Catalyst (Star Wars)

A Rogue One Novel


Mass Market Paperback

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November 15, 2016 | ISBN 9780451486196

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November 15, 2016 | ISBN 9781101967010

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About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Lauded Star Wars author James Luceno returns to pen an intense tale of ambition and betrayal that sets the stage for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top-secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before the Republic’s enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.

Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen; his wife, Lyra; and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves—and the entire galaxy.
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Catalyst (Star Wars)



“What if . . .”

It was as much as Galen Erso got out before falling silent and pacing away from the alphanumeric data field that hovered above the holoprojector. Galen’s fragment of a question also seemed to hang in the air, and his fellow researchers in the control room stopped what they were doing to regard him in palpable expectation. One of them, Nurboo, broke the pregnant silence.

“You’ve a new idea, Galen? Should we delay the test?”

Galen either didn’t hear him or didn’t care to. He stood motionless for a moment, his gaze unfocused, then resumed his determined pacing, mumbling numbers and calculations to himself.

A second Valltii gave his large and hirsute head a doleful shake. “It’s no good, we’ve lost him.”

From across the room, Tambo’s gravelly voice shushed him.

“Can’t you see he’s thinking?”

Galen’s pose certainly said as much. His head was lowered, eyes and lips narrowed, and his thick arms were folded across his chest, as if clutching something to himself. The new idea, perhaps.

Standing just over 1.8 meters tall, he was broad-­shouldered and well developed, despite having spent most of his thirty-­odd standard years in earnest rumination and reflection, often scribbling the results of all that thinking on whatever was handy. His hair was uncombed, falling around his face in heavy strands in a way that made him dashing in sunlight, dangerous in the dark.

Lyra finally pushed herself out of her chair and ambled over to him.

“What if . . .” she said in a patient, leading way.

Everyone in the control room took it as a good sign when the thumb and forefinger of Galen’s left hand went briefly to the corners of his mouth, stretching the skin.

“We’re getting there,” Lyra said. She loved it when Galen went so deep that he essentially disappeared from the world, going where few could follow, to his own private hyperspace.

A few centimeters shorter than him, she had a high forehead and layered auburn hair that just reached her shoulders. Arching brows and a slightly downturned mouth gave her a somewhat somber look, though she was anything but. She and Galen had wed on Coruscant almost five years earlier, and she was every bit her husband’s equal in appeal, with the physique of a natural athlete, honed by a lifetime of exploration on dozens of remote worlds. Bundled up in a coarse sweater and baggy trousers, Lyra affected a colorful earflapped cap made of local yarn, and she wore it well.

The only humans among the research group, they were a long way from the Core, and even farther from the conflict that had recently erupted between the Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems, the so-­called Separatists. The six stout Valltii they had lived and worked with for the past four standard months had large round faces and mouths made for chewing meat. Beneath lustrous growths of facial hair, their skin was as blue as the glacial ice that covered half the planet. Galen and Lyra conversed with them in a pidgin of Galactic Basic and the indigenous language, which was guttural and filled with lengthy words that were confounding to humans. With an ear for mimicry, Lyra did better with the language than Galen did.

She was on the verge of goading him again when he blinked as if remembering who or where he was, and his attention returned to the data field.

She smiled lightly. He was back.

Reviewing the lengthy differential equations top to bottom, Galen stepped closer to the field, as if there were something to be discerned behind it or along its faintly oscillating edges.

“Assis,” he said finally, addressing the droid on the far side of the holoprojector.

“Yes, Dr. Erso.”

“Line four. Change the coefficient to five and recalculate.”

The TDK-­160 research-­assistant, a reconfigurable droid that just then was standing on two slender alloy legs, complied and sent the results to the holotable.

Everyone kept their attention on the field while the quotient groups, coefficients, and derivatives began to shift.

The control room was designed to house technology rather than living beings. Lined with humming machines, it lacked windows and was always colder than it had any right being. Heat was pumped in through ducts high overhead, but the room’s real warmth came from its having acquired a lived-­in look through long months of research and experimentation. No one minded the unpacked crates stacked in the corners, the empty food containers piled on Nurboo’s worktable, or the litter of backup data storage devices. As cluttered and claustrophobic as it was, it was more hospitable than just about anywhere outside.

Thick walls broken by sliding entryways kept out the worst of the cold. A rear doorway accessed a ramp leading to a labyrinth of corridors that connected disparate parts of the facility, a few of them wide enough to accommodate compact utility speeders. Elsewhere were banks of computers and analyzers, plotting boards, comm stations, even a rudimentary HoloNet transceiver for extraplanetary communications.

It wasn’t Lyra’s kind of place at all, but she had formed fast friendships with Galen’s colleagues, and Vallt was home for now.

Most of the ignition facility lay far below them, where gases were compelled to mingle and intense heat was generated. There, too, was the superheated ion-­plasma reactor and the superconducting coils that cooled it, along with the hydrothermal autoclaves in which enormous crystals were synthetically grown. The fusion plant itself could power Vallt’s entire northern continent, and one day it might, but that wasn’t its present purpose. The goal was to generate outbursts of raw power that could be harvested, stored in capacitors, and doled out sustainably to worlds in need. The place hadn’t come cheap even in prewar credits, and Zerpen Industries, headquartered in an autonomous system in the Outer Rim, was still awaiting a return on its investment.

“The equation won’t resolve,” Nurboo said when the data field began flashing as if beside itself in confusion.

Galen addressed the droid once more. “Assis, go back.”

The original integrals and summation symbols returned to the field, and Galen studied them for a long moment.

“Is that a smile?” Tambo asked. “Lyra, is he smiling?”

Instead of retasking Assis, Galen leaned into the field and began to wave his arms in the air like an orchestra conductor or magician, altering the calculation. When the field had transformed and stabilized, everyone gathered around the holotable to scrutinize the results.

“That’s a fine number,” one of the Valltii said.

“An elegant solution,” another pronounced.

“Shall we conduct the test now?”

The six of them scattered to their workstations and instruments, exchanging comments and suggestions as they went about their responsibilities with renewed enthusiasm.

“The boule is in place,” Easel reported, referring to the synthetic crystal.

Galen fixed his gaze on the central display screen.

Nurboo cleared his throat. “Test sequence initiated.”

Illumination in the control room dimmed briefly as deep below them immense pressure was brought to bear on a massive crystal that had been grown only two months earlier. The synthetic gem had been modeled on an actual kyber, which Zerpen had gone to great lengths and cost to acquire. Relatively rare, the so-­called living crystals were almost exclusively the property of the Jedi, who seemed to regard the kyber as sacrosanct. Finger-­sized ones powered their lightsabers, and larger ones were rumored to adorn the ornate façades of their isolated temples.

“Results show a piezoelectric effect of point-­three above previous,” Nurboo said.

The researchers watched Galen, who was shaking his head back and forth.

“No?” Tambo said.

“We should be seeing a much larger increase.” Galen firmed his lips and scowled at no one in particular, wrestling with what might have gone wrong. “The unit cell stacking in the synthetic isn’t stable enough. We’ll have to run a spectrographic autopsy and begin again. The entire batch of boules might be flawed.”

It was nothing they hadn’t been through countless times, but disappointment hung in the cool air regardless.

Galen returned to his thinking pose.

“We could try applying more pressure,” Easel suggested in the gentlest way. “Perhaps return the crystal to the vapor chamber and introduce a new dopant.”

Galen glanced around him, dubious and distracted. He had his mouth open to reply when a short chime issued from the control room comm station.

“Main gate,” one of the Valltii said.

Star Wars Series

Star Wars: Mace Windu: The Glass Abyss
Dark Disciple: Star Wars
Catalyst (Star Wars)
A New Dawn: Star Wars
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars: The Living Force
Star Wars: Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade
Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars
From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi (Star Wars)
Star Wars: Brotherhood
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About the Author

James Luceno
James Luceno is the New York Times bestselling author of the Star Wars novels Tarkin, Darth Plagueis, Millennium Falcon, Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, Cloak of Deception, and Labyrinth of Evil, as well as the New Jedi Order novels Agents of Chaos I: Hero’s Trial and Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse, The Unifying Force, and the ebook “Darth Maul: Saboteur.” More by James Luceno
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