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We love you, you blue bastard.

The Emperor’s yellowish eyes seemed to glitter. “And you wish the help of my Empire?”

“Your assistance would be welcome.”

“You wish me to assist people who exiled you?” the Emperor said. “Or was Captain Parck incorrect?”

“He spoke correctly,” Thrawn said. “I was indeed exiled.”

“Yet you still seek to protect them. Why?”

“Because they are my people.”

“And if they withhold their gratitude and refuse to accept you back? What then?”

There was a slight pause, and Eli had the eerie sense that Thrawn was giving the Emperor one of those small smiles he was so good at. “I do not need their permission to protect them, Your Majesty. Nor do I expect their thanks.”

“I’ve seen others with your sense of nobility,” the Emperor said. “Most fell by the wayside when their naïve selflessness collided with the real world.”

“I have faced the real world, as you call it.”

“You have indeed,” the Emperor said. “What exactly do you wish from my Empire?”

“A state of mutual gain,” Thrawn said. “I offer my knowledge and skill to you now in exchange for your consideration to my people in the future.”

“And when that future comes, what if I refuse to grant that consideration?”

“Then I will have gambled and lost,” Thrawn said calmly. “But I have until that time to convince you that my goals and yours do indeed coincide.”

“Interesting,” the Emperor murmured. “Tell me. If you served the Empire, yet a threat arose against your people, where would your loyalties lie? Which of us would command your allegiance?”

“I see no conflict in the sharing of information.”

“I’m not speaking of information,” the Emperor said. “I’m speaking of service.”

There was a short pause. “If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.”

“What guarantee do you offer?”

“My word is my guarantee,” Thrawn said. “Perhaps your servant can speak to the strength of that vow.”

“My servant?” the Emperor asked, his eyes flicking to Parck.

“I do not refer to Captain Parck,” Thrawn said. “I speak of another. Perhaps I assumed incorrectly that he was your servant. Yet, he always spoke highly of Chancellor Palpatine.”

The Emperor leaned forward a little, his yellowish eyes glittering. “And his name?”

“Skywalker,” Thrawn said. “Anakin Skywalker.”

Shock
Paul Ciano

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