- "Though I was seen at court, very few thought I was more than a bauble kept about to add something to the cityscape. What my master wished done was what I did. No questions. No regrets. Total devotion to duty. Those who guessed I was more to the Emperor learned to fear that I might be turned on them someday."
- ―Mara Jade Skywalker
An Emperor's Hand, or Hand of the Emperor, was a Force-sensitive operative recruited, trained, and employed by Emperor Palpatine to perform missions that were viewed as impossible, secret, or both. Their counterparts included the Emperor's Reach, Emperor's Voice, and the Emperor's Eyes.
Prior to his ascent to Galactic Emperor, Palpatine used a number of assassins, spies, and operatives to achieve his objectives as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. It was his use of Darth Maul, trained specifically to kill Jedi, who proved effective at handling other tasks, that convinced Palpatine of the usefulness of extremely loyal, effective, and secretive agents. Thus he began developing the Emperor's Hands to create a group that were operatives, not apprentices.
During his reign, Palpatine used the Emperor's Hands to kill enemies where his more obvious tools, like Darth Vader or the Imperial Navy would be ineffective, too public, or inappropriate. Common targets included rogue governors, traitorous commanders, rebellious leaders, or other internal or external concerns.
The exact number of agents is unknown, but following the death of Palpatine, many former Emperor's Hands went on to become independent menaces to the Alliance to Restore the Republic and New Republic. The two most famous Hands, Lumiya and Mara Jade, took wildly different paths from each other; the former founded her own group of Sith, while the latter became a Master in the New Jedi Order and married Luke Skywalker, whom she once had sworn to kill in an act of revenge for killing Palpatine and destroying the Empire.
Often targeted at infancy, potential Emperor's Hands were tracked with keen interest by Palpatine until they reached maturity. Preferring to begin their training after they had developed, Palpatine waited for a potential Hand to impress him. Some began as thieves, some as warriors, some as assassins, some as entertainers, but each managed to demonstrate their resourcefulness, skills and loyalty without incurring his wrath.
- "You may not realize that my early training consisted of much more than learning to harness the Force. Running, climbing, fighting, learning to move silently, swimming, zero-g fighting and movement; everything could have been made easier by using the Force. I didn't allow that, though."
- ―Mara Jade Skywalker
After selection, an Emperor's Hand went through comprehensive training in varied combat techniques, intelligence gathering and assassination. Each Hand operated independently and was often under the false impression that he or she was the Emperor's Hand. During training, Palpatine cultivated the Hand's latent Force abilities, but avoided providing Jedi or Sith training. Thus, Hands who did not have any Force training prior to their training were not expressly dark side users. The most important of their abilities was a direct telepathic connection to Palpatine that allowed them to communicate across the galaxy.
- "I was his hand, Skywalker. That's how I was known to his inner court: as the Emperor's Hand. I served him all over the galaxy, doing jobs the Imperial Fleet and stormtroopers couldn't handle. That was my one great talent, you see ― I could hear his call from anywhere in the Empire, and report back to him the same way. I exposed traitors for him, brought down his enemies, helped him keep the kind of control over the mindless bureaucracies that he needed. I had prestige, and power, and respect."
- ―Mara Jade
Once given the title of Emperor's Hand, the agent was granted almost unlimited access and authority to accomplish their missions. Without naming themselves as physical manifestations of the Emperor's will, Emperor's Hands could take command of military units, starships or weapons as necessary. To preserve their effectiveness, only the highest echelons of the Imperial command structure were aware of the Hands' existence. The methodology varied by agent and mission, with styles ranging from silent sniper strikes to destructive rampages. Regardless of their method, each Hand operated as a ghost; striking and vanishing, which elevated them to near mythic levels amongst those who dared cross the Emperor.
- "Who were my targets? You name 'em. Ambitious planetary governers, greedy crime lords, disloyal officers. Did I believe they were threats to the general public? Most of them. Did I ever feel sorry for them? Emotions were never part of the job. I was sworn to do the Emperor's bidding. I couldn't even feel sorry for myself if I tried."
- ―Mara Jade Skywalker, in a recording to Tionne Solusar
Unaware, unconvinced, or unconcerned of the Emperor's malicious intentions, the Hands performed their missions out of sheer loyalty to Palpatine. They viewed their killing as a way of defending the citizens of the Empire from its most dangerous enemies, although in many cases their targets were political enemies, rather than rogue commanders or governors. Many, if not all, of the Hands were under the impression that they alone held their particular position, and thus believed their relationship with the Emperor to be a special one. As a result of their extreme loyalty, and mental connection established through the Force, many Hands were deeply affected by his death.
- "He told me I was the only one…the only Hand of the Emperor. His weapon of choice when he needed a scalpel rather than a sword…that lying, drooling, scum-swallowing, superannuated under-handed festering filth-sucking parasite!"
- ―A furious Mara Jade upon learning about the other Hands' existence
- Jallar Golin
- Maarek Stele
- Mara Jade Skywalker
- Roganda Ismaren
- Sa Cuis
- Sarcev Quest
- Vess Kogo
Notes and references
- The Dark Side Sourcebook
- Heir to the Empire
- Legacy of the Force: Betrayal
- The New Jedi Order book series
- Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice, p. 101
- Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse
- Children of the Jedi
- Star Wars: Mara Jade – By the Emperor's Hand
- Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments from the Rim
- Star Wars Galaxies
- The Emperor's Pawns
- Shadows in the Force
- In His Image
- A Two-Edged Sword
- Rebellion Era Sourcebook