PART 1: BEFORE THE REPUBLIC
This article kicks off a 12-part series revealing — for the first time ever — material cut from Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare before its April 2012 publication. Each section will be preceded by brief comments from Jason Fry and Del Rey editor Erich Schoeneweiss discussing why the material wound up on the cutting-room floor.
Jason Fry: This was the original prologue of Warfare.
Erich Schoeneweiss: That’s correct. While I thought it was (and is) an interesting read, I felt it was not how we should open the book. I wanted something that was full of action, danger, and excitement. I wanted something that took us right into the action and prepared the reader for the two hundred pages that followed.
Jason Fry: After being mad for a couple of days I realized Erich was right and crafted a new beginning, one that put the reader in the middle of the action Star Wars-style and introduced themes that would run throughout the book. Though Erich was right, I did like delving into the galaxy’s original conflict and the spooky what-if at the end.
Erich Schoeneweiss: I took a little friendly ribbing from Troy Denning about cutting this as well — he was a co-conspirator with Jason on what you’re about to read.
Edited transcript of debriefing of Insmot Bowen, Pre-Republic specialist at the Obroan Institute, as conducted by Bevel Lemelisk, Master of Imperial Projects; Admiral Conan Antonio Motti; and General Arhul Kurumenga, Department of Military Research, dated 1 BBY.
Dr. Bowen: I don’t know quite how to begin, gentlemen. How familiar are you with pre-Republic history, and the beings popularly known as the Celestials.
Admiral Motti: We’ve heard our bedtime stories.
General Kurumenga: Admiral, if you would. Don’t you worry about that, Dr. Bowen. You give us the sitrep, and we’ll figure out what it means. I’d rather you tell me things I already know than inadvertently leave out something I don’t.
Bowen: Very well, General. We know very little about the first civilizations of our galaxy. More than 100,000 years ago, species such as the Columi, the Gree, the Kwa and the Sharu were exploring interstellar space. Sadly, what records exist from those civilizations are either fragmentary, have decayed into legend, or both.
Motti: Not to mention they were written by nonhumans, and thus untrustworthy.
Bowen: Of course, Admiral. Anyway, all of these early spacefarers were contacted by the species known to us as the Celestials, or sometimes the Architects. We have neither reliable records nor even legends about how the Celestial dominion came to be, but it is clear that they were beings of astonishing power. The Columi appear to have retreated from the stars after contact with the Celestials, while the Sharu sought refuge in primitivism. Extrapolating from the technologies they employed, it’s believed the Gree and the Kwa became Celestial servant species, as did the Killik hives. Using these species and doubtless others as labor, the Celestials built a number of astonishing technological projects for their own purposes.
Kurumenga: Which were what, Doctor?
Bowen: I can’t speak to their motives, General — they’re frankly unimaginable. But they built star systems. Possibly even star clusters.
Master Lemelisk: Did I hear you correctly, Doctor?
Bowen: They built star systems, yes, Master Lemelisk. Systems such as Corellia.
Motti: Star systems aren’t built. They simply are.
Bowen: I beg to differ, Admiral. The chemical composition of the Corellian planets matches no known model of the formation of stars or planetary discs. Mathematical analysis of the system’s planetary orbits indicate they have decayed into near-ellipses from circular orbits — something that’s very rare in the galaxy.
Kurumenga: Very rare, you say. But not unique?
Bowen: That’s correct, General. We’ve identified 17 systems with a similar signature so far.
Motti: There are billions of star systems in the galaxy, Doctor. That’s a big enough number to account for 17 strange things.
Bowen: Not something this strange, Admiral. The odds against the kind of mixed chemical signature we see in the Corellian system would be measured in the trillions. And the odds against such a model of orbital decay occurring naturally — I wouldn’t even know how to calculate them.
Kurumenga: And you say there are 17 of these systems?
Bowen: So far. We haven’t had sufficient time on the available AST installations to complete an observational survey of all the candidate systems. But I feel confident in saying the only rational hypothesis is that those 17 systems — and doubtless others — originated as artificial constructs. They were built, gentlemen.
Lemelisk: Built with what?
Bowen: We don’t know, Master Lemelisk. But Old Republic records chronicle the Vultar Cataclysm, an event in which the activation of an artifact known as the Cosmic Turbine destroyed that system. I suspect this Turbine was of Celestial origin. Unfortunately, gentlemen, travel to the Vultar Nebula is interdicted. The primary accounts of the Vultar Cataclysm would have been part of the Jedi Archives, which are restricted. If our researchers could just –
Motti: That order was issued for public safety and civil progress, Doctor. I would think of man of your credentials would know better than to begin a scientific inquiry with the maunderings of an obscene cult of extinct charlatans.
Bowen: Of course, Admiral. I only meant –
Kurumenga: Doctor, are you saying you believe the Celestials built the Corellian system using this… Galactic Engine?
Bowen: Cosmic Turbine. It’s possible, General. Though I wonder if the Turbine might have been part of a network of such devices, most of them now dismantled or destroyed — or perhaps yet to be found, out there in the Unknown Regions. The most promising site for further investigation is Centerpoint Station.
Motti: That tourist attraction? Whatever for? It’s an old colony ship — an ark the ancient Corellians never bothered breaking up.
Bowen: That’s unlikely, Admiral. For one thing, where are its engines?
Motti: Well –
Bowen: And why are there are no records of a sleeper ship being built that was even a fraction of Centerpoint’s size?
Lemelisk: Doctor, let’s grant for a moment that Centerpoint Station is a Celestial artifact. What do you think its purpose is?
Bowen: I don’t know, Master. But I think I understand – in broad outline, mind you — how the Celestials did what they did. I think their Turbines were tractor-repulsors built to move planets and stars through hyperspace.
Lemelisk: Impossible. The amount of energy required for such a device…it boggles the mind, Doctor.
Bowen: I agree wholeheartedly, Master. Yet I can come to no other conclusion.
Lemelisk: Doctor…could such a device have been used as a weapon?
Bowen: Of course. It could as easily destroy the conditions for life as create them. More easily, in fact. Destruction is always orders of magnitude to bring about than creation.
Motti: You’re saying the Celestials could have destroyed an entire planet?
Bowen: The ability to destroy a planet would have been insignificant compared with the power at their command, Admiral. The Celestials had technology that allowed them to configure star systems to their liking. As well as doing other things.
Kurumenga: Such as, Doctor?
Bowen: I believe they engineered the hyperspace barrier that surrounds our galaxy, either to protect themselves against invasion or to prevent the return of beings they had exiled from this galaxy. Perhaps both. And I believe they engineered the chain of hyperspace anomalies that have long frustrated exploration west of the Deep Core.
Motti: Amazing. Truly amazing. I’m curious, Doctor — is there a galactic phenomenon you believe to be natural? Is there anything out there you think wasn’t built by these superbeings of yours?
Bowen: Possibly not, Admiral. Not just our galaxy but indeed our entire universe may be a Celestial construct.
Motti: Have a care, Doctor. I will not be the butt of jokes.
Bowen: I assure you no disrespect was intended, Admiral. I meant every word I said.
Kurumenga: Doctor, the origin of the universe is a bit beyond our purview. But indulge me. If the Celestials were as powerful as you say, why would they create a barrier across the Core?
Bowen: I think the western anomalies are a remnant of the construction of the circumferential hyperspace barrier — or the bubble, as I like to call it, since evidence indicates it extends above and below the galactic disk as well. General, when you were a child did you ever have a spinning top? One with a string?
Kurumenga: It’s been a while, Doctor, but I’m familiar with the concept.
Bowen: Imagine that our galaxy is a child’s top, and what we call the circumferential barrier is a collection of countless whorls and eddies spinning around it too quickly to safely traverse at faster-than-light speeds. I believe the Celestials spun up that barrier by tapping the energies of the galactic center. The western barrier, essentially, is what’s left of the string. It once extended across the entire galaxy, dividing it in two, but is now decaying and gradually retreating toward the Core.
Lemelisk: But why build such a thing?
Bowen: I couldn’t speculate, Master. But it’s clear that the Celestials, for all their power, dwelled in a dangerous galaxy. They were at war.
Lemelisk: At war? With who?
Bowen: The Builders — more properly known as the Rakata.
Motti: Ah, the Rakata! I’m impressed, Doctor. I thought your expertise limited to science fiction, but it also includes holothrillers.
Bowen: Admiral, I’d counsel you to look past all that to the underlying facts. Countless species tell variants of the same story. And by analyzing the commonalities of those stories we have reached conclusions that are accepted by every reputable scholar. Around 30,000 years ago, the Rakatan Infinite Empire spanned much of our galaxy. The basic technologies that underpin our common civilization are all of Rakatan — and perhaps ultimately Celestial — origin.
Motti: Arrant nonsense!
Kurumenga: Conan, if you would. Please continue, Doctor. I’ve heard of the Rakata — we all have — but please give us your summary of who they were.
Bowen: Well, they’re not like the Celestials — we know what they look like, for one. They were bipeds, bigger than humans, with amphibian features. Their empire was ruled from a planet called Lehon, in the Tempered Wastes. And their technology, it’s believed, was based on the Force — which had interesting consequences for their rule.
Motti: The Force!
Kurumenga: Go ahead, Doctor.
Bowen: The Rakatan hyperdrive was of no use for traveling between arbitrary points in realspace, General. It didn’t work that way. Rather, it honed in on the signature of worlds strong in the Force — ones brimming with life, in other words. Rakatan shields and energy weapons worked the same way — they used crystals to focus the Force and create sheets of defensive energy, or spin that energy into destructive beams of light. The entire Rakatan civilization was built on such uses of the Force. And so as that civilization expanded, it needed the Force for fuel, fuel it obtained by finding planets rich in life and –
Motti: General, I really must object. We have strayed into discussions that are in poor taste. Not to mention ill-advised. They could be considered treasonous.
Kurumenga: I don’t hear a threat to the New Order just yet, Admiral. Dr. Bowen is an academic, and as such we must allow him some leeway in discussing the mistakes and misapprehensions of the past. Please continue, Doctor. The Rakata would use the Force to find planets with life…
Bowen: And then they would enslave those planets.
Lemelisk: Which ones?
Bowen: Hundreds, Master Lemelisk. Including this one. Human history begins with our tenure as particularly useful Rakatan slaves, serving the greater glory of the Infinite Empire.
Kurumenga: And the Celestials?
Bowen: They disappeared. We don’t know what happened to them. They may have been trapped inside our galaxy by their barrier and destroyed by the Rakatan revolt. They may have escaped through the barrier. Or perhaps they withdrew into some dimension beyond the reach of the Rakata and ourselves. But it seems we remember them. Or rather echoes of them.
Lemelisk: Echoes? Such as what, Doctor?
Bowen: Let me activate the holoprojector. Such as that.
Motti: What is…that?
Lemelisk: I’ve seen reliefs like that here on Coruscant, in ancient districts. Ophidian grotesques, I believe they’re called?
Motti: Grotesque is certainly an accurate description.
Bowen: This one is much older than anything found on Coruscant, Master. It was discovered on a world called Shatuun, in the Kathol Outback. Nothing has lived there for hundreds of thousands of years, but something once did — and whoever they were, they carved this. Or look at this one, from Caulus Tertius. Also destroyed eons before the dawn of the Republic.
Kurumenga: Are those meant to be serpents or vines?
Bowen: Perhaps they’re tentacles. Or some combination of the three. Whatever they are, they’re a recurring motif in the art of ancient civilizations we believe had contact with the Celestials — contact that ended with those civilizations’ destruction. The other apparent legacy of a Celestial connection is pyramid-building. The Kwa built them. So did the Sharu. And many others.
Motti: Snakes and pyramids. Is that it, Doctor?
Bowen: Snakes, pyramids and the ability to move around the stars like a child rearranges toys, Admiral.
Lemelisk: And you have no theory about what became of the Celestials?
Bowen: All we have are a few guesses — and some secondhand sources that are little better than legends. The grimoiries of the Gree Enclave say the work of the Ancient Masters — the Celestials — was undone by two curses unleashed by the Soul Hunters, whom we identify as the Rakata. The Gree name those curses the Gray Swallowing and the Faceless Mouths, and further refer to them as the Hollowers of Beings and the Eaters of Worlds.
Lemelisk: And from that you conclude there was a Rakata revolt? That’s not a lot to go on, Doctor.
Bowen: I agree, Master. But the evidence is considerably more clear that the Rakata waged devastating war against the Kwa and the Gree. And the Killiks simply vanished. All three, we believe, were key client species of the Celestials. It looks as if the Rakata were determined to exterminate or drive out their rivals among the Celestial slave species. Once that had been accomplished, they found their own slave species and trained them to use Rakatan technologies. Species such as ours.
Now, Rakatan technology never achieved the heights of the Celestials, but only by that lofty comparison do they fail to measure up. We know that they crossed interstellar space in skipships defended by energy shields, devastated entire planets with disruptor fields and built armies of war droids armed with lethal plasma cannons. Moreover, reputable historians claim they had giant space stations that could transmute stellar radiation into war materiel. They were the unquestioned masters of the galaxy — and of our species — for millennia.
Kurumenga: So what happened to them, then?
Bowen: Their empire imploded, General. Billions died of a plague that ripped through their worlds. It then mutated — but this mutation didn’t kill. Rather, it cut the Rakata off from the Force, rendering their ships and weapons useless. With their numbers already reduced, they were helpless. Their former slaves rose up, killed them and took their technology. What few Rakata remain dwell out there, in the Unknown Regions, hated and hunted by other species.
Kurumenga: You said we took their technology. But hyperdrives and blasters don’t require the Force.
Bowen: Correct, General — in fact, the Rakata were careful to keep Force-sensitive slaves away from their machines. But that drove their slaves to take their technology and reverse-engineer it, eliminating the role of focusing crystals and anything else that required the Force. Duros, Herglics, Baragwin, Devaronians, Gossam and of course the Coruscanti all experimented with hyperspace cannons, tumbledrives, pulse cannons and other derivatives of Rakatan technologies. After they were Force-blinded, the Rakatans tried to do the same. But it was too late. They were too reduced in number — and their former slaves exterminated them wherever they found them.
Lemelisk: And built their own empires with their masters’ technology.
Bowen: Indeed, Master Lemelisk. The humans of the Tetrahedron, the Herglics, the Tionese and the Hutts all quickly established their own territories. The biggest challenge they faced was how to plot safe courses through hyperspace — because the Rakata, of course, had never had to do that. Once those challenges were solved, those territories began to coalesce into the Republic.
Kurumenga: Fascinating. Thank you, Doctor.
Motti: It’s a good story, I’ll give you that. But even if one-tenth of it is true, I fail to see its relevance to the challenges faced by the Empire. We have wiped the Jedi contagion from the universe, and we need no planet-moving tractor-repulsors to combat Separatism, lawlessness and rebellion.
Bowen: Granted, Admiral. You spoke earlier of holothrillers, did you not?
Motti: I beg your pardon?
Bowen: The villain dies in a holothriller, but you never get to see the body. Do you assume he’s dead?
Motti: I don’t see –
Kurumenga: I think I do. Go on, Doctor.
Bowen: When our ancestors were still howling primates, our galaxy was ruled by a species that could create, reconfigure or destroy star systems according to some unimaginable whim. At some point more than 30,000 years ago, the Celestials’ dominion vanished. Yet there’s no record that they were ever conquered. We don’t even know what they looked like. We never saw the body — they simply disappeared. Considering what they could do eons ago, gentlemen, ask yourself this: What if they return?
* * *
TRACES OF THE CELESTIALS
Jason Fry: A brief sidebar intended to go with the above piece. I liked the evocative, mysterious quality of it, but once “The Vanished” vanished (ahem), there was no place for the sidebar either. Reading it now, I can tell I was still feeling my way into Warfare, and this reads more like something from The Essential Atlas.
Erich Schoeneweiss: Jason just said it — feels like something that would have been more at home in The Essential Atlas. An editor has to be willing and able to make tough calls. I knew Jason had put a lot of work into these two sections and I didn’t make the decision to cut them lightly. In the end I did so because I thought it was the best thing for the book. Credit to Jason as a writer that he saw it that way too.
The galaxy contains many ancient artifacts that are now all that remains of long-vanished species and civilizations, their origins and histories lost in the ceaseless sweep of stars and eons. Attributing artifacts to the Celestials is guesswork at best, given how little is known about them. But some ancient sites are widely believed to be of Celestial origin, including these:
The Ciratu Spheres: The star Ciratu lies far from trade routes in the Expansion Region, orbited by six spheres of rock and iron completely honeycombed by twisting passages. Cantina tales tell of scouts who found wondrous machinery within Ciratu’s labyrinthine spheres — as well as scouts who returned curiously altered by experiences they couldn’t describe, if they returned at all.
The Aur Diamonds: Not far from Phu lies the curious Aur system. Aur IX and Aur X are diamonds the size of terrestrial worlds, spheres believed to have once sat at the core of gas giants. The Aur system’s 11th orbital position, meanwhile, contains a cloud of tumbling diamond fragments.
The Quintarad: Wild Space beyond the Outer Rim’s Tunka sector is broken by the Void of Aogros, an expanse that is devoid of star systems except for the oddity known as the Quintarad, five stars that orbit each other in a whirling tangle of plasma. Astrophysicists insist the Quintarad must be artificial, but no probe has ever survived a trip into the region enclosed by the stars’ orbits.
The Diatian Clockwork: Diatia Major is a planetless star on the edge of the Deep Core surrounded by an immense ring of metallic alloy etched with deep, regular grooves. The Clockwork has attracted awestruck visitors for millennia, and generated many theories about what its purpose might have been.
The Penegelen Shards: The star Penegelen, in the Inner Rim, is orbited by a spherical cloud of tumbling fragments. Some are bare, scorched alloy, while others are flash-frozen hunks of dirt and rock. Scientists believe the Shards are the remnants of a vast shell that once enclosed Penegelen.
The Ianane Ring: Amid the tangle of hyperspace anomalies west of the Core sits the Ianane system, whose third planet has long fascinated those scientists who have survived the difficult journey there and back. Ianane III is nearly as bright as its star, and for ages was wrongly identified as a stellar companion. But its brightness is a product of sunlight reflecting off the hundreds of meters of glassine sand that encase the planet’s surface — sand that whips through the planet’s atmosphere in monstrous storms of razor-sharp particles. Ianane III is surrounded by the ruins of an orbital ring whose surface features have been reduced to ash as black as the planet below is white.
Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare is the definitive guide to the ultimate intergalactic battlefield. Packed with original full-color artwork, it includes facts, figures, and fascinating backstories of major clashes and combatants in the vast Star Wars universe.