Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha: Days of Labour Pains

Days of Fear

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Author: John Jackson Miller

Artist: Dustin Weaver (issues 13 and 15), Brian Ching (issue 14)

Medium: Comic

Publication Date: January – April 2007

Timeline Placement: 3,963 BBY

Series: Knights of the Old Republic #13-15

We meet up with our less-than-intrepid heroes on the planet Ralltiir, where we left them at the end of the preceding short story. Zayne spars with Jarael outside the The Last Resort to test the vambraces she’s given him. Gauntlets laced with phrikite, a lightsaber-resistant ore, the vambraces prove to be fully functional when Jarael steals Zayne’s lightsaber and attempts to cut off his hands while he screams for her to stop. No means no, kids.

[Continuity Note: Phrik, the alloy produced from phrikite, dates back to the mid-‘90s EU, originating in the videogame Star Wars: Dark Forces, where it was used to construct the robotic dark troopers. One of several lightsaber-proof substances in the EU, phrik eventually fell largely out of use among Star Wars authors in favor of cortosis. Of course, cortosis ore was introduced as a very brittle material that caused lightsaber blades to temporarily short out instead of being outright energy-resistant armor. As is the nature of the EU, in most of its appearances, including the KotOR games, cortosis was written to function more like the previously created and underused phrik.]

Flush with cash from Gryph’s bank account on Telerath, Jarael and Camper prepare to take the The Last Resort and go back into hiding from their mysterious pasts. Zayne is forlorn about Jarael leaving with no apparent reluctance. She tries to make up for her indifference by saying she’s glad she didn’t kill him when she had the chance. For some reason that doesn’t do the trick though.

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“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
– some stupid guy

The The Last Resort makes orbit, where they find the Republic fleet massing in preparation to meet the Mandalorian invasion. Jarael says she hopes Zayne and Gryph will be able to sneak past without getting caught. Camper tells her to mind her own business. Meanwhile, in the ship’s hold, a cargo container pops open and out steps assassin droid HK-24.

[Continuity Note: HK-24 is, of course, meant to be a precursor to HK-47, a companion character in both KotOR games. Although the games established that HK-47 was personally constructed by the Sith Lord Darth Revan, later sources introduced a whole line of HK-series assassin droids mass produced by Czerka Corporation. The first was HK-01, a prototype model who was retconned to be the instigator of the Great Droid Revolution mentioned by Arca Jeth in Tales of the Jedi. So we’re left with a Darth Vader-building-C-3PO situation where apparently instead of designing some kind of unique robot from his own imagination, Revan just opted to buff the specs of some manufacturer’s product line. Isn’t continuity great?]

HK-24 shoots poor Elbee and overwhelms Camper and Jarael, but they are saved when Rohlan Dyre steps out of a different cargo container and shoots HK- in the head. I guess he’s just been hiding in this box since the end of Flashpoint, presumably surviving on space cockroaches and his own urine.

Meanwhile, Gryph secures a new ship by hiring the galaxy’s worst starship thief, a Trandoshan named Slyssk, who is also the most twee Star Wars character since that dog dressed as an AT-AT.

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 So kawaii!

 

Slyssk decides to hold out for more money than Gryph had hired him for so Zayne uses the Force to endanger his life by collapsing a giant pylon on him. Gryph pretends to save him by pushing him out of the way, causing Slyssk to name Gryph his “grakhowsk” and swear a life debt to him. Our heroes!

The original crew of the Little Bivoli, the stolen ship, shows up looking for their craft. Zayne, Gryph, and Slyssk escape under a hail of blasterfire, realizing once they are aboard the Little Bivoli that it is a military provisioning ship. They make it to orbit and run smack into the Republic fleet, where they are hailed by newly promoted Admiral Saul Karath’s warship Courageous and ordered to fall into formation. Flying as inconspicuously as possible, the Little Bivoli tags along with the fleet as it makes the hyperspace jump to the planet Serroco.

Gryph puts a chef hat on Slyssk and they quickly gain a reputation among the Republic soldiers for having the best food in camp. Zayne disguises himself by wearing goggles and goes to work as a dishwasher, in which capacity he makes the acquaintance of the fleet’s most talented pilot and the first recruitable party member in KotOR, Lieutenant Carth Onasi.

Carth strikes up a conversation with Zayne about Serroco’s native intelligent species, the Stereb, when they see one picking through the trash for leftovers. Carth is moved by Zayne’s kindness in offering the alien a free meal and tells him about the practical jokes he used to play on the dimwitted aliens back when he was stationed on the planet’s orbital watchstation. Using the Republic’s communications network, he would broadcast tornado warnings and send the Stereb scurrying for shelter below ground. He used to think it was great fun, until he went down to the planet and met its people in person.

Zayne wonders if the Republic is endangering the Stereb by placing their military encampments right next to the natives’ stone cities, but Carth explains that Republic command ordered them here against Saul Karath’s better judgment. Zayne wanders off by himself and unknowingly falls into a trance, in which the Force grants him a vision of the future: the Mandalorians will destroy Serroco in one day. “I see what they’re doing,” he hears Mandalore say. “I see a defense without honor. Let them see what such a defense deserves. Let them burn.

He runs to tell Gryph to pack up and take off immediately, then stows away on Carth Onasi’s ship to warn Admiral Karath aboard the Courageous. Carth catches him but Zayne reveals that he is a Jedi, leading Carth to trust his clams of precognition and agree to take him to the admiral. Meanwhile, Gryph and Slyssk talk about how they should probably get the frak out of there, then nonchalantly continue serving breakfast because I guess they’re stupid or something.

Carth takes Zayne before Admiral Karath, who immediately recognizes him as the Jedi killer of Taris and, he believes, a Mandalorian spy. As Zayne is put in handcuffs, he tries to explain that the admiral has to move the Republic forces away from the Stereb cities to avoid insulting the Mandalorians’ sense of honor. He suggests they call his good friend Squint for a character reference, but the fact that he doesn’t even know his friend’s real name puts the kibosh on that.

Just as the Republic expected, the Mandalorian fleet suddenly arrives in the system, but for some reason they don’t advance and hold position outside their enemies’ weapons range. Zayne continues to plead with Admiral Karath, who ignores him, and the Mandalorians fire a spread of nuclear missiles. To the surprise of everyone but Zayne, however, the missiles avoid the fleet entirely and head for the planet.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have served seconds . . .” Gryph muses, looking up from his pile of gold-pressed latinum, and then the entire planet is consumed in mushroom clouds. Across the galaxy, various characters sense Serroco’s death through the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

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Oh hi Malak and Revan.

The people! The people!” screams Zayne. Morvis, Saul Karath’s second in command, reports that Serroco’s human settlements have sustained heavy damage, while the Stereb cities have been completely wiped away. Only eight Republic ships managed to escape the planet’s surface. Zayne, still reeling from the mass deaths, asks if the Little Bivoli was among the survivors. Carth calls up its burning hull on the monitor and is like NOPE.

Admiral Karath vows that he will personally hand Zayne over to the Jedi Masters from Taris, then has him locked in the brig. That night, Carth Onasi stops by and tells Zayne he had decided to prank the Stereb for old times’ sake and called in tornado warnings to seventeen of their cities. The Republic has yet to hear from any survivors, but given the depth of the planet’s catacombs, Carth believes that some Stereb have a good chance of making it.

He wasn’t sure if he should trust Zayne’s vision, but says he hopes someone would play the same joke on his family if the situation arose. (This is a reference to how Carth will eventually lose his wife and son when Saul Karath bombs their homeworld during the next war.) “Hang in there, Zayne,” says Carth, and closes the door.

So this story is really good but before we get into that let’s talk about the massive, gaping continuity error! The Mandalorians’ destruction of Serroco originated in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. “I heard about Dxun. Everyone has. I heard about Serroco, and I sure as hell know about Malachor V. What makes you think you’ve got the right to interrogate me on anything? You’ve got plenty of lives to answer for—all you Jedi do,” party member Atton Rand Paul tells the player character. The implication here is clear: the Jedi were somehow responsible for Serroco’s destruction.

Except the event as depicted in the comic has nothing to do with the Jedi whatsoever. The Mandalorians were provoked not by the Jedi, but by the Republic command’s decision to use the Stereb cities as shields.

KotOR II also establishes that the player character was present on Serroco during its destruction. Days of Fear just barely covers its ass regarding this, giving Carth a brief line about rogue Jedi rumored to be investigating the front. Galactic Republic Defense Ministry Daily Brief #KD0092, the in-universe news supplement included with Knights of the Old Republic issue #24, also makes reference to a lone Jedi escaping the planet’s destruction. So they remembered that your character from the game was supposed to be there, but not that you were supposed to have somehow played a role in the bombing. Whoops!

Minor continuity hiccups aside, though, this is a pretty good little installment in the series. Unlike in Flashpoint, half the cast doesn’t get much to do, since Jarael, Camper, and Rohlan are missing from much of the story. I would still rank it above that earlier arc, however. This series’ original characters are great but I’ve always regretted how underutilized the characters from the actual KotOR games were, so having Carth show up here and actually be a pretty cool guy instead of the paranoid whiner most people remember from the game was a nice little surprise. The entire sequence from Zayne’s vision of the future to the moment that vision comes true is the most intense in the series so far.

Although we don’t know Serroco and its people that well, we spend just enough time there to appreciate the shock and pain its destruction causes in our characters, Jedi and Republic alike. One of the nice things about having a cast this large is how you can use them to jump across the galaxy just for a moment and get a snapshot of what’s happening in the part of the story you’re not seeing at the moment. Revan and Malak “The Revanchist and Alek” only show up for a single panel but it’s one of the highlights of the issue. It’s cool seeing how everything fits together, how Zayne slots into the parts of this war we’ve only heard about, and the parts we’ve yet to see.

5/5 Death Stars.

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