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Literature: Outbound Flight
Six Dreadnaughts around a central core; a Jedi-led mission to explore the unknown regions of this galaxy, then strike out for the next one. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Outbound Flight is another Timothy Zahn novel set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Survivor's Quest is also included on this page.

Somewhere between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, a ship carrying three Corellian traders has a hyperdrive malfunction and ends up far outside of Republic space. They are taken into the custody of Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet, and from them he learns how to speak Basic and about the Republic, potentially a threat to his people. Thrawn is currently testing/fighting an entirely different set of aliens, the Vagaari.

At the same time, the domineering Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth seeks to approve Outbound Flight, an ambitious expeditionary project that sent a mission of six Jedi Masters, twelve Jedi Knights and 50,000 men, women and children beyond the borders of the Galactic Republic into the Unknown Regions where they hoped to pierce the edge of the galaxy and seek out extragalactic life. Unwittingly with a little help from Darth Sidious, who is all too happy to get as many Jedi out of the way as possible, he succeeds and they launch.

Sidious's agent, Kinman Doriana, is sent with a Trade Federation battle fleet to intercept and destroy Outbound Flight some time after they leave Republic space. They encounter Commander Thrawn, who curbstomps them despite having a much smaller force, and captures the survivors, including droids. Doriana gets Thrawn in contact with Darth Sidious, who tries to convince him that Outbound Flight is a threat to the Chiss. Thrawn is cautious, but when Outbound Flight shows up and Thrawn uses it to destroy the Vagaari forces, C'baoth screws up everything and Outbound Flight is destroyed. Fifty-seven people and one Jedi survive, and Thrawn's brother aids this Jedi in a Heroic Sacrifice, causing Outbound Flight to crash in such a way that the survivors keep surviving, to no one's knowledge.

Forty-seven years later comes Survivor's Quest, set between the Hand of Thrawn duology and the New Jedi Order. Newlyweds Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade are contacted by the Empire of the Hand with a message from the Chiss, who invite them as New Republic representatives to come visit the wreckage of Outbound Flight, and reclaim the remains. They feel responsible for that rogue Commander's actions. Things are complicated when they are accompanied by a faux New Republic ambassador with his own agenda, and when the pair find that representatives from the Empire of the Hand, Commander Chak Fel and four stormtroopers of the Five-Oh-First, were sent along as their escort. Things are complicated more when some aliens show up claiming that the Jedi of Outbound Flight saved them from the Vagaari, and they want to pay their respects.

Things are complicated the most when everyone arrives to discover that there were survivors, who left descendants. They don't like Jedi at all. And the Vagaari are back.

Both novels have a Zahn short story included in the paperback edition. Outbound Flight has "Mist Encounter", about how the exiled Thrawn came into Imperial service; it was originally published in the Star Wars Adventure Journal. Survivor's Quest has "Fool's Bargain", about the Empire of the Hand's 501st before the events of the novel.

These books provide examples of:

  • Adult Fear: At one point during Outbound Flight the Jedi (or more accurately, C'baoth) start enforcing their policies on everyone, and actually start trying to take children away from their families while their parents are sleeping.
  • Always Someone Better: How Dean Jinzler saw his always-absent Jedi sister. And how said Jedi sister felt when she saw her master praising Anakin.
  • Arc Welding: While Outbound Flight is the earliest chronological entry in the Thrawn storyline, Zahn also weaves in threads from Greg Bear's Rogue Planet and the New Jedi Order series.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The downfall of that Trade Federation taskforce. They were a fairly large taskforce, a tiny alien force showed up and asked who they were and what they were doing so close to Chiss space, and then they attacked the alien force. What could this Mitth'raw'nuruodo do to them, anyway?
    Mara Jade (in Vision of the Future): So... just how badly did Thrawn slaughter them?
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Thrawn finds weak points in all of the larger Trade Federation ships.
  • Badass Crew: The four 501st stormtroopers in Survivors Quest. They are awesome.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • How Thrawn handles the Vagaari.
    • Also, Kinman Doriana is told to kill Thrawn so that no word will get back about what happened to Outbound Flight. He almost does, but at the last minute thinks "Mitth'raw'nuruodo, brilliant tactician. Equally brilliant strategist. A being who could take on Republic warships, nomadic pirates, and even Jedi, and win against them all. And Doriana was actually considering killing him?"
      Doriana: *puts blaster down* Don't be absurd, Vicelord. I would sooner shatter a thousand-year-old crystal as kill a being such as this.
      Thrawn: So I was indeed right about you.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The Chiss (except Thrawn) have a strong moral objection to the idea of pre-emptive strikes, and Luke offends Formbi at one point by implying that they only refrain from them for pragmatic reasons, showing how seriously they take it. There are also indications from General Drask that once battle is joined Chiss offer no quarter, perhaps another reason why they are so intent on never striking first.
  • Bold Explorer: The story concerns an attempt by the Galactic Republic to mount an extragalactic expedition. Due in large part to the arrogance of the expedition's Jedi commander (though diplomatic sabotage by Darth Sidious was also involved), this expedition ran badly afoul of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Force and was destroyed by Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo.
  • Call Back: There are calls back and forwards between the two books, of course. Survivor's Quest also has the young Force-Sensitive Evlyn. She wants to go with Luke while he's about to do something dangerous, and something about her eagerness and frustration reminds him of him on the first Death Star, when Obi-Wan went alone and to his death. Luke's spent a lot of sleepless nights fervently wondering if Obi-Wan would have lived if Luke had gone with him. Logic says he shouldn't take her, but his instincts say he should. And he does.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Outbound Flight has either this or a Downer Ending, from a certain point of view.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In a way. The captured Trade Federation techs are ordered to program the remaining droid starfighters according to Thrawn's plan, and the captured Federation commander puts in a second layer so that he can take over. Thrawn has the second layer removed and casually drops that fact later, but thanks the commander for showing him this second programming layer, which he uses in a plan.
  • The Chessmaster: Thrawn was this from the beginning of his career. Palpatine is a less prominent version, at least in this story.
    • Jorus C'baoth wants to get Outbound Flight approved. Palpatine wants this so he can destroy Outbound Flight and get rid of eighteen Jedi quickly, but he doesn't just want to jam it down the Senate's throat, not yet. As Palpatine, he sends C'baoth to resolve a dispute. As Sidious, he sends an operative to build up and supply some fanatics on one side of this dispute, giving them a missile that's supposed to track down where the people meeting for the dispute. The missile is sent, C'baoth intercepts it, and then, while everyone is thoroughly shaken up, C'Baoth slams down a compromise that makes him look like a hero, giving him the political clout for Outbound Flight's approval.
  • Cloning Gambit: Sort of. Jorus C'baoth dies, but from The Thrawn Trilogy we know that Palpatine decides he can still make good use of those genes. And, in Outbound Flight, it's mentioned that before they leave every member of the crew is given a thorough medical exam...
  • Divide and Conquer: Ultimately how Thrawn handles both the Vagaari and Outbound Flight, though he seems to regret that the Genghis Gambit didn't work out.
  • Don't Shoot the Message: In-universe example: C'baoth leaves Thrawn with a very bad impression of the Jedi, which combined with them being wholly alien to the Chiss, seems to lead in future to consistently underestimating Jedi in general and C'Baoth in particular.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: There's kind of an in-universe example, with Ferasi always seeing Thrawn as completely noble and honorable. He's a morally complex character and nothing like a Card-Carrying Villain, but he's still not what she thinks.
    • Although oddly for a Zahn book, we're never actually shown Ferasi's point of view; the only female POV given is Lorana Jinzler. Every main observation about Thrawn comes from Kinman Doriana and Jorj Car'das (with one small section from Jedi Jinzler's point of view); the only one who sees Ferasi and Thrawn interact is Car'das, and Car'das could be imagining things. Or projecting his own positive opinions of Thrawn onto Ferasi.
  • Eureka Moment: Mara gets a sense that something is wrong when she sees the second of two transmissions from the Geroon ship, but doesn't realise it until later: the children playing in the background did the exact same actions twice, showing they're just a backdrop recording hiding something.
  • Evil Mentor: Jorus C'baoth to fourteen-year-old Anakin Skywalker. C'baoth likes Anakin, and Anakin thinks C'baoth is awesome because he doesn't try to appease people, he just gets things done, unlike Obi-Wan or most of the other Jedi. There are clear parallels between this and Joruus C'baoth to Luke.
  • Expy: The crew of the light freighter Bargain Hunter are a cynical smuggler, his idealist female love interest, and a callow but intelligent youth. Basically, they're darker versions of Han, Leia, and Luke.
  • Extreme Doormat: Lorana Jinzler, mainly because she's C'baoth's apprentice and he's never happy with anything. He repeatedly forces his decisions upon her and she never dares speak out against him. It isn't until he tries to strangle Thrawn that she thinks he's turning to the Dark Side.
  • Fandom Nod: Ari Roselani, cosplaying as Grand Admiral Thrawn, met Timothy Zahn in 2002, and apparently they became friends. Outbound Flight has a female Chiss admiral dressed all in white and aiding in Thrawn's plans named Ar'alani.
  • Fantastic Racism: In Outbound Flight, Doriana knows about his master's kneejerk distaste for nonhumans, but he thinks that Thrawn just might be impressive enough to make Sidious overlook species. In Survivor's Quest, Mara Jade is told that the stormtroopers are from the Five-Oh-First, thinks back to her time working with them as Emperor's Hand, and remembers that the Emperor's xenophobia rubbed off on them. The Empire of the Hand's 501st is not the original 501st remaining in the Imperial Remnant, but if they decided to take the name they might also have taken the attitudes. Then she and Luke discover, to their shock, that at least one of the stormtroopers isn't human.
    • Also, the Survivors of Outbound Flight almost uniformly hate and fear the Jedi, and they lock away any children who show signs of being Force-Sensitive. One of the stormtroopers is angry about this. Locking up and 'disappearing' people who hadn't done anything happened on his homeworld, before the Empire of the Hand came.
  • Foreshadowing: All over the place, both in Outbound Flight and Survivor's Quest (which came first, and foreshadowed the events of Outbound Flight).
  • The Fundamentalist: Jorus C'Baoth is the closest we've seen to a fundamentalist Jedi so far in the EU. He believes that the Jedi connection to the Force makes them superior to other beings and thus, they deserve to lead. He's confronted by some non-Jedi members of the Outbound Flight crew who call him out for his attitude, but before he can respond, the project encounters Thrawn's forces.
  • Gambit Pileup: The first third or so of Survivor's Quest.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: All Chiss have these.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: No one ever learns what Thrass and Lorana did.
    • This whole story was originally one of these. In The Thrawn Trilogy, Thrawn tells us that he destroyed the Outbound Flight Project and killed the original C'baoth (and his vehemence then is now explained) and in Hand of Thrawn Soontir Fel and Voss Parck give more details about the way Thrawn was outnumbered.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Thrass and Lorana.
    Thrass: "It appears we will both be giving our lives for your people."
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A few examples in Outbound Flight, most notably in the battle between Thrawn and the Trade Federation space force:
    • The Hardcell-class ships get destroyed by their own missiles, thanks to some brilliant maneuvering by Thrawn
    • Thrawn figures out that the Vulture starfighter droids are set up to self-destruct if they lose their signal from the mothership to prevent capture. Thrawn then uses this to make an entire battleship's compliment of Vulture droids self-destruct while they're still inside said battleship, resulting in said battleship's loss.
    • The Neimodian captain is killed by his own laser pistol shot bouncing off his own personal forcefield, which Thrawn reconfigured behind his back
    • Car'das voluntarily allows himself to be captured by the Vagaari so that he can give the Vagaari leader a platoon of Trade Federation battle droids. He gives the Vagaari leader a computer pad with full control of the droids, which is promptly tested on some hapless slaves. The Vagaari leader is thoroughly impressed and under the impression that the droids are his personal weapons and playthings...until the battle against Outbound Flight when he discovers that Thrawn still has command over the droids' secondary communications channels.
      • It's implied that either Car'das came up with this plan after a late-night conversation with Thrawn, the contents of which the reader is never directly told, despite being informed of the conversation taking place; or that Thrawn himself came up with this plan for Car'das to follow, and told him during that conversation. Car'das has enough time to think 'What in the worlds could Thrawn have had stashed aboard the shuttle?' while onboard the Vagaari ship, however, heavily suggesting that while he knew Thrawn wanted him to take that shuttle, Car'das wasn't aware of this part of the plan. By the end of the book, Thrawn and Car'das trust each other enough to use their personal names (Thrawn and Jorj), while Choices of One makes it clear that Jorj is the person Thrawn trusts most in the galaxy.
  • Hyper Awareness: Luke and Mara can rewind their memories to take another look at what they saw. One might wonder if Zahn would like this trick for himself, as it's the second time he's featured it in his Star Wars works.
  • In the Blood: Admittedly, Joruus C'baoth was already crazy from being a flawed clone, but it's pretty easy to see where he got his, well, everything from.
    • And like father, like son. Anakin and Luke were both fascinated by Jorus and his clone, respectively. But the clone was more obviously unhinged, and Luke has always been more good, so unlike his father, Luke rejected whatever C'baoth was trying to teach him.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Thrass and Lorana.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Jorus C'baoth, even before he goes off the deep end, is an utter piece of work.
  • Last Hand-Holding
  • Last Name Basis: Early in Outbound Flight, Thrawn uses Jorj Car'das's full name. Car'das tells him to use his last name, since in his culture first names are reserved for friends. Thrawn asks if Car'das doesn't consider him a friend, and Car'das sarcastically asks "Do you consider me one?" Thrawn, thoughtfully, says "No, not yet. Perhaps someday." At the end of the book, saying goodbye, Thrawn says "Farewell... Jorj."
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: As of Survivor's Quest, Booster Terrick's Star Destroyer has finally been painted red. Doesn't change the fact that it's a Star Destroyer and needs a ridiculous amount of maintenance and an enormous crew complement, and Booster can't keep it in anything like military shape.
  • The Man Behind the Man: In Survivor's Quest, Aristocra Formbi believes that the Vagaari have allied themselves with someone more powerful and dangerous. While it's never outright confirmed, the Vagaari's pack of Wolvkils and swarms of Schostri are reminiscent of Yuuzhan Vong biots. The absence of either creature during Car'das' time on Vagaari ships in Outbound Flight supports Formbi's fears, suggesting the Vagaari are being backed by the Vong to help weaken the Chiss Ascendancy in preparation for the imminent invasion.
    • Then gets played with at the end of the novel as Mara believes that Formbi couldn't have come up with the plan to instigate a Chiss-Vagaari war on his own. The scheme's complicated and convoluted nature goes against the Chiss' cultural and personal beliefs. It's more along the lines of something Thrawn would have cooked up. And while they destroyed the clone on Nirauan, it's possible the Grand Admiral had another clone hidden in the Unknown Regions. The drastic changes in Formbi's personality in the decades since Outbound Flight lends credence to Mara's theory.
  • Martial Pacifist: The majority of Chiss. Thrawn is the exception.
  • Mexican Stand Off: The climax of Outbound Flight: a three-way battle between Thrawn's Picket Force Two, Outbound Flight and the Vagaari fleet. Thrawn naturally lets Outbound Flight and the Vagaari neutralize each other before finishing off both.
  • Modern Stasis: Star Wars Tech Stasis is averted here. In Outbound Flight, we see that both Republic and Chiss forces think of a gravity-well generator as purely theoretical until they see one in action. Droids are unknown to the Chiss, and the Corellian traders are shocked to see that the Chiss ships can perform microjumps, very short and precise hops through hyperspace. (The last is not necessarily a technical development as it is a demonstration of the precision that is expected of Chiss astrogators.)
  • Military Maverick: Thrawn, particularly to his own people. They don't believe that preemptive strikes are moral, and don't have a word or phrase for the concept. He does them all the time. Unusually for this trope, they actually take offense to his rulebreaking and exile him after the events of Outbound Flight, leading to the Empire picking up their greatest strategist.
  • Obfuscating Fawning Idiocy: How the Vagaari got in position in Survivor's Quest. The Chiss knew or at least suspected, but the others didn't.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: C'baoth sees every bureaucrat as an obstructive bureaucrat, and that the Republic would be so much better run by Jedi.
  • Omniglot: Thrawn learns Basic ridiculously fast.
  • The Only One: Thrawn's tiny force of three small cruisers and seven fighters takes on two huge Trade Federation split-ring battleships and all the droid starfighters on board, six armed Techno Union Hardcell-class transports, and seven escort cruisers. Without a single Chiss casualty. This is what happens when you fly remote-controlled fighters against someone who can adapt to that and find weak points in all the larger ships.
  • Prequel: Survivor's Quest actually came out two years before Outbound Flight, and they can be read in either order.
  • Psychic Strangle: In Outbound Flight Jorus C'baoth falls to the dark side and tries to kill Thrawn this way. He's stopped when Car'das hits a Big Red Button Thrawn set up earlier, triggering radiation bombs that kill C'baoth instantly along with most of the inhabitants of Outbound Flight.
  • Punctuation Shaker: Chiss full names, with the exception of Ar'alani, always have two. Apparently they're glottal stops. Car'das mangles Thrawn's name into Mitthrawnurudo, Doriana manages to get it right, and Kav doesn't even try.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Kav is the red to Doriana's blue.
  • Sherlock Scan: Thrawn, art, you know how it goes.
  • Shoot the Dog: Thrawn, capturing ships with living shields, says that those hostages were already dead, though he does advise his gunners not take a shot they don't absolutely have to.
  • Tested On Slaves: When the Vagaari commander gets his hands on the droids stowed away in Car'das's stolen shuttle, one of the first things he does is test their firepower on Geroon slaves.
  • Sparing The Aces: Complete with The Princess Bride reference.
  • Unreliable Narrator: A few of the sections from Car'das' point of view turn out to be lies, presenting his actions as being a rebellion against Thrawn that the other manipulated him into instead of a plan he agreed to in advance.
  • Wham Line: "They aren't Geroons. They're Vagaari."
    • And from Outbound Flight: "We have (met the Yuuzhan Vong)."
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Maris Ferasi.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Jorus C'baoth isn't as bad as his clone, but he's still not the stablest of beings. You can see why he and Palpatine get along.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: How Thrawn takes down the Trade Federation task force.
  • You Suck: C'baoth delivers one to each side in the dispute between the Corporate Alliance and the people of Barlok, due to neither side covering themselves with glory.

Jedi ApprenticeRecap/Star Wars Expanded UniverseJedi Quest

alternative title(s): Survivors Quest; Outbound Flight
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