- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: June 2012
From the cover
Directly ahead, the star was a marble-sized yellow-orange ball, its intensity moderated by its distance and by the viewports' automatic sunscreens. Surrounding it and the ship itself were the stars, a spattering of blazing white pinpricks in the deep blackness of space. Directly beneath the ship, in the western part of the Great Northern Forest of the planet Myrkr, dawn was approaching.
The last dawn that some in that forest would ever see.
Standing at one of the side bridge viewports of the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera, Captain Pellaeon watched as the fuzzy terminator line crept toward the target zone on the planet below. Ten minutes ago, the ground forces surrounding the target had reported themselves ready; the Chimaera itself had been holding blockade position for nearly an hour. All that was missing now was the order to attack.
Slowly, feeling almost furtive about it, Pellaeon turned his head a couple of centimeters to the side. Behind him and to his right, Grand Admiral Thrawn was seated at his command station, his blue-skinned face expressionless, his glowing red eyes focused on the bank of status readouts wrapped around his chair. He hadn't spoken or moved from that position since the last of the ground forces had reported in, and Pellaeon could tell the bridge crew was beginning to get restless.
For his own part, Pellaeon had long since stopped trying to second-guess Thrawn's actions. The fact that the late Emperor had seen fit to make Thrawn one of his twelve Grand Admirals was evidence of his own confidence in the man—all the more so given Thrawn's not-entirely-human heritage and the Emperor's well-known prejudices in such matters. Moreover, in the year since Thrawn had taken command of the Chimaera and had begun the task of rebuilding the Imperial Fleet, Pellaeon had seen the Grand Admiral's military genius demonstrated time and again. Whatever his reason for holding off the attack, Pellaeon knew it was a good one.
As slowly as he'd turned away, he turned back to the viewport. But his movements had apparently not gone unnoticed. "A question, Captain?" Thrawn's smoothly modulated voice cut through the low hum of bridge conversation.
"No, sir," Pellaeon assured him, turning again to face his superior.
For a moment those glowing eyes studied him, and Pellaeon unconsciously braced himself for a reprimand, or worse. But Thrawn, as Pellaeon still had a tendency to forget, did not have the legendary and lethal temper that had been the hallmark of the Lord Darth Vader. "You're perhaps wondering why we haven't yet attacked?" the Grand Admiral suggested in that same courteous tone.
"Yes, sir, I was," Pellaeon admitted. "All our forces appear to be in position."
"Our military forces are, yes," Thrawn agreed. "But not the observers I sent into Hyllyard City."
Pellaeon blinked. "Hyllyard City?"
"Yes. I find it unlikely that a man of Talon Karrde's cunning would set up a base in the middle of a forest without also setting up security contacts with others outside the immediate area. Hyllyard City is too far from Karrde's base for anyone there to directly witness our attack; hence, any sudden flurries of activity in the city will imply the existence of a more subtle line of communication. From that we'll be able to identify Karrde's contacts and put them under long-term surveillance. Eventually, they'll lead us to him."
"Yes, sir," Pellaeon said, feeling a frown crease his forehead. "Then you're not expecting to take any of Karrde's own people alive."
The Grand Admiral's smile turned brittle. "On the contrary. I...