Sometimes it seems a Jedi’s work is never done and Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker know this only too well. Despite the bond they share in the Force, after three years of marriage the Jedi Master and his wife are still learning the ropes of being a couple—and struggling to find time together between the constant demands of duty. But all that will change when they’re united on an unexpected mission—and must pool their exceptional skills to combat an insidious enemy . . . and salvage a part of Jedi history.
It begins with a message from a surprising source: Nirauan, the planet where Thrawn, dangerous disciple of Emperor Palpatine, once held sway . . . and from which Luke and Mara barely escaped with their lives. The message itself is shocking. After fifty years, the remains of Outbound Flight—a pioneering Jedi expedition viciously destroyed by Thrawn—have been found on Nirauan. Now, the fiercely honor-bound aliens who reside there wish to turn over the remnants of the doomed mission to the New Republic. Accepting the gesture will mean a long voyage into the treacherous cluster of stars where the thousands of souls aboard the Outbound Flight vessel met their grim fate. But it may also mean something more . . . something that has stirred an inexplicable sense of foreboding in Mara.
Whatever may await, the Skywalkers will not face it alone. Joining them on the strange and solemn journey are an officer of the post-Palpatine Empire, escorted by a detachment of Imperial stormtroopers; a party of diplomats from a gentle alien species that reveres the fallen Jedi for saving them from bloodthirsty conquerors; and a New Republic ambassador who harbors his own mysterious agenda.
Soon enough, suspicion, secrecy, and an unknown saboteur run rampant aboard the isolated ship. But it is within the derelict walls of Outbound Flight itself, buried for half a century on a desolate planetoid, where the gravest danger lies. As the marooned hulk yields up stunning revelations and unexpected terrors to its visitors, Luke and Mara find all they stand for—and their very existence—brutally challenged. And the ultimate test will be surviving the deathtrap carefully laid by foes who are legendary for their ruthlessness . . . and determined to complete the job Thrawn began: exterminating the Jedi.
About the Author
Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels have more than 4 million copies in print. Since 1978 he has written nearly seventy short stories and novelettes, nineteen novels, and three short fiction collections, and won the 1984 Hugo Award for best novella. He is best known for his five Star Wars books (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, Specter of the Past, and Vision of the Future). He lives with his family on the Oregon coast.
Read an Excerpt
The Imperial Star Destroyer moved silently through the blackness of space, its lights dimmed, its huge sublight engines blazing with the urgency of its mission.
The man standing on the command walkway could feel the rumble of those engines through his boots as he listened to the muttered conversation from the crew pits below him. The conversation sounded worried, too, as worried as he himself felt.
Though for entirely different reasons. For him, this was a personal matter, the frustration of a professional dealing with fallible beings and the capriciousness of a universe that refused to always live up to one’s preconceived notions as to what was fitting and proper. An error had been made, possibly a very serious error. And as with all errors, there would likely be unpleasant consequences riding in its wake.
From the starboard crew pit came a muffled curse, and he stifled a grimace. None of that mattered to the Star Destroyer’s crew. Their worries stemmed solely from their performance, and whether they would be facing a pat on the back or a boot in the rear at journey’s end.
Or possibly they were merely worried about the sublight engines blowing up. On this ship, one never knew.
He shifted his attention downward, his gaze leaving the grandeur of the starscape and coming to rest on the bow of the Star Destroyer stretching out more than a kilometer in front of him. He could remember the days when the mere sight of one of these ships would send shivers up the spines of the bravest of fighters and the most arrogant of smugglers.
But those days were gone, hopefully forever. The Empire had been rehabilitated, though of course many within the New Republic still refused to believe that. Under Supreme Commander Pellaeon’s firm guidance, the Empire had signed a treaty with the New Republic, and was no longer any more threatening than the Bothans or the Corporate Sector or anyone else.
Almost unwillingly, he smiled as he gazed along the Star Destroyer’s long prow. Of course, even in the old days of the Empire, this particular ship would probably have inspired more bewilderment than fear.
It was, after all, hard to take a bright red Star Destroyer very seriously.
From behind him, audible even over the rumble of the engines, came the sound of clumping boots. “Okay, Karrde,” Booster Terrik grunted as he came to a halt at his side. “The comm’s finally fixed. You can transmit whenever you want.”
“Thank you,” Talon Karrde said, turning back toward the crew pits and trying hard not to blame Booster for the state his equipment was in. An Imperial Star Destroyer was a huge amount of ship to take care of, and Booster never had nearly enough personnel to do the job right. “H’sishi?” he called. “Go.”
[Yes, Chieftain,] the Togorian called back from the comm board, her fur fluffing slightly as her clawed fingers touched the keys. [Transmission complete. Shall I begin alerting the rest of the network now?]
“Yes,” Karrde said. “Thank you.”
H’sishi nodded and returned her attention to the board.
With that, Karrde knew, he’d done all he could for the moment. Turning again to face the stars, he folded his arms across his chest and tried hard to cultivate his patience. “It’ll be all right,” Booster murmured from beside him. “We’ll be around this star in half an hour and be able to jump to lightspeed. We can be in the Domgrin system in two standard days, tops.”
“Assuming the hyperdrive doesn’t break down again.” Karrde waved a hand. “Sorry. I’m just—you understand.”
“Sure,” Booster said. “But relax, all right? This is Luke and Mara we’re talking about, not some fresh-hatched Neimoidian grubs. Whatever’s going on, they’re not going to be caught flat-footed.”
“Maybe,” Karrde said. “Though even Jedi can be surprised.” He shook his head. “But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that I messed up. I don’t like it when that happens.”
Booster shrugged his massive shoulders. “Like any of the rest of us do?” he asked pointedly. “You have to face the facts, Karrde, and Fact Number One is that you simply can’t know everyone who works for you anymore.”
Karrde glared out at the mockingly cheerful red ship stretched out in front of him. But Booster was right. This whole thing had gotten completely out of hand.
He’d started out modestly enough, merely offering to provide timely information to the leaders of the New Republic and Empire so that both sides could be assured that the other wasn’t plotting against them. And for the first couple of years everything had gone just fine.
The trouble had come when the various planetary and sector governments within the New Republic had woken up to the benefits of this handy service and decided they wanted aboard, too. After the near civil war that had broken out over the Caamas Document, Karrde hadn’t really felt like turning them down, and with permission from his clients on Coruscant and Bastion he’d gone ahead and expanded his operations.
Which naturally meant expanding his personnel as well. In retrospect, he supposed, it had only been a matter of time before something like this happened. He just wished it hadn’t happened to Luke and Mara. “Maybe not,” he told Booster. “But even if I can’t handle everything personally, it’s still my responsibility.”
“Ah,” Booster said knowingly. “So it’s your pride that’s hurt, is it?”
Karrde eyed his old friend. “Tell me, Booster. Has anyone ever told you you’re truly irritating when you try to be sympathetic?”
“Yeah, the subject’s come up once or twice,” Booster said, grinning. He slapped Karrde’s back. “Come on. Let’s go down to the Transis Corridor and I’ll buy you a drink.”
“Assuming the drink dispensers are working today,” Karrde murmured as they headed back along the command walkway.
“Well, yeah,” Booster conceded. “Always assuming that.” ...
As cantinas went, Mara Jade Skywalker thought as she sipped her drink, this was definitely one of the strangest she’d ever been in.
Part of that might simply have been due to the locale. Here in the Outer Rim, culture and style weren’t exactly up to the standards of Coruscant and the rest of the Core Worlds. That might explain the gaudy wall hangings juxtaposed with ancient plumbing woven around modern drink dispensers, all of it set against a background decor consisting mainly of polished droid parts dating back to before the Clone Wars.
As for the unbreakable mugs and the heavy, stone-topped table she was seated at, the smoothed-over blaster scars in the walls and ceiling were more than enough explanation. When the patrons dived under the tables in the middle of a firefight, they would want those tables to afford them some protection. And they wouldn’t want to find themselves sitting on bits of broken crockery, either.
There was no rationale at all, of course, for the very loud, very off-key music.
A brush of air touched her shoulder, and a heavyset man appeared from behind her, pushing his way through the milling crowd. “Sorry,” he huffed as he circled the table and landed his bulk back in the seat across from her. “Business, business, business. Never lets up for a minute.”
“I suppose not,” Mara agreed. He didn’t fool her for a second; even without Force sensitivity she would have spotted the furtiveness hidden behind the noise and bustle. Jerf Huxley, master smuggler and minor terror of the Outer Rim, was up to something unpleasant.
The only question was how unpleasant he was planning for that something to be.
“Yeah, it’s crazy out here,” Huxley went on, taking a noisy swallow of the drink he’d left behind when he hurried off on the mysterious errand that had taken him away from their table. “ ’Course, you know all that. Or at least you used to.” He eyed her over the rim of his mug. “What’s so funny?”
“Oh, nothing,” Mara said, not bothering to erase the smile that had caught the other’s attention. “I was just thinking about what a trusting person you are.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, frowning.
“Your drink,” Mara said, gesturing to his mug. “You go away and leave it alone with me, and then you just come back and toss it down without even wondering if I’ve put something in it.”
Huxley’s lips puckered, and through the Force Mara caught a hint of his chagrin. He hadn’t worried about his drink, of course, because he’d had her under close surveillance the whole time he was gone. He also hadn’t intended for her to know that. “All right, fine,” he said, banging the mug back onto the table. “Enough with the games. Let’s hear it. Why are you here?”
With a man like this, Mara knew, there was no point in glaze- coating it. “I’m here on behalf of Talon Karrde,” she said. “He wanted me to thank you for your assistance and that of your organization over the past ten years, and to inform you that your services will no longer be required.”
Huxley’s face didn’t even twitch. Clearly, he’d already suspected this was coming. “Starting when?” he asked.
“Starting now,” Mara said. “Thanks for the drink, and I’ll be on my way.”
“Not so fast,” Huxley said, lifting a hand.
Mara froze halfway to her feet. Behind Huxley, blasters had abruptly appeared in the hands of three of the men who had hitherto been minding their own business at the bar. Blasters that were, not surprisingly, pointed at her. “Sit down,” he ordered. Carefully, Mara eased back into her chair. “Was there something else?” she asked mildly.
Huxley gestured again, more emphatically this time, and the off-key background music shut off. As did all conversation. “So that’s it, is it?” Huxley demanded quietly. In the sudden silence, even a soft voice seemed to ring against the battered walls. “Karrde’s going to toss us aside, just like that?”
“I presume you read the news,” Mara said, keeping her voice calm. All around her, she could sense the single-minded animosity of the crowd. Huxley had apparently stocked the place with his friends and associates. “Karrde’s getting out of the smuggling business. Has been, for the past three years. He doesn’t need your services anymore.”
“Yeah, he doesn’t need,” Huxley said with a sniff. “What about what we need?”
“I don’t know,” Mara said. “What do you need?”
“Maybe you don’t remember what it’s like in the Outer Rim, Jade,” Huxley said, leaning over the table toward her. “But out here, you don’t split things three ways against the ends. You work for one group, period, or you don’t work at all. We burned our skyarches behind us years ago when we started working for Karrde. If he pulls out, what are we supposed to do?”
“I expect you’ll have to make new arrangements,” Mara said. “Look, you had to have known this was coming. Karrde’s made no secret of the direction he’s been taking.”
“Yeah, right,” Huxley said contemptuously. “Like anyone believed he’d really go straight.”
He drew himself up. “So you want to know what we need? Fine. What we need is something to tide us over until we can get back in the business with someone else.”
So there it was: a simple and straightforward pocket-shake. Nothing subtle from this bunch. “How much?” she asked.
“Five hundred thousand.” His lip twisted slightly. “In cash credits.”
Mara kept her face expressionless. She’d come here prepared for something like this, but that number was way beyond reason. “And where exactly do you expect me to get this little tide-me-over?” she asked. “I don’t carry that much spending money on me.”
“Don’t get cute,” Huxley growled. “You know as well as I do that Karrde’s got a sector clearinghouse over on Gonmore. They’ll have all the credits there we need.”
He dug into a pocket and produced a hold-out blaster. “You’re going to call and tell them to bring it to us,” he said, leveling the weapon at her face across the table. “Half a million. Now.”
“Really.” Casually, keeping her hands visible, Mara turned her head to look behind her. Most of the cantina’s nonsmuggler patrons had already made a quiet exit, she noted, or else had gathered into groups on either side of the confrontation, staying well out of the potential lines of fire. Of more immediate concern was the group of about twenty humans and aliens who had spread themselves out in a semicircle directly behind her, all of them with weapons trained on her back.
All of them also showing varying degrees of wariness, she noted with a certain malicious amusement. Her reputation had apparently preceded her. “You throw an interesting party, Huxley,” she said, turning back to face the smuggler chief. “But you don’t really think you’re equipped to deal with a Jedi, do you?”
Huxley smiled. A very evil smile. A surprisingly evil smile, actually, given the circumstances. “Matter of fact, yeah, I do.” He raised his voice. “Bats?”
Interview with Timothy Zahn
Del Rey: How long has it been since your last Star Wars book? How does it feel to be back in that galaxy long ago and far, far away?
Timothy Zahn:THE HAND OF THRAWN duology was published in 1997 and 1998, so it's been almost six years. I have done a few Star Wars short stories in that time, though, so it isn't like I've been out of the galaxy far, far away entirely.
DR:You mentioned THE HAND OF THRAWN. That series, along with its predecessor, THE THRAWN TRILOGY, remains hugely popular with fans. What is it that sets your Star Wars books apart?
TZ:That's a question you'd have to ask the fans, because I really can't tell you. As an author, I simply do my best to create a story with an interesting plot, characters the reader will care about, lots of action, and maybe a few twists along the way. At that point, all I can do is hope that what I've done will connect with the readers. So far, I've been very fortunate.
DR:Your new novel, SURVIVOR'S QUEST, is also concerned with Admiral Thrawn—or, rather, with the consequences of certain actions taken by him. How does this book fit into the Star Wars timeline? Is it a direct sequel to your two previous series or only tangentially related?
TZ:All of my Star Wars books have sort of melded into a single series, dealing with the same characters and some of the same events . . . or, as you say, the consequences of those events. Once the OUTBOUND FLIGHT book is finished, the books will form a loose septet spanning roughly fifty years of Star Wars history.
DR:Tell us a little about OUTBOUND FLIGHT and thepart it plays in the novel.
TZ:OUTBOUND FLIGHT was a project to send an expedition to another galaxy in the days before the Clone Wars, a project pushed strongly by Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth. On its way through the Unknown Regions, it was attacked and destroyed by the young Chiss commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo, better known to us as Thrawn. In SURVIVOR'S QUEST, the Chiss have discovered the remains of OUTBOUND FLIGHT a considerable distance from where it was destroyed, and invite Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker to accompany them on the official voyage to examine the wreckage. Also along are representatives of an alien species who wants to pay their last respects, a group of stormtroopers from Thrawn's Empire of the Hand, and a New Republic ambassador with some private ghosts of his own.
DR:Luke and Mara are still basically newlyweds as the novel opens. They both have doubts to work through—not about their love for each other, but about their own pasts, and the still-mysterious past of the Jedi order. Can you talk a little bit about this element of the novel?
TZ:Though Mara has fully joined the New Republic, there are still parts of her past Imperial service that hold a draw for her, particularly the order and discipline the Empire offered, and she discovers she still has to work through some of those feelings. Luke, for his part, is still struggling with questions about his role as "the" Jedi Master of the New Republic, as well as how some of the rules and traditions of the old Jedi order relate to the new Jedi Order he's trying to build.
DR:In writing SURVIVOR'S QUEST, you're limited in what can happen to Luke and Mara by future events already set down by other writers in books like The New Jedi Order series. Did you find that constraint to be a troublesome one? How do you keep up the suspense when readers already know what's going to happen to your characters in the future?
TZ:I didn't find that a particular problem, since I suspect most readers already know I'm not going to kill Luke or Mara, or even lop off a limb or two. However, even though the Skywalkers may be safe, there are still quite a few secondary characters who the readers will hopefully also come to root for. And their fates are in no way guaranteed.
DR:What is the relationship of the Empire of the Hand to the Empire of Palpatine?
TZ:The Empire of the Hand is Thrawn's legacy, his version of the Empire of Palpatine that he brought to the Unknown Regions. Since Thrawn didn't have Palpatine's megalomania and xenophobia, there are some interesting differences between the two institutions.
DR:Tell us about Fel, who commands a squad of stormtroopers from the Empire of the Hand. Will we be seeing more of him in the future?
TZ:Chak Fel is one of the sons of the legendary Baron Fel, created by Mike Stackpole and shamelessly borrowed by me every chance I get. As to whether we'll be seeing more of him, I guess that'll depend on whether or not he lives through the book!
DR:In addition to the novel, you've written an eBook novella, FOOL'S BARGAIN, set before the action of SURVIVOR'S QUEST begins. Is this a prelude to the novel, or a stand-alone adventure?
TZ:It's sort of a prelude, telling the back-story of one of the stormtroopers in the book, an alien, and how he first came to join up.
DR:Is there any formula you follow to create your alien characters and races?
TZ:Not really. I usually check the various Star Wars alien listings first to see if I can use an existing species. If I can, great; if not, I make up my own. As to specific characters, I create them pretty much as I do human characters: give 'em a job to do in the book, and let them do it. Of course, I also try to come up with a few interesting non-human characteristics to give them, as well.
DR:What can you tell us about the next book in the series?
TZ:The next book will actually be the first chronologically in my Star Wars septet: the story of OUTBOUND FLIGHT, which takes place about fifty years before SURVIVOR'S QUEST. Interestingly enough, because of the way the publication schedule fell out, there are several mysteries and questions raised in SURVIVOR'S QUEST about what happened to OUTBOUND FLIGHT that won't be answered until that book. But, hey—if prequels are good enough for George Lucas, they're certainly good enough for me!
DR:Any other Star Wars projects on the horizon?
TZ:I'm currently working on a two-part Clone Wars-era story for the Star Wars Insider featuring Obi-Wan and Anakin. After that, of course, there's the OUTBOUND FLIGHT book. Aside from those, there's nothing else pending.
DR:Fans of your Star Wars work may be pleasantly surprised to learn that your talents aren't restricted to Star Wars. Tell us about some of your other projects.
TZ:The second book of my six-book young-adult Dragonback series, DRAGON AND SOLDIER, will be published this coming May or June. (The first book, DRAGON AND THIEF, comes out in paperback in March.) I also have a sort of modern-day SF/fantasy book called THE GREEN AND THE GRAY, which is due out in September. My three military SF Cobra books, which have been out of print for a while, will also be published in September in an omnibus edition.
DR:As a successful writer, with a Hugo Award to your credit, you obviously don't need to write Star Wars books. What keeps you coming back, and keeps the universe and characters fresh?
TZ:What keeps Star Wars fresh is the same thing that keeps any other writing project fresh: challenging stories to write, interesting and likeable characters to create or revisit, and, of course, a vast and intricate universe to play in. Since that first awesome Star Destroyer overflight back in 1977, Star Wars has been an important and enjoyable part of my life. I see no reason why that should change any time soon.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
this book seriously is amazing i love it and it features two of my favorite star wars charecters luke skywalker and his wife mara jade skywalker this book is 5 stars out of 5 and 10 stars out of 10 stars this book is a well written book buy it now in hardcover before it goes out of print btrust me this book is amazing if the hardcover goes out of print buy the paperback
I highly recommended this book for all Star Wars fans. Be sure you read them all.
This is a good book worth reading by any fan of the Star Wars franchise. Fair warning, it falls dismally short when compared to Zahn's previous books. I felt far too much time was spent on investigating mysterious events. For quite some time, it felt like the hardy boys/Nancy Drew in space. Things start to pickup, thankfully, about half way through. I think the author did do a good job with character development, especially with the 501st. Frankly, I enjoyed reading their parts in the story more than Luke/Mara. I sure wish "Fool's Bargain" was longer!
This is another fine work by Timothy Zahn. There are many twists and turns throughout the book that keeps you bouncing from subplot to subplot. It all ties together nicely to complete the story. I had no problem following along or picturing the characters' adventures as I read. Even the smallest of dialogues and actions come together at the end. I have gone back and read the original Outbound Flight and found it to be a very good read too.
this was a really good star wars book. every aspect of it was good. it introduces new characters, new species, and it's just really cool. and it has a really good short story at the end. but i hope that zahn will make a book about the chiss and the 501st hunting down the vaagari.
This book was excellent. It's nice to have some books closer to the time Luke and Mara get married ecpscially since they're my favorite characters.
Survivor's Quest has quickly become one of my favorite Star Wars books to date. I loved the reintroduction of Outbound Flight (another book that I loved) and was thrilled that I had read it first (although you don't have to). And the non-stop action and the suspense was superb. I couldn't put it down!
Timothy Zahn lit a fire in the Star Wars universe several years ago when he authored the Thrawn trilogy, beginning with Heir to the Empire. He resumes telling the story of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade Skywalker in Survivor¿s Quest, sort of a mystery, which also explores Mara¿s doubts about her chosen path. An entertaining read. Zahn is also working on a followup to this novel.Published in hardcover by Del Rey.
Checked in the book The Art of War
Hes guarding the staff!!!!!! This wont be an easy battle!!!!!!!!
Very good book
A great sequal to the famous star wars saga It is clearly one of my faveorite books i have ever read I recommend reading it
It was a good book. It was a little slow paced at first but pciked up pace rapidly around the half point mark. Very good. I recommmend reading the Thrawn trilogy first. You will get more from this if you do.
This was the most boring Star Wars book I ever read-and I've read quite a few. It was a struggle to get through, and I was glad when I finally finished it. The story itself could have been good, with some interesting twists, but it was so dry the story was hard to enjoy.