Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel is the prequel novel to the Anthology film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It was written by James Luceno and first published by Del Rey in the United States on November 15, 2016, in hardcover and eBook format. The novel was released in paperback on May 2, 2017. This edition includes the short story "The Voice of the Empire" by Mur Lafferty, originally published in Star Wars Insider 170.
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 their 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 galaxy itself.
During the Clone Wars, the Republic begins working on a moon-size battle station based on a Separatist design, hoping to complete its construction before the Separatists potentially finish their own station. However, the Republic finds that building the primary weapon of the station will entail a breakthrough in energy enhancement. Lieutenant Commander Orson Krennic offers to recruit one of the finest scientists in the galaxy, an energy scientist named Galen Erso, to provide the breakthrough. Krennic has a personal connection with Erso, becoming friends while studying at the same university.
Meanwhile, Erso, a neutralist, is working on the planet Vallt doing energy research for Zerpen Industries, when the planetary government is overthrown in a coup sympathetic to the Separatists. Erso is imprisoned in a bid to force his loyalty to the Separatists. His pregnant wife Lyra is also imprisoned and gives birth to a daughter, Jyn.
Galen, Lyra and Jyn are rescued by Krennic, masquerading as a Zerpen representative, making an exchange for the Ersos. Safely off-planet, Krennic reveals he is working for the Republic, and a Republic battleship destroys the government complex of Vallt while Krennic and the Ersos watch. Krennic takes the Ersos to Galen's home planet of Grange, where they witness a major battle between the Republic and the Separatists.
Returned to Coruscant, Galen remains idle while Krennic and other members of the military work to subtly persuade him to join the battle station project under construction in orbit around the planet of Geonosis. The station is being built by drone members of the planet's population after Poggle the Lesser has pledged allegiance to the Republic and its project. Galen is cleared of suspected treason by Wilhuff Tarkin, at the instigation of Krennic, who proposes a non-research position for Galen at Helical HyperCom on the planet Lokori. Poggle eventually orders his drones to dismantle their work, and uses this distraction to return to the Confederacy, showing that he was never truly loyal to the Republic.
Galen and his family move to Lokori, which comes under regular Separatist attack. At the end of a major offensive which has very nearly conquered Lokori, the attack is suspended. It is learned that the Clone Wars are over, the Separatist leadership was killed and the Jedi Order destroyed. The Ersos move back to Coruscant, where Krennic has set up Project Celestial Power for Galen to continue his energy research with kyber crystals, ostensibly to provide power sources to Empire worlds, but secretly a cover project for the weapon construction of the battle station, which continues to be constructed, despite the war being over.
Krennic hires Has Obitt and his smugglers to drop decommissioned weapons to the planets Samovar and Wadi Raffa. The weapon drops are a ruse for the Empire to enter on the pretext of suspected anarchist activity. Once the weapons are found, the Empire uses the circumstances to set up occupying forces on the planets, taking over mining corporations on the worlds. The pretext gives the Empire the chance to exploit the two worlds' resources, overriding the environmental protections in force on the two "Legacy" worlds.
Unknown to Galen, Krennic has set up a satellite facility on the planet Malpaz where Erso's former colleague Dagio Belcoze is attempting to test the energy output. The experiments on Malpaz blow up and kill ten thousand on the planet. The damage is attributed to anarchist elements opposing the Empire. Krennic becomes suspicious of Lyra's intentions and influence over Galen and arranges for her to lead a survey team of the planet Alpinn looking for kyberite and the possibility of kyber crystals. After the survey is over, Obitt shows Lyra and Nari Sable the planets of Samovar and Wadi Raffa, protected planets that were mostly destroyed by the Empire's mining for the battle station project.
Lyra returns to Coruscant to find Galen absorbed in his research, and the Celestial project now under tight security. Galen was developing serious suspicions about the use of his energy research, but chose not to discuss it with Lyra without stronger proof. Galen continued to make breakthroughs with a boulder-size kyber, learning how to use its properties to amplify energy beams. His work led to a breakthrough and Krennic arranged to have a Star Destroyer set up with a twin laser array, which was tested successfully in deep space.
Meanwhile, Krennic had set up another smuggling mission for Obitt to the Salient system. In secret, Obitt has arranged with Saw Gerrera to warn the Salient system of the Empire's intentions, letting them prepare for an Empire invasion. After the drop, Tarkin brings a Star Destroyer to demand access to Salient, as was done on Samovar and Wadi Raffa. This time, the system starts fighting with the Empire, and destroying any facilities that the Empire can use. Tarkin's forces are tied down in battle, and he suspects that Krennic has allowed Obitt to warn the Salient system, likely as an attempt to further his career over Tarkin's.
Krennic's research team, who are unaware of the true purpose of their energy research and questions Krennic, demands to be released from the program. Krennic promises them full releases from their contracts, but instead kills them all, destroying their facility on Hypori with turbolaser blasts from his Star Destroyer. He returns to Coruscant, where he finds more evidence of suspicious behaviour by Galen and Lyra. He threatens Lyra with prosecution, which only leads to Lyra forcing a talk with Galen in secret, where they both reveal their suspicions about the project. Looking over the evidence, the two finally learn that the Empire has been weaponizing Galen's research.
Tarkin is finally successful in subjugating the Salient system and captures Obitt. Obitt was severely injured in the battle, but wakes up on Tarkin's Destroyer fully healed. Under interrogation by Tarkin, Obitt reveals all of his recent activity with the Ersos and Krennic. Tarkin decides to use Obitt to strike back at Krennic.
On Coruscant, Krennic is confronted by the Ersos. Krennic leaves them, worried about their intentions when he learns that Obitt's ship has been tracked coming to Coruscant. Krennic believes that Obitt may be helping the Ersos to escape and orders the project security to hold them, but it is too late. Krennic arrives at the spaceport to confront Obitt and prevent the Ersos escape. However, Obitt has arranged for Gerrera to arrive in another ship and the Ersos leave Coruscant.
Obitt continues to work for Tarkin, reporting on Krennic's activities, while also looking for the Ersos for Krennic. However, Obitt sees that he will soon be free and receives a hero's welcome upon returning to the Wanton Wellspring. Tarkin is assigned to the bases of the battle station construction to supervise security, plotting to take control of the battle station project, while Krennic is demoted for losing Galen Erso. The Ersos, meanwhile, have escaped with Gerrera to the planet Lah'mu.
The comic Darth Vader Annual 2 contradicts some of the events of Catalyst.
- ISBN 9780345511492; November 15, 2016; Del Rey; US hardcover
- ISBN 9780425286906; November 15, 2016; Del Rey; Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition
- ISBN 9781101967010; November 15, 2016; Del Rey; US eBook
- ISBN 9781101967003; May 2, 2017; Del Rey; US paperback
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