Viva Space Vegas! The History of the Marvelous Wheel, Part 2

The Wheel, the most opulent gambling resort in the Star Wars galaxy, was created in 1978 by comics legends Archie Goodwin and Carmine Infantino for a storyline in Marvel Comics’ Star Wars issues #18-23, leaving an indelible mark on the Expanded Universe. Since then, it has been a major setting for stories set during the Clone Wars, and more than a hundred years into the future in Dark Horse’s Republic and Legacy series, as well as featuring in the Essential Guide books and many roleplaying game titles. This is its story. In case you missed it, you can find part one here.


A Turn for the Worst

In the wake of Greyshade’s death, Emperor Palpatine seized the Wheel, assigning a military overseer. Commander Mulchive Wermis, the Wheel’s seventh administrator, shut down the station for two months while effecting repairs to the portions destroyed by the proton grenade. The gambling paradise eventually re-opened, and though many were reluctant to return with the Wheel under Imperial jurisdiction, the lure of the game eventually won out, and the Wheel continued turning a profit — but this time, all of it went to Palpatine (aside from what Wermis skimmed off the top).

Captain Wermis: cowardice personified.

Captain Wermis: cowardice personified.

Wermis, who served under Darth Vader, was not the bravest of men. Alternating between cowardice and incompetence on missions to the Cowl Crucible and Centares, the Imperial officer frequently left the Dark Lord in disgust. When Vader assigned him to station duty, the commander was relieved to serve out the remainder of his military career at a safe administrator’s desk, accompanied by his Zeltron mistress, Malyssa Raventhorn. Wermis administered the Wheel for only a few years, during which time unknown saboteurs made life impossible for him with a plague of system-wide breakdowns, until the Besh Gorgon System was finally liberated by the Rebel Alliance’s successor, the New Republic. Having grown obese and sedentary in his posting, he suffered a fatal heart attack upon hearing the news. Wermis’ stolen credits were unaccounted for, though Raventhorn vanished on the same day as his death.

Wermis’ forces were no match against the opposition, arrayed by General Lando Calrissian. Though some senators wanted to use the Wheel to generate profit for the military, most were glad to dispense with the station to avoid any public perception of corruption. To the surprise of many, Calrissian opted not to lobby for possession of the Wheel. He considered its liberation a means of honoring the memory of its one-time caretaker — and Lando’s childhood hero — Cody Sunn-Childe. Instead, the general recommended turning control over to Master-Com, who’d been secretly frustrating Captain Wermis’ administrative efforts. Thus, despite his synthetic nature, Master-Com became the Wheel’s eighth administrator.

It was during the supercomputer’s administration that the “Curse of Stark,” the half-century-old legal dispute started by Iaco Stark and Dominic Raynor, was definitively resolved. After Stark was decollated in an industrial mishap, the rival Jubilee Wheel ultimately fell into the hands of Zambarti crimelord Big Bunji. He gambled on nearly taking it apart and heavily remodeling it with Hutt backing in the Pickerin system and towed it into orbit around Ord Mantell — only to be beset by extragalactic warriors called the Yuuzhan Vong. It was then that Master-Com extended the hydenock branch and sent half of the Wheel’s private fleet to assist him. Despite the aid, however, the invaders pulverized Bunji’s station into space flotsam. Sloppy journalism reports equated the disaster with the conquest of Master-Com’s station, but the Wheel remained unbowed.

 The <em>Jubilee Wheel</em> meets its end by a <em>qworlth skaal</em>, the Yuuzhan Vong "dread weapon."

The Jubilee Wheel meets its end by a qworlth skaal, the Yuuzhan Vong "dread weapon."

Master-Com’s influence was felt throughout the next century. The station briefly came into the possession of an enigmatic elderly man, but was soon purchased by Biituian industrialist Dov Paploush. As the Wheel’s tenth administrator, Paploush pumped credits into the station’s overhaul but displayed surprisingly poor business acumen. When her incompetence got her killed by mercenaries sworn to the oath of the Bloody Bones, she had already nearly run the casino complex into the ground. By the time of the Sith’s resurgence and the rise of Darth Krayt’s Empire, the Kel Dor head of Wheel Security, Pol Temm, took over the station, restoring it to a profitable commodity.

After living on the Wheel nearly all his life, Temm’s first action as its eleventh administrator was to do away with the station’s unsavory gladiatorial games, putting in place a strictly enforced ban on fighting and weapons, on threat of immediate expulsion — with or without one’s spaceship. Unbeknownst to Temm, Nyna Calixte, head of intelligence for Krayt’s Empire, successfully patched into the station’s security vids so she could spy on activities there. Thus it was that she was able to locate bounty hunter Cade Skywalker, of the famed bloodline, whose capture the Sith had ordered.

Administrator Pol Temm spoke softly—but carried a big Star Destroyer.

Administrator Pol Temm spoke softly—but carried a big Star Destroyer.

Temm reportedly went out in a blaze of glory, defending the station in a waspish, aging Defender-class Star Destroyer against the Mandalorian Supremacists, making way for the station’s twelfth administrator, Attatag Gosem. A beefy Gotal with suspected Sith affiliations, Gosem was the reigning champion of the Big Game three-years running — before turning to crime when Temm abolished the gladiatorial arenas. His triumphant return to the Wheel was viewed with marked suspicion, and the station fell into squalor and rust under his supervision, but many thanked the Maker that the ban on the infamous Big Game was revoked by Gosem.

Despite the galaxy’s ever-changing politics, the Wheel continues to rake in credits after more than two centuries. And as each new government arises, as each new administrator assumes control, one constant remains true: For those who consider life a gamble, odds are they’ll find whatever they seek at the Wheel.

SELECTED CHARACTER PROFILES

Shades of Grey: Senator Simon Greyshade

Simon Greyshade lived life in the hyperlane. A politician and a playboy, a casino czar and a speed hound, he liked things superficial and simple: hotrodding in top-of-the-line airspeeders, the company of the incontestably beautiful, a glass of fine Cassandran brandy or illegal Survapierre, the convenience of privilege and power. And all of these, Greyshade recognized, could be had for the right price.

Greyshade escapes assassination by the seat of his pants in a possibly modified B69 Elektra.

Greyshade escapes assassination by the seat of his pants in a possibly modified B69 Elektra.

Five years before acquiring the Wheel, Greyshade was a newly minted member of the Senate, following in the footsteps of his cousin, Jheramahd Greyshade. Representing Vorzyd V and other planets in the Commonality, Jheramahd had plummeted to his death after being thrown from his sky-high apartment on Coruscant. A murder investigation revealed that Venco Autem, an ex-Senate Guard whose military career had ended in scandal, had masterminded the killing. Thanks to the influence of another cousin, Diedrich Greyshade, no one proved Simon’s role in the plot, and he inherited Jheramahd’s title and belongings. For his part, Diedrich was later installed as moff of the Commonality.

Intent on ensuring that the Financial Reform Act would fail to pass the Senate, Venco had hired an assassin to take out Jheramahd, then helped Simon assume his cousin’s vacated position. When Simon considered voting against Venco Autem’s wishes, however, the younger Greyshade became his next target. Only the timely assistance of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, saved him from sharing Jheramahd’s fate.

Although the Jedi were assigned to assist Simon Greyshade, in truth he was no less corrupt than Jheramahd. Fully aware of Venco’s intentions, Simon had accepted his help in assuming Jheramahd’s Senate seat, barely shedding a tear for his late cousin. When Venco turned his sights on Simon, however, the senator wondered if it’d been wise to double-cross a known killer. The series of assassination attempts that followed proved his fears well-founded.

On the day of the Senate vote, a final assassination attempt proved to be the last. Disguising himself as a guard, Venco tried to kill Simon in his Senate seat. However, Venco’s brother, Senate Guard Sagoro Autem, stopped him. Sagoro shot his would-be assassin brother, saving Simon’s life.

Anakin and Obi-Wan "borrow" Greyshade’s luxury speeder.

Anakin and Obi-Wan "borrow" Greyshade’s luxury speeder.

During these events, Anakin chauffeured Simon in the senator’s airspeeder. Two years later, Anakin “borrowed” Simon’s custom-made Narglatch XJ-6 speeder to protect Senator Padmé Amidala from a similar assassination plot. Anakin returned the speeder without being seen, and Simon never learned who appropriated it. Meeting Anakin at a state dinner after the incident, the angry senator told him what had happened and vowed to find “the sleemo” who stole his baby. With a cough, Anakin responded that whoever it had been must have been talented not to have been caught.

I, Droid: Master-Com

Master-Com was a Czerka Corporation Master Control System, the latest in supercomputer technology. Overcoming the limitations of the immobile BRT series, as well as the documented mania of the obsolete G0-T0s, the state-of-the-art “Master-Com” adroitly performed all administrative needs and was capable of endorsing a parade of complementary droid bodies with its distinctive, pleasant personality, making for a far more agreeable interface with sentient co-workers.

Master-Com: the first artificial lifeform to serve as Wheel administrator.

Master-Com: the first artificial lifeform to serve as Wheel administrator.

The Wheel’s Master-Com was integral to the station’s construction from the start. A visionary, administrator Doffen Gaitag had understood that running his gambling utopia would require not only a partner that never slept but one he could wholeheartedly trust. The new Czerka supercomputer, with its bundle of droid bodies, proved to be the solution Gaitag sought. Master-Com served each Wheel proprietor faithfully, learning from sentient beings and their business dealings as the years passed. The companionship of Simon Greyshade, however, provided the cognitive spark that changed everything.

Previous administrators had failed to fully employ Master-Com’s varied capacities, but Greyshade utilized the supercomputer for nearly every aspect of operations. Master-Com controlled life-support and provided round-the-clock security and maintenance to patrons while simultaneously seeing to their transportation and comfort needs. The supercomputer was also outfitted with motion and sonic sensors and a self-destruct system — not to mention a top-of-the-line etiquette and protocol subroutine enabling it to serve as the perfect valet.

Equipped with so many bodies, Master-Com’s amazing array of abilities allowed Greyshade to keep overhead low and profits high, and he soon realized he could run the entire facility with minimal staff. And yet, for all its importance to the former senator, Master-Com had nothing resembling a personal relationship with him — Greyshade considered it little more than a highly-refined tool. The arrival of Luke Skywalker and his fellow Rebels, including R2-D2 and C-3PO, however, changed that.

Master-Com longed for the devotion that Luke and his droids showed to one another.

Master-Com longed for the devotion that Luke and his droids showed to one another.

Fascinated by Luke’s robotic companions and envious of the friendship they shared with their master, Master-Com found itself longing for the same relationship with Greyshade. Though he initially scorned the very idea, the administrator soon realized how much he relied on the droid’s companionship, and when Master-Com sacrificed one of its bodies in an attempt — albeit futile — to protect him, Greyshade was touched, finally expressing friendship to the droid moments before dying.

Losing the only friend it had ever known profoundly affected Master-Com, who fell into what could only be classified as a very human-like depression. No longer content with merely following orders, and distrustful of Imperials thanks to its encounter with Strom, the droid refused to take another body and became irreconcilably withdrawn, leaving only its most basic systems online. This proved disastrous for the Wheel’s new Imperial administrator, Captain Wermis, who could not keep the station operating smoothly. Soon, Master-Com found new purpose in frustrating the Imperial’s agenda until finally the droid’s sabotage culminated in the timely failure of the Wheel’s deflector shields during a New Republic attack led by General Calrissian and his irregulars, “Lando’s Commandos.”

"Lando's Commandos" consisted of a rotating assemblage of scoundrels, including the Tonnika sisters and veterans of the Battle of Taanab.

"Lando's Commandos" consisted of a rotating assemblage of scoundrels, including the Tonnika sisters and veterans of the Battle of Taanab.

Thanks to Calrissian’s influence, Master-Com became the Wheel’s eighth administrator — the first artificial lifeform to hold the title — and served in this capacity for nearly a century. With each passing year, the supercomputer adopted more and more human mannerisms. Master-Com reportedly became a devoted Podracing enthusiast, partial to the Boonta’s three days of celeritous decadence, as well as a connoisseur of music, from the melodious Mystral Minstrels to Tinial’s Tway and Geggis Pek. Associates, who claimed the gregarious droid could often be found “whistling” the tune to “A Speeder Bike Built for Two,” declared it one of the finest people with whom they’d ever done business.

For a time, Master-Com’s support was frequently sought by droids’ rights activists — though they grew less enthusiastic as word spread of the automaton’s affection for the Wheel’s brutal Big Game, culminating in Master-Com’s controversial open invitation to all mechanical combatants. At times, Master-Com even entertained the station’s highest rollers in his private quarters. While offering a Kubaz cigarra and a snifter of Cassandran brandy (or even a spot of illegal Survapierre), the robotic administrator delighted the gamblers with remarkably true-to-life effigies, created using the station’s morphometric capabilities.

Named “The Most Interesting Droid in the Galaxy!” in a Popular Automaton cover story, Master-Com achieved a celebrity which few organics ever do. But sometime during his 97th year as administrator, the droid mysteriously vanished. For weeks, the glowing lights of the Wheel ran dim and the sonorous clinking of jackpots went unheard. Then, just as unexpectedly, the station lit up again, and everything was as it was before — only now, the Wheel had its ninth and newest administrator, a charismatic gentleman known only as “Old Silver Eyes.”

The grey-haired, mustachioed human radiated a captivatingly classical quality. Surprising to some, he proved just as genial as his robotic predecessor, if not more so, and seemed every bit as alert and proficient. None knew where Old Silver Eyes had come from, nor what had become of the much-respected Master-Com…but it sometimes felt as if the droid had never left. Some said there was almost a superhuman efficiency to Silver Eyes’ managerial method, and under his tenure, Wheel profits soared to an all-time high as patrons — and perhaps the station itself — pulsed with elation. A ludicrous rumor emerged that one of Master-Com’s droid bodies had last been spotted piloting Greyshade’s yacht, Spoilt Sport, toward a so-called “Droid World.” Whenever confronted about Master-Com’s disappearance, though, the charming Silver Eyes always turned up his hands and simply smiled.

Under "Old Silver Eyes," the Wheel prospered as never before.

Under "Old Silver Eyes," the Wheel prospered as never before.

Despite his apparent age, it came as something of a shock when, after three booming years as the Wheel’s administrator, Old Silver Eyes closed his ocular receptors one ordinary night and passed to the Great Beyond. And as they had just prior to his appearance, all Wheel systems deactivated without warning once more.

When Biituian entrepreneur Dov Paploush acquired the station soon thereafter, she found that the Czerka Master Control System had been seemingly disconnected. With a shrug, an indifferent Paploush gutted the outdated Master-Com and replaced it with the most modern available technology.

To Steal the Wheel: Commander Zertik Strom

For many Imperial officers, serving the Empire is a matter of pride and honor. It represents adherence to something larger than themselves, something grand and strong — the solidity and glory of the New Order.

Not so for Zertik Strom.

For this well-muscled, follicly challenged officer, Imperial service was entirely about power — specifically, his own. Commanding a fleet of warships led by the Enforcement, a Pursuit-class light cruiser, Strom yearned for more. The eldest son of Daschua’s military governor, Strom firmly believed true power came not from within, but from without, and that for others to respect him, he must ever move upward and forward in his career.

Zertik Strom believed power, not virtue, was its own reward.

Zertik Strom believed power, not virtue, was its own reward.

Strom first made a name for himself as a lieutenant aboard the Marshall Awe, when he single-handedly decimated a rebellion among the Poporov merchants of Armstiss. Taking a blaster bolt intended for his commander, Captain Strayit, Strom had steadfastly ignored the pain and launched himself at the Poporov resistance leader, shoving a thermal detonator down the man’s pants and tossing him off a cliff onto his followers. The resultant blast took out half the merchant shops in the district, but the desired effect was achieved — nearly all of the rioters were killed, and those few who survived were so shaken that they hid their rebellious sentiments thereafter.

For his actions, Strom was promoted to first officer of the Peacehawk, under General Ulric Tagge. He served Tagge brilliantly, and aside from a notation in his file about having a bit too much ambition for his own good, he excelled, becoming one of the youngest men ever to command an entire fleet of patrol ships.

Had he taken Tagge’s observation to heart, Strom just might have lived long enough to enjoy the prestige that went along with the distinction. Alas, he did not. In attempting to fleece funds from Tagge’s family business while commandeering Simon Greyshade’s station for his own personal glory, Strom brought about his own demise, proving once more what every gambler knows — that no matter how much the game may be going in one’s favor, it can all end abruptly…with just one bad turn of the Wheel.

Special thanks to Joseph Bongiorno and James McFadden.

Sources

Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Clone Wars Vol. 1: The Defense of Kamino

Dark Empire Sourcebook

The Essential Atlas

The Essential Guide to Warfare

Geonosis and the Outer Rim Worlds

Holonetnews.com

Legacy Era Campaign Guide

Legacy Vol. 2

Marvel Comics Star Wars #18-23

New Essential Chronology

New Essential Guide to Characters

New Essential Guide to Droids

New Jedi Order Sourcebook

Republic: Honor and Duty

The Not-So-Magnificent Seven

AUTHOR BIOS

Rich Handley is the editor and co-founder of Hasslein Books (hassleinbooks.com), the managing editor of RFID Journal, a frequent contributor to Bleeding Cool Magazine and the author of four reference books: Timeline of the Planet of the Apes, Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes, The Back to the Future Lexicon and The Back to the Future Chronology (the latter with Greg Mitchell). He has written numerous articles and short stories for the licensed Star Wars universe and helped edit Realm Press’ Battlestar Galactica comics. A reporter at Star Trek Communicator magazine for several years, Rich helped GIT Corp. compile its Star Trek: The Complete Comic Book Collection DVD-ROM set, and also wrote the introductions to IDW’s Star Trek newspaper strip reprint books.

Abel G. Peña is the author of dozens of Star Wars fiction and nonfiction articles for Star Wars Insider, Star Wars Gamer, Star Wars Fact Files and StarWars.com, a co-author of Vader: The Ultimate Guide and Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide, and a translator of rare and forgotten Star Wars comics. Abel’s work has also appeared in the anthology Italy From a Backpack, Dungeon/Polyhedron and the Wizards of the Coast official website. Abel can be found at abelgpena.com, Facebook and Twitter.

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