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C'baoth smile. "What doesn't matter to a Jedi Master does not matter to the universe."

The freighters and cloaked cruisers were nearly to the shield now. "They'll be dropping the tow cables as soon as they're inside the shield," Pellaeon reminded C'baoth. "Are you ready?"

The Jedi Master straightened up in his seat and closed his eyes to slits. "I await the Grand Admiral's command," he said sardonically.

For another second Pellaeon looked at the other's composed expression, a shiver running up through him. He could remember vividly the first time C'baoth had tried this kind of direct long-distance control. Could remember the pain that had been on C'baoth's face; the pinched look of concentration and agony as he struggled to hold the mental contacts.

Barely two months ago, Thrawn had confidently said that C'baoth would never be a threat to the Empire because he lacked the ability to focus and concentrate his Jedi power on a long-term basis. Somehow, between that time and now, C'baoth had obviously succeeded in learning the necessary control.

Which left C'baoth as a threat to the Empire. A very dangerous threat indeed.

The intercom beeped. "Captain Pellaeon?"

Pellaeon reached over the display ring and touched the key, pushing away his fears about C'baoth as best he could. For the moment, at least, the Fleet needed C'baoth. Fortunately, perhaps, C'baoth also needed the Fleet. "We're ready, Admiral," he said.

"Stand by," Thrawn said. "Tow cables detaching now."

"They are free," C'baoth said. "They are under power . . . moving now to their appointed positions."

"Confirm that they're beneath the planetary shield," Thrawn ordered.

For the first time a hint of the old strain crossed C'baoth's face. Hardly surprising; with the cloaking shield preventing
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