- "We have the Republic by the throat. Without access to bacta and hyperspace lanes, their alliance will collapse. If we stay united, and do whatever needs doing, then we will be the dominant force in the galaxy."
- ―Iaco Stark
The Stark Hyperspace War, also known as the Stark War, Stark Conflict, Stark Combine Conflict, and the Stark Hyperspace Conflict, was a small regional military conflict that took place in 44 BBY and was fought almost entirely in the Qotile system. The Galactic Republic, with the aid of the Jedi, fought against the Stark Commercial Combine, a group of pirates, mercenaries, bounty hunters, and assassins united under the charismatic leadership of fellow pirate Iaco Stark. The Combine had received some aid from the Trade Federation and the bacta-supplying company, Xucphra. The entire affair was orchestrated by Darth Sidious as part of his larger scheme to control the galaxy.
Beginning with a few pirate raids in the Outer Rim, the crisis was to be solved by peaceful negotiations handled by Republic diplomats under the supervision of Senator Finis Valorum and the Jedi, headed by Jedi Master Tyvokka. The conflict, however, soon escalated into a full scale war, through the aggressions of militaristic Senator Ranulph Tarkin, and the actions of both the Stark Combine and the Trade Federation. The entire war was fought in five decisive battles that took place on or around the planet Troiken, except for one special mission that took place on the planet Thyferra. Near the end of the war and after being threatened by his own co-directors at the Combine, Iaco Stark decided to defect and to aid the Republic in bringing a swift end to the conflict.
The war had some far-reaching consequences for the Republic. Major figures such as Jedi Council member Tyvokka and Senator Ranulph Tarkin were killed, and their key positions had to be filled. The conflict saw the bounty hunter Bossk begin his career; Nute Gunray of the Trade Federation went on to become Viceroy; and Finis Valorum won the elections for chancery, becoming Supreme Chancellor.
Iaco Stark was a smuggler who was active in the Outer Rim. He stole the goods traded by the large business conglomerates and sold them at a large enough price to maintain a profit, but less than the Trade Federation charged, thus making him into a hero to the people of the Outer Rim. The charismatic and visionary Stark managed to convince large groups of smugglers, pirates, mercenaries, bounty hunters, and assassins to join his already-large fleet, forming a group called the Stark Commercial Combine or Stark Collective. Aided by four co-directors (Boor-Daa, Tam Gozon, Lom Portom, and Trodos) and under the watch of the flagship Raptor, Stark forged the Collective into a force strong enough to challenge the military and political authority held by both the Trade Federation and the Galactic Republic in the Outer Rim. An alliance between such rogues on the scale of the Combine had never been seen before.
Although it was his preying on their commerce that had brought him to power, Stark did not wish to attack the Trade Federation. Instead, he made a deal with the leader of the Federation, Hask, as well as Adol Bel, the leader of the important bacta-supplying company, Xucphra. Armed with his own vision, their combined economic and military might, and the Combine's newly-developed navicomputer virus, Stark was able to sway Hask and Bel to his idea: the toppling of the Republic through the control of its bacta and the neutralizing of its space forces.
The crisis begins
Shortly afterwards on the planet Thyferra, a Xucphra-owned alazhi processing plant—vital to the creation of bacta—exploded. As Thyferra was the only source of both the bacta healing gel and the alazhi bacteria used to make it, and Xucphra was the leading bacta producer on Thyferra, bacta suddenly became amazingly and critically scarce. The price of bacta skyrocketed, and then rose again as bacta hoarding proliferated.
The ships of the Stark Collective "raided" the cargo ships of the Trade Federation, stealing bacta in a ruse known only to themselves and selling the healing fluid to the people of the Outer Rim in what still amounted to a very handsome profit. The Combine's standing up to the tyrannical Federation and ineffective Republic, and their delivery of the vital bacta at much lower prices than what the Federation could manage, made Stark even more of a hero than he already was to the oppressed people of the Outer Rim.
Deliberation and deceit
In the Galactic Senate, the Federation's representative, Minister Nute Gunray (who possibly did not know of the alliance between the Federation and the Collective) demanded that the Senate allow the Federation to increase the size of its battle droid military as a means of self-defense. Senator Ranulph Tarkin, leader of the militarist faction, used the opportunity to demand that the Republic recreate the Republic Army and Navy that had been eliminated in the Ruusan Reformation.
However, the even-headed Senator Finis Valorum suggested that the Republic, Federation, and Combine settle their differences through diplomacy. Stark agreed, as did the body of the Senate, which chose Valorum and Gunray to be its representatives. The meeting, it was decided, would be held on the Combine world of Troiken, although only the appointed delegates knew of its location.
The Senate requested that a team of Jedi protectors and diplomats accompany its delegation to Troiken. Senator Valorum approached the Jedi Council to inform them of the mission, causing Master Tyvokka—known for his powers of intuition and a singular ability to sense the future—to suspect the true nature of the "shortage." Valorum insisted that evidence be found before any action be taken against Xucphra or the Federation, and so, under the advice of Tyvokka, the Council ordered Jedi Knight Tholme and his Padawan, Quinlan Vos, to go to Thyferra, despite the misgivings of Grand Master Yoda about Vos's inner darkness. Tyvokka selected his own former Padawan, Plo Koon, as well as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, to accompany him to Troiken; Adi Gallia also joined the task force after Valorum requested her presence, the two having enjoyed a long, close-working relationship.
Elsewhere on Coruscant, another meeting was taking place. As part of his militarist campaign, Senator Tarkin had assembled a paramilitary force from the regional defense forces of planets sympathetic to his cause, and had entered into an agreement with Minister Gunray. Despite some reluctance at meeting's end, Gunray did provide Tarkin with the location of the conference world—but only after the senator threatened to release information to the Senate on Gunray's various clandestine (and highly dubious) business activities.
Tarkin's goal in smashing the Combine was to weaken the position of anti-militarists such as Valorum while highlighting the militarists as the new dominant force in the Senate. He also planned on having the Senate declare his paramilitary force the new official Republic Army and Navy, which he hoped would naturally lead to him becoming the leader of the Republic. Tarkin, however, unknowingly lacked the element of surprise: for the Combine's spies, possibly through Federation contacts, had learned of the existence of Tarkin's fleet, and his plans for its use.
As the Jedi and Senate diplomatic teams were dispatched to Thyferra and Troiken, Tarkin readied his fleet for battle, and Stark planned the destruction of all three.
First Battle of Qotile
The Jedi and Republic negotiators arrived on Troiken, meeting with Stark and his Combine co-directors. Once the inaugural meeting began, Gunray activated a homing beacon on his mechno-chair, transmitting the coordinates of the meeting-place to Tarkin's fleet. Tarkin ordered the ships to enter hyperspace, intending to attack the summit and kill both the Combine's leadership and the Republic's entourage.
No sooner had the Combine's leadership been seated than Tyvokka suggested that they skip the formalities and get to what Stark intended to be the real solution. Stark agreed, and his men drew their weapons on the Republic negotiators, using the pretext of Gunray's treachery. Stark revealed his knowledge of Tarkin's fleet—as well as the fact that he had piggybacked his navcomputer virus on Gunray's signal, incapacitating the navigational computers of Tarkin's ships. Many emerged from hyperspace in areas that would destroy them (such as near stars or black holes), others emerged in realspace safely but far off course, and only a fraction—including Tarkin's flagship Invincible—made it to the Qotile system, where they immediately came under fire from the Combine ships that outnumbered them.
Although Valorum protested that he knew nothing of Tarkin's unsanctioned plans, Stark would hear none of it, insisting that the Republic team surrender. Tyvokka, realizing that his suspicions were true, literally turned the tables on Stark's men, with the Jedi springing into action. Under Qui-Gon Jinn's advice, the panicked Gunray ordered his security droids to "kill them all." But the droids opened fire on both Stark's men and the Jedi, mortally wounding Tyvokka and forcing the Jedi to destroy the droids while Stark and his co-directors escaped. The Jedi and their charges quickly made their way back to their Consular cruiser while they still could (Gunray's transport having been destroyed just before their escape), retreating to Mount Avos. Tyvokka died en route, ordering Adi Gallia to protect Valorum to ensure a peaceful solution, Plo Koon to rally Tarkin's troops lest the Senate surrender (as well as to join the Jedi Council as Tyvokka had hoped), and Jinn to seek a way to override the computer virus. En route, Plo Koon used his telepathic abilities to scare off the Stark fighter following them. Upon arrival at Avos, their damaged Consular exploded.
Overhead, less than one fourth of Tarkin's fleet remained. After the Invincible suffered critical damage and Tarkin received a message from Valorum informing him of their retreat location, Tarkin ordered his crews to abandon their ships and aim their escape pods for Mount Avos. The fighting ships of Tarkin's fleet surrounded the troop carriers while their crews left, before being evacuated themselves. The Invincible was destroyed just after Tarkin and his staff evacuated, the burning hulk impacting near Avos, as the Jedi and soldiers began to regroup inside the mountain's abandoned spice mines.
Mission to Thyferra
As the ill-fated summit on Troiken began, Tholme and Quinlan Vos arrived on Thyferra, scouting the site of the Xucphra Plant explosion and encountering security droids programmed to kill any interlopers. Destroying the droids, the two encountered a secret meeting between Xucphra's Bel and the Federation's Hask, learning of the secret deal between them and Stark that had caused the bacta shortage and war in the first place. Evading hunter/killer droids and a sewer's tunnel grinder, Tholme and Vos made their way onto a Federation bacta freighter. The ship was "seized" by the Combine and rerouted to Troiken where, in an attempt to deny such an advantage to their enemy, the Jedi caused the freighter to explode.
The war continues
Following the regrouping inside Mount Avos, the Combine began bombarding the mountain with artillery fire. Inside the cave, a survey by Jace Dallin, Tarkin's aide and second-in-command, revealed that while the cave had plenty of water, the soldiers only had ten days worth of food, limited medical supplies, and no bacta. Tarkin and Gunray opted for surrender, while Valorum and Koon favored a continued resistance.
Koon was able, via his telepathic skill, to gain access to Stark's mind while the Combine's co-directors were in meeting, all unhappy with the outcome of the first battle. Stark assured them that the situation, while not what they had anticipated, was not a bad one: Tarkin's forces were trapped in Mount Avos, the Republic still had no bacta, and by now the navicomputer virus had spread throughout many of the Republic's ships, crippling interstellar commerce and transport. Anticipating a swift surrender of both Tarkin's force and the Senate, Stark managed to convince his lieutenants to continue with the plan, and prepared for a frontal assault on the mountain. Koon heard this however and, armed with this knowledge, the Republic force was able to put up a stiff resistance.
After Tarkin's troops were saved at the last minute by the Jedi, Stark changed tactics, deciding to stop attacking and maintain a siege, in order to starve the Republic soldiers out. Koon again used his telepathy to learn of this strategy while tending to the wounded soldiers, an action that helped convince many (Humans all, chosen by Tarkin, who was steeped in humanocentric prejudices) that there was no difference between aliens and Humans. In light of Koon's newly acquired information, it was decided that Gallia and the negotiators' Judicial Forces pilot would take Valorum and Gunray back to Coruscant to convince the Senate not to surrender; Tarkin was offered the chance to go but refused, viewing it as an attempt by Koon to steal his command.
As Dallin launched a diversionary attack, the pilot, Gallia, the senators, and Jinn and Kenobi left Mount Avos through a side tunnel, heading towards the Combine headquarters on a captured speeder. Reaching the spaceport just as Tholme and Vos destroyed the captured bacta freighter, the team returning to Coruscant stole one of the Combine's spacecraft and took off, while the four remaining Jedi met up and returned to Avos. There, Vos and Kenobi began a friendship that would last for years as they encountered a cavern containing thousands of challat eaters, carnivorous insects that would eat sentients alive; initially evading the creatures by creating rounded Force shields through what Vos called a 'Force blow', the two boys were only saved thanks to the intervention of Tholme, Jinn and Koon, who, once the padawans were safely behind them, called upon the Force to seal off the challat eater cave from the rest of the encampment. At the same time, a native Xexto named Billibango joined the Republic force, offering vital information about the mountain and its mines.
Meanwhile, upon arriving at Coruscant's outer fringes from hyperspace, a booby-trap suddenly activated in the Stark shuttle, killing the Judicial pilot and blowing up the ship, the remaining three making it off in escape pods just in time. Rescued by Coruscant Security, Gallia briefed the Jedi Council while Valorum addressed the Senate. Although the senator single-handedly convinced the Senate not to surrender to Stark, it refused to send any aid to Troiken; the replacing of trade ships' navicomputers took priority, and Tarkin's fleet had been an unsanctioned vigilante force.
Combine agents on Coruscant reported this to Troiken, where a second assault on Mount Avos had been repulsed by Tarkin's men. Koon was able to learn of the Senate's decision through his telepathic link to Stark's mind. Tarkin again wished to surrender, but Koon had another idea. Joining with the powers of the other Jedi in gathered meditation, he was able to reach his young niece, Sha Koon, a Jedi learner at the Temple on Coruscant. Through her, the Jedi Council was able to establish a two-way communication with the Jedi on Troiken, who briefed them on the situation there.
Koon and Oppo Rancisis, communicating telepathically from disparate parts of the galaxy, then developed a plan. Koon had entered Stark's mind and informed him of the unenviable situation he was in, and offered him amnesty in return for cooperation in ending the war. Stark agreed. It was decided that a Jedi strike force would be sent to Troiken; Jinn and Tholme would acquire the patch to the navicomputer virus from the Combine's command vessel Raptor and broadcast it to the Jedi's ships. As the Senate would not offer the use of any Judicial Forces ships, Gallia and Mace Windu approached the Trade Federation minister Nute Gunray. Through a combination of pointing out that it was in the best interests of the Federation to destroy the pirate Collective, and threats of incriminating disclosures to the Senate (i.e., revealing the Federation's role in fomenting the bacta crisis) unless he complied, the Jedi persuaded the Federation minister to take action: Gunray managed to arrange for the Jedi's use of a large Trade Federation fleet. The stage was now set for the end of the Stark Hyperspace War.
The fighting ends
Stark's co-directors were unwilling to continue to tolerate what they saw as his bumbling leadership, and were on the verge of killing him, when he told them that he had an ally on the inside of the Republic stronghold of Mount Avos—neglecting to point out, however, the nature of that alliance: that his ally was Jedi Knight Plo Koon, who had convinced Stark via telepathy to defect.
Meanwhile, Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation had given the Jedi Council the use of a fleet of freighters and C-9979 landing craft. Oppo Rancisis was on the bridge of the command ship where his use of battle meditation would be most effective, while Saesee Tiin prepared to command the two Jedi fighter groups, Red and Blue Squadrons. Windu, Gallia, and fellow Master Eeth Koth also accompanied the force. Although outnumbered by the Combine fleet, they trusted that their better training, resolve, and use of the Force would carry the battle.
On Troiken, Tholme and Vos infiltrated the Combine's command ship, Raptor, in preparation for broadcasting the patch to the Combine's crippling navcomputer virus, while Jinn and Kenobi infiltrated the Combine's headquarters to acquire the patch itself. Jinn and Kenobi encountered trouble, however, as the protocol droid in charge of the patch required a password to release it. The password was soon supplied by Stark himself, who arrived with two of his co-directors—both of whom (Boor-Daa and Tam Gozon) he killed in front of the Jedi. Having telepathically received from Jedi Knight Plo Koon a promise of amnesty with his cooperation, Stark (having long since realized his cause was a lost one) supplied the password and then helped the two Jedi pacify the command center. Overhead, Tholme and Vos transmitted the patch to the Trade Federation fleet, with Vos additionally reversing the controls of the shield generators of the Raptor, setting them to instead lower when ordered to raise. The Jedi then fought their way off the ship on one of its fighters as the Jedi force arrived en masse in the Qotile system.
At Mount Avos, the Republic force retreated out a back entrance while the Combine forces swarmed in from the front. Koon planned to seal both entrances once the Republic soldiers had evacuated, thus trapping the Combine soldiers harmlessly inside the mine. The plan failed however when, determined to kill off both the Jedi who had stolen his glory and the enemy he had been unable to vanquish, Tarkin stole the last detonator charge and used it to open the challat eater cave to a devouring of all forces within the caves, killing himself in the blast while securing for himself a self-styled immortality as the "Hero of Troiken"—the man who indeed destroyed the Stark Combine and won the war in one fell swoop of self-sacrifice. Koon managed to escape just in time, using the Force to seal the mine, unfortunately trapping the majority of the Combine soldiers inside the insect-infested mine, where they were eaten alive. As the Raptor was destroyed overhead, the few surviving ground forces of the Combine surrendered, ending both the Fifth Battle of Qotile and the Stark Hyperspace War.
As the war was fought during a bacta scarcity, Stark War veterans suffered higher death rates than were expected, and many of the survivors bore the scars and injuries they received fighting for the rest of their lives.
Tarkin's soldiers were entitled by the Republic government to wear a flag pin (presumably of the Republic insignia) on their clothing, signifying that they were Stark veterans. The Stark Veteran Assembly was also formed, as a congregation and advocate group for Republic veterans of the war.
The war also proved to be a training ground for pirates, mercenaries, and terrorists, many of whom put the martial skills they learned in the war to their own uses afterwards. The most notable examples were the militant wing of the Nebula Front and the bounty hunter Bossk, who got his first bounty by hunting down a deserter from the war.
The deaths of Tyvokka and Ranulph Tarkin opened empty seats on the Jedi Council and Galactic Senate, respectively. The former was filled by Tyvokka's former apprentice Plo Koon, who was promoted to Jedi Master and given Tyvokka's seat on the Jedi Council after leading the Republic to victory in the Fifth Battle of Qotile. In the Senate, Eriadu's new representative was Ranulph's relative, Shayla Paige-Tarkin.
In 40 BBY, Valorum would become Supreme Chancellor, thanks to heavy support by the Tarkin family. In exchange, Valorum would declare Ranulph the "Hero of Troiken", leading to a public perception of Valorum's reliance on the Eriadu-based Tarkins, and a swift rise through the Republic power structure for Ranulph's cousin, Wilhuff Tarkin.
Iaco Stark's Combine was destroyed, and he eventually joined the Commerce Guild as an apparently legitimate businessman. Nute Gunray would be made Viceroy of the Trade Federation, partially due to his "vision" in having Federation ships allotted for Jedi use at the end of the war, but he forever denied seeing a Jedi in action.
The war was a major impetus for those who advocated both the formation of a standing Republic military and greater Republic control of outlying sectors and their commerce—views that were thereafter championed by the SVA.
Behind the scenes
The Stark Hyperspace War was first mentioned in the Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Movie Scrapbook, where Plo Koon was described as "a veteran of the Hyperspace Wars." As at that time the only "Hyperspace War" was the Great Hyperspace War of 5000 years earlier, the Stark Hyperspace War was developed to explain the discrepancy.
- "It began fourteen years ago."
- ―Mace Windu
2005's The New Essential Chronology originally placed the Stark Hyperspace War in 44 BBY. 2010's Star Wars Omnibus: Quinlan Vos: Jedi in Darkness also states that Star Wars: Republic: The Stark Hyperspace War takes place 30 BBY. Mace Windu states within the story itself that the event took place "fourteen" years prior, placing the flashbacks to the conflict itself in 44 BBY.
2009's The Essential Atlas erroneously shifted the event two years earlier, to 46 BBY with the error again being repeated in The Essential Guide to Warfare. Chronologically the placement in 46 BBY is impossible as Obi-Wan Kenobi does not become Qui-Gon Jinn's apprentice until 44 BBY as outlined in the Jedi Apprentice series; the timeline of which was locked-down to 44 BBY by 2012's The Essential Reader's Companion. Obi-Wan has also not constructed his lightsaber until 44 BBY. As The Essential Reader's Companion is the most recent publication, this article assumes that its dating, which reflects the original in-story dating for the conflict, is correct.
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- The Essential Guide to Warfare
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