Leave it to James Luceno to reignite my enthusaism for this project. As you may have noticed the past month or so was rough for me reading wise, cramming in 20+ young adult novels about Obi-Wan Kenobi to the point that my phone can now write entire coherent sentences about Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon using only autocorrect. Watch:
“Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon discover that the Jedi Temple and Siri herself are going to be attacked by the Offworld Xanatos Company and I don’t know what to do about it.”
It’s unreal. Anyway, after all of that, it has been refreshing to dive in to James Luceno’s short story Darth Maul: Saboteur and remember that Star Wars is for grown-ups too.
Welcome to Legends of the Hydian Way the chronicle of my attempt to read through and review all the novels that make up mainline Legends canon in chronological order. May the Force be with me.
Our story begins with Darth Sidious dispatching his Apprentice, Darth Maul, to the small mining world of Dorvalla. Sidious seeks to push more and more worlds into the grip of the Trade Federation, and speficially to bolster the resume of one Nute Gunray, who you may know as the Viceroy of the Trade Federation in the films.
Maul’s task is to facilitate both major mining concerns on Dorvalla turning to the Trade Federation to ship the ore they produce. Both Lommite Limited and InterGal hate the other company and Maul quickly learns that they are already embroiled in a war of corporate sabotage.
We see a subtle side to Darth Maul in this story which you could be forgiven for thinking he lacks given his film appearances. The Clone Wars and his subsequent revival in current canon would flesh this out later but at the time of this story’s publication Maul died with finality on Naboo.
We see him demonstrate his ability to stay under the radar as he identifies the key players in both factions’ struggle to hobble the other. Using a hijacked spy drone and some complicated audio software, Maul convinces both InterGal and Lommite Limited that the other is planning a major sabotage of their mining fleet during a delivery to Eriadu.
In panic and desperation, both companies separately hire salvagers-turned-pirates from the Toom Clan to use their valuable interdictor ships to force the mining fleet of their rival out of hyperspace and destroy them. The Tooms, never one to turn down a profit, accept both contracts and immediately evacuate the planet.
The Toom Clan makes good on its promise to both parties resulting in both fleets lurching out of hyperspace on a collison course. Both fleets are destroyed and enraged at the Tooms’ betrayal, join forces to hunt down the skullduggerous pirates. A joint strike team composed of members of Lommite Limited and InterGal security forces land on the pirate’s remote base, where Darth Maul is waiting to make his move.
Throughout events, Maul has been waiting in the wings. An altered recording here, a planted bit of evidence there, and he’s manipulated both sides into doing exactly what he wants. Now all that remains is to tie the bow on things. He waits until the pirates are all dead, then emerges from hiding and dispatches the joint strike team without using his lightsaber. With all witnesses dead, he dispatches one final altered recording to frame the head of Lommite Limited’s security team for the whole affair.
In the end, Lommite Limited and InterGal merge into one company to extract the ore from Dorvalla, but with no fleet, they are forced to turn to the Trade Federation to actually ship the goods. Sidious gets what he wants, and we get to see Darth Maul as the shadowy hand of the Sith we were always told he was.
I quite like Saboteur. It’s short, yet evocative. Maul gets to shine as a throughly dedicated and competent agent of Sidious, and we get to see some more of the Sith plan coming to fruition. Like Darth Plageuis, this story shows the mastery of political intrigue Luceno brings to Star Wars. The whole scheme to bring these two companies to their knees seems on the outside merely the inevitable result of two feuding corporations. Pull back the curtain, though, and we see how a course of events that would have led to one or the other becoming a major shipping concern in the region was altered, instead leading to a crippled mining corporation beholden entirely to the Trade Federation. At the same time, Nute Gunray, pawn of the Sith, is propelled ever closer to leadership of the Federation, and with one simple course correction Sidious gets ever closer to controlling a major player in the tragedy he is composing.
I highly recommend this short story and am very much looking forward to next week’s offering, which is also from James Luceno. Come back next week for Cloak of Deception and see how much more of the long game Palpatine began with Maul’s mission to Dorvalla.