As the arrival of Rogue One looms, Star Wars fans will be getting an early look at the events that led up to the creation of the Death Star in Catalyst, a new novel that explores this history between the hero of the new film and its villain.
While most of the movie follows Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso as she leads a group of Rebels trying to steal the plans for the Imperial superweapon, her scientist father, Galen (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is one of the key creative minds behind its design.
In James Luceno’s Catalyst, which hits stores on Nov. 15, we learn that the director of the Empire’s special weapons division, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) has had a long history with the Erso family, and became both their protector and their benefactor, encouraging Galen’s work on the manipulation of kyber crystals.
Deep-dive fans already know that those crystals are the key element of lightsabers, and they will prove to be vital to the creation of the Death Star’s superlaser.
In this excerpt from the book, Galen reflects on the tensions with his wife, Lyra, and the distance that has arisen between him and young Jyn.
A theory: Jyn’s storybook involves a character seeking treasure, who then launches herself to freedom up a channel that rises through eight subterranean levels to the surface. What goes up could also come down. So is this perhaps an inspiration for Galen to create the portal that allows Luke Skywalker to later destroy the Emperor’s weapon of mass destruction?
Read on …
Sitting hunched on the couch in their residence in the facility, Galen looked up from his notebook in recognition of the fact that he and Jyn were actually occupying the same room—an infrequent event in the wake of renewed tension between him and Lyra. She had her sketch screen in her lap and was working furiously on a creating an image of some sort, speaking quietly but animatedly to herself while she worked the controls and drew her forefinger across the screen.
Galen had his own small datapad in hand and was working on an equation he had been struggling with for weeks. Having found a way to alter the internal structure of the crystals, the kybers seemed in turn to have found a way to alter his. Despite not having heard from Orson, a new sense of urgency had crept into the research, as if someone or something was whispering to him to hurry, hurry …
Ever since he had transmitted the faceting data to Orson and his team, he felt as if he had been running a low-grade fever, with some part of his mind fixed on solving a calculation that was veiled from consciousness. That it regarded the kybers he had no doubt, but the actual nature of the problem had yet to reveal itself. Plagued nonetheless, he had documented his dreams in the notebook. He had long ago mapped the landscape of his subconscious and could usually decipher what his dreams were telling him, but his recent ones seemed to be taking place off the map, set in unknown regions of his mind. The dream journal ran for several pages, with many of its entries written in the middle of the night or immediately following a nap, and were broken here and there by sketches that rambled into calculations, stray thoughts, microscopically jotted notes he could barely untangle even now.
He raked his hair away from his face with his fingers and turned his attention from the notebook to watch Jyn, still so completely absorbed in what she was doing she might have been in a world of her own. When she finally paused and sat back to evaluate her drawing, Galen rose from his seat and went over to her.
“Can I see what you’ve been working on, Stardust?”
Looking up at him in surprise, she nodded. “It’s for you.”
Galen motioned to himself. “For me?”
She nodded again. “It’s a picture of Brin trying to get home.”
Brin was the hero of her current favorite bedtime holo, The Octave Stairway. On the screen was her depiction of the stairway spiraling down through eight levels to a concave area at the base where Brin received the magic powers that would enable him to return to his home.
He had heard the story so many times he could recite the passage from memory.
When at last they came to the castle, they walked under the big gate and went inside. In front of them they saw the stairway leading down into the ground. It was the fabled Octave Stairway Brin and his friends had been searching for. They went to the top stair and looked down. “Eight levels,’ Brin said. “And on each we need to find a different piece of magic.” Deep down at the bottom of the stairway Brin could see the Golden Bowl. Whoever was able to reach the Golden Bowl would have the power to fly straight up through all eight levels of the stairway, and clear through the ceiling of the castle into the sky beyond, all the way home.
Around the drawing of the stairway, adorning the edges of the device’s rectangular screen, were strange signs and figures Galen immediately identified as versions of some of the mathematical symbols and talismanic doodles he would often leave about.
He looked closer at the drawing of long-haired and somewhat disheveled Brin, wondering all at once if it was really meant to represent Brin or if had Jyn had actually tried to draw him.
“Brin looks a little like me,” he said.
She squinted at the drawing. “You can be Brin if you want.”
Gazing down at her, Galen felt a sudden warmth well in his chest, and an outpouring of love that was as heartbreaking as it was joyous. He recalled the first time he had looked into her eyes in Lyra’s bedroom chamber in the Keep, and how Jyn’s flecked eyes had captivated him all over again on the day of his release from Tambolor prison. He thought of the many times she and Lyra had given him the strength to survive the cold lonely hours in his cell; the countless promises he had made to himself to provide them with wonderful and wondrous lives. His perfect daughter … How had he allowed himself to so imprison himself in his research that Jyn scarcely knew him any longer? How had he allowed himself to put the kybers first? His work was supposed to have been for them, and yet it seemed now to have been solely for him. All for the rapture of pure discovery.
Jyn almost jumped out of her skin when he pulled her into an embrace.
“I love you, Stardust,” he whispered, using the heel of his hand to wipe tears from his eye. “I’m sorry for being so busy that I’ve forgotten to tell you how much you mean to me.”
She nodded in his arms. “It’s okay, Dad. Can we follow Brin home now?”