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on delaying me, we've lost the Peremptory. I trust you're satisfied."

C'baoth met the gaze evenly. "Don't blame the incompetence of your would-be conquerors on me," he said, his voice as icy as Thrawn's. "Or perhaps it wasn't incompetence, but the skill of the Rebellion. Perhaps it would be you lying dead now if the Chimaera had gone instead."

Thrawn's face darkened. Pellaeon eased a half step closer to the Grand Admiral, moving a little farther into the protective sphere of the ysalamir beside the command chair, and braced himself for the explosion.

But Thrawn had better control than that. "Why are you here?" be asked instead.

C'baoth smiled and turned deliberately away. "You've made many promises to me since you first arrived on Wayland, Grand Admiral Thrawn," he said, pausing to peer at one of the hologram sculptures scattered around the room. "I'm here to make sure those promises are kept."

"And how do you intend to do that?"

"By making certain that I'm too important to be, shall we say, conveniently forgotten," C'baoth said. "I'm hereby informing you, therefore, that I will be returning to Wayland : and will be assuming command of your Mount Tantiss project."

Pellaeon felt his throat tighten. "The Mount Tantiss project?" Thrawn asked evenly.

"Yes," C'baoth said, smiling again as his eyes flicked to Pellaeon. "Oh, I know about it, Captain. Despite your petty efforts to conceal the truth from me."

"We wished to spare you unnecessary discomfort," Thrawn assured him. "Unpleasant memories, for example, that the project might bring to mind."

C'baoth studied him. "Perhaps you did," he conceded with only a touch of sarcasm. "If that was truly your motive, I thank you. But the time for such things has passed. I have grown in power and ability since
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