"This is the Empirical, master, Lord Vader's top-secret mobile laboratory."
―PROXY, to Galen Marek[1]

The ISS Empirical was a mobile research laboratory, a modified cruiser that belonged to Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Vader. Rumored to be one of many such vessels in Vader's fleet, the Empirical housed the Dark Lord's experiments on prisoners and studies conducted on unique alien species. Top-secret, moving only between lifeless star systems in the Outer Rim Territories and escaping even the eyes of Emperor Palpatine's spy network, the vessel was crewed by a platoon of Imperial soldiers personally selected by Vader, who monitored the test subjects and eliminated those that escaped confinement before they could get off the ship. One of the many such experiments was Lieutenant Rom Mohc's Dark Trooper Phase Zero project, which operated out of the Empirical until it was shut down for practical reasons.

When Vader's apprentice Galen Marek was injured close to death on the orders of Palpatine, Vader brought him to the Empirical to be rehabilitated, bringing along Marek's ship, the Rogue Shadow, and his droid, PROXY. Vader later sent Marek's pilot, Juno Eclipse, to the vessel after she was arrested for treason. When Marek awoke after six months, PROXY helped him escape the vessel, kill many of the crew—who thought he was one of Vader's experiments and had orders to terminate him—and free Eclipse. Under orders from Vader to remove all evidence that Marek had been there, including the crew, PROXY disabled the ship's navigational systems and set it on a course into the Dominus system's primary star. Marek, Eclipse, and PROXY escaped on the Rogue Shadow as the Empirical plunged into the star and exploded.


The ISS Empirical was a mobile research laboratory owned by Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Vader.[1][4] A modified cruiser,[1] the Empirical was rumored to be one of many similar research vessels in Vader's fleet.[4] The Empirical's purpose was to house Vader's experiments on prisoners, as well as study unique alien species.[4] The ship was propelled by five engines, four in the stern and one mounted nearer the bow, on a spur of the ship emerging from its ventral side. It was armed with at least two turbolasers. The vessel was equipped with at least six escape pods, the room for which was accessible by turbolift from other decks,[2] and had a docking bay suitable for berthing a transport-sized ship.[3] The ship also had an intercom system that was operated by an announcer who reported updates on the ship's operations.[1]

The Empirical was a top-secret vessel;[1] even Emperor Palpatine's spy network could not track it. The vessel stuck to lifeless star systems in the Outer Rim Territories, traveling courses between them that had long been forgotten.[4]

Medical and experimental facilities[]

A medical room of the Empirical.

Fitting with its primary function, the Empirical had a number of rooms with testing and medical facilities. One such room, located in Sector Ten—the stern of the vessel between its engines—was used to hold Galen Marek during his recuperation aboard the Empirical. Marek was kept restrained to a table inside a glassed-off portion of the room, where several medical droids could operate on him. The room began piping in poisonous gas when Marek tried to escape, and the crew was alerted to the security breach. This same room held half a dozen similar operating tables, all of them empty at the time.[2]

A nearby room contained a number of chambers filled with a toxic gas. Surrounded by catwalks, it was monitored by several stormtroopers, including EVO troopers, and watched over from a small observation room by an Imperial officer.[2]

Detention cells[]

Detention cells were located near the bow of the vessel.[2] The detainment area was large and difficult for soldiers to defend from an assault.[1] Force fields could be thrown up to ward off attacks for a time, but they could be taken down by cutting the power.[2] Prisoners were suspended in their cells by magna locks. Though they were usually left to die, those that Vader wanted kept alive were occasionally let down for short periods, in which they were allowed to use the refresher and drink water, but not always eat.[1]


"Check out that noise! I think Lord Vader's experiment just got loose."
―A stormtrooper aboard the Empirical, before being killed by Galen Marek[2]

One of several projects conducted aboard the Empirical was the Dark Trooper Phase Zero project, overseen by Lieutenant Rom Mohc. A way to supplement the Empire's troop shortage after the shutdown of the Kamino cloning facilities, the Phase Zero project involved taking aging clone trooper veterans of the Clone Wars and, using much of the same cybernetic technology involved in Darth Vader's own creation, converting them into cyborgs through the replacement of organs and limbs with cybernetics. Though moderately successful, the Phase Zero project was dismantled when the Empire's recruitment picked up.[5]

The Empirical nears the star of the Dominus system.

In 3 BBY, Emperor Palpatine confronted Vader on Vader's flagship, the Executor, over his taking of an apprentice, Galen Marek. To prove his loyalty, Vader impaled Marek with his lightsaber and cast him out into the vacuum of space. Secretly, however, a droid retrieved Marek's unconscious body and took him to the Empirical. Vader's medical droids spent six months rebuilding Marek, as the apprentice lay unconscious.[1] To the rest of the ship, Marek was viewed as another of Vader's experiments, and he was designated "Subject Zeta" and "Subject 1138."[1][2] Vader had Marek's droid PROXY and ship, the Rogue Shadow, delivered to the vessel as well, and to aid in his mission Marek was given a new lightsaber.[1] His pilot, Juno Eclipse, had meanwhile been arrested for treason; after some time, she too was transported to the Empirical, where she feared she would become part of a Sith experiment.[2]

Galen Marek rescues Juno Eclipse.

When Marek at last awoke after six months, by which time the Empirical had moved into the Dominus system, he was greeted by Vader, transmitting his image through PROXY. Vader told Marek that Palpatine believed him to be dead, then assigned him the task of building an army to oppose Palpatine. The Dark Lord threatened to activate the Empirical's self-destruct sequence if Marek did not comply, but Marek gave in.[1] PROXY, too, had been given instructions, and when Vader cut his transmission, the droid set about fulfilling his orders to help Marek escape, and to eliminate all evidence of Marek's survival, including the vessel and its crew.[1] Marek broke out of his chamber, and his room began to flood with poison gas; he turned it off, but a squad was sent to monitor the situation. An alert was sent through the ship warning that Vader's subject had escaped. Having heard from PROXY that Eclipse was aboard, Marek went for her first, slaughtering his way through the crew, all of whom had orders to kill him. PROXY, meanwhile, accessed the vessel's main computer, and, determining it was the quickest way to eliminate everyone aboard, set the ship on a course into the system's star. The crew of the ship was alarmed when their navigation began malfunctioning, and a series of announcements apprised the rest of the vessel of the deteriorating situation. An evacuation was ordered, but PROXY continued with his work, disabling security systems and, to make sure no crew members made it out, ejecting the ship's escape pods.[2]

Marek made it to Eclipse's detention cell to find several of the ship's officers with her, behind a force field. After killing the stormtroopers outside it, Marek brought down the field, eliminated the rest of the crew in the vicinity, and rescued Eclipse from her restraints. He helped Eclipse get to the Rogue Shadow, which PROXY had gotten ready, and they evacuated the research vessel. The Empirical, meanwhile, continued on its doomed course, exploding as it fell into the system's sun.[2]

Commanders and crew[]

The Empirical's crew was composed of the elite, a platoon of soldiers personally selected by Vader.[4] A wide variety of stormtrooper classes protected the ship, including Shadow Troopers, purge troopers, and even the hazardous-environment EVO troopers.[2] A number of interrogation droids were also used aboard the vessel to watch and control troublesome alien subjects. The vessel's complement of soldiers was trained to quickly handle threats that broke out aboard the ship, and they would take any measures to prevent test subjects from escaping alive.[4] Vader also had control of the ship's self-destruct, which he could use to exterminate everyone aboard if necessary.[1] The entire crew and vessel were disposable to Vader; he would ultimately order all their deaths to conceal the survival of his apprentice, Galen Marek.[3]

Behind the scenes[]

Early concept art of the Empirical's bridge, by Chin Ko.

The Empirical was created for the 2008 multimedia project Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and appears in all adaptations of The Force Unleashed's story. The Empirical is a level of the video game for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; for the Wii, PlayStation 2, and all other versions produced by Krome Studios, the events on the Empirical occur in a cutscene. In the Xbox/PlayStation version, the room where Marek first awakens has monitors on which the name of Lucasfilm Ltd. employee Victor Tancredi-Ballugera is written in Aurebesh.

In the PS3/Xbox 360 versions of the game, stormtroopers mention that Galen Marek's code name on the ship is 'Subject 1138', which is a reference to George Lucas' first film, THX-1138.

Despite all adaptations of The Force Unleashed telling the same story, the events, and even the layout, of the Empirical change between them. In both the novel and comic, PROXY joins Marek as he travels through the ship; in the game, he leaves for the Rogue Shadow and meets Marek there. Different aspects of the ship's design also vary between adaptations. For instance, the exterior views shown in the comic and game differ greatly. Similarly, in the game, Juno Eclipse's cell is located in an area that looks like the bridge of the vessel; however, in the comic, it looks very different.

The interior design of the Empirical was inspired by the sterile, military feel of Imperial facilities shown in the Star Wars films. The room Marek awakens in, called "Vader's Laboratory," is reminiscent of the lab in the EmPal SuRecon Center, where Darth Vader's body is reconstructed in Revenge of the Sith. The general tone of the Empirical level in the game was meant to evoke a sense of foreboding and dread for the player.[6]



Notes and references[]

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