- "Someone…or something…has been biding its time, while the feuding Imperial factions distracted our attention…"
- ―Mon Mothma
Operation Shadow Hand or the "Shadow Hand Strategy" was the Imperial name for the section of the Galactic Civil War following in the wake of the Thrawn campaign. It was applied to the collective military campaigns that the reborn Emperor Palpatine, also known as the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Sidious, launched in an attempt to retake control of the galaxy and restore the Galactic Empire. These were essentially "wave assaults" from Byss and the rest of the Deep Core.
Initially, the Galactic Empire retreated from the territory gained during the Thrawn Campaign, the Imperial fleets moving to the Deep Core at Emperor Palpatine's secret command. The New Republic Defense Fleet followed the crumbling frontline deep into the Outer Rim Territories, sending more ships rimward to engage the Ciutric Hegemony and the "Restored Empire" in Corva sector, leaving Coruscant and the Core Worlds relatively undefended.
The Imperial fleet struck out of the Deep Core, surprising the New Republic. They besieged Metellos and the Kaikielius system, and the New Republic abandoned the capital. The Galactic Empire was restored, and the New Republic became referred to as the Rebel Alliance again overnight. The New Republic government regrouped on Dac in the Calamari sector, and at Pinnacle Base on Da Soocha V in Hutt Space.
Not long after the Empire secured the Core, however, disorder and chaos ensued. Any appearance of Imperial unity vanished, and the Empire fell into a catastrophic civil war. Using captured Star Destroyers, the Alliance helped along the anarchy, as entire worlds were destroyed, and warfleets gathered around Imperial worlds such as Gyndine and Aargau. New fortress worlds came into being, and Coruscant was turned into a wasteland. The reborn Emperor watched from Byss, claiming such actions thinned the ranks of the weak and the cowards. In a perverse mirror of the numerous Sith Civil Wars, Palpatine watched his war machine tear itself apart, destroying entire worlds and massacring civilians. He may even have encouraged the Imperial Mutiny with the dark side of the Force, as it played into Palpatine's plans to establish a "Dark Empire", a galaxy-spanning magocratic government ruled directly by the dark side of the Force rather than military might.
The turning of Luke Skywalker
The New Republic involved itself in the Imperial Civil War by stirring up regional hatred with attacks using captured Imperial starships on rival factions. It was on one of these missions that Luke Skywalker was swept up in a powerful Force storm, which brought him to the Deep Core world of Byss. There, Skywalker met the resurrected Emperor Palpatine.
Faced with a revived Darth Sidious, Skywalker decided to do what many had tried in the past—to destroy the dark side from within. He agreed to become the Supreme Commander of the Imperial Fleet, and lead the new attack on the Republic.
The assault on Mon Calamari
Sidious retook control of the Empire shortly after capturing Luke Skywalker, sending the Imperial Navy and fleets of World Devastators to attack the Borderland Regions, pushing on to Dac, and intending to split Rebel territory in half. The World Devastators under the command of General Titus Klev aboard the Silencer-7 proved almost impossible to destroy, and an attempt by Han Solo, Salla Zend, and Leia Organa Solo to rescue Luke on Byss met with failure.
However, Luke had successfully smuggled the command codes of the World Devastators to Leia, and the New Republic was able to shut them down remotely. The Battle of Calamari cost the Empire its newest superweapon, but Palpatine managed to truly turn Luke to the dark side as they duelled on Byss.
The Battle of Pinnacle Base
With Luke now truly his apprentice, Palpatine personally took him aboard his new dreadnought Eclipse to Da Soocha V, demanding the surrender of Leia Organa Solo in return for truce negotiations. However, after Leia came aboard the Eclipse, she was able to turn her brother back to the light side of the Force.
Enraged, the Emperor summoned a Force Storm to destroy Da Soocha and the New Republic base. However, overcome by Skywalker and Organa Solo, he lost control of his Storm and it consumed the Eclipse and himself.
Despite these setbacks, the Shadow Hand campaign was taken over by Executor Sedriss QL, who struck at recalcitrant worlds in the Core and the Colonies lying adjacent to the territory conquered in the initial campaign. He also attacked numerous worlds in the Slice and the industrial worlds of Duro, Kuat, and Balmorra.
However, at the Battle of Balmorra, Sedriss' SD-9 battle droids and Shadow Droids were seen off by Governor Hinch Beltane's new SD-10 and X-1 Viper "Automadon" droids. Captain Maximillian Veers was killed in action, and the campaign stalled long enough to force Sedriss to open truce negotiations: Sedriss accepted a shipment of Viper battle droids from the Balmorran factories in return for accepting Balmorran independence.
With Palpatine still convalescing after the defeat at Da Soocha and Sedriss discredited at Balmorra, two Dark Side Adepts, Nefta and Sa-Di, attempted a coup on Byss. Returned from Balmorra, Sedriss duelled and defeated the pair and then submitted himself to Emperor Palpatine, now returned in a second clone body.
Shortly thereafter, Sedriss traveled to Ossus aboard an Imperial Hunter to capture Luke Skywalker, who was investigating the ancient library world of the Jedi Order as part of his efforts to rebuild his own. In the ensuing battle, Sedriss' force was wiped out and the Executor was killed by the Neti Ood Bnar, who had survived there in a tree-like form since the planet was devastated by Exar Kun.
The Galaxy Gun
The New Republic pinned its hopes on killing Darth Sidious, just as they had done at Endor. With the support of Balmorra's Governor Beltane, a New Republic commando force led by Lando Calrissian intercepted the shipment of Viper droids arranged by Sedriss and took control of the droids from their internal command cabins. On Byss, they burst from their freighter and assaulted the Emperor's Citadel. However, the Viper droids proved to be useless against Palpatine's alchemically-enhanced Chrysalide Rancors, which forced the expedition to retreat in defeat after being rescued by a group of smugglers led by Salla Zend.
In the aftermath of the raid, Palpatine unleashed the Galaxy Gun, a massive interstellar-range artillery gun which fired planet-destroying missiles. Da Soocha V was obliterated in the Gun's first firing, though the New Republic leadership had since evacuated to the Nespis VIII Space City. A plan to attack Byss for a second time to destroy the Galaxy Gun was foiled when it destroyed the troopship Pelagia, killing a hundred thousand troops. The Galaxy Gun subsequently destroyed the Space City, scattering the New Republic.
With the destruction of the rebel bases on Da Soocha and at Space City by the Galaxy Gun, the New Republic scattered, vanishing into the galaxy. The Empire, for all intents and purposes, had won, driving the Alliance into complete hiding. However, in opposition to this military victory was the Emperor's waning health: Palpatine's power in the dark side was slowly causing his mind to degenerate. Faced by the increasing insanity of their Emperor, a cabal within the Imperial Ruling Council composed of the Emperor's physician and the traitorous Royal Guard Carnor Jax, who wished to become Emperor in Palpatine's stead, poisoned the genetic material used to make Palpatine's clone bodies.
Palpatine traveled to Korriban to consult the spirits of the Sith Lords there, who advised him to enter the body of Leia Organa Solo's newest son, Anakin. Taking the Eclipse-class dreadnought Eclipse II to Onderon, the Emperor engaged the Alliance and Jedi. Catastrophe followed, with the Emperor being finally defeated and the Eclipse II launched towards Byss due to sabotage by the astromech droid R2-D2, where it rammed the Galaxy Gun and caused it to fire a missile into Byss. This destroyed the throneworld and the Imperial fleet around it, which combined with the death of Darth Sidious, effectively cutting the heart from the Empire both politically and militarily.
The campaign started with the Empire holding half the galaxy at the end of 9 ABY, and saw the Empire lose most of this newly captured territory in the weeks following Grand Admiral Thrawn's death, only to consolidate half of the galaxy again under the clone Emperor. Subsequent to expanding further, the Emperor was finally killed and the Empire abandoned Coruscant and the Core Worlds, splitting again yet still consolidating control of a third of the galaxy in the Outer Rim - more than what the Empire initially held before Grand Admiral Thrawn returned.
The majority of the Imperial fleet retreated into the Deep Core in the aftermath, Blitzer Harrsk and Treuten Teradoc becoming the primary warlords, the Pentastar Alignment remaining a major Imperial power in the Outer Rim, and fortress worlds with little fleet strength holding out throughout Imperial territory. The Empire proper was held by the Imperial Ruling Council under Emperor Carnor Jax and his Crimson Empire, but that didn't last long after Byss's destruction.
The Empire's fleets thereafter, however, were severely reduced, with the most powerful Deep Core warlord, Admiral Teradoc, only fielding seventy Victory-class Star Destroyers. The unification of the Deep Core under Admiral Natasi Daala, which held the majority of the Imperial Fleet, saw less than two hundred Star Destroyers gather under her banner.
The New Republic was similarly decimated in the fighting, barely claiming membership of 11,000 worlds by 16 ABY, and fielding only four fleets as opposed to both sides fielding hundreds of Sector Fleets. During the Shadow Hand Campaign, the Republic retreated into the Outer Rim, placing its main bases inside Hutt Space, the Cron Drift, and the Corporate Sector, rather than in territory accessible to or largely a part of the mainstream galaxy. The Republic never saw massive membership until it finally defeated the Empire at the Battle of Anx Minor, forcing it back to only eight sectors.
The New Republic Navy's poor performance against Imperial Star Dreadnoughts during the campaign inspired the development of their own dreadnought analogues, the Mediator-class battle cruiser and the Viscount-class Star Defender as part of the New Class Modernization Program in the aftermath of Operation Shadow Hand.
Operation Shadow Hand was the last major action of a Sith-led Galactic Empire for over a hundred years, and the following years would see the Empire move further and further away from the Sith and their ideals, until political relations were non-existent. A portion of the Empire remained under the control of the Sith apprentice Carnor Jax, but his death saw only isolated factions of Sith or Dark Jedi-led Imperials emerge, such as the Empire Reborn and the Disciples of Ragnos. Eventually the relationship soured, and during the Yuuzhan Vong War, the reigning Dark Lady Lumiya attacked the Imperial Remnant in the Battle of Yaga Minor. Eventually, the reborn Galactic Empire, following the Fel dynasty, would reluctantly ally with the One Sith during the Sith-Imperial War, but was splintered into a Second Imperial Civil War by a Sith coup in 130 ABY. Following the destruction of Darth Krayt's faction, the Empire would be at war with the Sith until their destruction in 139 ABY. As a result, the Galactic Empire which was originally created by Palpatine to benefit the Sith ultimately turned against them.
- Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds (Indirect mention only)
- Star Wars: Dark Empire (First appearance)
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
- Star Wars: Dark Empire II (First identified as Operation Shadow Hand)
- Star Wars: Empire's End
- Crimson Empire 0 (In flashback(s))
- Star Wars: Crimson Empire (In flashback(s))
- Dark Apprentice (Mentioned only)
- Children of the Jedi (Mentioned only)
- Dark Empire endnotes
- Dark Empire Sourcebook (First identified as Shadow Hand Strategy)
- The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels
- The Jedi Academy Sourcebook
- "ComicScan: Taken By Force" – Star Wars Galaxy Magazine 8
- Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded
- Pirates & Privateers
- Cracken's Threat Dossier
- The New Essential Guide to Characters
- The Essential Chronology
- The New Essential Chronology
- Geonosis and the Outer Rim Worlds
- Coruscant and the Core Worlds
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
- Jedi Academy Training Manual
- The Essential Atlas
- The Essential Guide to Warfare
Notes and references