Heir to the Empire

(1991) Timothy Zahn

Chapter 1

Five years after the Battle of Endor, aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer, Chimaera, Captain Pallaeon reminisces about the decline of the Empire. 

A raiding mission to retrieve data from the border system of Obroa-skai brings pursuers, and Pallaeon gets to see Grand Admiral Thrawn demonstrate his tactical superiority. 

Thrawn savours his progress in "the only puzzle with solving … the complete, total, and utter destruction of the Rebellion."


Chapter 2

On Coruscant, Luke is farewelled by an ostensibly distracted Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke is feeling depressed by the enormity of representing the mythological Jedi and rebuilding the Order on his own. 

Leia has begun her Jedi training but is also buried under political responsibility. We are introduced to her aide, Winter, who has an eidetic memory. 

Han and Chewie are on Tatooine trying to recruit smugglers to fulfil the logistical requirements of the New Republic. They're also accompanied by Wedge Antilles and a new character Page, who is described as completely unremarkable.


Chapter 3

On the planet of Myrkr, We are introduced to the smuggler Talon Karrde and one of his newest employees, Mara Jade. Talon invites Jade to dinner under the pretence of surprising her with a promotion, but he is covertly attempting to glean more about her mysterious past. 

During their dinner, the Chimaera arrives and sends a landing party to the surrounding forest. Karrde reaches out and is met with a stern Captain Pallaeon. Karrde deduces the Empire intends to collect ysalamiri, though he can only guess as to why. 


Chapter 4

Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Pallaeon travel to Wayland, a low-tech world hiding a storehouse of the late Emperor's personal treasures and technology salient to Thrawn’s grand plan. Expecting a Dark Jedi Guardian, Thrawn thwarts the usurping ruler Joruus C’baoth’s snare with a demonstration of the ysalamiri's unusual ability to vacate the Force. 

Thrawn bargains with C’baoth to secure his allegiance in exchange for the capture of Leia’s unborn Jedi twins, whom C’baoth would mould as he sees fit. Pallaeon believes C'baoth to be unstable and a dubious ally, despite Thrawn’s confidence. Thrawn reveals that C'baoth is a clone of a Jedi Master, whose assassination Thrawn was personally involved in before the Clone Wars and Great Jedi Purge. 


Chapter 5

Han delivers a report on his mission to recruit smugglers to facilitate trade within the New Republic. Its lack of progress fans the flames in the ongoing feud between the present Commander in Chief, Admiral Ackbar, and the ambitious Borsk Fey'lya, Council Member and an important leader of the Bothan faction. After a short quarrel, Mon Mothma deescalates the situation by adjourning the meeting. 

Han is told that Luke will be accompanying him and Leia on their diplomatic mission to Bimmisaari. Leia seems keen to sojourn away from the political capital. 


Chapter 6

Han and Leia travel with Luke and C-3PO to the planet Bimmisaari on a diplomatic mission to negotiate the terms of the Bimm joining the New Republic. Leaving Chewbacca and R2-D2 on the Millennium Falcon, the four are treated to a brief greeting ceremony. However, before they can arrive at the planetary government, news arrives that the key negotiator for the Bimm has suddenly taken ill. 

Luke and Han are invited to inspect relics of the Old Republic while Leia is shown around the market, but a suspicious Han decides to join Leia instead. His suspicions prove true when they find themselves encircled by numerous armed individuals of an alien species they don't recognise.


Chapter 7

Luke frees himself from an ambush in the Bim Tower and races to rescue Leia and Han in the marketplace. Safely aboard the Millennium Falcon, Han makes the jump to lightspeed. 

It seems that one of the Bims was paid off to lead the protagonists into the trap but have no other information about their assailants. Leia wants to resume negotiations, but Han first wants to rendezvous with tactical support before returning. 

After pressure from Luke and Han, Leia agrees that she needs to start lightsaber training sooner than later. 


Chapter 8

Captain Pellaeon reports to Grand Admiral Thrawn, detailing the failure of the Noghri to capture the Skywalkers and the recovery of the tech found on Wayland. Dark Jedi Master C'baoth expresses his impatience and a new plan is hatched to capture the Skywalkers; one that suits Thrawn's upcoming plans that necessitate C'baoth presence for a raid on the Sluis Van shipyard. 

Meanwhile, back on Coruscant, the New Republic are unable to identify the assailants at Bimmisaari, and as a result politics stall. While Leia Organa Solo is set to return to Bimmisaari to resume negotiations, she requests more space in her schedule to advance her Jedi studies, but finds no support within the Council, citing her expertise as indispensable.


Chapter 9

The Imperials conduct three concurrent hit-and-fade operations in the Suis Sector. While Grand Admiral Thrawn plays his cards close to his chest, Captain Pellaeon deduces that the exercise is as much to test Master C’Baoth’s mettle as to enforce the chain of command. Pellaeon is more than a little shaken at the display of power from C’Baoth. 

Meanwhile, the raid on Bpfassh has been observed by smugglers Talon Karrde and Marra Jade at a safe distance, Karrde seemingly having foreknowledge about the operation. To Jade’s chagrin, Karrde calls off his smuggling run, citing the New Republic's imminent relief effort as a situation they wish not be entangled in. 

The chapter closes with news of the raids reaching Coruscant while Leia is engaged in her new lightsaber lessons. Luke laments that, while the skills come easily to himself, he may not be the teacher that she needs. 


Chapter 10

Leia and Han survey the damage on Bpfassh under the protective detail of Wedge Antilles and Rogue Squadron. Leia's new Jedi senses alert them just-in-time to another ambush by the same alien species that ambushed them on Bimmisaari. 

Despite being able to repel their assailants, they are nonetheless closer to understanding the motives and origin of these mysterious aliens. 

After an unproductive call with Admiral Ackbar, Han decides it's time to take the matter of their safety into their own hands.


Chapter 11

On a hunch, Luke travels to Dagobah hoping to find something — anything — left by Yoda to guide his uncertain footsteps into the future. Finding nothing in Yoda's old dwelling, he ventures into the Dark Side Cave and is confronted with a vision; a retelling of Luke's execution at the Great Pit of Carkoon where his lightsaber is intercepted by a mysterious woman. 

Rewarded for his ordeal, Luke emerges with a nondescript gadget with markings that R2-D2 suspects might be recognised by Lando.


Chapter 12

The Millennium Falcon arrives in the Athega system with Han and Leia looking to meet with Lando. Luke arrives at just the right time for them to take the slow sublight trip to the inter system since neither the Falcon nor Luke's X-Wing have slave circuits needed to precisely co-ordinate inbound ships with their shielding escort. 

Once at Nkllon, though, the Empire shows up suddenly. Bad timing or are they being tracked?


Chapter 13

Luke and the Falcon engage in a dogfight over Nkllon, during which Luke’s mind is touched by another Jedi, commanding Luke to seek him out. Despite losing time during the contact, Luke and the Falcon chase off the Imperial raid. 

Our point of view then switches to Thrawn and Pellaeon reflecting on the aftermath. Thrawn’s satisfaction at the successful acquisition of 51 mole miners is overshadowed by C’baoth’s declaration of making contact with Luke. The Jedi Master insists that it is time for his own trap to be laid, leaving Pellaeon and Thrawn to scheme on the disillusionment of C’baoth’s self-importance. 


Chapter 14

Lando is distraught at the loss of half his workforce — 51 mole miners stolen — in the raid! Han and Leia ask for help, and a plan is devised to send Leia to Kashyyyk with Chewbacca while Han and Lando broadcast decoy signals giving the illusion that Leia is still on the run. In order to achieve this, in a violation of his programming, C-3PO has his voice altered to perfectly imitate Leia’s. 

Luke shares his findings from Dagobah; what Lando identifies as a Beckon Call — a device that summons a slave-ciruit-rigged ship at a moment's notice. He later confides in Leia his true reason for searching that specific location and tells her about the contact he had during the space battle earlier. She divulges the rumour of a Master C’baoth on Jormark, and while they suspect a trap, Luke is eager at what the opportunity could mean. 


Chapter 15

After parting ways with Luke, and Leia and Chewbacca, Han and Lando discuss what their next move is. Lando suggests they find Talon Karrde, hoping to set a precedent for future dealings. 

Unbeknownst to the heroes, they were surveilled by the Imperials.  From the merger clues, Thrawn was quickly able to devise the personnel and heading of each ship. Soon they will lay a trap for Luke as he follows C'Baoth's beckon. 


Chapter 16

Luke is pulled out of hyperspace into a slaughter: his Jedi senses tell him that there's no one left alive on the cargo ship incurring the ire of an Imperial Star Destroyer. He narrowly escapes the literal tractor beam grasp of the Imperials but unwittingly incurs serious damage to his X-Wing. 

Thrawn is none too pleased with the performance of his men during the confrontation and shows just how unforgiving he can be. Instead of pursuing Luke themselves to focus on their upcoming attack on Sluis Van, Thrawn orders a bounty to go out on Luke's capture, knowing that his hyperdrive will fail presently due to the damages sustained in the confrontation. 


Chapter 17

As Thrawn had predicted, catastrophic failure befalls Luke's X-Wing half a lightyear after his escape. Both the hyperdrive and subspace radio are damaged beyond repair, leaving him and R2 (in his own words) where "we can't leave, we aren't likely to be found, and can't call for help". 

After investigating the damage, Luke decides the only thing to do is to try to reconstruct the subspace radio. Delegating the tedious task to R2, he enters a Jedi hibernation. 

Leia and Chewie arrive to Kashyyyk, and the tree-city of Rwookrrorro. They are greeted by Ralrracheen and Salporin, and Leia is surprised that she can communicate effectively with Ralrracheen. 

Leia learns a little about wookiee culture, but on the way to her supposed safehouse, she spots one of the aliens responsible for her attempted kidnapping on Bimmisaari. 


Chapter 18

Luke is roused by R2 from his Jedi hibernation as an unfamiliar ship approaches, which identifies itself as the Wild Karrde. Stranded in deep space with  no alternatives, they accept passage to an undisclosed location. 

Luke is taken to meet the ship's captain, Talon Karrde. Karrde is unimpressed with Luke's appearance, and directs his attention to the cockpit where Luke senses the bitter, black hate hidden within Mara Jade. Luke is unable to explain her contempt for him, nor provide any other information that Karrde deems valuable. 

Suddenly, Karrde rewards Luke's lack of caution with a stun bolt, succeeding where Thrawn's Noghri had failed; in capturing the Last of the Jedi. 


Chapter 19

Luke awakens in some kind of barrack dorm on an unfamiliar forest world. He attempts to use his Jedi powers to refresh himself and takes in his surroundings. His attempts are apparently unsuccessful and he is startled by the presence of Mara Jade, whom he could not sense in the Force. In fact, he can sense nothing at all, and his lightsaber hangs from her hip. 

She takes him from his holdings across the forest-side compound to have another conversation with Karrde about politics, intrigue, and his predicament. Luke learns of the ysalamiri and a little of the circumstances of how he came to be (in no small measure due to Jade's influence) in the possession of Karrde's group.  

This interaction does not end with Luke unconscious; he is instead marched icily back to his "accommodation" by Jade.  


Chapter 20

Han and Lando arrive on Abregado Rae looking for a point of contact with Karrde's organisation. Before leaving the ship, Han exchanges coded messages with Winter over comms about the increasingly strained situation on Coruscant. 

They disembark and enter LoBue, a local casino. Han spots a familiar face, Fynn Torve, and wedges himself into their ongoing game of sabacc. Han surreptitiously reports to Torve that his ship is being seized. Before the game can progress past the deal, though, Han is accused of cheating by a burly reverend. In the ensuing commotion, Lando escapes with the contact. 

Back on the Falcon, Han and Lando broker a deal with Torve to get a face-to-face with Talon Karrde back at Karrde's base of operations. 


Chapter 21

Mara Jade convenes with Talon Karrde to discuss the conundrum facing them: Han and Lando will be arriving presently, escorting an indebted Fynn Torv. Even though they hold Luke hostage, Karrde is unwilling to tip his hand without first determining Thrawn's specific interest in Skywalker, and thus his fair market value. 

Karrde decides the best course of action is for Jade to relocate Skywalker to a storeroom while he plays host to Skywalker's unwitting allies. 

In the storeroom, Luke presumes that he has been left to his own devices in a sudden scramble. He makes contact with R2 in the next room of the storehouse, but — underestimating Karrde's thoroughness — he finds no purchase on which to mount an escape. 

That is, until he realises an advantage hiding right under his own (prosthetic) skin. 


Chapter 22

Han’s pitch to join the New Republic fails to win over Karrde, who values independence — thus the appearance of neutrality — over all. So when Han offers a covert arrangement, Karrde warns not to underestimate the reach of Imperial Intelligence, which strikes a sore spot and reminds Han to ask for an adept slicer, whom Karrde graciously agrees to introduce over dinner. 

During their meal and shortly after introductions, Karrde has to excuse himself to tend to an emergency: the Grand Admiral is announcing that he himself will be making a courtesy call. Mara is impatient to propitiate Thrawn by handing over the people she sees as impediments but — among other considerations, being the gracious host that he is — Karrde views Solo and Calrissian as his guests and thus entitled to his protection. He orders her to prepare for Thrawn’s arrival and obfuscate any indications of non-neutrality.

Unknowing of the developing predicament, Luke escapes from the storehouse with R2-D2 they were being held in and head for his X-Wing. When it’s not where they expects it to be, they commandeer one of Karrde’s fighters to facilitate their escape. 

Jade witnesses the unauthorised flight and deduces that Skywalker has escaped. Chiding herself over her failures to exact her vendetta, she is now in unhindered pursuit of him.


Chapter 23

Luke has made his escape attempt in a stolen Skipray but Jade is in hot pursuit. He skims the tree canopy to avoid notice from the Imperials coming in to land from orbit. Just as he is about to pull a manoeuvre to shake Jade from his tail, he clips the trees and crashes into the forest. 

Back at the compound, Karrde receives Thrawn's landing party. Unaware of the crash, Karrde is unable to refuse the ostensible repayment for supplying Thrawn with ysalamiri. Thrawn orders his already-prepared troops to investigate the crash. 

From behind the treeline, Han and Lando watch the conversation. Their chaperon, the slicer Ghent, is anxious to get them back to the cover and safety of the Falcon. Ghent has little to offer to appease their curiosity, but it is enough for Han and Lando to investigate elsewhere.

At the crash site, Luke returns to consciousness unharmed. Before he can escape, his moral compunction presses him to check on Jade, only for her to be lying in wait for such Jedi drivel. 

As they leave the ruined craft, Jade hears an approaching craft that she recognises as Imperial. They hide as the crash is searched and left. 

Luke struggles to convince Jade to keep him alive for the long trek to salvation. She is reluctantly won over by the necessity to send an encrypted transmission to Karrde using the idiosyncratic encoding shared between R2-D2 and Luke's captured X-Wing.  


Chapter 24

Karrde apologises to Han and Lando after their dinner interruption by the Imperials. Han presses Karrde about his dealing with them but Karrde refuses to sell them information but does convince them to stay for their safety. 

Han and Lando ostensibly return to the Falcon but break off behind the treeline to play detective on the prisoner that Karrde had been keeping in one of the storehouses. While their investigation is interrupted by the reappearance of Karrde, they piece the clues together that Luke had been the prisoner. Karrde admits to the situation and tells them that — as far as they know — Luke and Jade are safe and making their return through the forest. 

On the Chimera, Thrawn suspects the truth of Karrde's deception and dispatches a contingent of Stormtroopers to lie in wait for the survivors of the crash to emerge from the forest at the closest settlement. 

In the forest as dusk fades away, Mara grapples with her cognitive dissonance between newfound loyalties and her fierce independent streak. She is frustrated at the encumbrance of Skywalker and his droid. After putting down a wild vornskr, she takes some stimpills and renews her determination to be the one to kill Skywalker when this is all through. 

At his compound, Karrde laments his choices and how they have brought him to this predicament. He is reluctant to order the execution of Skywalker, but would rather that than taking his chances having crossed Grand Admiral Thrawn. Karrde wonders if — like his pet vornskrs — his domestication of Mara has taken enough to navigate a safe return. 


Chapter 25

Leia awakens before dawn with a vague sense of having overstayed her period of safety. She is indeed correct as the grey-skinned aliens appear out of the gloom. She smites one of her would-be kidnappers and another — after mysteriously faltering — is knocked unconscious by Chewbacca.  

Together with Ralracheen, they descend the Great Tree. The assailants want Leia alive, and so  pursue at a distance, which Leia uses to her advantage to lay a trap to disable the remaining kidnappers. 

With one assailant in custody, Leia proceeds with an interrogation. The kidnapper, Khabarakh, identifies Leia as the Mal'ary'ush — the daughter and heir to Lord Darth Vader. Khabarakh divulges the identity and motivations of the noghri people through their debt of gratitude to Vader and — by extension — the Empire. Leia manoeuvres negotiations to extend a parlay between the noghri and Leia herself. 

Khabarakh is sent offworld to convey Leia's offer of a parlay to the noghri, as begins a period of mourning for Chewbacca's lifelong friend Salporin, who was killed in the attack. 


Chapter 26

On Kashyyyk, Leia Organa Solo has gone into hiding with Chewbacca but they are once again set upon by their attempted abductors. Through a mixture of struggle, luck, and perceptiveness, the kidnapping is thwarted with an assailant in custody. During the interrogation, the Noghri Khabarakh identifies Leia as the Mal’ary’ush — the daughter and heir to Darth Vader, whom the Noghri people hold in high esteem. Despite having killed Chewbacca’s childhood friend, Leia grants clemency in the hopes of being granted a solo parley on the Noghri homeworld.

On Myrkr after having crashed in the wilderness, Luke Skywalker and sworn mortal enemy Mara Jade have to rely on each other’s skills to survive the return to civilization. Mara marches Skywalker at blasterpoint as she struggles with her ideals, vendetta, and the realities of her situation. Despite the obvious enmity, she remains reticent about her past and his transgression.

To make matters more complicated, Grand Admiral Thrawn has left a contingent of stormtroopers at their exit point to catch Mara’s superior Talon Karrde in the lie of having no involvement with Skywalker, as Karrde also hides Han Solo and Lando Calrissian away from the observant Imperial Commander.

Han and Lando are first to uncover the deception and gain valuable intel that may lead the New Republic to identify Thrawn as the mysterious commander of the reorganised Imperial Remnants.

Privately, Karrde laments his predicament and reluctantly gives the order for his people to execute Skywalker should his deception be exposed to the Imperials. 


Chapter 27

Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Pelleaon are entering active preparation for the raid on Sluis Van. The Imperial Remnants have stretched their resources to implement the prototype shield technology they recovered from the Emperor’s storehouse on Wayland, and now is the final test.

Thrawn is pleased with the outcome of both their preparations and the prototype test, and greenlights the Sluissi operation. Pellaeon raises objections to Thrawn’s self-assurance, but has his points thoroughly rebuked by the Admiral. The operation will go ahead as planned without the involvement of C’baoth.

On Coruscant, the political climate is reaching a boiling point, with support waning from the bureaucratic Admiral Akbar in favour of the sentient-of-the-people Fey'lya. Wedge grimly accepts his marching orders to fly escort for a shipment bound for Bpfassh via Sluis Van.


Chapter 28

After the catharsis about her past, Mara has dropped her overt hostility and adopted a more surly attitude towards Luke, more willingly working with him to exit the forest.

With the sound of the Imperial speeders echoing around them, Luke and Mara discuss the best strategy for emergence; he stows his lightsaber into R2-D2’s dome for safekeeping, they exchange weapons to swap apparent roles, and Mara applies some erythrogenic/anaphylactic local flora to Luke’s face to obscure his identity.

Prepared, they emerge from the forest into the hands of the Imperials. They are taken to the major in charge of the Imperial contingent who regards them with suspicion. In spite of Luke’s feigned protests, they are both detained until further interrogation in the city.

On Hyllyard’s highstreet, a group of Karrde’s henchmen is relieved of their weapons while delivering a scoundrel — a roughed up Han Solo — for Imperial Justice. However, Han is a plant, here to warn the Imperial detainees of Karrde’s imminent ambush. Seeing a tactical opportunity, Luke creates a commotion so that R2-D2 can inform the ambushers (via C-3PO in binary droid-speak) on the optimal timing for their attack.


Chapter 29

The ambush is set, but with new information from C-3PO, Lando and Karrde’s administrator Aves butt heads over whether to abide by their strategic preparations or Luke’s intuition. Blaster to Ave’s head, Lando stakes his and Karrde’s mens’ lives on Luke; a gamble that leaves him mortally wounded.

In the firezone, Luke, Mara, and Han take cover until Luke can engage his plan. On his command, Han creates a distraction for R2-D2 to toss Luke’s lightsaber for him. In the confusion, Luke fells the very archway the Imperials are using for cover, destroying the armoured Imperial Chariot. 


Chapter 30

In the aftermath of the firefight, Karrde directs his people to evacuate Myrkr, believing their ruse impossible to hide from Thrawn's observational and inferential prowess. Before parting ways, he asks Solo to loan one of the New Republic 's gutted warships to help with the evacuation.

Luke and Han help an injured but very much alive Lando onto the Millennium Falcon. They debrief each other as they depart, and Han says that he wants to take a detour through Sluis Van to give Lando proper medical treatment and Luke some much needed rest before diving into the political hotbed on Coruscant.

However: Lying in wait at Sluis Van, Thrawn has begun his operation to take ships out of the shipyard. Upon hearing that the Imperial detachment on Myrkr has failed to report in, he concludes that Skywalker was indeed there, undoubtedly aided by Karrde. He makes a point of deferring retribution to focus on the imminent battle.


Chapter 31

The Sluis Van Shipyards are mired with repurposed warships trying to make up for the logistical deficiencies of the New Republic.

While awaiting the processing of his charge, Wedge Antilles’s instincts tell him to investigate an approaching freighter. Just before Rogue Squadron's approach, it literally explodes with activity, releasing TIE fighters and unidentified snub crafts. Having presently arrived, the Millenium Falcon jumps the docking regulations to enter the fray; Han and Luke both identify the snubs as Lando’s stolen mole miners. 

At the edge of the Sluissi system, Thrawn and Pellaeon direct the Imperial assault. Upon seeing the Falcon, Thrawn is now certain of Karrde’s earlier deception, but tucks that away for a later time. 

As the battle continues, Wedge, Han, and Luke discover the mole miners are being used to hijack the repurposed warships running materiel through the shipyard. Injured though he is, Lando activates his override codes for the mole miners, boring through the bridge of every escaping warship. 

Unperturbed, Thrawn orders the retreat, and measuredly edifies Pellaeon that their campaign has only yet begun.


Chapter 32

Lando’s override of the mole miners has brought a quick end to the assault. However with capital ship support withdrawn, the remaining Imperial forces prove obstinate; with many space troopers willing to act as suicide bombers rather than assent to the call for surrender.

The captain of the Larkhess voices the bleak outcome of the battle: this many decapitated warships is going to be hard to spin as a victory. 

Han receives a call from Leia: Akbar has been arrested for treason. Han will head immediately to Coruscant, with Luke just a few hours behind as soon as his X-Wing is able.