- "To defeat an enemy, you must know them. Not simply their battle tactics, but their history. Philosophy. Art."
Mitth'raw'nuruodo, born as Kivu'raw'nuru with the core name Vurawn, recognized in his early military career as Mitth'raw'nuru, and better known by his core name Thrawn, was a Chiss male officer of the Chiss Ascendancy and Grand Admiral in the Imperial Navy during the age of the Galactic Empire. An alien Imperial officer with striking blue skin, red eyes, and an angular face, Thrawn was well known as a brilliant and ruthless strategist. He believed that in order to achieve victory in war, one must know their enemy. As such, he dedicated himself to understanding the philosophy, art, and culture of his opponents, which included the Twi'leks of Ryloth and the warriors of Mandalore. When Governor Arihnda Pryce requested a strong commander capable of defeating the rebels on Lothal, Grand Admiral Thrawn accepted the challenge, intending to dismantle the rebellion one piece at a time.
Before joining the Imperial Military, Thrawn served with the Expansionary Defense Fleet of the Chiss Ascendancy. A native of the planet Rentor, located in the Unknown Regions of the galaxy, Thrawn served the Chiss Defense Force with both valor and controversy. Patriarchs Mitth'oor'akiord "Thooraki" and Stybla'mi'ovodo "Lamiov," leaders of the Chiss Mitth and Stybla families respectively, worked with General Ba'kif, founder of the Expansionary Fleet, to adopt Thrawn into the Mitth family and guide his career and training in the Fleet. Thooraki, Lamiov, and Ba'kif also worked together to guide Thrawn into a close friendship with Mitth'ras'safis "Thrass," a Chiss man whose political talents complemented Thrawn's analytical and strategic skills in warfare. Thrawn, who did not form friendships easily, grew close to Thrass, and in time the two came to regard each other as brothers. Thrawn went on to lead anti-piracy operations against a group of pirates known as the Vagaari, which saw the tragic death of Thrawn's brother Thrass.
Near the end of the Clone Wars, the warlike Grysk Hegemony began a plot to destroy the Chiss Ascendancy. First, they groomed and trained a Nikardun general named Yiv who ruled the Nikardun Destiny, an expansionist empire in the Unknown Regions. The Grysk agent Jixtus sent Yiv to conquer or intimidate the nations neighboring the Ascendancy to encirle the Chiss, who could not launch attacks on anyone who had not directly attacked the Ascendancy. Thrawn left his native Unknown Regions and traveled to known space to search for allies against Yiv. There, he encountered the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars and fought alongside Skywalker during a mission to Mokivj. Shortly thereafter, Thrawn was instrumental in defeating Yiv's fleet, leading to the demise of the Nikardun Destiny. Following Yiv's defeat, Jixtus dispatched a group of the telepathic Agbui species to manipulate Chiss officials of three of the Ascendancy's Great Families into starting a civil war in the Ascendancy. Thrawn was instrumental in defusing the Agbui plot above the planet Hoxim. After the Agbui's failure to instigate a civil war in the Ascendancy, Jixtus enlisted the service of the Kilji Illumine to undermine the Ascendancy from within and close nations to the Southeast of the Ascendancy from Chiss refugees who would survive the war he hoped to foment. Aware of the Grysk armada's superior firepower to the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet, Thrawn and his friends arranged for several allied nations to unite and defeat Jixtus's fleet in a climactic battle over Sunrise known as Senior Captain Thrawn's last stand.
Following the Galactic Republic's reorganization into the Galactic Empire, Thrawn offered his allegiance to Emperor Palpatine, having deemed an alliance with the new regime beneficial to his people. With the help of Cadet Eli Vanto, Thrawn assimilated into galactic society, becoming fluent in Galactic Basic Standard and ultimately graduating from the Royal Imperial Academy on Coruscant. His career in the Navy was highly successful; after a series of promotions, he received the rank of Grand Admiral from the Emperor himself.
At the height of his career, Grand Admiral Thrawn served as commanding officer of the 7th Fleet, the flagship of which was the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Chimaera. Deployed to the Lothal sector a few years after the start of the Galactic Civil War, Thrawn sought to defeat the rebels led by Captain Hera Syndulla. During his leadership of the 7th Fleet, Thrawn proposed and staunchly advocated for a new starfighter-bomber: the TIE Defender, which was to be initially manufactured on Lothal before being mass-produced throughout the galaxy. Following the battle of Atollon, the Emperor summoned Thrawn to his palace to undertake a mission with the Emperor's Sith apprentice Darth Vader, whom Thrawn once knew as the Jedi Anakin Skywalker. Palpatine considered Thrawn and Vader his two most useful servants and believed his mission would require the unique talents and knowledge of both men. In the ensuing mission, Thrawn's fleet worked with Vader's First Legion and ultimately rescued several Force-sensitive Chiss girls held captive by the warlike Grysk species. Soon thereafter, Thrawn took on a mission to defend the supply lines of Project Stardust from apparent losses to electronics-eating grallocs. The true culprits of the losses were the treasonous Grand Admiral Balanhai Savit and, separately, a force of Grysks seeking to conquer Imperial space and perhaps control the Death Star. After exposing Savit's treason and defeating that Grysk force, Thrawn resumed his task of eliminating Syndulla's rebel cell on Lothal. Syndulla's rebels confronted Thrawn's forces with the intention of liberating Lothal once and for all. During the battle, a flock of purrgil came to the aid of Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger and inflicted heavy damage on the Seventh Fleet. Thrawn was on the bridge of his command ship when the creatures surrounded the Chimaera and pulled it into hyperspace, taking both Thrawn and Bridger into the great unknown.
In the years following Thrawn's disappearance, the Emperor and Vader were killed at the Battle of Endor, the Empire was decisively beaten at the Battle of Jakku, and the Alliance to Restore the Republic was reorganized into the New Republic. In spite of Thrawn's vanishing years prior, former Jedi Ahsoka Tano was searching for Thrawn in 9 ABY, which led her to face Thrawn's protégée Morgan Elsbeth. Even in his absence, Thrawn's talents benefited the New Order. His knowledge of the Unknown Regions proved essential to Imperial remnants that retreated from the known galaxy, helping them survive in unexplored space where they eventually formed the First Order, a major part of Emperor Palpatine's Contingency plan.
- "I don't see any indication that his [Kivu] family has prepped him for military service."
"No, they haven't. It's a smaller family, without the resources or access the Mitth have for such things."
- ―Aristocra Thurfian and General Ba'kif discuss Vurawn's humble origins before his adoption to the Mitth
Mitth'raw'nuruodo, better known as Thrawn, was a Chiss male who hailed from the planet Rentor in the Unknown Regions, a dangerous and uncharted region of the galaxy. The Unknown Regions, known to its residents as "the Chaos," was a hazardous place to navigate due to supernovae, black holes, gravity wells, and stranger phenomena.
Born on Rentor in 59 BBY or later as Kivu'raw'nuru with the core name of "Vurawn," Thrawn was originally a member of the Kivu family, a small and poor family among the Chiss Ascendancy, a Chiss empire which controlled a portion of the Unknown Regions. He had a Force-sensitive older sister named Kivu'rik'ardok who was taken from his family to become a skywalker navigator when he was three years old and she was five. Because the Chiss lacked technology like navigation computers, and due to the dangerous nature of the Chaos, the Ascendancy used these Force-sensitives as navigators to move through the Unknown Regions. This power, known as Third Sight, typically only manifested in young Chiss girls and disappeared by the time they matured.
In school, Thrawn was taught the lie that the population of the Chiss homeworld and capital of Csilla was around 4 billion Chiss. Csilla had slowly frozen over thousands of years prior due to the decrease of the energy output of Csilla's star, forcing its population to move entirely underground. In reality, the majority of the population had moved to other planets, with Csilla remaining mostly empty of citizens. The remaining inhabitants on Csilla moved underground, which became the only part of the story that Chiss like Thrawn were taught. He eventually came to attend an academy on Rentor, where he attracted the attention of Mitth'oor'akiord, the Patriarch of the Mitth family commonly known as "Thooraki."
Thooraki pointed his friend Labaki, who rose to become a general under the name of Ba'kif, to take notice of Vurawn and point the Aristocra Mitth'urf'ianico "Thurfian" towards the student. General Ba'kif had recently created the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet when Thurfian visited Vurawn on Rentor. After Thurfian's visit, Vurawn was quickly accepted into the Mitth family as a merit adoptive, and gained the new name Mitth'raw'nuru, thus making his core name "Thrawn." Thrawn's adoption to the Mitth occurred around 39 BBY.
Journey to Naporar
- "You're a cadet, and you're going to be in the Defense Force. I don't know what I'm going to do."
"You're a ship captain's daughter. That will surely open many opportunities. But just because I know I'm going to the academy doesn't mean there aren't a great many unknowns."
- ―Sky-walker Al'iastov and entering cadet Thrawn discuss their futures en route to the Taharim Academy on Naporar
After his recruitment into the Mitth family, Thrawn was transferred to the Taharim Academy on Naporar, the planet from where much of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet was commanded rather than Csilla. Prior to his journey from Rentor to Naporar aboard the Tomra, Thrawn had never flown in space. Thrawn wanted to learn the map and the "feel" of the ship and ventured to a restricted area aboard the Tomra's bridge. There, he met a sad 13-year-old girl named Al'iastov. Unknown to Thrawn, Al'iastov was a sky-walker navigator nearing the expiration of her powers of Third Sight. The young girl was charged with navigating the Tomra to Naporar as a test of her retention of Third Sight, and required to tell any personnel not cleared to know of the existence of Chiss navigators that she was the captain's daughter.
Journeys within the Ascendancy were often used to test aging sky-walkers because travel within the Ascendancy was much safer than travel within the Chaos at large, and if the navigator failed and steered their starship in the wrong direction, the helm officer could easily and safely correct their course. Al'iastov was distraught at her failure to navigate to Naporar, but Thrawn comforted the young girl, telling her that a captain's daughter would have many possible career paths. Thrawn inspired her so deeply that she sought to be rematched to his Mitth family after retiring from the Sky-walker corps. Years later, Al'iastov had become a merit adoptive of the Mitth now named Mitth'ali'astov "Thalias" and sought to travel with Thrawn just to see him again.
Just as Thrawn cheered Al'iastov up on the Tomra, Junior Captain Vorlip reached the transport's bridge and admonished the new cadet for entering a restricted area. She tested Thrawn's instincts for the Tomra by blindfolding the young man, spinning him around so he would lose his balance, and then asking him to point in the direction of the ship's bow. Thrawn correctly identified the direction despite it being his first spaceflight, impressing Vorlip. She dismissed him, telling him to be certain he had clearance before entering restricted areas in the future. As he departed, Vorlip confided in Al'iastov that it took her over a dozen journeys in space to acquire such a sense of direction. Nevertheless, the Captain demerited Thrawn with 50 down-marks for accessing a restricted area. It would take Thrawn three months to work off the demerits after arriving at the Academy.
Meeting Thrass on Avidich
- "How long are you staying on Avidich?"
"Just the one night. I was given special dispensation to come here, and I can't afford to be away any longer than necessary."
"Sounds rather petty to me, coming all the way here only to turn around and hurry back. What would extending your leave an extra day really cost? Two downmarks? Three? We could probably even get them canceled."
"I appreciate the offer. But since I'm already working off fifty, I don't think—"
"Fifty? What in the world did you do?"
- ―Aristocra Mitth'ras'safis "Thrass" and Cadet Thrawn at Thrawn's rematching dinner
Just after being taken to the Taharim Academy on Naporar, Thrawn was taken to a rematching dinner at the Mitth family compound on Avidich for orientation. Unknown to those around him, Thrawn felt deep pain at the loss of his older sister Kivu'rik'ardok, whose starday it was and whom he believe had died when he was three years old.
Thrawn was greeted by an Aristocra named Mitth'ras'safis "Thrass" who held the rank of Cousin within the Mitth family. Unbeknownst to either Thrawn or Thrass at the time, Patriarchs Thooraki of the Mitth and Stybla'mi'ovodo "Lamiov" of the Stybla family planned to unite Thrawn and Thrass in close friendship. They and Ba'kif, a Stybla known as Labaki until his promotion to flag rank, had seen Thrawn's great talents at combat and Thrass' political acumen; and wished to bring the two young men together to complement one-another. They believed the duo would bring the Mitth family to new heights and reinforce a millennia-old quiet friendship between the Mitth and Stybla families.
Most merit adoptives adopted upon joining the Expansionary Defense Fleet attended their formal welcoming to the Mitth family on Avidich before going to Naporar. However, an exception had been made for Thrawn, leading Thrass to surmise that a high-ranking family official had wished for Thrawn to join the Fleet as quickly as possible. Thrawn impressed Thrass to the point of disbelief by identifying that several of the Mitth family artworks present in the compound were created by a female artist who had recently suffered a great personal loss in her family. Indeed, the works in question were produced by the historical Mitth Patriarch Mitth'omo'rossodo "the Tragic," a woman all four of whose sons had died in battle at the Final Assault on Csilla not long before she painted her last artwork. Thrass could sense a deep personal loss in Thrawn's past, but could not discern what secrets lied behind the eyes of his new acquaintance.
Thrawn left Thrass to eat at the rematching dinner and perform the ceremony. Thrass continued to observe Thrawn through the rest of the rematching dinner, watching Thrawn draw back from social interactions, mainly speak when spoken to, and observe everything around him. Thrass decided to converse more with the young cadet Thrawn, who seemed uncomfortable. Understanding Thrawn's interest in art, Thrass offered to show the cadet the large collection of artwork available at the compound on Avidich. Aristocra Thrass asked Thrawn how long he would stay on Avidich, to which Thrawn replied that he had only been permitted to stay on Avidich for one night. Thrass sought to extend Thrawn's time on the planet, predicting that Thrawn would only receive two or three downmarks for staying longer, and insisting that the Mitth family could have the downmarks waived. However, Thrawn informed Thrass that he had already accrued fifty downmarks, leading Thrass to question how Thrawn could have possibly earned so many demerits. Thrawn was surprised he had even been allowed to travel to Avidich at that time rather than waiting a few weeks, but Thrass pointed out the political concerns that had enabled Thrawn's presence that night: Avidich's Irizi family Patriel was present at the rematching dinner. The Irizi family was rivaled to the Mitth, and had a goal of dominating the Ascendancy military including Ba'kif's new Expansionary Defense Fleet. Mitth family Patriarch Thooraki wished to show off three military rematches to the Irizi rather than two, and had thus appealed to Colonel Wevary, Taharim Academy's leader, to allow Thrawn a one-day travel pass to Avidich. Understanding that Thrawn had to return to Naporar soon, Thrass offered to show Thrawn the Patriel's art collection, and described the art gallery at the Mitth family homestead on Csilla as even grander. Thrawn declined Thrass' offer, but said he'd like to examine art with the Aristocra someday.
Cadet at Taharim Academy
As a student at Taharim Academy, Thrawn consistently scored among the top of his class. Eventually, Thrawn was accused of cheating on a combat simulation exam proctored by Senior Cadet Irizi'ar'alani "Ziara," who was three years older than him. Thrawn scored much higher on that exam than anyone in the history of Taharim Academy, leading to the allegations. In reality, Thrawn was innocent, having invented a stealth maneuver during the simulation which led to his exceptional score. However, the simulation could not be repeated with the same parameters, so Thrawn could not establish his innocence. Resigned to a fate of expulsion from the Academy, Thrawn was given a chance by Ziara, who called in General Ba'kif to intervene on Thrawn's behalf. Ba'kif proposed that, if Thrawn could not establish his innocence through a simulation, a combat exercise with the same parameters should suffice. Indeed, Thrawn successfully executed his evasive maneuver in the ensuing exercise, establishing his innocence and displaying his strategic talents.
Thrawn invited Ziara to a night out to celebrate his acquittal. She expected music and alcohol, but Thrawn took her to an art gallery to analyze alien art and learn their military tactics. Thrawn took the opportunity to tutor Ziara in analyzing art for tactical information. Eventually, Ziara insisted she was a practical person and invited him to her quarters to examine her sculptures. Thereafter, she challenged him to defeat her in combat with soft-coat sticks based on what he could glean from her art. Indeed, he defeated her in the sparring match at a dojo, impressing her. Thrawn caused Ziara to blush when he correctly inferred that she had too much honor to play "dirty tricks" on an opponent and told her his inference.
As a junior officer
Young Lieutenant Thrawn
- "I want to hear more about this Junior Commander Ziara who single-handedly saved your career."
"It wasn't quite like that."
"Then tell me exactly how it was. Because when I tell the story later to prove to people why the Mitth are the finest of the Ruling Families, I want to get all the details right."
"What if the details don't support that slightly biased conclusion?"
"Oh, I'm sure they will. Really, the only thing that will change about the story is how smug I let myself sound when I tell it."
- ―Having recognized his friendship with Thrawn, Thrass proceeded to ask the recently-graduated lieutenant how Ziara had saved his career
Two years after being rematched into the Mitth family, around 37 BBY, Thrawn graduated from Taharim Academy with a lieutenant's commission in the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet. Aristocra Thrass had kept tabs on Thrawn's progress as a Taharim Academy cadet, but had not seen him since their rematching dinner. However, Patriarch Thooraki summoned Thrass to his office to travel to Naporar and convince Thrawn to remain with the Mitth instead of joining the Stybla family as a Trial-born, which would be a promotion from his current rank as a Mitth family merit adoptive. At the time, Thrass was surprised to be called before the Patriarch for such a seemingly trivial task. However, Patriarchs Thooraki and Lamiov secretly arranged for a scenario where Thrass would have to declare his friendship with Thrawn or Thrawn would be offered rematching as a Stybla Trial-born.
Thrass traveled from Csilla to Naporar, where he arranged to meet Thrawn for lunch at a bistro. Thrass arrived ten minutes before Thrawn. Eight minutes after Thrass sat down, a strange man showed up uninvited and sat across from Thrass. The strange Chiss surprised Thrass by knowing his name. When asked, the stranger introduced himself as Stybla'ppin'cykok "Lappincyk," Senior Aide to Stybla Patriarch Lamiov, and impressed Thrass with his knowledge of the successes and workings of the Mitth family. Lappincyk informed Thrass that he would be extending Thrawn an offer of rematching to the Stybla and challenged Thrass to outperform that offer. Having been tasked by Patriarch Thooraki with retaining Thrawn as a Mitth, Thrass insisted that the Stybla merely saw Thrawn as a shiny new piece in a game of family glory and politics. Lappincyk riposted by questioning whether the Mitth saw more than that in Thrawn. Thrass retorted that he did not know what the Mitth family saw in Thrawn, but declared that he saw Thrawn as his friend, in the process admitting it to himself. Lappincyk remarked that Thrass' pronouncement of Thrawn as his friend was interesting.
Just after Thrass declared his friendship with Thrawn, the young lieutenant arrived and sat down. Just as Thrawn had predicted, he joined Thrass precisely ten minutes after the Aristocra. Thrawn thanked Thrass for working around his schedule as a lieutenant in the Expansionary Defense Fleet, before declaring to Lappincyk that he did not believe they had met before. Lappincyk introduced himself to Thrawn, and Thrass expected the Senior Aide to follow up with the an offer of rematching as a merit adoptive of the Stybla. To Thrass' surprise, the Stybla official instead told the lieutenant that he was just leaving, and bade the two friends to enjoy their meal. Unbeknownst to either Thrass or Thrawn at the time, the encounter between Thrass and Lappincyk had been a test concocted by Patriarchs Lamiov and Thooraki to see whether Thrass would admit his friendship with Thrawn. The Patriarchs had been coordinating to bring Thrass and Thrawn together as close friends, seeing the young men as possessing a powerful combination of political, military, tactical, and strategic skills which could elevate the Mitth to new heights. If Thrass had not declared his friendship with Thrawn, the Stybla would indeed have extended their rematching offer to Thrawn.
Unaware of the Patriarchs' plot to unite the two Mitth in close friendship, Thrass was perplexed by Senior Aide Lappincyk's behavior. However, Thrass considered the depth of politicking which Lappincyk had been conducting beyond his position or skill at the time. Thrass relented, deciding to merely enjoy lunch with his friend Thrawn. The Aristocra asked the lieutenant to tell him all about Ziara, by then a Junior Commander, having heard that Ziara single-handedly saved Thrawn's career during his allegations of cheating at Taharim Academy. Thrawn demurred, protesting mildly that that was not quite how the events unraveled, leading Thrass to ask his friend for the exact specifics. Thrass told Thrawn he would retell the story later as a means of proving that the Mitth was the finest of the Ascendancy's Ruling Families, and he wished to have all the details correct. Thrawn noted the bias of Thrass' conclusion, asking what if the details did not support the Aristocra's goal of demonstrating the supreme fineness of the Mitth. Thrass dismissed Thrawn's hypothetical stipulation, insisting the details would indeed support his goal. Thrass told his friend that the only thing that would change about the story is how smug he would allow himself to sound while recounting it.
Junior Commander Thrawn
Hunting for pirates
- "I believe I'll be able to make it clear which ships are enemies and which are friends."
"I'll settle for which are enemies and which are neutrals. The Ascendancy has barely even acknowledged the existence of others out there, let alone shown any interest in pursuing friendships with any of them."
"Enemies and neutrals, then. If I can't make a clear distinction, I'll take no action."
- ―Junior Commander Thrawn and General Ba'kif
As a Chiss officer, Thrawn rose through the ranks to become a well-respected member of the Ascendancy, but he was only truly liked by those who worked beside him or believed in the stories they heard of his genius. Aside from those colleagues and those in the Mitth family who loved the glory his actions tended to lend to their family, despite familial glory never being Thrawn's goal, he faced a great deal of opposition from other members of the military and some politicians for his unorthodox methods. In fact, Thrawn noted to himself his fellow Chiss were never able to understand the answers and information he could gleam from artwork. Nonetheless, he would continue to receive briefings for the Expansionary Defense Fleet at its complex on Naporar.
In order to keep their own Force-sensitive sky-walker corps a secret from the rest of the Unknown Regions, the Chiss also hired the services of Pathfinder navigators from the Navigators' Guild. During Thrawn's service as a Junior Commander serving as a pilot aboard a Chiss diplomatic cruiser, the Chiss had been faced with pirates attacking their shipping freighters in the outer reaches of their territory, off Pesfavri and Schesa, for several months. Concurrently, the diplomatic ship was tasked with heading to the planet Bardram Scoft to meet the new Prefect of the Scoftic government, given that their previous Prefect had been assassinated. To reach Bardram Scoft, the ship stopped at Guild Concourse 447, where they hired Pathfinder Qilori of Uandualon to lead them through hyperspace. Thanks to Qilori, the ship arrived at Bardram Scoft several minutes ahead of the captain's schedule.
Once they arrived at the planet, Qilori came out of his navigational trance, and he and Thrawn were the only people present on the bridge. When asked where the rest of the crew was, Thrawn explained the ambassador was being prepared and that, in line with Scofti culture, the highest-ranking military officer needed to join them. He also explained that their ambassador would need to learn the protocols of the new Prefect, explaining that the previous holder of the title had been assassinated. Calmly informing Qilori that such actions were not uncommon in Scofti culture, Thrawn noticed a ship out the viewport belonging to another nation. When Qilori guessed it to be a Lioaoin ship, Thrawn explained it resembled the pirate crafts that had been attacking Chiss shipping freighters. Although Qilori had heard rumors that the Lioaoin Regime had turned to piracy to save its economy, the Guild's rules about neutrality prevented him from informing Thrawn. The Junior Commander instead suggested the pirates could have bought their starships from a local manufacturer also used by the Regime.
After Qilori confirmed he had traveled to Lioaoin space before, Thrawn asked him if he could travel there from Chiss space or elsewhere, such as from Bardram Scoft. Qilori said he could, and asked Thrawn if he wanted to travel to Lioaoin space at present. Thrawn confirmed they were not presently heading into Lioaoin space, learned Qilori's name, and learned that he was mostly based at Concourse 447. The Junior Commander then proposed that they could work together again in the future and introduced himself as Thrawn, stating he would specifically seek out Qilori's service. The Pathfinder rued the idea but lied to Thrawn by saying the prospect sounded wonderful. Unbeknownst to the Pathfinder, Thrawn had correctly become convinced the pirates were connected to the Lioaoin Regime. Furthermore, the Junior Commander also inferred that Qilori suspected or knew that too, because a secret of such gravity would be hard to keep from the Navigators' Guild.
After meeting Qilori, Thrawn researched the Pathfinders and uncovered a deeply held secret: that they could track each-other through hyperspace. Armed with this knowledge, he proposed a response to the pirate attacks to General Ba'kif. During their meeting, Thrawn argued that the pirate and Lioaoin ships had notable similarities, but he suggested they attack the pirates alone instead of assaulting the Lioaoin Regime. Ba'kif reminded Thrawn of the Ascendancy's strict preemptive-strike laws, which forbade military action against anyone except forces known to have previously attacked the Chiss. Despite believing he would be able to distinguish enemy and neutral ships, Thrawn nevertheless promised he would take no action if he could not make such a distinction. Ba'kif feared Thrawn may be overconfident and that such self-certainty could backfire. Nevertheless, the general understood that continued pirate attacks made the Ascendancy look weak to other nations of the Chaos, so he approved the Junior Commander's request for three ships, in part as a deterrent.
The Skirmish at Kinoss
- «If they suspect you're hunting pirates—»
«You think they only suspect? Yes; point taken. Let's remove any lingering doubts.»
- ―Navigator Qilori and Junior Commander Thrawn
Once his mission was approved, Thrawn hired Qilori and traveled to the Lioaoin heartworld aboard a freighter with the Pathfinder. Unknown to Qilori, another Chiss ship arrived as well, which was also guided by a member of the Navigators' Guild. Upon seeing Lioaoin patrol ships, Thrawn was confident their design was similar enough to the pirate craft to confirm his theory, though Qilori did not see the connection. Though their freighter was already too deep in the heartworld's gravity well to escape through hyperspace, Thrawn piloted the ship even further in to get a closer look. Such a path took their freighter closer to two patrol ships stationed at a repair center. Thrawn believed the ship in the repair center had recently raided the Massoss system. Qilori protested, citing the potential outbreak of danger if the Regime was involved with the pirates, though his comment only served to make Thrawn question if he knew for certain that they were. After he denied knowing anything, Qilori again asked to leave, as he knew Pathfinders on the Lioaoin corsairs could track him through hyperspace. Instead, Thrawn decided to remove any doubt among their foes that they were pursuing pirates. To the horror of Qilori, the Junior Commander sent out a transmission in a trade language known to the Lioaoi, confirming that he had found the pirates and ordering the second Chiss ship to flee.
After revealing the existence of the second craft to Qilori, Thrawn began to pilot their ship away with its thrusters on full. Thrawn slipped past a potential trap and ordered Qilori to take them to the Kinoss system, where couriers could take their report to Naporar and Csilla. Qilori worried greatly that the Pathfinders aboard the Lioaoin craft could still track him through hyperspace, believing both fleeing Chiss vessels would be destroyed. However, such pursuit was exactly what Thrawn hoped for, as he believed the Lioaoin pirates used Pathfinders as well and had set a trap for their pursuers. During their journey, Qilori received visions of the pursuing ships, forcing him to revert to realspace on two occasions to regain his connection to the Force. During those pauses, the Junior Commander remained silent. Shortly after they had arrived in the Kinoss system, four Lioaoin corsairs emerged from hyperspace, fulfilling Thrawn's plan. Thrawn then revealed his knowledge of Pathfinders' ability to track each other through hyperspace, which Qilori denied. Unconvinced by the navigator's lie, Thrawn explained that the Pathfinders' "style" had been a part of the latest pirate attack, and that he hoped to bait those pirates at the heartworld before their hired Pathfinders returned to their base stations. Shortly thereafter, the four enemy ships were confronted by a cruiser under the command of Thrawn's colleague Mid Captain Ziara. Ziara suggested Thrawn and Qilori continue on their present path so they could have the best possible view of the pirates' ensuing destruction. That skirmish would come to mark the start of the Ascendancy's Lioaoin pirate campaign.
As a Senior Commander
The Stivic incident
- "I can see it all. Their tactics, their patterns, their weaknesses. I could tell you right here, right now, how to beat them."
- ―Senior Commander Thrawn to Senior Captain Ziara
Following the skirmish in the Kinoss system, General Ba'kif promoted Thrawn two ranks, from Junior Commander to Senior Commander. The general also promoted Ziara to Senior Captain for her involvement. The year following the skirmish at Kinoss, Senior Commander Thrawn served as fourth officer aboard the patrol cruiser Parala commanded by Senior Captain Ziara. The Parala received a distress call from Security officer Frangelic on the Garwian colony world of Stivic, a trade hub for the local species of the Unknown Regions. Stivic and its orbital merchant-hub were under attack by Lioaoin pirates, just as the pirates had attacked the Chiss. The Parala's second officer Mid Captain Clarr'os'culry "Roscu" acted indifferently, though she mused that the merchant-hub had been home to good cafés which she would regret to see destroyed. Thrawn implored Ar'alani to bring the Parala to bear to aid in the Garwians' defense. The Captain was tempted to do so, but understood that such intervention would be a violation of the Ascendancy's non-aggression laws and mean the end of her career.
The Expansionary Defense Fleet was, however, permitted to provide humanitarian aid to other nations. Moreover, part of its mandate upon creation was to assess threats to the Ascendancy beyond its borders. Ziara commanded her bridge crew to bring them out of hyperspace to observe the skirmish underway at Stivic, justifying the excursion on the grounds that these were the same Lioaoin pirates whom she had engaged at Kinoss the previous year. By that reasoning, observing the pirate raid would be a form of threat assessment and well within the Expansionary Fleet's purview.
Senior Commander Thrawn recognized the weaknesses and tactical blind spots of the attacking Lioaoin corsairs in a deep manner which few others could replicate or even understand. He insisted that he could tell Ar'alani how to defeat the Lioaoi with no damage sustained to the Parala. The Captain steadfastly refused to engage the attackers, but permitted Thrawn to "calibrate" the Parala's ranging lasers. There, Thrawn sent the local Garwians a message encoded in modulated laserfire detailing the weaknesses of the attacking Lioaoin ships. The Parala's officers witnessed the battle's tide turn, and only Ziara knew that Thrawn was behind the Garwians' upset victory. Nevertheless, Ziara told her first officer Roscu that she should feel relieved, as the cafés aboard the merchant-hub station had been saved.
Aftermath of Stivic
- "[Syndic Thurfian] thinks someone aboard the [Parala] pulled some kind of scam. Illegally fed assistance and information to a merchant-hub station at some alien planet."
- ―A Mitth Syndic told Thrass about Thurfian's suspicions about Thrawn's actions at Stivic
Following the Stivic incident, Mid Captain Roscu filed a disciplinary report with the Defense Hierarchy Council alleging that Thrawn and Ziara had violated the Ascendancy's non-intervention policy. Furthermore, she involved the Speaker for her Clarr family, leading the Syndicure to become involved in what would otherwise be a solely military matter. In response to Roscu involving the Clarr in the inquiry, Syndic Thurfian chose to involve the Mitth family.
General Ba'kif defended Thrawn and Ziara's actions, leading Roscu to believe they were granted unfair favoritism within the Ascendancy military. One month after the incident, Roscu was brought up on charges for a minor protocol infraction and no-one came to her defense. The Expansionary Defense Fleet gave Roscu the choice between official discipline or quiet departure, leading her to join the Clarr family fleet and harbor a long-standing grudge against Thrawn and Ziara.
Four months after the pirate attack at Stivic, the Parala's officers were debriefed on Csilla to make their testimonies to the Council at the Defense Force HQ. Among those called to testify was Thrawn. Contemporaneously, Thrass was promoted to the rank of Syndic. As the newest Mitth family representative in the Syndicure, Thrass was assigned some of the more menial tasks by more senior Syndics. By that time, Thurfian was one of a few Mitth Syndics who oversaw the operations of the Chiss Defense Force and Expansionary Defense Fleet. Thurfian had acquired a data cylinder containing part of the Parala's autolog record of the Stivic incident, which he assigned to Thrass to analyze. While the Mitth Syndics employed technicians specialized at analyzing such data, Thurfian wished for no-one outside the Mitth Syndics to know he possessed or read the data.
A female Syndic told Thrass that Thurfian wished for him to find a record of someone on the Parala "pulling a scam" and intervening in alien affairs on the data cylinder. At that point, Thrass recalled the Stivic incident and realized that Thurfian wished to uncover evidence of whether Thrawn had performed misconduct. Thrass surmised that Thrawn had gotten himself into major trouble over the incident, and Ziara sought to save him from the consequences, leading both to be featured prominently in the report. While Chiss families normally and officially always protected their own, abiding by the maxim "family sides with family," Thrass believed that Thurfian's animosity toward Thrawn outweighed his loyalty to the Mitth family. In spite of Syndic Thurfian's aversion to Thrawn, Thrass was unsure whether the senior Syndic wished him to indict or vindicate the Senior Commander. However, Thrass realized Thurfian's goal vis-a-vis Thrawn was secondary to the task he had been assigned: to find the truth of what had happened at Stivic.
The Parala's records of the ranging laser's modulated laserfire from the incident showcased rapid fluctuations, as Mid Captain Roscu had alleged. Thrass read in the log that the Garwians had first hailed the Parala's Chiss crew in Minnisiat. The young Syndic then proceeded to analyze the pattern of frequency fluctuations against known encryptions and in various languages; beginning with the primary Chiss language Cheunh and following with the trade languages Taarja and Sy Bisti. The frequency modulations did not match any known conversational pattern in those languages. Thrass purposely left Minnisiat toward the end of the list of languages to analyze, buying time to find evidence that could bring the entire frequency modulation into question as an intentionally transmitted signal.
While Thrass' cryptographic and linguistic analyses ran, the new Syndic uncovered the evidence he sought to cast doubt on the laser frequency data being a message. Thrass noticed that the laser's modulator disk had been replaced shortly after the incident. Such modulators were known to malfunction on occasion, leading to small, rapid frequency shifts such as those experienced in the Parala's records. In his report to Syndic Thurfian, Syndic Thrass concluded that the modulator disk's replacement shortly after the events above Stivic strongly suggested the Parala's prior modulator had suffered from that malfunction. However, the replaced modulator was since sent to a recycler for materials recovery, so it would impossible to conclude for certain whether it had experienced that malfunction. Furthermore, the log of the part's replacement would only list the date and time, but not the person who performed the fix or the reason for its replacement.
Called into Thurfian's office to present his conclusions, Thrass reported as much to Syndic Thurfian. The younger Syndic adding that he found anything suspicious about the frequency modulation to largely be a product of Roscu's imagination. Thurfian responded by asking why the records did not include who replaced the parts or why. Thrass explained that the Defense Hierarchy Council had decided that such meticulous details would clog up the records and make it harder to search for anything meaningful. Thrass' explanation was intended to bait Thurfian into making a personal attack on Thrass, at which it succeeded. Syndic Thurfian angrily retorted that the matter at hand was meaningful, leading Thrass to apologize for his inexact word choice. Thurfian then chided Thrass for his "verbal sloppiness," threatening the new Syndic with demotion if he could not learn to better curate his wording. Having drawn Thurfian into ad hominem attacks on himself, Thrass concluded that the older Syndic had given up on his original goal of indicting Thrawn.
Thrass turned to leave Thurfian's office, but Thurfian had not yet given up on indicting Thrawn based on the incident. The older Syndic asked Thrass whether Thrawn might have been the person to replace the modulator disk. Thrass added puzzlement to his voice as he expressed doubt that a bridge officer would do such a thing. Thurfian noted that Thrawn had been in the relevant section of the Parala while the frequency modulation occurred, but Thrass explained that the repairs had been conducted fourteen hours after the vessel returned to hyperspace, at which point Thrawn was serving as the duty officer on the Parala's bridge. Thurfian then dismissed Thrass from his office.
Following his report to Syndic Thurfian, Thrass reflected that he had told the truth about his findings, though he had added a slant to advance his goal of protecting his friend Thrawn. Thrass was thankful that Thurfian had not questioned whether the replacement was necessarily performed at the time it was logged, whether Thrass had checked the transmission against all the best-known trade languages used in the region of Stivic, or whether someone might have arranged for the modulator disk to be replaced to protect Thrawn. It then occurred to Thrass that Thurfian's antagonism to Thrawn compromised the older Syndic's loyalty to the Mitth family. He then wondered whether his friendship with Thrawn might compromise his family loyalty as well. Ultimately, Thrass concluded that friendship and kinship were the basis of a family, and without those connections, the structure of Chiss families would collapse into individuals opportunistically attacking one-another for personal gain. Furthermore, he thought of Patriarch Thooraki's words to him, to show Thrawn that the friendship of the Mitth was worth having. The Patriarch saw great potential in Thrawn to raise the Mitth to great heights of power and prestige, leading Thrass to conclude he had been right to protect his friend. Thrass then realized that Thrawn should have finished his testimony to the Council half an hour ago, and sought to grab lunch with Thrawn at a café before each had to return to their duties.
Hijinks at a board game café
- "Theatrics have their uses in any profession. In moderation, of course."
- ―Syndic Thrass taught Thrawn a lesson about theatrics; applied to life, politics, and warfare
During Thrawn's service in the Expansionary Defense Fleet and Thrass' tenure in the Syndicure, the two friends met at times for meals and board games, such as the game Tactica. Tactica was a game of strategy that involved pieces in the likeness of groundlions, whisperbird, and firewolves; animals known to the Chiss; some of which shared names with models of man-of-war capital ships used by the Ascendancy.
During one meeting at a game café, the two Mitth friends drew analogies between the strategic aspects of Tactica and their careers in the Syndicure and the Expansionary Fleet. Thrawn had been teaching Thrass the game for eight weeks, consistently defeating his friend even as Thrass' skills improved. Thrass remarked that Tactica played to all of Thrawn's strengths and against his own, calling himself a "foolish syndic." Thrawn rebutted his friend, musing that strategy and tactics were the "basic tools of the trade" in the Syndicure. Thrass agreed that those skills mattered, but opined that "verbal skills" and "basic theatrics" were more important to the work of the Syndicure.
Thrawn coached Thrass on Tactica strategy, reminding his friend to have a fallback strategy in case his main strategy should fail. Thrass declared that he knew that he should do so, but failed to call his backup strategy when needed. The Syndic declared his enjoyment for Tactica and thanked the Defense Fleet officer for teaching him the game. Thrawn confirmed that he knew Thrass liked the game, leading Thrass to quip that he was never quite sure whether Thrawn succeeded in picking up nuances and subtexts in what people said. Thrawn admitted to having problems in that area, musing that perhaps that was why he was in the Expansionary Defense Fleet while Thrass served in the Syndicure. Thrawn suggested that there was little need for subtext and theatrics within the Fleet, but Thrass rebuffed his friend, arguing that theatrics could be employed in any profession. Just then, the two Mitth friends witnessed a con that served as a pretext for a robbery.
At that moment, a man named Jaraki feigned a heart attack. A man and a woman at Jaraki's table called for help, with the man punching an emergency key on his comm unit while the woman called verbally to the cashier for help. The cashier came toward Jaraki with an emergency first-aid kit. In the meantime, Thrawn noticed that Jaraki had been at a table with three other people, but one of the four had gone missing. Thrass searched the café for signs of the fourth man when he noticed a man stealing from the charge register. The Syndic informed the military officer that a theft was in progress and Jaraki's heart attack was a diversion. Thrass got up from their table to block the thieves' access to the exit, and decided to demonstrate to his friend how to employ theatrics to redirect people's attention. Thrass called to the robber, identifying him as "Pontriss," and asked if he had a spare jector that could be used to help Jaraki. In doing so, Thrass drew all eyes to the thief, preventing Pontriss from continuing his heist. While Thrass blocked Pontriss' possible escape vector, Thrawn likewise took a position to block the three people including Jaraki from running.
When Pontriss pulled a knife to attack Thrass, the Syndic prepared to use a chair as a shield. However, Thrawn beat Jaraki down to the floor, and Pontriss saw his accomplice who had feigned illness thoroughly beaten and decided to back down from a fight. Having defused the theft, Thrass asked the other café patrons to call the authorities to arrest the thieves and return the money. The café's manager rewarded Thrawn and Thrass with a platter of free food as thanks for foiling the roberry.
Thrass asked Thrawn whether the young officer had learned to "introduce someone to the floor" through his Fleet training or taught himself. Thrawn replied that he had learned the basics of hand-to-hand combat at the Academy, but had generalized what he learned and created more advanced techniques of his own. Thrawn proceeded to compliment Thrass on his command of theatrics to thwart the theft. The two friends continued their game, with Thrawn teaching Thrass about the backup option of a sortie if a player's main strategy failed. Thrawn complimented Thrass on his increasing skills at the game, informing his friend that at the rate of his game improvement, he would soon have to rescind the "spotting advantage" he had been granting Thrass. Thrass, unaware that Thrawn had been strategically handicapping himself, asked to what spotting advantage Thrawn referred; to which Thrawn replied that he had been playig the game left-handed, a huge tactical sacrifice. Thrass suggested that Thrawn was mocking him at the notion, but Thrawn replied that he was simply "employing controlled confusion as a diversion," as Thrass had just shown defusing the attempted robbery.
Rescuing a luxury liner
- "Thank you for your assistance, Senior Captain Ziara. Without you, the liner would indeed have been lost."
"Thank you in turn for your quick thinking. A word of warning, though. If I were you, I wouldn't expect a lot of thanks from anyone else."
- ―Thrawn and Ziara
Sometime following the Stivic incident, Thrawn was given his first command: the patrol ship Boco. Eventually, the Boco answered a distress call from an excursion liner owned by the Chiss Boadil family. The craft, which had eight-thousand people aboard, had begun crashing into the upper atmosphere of a triple-ringed gas giant planet. Notably, the imperiled craft had luxury suites for its wealthiest passengers on its port and starboard wings. The liner had descended too far into the planet's magnetic bands and radiation for the passengers and crew to be able use the vessel's escape pods, and the ship's thrusters had failed as well. Despite the major difference in mass, Thrawn's patrol ship activated its tractor beams to try to pull the liner out, creating a smaller wake several hundred meters in front of the liner as the Boco strained and failed to stabilize the Boadil-owned ship. Thrawn sent an emergency message to Ziara. Although Ziara's journey through hyperspace took two hours and communication was impossible whilst in hyperspace, the Parala arrived in time for Thrawn to contact Ziara and ask her to join the Boco off the falling ship's bow.
Although she gave the order to her helm, Ziara informed Thrawn that the combined power of both their ships would not be enough to overcome the planet's gravity and rescue the liner. Thrawn updated her on the status of the derelict ship, informing his colleague that all the people aboard the doomed ship were gathered in the central cylinder behind still-functioning shielding, that no other aid was coming, and that they had little time to act. Once the Parala was parallel to the Boco and had activated its tractor beams, Thrawn ordered his ship to drop its tractor beams and move towards the liner. The Boco fired its spectrum lasers upon the liner's portside and starboard wings, lightening its mass. Some of Ziara's officers bristled in the belief that Thrawn was attacking the liner they were charged with rescuing. Ziara, however, understood Thrawn's plan as it unfolded. As soon as the Boco shot the liner's starboard wing off, Ziara orcered her Parala to use emergency power to strengthen its tractor beam. As the suddenly lighter liner finally started to be pulled free from the planet thanks to the Parala's tractor beam, the Boco returned to the side of Ziara's ship, reactivating its tractor beam and thrusters to help. Over the course of fifteen minutes, the liner was pulled out of the planet's atmosphere and gravity well, into safety. With all eight-thousand people aboard safe, Thrawn contacted Ziara to thank her, and Ziara returned the favor by thanking his quick thinking. However, the Senior Captain made sure to warn the Commander that, with the fancy suites of the wings destroyed in the atmosphere, he would soon encounter opposition, as the wealthier passengers had likely lost many of their expensive possessions in the rescue.
Learning the truth of Csilla
- "What's happened to our capital, Ziara?"
- ―Thrawn, to Ziara
Having committed a controversial act that was not in the military's purview, as it mainly involved civilian affairs, Thrawn was summoned to a high-level hearing on Csilla. The Senior Commander was accompanied by Ziara, to whom he admitted that he had never been to their species' homeworld as their shuttle descended. Ziara attempted to ease his worries, noting that he held a political advantage because passengers they had saved included Aristocra from at least five Ruling Families apart from the Boadil. Even so, Thrawn admitted his hopes that his hearing would not become so politicized. As they descended to Csilla's icy surface, Thrawn asked if the city they were approaching was Csaplar, the capital city of the Ascendancy. The Senior Captain confirmed it was, declaring that Csaplar had once been a center of culture. Thrawn was unaware that Csaplar and Csilla had become sparsely populated and stated in confusion that a city with a population of seven million should certainly be able to support both the arts and the Ascendancy's government. Unbeknownst to Senior Commander Thrawn, the official population figure of seven million was vastly inflated. Ziara promised herself that she would tell Thrawn the truth about Csilla once out of earshot of others. Upon arrival to Csaplar's southwestern spaceport, Ziara and Thrawn took a tunnel car to the Fleet headquarters.
Thrawn's hearing proved brief and perfunctory. The Boadil representative demanded Thrawn be punished and possibly even removed from the Fleet. However, representatives of three families whose members Thrawn had saved were also present; arguing that Thrawn should be commended and promoted. The claims and counterclaims of the Aristocra balanced out, leaving Thrawn nearly where he started without a promotion or demotion. There was one critical exception, however: Thrawn was removed from the command of the Boco. Ziara believed this to be due to some obscure political favor someone present owed someone else. The loss of his first command disappointed Thrawn, although he tried to hide it. Ziara was surprised and apologized to her friend for the Fleet's decision as they traveled back to Csaplar aboard a tunnel car. Thrawn rationalized the tribunal's decision on the grounds that his actions had cost the Boadil millions.
Ziara countered his rationale, noting that the liner's captain was responsible for the crisis. Even so, she understood that Thrawn had been blamed because the captain was a member of the Ufsa family, which was a political ally of the Boadil. As their discussion continued, Ziara informed her friend that she had requested he become one of her officers aboard the Parala, which would also give him the convenient passage off Csilla he would need with the Boco no longer under his command. Instead of having Thrawn wait in a hotel during his time on Csilla, she offered him lodging with her at the Irizi family homestead. Although Thrawn was concerned that guests may not be permitted into to her family's homestead, particularly because the Mitth was a rival with Ziara's Irizi family, she convinced him to come by revealing that her grandfather had been a passionate art collector. Thrawn accepted her offer but commented that Ziara was skilled at exploiting her opponents' weaknesses; in his case, his appreciation for art.
Unsatisfied by the Syndicure and the Fleet's treatment of her friend, Ziara resolved to teach Thrawn Csilla's true history; far more than regulations permitted an officer of his rank to know. Ziara secured the two of them a two-person tube car that went across Csaplar rather than through the tunnels under the city, which was highly unusual. Senior Captain Ziara felt angry and somewhat rebellious from the hearing's outcome and wanted to see how long it would take Thrawn to realize something was amiss about the Chiss capital city and planet. As the two rode in the car, the Senior Commander looked out the viewport, quickly seeing a contradiction between what he had learned about Csaplar in school and the city's stark reality. Thrawn noticed a lack of people and occupied cars as they traveled. Thrawn became vocally distressed when the pair were slightly over a third of the way through Csaplar to Ziara's family homestead. Ziara apologized for showing him the truth and then revealed that the entire planet had undergone an exodus thousands of years prior. The energy output by Csilla's star had decreased millennia ago, causing the planet's surface to freeze and leading to a mass exodus of Chiss to other worlds of the Ascendancy.
At any time, only several hundred Chiss stayed aboveground in Csaplar while automated lights, vehicles, and traffic provided an illusion of a thriving capital. Ziara informed the man that, despite the Ascendancy listing Csilla's official population as eight billion people, the true population of their homeworld was closer to sixty or seventy million. Nearly all of those people lived underground, where the true cities lied. Ziara explained that her family's homestead was in an underground cavern beneath the ancestral Irizi lands. Thrawn quickly understood the tactical purpose of the deception: an enemy who sought to attack the Chiss Ascendancy would waste time attacking an effectively empty planet advertised to the Chaos as a thriving center of culture and commerce. However, the Senior Commander also realized that such detailed knowledge of Csilla must surely be disallowed for an officer of rank as low as his. He asked the Senior Captain why she chose to disclose the truth of Csilla to him, to which she replied that she knew he thrived on information. Furthermore, she firmly believed he would be promoted in the near future, at which time he would be given a top-level briefing on the subject. She advised Thrawn to "act surprised" in that briefing. Thrawn then asked Ziara if she had told the Irizi about his stay in their homestead. She revealed that she had not, but insisted it would not cause trouble. The male Chiss protested that she only assumed so, which she conceded.
Politics, promotions, and pressures
- "You've made quite a name for yourself over the past few years."
"Sometimes that name is appended to a curse."
- ―Aristocra Zistalmu and Senior Commander Thrawn
A few weeks after his stay at the Irizi homestead, Thrawn was summoned to the office of Aristocra Irizi'stal'mustro "Zistalmu." Thrawn knocked on the door at precisely the specified time and was welcomed in by a reluctant Zistalmu, though the Aristocra acted friendly. Zistalmu acknowledged that the Commander had made "quite a name" for himself over the past few years, to which Thrawn replied by acknowledging his controversial status among the Ascendancy. The Irizi official informed Thrawn of supposed problems the Commander had with certain critics within his Mitth family, and told the officer that even if the Mitth did not recognize his dedication, the Irizi family certainly did.
Thrawn did not understand that this was meant as setup for an offer of recruitment into the Irizi family. He thanked Zistalmu but informed the older man that he did not see how that would help his position because of the rivalry between the Mitth and Irizi families. Zistalmu said the Irizi had in mind a "more direct" means of helping Thrawn, which Thrawn still did not see as a preface to an offer of rematching. The Aristocra proceeded to unofficially offer Thrawn a spot as a Trial-born of the Irizi, a promotion from his current rank as a Mitth family merit adoptive. Zistalmu assured Thrawn that if he accepted, he would never have to perform the Trials because the Irizi family had deemed his "exemplary service" in the Defense Fleet an adequate substitute. Furthermore, the momentum of joining a Chiss family as a Trial-born would accelerate a Chiss' path toward promotion to ranking distant or even higher.
Thrawn reacted with shock, telling Zistalmu that he was honored and humbled but did not see how his detachment from the Mitth would benefit the Irizi family. The official told Thrawn the Irizi could always use another distinguished military officer of high rank and they believed Thrawn was the best choice. Thrawn said he would need time to consider the offer. As the Senior Commander departed, he turned to the Aristocra and remarked that the Irizi already had one such officer, Senior Captain Ziara. Zistalmu replied that she would not be Irizi for much longer.
Shortly thereafter, Senior Captain Irizi'ar'alani was promoted to the flag rank of Commodore, removing her membership of the Irizi family and rendering her as simply Ar'alani. At the party celebrating her promotion, Thrawn told his superior officer that he "required" advice. He asked Ar'alani's thoughts on whether he should join the Irizi family. The Commodore informed her subordinate that the Irizi had long dominated the military, and she had never been comfortable with it. Thrawn asked whether the Irizi family's military-mindedness would not suit him better than the Mitth, but she ultimately told him he would have to decide for himself. He thanked her for saving him on multiple occasions, including her testimonies in both the Stivic incident and his charge of cheating at Taharim Academy. She asked Thrawn to explain how he had empowered the Garwians' defense of Stivic, which he explained to her. She remarked that the Garwian Unity stated on record that the credit belonged to Frangelic, and that the man had probably been promoted, which both agreed the Garwian well deserved. Ar'alani told Thrawn that she had requested the Defense Hierarchy Council make him her first officer. She then touched Thrawn on the arm and invited him to buy her a celebratory drink somewhere more "quiet," where he could tell her more of his goals that the Ascendancy would pretend not to be grateful for.
The Solitair affair
- «I see two additional weaknesses. But Commodore Ar'alani is right. This is something the Ascendancy must stand back from.»
«You helped us once. Is not the situation here even more dire?»
- ―Senior Commander Thrawn and Security Chief Frangelic
Some time following Ar'alani's promotion to commodore, the Garwian Unity invited her and Thrawn to their capital planet of Solitair, ostensibly to thank the two Chiss for their assistance at the Stivic incident. In fact, they hoped to manipulate the Chiss into revealing more of the Lioaoi's tactical weaknesses for a planned campaign of conquest in Lioaoin space. The Lioaoin Regime sent two diplomatic ships to Solitair to negotiate a surrender to the Garwians.
Prior to the Lioaoin diplomatic vessels' arrival at Solitair, Thrawn and Ar'alani were treated as honored guests and immersed in Garwian culture. The Garwians prided themselves on artisanship, having thousands of Creators' Markets across the Unity that showcased fine, hand-crafted clothing, artwork, food, and more. After exploring their hosts' culture, Ar'alani confessed to Thrawn that she had begun to see non-Chiss as people, a view she had never held before. The Commodore believed Thrawn had always recognized non-Chiss individuals' personhood and considered it a strength of his. However, Thrawn coldly replied that he saw non-Chiss as assets first and foremost and people second.
Once the Lioaoin diplomatic ships neared the planet, Thrawn and Ar'alani's hosts pretended to be under attack by those diplomats, begging Thrawn to coordinate a counterattack for the Garwian forces. Ar'alani intervened in time to prevent Thrawn from unwittingly aiding the Garwians' aggression, but not before Thrawn revealed some tactical information useful against the Lioaoi. The Garwians attacked the diplomatic ships, which began broadcasting surrender and distress signals. Both Chiss officers were angry for being manipulated into bending their non-aggression laws. Before Ar'alani and Thrawn left Solitair, they threatened their hosts and warned them never to cross the Chiss Ascendancy again.
Demotion to Mid Commander
- "A Trial-born. After the fiasco with the Lioaoi and Garwians, you're making him a Trial-born?"
"We have no choice. The Irizi are making serious overtures to him."
- ―Aristocra Mitth'urf'ianico and Speaker Thistrian
Thrawn's actions at Solitair angered the Defense Hierarchy Council. As a result, they demoted Thrawn from Senior Commander to Mid Commander. After leaving Solitair and nearly reaching the Ascendancy, Ar'alani called the Commander into her office to discuss the events that transpired. Thrawn apologized for nearly breaking the Ascendancy's non-aggression laws, saying that he should have seen how the Garwians hoped to manipulate their Chiss guests. Ar'alani rebuffed his acceptance of blame, protesting that she should have recognized their hosts' manipulative schemes, but not he. Thrawn asked whether this was due to her being more experienced than him, but she replied by commenting on his political ineptitude. She said he did not understand politics, ledger-balancing, or jockeying for positions and prestige. Thrawn protested that politics was another form of warfare and asked his friend if it was possible to learn this power. Ar'alani responded that it would be helpful for Thrawn to do so, but added to herself that he never would, as he was "tone-deaf" to the nuances and self-serving "dances" of politics.
In spite of Thrawn's demotion, the Defense Hierarchy Council assigned Thrawn a new command: the Chiss heavy cruiser Springhawk. They considered assigning Thrawn to Picket Force Two and stationing the man and his command ship on the Ascendancy's Eastern zenith border, on the far side of Chiss territory from both the Garwians and Lioaoi. The Irizi family, which had previously offered Thrawn a spot as an Irizi Trial-born, now offered him to join the family at the even higher rank of ranking distant. In response, Thrawn's own Mitth family decided to offer him Trial-born status without having to perform the Trials, hoping that he would prefer to be a Trial-born of the Mitth over a ranking distant of the Irizi. Aristocra Thurfian was outraged upon hearing that Thrawn would be, in his opinion, essentially rewarded for such a brazen, illegal, reckless, and politically fraught act. However, Speaker Thistrian insisted that it was better for the family to hold onto Thrawn in case he should bring them glory. Thurfian protested, believing the Irizi were bluffing to draw Thrawn closer to the Mitth, where he would create more fallout for the Mitth if and when he embarrassed or disgraced himself. Thurfian saw that such rewards in the face of a disgraceful event required someone high-up in both the military and the Mitth family to spend serious political capital to defend Thrawn, and asked Thistrian who Thrawn's benefactors might be. Thistrian reasoned that on the Fleet side, Thrawn's sponsor must either be General Ba'kif or possibly Admiral Ja'fosk. Thistrian was neither willing to conclude nor dismiss that Thrawn's high-ranking Mitth ally was Patriarch Thooraki himself. Indeed, Patriarch Thooraki and General Ba'kif were responsible for Thrawn gaining command of the Springhawk and Picket Force Two.
A mission for the Stybla
Recovering alien weapons
During Thrawn's time as a Mid Commander, Mitth family Patriarch Thooraki offered to send Thrawn and Thrass on a mission for Stybla family Patriarch Lamiov. The two Mitth were to assist the Stybla family in reclaiming part of an ancient alien weapon known as Starflash, which had been stolen by rogue thieves who were Blood among the Clarr family. Together with the Stybla Patriarch's Senior Aide Lappincyk, the Mitth friends acquired the stolen cargo while repelling invaders of the Paataatus species and dealing with an uncooperative Clarr family captain Roscu in the Pleknok system. During the mission, Thrass identified Thrawn as his brother to the Clarr family force, which would suggest Thrawn had a higher status in the family than his rank of Trial-born at the time. Unknown to Thrass and Thrawn at the time; Patriarchs Thooraki and Lamiov, together with General Ba'kif and Senior Aide Lappincyk, had sought to bring the two together in bonds of friendship and brotherhood.
The admirable qualities displayed by the two Mitth brothers led Patriarch Lamiov to honor their contributions towards the Stybla through a Stybla honoring ceremony; an honor seldom handed to a member of the Stybla family itself, let alone a member of another family. At the ceremony, Thrawn was bestowed with the suffix "odo," a word meaning "guardian" in Tybroic, the ancestral language of the Stybla family. The suffix "odo" was affixed to Thrawn's name, thus transitioning from "Mitth'raw'nuru" to "Mitth'raw'nuruodo" but without changing his core name. In the history of the Chiss Ascendancy, only eight other Chiss not of the Stybla family had received the "odo" suffix from the Stybla, with the first being the Mitth family's Twelfth Patriarch, Mitth'omo'rossodo "The Tragic." Thrass was also honored by the Stybla, but did not receive the suffix and become "Mitth'ras'safisodo." Patriarchs Thooraki and Lamiov explained to the brothers that they could not make it so obvious to the general public that they paired Thrass with Thrawn to be a political and military power couple, which is why Syndic Thrass did not receive the "odo" suffix. As the two Mitth left the Stybla Mansion whom held the ceremony, Thrass affirmed his earlier declaration naming Thrawn to be his brother.
Called to Naporar
- "It's clear that something aboard that ship is vital to Lamiov. Let's focus on that."
"I assumed he cared about the whole cargo."
"No. At least not primarily. There's one particular item that he's predominantly interested in."
- ―Mid Commander Thrawn and Syndic Thrass discuss Patriarch Lamiov's fixation on the cargo of a hijacked Stybla cargo ship
Shortly before he was scheduled to officially take command of the Springhawk and Picket Force Two, Thrawn was assigned a mission by Patriarch Thooraki. The Mitth's allied Stybla family was faced with an emergency, and the mid commander and Syndic Thrass were called to the Stybla stronghold on Naporar to assist. Patriarch Stybla'mi'ovodo "Lamiov" and Senior Aide Lappincyk met with Thrass and Thrawn in the Stybla Patriarch's office. Although Lappincyk had comported himself with sly intrigue when he had first met the two Mitth at a bistro several years prior, he now looked desperately worried.
Patriarch Lamiov informed his Mitth guests that twelve hours prior, a Stybla cargo ship had been attacked by pirates off the Ascendancy planet Sposia while traveling from Csilla to Naporar by way of Sposia. The pirates had disguised their ship as a transport belonging to the Obbic family; a fellow Ruling Family and recent tenuous allies of the Mitth. (As-yet unknown to the Stybla or Mitth, the attackers were members of the Clarr family with the rank of Blood.) Thrass asked the composition of the Sposia orbital security forces, and was informed that they were a combination of Clarr, Obbic, Csap and Kynkru family crew and ships. Each of those four families had strongholds on Sposia, so they shared security duties for the planet. Thrawn asked which family managed the orbital security patrol schedule, but the Stybla told him that that was shared among the four contributing families and moreover there was no evidence that the schedulers conspired to move security forces away from the Stybla cargo ship.
The Stybla officials had presented Thrass and Thrawn with three security recordings of the attack, only one of which began recording before the attack had commenced. The pilot who had recorded both before and during the attack was Clarr, so Thrawn deduced that the pirate attackers belonged to the Clarr family. Thrass suggested that the Clarr patrol pilot who recorded the attack be detained at once and that Lamiov should contact the Clarr family Patriarch Clarr'ivl'exow "Rivlex" on Rhigar at once. Lappincyk informed the Mitth that the Clarr pilot who recorded the attack had already been taken into custody. Lamiov commented that Rivlex probably already knew about the attack, as the Stybla were receiving reports of high-level communications back and forth between Rivlex's office and Sposia since she was detained. (For context, criminal organizations within the Ascendancy were typically organized within Chiss families. Very few crossed family lines, even if they had nothing to do with the official family hierarchy.) The Stybla Patriarch stated that Rivlex knew about the theft and was now trying to track down the hijackers, "so he knows." Thrass believed Lamiov had repeated himself, but Thrawn correctly deduced that the word choice signified one item of extreme importance to Patriarch Lamiov aboard the Stybla cargo ship.
Lamiov dismissed Thrawn and Thrass to a waiting room to continue their analysis of the theft while he called Patriarch Rivlex. Thrass agreed, reminding the Stybla Patriarch that they served at his command until Patriarch Thooraki should say otherwise. Thrawn objected on the grounds that he was scheduled to take up command of the Springhawk in three hours, believing that his superiors would not look kindly on him being delayed. However, Patriarch Lamiov promised to speak with General Ba'kif to ensure Thrawn would face no adverse repercussions. Lappincyk then escorted the two Mitth friends to a lounge where they could rest whilst Lamiov talked with Rivlex.
In the lounge, Thrawn told Thrass that he had deduced that one item among the ship's cargo was of particular interest to the Stybla Patriarch, and the two Mitth set to find out whether that item was the reason hijackers had attacked the ship in the first place. (The critical item of supreme interest to Lamiov was a piece of the Starflash weapon, but the two Mitth did not know that yet.) Thrass commented that Thrawn had looked "put out" when Lamiov and Lappincyk would not play "Riddle Me" with him; asking Thrawn to explain how he had determined the culpability of the Clarr family rather than trying to piece together the signs on their own. Thrawn said he became disappointed when others could not see things "right in front of them," to which Thrass responded that Thrawn had a rare gift of insight and most people could not see things nearly as quickly or clearly as Thrawn. Thrass told the mid commander that his deduction that Lamiov cared about one item in particular was one thing that others could not see as quickly as him.
Criminal law agreements between the Ascendancy's families stipulated harsher punishments for individuals of higher family status who committed crimes against other families, because higher-ranked individuals' transgressions were worse for inter-family relations. In the extreme case, a blood relative of a family committing theft or manslaughter could rock a family relationship to the core. One example of such tiered punishment was that a cousin or Blood-ranked member of one Chiss family who killed a member of another family was immediately subject to the death penalty. However, they would only have be executed if caught by the victim's family, so families had incentives to police their own members to both prevent and punish crimes against other families. Indeed, it may be in neither family's interest to execute such a perpetrator, so if the offender's family caught the perpetrator first, both families could quietly settle the crime and officially pretend it had never occurred.
Thrawn and Thrass worked for three hours while Patriarch Rivlex attempted to stall Lamiov. Lamiov asked whether they had been brought food, but Thrawn suggested that they eat "on the ship." Lamiov was amazed that Thrawn had deduced his plan, while Thrass did not understand what either man was referring to. Thrass felt that the Stybla Patriarch and the mid commander were on the same page, while he had not even found the same book. Lamiov asked how Thrawn knew, without specifying what Thrawn knew, and Thrass asked what Lamiov was talking about. Thrawn told Lamiov that he doubted Rivlex knew about the special cargo aboard the vessel, and believed Rivlex simply wished to catch the thieves before the Stybla family did. Thrawn added that he believed that the Clarr patrol pilot had not been part of the attack, but rather was working as an agent of Patriarch Rivlex and informed that the supposed Obbic transport might have been a pirate ship in disguise. Thrawn explained that Rivlex and the patrol pilot had not alerted Patrol Command because they were not certain that the attack would take place; and if they had, they would have risked alerting the hijackers, frightening them off to attack other star systems instead.
Based on the tiered penalty clauses of the criminal law agreements between the Clarr and the Stybla, Thrawn deduced that at least one of the hijackers was a Clarr with the high family rank of cousin. Lamiov sighed and made a slight correction: the hijackers were blood; even higher-ranked than cousin. Under normal circumstances, the Stybla may have settled with the Clarr family about the hijacking. However, the cargo that had been stolen was a piece of the ancient Starflash weapon, which was too important to risk leaving in the hands of the Clarr family. Thus, the Stybla had to act to reacquire the stolen cargo and rescue their family members who had crewed the hijacked cargo ship. Thrawn promised to deliver the lost cargo to the Stybla Patriarch. Thrass deduced that Patriarch Thooraki had suggested Lamiov send Thrass and Thrawn on a mission to recover the cargo. Lamiov admitted that that had been the case, along with General Ba'kif's suggestion. They were assigned to track down and retrieve the cargo in the Chiss patrol ship Jandalin, along with Senior Aide Lappincyk and a Stybla family pilot. Lamiov confessed to the two Mitth that he had believed that Thooraki and Ba'kif had "inflated" their investigative and deductive skills beyond reality, to which Thrawn replied that he hoped the Stybla Patriarch's doubts had been allayed.
Lamiov told the two Mitth that the Clarr patrol pilot sent two transmissions: one to Cormit, and the other to Rhigar. Rhigar was the site of the Clarr family homestead and thus the planet where the Clarr family had the most influence. Cormit was the site of a Clarr fleet depot, where the light cruiser Orisson of the Clarr family fleet was docked. Thrawn deduced from the fact that a transmission had been sent from Sposia to Cormit that the hijackers were headed to the galactic Southeast, most likely heading out of the Ascendancy via a world on the border. Thrawn knew that such smugglers chose border worlds to meet their clients on a rotating schedule with rendezvous points shifting monthly. He further inferred that Rivlex had kept Lamiov on the comm for three hours in the hope of coming to an agreement so the Clarr family could have time to discern the hijackers' destination. However, unlike the Clarr family, Thrawn believed he knew their target: a remote, rarely used Chiss Defense Force emergency repair blackdock known as Glastis 3, located midway between Csilla and the Ascendancy planet Copero toward the Ascendancy's south-nadir border.
Together with a Lappincyk and the Stybla pilot, Thrawn and Thrass took the Jandalin to Glastis 3. The blackdock orbited a planet considered marginally habitable, but which no Chiss family had colonized or considered worth developing. Thrawn correctly deduced that the Clarr family hijackers would leave the hijacked cargo ship and its crew in a remote location where they would be discovered and rescued, but not quickly enough for the pirates to be easily tracked by the authorities. If any of the Stybla crew had either died, been kidnapped, or gone missing for over a year; then the hijackers would be subject to the death penalty per the stipulations of the criminal law agreements between the Clarr and the Stybla.
At Glastis 3
- "Once we've spoken to the cargo crew and learned where the hijackers have gone, we'll need to head out immediately if we hope to intercept them."
"You really think they told the cargo crew ehere they were going?"
"Oh, I'm certain they didn't. But perhaps they weren't as clever as they thought."
- ―Thrawn and Thrass
Once in Glastis 3's star system, the Jandalin's crew saw that there was a lot of space in which the Stybla cargo ship could be floating derelict. After discussing the situation, Lappincyk reasoned that the Clarr would position the ship in a long, elliptical orbit, having disabled their thrusters and comm capabilities and allowing the ship to float within visual range of the blackdock within a few days' time. Furthermore, The Stybla cargo ship was of a model that carried three weeks' worth of life-support supplies, limiting the orbital period for which the Clarr could have set the vessel adrift. Thrawn narrowed down their search space within the system based on the angle a vessel would arrive to Glastis 3 from Sposia. Further, the Mid Commander stated that a capable crew would be able to convert their ship's electromagnetic sensor into a communications receiver. While the Stybla cargo ship would not be able to send messages, Thrawn correctly realized that they would be able to hear a message from the Jandalin. Thrawn signaled the Stybla vessel, instructing them to open their fuel and oxygen tanks and ignite the mixture to produce a bright plume the Jandalin would be able to see. Soon thereafter, the derelict cargo hauler complied, and the Jandalin called the blackdock to send a rescue team.
The joint Stybla-Mitth squad met the crew of the hijacked cargo ship aboard the vessel. Its captain told the Jandalin crew that the hijackers had departed the system twenty-seven hours prior. The Jandalin's crew sent for a Chiss Defense Force ship to tow the stolen freighter to the blackdock for repairs. They learned that the hijackers had taken fifty hours to jointly bring the pirate and cargo vessels to Glastis 3 through hyperspace, and spent the entire time stealing all of the cargo from the Stybla freighter. The Mitth and Stybla rescue squad understood that this included the critical cargo, and Thrass worried that they were a day behind the Clarr hijackers without any idea of their destination. However, Thrawn deduced the pirates' destination: a planet called Pleknok along the borders of the Ascendancy. His reasoning was as follows. The derelict Stybla freighter's orbital trajectory would put it within sensor range of the Glastis 3 blackdock about seven days after the hijackers' departure from the system, giving the Clarr pirates seven days to reach their destination, sell their stolen goods, and return to their base within the Ascendancy. Thrawn rationed one of those seven days to meet their buyers and sell their goods, giving them around six days total to reach and return from their destination. Thrawn believed this would break down as two days there and four days back, and certainly no more than three days to the destination. Thrawn set his search space as the difficult-to-traverse areas of the Chaos that could be reached from Glastis 3 within three days' travel time. In that region, there were no developed worlds or systems, and Pleknok was the only habitable planet. Lappincyk pointed out that an illicit sale could take place in orbit, but Thrawn reasoned that a world with water and oxygen would be preferable in case the crew needed to hide or repair their ship.
Senior Aide Lappincyk recognized the name "Pleknok," but could not remember from where. Thrawn asked the senior aide to recall a brief battle that had taken place at Pleknok nineteen years prior. The Pleknok system was located between the established territories of the Chiss and Paataatus species, so it had been a site of border clashes between those nations. During the battle in question, a survey group of Boadil family prospectors had been studying Pleknok for potential development and habitation when two Paataatus warships attacked them. The Chiss sustained damage before escaping back to the Ascendancy. The Chiss Defense Force counterattacked and beat the Paataatus, who had by then begun their own survey of Pleknok for development. Lappincyk posited that the Chiss Defense Force had beaten the Paataatus so thoroughly that they never came back. However, Thrawn rebutted that the Paataatus had simply not come back to Pleknok yet. The Mid Commander pointed out that the Paataatus only honored treaties, agreements, and lessons learned for a single Paataatus generation; consisting of seventeen to twenty-five years. Therefore, a Paataatus attempt to reconquer the Pleknok system could be imminent.
As Thrawn explained the risk of Paataatus attacking the Clarr hijackers at Pleknok, Lappincyk stopped listening. The Senior Aide invoked emergency protocols and ordered the Jandalin to be ready to fly in five minutes. Lappincyk told Thrass and Thrawn to hurry or be left behind, leading Thrawn to realize the situation was worse than he had realized.
The Pleknok system
- "Thrawn? What in hell's name are you doing on a Stybla ship?"
"As Senior Aide Lappincyk said, I'm working with them to resolve this issue. Congratulations on finding this system, by the way. From the data I was able to locate, I estimated there could be as many as ten other possibilities before I was able to narrow it down to this one. How did you know they were coming to Pleknok?"
"What, you think you're the only clever one in the Ascendancy?"
"Ah—I see. You didn't know, did you. The Clarr simply sent ships to all of them."
"I didn't say that!"
"Yes. I know."
- ―Captain Roscu and Mid Commander Thrawn
The Jandalin arrived in the Pleknok system thirty-two hours after leaving Glastis 3. While Senior Aide Lappincyk wished to take a direct course to Pleknok, Mid Commander Thrawn proposed approaching the system from a specific direction. Ultimately, the Jandalin followed Thrawn's course. Thrawn correctly believed they had arrived before the Clarr pirates, having calculated the speed at which the pirate vessel could reach Pleknok and knowing the Stybla patrol ship Jandalin was far faster.
Senior Aide Lappincyk ordered scan of the area containing the planet Pleknok using passive sensors. The scan indicated two ships in low orbit, whose configuration was hard to discern with passive sensors only but which the pilot believed to be freighters of non-Chiss design. Lappincyk started to order the pilot to run an active sensor sweep abaft of the Jandalin when the pilot announced contact with the Chiss light cruiser Orisson of the Clarr family fleet. The Orisson was approaching parallel to the Jandalin from twenty kilometers to port, and its captain Roscu demanded the Jandalin identify itself. After she and Lappincyk exchanged greetings, Roscu demanded to know the reason the Jandalin was there. Thrass remembered Roscu as the woman who had reported Thrawn for illegally giving combat advice to the Garwian Unity at Stivic, shuddering at the thought that she would now be in command of a cruiser of the Clarr family fleet.
As requested, the Stybla Senior Aide announced the Jandalin's reason for being at Pleknok, declaring their hunt for pirates who had hijacked the Stybla freighter over Sposia. Lappincyk stated their belief that the pirates were led by someone of Clarr blood, adding that he presumed that was Roscu's reason for being there as well. Captain Roscu refused to comment on her reasons or activities in the system, inadvertently but tacitly confirming that the culprits were in fact Clarr blood. Roscu demanded to know how the Jandalin had found the system. Roscu ordered the Jandalin to leave the system, invoking her status as an agent of one of the Nine Ruling Families and a former Expansionary Defense Fleet command officer to order the Stybla vessel's departure from the system. Senior Aide Lappincyk insisted that the Stybla had every right to be in the system, as it had been a Stybla freighter attacked and Stybla cargo stolen.
As Roscu and Lappincyk argued back and forth, Thrass suggested the Stybla official had a better hand to play. As Thrawn was both a member of the Nine and a current Expansionary Fleet command officer, Lappincyk could outplay Roscu by ceding command of the Jandalin to Mid Commander Mitth'raw'nuru. Thrawn accepted command and suggested he and Roscu work together. However, the Clarr captain interrupted him, demanding to know why he was aboard a Stybla ship. The Mitth officer then complimented Roscu on finding Pleknok among ten other possible destinations for the Clarr pirates. He asked how the Clarr had known it was Pleknok over other alternatives, to which Roscu demurred. Thrawn then angered Roscu by inferring that the Clarr did not actually know it was Pleknok, but had rather sent ships to all the possible locations.
As Roscu got angry, the pirates' supposed Obbic transport arrived in the system. The Stybla pilot announced that the hijackers were moving along the vector predicted by Thrawn, to Senior Aide Lappincyk's satisfaction. Roscu protested, indignant that the Jandalin knew where the hijackers would enter the system but not choose a better location to intercept them. Thrawn told her that he did not want to intercept them until after he could learn which of the orbiting ships the pirates sought to meet. Roscu objected, stating she thought they wanted the precious Stybla cargo; but Thrawn confidently insisted that he would retrieve the cargo soon. Meanwhile, the ships below were too deep in Pleknok's gravity well to quickly escape, giving the Jandalin an opportunity to reconnoiter and possibly apprehend the illicit buyers.
The Paataatus attack
- "This is an armed vessel of the Chiss Ascendancy. We'll prevail."
"Against six Paataatus warships? One patrol ship armed with nothing but lasers? It can't be done. It can't be done."
"Nothing is impossible, Thrass. As Captain Roscu said, we simply need to be clever."
- ―Mid Commander Thrawn and Syndic Thrass
Roscu objected, asking whether Thrawn had learned anything at all about the Ascendancy's non-aggression policy since he "blatantly" interfered in the pirate attack at Stivic. She questioned how he remained an officer of the Expansionary Defense Fleet despite his infractions intervening in conflicts that did not involve the Ascendancy. As she berated Thrawn, the Stybla pilot reported another ship incoming. The pilot did not have confirmation of the ship's configuration, but it was the size of a freighter. (In fact, the newcomer was a Paataatus light frigate.) Lappincyk ordered the pilot to continue heading toward the unknown vessels in the planet's gravity well, but Roscu ordered the Orisson to fire on the Obbic transport with a plasma sphere, which would disable shipboard electronics. Thrawn then changed his orders, directing the Jandalin's pilot toward the Obbic transport.
Thrawn asked Roscu to assist by using plasma spheres to disable the new incoming ship, but she raced to beat the Jandalin to intercept the Obbic transport and telling Thrawn to disable the newly-arrived ship himself. The Clarr light cruiser was faster than the Stybla patrol ship, so Thrawn ordered the pilot to activate emergency power levels. Thrawn protested to Roscu that the Jandalin was not equipped with plasma spheres, but Roscu responded by taunting him. Senior Aide Lappincyk then formally requested her assistance in the name of the Stybla, which she declined. The Clarr captain mused that Lappincyk would need "some of that Thrawn cleverness," promising to deliver the cargo back to Sposia. Lappincyk objected, saying the cargo was not to be touched and that it must be taken aboard the Jandalin. Roscu challenged Lappincyk, saying he was welcome to it if he could keep up, and taunting the Stybla for lacking "real" warships.
Thrawn informed Roscu that the newcomer was actually a Paataatus light frigate, breaking her arrogant brooding. The Orisson slowed its engines, explaining that Paataatus light frigates did not travel without a complement of Paataatus gunboats. Indeed, five gunboats appeared on the Jandalin's scanners, incoming along the light frigate's vector. Roscu prepared to destroy the Obbic transport, reasoning that their only options were to destroy the transport or allow it and its cargo to fall into Paataatus hands. Thrawn insisted that the Jandalin would succeed in both retrieving the cargo and driving the Paataatus away. He asked for Roscu's assistance, but she refused to either disobey standing orders of the Ascendancy military or risk her ship and crew in what she considered a futile, losing battle.
Despite the Jandalin only having three spectrum laser emplacements, Thrawn ordered the pilot to target the outer cowlings of the Obbic transport's aft thrusters. Lappincyk objected, but Thrawn pointed out that Roscu had already disabled the transport, and thus targeting the thursters would not harm the pirate ship. However, the Paataatus would see the Jandalin firing at the vessel. (At that time, Thrass thought to himself that that did not explain anything.) However, Thrawn understood that the Paataatus had a swarm mentality and preferred to pick off weakest targets first, which would enable him to use the derelict Obbic transport as bait for the gunboats.
By that point, the Jandalin was three minutes from reaching spectrum laser range to fire upon the Obbic transport. Meanwhile, the Paataatus frigate was five minutes out from possible combat range and its escort of five gunboats eight minutes away. Thrass noted that the Orisson could intercept the frigate within four minutes, but Roscu again refused to help the Jandalin against the Paataatus, and the Orisson veered away. Lappincyk reaffirmed the critical importance of the cargo aboard the Obbic transport, so Thrawn promised they would retrieve it. Syndic Thrass insisted that it would be impossible for the Jandalin to win against six Paataatus warships, but Thrawn mused that they merely had to be clever. The mid commander asked Lappincyk whether the Jandalin had any explosive munitions, but Lappincyk replied that all they had was some shattercord for burning through sealed hatches and two Crippler nets. Crippler nets were flexible nettings with electrical capacitors enmeshed on the edges to wrap around target ships and deliver a massive discharge through their hulls, which had a similar effect to plasma spheres although less powerful. Furthermore, the Crippler net launcher was gas-propelled, so Crippler nets could not "chase" their targets like plasma spheres could.
Upon hearing that the Jandalin was equipped with Crippler nets, Thrawn set a highly detailed course for the pilot to follow exactly, until and unless Thrawn were to modify it. Lappincyk stated that targets of Crippler nets would have to be nearly motionless, but Thrawn rebutted that they would not have to deliver the weapon to the Paataatus without elaborating. The mid commander told his companions to strap in for what would be a bumpy ride, and the Jandalin performed the stealth maneuver Thrawn had invented as a Taharim academy cadet.
While the Jandalin followed Thrawn's apparently chaotic flight path, Thrawn fired the patrol boat's spectrum lasers at the Obbic transport. This fire caused the pirate vessel to reverse the direction of its turn, briefly facing the Paataatus vessels. After more maneuvering of the Jandalin, the Stybla vessel was headed anti-parallel toward the Paataatus ships and within attack range. To the surprise of Syndic Thrass, none of the Paataatus targeted the Jandalin even though it was easily within the range of their weapons. Thrawn explained that the Paataatus' swarm mentality influenced their military tactics so strongly that they would form up into clusters to attack the weakest opponents first, even if other enemies were closer to their location. Lappincyk objected, believing Thrawn's use of the Obbic transport as bait would lead the Paataatus to destroy the vessel and its cargo. However, the pilot continued Thrawn's flight path, and the Jandalin soon emerged directly behind the Paataatus attack formation. Thrawn opened successive fire on three Paataatus gunboats, damaging their thrusters and immobilizing them. All the while, the pilot continued following Thrawn's plotted course.
Thrass worried that Thrawn's decision to pick off the three gunboats one-by-one would leave the transport vulnerable to the Paataatus frigate and the remaining two gunboats. However, the Crippler nets activated, disabling the frigate and one of the remaining two gunboats. Thrawn explained that he had set the Crippler nets in position and goaded the Paataatus ships to run into them. Thrass analyzed that in order to successfully accomplish that plan, Thrawn had had to anticipate the swarming tactic and the vectors of each Paataatus ship. Thrass was in disbelief that Thrawn could concoct such an expert plan solely off the data of a single battle from nineteen years before. Thrawn resolved to retrieve the Obbic transport and their hijacked cargo, and the Paataatus ships broke off their attack and prepared to escape. Thrawn did not order the Jandalin to attack the Paataatus light frigate as it prepared to flee, seeing no reason to antagonize a stronger force they had persuaded to retreat.
- "Captain Roscu, you should be aware that someone under your command has just committed a serious violation of Ascendancy law. As I assume you know, launching an attack on a member of the Syndicure can be considered an act of internecine war. I'm sure your Patriarch would be shocked to hear that someone aboard your ship has put him in that position. […] You're talking to Syndic Mitth'ras'safis. I suggest you think long and hard before you continue along your current path."
"You're lying. Why would a Mitth Syndic be aboard a Stybla patrol ship?"
"For the same reason Mid Commander Thrawn is aboard. My brother and I were asked by our Patriarch to assist Senior Aide Lappincyk in his recovery operation."
- ―Syndic Thrass declared Thrawn his brother to warn Roscu to back away from a confrontation
Despite having defeated the Paataatus, Thrawn remained concerned about what Roscu might choose to do. Indeed, the Orisson rushed toward the transport, seeking to claim it and its stolen cargo for the Clarr family as ordered by Patriarch Rivlex. Lappincyk ordered the pilot to channel emergency power to the Jandalin's engines, hoping to reach the Obbic transport ahead of the Clarr cruiser. However, Thrawn pointed out that Roscu may be willing to fire on the Jandalin. Lappincyk believed Roscu wouldn't dare use force to block the senior aide to a Patriarch of the Forty Greaty Families, but Thrawn demurred. Thrawn ordered the pilot to prepare emergency breaking on his first mark, and to reverse course and acceleration on his second. Thrass began to object, but Lappincyk stopped the Syndic by affirming that Thrawn had demonstrated his competency and knowledge of what he was doing.
As Thrawn had anticipated, Roscu had fired a plasma sphere at the Jandalin. Thrawn's maneuvering orders caused the sphere to miss the patrol ship, after which the mid commander explained that he knew Roscu and was sure she would be willing to disable them. Even if the Stybla were to file a complaint to the Ascendancy authorities, the Orisson would be able to take the transport and the stolen Stybla cargo in the meantime.
Lappincyk asked Thrawn whether he believed they were powerless to stop Roscu. Thrass cut in, saying Thrawn was saying no such thing. The Mitth Syndic then hailed Roscu over the comm, identifying himself as a Mitth family Syndic and informing her that someone aboard her ship was therefore in violation of Ascendancy law. Attacking a member of the Syndicure could be considered an act of internecine warfare, and Thrass appealled to Roscu's loyalty to the Clarr Patriarch Rivlex to dissuade her from attacking. Roscu began to hesitate and asked Thrass why a Mitth Syndic would be aboard a Stybla patrol ship. Thrass invoked his right as a cousin within the Mitth family to declare Thrawn as his brother, telling the Clarr captain that the Mitth's Patriarch had asked him and his brother Thrawn to aid in Senior Aide Lappincyk's operation to recover the stolen cargo. Thrass' declaration of brotherhood took both Thrawn and Roscu by surprise, but it led to de-escalation as the Syndic had desired.
Syndics were always blood, cousins, or ranking distants in the Chiss families they represented in the Syndicure. Claiming Thrawn as his brother heavily implied that Thrawn also held a high rank within the Mitth family, even though he was in fact a merit adoptive at the time. Thrass correctly reasoned that, while Roscu may be willing to kill a Senior Aide to a Stybla Patriarch, especially if it could be blamed on the Paataatus attackers; she would never be willing to kill two high-ranking Mitth. Furthermore, Thrass informed Roscu that the Jandalin was relaying the conversation to the Obbic transport, so the hijackers were witnesses to whatever should transpire. Roscu objected, as the plasma sphere the Orisson had fired earlier would have knocked out the transport's comm. Thrass rebutted by telling her Thrawn had adjusted the spectrum lasers to send the signals through modulated laserfire to the Obbic transport's sensor network. Roscu took that as confirmation that Thrawn had interfered in the Lioaoin pirate attack on Stivic years prior. Thrawn turned toward Thrass, looking stunned, but Thrass smiled to reassure his brother and told the Clarr captain that Thrawn's ability to send a signal with modulated laserfire did not imply he had actually done so before.
Thrass implored Roscu to withdraw the Orisson gracefully, but she objected. She exlpained that Patriarch Rivlex had ordered her not to return without the hijackers. Lappincyk told Roscu she was free to take the transport and the criminals, and as soon as the cargo had been transferred to the Jandalin, they would withdraw from the Pleknok system. Roscu found the deal to be acceptable, and Lappincyk gave instructions on how to proceed. The hijackers were to deposit their weapons on the deck by the transport's airlock and retreat to the engine room while the Mitth and Stybla transferred the stolen cargo. Lappincyk told Roscu that, if the hijackers were to bring any of the cargo with them to the engine room or resist the Stybla and Mitth in any way,the Jandalin would tow the Obbic transport back to Naporar where the hijackers would be subject to death by torture as specified by the family accords.
Having completed their mission, the Jandalin sent a report to Patriarch Lamiov and returned to Naporar with the recovered cargo.
The truth about Starflash
- Lamiov: "You understand that what I'm about tell you is a secret of the highest order. A secret that could bring ruin to the Stybla and Mitth families, perhaps even lead to the destruction of the Chiss Ascendancy. Are you prepared to embrace this secret to your graves and beyond?"
- Thrass: "I am."
- Thrawn: "As am I."
- ―Lamiov demands the ultimate oath of secrecy from Thrass and Thrawn
Back at the Stybla stronghold on Naporar, Patriarch Lamiov thanked Thrawn and Thrass for their success, which he considered to have come against all odds and against all hopes. Lamiov declared the Stybla indebted to the Mitth and himself personally indebted to Thrass and Thrawn. The Stybla Patriarch told the brothers if there was ever anything he could do for them, they would only have to ask.
In response, Thrawn asked the Patriarch to tell them what the critical cargo was that he had been so worried about. Lamiov protested, reminding the Mitth that it was secret, but Thrawn objected on the grounds that it might not be best for it to remain so. Thrawn declared his identity as a warrior, telling the Stybla Patriarch that the more he knew of the weaponry available to him, the better he could protect the Chiss Ascendancy and its people. Patriarch Lamiov demurred by asking who had said it was a weapon, but Thrawn outlined that only a weapon could fit inside such a box and cause such fear. Thrass added that, moreover, it would have to be an alien weapon not of Chiss origin; tying it to the Stybla family's oversight of the Universal Analysis Group ("UAG"), a secretive Chiss military research project based on Sposia. Lamiov tried to dismiss Thrawn and Thrass, but Lappincyk cut his Patriarch off. The Senior Aide pointed out that Thrass and Thrawn already knew too much about the item and would continue to investigate until they uncovered the truth. If the Mitth brothers discovered it on their own, they would weaken the shroud of secrecy the Stybla had built around the item in the process. Therefore, it would be better for the Patriarch to bring them into confidence and tell them about the device himself.
The Stybla Patriarch solemnly told the Mitth brothers that what he was about to tell them was a secret of the highest magnitude that could bring ruin to both the Stybla and Mitth families, and perhaps even lead to the destruction of the Chiss Ascendancy. Therefore, he asked them to embrace the secret "to their graves and beyond"; the words of the most stringent and binding oaths used by the Mitth family.
Lamiov told the brothers how five thousand years ago, the Stybla family had been the sole Ruling Family of the Chiss Ascendancy. Under the Stybla's guidance, the Chiss entered a period of exploration, venturing out into the Chaos and even Lesser Space, the term used in the Unknown Regions for the known galaxy. During the Ascendancy's Stybla-led period of expansion, the Chiss encountered many alien races and obtained many alien artifacts. Those artifacts were stored in the UAG center on Sposia for observation and study.
Among those artifacts was a weapon called Starflash. The identity of those who brought it back to the Ascendancy had been lost to time, but whoever procured it for the Chiss brought with it a report on the item's operations. The Stybla built the Bastion, an organization that became the UAG, and hid the Starflash away never to be used. However, centuries later, an enemy species launched an invasion of the Ascendancy. The invaders pushed the Chiss Defense Force back, conquering all Chiss worlds except Csilla. The enemy mustered its forces for a climactic battle called the "Final Assault on Csilla," and the Chiss knew there was no hope. Staring down the extinction of the Chiss species, the Stybla Patriarch at the time remembered that the Chiss possessed Starflash.
The Chiss had never seen Starflash in operation, but retained the instructions on how to operate the single-use weapon. Twenty warriors were required to operate it, and it would be a suicide mission for those twenty people. To protect the Chiss people, Patriarch Mitth'omo'ross volunteered warriors of the Mitth family, and her four sons volunteered, insisting on facing the same dangers and sacrifice as the rest of the family. The twenty Mitth loaded Starflash into a heavily armored ship and sent it to the center of the enemy fleet. They died activating Starflash, which sent out a massive burst of tachyonic and lightspeed energy into the surface of Csilla's sun, which then returned a blast thousands of times more powerful back at the Starflash itself. The blast destroyed the entire enemy fleet, and with it, Patriarch Thomoro's four sons. With the death of her four sons, Patriarch Thomoro became known as "the Tragic."
Soon thereafter, the Chiss Defense Force reconqured the outer Chiss planets from minor garrisons the enemy had left behind. The Patriarchs of the Chiss Ascendancy voted unanimously to keep the details of Starflash confidential, never revealed to the Chiss public or the Syndicure. The only people cleared to know the truth of the Final Assault on Csilla were the Patriarchs of the Ruling Families and their Senior Aides, who would teach successive Patriarchs. However, the Starflash weapon had an unanticipated effect: the slow cooling of Csilla's sun. The disruption of the star's surface layers caused the energy output to decrease over time, gradually leading to the freezing of the surface of Csilla and forcing the exodus that Thrawn had learned about in school. Those who remained on Csilla had to move underground. Patriarch Lamiov did not believe Csilla's sun would ever return to its original heat output.
The courage and sacrifice of the Mitth family was recognized by the Aristocra, who eventually made the Mitth a Ruling Family. Furthermore, although known only to a select few, the Mitth's activation of Starflash was the reason the Mitth family emblem became a blazing sun. For the Tragic Patriarch's bravery, the Stybla family chose to honor her by appending the word "odo" to her name, which meant "guardian" or "protector" in the ancestral Stybla language Tybroic. Thus, Mitth'omo'ross became Mitth'omo'rossodo, the first non-Stybla to be honored as such a dear friend of the Stybla family with the suffix. The appellation odo was reserved for guardians or protectors who had proved worthy of the Stybla's most extraordinary respect.
Lamiov informed Thrawn and Thrass that, in the aftermath of the detonation of the Starflash, the Ascendancy salvaged the wreckage they could from the weapon. In the time since, the Defense Hierarchy Council had occasionally requested the UAG to study components salvaged from the Starflash, seeking to adapt or duplicate the functions of those components. The Stybla Patriarch informed the two Mitth brothers that the Council's efforts to replicate Starflash components had never borne fruit, but the UAG continued to preserve the salvage for future research and development. Lamiov then explained that the critical cargo they had been sent to recover was one of the Starflash's tachyon flow synchrotron accelerators; which the Council hoped to adapt to a new particle beam weapon for the Ascendancy military. Normally, the Stybla would have asked the Defense Hierarchy Council to examine the Starflash component under UAG security on Sposia. However, the Council wished to keep their particle beam weapon prototype under their own security, which required the Stybla to transfer the synchrotron accelerator to the DHC lab on Naporar.
At Thrawn's request, Patriarch Lamiov allowed the Mitth to see the accelerator. The Chiss officer informed the Stybla leader that his trust was misplaced; opining that the machinery inside could not possibly be salvaged from the Starflash because its casing connectors showed no sign of degradation that would have resulted from a massive particle flux, such as the weapon's detonation. Thrawn added that the ions in a plasma sphere impact are well known to cause similar degradation as one would expect from a Starflash component that had been used.
Calmly, Lamiov asked Thrawn for the mid commander's conclusion. Thrawn deduced that the Stybla had a second Starflash weapon, before glancing at Thrass and correcting himself that they still had it. Lamiov then revealed to the two brothers that the second Starflash, referred to as the second item or only "the item," held great hope and threat to the Ascendancy. A loss of the second item's tachyon flow synchrotron accelerator at Pleknok could have led to the Paataatus reverse-engineering the Starflash's devastating technology. Even if the Paataatus could not create a similar weapon, the UAG's reserve Starflash would be useless wihtout the accelerator the Mitth and Lappincyk had recovered.
Lamiov revealed that the Ascendancy had only been in possession of the Starflash for a few hundred years, and they had obtained it from somewhere in Lesser Space. Records of the acquisition had been lost or suppressed, but it was said that the Stybla had located and sent a team to capture the second item. The Patriarch then informed Thrawn and Thrass that only six people knew of the existence of the second item: the four present in the room, plus General Ba'kif and Admiral Ja'fosk. Even the technicians studying the second item in the UAG's most secure vault did not know it was a functional Starflash weapon. Lamiov grimly told the Mitth that those six people held the Ascendancy's future together. The Mid Commander asked the Patriarch what the UAG would do with the second item, to which Lamiov replied they would continue to study it under tight guard and hope and pray they would never again need to use it in battle. Lamiov began to cry, adding that if such a need should ever arise, perhaps two Patriarchs would be known to the future as "the Tragic."
Thrawn then asked the Patriarch to take his leave, as the Springhawk's departure had already been delayed. However, Lamiov told Thrawn that the Springhawk would have to wait a little longer, as the Stybla Patriels had come to the Stybla stronghold on Naporar to perform a short ceremony in three hours' time. Thrawn asked the ceremony's relevance to the Springhawk and his mission, but Lamiov corrected Thrawn that the ceremony concerned him. Lamiov then explained to Thrawn and Thrass the significance of the suffix odo on a person's name, and that the Stybla wished to honor Thrawn by adding it to his name "Mitth'raw'nuru." Thrawn felt honored, but was hesistant to accept the honor on the grounds that the Mitth leadership might not approve of such a name change. The Stybla Patriarch reassured Thrawn, telling the mid commander that Patriarch Thooraki would be in attendance himself, and that Thrawn could ask Thooraki himself. The Patriarch then bade the brothers to change into ceremonial dress and informed them that the procedures would be on their questises.
Mitth'raw'nuruodo is born
- "It wasn't your contribution or your family status that tipped the balance. We decided that it would be best if you and Thrawn weren't quite so obviously a team."
"What kind of team?"
"The best kind. The two of you combine impressive political and military skills, which will put the Mitth in position to influence future decisions in both the Syndicure and the Council. The kind of team that can only be achieved by people who know each other, trust each other, and can work fully in sync. A team of kin, of friends—of brothers."
- ―Patriarch Thooraki explains to Syndic Thrass the reasons why Thrawn was granted the odo honorific but Thrass was not
Thrawn and Thrass were honored by a solemn Stybla honoring ritual. Of the two brothers, only Thrawn was granted the suffix odo at the ceremony. Only eighteen people were present: Lamiov, Lappincyk, Thrawn, Thrass, Thooraki, and the thirteen Stybla Patriels who were able to travel to Naporar for the occasion. The entire ritual was performed in Tybroic, contrasting the various Mitth ceremonies performed in the main Chiss language Cheunh and adding a ritual depth. In the past five thousand years, only eight non-Stybla individuals had been granted the honorific odo. Furthermore, the ceremony was shorter than most ceremonies the Mitth performed; however, in contrast to the Mitth's ceremmonies, no-one was at the Stybla honoring ritual whom anyone sought to impress.
Patriarch Thooraki greeted Thrass warmly, asking the Syndic about his mother, before informing Thrass that he and his Stybla counterpart had discussed granting Thrass the suffix odo as well as Thrawn. Thrass was unperturbed by not receiving the suffix, explaining that he had done little to recover the piece of the Starflash. Thrass asked Thooraki whether the two Patriarchs had decided not to make him "Mitth'ras'safisodo" because the Syndicure would not accept a Mitth Syndic and cousin carrying a Stybla honorific as part of his name. Thooraki smiled wryly at Thrass, rebutting that Patriarch Thomoro the Tragic—Mitth'omo'rossodo—had borne the honorific, and thus there should be no problem with a cousin and Syndic doing so.
The Mitth Patriarch explained to Thrass why the Mitth and Stybla had chosen not to grant both brothers the "odo" honorific. Rather than Thrass' contribution to the mission or rank in the family and Syndicure; the Patriarch told the Syndic that he and Lamiov decided it would be best for the Mitth if they did not make it so publicly obvious that Thrawn and Thrass were a team. He explained that the duo of Thrawn and Thrass had prodigious skills in the military and political arena, and their friendship and brotherhood enabled htem to work fully in sync with complete trust—as brothers. Thrass felt manipulated by the Patriarch, inquiring whether Thooraki had "forced" him and Thrawn to become close friends. Patriarch Thooraki laughed at the suggestion, protesting that no-one could force friendship or brotherhood on anyone. Indeed, Thrawn was socially awkward and Thrass was one of few people with whom Thrawn felt truly comfortable and relaxed. Thrass remained skeptical, asking whether Lappincyk had truly sought to rematch Thrawn to the Stybla at all after Thrawn's graduation from Taharim Academy. Thooraki assured Thrass that, if Thrass had not acknowledged his friendship with Thrawn, then Lappincyk indeed would have offered Thrawn a position in the Stybla family. Thrass then admitted to Thooraki that Thrawn had been his friend long before he had reailzed and admitted it to Lappincyk. The Patriarch then maneuvered Thrass into accepting that he and Thrawn had also been brothers long before either had realized their brotherhood.
The Mitth Patriarch revealed that he, Patriarch Lamiov, and General Ba'kif (who had formerly been "Stybla'ba'kif," known as "Labaki") had identified the now-brothers at a young age for their mutually-complementary skills in politics and military tactics. The three officials believed that if Thrass and Thrawn (formerly Kivu'raw'nuru, "Vurawn") could become close friends, they could bring the Mitth to heights of influence the family had not attained for a long time. The way the two interacted and their interests enmeshed, the three older men knew that Thrass and Thrawn would make an excellent team. Thrass asked Thooraki what the Stybla gained from this arrangement, to which the Patriarch explained that they had a quiet, strong, and lasting friendship with the Mitth family that had survived for over a thousand years. Thrass mused that such an arrangement was even rarer than the Stybla honoringn ritual itself. The Patriarch then suggested Thrass "rescue" Thrawn from probing conversation with two Stybla Patriels.
Thooraki informed Thrass that he would stay on Naporar for several days to talk with Patriarch Lamiov; however, he had prepared a shuttle to take Thrawn to the Springhawk and Thrass back to Csilla. Syndic Thrass thanked the Patriarch for his time, insight, and guidance. Thooraki bade Thrass farewell, telling the man he looked forward to speaking again in the future, and to seeing the new heights to which Thrass and Thrawn would carry the Mitth family.
A brother and his brother's sister
- "The day we first met, when we were talking about Patriarch Thomoro the Tragic, you told me that some losses run too deep to ever fully heal. What personal loss were you remembering?"
"All these years, and you still remember that?"
"It made an impact on me. […]"
"You say we're brothers. I never had any others. But I once had a sister. When I was three and she was five, she simply… disappeared."
"I'm sorry. Did she die?"
"I don't think so. At any rate, the day you and I met was her starday, and her loss was weighing particularly heavily on my thoughts at the time. I hadn't meant for you to notice. I certainly hadn't meant for you to brood over it all these years."
- ―Thrass asks Thrawn what deep personal pain lurked in Thrawn's past. Thrawn explained to his brother about his long-lost sister
Thrawn and Thrass left the Stybla mansion after farewells and thanks to Senior Aide Lappincyk and Patriarch Lamiov. As the brothers walked toward their shuttle, Thrawn seemed distant, and Thrass took the opportunity to have a private conversation with his brother. Thrass complimented Thrawn on the sound of his new name "Mitth'raw'nuruodo," although the mid commander added it would take some getting used to. Thrass then pressed Thrawn about what was troubling the young officer; asking whether his new name was causing him to worry. Thrawn denied this, asking why he would be concerned by such a tremendous honor. Furthermore, Thrawn was even less worried about the item; citing the fact that he had never even heard rumors about it as a testament to the UAG's solid security around the item. Furthermore, Thrawn recognized the Stybla as the only family who had ever had the wisdom and self-confidence to voluntarily relinquish power, making him confident that they would not misuse the second item.
Thrass was relieved at what Thrawn had just said, but asked why the warrior had the look of a man "planning a major battle campaign." Thrawn teased his Syndic brother, asking how Thrass would even recognize such a facial expression. Thrass retorted that the Syndicure was also a battleground; but their battles were merely fought with speeches and favors instead of lasers and missiles. Thrawn added theatrics to the list, and Thrass agreed that Syndicure battles were "especially" fought with theatrics. The Syndic then asked what was actually troubling Thrawn.
Thrawn hesitated before telling Thrass that he had been taken aback by the Mitth Syndic and cousin publicly declaring him as his brother. The officer recognized Thrass' right as a cousin to create his own personal family relationships. Thrawn winced at the notion of a cousin claiming a Trial-born as his brother, before convincing himself that Thrass had merely done so to create a tactical advantage against Roscu. Thrass—now guided by Patriarch Thooraki into recognizing that he and Thrawn had long been brothers—sought to soothe his Expansionary Fleet counterpart. The Syndic asked the officer whether he would more easily accept him as his brother if he were only a ranking distant. Thrawn demurred, noting that Thrass was in fact a cousin.
Thrass asked Thrawn to trade secrets; the kind of secrets traded by brothers. Thrass revealed that, while he was listed in the family ranks as a cousin; in some sense, he was technically just a ranking distant. He shared his origin story with Thrawn: Thrass' parents were from a very minor family; one whose identity Thrass did not even remember. However, just before Thrass' birth, his father had sacrificed his life to save Patriarch Thooraki from an assassination attempt. Thrawn recognized Thrass' father as an honorable man to make such a sacrifice. Thrass confirmed that, adding that his father had been even more honorable because Thooraki had been traveling anonymously and Thrass' father did not even know whose life he had saved; simply stepping in to save someone in need.
In a show of gratitude, Thooraki adopted Thrass' mother into the Mitth family with the rank of ranking distant; the highest position the Patriarch could confer on a commoner. Children of ranking distants were born as cousins of that family. However, Thrass was born only a week after his father's fatal sacrifice, which would have made him a ranking distant like his mother. However, because Thrass had not yet been born at the time of the attempted assassination of Patriarch Thooraki, the Patriarch muddled the date of rematching of Thrass' mother to between his father's death and his birth; granting Thrass the status of cousin at birth. Thrawn asked what the Patriels and Syndics might think of the arrangement, to which Thrass replied that he believed they were mostly happy that Thooraki remained alive.
Thrass told his brother it was his turn to share a secret. The Syndic recalled Thrawn's agony at personal loss the day they had met, and asked what Thrawn had been sad about. Thrawn was surprised to learn that Thrass remembered his pain, but Thrass said it made an impact on him. As his brother and his friend, what was important to Thrawn was also important to Thrass. Thrawn told Thrass that he had never had a brother before, but that he had once had a sister. She disappeared when he was three years old and she was five. Thrawn did not believe she had died (and indeed, she remained alive). The day Thrawn met Thrass at the welcoming dinner on Avidich had been Thrawn's sister's starday, and Thrawn felt her loss particularly keenly because of that. Thrawn had never meant for Thrass to notice his anguish; let alone for the Syndic to brood over it for all the years since they met.
Upon hearing that Thrawn had had a sister, Thrass volunteered to locate records that must exist and detail her whereabouts. Thrawn demurred, thinking Thrass would be too busy, and telling the Syndic that he would one day make time to locate her himself. Nevertheless, Thrass resolved to locate the woman to assist his brother in resolving his deep personal anguish. Thrass even pondered asking Patriarch Thooraki to launch an official inquiry, believing it was the least he could do for his brother. Thrass reflected that just as Thrawn had never had a brother before, neither had he. Indeed, Thrass ultimately did collect records of Thrawn's sister, who had once been Kivu'rik'ardok, and prepared them on a data cylinder.
Before boarding their shuttle, the brothers briefly discussed Thrawn's upcoming mission. Thrass asked whether the Defense Council honestly expected Thrawn and the Springhawk to find pirates out in the Chaos. Thrawn did not know, but shared that Commodore Ar'alani's opinion was that the Council expected him to disappear from the Ascendancy for some time so they would not have to look at or think about him. Thrawn then added that no-one ever knows the future. Thrass privately reflected that Patriarch Thooraki seemed to know the future, pondering that he and Thrawn may be destined to do great things for the Mitth and the Ascendancy. Thrass was amused by the thought of them as "brothers-in-arms" working together to increase Mitth's influence both in Syndicure and among the military, as well as working to make the Ascendancy a better place for all. He then mused that, if Thooraki was right, the two men were already brothers-in-arms: a cousin born as a privileged member of the family, and a promising upstart outsider who had been welcomed in and attained the rank of Trial-born.
Despite Thrawn's request to leave the matter alone, Thrass began to collect information about Thrawn's sister. His search finally led him to a woman named Irizi'rik'ardok, who had been born as Kivu'rik'ardok and who had been adopted to the Irizi family after her tenure in the Sky-walker corps. His search also uncovered some unpleasant details about the way the sky-walkers were trained, all of which he stored on a data cylinder. After his meeting with Irizi'rik'ardok, Thrass kept an eye on her movements, making a note of her marriage to Bomarmo and her relocation to Ardok Ranch on the Ascendancy planet Ool. The Ranch served as a cover for a Seekers' Shadehouse, one of the secret locations where the sky-walkers were trained. Patriarch Thooraki would one day instruct his Senior Aide Mitth'iv'iklo "Thivik" to pass on Thrass' data cylinder to Thrawn's loyal friend and subordinate, Caregiver Mitth'ali'astov.
The Vagaari pirate operations
- "That [the Vagaari pirate operations] was certainly one of his [Thrawn's] most mixed-result exploits. He captured that gravity-well generator the researchers are still trying to figure out, but then lost the big alien ship from Lesser Space before anyone could get a look inside."
"And lost a respected Mitth syndic along with it."
- ―Syndics Zistalmu and Thurfian discuss Thrawn's leadership of the Vagaari pirate operations
Some time after first being given command of the Springhawk, Thrawn conducted a campaign against Vagaari pirates that became known as the Vagaari pirate operations. The operations were a military success, with the threat of Vagaari pirates eliminated. Moreover, Thrawn had acquired a gravity well projector from a mysterious starship from Lesser Space; valuable technology that the Ascendancy's scientists were still trying to reverse-engineer around 18 BBY. However, the Vagaari pirate operations were considered politically disastrous and one of Thrawn's most "mixed-result" exploits. Thrawn had also "lost" the Lesser Space starship before any scientists could examine its interior, and respected Syndic Mitth'ras'safis "Thrass" had gone missing-in-action in the process and was presumed dead. Despite the separation of duties between the Syndicure and the Chiss Defense Force, Thrawn had been known to have a close relationship with Syndic Thrass, a fellow Mitth.
By the end of the Vagaari pirate operations, Thrawn had the rank of Senior Captain. By that time, Thrawn's full name had changed from "Mitth'raw'nuru" to "Mitth'raw'nuruodo," though his core name remained Thrawn. He underwent treatment for injuries he had sustained fighting the pirates at the Chiss Expansionary Fleet medcenter on Naporar and was there during the attack on Csilla by unconfirmed enemies in 19 BBY. Supreme Admiral Ja'fosk disapproved of Thrawn's actions during the operations and relieved Thrawn of command of the Springhawk. Command of the cruiser was given to Mid Captain Ufsa'mak'ro "Samakro."
Thrawn and the Nikardun Destiny
Threat of the Nikardun
Assigned a new mission
- "Preparing transport for myself and Senior Captain Mitth'raw'nuruodo. Destination: Dioya. Purpose: investigation of a derelict ship found two days ago in the outer system."
- ―Supreme General Ba'kif
Senior Captain Thrawn was still in treatment on Naporar for injuries sustained in the Vagaari pirate operations when Csilla was attacked by unknown enemies in 19 BBY. Following the attack on Csilla, the now-Supreme General Ba'kif traveled to Naporar, where he asked Thrawn to accompany him to investigate a subtler threat to the Chiss. The two left to look into an attack on the edge of the Ascendancy's outer Dioya system. Thrawn and Ba'kif ventured to the Dioya system, where unknown assailants had attacked a ship full of refugees of unknown origin, slaughtering them all. The Dioya system was at the very edge of Chiss territory, but nevertheless part of the Chiss Ascendancy. As such, the attack that occurred there warranted and in fact mandated a Chiss military response if culpability could be established. Ba'kif asked Thrawn to investigate the source of the attack, for which Thrawn required command of the Springhawk once again.
Thrawn was reinstated to his position on the Springhawk. The Springhawk was navigated by the sky-walker Che'ri, with Mitth'ali'astov "Thalias" serving as the girl's caregiver. As part of Picket Force Six, Thrawn and his ship participated in an attack on the Paataatus along with Admiral Ar'alani. Thrawn's tactical insights were key to the Ascendancy's victory in that battle, as only Thrawn understood both Paataatus tactics and the fact that the locals had known the Chiss' attack vector. Ar'alani ordered the Springhawk to stay in a formation Thrawn knew to be tactically disadvantageous against the Paataatus. Thrawn disobeyed her order, and as a result, turned a rout into a Chiss victory and secured a "groveling" peace settlement from the Paataatus government. A tribunal was convened on Csilla to question Thrawn's disobedience of an order from Ar'alani, despite it being the reason the Chiss had won. However, Thrawn could not attend the tribunal because he and Ba'kif left to investigate the attack at Dioya.
In the Dioya system, Thrawn and Ba'kif boarded the doomed refugee vessel. Thrawn studied the ship's architecture and the clothing of the murdered refugees. Based on patterns in the dead refugees' clothing, Thrawn inferred that their society held females in high regard; information which he would use later. What Thrawn learned at Dioya led him to the Rapacc system not long after.
Reconnaissance at Rapacc
- "We have everything Supreme General Ba'kif sent us to find. The murdered refugees were Paccosh from the Rapacc system, their oppressors are called the Nikardun, and the Nikardun leader is General Yiv the Benevolent."
- ―Senior Captain Thrawn
The Springhawk traveled to the Rapacc system, a box system where they saw unidentified naval forces patrolling. Two gas giant planets in the system, Shadow Number One and Shadow Number Two, could be used for stealthy entry to or exit from the inner system where habitable planets would lie. The Springhawk investigated the inner system, where its crew discovered an evidently-abandoned asteroid mining station that Thrawn sought to investigate. The Springhawk required all its officers to remain aboard, so Thrawn asked Caregiver Thalias to journey to the station with him. The Springhawk's helm officer Azmordi initially objected to Caregiver Thalias and Sky-walker Che'ri's presence when discussing sensitive information, wishing it to remain within the senior officer corps. However, Thrawn insisted Che'ri and Thalias were part of his team and may have to perform extraordinary tasks at some point which would require their preparation and full knowledge of the situation. Thrawn then departed with Thalias aboard a shuttle.
Aboard the space station, Thrawn and Thalias signaled the exterior lights to invite any locals to meet them. They met a native Paccosh leader named Uingali foar Marocsaa who told him of the oppressive Nikardun Destiny led by the charismatic general Yiv the Benevolent. The Paccosh, a species native to the star system's titular planet Rapacc, were besieged by Nikardun blockade frigates and feared for the life of every last Pacc under the sword of the Nikardun. The Nikardun had disarmed the captive Paccosh people and starships, forcing them to explore the station unarmed. Uingali entrusted Thrawn with a double ring bearing an engraving of a chimaera, which the Chiss would eventually come to adopt as his personal symbol. From the information he learned from the Paccosh, Thrawn became convinced the expansionism of the Nikardun Destiny posed a far greater threat to the Ascendancy than the attackers behind the Csilla attack.
After departing the Rapacc system, Thrawn journeyed to Guild Concourse 447, where he hired Pathfinder Qilori to serve as the Springhawk's navigator. Qilori would navigate for the Springhawk to conduct a raid operation on the Nikardun military in the Rapacc system and capture a Nikardun blockade frigate. Thrawn believed that doing so would provide the Chiss with valuable tactical and cultural information about their Nikardun adversaries. Furthermore, Thrawn wished to gauge Qilori's actions during the raid, believing he could learn something about the Pathfinders' operations. The Chiss ultimately learned much about the military technology of the Nikardun from the captured warship. Moreover, the vessel's entire crew committed suicide prior to the Chiss boarding, which taught Thrawn and other Fleet officers the sheer willpower, hatred, and loyalty of Nikardun soldiers. Seeking to learn yet more about the Chiss' new adversary, Thrawn resolved to understand Yiv, and prepared a proposal to investigate the Lioaoin heartworld to present to Supreme General Ba'kif along with his after-action report.
Causing a stir and stirring up cause
- "Interesting. You realize, of course, that stealing someone else's ship, under any circumstance, is a serious breach of regulations."
"The Nikardun ships attacked us, sir. I understood that regulations permit self-defense."
"Absolutely. And if you'd blown the damn thing to dust, no one would have given it a second thought. But capturing it? And you, Admiral. I know you and Thrawn have a long history, but I'm a little surprised that you agreed to be a part of this."
- ―Supreme General Ba'kif and Senior Captain Thrawn
Thrawn and the Springhawk returned to Csilla, where Thrawn, Ar'alani and Ba'kif met at the Supreme General's office at the Fleet headquarters on Csilla. Ba'kif read Thrawn's report on the Rapacc missions at least twice while buying time to formulate a proper response. The General scolded Thrawn for capturing an enemy ship and Ar'alani for condoning Thrawn's choice of actions, saying the capture had been a serious breach of regulations. Thrawn pointed out that the Springhawk had acted in self-defense, which was permitted by standing orders. Nevertheless, the General distinguished between destroying an attacker and capturing their vessel, predicting that many Syndics would be furious upon learning of the capture. Ar'alani defended her subordinate, informing Ba'kif that she had studied the regulations and none had specifically prohibited the capture of an aggressor warship. Ba'kif considered capturing an enemy ship to fall under the category of preemptive strikes, which were expressly forbidden. Moreover, many Syndics and Aristocra would demand Thrawn return the captured Nikardun vessel. Upon this comment, Thrawn mused that such a transfer would be "awkward" without its crew, as they had all committed suicide before the Chiss could board the blockade frigate.
Ba'kif correctly predicted the Syndicure's outrage. Syndics Mitth'urf'ianico "Thurfian" and Irizi'stal'mustro "Zistalmu" were enraged at Thrawn's actions. Thrawn wished to go to the Lioaoin heartworld to see if the Lioaoi had fallen under Yiv's influence or alliance, but the angry politicians would not hear it. Instead, they demanded he join Ar'alani's Nightdragon man-of-war Vigilant on a diplomatic mission to deliver a Chiss ambassador to Urch, the homeworld of the Urchiv-ki species. The Ascendancy had signed a treaty with the Urchiv-ki to open diplomatic relations with the Tower Dimension, and the Vigilant was chosen as the warship to deliver the ambassador Boadil'par'gasoi "Ilparg." Upon the Vigilant's arrival at Urch, the Tower Dimension refused to grant the Chiss clearance to land. Initially unknown to the Chiss on the scene, the Urchiv had been conquered by the Nikardun and coerced to lay a trap to try to capture a Chiss warship in response to Thrawn's capture of a Nikardun blockade frigate. The Tower Dimension's forces were reinforced by Lioaoin starfighters. The Lioaoi demanded the Vigilant leave the system, and the Nightdragon man-of-war saw a Nikardun frigate before jumping to hyperspace.
From the state of affairs in the Urch system, Thrawn and Ar'alani learned a lot, including much of the information Thrawn had sought at the Lioaoin heartworld. Ilparg, angered by the very undiplomatic welcome he was extended as a Diplomat, demanded the Vigilant visit the heartworld to demand answers from the Lioaoin Regime. Defending Lioaoin gunboats performed a pincer maneuver, a decidedly non-Lioaoin tactic but one commonly used by the Nikardun military. Lioaoin Orbital Command denied any involvement in the Urch incident. Senior Captain Thrawn identified himself by name and claimed to be Ambassador Ilparg's supervisor, causing some of the gunboats to break formation at the mention of his name. From the fact that Thrawn's name alone was incitement to violence to the Nikardun, coupled with the pincer maneuver tactic, and that the Lioaoi remained armed unlike the Paccosh; Thrawn discerned the Lioaoi had been recruited as Nikardun allies rather than subjects.
Sizing up the enemy
- «He's more competent than he seems.»
«You think that display showed incompetence? You think just because there were no loud voices or discharged weapons that we didn't engage in combat? Trust me, Pathfinder. I understand this person now, and he is every bit as dangerous as you told me. You were wise to bring him to my attention, and then into my presence.»
- ―Pathfinder Qilori and General Yiv
Thrawn came to understand that the Nikardun Destiny posed an insidious threat to his own Chiss Ascendancy. Furthermore, the Senior Captain believed that a skilled conqueror must understand the worldview, customs, and tactics of their conquered peoples. As such, he contrived the fictional role of a "Chiss family hostage" to convince the Nikardun General that he did not fully understand the Chiss and thereby erode his confidence in his ability to conquer the Chiss Ascendancy. Thrawn hoped that doing so would buy the Chiss time to fortify their defenses from a Nikardun invasion.
Senior Captain Thrawn studied maps of the Chaos and discerned a pattern among nearby alien civilizations whose diplomatic and military behavior had recently undergone significant changes. The pattern Thrawn saw was one of encirclement of Chiss space by societies apparently suborned by a mixture of outright conquest and persuasion, which Thrawn correctly attributed to the Nikardun. Thrawn showed Thalias a map of the Chaos, highlighting nations on the Ascendancy's borders whose behavior toward the Chiss had markedly changed recently. Thrawn surmised that the Nikardun Destiny sought to encircle the Ascendancy, conquering neighboring civilizations so the Chiss could not engage in hostilities. Thalias suggested the Defense Force could deal with Yiv as they had the Paataatus. Thrawn replied that Paataatus culture indicated the Paataatus would not attack any Chiss for a generation. However, reports from Naporar indicated the Paataatus were already rearming for another attack. Consequently, Thrawn concluded that Yiv had conquered the Paataatus. Aware that Yiv preferred to smooth-talk his way into suborning species when he could, Senior Captain sought to meet the Nikardun General at a diplomatic event.
Fully aware that a Chiss officer of the Expansionary Defense Fleet could not merely walk in to a diplomatic event featuring General Yiv or his high-ranking lieutenants, Thrawn sought out his old Garwian contact Frangelic at the Garwian capital of Solitair. Frangelic, who had been promoted to Second Defense Overlord since their last meeting, informed Thrawn that the Garwian Unity would soon undertake a diplomatic mission to Primea, the capital of the Vak Combine and the homeworld of the Vak species. Furthermore, Primea served as a diplomatic and trade hub for the region, so Thrawn would likely be able to learn about Yiv and his Nikardun there. Frangelic invited Thrawn and Thalias to join the Garwians' diplomatic mission, where Thrawn posed as "Artistic Master Svorno," chief curator of the Nunech Art Collection. Caregiver Thalias acted as Thrawn's Chiss family hostage, but was mainly referred to as Thrawn's "companion" to elicit intrigue and suspicion on the part of observers. Thrawn told Frangelic that he trusted the Security Chief, and thus let him in on his "secret" that Thalias was his "family hostage." In reality, Thrawn sought to plant enough seeds of the rumor of family hostages for them to reach Yiv, but not enough to look conspicuous as disinformation or lead to questions of why no one had ever heard of Chiss family hostages before. The Garwians hired Qilori of Uandualon to serve as their navigator to Primea.
After Thrawn and Thalias' arrival at the Primea diplomatic reception, Thrawn discovered to his pleasure that Yiv was in attendance personally. Sighting Qilori, he admonished Thalias for wearing her hostage makeup "incorrectly," stating that a family hostage should meet certain criteria for appearances; doing so to make sure Qilori would overhear. Thrawn, posing as "Artistic Master Svorno," engaged Qilori in conversation about an academic theory he claimed to be trying to refute. However, Thrawn gave up the topic of conversation after realizing that it was not of interest to Qilori. The Pathfinder smiled internally, reflecting that for all of Thrawn's aliases and disguises, he could never successfully impersonate an academic until he realized that academics loved to "rattle on" about their specialties regardless of their audiences' interest in the subject. Thrawn then asked Qilori to introduce him to Yiv. The Chiss said he knew about most of the species present and that few of those have art that was "worthy of the name," but had never met one of "those" (a Nikardun) before. Qilori happily obliged, as the Pathfinder wished to bring Thrawn before Yiv as well.
Yiv discussed art and architecture with "Svorno," who was in fact Senior Captain Thrawn. The Chiss and the Nikardun challenged one-another to analyze something that was not their counterpart's specialization; so Yiv would analyze a work of art while "Svorno" analyzed architecture. Yiv discussed the implications of a secret tunnel from the reception area to the Vak premier's private office. Thrawn studied a Vak tapestry that Yiv believed showed "inexpert" design, but Thrawn retorted that it in fact showed that the Vaks valued both the individual and the whole; "working for unity while at the same time celebrating difference and uniqueness." This cultural information would prove crucial during a confrontation between Thrawn and Yiv in the Primea system.
Thrawn said that he saw at the reception a great deal of artwork, all of which displayed the Vaks' cultural ethos. The Chiss then asked the Nikardun General what he saw, to which Yiv responded "Opportunity." Yiv elaborated that he saw opportunity to "make new friends" with the Vak people. Thrawn then asked Yiv what would happen if the Vaks did not want the Nikardun's friendship. Yiv responded that he would see it as an insult. The Chiss asked if such an insult would need to be "avenged," to which Yiv insisted that it would need to be "dealt with" and that "avenged" was "far too savage" a word to use. The General complimented Thrawn on his observational skills, and the Chiss retired to his quarters.
After Thrawn's departure, Qilori discussed the Chiss with his Nikardun employer. Yiv said that he now understood Thrawn and the danger he posed to the Nikardun. He complimented the Navigator for bringing Thrawn before him. Qilori then brought up the subject of Chiss family hostages he had observed, which led Yiv to begin to second-guess his knowledge of the Chiss.
- "The first thing Yiv will probably assume is that we'll try to steal a ship."
"Indeed he will."
"So where are we going?"
"To the spaceport, to steal a ship."
- ―Thalias and Thrawn
Yiv planned to capture and kill Thrawn as the Garwian diplomatic ship left Primea, but Thrawn was not aboard. Instead, he and Thalias remained on the planet to learn about the Vak culture and how the Vaks would respond to Yiv's diplomatic and military overtures. The two Chiss entered a Vak art gallery where Thrawn learned more about Vak culture and discussed the opinions of "the common [Vak] people" with the museum's curator. Thalias opined that the people who frequent art galleries would not be the decision-makers of their species, to which Thrawn replied that she did not see what he saw.
He explained that the Vaks valued all of their members' points of view, which they called "thought lines," and as such they sought consensus making decisions. Decision-making so thoroughly communal made the Vak Combine slower in deciding their policies and courses of action than most sentient species. However, the Vak would distrust a faction which sought to subordinate the Vaks' many thought lines to those of the faction's leader. Yiv would no doubt seek to make his own thought line the only one that mattered. Thrawn and Thalias sought to spread that warning before they were caught by Nikardun or Vak security forces.
Thrawn and Thalias stole a patrol boat from the Vak spaceport to make their escape, and fitted it with the shipping box Frangelic and Thrawn had prepared to serve as their quarters. Thrawn incapacitated the Vak pilot with tava mist, disabling the pilot for a short time with no lasting harm. As they departed, Thrawn discussed Thalias' motive for joining the Springhawk. She revealed that she wanted to see Thrawn again, as she believed he had "changed her life." The caregiver recounted their encounter aboard the Tomra on Thrawn's first space-flight. She had felt dejected and miserable and believed her life was over, but Thrawn gave her hope by telling her that she could choose her path in life. Thrawn took a long moment to reply; at which point Thalias thought he only sounded "thoughtful," rather than sympathetic, encouraging, or even responsive. He told the caregiver of his sister who had gone missing without a trace when he was three years old; whom he had long presumed dead and knew he would never see again. He now understood that she had the gift of Third Sight and was thus taken to be a sky-walker for the Defense Force. He said in a bittersweet tone that he would still never see her again. Thalias told Thrawn there must be personnel records he could use to locate his sister, hoping to ameliorate her commander's sadness. However, Thrawn knew that most former sky-walkers hoped to disappear into anonymity after their service and chose to respect his birth sister's wishes to do so.
Yiv's allies attack
- Zistalmu: "Are you mad? You can't launch an unprovoked attack."
- Wutroow: "It's not unprovoked. One of them fired on us, remember?"
- Zistalmu: "That was Thrawn."
- Ar'alani: "So you've suggested. Until that's been confirmed, we operate on the assumption that the Vaks have attacked us. Captain Wutroow, pick three of the patrol ships and fire."
- ―Syndic Zistalmu, Senior Captain Wutroow, and Admiral Ar'alani
Admiral Ar'alani had been sent by the Defense Hierarchy Council to retrieve Thrawn and Thalias from Primea. Ar'alani commanded the Vigilant and was accompanied by the Springhawk, temporarily under Mid Captain Samakro's command. Ar'alani was accompanied by Syndic Zistalmu, who sought to ensure the two Chiss ships would obey the Chiss non-aggression protocols. The Chiss force called the Primea diplomatic office to ask the whereabouts of "artistic master Svorno" (i.e., Thrawn). The Vaks responded that the Garwian diplomatic ship had departed three days ago.
Meanwhile. the Chiss ships were met by thirteen Vak patrol boats arranged in a lens formation. The local patrol boats and Chiss warships engaged in limited shows of force against each other, sufficient to demonstrate the capability to engage if necessary but limited enough to display a lack of desire for combat. A fourteenth Vak patrol boat, secretly piloted by Thrawn, soon joined the other thirteen. Thrawn's patrol boat opened fire on the Vigilant with modulated laserfire in what appeared to be a Vak attack on the Chiss. In actuality, Thrawn was sending Admiral Ar'alani the schematics of the Vak patrol boats so she and the Springhawk could disable them without destroying them; using the same communication method he had devised for the Stivic incident. Much to Syndic Zistalmu's outrage, Ar'alani used Thrawn's apparent attack to justify engaging the Vak patrol boats.
Just before the Vigilant could fire to disable the Vak fighters, four Lioaoin warships appeared from hyperspace. The Lioaoi flagship hailed Ar'alani, positively identifying themselves as part of the Lioaoin military and telling the Chiss they had disrupted the peace of the Vak Combine. They warned the Chiss to depart immediately. Ar'alani replied that they were only there to search for one of their people, at which point the Lioaoi attacked the Chiss force. Ar'alani knew that she and Samakro did not have enough plasma sphere to destroy all their attackers, so they planned a quick escape. Syndic Zistalmu was further angered because, "now that they were actually attacked," Ar'alani wanted to leave.
Striking back at the Lioaoi
- Thrawn: "Don't worry, they aren't all coming for us."
- Dalvu: "Certainly looks like they are."
- Samakro: "Watch your tone, Mid Commander. The senior captain knows what he's talking about."
- Thrawn: "Perhaps you should explain to her why they'll send no more than four ships against us."
- Samakro: "Because the Chiss have a reputation. The Lioaoin High Command knows all about it, and won't believe the Ascendancy has sent only two ships to slap them down for their attack at Primea. They'll assume we're either a diversion or part of a larger encirclement force. Either way, they'll want to keep the bulk of their force close in for protection."
- ―Senior Captain Thrawn, Mid Commander Dalvu and Mid Captain Samakro discuss the defending Lioaoin forces
While Chiss Ascendancy law prohibited preemptive strikes against non-enemies, it required retaliatory strikes against enemy forces who definitively established their identity. As such, the Lioaoin attack at Primea required the Expansionary Defense Fleet to counterattack the Lioaoin Regime. The Syndicure and Defense Hierarchy Council sent the Vigilant and Springhawk to attack the Lioaoin heartworld. Unknown to most of the vessels' crews, Thrawn and Ar'alani wished to only attack using the two warships, rather than bringing a larger force.
On the way to the Lioaoin heartworld, Thrawn and his officers discussed the philosophy of war and what they had learned about the Nikardun Destiny. The Springhawk's second officer Senior Commander Plikh'ar'illmorf "Kharill" mused that this attack was madness, to which Samakro responded that the ancient Chiss philosophers would consider all warfare madness. Kharill expressed a desire for a few years of peace, even if that peace left the Chiss Defense Force personnel unemployed. Thrawn asked Kharill how that peace should be achieved, and the Senior Commander retreated. With Samakro, Thrawn reasoned that the Lioaoi were Yiv's allies, and Yiv had ordered them to Primea to engage the Chiss so neither the Nikardun nor the Vaks would have to expend their own forces. The Senior Captain said Yiv would judge the Ascendancy's will to conduct reprisals during the coming battle; and as such, the Chiss' goal should be to maximize the message they would send while minimizing the actual damage inflicted on the Lioaoin Regime.
Thrawn guided his first officer Samakro to reason why their attack force consisted of only two warships. The reasoning amounted to a confluence of several factors. First, by deeming only two warships adequate to perform their reprisal, the Chiss Ascendancy would project supreme confidence. Second, small forces were best able to evaluate enemy tactics. Thrawn added that Ar'alani had requested only two ships for the engagement, and a single ship would have been even better for tactical evaluation. However, the Defense Hierarchy Council would not have allowed only one ship to perform the mission. Thrawn added that the Syndicure was happy enough to grant Ar'alani's request for only two ships, as many would be confident in the two ships' powers and some may hope Thrawn and Ar'alani would be killed.
Upon the Chiss force's arrival at the Lioaoin heartworld, they saw twelve Lioaoin warships. Thrawn knew that no more than four would engage the Springhawk and Vigilant, as the Chiss had a reputation that they would have reinforcements lying in wait. If the Lioaoi were to send their whole defensive fleet to engage two Chiss ships, they would open their planet to attack by the Chiss reinforcements they believed would come. At that time, Ar'alani hailed the Lioaoin ships, asking for an "explanation" of their attack at Primea. The Lioaoi did not attempt to deny or justify the attack, leading Thrawn to reason that Nikardun forces were present and the Lioaoi feared reprisals by the Nikardun if they should downplay their aggression at Primea. A battle ensued, with the Springhawk and Vigilant using shuttles as decoys and bombs containing breachers—missiles with acid payloads which weakened enemy hulls and disabled electronic systems near the point of impact. The Chiss emerged victorious, maximizing their deterrent message while minimizing permanent damage to the Lioaoin Regime in the hopes that the Lioaoi would remember the Ascendancy's restraint in the future. The Springhawk sustained heavy damage in the battle.
Planning next steps
- "There are several possibilities. We might be able to foment revolt among some of [Yiv's conquered peoples]—"
"Preemptive action. Never get past the Syndicure."
"—or possibly lease bases or supply depots from them—"
"More preemptive action."
"—or, if there are unconquered peoples scattered among them, we might learn how they were able to resist the Nikardun."
- ―Thrawn and Ba'kif discuss reconnaissance against the Nikardun
Following the Lioaoin skirmish, Thrawn met with Ar'alani and Supreme General Ba'kif on Csilla, were they discussed possible next steps. The Admiral and General were now convinced of the threat posed by the Nikardun, but the Defense Hierarchy Council and the Syndicure were not. Thrawn proposed conducting reconnaissance behind Nikardun lines. He would take a small scout ship able to evade pursuit and learn the size, strength, and degree of control the Nikardun Destiny exercised over its subjects. Ba'kif agreed that such a mission was possible, but asked the Senior Captain "to what end" it would be undertaken.
Thrawn initially replied that the scout mission could incite the Nikardun's conquered peoples to revolt against their conquerors. Ba'kif shot the idea down as a violation of the Ascendancy's prohibition on preemptive military action. The Senior Captain then proposed leasing military bases or supply depots from nations occupied by the Nikardun; however, the General rejected that idea on the same grounds. Finally, Thrawn proposed searching for allies who may have been able to resist Nikardun conquest and keep such resistance unknown to Yiv. Despite believing the chances of such potential allies existing to be slim, Ba'kif granted Thrawn permission to undertake a search for allies. Further, the Supreme General allowed Senior Captain Thrawn to bring navigator Che'ri and caregiver Thalias with him. Ba'kif warned Thrawn that the younger officer would not only be risking his own life, but also those of Che'ri and Thalias. Thrawn understood the gravity of the situation, but insisted that he would rather cause Che'ri and Thalias' deaths through his actions than cause the deaths of the entire Ascendancy through inaction. Reluctantly, Ba'kif agreed. The general told Thrawn his orders would be "cut but sealed," meaning they would be official and binding, but no-one but Ba'kif and Ar'alani would know about them. Ba'kif wished Thrawn good luck as the younger man left.
Thrawn left Ba'kif's office to meet Thalias and Che'ri, who had been waiting outside. Despite her clearance to accompany Thrawn on his mission, Thalias was prevented from coming when Syndic Thurfian pulled her aside to report on Thrawn. Thalias refused to be Thurfian's spy against Thrawn, but could nevertheless not accompany her Senior Captain and sky-walker charge on their mission. Instead, Thalias resolved to take the Mitth family Trials, proving herself worthy of being a Trial-born of the Mitth. In the meantime, Thrawn asked Che'ri if she still wished to undergo the planned mission without her caregiver. Che'ri agreed, understanding the importance of the mission, and asked Thrawn to give her more colored graph markers. Thrawn pleased the young girl by telling her that he already acquired two boxes of the markers and four binders of paper on which she could draw. The art supplies waited for them aboard the scout ship.
Alliance with Anakin Skywalker
Searching for allies in Lesser Space
- «Unidentified ship, this is General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic. You are intruding on Republic equipment and interfering with a Republic mission. I order you to pull back and identify yourself.»
- ―Anakin Skywalker to Thrawn, in Meese Caulf
Thrawn departed Csilla with sky-walker Che'ri to search for allies for the Ascendancy's coming conflict with the Nikardun. Their search was to take place within and beyond the Unknown Regions. While exploring the edge of the Chaos, Thrawn began teaching Che'ri how to fly a starship. Che'ri had drawn aerial landscapes, birds, and many other flying entities, and the Senior Captain recognized the young girl's desire to fly reflected in her drawings. Che'ri became more confident and admitted her love of flying, and came to believe that Thrawn was an excellent teacher.
Not long after reaching the Outer Rim Territories of "Lesser Space," Thrawn and Che'ri detected an energy shield far more advanced than the electrostatic barriers used for warship defense in the Unknown Regions. The energy shield was deployed to protect a Separatist base on the world of Mokivj which they would later discover was a battle droid factory. They also waited above the Outer Rim planet Batuu in search of possible allies and briefly spoke with Duja, whom they inferred to be a scout or spy for the Galactic Republic. Che'ri did not believe they would be able to catch up with Duja, but the Mitth senior captain was confident that Chiss hyperdrives and especially chiss sky-walker navigators were superior to those used by the Republic.
Jedi General Anakin Skywalker's Eta-2 Actis-class light interceptor exited hyperspace above Batuu, and Thrawn saw artistic similarities with the design of Duja's ship. Thrawn's scout ship approached the Actis' hyperdrive ring, seeking to study it. Skywalker hailed the Chiss vessel in several languages until they could successfully communicated in the Meese Caulf trade language. The Jedi ordered Thrawn to withdraw from his hyperdrive ring. When Skywalker introduced himself, Thrawn was surprised by his last name, given that the same name "sky-walker" was used for the Chiss navigators. Although he was actually a Senior Captain, Thrawn introduced himself as Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo, an officer of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet. Thrawn sought Skywalker's assistance in learning of the pan-galactic Clone Wars and the state of the galaxy. The Jedi Knight agreed to help in return for Thrawn's assistance locating Padmé Amidala and Duja. The pair descended to Batuu's surface along with the Jedi's astromech droid companion R2-D2. Che'ri was left alone to take care of Thrawn's ship and to deploy decoys when they would be needed. Skywalker told the Chiss about the Clone Wars, which saw the Confederacy of Independent Systems' Separatist Droid Army allayed against the Jedi and clone troopers of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Thrawn and Skywalker found Padmé's H-type Nubian yacht in a small forest clearing thirty kilometers from the settlement known as Black Spire Outpost. There, Skywalker fought a group of smugglers upset at the presence of Amidala's ship in their landing spot, leading Thrawn to break up the fight. Together, he, Skywalker, and R2-D2 investigated Padmé's Nubian yacht. They found no sign of forced entry, but found logs indicating that Duja's ship, a Nomad Four, had left a week before Amidala's arrival. The two made arrangements to travel to Black Spire to continue their search.
Skywalker and Thrawn visited a cantina in Black Spire Outpost, where they asked the bartender about Padmé and Duja's whereabouts. The two were attacked by four assailants, but subdued and killed their attackers. Thrawn was wounded in the fight, but luckily his Chiss uniform absorbed and dissipated much of the energy from blasterfire. Thrawn deduced that the assailants had come to assassinate Skywalker and that a fifth companion was still at large. To track down the fifth companion, Skywalker came up with a plan to make it appear that one of the human assassins survived, wherein Skywalker would use the Force to animate the assassin's corpse. In the meantime, Thrawn installed listening devices at the cantina. Because of Skywalker's Force-sensitivity and employment of the Force in combat, Thrawn deduced that he was either a Jedi or a Sith. Because the Chiss myths of Jedi and Sith portrayed the Sith as clever and capable warriors, and because Skywalker had made careless mistakes in the skirmish, Thrawn inferred he was a Jedi.
Thrawn and R2-D2 returned to Skywalker's Jedi starfighter with the assassin's body. While Skywalker and R2 flew with the body, an explosion in the Actis' portside repulsorlift caused it to descend rapidly. Skywalker managed to regain control of the ship and landed it among the trees, where he was attacked by a droid assassin. Skywalker was able to use the Force to deflect the droid's fire back at it, disabling it. Skywalker soon encountered Thrawn, who had captured the fifth assailant. The two searched the assassin's Separatist freighter.
Jedi and Chiss
- «You are a Jedi, then?»
«I'd have thought that was obvious.»
«Not at all. Our myths of the Republic speak of two groups of beings with such powers: the Jedi, and the Sith. But the Sith are reputed to be clever and capable warriors.»
- ―Thrawn identifying Anakin Skywalker as a Jedi
Skywalker and Thrawn disabled the droids guarding the freighter, and discovered that it was transporting alcoholic beverages and gold ingots. Thrawn deduced that the ship was transporting its goods to a Separatist manufacturing facility. They also found that the crates were etched with an unfamiliar symbol. R2-D2 inspected the navigation computer and learned that the Separatist ship was traveling to the planet Cermau. Thrawn learned from the listening devices he had installed in the cantina that five individuals had entered the cantina, knocked the bartender unconscious, and carried him away. Thrawn explained that Chiss listening devices translated speech into powerful sonic signals which were processed by another device into a pattern of invisible flickering lights, and then translated back at the receiving end.
Returning to Black Spire in their landspeeder, Anakin and Thrawn were attacked by several thugs. The wounded Thrawn rammed their landspeeder into their attackers. Following a fight, Anakin and Thrawn subdued the assailants. They questioned two prisoners, including a cargo inspector named Oenti. One of the prisoners revealed that the bartender Janott had connections to the pro-Separatist Duke Solha of Serenno, the same planet whence the Separatist Head of State Count Dooku hailed. Questioning their prisoners, Thrawn and Anakin determined that Padmé's handmaiden Duja had discovered that the smugglers were using Batuu to smuggle supplies to a Separatist droid factory and that Duja had entered a Separatist ship and contacted the Republic. However, Oenti's comrades had realized she was a spy, causing them to panic and attempt to ship their gains off-world. However, before their ship had arrived, the landing space had been occupied by Ambassador Amidala's ship.
Oenti confirmed that Padmé Amidala had landed at Black Spire and wrote a poem for the deceased Duja. Janott and Oenti denied killing Duja, and Anakin confirmed they were being truthful. When Thrawn announced that they would head to the Separatist base on Mokivj, Oenti and his companions attacked Thrawn and his Jedi ally. Using his lightsaber, Anakin slew the assailants except for Janott. Janott confirmed that Padmé survived and left in a different ship. Leaving the bar, Skywalker briefed Thrawn about the political dynamics of the Clone Wars.
- «Instead of attempting to shut down the factory, a better solution might be to let them waste their time and resources on a lethally flawed project.»
- ―Thrawn suggested that Anakin and Padmé sabotage the droid factory's manufacturing rather than simply destroying the factory and cortosis mine. Anakin did not take the Chiss' advice, which led to a catastrophe on Mokivj
On Mokivj, Thrawn fought alongside Skywalker and Amidala against Solha's droid forces. The Separatists had a cortosis mine and a droid factory on Mokivj where they were manufacturing cortosis B2 super battle droids to fight the Jedi Order. Cortosis was able to withstand energy weapons like blaster bolts and lightsabers, making cortosis-fortified armor deadly against Jedi and clone troopers alike. Skywalker and Thrawn located the droid factory, which Amidala sought to infiltrate, and eventually united with the Senator.
Thrawn and Skywalker met Duke Solha, offering to deliver his lost cargo in a ploy to infiltrate the Separatist facility. Solha, flanked by an escort of B1-series battle droids and B2-series super battle droids, escorted the two men into the factory's courtyard. The Jedi General attempted to create a diversionary attack on some of the droids, but the two visitors were caught and detained in the factory's prison block. Skywalker contacted his wife with telepathy to rescue them. Thrawn utilized the fibers of his clothing to make a crude lock-pick, which Anakin used the Force to maneuver to free the two men from their prison. After two hours of waiting for Padmé, the Jedi's wife arrived, accompanied by several maintenance workers local to Mokivj: Huga, Cimy and LebJau. The factory workers helped the Republic and Ascendancy individuals escape through the unused portions of the factory. Thrawn, Anakin, and Padmé retrieved Skywalker's lightsaber and sabotaged the factory.
Thrawn briefly left after securing the deflector shield generator, claiming to Amidala that it had been his mission. Nonetheless, he returned to help the Jedi and his wife defeat the Separatists. After defeating the Separatist duke and droid forces, Skywalker and Amidala insisted on destroying the Confederacy's ability to produce the cortosis-armored droids before leaving Mokivj. Thrawn suggested that they sabotage the droids so the Separatists would waste valuable resources on a flawed project doomed to fail, but Skywalker insisted on destroying the mine where the cortosis was acquired. This caused a catastrophe that rendered Mokivj barren and inhospitable. Che'ri returned near the end of the mission, helping the Chiss and Republic individuals distract and defeat Separatist vulture droids protecting the base in air and space.
Thrawn was impressed with Skywalker's courage and cunning, while Skywalker was also impressed with Thrawn, and spoke highly of him to Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine when he returned to Coruscant. Thrawn was unimpressed, however, with the state of the Republic. He believed it to be unfit for an alliance with the Chiss Ascendancy, citing that the Republic's democratic style of government created a bloated, inert system where everyone had a voice but nothing was accomplished. Thrawn believed that a system of governance that encompassed so many points of view, styles of political thought, and philosophies was sluggish and inefficient by nature. Nevertheless, Thrawn's association with Skywalker was later made known, passed along in rumors among people who mined in the Thrugii asteroid belt.
Fall of the Nikardun Destiny
Return to the Chiss
- "Sixth job is probably to get Ba'kif and Ja'fosk to sign off on this."
"I was thinking of waiting on that until after Che'ri and Thalias have left."
- ―Senior Captain Thrawn and Admiral Ar'alani
Five weeks after their departure from Csilla, Thrawn and Che'ri returned to the Chiss with the deflector shield generator they called the "Republic energy shield." Upon his return, Thrawn met with Admiral Ar'alani and Supreme General Ba'kif to make plans to defeat General Yiv and his Nikardun forces. The officers understood that the capture of a Senior Captain by forces not considered an enemy of the Ascendancy would not be considered an act of war sufficient to merit a Chiss military response. However, the capture of a flag officer or sky-walker would merit military action. Thus, Thrawn and Ar'alani hatched a plan.
Setting up the trap
- "Speakers and Syndics of the Ascendancy, I've received a transmission from General Yiv of the Nikardun Destiny. Quote:"
«I have in my possession the two family hostages of Senior Captain Thrawn, whom he sent to Primea with an offer to the Vak Combine of union and treachery against the peaceful peoples of the Nikardun Destiny. If he wishes the females to be released unharmed, he will travel alone to the attached coordinates in an unarmed freighter with the equivalent of two hundred thousand Univers.»
"The coordinates given indicate a high orbit over Primea."
- ―Supreme Admiral Ja'fosk
Thrawn would send sky-walker Che'ri and Caregiver Thalias to Primea aboard the Vak patrol boat he had stolen with an apology and a warning to the Vak Combine. In fact, Thalias carried one copy of Thrawn's message to the Combine while a second and longer copy was stored in the patrol boat's computer. The copy in the returned ship included a warning that Yiv might capture Thalias and Che'ri and replace the contents of their message with something innocuous. If the copy the Vaks' leaders received matched the copy aboard the ship's computer, then all was fairly calm and they would have time to deliberate. However, if the messages did not match, that would indicate the Nikardun General had altered the message and could therefore not be trusted; thus leading to a shift in Vak thought lines to oppose the Nikardun Destiny.
Che'ri was nominally aboard the Vak patrol boat because she knew how to pilot the ship while Thalias did not (and that was true); but in reality, Thrawn and Ar'alani required Yiv capture the young sky-walker to convince the Syndicure to conduct a military strike against the Nikardun. Thrawn's warning to the Vak Combine included data he had collected on other civilizations that Yiv had made entreaties to, with which he hoped to convince the Vaks that Yiv's promises and flattery were in fact deception prefacing an iron fist that would follow if they should accept Yiv's suzerainty. Moreover, it included an invitation for the Vak Combine to form a military alliance with the Chiss Ascendancy against the Nikardun. (Notably, Thrawn was not authorized to propose such an alliance.)
The two female Chiss were dressed up as Chiss family hostages and told to give their message directly to the highest-ranking defense official in the Vak Combine. Thrawn and Thalias expected that their message would be intercepted and replaced by an agent of Yiv, but did not tell Che'ri that detail. He prepared for this possibility by including a second copy of his warning on the databanks of the returned patrol boat's computer with an additional message added. The second message, which was only present in the starship's computer, warned the Vaks that if the message they receive from Thalias and Che'ri differed from that on the vessel's computer, then Yiv was lying to them and they should hasten to make a decision to form an alliance with the Chiss.
As Thrawn expected, General Yiv captured Thalias and Che'ri, taking them hostage. He sent a message to the Csilla demanding that Thrawn deliver a monetary ransom aboard an unarmed freighter in exchange for the release of the captive Chiss. The message specified coordinates representing high orbit of Primea, and demanded that Thrawn come alone in an unarmed freighter. Supreme Admiral Ja'fosk called an emergency session at Csilla's Convocate Hall to deliver the news to an outraged Syndicure. While Syndic Thurfian had often seen Thrawn skirt or step over the limits of acceptable and legal behavior for a Chiss officer, he was completely unprepared for the news that Thrawn's actions had led to the capture of a Sky-walker. Thurfian privately fumed that such an act was treason against the Ascendancy.
Called to testify before the Syndics, Thrawn explained that he had never intended to place either woman in harm's way, and asserted that it was Yiv's aggressive actions that endangered Thalias and Che'ri; not his own. One Syndic asked how Thrawn could have allowed a valuable sky-walker to fall into "enemy" hands, to which Ja'fosk replied that the Nikardun Destiny was not the Ascendancy's enemy. The Syndics and Ja'fosk discussed whether Yiv might know of the existence of Chiss sky-walker navigators; concluding that there was neither evidence that he did or did not. The Syndics remained furious and demanded action be taken to rescue Che'ri, even if that action constituted a military strike; and an expedition to Primea was authorized. A Speaker for the Irizi family effectively ended the meeting by saying they would have more questions for Thrawn and Ar'alani, but they could wait until after Che'ri and Thalias were rescued.
It was decided that Thrawn would travel to Guild Concourse 447 and hire a navigator to take his unarmed freighter to the coordinates Yiv had specified. If Thrawn failed to retrieve Thalias and Che'ri on his own, a Chiss fleet would soon follow and arrive at Primea. In reality, Yiv had arranged for the navigator to be Qilori and for Qilori to bring Thrawn and the freighter somewhere in the outer reaches of the Primea system. Thrawn expected as much and would later invoke Yiv's treachery to justify the Chiss fleet that followed him to Primea. Thrawn had studied the schematics of Yiv's flagship Battle Dreadnought the Deathless, which sported an overly large viewport as did many other Nikardun vessels. He had the Fleet make special modifications to the freighter he would take to the Concourse and then to Primea, so its nose would first puncture and then perfectly seal a vacuum in the viewport of the Deathless' bridge. Additionally, the Fleet had installed a prototype "Republic energy shield" on the freighter, reverse-engineered from the one Thrawn had acquired on Mokivj and far stronger than any shielding technology commonly employed in the Unknown Regions at the time. Nevertheless, the freighter was bereft of weapons as required.
The Chiss fleet arrives
- «Do I assume that since the location for our meeting was changed, all the rest of the original provisions are no longer in force?»
«Probably. Are there any provisions in particular you'd like to revisit?» […]
«Just one provision. The part about me coming to Primea alone.»
- ―Thrawn and Yiv
Upon Thrawn's arrival to the outer Primea system, Thrawn and Qilori saw the Deathless accompanied by three other Nikardun Battle Dreadnoughts. Thrawn hailed Yiv over the comm to announce his arrival to the General and that he had the specified monetary ransom. Yiv said that Thrawn misunderstood, and that Thrawn was himself to serve as the ransom. The Nikardun leader told the Chiss officer that he had earned death for capturing and killing one of his ships and crews. Yiv asked Thrawn whether he wished the General to shoot his freighter down rather than bring him aboard to be killed personally, to which Thrawn replied that he did not. The Chiss commended Yiv for his cleverness in arranging the meeting at a different location than promised, and asked if that meant the other "provisions" of the meeting had changed too. The General quipped "probably" before proceeding to brag about the Vaks' awareness of his substantial military forces in the system and nearby. As Thrawn's freighter approached the Deathless, Thrawn said he wished to revisit the provision that he come to Primea alone.
At that time, the Vigilant, Springhawk, and other Chiss cruisers arrived in the Primea system from hyperspace. They called Primea Central Command to announce their arrival and inform the locals of the presence of Nikardun warships. After the Chiss vessels performed a sensor scan, the Springhawk's second officer Kharill noted that the Nikardun dreadnoughts had formed a blockade formation, to which Mid Captain Samakro and sensor officer Elod'al'vumic "Dalvu" agreed. The Chiss understood that the blockade was meant to prevent the Vaks or any others in the system from stumbling upon Yiv's covert meeting with Thrawn, but the Vaks had no reason to suspect such a motive. Ar'alani sent the Nikardun formation data to Primea Central Command, who understood it to mean they were the subject of a planetary blockade by the Nikardun Destiny. Ar'alani asked for the Vaks' permission to clear out the blockading vessels from the system, which they granted. Included in her message was a plan by which the Vaks could join the battle on the side of the Chiss if they wished. As a result, the battle over Primea ensued. The battle began between the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet on one side and the Nikardun on the other, but the Vak Combine would eventually join on the side of the Chiss.
- «Your people will die for this. Not just you. Not just your pitiable fleet. All the Chiss. The Ascendancy will die, shredded like grain, ground down like stone, burned like withered grass. Every last cub will die… and you will die here and now, with the certain knowledge that you and you alone were the root and cause of their destruction.»
«All because I cost you your foothold on Primea? Come now, General. You merely need to step away and start over. But I suggest you choose a different part of the Chaos for your next attempt. This region will no longer accept your smiles and promises.»
- ―General Yiv and Senior Captain Thrawn
Yiv was furious upon seeing the arrival of the Chiss fleet at Primea. Thrawn further angered the General by pointing out a dilemma the Chiss had set for Yiv. The Chiss fleet was much stronger than the Nikardun patrol boats forming the apparent blockade of Primea. Yiv could sacrifice those small warships; but that would bring disgrace on Yiv as the Vaks knew that Yiv had stronger battle dreadnoughts that could reinforce his patrol boats. On the other hand, Yiv could send his dreadnoughts to reinforce his blockade formation, but if he sent all of them, it would appear he was fleeing Thrawn and his unarmed freighter. Moreover, even if Yiv sent all three of the Deathless' companion dreadnoughts to reinforce his blockade ships, it would appear that Yiv was too cowardly to join the battle himself. Ultimately, that third option is what an apoplectic Yiv settled on.
Yiv, extremely angered at the trap laid before him, began hurting Thalias to try to learn Thrawn's plan. Thrawn, still on the comm display, informed the Nikardun that there was no need for such actions, and laid out his plan transparently for the General. Thrawn sought to trap Yiv in a box, which he insisted he had. He told Yiv the only way forward would be for Yiv to capture Thrawn's freighter with the Deathless' tractor beams and release Thalias and Che'ri, as provided in the two men's original "agreement." Yiv smugly chided that he had always wished something like that, but said he would kill and dismember Che'ri and Thalias in front of Thrawn so the Chiss Senior Captain would die knowing he had brought such a fate on all Chiss.
Meanwhile, Admiral Ar'alani told Mid Captain Samakro, now commanding the Springhawk, to "play dead," and appealed to several non-combatant Vak patrol boats for humanitarian aid. The Vaks agreed after a short period of protest, but were promptly shot and destroyed by several Nikardun warships. The Vak culture treated an attack on any Vak as an attack on the entire Vak Combine, so the Vak forces promptly joined the battle against the Nikardun on the side of the Chiss fleet. Away from the Deathless and Thrawn's freighter, the climactic battle quickly turned against the Nikardun due to the Vaks adopting Ar'alani's battle plan.
By now, Yiv was apoplectic. He ordered Thrawn's freighter to be brought in by tractor beams and fired at with spectrum lasers simultaneously. Just at that moment, Che'ri and Thalias stripped their hostage disguise and released tava mist, inhibiting the reaction time and reflexes of the Deathless' bridge crew. Using the Republic shield generator technology the fleet had installed, Thrawn's freighter endured the Nikardun laser fire without significant harm, even though the lasers would have been strong enough to easily destroy the freighter if it had only been equipped with the electrostatic barriers common in the Chaos. Thrawn's ship crashed into the bridge of the Deathless, at first opening the viewport up to vacuum before sealing it with the perfectly-shaped custom nose the Expansionary Defense Fleet had installed on Thrawn's freighter. Thrawn then rescued Che'ri and Thalias from the Nikardun, knocked Yiv unconscious with more tava mist, and seized the General, his questis data-link reader, and his data banks before escaping with his friends and prisoner. The departure of Thrawn's freighter once again opened the bridge of the Deathless to the vacuum, killing all of Yiv's bridge crew and thus leaving "no witnesses," as the General himself had wished.
The Nikardun collapse
- «Yiv was the Nikardun Destiny. He was the undisputed leader. When he vanished… there was no one else who could take his place. No one who could continue the relationships he'd built with alien governments. The uncertainty over what had happened to him—that all by itself froze everyone's plans and thoughts. And when the Vaks started describing to everyone in the region how his ships had fired on them… It all just fell apart. Some of his chiefs are still talking about restarting their road of conquest, but no one believes it anymore. Even if they try, they'll just end up fighting among themselves.»
- ―Qilori describes the collapse of the Nikardun Destiny to Jixtus
Without their general, the Nikardun Destiny quickly collapsed. Thrawn also made one of Yiv's agents, the Pathfinder Qilori, promise not to tell anyone how Yiv had been defeated, or else he would be removed from the Pathfinders, and the Pathfinders themselves would be removed from the Navigators' Guild. However, when another enemy of the Chiss, a Grysk calling himself Jixtus, threatened to leave the Pathfinder on a derelict ship light-years from any star system, Qilori told him that Thrawn was the Chiss who had taken down Yiv. Wanting revenge on the Chiss himself, Qilori also agreed to ally with Jixtus.
Following the battle over Primea, the Syndicure called several hearings regarding the Nikardun threat, how they had been discovered, and how they were defeated. Mid Captain Samakro recalled that most Aristocra had "perfunctory" questions for the Fleet officers, but Syndic Thurfian had a singular vendetta against Thrawn and the officers of the Springhawk. After Yiv's capture and interrogation, the Syndicure became convinced that the remnants of Yiv's forces must be eliminated. As such, they authorized the Nikardun campaigns to neutralize any Nikardun remnants in the Chaos. Thrawn participated in the campaigns.
Jixtus had expected Yiv's efforts against the Chiss Ascendancy to fail, and [[ Plot to destroy the Chiss Ascendancy|sought to destroy the Ascendancy]], believing the destruction of the Chiss nation would allow the easy conquest of the Chaos. He thus had servants of the Grysk Hegemony, including the telepathic Agbui named Haplif, conduct a plot to instigate a civil war among the Chiss. That plot unfolded at the same time as the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet undertook the Nikardun campaigns to eradicate the remnants of the Nikardun Destiny within the Chaos.
A civil war that wasn't
Mopping up in the Vak Combine
- "Thrawn, the Grayshrike has picked up a new nest of nighthunters. Can you offer them some assistance?"
- ―Admiral Ar'alani orders Thrawn to assist Senior Captain Lakinda's heavy cruiser Grayshrike
At some point in approximately 18 BBY, Thrawn undertook the mission to the Vak Combine as part of the Nikardun campaigns, together with Admiral Ar'alani and Senior Captain Xodlak'in'daro "Lakinda" of Picket Force Six. Thrawn commanded the Springhawk while Ar'alani commanded the Vigilant and Lakinda the Grayshrike. The task force had the mission of neutralizing Nikardun remnants within the Vak Combine, but Thrawn had been given a private mission by Supreme General Ba'kif as well. The Grayshrike was disabled over the course of the battle, and Ar'alani ordered Thrawn to first help defend the damaged cruiser and then assist her Vigilant in picking off the remaining Nikardun enemies.
Uingali foar Marocsaa, whom Thrawn had met four and a half months prior, invited the Springhawk and its crew to the Rapacc system to mediate a dispute. As a result, the Picket Force split up once the Nikardun were defeated. Thrawn and his Springhawk were dispatched by the Defense Hierarchy Council on a mission to Rapacc on Uingali's invitation.
In the meantime, Syndic Zistalmu and Thurfian, now promoted to Syndic Prime of the Mitth, believed Senior Captain Thrawn would make a political miscalculation, bringing shame to the Ascendancy, and as such conspired to draw Thrawn far away from Chiss territory. As such, the two Syndics began amplifying rumors of an alliance between the Paataatus and the Vagaari pirates, knowing that the Syndicure would be eager to send Thrawn against two enemies he had thoroughly routed in the past. In addition, Thrawn's acquisition of a gravity well generator from the Vagaari pirate operations was famous among the Nine Ruling Families, and the Syndics would hope Thrawn could secure more promising alien technology in further combat against the Vagaari. Unknown to the Syndics, the rumors they were amplifying had originated with the Grysk Jixtus.
Visit to Rapacc
- «Uingali foar Marocsaa, I trust you are well?»
«I am indeed well. You might have led with the ring. […] Showing the ring from the beginning would have saved us the task of retrieving the shuttle you disabled. But no matter. Follow us, Chiss Senior Captain Thrawn. My people are eager to meet you.»
- ―Thrawn and Uingali foar Marocsaa
Upon entering the Rapacc system, the Springhawk was greeted by a Nikardun blockade frigate that had been captured by the Paccian Governance. Thrawn hailed the frigate in the Taarja trade language, stating that he represented the Chiss Ascendancy and came in friendship and peace. The frigate's captain, who was Uingali foar Marocsaa, asked Thrawn to prove he was indeed Chiss. The Paccosh had heard legends that the Chiss were able to disable enemies without inflicting any permanent damage. Uingali thus challenged Thrawn to prove his Chiss-hood by launching a shuttle for the Springhawk to disable harmlessly. Thrawn obliged, having weapons officer Chaf'pri'uhme "Afpriuh" disable the shuttle with a plasma sphere. The Senior Captain then revealed that he had come to Rapacc to ensure the Nikardun had been driven out, and to return Uingali's Marocsaa subclan ring bearing the image of a chimaera. Thrawn then correctly identified the commandeered frigate's captain as his old friend Uingali. Upon showing the ring to Uingali over the viewscreen, the Pacc smiled, welcoming Thrawn to his world. Shortly thereafter, Uingali's frigate turned upward to reveal a massive ventral decal of a chimaera.
Uingali took Thrawn, Thalias, and Samakro to Rapacc's capital city of Boropacc, which was largely destroyed. Uingali told his Chiss guests that most of the destruction had been by the Nikardun as they withdrew from the planet, but some of it had come from the Paccosh in their eagerness to kill as many Nikardun as they could on their way out. The Pacc then told the Chiss the true purpose of his invitation. Uingali's Paccosh people had come to host 200 refugees of a mysterious species seven and a half months prior, which was three months before Thrawn's first encounter with the Paccosh aboard the mining station. Those refugees had a matriarchal society and were led by a female figure known as the Magys. The Magys' people had fled a disastrous civil war on their homeworld and believed that all others of their species were dead. Uingali also revealed to Thrawn and his companions that the Nikardun had originally invaded the Rapacc system in order to hunt down the Magys' refugee group, stating that "grief is the child of mercy."
Believing that her two-hundred refugees were the only members of their species to survive their homeworld's war, the Magys wished mass-suicide for her people. She believed their only hope would be to become one with the Force by joining "the Beyond." Uingali explained that The Magys had to wait for nine of her people's months without hearing from any higher authority from her planet before she could command her refugees to commit suicide; that time translated to approximately eight standard months. By the time of the Springhawk's arrival, trust had frayed between the refugees and their Paccosh hosts. However, the aliens had expressed intrigue when Uingali had told them about a group of aliens (Thrawn and Thalias) who had visited the Paccosh seeking to preserve their art. Thus, after driving their Nikardun oppressors from the Rapacc system, Uingali contacted the Chiss Ascendancy and requested Thrawn, Thalias, and the Springhawk come to help their dispute. Uingali believed Thalias would be needed to dissuade the Magys from ordering suicide because the refugees' matriarchal culture would lead them to respect a woman's opinions more than a man's.
Uingali took Thrawn, Thalias and Samakro to a city on Rapacc where the Magys' refugees had settled, hoping that Thalias could help resolve the Magys' people's dispute while sparing their lives. The refugees had assembled in what appeared to be the convocation hall of an abandoned school building, sitting in a pattern that Thrawn described as the "tactics of desperation" in which the strongest and most combat-ready sat closer to the edge, protecting the weaker, more vulnerable, and the leaders. Eventually, the Magys' protectors parted, opening enough room for one of their visitors to talk with their leader. Thrawn believed the Magys wished to talk to him, but when he attempted to converse with her, she insisted on only talking with Thalias, whom she could sense had "touched the Beyond." Thalias and the Magys conversed in Taarja, and the Caregiver persuaded the Magys to visit her homeworld to see if there were any survivors before ordering her refugees' deaths. The Magys agreed, on the condition that she could take one of her refugees as a companion and witness. Thalias lacked the authority to make such promises, but did so anyway, seeing no other means of preventing a mass refugee suicide. By making commitments she lacked the authority to promise, Thalias committed insubordination. Nevertheless, Thrawn was pleased with her initiative, and ordered all crew of the Springhawk to act as if Thalias were a high-ranking officer whenever the Magys or her companion were present. That way, the illusion of Thalias' high rank would be maintained. Additionally, being a high officer would explain Thalias' periods of unavailability, which were in fact when she performed her caregiver duties for sky-walker Che'ri.
As the Chiss departed Rapacc, Samakro and Thrawn discussed sending an update to Csilla. Rapacc had no long-range communications triad for the Chiss visitors to use, and the Springhawk was out of range for ship-to-ship communications. Mid Captain Samakro insisted they first travel within comms range of the Ascendancy before going to the Magys' homeworld so they could update Ba'kif and Ar'alani with their status. However, Thrawn pointed out that time was short before the Magys would give the suicide, and if the data had been wrong or units converted incorrectly, the actual amount of time left may be even shorter than they thought. (Indeed, this was later shown to be the case.) As a result, Thrawn insisted they travel straight to the world the refugees had fled, to which the first officer commented he hoped that place would be worth the effort. Thrawn replied that he thought it would be, "unfortunately."
A mercy mission
- «As soon as we locate your world, we will learn its condition. What is its name, if I may ask?»
«We do not share that with outsiders.»
«Ah. Well, then, for our convenience, we'll name it Sunrise.»
«You mock our destruction?»
«Not at all. I choose to nurture hope.»
- ―Thrawn and the Magys discuss her homeworld
The Springhawk ventured to the refugees' homeworld in an attempt to prevent their mass-suicide. Thrawn's mission to prevent the Magys' people from committing suicide took the Senior Captain far out of Chiss space while the plot of the warlike and mysterious Grysk species to destroy the Chiss Ascendancy unfolded.
Upon sighting the Magys' homeworld, Thrawn asked the alien the planet's name. The Magys refused to share her world's name with an "outsider," so Thrawn nicknamed that planet "Sunrise," choosing a name symbolic of his hope and optimism for her people's future. Thrawn then ordered the Springhawk's helm officer Azmordi to perform an in-system jump to 40,000 kilometers above Sunrise's equator.
Shortly after completing that jump, the Springhawk was attacked by unidentified forces affiliated with the Grysk Hegemony. Fifteen missile boats attacked in three groups of five, each in a rosette formation. The Springhawk managed to fend off the unidentified gunboats when a Battle Dreadnought-class warship appeared from hyperspace. Fortunately, just as the Springhawk came under attack, Lakinda's Grayshrike appeared in the system, having tracked Thrawn down to deliver a message from Supreme Admiral Ja'fosk on Csilla. Together the two Chiss heavy cruisers managed to destroy five of the missile boats and drive the Dreadnought back, forcing it to retreat. Just before jumping to hyperspace, the Dreadnought destroyed the ten remaining gunboats that had fought on its own side to prevent the Chiss from analyzing them. The Chiss would later discover that the Battle Dreadnought was the HopeBreaker, a Shatter-class WarMaster of the Grysk Hegemony.
The Dreadnought had been guarding a small ship the size of a freighter that Thrawn, Samakro and Lakinda sought to identify; believing that identifying the freighter's purpose would provide clues to what enemy had attacked them and presumably instigated Sunrise's civil war. The Chiss did not know it at the time, but the freighter had been transporting the valuable industrial metal nyix off the world for the Grysk Hegemony.
After observing the destruction on her homeworld, the Magys ordered her companion to commit suicide. Likewise, she attempted to kill herself, but Thrawn arrested her for causing the death of an alien on his vessel; remanding her in a hibernation chamber and placing it in Che'ri and Thalias' sky-walker suite. Lakinda also delivered the transmission Ja'fosk had sent for Thrawn, summoning the Mitth Senior Captain back to Csilla for orders and debriefing.
Wild pirate chase
Debriefing at Csilla
- "We need to know who that Battle Dreadnought was, Mid Captain. And who in this region they've allied with."
"I'm not arguing, sir. Just worrying about Lakinda. She and the whole Xodlak family have a lot of politics going on at the moment."
- ―Thrawn and Mid Captain Samakro
From Sunrise, Thrawn took the Springhawk back to Csilla, where Thrawn and Samakro had several meetings. First, the captains met with the full Defense Hierarchy Council to debrief about the skirmish above Sunrise. Second, they were questioned by a select committee of the Syndicure about their mission. Finally, they met Ba'kif in his office for one of the Supreme General's infamous off-the-record meetings. Ba'kif told the Springhawk's top commanders of allegations of an alliance between the Paataatus and Vagaari pirates. Thrawn believed such an alliance to be impossible, as their overwhelming defeat by Picket Force Six the prior year should deter the Paataatus from attacking the Ascendancy for at least a Paataatus generation, given as 17–25 years. Ba'kif did not believe the rumors of the alliance either, but nevertheless assigned the Springhawk to investigate them, as the Syndicure and Council had for once agreed on a common goal.
Samakro questioned the Ruling Families' ulterior motives to assign Thrawn more operations against alleged Vagaari pirates. The official reports of the Vagaari pirate operations had been thoroughly redacted. Samakro inferred that some of the Ruling Families believed they could profit by sending Thrawn against the Vagaari again, referring to the correct rumors that Thrawn had acquired valuable technology from Lesser Space in his prior engagements against Vagaari pirates. Supreme General Ba'kif did not confirm or deny such motivations, and Ba'kif's complete lack of a reaction confirmed the Mid Captain's suspicions. Thrawn was assigned the mission and created a search pattern to follow in pursuit of the pirates. He shared his search pattern with Ba'kif, Ar'alani, and Lakinda so they could locate him if needed.
Before departing, Thrawn asked the General whether the Grayshrike would be sent back to investigate Sunrise and the force that had attacked the Chiss there. Ba'kif responded that many Aristocra were weary of sending a major warship so far from the Ascendancy, but did not explicitly say the cruiser would not return to the Magys' planet. At the time, the Grayshrike was undergoing repairs at Csilla Blackdock Two, further from the surface than any of Csilla's bluedock facilities. From that, Thrawn correctly inferred that Lakinda's cruiser would be assigned a follow-up mission to Sunrise and would be joined by Ar'alani's Vigilant. The Grayshrike would later receive orders to assist in Thrawn's search for pirates and the Springhawk would be informed by comms triad, but Thrawn would be too far out of communications range at the time to acknowledge receipt of that information.
Old enemies; new friends
- «Prince Militaire, this is Senior Captain Thrawn. As I've said already, we come in peace. However, if your current situation remains unchanged, I assure you that you'll witness the full might of the Chiss Ascendancy.»
«Do you make threats against the Paataatus Hiveborn, Senior Captain Thrawn?»
«I stand by the precise words of my statement.»
- ―Thrawn and a Paataatus Prince Militaire appear to make threats against one-another, while actually forging an alliance
To investigate the allegations of an alliance between the Paataatus and Vagaari pirates, the Springhawk journeyed to the Paataatus homeworld of Nettehi, which had been conquered and subjugated by the Nikardun. After entering the system, the Springhawk scanned twenty Paataatus fighters, six Paataatus enhanced cruisers and one Paataatus heavy frigate orbiting Nettehi, apparently performing a combat exercise. Not long after, the Springhawk received a transmission from a Paataatus identifying himself as Prince Militaire, and who informed the Chiss that they were trespassing in "holy Paataatus space." Thrawn and Samakro reasoned that "Prince Militaire" must be a title for a civilian and military official in the Paataatus government, and noted that the Paataatus seemed more talkative than typical in past bouts of combat between the Chiss and the Paataatus. Thrawn replied by identifying himself as Senior Captain Thrawn and his ship as the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet warship Springhawk, declaring their peaceful intent, and telling the Prince that he came with a question for the Paataatus. Rather than asking his question immediately, Thrawn chose to observe the Paataatus' behavior towards the Springhawk to learn about their tactical situation.
The Senior and Mid Captains observed the Paataatus vessels change from a sentry configuration to a more defensive posture. Samakro thus reasoned that the Prince Militaire was aboard the frigate, and Thrawn pointed out a repositioning of the cruisers atypical of Paataatus tactics. Paataatus fighters gathered as though to attack. Thrawn surmised that Nikardun forces were aboard one of the six cruisers, monitoring the conversation between Thrawn and the Prince Militaire, and threatening the Prince's frigate if the Prince were to appeal for Chiss help against the Nikardun. Thrawn reiterated his peaceful intentions, but also promised to display the full might of the Chiss Ascendancy if the Paataatus' situation remained unchanged. The Prince asked whether Thrawn was threatening the Paataatus people, to which Thrawn replied by affirming his prior words. The Prince Militaire made aggressive statements towards the Chiss, to which Thrawn replied steadfastly. A skirmish ensued, seeing the Paataatus ally with the Chiss to successfully liberate their homeworld.
The Springhawk and the Paataatus made a show of pretending to attack each other, keying their spectrum lasers to ionize the interstellar dust profile. As a result, the crossfire consisted of brightly visible laser bursts easily seen across the vacuum of space, yet which inflicted minimal damage upon impact. Mid Captain Samakro dubbed this fangless show-of-force a "light show." Thrawn identified the nearest Paataatus enhanced cruiser aft of the frigate as the one carrying Nikardun forces and ordered his weapons officer Afpriuh to fire at it. At that moment, all the Chiss and Paataatus warships concentrated fire upon the Nikardun-controlled frigate, neutralizing its threat to either faction and destroying it.
Thankful for Thrawn's assistance liberating their homeworld, the Paataatus asked Thrawn what his question had been and allowed the Springhawk to use their long-range communications triad to reach the Ascendancy. Thrawn's question to the Paataatus was whether they had any leads on recent Vagaari pirate activity, which they denied. Armed with new information about the presence and absence of Nikardun and Vagaari forces, Thrawn updated his search pattern and sent his modified plan to Naporar. Thrawn used their triad to send his message, in the Chiss language Cheunh, to the Syndicure and Defense Hierarchy Council. The Senior Captain encrypted the message using his personal encryption key, leading Supreme General Ba'kif to ensure other recipients that it could be trusted to originate with Thrawn, rather than as a Paataatus trick.
A freighter attacked
- "Fsir intends to lure us into range of something large and powerful, and must wait until we're ready to oblige him."
"That doesn't sound good. What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to see it through. […] If it was set up by a hitherto unknown threat, we need to assess their danger to the Ascendancy."
"Even if it's a trap?"
"Especially if it's a trap. An enemy bold enough to stage a deliberate attack on a Chiss warship needs to be identified. That's the primary mission of the Expansionary Defense Fleet, after all."
- ―Thrawn tells Thalias they must oblige Fsir especially if the Watith sought to ensnare them in a trap
After departing Nettehi, Thrawn continued his search pattern to trace the rumored remnants of Vagaari pirates. Eventually, the Springhawk encountered a Watith captain named Fsir who claimed his freighter Saltbarrel was under pursuit by Vagaari pirates. In fact, the freighter remotely controlled three Watith gunboats which appeared to attack the Saltbarrel but did no real damage. Thrawn later commented to Caregiver Thalias and Mid Captain Samakro that pilots would have to have implausibly bad aim to do such little damage if they wished to harm the freighter.
The Springhawk destroyed the three attacking gunboats in an ensuing skirmish, after which Fsir told the Chiss that he knew the location of a Vagaari pirate base from which the gunboats had attacked. The Watith captain insisted on leading the Springhawk to the system where the alleged Vagaari base was located, rather than simply providing the system's location. Thrawn was skeptical of the Watith's motives and claims of being attacked and insisted on remaining in their current system long enough to examine the debris from the destroyed gunboats. Further, the Chiss Senior Captain insisted on boarding the Saltbarrel to examine the Watith crew's competencies. Fsir objected to Thrawn boarding, but Thrawn eased the Watith's concerns by allowing them to hide their computer systems, reminding him that the Chiss would not understand labels written in the Watith's writing system, and rationalizing the visit as "payment" for saving the Watith crew and cargo. Fsir relented and agreed, after which Thrawn boarded the Saltbarrel along with several Chiss warriors acting as guards. Upon boarding, Thrawn counted 23 crew members including Fsir, as well as 20 consoles that he surmised were used to remotely pilot the gunboats.
Thrawn suspected the Watith were laying a trap but nevertheless agreed to escort them to the supposed Vagaari base. In fact, because the Expansionary Defense Fleet's primary mission was to evaluate threats to the Chiss Ascendancy beyond their own borders, Thrawn viewed it is all the more important to spring the trap and learn about an enemy bold enough to stage a deliberate attack on a Chiss warship. The Saltbarrel did not have a navigator aboard, so the two ships had to make a jump-by-jump journey to their target system; making short hyperspace jumps of a few star systems at a time and stopping to recalibrate. The Grayshrike had been given Thrawn's search pattern and sent by Supreme Admiral Ja'fosk to assist the Springhawk's hunt for alleged Vagaari pirates. Once the Springhawk was in the last system before the one that allegedly hosted the Vagaari pirate base, Mid Captain Csap'ro'strob "Apros" of the Grayshrike successfully made contact with the Springhawk. Thrawn filled Apros in on their status and coordinated with the Mid Captain to lie in wait in the shadow of the planet which purportedly housed the Vagaari base.
Reversing the trap
- «They see us! Senior Captain Thrawn, they see us!»
«So they do. Unfortunately for them, they have nowhere to go.»
- ―Captain Fsir panicking at the sight of hostile gunboats and Thrawn's confident reply
Once the Springhawk and Saltbarrel arrived in the destination system, twenty gunboats awaited and attacked them. Two of the gunboats sped off toward the planet below, and Fsir cried out that they must be seeking reinforcements from a Vagaari base and preparing to sound an alert. The Watith captain then insisted the Vagaari base was an orbital weapons platform. With eighteen gunboats between the Springhawk and the fleeing fighters, Thrawn would have to fight through all eighteen before destroying those allegedly seeking reinforcements. Senior Commander Kharill, who had been smiling, now chuckled.
Thrawn ordered weapons officer Afpriuh to target the two closest gunboats with the Springhawk's spectrum lasers, and commanded Kharill to prepare a full spread of ionizing plasma spheres on all but the leading two gunboats. Kharill would supervise plasma sphere specialist Laknym's aim and targeting, and they were not to fire the spheres until Thrawn gave the command. Sky-walker Che'ri, located in secondary command, shuddered at the irregular order; recognizing that a combination of spectrum lasers, plasma spheres, and breacher missiles was typically required to destroy an enemy ship; even one as small as a gunboat. Afpriuh's lasers quickly destroyed the two leading gunboats, and their debris occluded the remaining gunboats' view of the Springhawk and the plasma spheres it launched. Nevertheless, the gunboats evaded the spheres' trajectories almost instantly, which would not have been possible for organic pilots aboard to do. As a result, the Chiss had proven the gunboats were operated remotely. Two of the sixteen gunboats were hit by glancing blows and rendered disabled but still intact, leaving fourteen gunboats operational on the plane of battle, plus the two heading toward the planet.
At that point, Thrawn had proven the Watith's culpability for the gunboats to his officers' satisfaction, and he ordered Laknym to fire plasma spheres to disable the Saltbarrel. At the same time, Thrawn ordered his communications officer Brisch to signal the Grayshrike to make its presence known. Mid Captain Apros ordered the unidentified gunboats to stand down or be destroyed, and the Saltbarrel tried to evade Laknym's sphere barrage to no avail. The ionizing energy from the plasma spheres disabled the Watith freighter's thrusters, and immediately caused not only the freighter but also the eighteen remaining gunboats to drift in space along their current vectors—including the two gunboats headed toward the planet. Thrawn ordered the officers of the Springhawk and Grayshrike to collect the Saltbarrel and the fourteen remaining Watith gunboats that were neither flickered nor heading toward the planet. Thrawn arrested the Watith crew and seized their assets. The Watith later confessed they had been hired to distract Thrawn from the internal events of the Ascendancy. Their employer, though not revealed to Thrawn at that time, was the Grysk Hegemony agent Jixtus.
The mood in the Springhawk's bridge and secondary command lightened after the Chiss victory over the Watith, but Thrawn warned his officers and warriors that the day may not be over yet. Thrawn asked Apros whether the Watith had been correct in their assertion of an orbital Vagaari pirate base in the planetary shadow. Apros confirmed that no Vagaari base, or indeed anything else, had been present on the far side of the planet, where his Grayshrike had been hidden for the beginning of the skirmish. Thrawn declared happily that, in that case, the day was indeed over, but was cut off by Apros raising what he called an "urgent" matter. Thrawn invited Apros to board the Springhawk and asked the Grayshrike's personnel's help gathering the Watith gunboats.
Stopping a war before it started
- «When all are gone, we have no future but to touch the Beyond. But when our people are invaded and enslaved… You must take me to my people."»
- ―The Magys upon seeing the nyix brooch given to Thrawn
Once aboard the Springhawk, Mid Captain Apros explained to Thrawn and Samakro that Senior Captain Lakinda had left her post as the Grayshrike's commanding officer to respond to a Xodlak family emergency summons on the planet Celwis in the Southeast of the Ascendancy. Thrawn was extremely unsettled by this news, as he knew Lakinda to be a devoted and steadfast officer. The Senior Captain asked whether Apros knew anything about the circumstances of the emergency summons, but the Grayshrike's Mid Captain did not. Apros had tried to dissuade Lakinda from leaving her post, but she left promptly upon learning of the order and accompanied a Xodlak hyperdrive technician named Lakwurn to Celwis. Thrawn thus learned that whoever had declared the Xodlak emergency on Celwis must have wanted all military personnel of the Xodlak family to assemble, regardless of rank or position. Apros further revealed the results of his inquiry into the state of Celwis, describing two partially-crewed light cruisers and an uncrewed reserve frigate that the Xodlak had among their fleet at Celwis. The Mid Captain feared that the Xodlak might be setting up for a battle, but neither he nor the Springhawk's commanders knew who they might intend to fight.
Apros further informed the Springhawk's senior officers that they had received two additional encrypted transmissions issuing family emergency summons for members of two other Great Families of the Ascendancy. Defense Fleet personnel of the Erighal family were to assemble at Copero, and those of the Pommrio family were to assemble at Sarvchi. Like Celwis, Copero and Sarvchi were located in the Ascendancy's Southeastern region. The Grayshrike's weapons officer Erighal'ok'sumf "Ghaloksu" had informed Apros of the Erighal summons during a rest period the Grayshrike took for the benefit of its sky-walker Bet'nih. Ghaloksu had not requested leave for the summons, and Apros would not have granted it anyway as the Grayshrike was by then nearly to the alleged Vagaari base system and therefore in an "imminent threat situation."
Thrawn noted that the party's current location was to the Southeast zenith of the Ascendancy's borders, near Celwis, Copero, and Sarvchi. He insisted on helping resolve whatever trouble was brewing. The Chiss heavy cruisers were to collect fourteen Watith gunboats and the Saltbarrel, with the Grayshrike towing nine gunboats and the Springhawk hauling the other five as well as the Watith freighter. Samakro pointed out that it sounded like the Expansionary Defense Fleet had not been "invited" to whatever the three families might be up to, but the Mitth Senior Captain did not care. Before departing to help collect the gunboats, Apros remembered that he had come aboard the Springhawk to hand Thrawn a nyix brooch. He explained that those brooches had caused a great deal of "official interest" on Celwis, and a Xodlak rancher on Celwis had acquired one. The rancher sent it to his cousin Lakbulbup, an employee of the Expansionary Defense Fleet on Naporar. Lakbulbup had heard of Thrawn's brilliance at analyzing alien art and culture and insisted on sending the brooch to Thrawn. The rancher's cousin had then given the brooch to Lakwurn, a Xodlak junior officer on the Grayshrike, when that ship docked at Naporar for repairs and provisions, and Lakwurn was to give it to Senior Captain Lakinda to give to Thrawn. However, because Lakwurn and Lakinda had taken leave to answer the Xodlak family emergency on Celwis, Lakinda entrusted the brooch to Apros to give to Thrawn. Apros relayed this information to the Mitth Senior Captain before departing.
After the Grayshrike's Mid Captain returned to his ship, Samakro commented that each of the three Great Families involved were allied with a mutually-rivaled Ruling Family. Thrawn had not known that, but Samakro explained that the Xodlak were allied with the Irizi family, the Erighal with the Dasklo family, and the Pommrio with the Plikh family. Tensions were already high between the Irizi, Dasklo, and Plikh families, to the degree that any altercation involving their allied Great Families would cause major discord in the Syndicure and throughout the Ascendancy. Samakro further commented derisively that he wished Apros could have been more helpful, but Thrawn saw the brooch as far more useful than his first officer did.
A note affixed to the brooch explained its origin from aliens known as the Agbui who claimed to be cultural nomads. Thrawn inserted the note into his questis to learn about the brooch's history. The Senior Captain saw artistic similarities between the clothing of the Magys and the metal threads of the brooch Apros had just given him. At the time, the Magys was imprisoned in a hibernation chamber in the Springhawk's sky-walker suite, and Thrawn resolved to awaken her to inquire about the brooch. He and Samakro entered Thalias' and Che'ri's suite after making sure the sky-walker was fast asleep, and proceeded to initiate the end of the Magys' hibernation. While the machine deactivated, the Springhawk's captains filled Thalias in on the details of the brooch and the family emergencies. Thalias asked whether the Agbui might be some of the Magys' people, which Thrawn quickly assured was not the case. However, he could see artistically similarities between the brooch and the Magys' clothing and insisted that Thalias and Samakro could also see the relation. (In fact, neither could.)
The Magys awoke furious, accusing the Senior Captain of betraying her people by denying her the "right and weight of leadership." She insisted that her people were gone and her remnant had no right of "lingering survival," and they must die to touch the Beyond. Thrawn tried in vain to reason with the Magys, but she insisted that she would commit suicide then and her people would follow later. Abruptly, Caregiver Thalias interjected, taking the brooch from Thrawn's hands and showing it to the Magys. The brooch was clean and beautiful, unblemished by the stains of war or degradation, suggesting its recent manufacture and distribution. The Magys instantly ceased her angry accusations and gained a new resolve. She explained that the brooch had undoubtedly come from her world of Sunrise, and only the artisans of the Southern Mountains could craft such a beautiful trinket from metal wires. She had feared them all dead, as she feared of the rest of her planet's population, but Thalias and the brooch gave her new hope.
The Magys demanded that Thrawn take her to Sunrise immediately to reunite with her people. Thrawn promised he would do so soon, but she must wait a little longer. He explained that, if anyone outside the sky-walker suite learned that she was still alive and aboard, his superiors would call him back home to investigate his actions and study her, thus delaying her reunion and repatriation. The Magys was ready to passionately argue the point, but acquiesced to Thrawn's rationale after glancing in the direction where Che'ri lie asleep—a fellow Force-sensitive. The Magys then returned to stasis.
Thalias apologized for her "severely disrespectful" behavior towards Thrawn in that exchange, but the Senior Captain did not mind. He reassured the caregiver that he cared far more about results than etiquette, and her actions were very productive. Thrawn was neither angry nor annoyed, but rather relaxed. He turned to Samakro to ask his executive officer's thoughts on the situation. The Mid Captain replied by questioning how the Agbui could possibly benefit from stealing jewelry from the Magys' people and passing it off as their own. Thrawn insisted they find out by asking the one person who might know: Senior Captain Lakinda.
Coordinating with Lakinda
- Lakinda: "What the hell is going on?"
- Thrawn: "They're scamming you. You and the other families. They're mining nyix from Sunrise—"
- Apros: "Having possibly incited a civil war there in order to gain better access."
- Thrawn: "In retrospect, I'd say that's almost a certainty. They then created the illusion they were mining the metal from an entirely different world."
- ―Senior Captains Lakinda and Thrawn and Mid Captain Apros realize someone sought to draw the Chiss into a civil war
Thrawn, Samakro, and Apros called Senior Captain Lakinda, eventually reaching her on a repositioning stop of her jump-by-jump journey for her family. The calling officers informed Lakinda that they both had information for her and required information from her. Lakinda initially refused to disclose the details of her Xodlak family mission. Thrawn and Apros informed her that the Pommrio and Erighal families appeared to be gathering for unknown but similar purposes in locations close to Celwis, raising Lakinda's alertness, but not enough for her to change her mind and disclose her mission parameters. Apros then insisted he had "one last question" for the Xodlak captain: whether her mission had anything to do with "alien jewelry." Thrawn and Apros explained the brooches' origins, both supposed (from the Agbui) and true (stolen from Sunrise), and Lakinda asked whether merely the jewelry's manufacture had originated on Sunrise or if its metal had as well. She told her colleagues the question was "vitally" important because one of the metals in the brooch was nyix, a valuable industrial metal used to fortify the hulls of warships.
The officers explained that the Agbui were scamming the Xodlak, and most likely the Pommrio and Erighal families as well. Lakinda informed the calling officers that she was in command of the Xodlak frigate Midsummer and light cruiser Apogee to claim the supposed Agbui mining world of Hoxim for the Xodlak family. The Agbui presented themselves as having such an abundance of nyix that they could waste it on cheap jewelry, and had even set up a fake mining settlement on Hoxim to convince family officials such as Senior Aide Xodlak'ji'iprip of their mineral riches. The plot to incite a Chiss civil war clicked in Lakinda's mind, and she explained that the Agbui's goal was for three Great Families to fight to the death over a "worthless rock." To Lakinda's chagrin, Thrawn declared the Agbui's coordinated operation "exquisitely planned and timed." She told him to forget the "artistic beauty" of their plot and insisted on warning Csilla. However, Apros pointed out they were far out of range to hail the capital planet, and that even if they could, reinforcements from Csilla or Naporar could not arrive in time to prevent a battle between the families' task forces. Thrawn then asked Lakinda how much her officers knew about their mission, and she replied that they knew nothing as she was ordered not to disclose the details until they arrive. Thrawn was pleased to hear that, as it bought them time to prepare.
Thrawn came up with a plan by which the Springhawk, Grayshrike, and Lakinda (secretly) would defuse the tense situation bound to occur between the Xodlak, Pommrio, and Erighal families. Those families, set to engage one-another in battle, would find the Springhawk "under attack" by unknown gunboats. The family fleets, crewed by Expansionary Defense Fleet officers and warriors, would be loyal to the Ascendancy first and each of their families second. In Thrawn's plan, they would form an alliance to destroy the gunboats attacking Thrawn's "damaged" cruiser and all receive praise and accolades. The Springhawk and Grayshrike would arrive before any of the three family fleets, and Lakinda would accelerate her journey to beat the Pommrio and Erighal task forces to Hoxim.
Both Mid Captain Samakro and Senior Captain Lakinda thought Thrawn's plan was crazy, but neither could come up with a better plan in time for the coming showdown. Lakinda insisted that the mission to prevent a Chiss civil war had the utmost precedence, and that if that required destroying her ships, to consider her life expendable. Apros, her first officer, objected, but she told him she would not hear any arguments. Thrawn, politically oblivious, asserted that he was not going to offer one. Nonetheless, he promised they would do everything they could to prevent a need for such sacrifice.
The battle at Hoxim
- "Mid Captain Samakro, are you ready?"
"We're ready, sir. Officers and warriors: Go."
"Make it look good. Remember, the Springhawk is in serious trouble."
- ―Thrawn gives Samakro the order to initiate "hostilities."
Thrawn's Springhawk and Apros' Grayshrike reached position at Hoxim well before the Xodlak, Pommrio, and Erighal family task forces. The Springhawk was positioned on the far side of the planet from where the family task forces would arrive, where it would come under apparent attack by the fourteen Watith gunboats. The cruiser's electrostatic barriers would be down, its lights would flicker, and its thrusters would only fire intermittently; all to make the Springhawk appear in distress. The arrival of the quarreling Great Family forces would therefore be seen as a reprieve, and they could thus "rescue" Thrawn's warship and crew from an "alien attack." Thrawn's rationale for the plan was that the task forces were crewed by officers and warriors of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet whose oaths to the Ascendancy would supersede their need to bring glory to their individual families when they saw a fellow Chiss warship in peril.
Fourteen officers and warriors were chosen from among the crew of the Springhawk to remotely operate the captured Watith gunboats from their consoles aboard the Saltbarrel. Each of those fourteen was a member of the Xodlak, Pommrio, or Erighal families; chosen because each Great Family required its Defense Force personnel to be familiar with the layout and operations of the ships of their family fleets. For example, a Xodlak serving in the Chiss Defense Force would know the strengths and weaknesses of a Xodlak cruiser better than anyone else; and would thus know how to target one with a "maximum of ferocity but a minimum of actual damage." Only Springhawk crewmembers were chosen as operators; not out of favoritism or seniority over the crew of the Grayshrike, but merely because the Watith freighter's remote piloting consoles were aboard the Saltbarrel which was itself moored to the Springhawk. The two cruisers had spent several days in hyperspace while traveling to Hoxim, making the Saltbarrel and gunboats only accessible to the Springhawk's crew during much of the journey. The cruisers' engineers and technicians had tried but failed to move or replicate the Watith consoles aboard their warships, and thus the pilots had to control their gunboats from aboard the Saltbarrel.
In the course of the journey, Mid Captain Samakro oversaw hours of remote combat training simulations aboard the Saltbarrel. One of the officers chosen to pilot a Watith gunboat was plasma sphere specialist Laknym, a member of the Xodlak family. In the hours leading up to the coming battle, Laknym expressed misgivings about being asked to fire upon the vessels of his own family. Samakro gave Laknym an impromptu pep talk about the solidity of Thrawn's plan, reminding the lieutenant commander that he had volunteered for the assignment and as a Xodlak, he knew how to target Xodlak vessels without inflicting any serious damage. Laknym understood the reasoning but wondered whether Thrawn might have a political motivation for such a task. Senior Captain Thrawn was a member of the Mitth family, which was rivaled against the Irizi family. The Irizi were allies of Laknym's Xodlak family, so concerns of family politics might reasonably lead Thrawn to want to embarrass the Xodlak. Samakro quickly shot Laknym's worries down, insisting that he had never met anyone as "utterly incompetent" at politics as Senior Captain Thrawn. The Mid Captain explained that when Thrawn came up with a plan, it was strictly military; nothing more and nothing less. He insisted that the plan would work, allaying the sphere specialist's fears and, to his surprise, even convincing himself that Thrawn's plan was good.
Upon the arrival of the Great Families' task forces, sensor officer Dalvu informed the Springhawk's bridge crew of their arrivals and positions. The Xodlak, Erighal, and Pommrio family task forces were on the verge of attacking one-another to claim the planet below when they noticed the Springhawk derelict and imperiled just beyond the curve of the planet. Senior Captain Lakinda convinced the three families' forces to form a united front to defend the Springhawk. Meanwhile, Thrawn ordered the gunboat operators to put on a convincing performance, appearing to attack with full force while minimizing damage inflicted on the Great Families' warships. Furthermore, the gunboats could not be taken out too quickly or too easily, as enough gunboats had to hold out for long enough for the Grayshrike to appear, come to the apparent rescue, and bring the battle to a close. The combined Xodlak, Pommrio, and Erighal forces amounted to one frigate, two light cruisers, and five patrol ships. The fourteen gunboats would presumably outmatch such a strike force, making the smart tactical move for each Chiss family to retreat and return with reinforcements. Thrawn's plan counted on each family's tenacious and even reckless desire to secure the supposed "nyix mine" for their family overruling their self-preservation, making them stay and fight a stronger force. Indeed, the families refused to retreat and regroup, deciding to stand and fight the Watith gunboats.
Controlled from the Saltbarrel, the gunboats attacked the families' ships with apparent might but in fact choosing their targets to minimize damage. They targeted empty hull sections, targeting sensors, and other non-critical systems that could be repaired or circumvented with skilled crewers' manual aim. Thrawn's plan went successfully until the family task forces destroyed six of the gunboats, reducing the original fourteen gunboats to eight. At that point, Senior Captain Lakinda noticed a potentially fatal flaw she believed Thrawn would miss due to his ignorance regarding family politics. Each family task force had been sent to Hoxim to claim the world's supposedly abundant nyix mines. However, the mines were a ruse and Hoxim was mineralogically useless to the Chiss. Lakinda reasoned that the three Great Families would surely discover that after rescuing the Springhawk, and at that point, the families would look for someone to blame for misleading them and wasting their time. As a result, Lakinda believed that inter-family tensions would become nearly as bad as if the three task forces had actually attacked each other. As a result, she made an excuse to leave the Midsummer's bridge to launch a tight-beam communication to warn Thrawn about the flaw in his plan. Lakinda warned the Mitth captain that the Agbui "mining" settlement on Hoxim must be destroyed in the battle. She suggested that someone would have to remain aboard the Saltbarrel to crash it into the "mine," which would cost that person's life. Thrawn could not reply to Lakinda even on a tight-beam channel without risking another of the family ships intercepting his reply. After sending her warning to the Springhawk, Lakinda's officers mutinied, relieving her of command and restricting her to quarters pending an investigation of her alleged crimes and offenses against the Xodlak family. Lakinda protested that the Mitth were not their family's enemy, but her first officer countered that the Mitth were not their ally either. Lakinda worried that Thrawn had required her to remain in command to make changes to the battle plan as needed, and now he would not even know that she had been usurped until the battle had ended.
Silence permeated the Saltbarrel as the remote gunboat operators took in Lakinda's implication that one of them must sacrifice their life to destroy the fake Agbui mine with the Watith freighter. The Springhawk's engineers had been unable to manufacture a remote-piloting system to control the Saltbarrel and had likewise failed to move the freighter's remote consoles aboard the Springhawk. Laknym volunteered to sacrifice himself to crash the freighter into the mine while Samakro tried to find alternatives to loss of life. Thrawn messaged the Saltbarrel over the comm, saying Lakinda had been right that that the Saltbarrel must appear to be piloted. Laknym told his commander he understood, his throat tightening in tension as he accepted his fate, but no regret showed in the plasma sphere specialist's face or eyes. Thrawn disagreed, emphasizing the need for appearing to be piloted. Instead, the Senior Captain ordered Laknym to save him a gunboat for his personal use and ordered the people aboard the Saltbarrel to prepare to evacuate to the Springhawk upon his command.
Adapting to Lakinda's warning, Thrawn urgently summoned caregiver Thalias and sky-walker Che'ri to the Springhawk's bridge. When they arrived, Thrawn was in communication with the first officer of the Midsummer who had mutinied against Lakinda. Thrawn told the officer that the Springhawk received a transmission from Lakinda but had been unable to open it because they had been boarded by attackers, from whom they and only just regained control. (Thrawn's statement to the mutinous officer was a lie). He asked the officer to allow Lakinda to re-send her message, but the officer refused. At that moment, Thrawn ordered comms officer Brisch to signal the Grayshrike to make its appearance. Five gunboats remained as Apros' heavy cruiser appeared, causing the remaining gunboats to flee. Prior to the Grayshrike's arrival, the gunboats fleeing would have appeared uncharacteristically cowardly and suspicious to the family task forces. However, the arrival of a Chiss heavy cruiser sufficiently upset the balance of power in the battle to mitigate any such suspicion. The Grayshrike eliminated three of the five gunboats as they passed, leaving two intact. At that moment, Samakro informed the bridge crew that the Saltbarrel had been evacuated and all its personnel were aboard the Springhawk. The Mid Captain released the freighter, unmooring it from the Springhawk's underside.
Thrawn ordered weapons officer Afpriuh to target specific sections on and just off the freighter in a pattern of near-misses, both to give the appearance that the Springhawk's power had just been restored and its targeting systems remained less than fully functional and to cause the freighter's thrusters to release compressed gas to make it appear powered on and under command. Thrawn explained to his bridge crew that the three rival families were recording the battle, and they must convince anyone who would view the footage in the future that the skirmish's events could not possibly have been "engineered" by the Springhawk. As such, he would set the freighter and two gunboats to collide and required Che'ri's gift of Third Sight to ensure they would crash into and destroy the Agbui mine below. Thrawn would have Afpriuh operate a tractor beam to slightly change the Saltbarrel's trajectory to make it hit the mine; guided by Che'ri's precognition to ensure the wreckage would destroy the target. The Mitth Senior Captain told his sky-walker that they would only have one shot, as the recorded footage would correctly identify additional attempts as tractor connections.
Che'ri was to use her precognition to watch the tactical display several seconds in the future. Afpriuh operated the tractor beam, inactive and set to low power. If Che'ri foresaw the freighter making a certain yaw turn, she would tap Afpriuh's hand to signal the weapons officer to set the tractor beam's power to full and then activate it. Thereby, they would ensure the wreckage would have momentum with a vector that would destroy the Agbui settlement. Thalias objected on the grounds that Third Sight allowed Che'ri to prevent events from occurring, such as crashing into a star while in hyperspace. In contrast, Thrawn's current plan required Che'ri to foresee that an event would not occur and then act to make it happen anyway. Thrawn reasoned that it should work as long as Che'ri was not directly influencing the event and as long as Afpriuh remained in control. Che'ri thought her task was like what she did all the time in the course of her duties as navigator, but Thalias continued to object. The caregiver asked what would happen if Che'ri did not perform Thrawn's task, to which the Senior Captain replied perhaps nothing, but perhaps "serious trouble among the families." Thrawn said Che'ri would not have to do it if she felt uncomfortable, but the girl replied that she had not believed she could fly until Thrawn taught her and that if he believed in her, she could do anything. The girl then agreed to guide Afpriuh's hands.
Thrawn had not informed Che'ri or Thalias that they were attempting to prevent a civil war, but Thalias suspected based on the tension on the Springhawk's bridge that Thrawn had understated the consequences of Che'ri declining the task. Che'ri waited until the right moment when she signaled Apros to fire the tractor beam to full. The Saltbarrel collided with the gunboats and exploded, and Dalvu confirmed that their combined vector would hit and destroy the mine. Che'ri did not respond for several moments after that, and Thrawn ordered her to undergo a full medical examination when she came to. Che'ri objected, as she and Thalias had been playing a game in their suite before Thrawn summoned them to the bridge. Thalias insisted their game would keep, before privately reflecting that Thrawn was playing a game too. Unlike her and Che'ri, Thalias doubted Thrawn's game had ended.
Aftermath of Hoxim
- "Would it help if I promised anything you say would be treated as confidential?"
"I'm sorry, Supreme General. There are standing orders I have no choice but to obey. You'll have to ask Senior Captain Thrawn."
- ―Supreme General Ba'kif tried to get Mid Captain Samakro to explain recent events, but the Mid Captain refused on the grounds of standing confidentiality orders on operations involving sky-walkers
Following the skirmish above Hoxim, Supreme General Ba'kif was skeptical of the official explanation that had been offered. The Xodlak, Pommrio, and Erighal task forces had all shared the same story, as had the crews of the Grayshrike and the Springhawk. According to their testimony, the Springhawk had been attacked, disabled, and boarded by alien enemies. The Grayshrike and family task forces had arrived at an opportune time to save Thrawn's cruiser from destruction, and the boarders had been found dead in the Springhawk's brig. The testimony continued that the boarding party had been victims of small doomsday devices that their unknown employer had planted inside their bodies. An enemy freighter tried to escape but came into the path of the last two surviving gunboats; crashing, exploding, and falling to the planet below.
The Erighal, Pommrio, and Xodlak families all lionized Mid Captain Apros for his heroism, and the Csap family captain publicly and enthusiastically thanked the families for their timely arrival to rescue the Springhawk. In turn, the families reminded everyone that they were all Chiss first and Xodlak, Erighal, or Pommrio second. However, no explanation had been offered for why the three families' defense ships had been so far out of the Chiss Ascendancy's territory to begin with.
The General debriefed Mid Captain Samakro and others present for the battle, seeking to understand what had truly happened. Samakro invoked secrecy protocols for missions involving Chiss sky-walkers; citing Che'ri's presence and actions on the mission as a reason he could not disclose details of the events to Ba'kif. Only Senior Captain Thrawn could choose whether to release the seal of secrecy on those events, and Ba'kif doubted he would ever learn the full truth. Under normal circumstances, the Supreme General would summon Thrawn to his office to demand the truth of the events above Hoxim. However, the Great Families' allied ruling families—the Irizi, Dasklo, and Plikh—actively tried to block Ba'kif from making an inquiry into events. Ba'kif was extremely puzzled at the turn of events, as those families were not friendly to Thrawn's Mitth family and many of their Syndics disliked the Mitth senior captain to the point of hatred.
The Supreme General tried in vein to coax Samakro into divulging the events of the skirmish. However, Samakro cited standing orders he must obey, telling the general he would have to ask Senior Captain Thrawn directly. Ba'kif could tell that Samakro did not like his commanding officer, and Samakro asked for permission to speak freely. Upon being granted that permission, the Ufsa family mid captain launched into a short tirade denouncing what he perceived as Thrawn's personality flaws. However, Samakro then told the general that none of that mattered, as Thrawn was an excellent commander and strategist. Whatever the mid captain thought of Thrawn personally, he would follow him and his orders to the best of his ability. As Samakro departed, Ba'kif thought to himself that he would seek out the full truth of the Hoxim skirmish once the Syndicure became distracted by other matters. The involvement of the Expansionary Defense Fleet at Hoxim meant the Defense Hierarchy Council had the right to investigate the Agbui and their nyix jewelry, even if the families involved disliked it.
Shortly after the skirmish of Hoxim, Patriarch Thooraki died. The Patriels of the Mitth family chose Syndic Prime Thurfian as his successor. Ascending the office of the Patriarch, Thurfian continued to plot against Senior Captain Thrawn.
Uncovering the Grysks' threat
Encountering the Kilji
- «I greet you, Generalirius Nakirre. Are you an ally or trading associate of the Watith?»
«Sadly, I am not yet either. But perhaps soon.»
«Ah, you have come to initiate new trade relationships, then?»
«Not specifically, we of the Illumine travel the Chaos teaching others the Kilji way of order and enlightenment.»
«A noble undertaking.»
- ―Mitth'raw'nuruodo and Nakirre in their first meeting
Even though Thrawn helped prevent the Chiss civil war Haplif sought to engineer, the Grysks remained a threat to the Ascendancy. Following the Hoxim incident, Thrawn sought information on who hired the Watith crew led by Fsir. Based on artistic patterns he had seen aboard the Saltbarrel, Thrawn took the Springhawk to the Zyzek system, a trading hub Southeast of the Ascendancy where he believed Fsir's crew had been hired. Thrawn announced in Minnisiat that he sought to return his 23 Watith prisoners to any Watith that may be present in the system. In truth, Fsir's crew had all died, as the Springhawk's officers had testified to Supreme General Ba'kif, but Thrawn did not announce that.
Notably, no-one else in the Ascendancy knew that the Springhawk had gone to the Zyzek system, and the cruiser headed straight to the system without stopping at Csilla for repairs. Thrawn told his bridge officers that they were in the system to see if they could create a reaction; as any reaction would help identify the true threat behind the Watith crew. Upon arrival in the Zyzek system, Thrawn ordered his officers to perform a complete catalog of the ships in the system as well as their positions.
At Zyzek, the Springhawk encountered Nakirre, a member of the Kilji species who served as the generalirius and leader of the Kilji government; the Kilji Illumine. Unbeknownst to Thrawn at the time, the Grysk agent Jixtus was aboard Nakirre's flagship Kilji war cruiser Whetstone and advising the generalirius. Moreover, Jixtus had effectively co-opted the Illumine Kilhorde—the military of the Kilji Illumine—as a client military of the Grysk Hegemony.
Thrawn engaged in a conversation with Nakirre regarding the Kilji path, ancient Chiss philosophy, and the Watith; during which time, the Whetstone and Springhawk nearly engaged in combat. However, the forces of Zyzek System Defense convinced the warships to stand down without combat. Nevertheless, Senior Captain Thrawn had gained valuable information from gauging the Kiljis' reaction to his discussion of the Watith; and the ship's officers had scanned and performed a complete catalog of all the starships present at Zyzek.
Return to Sposia
Having learned about the Kilji, Thrawn departed to the planet Sposia to deliver an artifact he had acquired from the Saltbarrel: a lattice system that enabled the Watith crew to detect when an approaching vessel would emerge from hyperspace. Thrawn and Samakro delivered the artifact to the Universal Analysis Group. Previously, Thrawn had presented the UAG with the gravity well projector he had acquired from the Vagaari pirate operations and the "Republic energy shield" he had siezed from the Separatist base on Mokivj. The UAG had not successfully reverse-engineered either of those devices yet, but Thrawn had nevertheless gained renown in the Ascendancy's upper echelons for acquiring valuable alien technology of interest to the Chiss Defense Force.
Thrawn and Samakro deposited the Watith lattice artifact at the UAG's Vault Four on Sposia, where they met with Stybla Patriarch Stybla'mi'ovodo "Lamiov" and Supreme General Ba'kif. The military officers and the Stybla Patriarch discussed the artifact and its potential for defense operations. The Springhawk was then sent to return to Csilla for repairs and a debriefing with Ba'kif on the Hoxim debacle.
Debriefing with General Ba'kif
- Ba'kif: "What in the depths of the Chaos were you thinking?'"
- Thrawn: "It was a humanitarian gesture toward the Magys's people—"
- Ba'kif: "I don't want to hear any excuses."
- Samakro: "She was the cause of a death aboard the Springhawk—"
- Ba'kif: "I don't want to hear you quote protocols either."
- ―Supreme General Ba'kif reacted angrily upon learning about the Magys' interment aboard the Springhawk
On Csilla, Ba'kif debriefed Thalias, Samakro, and Thrawn; understanding that the Springhawk's crew may know more details than the crews of the other vessels involved. Supreme General Ba'kif was irate that neither Samakro nor Thrawn would divulge all of the details they knew regarding the Battle of the Three Families. After three days of debriefings, Ba'kif took a shuttle to Csilla's Bluedock One, where the Springhawk was moored for repairs.
Ba'kif met Samakro and Thrawn aboard the Springhawk to learn what Thrawn had sought to inform him at the UAG vault on Sposia. Much to the Supreme General's anger, Ba'kif learned that the Magys was being held in hibernation aboard the Chiss cruiser. Although Thrawn and Samakro appealed to humanitarianism and Defense Fleet protocol to justify their holding of the Magys, Ba'kif was furious. It was highly problematic for a non-Chiss to be present, even in hibernation, in a secure defense facility such as a bluedock in orbit of the Chiss capital planet Csilla, causing Ba'kif alarm. The general sensed that Samakro disapproved of Thrawn's choice to hold the Magys on the Springhawk, but also doubted that Thrawn had consulted Samakro before bringing her. Moreover, regardless of whoever had approved of the Magys' remand; Ba'kif, Thrawn, and Samakro could all be in trouble if the Syndicure or the Council heard about the Magys' presence.
Regaining his composure, Ba'kif asked the captain and first officer who else knew of the Magys' presence on the Springhawk. While Samakro and Ba'kif were concerned with the possible political fallout of the Magys' presence, Thrawn responded in apparent obliviousness. Senior Captain Thrawn informed the Supreme General that, apart from those present, only Caregiver Thalias and Senior Captain Lakinda knew of the Magys' presence on the Springhawk. In the time since the Hoxim incident, Lakinda had been rematched from the Xodlak to the Irizi family and thus changed her name and core name to "Irizi'in'daro" and "Ziinda," respectively. Mid Captain Samakro had heard that news, but Thrawn had not. Supreme General Ba'kif could sense the first officer calculating how Ziinda's rematching into the Irizi would affect her rivalry with Thrawn, as the Irizi were staunch rivals of Thrawn's Mitth family. Both Ba'kif and Samakro hoped that Ziinda's loyalty to the Expansionary Defense Fleet would prove stronger than her loyalty to the Irizi family, because otherwise, they might all get in deep trouble.
Ba'kif then asked Thrawn whether he believed the Magys' homeworld of Sunrise was the key to the strange events that had been occurring in the Ascendancy over the past year or so, hoping to find justification for a mission to Sunrise. Thrawn demurred, expressing reservations about the possibility of Sunrise being the key to everything strange that had recently occurred. However, Thrawn confidently submitted that Sunrise and its resources were decidedly involved in the Agbui's attempt to cause a Chiss civil war. While Ba'kif understood the seriousness of the situation, the general had hoped for an ironclad case to present to the Syndicure which would justify Thrawn's imprisonment of the Magys and his recent military actions. In Ba'kif's ideal scenario, the evidence would tie Sunrise to the Magys, the Agbui, General Yiv, the Paataatus, and maybe even the Vagaari pirates. Such a case would ensure the Syndicure's support for a combat mission to Sunrise, where the Defense Fleet would both return the Magys to her homeworld and strike the unknown enemy who had been stationing Battle Dreadnoughts over the planet and attacking Ascendancy vessels on sight.
Ba'kif and Supreme Admiral Ja'fosk had quietly dispatched Admiral Ar'alani and the Vigilant on a reconnaissance mission to investigate the remnants of Nikardun bases in the region, where Ar'alani learned that the Nikardun had been a pawn for an unknown force. (Unbeknownst to the Chiss at the time, that force was the Grysk Hegemony.) If not for the uproar over the Hoxim skirmish, Ba'kif believed the Syndicure may have sought to punish him and Ja'fosk for even authorizing Ar'alani's reconnaissance. As such, Ba'kif refused to allow Thrawn to take the Magys aboard Springhawk all the way to Sunrise. Instead, he decided that Thrawn would return her to Rapacc, but was still deciding whether to assign Thrawn the Springhawk or merely a scout ship for the mission.
Thrawn asked for permission to bring Che'ri with him and the Magys if he should be assigned a scout ship to return the Magys to her refugees on Rapacc. Recalling Thrawn's previous decision to bring Che'ri on an adventure and the ensuring fury from both the Defense Hierarchy Council and the Syndicure; Ba'kif firmly refused to allow Thrawn to bring the girl in such a small vessel. Samakro insisted, at the possible cost of repercussions to both his own and Ba'kif's career, that the plan would only work if they took the Magys to her people aboard the Springhawk. Ba'kif reluctantly agreed with the mid captain, ordering Thrawn to take the Magys back to her people on Rapacc aboard the Springhawk and then immediately return to Naporar for further orders.
Thrawn pointed out that he had made the Magys a promise to return her and her people to Sunrise. Ba'kif insisted that Thrawn would have to break that promise, as the Springhawk had to return as quickly as possible; before the Syndicure would notice. The general insisted to Thrawn that meant no "side trips." Ba'kif further stipulated that the Chiss had done the Paccosh a facor by bringing the Magys to see the condition of Sunrise for herself, and that by rights, the Paccian Governance now owed the Ascendancy a favor. Thrawn and Samakro bristled at the implication of the Paccosh having to return the Magys to her world, as they had not seen the Paccosh demonstrate the military acumen required against the unknown enemy occupying Sunrise. Nevertheless, Springhawk's commanding officers understood their orders. As their cruiser finished its resupply, they prepared to bring the ship to Rapacc. Ba'kif ordered them to return as quickly as possible.
Supreme General Ba'kif dismissed Thrawn, but retained Samakro to ask the Mid Captain about the Chiss family composition of the Springhawk's crew. Specifically, Ba'kif asked Samakro how many Mitth served aboard the cruiser apart from Thrawn; and Samakro responded five: a junior officer, three Chiss warriors, and Caregiver Thalias. To Ba'kif's surprise, Samakro knew that statistic off the top of his head, rather than having to look it up. Samakro explained that he had long suspected Patriarch Thooraki of protecting Thrawn from the fallout of the Senior Captain's political faux-pas, but understood that Patriarch Thurfian would not do the same. Ba'kif vocalized Samakro's unstated implication; namely, that the Mitth Patriarch might stand against a respected naval officer of his own family. The two officers agreed that Thurfian disliked Thrawn, and wondered aloud whether Thurfian's promotion to head of the Mitth family would change his outlook on Mitth family members. With the Patriarchy came the rights to give direct orders to any Mitth, though Samakro and Ba'kif agreed that Thurfian would not make any blatant moves against Thrawn in the open.
Memories of a brother departed
- "The files were gathered and compiled by the late Syndic Mitth'ras'safis. He delivered the package to the Patriarch [Thooraki] shortly before his death, where it has remained until now. One of the Patriarch's last instructions, as I said, was for me to privately deliver it to you at my earliest convenience."
"Did he say what I was supposed to do with it?"
"He said you would know when the time was right."
- ―Senior Aide Thivik explained as he presented Caregiver Thalias with the late Syndic Thrass' data cylinder
During the Springhawk's crew's leave on Naporar, Caregiver Thalias took Che'ri shopping. While Che'ri bought clothing and ice cream, Senior Aide Mitth'iv'iklo "Thivik" approached the caregiver asking to speak and introducing himself as senior aide to Patriarch Mitth'urf'ianico. Thalias tensed at the thought of an assistant of Thurfian's sending her more orders, as she had been recruited by the now-Patriarch to serve as his personal spy against Thrawn aboard the Springhawk. The caregiver tried to dismiss herself and her young ward, but the senior aide cut them off, explaining that the late Patriarch Thooraki had asked him to discreetly deliver a parcel to her.
Thivik explained that the late Syndic Mitth'ras'safis "Thrass" had compiled a data cylinder of records, which the Syndic entrusted to Patriarch Thooraki shortly before his death in the Vagaari pirate operations. One of Thooraki's last instructions to Senior Aide Thivik had been to privately deliver the data cylinder to Thalias, as the Patriarch had been very impressed by the Caregiver and Trial-born when they had met during her Trials at the Mitth family homestead. Thivik explained that Thalias would know how to use the enclosed files when the time was right.
Che'ri had witnessed Thalias' exchange with Thivik, and once the Senior Aide departed; the sky-walker asked her caregiver who Syndic Thrass was. Thalias explained that Thrass had been one of the top Mitth Syndics in the Syndicure, but had died a few years prior. Che'ri then asked what Thrass had to do with Thalias, who answered that she did not know. However, Thalias resolved to find out.
Unknown to Thalias at the time, Thrass had become Senior Captain Thrawn's brother. The files on Thrass' data cylinder included records by which Thalias would eventually track down a woman named Cohbo'rik'ardok, who was Thrawn's long-lost sister.
- "So the Dasklo are watching some Erighal and Xodlak run a play battle. And this Jixtus wants us to pay him for this meager meal of information?"
"Your Venerante, I'm not sure you understand. If this is the prelude to the Dasklo adding the Xodlak and possibly the Pommrio to their list of allies, we could be facing a serious challenge."
"I suppose that's possible. I'll make some inquiries."
"He's also offering military assistance, should we desire it. He says he has other warships at his disposal that could reach the Ascendancy with just a few days' warning."
"I would strongly suggest he keep his warships out of Chiss space. You can tell him that. You can also tell him that the Mitth are declining his offer, and that he had best be on his way."
- ―Patriarch Thurfian reacts to Avidich Patriel Thistrian explaining Jixtus' offer of information
While Thrawn and the Springhawk had been sent to Rapacc, Jixtus and Nakirre traveled aboard the Whetstone to the orbit of Avidich. There, the Grysk agent proffered a recording for Thistrian (now Mitth Patriel of Avidich); which he claimed showed a military alliance forming between the Ruling Dasklo family and other Chiss families, by showcasing what appeared to be a military exercise supervised by the Dasklo. Patriel Thistrian called Thurfian to inform the Patriarch that he had just discussed with an alien the possibility of an alliance between the Dasklo and Great Xodlak, Erighal, and Pommrio families.
Jixtus' original recording was not clear enough to discern the family affiliations of the play-attacking vessels, and Jixtus did not disclose the identities of the families supposedly allying with the Dasklo. However, Thistrian procured an enhanced clip which showed ships bearing the markings of the Erighal and Xodlak families. The Erighal had been allies with the Dasklo family for a long time. Nonetheless, the presence of Xodlak ships in an apparent joint military exercise with the Dasklo and Erighal families riled Thurfian. The Mitth officials thus reasoned that the recording showed the Xodlak and Erighal practicing an attack on a freighter-sized vessel while a Dasklo ship supervised. Thurfian asked Thistrian why the Patriel believed the Grysk would choose to provide this clip to the Mitth at all. The Patriel reasoned that Jixtus most likely wished to act as an information broker, offering to sell the Mitth more information. Thurfian became alert at the possibility of the Dasklo allying with the Xodlak, Erighal, and possibly Pommrio families; which could present a challenge to the Mitth's political and economic power in the Ascendancy. However, he refused to pay Jixtus for further information and balked when heard that Jixtus had offered military assistance for hire. Upon hearing of Jixtus' offer of mercenary forces, Thurfian ordered Thistrian to decline the Grysk's offer and send him on his way. The Mitth Patriarch pondered the possibility of the Dasklo aligning with so many Great Families, but dismissed the notion as he had made a great effort to study the politics of the Nine Ruling Families and Forty Great Families prior to his elevation to Patriarch. Thurfian reasoned that the Clarr family—who had a bitter 30-year rivalry with the Dasklo—would be more prone to believing "monster stories" about the Dasklo. Thurfian further reflected that, if the Ascendancy were to fall into crisis, it would be the fault of people like Senior Captain Thrawn.
After the Mitth declined Jixtus' offer, the Grysk explained to Nakirre that he had never expected the Mitth family to. However, Jixtus sought to use the Mitth's adversarial reaction as a baseline against which to gauge other families' interests in his offers of info and military support. Jixtus had learned much about the rivalries of the various Chiss families from Haplif, including the acrimony between the Dasklo and Clarr families. As such, he instructed Nakirre to take the Whetstone to Rhigar, where he would make the same offer to Patriarch Rivlex of the Clarr family; whom he told the Clarr were in danger from other Chiss families.
For the Ascendancy
- «And what question would that be?»
«The most critical one of all, are you ready to surrender? Are you ready to surrender?»
«Well, Jixtus? I offer you one final chance.»
- ―Jixtus, Qilori and Mitth'raw'nuruodo, on the former's chance to surrender and escape from the Whestsone
After various encounters with Grysk forces, many battles between families and tensions. Senior Captain Thrawn joined forces with various Chiss officers, such as Admiral Ar'alani, Senior Captain Ziinda, Mid Captain Apros and other officers who had met Thrawn or wanted to support him in an attempt to defeat the massive threat of the Grysks, specifically, Jixtus's fleet. The joined Chiss forces amassed at the Sunrise system, spread debris and ship scrap across the system, and powered down most systems. Shortly after, the Grysk leader arrived with Qilori and Generalirius Nakirre aboard the Whetstone, Nakirre's flagship, after their arrival, Qilori and Jixtus witnessed the catastrophe and finale of the amassed Chiss forces, some gunboats were dormant, some still showed some signs of life, but all resembled Thrawn's final "defeat." And the upcoming fall of the Ascendancy which would be delivered by the Grysks. Jixtus then ordered the Kilji vassals aboard the Whetstone to move closer to the debris, the vassals ignored the order from the unenlightened, however, Nakirre confirmed the order. After one vassal at the sensors station confirmed the ships still contained life, and that the bodies were cooling, Qilori, stated that a few hours had passed since the defeat—or whatever had happened—Jixtus was dissapointed that such a catastrophe had occured—as it was led by Thrawn— however he nonetheless stated that he thought Thrawn would refuse the order to surrender, and he had done so. Qilori inquired the Grysk about the question, Jixtus explained that Thrawn considered himself unbeatable, now, there, at the Sunrise System, his luck had drained away, and as the Chiss Ascendancy spiralled towards its doom, the Chiss defeated themselves and battled each other. Which allowed the Grysks to gain control of Sunrise and thrive in the chaos.
The Grysk watched as two ships exchanging laser fire and ordered the Kilji warship to move closer. The two ships were still fighting even when the Kilji warship approached them—the ships were the Vigilant and the Aelos, Uingali foar Marocsaa's stolen Nikardun blockade frigate—Jixtus ordered the vassals that ignored his orders to move the ship near the battle, he then ordered another vassal to send a broadcast signal calling for survivors. The Whetstone communicated with the Chiss forces, Thrawn's voice came from the speaker, Thrawn stated that the Kiljis arrived too late to bring enlightenment Nakirre once promised Thrawn. He asked the generalirius if Jixtus was still with him, Jixtus stood up, and confirmed his presence, he then interrogated Thrawn regarding the Magys and Magysines.
Jixtus asked Thrawn various questions. Thrawn confirmed that the Magys and Magysines had been found and that they were aboard his ship. Jixtus continued by telling Thrawn that he had nothing to fight with, and that he had lost, however, he also stated that he was aware that there were many survivors aboard the Vigilant. Thrawn told him to leave the dead and dying alone, to fight him, and just him. Jixtus asked him if it wouldn't be beneficial to ease their suffering. However, he contradicted himself and stated that Thrawn was the one he intended to kill.
The folly, the Generalirius and the loss of enlightenment
- «You did this! Your arrogance—your refusal to accept the Kilji Illumine as true allies—your failure to provide adequate support for our conquests of enlightenment!»
- ―Nakirre on the death of the Kilhorde and Qilori's attempt to save Nakirre from Jixtus
Thrawn told Jixtus again, that he wouldn't be able to give the Magys and the Magysine, as they were too young and delicate. Jixtus told Thrawn that he and his people could take care of them, that they'd be honored guests, however Thrawn told him that the Grysks didn't have the time and patience required to properly train them. However, Jixtus told Thrawn that he underestimated him, that he had engineered General Yiv's campaigns, trained him, guiding him, training his people. Thrawn told him that no patience was required to train the Nikardun, as the Nikardun simply lashed out at everyone in their path, which required no guidance. Jixtus mocked Thrawn by telling him that if he truly believed that, he was less perceptive that he had thought, and continued by saying the order and locations of his attacks and alliances were carefully mapped out so they could encircle the Ascendancy as needed. Thrawn asked Jixtus if the conquests referred to the Vak Combine and the Garwian Unity, Jixtus told that there was no need to conquer those, all that was needed was to quit them and intimidate them. Jixtus told Thrawn that the nations that got their resources drained by the Nikarduns were just practice for the Nikardun soldiers, the few worlds that weren't worth of much effort, like Sunrise were broken from the inside by the Agbui—specifically Haplif was good at it—Thrawn asked who would the Agbui destroy, as they had destroyed everything in the region, Jixtus said that perhaps the Paccians, the Vaks, or the Garwians. Thrawn warned the Grysk that he shouldn't do the latter.
Jixtus agreed, he said that Sunrise was an entertaining exercise, but a costly one. He continued by saying he'd perhaps enslave the Garwians and Vaks, as Agbui persuasion wasn't limited to destruction after all. Thrawn said that when Jixtus sent Yiv against the Paataatus he made a terrible mistake. He continued by saying that he had traveled with the Ruling Families, done a variety of major activities, yet, he made an error. There was no deceit among the families, and the Grysks' warships were never going to be given to any family. They'd be under Jixtus' control. Jixtus asked if Thrawn would hand over warships to beings already marked for destruction, if you had warships be given, of course. Thrawn accepted the Grysk's point, he continued by saying that Jixtus didn't expect to see the destruction that had occured at Sunrose, and therefore would have never come alone. Jixtus said that of course he wouldn't do so, he concluded by asking Thrawn to witness his final doom. Jixtus' Fleet.
Jixtus introduced all his warships to Thrawn, the FateSpinner, the Emery, the SkySweep and the eleven Prism-class BattleChiefs. The enemies engaged in a brief conversation about the folly of not leaving behind any ships for the families and Jixtus' expectations. Thrawn asked Jixtus if that was his entire fleet, and that if the Grysk answered the question, Thrawn would provide the answer to why sending the Nikardun against the Paataatus was a mistake.
Jixtus accepted the Chiss' offer, he continued by saying he didn't care about Yiv, certainly not, as he was gone. He continued by saying that was his entire fleet, not the full Grysk fleet of course, but his entire fleeet. He continued by saying that the Grysk fleet would completely cover Csilla's sky, and that his fleet are just the ships that he considered necessary for the destruction of the Chiss Ascendancy. Thrawn began to explain why sending the Nikardun against the Paatatus was a mistake. When the Paataatus saw there was an attempt to conquer them, they became unhappy, which turned into an equal degree of gratitude for Thrawn's assistance in breaking the last Nikardun stronghold. Which made them happy enough to do a favor to Thrawn, Thrawn asked Nakirre if he was still there, Nakirre confirmed it, Thrawn continued by saying that Nakirre sent the Kilhorde against several of the small nations in the south and southeast of the Ascendancy, unfortunately for them, that also put them on the north and northwest of the Paataatus Hiveborn, having that big of a military force near their borders was deemed unacceptable, and therefore destroyed it, thanks to the weaknesses in design and combat doctrine shared by Thrawn to the Paataatus. Nakirre leapt to his feet and began to scream at Jixtus, which shot Nakirre with a blaster. Qilori was shocked and attempted to stop Jixtus, however, the Grysk told the pathfinder to become calm because the Kilhorde was gone and therefore the Generalirius was useless. Jixtus asked Thrawn to give the Grysks the Magysines, however Thrawn continued yet another speech. Thrawn said that the data gathered from the Hammer had provided knowledge of weaknesses in the Kilhorde, but in the Grysk fleet to. He asked Jixtus to keep that in mind before Thrawn said his last question. Jixtus asked what question was he going to say. Thrawn then asked him to surrender.
The folly of the Grysks
- «Well, Jixtus? I give you one last chance.»
- ―Thrawn offers a last chance to surrender to Jixtus
Battle against Jixtus' Fleet
- "Well done. Secondaries: Engage the enemy and keep them occupied. Primaries: Begin your attack. It's time to end this threat."
- ―Thrawn begins his devastating attack on the Armageddon
The bridge of all the Chiss ships, and the Whetstone had gone silent. Qilori looked at the command chair of the Whetstone, it was empty. Jixtus had abandoned him in the Kilji war cruiser, Qilori screamed the Grysk's name with no result, Jixtus had already left with an escape pod and was en route to the FateSpinner, his flagship.
In the bridge of the Springhawk, Samakro warned everyone for the coming battle, Thrawn ordered the Springhawk to fire on the Armageddon, or "Paccian Four," as the joined Chiss and Paccian forces had called it, as the Springhawk opened fire on the Armageddon the nearest of Jixtus' three StoneCrushers began to attack one of the Paccian gunboats. As the Armageddon moved and fired towards the Springhawk it also sent salvos of dibbers to the Paccian gunboat, who also fired at its Grysk attacker. An instant later, a dibber hit a plasma sphere fired by Afpriuh into the former's path. However, the Paccian gunboat and the Grysk warship couldn't receive any damage thanks to the distance between them, unfortunately for the Grysks though, the Springhawk's attacks were digging into the massive warship's hull. As the Springhawk's laser fire destroyed the Grysk's missiles, the Paccian gunboat got nearer the Grysk, and delivered devastating laser fire into the massive warship's blinded flank. Thrawn congratulated his forces on their efforts and ordered the secondary batteries to engage the enemy and the primaries to begin their attack on the Armageddon. And also announced it was time to end the Grysk threat.
Thrawn sent Rocu and her light cruiser against one of the Grysks' StoneCrushers, which was being attacked by two light cruisers of Supreme General Ba'kif's reinforcements, who were trying to slip in plasma spheres and breachers, however, little slipped in, but, the ones that did hit the vulnerable spots Thrawn and Ar'alani had identified and marked. In the distance off the Orisson's starboard flank, Roscu could see Paccian gunboats and some Chiss light cruisers attacking a BattleChief, beyond them, the Parala and Bokrea were attacking another BattleChief. Roscu ordered her ship to continue its attack, and to prepare three breachers. Meanwhile, Ziinda, the Parala and Bokrea broke off their attacks and shot off, each in a different direction. The Grayshrike drove forward through the forward point-defense laserfire and skimmed along its starboard flank, raking it with laserfire and dropping breachers and plasma spheres into its hull as fast as possible. Then, a final volley at the portside barrage and the Grayshrike continued towards deep space.
Although the Grysk warship had received heavy damage, the Grayshrike did too. Ghaloksu announced the casualties of the encounter to Ziinda while the Emery began to drive towards the Grayshrike to destroy the wounded nighthunter. Fortunately for the Chiss, Thrawn had anticipated this result of the Grayshrike's attack, in fact, he was counting on it. As the Grayshrike drove away from Sunrise, clearly trying to get to the planet's gravity well to escape to hyperspace, the Emery chased the heavy cruiser, in an attempt to destroy it. Thrawn ordered the Grayshrike to execute an in-system jump while the gravity field was being activated. The Grysk warship attempted to pursue through hyperspace, however, the Vagaari gravity-well generator prevented that from happening, Ziinda ordered Vimsk to mark the edge of the gravity field while she ordered Wikivv to calculate another in-system jump. After it was executed, Qilori—the current commander of the Whetstone—watched as the surprisingly clean jump finished and appeared next to the Emery while it destroyed the latter's hull–and exploded.
Shortly after the Emery's destruction, Thrawn stated that he believed Jixtus had assumed combat. Although the FateSpinner had been idle for most of the battle, it was now charging towards the Vigilant and the Aelos. Thrawn told Ar'alani that Jixtus had to be damaged enough to be threatened, but not threatened enough to assure his retreat, because, if Jixtus retreated, it'd be very likely that the next battle would take place in the center of the Ascendancy. Shortly afterwards, the Aleos, the Vigilant and the Stingfly locked their tractors on an asteroid. Then, the Vigilant began to exchange fire and spheres with the FateSpinner, afterwards, the Vigilant sent breachers, however, they were destroyed by the Grysks' dibbers. However, the FateSpinner noticed the asteroid between its thrusters, and began to destroy the giant threat, when it was destroyed, the Stingfly's breachers that were hidden in the asteroid's visual shadow where revealed, the Grysk warship began its attempt at the breacher's destruction, which ultimately failed, the breachers were too close, and impacted into the warship, the Chiss expected Jixtus to retreat, however, they were still surprised as Jixtus launched missiles and everything he had at the Chiss warships and ran with the fastest speed he could achieve to the planet below, as the Chiss destroyed the missiles. As the Chiss watched the ship rush onto the planet. Jixtus contacted the Whetstone, and inquired Qilori—threatening to destroy the Kilji ship and everything inside it including Qilori—about how the Chiss were able to do the jumps they were doing and deactivate the hyperdrives of the Grysk ships. Although Qilori didn't know at all, he told Jixtus what he suspected. Which Jixtus accepted, in the meantime, one Battlechief exploded. Jixtus saw the gunboat carrying the Vagaari device, a gunboat and began his attempt to destroy it.
Roscu sent his vector to Ar'alani, and Ar'alani ordered her ship to be moved towards it, as it drove to Roscu's vector, the Springhawk was driving towards a pair of injured BattleChiefs fighting some Paccian gunboats and some patrol cruisers. The Grayshrike, Orisson and the Springhawk prepared an attack on the Armageddon, which was pursuing the Springhawk. Thrawn ordered all the ships to lock breachers onto the massive warship, the breachers fired, and slammed into one-another, creating a massive cloud the Armageddon drove into, the ships began to attack the warship, however, Thrawn ordered the Grayshrike to help out Apros' gunboat, which was being attacked by two Grysk BattleChiefs after the gravity-well generator.
Joining the Empire
Encounter with the Neimoidians
- "During one of my surveys I discovered a colony of refugee Neimoidians. Once they learned who I represented, they pleaded with me to bring the Chiss to battle against Coruscant. They promised their people would rise up in response, and that together we would bring down Emperor Palpatine and restore the Republic."
"I hope you didn't accept their offer. The Neimoidians have a severely overblown opinion of themselves and their capabilities."
- ―Thrawn and Nightswan discuss Thrawn's run-in with Neimoidian refugees
Thrawn continued his exploration of the galaxy's Outer Rim. A short time after the formation of the Galactic Empire, he encountered a colony of refugee Neimoidians. The colonists warned him of the tyranny of the Empire and pled with Thrawn to bring the full force of the Chiss Ascendancy against the Empire on Coruscant. Furthermore, they promised to help with the attack if it meant the revival of the Galactic Republic. Thrawn did not trust the Neimoidians' unsubstantiated word, but reported back to his Chiss superiors about the encounter. Thrawn's superiors were concerned about the report and sought to understand whether the Galactic Empire might be a suitable ally against "evil" threats.
Faking his exile
- "The encampment was designed to appear as if I had been abandoned for years. In truth, I was only there a few months. We tried several lures to bring an Imperial ship to the planet. On the third attempt we succeeded. I used my tactical skills to slip aboard the ship, hoping to impress its captain. I succeeded, and was taken to Coruscant."
- ―Thrawn recounts his fake exile to Nightswan years later
After his encounter with the Neimoidians, Thrawn returned to the Chiss Ascendancy seeking counsel. Growing increasingly worried about threats in the Unknown Regions, the Ascendancy ruled that the time had come to judge whether or not the Empire and its New Order would make a suitable ally against the still-lurking threat of the Grysks. Thrawn was given his mission: he would infiltrate the Empire in order to either make it an ally or weaken it enough to become easy prey for threats, thus shifting focus away from the Ascendancy. In order to carry out this mission, the Aristocra proceeded send Thrawn into a fake exile. When he left the Ascendancy, there were stirrings of political conflict, though Thrawn had assumed the Aristocras would settle their differences as they had many times before.
Following the successful defeat of the Grysk fleet commanded by Jixtus at Sunrise, many of the Aristocra wanted to punish those involved in order to shift blame from their own failures. Thrawn worked out a plan with Supreme General Ba'kif and Supreme Admiral Ja'fosk to instead take the full blame, be publicly stripped of his rank and go into fake exile. With the help of the Ascendancy's Defense Hierarchy Council, Thrawn chose a planet in Wild Space and built a hut designed to look as though he had been living in it for years. Thrawn's hut was accompanied by power generators and craters bearing markings in the Sy Bisti trade language used in the Unknown Regions and Wild Space. After several attempts and a few standard months spent on the planet, Thrawn finally managed to attract the attention of the Empire. His initial plan only forsaw him being away for a few months, enough time to make contact with Anakin Skywalker or other high officials. In those meetings, Thrawn would learn all he could about the Empire and then quietly return to the Ascendancy to report back to Ba'kif. He did not expect to be gone for more than a year.
In effect, Thrawn's mission was simple, with the Chiss not considering that he could be given a chance to join the Imperial Military. Before Thrawn left, Supreme General Ba'kif expressed regret that he would never see Thrawn wearing an admiral's white uniform. Thrawn replied that it had already been very unlikely, as "no one around here" would ever promote him to an admiral anyway. Thrawn had time for one last meal before leaving for his "exile" aboard the Parala, now commanded by the recently-promoted Senior Captain Apros. Ba'kif asked if his younger friend would share a last meal with him, but Thrawn declined, informing the general that he wished to dine alone at the bistro where he and his brother Thrass had often eaten before Thrass' death.
Encounter with the crew of the Strikefast
- "V-wing crash! Rescue team to the transport. Now!"
- ―Colonel Mosh Barris
Thrawn was away from his encampment when the Imperial Venator-Class Star Destroyer Strikefast, commanded by Captain Voss Parck, arrived at the planet searching for smugglers. Parck, Colonel Mosh Barris, and Cadet Eli Vanto examined his encampment and the Sy Bisti markings on its crates, in accordance with Imperial Unknown Alien protocols. The protocols, abbreviated as "UA protocols," were a law the Empire had inherited from its predecessor state the Galactic Republic, and required Imperial forces to study possible instances of first-contact with unknown alien species. Vanto, a senior cadet at the Empire's Myomar Academy in the galaxy's Expansion Region, was fluent in Sy Bisti as it was a trade language used near his Wild Space homeworld of Lysatra.
While the Imperials searched his camp, Thrawn used a carefully placed monofilament line to crash a V-Wing starfighter that had been surveying the planet. The Chiss managed to remove the pilot's body from his flight suit; steal the pilot's blaster, power packs, comlink, and concussion grenades; stuff the flight suit with grass, leaves, and fermented pyussh berries; and escape the crash site before Major Wyan arrived at the scene to investigate.
Once Wyan had brought the stuffed flight suit into the Imperial encampment for Parck, Barris, and Vanto to see, Thrawn set his plan to board the Strikefast into motion. Hiding on the edge of the encampment, Thrawn removed the sturm dowels from his stolen blaster power packs and strapped them to the backs of small nocturnal creatures as improvised explosives. Drawn by the smell of the fermented berries in the makeshift scarecrow Thrawn had made of the pilot's flight suit, the creatures ran into the Imperial encampment, exploding and causing chaos within the base.
In response to the explosive berry mayhem, Captain Parck ordered another group of V-Wings to perform a grid search for the as-yet unknown assailant. Thrawn, realizing he would need to replace his stolen comm before they jammed it, managed to crash another V-Wing and swapped his stolen comm with the pilot's. Thrawn also stole the pilot's blaster, power packs, and concussion grenades, but did not remove the pilot's corpse from his flight suit. When Barris discovered that Thrawn had stolen the first pilot's comm, he ordered that particular comm shut down. Barris did not, however, discover that Thrawn had swapped the first stolen comm with the second pilot's, so Thrawn was still able to eavesdrop on Imperial communications.
Due to the chaos raining down on the Imperial forces, Colonel Barris ordered Imperial Navy Troopers to join the search. Imperial Navy Troopers wore a distinctive black helmet that showed the trooper's face, whereas Imperial stormtroopers did not. Because Thrawn was a Chiss with blue skin and red eyes, armor or uniforms that showed his face would not be a suitable disguise to infiltrate the human forces of the Galactic Empire. Thrawn attacked the navy troopers with explosives throughout the night, hoping to goad the Imperials into sending stormtroopers into the forest to investigate. Once the stormtroopers were sent out in search of Thrawn, he used another explosive to dispatch one of the soldiers in order to study the stormtrooper armor, while simultaneously jamming the Imperials' comms in order to distract from the sound of the explosion. Thrawn donned the phase II clone trooper armor of the clone trooper he incapacitated.
After the screeching of the comms subsided, Barris decided that he had had enough of Thrawn's attacks and took Thrawn's hut aboard the Strikefast to study it onboard. While the UA protocols required Imperials to study possible first-contact with alien species, they did not explicitly require the studies to take place at the location of possible contact. As such, Barris justified taking Thrawn's makeshift shelter aboard the Strikefast. Knowing the time had come for him to return to his camp, Thrawn silently killed another stormtrooper. Filling the stormtrooper's armor with explosives, Thrawn snuck the armor into the encampment and propped it up by the transport with sticks. While the Imperials were distracted by the exploding armor, Thrawn hid in a power generator casing from his camp. The casing was then loaded into a transport and taken, with the rest of Thrawn's hut and crates, to the Strikefast. While hiding in the power generator casing, the Chiss continued to wear the clone trooper armor he took from the trooper he neutralized.
Once Thrawn was aboard the Strikefast, he spent two standard hours waiting in the casing before leaving his hiding place. Moving swiftly, but not so swiftly that he would not be seen, Thrawn crossed the hangar and boarded a Zeta-class Heavy Cargo Shuttle. When Parck sent troopers to intercept him, Thrawn allowed himself to be captured without resistance. Once he had willingly surrendered, Thrawn was brought before Parck and Barris. The senior officers asked Cadet Vanto to serve as a translator due to Vanto's fluency in Sy Bisti. Among all the Imperials, only Eli Vanto recognized Thrawn as a Chiss, and mentioned his the legends of the Chiss he had heard growing up on Lysatra. The captive Mitth'raw'nuruodo heard Vanto say the word "Chiss" and became keenly interested in what the human cadet had heard of his species.
Parck asked whether Thrawn spoke Basic or Sy Bisti, to which Thrawn replied that he knew a fair bit of Basic but was far more comfortable with Sy Bisti. Parck replied that the Chiss captive's comfort was not the issue at hand, and they would converse in Basic. Vanto served as Thrawn's translator for the remainder of the conversation, where Thrawn introduced himself as Mitth'raw'nuruodo, but said it would be easier for his human captors to call him by his core name "Thrawn." He then told the Imperials of his exile and how he had crashed the V-Wings, attacked the camp unseen, and infiltrated the Strikefast. Thrawn said he had to return to his native people, who faced untold dangers and needed him. Parck asked why Thrawn had been exiled if his people needed him so, questioning whether the Chiss leaders disagreed with Thrawn about Threats to their people. Thrawn said they agreed regarding the threats to the Chiss Ascendancy, but disagreed on a subject which he did not know the word for in Basic. Thrawn relayed it as "ezeboli hlusalu" in Sy Bisti, which Vanto gulped and translated as "preemptive strikes." The conversation impressed Parck, to the point that he decided to present Thrawn to Emperor Palpatine himself.
Thrawn was sent to temporary living quarters on board the Strikefast, and a separate meeting was held between Parck and Vanto. In this meeting it was determined that, due to his knowledge of the Chiss and Sy Bisti, Vanto would serve as Thrawn's translator and teacher of Galactic Basic for the duration of the trip to Coruscant. Vanto resented his assignment but nevertheless complied with his orders.
Meeting at the Imperial Palace
- "Captain Parck, I'm told you bring me a gift."
"I do, Your Majesty. A warrior reportedly of a species known as the Chiss."
- ―Captain Parck introduces Thrawn to Emperor Palpatine
For the rest of his passage to Coruscant aboard the Strikefast, Thrawn spent his time in the company of Vanto. In addition to helping Thrawn with his basic, Vanto told him the legend of the Chiss that he had heard growing up on Lysatra. Thrawn was amused by the legends, finding them interesting and informative but at times false or over-exaggerated. The two also discussed the Empire, particularly the Empire's social hierarchy and prejudices against aliens and those not from the Core Worlds. Vanto also told the Chiss of his career goal of becoming a supply officer in the Imperial Navy. Although Thrawn initially took an interest in Vanto to learn of humans' legends of the Chiss, the exfiltrated senior captain saw untapped talent in Vanto's tactical and analytical abilities and sought to make the human cadet his protégé.
Once the Strikefast reached Coruscant, Thrawn, Vanto, Barris, Parck, and several navy troopers and stormtroopers boarded a Lambda-class T-4a shuttle for the flight to the Imperial Palace. Despite knowing the importance of the man he was about to meet, Thrawn did not feel daunted by the prospect of meeting the Emperor. Instead, Vanto noticed, he looked maddeningly confident. Attempting to calm himself down, Vanto told himself that they would not be seeing the Galactic Emperor himself, but only palace officials. The human cadet was, however, wrong.
Upon debarking from the shuttle, Thrawn and the Imperials were guided by two of Palpatine's red-clad personal royal guardsmen to the Emperor's throne room. Once they had arrived before the Emperor, Parck presented Thrawn as a gift to him. Thrawn, however, offered himself as not a gift but a resource. He informed Palpatine that his native Chiss Ascendancy had discovered a mysterious threat in the Unknown Regions, offering his information on the threat in exchange for the Empire's help. In hope of convincing Palpatine that he was to be trusted, Thrawn offered the name of Skywalker as someone who could vouch for him, believing Skywalker to be a servant to the Emperor. The Emperor informed Thrawn that Skywalker had died at the end of the Clone Wars, but also that Skywalker had spoken highly of him before he had died. Accepting Thrawn's offer for information on the Unknown Regions, the Emperor offered something else in return: a role in the Imperial Navy. Thrawn accepted on the condition that he was allowed to keep Vanto as his translator.
Wishing to discuss the threat in the Unknown Regions further, Palpatine guided Thrawn to the privacy of his throne room's interior garden. Thrawn was impressed by the artistry of the garden, believing it to be indicative of power, subtlety, and depth of thought. Once within the garden, Thrawn and Palpatine discussed Palpatine's personal interest in the mysteries of the Unknown Regions. Palpatine decided that Thrawn did not need a translator, but Thrawn nevertheless requested Eli Vanto as his personal attaché. Secretly, Mitth'raw'nuruodo sought to develop Vanto's talents as a tactician and strategist. Emperor Palpatine agreed to Thrawn's request, decreeing that Thrawn would be assigned three months of training at Coruscant's Royal Imperial Academy with Vanto by his side. The three months of training corresponded to the remainder of Vanto's term as a cadet at Myomar Academy. Although Royal Imperial was the most prestigious of the Imperial Academies, Vanto felt resentment for being reassigned without being asked his own wishes.
Rising through the ranks
Education at the Royal Imperial Academy
- "His own mandate to the Academies is to turn out officers worthy of Imperial service. Anything less, and the whole navy suffers, officers and enlisted alike. Of course, if the Emperor wants to put you in by fiat, he can do that. I hope you'll prove good enough that he won't have to do that."
- ―Commandant Deenlark to Thrawn
Upon arriving at the Royal Imperial Academy, Thrawn and Vanto found their way to the office of Commandant Deenlark, the Academy's top official. Thrawn was met with hostility there; Deenlark openly expressed contempt for the alien Thrawn and the fact that he had arrived in Deenlark's office by command of the Emperor. As the meeting with Deenlark drew to a close, Thrawn was informed that instead of graduating the academy as an ensign like Vanto, he would be graduating with the rank of lieutenant. Thrawn was given his lieutenant's rank insignia plaque, which Deenlark secretly hoped would make Thrawn the target of bullying. On the way out of the office, Vanto informed Thrawn of Deenlark's intent, and Thrawn took the opportunity to learn more about the social hierarchy within the academy. Ultimately, Thrawn decided not to wear his rank plaque until it proved convenient to him, masquerading as a normal cadet.
From the start of their term at Royal Imperial, Thrawn and Vanto were plagued by incidences of bullying and harassment that were, for various reasons, not punishable. The culpability or intent could not be established, or the acts were made to look like accidents, or they merely did not cross a line into the realm of disciplinary action. Thrawn refused to respond, however, hypothesizing that the lack of response would embolden the bullies to act rashly and commit a punishable act of bullying. Thrawn's hypothesis proved true one month into the three-month term, when cadets Spenc Orbar and Rosita Turuy invited him and Vanto to play a card game called Highland Challenge in the metallurgy lab. Thrawn was aware that the offer was a trap intended to get the Chiss and Vanto caught gambling for credits and being in a lab they were not authorized to be in, but chose to accept the offer anyway. Vanto protested Thrawn's decision, but Thrawn felt confident that he could twist the trap in his favor.
Arriving in the lab at the appointed time, Thrawn and Eli were quick to turn down Orbar and Turuy's offer to play for credits. Turuy was upset with their decision, but decided not to push the matter. The four proceeded to play a tense game of Highland Challenge, Orbar and Thrawn discussing the topic of traps in the context of hands of cards. As the round drew to an end and Orbar activated his trap by discreetly calling in an instructor, Thrawn slipped on his lieutenant's rank plaque. The instructor, powerless to punish a lieutenant for being in the lab, was forced to reluctantly let Thrawn and Vanto go, much to Orbar and Turuy's chagrin. Confident that he had dismantled the trap and sufficiently embarrassed the two antagonistic cadets, Thrawn set down his hand of cards and declared that the game was over. Rather than seeking for the instructor to punish Turyu and Obrar, lieutenant Thrawn told the instructor that the cadets were running a metallurgical test and he and his translator Vanto were merely observing their progress. Once the instructor left, Thrawn said to the thoroughly embarassed Rosita and Spec that there was no guaranteed winning hand, a metaphor for both Highland Challenge and the trap in which they sought to ensnare Thrawn.
Thrawn and Vanto walked back to their barracks and Vanto expressed his admiration for Thrawn and how he had managed to subvert the trap with such precise timing. A moment later, Thrawn pushed Vanto into the bushes as he was assailed by Gimm and two other cadets who had been called to the scene by Orbar and Turuy. Thrawn fought off the assailants, allowing them to land a few hits in order to assess their combat skills before, with the help of a distraction from Vanto, injuring one of the assailants and causing all three to scatter.
After the assailants had fled the scene, Thrawn and Vanto returned to Deenlark's office to report the incident. Thrawn deduced that the attack had been masterminded by Orbar and Turuy, and informed Deenlark that the assailants were likely friends of the two cadets. When Deenlark protested that it would be impossible for him to punish the guilty cadets because of their influential parents, Thrawn suggested that rather than being punished, Gimm and the assailants should be transferred to Skystrike Academy for fighter pilot training. He explained that during the fight he had observed that all three had tremendous aptitude as fighter pilots and that it would be a waste of their potential if they were not transferred to Skystrike. Furthermore, Thrawn argued that the punishment would create paranoia, as Gimm and the assailants would live in fear that they would one day be punished, while Orbar and Turuy would be frightened by the fact that their friends had disappeared so suddenly. Deenlark agreed to carry out Thrawn's suggestion, and the matter was closed.
Two standard months later, Thrawn graduated the Royal Imperial Academy as a lieutenant. On the day of his graduation, Thrawn received a second rank insignia plaque, Deenlark having forgotten that he gave Thrawn his plaque the day he arrived at the school. Thrawn held onto his spare plaque for later use if he ever needed it. After the graduation ceremony, Thrawn briefly met Eli Vanto's father and mother who both expressed subtle discomfort around him. As they left, the Vantos mentioned wishing they could use their beckon call, a technology that intrigued Thrawn greatly. After the Vantos were gone, Thrawn and Vanto reported to Deenlark's office for the first assignments of their careers.
Thrawn was assigned to be second weapons officer of the Gozanti-class cruiser Blood Crow, and Vanto was assigned the role of his aide. Though it was not unusual for high-ranking officers to have aides, lieutenants were not normally assigned one. Vanto and Thrawn boarded the transport and began their careers in the Imperial Navy.
Service aboard the Blood Crow
- "The Blood Crow is scheduled for duty in border sectors where Sy Bisti may be spoken."
- ―Lieutenant Thrawn, to Eli Vanto
For the first eighteen months of his service aboard the Blood Crow, Thrawn served under Captain Rik Virgilio hunting smugglers, aiding distressed vessels, and defusing political situations in the Mid and Outer Rims. Thrawn enjoyed his service under Virgilio, facing little to no discrimination and enjoying a quick promotion to First weapons officer. Additionally, Virgilio granted Thrawn use of the Blood Crow's previously unused Number Two storage bay to store the collection of Clone Wars–era technology that Thrawn was amassing. Thrawn was using the technology as a means to study the era and war, and by the end of the eighteen months, he had collected two doonium-shelled Mark One Buzz Droids, a droideka, half of a Single Trooper Aerial Platform (STAP), and most of a hyperdrive ring. This was not to last, however, as Virgilio was replaced suddenly and without explanation by Captain Filia Rossi, who had previously served as first officer of an ore freighter.
Thrawn found himself at odds with Rossi not long after she first set foot aboard the Blood Crow. Discovering Thrawn's stash of Clone Wars technologies while surveying the ship with First Officer Senior Lieutenant Nels Deyland, Rossi demanded a meeting between the three of them in the storage bay. Rossi, eager to assert her dominance as captain, demanded that Thrawn's collection be dumped or otherwise destroyed. Thrawn, who still had plans for his collection, argued that he should be allowed to keep his collection due to the value of the pieces that he had accrued with his own credits. With the help of Deyland, Thrawn managed to argue Rossi down to a compromise. She told Thrawn that he was allowed to keep his collection until the Blood Crow reached Ansion. In that time he would be allowed to continue to attempt to repair the buzz droids in order to bring them up to their maximum market value. At that point, the collection would be turned over to her and she would be allowed to sell it. Thrawn agreed to the compromise. Unbeknownst to Rossi, Thrawn had already managed to get the buzz droids back to full working order.
Thrawn found his service under Rossi notably more difficult than his service under Virgilio. Unlike Virgilio, Rossi was prejudiced against aliens and took offense to the fact that Thrawn was allowed an aide. As a result, Thrawn was assigned to every dirty, nasty, or undesirable job on the Blood Crow while working under Rossi.
The Dromedar hijacking
- "A warrior may forget that even the task of identifying the enemy can be difficult. And the cost of that failure can lead to catastrophe."
- ―Passage from Thrawn's journal
As a consequence of Rossi's tendency to assign him to the undesirable jobs, Thrawn was not surprised when he and Vanto were assigned to investigate the distress call coming from the cargo freighter Dromedar. The freighter was carrying a valuable shipment of static-locked tibanna gas, a locking mechanism infamous for generating incredible amounts of dirt and dust. Once the Blood Crow reached the adrift Dromedar, Thrawn boarded a shuttle to the vessel alongside a boarding party which consisted of Vanto, Ensign Merri Barlin, electronics technician Layneo, and engineering technician Jakeeb.
Once they had boarded the Dromedar, Thrawn assigned Vanto, Layneo, and Jakeeb to investigate the engine section while he made his way to the bridge with Barlin. Several minutes later, Vanto signaled Thrawn that he had found someone in the central passageway. Thrawn instructed Vanto to return to the bridge with the prisoner.
At this moment Thrawn met the man he would later come to know as Nightswan, currently operating under the alias "Nevil Cygni." Thrawn asked Nightswan why he had threatened Vanto, Layneo, and Jakeeb, to which he replied that he had mistaken them for pirates. He explained to Thrawn that the Dromedar had been attacked by pirates hoping to make off with the tibanna gas and that they had taken the crew of the freighter hostage while they returned to their base to get a slicer to help them restart the Dromedar's hyperdrive. Assessing the situation, Thrawn commanded Vanto to contact Rossi and request a full operational team to either restart the hyperdrive or transfer the tibanna gas canisters to the Blood Crow. Vanto protested that Rossi would not like Thrawn's request, but Thrawn did not change his mind. Once Vanto had gone to relay the message, Thrawn began a thorough examination of the ship.
As Vanto had predicted, Thrawn was not granted his requested full operational team by Rossi. Instead, Thrawn was granted the supplies he needed and up to three crew members aside from Vanto and himself. Additionally, they would be left to deal with the Dromedar situation on their own as the Blood Crow had been called to Moltok to deal with a Makurth boss' attack on a Ho'Din settlement. Thrawn was fine with this arrangement, remaining on the Dromedar with Vanto, Barlin, Layneo, and Jakeeb as the Blood Crow voyaged to Moltok.
On the Dromedar's bridge, Thrawn oversaw Barlin and Layneo's attempts to find an asymmetric backdoor code that would get the ship up and running again. As they worked, Thrawn moved with Vanto and Nightswan to the cargo bay. There, Thrawn unpacked one of his crates of supplies from the Blood Crow, revealing one of his two Mark I Buzz Droids. Taking the buzz droid to where the tibanna canisters static-locked to the hull, Thrawn explained his plan to free the tibanna. The static-lock functioned to seal the canisters, but only from the cargo bay side. Thrawn intended to use his buzz droid to cut through the hull and free the tibanna canisters from outside the ship. Nightswan was impressed with the plan, shocked he had not come up with it himself and that it was not used more commonly. Thrawn admitted that his plan was not completely unheard of, but that it would require the sacrifice of one of the tibanna canisters; a sacrifice many were unwilling to make. This plan proved unnecessary, however, when Barlin and Layneo got the hyperdrive back in working order.
When he turned back around to face Nightswan, however, Thrawn found himself staring down the barrel of Nightswan's second blaster. Nightswan had intended to hijack the Dromedar. Calmly, Cygni requested that Thrawn order Barlin, Layneo, Jakeeb, and Vanto to surrender so that no one would have to be harmed. Before Thrawn could give the order, however, he found himself, Vanto, and Jakeeb surrounded by Angel and his Culoss pirate crew. Nightswan gave Thrawn one more chance to surrender, and Thrawn obeyed, surrendering and commanding Barlin and Layneo to surrender via comlink.
Thrawn, Vanto, Barlin, Layneo, and Jakeeb were then taken, with the buzz droid, to Angel's ship Marauder to be with the prisoners from the Dromedar. Nightswan, only interested in the tibanna and Dromedar, demanded that Thrawn and the prisoners be dropped off unharmed at a predetermined rendezvous. Angel had wished to kill Thrawn but reluctantly agreed, locking up the Imperials with the Dromedar crew.
Once they were locked inside the cell, Thrawn proceeded to wait silently until Nightswan and Angel had re-boarded the Dromedar and jumped to lightspeed. Once the Dromedar had gone, Thrawn set his plan into action. He asked Layneo if she could isolate the bridge and fly the Marauder from the control panel in the room, to which she replied that she could as long as she could reach the panel. Pleased with Layneo's answer, Thrawn removed his insignia plaque, revealing that he had turned the spare plaque from graduation into a beckon call for the buzz droids. Using the beckon call, Thrawn guided the buzz droid to attack the prison cell's locking mechanism. Drawn by the commotion, three pirates entered the lockup, and Thrawn redirected the buzz droid to attack them. While they were distracted with the buzz droid, Jakeeb kicked apart the damaged cell door, and the Imperials and prisoners rushed the pirates. The three pirates were subdued, and Thrawn directed his second buzz droid to cut the ship in half so that they could avoid a confrontation with the pirates in the forward portion of the vessel. Emergency airlocks sealed the sections of the ships from the vacuum. Once Layneo had used the control panel to gain control of what remained of the ship, Thrawn took command of the Marauder, with the Dromedar's captain Fitz asking what course to set.
Back aboard the Blood Crow, Thrawn and Vanto were brought before Rossi to justify their actions aboard the Dromedar and the Marauder. In the meeting, Thrawn revealed that he had realized Nightswan was deceiving him, had anticipated his betrayal, and had allowed himself to be captured in hopes of locating and rescuing the crew of the Dromedar. Rossi was unhappy with Thrawn's report, berating him for choosing to save the crew instead over the more financially valuable tibanna gas. Thrawn was baffled by Rossi's assessment, believing that his decision to save the crew and capture some of the pirates was the correct one. Rossi, however, stuck by her original statement, believing the value of tibanna outweighed the value of the lives the Chiss second weapons officer had saved. As a punishment for Thrawn's failure in the eyes of the Imperial High Command, Rossi sentenced Thrawn to suspension at Admiral Plor Wiskovis' base on Ansion while she waited for an official ruling from Coruscant regarding Thrawn's actions. Seeing this as his opportunity to get the Dromedar back, Thrawn subtly manipulated Rossi into sentencing Vanto to suspension along with him.
Aftermath of the Dromedar incident
- "You still saved the ship, along with almost half the tibanna and the Dromedar's crew. And you caught most of the pirates."
"Considering the value the High Command places on tibanna, they may not consider that a sufficient victory."
- ―Colonel Yularen and Thrawn discuss Thrawn's rescue of the Dromedar
Thanks to Thrawn's actions on Ansion, the Dromedar and its tibanna canisters were found and recovered although Nightswan managed to evade capture. Once the tibanna canisters were checked, however, it was discovered that Nightswan had managed to covertly steal the contents of twelve of the twenty canisters using a variation of the technique that Thrawn had suggested aboard the Dromedar. This partial defeat vexed Thrawn greatly, kicking off his obsession and rivalry with Nightswan.
Once on Ansion, Thrawn convinced Admiral Wiskovis to allow him to interrogate the three pirates they had captured, and to allow Vanto as a witness to the interrogation. The Chiss lieutenant correctly deduced that the pirates, who called themselves Culoss, were remnants from the crew of the pirate queen Q'anah, which had been known as Q'anah's Marauders. Thrawn threatened the three prisoners with a visit from Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, the man who had been responsible for the death of Q'anah and most of her crew as a leader of the Outland Regions Security Force in 46 BBY. The pirates, frightened by the prospect of being turned over to Tarkin, allowed Thrawn to tell them his deal. In exchange for the location of Nightswan, Angel, and the Dromedar, Thrawn offered the pirates safe transport out of the sector before Tarkin and the Imperial Security Bureau ("ISB") arrived for additional interrogations. Hoping to trick Thrawn, the pirates had a short conversation in Sy Bisti, a regional trade language of low prestige and poor regard in the galaxy's core, and one which they did not believe any Imperial officers would understand. In their Sy Bisti dialog, the Culoss pirates plannet to give Thrawn false information in order to secure their freedom. Speaking in Basic once more, the pirates told Thrawn that the Dromedar had been taken to Cartherston on the planet Keitum. Thrawn and Vanto, both of whom spoke Sy Bisti, understood that this was a lie, but Thrawn nevertheless noted Cartherston as a location of interest as he believed it had come up to quickly to truly be of no consequence to the pirates.
Out of the interrogation room, Thrawn, Vanto, and Wiskovis determined from the pirates' slang words "trapo," "ub-dub," and "squalsh" to determine that the Dromedar had been taken to a trading post ("trapo") on the planet Uba in the Barsa sector. Hoping to save Wiskovis from any of the career fallout that Thrawn feared might accompany his actions, Thrawn volunteered to take full responsibility for the operation to Uba to rescue the Dromedar. Interpreting this action as Thrawn attempting to hoard the glory, Wiskovis became angry and argued with Thrawn for several minutes before ultimately deciding to save the argument for later. Returning to the more pressing matter at hand, Thrawn and Wiskovis dispatched forces to Uba and Keitum to arrest the pirates and retake the tibanna gas. Hypothesizing that the stolen tibanna may be taken from Uba to the nearby tibanna producing planet Kril'Dor, Thrawn also ordered a force be sent there as part of the reclamation effort.
Despite the fact that the operation had been a strategic success, Thrawn found himself facing the threat of a court-martial from High Command due to his actions throughout the Dromedar incident. As such, Thrawn spent the following Ascension Week and Empire Day on Coruscant, touring parties and mingling with the influential elite alongside Vanto and ISB Colonel Wullf Yularen. Yularen believed that Thrawn's actions on Ansion had been justified and beneficial, and sought to aid Thrawn with the court martial by introducing him to senators and ministers that he felt could be an asset during the investigation. It was at one such Ascension Week party, the party in the Alisandre Hotel's grand ballroom, where Thrawn met Arihnda Pryce for the first time, then an aide to Lothal Senator Domus Renking. The two spoke briefly, and Pryce correctly guessed Thrawn's purpose at the party; before Yularen, Thrawn, and Vanto moved on to speak to another senator.
Thrawn and Yularen's social strategy ultimately paid off, as Thrawn was cleared of all charges by the court-martial committee. Despite the committee's decision to officially close the Dromedar incident, Thrawn continued to be bothered by the incident's outcome and Nightswan's cunning. Additionally, he found Nightswan's knowledge of the Mark I Buzz Droid's value intriguing, asking Vanto if he could investigate supply and demand of the rare metal doonium in the galaxy. Thrawn had begun to suspect that the Empire was working on a secret military project of some sort, and wished to discover the truth. It turned out that Nightswan shared similar suspicions of and interest in such a project.
After the court-martial committee made their decision, Thrawn received new orders from High Command. He was promoted from lieutenant to captain and assigned the role of First Officer aboard the Arquitens-class light cruiser Thunder Wasp with Vanto still assigned as his aide. Thrawn was disappointed that Vanto was not promoted, having recommended Vanto for both a rank promotion and a combat position, but the two accepted their new assignments nonetheless.
Hunting down pirates and insurgents
- "What matters is the future of the Imperial Navy. You're that future, Thrawn. It's been a privilege to be your commander."
"Thank you, sir. I have learned a great deal serving under you."
"I doubt that. But I thank you. And I, too, have learned a great deal from you."
- ―Alfren Cheno and Thrawn
After being assigned to the Thunder Wasp, Thrawn spent the next year hunting smugglers and pirates in the Mid Rim Territories under the guidance of Commander Alfren Cheno. During this time, Thrawn also made five visits to Coruscant, traveling to the Imperial Palace to help Emperor Palpatine map the Unknown Regions. Thrawn also paid a visit to Yularen during each of his five visits to Coruscant, working with him on an investigation of Nightswan's identity and activities in the galaxy.
Sometime towards the end of his first year of service aboard the Thunder Wasp, Thrawn noticed a sudden uptick in the value of vulture droids while shopping for his collection. Hoping to investigate, Thrawn purchased another vulture droid part, sneaking a glimpse at the Rodian salesman's order requests when the merchant focused his attention elsewehere. In the order requests, Thrawn discovered that Nightswan had purchased a large number of vulture droid parts from the merchant and paid with the rare metal iridium.
Not long after, Thrawn and Vanto investigated and arrested a group of smugglers who had been smuggling iridium in the shells of Paklarn grist mollusks. Looking into the matter further, Thrawn deduced that the smuggling operation had been masterminded by Nightswan and that Nightswan had used the smuggled iridium to pay for large shipments of vulture droids. Pressing the captured smugglers for details, Thrawn discovered that Nightswan had mentioned the Expansion Region planet Umbara when he had been instructing the smugglers. Eli Vanto dismissed Umbara as a false lead, believing that Umbara would not dare to try insurgency again after joining the Separatists and suffering heavy losses during the Clone Wars. Thrawn, however, felt confident in his intuition and believed that an investigation of insurgent activity on Umbara was necessary.
Battle over Umbara
- "It would seem we have found the reason for the attack. The purpose for a clearly futile assault upon an Imperial force. Nightswan wished for the Empire to take control of Umbara's mines."
"Because its easier for him and his smugglers to cheat material past Imperial inspectors than past the Umbarans. I'll grant that it sounds like Nightswan's brand of deviousness. But we don't even know for sure that he was involved."
"He was. He is. Who else would invite me here to demonstrate his handiwork?"
- ―Thrawn and Eli Vanto discussing Nightswan
Thrawn spent the entirety of the passage to Umbara locked away in his cabin. He used the solitude to immerse himself in Umbaran art, surrounding himself with holograms of Umbaran art through the ages. He noted the subtle differences between Republic and Imperial Era art, using the similarities and differences to extrapolate details of modern Umbaran culture and military doctrine.
Thrawn was interrupted mid-thought when Vanto entered his cabin to inform him that they had arrived at Umbara and that Cheno had requested his presence at the bridge. By the time Thrawn arrived at the bridge, the Thunder Wasp was in position and ready for battle, joined by Gendling's Imperial Star Destroyer (ISD) Foremost and two Raider-class corvettes. As they stood on the bridge, Cheno joked with Thrawn that he hoped the Umbarans would attack so that he and the Thunder Wasp could finally get some recognition. Thrawn, however, felt it was unlikely that the Umbarans would attack.
Thrawn watched from the bridge alongside Vanto and Cheno as Gendling delivered his ultimatum to the Umbaran insurgents, demanding that they hand over their leaders within the hour or face reprisal. Even as Vanto declared the matter finished after Gendling's ultimatum, a battle erupted as four-hundred vulture droids appeared from behind Umbara's outermost moon.
As the battle began and Cheno commanded a counterattack against the vulture droids, Vanto was quick to point out to Thrawn that he had been wrong. Thrawn, however, stood by his original statement, deducing that the attack was not by the Umbarans and that they were merely watching it in hopes of deciding whether or not to join in.
As the battle continued and the Thunder Wasp sustained greater damage, Thrawn realized that Cheno was unable to command the battle and promptly seized control of the Thunder Wasp. Moving Senior Lieutenant Hammerly to a turbolaser station, Thrawn sat down with Vanto at Hammerly's sensor station to study the attack patterns of the vulture droids. After several moments of watching the vulture droid attack patterns, Thrawn was able to deduce that the vulture droids were performing too effectively to be commanded by their pre-programmed swarm behavior. Instead, they were being controlled directly by a transmitting base. Thrawn knew both from experience against vulture droids and their geometry and artistry that they were designed for swarm tactics, which they were not presently employing, and explained his reasoning to Vanto.
Having taken control of Hammerly's sensor station, Thrawn's true goal at the moment was to infer the location of the transmitting base that was in control of the vulture droids. The Chiss captain had noticed that the droid fighters intermittently reverted to their programmed swarm tactics, which indicated their passage through a transmission shadow from other ships or objects blocking their line-of-sight to the controlling transmitter. As such, Thrawn used the sensors to pinpoint the location of the droids' transmitter tower, which was on the surface of Umbara. His analytical work done, Thrawn called out to Cheno, telling him to contact Gendling to inform him of the location of the base. Gendling, however, felt that Thrawn's assessment was merely guesswork and disregarded the advice. Vanto commented to himself that normally it would be reasonable not to fire at a population center, and many Imperial officers would not hesistate to do so, but this circumstance was different as Thrawn had proven it was the location of the enemy's transmitter and a surgical strike would quickly minimize the droids' combat effectiveness.
Frustrated with Gendling's ineptitude, Thrawn ordered the Communications Officer to signal the remaining ships to attack the vulture droids when they passed through the transmission shadows. The other ships acknowledged Thrawn's strategy and shifted tactics, quickly turning the tide of the battle. By the end of the battle, one of the corvettes had been destroyed and the remaining corvette, Thunder Wasp, and Foremost were all badly damaged, but the vulture droids had been destroyed and Umbara unconditionally surrendered. Vanto believed the Imperial warships all sustained far more damage than they would have if Gendling had listed to Thrawn.
Even though Thrawn's strategy had won what had begun to appear to be a losing battle, Gendling was furious with both Thrawn and Cheno for their roles in the battle. His pride bruised, Gendling promised Cheno that the battle would be the end of his career. When Gendling turned on Thrawn, however, Cheno stepped in to save the Chiss captain's career. Once they were alone Cheno admitted that he believed Thrawn to be the future of the Imperial Navy, saying that it had been a privilege to be Thrawn's commander, even for a short time.
After departing from the meeting with Gendling and Cheno, Thrawn met with Vanto to discuss the possibility of Nightswan's involvement in the battle. Thrawn asked Vanto, who was a skilled numerical analyst, to analyze the value of Umbaran ore as well as the success rates of smugglers on Umbara versus smugglers on worlds where the Empire controlled mining and the supply line of metals. As the Chiss suspected, smugglers had significantly more success smuggling and skimming metals from planets with Imperial-controlled industry than those operated independently. Thus, Thrawn reasoned that Cygni had orchestrated the events on Umbara to ensure that the Empire took over Umbara's mines and facilitate his smuggling operations. Going even further, Thrawn concluded that Nightswan had purposefully allowed the iridium smugglers to be caught in order to draw the Imperials to Umbara. Impressed, Thrawn admitted that he would be forced to wait until Nightswan chose to resurface again to take further action against the insurgent leader.
As a result of the actions taken during the battle, Cheno was forced to retire by Gendling and High Command. This decision angered Thrawn greatly as he considered it nothing more or less than a foolish waste of resources. Surprised by Thrawn's reaction, Vanto informed him that Cheno was neither the first navy career Thrawn had destroyed nor was it the last career he would destroy. Thrawn was vexed by this, but resigned himself to the reality of his situation and his inability to control or even understand the Empire's military politics.
Meeting with Yularen
- "One would think Nubia equally immune to such threats. Yet this protest at the Circle Bay's mayor office seems to have been quite effective."
"That was a unique case. The perpetrators managed to get the entire kitchen staff fired, then infiltrated the new staff with their own people. Once you've got someone on the inside. you can pull off almost anything."
- ―Thrawn and Wullf Yularen
Not long after learning of Commander Cheno's forced retirement, Thrawn and Vanto visited Colonel Yularen's Coruscant office to discuss their ongoing joint investigation of Nightswan's activities. Yularen reported that the ISB had managed to connect Nightswan to metal smuggling, purchases of antiques, and political protests; but had not been able to determine the man's identity. Intrigued by the mention of political protesting, Thrawn asked Yularen to give him a list of the insurgent activities Nightswan was associated with. Pursuing his inquiry further, Thrawn asked Yularen about insurgent activity on Coruscant. Yularen brushed off his theory, believing that political unrest in the Imperial capital planet's lower-class lower levels would never be able to impact anything. Thrawn refused to relent, however, countering Yularen's disbelief by citing the protest in the Circle Bay mayor's office on Nubia. Yularen pointed out that the protest had only succeeded because the insurgents had managed to infiltrate the servant staff in the capital, and Thrawn deduced that insurgency on Coruscant could be equally effective if insurgents infiltrated the government via bodyguard training dojos. Yularen conceded that Thrawn had a point, and the three set off for an investigation of Coruscant's dojos.
Visit to the Yinchom Dojo
- "Excellent, Captain. Your style is unknown to me, but you have clearly been well trained."
"Thank you, Instructor. Perhaps the next time I have duty on Coruscant you will teach me some of your style. It is of your species?"
- ―H'sishi and Thrawn compliment one-another on their stick-fighting form
Thrawn, Yularen, and Vanto's investigation led the three men to the Yinchom Dojo, a dojo owned by a Togorian named H'sishi which trained bodyguards for the Imperial Senate. While waiting to speak with H'sishi, Thrawn once again found himself talking to Arihnda Pryce, now working for Higher Skies Advocacy Group and at the dojo for self-defense lessons and networking with senate guards.
After a brief conversation with Pryce, Thrawn spoke with H'sishi, obtaining records of the dojo's government contracts and trained guards. Seeking to learn more about the difficult-to-read Togorian in front of him, Thrawn challenged H'sishi to an advanced stick fighting duel under the guise of searching for an instructor for an urban combat unit. In truth, Thrawn hoped to learn of her possible connection to subversive activities through her behavior and tactics in combat. Just prior to the duel, Thrawn asked Pryce for the name of her advocacy group, paying attention to the reactions of those around him when Pryce revealed the name of her organization. As the two dueled, Thrawn observed not only H'sishi but also Pryce and her friend Juahir Madras, observing Madras' nervousness and H'sishi's single-minded focus on combat. After the duel, Thrawn complimented H'sishi's Togorian-inspired style of stick fighting, expressing his interest in one day learning it from her.
Outside the dojo, Thrawn shared his findings with Vanto and Yularen, reporting that he believed there was more to Higher Skies than met the eye and that while H'sishi was undoubtedly innocent, Juahir Madras was likely complicit. Thrawn wished to pursue the investigation further, but new orders from High Command prevented that wish from becoming a reality.
Thrawn had been commanded to spend the next four weeks at the Imperial Palace, charting the Unknown Regions with Emperor Palpatine while the Thunder Wasp underwent repairs. Once the repairs were finished, Thrawn was once again assigned to patrol the Mid Rim and Outer Rim, but he had been promoted to a commander and the captain of the Thunder Wasp following Cheno's imposed retirement.
Covert meeting with Pryce
- "You're to good for those who dislike you to attack directly. Politics is all they have. Pressuring the high command to keep your aide from advancing. Putting your ship last in line for repairs."
- ―Arihnda Pryce to Commander Thrawn
Sometime during his four-week stay at the Imperial Palace, Arihnda Pryce called upon Thrawn to help her escape a trap that had been laid for her by Imperial Moff Ghadi. Ghadi believed the Higher Skies advocacy group sought to destroy him, and sought to force Pryce to counter-spy on the group itself under threat of turning her into the ISB on false charges if she refused. Further, the Moff wished to blackmail Pryce into blackmailing other Imperial officials on his behalf, including Ghadi's arch-enemy Grand Moff Tarkin.
Thrawn wore glasses and a hood to conceal his identity and masquerade as a Pantoran, meeting Pryce in the Gilroy Plaza Diner to discuss Ghadi's trap and how to dismantle it. Pryce handed Thrawn a datacard filled with evidence of Ghadi's corruption, requesting that he hand it along to Yularen and ensure that only Yularen knew that it came from her. While extorting Pryce, Ghadi inadvertently revealed to her that one of his mines—a mine rich in doonium—had recently been attacked by insurgents. Notably, Ghadi's mine was unregistered and the Moff was using it to sell metals on the black market without paying proper taxes and duties.
Thrawn agreed to do as she asked, but refused to hand Pryce's blackmail dossier to Yularen until the best possible moment, deducing that the longer it stayed in the ISB, the more likely it was that Ghadi would use personal agents within the ISB to acquire or sabotage the information. Pryce argued that she was unwilling to wait, attempting to bribe Thrawn to give it to Yularen as quickly as possible. The two discussed the politics of military promotions and ship repairs, with Pryce offering to use her contacts to both speed up the repairs of the Thunder Wasp and to get Vanto his long-denied promotion. Thrawn was receptive to Pyrce's offers, placing a high value on Vanto's promotion and his ship's repairs. As his end of the bargain, Thrawn offered Pryce some military advice; he advised her to use Ghadi's hatred of Tarkin to her advantage to either ally herself with Tarkin or use Tarkin to force Ghadi to ally himself with her.
Before he left the diner, Thrawn asked Pryce if she would be willing to turn on the Higher Skies group if it was discovered that they were involved in insurgent activity. Pryce replied that she would absolutely turn her back on them if that should be required for her to have Yularen's protection from Ghadi.
Afe Clan land dispute
- "So what's this one about, sir?"
"It appears to be a land dispute, Ensign. On one side is the Afe clan of the native Cyphari. On the other side is a group of human colonists in an enclave pressing up against Afe territory."
- ―Eli Vanto and Thrawn
Some time after Commander Thrawn and ensign Vanto returned to patrol duty on the Thunder Wasp, the Arquitens-class light cruiser was assigned the investigation of a land dispute on the planet Cyphar between the native Cyphari and human colonists. Thrawn had requested the assignment to investigate, mediate, and solve the dispute. Thrawn noticed an uptick in shellfish exports from Cyphar reminiscent of the Nightswan-led smuggling operation that had led him to Umbara, and correctly saw the shared motif as an invitation from Nightswan to mediate the dispute. Thrawn spent the passage to Cyphar discussing his Nightswan theories with Vanto, particularly his belief that Nightswan was connected to the sharp increases in doonium theft, land disputes, and general unrest that had begun to spread the Empire's military thin.
Once on Cyphar, Thrawn and Vanto attended a meeting with the colonists of the human colony, Hollenside Enclave, involved in the dispute. The Imperial officers discussed the dispute's circumstances mayor Pord Benchel and other colonists including Lenora Scath, Brigte Polcery, Clay Tanoo, and a small committee of other concerned citizens. The meeting was brief and hostile, with Polcery and Scath in particular finding it ridiculous that Thrawn wished to hear both sides before making his decision. The dispute between the humans and the Cyphari Afe clan was not Thrawn's top priority during the meeting, however. Thrawn had deduced that the entire land dispute was an elaborate cover-up for smuggling operations and spent the meeting studying Benchel, Scath, Polcery, and Tanoo for signs of guilt or innocence in a scheme that the dispute was designed to hide.
Thrawn and Vanto took a shuttle to meet the Cyphari Chief Joko of the Afe Clan, during which the Chiss discussed his findings with his human assistant. The two had come to the same conclusion: Scath, Polcery, and Tanoo were all involved in the smuggling activity, but Mayor Benchel was oblivious to everything besides what had been reported to him about the land dispute. The two officers visited the mobile Afe clan meetinghouse to speak with Joko. Joko pleaded his case to Thrawn, telling him that the dispute had started when humans from the Hollenside Enclave had invaded Afe land and that all issues since then had either been self-defense or acts of retaliation. While in the meetinghouse, Thrawn subtly studied the artwork on the walls, ascertaining information on Afe culture and strategy. Thrawn gleaned from the art that the Cyphari would harbor intense guilt if they killed an opponent in combat.
Joko then showed Thrawn the grain field where the incursions had occurred, along with a holo-map of likely airspeeder travel paths and the sites of both the human attacks on the Afe lands and the Cyphari counterattacks on Hollenside. Thrawn studied both the damaged grain and the attack locations, quickly discerning patterns and developing a plan to combat the invaders. Thrawn cautioned Joko against attacking Hollenside again, promising Joko that the situation would be resolved that night if he followed Thrawn's orders. Thrawn resolved to spend the night at the meetinghouse with Vanto, offering Joko stormtroopers for protection and ordering him to evacuate the surrounding area. Joko was hesitant, but followed Thrawn's commands after Thrawn promised once more that he would resolve the situation in a single night. Thrawn was confident in his promise that he could fix it that night; he had deduced that the colonists would see that evening as their final chance to advance the smuggling operation until the investigation was closed.
That night, Thrawn and Vanto observed from a distance as three landspeeders full of humans, led by Tanoo, arrived on Afe Clan land and began digging for ore. Thrawn immediately focused his attention on Tanoo, asking Vanto to pull up Tanoo's full record on his datapad. Vanto revealed that Tanoo had studied organic chemistry, and that his brother had been arrested for possession of spice derived from scarn. Thrawn found what he was looking for in the information about scarn, calling in stormtroopers and an escort of TIE fighters led by Lieutenant Gimm to their location. Unbeknownst to Gimm, Thrawn had been the reason he was transferred from Royal Imperial to Skystrike Academy and thus became a starfighter pilot.
Hoping to stop the human perpetrators from escaping before they could be arrested, Thrawn drew his blaster and opened fire, destroying the repulsorlifts of two of the landspeeders. After a short firefight, Thrawn and Vanto managed to stun all of the perpetrators and arrest Tanoo, interrogating him at gunpoint in the speeder he had attempted to escape in. Tanoo admitted that Polcery had designed the scarn smuggling plot and that he had been forced to participate as the chemist. Thrawn was unsatisfied with his answer, however, pointing out to Tanoo that he could have easily changed the formula slightly to make a far less potent and illegal version of scarn that Polcery would never notice. Tanoo, trapped by Thrawn's logic, admitted that Thrawn was too clever for his lie but quickly added that he had done nothing that Thrawn had enough evidence to arrest him for. Thrawn then inquired about Nightswan, and Tanoo admitted that Scath had sought out Nightswan as a legendary smuggler to facilitate the expansion of their spice-trafficking operation.
Having nothing to charge Tanoo with but unwilling to accept defeat, Thrawn studied Tanoo's scarn sensor and quickly formulated a plan to end the scarn production, even without due cause to arrest Tanoo. Meeting with Gimm, Thrawn delivered him the sensor and commanded him to fly close to the ground, using it to follow the underground scarn vein. As Gimm flew along the vein, Thrawn ordered Lieutenant Commander Osgoode to use the Thunder Wasp's turbolasers to obliterate the scarn vein behind him. Once the night was over, Thrawn's plan had succeeded and the scarn had been scorched out of existence.
Thrawn's plan, though successful, was met with backlash from both High Command on Coruscant and Joko on Cyphar. While Thrawn had nullified the reason for the humans' incursions into the Afe clan's lands, he had also damaged their cropland. In a final confrontation with Joko before he departed, Joko promised to appeal Thrawn's actions in hopes of securing yet another court-martial of the Chiss commander. Thrawn expressed no regret for his actions, however, believing that he had done the best he possibly could have in the situation. He felt complete apathy towards High Command's disdain for him, believing that they wanted him to be a yes-man but that there were some situations that could simply only be solved by his particular brand of strategy.
Promotion to Commodore
- "Never has any officer of the Imperial Navy achieved such success in so short a time."
- ―An Imperial Navy admiral just before announcing Thrawn's promotion to commodore
Following Chief Joko's appeal to Imperial High Command, Thrawn was once again cleared of all charges of misconduct. He and the Thunder Wasp returned to hunting for smugglers and illicit activity connected to Nightswan. Using Vanto's knowledge of supplies and logistics, Thrawn was able to uncover and stamp out several doonium smuggling operations, at least two of which were connected to Nightswan. Frustrated that Nightswan was still slipping through the Empire's fingers, Thrawn contacted his fellow officers with warnings about Nightswan, but his warnings were generally not taken seriously. Additionally, Thrawn continued to be perplexed by the Empire's excessively high demand for doonium, having still found no answers despite his and Vanto's continued investigation.
Eventually, Thrawn and Vanto were surprised by a summons from High Command on Coruscant. Once on Coruscant, Thrawn and Vanto found themselves in the center of an award ceremony attended by various admirals and Grand Moff Tarkin. For his outstanding record of successes and his string of unusually fast promotions, Thrawn was promoted from commander to the rank of commodore and given command of the ISD Chimaera. Additionally, Vanto was promoted from ensign to lieutenant commander, a decision that greatly pleased Thrawn. After the ceremony concluded, Thrawn briefly spoke with Tarkin, discussing Pryce's recent promotion to Governor of Lothal and subtly thanking Pryce for her role in Vanto's promotion. After Tarkin had departed, Thrawn briefly exchanged a heartfelt congratulations with Vanto before the two set off for their career aboard the Chimaera. The Chimaera's prior first officer Commander Karyn Faro stayed on and retained her role.
Mission to aid the Sempre
- Thrawn: "The attacking ships were reported stolen eight weeks ago."
- Eli Vanto: "By Nightswan?"
- Thrawn: "Possibly. The scheme was quite inventive, which could indicate his hand in the planning. But whether or not he was behind the theft, I do not believe he is involved with this attack. Overly violent attacks are not his usual style."
- Commander Faro: "Style can change, Commodore. And with all due respect, I don't see how the ships' starting point matters right now as much as the fact that they're here and they're shooting at our people."
- ―Thrawn, Eli Vanto, and Commander Karyn Faro speculating about Nightswan's involvement in the attack on the Sempre
Some time into Thrawn's tenure as commander of the Chimaera, the Chimaera received a distress call from the Imperial troop carrier Sempre. Meeting on the bridge of the ship to discuss the mission with Commander Eli Vanto, senior communications officer Lomar, Stormtrooper Commander Ayer, and his first officer Karyn Faro, Thrawn discussed his belief that Nightswan was behind the theft of the frigate Castilus and V-19 Torrent starfighters that had attacked the Sempre, but not behind the attack itself. Thrawn also called into question the motivation behind the attack, as Ayer revealed that the Sempre was not in fact transporting stormtroopers when it was attacked. Ayer refused to divulge more, firmly asserting that the mission of the Sempre was classified and that only he and his troopers would be allowed aboard to combat the threat. Thrawn took this news in stride, calmly commanding Faro to check the Chimaera's weapons and Vanto to ensure that they were going at the quickest possible speed.
Almost two hours later, Thrawn arrived at the site of the attack to discover that the crew of the Sempre had been completely massacred and that the Castilus and V-19 starfighters were long gone. Commodore Thrawn stated that Ayer's orders for complete secrecy were no longer relevant in the face of their failure to reach the Sempre in time to save the Imperials aboard. Thrawn and Vanto boarded the Sempre to observe the carnage for themselves. Moving carefully through the ship, Thrawn observed that only a few of the dead had blaster burns while the rest appeared to have been brutally beaten to death. Studying the bloodstains on the walls, Thrawn noted several that appeared to have been written glyphs or attempts at words. Moving deeper into the ship, Thrawn sought to enter the troop quarters, but was blocked by one of Ayer's men. Curious what the Empire was hiding, Thrawn commanded the stormtrooper to stand aside, asserting that in order to deliver justice for the murdered soldiers, he had to see the contents of the troop quarters.
The stormtrooper continued to insist that the room and its contents were classified. At that point, the Chiss commodore raised his voice, shouting in apparent anger for the stormtrooper to step aside. The trooper sheepishly complied. Vanto was surprised by Thrawn's uncharacteristic anger, but once inside the troop quarters, Thrawn explained that it had been a pragmatic choice to appear angry in order to cut the conversation short. The Chiss remarked to his aide that when an adversary grows accustomed to a warrior's normal behavior, it could be tactically advantageous to disorient the adversary by acting in a different way than expected. Inside the room, Thrawn discovered what the Empire had been trying to hide: the Sempre had been used to transport slaves.
Back on the bridge of the Chimaera, Thrawn met once more with Vanto, Faro, and Lomar to discuss the matter further. After Faro revealed that the attacking V-19s had destroyed the Sempre's shield generators, hyperdrive, and sublight engines, Thrawn deduced that the intention of the attack had been to free the slaves, not to take command of the Sempre. Focusing instead on the slaves, Thrawn asked what species the ship had been transporting, to which Lomar replied that he had used the ship's audio and the size of the restraints to determine that the slaves had been Wookiees. Utilizing the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk as a starting point and the Sempre's location as an endpoint, Thrawn and Vanto pinpointed the location of the Empire's secret slave-processing center as Lansend Twenty-Six, an old Separatist staging area from the Clone Wars. Identifying the blood marking on the wall as a Wookiee clan symbol signifying defiance, Thrawn deduced that there was a saboteur on Lansend Twenty-Six and that rescued Wookiees and freedom fighters would attack there next in an effort to free more of the Empire's slaves. Determined to defend Lansend Twenty-Six where they had failed to protect the Sempre, Thrawn commanded radio silence as the Chimaera approached the processing center.
When the Chimaera arrived at Lansend Twenty-Six, the station had already fallen under attack by the Castilus and its squadrons of V-19s. Thrawn quickly deployed a squadron of TIE fighters to deal with the threat, ordering them to disable the Castilus without destroying it. He also ordered a signal be sent to the Empire's nearby Baklek Base, asking for assistance. Next, Thrawn contacted Colonel Zenoc of Lansend Twenty-Six, from whom the commodore learned that the saboteur had already been captured, and requested a holo-map of the station. Using the map to track the positions of the escaped slaves and attackers, Thrawn fired on the station, destroying sections of it to trap the escapees unharmed in section B-five. The threat within the station neutralized, Thrawn turned the Chimaera's attention back to what remained of the attacking frigate and V-19s.
As the battle drew to a close, Vanto approached Thrawn, asking him what would happen to the Wookiee slaves. Thrawn replied that the Wookiee slaves would be left with Zenoc on Lansend, prompting Vanto to express his discomfort with the idea of the Empire using slaves at all. Thrawn replied that it was entirely possible that they were actually indentured servants, prisoners, or had sold themselves into slavery voluntarily to pay off debts. Vanto questioned his commodore's rationalization of Imperial slavery, and Thrawn admitted that it was unlikely that the Wookiees were anything but innocent people captured as slaves. Thrawn concluded that the enslaved Wookiees' origins ultimately did not matter. In the commodore's eyes, the Wookiees were now Imperial assets and had to be treated as such, even as his tone hardened from discomfort.
- "This is Governor Quesl of the free system of Botajef. You have intruded into Jefi space. If you do not leave, you will be fired upon."
- ―Governor Quesl to Commodore Thrawn
Sometime later, Thrawn and the Chimaera were called upon by Fleet Admiral Jok Donassius to put down an insurgency on Botajef, a planet in the Outer Rim. The planet, led by Governor Quesl, had declared independence from the Empire. The Empire feared that such declarations and insurgencies could lead to another Separatist Crisis, and thus commanded Thrawn to put down the revolt by any means necessary before any other systems thought to act similarly. Setting course for Botajef immediately, Thrawn turned to Vanto, Faro, and Senior Lieutenant Pyrondi to discuss the matter further. Pyrondi offered her disbelief that Quesl would lead a rebellion without other star systems as allies, arguing that the planet's governor was well aware that the military might of the Chimaera alone could stop the world's rebellion dead in its tracks. Commander Faro replied that she feared that Botajef may just be the first of many worlds preparing to secede from the Empire. Thrawn listened to their theories without offering any of his own, listening intently as Pyrondi described to him the follower nature of the native Jefi people. Carefully noting the Jefies' tendency to follow anyone who presented themselves as a capable leader, Thrawn suggested that the best overall strategy may be to overthrow Quesl in favor of a new, non-insurgent leader. After the conversation ended, Thrawn retired to his quarters and left Faro in charge of the bridge.
Thrawn spent the rest of the fourteen-hour journey to Botajef in his quarters, studying Jefi artwork. Thrawn felt that the low-contrast sculpts showed a self-awareness of their shortcomings, whereas their tressiles depicted their belief in the stability of their political system. Indeed, that planet had a history of long periods of passive allegiance punctuated by short bouts of revolutionary violence.
Two hours prior to the Chimaera's arrival at Botajef, Vanto arrived in Thrawn's quarters to discuss his growing concerns about the mission. Vanto feared that the mission was a set up by government officials and High Command designed to make Thrawn look bad by either painting him as a war-crazed alien who wiped out a planet of innocent followers or as a coward unable to defeat the Botajef Defense Force and forced to retreat. Nevertheless, Thrawn felt confident that he would be able to avoid falling into such a trap. Vanto warned that, in the event of failure, Thrawn and he might be demoted to commanding an ore carrier like their former commander Filia Rossi's previous assignment. Nevertheless, Thrawn changed the topic.
Thrawn brought up his and Vanto's investigation into the Empire's secret military project, which they speculated to be the destination of the doonium and other metals whose prices and supply had shown recent marked changes. Sharing his most recent research with Vanto, Thrawn revealed that he had deduced that it was a single large military installation on a scale the Empire had never before seen, and that it must be equipped with a hyperdrive. The Chiss commodore admitted to his human friend that he believed the project was a foolish waste of resources and expressed his belief that it would be wiser for the Empire to pour their resources into a more flexible and mobile navy of capital ships and versatile starfighters. Hoping to check out the project for himself, Thrawn revealed to Vanto that he had used the vectors from the Wookiee slave ships and Rossi's doonium transports from Socorro to discover the likely location of the secret project's construction site. Thrawn told Vanto that once the opportunity presented itself, they would investigate it further.
Thrawn brought the conversation full-circle, returning to the insurgency on Botajef that awaited them upon exit from hyperspace. The Chiss commodore pulled up a hologram of Quesl declaring the Botajef system's independence from the Empire. Pointing out Quesl's mannerisms, Thrawn noted that he seemed to be daring the Empire to respond with military force to quash his declaration of independence. He theorized that the capital would be heavily fortified and that Botajef's substatial planetary defense forces would be deployed to keep the Chimaera at a distance. Closing the holo, Thrawn and Vanto returned to the bridge to discuss strategy further.
Upon arriving at Botajef, Thrawn discovered that his theory about the planet's defenses had proven correct. The planet was defended from space by two CR90 corvettes as well as five squadrons of V-19s dispatched from Botajef's north-polar base and two squadrons from its south-polar base. The governor's palace was fortified by five ground-based turbolasers. Confident in his ability to handle the situation, Thrawn ordered Starfighter Commander Yve to launch the Chimaera's complement of TIE fighters to perform flybys past the corvettes and to form a screen between the Chimaera and the V-19s. A moment later, Thrawn received a call from Quesl, who asserted that the Chimaera was invading Jefi space and was required to either vacate or be fired upon. Thrawn responded calmly, buying time by contriving a fictitious Clone Wars-era treaty which Botajef had supposedly signed at the end of the war. Thrawn told Quesl that his secession from the Empire was a direct violation of the supposed treaty. As he spoke, Thrawn watched the TIE flybys of the corvettes, noting that the starboard corvette slightly twitched as the Chimaera's TIEs drew near whereas the portside corvette did not react.
Having ascertained all the information he needed, Thrawn proceeded with his plan; ordering Yve's special unit of TIEs to destroy Quesl's groundside turbolaser placements near the governor's palace. Yve's bombing run on the palacial turbolaser batteries distracted governor Quesl. In the meantime, Thrawn navigated the Chimaera closer to the corvettes, capturing the starboard corvette in the Star Destroyer's tractor beam. As the tractor beam drew the corvette in, Quesl gasped and stumbled over the hologram, confirming Thrawn's theory: Quesl and the valuable Jefi art were on the starboard CR90 corvette. The Imperial commodore had predicted that Quesl had staged the system's insurrection and secession to facilitate his theft and illicit sale of valuable Jefi artworks. The governor had intended for Thrawn to destroy the palace to conceal the theft while he slipped away in the ensuing battle. Thrawn also revealed to Quesl that the flyby had revealed that the starboard corvette had a human crew while the portside corvette had a Jefi crew; he had surmised that Quesl was on the human-crewed corvette as it was unlikely that a Jefi crew would aid in the theft of their own art. Thrawn drew the corvette in, promising Quesl he would face trial for his actions before cutting the transmission. Ordering that the prisoners be apprehended and the art be returned to the Jefies, Thrawn commanded Vanto to inform High Command that the situation had been resolved. Following his victory at Botajef among other successes, Thrawn was promoted to Admiral and Vanto to Commander.
Insurgency on Batonn
Prelude to the battle
- "Destroying the island would also kill the hostages. There are better ways. But they require more reconnaissance and planning."
"If you don't think you can handle it, the Ninety-Sixth can go to Sammun instead. Will that assignment be more to your liking?"
- ―Admiral Thrawn and Fleet Admiral Jok Donassius
As insurgent activity began ramping up across the galaxy, Thrawn and Vanto came to lead the Ninety-Sixth Task Force. They respresented the Ninety-Sixth at a high-security meeting by Fleet Admiral Donassius. Inside the meeting room, Thrawn was greeted by Yularen, Donassius, Admiral Durril of the One Oh Third Task Force, and Admiral Kinshara of the One Twenty-Fifth. The planets of Batonn, Denash, Sammun, and Lothal were deemed at-risk for the growing insurgencies against the Empire, and as such, their governors were present as well. Respectively, the governors were Restos of Batonn, Wistran of Denash, Estorn of sammun, and Pryce of Lothal. Taking his seat at the table, Thrawn listened as Yularen described the situation: a series of coordinated insurgencies had sprung up on the represented planets, indicating the potential for rebel cell activity. The Empire sought to prevent the rebel cells from coordinating, integrating, growing, or coalescing into a unified rebel movement.
Yularen moved forward to inform the admirals and governors that the Lothal insurgency was being handled by Admiral Kassius Konstantine. He then briefed the officials present on the rebel activity on Batonn's Scrim Island. Colonel Yularen explained that the Scrim Island Imperial garrison had been overrun by insurgents who had taken more than a hundred people hostage and seized control of the island's energy shield and ion cannons. The admrials initially assigned Thrawn and the Ninety-Sixth Task Force to end the rebel activity on Batonn and Scrim Island. However, Yularen had incomplete information regarding which of the island's ion cannons were operational, and Thrawn noted that the available information about the island's defenses was inadequate for him to plan a guaranteed victory without endangering the Imperial hostages held by Scrim Island's insurgents.
The Chiss admiral asked for more time to study the island's defensive capabilities so he could formulate such an ironclad plan without collateral damage. Fleet Admiral Donassius sharply cut into Thrawn at the notion, positing that they had no time to study the situation without taking action. Thrawn declined the assignment on the grounds that he refused to put the hostages' lives at risk. Instead, the Chiss admiral was assigned the pacification of an insurgency on Sammun, while the duty of retaking Scrim Island fell to Durril and the 103rd Task Force.
After the meeting, Thrawn and Vanto discussed the repercussions of Thrawn's decision to openly disrespect the assignments of High Command. Thrawn asserted with confidence that any detriment he had incurred in High Command's perception of him was a temporary setback, and he would soon recover their esteem and more. He was confident that the attack on Scrim Island would go poorly for Durril and the 103rd; and moreover, that he would be asked to clean up Durril's mess and deliver success. Coldly disinterested in the impact Durril's impending embarrassment would have on the other admiral's career, Thrawn abruptly ended the conversation and spent the rest of the walk to the landing platform silently studying Sammuni art.
Once he and Vanto reached the landing platform, Thrawn contacted Commander Faro aboard the Chimaera, directing her to take the Chimaera and the Ninety-Sixth Task Force to Sammun. The admiral gave his first officer a strategy to swiftly crush the Sammuni insurgency, informed by the Sammuni artwork and culture he had just studied. Additionally, Thrawn requested that she detach the Arquitens-class light cruiser Shyrack and Captain Brento from the bulk of the Ninety-Sixth Task Force for his and Vanto's personal use. Faro agreed to Thrawn's directives, promising to contact him once the Sammun insurgency had been defeated. Vanto expressed concern with Thrawn's choice to stray once again from his assigned mission, but Thrawn was calm in the face of potential backlash from High Command. He confidently asserted once more that all would end up as planned, informing Vanto that while Faro handled the Sammun job; they would be observing Durril's attack on Scrim Island. Donassius had ordered the Ninety-Sixth Task Force to pacify Sammun, but he did not specifically order Thrawn and Vanto to be present with the rest of the task force. Boarding the nondescript light freighter Slipknot, Thrawn set course for Batonn.
Studying Scrim Island
- "First salvo away. Full turbolasers from the Judicator. Island's energy shield… looks like it's holding."
"Any reduction in strength?"
"Not that these sensors can detect from here. Second salvo away. Third salvo away. Looks like Durril's got all his ships firing now. Still no response from the insurgents."
- ―Eli Vanto and Admiral Thrawn
Arriving in space above Batonn, Thrawn positioned the Slipknot in a location where it could view both Durril's Star Destroyer Judicator and Scrim Island. From the Slipknot, Thrawn watched as the insurgents carried out their strategy and left Durril flailing. The insurgents' positions were protected by an energy shield that encompassed most of Scrim Island, protecting the island from orbital bombardment. The rebels on the island contracted the shield briefly to fire their ion cannons to incapacitate the ships of Durril's task force. Thrawn also observed eight small space freighters flying close to the sea between Scrim Island and Batonn's main continent to avoid detection. As he watched, seven of the freighters continued towards the continent while the eighth slipped off to space. Temporarily shifting his attention back to Scrim Island, Thrawn noted that the insurgents were in possession of a turbolaser emplacement that Yularen's intel had not mentioned.
His interest piqued by the freighter attempting to flee, Thrawn directed Vanto to hail it with a tight-beam comm signal before it could jump to lightspeed. Instructing Vanto to use the pseudonym "Horatio Figg," Thrawn explained that he wanted Vanto to convince the insurgents on board that they were weapons smugglers. Posing as arms traders, Thrawn hoped they would gain access to the insurgents' base. The Chiss admiral was correct: the smugglers aboard the escaping freighter provided Vanto with their base's coordinates.
Thrawn commanded Vanto to make the jump, leaving Durril and the 103rd to their fate. Vanto expressed unease with Thrawn's choice, but Thrawn assured him that he had already sent out a distress call on Durril's behalf and that he had seen more than enough of the Scrim Island insurgents' tactics to formulate a strategy of his own for the Ninety-Sixth's eventual deployment to Batonn. Leaving Brento and the Shyrack to track the movements of the seven freighters remaining on Batonn, Thrawn jumped to the coordinates that the eighth freighter had given Vanto.
Infiltrating the smugglers' starship
- "You were taken to their leader, I assume. Was it Nightswan?"
"Yes. You knew it would be him?"
"I didn't know for certain. But I suspected."
- ―Thrawn and Vanto after escaping the smugglers' base
At the coordinates, Thrawn discovered a large Clone Wars-era Nomad starship that the smugglers had set up as their mobile base of operations. Prepping Vanto for the infiltration, Thrawn removed his uniform tunic and shot it to make it appear as though Vanto had killed an Imperial officer and stolen his uniform. Additionally, he had affixed his old rigged lieutenant's plaque to the uniform, telling Vanto to press the tile closest to the center of his chest when the time comes. Promising to spend the time while Vanto is gathering information engineering their escape, Thrawn sent Vanto out to the smugglers and proceeded with his portion of the plan.
Once Vanto had been brought to the insurgents' leader, Thrawn created a bomb out of gimmicked blaster packs, much like he had done years prior on the planet of his exile to gain access to the Strikefast. Falsifying a radiation leak warning and hiding in the Slipknot's escape pods, Thrawn set off his bomb when a boarding party boarded the Slipknot to investigate the leak. Escaping the damaged ship in the confusion, Thrawn triggered the Nomad's abandon-ship alarm. Reuniting with Vanto in the frenzied chaos of the Nomad's repair bay, Thrawn led Vanto into one of the insurgents' freighters.
Settling into the pilots seat, Thrawn explained to Vanto that he hoped that by stealing one of the insurgents' freighters they would be able to gain any data that had been left on the ship's computer. Inquiring about Vanto's time on the ship, Thrawn learned that he had surmised correctly that Vanto had spoken to Nightswan, and that Nightswan was the man behind the Scrim Island Operation. Having accomplished all that he could on the Nomad, Thrawn used the insurgent freighter to return to Batonn.
Arriving back at Scrim Island, Thrawn discovered that Durril had survived and with the help of Brento and the Shyrack, had made it out of harm's way. The battle paused, Thrawn met via holographic projection with Donassius, Kinshara, and Durril. During this meeting, Kinshara reported his success on Denash while Thrawn reported the Ninety-Sixth's success at Sammun. Displeased with Durril's loss at Scrim Island, Donassius ordered Durril to take the Judicator and 103rd to the Marleyvane shipyards for repairs. Turning to Thrawn, Donassius asked how much longer Thrawn would need to study the insurgents before he could make an attack. Confident in his ability to handle the situation, Thrawn replied that he had already gathered the information he needed. With that, Donassius officially returned the Batonn Operation to Thrawn and the Ninety-Sixth. His new mission in hand, Thrawn prepared the Chimaera for battle.
Retaking Scrim Island
- "Ah… are we treading on dangerous ice here, sir? Donassius ordered us to go to Sammun."
"Not precisely. Fleet Admiral Donassius said the Ninety-Sixth was to deal with the insurgency there. No specific mention was made of you or me."
- ―Lieutenant Commander Eli Vanto and Admiral Thrawn
Moving into position around Scrim Island, Thrawn briefed Faro, Vanto, and the commanders of the Shyrack, Flensor, and Tumnor on the strategy he had come up with to deal with the insurgents. Ordering the three light cruisers into position, Thrawn watched as they bombarded Scrim Island's shields before being disabled by the island's previously unseen fourth ion cannon. Thrawn, however, was not surprised by the fourth ion cannon and had built his strategy around it. Speaking to Captain Yelfis of the Tumnor, Thrawn learned that the cathtron tube of the fourth ion cannon was in the process of dying.
Moving forward with his strategy, Thrawn began the Chimaera's descent towards Scrim Island, using the partially disabled light cruisers as cover against the ion cannons. Once the Chimaera reached optimal firing position, Thrawn opened fire, shooting into the ocean off Scrim Island's shore. Thrawn's gambit worked, sending a tsunami crashing into the western shoreline of Scrim Island. Firing at a second target in the sea, the Chimaera created a second tsunami that managed to hit the turbolaser emplacement. Alternating fire between targets one and two, Thrawn slammed Scrim Island with tsunami after tsunami until the water shorted out the island's turbolasers. Contacting the island, Thrawn ordered them to either lower their shields or risk the death of those operating the shoreline defenses. When the shields did not lower, Thrawn sent two more tsunamis at Scrim Island.
Faced with destruction, the insurgents of Scrim Island lowered their shield and surrendered to Thrawn. Accepting their surrender with the terms that any further resistance would be met with lethal force, Thrawn directed Vanto to send word of their victory at Scrim Island to Coruscant. Humble in the face of Faro's praise, however, Thrawn admitted that there was more to be done before the battle for Batonn was over. Asking Faro to inform him when the island had been secured, Thrawn retired to his cabin.
Sometime later that day, Thrawn hosted Pryce and Yularen aboard the Chimaera. Settling into the Star Destroyer's conference room with Vanto and Faro, the group discussed the situation on Batonn's main continent. Thrawn revealed that he had discovered the location of the insurgents' stronghold to be the Creekpath Mining and Refining complex outside Paeragosto City. Thrawn then informed Yularen and Pryce of his plan to invade the complex via ground troops as the complex was both shielded and home to 30,000 innocent civilians. Worried about her parents, Pryce suggested that she should go into the complex first to scope out the area and potentially take out the shield generator. Yularen explained further that Pryce would enter the complex with ISB Agent Gudry and tell her family that she was looking for a friend who got lost in the mines to gain access to the insurgent base. Thrawn was hesitant to accept Pryce's plan but ultimately conceded, knowing that he was likely unable to stop an Imperial governor backed by the ISB even as an admiral. Yularen went on to explain that they would send Pryce and Gudry in disguise to the planet Dennogra and have them take a planet hopper from there to Batonn. Though he was forced to accept the plan, Thrawn was vocal about his disapproval of it, thinking it to be both unsafe and dubiously effective. His feelings aside, Thrawn wished Pryce luck on her mission.
As repairs were conducted on the Tumnor, Flensor, and Shyrack, Thrawn positioned them in a wide equilateral triangle around a hundred kilometers away from the Chimaera, a strategic positioning that worried both Vanto and Yularen.
Parley with Nightswan
- "I see reality. Your followers may return to their homes and jobs. There will be no reprisals or other action taken against them."
"Until you leave. Even if Governor Restos honored your deal—which he wouldn't—it still wouldn't last. The injustices against the people are too great, the arrogance of those in power too deep. Sooner or later, they would rise up again. Only this time, they would have no one to lead them. They would be cut down like grain in a field, their voices silenced before they were ever heard."
- ―Thrawn and Nightswan
As twilight fell on Paeragosto City, Thrawn sat in his office aboard the Chimaera surrounded by holograms of Batonnese art. Even as he studied the art as always, Thrawn felt the pressure of each passing moment, knowing that his time with Nightswan was rapidly approaching its end. Keying a comm frequency that he had discovered aboard the stolen freighter, Thrawn contacted the insurgents as requested to speak with Nightswan. Once Nightswan was on the comm, Thrawn requested a face to face meeting in the field two kilometers to the north of the Creekpath facility. Nightswan met Thrawn's request with caution, prompting Thrawn to promise that his guards would stay out of firing distance. Additionally, Thrawn informed Nightswan that he was valueless to Thrawn dead or captured. His interest piqued, Nightswan asked Thrawn why the Chiss thought he would not try to kill Thrawn, to which Thrawn replied that he knew that Nightswan valued life too much to try to kill him. He asserted that his life was the only thing keeping the Imperials from destroying the Creekpath facility and killing the civilians inside because he was the only Imperial commander that would go out of his way to prevent casualties.
Pained, Nightswan admitted that he had never wanted civilians to endanger themselves by living within his base. Thrawn revealed that he felt the same drive to prevent the deaths of innocents. After a pause, Nightswan agreed to Thrawn's invitation to parley in one hour. When Thrawn arrived at the field an hour later, he found that Nightswan was waiting for him. Nightswan mused that Thrawn could kill him at any moment, leading Thrawn to reiterate that he had no use for Nightswan dead. The two began discussing the Dromedar incident, Nightswan revealing that he was the reason that Thrawn had a Buzz Droid that day and Thrawn countering by revealing that he had two Buzz Droids; so even if Nightswan had not assisted, he still would have escaped. Shifting the conversation, Thrawn revealed that he knew that Nightswan was a part of the Mining Guild, having deduced it from Nightswan's knowledge of precious metals and the fact that he had been to the Thrugii asteroid belt. In response, Nightswan revealed that his activism had begun when the Imperial demand for metals had led to him joining a splinter group of the Mining Guild dedicated to helping out the small businesses hurt by the rapidly forming Imperial metal monopoly.
He went on to tell Thrawn that the corruption had eventually spread to the splinter group so he had set off on his own and become the mercenary Thrawn had met on the Dromedar. Nightswan closed his speech by telling Thrawn that once he heard rumors of the Imperials' secret military project, he joined the insurgents. His interest piqued by the mention of the Imperials' secret weapon, Thrawn demanded to know everything Nightswan knew about the project. Nightswan, however, refused to divulge unless Thrawn joined him. Changing the subject, Thrawn learned that Nightswan had purposely sabotaged the Cyphar scarn operation due to being strictly against spice and that Nightswan had never approved of the assassination attempts conducted by Higher Skies' indoctrinated recruits. After another brief discussion about the military project, Thrawn complimented Nightswan's talents as a leader and tactician. In response, Nightswan revealed that he had tried to unit the rebel cells into a Rebel Alliance but distrust and infighting had prevented his plan from coming to fruition. Hoping for equal honesty from Thrawn, Nightswan asked him why he was perpetuating the Empire's evils. In a moment of honesty Thrawn revealed the truth of his situation to Nightswan, telling him about his meeting with the Neimoidians, the Chiss Ascendancy's plans for the Empire, and that he had completely faked his exile in order to infiltrate the Empire.
Thrawn revealed that the Ascendancy had given him a single task: either use the Empire as an ally against the threats in the Unknown Regions or collapse them from the inside as easy prey. Discussing political ideals with Nightswan, Thrawn revealed that he believed that the Empire's tyranny was necessary to keep the galaxy in a state of order rather than chaos. The rebellion, he believed, would bring about a dangerous chaos that could allow the threat in the Unknown Regions to overtake everything. Taking a more optimistic tone, Thrawn reminded Nightswan that Emperor Palpatine would one day die and that when that day came there was hope that the Empire would choose a more tolerant and just leader. Unknown to Thrawn, there was a chance such a future would never come to pass; Palpatine intended secure immortality and rule the galaxy forever from the Sith world of Exegol. Returning once more to Nightswan's tactical prowess, Thrawn made Nightswan an offer the human had not expected. The Grand Admiral asked Nightswan to use his skills to aid his native Chiss Ascendancy in their battle against the evils far worse than the Empire. Furthermore, he promised Nightswan that if the people of Batonn put down their weapons, no harm would come to them. Believing Thrawn's promise to be impossible to keep, Nightswan declined his offer. He believed that he and Thrawn had the same vision for the future, but vastly different paths to get there.
In a final effort to get Nightswan on his side, Thrawn offered to take Nightswan to his deduced construction site for the Imperial project so that they might investigate it together. Nightswan was intrigued to the point of nearly agreeing, but once again found his obligation to the people of Creekpath forcing him to decline; he knew that surrendering would mean that the people would continue to suffer despite Thrawn's promises. As he departed, Nightswan admitted that he knew his stand at the Creekpath mine would fail. Thrawn promised to order the soldiers to capture him alive, but Nightswan assured him that the soldiers would execute him anyway. Thrawn made one final attempt to save Nightswan's life by arresting him then and there, but Nightswan once more declined stating that he would hold to his ideals and protect his followers even if it led to his death.
As Thrawn watched him go, Yularen approached him from behind, threatening to shoot him as a traitor to the Empire. Having overheard none of the conversation that had occurred between Thrawn and Nightswan, Yularen demanded to know why the two had met alone in the field to talk. Thrawn was honest, openly admitting his intentions to recruit Nightswan to the Chiss Ascendancy. Accepting Thrawn's answer, Yularen returned to the matter of Thrawn's unconventional light cruiser positioning, and Thrawn explained that he had positioned the cruisers as he had in hopes of deterring any attempts by the insurgents to steal them. With this, Yularen was satisfied and the two briefly discussed Pryce's mission. No longer seeing a reason to remain on Batonn, Thrawn and Yularen returned to the Chimaera to prepare for the remainder of the conflict.
The Battle of Batonn
- "If any break off and run, let them go. Their tales of what happened here today will hasten the demoralization of any other such groups."
- ―Thrawn orders his officers to allow fleeing insurgents to live and spread word of their crushing defeat on Batonn
Once aboard the Chimaera, Thrawn stood at the bridge's forward viewport gazing down at the planet below, lost in thought. As time wore on and Pryce and Gudry failed to check in, Thrawn commanded Yularen to dispatch a special-duty squad to search Pryce's parents' house for Pryce, Gudry, or clues to find them.
The ground battle accounted for and suspecting that the space portion of the battle would begin at any moment, Thrawn ordered Faro to prepare the Chimaera for combat. Even as he did so, ten mid-sized ships emerged from hyperspace and moved at attack speed towards the Shyrack, followed shortly after by two more groups of eleven ships also targeting the cruisers. As the ships closed in on the cruisers, Thrawn calmly commanded the ground troops to send harassment fire in the direction of Creekpath.
As the ships reached the cruisers, however, they passed them by without firing, heading in the direction of the Chimaera. Thrawn remained placid in the face of the imminent attack, ordering the cruisers to free themselves from the repair barges so that the repair barges could release their stowed squadrons of TIE fighters. Using a combination of the TIE fighters attacking from behind and the Chimaera's turbolasers, Thrawn easily neutralized the threat of the mid-sized insurgent ships.
On the planet's surface, Gudry tried to evacuate Pryce without her parents. As a result, she murdered Gudry. To cover up her crime, Lothal's governor set off an explosion. Thrawn watched from the Chimaera's bridge as the explosion destroyed the Creekpath facility and consumed the civilian houses in the vicinity. Thrawn was disgusted and unnerved by the loss of civilian life, but strode to hide it. Thrawn attempted to maintain a calm façade as he commanded his ground troops to enter Creekpath to act as a search and rescue team for civilians and insurgents alike. Faro reminded Thrawn that a few mid-sized insurgent ships remained. The admiral decided to allow those ships a chance to flee unharmed, destroying those who stayed to fight.
Aftermath of Batonn
Dealing with Pryce
- "Governor Pryce just left. What did she say?"
"She offered herself as my adviser on political matters."
"You could definitely use someone like that. Not sure she's the right one for the job, though."
- ―Eli Vanto and Thrawn
In the wake of the massacre at Creekpath, Thrawn held a meeting with Yularen, Pryce, and Vanto to discuss the events that had transpired. Thrawn and Yularen interrogated Pryce, asking her to explain the events leading up to the explosion. Pressing further, Thrawn asked Yularen to confirm Nightswan's death in the explosion. Yularen confirmed, and Thrawn silently reflected that the galaxy was worse off because of his death. Shifting the conversation, Pryce informed Thrawn that Emperor Palpatine was pleased with what had occurred at Batonn and, as if on cue, Faro signaled on the intercom that Palpatine requested his presence on Coruscant. The meeting over, Thrawn requested a word with Pryce once Vanto and Yularen had left the room.
Quick to protect herself from the repercussions of her actions on Batonn, Pryce proposed a deal to Thrawn. The governor pressured Thrawn not to report her for his supsicions of her role in massacring Batonn's people. Pryce's rule of Lothal had been challenged by the rebellious Phoenix Cell. Her previous attempts to destroy the rebels with the help of Grand Moff Tarkin, ISB Agent Alexsandr Kallus, the Grand Inquisitor, and even Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Vader had failed. Pryce believed Thrawn was the one capable of defeating the insurgents, and promised that if he would destroy Phoenix Cell, then she would use her political connections to guarantee him Fleet Admiral Sartan's job as the commander of the Imperial Seventh Fleet.
Additionally, she promised to help the Chiss admiral navigate politics, something that she considered to be his major weakness. Tempted by her offer, Thrawn agreed to consider it and allowed Pryce to depart the board room. Eighteen minutes later, Vanto returned and reported Pryce had departed before asking what they had discussed. Thrawn told Vanto about their conversation, and Vanto agreed that Thrawn could use someone to help him navigate Imperial politics. However, Vanto expressed doubts that Governor Pryce was the right person to help the admiral in the political arena. Vanto and Thrawn both agreed she had likely played a role in the events at Creekpath, though they had no evidence to use against her. Clarifying that they would head to Coruscant, Vanto suggested Thrawn act grateful for his promotion, making Thrawn smile as Pryce had suggested the same. Thrawn then allowed Vanto to see if there was any remaining information groundside. When Thrawn expressed hope that Vanto and the others would get credit for the Imperial victory on Batonn, Vanto doubted that would happen and stated he was content with staying his aide. Thrawn, however, suggested that Vanto could have a different future.
Promotion to Grand Admiral
- "Congratulations, Grand Admiral. An excellent day for you. An excellent day for my Empire. Though I fear many will not see it that way."
"I will endeavor to set their hearts and minds at ease. But I must first calm my own heart and mind."
- ―Emperor Palpatine promotes Thrawn to Grand Admiral, but Thrawn hesitates before accepting the promotion
Arriving on Coruscant, Thrawn made his way once more to the Emperor's throne room. In the throne room, Palpatine presented Thrawn with a Grand Admiral uniform, a white uniform with gold shoulder bars and a silver collar insignia along with a rank insignia plaque indicating his promotion to Grand Admiral. Thrawn noted the Emperor's face held satisfaction with undertones of amusement and malice. Before he would take the promotion from the Emperor, however, Thrawn demanded to know about the Death Star. Thrawn explained that his concerns with the Death Star were twofold; he feared that Palpatine might use it against the Chiss and he believed that Palpatine was diverting too many resources into a single military project that would be better served by developing a versatile navy with many strengths. Palpatine assured Thrawn that he had no plans to use the Death Star on the Chiss, mentioning that he had noticed that Thrawn had left the locations of Chiss worlds and bases off his maps of the Unknown Regions. The Emperor informed Thrawn that he did not begrudge the Admiral for seeking to protect his own people by leaving their locations off the maps he provided. Additionally, he expressed complete confidence in the Death Star's ability to suppress all opposition, making it worth the cost. After those assurances, Emperor Palpatine offered the Grand Admiral's rank plaque again and this time, Thrawn accepted.
As Thrawn accepted his rank insignia plaque, Darth Vader entered the throne room. As the Dark Lord of the Sith approached, Thrawn analyzed Vader's confident gait, stance, and voice. Thrawn greeted Lord Vader and exchanged formalities, saying he was pleased to finally meet Sidious' Sith apprentice, about whom he had heard a great deal.
- "It is said that one should keep one's allies within view, and one's enemies within reach. A valid statement. One must be able to read an ally's strengths, so as to determine how to best use them. One must similarly be able to read his enemy's weaknesses, so as to determine how to best defeat him. But what of friends? There is no accepted answer, perhaps true friendship is so exceedingly rare. But I had formulated my own. A friend need not be kept within sight or within reach. A friend must be allowed the freedom to find and follow his own path. If one is fortunate, those paths will for a time join. But if paths separate, it is comforting to know that a friend still graces the universe with his skills, and his viewpoint, and his present. For if one is remembered by a friend, one is never truly gone."
- ―Thrawn, on Eli Vanto
As he prepared to begin the campaign against the rebels of Phoenix Squadron, Thrawn decided it was finally time for he and Vanto to part ways. Pleased with the progress Vanto had made in the areas of tactics, leadership, and strategy, Thrawn believed that Vanto would be a perfect candidate for the Chiss Ascendancy's military. Gifting Vanto his personal journal, Thrawn directed Vanto to a set of coordinates in the Unknown Regions. These coordinates would bring Vanto to Admiral Ar'alani and the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet, to whom he came with greetings from Thrawn.
Freshly promoted and having given Vanto the job he believed his human friend deserved, Thrawn set off to combat Phoenix Squadron and the rebel cells of Lothal. Thrawn arrived at Lothal in 2 BBY.
Galactic Civil War
- "I will start my operations here, and pull the rebels apart piece by piece. They will be the architects of their own destruction."
- ―Grand Admiral Thrawn
As soon as he arrived on Lothal, Thrawn began overseeing operations against the rebels. He attended a briefing with Pryce, Agent Alexsandr Kallus of the ISB, Konstantine and Grand Moff Tarkin, where they discussed that the rebels had attacked Mining Guild ships at the Sereeda Waypoint. Knowing that the rebels had rescued pirate Hondo Ohnaka from Naraka prison, where the Weequay had been cellmates with Terba, a laborer from the Reklam Station in the Yarma system, Thrawn hypothesized that the rebels would be heading to that station, given that it was only one hyperspace jump point away from the Sereeda Waypoint, to steal starfighters for the growing Rebel Alliance Navy. The Grand Admiral declared that he would pull the rebels apart piece by piece, ensuring that they would be the architects of their own destruction. The Imperial garrison there was alerted to the potential rebel threat.
During the rebels' operations, they stole a number of Republic Y-wing fighter/bombers that were left over from the Clone Wars. A group of rebel ships arrived to assist, and Thrawn allowed them to escape. While some officers, such as Konstantine, believed that these ships were the rebel fleet; both Thrawn and Pryce knew that there was a larger resistance movement growing in the galaxy. Both the Grand Admiral and Lothal's governor believed they could send a message to all the disparate anti-Imperial insurgent groups in the galaxy by destroying the rebel cell active at Reklam Station. Complete destruction of Phoenix Cell would intimidate other rebel groups and prevent a large alliance from forming, in the view of Thrawn and Pryce.
At some point after his promotion to Admiral, Thrawn met the Imperial Governor Derantus who had purchased a counterfeit painting from the Trandoshan smuggler and thief Feresk Tssat. Thrawn informed Derantus that the painting was counterfeit, which in the Trandoshan's characterization caused the Governor to "make an ass" of himself in front of Thrawn. Derantus placed a death mark on Tsatt, forcing the smuggler to seek refuge with the Rebel Alliance, which he came to join as a pilot. Before the end of the Galactic Civil War, Tsatt recalled to Vanguard Five how he had worked as an "acquisition specialist" that hunted down trophies, antiquities, and other prized collectibles; and how at the end of his career as a thief, he sold the counterfeit painting to Dereantus, which earned him the death mark that drove him to join the Rebellion.
Proposing the TIE Defender
Soon after the rebels' theft of Y-wing bombers at Reklam Station, the Skystrike Academy TIE pilot cadets Wedge Antilles, Derek "Hobbie" Klivian, and Rake Gahree attempted to defect to Phoenix Cell. Of the three cadets, Wedge and Hobbie survived, but Gahree was killed by the Academy's flight instructor Captain Vult Skerris, a gifted TIE pilot who flew a TIE/IN interceptor.
In 2 BBY, Grand Admiral Thrawn proposed an initiative to develop a new starfighter in the TIE line with improved offensive and defensive capabilities: the TIE/d "Defender" Multi-Role Starfighter, known as the "TIE Defender." Unlike most of the models of Sienar Fleet Systems' TIE series, the TIE Defenders would come equipped with deflector shields and a hyperdrive. Imperial Security Bureau agents had captured and interrogated renegade TIE fighter pilots who sought to defect to the Rebellion. The agents' briefings showed that all the captured would-be defectors were reluctant to pilot fighters that lacked energy shields or hyperdrivers. As a result, the Defender would not only be more effective at defeating rebel fighters, but also increase loyalty among Imperial pilots.
Thrawn petitioned Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin for authorization to develop his proposed TIE Defenders. The Outer Rim governor held the view that unshielded TIE fighters, which were cheap to manufacture and reduced pilots' independence, were a more economical means of maintaining control over TIE pilots. Nevertheless, Tarkin authorized Thrawn to proceed with the Defender initiative and meet with Sienar's engineers and designers at the Sienar Systems Advanced Projects Laboratory on Lothal. The Chiss Grand Admiral was heavily involved with Sienar's development of the TIE/D; personally submitting designs for some of the fighter's modules and components.
Thrawn's TIE/D Defenders were faster than any previously manufactured model of the TIE line, and computer simulations confirmed they would be faster than rebel Y-wings. Furthermore, the Defenders' wings angled away from the cockpit to give TIE Defender pilots a broader field of vision than TIE Interceptors provided. Some accounts from the Advanced Projects Laboratory recorded Thrawn bringing a rare Kamino saberdart to the ship designers, which he utitilzed to convey several of his proposals for systems and modules. According to those accounts; Thrawn used the saberdart to demonstrate the Defenders' proposed wing shapes and positions, the heightened speed and maneuverability TIE Defenders would have over other fighter craft, and the "unparalleled" visibility the design would provide TIE/D pilots. The heavy armaments of the defender, together with its high degree of maneuverability and speed, classified it as a fighter-bomber.
Occupation of Ryloth
- "War. It's all you've ever known, isn't it? You were so young when you survived the Clone War. No wonder you are equipped in spirit to fight us like you do. War is in your blood. I study the art of war. Work to perfect it. But you… You were forged by it."
- ―Thrawn to Hera Syndulla
At some point after the mission at Reklam Station, Thrawn fought against the Free Ryloth Movement led by Cham Syndulla. The Empire had been cracking down on Ryloth, the homeworld of the Twi'lek species, since the end of the Clone Wars. While the planet was nominally called the "Free and Independent Protectorate of Ryloth," the Empire cracked down on the planet and gained control of more provinces over time. Unlike most Imperial commanders who merely sought to pacify Ryloth, Thrawn took a keen interest in Twi'lek culture. By studying Twi'lek art, culture, and history, the Grand Admiral was better able to counter and defeat the forces of the Free Ryloth Movement than other Imperial leaders.
Thrawn joined the occupation to counter the Ryloth Insurgency after the Spectres helped the Free Ryloth Movement secure a previous victory before capturing a Quasar Fire-class cruiser-carrier, which they dubbed Phoenix Nest. That rebel victory had persuaded the Empire to accelerate its plans for occupying Ryloth. The Twi'leks, who had found previous success fighting against the Imperial occupation of Ryloth under Captain Slavin, underestimated Thrawn's abilities and battle strategies. When combating the Twi'leks, Thrawn used far more precise tactics compared to other Imperial officers Syndulla had encountered. Under the authority of Thrawn, the Empire began to forcibly bring the population to its knees. Knowing it was Syndulla's home, Thrawn established a base of operations on Ryloth in the Tann Province, where he spent time studying their culture to better understand them.
One day, Thrawn spoke with Slavin in his headquarters inside the Syndulla residence about his security arrangements. Thrawn knew that Syndulla would come for her family's Kalikori, a sacred relic in Twi'lek culture honoring the living and dead members of a clan. Thrawn and Slavin then ran into Hera Syndulla, disguised as a servant who tried to steal the Kalikori. The Imperial forces took Hera into questioning. There, Thrawn was able to deduce from the sentimental value of the Kalikori to a single Twi'lek family and the Syndulla family portrait that she was in fact Hera Syndulla, Cham's daughter and a noted rebel. Thrawn was also able to see that the scout trooper on guard was actually the Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger, whom he stunned. Slavin asked Thrawn how he knew that the trooper was actually a rebel. Thrawn stated that if trouble brewed, Bridger's fellow rebels, the Spectres, would quickly come to his aid. After locking them up, Thrawn asked Captain Slavin to have the Kalikori transferred to his ship, which Slavin derisively called a "piece of Twi'lek trash." Enraged at the philistine remark, Thrawn seized the captain by the front of his tunic in an uncharacteristic display of emotion, but released him after a moment and apologized for forgetting that not everyone appreciated art like he did.
Thrawn then went aboard an Arquitens-class command cruiser and watched as Slavin oversaw a prisoner exchange between Syndulla and his daughter. However, Syndulla and the Rebels were able to escape from Slavin's forces by detonating the Syndulla residence, with a mildly impressed Thrawn watching from a distance. Thrawn then allowed the rebels to have their victory. As Thrawn's campaign against Ryloth continued, the Free Ryloth Movement found itself fighting without much help from the larger Rebel Alliance, just as it had before.
- "No, Admiral, I want you to handle it yourself. A single light cruiser should be sufficient for a man of your talents."
"You would send me? In one ship?"
"Unless you're not… up to it."
"I will leave immediately."
- ―Thrawn dispatches Admiral Konstantine to Mykapo
Grand Admiral Thrawn was aboard the Chimaera above Lothal with the Seventh Fleet when Konstantine and another Imperial officer arrived to report on the imposition of martial law on Mykapo and the ongoing Imperial blockade of Synistahg. After learning that a local rebel cell called the Iron Squadron had attacked an Imperial patrol with the help of the Ghost, Thrawn deduced that the rebels were evacuating Mykapo's treasonous inhabitants. Curious about the Iron Squadron, Thrawn dispatched Konstantine to deal with the rebels there.
When Konstantine announced that he would depart with a full squadron, Thrawn insisted that the Admiral only deploy a single light cruiser. He reasoned that one ship would be sufficient for a man of his talents. The Admiral was unhappy but complied after Thrawn insinuated that he was not up to the challenge. Konstantine managed to trap the Iron Squadron's leader Mart Mattin and cripple his ship Sato's Hammer and attempted to use him to lure his rebel rescuers into a trap. However, the Spectres circumvented Konstantine's plan and managed to rescue Mart with the help of his uncle Commander Jun Sato. In desperation, Konstantine sent a call for reinforcements to Thrawn.
Thrawn arrived in his Star Destroyer shortly after the rebels damaged Konstantine's light cruiser. The rebels nearly collided with his ship but managed to flee under the ventral hangar. Speaking to Thrawn over the com, Sato vowed to meet him again. Thrawn replied in a similar fashion and allowed the rebels to escape. Thrawn then turned his attention to Konstantine and asked whether he had contacted him for assistance. Konstantine tried to deny it by claiming he had called to report that he had driven the rebels from the system. However, Thrawn realized that Konstantine was lying after seeing his blazing cruiser and noted that the planet's treasonous inhabitants had already escaped.
- "When we find our spy, and we will find them, we shall turn them from an obstacle to an asset."
- ―Thrawn on locating a possible Imperial spy
After a surge of defective vehicles at the Lothal Imperial Armory Complex, Imperial High Command dispatched Grand Admiral Thrawn to investigate the presence of subversives at the factory. In fact, a small rebel cell led by the former Governor Ryder Azadi had been infiltrating the factory and sabotaging vehicles. By that time, Thrawn had also initiated a new starfighter initiative to develop the TIE Defender, a starfighter equipped with deflector shields. Thrawn believed that this starfighter would contribute to the Empire's counterinsurgency efforts against the rebellion.
Intelligence of the starfighter project was leaked to the rebellion. While not the full details of the project, this information led the Phoenix Squadron to send Bridger, Kanan Jarrus and the astromech droid Chopper to spy on the factory and link up with Ryder's cell. The Rebel mission coincided with Thrawn's crackdown on the factory. After berating the workers for their poor craftsmanship, Thrawn forced the worker Morad Sumar to demonstrate how fast a 614-AvA speeder bike could reach maximum speed. Sumar had earlier inspected the vehicle. Unknown to Thrawn, he was part of Ryder's rebel cell and a saboteur.
The speeder bike began to overheat and Sumar begged Thrawn to end the simulation. However, Thrawn was not satisfied and set the speeder bike's engines to full speed. The faulty bike exploded and killed Sumar. Thrawn's actions horrified Bridger, Jarrus, the workers, Kallus and even Yogar Lyste. Thrawn took this as an opportunity to warn the workers that they would be personally testing every vehicle they built, expecting a substantial drop in the malfunction rate as a result. Thrawn then ordered Pryce, Kallus, and Lieutenant Lyste to question each of the workers. As a precaution, the Empire also jammed the factory's communication signals.
However, Bridger and his team managed to slip away and reach Section A2, which stored the blueprints for Thrawn's weapons. Meanwhile, Thrawn reassured Pryce that he had secured the chamber by ordering the sentries to shoot anyone trying to enter the facility without his personal code on sight. When Kallus expressed skepticism that Thrawn's new fighter initiative would make a difference, Thrawn responded that victory and defeat depended on the smallest details. He then ordered another worker to demonstrate his All Terrain Defense Pod (AT-DP) walker. When the walker collapsed, Thrawn gestured for his stormtroopers to arrest the man.
Thrawn later summoned Lyste and Kallus to his office at the Imperial headquarters. The office was decorated by holographic displays of the Spectres, Sabine Wren's graffiti, Mandalorian art and a Jedi Temple Guard's helmet. Thrawn then showed his subordinates one of Wren's starbird graffiti paintings. While Lyste merely dismissed the painting as a retaining wall, the more perceptive Kallus recognized the starbird as a creature of light that had been re-appropriated as a symbol of the Phoenix Squadron. Thrawn deduced that the crew of the Ghost, whom he had encountered on Ryloth, had a special connection to Lothal.
When Thrawn inquired about their crackdown, Lyste informed the Admiral that two of the workers had disappeared following his speech and that they had left behind their uniforms. Kallus advised issuing an alert but Thrawn countered that the rebel infiltrators had already found new disguises and were after his secret starfighter project. Thrawn ordered Kallus and Lyste to secure Section A2 but the Rebels managed to escape the factory with the help of their secret informant, who allowed the rebels to escape on an AT-DP walker at the east gate's hangar bay. The Rebels' escape coincided with a diversionary attack launched by Ryder at the east gate.
Reasoning that the Rebel infiltrators would take advantage of the attack to make their escape, Thrawn ordered the AT-AT pilots aboard the All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) walkers "271" and "414" to attack the Rebel's stolen AT-DP walker. Despite the efforts of Thrawn, the Rebel infiltrators managed to escape with the stolen plans. Later, Thrawn heard a report on the skirmish from Lyste. Satisfied, he dismissed him and then turned to talk with Pryce and Kallus. Thrawn voiced his suspicions that the Empire had a mole within their ranks who was supplying the rebellion with information. When Pryce suggested questioning all Imperial personnel, Thrawn suggested setting up a trap for the traitor.
Strike on Lothal
- "Is Admiral Thrawn there?"
"We have reports of an increase in capital ships, but no confirmation."
- ―Sabine Wren and Hera Syndulla about Thrawn's presence on Lothal
Using the information stolen by Chopper, Bridger, and Jarrus, Syndulla was able to plan a strike on the Lothal Imperial Factory. She planned to deploy a fraction of Phoenix Squadron and assigned Bridger to carry out reconnaissance work on Imperial military positions. When Wren asked if Thrawn was there, Syndulla replied that there had been an increase in Imperial ships above Lothal but that they did not know for sure. Syndulla was forced to relieve Bridger of his duties after he experienced a Force vision of the former Sith Lord Maul and attacked a Rebel crewman. While Bridger, Jarrus, and Wren stayed behind to deal with Maul, Syndulla proceeded with the mission.
Continuing the search
- "You seem in surprisingly good spirits, considering this loss."
"Loss, you say? The rebels may have protected the location of their base for now, but, in doing so, they have narrowed my search. Before today, they could have been hiding in any of a thousand systems. But now I know they are, almost certainly, on one of the ninety-four planets surveyed by my infiltrators. The rebels have won this battle, but the war will be ours."
- ―Kallus and Thrawn discuss the outcome of the EXD infiltrator droid sabotage
Later, Thrawn embarked on a campaign to scour the Outer Rim for the Phoenix Squadron's base. Under his command, E-XD-series infiltrator droids were dispatched to Outer Rim worlds to search for the bases. One of these droids, EXD-9, stumbled upon Chopper Base and was adopted by the Lasat Garazeb Orrelios and the RA-7 protocol droid AP-5, who mistook him for a protocol droid. Kallus, using the pseudonym Fulcrum, managed to warn Orrelios who disabled and reprogrammed the droid with the help of AP-5 and Chopper. The rebels then sent EXD-9 back to the Empire as an improvised bomb which destroyed an Imperial Star Destroyer.
Following the destruction of the Star Destroyer, Thrawn met with Kallus aboard the Chimaera. When Thrawn asked how the explosion happened, Kallus responded that he believed that the rebels reprogrammed the infiltrator droid to explode upon returning back to the ship. Despite the setback, Thrawn remained in good spirits because the incident greatly narrowed down the planets that could be housing the rebel base from a thousand to ninety-four systems.
- "I believe Agent Fulcrum will prove far more useful to the Empire than Kallus ever was."
- ―Thrawn reveals his discovery of Fulcrum's identity
Thrawn intercepted a transmission beamed out under the code phrase "by the light of Lothal's moons" and discovered that the rebel mole went by the codename "Fulcrum," and that it was the reason for recent rebel successes. Thrawn and Pryce listened in on Fulcrum's next transmission to learn his true identity. Because only Imperial officers who were Sector Command staff or higher had access to the intel Fulcrum sent in the transmission, Thrawn realized that Fulcrum was not only a Rebel spy and an undercover saboteur but also a traitor to the Empire as well. To ferret out the traitor, Thrawn enlisted the help of the Head of the Imperial Security Bureau Colonel Wullf Yularen to screen the Lothal Sector's Command staff. Agent Kallus and Lieutenant Lyste were summoned to the Chimaera, where they encountered Sector Command staff en route to Thrawn's office. Kallus and Lyste encountered Thrawn as he was practicing hand-to-hand combat with a pair of DT-series sentry droids, and then continued to the office and met with Yularen and Admiral Konstantine. Thrawn then met with the group and, along with Yularen, briefed Lyste and Kallus about the danger posed by Fulcrum. During the meeting, Thrawn also revealed that he had narrowed the search for the rebel base by analyzing Rebel attack patterns on Imperial installations and ships, and most importantly their proximity to the planet Lothal. When Lyste expressed his enthusiasm in hunting Fulcrum, Thrawn warned him that nobody was above suspicion.
After dismissing his guests, Thrawn met with Pryce, who had come to inquire about progress in determining the Rebel base's location and the identity of Fulcrum. Thrawn told her he had set a trap by asserting that the Rebel spy in question was present for the meeting and that they now needed to wait for the spy to pass on the information they learned. Yularen then informed Thrawn that a coded message had been beamed off the Chimaera following the transfer of the shuttle thief that Lyste had apprehended above Lothal. Thrawn decided to visit the prisoner for himself.
When Thrawn along with Pryce and Yularen arrived at the detention block, they discovered that the prisoner had escaped. After Yularen discovered that Lyste was the last person to access the detention block, Thrawn came to suspect that Lyste was the rebel agent Fulcrum.
Thrawn returned to his office and was informed by the stormtrooper sentry outside that Lyste was waiting inside his office. Already suspicious, he beckoned for two stormtrooper guards and cautiously entered his office. By this time, "Lyste" and Chopper had deleted the Atollon system from his charts and were hiding behind one of his exhibits to avoid detection. Meanwhile, Fulcrum reprogrammed two of Thrawn's sentry droids into assassin droids and set them to Thrawn's office. The droids entered the room and knocked out the guards. Thrawn attempted to disable the droids with the command "Override Code Rukh," but failed. Following a fierce struggle, Thrawn destroyed the droids by shooting them in their chests. Thrawn also caught sight of "Lyste" fleeing his office. Believing that Lyste had tried to assassinate him, Thrawn contacted Yularen and instructed him to proceed to the Chimaera's hangar bay.
The rebels managed to escape, but Lyste was arrested as Fulcrum. Following Lyste's arrest, Thrawn and Yularen interrogated him and quickly ascertained that he was not Fulcrum. Despite being aware that Lyste was innocent, Thrawn told Kallus and Pryce that Fulcrum was apprehended, before dismissing the two. In private, Yularen expressed his dissatisfaction with how easy the conclusion was made and how Lyste was too inexperienced and naive to be capable of what he's been accused of. Thrawn agreed with Yularen's assessment. They then analyzed the helmet the shuttle thief had left behind, which was inscribed with an artistic depiction of a Loth-cat. Thrawn recognized the art style as belonging to Wren and identified Bridger as the owner of the helmet. When Yularen asked why Kallus did not report Bridger's capture, Thrawn concluded that Kallus was the real Fulcrum and had framed Lyste for the crime. Thrawn's plan was to manipulate Kallus into revealing the location of the rebel base in the Lothal sector.
Hunt for Mon Mothma
- "She could be our key to locating the true rebel fleet."
- ―Grand Admiral Thrawn on the possible capture of Mon Mothma
After Senator Mon Mothma resigned from the Imperial Senate and gave a fiery speech denouncing the Ghorman Massacre placing the blame upon Palpatine, Thrawn received intelligence that Mothma and the Spectres rebel cell were planning to travel through the Archeon Nebula to avoid Imperial detection. Based on his knowledge of Phoenix Leader Syndulla, Thrawn anticipated that Syndulla would be risky enough to travel through the Archeon pass. In response, he deployed his prototype TIE Defender, piloted by Imperial Commander Vult Skerris and escorted by two TIE Interceptors, to flush the rebels out of the nebula. Thrawn also tasked Pryce and Konstantine with positioning two Star Destroyers outside of the Archeon Nebula to capture them when Skerris drove them out. Despite Thrawn's planning, Syndulla and the Spectres managed to escape with Mothma and her entourage following a brief skirmish in the Archeon Nebula. Following her escape, Mothma and other rebel leaders formally established the Alliance to Restore the Republic above the planet Dantooine. The TIE Defender's deflector shields allowed it to endure the Archeon Nebula's ionized dust far longer than a standard TIE fighter would have.
- "I believe this C1 astromech is the droid infiltrator Grand Admiral Thrawn referenced in his memo about the rebels of Phoenix Squadron."
- ―LT-319 on capturing Chopper
As part of his counterinsurgency efforts, Thrawn also utilized the services of a team of Imperial Information Office intelligence officers based aboard an IGV-55 surveillance vessel. This team was led by Imperial Controller LT-319 and were tasked with gathering intelligence and monitoring rebel activities. These individuals were fitted with AJ^6 cyborg construct implants and gave up part of their autonomy in the Empire's service. As part of their intelligence operations, these spies were tasked with keeping an eye out for rebel droids such as Chopper, who had taken part in numerous undercover missions.
During the Spectre rebel cell's mission to Killun Station, LT-319's team detected Chopper's presence at the ISB base. Using a network terminal, the team reprogrammed Chopper into a double agent droid and tried to use him to discover the location of Chopper Base. As part of the operation, Chopper hijacked the rebel ship Ghost and used a data spike to transfer data from the ship's navigation computer to the surveillance vessel. Before the download could be completed, the rebels retook control of their ship and removed the Imperial programming from Chopper. Syndulla then destroyed the surveillance vessel by sending back their data feed, causing a data surge that blew the vessel apart.
Blockading Chopper Base
- "I do not require glory, only results for my Emperor."
- ―Thrawn's response to Kallus after he derided Thrawn for holding his capital ships
Later, Thrawn acquired the services of a six-man squad of death troopers that became his personal guard. He flew his Lambda-class shuttle to the Imperial Complex in Lothal's Capital City for a private meeting with Pryce and Konstantine. Inside the briefing room, Thrawn closed the blinds and warned them that they still had a traitor in their midst. He also initiated a hologram conversation with Tarkin and warned that the Phoenix Squadron and General Jan Dodonna's Massassi Group were planning to attack the TIE Defender factories on Lothal. While Thrawn had not determined the location of the Rebel base yet, he vowed to capture the Rebel leadership at Tarkin's request.
Agent Kallus was listening to Thrawn's conversation and traveled to Bridger's former home at LothalNet comm tower E-272, which had a transmitter which he had used to send his Fulcrum transmissions to the rebels. Aware that the traitor had listened in on the briefing, Thrawn followed him. When Kallus tried to inform the rebels, Thrawn startled him and revealed a communications jammer in his hand. Following a brief hand-to-hand scuffle, Thrawn managed to defeat the rogue agent, though Kallus destroyed his jammer and was able to warn the rebels. Kallus was taken captive by two death troopers and brought to Thrawn's command center. Thrawn coolly stated to Kallus that by looking at both the trajectory of General Dodonna's fleet and the agent's transmission, they pointed at a spot that was not shown on Imperial charts. Thrawn was aware that it was not on the charts, as it had been deleted by Bridger. However, the Grand Admiral examined the ancient art of the people in the sector and instantly discerned that the rebel base was in the Atollon system. The Grand Admiral incorrectly believed that the entire Rebel Alliance Navy was based on the planet Atollon, which he placed under a blockade. Grand Admiral Thrawn sought to destroy all rebel forces on Atollon and cripple the Alliance's morale by delivering a crushing defeat.
Thrawn ordered Konstantine to blockade the Atollon system with the Seventh Fleet, cutting off any escape with two Interdictor vessels. He then traveled to Atollon aboard the Chimaera with Pryce and the captive Kallus in tow. Thrawn then issued a hologram transmission to Syndulla, Sato, and Dodonna, stating that negotiations were off the table and vowing to crush them. The rebel fleet tried to break the blockade, but Thrawn's Star Destroyers and TIE fighters inflicted heavy casualties. Rebel Y-wings only inflicted light damage on the Star Destroyer Dark Omen commanded by Captain Corf Ferno. The Alliance had several EF76 Nebulon-B escort frigates present above Atollon. While Nebulon-B frigates were formidable against enemy starfighters, they could not withstand sustained long-range fire from Imperial Star Destroyers. Several rebel Nebulon-B's were destroyed before they could organize a coordinated response to the Empire's blockade.
The rebels only managed to find a gap in Thrawn's blockade after Konstantine disobeyed orders to intercept Sato's Quasar Fire-class cruiser-carrier Phoenix Nest in an attempt to gain personal glory. Sato rammed his ship into Konstantine's Interdictor-class Star Destroyer, destroying both vessels and allowing the rebels Bridger and Chopper to flee on a Kom'rk-class fighter/transport into hyperspace. Thrawn witnessed the debacle and hoped that Konstantine's folly would not undermine his battle plan. Sato sacrificed his own life and that of his cruiser-carrier to buy the young rebel Padawan time to escape and seek reinforcements. In the meantime, General Dodonna ordered the remaining rebel forces to retreat to Atollon's surface.
The ground assault
- "You cannot see. But I can."
"What? What do you see?"
"I see your defeat. Like many arms surrounding you in a cold embrace."
- ―The Bendu and Thrawn
Despite this setback, Thrawn's forces had inflicted heavy casualties on the two rebel groups. Grand Admiral Thrawn nearly realized his goal of destroying the Rebel Alliance at the battle of Atollon. After forcing the rebels back to the surface, Thrawn ordered his fleet to bombard Chopper Base from orbit. However, the rebels had activated Wren's prototype deflector shield generator, which prevented serious damage from the orbital bombardment. To give the rebels the impression that their shield could withstand orbital bombardment, Thrawn ceased the attack. He then delegated command of the Seventh Fleet to Pryce while he led the ground assault on Chopper Base. Thrawn deployed both AT-DP and AT-AT walkers for the ground assault.
In order to learn the rebels' strength, Thrawn sent his AT-DP walkers into the canyon leading to Chopper Base first. The walkers were destroyed by the former clone commando Rex and Orrelios' detonators and a rocket launcher. Thrawn then deployed several AT-AT walkers that were protected by shield generators. These walkers destroyed the remaining detonators, forcing the rebels to retreat. Thrawn and his death troopers then entered the base, while ordering his stormtroopers to advance.
One of Thrawn's AT-AT walkers managed to destroy a rebel GR-75 medium transport fleeing offworld. Thrawn and his troops then surrounded Syndulla, Dodonna and several rebels. When Syndulla refused to surrender, Thrawn threatened to kill them one by one beginning with Jarrus. However, Thrawn was interrupted by the mysterious Force entity known as Bendu, who had arrived after being provoked by Jarrus. Bendu used lightning to destroy the base and strike down one of Thrawn's troopers and a walker. This gave the rebels the window needed to flee into space with their comrades.
Undaunted by this new enemy, Thrawn ordered his soldiers to fire at the Bendu, effectively ending its rampage. Back in space, Bridger, Wren and their Mandalorian allies were able to destroy the second Interdictor, allowing the remains of the rebel fleet to escape into hyperspace. While he was unable to capture the rebel leadership and crush the rebellion completely due to Konstantine's folly, Thrawn viewed the battle as an Imperial victory.
Following the battle, Thrawn confronted the fallen Bendu. When Thrawn asked Bendu what manner of creature it was, the Bendu replied that it was beyond Thrawn's power to kill. The Bendu also predicted Thrawn's defeat, describing it as "many arms surrounding you in a cold embrace." Undaunted, Thrawn attempted to kill the Bendu, but by the time he fired, it was already gone. Thrawn could still hear the Bendu's laughter ringing in the air. Meanwhile, the surviving rebels fled to Yavin 4.
In the aftermath of the battle and because of Thrawn's victory, the Rebel Alliance had come to believe that they were not ready for open warfare against the Empire, and their mission to liberate Lothal would have to be postponed. The battle was considered a crushing defeat for the Rebel Alliance; but the actions of Sato, Bridger, and Wren enabled some forces to escape and prevented a disastrous total rout.
Alliance with Darth Vader
- "The invasion is coming, Lord Vader. But I have now bought the Empire time to prepare."
- ―Thrawn to Darth Vader, on the threat posed by the Grysk Hegemony to the Empire
Following the battle at Atollon, which Vader and Emperor Palpatine viewed as a failure on Thrawn's part, the Grand Admiral spoke with the Emperor and Vader on Coruscant. The Emperor was displeased with how some rebels escaped. Nevertheless, Palpatine considered Thrawn and Vader to be his two most useful servants.
Thrawn was tasked with traveling with Vader to the planet Batuu to deal with a disturbance in the Force felt by Palpatine. During their trip, Thrawn took multiple occasions to taunt Vader about knowing that he was once the very same Anakin Skywalker he fought alongside on Batuu many years ago. After arriving above the planet's surface aboard the Chimaera, Thrawn and Vader took a shuttle down to the surface. They entered a bar and encountered a species called the Darshi. Following the skirmish, Imperial forces became involved in a conflict with the warlike Grysk species; engaging in a battle on Mokivj in which Vader's elite First Legion of Stormtroopers rescued several Force-sensitive Chiss girls from Grysk captivity. Though Thrawn sought to serve both the Chiss Ascendancy and the Empire, he introduced himself to the Grysk forces by his full Chiss name "Mitth'raw'nuruodo." Thrawn knew that the Grysks always attacked the closer foe first, and thus the Grand Admiral gave the Empire time to prepare for a Grysk invasuion of Imperial space. They also returned young Chiss girls who had been kidnapped by the Grysks to Admiral Ar'alani. These children were Force-sensitive navigators, and the Grysks had kidnapped them in an attempt to replicate this Chiss tactic. The children's fear was the disturbance Palpatine had sensed.
However, Vader also spotted a courier ship, which the Sith Lord deduced belonged to the Chiss, escape, and saw that personal cloaking devices worn by the Grysks were the same in function as Thrawn's assassin, the Noghri Rukh. The Sith Lord told Thrawn he believed they were both of Chiss design, and Thrawn confessed it was a Chiss craft and that the devices were from his people. Thrawn claimed his message to the Grysks was still important to the Empire, though Vader questioned if the message was not to warn the Grysks away from them, but instead to warn the Chiss working with the enemy that the Grand Admiral knew about them. The Chiss officer answered by implying it could be both, though did not state if that was truly the case, and told the Sith about the political stirrings from when he had left the Chiss Ascendancy. Thrawn speculated the Aristocras had failed to settle their differences or that the Grysks had made deeper inroads to their culture than he had hoped. Thus, as Vader pointed out, Thrawn, despite having openly criticized the way the Republic had handled the Clone Wars, could soon be facing a civil war. Thrawn even speculated that, if the Grysks had gained control of one Chiss faction, the first actions of such a conflict had already begun and that the attempted closing of the border was to stop him bringing the Empire to interfere.
Still, Thrawn promised Vader that, while he would eventually return to the Chiss Ascendancy, he would not take the Chimaera away to help his people. The Chiss cited his pledge to serve Emperor Palpatine, promising he would not leave until he had completed his service to the Empire by neutralizing threats to the Empire. Thrawn compared his service to the Emperor to his pledge to help Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars. When Vader again stated that Skywalker was dead, Thrawn said that he now knew, having come to believe that Vader was a mentally separate person from his old ally. After this, Vader, who had piloted a TIE Defender during the battle, complimented Thrawn on the starfighter, stating he would speak to Palpatine on behalf of the project. The Sith Lord also suggested several improvements to the craft, which Thrawn promised would be transmitted to the Lothal factory when they returned to Coruscant.
After Lord Vader informed Emperor Palpatine of his support for Thrawn's TIE Defender project, the Sith apprentice submitted proposed improvements to the Defender to the Sienar Advanced Projects Laboratory on Lothal. Darth Vader recommended the new Defender should be faster and more heavily armed than the original TIE Defender, as well as have simplified controls for pilots. Sienar Fleet Systems named the new prototype the TIE/D Defender Elite. According to many Imperial pilots and sources within Sienar, the Defender Elite's speed and maneuverability exceeded nearly every other starfighter available in production at the time. Thrawn wished to mass-produce the TIE Defender Elite at Lothal's Imperial Armory Complex. The first TIE Defender Elite prototype was tested by ace TIE pilot Vult Skerris.
Civil war on Mandalore
- "Effective, yes, but you miss the true artistry of this weapon, Governor Saxon. It turns an armor legendary for its strength into a crippling weakness, and it strikes at the very heart of your people's tradition."
- ―Grand Admiral Thrawn to Governor Tiber Saxon
Shortly before Thrawn's victory against the rebels on Atollon, an uprising led by Clan Wren of Krownest against the Imperial-backed government of Mandalore had begun as a result of Sabine Wren's return to her homeworld. This event saw the death of Governor Gar Saxon and all-out conflict engaged on Mandalore. Acting on the Emperor's behalf, Thrawn contacted Saxon's brother and successor as Governor, Tiber Saxon, instructing him to end the uprising as swiftly as possible. Saxon assured Thrawn that he would succeed in ending the conflict and promised that he would unveil a new weapon prototype that would prove invaluable to the Empire.
A short time after the weapon had been tested for the first time during a battle with Clan Wren, Saxon showed Thrawn, present via hologram, the efficiency of the Arc Pulse Generator, also known as "The Duchess." Thrawn was shown the successful test of the Duchess against Clan Wren's warriors, and asked how his brother would feel if he saw him using such a weapon. Despite being impressed by the Duchess's abilities to target the Beskar metal in Mandalorian armor, Thrawn expected the range to be greater. Though Saxon tried to defend that he had managed to rebuild the weapon from what fragment remained, the Grand Admiral bluntly stated that Saxon could not use the Duchess to its fullest potential because he did not truly understand it. Thrawn then suggested to Saxon that he should capture the Duchess's creator, Sabine Wren.
The Lothal Campaign
- "If they're actually building these in numbers, our pilots won't stand a chance."
"And neither will the Rebellion."
- ―Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus discuss Thrawn's signature fighter-bomber, the TIE Defender
The Rebel Alliance, particularly the Spectres, sought to free Lothal from Imperial rule and occupation. Lothal's Capital City was occupied by an Imperial Planetary Occupation Facility, known to locals as "The Dome." Furthermore, the Outer Rim planet housed factories producing TIE Defenders for export to the Imperial Navy, which required massive amounts of natural resources which the planet was ravaged to provide. As a result, the Spectres sought to liberate Lothal as a confluence of militarily strategic and personal objectives.
Upgrading the TIE Defender
- "If someone of Ezra Bridger's modest skill can best three trained pilots, our new fighter will give us an overwhelming advantage against the rebels."
- ―Grand Admiral Thrawn on the TIE Defender Elite
Some time after the Mandalorian civil war, Thrawn visited a remote Imperial base on the plains of Lothal to see how his new TIE Defender Elite prototype was faring. Upon arriving, he was greeted by TIE pilot Vult Skerris who had promised to show the Grand Admiral the fighter's capabilities. During the visit, a TIE pilot caught Ezra off guard, causing him to be spotted by Thrawn and Pryce. Thrawn was surprised to see the rebels here, and ordered his Death troopers to secure the prototype, before watching the young Jedi's antics with vague curiosity and responding to Bridger's casual greeting with a dry remark, sounding unsurprised.
Ezra was merely distracting the Imperials for his friend Sabine, as she was inside the Defender Elite attempting to steal its flight data recorder. Seeing Ezra pinned down, she lifted off in the fighter and helped him inside before destroying most of the depot's parked fighters and even strafing the area where Thrawn was standing. Unfazed by the powerful bolts scorching the ground inches from him, Thrawn calmly stood his ground and fired up at the rogue fighter with his blaster even as his fellows scurried for cover until it went screaming over his head. The fighter then proceeded to blow up the shuttle Thrawn had arrived in and strafed the command tower before screeching off into the grasslands. Still calm, Thrawn dryly inquired if the debacle had been part of the aforementioned demonstration. Pryce offered to activate the Defender Elite's kill switch, but Thrawn instead saw a perfect opportunity to test the ship's combat abilities and ordered Skerris to deploy three TIE Interceptors in pursuit.
After two of the Interceptors were destroyed in short order, Skerris surmised that Syndulla was piloting the Defender Elite. Thrawn stated that it was unlikely, as she would have destroyed all three Interceptors much earlier. When the Defender Elite's transponder was disabled, Thrawn noted that it has been done in record time and correctly inferred that Sabine was also aboard the Defender Elite with Ezra. In spite of the Imperials' failure to retrieve the Defender Elite's hyperdrive and flight recorder, Grand Admiral Thrawn considered the day's events a success for its original purpose: demonstrating the prototype Defender Elite's capabilities. He reasoned that Ezra Bridger was an unexceptional pilot and had been able to defeat three trained Imperial pilots because the TIE Defender Elite was such a formidable vehicle. Even though Vult Skerris had not been the one to demonstrate the prototype fighter's strengths, Thrawn was nevertheless highly satisfied with the results. The Grand Admiral believed the Defender would give the Empire a decisive advantage against the Rebel Alliance once mass-produced, and authorized Pryce to activate the Defender Elite's kill switch. He promised her ground reinforcements to secure the crash site and help find Ezra and Sabine. However, a Loth-wolf led the young rebels to safety, so Thrawn's reinforcements were not able to locate Wren and Bridger.
Having secured the crash site, Pryce contacted Thrawn and informed him that both the flight data recorder and hyperdrive were missing from the wreckage. This led Thrawn to deduce that they would try to get the data to Rebel Command, and so he dispatched his own personal agent, Rukh, to stop them. When Pryce protested that such help was unnecessary, Thrawn pointed out that the rebels' presence on Lothal and the theft of the Elite as testaments to the contrary. Despite Rukh's efforts, the rebels nonetheless escaped. Attaching the stolen hyperdrive to an aging U-wing, Captain Hera Syndulla eluded Thrawn's massive blockade by jumping to lightspeed through the hangar of an Imperial construction module, leaving Thrawn visibly annoyed.
After Syndulla returned to Yavin 4 with the data recorder, the rebel leaders were reluctant to commit to an attack because of Thrawn's tactical brilliance. Syndulla was, however, able to convince the reluctant leaders to show the galaxy that the Rebellion would not back down, even to the might of Thrawn and his fleet. In spite of many rebel leaders' hesitancy to strike Lothal, the Rebel Alliance was determined to prevent the mass-production of the TIE Defender Elite.
Attack on Lothal
- "Rukh. Rebel pilots may have survived the attack. Capture them alive, if possible. Captain Syndulla in particular."
"It will be done, Grand Admiral."
- ―Thrawn and Rukh
Thrawn was later holding command on his flagship when he was informed of several rebel starfighters entering the system and realized that the long-awaited attack on Lothal was now commencing. Reasoning that the rebels would most likely target the TIE Defender factory and Lothal City fuel depot in Capital City, Thrawn contacted Governor Pryce and ordered her to shore up ground defenses. When the rebels on Lothal managed to destroy the anti-air batteries on the ground, Thrawn ordered Commander Skerris to join the fray and prevent any rebels from reaching the surface. Skerris, piloting a new TIE Defender Elite, destroyed two rebels in quick succession but was unable to resist pursuing the now General Syndulla after she revealed herself. Unable to match the Elite's speed, Syndulla instead headed straight for Thrawn's flagship, the Chimaera.
Realizing she was attempting to lure Skerris into a trap, Thrawn ordered him to cease his pursuit but was refused, as Skerris believed that he almost had her. Thrawn was disappointed by this and told his gunners to open fire, the blasts struck both Skerris' Defender Elite and Syndulla's X-wing, disabling their shields. Hera then damaged the Chimaera's targeting array, briefly hid in the smoke produced by the subsequent explosion, and fired on Skerris' now vulnerable fighter, damaging its wing assembly and sending it spinning into an Arquitens-class command cruiser. The crippled light cruiser in turn then crashed into a Star Destroyer and sheared through its bridge tower, allowing the strike force to make a break for the planet surface. Before they were able to reach their targets, Thrawn had ordered the second wave of TIE fighters to intercept them, and they managed to destroy the entire strike force. Upon being informed by Commander Woldar that several X-wings crashed in and around the Capital City, Thrawn contacted Rukh on the ground and ordered him to locate and capture any survivors, particularly Syndulla. After a lengthy chase through the streets of Capital City, Rukh caught up with Syndulla and successfully captured her after a short fight.
Threat to the Defender project
- "Your TIE Defender program is at risk. Orson Krennic has been quite persuasive about diverting the funding to his own project: Stardust."
"The Emperor has assured me that he supports my project."
"In my view, Director Krennic's project has been nothing but expenses and excuses for years on end. If construction of the Defender is to continue, you must make your case directly to the Emperor himself. I have already arranged the meeting."
"I'll leave immediately, Moff Tarkin."
- ―Tarkin and Thrawn discuss the continued support for the TIE Defender program
While Governor Pryce was torturing Hera Syndulla, Grand Admiral Thrawn entered Pryce's office and asked if Hera had yet revealed the location of the rebel fleet. Pryce responded that she had not begun interrogating Hera. Thrawn questioned Hera but the rebel leader remained defiant. Thrawn then showed Hera her Kalikori and talked about the shapes on the Twi'lek artifact. When Thrawn questioned Hera about her lost brother, Hera responded that he was unworthy of holding it. Believing that the Kalikori would end with her, Thrawn promised that the Kalikori would be in good hands before leaving the room.
Due to Hera's failed attack against the Lothal factory and the theft of the Defender Elite, Grand Moff Tarkin informed Thrawn that Orson Krennic, the Director of Imperial Military Department of Advanced Weapons Research, had persuaded the Imperial authorities to divert further funding to his "Project Stardust"—the first Death Star battlestation, which had been under development and construction for nearly two decades. Thrawn protested that the Emperor had already assured him that he supported the TIE Defender program, to which Tarkin replied that he had arranged an audience with the Emperor for Thrawn to plead his case. Thrawn immediately departed Lothal aboard the Chimaera to return to Coruscant around 0 BBY. Aboard the Chimaera, Thrawn spoke with Commodore Faro about Pryce's ability to deal with the Jedi and the Rebels. Despite her concerns, Thrawn knew losing the TIE Defender project would be much worse than losing General Syndulla.
Grallocs, treason, and the Death Star project
- "Someday, Mitth'raw'nuruodo, you'll overthink and overplan, and it will come crashing down all around you. When that happens, I hope someone is there to lift you back to your feet."
- ―Admiral Ar'alani's parting words to Thrawn
En route to his meeting on Coruscant, Thrawn received coordinates from Tarkin to rendezvous with him in the Sev Tok system aboard the ISD Firedrake, the flagship of the Empire's Third Fleet led by Grand Admiral Balanhai Savit. Upon his arrival, Thrawn met with Tarkin, Grand Admiral Savit, Director Krennic, and Emperor Palpatine (who attended via hologram). There, he listened to Krennic complaining about the grallocs attacking power cables and couplers at a equipment transfer point for his Project Stardust, which was the Death Star station Thrawn had learned of. To settle the dispute between Thrawn and Krennic, Tarkin and the Emperor agreed to continue funding the Defender project if Thrawn dealt with Krennic's gralloc problems within one week, with which Thrawn agreed. During this time, Thrawn reunited with Eli Vanto, Admiral Ar'alani, and the Chiss, helping them combat a Grysk task force that had entered Imperial space. During the skirmish against the Third Fleet, the Grand Admiral and Commodore Faro also defeated Savit, who was behind the gralloc crisis, as he had been using them to allow starships to disappear and steal components from the Death Star. After this and the Chiss defeating a pair of Grysk warships, Vanto learned that his numerical analysis assignment for the Ascendancy was in fact to discover patterns among the characteristics of Chiss navigators and their powers. Recognizing the vital importance of navigators to the Chiss people, Vanto finally understood why Thrawn had sent him away.
Shortly afterwards, Tarkin and Krennic contacted Thrawn and Assistant Director Brierly Ronan, a strong believer in and member of Project Stardust. Ronan, though initially conflicted on what to say, told the two officers that Thrawn had failed his side of the agreement, as he had technically not destroyed the grallocs. Despite this loss to the defender project, Tarkin claimed it would be a priority after the Death Star was complete. Before the conversation ended, however, Thrawn recommended that Darth Vader be assigned to Stardust, claiming Lord Vader was the only Imperial who could recognize and deal with all threats to Stardust. Tarkin agreed with Thrawn's idea, and, after the discussion ended, the Grand Admiral used this to force Ronan to join the Chiss. Ronan would have been unable to hide his contempt for Palpatine from Vader, and Thrawn felt the Imperial official would be useful in the Ascendancy's coming war against the Grysks.
Return to Lothal
Thrawn learned that Governor Pryce had destroyed the fuel depot outside of Lothal's capital in an attempt to prevent the rescue of Hera Syndulla. Though the resulting explosion had killed the rebels' leader Kanan Jarrus, it also crippled the Imperials by destroying all of their fuel on the planet, bringing the Defender program to an indefinite halt. Thrawn chastised the governor for having the audacity of holding a parade to hide the magnitude of the disaster. Cutting off her protests, the Grand Admiral coldly informed Pryce that he would deal with her upon his return to Lothal, but in the meantime, he felt that without Kanan's leadership, the rebels—particularly Ezra—would be aimless, and attack recklessly. To that end, he dispatched Rukh to eliminate them once they showed themselves.
Pryce became afraid of what Thrawn would do to her when he returned, and resolved to capture the Rebels before he arrived. Some time later, the Spectres attempted to infiltrate the Lothal Jedi Temple, which was now under the Empire's control. To that end, Chopper displayed a hologram recording of Thrawn during the Battle of Atollon to distract two scout troopers long enough for Orrelios to knock them out and give their armor to Bridger and Wren. After Wren was exposed and captured by Veris Hydan, Hydan informed the Mandalorian that Thrawn admired her work and had amassed a collection of her artwork.
Liberation of Lothal
- "Get Captain Pellaeon."
"Sir, they came out of hyperspace! I've never seen…"
- ―Thrawn and Gilad Pellaeon encounter the purrgil over Lothal.
Thrawn returned from Coruscant to find that Ezra Bridger and his forces had captured Governor Pryce and taken control of Imperial headquarters in the capital, falsely enacting the Imperial evacuation order Protocol 13 to lure the planet's garrison into the Dome in order to remove them from Lothal. Furthermore, Lothal's rebels used knowledge from the defector former ISB Agent Kallus to exploit Imperial weaknesses and plant explosives within the Dome. The Chimaera positioned itself directly above the Dome so that the Dome crashing into it would rain down debris that would destroy Lothal's Capital City. When Ezra stated that the rebels would kill all the Imperial personnel on board and that they could withstand his assault, Thrawn affirmed the opposite: Bridger had moved all of his personnel to safety, and ordered Rukh to disable the shield generator before beginning to bombard the city.
The Seventh Fleet's bombardment of Capital City waylaid the rebels' plans. Seeking to prevent the rebels and Lothalite civilians from being slaughtered, Ezra surrendered himself to Thrawn aboard the Chimaera. Thrawn warned Ezra to not attempt any "heroics," or he would resume his bombardment. Upon arriving, Thrawn took Bridger to his office and showed him the displays of art he had collected from Lothal, explaining that he intended to preserve Lothal's art and culture. The Grand Admiral continued, telling the young Padawan that he had never intened to ravage and destroy Lothal's people, but he now believed that inevitable due to the rebellion Bridger and his friends had staged. Nevertheless, Thrawn respected the Lothalites and their culture, so he sought to preserve as much as he could while beating the planet into submission.
Thrawn then brought Ezra into a cargo hold which contained the remains of the Jedi Temple, and a hologram of Emperor Palpatine. Leaving Ezra in the presence of his Emperor, Thrawn returned to the bridge and ordered a full-scale bombardment.
Ezra managed to escape from the cargo hold and stormed the Chimaera's bridge, just as the rebel forces on the ground were able to raise Lothal's planetary shield. Thrawn attempted to contact Rukh after his barrage was repulsed, but Zeb answered instead, as Rukh was being electrocuted to death. Ezra entered the bridge and told the Grand Admiral that he had lost. Thrawn stated that it was only a momentary setback, but multiple unknown contacts emerged from hyperspace and destroyed Thrawn's blockade fleet in orbit: a flock of purrgil, which had been summoned by the Ghost at Ezra's instruction.
Into the unknown
- "Whatever happens next happens to both of us."
"That's the idea."
- ―Thrawn and Ezra Bridger
One Imperial officer reported that the ships attacked by the purrgil were "just gone," and Captain Gilad Pellaeon reported that he had never seen something like it before losing communication. The purrgil wrapped their tentacles around the Chimaera, smashing their tentacles through the viewports and holding Thrawn and his crew in their grip. Though he wounded Ezra with his blaster, Thrawn was Force-pushed into the purrgil tentacles by the young Jedi, the "many arms" of the creatures holding him in their "cold embrace," just as the Bendu had foretold. The creatures carried the Chimaera—including Thrawn and Ezra—into hyperspace. Because Bridger managed to remove Thrawn from the situation, rebels were able to turn the tide and destroy the Dome. Lothal's civilians witnessed the destruction of the Dome and knew that it marked the end of the Empire's reign on their world.
The Rebel Alliance's attack on Lothal destroyed most of the planet's TIE Defender Elite Factories. As a result, Imperial officials halted the TIE Defender project indefinitely, shifting attention and resources to the completion of the Death Star battle station. Thrawn and Ezra survived their purrgil-powered trip into deep space. Following his disappearance along with Ezra Bridger, Thrawn's whereabouts remained unknown for years.
The Empire without Thrawn
Thrawn's legacy within the Empire survived despite his disappearance. Shortly after the Duel on Cloud City, Emperor Palpatine sought to hunt and eliminate the remnants of the Rebel Alliance fleet. He noted to Darth Vader that such an assignment would be perfect for Thrawn, but he—like Tarkin, who had died in the Battle of Yavin—was gone and few others in the Empire matched the Chiss' level of talent. As a result, the Emperor ordered his Sith apprentice to hunt the remaining rebels even though it would delay Vader's search for Luke Skywalker. Vader ultimately selected Ellian Zahra for the task.
Several years after Thrawn's battles with the nascent rebellion, the Alliance to Restore the Republic managed to cripple the Empire, kill Palpatine, and transform into the New Republic. During this time, Thrawn's legacy within the Empire survived, but the Admiral was himself still missing. The shattered remnants of the Empire were defeated during the Battle of Jakku in 5 ABY, and the Imperial Navy retreated into the Unknown Regions. To do so, they used an Imperial Observatory on Jakku to help chart the way through the harsh region of space. Much of what Thrawn knew of the Unknown Regions had been used in the Observatory's computations.
Age of the New Republic
- "Where is your master? Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?"
- ―Ahsoka Tano, to Morgan Elsbeth
At some point, Thrawn was the master of Morgan Elsbeth, a human woman who served as the Magistrate of Calodan, a city on the forest planet of Corvus. Elsbeth was known to rule with an iron fist and placed no value on the lives of her subjects. Long after Thrawn's disappearance, former Jedi Ahsoka Tano hunted the Grand Admiral, eventually finding Elsbeth ruling Calodan in 9 ABY. Tano liberated the city with the help of the Mandalorian bounty hunter Din Djarin. During the city's liberation, Tano defeated Elsbeth in lightsaber combat and demanded the magistrate tell her Thrawn's location.
As a result of Thrawn's knowledge, as well as information retrieved by the few survey teams and droids the fallen Emperor had once sent into the unknown, the Imperial Navy reorganized into the First Order in the depths of the galaxy. This was part of Palpatine's Contingency, a plan to ensure that the Galactic Empire would not outlive him—but that was co-opted by surviving Imperials to ensure that the Empire continued after his death. Although Thrawn's TIE Defender project never saw widespread use during the Galactic Civil War, many of its design features were eventually incorporated into the First Order's TIE/sf space superiority fighter and TIE/vn space superiority fighter, known as the "Special Forces TIE fighter" and the "TIE Silencer" respectively.
During the era of the First Order, a Tarinna in the Lost Library of Nelgenam attempted to feed off the stories and memories in the mind of cartographer Emil Graf. To save his friend, monster droid CR-8R revealed he had thousands of stories in his databanks, displaying a profile on Thrawn wearing his Grand Admiral's uniform, and several others to showcase his knowledge.
Personality and traits
The Chiss tactician
- "I am a warrior, Your Majesty. A warrior may retreat. He does not flee. He may lie in ambush. He does not hide. He may experience victory or defeat. He does not cease to serve."
- ―Thrawn pledging his allegiance to Emperor Palpatine
Grand Admiral Thrawn was a member of the Chiss species who possessed a calm and collected demeanor. He was a brilliant military strategist, known for his anticipation of enemy attacks and his own tactical precision. He was known to speak at least six languages: Cheunh, his native tongue; Sy Bisti, Meese Caulf, Minnisiat, and Taarja, which were trade languages used by the Chiss; and Galactic Basic fluently after joining the Empire. Despite swearing loyalty to the Empire, he also remained loyal to the Chiss, believing Emperor Palpatine only commanded the loyalty of his actions. The loyalty of the Grand Admiral's heart and mind remained with the Chiss Ascendancy.
Thrawn worked to perfect the art of war. He had respect for his enemies, believing that in order to defeat a worthy opponent, one must understand them in every aspect, including their history and philosophy. In particular, Thrawn had a strong appreciation for art, and he believed that studying it could allow him to delve into the psyche of the people of the cultures that the artists belonged to, even though his study of art made him the target of many jokes in the Imperial Navy's upper ranks. The critics of the Grand Admiral falsely thought he just enjoyed beautiful pictures, while Thrawn's supporters knew it helped him learn enemy tactics. Other Chiss never understood Thrawn's ability to build detailed tactical knowledge from what was viewed to be insignificant or obscure details, but Thrawn believed anything in a species' art was important. To Thrawn, all threads tied together, every brushstroke spoke to him, and the light curves told the artist's story. While he knew that every artist was an individual, Thrawn knew that they were the product of a culture, so Thrawn could use art to begin to deduce the "fundamental pattern" of a species. He also could find the relationships between a species' art, culture, and military doctrine, which allowed him to anticipate and counter them on the battlefront.
Respect for life
Noted for his concern
- "All lives are important, and I resist the thought of standing by and watching two hundred possibly needless deaths."
- ―Senior Captain Thrawn to Senior Captain Lakinda and Mid Captain Samakro
Thrawn had a strong dislike for civilian casualties, although during his service to the Empire he sometimes acquiesced to operations that harmed civilians. Throughout his service to the Chiss Ascendancy and the Galactic Empire, Thrawn sought not only to protect the civilians loyal to the regimes he served, but also civilians of other factions. His regard for the lives of civilians, including aliens, was noted by several individuals including Senior Captain Lakinda, Lothal Governor Arihnda Pryce, and Commander Eli Vanto.
During his service in the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet, Thrawn maneuvered to save the lives of civilians of other species on numerous occasions; even at times bending the Ascendancy's non-intervention protocols. During his servic