- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: June 2012
From the cover
Gliding through the blackness of deep space, the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera pointed its mighty arrowhead shape toward the dim star of its target system, three thousandths of a light-year away. And prepared itself for war.
"All systems show battle ready, Admiral," the comm officer reported from the portside crew pit. "The task force is beginning to check in."
"Very good, Lieutenant," Grand Admiral Thrawn nodded. "Inform me when all have done so. Captain Pellaeon?"
"Sir?" Pellaeon said, searching his superior's face for the stress the Grand Admiral must be feeling. The stress he himself was certainly feeling. This was not just another tactical strike against the Rebellion, after all—not a minor shipping raid or even a complex but straightforward hit-and-fade against some insignificant planetary base. After nearly a month of frenzied preparations, Thrawn's master campaign for the Empire's final victory was about to be launched.
But if the Grand Admiral was feeling any tension, he was keeping it to himself. "Begin the countdown," he told Pellaeon, his voice as calm as if he were ordering dinner.
"Yes, sir," Pellaeon said, turning back to the group of one-quarter-size holographic figures standing before him in the Chimaera's aft bridge hologram pod. "Gentlemen: launch marks. Bellicose: three minutes."
"Acknowledged, Chimaera," Captain Aban nodded, his proper military demeanor not quite masking his eagerness to take this war back to the Rebellion. "Good hunting."
The holo image sputtered and vanished as the Bellicose raised its deflector shields, cutting off long-range communications. Pellaeon shifted his attention to the next image in line. "Relentless: four point five minutes."
"Acknowledged," Captain Dorja said, cupping his right fist in his left in an ancient Mirshaf gesture of victory as he, too, vanished from the hologram pod.
Pellaeon glanced at his data pad. "Judicator: six minutes."
"We're ready, Chimaera," Captain Brandei said, his voice soft. Soft, and just a little bit wrong. ...
Pellaeon frowned at him. Quarter-sized holos didn't show a lot of detail, but even so the expression on Brandei's face was easy to read. It was the expression of a man out for blood.
"This is war, Captain Brandei," Thrawn said, coming up silently to Pellaeon's side. "Not an opportunity for personal revenge."
"I understand my duty, Admiral," Brandei said stiffly.
Thrawn's blue-black eyebrows lifted slightly. "Do you, Captain? Do you indeed?"
Slowly, reluctantly, some of the fire faded from Brandei's face. "Yes, sir," he muttered. "My duty is to the Empire, and to you, and to the ships and crews under my command."
"Very good," Thrawn said. "To the living, in other words. Not to the dead."
Brandei was still glowering, but he gave a dutiful nod. "Yes, sir."
"Never forget that, Captain," Thrawn warned him. "The fortunes of war rise and fall, and you may be assured that the Rebellion will be repaid in full for their destruction of the Peremptory at the Katana fleet skirmish. But that repayment will occur in the context of our overall strategy. Not as an act of private vengeance." His glowing red eyes narrowed slightly. "Certainly not by any Fleet captain under my command. I trust I make myself clear."
Brandei's cheek twitched. Pellaeon had never thought of the man as brilliant, but he was smart enough to recognize a threat when he heard one. "Very clear, Admiral."
"Good." Thrawn eyed him a moment longer, then nodded. "I believe you've been given your launch mark?"