- "I've been told that a lot of you are familiar with my exploits and consider me something of a legend. I don't see why you should. Every one of you are heroes, and someday your stories will be legendary as well."
- ―Airen Cracken
Airen Cracken was born on the farming world of Contruum and worked on his parents' farm in his childhood. He possessed a natural affinity for machinery; his parents noticed this and allowed him to tinker with the farm's equipment. In time, nearby farmers began to frequently ask Cracken to repair their machinery. Cracken, who was happy to continue learning, lent his help willingly, and he acquired a growing reputation as a master mechanic. People soon began paying Cracken for his efforts; he initially found this arrangement uncomfortable, feeling that his love of his work made being paid for it akin to theft, but he ultimately accepted such payments because he wanted his skills to become his trade.
By the time he became a young man, Cracken had opened a mechanic's shop of his own in Torian City. He handled all manner of machinery, including landspeeders, water purifiers, and holovids, and hired men and women who loved working with machinery as much as he did. Cracken's shop assumed an almost-mystical quality; his customers viewed him as a master wizard, and his employees as his apprentices. Cracken married Josta, a woman from the Corellian sector who came to Contruum under accidental circumstances. Josta gave birth to two children, and Cracken's family lived in contentment for many years.
In 8 BBY, the Galactic Empire established a presence on Contruum and attempted to seize its shipyards and borium mines for use by the Imperial Military. Seeking to make remaining on Contruum more costly for the Empire than it was worth, Cracken organized his employees into a guerrilla force, colloquially named "Cracken's Crew," that specialized in mechanical sabotage. Cracken and his resistance group led a years-long campaign against Imperial forces, crippling docked starships, ruining the Imperial borium mining operations, and destroying landing bays and troop supplies. At the site of each act of sabotage, they left a hydrospanner into which the message "Cracken's Crew Says Hello" was inscribed.
Cracken's Crew soon gained a reputation among the Imperial forces, and the Imperial commander became obsessed with tracking the saboteurs down. The Moff of Contruum's sector eventually decided that he had invested too many resources in the campaign, acquiesced to Contruum's demands, and withdrew from the system. Despite the celebration that took place across Contruum, Cracken became troubled by thoughts that, while his world had escaped Imperial influence due to its insignificance, many peoples throughout the rest of the galaxy would continue to suffer under Imperial oppression. After discussing the matter with Josta, Cracken decided to leave Contruum and join the rebellion against the Empire. Most of his Crew chose to follow him, and they boarded a freighter and departed, posing as merchants plying the space lanes.
The greater Rebellion
Cracken became an intelligence operative upon the public release of the Declaration of Rebellion in 2 BBY. The comlink bug was among the first and simplest devices he worked with after joining the Rebellion; he quickly learned that, while many bugging devices were available commercially, he could just as easily rig a bug by using the comlinks on his belt. Early in the war, the Empire blockaded the low-technology mining world of Berason, and Cracken was placed in charge of a force that would transport food and military supplies to the world before leading an attack on its Imperial base. Cracken's force was able to pass through the blockade by sending men equipped with vacc-suits and jetpacks out to clear a path for their convoy. Cracken eventually became a colonel; while he held that rank, he collaborated with fellow Alliance commander Andrephan Stormcaller in developing Special Forces units that would later see widespread use by the Alliance.
Cracken was eventually commissioned as a general in the Alliance to Restore the Republic due to his reputation. He organized numerous campaigns, usually on difficult and desolate worlds where his ingenuity proved invaluable, and eventually became the Alliance's Chief of Intelligence. As the head of Alliance Intelligence, Cracken became one of the leading organizers of Rebel efforts to recruit criminal elements such as shipjackers, pirates, and smugglers to their cause. The high regard smugglers and shipjackers held for Cracken aided his work in these efforts, and he eventually created a network of privateers, shipjackers, and cargo thieves whom were euphemistically called the "procurement specialists." Due to Cracken's close relationship with many members of the community, infiltration by Imperial agents remained minimal.
Outside the normal chain of command, Chief of Intelligence Cracken operated a major data analysis center near the communications center on board the Mon Calamari Star Cruiser Independence. From within, Cracken's staff analyzed reports filed by his agents throughout the Empire; briefings were prepared for High Command, and actionable intelligence was sent to mission planning officers for the planning of strikes and raids. Cracken, however, occasionally required additional information before he could submit to mission planning and would instead order intelligence-gathering missions of his own. Cracken frequently used the Independence's communications capabilities to maintain contact with his agents throughout the galaxy.
Much of Cracken's work involved overseeing the galaxywide network of agents through which Intell worked to undermine the New Order—spies, scouts, infiltrators, and sympathetic Imperial officers. Cracken was directly involved at every stage, from recruitment onwards. A number of his most valuable assets were documented in Cracken's Rebel Operatives, among them Rivoche Tarkin, Tru'eb Cholakk, and Jan Ors (under her alias Jan Strange).
His imagination also spawned several innovative operations, such as the infiltration of BlasTech's weapons research department by Inat Rangoon. He even used his teenage son, Pash, as an agent, sending him to join the Imperial Academy, where he suborned his classmates, and subsequently led his entire TIE fighter wing to mutiny. While it was Pash who would become best-known as a fighter pilot, the elder Cracken was also formidable behind the controls of a combat plane: it was Airen Cracken who taught Pash how to fly a fighter, and he personally flew close-support in-atmosphere operations for SpecForce commandos in a Z-95t Headhunter designated Tala 1.
Nor was his front-line service limited to the cockpit. His bravery in the field twice earned him the Nebula Award, one of which was awarded for bravely surviving capture and Bavo Six-aided interrogation at the hands of the Imperial Security Bureau on Quanton. His knowledge of useful field modifications and equipment were codified in Cracken's Rebel Field Guide, and his writings proved essential in the training of the Alliance Special Forces: for example, he devised a technique, which became well known to Alliance operatives, of creating an effective grenade out of two blaster power packs.
Airen Cracken helped Colonel Beryl Chiffonage tutor anxious tactics genius Risiev Credal. During their free time, Cracken and Chiffonage entertained Credal with tales of the tactics they used in old times. Credal enjoyed and learned a lot during this time. Credal's mysterious disappearance and rumors of desertion led to Cracken reconsidering Credal's loyalty and his own good judgment by telling him so much.
In 2 ABY, Airen Cracken worked with the Task Force on Alliance Security, writing important reports on threats to the Rebel Alliance, and coordinating reports from other Rebel agents. He wrote, for instance, a report on slaver Talas Piran, leader of the Mytaranor Slaving Council, explaining why he was a despicable person; and another report on professor-turned-pirate Callow Batta, where he said that he would like to recruit him for the Alliance before he could begin scrambling Rebel operations and trade. Cracken also provided insight for other reports, talking about the quality of Hydrospeare Corporation, the treason of Mosara Thiirn, or his own relationship with Risiev Credal.
During the Battle of Endor, General Cracken served aboard the Millennium Falcon with at least one other Tala Squadron pilot, Lieutenant Blount. The two were initially in the ship's cockpit with its pilot, General Lando Calrissian, co-pilot Nien Nunb, and a navigator. Eventually, Cracken served as the ship's gunner, manning the top turret during the battle.
When the Alliance became the New Republic, Cracken took command of New Republic Intelligence, keeping a watchful eye on former Imperial warlords like Zsinj and Ysanne Isard. During the New Republic's liberation campaign from 4 to 6 ABY, Cracken oversaw a collection of operatives known as "Shadow Operations", which performed sabotage, spread disinformation, and where necessary conducted assassinations to exacerbate tensions between the feuding Moffs, Admirals, warlords and advisors that had erupted after Emperor Palpatine's death. Shadow Operations would later form the heart of Hiram Drayson's Alpha Blue division.
After NRI relocated to Coruscant, Cracken oversaw the investigation and prosecution of Tycho Celchu, and took up the challenge of forming the New Republic Security Force. Subsequently, he was instrumental in stopping a Zsinj-led program to isolate nonhumans from the New Republic, including Sullustan Rostat Manr's attempt to crash a starliner into the atmosphere of Coruscant.
Like his counterpart Hiram Drayson at Alpha Blue, Cracken still continued to lead the Intel apparatus in his own way, prepared to do what he felt was best for the New Republic, even if it meant bending the rules. In 7 ABY, he arranged for Rogue Squadron's resignations to mysteriously go unprocessed, so that the Bacta War could be retrospectively claimed as a NRI operation, and the next year, he arranged for the transfer of Wraith Squadron to his direct command as an Intel unit after the Battle of Selaggis.
Some time between 10 ABY and 12 ABY, Cracken was replaced as Supreme Commander for Intel by Crix Madine, his counterpart at SpecForces—a move that may have been designed to reinforce Madine's position as the Alliance's traditional SpecForces commandos were eclipsed by the new regular army under the aegis of what had been Fleet Command. It should also be noted, however, that this move secured the dominance of the military by Chief of State Mon Mothma's loyal lieutenants, Madine and Admiral Gial Ackbar.
Cracken's reaction is not recorded, but after Madine's death aboard the Darksaber, he once more took command of Intel, where he oversaw the separation of New Republic Intelligence from the military, maintaining his independence (with the new title of Director of New Republic Intelligence) while Gial Ackbar subordinated the rest of the armed forces to his command. As Director, Cracken oversaw the operation that sent General Wedge Antilles, Colonel Tycho Celchu, Major Derek Klivian, and Major Wes Janson to Adumar and secured the subsequent admission of that planet into the New Republic, but by 16 ABY, he had left office again, being replaced as Director by Carlist Rieekan, the Alderaanian general and former New Republic Minister of State.
After the Black Fleet Crisis, Cracken returned to Intel for the third time, where he achieved a rapid resolution to the New Republic's lack of Super Star Destroyers by recruiting Jedi sneak-thief and former Crew member Cryle Cavv to steal the Guardian for him. Cracken led NRI through the Corellian Crisis, and assembled reports on a variety of potential threats to the Republic, including the Hapans, Dathomiri, Yevetha, Imperial remnants, and Corellian separatists, which were compiled into Cracken's Threat Dossier.
By 25 ABY, Cracken had left NRI again, with Admiral Dif Scaur replacing him as Director. Nevertheless, during the Yuuzhan Vong War, although by now in his seventies, the veteran general returned once again to active service, and assumed command of his homeworld's defense. Contruum was never conquered by the Yuuzhan Vong, and became a vital base in the Mid Rim, paving the way for the Battle of Yuuzhan'tar by the Galactic Alliance. In the last stages of the war, Cracken also seemed to have acted as de facto coordinator of Alliance intelligence, and immediately after the victory, Admiral Scaur was replaced as Director by his protégée Belindi Kalenda.
Behind the scenes
Airen Cracken was created by author Christopher Kubasik as the in-universe author of the 1991 sourcebook Cracken's Rebel Field Guide. He went on to be mentioned routinely in other Star Wars products by West End Games, including more sourcebooks written as if they were authored by him: Wanted by Cracken, Cracken's Rebel Operatives, and Cracken's Threat Dossier, the two former of which became recurring features in West End Games's Star Wars Adventure Journal. Cracken also appeared in several short stories that were featured in the Adventure Journal, and in the X-Wing comics and novels of the mid 1990s.
In the year 2000, the Death Star II Limited set of Decipher, Inc.'s Star Wars Customizable Card Game identified an unnamed extra from the 1983 film Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi as "Colonel Cracken." Played by Michael Stevens, Colonel Cracken appeared in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon during the early stages of the Battle of Endor, and footage that ultimately went unused was shot of him running through the ship's corridors and manning one of its quad guns. Although Airen Cracken was already established as a general in the Rebel Alliance, it was later explicitly confirmed that he was indeed the "Colonel Cracken" from Return of the Jedi. Although a promotional photo of Cracken and Lieutenant Blount was later included in Issue 30 of The Official Star Wars Fact File, in an article discussing Rebel troopers present on Endor's surface during the Battle of Endor, Cracken's role as a gunner aboard the Falcon during the battle has been widely established; a photo of him manning the guns was even canonized.
Cracken is not present in the Millennium Falcon's cockpit in Marvel Comics' adaptation of the film, in Dark Horse Comics' Manga adaptation, nor in LucasArts' non-canon LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy. Additionally, neither James Kahn's novelization of the film nor Ryder Windham's junior novelization mention anyone as being present in the cockpit save for Lando Calrissian and Nien Nunb. An alternate version of the battle occurs in the comic book miniseries Star Wars Infinities: Return of the Jedi, in which the Millennium Falcon is crewed only by Calrissian, General Han Solo, and the Wookiee Chewbacca.
In the 2003 novel The Unifying Force, Cracken is said to be seventy-five years old. As the book takes place in 29 ABY, this would place his birth year at 46 BBY. However, Cracken's Rebel Field Guide states that he is fifty-one,—although the book does not reveal its in-universe publication date, it must be before 4 ABY, when the Rebel Alliance ceases to exist by transitioning into the Alliance of Free Planets. That would place his birth year no later than 47 BBY.
Cracken has been made into two action figures. A 2006 figure simply called "Rebel Trooper" was made from his Return of the Jedi likeness, and a 2012 "Colonel Cracken" figure was based on his deleted scenes from the movie, which had been released one year prior on the Blu-ray Disc release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga. He also appeared in a 2014 LEGO set (B-wing 75050).
Notes and references
- Cracken's Rebel Field Guide, p. 9
- The Unifying Force
- Star Wars Character Encyclopedia
- Strongholds of Resistance, p. 62
- Strongholds of Resistance, p. 63
- The Essential Guide to Alien Species, p. xi
- Cracken's Rebel Field Guide, p. 27
- Cracken's Rebel Field Guide, p. 80
- Alliance Intelligence Reports, p. 6
- Strongholds of Resistance, p. 61
- Rebellion Era Sourcebook, p. 65
- Alliance Intelligence Reports
- Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
- Rebellion Era Campaign Guide
- The Essential Guide to Warfare
- "Black Curs Blues"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 8
- "Small Favors"—Star Wars Adventure Journal 12
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron 32
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron 33
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron 34
- X-Wing: Wedge's Gamble
- X-Wing: The Krytos Trap
- X-Wing: The Bacta War
- Star Wars Customizable Card Game – Death Star II Limited (Card: Colonel Cracken) (backup link)
- "Making Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Unseen!"—Star Wars Insider 141, pg.30
- Battle of Endor: The Lost Rebels (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi deleted scene)—Star Wars: The Complete Saga
- Cracken's Rebel Field Guide, datapage 8
- Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 30 (REB11, Rebel Troops)
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, Vol. I, p. 150 ("Cracken, General Airen")
- Return of the Jedi 3
- Star Wars Manga: Return of the Jedi
- LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi novelization
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi junior novelization
- Star Wars Infinities: Return of the Jedi
- The New Jedi Order: The Unifying Force, chapter 5
- The New Essential Chronology, p. 225
- Cracken's Rebel Field Guide, datapage 9
- The New Essential Chronology, p. 130