just finished five minutes ago. The Grand Admiral must have known about it, but he didn't seem worried about how closely the ysalamir handling team had cut it. And the troopers must realize they would be fighting against Jedi. By now, everyone in the fleet knew exactly what ysalamiri were for. And even with them, the thought of facing down a Jedi made Pellaeon shiver involuntarily. True, stormtroopers were known for their fearlessness, but this was asking too much. Though apparently Thrawn didn't think so.

"Nervous, Captain?"

"Actually, yes, I am, sir. Our past dealings with Jedi have left a very bad taste in my mouth. Not that I doubt you, sir."

"Of course. But you see, the potential gain is far greater than the potential loss."

"I'm sorry, sir, but could you explain..." Pellaeon started before Thrawn cut him off with a raised hand.

"It is time, Captain," Thrawn said, lifting a comlink to his mouth. "Helm, take us out of lightspeed on my mark..." He paused for the timer to reach one, then zero, then minus one, then minus two seconds... "Now."

The mottle of hyperspace gave way to starlines, then the starlines shortened to pinpricks of light. Dead ahead lay the red gas giant Yavin, and just to the left of center was its fourth moon.

On a display behind them, Pellaeon and Thrawn watched as the other ships of the strike force arrived, not quite as close to the planet as the Chimaera, but obviously the Admiral had instructed them to stay in hyperspace an extra two seconds also. Pellaeon hated it when he did that.

"This is it, Captain." Thrawn switched his comlink to fleetwide signal mode. "Attention all commands: this is Grand Admiral Thrawn. Launch. Repeat: Launch."