- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
From the book
We have to get access to those hyperspace routes that the Separatist droids haven't seized yet. Without that, we'll never be able to take the Outer Rim worlds. Unfortunately, that means we need the cooperation of the Hutts.
Chancellor Palpatine, on the logistics problems facing the Grand Army of the Republic
Ziro the Hutt's palace, uscru district, Coruscant
"Could you kill a child?"
Count Dooku thought it was an odd question, coming as it did from Ziro. The Hutt had been perfectly happy to go along with the idea of kidnapping his nephew's baby son. But if he'd thought through the reality of grabbing Jabba's gangland power, then wiping out all rivals, even baby heirs, had to be high on his list of priorities.
Maybe it wasn't. And that would be a fatal mistake.
"Could you?" Dooku responded casually. "Isn't he almost your flesh and blood too?"
Ziro blinked, passing the nictitating membranes across his eyes with slow deliberation. It was the Hutt equivalent of raising a sarcastic eyebrow. The private chamber was deserted, with not even a serving droid to overhear them.
"You don't understand us, even if you speak our language far better than most realize," Ziro said at last. "He's Jabba's bloodline. Not mine. So I do whatever it takes, and my priority is my own offspring."
Ziro might have been playing the hard case, or he might have been serious. If he was serious, then Dooku hoped for his sake that he was ready to kill Jabba, too, because his nephew would send every assassin in Hutt space after him if he found out his uncle was responsible.
"Try not to be too hasty," Dooku said. Don't blow this before I get what I need. The ploy was buying time. "Extract maximum leverage from this."
"You don't have to explain long-term strategy to a Hutt," Ziro rasped.
Dooku tried to stop himself from falling into a chain of reasoning with Ziro. It would bring the delicate edifice of his own operation crashing down if he said anything that made Ziro wonder if this kidnapping was going to achieve anything for him. Dooku wasn't convinced that taking Rotta would dislodge or even weaken Jabba's grip on power, but Ziro thought it would reduce his nephew to mere clay in his hands—which was all Dooku needed.
Dooku was certain of one thing, though: harming the Huttlet would unleash a tidal wave of incredible vengeance, and Jabba was going to be around a long, long time to make sure he found everyone involved in the kidnapping and punished them in his uniquely inventive way.
Dooku was counting on it. He wanted the Hutt in the Separatist camp, and the way to do that was to frame the Jedi for Rotta's disappearance.
But if Ziro's cover is blown—then he has to be silenced. We can't have Jabba realizing he's been maneuvered by us . . .
It would be too bad if anything happened to Ziro. After Jabba was signed up, Ziro's fate was inevitable; he would have to be silenced before he implicated Dooku.
Either Hutt would do, though, in a pinch. It didn't matter if it was Jabba or Ziro who denied hyperspace passage to Republic forces. Dooku wasn't selling ideology, and he was sure neither Hutt was buying.
"Of course not," he said, smiling at a being he would kill without hesitation if he threatened his plans. He had no doubt that Ziro would do the same to him. "But you do have to consider what you'll do with Rotta in the longer term."
Ziro eased his bulk across the marble floor onto a platform strewn with shimmersilk cushions that he swept out of the way. Hutts needed smooth surfaces to move properly; carpeting and upholstery didn't go well with a lubricating layer of...