- "The choices of one shape the futures of all."
- ―Jedi saying
Choices of One is a novel by Timothy Zahn, released on July 19, 2011. It is set three months after Allegiance, and takes place before the events in Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. Its first working title was Choices; this was changed to Hand of Judgment and then to the current title. The hardcover edition contains a preview of Riptide, while the paperback also contains a preview of Scoundrels. The paperback version was released on June 26, 2012. Choices of One took Zahn three months to write.
The fate of the Rebellion rests on Luke Skywalker's next move.
But have the rebels entered a safe harbor or a death trap?
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Timothy Zahn comes a brand-new Star Wars adventure, set in the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and featuring the young Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and the beloved Mara Jade.
Eight months after the Battle of Yavin, the Rebellion is in desperate need of a new base. So when Governor Ferrouz of Candoras sector proposes an alliance, offering the Rebels sanctuary in return for protection against the alien warlord Nuso Esva, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are sent to evaluate the deal.
Mara Jade, the Emperor's Hand, is also heading for Candoras, along with the five renegade stormtroopers known as the Hand of Judgment. Their mission: to punish Ferrouz's treason and smash the Rebels for good.
But in this treacherous game of betrayals within betrayals, a wild card is waiting to be played.
8 months after the Battle of Yavin: Close to the Empire's border with the Unknown Regions, the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera takes on an illustrious passenger, Lord Odo, a member of the Imperial Court on a confidential mission for the Emperor. First Officer Commander Gilad Pellaeon is immediately suspicious: Lord Odo is masked at all times, his clothing is tagged with false bio-markers that deliberately obscure the ship's sensors as to his true species, and his "entourage" consists only of his shuttle pilot, Sorro. The Chimera's captain, Calo Drusan, says they have little choice but to accept Imperial Center's orders, but Pellaeon privately resolves to unravel the mystery.
On an unnamed planet, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia assist a Rebel commando team in a successful information raid on a mining operations center, hoping to identify an isolated system to locate the Alliance's next base (having been forced to evacuate the Yavin system after its discovery by the Empire). After the raid, Han complains to General Rieekan that he wasn't told about the true purpose of the mission until afterwards. Rieekan counters that Han was told as much as he needed to know, and if he wants greater responsibility, that will mean accepting an officer's commission - an awkward proposition, since Han still hasn't yet formalized his loyalty to the Alliance.
Rieekan invites Han and Luke to sit in on Leia's meeting with Vestin Axlon, a former regional governor on Alderaan, who confides that Bidor Ferrouz, the Imperial Governor of Candoras sector in the Outer Rim, is offering the Alliance a base in his sector's capital, the Poln system. A quick survey by Alliance analysts has confirmed that it is an ideal location, with enough activity to disguise any Alliance communications and movements in or out, a large set of unused caverns on the outer moons, and enough distance from the Core Worlds to give them advance warning of any approaching Imperial attack - so ideal, Rieekan remarks, that Ferrouz's offer is either "a great opportunity or an extremely obvious trap." As to Ferrouz's reasons, Axlon explains that he fears an imminent invasion by Nuso Esva, a warlord in the Unknown Regions who has been growing more and more aggressive, but his appeals to Imperial Center for reinforcement have been ignored. Axlon has already volunteered to meet with Governor Ferrouz and explore the possibility, and Rieekan asks Han and Chewbacca to convey him to Poln Major in the Falcon.
In private, Axlon asks Luke to come along on the mission, though separate from and unknown to Han and Chewie. Luke protests that he is attached to the Alliance's Starfighter Command, but Axlon insists that he needs someone with Luke's burgeoning Jedi abilities to help verify Governor Ferrouz's offer. Luke reluctantly agrees.
Elsewhere, Mara Jade, Emperor's Hand, completes her latest mission for her master, executing a corrupt Imperial judge. She reports to him through the Force, and he gives her next assignment: investigating Governor Ferrouz's suspected treason. Reviewing the data on the Poln system, Mara sees how defensible it is, despite Candoras Sector's limited resources, and reasons that she is going to need help, though she dislikes co-opting other Imperial personnel, especially personnel she has not worked with before. Smiling grimly, she realizes that she knows exactly the right men for the job...
Three months after deserting from the Star Destroyer Reprisal, the Hand of Judgment - former Imperial Stormtroopers Daric LaRone, Saberan Marcross, Joak Quiller, Taxtro Grave, and Korlo Brightwater - have visited a lot of planets and helped a lot of oppressed and needy people, but their resources of arms and money are starting to run out. LaRone, their unofficial leader, grimly accepts that they have enough left to manage one last vigilante mission, maybe two, before they have to find somewhere to settle down and hide. He decides to take the Hand to Pickerin. However, as soon as they step off the ramp, they are incapacitated by a stun gas grenade. They regain consciousness in binders, being gloated over by Bok Yost, the "victor" of a rigged election on Elegasso who guessed that the Hand was on its way and created the situation on Pickerin to lure them there. Yost's gloating is cut short when Mara appears, dispatches Yost's private mercenaries, and "suggests" that he step down and hold another election - an honest one this time. After Yost flees, Mara frees the Hand, takes them back to their ship and tasks them with her latest mission. LaRone and the others are aware that they have little chance of refusing, but, remembering their exposure of Barshnis Choard on Shelkonwa, realize that the mission to Poln Major is a chance to make their last mission a significant one for the people of the Empire.
In another part of the Outer Rim, Emperor Palpatine is reviewing the plans for his latest project with Senior Captain Thrawn, who suggests several measures to make the site of the project's shield generator impregnable. Slyly, Palpatine says doing so would defeat the whole purpose of the trap he is laying for the Rebel Alliance. Turning the discussion to other matters, Thrawn warns that Nuso Esva's growing aggression indicates a planned incursion into Imperial space, and he needs at least six more Star Destroyers to effectively deal with him. Palpatine says there aren't any to spare, but if the rumors that Esva is courting the Alliance are true, then Lord Vader may have some to spare from his fleet tasked with hunting them down. Thrawn's companion, Jorj Car'das, who is piloting their shuttle, privately does not wish to be anywhere near a possible confrontation between Thrawn and Vader.
On the approach to Poln Major (and much to Axlon's consternation), Han quickly spots Luke's Z-95 Headhunter shadowing the Falcon, and the three meet up at the spaceport. While Axlon drags Luke to his first meeting with Governor Ferrouz, Han and Chewbacca decide to pose as prospectors and investigate some of Poln Minor's abandoned mines, to see if they will make a suitable base for the Alliance (or if the whole offer is just a carefully laid trap). To his surprise, they meet up with Leia, and Colonel Airen Cracken, who are leading an advance survey team sent secretly to Poln Minor for the same purpose. To their mutual surprise, one of the side caverns yields a cache of weapons, equipment and vehicles that will keep them armed and supplied for months, if not years.
Luke accompanies Axlon to his first meeting with Governor Ferrouz, where his limited Jedi senses do not sense any overt deception from the man, but only the expected tension, with a strange undercurrent of betrayal - though of whom by who is unclear to him. Axlon, after asking for Luke's impression, takes this in stride. Luke is further surprised when Axlon says he will be meeting with the governor in his own office the next day, and he would like Luke to watch the palace from the street.
Mara and the Hand of Judgment land on the planet and likewise reconnoiter the palace. While doing so, LaRone is drawn into a dispute over supposedly faulty merchandise between two bickering alien groups, and manages to diffuse the tension by exposing the complainant as a fraud. The grateful merchant introduces himself as Vaantaar, a Troukree. LaRone admits that he has not heard of that species, and Vaantaar confides that they inhabit a planet in the Unknown Regions - he and his fellows are refugees, since their world was conquered and their people enslaved by Nuso Esva. He insists on giving one of his knives, as a gift to the Hand - the blade, though alien in origin, is of superb quality, and Brightwater cannot resist it.
Under Lord Odo's direction, the Chimaera stops in orbit over Poln Major, and Lord Odo confirms that the incoming transports are, in fact, Rebel Alliance ships. But Pellaeaon is surprised when Drusan says they have strict orders not to interfere yet, instead they depart on a prearranged course into the Unknown Regions. Unknown to anyone aboard the Chimaera, Thrawn and Car'das are shadowing its movements, aboard Car'das's small, customized freighter, the Lost Reef.
Spooked by the sudden appearance and just-as-sudden departure of the Star Destroyer, Leia and Cracken ask Han to head to one of Poln Minor's spaceport hangouts and see if any smugglers there can apprise them of the readiness state and armaments of Poln Major's limited system defenses (an undermanned and under-equipped Golan I orbital defense platform and the Sarissa, an equally undermanned Dreadnaught-class heavy cruiser) - in case the rebel transports have to make a hasty escape from the system after all. After some grousing, Han agrees. In a tapcaf, he is approached by an old acquaintance who recognizes him and says someone on the planet is recruiting techs to calibrate and install Caldorf VII interceptor missiles on small, heavy starfighter-class ships. Han is alarmed, knowing that someone in the system is intending to use those missiles for something other than giving them to the Rebellion. Trying to stall for time, he says he needs to call in his partner, and is even more alarmed when Leia appears, pretending to be an expert missile tech. The two of them take an extended ride on a speeder bus to a cavern where a group of mercenaries are outfitting the ships. Leia guesses that, despite the length of the ride, they are actually not far from the cavern where the Rebel team is working.
With little difficulty, the Hand of Judgment manages to insert themselves into the rotating stormtrooper contingents at the palace, and slip Mara in as a street criminal awaiting interrogation. In a private suite reserved for the interrogators, she examines the governor's records and is disheartened to find irrefutable proof of his treason - that not only has he communicated directly with the Rebel leadership, but a large group of Rebels are on the planet at the moment, at the governor's invitation. Mara grimly resolves to do her duty the next day.Appearances
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