- "We will go to Murkhana, Master, as you command."
"Sometimes there is more to be gained by stepping into a trap than by avoiding it. Particularly when you're interested in learning who set it."
- ―Darth Vader and Darth Sidious discuss the mission
The Mission to Murkhana was an Imperial mission undertaken by the Sith Lord Darth Vader and Moff Wilhuff Tarkin to the planet Murkhana, where a cache of communications equipment had been discovered. The cache was in fact bait meant to lure the pair to the world so that a rebel cell could steal Tarkin's personal starship, the Carrion Spike. Upon reaching Murkhana, Tarkin and Vader, accompanied by a dozen stormtroopers traveled to the cache's location and checked it for traps. After entering the building via a rooftop access, they began examining the equipment, which was then left to the troopers to document and transport to the Carrion Spike.
Vader and Tarkin then paid a visit to the Murkhana City Imperial compound, where they met with the planet's Imperial ambassador and the Koorivar Intelligence asset who had discovered the cache. While the meeting was taking place, the rebel cell created a false communication to the troopers in which they impersonate Tarkin and told the Imperials to return to the cache. The cell then boarded the Carrion Spike and killed its crew before stealing it. Tarkin and Vader were alerted to the theft, and visited a local Sugi crime lord named Faazah, who they blackmailed into giving them a ship, the Parsec Predator. Using the Force, Vader was then able to track the Carrion Spike despite its stealth equipment and gave chase, although the cell managed to escape the Murkhana system and the Imperials. Using the Carrion Spike the cell went on to attack a number of Imperial facilities before being outmaneuvered by Tarkin and defeated.
- "My lords, Moff Tarkin, Admirals...With your permission, and for the benefit of those of you who may not be fully conversant with the matter at hand, I offer a brief summary. Three weeks ago, one of our intelligence assets reported a startling find on Murkhana."
- ―Harus Ison prepares to give a brief on the communications cache on Murkhana
During the Clone Wars between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems, the Republic Intelligence agent Berch Teller had been assigned to the Separatist controlled moon of Antar 4, where he had helped train and organize pro-Republic resistance groups. Following the end of the war and the establishment of the Galactic Empire however, Wilhuff Tarkin had been assigned to make an example of the moon, bringing about a series of arrests, executions and disappearances which made no distinction between former Separatists and those who had been loyal to the Republic. Disaffected by the betrayal of those he had trained, Teller made complaints to the chiefs of Intelligence, but was soon reassigned to Desolation Station, a remote Imperial base responsible for a large portion of the research concerning the development of the Death Star superweapon. Soon after arriving at the station Teller vanished from Imperial awareness, and used his knowledge of Imperial plans to save several anti-Imperial journalists and former Intelligence assets from arrest.
About five years after the end of the Clone Wars and the creation of the Empire, Vice-Admiral Dodd Rancit of the Naval Intelligence Agency contacted Teller, with an opportunity to get back at the Empire. Teller, who had served as an asset under Rancit in the Clone Wars, agreed to the plan and gathered together a cell of individuals to aid him, including two journalists he had rescued, Anora Fair and Hask Taff, two former operatives from Antar 4, Salikk and Cala, and a ship designer who had also abandoned Desolation station, Artoz. Rancit, who was displeased with being removed from command of Sentinel Base and transferred to Naval Intelligence, provided the cell with access to restricted Separatist vessel parts from the war which they used to construct a warship. The cell were also given old Separatist communication technologies, which they placed some of in a cache on the planet Murkhana, a former Separatist stronghold.
The crew then used some of the surveillance equipment and Taff's HoloNet skills to create a fake video of the cache on Murkhana, which Rancit sent from Military Intelligence to the Imperial Security Bureau under a false name, claiming that the cache needed to be investigated. ISB case officer Stellan assigned the Intelligence asset Bracchia to investigate the cache, which he found and quickly looked over before submitting a preliminary report of it, which lead local Imperial forces to place the cache's location under observation. About three weeks after the report was submitted, Teller and his cell then used their warship to attack Sentinel Base. The group sent a fake transmission claiming that the nearby Rampart Station was under attack, causing Tarkin to send the Venator-class Star Destroyer Electrum to aid the space station. With Sentinel's defenses gone, the warship quickly entered the system Sentinel Base was located in and released a few starfighters to attack the facility, before retreating.
The attack caused Tarkin to be called to the Imperial capital world Coruscant, where he spoke with Galactic Emperor Palpatine about the incident and then attended a briefing on the subject. Rancit was also present at the meeting, where Naval Intelligence chief Harus Ison informed those present of the Separatist communication cache on Murkhana, which he believed might have been linked to the false communication used in the Sentinel Base attack. The Emperor then ordered that Tarkin work with the Sith Lord Darth Vader to investigate the cache. Palpatine purposefully left it unclear if Vader or Tarkin were to be in command of the mission, telling the Sith Lord that the pair should decide it between themselves.
Following the meeting, Vader informed Palpatine that in his opinion Tarkin should not accompany him on the mission, but instead return to Sentinel Base where he was needed. Palpatine dismissed the idea, claiming that it was no coincidence that the cache was on Murkhana, a planet that both Tarkin and Vader had history with, Tarkin having fought there in the Clone Wars and Vader having traveled to the world on one of his earliest missions as a Sith. Believing that Murkhana's involvement in the events surrounding the attack was a sign from the dark side of the Force, Palpatine thought it important that both be present for the mission, which he suspected was a trap. The following day, Vader brought the dozen troopers he had selected for the mission to the Imperial Palace landing field, where he had them load his meditation chamber onto the Carrion Spike. When the sphere collided briefly with the edge of the ship's cargo hold hatch, Vader grew angry at Sergeant Crest, the stormtrooper who was controlling the repulsorlift crane.
- "You will accompany Moff Tarkin to Murkhana to investigate this so-called cache of communications devices. You will report your findings directly to me, and I will decide what if any information needs to be conveyed to our spies and military. I won't have Ison and the others muddying the waters by conducting their own inquiries."
- ―Palpatine issues orders to Darth Vader
Upon arrival at Murkhana, the Carrion Spike was directed to the spaceport of Murkhana City, the planet's capital and the location of the cache. Murkhana City spaceport control informed the Imperials that they would have to find their own landing space, as they no longer possessed the means to direct them, much to Tarkin's annoyance. Upon landing, Tarkin, Vader and eight stormtroopers disembarked and were greeted by the arrival of a poorly maintained Low Altitude Assault Transport/infantry, which they were informed was the only vehicle available to collect them due to sabotage by locals. After telling the Carrion Spike's comms officer to contact him if trouble arose, Tarkin and the other boarded the transport and were flown through Murkhana city to the cache's location, an old medcenter which had been converted into a shield generator housing by the Corporate Alliance. During the journey the ship was pelted with debris by locals, who despised the Empire for the state their world had been left in after the Clone Wars.
Upon reaching the building, Tarkin and Vader were informed that the cache's location was covered by rooftop Imperial snipers. They then ordered that Crest and his men follow a two AC-ones and a ASN courier droid fitted with a holotransmitter into the building and complete a full reconnaissance of all bar the central room containing the cache while the commanders observed the holo-feed from the droid at the gunship. For an hour Tarkin watched the feeds of each of the droids seeing them hit many dead ends, while Vader paced, after which Crest reported that the reconnaissance was complete and the building clear. The local stormtroopers established a perimeter, while Tarkin, Vader and the Coruscant troopers proceeded to follow one of the remotes through the building to the room containing the cache, where they met with Crest and the other troopers. The room was sealed with a sliding door, and after Crest and four trooper approached and opened it, Vader halted the group, feeling something through the Force. Tarkin then realized that the cache couldn't of been brought to the room through the corridors, and neither could the generator that had previously been held in the room, leading him to deduce that there was a rooftop access. Vader grew angry again at Crest for missing the other entry way, and the group then left the building and used their transport to ascend to the roof where they found a concealed turbolift shaft.
The group descended in the turbolift and, being wary of traps, split, with Tarkin surveying the cache and the others investigating the secondary entrance. Vader discovered that the door had been rigged to explode if fully opened, a trap the remotes had been blind to due to the equipment in the cache. The commanders concluded that the explosives had likely been set following Bracchia's visit to the cache, and came to believe that they had been meant to find the cache. Tarkin ordered that all the equipment be recorded on film, with any markings taken note of and any suspect objects packed onto the Carrion Spike by Crest and his men, so that they could be taken back to Coruscant for analysis. Vader and Tarkin then returned to the carrier, as the Sith Lord wished to meet with Bracchia.
Again using the Low Altitude Troop Transport, Vader and Tarkin traveled to the city's Imperial compound where they were greeted by the Imperial ambassador who led them to the Intelligence asset inside the compound. Vader first questioned the ambassador about the estate of Murkhana City, which she told him she did not have enough troops to fix, and that even with reinforcements the resentment of the people might prove too much to overcome. Tarkin the moved onto Bracchia, who described his initial visit to the cache to them, apologizing that he had missed the turbolift. The Moff was surprised to learn that the asset had investigated the building on orders from his case officer, as he had assumed Bracchia had discovered the cache himself. Before the questioning could continue, Tarkin received word from Crest, informing him that the stormtroopers had returned to the medcenter. Confused he questioned the sergeant as to why, and was told that they were following his orders. Realizing what was happening he ordered the troops to return to the Carrion Spike and tried to raise the ship's crew on comm, but to no avail. The ambassador explained the problem was due to the city's power grid or communication array going down, but Tarkin also failed to get a response when he tried to remotely activate the ships defense mechanisms to prevent intruders approaching it. Crest then reported back, informing Tarkin that the Carrion Spike was gone and that its crew and the Stormtroopers left to guard it were dead.
Vader grew angry at Crest again, and then used the Force to sense that the Carrion Spike was still in the system. After learning that the Judicial cruiser in the spaceport was not spaceworthy, Vader ordered the Imperials to split into two groups. Tarkin, Vader and headed to the headquarters of a local criminal group known as the Sugi and made up of members of the Sugi species. Crest and his men headed to the home of Faazah, the head of the criminal group. Upon the first groups arrival at the headquarters they were escorted at blaster point by half a dozen guards to Faazah's throne room, where twenty more guards awaited them. Vader greeted the crime lord, who he had previously helped gain power by killing a rival in the Black Sun crime syndicate. Faazah admitted he owed Vader, hence why he had let them meet with him, but refused to hand over his ship, the Parsec Predator. Tarkin then revealed a hologram which showed Crest and his men in a warehouse belonging to the Sugi, which the troopers had rigged with explosives. The crime lord at first was not bothered by the potential loss, but after realizing the stormtroopers were also holding his entire family in the warehouse ready to execute, he gave in and handed over the launch codes to his ship, ordering all of his guards to leave the landing pad the ship was located on. Tarkin ordered Crest to move to the landing field with the Sugi family, and take possession of the ship, after which Vader Force choked Faazah and slaughtered all Sugi present in the throne room, as well as several repurposed battle droids that reinforced them. Two stormtroopers were killed in the exchange but the Imperials otherwise left unharmed.
Boarding the Parsec Predator, Vader and Tarkin took to orbit, where Vader again used the Force to sense the Carrion Spike, which was hidden by its cloaking systems. The new crew of the Carrion Spike recognized Faazah's ship, and were confused as to how it was following them, suspecting a tracking beacon or a faulty stealth system. To escape they jumped to lightspeed, using the Carrion Spike's sophisticated navigation computer to jump to the nearby Fial system. Vader and Tarkin sent word to Coruscant of the theft of the Carrion Spike, before jumping in pursuit of the stolen vessel.
- "From Murkhana, however, the ship jumped first to Fial, then to Galidraan, and then to Lucazec. We have no way of assessing let alone knowing where the corvette is at present-whether it is in hyperspace or parked in some local star system-but either way its fuel is in short supply."
- ―Tarkin assesses the situation after the loss of the Carrion Spike
Vader and Tarkin were able to locate the Carrion Spike in the Fial system, but the ship once again escaped by jumping to the Galidraan system. Again using the Force, Vader tracked them to Galidraan, where the rebels attacked Galidraan Station, a space station orbiting Galidraan III. Unable to stop the attack, Vader and Tarkin lost the Carrion Spike when it jettisoned Vader's meditation sphere and jumped to the Lucazec system. The cell went on to make attacks on several more Imperial targets, while the Empire attempted to guess where the cell would strike next. Rancit, who had provided the cell with its list of targets, eventually betrayed them and set a trap at the Nouane system where he nearly destroyed the Carrion Spike. Knowing they had been betrayed the cell abandoned the Spike and sent it on autopilot to its next destination, the Carida system where Rancit was waiting.
Tarkin by this point however, had worked out the identities of those involved in the Carrion Spike's theft including the Vice-Admiral. Vader arrived in the Carida system and executed Rancit for his betrayal, while Tarkin ambushed the rebel cell during what they hoped would be their final attack, targeting a convoy carrying parts for the Death Star. All members of the crew were captured and eventually executed except Teller, who escaped and confronted Tarkin on his homeworld of Eriadu. Tarkin outsmarted the ex-agent, and left him injured on the Carrion Plateau giving him slim chance of surviving so that he might one day try and avenge his crew again.
Behind the scenes
The Mission to Murkhana was created for the 2014 novel Tarkin by James Luceno. While the book provided no images of the event, a preview of the novel published in Star Wars Insider issue 153 included several images illustrated by Joe Corroney.
- "Tarkin Revealed"—Star Wars Insider 153
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 9 (Databank A-Z: C-21–Chandrila) (Indirect mention only)