|Series:||The Thrawn trilogy|
|Preceded by:||Heir to the Empire|
|Followed by:||The Last Command|
Not long after the events of Heir to the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn carries out a military operation to seize the abandoned base of smuggler Talon Karrde on the surface of the planet Myrkr. Karrde and his staff, aboard the freighter Wild Karrde, surreptitiously spy on the proceedings. However, Karrde's second in command, the Force-sensitive former Emperor's Hand Mara Jade, can't shake a premonition and breaks stealth to begin fleeing the system. This proves wise, as Thrawn was actually aware of their presence and had ordered in an ambush; Mara's "overreaction" is the only thing that allows them to flee. Despite the praise of Karrde and his associates, Mara curses herself, knowing the nightmares are coming soon.
Luke Skywalker is still stuck at Sluis Van with a crippled X-Wing, despite the tension brewing back on Coruscant, and Lando Calrissian has not been treated for his relatively minor injuries. While trying to find a way through the Sluissi bureaucracy, Luke inadvertently passes by a notorious ship thief, Niles Ferrier, and Lando catches the distinctive scent of Ferrier's favorite tobacco on his clothing. The two prevent Ferrier's crew from making off with any New Republic ships, and then commandeer Ferrier's slicer codes to sneak Luke's ship higher up the priority ladder.
On Coruscant, Han Solo and Leia Organa discuss Admiral Ackbar's current charges of treason, leveled by Bothan Senator Borsk Fey'lya. They are convinced that Fey'lya is making a play for political power regardless of any potential military consequences—such as the presence of an Imperial Grand Admiral—and decide to dig up dirt on his past. This takes Han, Lando and Luke to the planet New Cov, where Bothan spies once rushed into battle with the Imperials seemingly for the heck of it, and where Han believes the Bothans are protecting something. Leia, in the meanwhile, makes good on her promise to meet Khabarakh clan Khim'bar of the Noghri, a race of deadly assassins in ambivalent service to the Empire. To her surprise, Khabarakh allows Chewbacca to accompany them to the Noghri homeworld of Honoghr.
The visit does not start well: when they emerge from hyperspace, they find an Imperial Star Destroyer in orbit of Honoghr. Chewie, incorrectly believing betrayal, attempts to attack Khabarakh, interfering with his ability to send the necessary all-clear signals. Even worse, it's not just any Star Destroyer; it's the Chimaera, Admiral Thrawn's flagship, and he takes an interest in the incident after pointing out that Khabarakh is the only survivor of the team sent to Kashyyyk in the previous novel. Once she safely makes landfall, Leia learns of the history of the Noghri, whose planet was wracked by ecological disaster after a starship battle between the Rebellion and the Empire led to wreckage contaminating the planet's surface. Later, Lord Darth Vader arrived bearing limited help, commissioning decontamination droids to beat back the weed-like kholm-grass that now chokes Honoghr's remaining farmland. The maitrakh of clan Khim'bar agrees to protect Leia as her "thirdson" Khabarakh has promised, but insists that there is no way Leia can help, and that, for everyone's safety, she should depart. Leia agrees, and is about to... when Thrawn arrives to have Khabarakh arrested. Now trapped on-planet, Leia resolves to sway the Noghri from their bondage.
Mara helps Karrde set up their new base on Rishi while querying him about a conversation he had with Thrawn, in which Thrawn asked if Karrde had a lead on any spare warships. Karrde explains his connection to the eponymous "Dark Force," a fleet of two hundred Old Republic Dreadnaughts which were optimized with heavy automation, including the ability to "slave" the entire fleet's command & control circuits to its flagship Katana, in order to reduce the crew complements. Unfortunately, this demonstration of military might went awry when the entire fleet's crew caught a nasty virus that drove them all insane. The ships vaulted into hyperspace together and were never seen again... until Karrde, then a lowly navigator on a smuggling op gone wrong, all but tripped over them during a headlong retreat. To Karrde's own knowledge, he is the only person in the galaxy who knows their exact location, but he does not rule out the possibility that others of the crew might have figured it out independently. Mara suggests delivering the Katana Fleet to Thrawn to get him off their backs... especially after she runs into a bounty hunter trying to catch the lot of them, less than twenty-four hours after they made landfall. Only her unreliable Force talents allow her to escape with her life.
On New Cov, Luke is unexpectedly called upon to mediate a public dispute in his capacity as a Jedi Knight, while Han tails one of Fey'lya's aides. This takes him and Lando into the care of an unusual conspiracy, one that owns Katana-Fleet Dreadnaughts. Lando identifies the ships, but it's Han who makes their owner: the legendary Senator Garm Bel Iblis of Corellia, one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance alongside Mon Mothma and Bail Organa. Withdrawn from the Rebellion many years ago and believed dead, Iblis has been waging a private war against the Imperials. Han and Lando are mostly concerned with where he got the Katana Dreadnaughts, but they also take the time to set the record straight: Iblis withdrew from the Rebellion because he feared Mon Mothma would simply become another Emperor, and has not returned due to his wounded pride. Perhaps, Han suggests to him, he should reconsider that position.
Having helped Han, Lando and Iblis's organization escape from New Cov, Luke and Artoo set off for Jomark to meet Jedi Master Joruus C'boath. Luke is surprised by C'boath's erratic, sometimes violent behavior, and occasional bouts of racism towards non-Force-users; he does not at this time know that C'boath is in league with the Empire, but he does begin to question his sanity. Nonetheless, Luke resolves to learn from him, and to help heal his fractured psyche if possible.
Mara, on a routine shipping expedition, is detained by an Imperial Star Destroyer. With no other choice, she reveals herself as the Emperor's Hand and demands an audience with Thrawn. There, she declares her intention to rejoin the Empire, and uses the promise of the Katana Fleet to get Thrawn to clear the bounties on Karrde's organization. Thrawn agrees and sends her home to negotiate with Karrde... after having Captain Gilad Pellaeon plant a tracking device aboard her ship, so that he can simply seize Karrde directly. Mara, betrayed to her core and realizing that the Empire she once served is gone forever, turns around and goes straight to Jomark, where she begs Luke Skywalker for help in rescuing Karrde. He agrees, and, despite Thrawn's quick ability to analyze what's going on aboard his ship, the trio are able to escape aboard the Millenium Falcon, which Thrawn found in orbit of Endor and captured against a future need.
Leia continues her mission to either sway the Noghri from servitude or prove that the Empire is swindling them. As it happens, one proves the other: while she believes Khabarakh is the maitrakhh's "third son," he is actually her great-grandson, and the cataclysmic battle that ruined Honoghr happened during the Clone Wars, about twenty years before the Battle of Yavin. This spurs her suspicions about the kholm-grass, which Chewbacca is able to confirm. Before a convocation of the Dynasts of Honoghr, she is able to prove that the kholm-grass spreading over the world is actually a subtly-modified strain of same, which deliberately chokes the life out of all other crops. The Noghri, presented with this clear treachery from those they considered their friends and masters, vote almost unanimously to join the New Republic.
Han and Lando have been provided with the identity of Iblis's Dreadnaught contact by Iblis' aide Sena Leikvold Midanyl: his name is Hoffner, and he is indeed one of Karrde's former shipmates. Han and Lando attempt to prevent him from being taken into custody by the Empire, but thanks to the interference of Niles Ferrier, they fail. Fortunately Talon Karrde is waiting for them on Coruscant, already offering the New Republic a chance to gain custody of the fleet. Fey'lya, for reasons primarily pertaining to internal politics, delays the launch of the mission until the next morning; Karrde has Leia dispatch Luke, Han, Lando and Chewie in advance, as well as sending Mara to summon his own organization as backup. Luke, Han and Lando, with Rogue Squadron for escort, board one of the ships—the Katana herself, as it happens—and are just beginning to assess the needs of the salvage operation when Fey'lya's follow-up starship, the Quenfis, arrives with Leia and Karrde on board. To everyone's astonishment, Captain Virgilio orders the others to surrender immediately.
The situation becomes complicated by the arrival of the Star Destroyer Judicator, whose skipper Captain Brandei opens hostilities. While Wedge Antilles leads the Rogues to fly cover, Fey'lya orders Virgilio to retreat. Leia is appalled by his willingness to sacrifice her brother and husband to save his own skin, but Karrde helps her trick him into admitting the truth into an open com channel: as a politician, he cares about soldiers only insofar as they benefit him. Despite the image he has been cultivating of a man deeply concerned with the well-being of the Republic's military, he has absolutely no qualms about hanging them out to dry. Hearing this, Virgilio and the Quenfis turn around to take the battle to the Empire, while Fey'lya is confined to quarters.
Thrawn and Pellaeon receive an alert from Captain Brandei and set course for the Katana fleet. However, Joruus C'boath has hijacked a starship and is demanding an immediate audience. Thrawn, clearly frustrated, orders the Peremptory to assist instead. She is only one of the reinforcements that cascade into the battle, preceded by Karrde's smugglers and followed by Senator Iblis, whom Han "casually" invited to the fray. (Leia, a fellow senator, and Virgilio, a fellow Corellian, welcome Iblis with open arms.) Even the Katana herself gets involved, firing her turbolasers for the first (and last) time against the Imperials under Han's guidance. However, Brandei has already managed to land boarding parties aboard the Katana, and Luke and Han's small tech team are forced to fight a defensive engagement towards the bridge. Luke is also dealt a startling blow when Mara accidentally puts herself in the way of an ion cannon, wiping out all her electronics, including communications and life support. Frustrated, he, Han and Lando look for a way to end the battle quickly... and remember they are aboard the Katana. Only one of the remaining ships gets up to ramming speed, but only one is needed to neutralize the Peremptory. Brandei, shocked by the reversal and clearly outgunned, is forced to retreat.
In the aftermath, Thrawn, facing C'boath, is furious at the lost battle, but C'boath points out that, had the Chimaera gone, it might have been the one destroyed. He declares that he is taking over the Mount Tantiss operation and considers himself a co-ruler of the Empire. Luke is able to find Mara's disabled ejection seat and get her medical treatment, but while the battle was going on Karrde counted the remaining dreadnaughts and noticed that only fifteen were left; Thrawn's pockets were clearly deep enough to bribe Hoffner. And, worst of all, Leia has had the Imperial boarding party brought in for forensics, and discovered that they are all clones: "Somewhere, the Empire has found a set of Spaarti cloning cylinders." With Thrawn in possession of nearly two hundred new warships and the means to crew them, Luke observes that he has a really bad feeling about this...
- Luke Skywalker
- Han Solo
- Leia Organa Solo
- Grand Admiral Thrawn
- Captain Gilad Pellaeon
- Lando Calrissian
- Talon Karrde
- Mara Jade
- Senator Garm Bel Iblis
- Wedge Antilles
- Mon Mothma
- Borsk Fey'lya
- Admiral Ackbar
- Joruus C'baoth
- Khabarakh clan Kihm'bar
- Maitrakh clan Kihm'bar
- Niles Ferrier
|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Dark Force Rising. The list of authors can be seen in the . As with Lucasfilm Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.|