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more than Thrawn did; but he might as well volunteer. If he didn't, it would simply become an order. "I'll go, sir," he said, standing up.

"Thank you, Captain," Thrawn said. As if Pellaeon would have had a choice.

He felt the mental summons the moment he stepped beyond the Force-protection of the ysalamiri scattered about the bridge on their nutrient frames. Master C'baoth, clearly, was impatient for the operation to begin. Preparing himself as best he could, fighting against C'baoth's casual mental pressure to hurry, Pellaeon made his way down to Thrawn's command room.

The chamber was brightly lit, in marked contrast to the subdued lighting the Grand Admiral usually preferred. "Captain Pellaeon," C'baoth called, beckoning to him from the double display ring in the center of the room. "Come in. I've been waiting for you."

"The rest of the operation has taken my full attention," Pellaeon told him stiffly, trying to hide his distaste for the man. Knowing full well how futile such attempts were.

"Of course," C'baoth smiled, a smile that showed more effectively than any words his amusement with Pellaeon's discomfort. "No matter. I take it Grand Admiral Thrawn is finally ready?"

"Almost," Pellaeon said. "We want to clear out Ord Pardron as much as possible before we move."

C'baoth snorted. "You continue to assume the New Republic will dance to the Grand Admiral's tune."

"They will," Pellaeon said. "The Grand Admiral has studied the enemy thoroughly."

"He's studied their artwork," C'baoth countered with another snort. "That will be useful if the time ever comes when the New Republic has nothing but artists left to throw against us."

A signal from the display ring saved Pellaeon from the need to reply. "We're moving," he told C'baoth, starting a mental
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