Empire Reborn: Prologue

Six years before the Battle of Yavin, an Imperial survey cruiser charting the Unknown Regions stumbled across a massive, ancient space station orbiting a nameless type A star. The Empire sent an expedition of its top scientists and archaeologists to study the artifact and they discovered that the central ring structure was not a curiosity from an era before artificial gravity but instead encircled some sort of space time anomaly. One researcher described it in his report as “a scab over a tear in the universe.” Ships were known to go missing in the Unknown Regions all the time and it was theorized that they often fell through “cracks” but this was the first time such a thing had been observed in a controlled state.

The scientists could not say whether the installation had originally been intended to stabilize the rift or to hold it shut. The machinery had been dead for thousands of years and nothing they did could bring it back. While the rift itself would likely be of great interest to physicists, the team saw no further benefit to poking at the station’s remains and indicated as much to Coruscant.

They had almost finished packing to leave when the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Devastator dropped out of hyperspace. Darth Vader himself appeared on their comms to announce that he would be coming aboard to assume control of the project. The scientists received this news with considerable alarm. The woman who drew the short straw rushed off to the docking platform to meet Lord Vader’s approaching shuttle and give the Emperor’s masked enforcer a personal tour of the facility.

In the control room, Darth Vader motioned for his escort and stormtrooper guards to halt just inside the doorway. His helmeted head turned to take in the silent consoles and monitors. Then, he took a step towards the primary control station, stretched out his gloved hand and stared at it. The research team had spent weeks trying to turn on that console without success. After thirty seconds of being stared at by Darth Vader, it had enough. The whole station trembled. Literally. Somehow the ancient machines decided it was in their best interest to cooperate. Consoles lit up. Monitors sprang to life. A crackling, tearing sound reverberated through the station and then the center of the ring, visible through the room’s transparisteel windows, lit up with a sickly purple glow. The space time rift had opened.

The first object to pass through the rift was a probe droid launched by Devastator. Naval personnel and scientists alike gasped as the droid vanished in a ripple of purple fire, like a stone sinking into a dark pond. Then streams of data began to flow back from the other side.

The interstellar medium beyond the rift was like nothing in known space. It was denser, full of strange elements that had no known equivalent. It did not interact as expected with the emissions of the probe’s small ion drive, significantly reducing its thrust so that the droid crawled along at a snail’s pace. Sensors were impacted too. Their readings muddled. It took hours to make sense of everything the probe was seeing.

On the far side of the rift lay a complete planetary system: a type G star, six terrestrial worlds, two gas giants, an asteroid belt and a plethora of moons. The probe detected no signs of intelligent life, no radio signals or heat sources. The third planet had a thin nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, abundant plant life and large liquid oceans. Humans could walk on its surface with only a small respirator and the temperature would be downright pleasant.

After a week of remote study, Darth Vader grew impatient. A Star Destroyer was not a ship to be risked in science experiments so he called the governor of the closest Outer Rim sector and had them dispatch a suitable vessel. Within the hour, an aging Tartan-class patrol cruiser called Ardgartan broke off its mission showing the flag to wildcat mining colonies and jumped to the top secret coordinates. Her captain, Commander Miquel Lambros, wasn’t thrilled with the idea of taking his ship into a mysterious space time rift that led to a universe where the laws of physics were all topsy-turvy but he figured his odds of survival doing that were probably better than defying Lord Vader.

The explosion wasn’t quite as bad as he expected.

As best her engineers could determine after the fact, Ardgartan’s main deflector shield ignited a violent reaction in the foreign interstellar medium. The resulting power surge blew every circuit breaker on the ship. The crew came through it with nothing worse than a few electrical burns and a heroic damage control effort got the engines back online after a couple of hours. The little ship would need weeks of yard time to get back into fighting trim but abandoning the mission meant answering to Vader so Commander Lambros transmitted a message through the rift that repairs were under way and they would proceed to the habitable planet at best possible speed.

Best possible speed turned out to be glacially slow even by the standards of an old patrol cruiser. During the week it took the ship to claw its way across the system, Darth Vader grew bored and departed for Coruscant to deliver his report in person to the Emperor. He tasked the science team with collecting as much data as they could about the system beyond the rift and instructed Commander Lambros to make his ship and crew available for whatever experiments or sample collection they required.

Meanwhile, back on Coruscant, the Emperor mulled over the earliest reports of unified resistance movements. As unlikely as it might seem that the insurgents could pose a threat to his new order, Sheev Palpatine was nothing if not the most paranoid and conniving person in the entire history of the galaxy. He had already begun to form a series of plans that would be spoken of only in whispers even in the most sensitive Imperial circles: The Contingency.

Only Palpatine himself knew that there was no single Contingency. There were dozens. All carefully isolated from one another in self-contained cells, each sycophant and co-conspirator believing that they and they alone were held in such high esteem as to be trusted with the Emperor’s most sensitive scheme.

One such catspaw was a young and charismatic man named Fabian Wolfe. Like most well born Imperial bureaucrats, Fabian graduated from the Academy of Coruscant, flirted with the allure of a naval career and ultimately disdained the military in favor of a more libertine lifestyle. His appointment, secured for him by his father, mostly involved schmoozing with the movers and shakers of the Empire’s vast military industrial complex. His life was an endless stream of fancy dinner parties, elite casinos, sporting events and operas funded mostly out of the defense budget. It suited him perfectly.

Even Fabian never quite understood how he came to the attention of the Emperor. Sheev Palpatine was a master of his craft, always on the lookout for a useful tool, and, when he found one, he knew exactly how to hone it. Over the years, he drew Fabian ever closer into his confidences until one night he called the man to a private meeting in his personal chambers. Surely the ultimate sign of Imperial favor. There he explained about the existence of the rift and sketched out a rough plan to colonize the habitable world. He would enlist the Empire’s most prominent arms manufacturers to establish facilities there: research, manufacturing, shipyards. All forever beyond the reach of the Rebel traitors.

“And you,” the Emperor said, his wrinkled face splitting in a wide toothy grin, “are the perfect man to oversee it all… Moff Wolfe.”

Fabian arrived in what had come to be known as “The Omega Sector” about the same time that the Death Star was embarking on its maiden cruise to Jeddah. A small settlement had already been established on the third planet while several Worldshaper platforms rapidly transformed its thin atmosphere into something more tolerable. In a rousing speech to the several thousand technicians, scientists and engineers already present, Moff Wolfe named the planet New Coruscant and promised that it would soon be as grand and critical to the Empire’s future as its namesake.

To everyone’s surprise, most of all his own, Fabian Wolfe proved to be an effective administrator. His contacts bore fruit and transformed the empty backwater world into a hub of industry, slowly adapting the strange minerals of the sector to traditional applications. Bulk freighters full of colonists, most of them volunteers, arrived daily and settlements spread like wildfire across the planet’s surface.

Ardgartan remained intact despite the best efforts of the science teams. On paper she was assigned to the sector as a defensive picket. In reality she continued to be used for outlandish experiments, much to the consternation of her captain. She was at least the first ship to be outfitted with the new prototype sublight engines, designed to operate efficiently in the sector’s interstellar medium and to burn the local fuel sorium, which proved to be one of the more effective modifications.

Even Commander Lambros managed to put his foot down when the engineers from Rendili StarDrive wanted to install their third “promise it really works this time” hyperdrive and he wasn’t interested in their inane babbling about how the ship just needed to be parked in exactly the right spot to make it work. They were an Old Republic company and only got an invitation in the first place because the CFO’s son was a regular at Moff Wolfe’s bi-weekly sabbac games.

Life in the Sector went on.

When the administration received a message from the Star Destroyer Imperious, stationed outside the rift to dissuade potential interlopers, it seemed routine enough. The big ship was being called away to participate in a fleet exercise at some place called Endor. The captain promised they would be gone no more than a week and assured Moff Wolfe that the local defense forces would have a tremendous advantage in the very unlikely scenario that a Rebel battle group without sorium drives stumbled into the sector before he returned.

Three days later the rift gate closed. That did cause a bit of a furor, but Moff Wolfe assured the people that when Imperious returned she would notify the Emperor and someone would come to reopen the rift and reestablish communications with the colony.

He could not have known that Imperious had been blown to scrap by the Rebel cruiser Liberty. Or that the Rebels had won a tremendous victory at the Battle of Endor, destroying a Death Star and killing both the Emperor and Vader. Or that all across the galaxy Palpatine’s Contingencies were being activated to preserve the Imperial state.

The people of the Omega Sector waited for a signal that would never come, from a government that no longer existed. In the meantime they continued working their assigned tasks. Dutiful cogs in the great Imperial machine.

On the day that would much later be known as January 1st, Year 1 OS, the unimaginatively named exploration vessel Prospector 001 left her berth at the Sienar Fleet Systems naval yard and began a slow cruise towards Vandor, the fourth planet of the New Coruscant system. Her mission was to perform a field test of the new geological survey scanner and to determine if the cold desert world had enough accessible mineral deposits to make establishing a small mining base worthwhile.

She was about to make a discovery that would change the Omega Sector forever.

Continue to Interlude: Game Setup