Some may be surprised to know but I think that the Coruscant Underworld is one of the most beautiful locales in the galaxy. Even though I would want to live their due to the crime, the pests, and never seeing sunlight. But it really is a truly beautiful place I mean look.
That is just amazing scenery and also my wallpaper.
But now unto business. The history of the Coruscant Underworld is riddled with crime and bounty hunters. In the pre-Republic era the bottom fifty layer of the planet were covered and several mutant species evolved.
When the Republic came into power the government did little to improve the situation. Food shortages led to riots and smuggling and when the Republic started to fall the situation got even worse. Crime lords, spice dealers, everyday criminals, and other outlaws moved in and start to cause even more problems. The problem even got so bad that the government declared marshal law in some sectors.
When the Empire came it became even worse. Even though the Imperials had more presence due to the hunt for the remaining Jedi who survived the Second Jedi Purge, they paid a blind eye to crime much like how they treated most of the galaxy (Wow, I am sounding anti-Imperial).
During the New Republic era things yet again got worse. With the Imperial Remnant attacking every few years much devastation was caused to the lower levels, which let them open for attack from the Yuuzhan Vong whom terra-formed the whole planet including the Underworld. Even with efforts from the Galactic Alliance barely recovered but it still kept going.
Im the times of Cade Skywalker the Underworld the underworld was mostly controlled by the Hutts and still was effected by the Vongspawn virus.
So there is a quick rundown of the history of the Coruscanti underworld I hope you all enjoyed.
Happy Labor Day, readers! Today, I wanted to look into one of the most fascinating short stories ever to be published in Insider, Karen Traviss’ “A Two Edged Sword,” (mistakenly published in Insider as just “Two Edged Sword”) the follow-up to another Traviss short story entitled “In His Image.” Both stories were subsequently published as an addendum in Aaron Allston’s Betrayal. “In His Image” is a story of Sa Cuis, one of Palpatine’s first “hands,” and a particularly loyal one. Cuis was sent by Palpatine to murder Vader, and although he fails, Vader extracts some of his DNA for future cloning purposes- one of the earliest stories, continuity-wise, which documents an obsession of the new Empire – cloning force users.
Vader is assisted and defended in this story by his loyal lieutenant, Erv Lakeuf, whose DNA is also extracted in the hopes of strengthening Vader’s Fist, the 501st. We open our story as Sidious and Lakeuf observe Vader training one of the clones of Cuis, which ends abruptly upon Vader’s choosing. Vader then engages Sidious in conversation, and we get to see some terrific insight into his character, particularly the way in which he holds on to his past. Vader is shown to be very wary of Sidious in this story, and it is very clear that he keeps the fact that he is being used and abused in the front of his mind, constantly. However, he also references Padme and Obi-Wan multiple times in this story, most notably when coming to terms with the fact that Sidious had ordered his execution, and likely would again, tapping into the theme that defined Anakin Skywalker: betrayal. Vader muses “And I trusted you too, Padme. I’m practiced at handling betrayal now.” Are we then to also assume that Vader sees his actions against his wife as justified? That he truly believes that she brought Obi-Wan there to kill her, even though her last words to him denied this fact? Some food for thought.
While Vader clearly has much contempt in his heart for Sidious, this story presents us with an even more interesting relationship, the fatherly one that Vader feels for Lakeuf. While Lakeuf’s clones are being bossed by Cuis’s in a practice session being viewed by Vader and Sidious, Vader remarks that he feels and understands Lakeuf’s fear, which is that his clones will displease Sidious, and Lakeuf will have to spend another six months away from his wife and family training them. After considering this, Vader orders that Cuis’ clones holster their lightsabers when training against Lakeuf’s clones, in favor of (non-lethal) metal staffs. Sidious notices Vader’s behavior, identifies the root of it, and tells Vader that creating this facade of a friendship with lieutenant can be used to his advantage. Unbeknown to Sidious, Vader appears to have a genuine fondness for his subordinate, especially after Lakeuf tells Sidious (after being prompted) that the reason for his loyalty to the Dark Lord is grounded in their understanding that Vader does not ask the 501st to do anything he would not also do himself. This has many real world implications, surely- an effective strategy taught to leaders in our own business world is to “get in the trenches” with subordinates, and respect will be earned. As a result of this show of loyalty, Vader tells Lakeuf to notify his wife that he would be returning home for a visit. Vader justifies this move to Sidious as “motivation,” but a sense of wanting to live vicariously through Lakeuf is also present, as Vader is aware that he will never be able to enjoy a return to those he loved.
The team of Sidious, Vader, Lakeuf and his men, the clones, and Sheyvan (another hand of the Emperor, and trainer of Cuis’ clones) board a shuttle for the Imperial Center, presumably on Coruscant. After only a short time in the air, Vader immediately senses treachery, and this is confirmed by his lieutenant, who notifies him that Sheyvan and the clones of Cuis have mobilized, killed all of Lakeuf’s men, and are preparing to kill Sidious and take the ship. Lakeuf and his colleague, Pepin (named after Dany Pepin, legend of the SW Fan Audio community and creator of Star Wars En Direct) obtain a flamethrower, and cut the power to the ship. With the assistance of the flamethrower, Vader engages and wipes out the mutineers and their leaders quickly, but Lakeuf suffers serious burns in the fallout, another distinct connection that he would now share with his commander. Before falling to Vader’s blade, Sheyvan warns the Dark Lord about Sidious: “He will betray you too,” to which Vader utters the line of the story, “Few men will not try to betray me.”
After learning of his friend’s injuries, Vader cradles- let me repeat that- Vader cradles his lieutenant, and calls for bacta. In this moment, Vader’s first thoughts go to Obi-Wan, who Vader describes as the “master he trusted,” but one who had abandoned him to die- a bit of a delusional moment, given the actuality of their battle on Mustafar, but one that goes a long way into Vader’s mindset. He later tells a scarred but healing Lakeuf, “You are too loyal for your own good, Lieutenant” to which Lakeuf replies “That’s my job, my Lord.” Vader then tells him, “You never disappoint me.” Refreshingly, this feels like it should be an exchange between Anakin and Rex, or Obi-Wan and Cody- there is still a semblance of humanity within the mangled metal that replaced Anakin Skywalker.
We then are taken to a final scene, Vader and Sidious watching troops gather on Coruscant, in a scene that harkens back to the end of Attack of the Clones. In this instance, however, it is the dialogue that is more important than the imagery. Vader tells Sidious he does not want Dark Jedi in the Imperial Army, and Sidious seemingly ignores him, instead justifying that they would need to be trained by Vader himself, not a less trustworthy hand. And right on cue, as Palpatine tells Vader in the most patronizing of manners that “the solution to having to watch your back is to have the enemy watch theirs instead,” Vader delivers just one final thought to Sidious: “I will come for you one day.” As difficult as it is to acknowledge, especially knowing what he will be capable of down the line, Padme’s dying words are vindicated yet again- Anakin is still there, deep down, in many ways- and as this story shows, he never loses sight of himself. The tale of Vader is truly a tragedy of staggering proportion.
Luceno’s Labyrinth of Evil and Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars microseries (ran from 2003-05) present the Battle of Coruscant in different lights, a continuity dilemma that has always irked me, to some degree, as they were likely in production around the same time. While I favor Luceno’s version in terms of the gritty realism, the scope that the microseries was able to present through its trademark exaggerated visual style (i.e. Saesee Tiin leading the fighters into space, where a massive battle was already raging) also makes it one of the two to three most memorable storylines of the short-run series. Labyrinth does this event in Galactic history well in that it provides backstory for the giant, overreaching question that is not even approached in the microseries – HOW!? Just as many would question Roosevelt’s administration following the Japanese assault on a crucial US Naval Base in 1941, or those who accuse the second Bush administration of prior knowledge of 9/11, how on earth could the capital planet be invaded without some sort of inside assistance? Of course, we, standing outside the fourth wall, know a great deal about that “inside assistance,” but it is an assumption that the writers of the micro-series should not have presumed, I would argue.
Luceno provides the needed backdrop, albeit simplistic- the “shield generator,” as referred to by Shaak Ti, was deactivated or destroyed. Thoughtful characters such as Padme seem baffled by this, but, as is the tragedy of the Prequel Trilogy, the dots are a bit too far apart for connecting. Windu also suggests some skepticism as to the timing of this assault, as it came at the end of a lengthy operation intended to root out the truth about Darth Sidious.
As a practical matter, one would believe that the value of Coruscant to the Republic surely warrants some sort of backup security measures out of the hands of one single person (similar to modern-day nuclear codes), even if he is the Dark Lord of the Sith masquerading as Supreme Chancellor. However, one would have to acknowledge that logic is seemingly defied at many points throughout the Clone Wars, the excuse for which is that everything is interwoven into the brilliantly hideous plan of its curator. Dooku’s mark is surely on this treachery as well, as he assists Grievous in commandeering a Republic gunboat that takes him directly to 500 Republica, hoodwinking Windu and Kit Fisto long enough for Grievous to lay waste to Palpatine’s security detail, made up of nameless Jedi and his trademark red guards.
The level of coordination is absolutely flawless, and we as the reader/viewer are led to believe that this is all due to Jedi being extended to the Outer Rim sieges on Palpatine’s orders. Perhaps we should even assume that, should Kenobi and Skywalker have been allowed back home, they could have disrupted this plot. Yoda harps on the ability of the Dark Side to cloud everything many times throughout the films and the EU, but while this is truly Grievous’ “finest hour,” as Sidious transmits to him during Luceno’s novel, it is, first and foremost, a staggering failure for the Order. All practical matters aside, if we as fans are to believe Yoda when he definitively tells Luke “No” when asked if the Dark Side is stronger, and are also expected to make all of these logistical leaps in assuming Palpatine could, in the blink of an eye, disable the planetary defenses for the Republic capital, the greatest leap of all is accepting that the Jedi were absolutely, totally blinded to all of this. Mace wishes to tell the Senate in AOTC that the Order’s ability to use the force has “diminished.” The way I see it, in this instance, Palpatine turns it completely off, as easily as he flips the switch on the planetary shield. And that is a small detail worth exploring.
More to come this week! And we’ll make sure to talk about Kit Fisto’s blue lightsaber.