==Legacy of Thrawn==

Prologue

It Started out as a Feeling

It was a huge room—they could tell that much—but it was completely dark, the only light coming from their lightsabers. "I've got a bad feeling about this," Mara muttered.

"Same old feeling, huh?" Luke murmured back, eyes straining to catch a glimpse of something—anything—in the darkness beyond.

Abruptly, a deep voice thundered, "Who dares disturb the sleep of Syndic Mitth'raw…nuru…odo…"

Mara tensed so tightly that Luke almost feared she would snap. "What the **** was that?" she demanded.

Luke frowned. "I'm not sure…"

"It was," a rich, smooth voice said from the darkness—causing Mara to gasp and lift her lightsaber, "a rather dramatic preclusion to a highly effective defense system. Forgive me for powering it down."

Luke glanced at Mara—her agitation had spiked at hearing the voice, and her face was now white. As if she had just seen a… "Mara?" he whispered. "Mara, what is it?"

She shook her head wordlessly, green eyes trained on the darkness beyond. "All right, Thrawn," she called evenly, belying her anxiety, "come on out."

Luke's eyes widened and flicked back to the darkness, just in time to see a shadowy form emerge.

A shadowy form accompanied by glowing red eyes.

The figure spread out its arms in a yielding gesture. "At ease, Miss Jade," it said mildly. "Or is it Jedi Jade, now?"

"Captain Jade will do just fine," Mara bit out, green eyes stunned but storming.

Shocked himself, Luke leaned slightly toward Mara to whisper, "Is that really Thrawn?"

"Looks like it," she confirmed grimly.

The figure took several more steps forward in the combined, harsh light of the sabers, and Luke could indeed recognize him from the holos he'd seen. Rather than a Grand Admiral's white uniform, the man wore a black suit similar to Stent's, but the features were unquestionably Thrawn's. "Grand Admiral Thrawn," Luke nodded slightly.

The other tilted his head deferentially in return. "Greetings, Jedi Skywalker. Although I must request that you drop the title 'Grand Admiral'—I am simply Syndic Thrawn as of yet."

"Lost your position with the Empire when you pulled your disappearing stunt?" Mara shot back, holding her lightsaber ready.

"Hardly," Thrawn returned calmly. He spread out his hands once more, palms up. "You may probe my mind, if you wish, Jedi Skywalker, and learn the truth. I only ask that you do no damage."

Luke frowned uncertainly—what game was Thrawn playing now? "…If you insist," he conceded.

"Luke…" Mara warned.

"It's okay, Mara," he assured her, hoping that he wasn't lying. He focused his eyes on Thrawn's motionless form, and stretched out toward the alien consciousness. Brushing against it, he discovered that the mind was barely alien at all, and he easily dove in past the opened mental barriers.

Memories. A lifetime of them.

"Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo, you are hereby assigned to the Crustai station."

"I'm Jorj Car'das. Crewer on the freighter Bargain Hunter."

"Car'das and Ferasi: this is Syndic Mitth'ras'safis of the Eighth Ruling Family." A wide smile. "My brother."

Turbolasers slammed into the bridge of a ship, a sharp pain slicing through his torso before he fell unconscious…

"This is Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet, Lord Sidious."

"Alien force, this is Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth, commanding the Outbound Flight Project of the Galactic Republic."

An incredible force slammed him back against his command chair, holding his throat in a durasteel grip and steadily squeezing the life out of it…

"They're dead." Quiet. A touch of mourning. "All of them."

"There are all too few idealists in this universe, Car'das. Too few people who strive always to see only the good in others. I wouldn't want to be responsible for crushing even one of them. … Farewell… Jorj."

"Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo, for violations of the principles of the Chiss Ascendancy, you are hereby stripped of all rank and family standing, and sentenced to exile for the remainder of your lifetime."

"I'm offering Mitth'raw'nuruodo the chance at a position within the Fleet, Colonel."

"Perhaps my core name would be easier for the average Fleet officer. Call me Thrawn."

Luke blinked. The sheer volume of memories suggested that Thrawn was at least as old as Luke's own father would have been were he still alive. But the feel of Thrawn's mind—not to mention the set of his facial features—seemed to indicate a man actually much younger than Luke was, himself. But how was that possible—

—Then he got it. His eyes widened, and Thrawn noticed. "Have you figured it out yet, Jedi Skywalker?" he asked quietly.

"Luke?" Mara ventured warily. "What's going on?"

"You're…" Luke stopped, shook his head in disbelief. "You're a clone."

The other man dipped his head in acknowledgement. "Very good, Jedi Skywalker. Yes, I am a clone—genetically twenty standard years, chronologically ten."

"A Spaarti clone cylinder," Mara breathed. "That's where you were created. Thrawn had one hidden away."

The clone nodded. "My host—my father, if you will—hid a cloning cylinder away to create me as a backup plan, just in case worst came to worst and he was killed. Worst did come to worst, and here I am."

"Why ten years?" Mara frowned, her lightsaber still high. "Thrawn was churning out soldiers, pilots, and techs by the hundreds in mere weeks."

"True," the clone agreed, "but flash-learning can take much longer, depending on the amount being imprinted on your brain. In my case, I had to learn sixty years of memories, tactics, data…" He shrugged slightly. "Even given the speed of flash-learning, all that cannot be absorbed in a few weeks or even a few months."

Luke studied the young Chiss. "But ten years?"

The clone had the grace to grimace faintly. "The Grand Admiral also understood that all the tension in the New Republic would have to come to a head sooner or later. Ten years—"

"Would provide ample time for that, allowing you to waltz into whatever was left of the Empire and crush a divided New Republic with ease," Mara finished coldly.

The clone's face hardened. "Yes."

Luke shifted his own lightsaber so that he stood in a ready combat stance. "Is that what you plan on doing?"

The clone lifted his chin slightly. "That depends."

"On what?" Mara challenged.

"On if I deem that the best course of action, based on current events," the clone replied evenly. "You actually have a fifty-fifty chance of that not happening."

"Right," Mara said caustically, stepping forward. "I'd rather not gamble on this one."

"Mara, wait," Luke called.

"Listen to him, Captain," the clone agreed, melting back into the darkness. "There are ysalamiri back here. If I grab a nutrient frame and start shooting, you'll be hard-pressed to stop me."

"Mara, please." Luke placed his free hand on her saber arm, then turned to the clone. "Would you allow us to bring you up to speed, so to speak?"

"I have already begun to update my knowledge of the past ten years, but I would welcome your input," the clone agreed. "Provided that we all lay down our weapons."

"Mara?" Luke said, turning to her, his blue eyes searching her green ones.

She sighed, lowered her lightsaber. "All right, fine. But I'd better not regret this."

Instantly, the lights came on in the cavernous room, but more amazing than the awesome setup of the place was the smile the clone gave them that appeared to be genuine. "I don't believe you will."

Author's Note:

Once again, I start something when I know better… Fortunately, while this will be multi-chaptered, it won't be long. I'm sort-of reading VotF right now, and this idea popped into my head. So it's gonna be fun to play with Thrawn's young clone. *grins*

Please review!