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and livestock grazing regions themselves; and in a very short time the entire planet would have become nothing more than a supply depot for the Imperial war machine.

But the alternative was for him to stand silently by and watch as his world was utterly and impossibly demolished before his eyes. And he knew that, too.

"We will lower the planetary shields, Chimaera, as a gesture of good faith," dosLla said at last, his tone defiant but with a hint of defeat to it. "But before the generators and ground/space weaponry can be turned over to Imperial forces we shall require certain guarantees regarding the safety of the Ukian people and our land."

"Certainly," Thrawn said, without any trace of the gloating that most Imperial commanders would have indulged in at this point. A small act of courtesy that, Pellaeon knew, was as precisely calculated as the rest of the attack had been. Permitting the Ukian leaders to surrender with their dignity intact would slow down the inevitable resistance to Imperial rule until it was too late. "A representative will be on his way shortly to discuss the particulars with your government," Thrawn continued. "Meanwhile, I presume you have no objection to our forces taking up preliminary defense positions?"

A sigh, more felt than really heard. "We have no objections, Chimaera," dosLla said reluctantly. "We are lowering the shield now."

On the tactical display, the blue haze surrounding the planet faded away. "Master C'baoth, have the cruisers move to polar positions," Thrawn ordered. "We don't want any of the drop ships blundering into them. General Covell, you may begin transporting your forces to the surface. Standard defensive positions around all targets."

"Acknowledged, Admiral," Covell's voice said, a little too dryly, and
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