|Series:||The Thrawn trilogy|
|Preceded by:||Dark Force Rising|
|Followed by:||Isard's Revenge|
A month after the events of Dark Force Rising, Grand Admiral Thrawn launches the first stages of his final offensive, using a series of feints to draw defenders away from his target: the planet Ukio, one of the great bread bowls of the New Republic. Against Ukio he deploys what seems to be a new superweapon—turbolasers that can fire cleanly through supposedly-impenetrable planetary shields, but are actually just cloaked ships just underneath the shield, controlled with exquisite timing by Dark Jedi Master Joruus C'boath; this new "weapon" allows Thrawn to take the planet with almost no damage. C'boath also abuses his Force powers to get Captain Gilad Pellaeon to authorize a special project—the cloning of a special sample, B-2332-54—and then surreptitiously wipes the memory of doing so from Pellaeon's mind.
While Han and Leia Solo, caught by coincidence in one of the feints, escape in the Millenium Falcon, Luke Skywalker infiltrates the Empire, trying to hunt down the source of the Empire's new supply of clones. Unexpectedly, he runs into Talon Karrde, who he forms a tentative working alliance with; though Karrde maintains his preferences of neutrality, he is clearly staggered by the report of New Republic scientists, that Thrawn is able to grow his new clones in fifteen to twenty days, despite Old Republic research insisting that stable clones cannot be grown faster than a year. Finally, back on Coruscant, Mara Jade wakes up from the coma she entered during the battle for the Katana Fleet. She is somewhat dismayed to find herself back in the Imperial Palace, and her comments to her host, Leia's personal aide Winter, cause Winter to (correctly) suspect Mara might have been an Imperial Agent.
Luke continues to hunt down the clones, but Thrawn is one step ahead of him, laying an ambush for him. Luke escapes, but runs low on fuel; he decides to visit Honoghr to refuel. The Noghri offer the Son of Vader their hospitality, despite the obvious danger of doing so while they are still nominally subjects of the Empire. Luke is alarmed to receive a Force vision of Leia and Han protecting their newborn children against an Imperial attack, but refuses to rush off to help them, as this would put the Noghri at additional risk. Besides, he consoles himself, his niece and nephew have not yet been born, so the vision must concern the future. Of course, it isn't long before Leia goes into labor, delivering Force-sensitive twins Jaina and Jacen.
Karrde happens across a smuggling acquaintance, Samuel Tomas Gillespee, who had retired to a quiet little world called Ukio. Moved to action, he organizes a meeting of all the great smuggling chiefs and suggests they organize as an informal intelligence agency against the Empire's clones. By and large, the smugglers would all prefer to sit out the war in neutrality... until the Imperials attack the meeting in force, causing them to throw their support in with Karrde. Unbeknownst to them, this attack was organized via bribe by Niles Ferrier, one of the guests, as an attempt to convince Karrde of his own trustworthiness. Unbeknownst to Ferrier, Thrawn had given the local garrison direct orders to do nothing of the sort, precisely to prevent the smugglers from uniting behind Karrde, and Ferrier is told in no uncertain terms that he will have to make up for his mistakes. In desperation, he promises to deliver Karrde to Thrawn, and Thrawn allows him to live.
Winter admits her concerns about Mara's past to Leia, and Leia asks Mara about them directly. Mara confesses that she was the former Emperor's Hand, and that she plans to kill Luke (though Leia questions the truthfulness of that statement, since murderers don't typically announce their plans to the intended victim's relatives). Not long after, Mara receives a premonition of danger and discovers Imperial agents inside the Palace, attempting to kidnap Leia, Jaina and Jacen. While Garm Bel Iblis keep the agents' rear-guard pinned down and Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca scramble the Falcon, Mara uses secret passages built into the Palace to sneak up to the Solos' stateroom, as well as passing warnings and tactical information to Leia through the Force. In this way she is instrumental in foiling the commandos' attack, but the sole survivor, Major Himron, implicates Mara as their accomplice, and Palace Security take her into custody as a precautionary measure.
Karrde is invited to the Bilbringi shipyards by other elements of the smugglers' alliance, where elements led by Mazzic sabotage and destroy an Imperial Star Destroyer under construction. Whilst there, Karrde and his crew also observe twenty-two asteroids being worked on under heavy security. Thrawn apprehends Mazzic in the aftermath of the raid, but instead of having him executed, provides him disinformation, pinning Ferrier's botched attack on Karrde instead and planting suspicions of Karrde's honesty.
On Coruscant, Leia visits Mara to thank her for her assistance. As she leaves, she drops a cryptic comment about Thrawn's limitless supply of clones, which Mara had not heard about until this time due to her coma. Realizing she is committing herself irrevocably to the New Republic, Mara admits that she knows about the Mount Tantiss storehouse on Wayland, the place Thrawn is getting his clones from. On that information, Luke, Han, Lando and Chewie break her out of custody, and the five of them, plus R2-D2 and C-3P0, take off for Wayland in the Falcon, a single commando mission hoping to end the war. While Han is at first anxious about leaving his wife and newborn children in the none-too-competent hands of Palace Security, Chewie suggests bringing in Noghri bodyguards as an alternative, and several accompany her for the rest of the novel (and indeed, many other novels in the Star Wars Expanded Universe timeline).
Under pressure from C'boath, who is desirous of his Jedi padawans, Thrawn attacks Coruscant in force. While this leads to an eventual reconciliation between Mon Mothma and Senator Iblis, Thrawn is able to take Coruscant definitively out of the war by deploying his new siege weapon: the twenty-two asteroids Karrde observed, now equipped with cloaking devices and left in orbit around the planet. Even worse, he disguises the asteroids amongst a large number of other fake launches, leading the Republic to believe there are 287 of them. He then departs, having prevented Coruscant from lowering their planetary shields for the foreseeable future. C'boath is not present to see it, however; he had unexpectedly declared an intention to take over the Mount Tantiss cloning project personally, and departed for Wayland before the attack launched.
While the New Republic attempts to track down the asteroids, Leia is able to make progress in identifying an Imperial agent embedded in the Palace itself: Delta Source, who has been feeding Thrawn information since the beginning of the trilogy. During the battle, Karrde's slicer associate Ghent was able to crack the encryption used by Delta Source, and he now helps Leia, Winter and Senator Iblis seed a series of fake rumors in the hope that Delta Source picks them up. With the help of his analytics and Winter's photographic memory, they identify that Delta Source must be some sort of recording system in the Grand Hall of the Palace, where the Emperor installed beautiful ch'hala trees, whose bark ripple with color whenever touched by sound... Leia is the first to make the connection, but a bit of forensics (and impromptu landscape architecture) confirms that the trees are organic microphones, and Mon Mothma has them removed.
Luke, Han, Lando and Mara make landfall at Wayland and begin to trek through the planet's forests towards Mount Tantiss. Mara confronts Luke over his actions in the Emperor's Throne Room during Return of the Jedi, claiming that the Emperor transmitted a vision of his death... in which Luke and Vader, after a very brief clash, together turned on the Emperor and slaughtered him. Luke, understanding, explains what really happened, shaking Mara's understanding of her mission. As they travel, the Republic party also begin to find evidence that someone is helping clear away the flora and fauna in their path. It turns out to be a group of Noghri commandos, who followed the Falcon on their own initiative. One of them converses with Mara about how all of them serve the "Son of Vader," and Mara learns not only of Luke's parentage, but that the Emperor's charge to kill Luke is actually one last bit of revenge against Darth Vader. Finally, Luke suggests that she sharpen her skills in the Force, providing her training as they travel... especially once C'boath communicates to them his presence on the planet and intention to make them serve him.
Karrde's next meeting with the smuggler chiefs is a tense one, due to the presence of an accusatory Mazzic and a smug Ferrier. Karrde realizes that Ferrier is manipulating Mazzic's genuine suspicions, and is able to get Ferrier to implicate himself in the botched Imperial attack. Ferrier is foiled and Karrde left ascendent. Meanwhile, the New Republic hatch plans to break the asteroid siege using a "crystal gravfield trap," an array designed specifically to detect cloaked ships. Unfortunately, all three known instances are in Imperial hands. As such, Republic high command devise a plan to feint at Tangrene while actually raiding the shipyards at Bilbringi. The smuggling alliance, catching wind of this, decide to help the Republic out by seizing the CGT at Bilbringi while the Empire are busy at Tangrene. Aves, one of Karrde's associates, makes contact with Wedge Antilles of Rogue Squadron to establish their plans, trading on their shared experience at the Katana Fleet battle. The only person not fooled by any of the charades is Thrawn, who plans for a defense of Bilbringi against Republican interlopers.
Karrde drops by Coruscant to pick up Mara, forcing Leia to equivocate on why they can't let him land. Once she admits the cloaked asteroids, however, of which the Republic have only found twenty-two, Karrde transmits his sensor logs from Bilbringi, convincing them that the siege might be over. However, he also trades on the New Republic's debt to him; part of being imprisoned is feeling you've been deserted, as Karrde himself learned whilst an unwilling guest aboard the Chimaera, and he doesn't want Mara to feel... Distracted, Leia authorizes his landing, and then explains the Eureka she has just had: when Luke and Mara rescued Karrde from the Chimaera, it was not smothered in the Force-repelling bubbles produced by ysalamiri. All of the Empire's ysalamiri are at the Mount Tantiss storehouse, preventing the Force-caused insanity that normally manifests in quickly-grown clones. She and Karrde set out for Wayland immediately, hoping the commando team have not yet reached the mountain.
Luke and Mara have, in fact, noticed that the storehouse is blanketed in ysalamiri, but they decide to forge ahead regardless. As Han, Lando and Chewie set about destroying the twenty thousand Spaarti cloning cylinders and, unbeknownst to them, Leia and Karrde make landfall near the mountain, Luke and Mara visit the throne room to look for a self-destruct function. There they find C'boath, who, instead of being evil like The Emperor, is possibly worse: insane. He has rigged all the ysalamiri tubes to explode, and presses the button in their presence, returning the Force to the mountain. Han links up with Leia and Karrde, and they hasten up to the throne room. C'boath reveals his champion: a clone named Luuke Skywalker, grown from sample B-2332-54, the severed hand Luke left at Cloud City, and wielding the blue-bladed lightsaber he lost there. The Lukes duel while C'boath effortlessly neutralizes Leia and Han. But Luke manages to lure the clone into an exposed position, and Mara gets her hands on Leia's lightsaber. She strikes down Lu(u)ke Skywalker, freeing herself of the Emperor's last command.
At Bilbringi, the smugglers' alliance and the New Republic fleet are flabbergasted to find themselves outmaneuvered by Thrawn. However, Aves's forces are already inside the shipyard and planning to blast their way out, and he once again calls Wedge to ask if the Republic have any preference on where the smugglers should blast their way out to. As it happens, Wedge does, and Thrawn and Pellaeon, essentially outflanked, find themselves fighting the closest battle of the campaign.
C'boath is not pleased by the death of his clone, and unleashes the full power of the Force against his enemies. But, working together and with help from Karrde's pet vornskrs, Luke, Leia and Mara are able to kill him. Chewie and Lando complete their demolition plans, bringing the cloning cavern down on itself. And, at Bilbringi, Pellaeon receives a distress call from Wayland, indicating that the storehouse is under attack from the Republic, as well as a group of Noghri?— When he turns to look, Thrawn's Noghri bodyguard Rukh has already struck, and the last Grand Admiral of the Empire is gone. Pellaeon, disenheartened, orders the retreat.
Victory has been secured, and the New Republic is safe. Chewbacca is helping the Noghri establish colonies, including on Wayland, while they wait for Honoghr to heal. The Empire, deprived of Thrawn's brilliance, is on the retreat. Mara Jade is being asked to serve as a liaison between the smugglers' alliance and the government, and Luke offers her an official place in the New Republic by gifting her with the blue-bladed lightsaber he inherited from his father.
This three-book series is part of the Star Wars expanded universe and is published Bantam Books with a combined total of over 15 million copies sold overall.
|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at The Last Command (novel). The list of authors can be seen in the . As with Lucasfilm Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.|