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the Nemesis, and so on and so on. By the time the Death's Head hit the base itself, Ord Pardron would be down to a skeleton defense and screaming itself for all the reinforcements the Rebellion could scramble.

And that was where those reinforcements would go. Leaving the Empire's true target ripe for the picking.

Pellaeon looked out the forward viewport at the star of the Ukio system dead ahead, his throat tightening as he contemplated again the enormous conceit of this whole plan. With planetary shields able to hold off all but the most massive turbolaser and proton torpedo bombardment, conventional wisdom held that the only way to subdue a modern world was to put a fast-moving ground force down at the edges and send them overland to destroy the shield generators. Between the fire laid down by the ground force and the subsequent orbital assault, the target world was always badly damaged by the time it was finally taken. The alternative, landing hundreds of thousands of troops in a major ground campaign that could stretch into months or years, was no better. To capture a planet relatively undamaged but with shield generators still intact was considered an impossibility.

That bit of military wisdom would fall today. Along with Ukio itself.

"Intercepted distress signal from Filve, Admiral," the comm officer reported. "Ord Pardron again responding."

"Good." Thrawn consulted his chrono. "Seven minutes, I think, and we'll be able to move." His lips compressed, just noticeably. "I suppose we'd better confirm that our exalted Jedi Master is ready to do his part."

Pellaeon hid a grimace. Joruus C'baoth, insane clone of the long-dead Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth, who a month ago had proclaimed himself the true heir to the Empire. He didn't like talking to the man any
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