The last of the beleaguered pirate ships was blown to space dust by the Admonitor's turbolasers and the battle was finally over. Strolling across the bridge, Captain Voss Parck approached the command chair in the center, patiently awaiting the order that was soon to come. "Secure from battle stations," Grand Admiral Thrawn ordered. "Recall all tie fighters. And send a message to the fleet. Well done."
"Yes, sir," Parck acknowledged. With a dutiful nod, Parck gracefully turned in perfect military composure and walked to the Admonitor's database to key in the order. The Unknown Regions held a vast array of regional warlords and pirates that the Empire had systematically been eliminating in order to bring the barbaric systems under nominal Imperial Control. This particular pirate gang, the Hevel Pirates [he believed they were called], had required three entire Imperial Star Destroyers and their accompanying ships to be dealt with. Parck grimaced at the thought. A pirate gang, requiring three of the Empires best military vessels, and with Grand Admiral Thrawn, the brightest military officer in the galaxy, in command no less.
In all of Parck's years in Imperial military service, he never would have dreamed that a pirate gang would have given Thrawn such a hard time. The battle had taken several hours, but fortunately, there were few casualties and minor damage. No doubt to the Grand Admiral's brilliance once again. The Captain was one of the few privileged in the Empire to know the Grand Admiral's eccentric taste for artwork, and the uncanny way he used it against his enemies to his advantage.
Cutting into Parck's musings, a red flash bleeped on the bridge's communications station just to the left of him. "Transmission coming from Nirauan, Admiral," the [bridge] comm officer reported. "It's on a secure channel."
"I'll take it in my ready room," Thrawn said and immediately strode off the bridge. Nirauan was the Grand Admiral's central base, and a transmission from it could only come from [one person, Admiral Niriz]. Parck turned to the First Officer. "You have the bridge Commander," he said and walked off the bridge following Thrawn.
"Hold please," Parck said as he approached the elevator. "Could I have a word with you Admiral?" Thrawn reached forth his hand and held the door open.
"Yes, Captain, what is it?" the Grand Admiral inquired. Parck licked his lips, not wanting to pry into the Grand Admiral's private communications. But Thrawn had been receiving several of these secure transmissions from Niriz recently.
Parck hesitated briefly. "With all due respect sir, I would like to know what information you've been receiving from Admiral Niriz regarding the Empire proper."
Thrawn cocked a blue-black eyebrow. "What makes you think the transmissions regard the Empire proper?" he asked. This was a test. Parck knew it. Normally the Grand Admiral would never be so secretive. Or the information was of such high secrecy and importance that no one else was permitted to know.
"It has been several weeks since any of the fleet has received any news from Coruscant, sir," Parck said. "Ever since word has gotten out about the construction of the second Death Star, all subsequent transmissions from Nirauan have come in under a secure frequency."
Thrawn's red eyes glittered. "You're deducing that the reports from Nirauan are about the second Death Star and its controversial location." It was a statement not a question. Parck nodded. So it was about the Empire. More specifically it regarded the Death Star. The Emperor had made no secret of the Death's Star's location, but all other information was deemed classified beyond Top Secret, so that only the Emperor and whoever he wished would be made known of the information. Parck could count on one hand how many people, outside of being assigned to the construction location, who would know those intricate details.
"It's no secret the Emperor is anxious to extinguish the Rebellion, Admiral" Parck replied. "I'm merely requesting an update on the situation." He braced himself for the rebuke that was surely to come. An Imperial Captain had no business requesting information from higher command unless it was on a need to know basis.
But the Grand Admiral simply smiled. "Come with me, Captain," he said as the door opened. Parck followed Thrawn into the secondary command room. He was about to get his answer. Or so he hoped.
When the Captain stepped in, he had expected the command room to be filled with the Grand Admiral's normal showcase of holographic artwork. Thrawn's obsession with art enabled him to find psychological blind spots, giving him a tactical advantage in his military campaign against the various species in the Unknown Regions. Instead, only a holographic image emanated from the middle of the room in front of the Admiral's chair. And the image was of the Endor moon.
Thrawn stepped forward to the center display and punched a few buttons. As Parck drew closer to the holographic image, he noticed there were a few small dots and blips surrounding the moon. And one particularly large blip that looked all too familiar orbiting the moon. "What do you think?" Thrawn said, still facing the holo. And immediately Parck was dumbstruck. The small dots and blips, the secret transmissions…
"The main Imperial Fleet's gathering at Endor," he said completely shocked. Ridiculous! How could the Emperor make such a grave mistake? There was enough firepower gathered at the moon to light up half the galaxy! Anyone with a half-bit comm scan could find the Death Star blind. Smugglers, pirates, the Rebel Alliance…..and belatedly, the thought struck Parck.
"Indeed," Thrawn confirmed. "Analysis."
"The Emperor is using the Death Star as bait," Parck concluded. "He's gambling that the Rebel Alliance will launch a grand scale assault on the station, so he can trap them at Endor and crush them once and for all."
Thrawn nodded. "Very good, Captain. That is indeed what the Emperor is planning to do."
Suddenly more blips and spots started appearing. The few buttons the Admiral pushed earlier….."Niriz has been quietly feeding me the fleet tactical readouts that have been assembling at Endor," the Grand Admiral said. "That was what was in the transmissions. I have been studying the implications of the Emperor's move for the past month." He paused and turned to Parck, and for the first time since he first came into contact with Thrawn, he saw just a hint of uncertainty in those glowing red eyes of his. Parck couldn't explain it, but it was definitely uncertainty.
"I have been ordering Niriz to pull the data from Coruscant, with a complete set of schematics for the Death Star, the time of completion, and the personnel assigned to the station and fleet," Thrawn continued. "You can see now why Admiral Niriz made the transmissions secure." "Yes," Parck said absently. Why would the Admiral be interested in such trivial details? Was the Emperor pulling Thrawn off of his current mission to tend to the Endor Fleet?
"No I won't be joining the Emperor at Endor," said Thrawn, his words giving that all too familiar sense of omniscience that was characteristic of the man. "Supreme Commander Teshik will be in charge of the Fleet personally. And he will be aided by three other Grand Admirals as well." Thrawn stepped around to the other side of the display still keeping his eyes on Captain Parck. He touched a few more buttons and the Endor moon was replaced with the Death Star and the surrounding ships began taking a much larger and more detailed form.
"Four Grand Admirals at Endor?" Parck said with astonishment. "Sir, isn't that overkill?"
Thrawn shrugged. "The Emperor has his reasons I presume." He turned around and pulled up some scrolling lines of data on the large viewing monitor at the back of the command room. "However, he requested my personal opinion on having him, Lord Vader, and four Grand Admirals on one space station directing the battle." A shadow crawled along his face as he turned to face Parck directly. "I told him it was a risky move, and that it could cost him greatly," he said darkly.
Parck's stomach soured. If the Grand Admiral told the Emperor that, than Thrawn did not appraise highly of the strategy. Saying such words to the Emperor could constitute treason punishable by death. But if Captain Parck remembered correctly, Thrawn had done this on at least three other occasions. Apparently the Emperor held him in high enough regard to let Thrawn go. Or else….
"Were there any other dissenting opinions given by other officers?" Parck asked. "Just one," Thrawn replied, and he pulled up the profile of an Imperial Officer. He was a middle-aged man with graying brown hair, and a neatly trimmed mustache. "Gilad Pellaeon," Parck murmured. "Afraid I've never heard of him."
"I didn't expect you to," Thrawn replied. "Honestly, I'm quite surprised myself for a man at his rank to bother logging one." Parck read the profile and instantly he knew. Pellaeon was only a Commander, the First Officer of the Chimaera, but a Commander nevertheless. "He must've felt strongly about the situation," Parck said with admiration and shock. Releasing a dissenting opinion outside of the personal log was a request to end one's career in the Imperial military.
"I agree," Thrawn said. "He didn't give a reason why he wrote one, but I suppose he recognized that the risk was too great to take on a gamble over ending the Rebellion's treachery in one battle." Parck nodded slowly. All of this was interesting, but shouldn't they be concerned with a more immediate task? "Admiral, I hope you're not overly concerned about this. I'm sure the Emperor would not risk making such a grave mistake unless he was certain of victory."
"Probably," Thrawn said. "But I can't get the notion out of my head that something has indeed gone terribly wrong. The Emperor has made a mistake somewhere. I just wish I knew where so I could point it out to him." His tone at the end of the sentence was almost melancholy. There was a moment of silence. "In any case, we have more pressing matters to deal with," the Grand Admiral finally said and sat in the Admiral's chair.
And with that final note, the display closed. After an hour longer of tactical analysis, planning, and debriefing over the latest victory in the Unknown Regions, Captain Parck stepped out of the secondary bridge, mentally exhausted from the meeting. He took a few paces and paused, and turned halfway back to the door. Parck contemplated walking back in and telling Thrawn that he was wrong, that there was no way the Empire could lose to the Rebel Alliance, that the best and brightest minds, excluding Thrawn of course, had prepared for this momentous occasion.
But if there was anything Parck learned from Thrawn, it was that the Grand Admiral's hunches were rarely wrong. And if the Grand Admiral was worried about Endor, than he should be as well. Endor could very well turn into a crisis point for the Empire.