- "Avarice's Captain Sair Yonka is very smart and calculating—the antithesis of us Corellians because he does care what the odds are and does everything he can to maximize his chances of survival."
Sair Yonka was a Human male from Commenor who served with both the Galactic Empire and the New Republic as the captain of the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Avarice—later renamed the Freedom. Yonka left his lover Aellyn Jandi behind on his homeworld at a young age and entered the Imperial Naval Academy, proving to be a competent and intelligent officer. He spent several years serving on numerous vessels in the Outer Rim Territories before being awarded the captaincy of the Avarice and tasked with defending Imperial-aligned Outer Rim worlds from pirates. During his time in the Outer Rim, Yonka and Aellyn Jandi entered into an affair.
After the debacle at Endor, Yonka turned down offers to serve with Warlord Zsinj, instead staying loyal to Ysanne Isard, the legitimate ruler of what remained of the Empire. When Isard was ousted from Coruscant, Yonka and the Avarice helped her establish a power base on Thyferra, and the Commenorian remained loyal to her during the preliminary stages of the Bacta War. However, Yonka began to have doubts about Isard's leadership and when Wedge Antilles offered him a sizable sum of money to defect to the New Republic, he accepted. His ship was instrumental in Isard's defeat at the Battle of Thyferra and he later participated in the battles at Sluis Van and Bilbringi during the Thrawn campaign. He also took part in the Battle of Liinade III during the toppling of Prince-Admiral Delak Krennel immediately after Thrawn's demise at Bilbringi.
- "This affair is not without danger—the wrath of a Moff is not often survivable. If one is going to dress for death, can blood-red ever be a wrong choice?"
- ―Sair Yonka, to Poe
A tall, slender Human male, Sair Yonka was born on the planet Commenor, and was of a military background. During his upbringing, Yonka befriended a young girl named Aellyn and over the course of their adolescence, the two began to fall in love with each other. They parted ways, however, when Yonka gained an appointment to the Imperial Naval Academy. Yonka proved to be a competent and calculating tactician, though his first assignments were on backwater worlds within the Outer Rim Territories. Here, he served on vessels tasked with defending convoys from pirate attacks on worlds like Elshandruu Pica. Yonka performed well in the Outer Rim, and his career began to blossom. He was soon awarded the captaincy of an Imperial II-class Star Destroyer, the Avarice, and commanded a well-drilled crew. Although he did infrequently perform missions closer to Imperial Center, the majority of his time was spent in the outermost regions of the galaxy.
During a routine patrolling exercise on Elshandruu Pica, the Avarice chased off a band of pirates who had set up a base in the system's asteroid belt. When Yonka went to pay his respects to Elshandruu Pica's Moff, Riit Jandi, he discovered that his former lover Aellyn had become the Moff's wife. Their feelings rekindled, the two Commenorians entered into an affair, which they managed to keep secret from Moff Jandi. Aellyn was also friends with Kina Margath, the proprietor of a local hotel and cantina complex named Margath's, and she and Yonka used it as a place to meet with each other. Yonka appeased Margath with free supplies of various alcoholic beverages that he had captured from pirates during his Imperial service, while Aellyn used her influence with the Moff to gain Margath's establishment, the 27th Hour Social Club, favorable treatment. Additionally, Sair helped spread rumors that he was going to the hotel every few weeks to sleep with Margath, not Aellyn. His and Aellyn's relationship was largely physical and they were unable to see each other for any extended length of time. Unknown to either Yonka or his lover, Kina Margath was an Intelligence agent working for the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and the droid eventually assigned to Yonka when he stayed at the hotel, Poe, had once served Rebel starfighter pilots. However, in the several years that the relationship between Jandi and Yonka lasted, Margath never acted against the Star Destroyer captain.
Yonka recognized that the Empire was far from perfect, though he convinced himself that he was on the right side of the Galactic Civil War, as the Empire was the legitimate government. He had qualms about the harshness with which the Rebel Alliance was dealt with, though he reasoned that they were the same as the pirates he dealt with in the Outer Rim. However, he stayed loyal to the Empire after the Battle of Endor, when the Emperor was killed and the Empire was thrown into disarray.
Under Isard's rule
- "Madam Director Ysanne Isard, I regret not being able to bring you this message personally, but not that much. In the time I have been associated with you I have found you to be sociopathically self-centered, prone to irrational and impulsive reactions to situations, and prey to a preference for appearance over substance. I have no doubt these affectations were seen as skills by the late Emperor, and indeed may have enhanced your ability to comply with his orders, but by no means are these traits that make for great, or even adequate leadership."
- ―Yonka, to Ysanne Isard
Yonka's services were much sought after in the aftermath of the Empire's defeat at Endor, with self-appointed warlords such as Zsinj asking for his allegiance. Yonka cared about the lives of the crew and starfighter pilots stationed aboard his vessel, and had no intention of ordering his men into death on the whim of an illegitimate commander—he declined all offers, despite their generous rewards, and remained loyal to whomever ruled the true Empire on Coruscant. Yonka served Ysanne Isard loyally after she took the reigns of the Empire, as he felt that her strategy of dealing with the Rebellion first and then rebuilding the Empire made sense.
Sair Yonka was furious when Isard purposely lost Coruscant, and her use of the Krytos virus on the planet's alien population appalled him, as he was opposed to the harming of innocents. Although he began to question her motives, Yonka remained loyal to her and the Avarice assisted in establishing her power base on the planet Thyferra. After Isard and her flagship, the Lusankya, fled Coruscant and supported a political coup d'etat on Thyferra, the New Republic was unable to oppose her, as she ruled a legitimate government. Backed by Yonka's Avarice, along with Ait Convarion's Corrupter and Joak Drysso's Virulence, Ysanne Isard had completely monopolized the production of bacta within the galaxy, putting her in an extremely lucrative position.
Although the New Republic had vowed to stay well clear of Isard, Rogue Squadron, which had thwarted her in the past, resigned their commissions and decided to go after her themselves. Isard thought of them as little more than pests, an opinion Yonka shared, though the Rogues' continuous raids on her bacta shipments meant that Yonka and his peers had to perform escort duty. This was a role well suited to the Commenorian, as he had experience with similar missions in the Outer Rim. With the Lusankya holed up over Thyferra to protect Isard, Yonka saw his crew as the most well drilled and trained of the four crews serving Isard, and the Rogues saw him as a considerable threat. Several months into the Bacta War, while Yonka's pilots had yet to down a single Rogue, they were coming far closer than those of any of the other Star Destroyers. Meanwhile, although he did not fear Wedge Antilles and his squadron, Sair was becoming increasingly skeptical of Isard and feared that she would task him with committing atrocities like the destruction of Halanit, which Yonka's fellow captain Ait Convarion had been assigned to carry out. Yonka decided that he would serve her until she gave him a similarly distasteful order, and continued to escort her convoys of bacta, all the while making preparations with his numerous allies in the Outer Rim for his inevitable flight.
- "Kill you? I've come to offer you a deal."
"Deal? What kind of deal?"
"A deal that starts with making you a very rich man."
- ―Wedge Antilles bribes Yonka into leaving Isard's service
When Rogue Squadron began to search for intelligence about the four of Isard's captains, they discovered that Kina Margath was a Rebel agent, and had her send them as much information on Yonka and his mistress as she had. They deduced that they would be able to buy Yonka's allegiance and made plans to meet with him. Several months into the Bacta War, Sair traveled to Elshandruu Pica to rendezvous with Aellyn, and Wedge Antilles was there waiting for him. The New Republic commander and a team of his personnel stunned Aellyn with a blaster pistol as she and Yonka met in a cottage not far from Margath's Hotel. Yonka initially thought that the Rogues had come to assassinate him, though what Wedge Antilles offered him was far more pleasing: a substantial amount of credits to announce his defection to Isard, remain in hiding for a time, and then assist the Rogues in their bid to liberate Thyferra. Yonka accepted the bribe and had Aellyn go into hiding, fearing retribution by Isard.
The crew of the Avarice was mostly in favor of their captain's sudden defection, aside from a group of individuals loyal to Isard. These loyalists commandeered a Lambda-class shuttle and attempted to flee, though the Star Destroyer was able to destroy the shuttle, killing all of its occupants. Captain Yonka sent Ysanne Isard a holo-message conveying his defection; he also told her of his low opinion of her, listing numerous faults of hers. Isard reacted furiously, and had the families of each member of his crew executed, though Aellyn survived the wave of retribution. Antilles did not require Yonka's services initially, but rather, he had the Avarice—now renamed the Freedom—continue its deception, pretending to be in the Outer Rim.
Battle of Thyferra
- "We all knew that staying with Isard would get us killed. We also knew that if we left her service, she'd hunt us down after she killed Antilles. Now we've got to kill the Lusankya here, or it will kill us someplace else. This isn't about money, it's about our survival, our freedom. Out there you have people in freighters and snubfighters pounding on that behemoth. They're gnats compared to the Lusankya. They can sting it, but they can't kill it. That job is up to us and we're going to do it because if we have to die, it isn't going to be dying while running. The Empire is dead—we all know that—so this is our buy-in to whatever follows it."
- ―Sair Yonka
Several weeks after his defection, Yonka was called into action. He knew that the Empire was no longer the force it once had been and deduced that if he performed well during Antilles's strike at Thyferra, he would be accepted into the New Republic. He kept his men well-motivated and well-drilled, knowing that his crew would have to play a large part in the defeat of the Lusankya, a Super Star Destroyer. The Rogues purposely leaked information of the location of their base on Yag'Dhul; while Isard sent her two remaining ships there, Yonka waited on the outskirts of the Thyferra system. When the Lusankya and Virulence arrived at the Rogues' base, the squadron and their allies fled to the Freedom's location and docked with the Star Destroyer. The Freedom moved out for Thyferra.
When they arrived in the system, the Lusankya had already fallen for their feint—it had rushed back to defend Thyferra from a non-existent attack. Antilles's starfighter squadrons dealt with the enemy TIE fighters while the Freedom took on the Lusankya, attempting to go over the larger ship's centerline and fire down upon it. The Lusankya's captain, Joak Drysso, wanted to capture the Freedom intact, and so only used ion cannons against it. Although Yonka managed to get several turbolaser shots off, the Lusankya's weaponry was enough to cripple his ship. However, the Lusankya was preoccupied fighting Antilles's forces, so Yonka's ship was allowed to float aimlessly through space without being fired upon.
Yonka's crew had been hit badly, and he himself had incurred injuries from the Lusankya's incessant ion cannon blasts. Although his ship was badly damaged, Yonka's crew was able to render it operational again. Both the captain and his men knew they were likely to die; one man remarked that Antilles had not paid them to die, though Yonka told him that if the Lusankya survived Isard would hunt them down and kill them anyway. He had his ship move into an offensive position, ready to strike at the Super Star Destroyer. Just as Yonka gave the signal to fire on the Lusankya, the Super Star Destroyer itself fired, further damaging Yonka's ship. The Freedom was now completely out of the fight, though with the help of the Virulence—which Antilles's personnel had commandeered at Yag'Dhul—the Lusankya was forced to surrender and Isard was believed killed. The Freedom had done its part in the battle, though it was left drifting through space, in dire need of repair.
New Republic service
- "Commander Sair Yonka, good to see you again."
"And good to see you as well. When last we met, I think my ship was still being refitted at Sluis Van."
"Right, but Thrawn's mole-miners didn't get to it, so you actually managed to do some fighting against Thrawn. You were at Bilbringi, I recall."
"We were. The Freedom didn't get hit, but I lost a freighter that served as a supply ship for me. Had Thrawn not died, I suspect we all would have been hit much harder."
- ―Antilles and Yonka discuss Yonka's involvement in the Thrawn crisis
The Freedom was transferred to the Sluis Van shipyards, where it was refitted with weapons from the Virulence, which smuggler Booster Terrik had claimed for himself. Although he had originally been bribed to fight against the Empire, Yonka served loyally with the New Republic, becoming a commander. The Freedom was still being refitted when Grand Admiral Thrawn launched his campaign against the New Republic at Sluis Van, using stolen mole miners to severely damage New Republic warships. Yonka's Freedom remained intact and was able to assist in fending Thrawn off. When his ship was entirely restored, Yonka and his crew continued fighting against Thrawn and what remained of the Empire.
The New Republic began to take heavy losses, and Thrawn had Coruscant surrounded by cloaked asteroids, preventing traffic from moving in and out. The New Republic made plans to find a crystal gravfield trap, which would help them locate and destroy the asteroids; they set up a feint attack for Tangrene while really planning to attack and steal a crystal gravfield trap from Bilbringi. Thrawn had seen through the New Republic's deception, however, and a full Imperial fleet was waiting for Admiral Gial Ackbar's taskforce, which included Yonka's Freedom, at Bilbringi. The Freedom incurred only superficial damage initially, though one of Yonka's supply freighters was destroyed. With the Empire overwhelming the New Republic forces, Yonka felt that defeat was imminent, but the Imperial fleet suddenly withdrew from the system, leaving Bilbringi under New Republic control. Yonka later learned that Thrawn had been killed, and that the Empire had fled to the Unknown Regions.
With Thrawn's forces all but defeated, the New Republic turned its attention to the Imperial warlords; Prince-Admiral Delak Krennel of the Ciutric Hegemony was chosen as their first target. Yonka attended a briefing session for the impending attack on the Hegemony and briefly reacquainted himself with Wedge Antilles, the man who had brought him over to the New Republic in the first place. Ackbar briefed Yonka and several other fleet officers of the assault on the planet Liinade III, located in the Hegemony, which was to be the first of Krennel's worlds to be attacked. The Freedom would wait just outside the system while Moonshadow and Swift Liberty dealt with the capital ships defending the world. Yonka and his crew were to act as backup, and when Krennel's Star Destroyers had been defeated, the Freedom would deploy its ground-troop carrying assault shuttles onto Liinade Three's surface. There was added incentive in the assignment for Yonka, as it was rumored that Ysanne Isard had survived the Battle of Thyferra, and was working in conjunction with Krennel.
The preliminary battle did not go well for the New Republic and by the time Yonka's Freedom entered the fray, the Swift Liberty was being pounded by a Dreadnaught-class heavy cruiser. Yonka had his ship travel directly between the Dreadnaught and another Star Destroyer, the Direption. His starboard gunners dealt tremendous damage to the Star Destroyer, while the Freedom's port side fired upon the smaller Dreadnaught. The Direption incurred heavy damage and made preparations to jump to lightspeed, while Yonka's continual barrage on the Dreadnaught destroyed the cruiser, splitting its hull in two. The Direption was forced to surrender, and Yonka moved into position to deploy his ground troops. The ground operation went smoothly enough, and Liinade III was successfully captured. The later stages of the assault on Krennel's territory proved successful; although Yonka played no further part, Krennel, Isard's clone and Isard herself were all killed.
Personality and traits
- "I knew what I was doing was right in someone's eyes. Patrolling the Rim, keeping pirates from raiding worlds like Elshandruu Pica here, that was a mission that no one could deny was necessary. That the Rebels were often classified as pirates and dealt with harshly meant nothing. It was fairly common among pirates to call themselves Rebels to justify their predation on Imperial outposts."
- ―Yonka remembers his time in the Rim
Sair Yonka was seen as an intelligent man even by the Rogues, and spent much of his time contemplating the past, as well as what decisions to make in the future. He was described by Rogue ally Mirax Terrik as very calculating; he thoroughly cared if and when the odds were against him, and did his utmost to ensure that the odds weren't against him. He preferred not to enter a battle where he was likely to be defeated and took a more pessimistic view than some when analyzing battles. While many, such as Wedge Antilles and his squadron, continued to believe in themselves despite overwhelming odds that they would perish, Yonka recognized when defeat was imminent and did not hide his thoughts on the matter, though he was not one to surrender.
Yonka was somewhat of a risk taker, both in his daily life and when in command of a starship. He worked behind the back of Elshandruu Pica's moff, despite the obvious danger of doing so. Yonka recognized that his life would be under threat should Moff Jandi discover his and Aellyn's affair, though he decided that Aellyn's pleasures were worth the risk. Under Yonka, the Freedom took several risks, most notably in the Bacta War and during the campaign against Krennel, where he had the Star Destroyer fly between two hostile ships and take them both on at once.
Yonka had a calm demeanor and even in the face of adversity, he did not lose his temper or his presence of mind. When Wedge Antilles shot Aellyn—which Yonka believed had killed her—the Star Destroyer captain's judgment was not clouded by anger or a thirst for vengeance, but rather, Yonka thought things out and attempted to find a way out of the situation. During his defection speech to Isard, Yonka's words were even, though full of conviction, and he remained calm. He was also extremely eloquent, giving long speeches to both Isard and his crew. His speech to Isard achieved its exact intention, infuriating her so much that she could not see through his deception, while his words with his crew effectively motivated them for the dangerous battle with the Lusankya.
Yonka put great effort into his appearance, flouting military regulations to grow a goatee and caring greatly about how he dressed. This was particularly exhibited when visiting Aellyn Jandi on Elshandruu Pica, where he wished to look as inconspicuous as possible. Yonka alternated between simple, drab clothing to prevent him from standing out and flamboyant, colorful attire that would draw more attention to Yonka's clothes than his face.
Yonka hated unnecessary loss of life and believed that war should be fought between armies and navies, without the deaths of innocents. Isard's use of the Krytos virus to massacre millions of people who had aided the Rebellion in no way whatsoever disgusted Yonka. Although he hated civilian casualties, Yonka had no qualms about killing criminals, or any who attacked his ship. He harbored no Humanocentric tendencies, working alongside alien commanders in the New Republic, and had did not have a prejudice against droids, either, unlike many in the Empire. He cared considerably about his crew, and kept them in prime condition so that the likelihood of them dying in combat was severely lessened.
Behind the scenes
Yonka was created by Star Wars author Michael A. Stackpole, first appearing in the fourth book of his X-wing series, The Bacta War. In this book, Yonka played a minor yet important role, with several passages being written from his point of view. Two years later, Stackpole reused the character in X-Wing: Isard's Revenge, though Yonka played a far less prominent role, only appearing in two chapters. Since then, Yonka's only named appearance in canon has been in the Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, by Stephen J. Sansweet, Pablo Hidalgo, Daniel Wallace and several others.
- Star Wars Encyclopedia
- The New Essential Chronology (Indirect mention only)
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia