Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Outbound Flight

Go To
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 a Star Wars Legends novel by Timothy Zahn. 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.

The novels were published in Anachronic Order; readers who picked up on the clues left in the wreckage and hints in the dialogue in Survivor's Quest in 2004 had to wait until 2006 for Outbound Flight to connect the dots.

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.
  • Authority in Name Only: Outbound Flight's military commander, Captain Pakmillu, is increasingly sidelined as C'boath exerts total authority, and after a certain point he doesn't even appear anymore, even for important matters like the parlay with Thrawn.
  • Badass Crew: The four 501st stormtroopers in Survivor's 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.
    • Formbi would never violate his people's principle of never striking first. However, if he were to dangle a tempting prize in front of known enemies, throw in some Obfuscating Stupidity and a couple of wild cards in the form of Luke and Mara, and let the enemies take the initiative...
  • Bittersweet Ending: Outbound Flight has either this or a Downer Ending, from a certain point of view.
    • The last seen with Luke and Mara can also be seen as such. It's cute how Mara is lovingly telling Luke that she'll always be with him, til the end of time. And sad when you consider her death in "Sacrifice". She *was* there for Luke and Ben as a force ghost when they needed guidance a couple times, but couldn't be there with Luke physically.
  • 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.
  • 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. Judging by Formbi, it seems to be genetic (assuming that Thrawn isn't playing The Man Behind the Man...)
    • 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...
  • Creator Cameo: The Japanese cover for Outbound Flight makes Jorj Car'das look very similar to a young George Lucas.
  • 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.
  • Fallen Hero: C'boath does have some good and noble deeds behind him, as well as a warmer side to him, and a goal which does have some potential, but lets himself get Drunk with Power and picks a fight that Thrawn would have preferred to avoid, and has the capacity to win.
  • 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—appropriately, the aforementioned non-human—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. (The story "Fool's Bargain", included in the book, goes into this in further detail.)
  • 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. When Luke and Mara find their remains (only identifiable as a Jedi and a Chiss by their weapons), the best theory they can conjecture is that the Jedi was defending the ship against a Chiss invader.
    • 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.
  • Guile Hero: As per usual in Zahn stories, the Jedi in Survivor's Quest use their brains as much as Force powers and lightsabers. Formbi in Survivor's Quest (and, arguably Thrawn) also count.
  • Hero of Another Story: Jerv Riske, a former renowned bounty hunter and chief of security for the Corporate Alliance who crosses paths with the Jedi a few times and is also working to prevent any assassination or insurrection attempts during the negotiations. Given the nature of the Corporate Alliance, he might also count as a Villain of Another Story, except that he doesn't appear to have stayed with them after they joined the Separatists.
  • 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. He attacks the same weak point that Anakin uses in Attack of the Clones.
    • 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.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Chas, Pressor and several of the other dissidents against C'boath attempt to approach Thrawn during his parlay visit to the ships (Chas on a speeder bike, the rest on a shuttle) to prove that not everyone supports C'boath and/or request asylum. C'boath easily senses what they're doing through the force and uses his telekinesis to immbolize Chas and keep the shuttle door from opening (casually releasing his magic once Thawn is gone, causing Pressor and the pilot to poor out with such force that they'd evident been shoving pretty hard).
    • Just before the final battle of Outbound Flight Justyn M'Nang calls out C'boath for his abuses of power, and states that the other Jedi onboard are forming a Judgment Circle that will probably make him step down from the leadership role he's been exerting over the colonists. The Curb-Stomp Battle that follows ruins any chance of that.
  • 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-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 Terrik'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 Stupidity: How the Vagaari got in position in Survivor's Quest. A few of 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.
  • Painting the Medium: Humans are biologically incapable of speaking Cheunh properly, shown when Car'das calls himself a fishing boat instead of a merchant. When Thrawn speaks the two words to show the difference, they are spelled exactly the same.
  • 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 Doriana 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.
  • Pūnct'uatìon Sh'akër: 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: 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.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Kav is the red to Doriana's blue.
  • Retcon: Attack of the Clones had just established that Jedi knights were not allowed to fall in love, which conflicted with the lack of such rule in Luke's new Jedi order from earlier EU books. Survivor's Quest solves this, by mentioning that Yoda had told Luke about this rule offscreen during his training on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. Ultimately, Luke decided this rule wouldn't apply in his new order.
  • 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.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Downplayed with Thrawn and Thrass (although both are portrayed sympathetically). Thrawn is a military commander willing to preemptively seek out conflicts when necessary to eliminate threats. Thrass is a politician who seeks to preemptively ward off a threat by keeping the fight from breaking out by stealing and disposing of the empty Dreadnoughts the Chiss factions are login to fight over (which also involves saving the surviving Colonsits once he discovers them).
  • Tested on Humans: 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.
  • The Sociopath: The Vagaari are basically an entire race of these, each being completely self centered and incapable of seeing why anyone would care about someone besides themselves.
  • 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)."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It is never revealed what happens to the crew of the Darkrevenge, the only surviving Trade Federation ship from Doriana's task force, after they return home minus their captain, after he dies trying to kill Thrawn.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Survivors Quest


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: