- "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. Thrawn was instrumental in defeating the forces of a charismatic general named Yiv who sought to conquer the Unknown Regions. 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 helped foil a plot to destroy the Chiss Ascendancy conducted by the Grysk Hegemony. 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. 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.
- 1 Biography
- 1.1 Early life and service in the Chiss Ascendancy
- 1.1.1 Origins
- 1.1.2 Cadet at Taharim Academy
- 1.1.3 Service as a Junior Commander
- 1.1.4 As a Senior Commander
- 1.1.5 Demotion to Mid Commander
- 1.1.6 The Vagaari pirate operations
- 1.2 Thrawn and the Nikardun Destiny
- 1.2.1 Threat of the Nikardun
- 1.2.2 Alliance with Anakin Skywalker
- 1.2.3 Fall of the Nikardun Destiny
- 1.3 A civil war that wasn't
- 1.3.1 Visit to Rapacc
- 1.3.2 A mercy mission
- 1.3.3 Wild pirate chase
- 1.3.4 Stopping a war before it started
- 1.3.5 Aftermath of Hoxim
- 1.4 Joining the Empire
- 1.5 Rising through the ranks
- 1.6 Investigating Nightswan
- 1.7 Quelling insurgency
- 1.8 Insurgency on Batonn
- 1.9 Aftermath of Batonn
- 1.10 Galactic Civil War
- 1.10.1 First encounter
- 1.10.2 Occupation of Ryloth
- 1.10.3 Testing Konstantine
- 1.10.4 Identifying subversives
- 1.10.5 Strike on Lothal
- 1.10.6 Continuing the search
- 1.10.7 Discovering Fulcrum
- 1.10.8 Hunt for Mon Mothma
- 1.10.9 Locating Atollon
- 1.10.10 A mysterious threat
- 1.10.11 Civil war on Mandalore
- 1.10.12 Upgrading the TIE Defender
- 1.10.13 Attack on Lothal
- 1.10.14 Threat to the Defender project
- 1.10.15 Liberation of Lothal
- 1.11 Disappearance
- 1.12 Age of the New Republic
- 1.13 Legacy
- 1.1 Early life and service in the Chiss Ascendancy
- 2 Personality and traits
- 2.1 The Chiss tactician
- 2.2 Respect for life
- 2.3 Art expert
- 2.4 View of other sentient species
- 2.5 Political ineptitude
- 2.6 Support for his subordinates and colleagues
- 2.7 Toleration of insubordination in the name of victory
- 2.8 Calm and respectful demeanor
- 2.9 View of morality and power
- 3 Skills and abilities
- 4 Equipment
- 5 Behind the scenes
- 6 Appearances
- 7 Sources
- 8 Notes and references
- 9 External links
Early life and service in the Chiss Ascendancy
- "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 very dangerous place to navigate due to supernovae, black holes, gravity wells, and stranger phenomena.
Born as Kivu'raw'nuru with the core name of "Vurawn," he 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 who was taken from his family to become an Ozyly-esehembo, also known as a sky-walker, when he was three years old. 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 of around 4 billion Chiss had entirely moved underground thousands of years prior due to Csilla's slow freezing. In reality, the majority of the population had moved to other planets, with Csilla remaining mostly empty of citizens. 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 eventually rose to become a general under the name of Ba'kif, to take notice of Vurawn and point the Aristocra Mitth'urf'ianico towards the cadet. After a visit from Thurfian, 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 at some time after 68 BBY and by several years before 23 BBY.
Cadet at Taharim Academy
- "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 end 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 ship 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 Cadet Thrawn three months to work off the demerits after arriving at the Academy.
Just after being taken to the Taharin Academy on Naporar, Thrawn was taken to a rematching dinner at the Mitth family compound on Avidich for orientation, where he was greeted by an Aristocra named Mitth'ras'safis "Thrass." 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.
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". 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, impressing her. Thrawn caused Ziara to blush when he correctly stated that he inferred she had too much honor to play "dirty tricks" on an opponent.
Service as a Junior Commander
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 to many of his colleagues. However, he faced opposition from and was disliked by other colleagues in the military and some politicians as well. 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. At one point when Thrawn was 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. Though 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 telling Thrawn, and the Junior Commander instead suggested the pirates could have bought their starships from a local producer 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 lied to him by saying the prospect seemed 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 definitively 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 Lioain 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 tell apart enemy and neutral ships, Thrawn nevertheless promised he would take no action if he could not make such a distinction. Though he feared Thrawn may be overconfident and that such confidence could backfire, Ba'kif 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.
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[src]
Thrawn then hired Qilori and traveled to the Lioaoin heartworld 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, but 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 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 Chiss heavy 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 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 was under attack by Lioaoin pirates, just as the pirates had attacked the Chiss. 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.
Senior Commander Thrawn recognized the weaknesses and tactical blindspots of the attacking Lioaoin corsairs in a deep manner which few other officers 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 locals' upset victory.
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
Some time 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. 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 pull out the liner. Thrawn updated her on the status of the derelict ship, informing his colleague that all onboard 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 the mass. Ziara understood Thrawn's plan as it unfolded, ordering her ship to use emergency power to strengthen the tractor pull as soon as the starboard wing was shot off. 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 atmosphere, the gravity well, and 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.
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. Thrawn 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 it as having 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 the Senior Commander, 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 colleague that she had requested he become one of her officers aboard the Parala, which would also give him the convenient passage off Csilla he needed without the Boco. Instead of having Thrawn wait in a hotel, she offered him lodging with her during his time on Csilla 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.
Unsatisfied by the Syndicure and the Fleet's treatment of her friend, Ziara resolved to tell Thrawn far more of Csilla's true history 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 under the city, which was highly unusual. The Senior Captain felt angry at the hearing's outcome and rebellious and wanted to see how long it would take Thrawn to realize something was amiss about their 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 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 before she revealed that the entire planet had undergone an exodus thousands of years prior. The energy output by Csaplar's star had decreased millenia ago, causing the planet's surface to freeze and led 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 provide 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. 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 disclosed Csilla's truth 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. When she revealed she had not, she said it would not cause trouble. The male Chiss protested that she only assumed so, to 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, thanking Zistalmu but informing 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 means of helping Thrawn "more directly," which Thrawn still did not see as prefacing an offer of rematching. The Aristocra proceeded to unofficially offer Thrawn a spot as a Trial-born of the Irizi, which would be a promotion from his current rank of Mitth merit adoptive. Zistalmu assured Thrawn that if he accepted, he would never have to perform the Trials because his "exemplary service" was deemed an adequate substitute. Furthermore, the momentum of joining a Chiss family as a Trial-born would accelerate a Chiss's 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 her 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 the academy. She asked Thrawn to explain how he'd 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. Ar'alani told Thrawn she'd requested him to be 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[src]
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. 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 both Chiss were highly manipulated into bending their non-aggression laws. Before the two Chiss officers 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 Junior 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 seen that, 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 assigned 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 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 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 to 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 on to Thrawn in case he should bring them glory. Thurfian protested, believing the Irizi were bluffing to draw Thrawn closer to the Mitth and thus creating more fallout for the family if Thrawn should embarrass or disgrace 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.
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 evidently 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 in 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 remaind Thrawn. He underwent treatment for injuries he'd sustained fighting the pirates 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 his cruiser. Command was given to Mid Captain Ufsa'mak'ro.
Thrawn and the Nikardun Destiny
Threat of the Nikardun
- "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 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. As part of Picket Force Six, he and his ship participated in an attack on the Paataatus along with Admiral Ar'alani. Thereafter, Thrawn and Ba'kif investigated the attack at Dioya, which led Thrawn to the Rapacc system not long after. The Springhawk was navigated by the sky-walker Che'ri, with Mitth'ali'astov "Thalias" serving as the girl's caregiver.
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
Thrawn believed based on patterns in the dead refugees' clothing that their society held females in high regard. The Springhawk required all its officers to remain aboard, so Thrawn asked Caregiver Thalias to journey to an asteroid mining station in the system with him. While investigating the system, Thrawn and Thalias 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 planet Rapacc in that system, were besieged by Nikardun blockade frigates and feared for the life of every last Pacc under the sword of the Nikardun. 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 hired Pathfinder Qilori as the Springhawk's navigator to conduct a raid operation 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. 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 opponent, Thrawn resolved to understand Yiv. Thrawn believed that a skilled conquerer must understand the worldview, customs, and tactics of their conquered peoples. As such, he made up the role of "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.
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[src]
Thrawn came to understand that the Nikardun Destiny posed an insidious threat to his own Chiss Ascendancy. He 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.
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 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 was acting as Thrawn's Chiss family hostage, but 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".
After Thrawn and Thalias' arrival at the Primea diplomatic reception, Thrawn discovered to his pleasure that Yiv was personally in attendance. 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. He 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" would analyze 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 value both the individual and the whole; "working for unity while at the same time celebrating difference and uniqueness." 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 Vak 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.
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[src]
Admiral Ar'alani had been sent 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 that the non-aggression protocols would be obeyed. 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 departed three days ago.
Meanwhile. the Chiss ships were met by thirteen Vak patrol boats in a lens formation. The patrol boats and the Chiss warships engaged in limited shows of force to display a lack of desire for combat but nevertheless the capability to engage if necessary. 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. Ar'alani knew that she and Samakro did not have enough plasma spheres 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.[src]
While Chiss Ascendancy law prohibited preemptive strikes against non-enemies, it required retaliatory strikes against enemy forces who definitively established their identity and motives. 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 bring 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. 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 without a job. Thrawn asked Kharill how that peace should be achieved, and the Senior Commander retreated. With Samakro, Thrawn reasoned that the Lioaoins 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 Lioaoins 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 ensues, with the Springhawk and Vigilant using shuttles as decoys and bombs containing breacher missiles which weakened enemy hulls and disabled nearby electronic systems. 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 conquerers. Ba'kif shot the idea down as a violation of the Ascendancy's prohibition on preemptive military actions. 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 him permission to undertake a search for allies with Che'ri and Thalias. The Supreme General 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 no-one but Ba'kif and Ar'alani would know about them, and wished the man good luck.
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 her 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 this 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 to draw on, waiting 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 Mitth'raw'nuruodo[src]
Thrawn departed Csilla with sky-walker Che'ri to search for allies for their conflict with the Nikardun. Their search was to take place within and beyond the Unknown Regions. While exploring the edge of the Choas, Thrawn began teaching Che'ri how to fly a starship, recognizing the young girl's desire to fly reflected in her art. 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 planet of Batuu for any possible allies and briefly spoke with Duja, whom they assumed to be a scout or spy for the Galactic Republic.
When Jedi General Anakin Skywalker and R2-D2's Eta-2 Actis-class light interceptor exited hyperspace above Batuu, they were contacted by Thrawn's freighter. The two spoke in the Meese Caulf trade language. When Skywalker introduced himself, Thrawn was surprised by his last name, given the same name 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. The Jedi Knight agreed to help in return for Thrawn's assistance in locating Padmé Amidala and Duja.
Skywalker found Padmé's ship in 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 Amidala's ship. 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 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.
Thrawn and R2-D2 returned to Skywalker's Jedi starfighter with the assassian's body. While flying with the body, an explosion in the Actis's 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, in Meese Caulf[src]
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 and carried the unconscious bartender 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.
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. Questioning their prisoners, Thrawn and Anakin determined that Padmé's handmaid 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 Padmé's ship.
Oenti confirmed that Padmé 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 were going to the Separatist base on Mokivj, Oenti and his companions attacked Thrawn and Anakin. Anakin slew the assailants with the exception of Janott with his lightsaber. 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.[src]
On Mokivj, Thrawn fought alongside Skywalker and Amidala against Solha's droid forces. Thrawn briefly left after securing the deflector shield generator, claiming to Amidala it had been his mission. Nonetheless, he returned to help the Jedi and his wife defeat the Separatists. 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. As a result, 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 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.
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 bogged-down 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, 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. Che'ri was nominally there as she knew how to pilot the ship while Thalias did not (and that was true); but in reality, the officers required Che'ri's capture by Yiv to convince the Syndicure to conduct a military strike against the Nikardun Destiny. 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 enter into 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.
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 an unarmed freighter so its nose would first penetrate and then perfectly seal a vacuum in the viewport of the Deathless's bridge.
As Thrawn expected, General Yiv captured Thalias and Che'ri, taking them hostage. He sent a message to the Chiss Defense Force 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. 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 to 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 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.
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[src]
Upon Thrawn's arrival to the outer Primea system, Thrawn and Qilori saw the Deathless accompanied by three other Nikardun Battle Dreadnoughts. Thrawn commed Yiv to tell the General that he had the specified monetary ransom. Yiv said that Thrawn misunderstood, and that Thrawn himself was to serve as the ransom. The Nikardun 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 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, with Mid Captain Samakro and sensor officer Elod'al'vumic "Dalvu" in agreement. 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 was 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[src]
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's 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's tractor beams and release Thalias and Che'ri, as provided in the two men's original "agreement." Yiv smugly chided that he'd 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 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 as the Vaks adopted the plan Ar'alani had sent them.
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's bridge crew. Using the Republic shield generator technology the fleet had installed, Thrawn's freighter was not taken out by the now less-accurate Nikardun fire. 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 Chiss 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's questis and data banks before escaping with his friends and his 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.[src]
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 Ufsa'mak'ro 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. He thus had servants of the Grysk Hegemony, including the 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
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[src]
At some point, in approximately 18 BBY and together with Admiral Ar'alani and Senior Captain Xodlak'in'daro, "Lakinda," of Picket Force Six, Thrawn led the mission to the Vak Combine as part of the Nikardun campaigns. 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. 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, with Thrawn and his Springhawk dispatched on a mission to Rapacc on the invitation of Uingali foar Marocsaa.
Upon entering the Rapacc system, the Springhawk was greeted by a Nikardun blockade frigate that was captured by the Paccian Governance. Thrawn hailed the frigate in Taarja, stating that he represented the Chiss Ascendancy and came in friendship and peace. The frigate's captain, who was in fact Uingali, 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 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'd 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. 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. 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 reveled 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".
As a result of her belief that her 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 9 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 8 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 took Thrawn, Thalias and Samakro to a city where the Magys' refugees had settled on Rapacc, 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 and sat in a pattern that Thrawn described as the "tactics of desperation". 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, who had "touched the Beyond". Thalias and the Magys talked in Taarja, and the caregiver convinced the Magys to at least visit her homeworld before deciding to order her people's deaths. The Magys agreed on the condition that she could take one of her refugees as a witness and companion. By making such promises, Thalias committed insubordination, as she lacked the authority to do so. 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 and 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 Springhawk to use and was out of ship-to-ship communications range. The first officer 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 the time before the Magys would give the suicide order was short, and if the data or unit conversions had been wrong, 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 Samakro commented he hoped that place would be worth the effort. Thrawn replied that he thought it "unfortunately" would be.
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.[src]
The Springhawk ventured to those 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 missile boats when a Battle Dreadnought-class warship appeared from hyperspace. Fortunately, Lakinda's Grayshrike appeared and together the two Chiss heavy cruisers managed to drive the Dreadnought to retreat. Just before jumping to hyperspace, the Dreadnought destroyed the ten remaining unidentified gunboats so the Chiss would not be able to analyze them.
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, sending him to perform recon for the pirate threat from Thurfian and Zistalmu's rumors.
Wild pirate chase
- "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 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 an off-the-record meeting with the Supreme General. 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. Some Syndics also privately hoped that Thrawn might acquire valuable technology from Lesser Space as he had during the Vagaari pirate operations.
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 it would not. 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, 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.[src]
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 suborned by the Nikardun. The Prince Militaire of Nettehi appeared to attack the Chiss cruiser, but in fact covertly requested the Ascendancy's help liberating his planet from the Nikardun. A skirmish ensued, seeing the Paataatus ally with the Chiss to successfully liberate their homeworld.
After entering the system, the Springhawk scanned 20 Paataatus fighters, 6 Paataatus enhanced cruisers and 1 Paataatus heavy frigate orbiting Nettehi, apparently performing a combat exercise. Not long after, the Springhawk received a transmission from a Prince Militaire, who informed the Chiss that they were trespassing in "holy Paataatus space." Thrawn replied by identifying himself and his ship, declaring their peaceful intent, and telling the Prince that he came with a question for the Paataatus. In the meantime, Thrawn and Samakro reasoned that the Prince Militaire was aboard the frigate. Thrawn further inferred, correctly, 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 insisted that, if the Paataatus' situation were to remain unchanged, they would witness the "full might of the Chiss Ascendancy."
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 battlefield and yet did minimal damage. Mid Captain Samakro dubbed this fangless show-of-force a "light show." Thrawn identified the closest Paataatus enhanced cruiser aft of the frigate as the one carrying Nikardun forces and ordered his weapons officer to fire at it. At that moment, all the Chiss and Paataatus weapons attacked the Nikardun-controlled frigate, neutralizing its threat to either faction and destroying it.
Thankful for Thrawn's assistance liberating their homeworld, the Paataatus allowed the Springhawk to use their long-range communications triad to reach Csilla. Thrawn used their triad to send a message to the Syndicure and Defense Hierarchy Council in Cheunh and 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 a Paataatus trick. As a result of the liberation of Nettehi, the Paataatus and the Chiss developed much better relations.
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 pirates. In fact, the freighter remotely controlled at 3 Watith gunboats which appeared to attack the Saltbarrel but did no real damage.
The Springhawk destroyed the three attacking gunboats in an ensuing skirmish, after which Fsir insisted on leading the Springhawk to a system where he insisted the Vagaari had set up a base 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 and several Chiss warriors acting as guards boarded the Saltbarrel. Upon boarding, Thrawn counted 23 crew members including Fsir and 20 consoles that he surmised were used for remote piloting of 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. Once the Springhawk was in the last system before the one that allegedly hosted a Vagaari pirate base, Mid Captain Csap'ro'strob "Apros" of the Grayshrike successfully made contact. 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. Thrawn filled Apros in on their status and coordinated with the mid captain to lie in wait in the shadow of the planet which supposedly 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[src]
Once the Springhawk and Saltbarrel arrived in the destination system, twenty gunboats awaited them and attacked them. Thrawn, Samakro, and plasma sphere specialist Laknym smiled, having correctly identified the Watith as controlling the attacking fighters. The two gunboats farthest away from the Springhawk rushed toward a planet below, and Fsir insisted they were going to fetch reinforcements from the Vagaari pirates. Thrawn then ordered weapons officer Afpriuh to target the two closest gunboats with the Springhawk's spectrum lasers, after which Laknym was to aim at the remaining sixteen gunboats with a spread of ionizing plasma spheres. Sky-walker Che'ri, present 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 as small as a gunboat. Nevertheless, Laknym smiled, understanding what was about to happen. The two gunboats targeted by Afpriuh's lasers were destroyed and their debris occluded the remaining gunboats' view of the Springhawk and its launched plasma spheres. Nevertheless, the gunboats evaded the spheres' trajectories almost instantly, which would not have been possible for organic pilots aboard to do. Two of the sixteen gunboats were hit by glancing blows and rendered disabled but still intact, while the other fourteen remained combat-ready.
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 Apros and the Grayshrike to make their presence known. The Mid Captain ordered the unidentified gunboats to stand down or be destroyed, and the Saltbarrel tried to evade Laknym's sphere barrage to no avail. The ionized energy from the plasma spheres disabled the Watith freighter's thrusters, and immediately caused not only the freighter but also the 18 remaining gunboats, including the two headed toward the planet, to drift in space along their current vectors. Thrawn ordered the officers of the Springhawk and Grayshrike to collect the Saltbarrel and the 14 remaining Watith gunboats that were neither flickered by plasma spheres 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.
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 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
Eventually, Thrawn realized that someone was plotting to draw the Chiss into civl war above the mineralogically useless planet Hoxim, which the Agbui claimed had vast mineral riches. Together with Senior Captain Lakinda of the Grayshrike, Thrawn managed to prevent such a civil war from unfolding by uniting the rival families to defend the Springhawk from "attackers" that were actually under the control of Springhawk personnel. Even though Thrawn helped prevent that civil war from ravaging the Ascendancy, the Grysks remained a threat to the Ascendancy.
- «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[src]
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 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 un-crewed 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.
Apros further informed the Springhawk's senior officers that they had received two additional encrypted transmissions issuing family emergency summons for two other Great Families of the Ascendancy. Defense Fleet personnel of Erighal family were to assemble at the planet Copero, and those of Pommrio family were to assemble at Sarvchi. Like Celwis, Copero and Sarvchi were located in the Ascendancy's Southeastern region. Erighal'ok'sumf "Ghaloksu", the Grayshrike's weapons officer, had informed Apros of the 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 in an "imminent threat situation."
Thrawn noted that the party's current location was to the Southeast zenith of the Ascendancy's borders and insisted on helping resolve whatever trouble was brewing. The Chiss heavy cruisers were to collect 14 Watith gunboats and the Saltbarrel, with the Grayshrike towing 9 gunboats and the Springhawk hauling the other 5 as well as the Watith freighter. Samakro pointed out that it sounded like the Expansionary Defense Fleet was not "invited", but Thrawn did not care. Before departing to help collect the gunboats, Apros remembered he had come aboard 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 who was an employee of the Expansionary Defense Fleet on Naporar, who had heard of Thrawn's brilliance at analyzing art and culture and insisted on sending the brooch to him. 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, and the Pommrio with the Plikh family. Tensions were already high between the Irizi, Dasklo and Plikh families, and 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.
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 its 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, they 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.[src]
Thrawn, Samakro and Apros called Senior Captain Lakinda, eventually reaching her on a repositioning stop of her jump-by-jump journey. The calling officers informed her that they both had and required information. 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": 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 just the jewelry 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 they 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 frigate Midsummer and light cruiser Apogee to claim the supposed Agbui mining world Hoxim for the Xodlak family. Supposedly, the Agbui had 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 Lakjiip. The plot to incite a Chiss civil war clicked in Lakinda's mind, and she explained that their 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 and no-one could arrive from Csilla in time anyway. Thrawn then asked Lakinda how much her officers knew about their mission, and she replied that they knew nothing as she was 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, had loyalty 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 expendable. Apros, her first officer, objected, but she told him she wouldn't hear any argument. 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 thursters 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 supersed 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' crews 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 down Laknym's worries, insisting that he had never met anyone as "utterly incompetent" at politics as 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 Famillies' 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. Meanwhuile, Thrawn ordered the gunboat operators to put on a convincing performance, appearing to attack with full force while minimizing damage inflicted on the family task forces. Furthermore, the gunboats could not be taken out too quickly or too easily, as enough gunboats had to hold out long enough for the Grayshrike to appear 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 presumbaly outmatch such a strike force, making the smart tactcial move for each Chiss family to flee to 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-presevation, making them stay and fight a stronger force. Indeed, the families refused to retreat and regroup, deciding to stand and fight.
The gunboats controlled from the Springhawk 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 manual aim. Thrawn's plan went successfully until the family task forces destroyed 6 of the gunboats, reducing the original 14 gunboats to 8. At that point, Senior Captain Lakinda noticed a potentially fatal flaw she believed Thrawn would miss out of ignorance to family politics. Each family task force had been sent to Hoxim to claim the world's supposedly abundant nyix mines which were in fact a ruse. Hoxim was mineralogically useless to the Chiss, and the families would surely discover that after rescuing the Springhawk. At that point, Lakinda reasoned, the families would look for someone to blame for wasting their time and misleading them, and 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 Thrawn that the Agbui "mining" settlment 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, releaving her of command and restricting her to quarters pending an investigation of her alleged crimes and offenses against the Xodlak family. 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 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 Watith freighter and fake Agbui mine. The Springhawk's engineers had been unable to manufacture a remote-piloting system to control the Saltbarrel and 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 and only just regained control (which 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 the 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 freighetr, 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 under command and powered. Thrawn explained to his bridge crew that the 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 ensure the mine's destruction, and Che'ri's precognition would ensure the wreckage would destroy the mine. The 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 set the tractor beam's power to full before activating it, ensuring the wreckage would have 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. Thrawn's current plan required Che'ri to foresee an event not occurring and then acting 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 it 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 did 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, agreeing 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 Thrawn had undestated the consequences due to the tension on the bridge. Che'ri waited until the right moment when she signaled Apros to fire the tractor beam to full. The freighter and gunboats collided 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 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.
At some point after the skirmish above Hoxim, Thrawn undertook research into the hidden past of the Chiss Ascendancy.
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 Outer Rim. A short time after the rise 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, 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 the threat 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. 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 to fake Thrawn's exile.
With the help of the Ascendancy and Aristocra, Thrawn chose a planet in Wild Space and set up a hut designed to look as though he had been living in it for years. When he left the Ascendancy, there were stirrings of political conflict, though Thrawn assumed the Aristocras would settle their differences as they had many times before. After several attempts and a few standard months spent on the planet, Thrawn finally managed to gain the attention of the Empire.
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 Venator-Class Star Destroyer Strikefast, commanded by Captain Voss Parck, arrived at the planet searching for smugglers. As Parck, Colonel Mosh Barris, and Cadet Eli Vanto examined his encampment and the Sy Bisti markings on the crates around it in accordance with Imperial Unknown Alien protocols, Thrawn used a carefully placed monofilament line to crash a V-Wing starfighter that had been surveying the planet. Thrawn 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, the creatures ran into the Imperial encampment, exploding and causing chaos within the base.
In response, Parck ordered another group of V-Wings to perform a grid search. 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.
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 in order to study the armor, while simultaneously jamming the Imperials' comms in order to distract from the sound of the explosion.
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 there. 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.
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, Barris, and Vanto. Using Vanto as a translator, 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. Vanto served as Thrawn's translator for the remainder of the conversation as he told the Imperials of his exile and how he had crashed the V-Wings, attacked the camp unseen, and infiltrated the Strikefast. The conversation impressed Parck, to the point that he decided to present Thrawn to Emperor Palpatine himself.
Thrawn was sent to his 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 basic teacher for the duration of the trip.
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.
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. Vanto told himself that they would not be seeing the Emperor himself, but palace officials in an attempt to calm himself down.
Upon debarking from the shuttle, Thrawn and the Imperials were guided by two of Palpatine's personal royal guardsmen to the 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 the 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 agreed to give him Vanto anyway.
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. 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, Deenlark secretly hoping that it 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. Thrawn refused to respond, however, hypothesizing that the lack of response would embolden the bullies to cross the line 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 game of cards 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 in a lab they weren't 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 embarrassed the two cadets enough, Thrawn set down his hand of cards and declared that the game was over.
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'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 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.
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 get the buzz droids working again 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 incident
- "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 Tech Layneo, and Engineering Tech 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 wouldn't 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 sealed 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. Nightswan was impressed with the plan, shocked he hadn't come up with it himself and that people didn't use it more often. Thrawn admitted that his plan wasn't completely unheard of, but that it would require the sacrifice of one of the tibanna canisters, a sacrifice that many weren't willing 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. Calmly, Nightswan 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 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 reluctantly agreed, locking up Thrawn and 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 wouldn't have to deal with the pirates in the forward portion of the vessel. Once Layneo had used the control panel to gain control of what remained of the ship, Thrawn took command of the Marauder.
Back aboard the Blood Crow, Thrawn and Vanto were brought before Rossi to justify their actions aboard the Dromedar and Angel's ship. In this 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 finding the crew of the Dromedar. Rossi was unhappy with Thrawn's report, berating him for choosing the crew instead of the much 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 to outweigh the value of lives. As a punishment for Thrawn's failure in the eyes of High Command, Rossi sentenced Thrawn to suspension at Admiral Plor Wiskovis' base on Ansion while she waited for a more official ruling from Coruscant. Seeing this as his opportunity to get the Dromedar back, Thrawn subtly manipulated Rossi into sentencing Vanto to suspension along with him.
Once on Ansion, Thrawn managed to convince Wiskovis to allow him to interrogate the three pirates they had captured with Vanto as witness to the interrogation. Correctly deducing that the pirates, who called themselves Culoss, were remnants from the crew of Queen Q'anah, 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. 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 meeting in Sy Bisti where they planned 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.
Out of the interrogation room, Thrawn, Vanto, and Wiskovis used the pirates' use of the slang words "trapo," "ub-dub," and "squalsh" to determine that the Dromedar had been taken to a trading post 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.
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.
Despite the fact that the operation had been an arguable 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 marshal by introducing him to senators and ministers that he felt could be an asset against 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, Pryce correctly guessing Thrawn's purpose at the party, before Yularen, Thrawn, and Vanto moved on to speak to another senator.
Thrawn and Yularen's party-going strategy ultimately paid off, Thrawn being cleared of all charges by the court-martial committee. Despite the fact that the committee's decision had closed the Dromedar incident officially, 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 doonium demand. Thrawn had begun to suspect that the Empire was working on a secret military project of some sort, and wished to discover the truth.
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 playing the role of 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 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 and his 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 Rodian wasn't looking. It was on the order requests that Thrawn discovered that Nightswan had purchased a large number of vulture droid parts and paid with 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 Umbara when he had been instructing the smugglers. Vanto dismissed Umbara as a false lead, believing that Umbara wouldn't dare to try insurgency again after choosing to join the Separatists and being defeated 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 the battle erupted as four hundred vulture droids appeared from behind Umbara's outer 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 took more and more 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 not acting on their swarming programming but rather were being controlled directly by a transmitting base. Thrawn informed Vanto that he also knew this as he saw that the design of the vulture droid, and artistry featured on them, showed that the starfighters were designed for swarm tactics, which they didn't use. Utilizing the transmission shadows where vulture droids relied on their swarming programming rather than the transmissions, Thrawn was able to pinpoint the location of the transmitting base 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.
Frustrated with Gendling's ineptitude, Thrawn ordered the Communications Officer to signal the remaining ships to attack the vulture droids when they were flying 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.
Despite the fact that 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 his 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 for even just 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. By analyzing the value of Umbaran ore as well as the success rates of smugglers on Umbara versus smugglers on an Imperial-controlled planet, Thrawn was able to deduce that Nightswan had orchestrated the events on Umbara in order to ensure that the Empire took over Umbara's mines in order to further 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.
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 the Empire's military politics.
Meeting with Yularen
- "Yes 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 Cheno's fate, Thrawn and Vanto paid a visit to Yularen's Coruscant office to discuss the ongoing investigation of Nightswan's activities. Yularen reported that the ISB had managed to connect Nightswan to metal smuggling, antiques purchases, 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 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.
Eventually, the investigation led Thrawn, Yularen, and Vanto to the Yinchom Dojo, a senate guard training dojo owned by a Togorian named H'sishi. While waiting to speak with H'sishi, Thrawn once again found himself talking to 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. 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, Madras was likely complicit. Thrawn wished to pursue the investigation further, but new orders from High Command prevented this wish from becoming a reality.
Thrawn had been commanded to spend the next four weeks while the Thunder Wasp was repaired at the Imperial Palace, charting the Unknown Regions with Emperor Palpatine. 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 firing.
Covert meeting with Pryce
- "I think you're also dealing with some problems. I'm hoping we can help each other."
- ―Arihnda Pryce to Thrawn
Sometime during his four week stay at the Imperial Palace, Thrawn was called upon by Pryce to help her escape the trap that had been laid for her by Imperial Moff Ghadi. Wearing glasses and a hood to conceal his identity and masquerade as a Pantoran, Thrawn met 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. Thrawn agreed to do as she asked, but refused to hand it over until the best possible moment, deducing that the longer it stayed in the ISB, the more likely it was that Ghadi would get his hands on it by way of an inside man. 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, Pryce offering to use her contacts to both speed up the repairs of the Thunder Wasp and to get Vanto his long-awaited 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, and the meeting ended.
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 Thrawn returned to patrol duty as the captain of the Thunder Wasp, he was assigned, per his request, to investigate, mediate, and solve a land dispute on the planet Cyphar between the native Cyphari and human colonists. Thrawn had noticed an uptick in shellfish exports from Cyphar reminiscent of the Nightswan-led smuggling operation that had led him to Umbara, and had deduced that the exports were an invitation from Nightswan. 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 spread the Empire's military thin.
Once on Cyphar, Thrawn and Vanto attended a meeting to discuss the circumstances of the dispute with the mayor of the human Hollenside Enclave colony Pord Benchel, Lenora Scath, Brigte Polcery, Clay Tanoo, and a small committee of other concerned citizens. The meeting was brief and hostile, Polcery and Scath in particular finding it ridiculous that Thrawn wished to hear both sides before making his determination. The dispute between the humans and the Cyphari Afe clan was hardly Thrawn's top priority during the meeting, however. Thrawn had deduced that the entire land dispute was an elaborate cover-up and spent the meeting studying Benchel, Scath, Polcery, and Tanoo for signs of guilt or innocence in the smuggling scheme that the dispute was designed to hide.
On the shuttle ride to meet Chief Joko of the Afe Clan, Thrawn discussed his findings with Vanto. The two had come to the same conclusion: Scath, Polcery, and Tanoo were all involved in the smuggling activity, but Benchel was oblivious to everything besides what had been reported to him about the land dispute.
Next, Thrawn and Vanto 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. Whilst in the meetinghouse, Thrawn subtly studied the artwork on the walls, ascertaining information on Afe culture and strategy.
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 attacks 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 find him Tanoo's full record. 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. Hoping to stop the 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 brought him in to help the smuggling plan along.
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 smuggling without arresting 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. In a final confrontation with Joko before he departed, Thrawn was promised that Joko would appeal his actions in hopes of securing yet another court-martial for Thrawn. 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
After 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 shipping and supplies, 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.
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 ship's 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[src]
Sometime into Thrawn's tenure as commander of the Chimaera, the Chimaera received a distress call from the troop carrier Sempre. Meeting on the bridge of the ship to discuss the mission with Vanto, senior comm 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 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 wasn't actually 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-19s were long gone. Ayer's orders no longer relevant in the face of their failure to reach the Sempre in time, 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 seeing the contents of the troop quarters was necessary for him to deliver justice for the murdered soldiers. When the stormtrooper continued to insist that the room's contents were classified, Thrawn raised his voice, shouting in what appeared to be anger for the stormtrooper to step aside. 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 accustom 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 Kashyyyk as a starting point and the Sempre's location as an ending point, Thrawn and Vanto managed to pinpoint 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 succeed Lansend Twenty-Six where they had failed 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 TIE squadron to deal with the threat, ordering them to disable the Castilus without destroying it. He also ordered a signal be sent to the nearby Baklek Base, asking for assistance. Contacting Colonel Zenoc of Lansend Twenty-Six next, Thrawn 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-5. 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, but admitted that it was unlikely that the Wookiees were anything more or less than innocent captured slaves. In the end, he concluded that it didn't matter. In Thrawn's eyes, the Wookiees were now Imperial property and had to be treated as such.
- "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. The planet, led by Governor Quesl, had declared independence from the Empire, and the Empire, fearing this might lead to another Confederacy of Independent Systems situation, commanded Thrawn to put down the revolt by any means necessary. 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 rebel alone with the knowledge that the full military might of the Chimaera alone could stop their rebellion dead in its tracks, to which Faro replied that she feared that Botajef may just be one of many worlds prepping to declare independence. Thrawn listened to their theories without offering any of his own, and listened intently as Pyrondi described to him the follower nature of the 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. The conversation ending, Thrawn retired to his quarters and left Faro in charge of the bridge.
Thrawn spent the rest of the fourteen-hour passage 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.
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 deal with Botajef's substantial planetary defense force and forced to retreat. Thrawn, however, felt confident as always that he would be able to avoid falling into such a trap. Shifting the conversation when Vanto threatened that a mess up could mean being demoted to an ore carrier like Rossi's old assignment, Thrawn once again brought up their investigation into the Empire's secret military project. Sharing his most recent research with Vanto, Thrawn revealed that he had deduced that it was a single large military project with a hyperdrive on a scale the Empire had never before seen. Thrawn admitted that he believed the product to be a foolish waste of resources, believing that it would be wiser for the Empire to pour their resources into a more flexible and mobile navy of capital ships and fighters. 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. Shifting the conversation back to the present issue, Thrawn pulled up a holo of Quesl delivering his declaration of independence from the Empire. Pointing out Quesl's mannerisms, Thrawn noted that he seemed to be daring the Empire to fight back against him and theorized that the capital would be heavily fortified and that the planetary defense force 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 proved correct. The planet was defended from space by two CR90 corvettes as well as five squadrons of V-19s dispatched from the north-polar base and two squadrons from the south-polar base, and 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 TIEs 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 telling him that he was invading Jefi space and was required to either vacate or be fired upon. Responding calmly as a means of buying himself time, Thrawn informed Quesl that his act of secession was in direct violation of a fictitious Clone Wars-era treaty signed by Botajef at the end of the war. As he spoke, Thrawn watched the TIE flybys, noting the slight twitch in the starboard corvette and the lack of reaction from the portside corvette. Having ascertained all the information he needed, Thrawn proceeded with his plan, ordering Yve's special unit of TIEs to destroy Quesl's turbolaser placements. As Thrawn distracted Quesl with his attack on the turbolasers, he navigated the Chimaera closer, capturing the starboard corvette in the Star Destroyer's tractor beam. As he did, Quesl gasped and stumbled, confirming Thrawn's theory: Quesl and the valuable Jefi art were on the starboard CR90 corvette. This information in hand, Thrawn correctly deduced that the insurrection had been staged to allow Quesl to steal and sell off the Jefies' valuable art collection. Quesl had intended for Thrawn to destroy the palace to cover the theft while Quesl slipped away during 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 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 Jefi, Thrawn commanded Vanto to inform High Command that the situation had been resolved.
After this and 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 Donassius
As insurgent activity began ramping up across the galaxy, Thrawn and Vanto were invited to represent the Ninety-Sixth Task Force at a high-security meeting by 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. Also in attendance were governors Restos, Wistran, Estorn, and Pryce, representing the at risk planets of Batonn, Denash, Sammun, and Lothal respectively. 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. Yularen moved forward to inform the admirals and governors that the Lothal insurgency was being handled by Admiral Konstantine, and that the rebel activity on Batonn's Scrim Island. Yularen explained that Scrim Island's Imperial Garrison had been overrun by insurgents who had taken hostages and seized control of the island's energy shield and ion cannons. Thrawn was assigned to Batonn and Scrim Island, but found the information provided by Yularen regarding which cannons were operational to be inadequate to plan his assault. Asking for more time to study the situation and formulate a plan, Thrawn was sharply informed by Donassius that they had no time to simply study the situation without taking action. Refusing to take action that would risk innocent lives, Thrawn refused the assignment and was instead assigned the insurgency on Sammun while the duty of retaking Scrim Island was handed over to Durril and the 103rd.
After the meeting, Thrawn and Vanto discussed the repercussions of Thrawn's decision to so openly disrespect the assignments of High Command. Thrawn asserted with confidence that while he may have soured High Command's perception of him for the time being, that would quickly change. He was confident that the attack on Scrim Island would go poorly for Durril and that he would, as always, be able to clean up the mess. Coldly disinterested in the impact this would have on Durril's career, Thrawn abruptly ended the conversation and spent the rest of the walk to the landing platform silently studying Sammuni art.
Arriving at the landing platform, Thrawn contacted Faro aboard the Chimaera. Thrawn directed her to take the Chimaera and the Ninety-Sixth Task Force to Sammun, verbally giving her a strategy to use to swiftly crush the Sammuni insurgency. Additionally, Thrawn requested that she dispatch the Arquitens-class light cruiser Shyrack and Captain Brento to him for use in his plan. Faro agreed to Thrawn's directives, agreeing to contact him once the insurgency had been dealt with. 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.
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 the Judicator and Scrim Island. From the Slipknot, Thrawn watched as the insurgents carried out their strategy and left Durril flailing. The insurgents, Thrawn observed, weathered Durril's attacks by hiding behind an island covering shield. In the time between attacks, the shield contracted, allowing the Scrim Island insurgents to use ion fire to incapacitate Durril's ships. 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 that Yularen's intel had failed to mention.
His interest piqued by the freighter attempting to flee, Thrawn directed Vanto to hail it with a tight 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 in order to gain access to the insurgents' base. Once Vanto received the coordinates, Thrawn commanded him 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' strategy to formulate a strategy of his own.
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 like he'd done so many years ago 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.
Reassessing the battle
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
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.
Between the battles
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 he thought he wouldn't 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 hadn't helped 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'd 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 purposefully 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.
Returning once more to Nightswan's tactical prowess, Thrawn made Nightswan an offer he hadn't expected; he asked Nightswan to use his skills to aid the 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 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 facade 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. In return for him dropping his Batonn suspicions and helping her with Phoenix Cell on Lothal, she would guarantee him Fleet Admiral Sartan's job as the commander of the Seventh Fleet. Additionally, she promised to help him 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. After Vanto noted Thrawn's political adviser could be someone else, they 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, Vanto doubted as such and stated he was content with staying his aide. Thrawn, however, then implied he 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 new uniform, a white one 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 that would be better served elsewhere into a single military project. 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 protecting 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. This said, 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. Thrawn greeted him and exchanged formalities, oblivious to the fact that this was the same man that he had once fought beside.
- "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 army. Gifting Vanto his 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 that Vanto deserved, Thrawn set off to combat Phoenix Squadron and the rebel cells of Lothal.
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 Kallus of the ISB, Konstantine and Grand Moff Tarkin, where they discussed that the rebels had attacked Mining Guild ships at the Sereeda Waypoint. Thrawn deduced that the rebels were planning an operation on Reklam Station in the Yarma system. 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 starfighters 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 and that these rebels could be the key to the Empire destroying them all.
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
Later, Thrawn fought against the Free Ryloth Movement led by Cham Syndulla. The Twi'lek, 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. Thrawn established a base of operations on Ryloth in the Tann Province, where he spent time studying their culture to better understand them.
Thrawn then 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. Thrawn and Slavin then ran into a servant who tried to steal the Kalikori. Thrawn, Slavin and several troopers then took her 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 noted rebel. Thrawn was also able to see that the Scout trooper on guard was actually Ezra Bridger and stunned him. Slavin asked Thrawn how he knew that the trooper was actually a rebel, who stated that if trouble brewed, they would quickly come to their 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.
- "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. Thrawn also initiated a new starfighter initiative to develop 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 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 speculated 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 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 Garazeb Orrelios and 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 Wulff 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 ace, 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.
- "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 Spectres 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, 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 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, but by looking at the ancient art of the people in the sector, instantly knew that the rebel base was in the Atollon system.
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 vowed to crush them. The rebel fleet tried to break the blockade but Thrawn's Star Destroyers and TIE fighters inflicted heavy casualties. The rebels only managed to find a gap in Thrawn's blockade after Konstantine disobeyed orders and went 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 Gauntlet fighter into hyperspace. Thrawn witnessed the debacle and hoped that Konstantine's folly would not undermine his battle plan.
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. After forcing the rebels back on the ground, Thrawn ordered his fleet to bombard Chopper Base from orbit. However, the rebels had managed to activate Wren's prototype deflector shield generator. 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 Rex and the Lasat 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 weren't ready for open warfare against the Empire, and their mission to liberate Lothal would have to be postponed.
A mysterious threat
- "The invasion is coming, Lord Vader. But I have now bought the Empire time to prepare."
- ―Thrawn, to Darth Vader on the threat of the Grysk 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 him being the very same Anakin Skywalker he fought alongside on Batuu many years ago. After arriving above the planets 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. 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". As Thrawn knew they always attacked the closer foe first, the Grand Admiral thus gave the Empire time to prepare. 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. Vader 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 to Vader that, while he would eventually return to the Chiss Ascendancy, he would not take the Chimaera away to help his people, citing that he had pledged to serve Emperor Palpatine and stating that he would not leave until the threats to the Empire were dealt with. 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, believing that Vader was mentally be a 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.
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 couldn't 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.
Upgrading the TIE Defender
Some time later Thrawn visited a remote Imperial base on the plains of Lothal to see how his new prototype was faring. Upon arriving, he was greeted by the TIE pilot Vult Skerris, who promised to show him 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, he notes that it has been done in record time and correctly guessed that Sabine was also on the Defender Elite with Ezra. He was greatly impressed with the results of the test, as a novice pilot like Ezra was able to best three trained pilots. Thrawn then allowed Pryce to activate the kill switch. He promises her ground reinforcements in their attempt to find Ezra and Sabine, but they failed to find them, as the Loth-wolf had already taken them to safety.
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.
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 that 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. 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 aboard the ISD Firedrake in the Sev Tok system. Upon his arrival, Thrawn met with Tarkin, Grand Admiral Balanhai Savit, Krennic, and the Emperor (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 had also crippled the Imperials by destroying all of their fuel on the planet, bringing the Defender program screeching 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 and his forces had captured Governor Pryce and taken control of Imperial headquarters in the capital, falsely enacting Protocol 13 to lure the planet's garrison into the dome in order to remove them from the planet. The Chimaera positioned itself directly above the dome, so that the dome crashing into it would destroy Lothal City. When Ezra stated that the rebels would kill all the Imperial personnel on board and that they could withstand his assault, Thrawn stated the opposite: Ezra had moved all of his personnel to safety, and ordered Rukh to disable the shield generator before beginning his bombardment.
Seeking to prevent his people 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 him to his office and showed him the displays of art he had collected from Lothal, explaining the intent to preserve them before the destruction of the planet, a course of action he now deemed inevitable, but one he admitted was never his intention. 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. The two survived the trip into deep space.
The Empire without Thrawn
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 himself was still missing. Trandoshan New Republic pilot Feresk Tssat recalled to Vanguard Five how he worked as an acquisition specialist that hunted down trophies, antiquities, and other prized collectibles. At the end of Tssat's career as a thief, he sold a painting to Imperial Governor Derantus who learned it was a fraudulent piece when it was demonstrated to Admiral Thrawn. 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 defeated Elsbeth in combat and demanded to know where Thrawn was.
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.
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 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 service to the Ascendancy, Thrawn's primary loyalty was to his own Chiss people. As such, he typically had motives related to learning about threats to the Chiss when protecting civilians of other factions, but notably did not during the Stivic incident. During Haplif and Jixtus' plot to destroy the Chiss Ascendancy, Senior Captain Lakinda reflected with disdain that Thrawn had "exaggerated concern" for non-Chiss "aliens" for whom the Chiss Ascendancy had no business caring about. She had no doubt that Thrawn would intervene in a civil war in which the Chiss had no stake to try to stop the hostilities, and believed there would be negative repercussions for the Chiss's involvement in that war.
While serving the Empire, Thrawn angered his captain Filia Rossi by saving the people aboard the Dromedar rather than saving all the tibanna gas in the hijacking of that vessel. Later, during the skirmish against the Third Fleet, Thrawn promised the treasonous Grand Admiral Balanhai Savit that he would defeat the Third Fleet with no deaths in either Grand Admiral's command, and together with Commodore Karyn Faro, succeeded in doing so.
Respect for his enemies
- "I will seek to preserve all the lives under your leadership, combatant or otherwise, to the best of my ability. And my offer of clemency in surrender also stands."
- ―Admiral Thrawn to Nightswan, asking for surrender in the Batonn insurgency
Notable among Imperial officers, Thrawn abhorred civilian casualties and sought to preserve the lives of civilians who would be caught in crossfires and even enemy combatants. Thrawn offered clemency to Nevil Cygni, known as Nightswan, and offered the rebel a position in his native Chiss Ascendancy, believing his adversary's skills would be of great benefit to his people. Thrawn sought in vain to prevent a mass slaughter at Batonn's Creekpath Mining and Refining complex by seeking his foe's surrender, promising Nightswan that he was the man's "only guarantee" that the civilians crowded within the stronghold would not be slaughtered, which other Imperials would be happy to do. Thrawn knew that Cygni would not harm him during the two men's covert meeting on Batonn because of their mutual respect, and because Thrawn pledged to do all in his power to prevent unnecessary deaths.
Against the wishes of Thrawn and Imperial Security Bureau Colonel Wullf Yularen, Governor Pryce ended the Batonn insurgency by detonating a bomb in the Creekpath complex that killed hundreds of insurgents and civilians. She violated her orders in doing so, but secured an Imperial victory over the rebel insurgents of that planet. Thrawn and Yularen suspected Pryce's guilt in the matter but could not prove it. However, the Imperial High Command on Coruscant saw the result as a major victory and did not mind the death of civilians. They promoted Thrawn, whom they believed responsible for the attack, to Grand Admiral for leading the major victory on Batonn. Thrawn had strong misgivings about accepting a promotion for an attack he abhorred and which he had not conducted or authorized. However, Pryce persuaded Thrawn into accepting the resulting acclaim by arguing that someone would command the Seventh Fleet, and very few other high Imperial officers would seek to minimize civilian deaths with that Fleet. Nevertheless, Thrawn ordered his ground forces to search and rescue survivors, civilian and combatant, from the ruined complex, hoping in part to find Cygni alive.
The limits of Thrawn's refusal to kill civilians
While Thrawn generally refused to kill civilians "needlessly", he became willing to resort to killing non-combatants at the end of the Lothal Campaign in order to achieve victory for the Empire. Thrawn had the goals of rooting out Lothal's rebels and procuring Ezra Bridger for the Emperor, who sought to turn the young Padawan to the dark side of the Force. Thrawn demanded that Bridger surrender himself and come aboard the Chimaera or he would bombard Capital City.
The Lothal rebels did not believe Thrawn at first, but Thrawn had Rukh's forces disable the city's deflector shield generator, at which point the Chimaera began bombing the city. Horrified, Ezra gave in and took a gunship to Thrawn's flagship. At that point, Thrawn stopped the bombardment, but warned he would resume it and destroy the city and Ezra's friends if the Padawan tried any "heroics." He stayed true to his word, ordering his ships to prepare to fire after Bridger began to fight his way to the bridge.
- "Senior Captain Thrawn has a reputation for knowing a lot about alien art and artworks. […] I remember hearing a show once where a music critic who'd just listened to half a minute of a new recording was able to pop out with the piece, the conductor, and the ensemble playing it. If he could do that from the sound alone, who knows what someone like Thrawn could do with just a look?"
- ―Lakbulbup, an analyst for the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet, encouraged his cousin Lakphro to send a brooch to Thrawn for analysis
Throughout his adult life, Thrawn had a deep appreciation for art and culture. He had a rare talent of learning societies' and even individual people's tactics and strategies by studying the art they created. He sought to preserve the cherished Paccosh subclan ring of Uingali foar Marocsaa when Uingali feared the Nikardun invaders of Rapacc would kill every Paccosh. By the time of the Nikardun Campaigns, Thrawn had a reputation among the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet as an expert on alien art and someone who could glean important information from a cursory inspection of an art piece. Thrawn's renown was wide enough that Fleet analyst Lakbulbup recommended Thrawn analyze a suspicious brooch his cousin had sent him, rather than a scientist or metals specialist. Similarly, as an Imperial Grand Admiral, Thrawn stole the Syndulla family's kalikori after subverting resistance on the Twi'lek homeworld of Ryloth. Thrawn honored the kalikori as a sacred item in Twi'lek culture and sought to both protect and analyze it.
Thrawn's appreciation for art and his determination to defeat the rebellion led him to amass a vast collection of images and objects related to the crew of the rebel ship Ghost, who had outsmarted his predecessors. In addition, Thrawn's scrutiny of Lyste and Kallus' reports following the rebel infiltration of the Lothal Imperial factory led him to realize that the Empire had a spy within their ranks. Thrawn believed that interrogating all Imperial personnel would alert the traitor. Instead, he advocated engineering a trap for the traitor that would turn them into an asset of the Empire.
View of other sentient species
View of non-Chiss
- "I've never seen aliens as people before. Not like Chiss are people. I've always thought of them as something lesser, something closer perhaps to highly intelligent animals. Some friendly, some harmless, some dangerous. I suppose you've always seen them for what they are?"
"You mean as people? Not really. I see the people, certainly. But their personhood is seldom at the top of my thoughts."
"Then how do you see them?"
"As possible allies. Possible enemies. Assets."
- ―Commodore Ar'alani and Senior Commander Thrawn discuss the personhood of non-Chiss sentient beings.
When Senior Commander Thrawn and Commodore Ar'alani visited the Garwian homeworld of Solitair, their hosts introduced them to Garwian culture. Ar'alani informed Thrawn that she now saw aliens as people for the first time, believing this was how Thrawn had always seen non-Chiss. Thrawn replied that he saw non-Chiss individuals as assets first and people second. When he explained that to Ar'alani, she noticed sadness and thoughtfulness on his face before he explained the "assets" could be possible foes or allies. Following their capture of General Yiv the Benevolent at the battle over Primea, Thrawn explained to Che'ri that Ar'alani enabled the joint Chiss—Vak victory because she saw non-Chiss as people, while he saw them as assets.
By the time of the Nikardun campaigns, Thrawn's view of non-Chiss had evolved, and Thrawn became notorious in the Expansionary Defense Fleet for his desire to protect people of other species. Senior Captain Lakinda reflected bitterly to herself that Thrawn may meddle in an alien species' civil war to save them from destroying themselves. During his time on Cyphar serving the Imperial Navy, Thrawn treated the immigrated humans and native Cyphari even-handedly while collecting information.
View of xenophobia in the Empire
- "There were a lot of different nonhuman groups in the Separatist movement. The Clone Wars killed a lot of people and devastated whole worlds. There's still a lot of resentment about that, especially among humans." […]
"Would it not be more reasonable to resent only those nonhuman groups that opposed you?"
- ―Eli Vanto and Thrawn discuss xenophobia in the Galactic Empire.
During Thrawn's time with Eli Vanto at the Royal Imperial Academy, he became exposed to the receiving end of xenophobia. Vanto explained that Imperial personnel were supposed to treat nonhumans and people from the Galactic Rim with respect, but often did the opposite. Thrawn's alien status among humans and origins in the Unknown Regions should have made fellow cadets treat him with more respect, but in practice led to discrimination. Thrawn asked Vanto why humans of the Core Worlds disliked nonhumans, to which Vanto replied with the explanation he had heard: many nonhuman species aligned with the Separatists in the Clone Wars, and humans felt like they both suffered and contributed to the Republic's war effort disproportionately compared to their nonhuman allies. Vanto did not know whether this was true, but assured Thrawn that the sentiment existed regardless. Thrawn asked whether it would not be better to only resent nonhumans who fought with the Separatists, to which Vanto conceded, and at which point Vanto realized the xenophobic current among Imperial humans probably originated in that way.
- "You're saying, sir, that Senior Captain Thrawn isn't playing politics here because he never plays politics?"
"I'm saying that Senior Captain Thrawn never plays politics because he doesn't know how to play politics. Bottom line. When Thrawn comes up with a plan, it's strictly military. Nothing more, nothing less."
- ―Weapons officer Laknym and Mid Captain Samakro
For all of his tactical skill, Thrawn was known to miss the political subtleties of situations. Thus, while he would focus on what outcome would create a victory, the outcomes of his actions had a habit of making politicians unhappy. Though Thrawn considered politics another form of warfare, Ar'alani believed Thrawn's failings in the category were a result of politics having constantly and easily changing goals and alliances. In contrast, military warfare was relatively straightforward, with changing alliances slowed down by the time it took to change battle lines. Though he claimed to be confident in his ability to master the field of politics, Ar'alani doubted his chances.
Thrawn often said things that were politically inexpedient, with no malicious intent. When Senior Captain Lakinda expressed her willingness to sacrifice her life if the skirmish above Hoxim should require it, Mid Captain Csap'ro'strob protested. Lakinda told Apros and Thrawn that she would hear no objections. Thrawn told her he would not have raised any. Similarly, Thrawn made an unintentionally impolite remark to Wulff Yularen after the ISB colonel confronted Thrawn about his parlay with Nightswan. Thrawn complimented Yularen on the colonel's tactical abilities, saying they were equal to his protege Eli Vanto's. The Chiss admiral then added that he did not know whether Yularen also possessed Eli's acumen leadership.
Support for his subordinates and colleagues
- "Lieutenant Commander Laknym, do you feel qualified to handle secondary command weapons control?"
"Me, sir? I—ah—."
"None of us was born into the command structure, Commander."
- ―Thrawn to plasma-sphere specialist Laknym
Throughout Thrawn's career in service to the Chiss Ascendancy and the Galactic Empire, Thrawn provided a great deal of support, often without request, for the personnel under his command. This support also extended to his superior officers when they were maligned or overlooked. This was observed by individuals including Eli Vanto, Supreme General Ba'kif, Mid Captain Samakro, and Commander Kimmund. In particular, Kimmund noted that all of Thrawn's senior officers was intent on working together to perform their duties to the best of their ability, and knew this was because of Thrawn's leadership style. He noted that Thrawn never used his genius to humiliate anyone, and that he demanded results but never perfection. Thrawn cared about those under his command, even to the point of standing up to men like Darth Vader to defend them. Kimmund wished that Thrawn's leadership style would become the standard within the Imperial military, and believed that if that were to happen, the Empire would stand forever.
Thrawn didn't want his subordinates and partners to take the flak for his failures, but was happy to share credit and acclaim. He often set his subordinates up for professional growth and development, even without their knowledge, as he did with Lieutenant Commander Laknym, Eli Vanto, and Karyn Faro.
Toleration of insubordination in the name of victory
- "My apologies, Senior Captain. My behavior over the past few minutes has been severely disrespectful."
"But equally productive. Certainly you should know by now I consider results far more valuable than etiquette."
- ―Caregiver Thalias apologizes to Thrawn for stepping out of line. Thrawn was unfazed.
Thrawn cared more about results than etiquette. Thrawn was both willing to perform acts of insubordination to achieve major victories, and to permit such acts from his subordinates when they succeeded. When Caregiver Thalias went out of line during the Chiss Ascendancy's mission to Rapacc, Thrawn was pleased that Thalias succeeded in postponing the Magys from ordering the mass suicide of her people. Thereafter, he ordered all the staff of his Springhawk to act as though Thalias was a commanding officer on the vessel whenever the Magys and her companion were present, in order to maintain the illusion.
Thrawn also usurped command to achieve victory on at least two occasions during his rise through the Imperial Navy. First, Thrawn acted insubordinate toward Admiral Wiskovis in the aftermath of the Dromedar hijacking, which helped the Empire track the pirates and insurgents responsible. Later, Thrawn defied the orders of the incompetent Admiral Carlou Gendling during the battle over Umbara. There, Thrawn managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at the battle over Umbara using his brilliance and his tactical skills. Thrawn hoped that his Captain Alfren Cheno would be given credit for the victory, allowing him to retire with one final glorious victory. Instead, Admiral Gendling lashed out at Cheno, believing the insubordination to have originated with the Captain. Thrawn was about to object and take the blame himself when Cheno told the Chiss that he saw great potential in him and he would take the fall to protect Thrawn and allow Thrawn to grow in the Imperial Navy.
During the skirmish against the Third Fleet, Thrawn instructed Commodore Faro to declare that Grand Admiral Savit's TIE pilots had staged a mutiny against Savit over his treasonous actions, and encouraged the remainder of the Third Fleet to join them. In reality, the "mutineers" piloting the Firedrake's TIE's at that point were Thrawn's own death trooper guard, who had commandeered Savit's TIE fighters to appear mutinous. Central to Thrawn and Faro's victory over Savit was convincing Savit's forces, including Captain Gilad Pellaeon, to commit insubordination against their treacherous Grand Admiral. This demonstrated both Thrawn and Faro's brilliance, and their refinement of insubordination into a tactical weapon against their treasonous enemy.
Calm and respectful demeanor
Thrawn's calm demeanor and suave sophisticated mannerisms masked his ruthlessness. Thrawn rarely wavered in his generally cool temperament, though at one point, he furiously grabbed Slavin by his uniform for regarding his collectible Kalikori as Twi'lek trash. He quickly regained his composure, however, and apologized to him for his emotional outburst. This display may not have been an emotional outburst, however, but rather a calculated tactic on Thrawn's part. In a similar incident years earlier, Thrawn had apparently shouted in anger at a stormtrooper refusing to listen, but as he explained to his aide Eli Vanto, he had in fact not been angry but had only broken his usual pattern of behavior, which he believed was an effective tool in dealing with people who would not listen to reason or change their normal pattern of behavior.
Thrawn was also polite and respectful, even towards his enemies, whom he generally tended to admire. Even when interrogating Hera Syndulla, he showed mannerly behavior despite their antagonistic relationship. Thrawn did not have a high opinion of Konstantine and once sent him on a mission to deal with the Iron Squadron in the Mykapo system. Thrawn set a test for Konstantine by ordering the Admiral to depart with only a light cruiser in order to test his mettle. Konstantine underestimated the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the rebels there. Thrawn was astute enough to discern that Konstantine was lying when the latter tried to save face by claiming to have driven the rebels from the system. In fact, Thrawn was aware that the rebels had already evacuated their sympathizers from the system.
Thrawn's respect for General Syndulla led him to visit her while she was being interrogated by Governor Pryce. While Thrawn regarded looking after her Kalikori as a sign of respect, Syndulla was insulted that her enemy would hold a valuable family heirloom. Thrawn believed that his TIE Defender project was a better investment than Orson Krennic's Death Star project and traveled to Coruscant to lobby the Emperor.
Loss of composure when bested
Thrawn's efforts came to naught when Governor Pryce destroyed the Lothal City fuel depot in an effort to destroy the Spectres, in the process damaging the TIE Defender factory. While Pryce managed to kill Kanan Jarrus, Thrawn thought that the loss of the TIE Defender factory outweighed the Jedi Knight's death. Frustrated with Pryce's incompetence, Thrawn resolved to deal with her when he returned to Lothal.