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three: stand by firing sequence one on my mark. Three . . . two . . . one . . . fire."

On the tactical hologram a double lance of green fire angled out from the Chimaera's turbolaser batteries toward the planet below. The blasts struck the hazy blue of the planetary shield, splashed slightly as their energy was defocused and reflected back into space—

And with the desired perfect timing the two cloaked cruisers hovering on repulsorlifts beneath the shield at those two points fired in turn, their turbolaser blasts sizzling through the atmosphere into two of Ukio's major air defense bases.

That was what Pellaeon saw. The Ukians, with no way of knowing about the cloaked cruisers, would have seen the Chimaera fire two devastating shots cleanly through an impenetrable planetary shield.

"Third transmission cut off right in the middle, sir," the comm officer reported with a touch of dark humor. "I think we surprised them."

"Let's convince them it wasn't a fluke," Thrawn said. "Prepare firing sequence two. Master C'baoth?"

"The cruisers are ready."

"Turbolaser battery two: stand by firing sequence two on my mark. Three . . . two . . . one . . . fire."

Again the green fire lanced out, and again, with perfect timing, the cloaked cruisers created their illusion. "Well done," Thrawn said. "Master C'baoth, move the cruisers into position for sequences three and four."

"As you command, Grand Admiral Thrawn."

Unconsciously, Pellaeon braced himself. Sequence four had two of the Ukians' thirty overlapping shield generators as its targets. Launching such an attack would mean that Thrawn had given up on his stated goal of taking Ukio with its planetary defenses intact.

"Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera, this is Tol dosLla of the Ukian Overliege," a slightly
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