Star Wars: "Orientation"
A story overlapping Star Wars: Lords of the Sith, Darth Vader and Rae Sloane work together to thwart a threat to the Emperor!
By the time A New Dawn came out in 2014, it had become the practice once more for novels to be supported by short stories in Star Wars Insider magazine, either by their authors or by other contributors. But with Star Trek: The Next Generation - Takedown on my plate as well, I had to pass on the opportunity. Instead, the magazine ran an excerpt of the novel — along with art from cover artist Doug Wheatley — in issue #152, the October 2014 issue.
That issue gave us our first look at Captain Rae Sloane — and when a few months passed and a story was needed for release in conjunction with Paul Kemp's Lords of the Sith novel, I was finally available. After conversations with the publisher, we decided to set a Vader/Emperor story at a specific point during Kemp's novel, which took place several years before New Dawn. That gave me the chance both to write the Emperor for the first time, while also writing an early chapter in the life of Rae Sloane.
It was full-circle in several senses. I had not written Darth Vader (apart from two pages in Vector) since my very first Star Wars story in Empire #35. That was a detective story set on a bridge, and this would be, in a sense, too — and like that story, it involved a member of the crew who was secretly plotting against the Empire. The name of the story, "Orientation," also called back the school references in the titles of the Knights of the Old Republic stories: Commencement, Homecoming, Reunion.
The story itself was an easy write, focusing on Pell Baylo and his flight school. It occurred to me that in the Republic era, the naval academy would have existed alongside a number of independent military schools — think The Citadel or VMI — where members were technically cadets and would graduate into the military proper, with commission. Certainly, I figured, there would be old-school (no pun intended) officers who might object to the Emperor getting his hands on these academies; that's where Baylo came from.
The other thing I wanted to explore was that — since we are still in early days following Episode III — Anakin Skywalker would have been straining a little at the collar the Emperor's put around his neck. Here was a guy who defiantly thought he knew better than the Jedi, completely subjugating himself to the Emperor. He would react to that, of course — and naturally, the Emperor would have seen it coming, and would have put tests in his way.
The story was published in Star Wars Insider #157, the May/June 2015 issue, and was first made available in April of that year at Star Wars Celebration: Anaheim, which I attended. There were variant covers. The story was reprinted in the Star Wars Insider Special Edition 2016 in November 2015, and in the paperback edition of Star Wars: Lords of the Sith in January 2016, .
- This may have been the first mention of Wild Space in the post-New Dawn fiction. I don't know for sure.
- This story takes place at a specific moment early in Lords of the Sith; Perilous was the vessel that carries Vader and the Emperor onward.
- "Now we know who our next admiral will be." I believe I already knew Sloane would become and admiral when I wrote this.
- I was told in my very first Vader story that he should say very little — and he does, here. But we're inside his head, so we get to see a good deal more.
- While Sloane is named as a "cadet" here, that's what Baylo calls everyone; note that she is shown with no rank. At this point she would likely have been a commissioned officer, having already graduated Prefsbelt; Baylo's is a graduate specialty school, readying officers for bridge command. That should be fairly evident, since someone would be unlikely to go from recruit to captain in the time that separates this story from "Bottleneck."
- The emperor's wish to "keep the wretch alive" actually ties back to that first story of mine with Vader, "Model Officer," in which Vader makes exactly that decision.
This story is reprinted in the paperback of Star Wars: Lords of the Sith
(Random House/Del Rey, 2016), available from Amazon.