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  • Written by Timothy Zahn
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Written by Timothy ZahnAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Timothy Zahn


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On Sale: June 28, 2011
Pages: 464 | ISBN: 978-0-307-79575-5
Published by : LucasBooks Ballantine Group

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On Sale: February 20, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-7393-5702-6
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It began as the ultimate voyage of discovery–only to become the stuff of lost Republic legend . . . and a dark chapter in Jedi history. Now, at last, acclaimed author Timothy Zahn returns to tell the whole extraordinary story of the remarkable–and doomed–Outbound Flight Project.

The Clone Wars have yet to erupt when Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth petitions the Senate for support of a singularly ambitious undertaking. Six Jedi Masters, twelve Jedi Knights, and fifty thousand men, women, and children will embark–aboard a gargantuan vessel, equipped for years of travel–on a mission to contact intelligent life and colonize undiscovered worlds beyond the known galaxy. The government bureaucracy threatens to scuttle the expedition before it can even start–until Master C’baoth foils a murderous conspiracy plot, winning him the political capital he needs to set in motion the dream of Outbound Flight.

Or so it would seem. For unknown to the famed Jedi Master, the successful launch of the mission is secretly being orchestrated by an unlikely ally: the evil Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, who has his own reasons for wanting Outbound Flight to move forward . . . and, ultimately, to fail.

Yet Darth Sidious is not the mission’s most dangerous challenge. Once underway, the starship crosses paths at the edge of Unknown Space with the forces of the alien Chiss Ascendancy and the brilliant mastermind best known as “Thrawn.” Even Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, aboard Outbound Flight with his young Padawan student, Anakin Skywalker, cannot help avert disaster. Thus what begins as a peaceful Jedi mission is violently transformed into an all-out war for survival against staggering odds–and the most diabolical of adversaries.

Timothy Zahn’s unique mix of espionage, political gamesmanship, and deadly interstellar combat breathes electrifying life into a Star Wars legend.

From the Hardcover edition.



The light freighter Bargain Hunter moved through space, silver-gray against the blackness, the light of the distant stars reflecting from its hull. Its running lights were muted, its navigational beacons quiet, its viewports for the most part as dark as the space around it.

Its drive gunning for all it was worth.

“Hang on!” Dubrak Qennto barked over the straining roar of the engines. “Here he comes again!”

Clenching his teeth firmly together to keep them from chattering, Jorj Car’das got a grip on his seat’s armrest with one hand as he finished punching coordinates into the nav computer with the other. Just in time; the Bargain Hunter jinked hard to the left as a pair of brilliant green blaster bolts burned past the bridge canopy. “Car’das?” Qennto called. “Snap it up, kid.”

“I’m snapping, I’m snapping,” Car’das called back, resisting the urge to point out that the outmoded nav equipment was Qennto’s property, not his. As was the lack of diplomacy and common sense that had gotten them into this mess in the first place. “Can’t we just talk to them?”

“Terrific idea,” Qennto bit out. “Be sure to compliment Progga on his fairness and sound business sense. That always works on Hutts.”

The last word was punctuated by another cluster of blaster shots, this group closer than the last. “Rak, the engines can’t hold this speed forever,” Maris Ferasi warned from the copilot’s seat, her dark hair flashing with green highlights every time a shot went past.

“Doesn’t have to be forever,” Qennto said with a grunt. “Just till we have some numbers. Car’das?”

On Car’das’s board a light winked on. “Ready,” he called, punching the numbers over to the pilot’s station. “It’s not a very long jump, though—”

He was cut off by a screech from somewhere aft, and the flashing blaster bolts were replaced by flashing starlines as the Bargain Hunter shot into hyperspace.

Car’das took a deep breath, let it out silently. “This is not what I signed up for,” he muttered to himself. Barely six standard months after signing on with Qennto and Maris, this was already the second time they’d had to run for their lives from someone.

And this time it was a Hutt they’d frizzled. Qennto, he thought darkly, had a genuine talent for picking his fights.

“You okay, Jorj?”

Car’das looked up, blinking away a drop of sweat that had somehow found its way into his eye. Maris was swiveled around in her chair, looking back at him with concern. “I’m fine,” he said, wincing at the quavering in his voice.

“Of course he is,” Qennto assured Maris as he also turned around to look at their junior crewer. “Those shots never even got close.”

Car’das braced himself. “You know, Qennto, it may not be my place to say this—”

“It isn’t; and don’t,” Qennto said gruffly, turning back to his board.

“Progga the Hutt is not the sort of person you want mad at you,” Car’das said anyway. “I mean, first there was that Rodian—”

“A word about shipboard etiquette, kid,” Qennto cut in, turning just far enough to send a single eye’s worth of glower at Car’das. “You don’t argue with your captain. Not ever. Not unless you want this to be your first and last tour with us.”

“I’d settle for it not being the last tour of my life,” Car’das muttered.

“What was that?”

Car’das grimaced. “Nothing.”

“Don’t let Progga worry you,” Maris soothed. “He has a rotten temper, but he’ll cool off.”

“Before or after he racks the three of us and takes all the furs?” Car’das countered, eyeing the hyperdrive readings uneasily. That mauvine nullifier instability was definitely getting worse.

“Oh, Progga wouldn’t have racked us,” Qennto scoffed. “He’d have left that to Drixo when we had to tell her he’d snatched her cargo. You do have that next jump ready, right?”

“Working on it,” Car’das said, checking the computer. “But the hyperdrive—”

“Heads up,” Qennto interrupted. “We’re coming out.”

The starlines collapsed back into stars, and Car’das keyed for a full sensor scan.

And jerked as a salvo of blaster shots sizzled past the canopy.

Qennto barked a short expletive. “What the frizz?”

“He followed us,” Maris said, sounding stunned.

“And he’s got the range,” Qennto snarled as he threw the Bargain Hunter into another series of stomach-twisting evasive maneuvers. “Car’das, get us out of here!”

“Trying,” Car’das called back, fighting to read the computer displays as they bounced and wobbled in front of his eyes. There was no way it was going to calculate the next jump before even Qennto’s luck ran out and the fuming Hutt back there finally connected.

But if Car’das couldn’t find a place for them to go, maybe he could find all the places for them not to go . . .

The sky directly ahead was full of stars, but there was plenty of empty black between them. Picking the biggest of the gaps, he punched the vector into the computer. “Try this one,” he called, keying it to Qennto.

“What do you mean try?” Maris asked.

The freighter rocked as a pair of shots caught it squarely on the aft deflector. “Never mind,” Qennto said before Car’das could answer. He punched the board, and once again the starlines lanced out and faded into the blotchy hyperspace sky.

Maris exhaled in a huff. “That was too close.”

“Okay, so maybe he is mad at us,” Qennto conceded. “Now. Like Maris said, kid, what do you mean, try this one?”

“I didn’t have time to calculate a proper jump,” Car’das explained. “So I just aimed us into an empty spot with no stars.”

Qennto swiveled around. “You mean an empty spot with no visible stars?” he asked ominously. “An empty spot with no collapsed stars, or pre-star dark masses, or something hidden behind dust clouds? That kind of empty spot?” He waved a hand toward the canopy. “And out toward the Unknown Regions on top of it?”

“We don’t have enough data in that direction for him to have done a proper calculation anyway,” Maris said, coming unex- pectedly to Car’das’s defense.

“That’s not the point,” Qennto insisted.

“No, the point is that he got us away from Progga,” Maris said. “I think that deserves at least a thank-you.”

Qennto rolled his eyes. “Thank you,” he said. “Such thanks to be rescinded if and when we run through a star you didn’t see, of course.”

“I think it’s more likely the hyperdrive will blow up first,” Car’das warned. “Remember that nullifier problem I told you about? I think it’s getting—”

He was cut off by a wailing sound from beneath them, and with a lurch the Bargain Hunter leapt forward like a giffa on a scent.

“Running hot!” Qennto shouted, spinning back to his board. “Maris, shut ’er down!”

“Trying,” Maris called back over the wailing as her fingers danced across her board. “Control lines are looping—can’t get a signal through.”

With a curse, Qennto popped his straps and heaved his bulk out of his seat. He sprinted down the narrow aisle, his elbow barely missing the back of Car’das’s head as he passed. Poking uselessly at his own controls, Car’das popped his own strap release and started to follow.

“Car’das, get up here,” Maris called, gesturing him forward.

“He might need me,” Car’das said as he nevertheless reversed direction and headed forward.

“Sit,” she ordered, nodding sideways at Qennto’s vacated pilot’s seat. “Help me watch the tracker—if we veer off this vector before Rak figures out how to pull the plug, I need to know about it.”

“But Qennto—”

“Word of advice, friend,” she interrupted, her eyes still on her displays. “This is Rak’s ship. If there are any tricky repairs to be made, he’s the one who’ll make them.”

“Even if I happen to know more about a particular system than he does?”

“Especially if you happen to know more about it than he does,” she said drily. “But in this case, you don’t. Trust me.”

“Fine,” Car’das said with a sigh. “Such trust to be rescinded if and when we blow up, of course.”

“You’re learning,” she said approvingly. “Now run a systems check on the scanners and see if the instability’s bled over into them. Then do the same for the nav computer. Once we get through this, I want to make sure we can find our way home again.”

From the Hardcover edition.
Timothy Zahn|Author Q&A

About Timothy Zahn

Timothy Zahn - Outbound Flight: Star Wars
Timothy Zahn is one of science fiction's most popular voices, known for pitting realistic human characters against a well-researched background of future science and technology. He won the Hugo Award for his novella Cascade Point and is the author of eighteen science fiction novels, including two Star Wars® series: the bestselling trilogy Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command and the Hand of Thrawn series, Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future. He is also the author of the novels Conquerors' Pride, Conquerors' Heritage, and Conquerors' Legacy and three collections of short fiction. Timothy Zahn lives in Oregon.

Author Q&A

Interview with Timothy Zahn, author of Outbound Flight

Question:How did you first came up with the idea for Outbound Flight–not the book, but the mission that's become such a legendary part of Star Wars lore?

Timothy Zahn:
Ironically enough, Outbound Flight began life basically as a throwaway line. It was a way to confirm for the readers in Heir to the Empire that Joruus C’baoth was indeed a clone and not the original Jorus, as well as to provide another reference to Grand Admiral Thrawn’s military skills. It also seemed like something Palpatine might reasonably have done: create something else to distract the Jedi and perhaps prune away some of the troublemakers in advance of his full extermination scheme.

If I’d known that I’d eventually write two books dealing with the project, I’d have definitely tried to come up with a classier name.

Q:Though it's long been a canonical part of the Star Wars universe, mentioned in novels by you and others, and featured in your book Survivor's Quest, it's only now that you've actually written the story of the Outbound Flight mission itself. Why did it take so long?

TZ: Actually, the original impetus came from Lucasfilm, not me. A few years ago my editor, Shelly Shapiro, informed me that Sue Rostoni had expressed interest in having Outbound Flight’s story told and asked if I would be interested in writing it. It took me about three seconds to make up my mind (“I get to write another Thrawn story?! Cool!”), and I said yes.

Originally, the plan was to publish it in 2002 just before the release of Attack of the Clones, which would have put it in its proper chronological place. However, for unknown reasons all that was changed and the book ended up being rescheduled for November 2005. Throw in one more scheduling shuffle, and we arrive at January 2006.

Q:What did it feel like to finally close this chapter in your career–if indeed it is closed? Are there more revelations to come about Outbound Flight?

TZ: I think that between this book and Survivor’s Quest, I’ve said pretty much all I have to say about Outbound Flight. And yes, it did rather feel like closing a chapter in Star Wars history.

And as always, it was immensely fun to play tactics with Thrawn.

Q:Why so much time between publication of Survivor's Quest and Outbound Flight?

TZ: Again, there originally wasn’t supposed to be quite this much time between the two books, but the scheduling just worked out that way.

For that matter, the books weren’t originally intended to be linked at all. After I’d signed for Outbound Flight, and we’d done the scheduling change, Lucasfilm and Del Rey came to me and asked if I’d like to do a Luke/Mara book as a sort of parallel to the Han/Leia book (Tatooine Ghost) already in the works. Again, the deliberation process took all of three seconds (“I get to write another Mara Jade story?! Cool!”).

It was as I was working on the outline for the story that it occurred to me that since Survivor's Quest would be coming out before Outbound Flight, I could pull the same trick George Lucas himself was doing, prequel-wise, and have Survivor's Quest tell the end of the Outbound Flight story before the readers actually got to see the beginning. It made the process a little trickier, as I was outlining two books at the same time for Del Rey and Lucasfilm, but making the books into a sort of backwards-order-and-separated-in-time duology was definitely worth the extra intricacy.

Q:Your original Thrawn trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) is widely credited with reviving interest in Star Wars, and your name is always mentioned when fans discuss their favorite SW writers. Clearly, you're doing something right! What do you think makes your work so popular?

TZ: To be honest, I really don’t know. I did the best I could with those three books, of course, but then I do that with everything else I write, too. Through some combination of story and character and chemistry, it all simply came together better than anything else I’ve ever published. Having vibrant, well-loved characters like Luke, Han, and Leia already at hand, of course, just added that much extra to the mix.

Q:Though you're best known for your Star Wars work, most of your published novels and stories are set in universes of your own creation. How do you decide, when you get an idea for a story or book, whether to keep it for yourself or use it in Star Wars?

TZ: I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with that. When I’m plotting or writing a Star Wars book, I’m in that particular universe’s mindset, and only come up with ideas that I think will fit into that universe. (Though of course not everyone necessarily agrees with what I think fits the Star Wars universe. Remind me to tell you sometime about the flap over Luke’s hot chocolate...)

Q:Who is your favorite among the characters you've created for Star Wars, and why?

TZ: Top places go to Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn. Mara, with her attitude and her Jedi skills, is just plain fun to write, especially when she’s in opposition–or in partnership–with Luke. Thrawn, in contrast, provides the intellectual challenge of trying to come up with new, clever, and (hopefully) workable tactics and strategies.

Q:I was surprised by Thrawn's character in Outbound Flight. He seems too smart and basically decent to become the servant of Palpatine that he later becomes.

TZ: Ah, but is he really Palpatine’s servant? My sense has always been that he was manipulating Palpatine just as much as Palpatine is manipulating him. After all, he only came to the Empire so that he could gain command rank, collect all the military hardware Palpatine was willing to give him, and then get himself kicked back out to the Unknown Regions where he could start his long-term preparations for the coming war against the Yuuzhan Vong.

Not that Palpatine was fooled, of course. I’m sure he knew perfectly well what was going on and figured he was getting as much out of the deal as Thrawn was. Possibly a little more.

Q:What is it about Jorus C’baoth’s character that makes him susceptible to the dark side, and why doesn't Palpatine/Sidious turn him and use him for his own purposes, as he later does with Count Dooku?

TZ: I don’t think C’baoth would be good Sith material. He wants to stretch and extend Jedi power and authority, but he hasn’t rejected the overall Jedi philosophy the way the Sith have. However, his arrogance and self-confidence definitely make him someone Palpatine can manipulate and use in more subtle ways.

Q:Are you working on anything else in the Star Wars universe?

TZ: I’m just finishing my eighth Star Wars book, Allegiance. It fits into the timeline a short time after A New Hope, which means Luke is not yet a Jedi, but Mara Jade is firmly ensconced in her position as the Emperor’s Hand.

Q:Any other upcoming releases you'd like to tell us about?

TZ: My young-adult Dragonback series continues with the fourth book, Dragon and Herdsman, in June from Tor Starscape. Also in June, Baen Books is bringing out Blackcollar: The Judas Solution, the third and final book in the Blackcollar series that I began in 1983 and continued in 1986 and then somehow never got back to. And assuming all goes well, Star Wars: Allegiance should be published in early 2007.

From the Hardcover edition.

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