- Leia Organa: "An Imperial probe droid."
- Han Solo: "It's a good bet the Empire knows we're here."
- Carlist Rieekan: "We'd better start the evacuation."
- ―Rebel Alliance personnel discuss the discovery of XJ9-CS14
XJ9-CS14 was a Viper probe droid in service to the Galactic Empire during the Galactic Civil War. Manufactured as a product of Arakyd Industries, XJ9-CS14 began life in a factory on the planet Vulpter sometime after the Clone Wars, designed to be a tenacious and exacting hunter. In 3 ABY, the droid was deployed as part of Project Swarm, a galaxy-wide search for the hidden base of the clandestine Alliance to Restore the Republic. It was sent to the snow planet of Hoth, where it traversed icy dunes and battled a ferocious wampa before discovering a deflector shield generator that secretly powered the headquarters of the Rebel Alliance. Although the droid did not believe that the harsh planet was capable of sustaining life, it still transmitted footage of the generator to the forces of the Imperial Navy.
After relaying its message, XJ9-CS14 was cornered by rebels and engaged in a small fire fight with the smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca. Realizing that its mission was compromised, the probe droid activated its self-destruct mechanism, preventing the Alliance from gathering any of its intel. The droid's message was successfully recieved by the Project Swarm technician Maela who relayed the probot's final transmission up the chain of command all the way to Darth Vader, commander of the Imperial Military. Under his orders, the might of the Galactic Empire fell down on Hoth, scoring a major victory for the Emperor's armies and ensuring that the droid XJ9-CS14 would be famed in the years to come for the part it played in the battle.
The impact of the probe's discovery of the Alliance base was felt even during the time of the First Order-Resistance War, when individuals like Poe Dameron, Gial Ackbar, and Amilyn Holdo recalled the devastating inspiration that XJ9-CS14's success had given to the First Order, who utilized probe droids in much the same way as the Galactic Empire.
Investigation on ice
- "There's a meteorite that hit the ground near here. I want to check it out. It won't take long."
- ―Luke Skywalker, to Han Solo, witnessing XJ9-CS14's crash
XJ9-CS14 was a Viper probe droid manufactured by Arakyd Industries on the planet Vulpter, where half of the Galactic Empire's probe droid stock was constructed. The droid was designed in a factory sometime after the Clone Wars by the mother of a girl named Maela, a young individual who developed an affinity for probes like XJ9-CS14. By 3 ABY, the droid was stationed aboard the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Stalker as a part of Project Swarm, a massive initiative of the Empire focused on locating the hidden base of the Rebel Alliance through the use of probe droids during the Galactic Civil War. The initial findings of the project yielded no results, however, prompting the Imperial leader Darth Vader to order for a new wave of droids to be sent out.
As one of a hundred thousand probes deployed across the galaxy, XJ9-CS14 was jettisoned from the Stalker in a hyperdrive pod and sent to the Hoth system, an area known to have been used by pirates and smugglers. Arriving in the orbit of the planet also known as Hoth, the droid's pod automatically applied emergency braking thrusters that allowed the planet's gravity to carry it to the surface, crashing near the Nev Ice Flow. XJ9-CS14 managed to complete the landing while remaining in one piece despite the fact that, statistically, a significant number of Viper probes often sustained irreparable damage during planetfall. Unbeknownst to the droid, the planet was occupied by rebels, who had made the system their home only a month earlier. The crash was witnessed by Alliance Commander Luke Skywalker, who assumed the droid's pod was a plummeting meteorite, a common sight on Hoth. Skywalker was unable to investigate further, however, as he was attacked by a wampa, an ambush predator native to the icy world. The creature, also noticing the probot's crash, took advantage of Skywalker's momentary distraction and struck the rebel.
XJ9-CS14 cautiously emerged from its pod, scanning its initial surroundings before heading west from the crash site and beginning its full survey of the snowy planet. After being diverted from its course by a large meteorite crater, the droid began to pick up energy readings from Echo Base, the rebel's secret hideout. The probot was then attacked by its own wampa, which was hiding beneath a snow dune. XJ9-CS14 engaged the creature in combat before heading southeast along Clabburn Range. At some point, it also came into contact with a group of tauntauns, bipedal pack creatures utilized by the Alliance. After traveling for several kilometers, it entered Zone Twelve of the hidden base and came across a deflector shield generator utilized by the Alliance, Although it determined that the structure was indeed generating power, the droid's programming did not deem the findings to fulfill the requirements of "rebel activity," with the probe coming to the conclusion that the barren planet was too inhospitable to sustain life forms. Regardless, the probe transmitted visuals of the generator back to the Imperial Navy.
A chilly reception
- Rieekan: "Princess, we have a visitor. Picked up something outside the base's Zone 12 moving east."
- Serper: "It's metal."
- Organa: "Then it couldn't be one of those creatures."
- ―The Alliance, after discovering the probe
XJ9-CS14's signal was intercepted by the Rebellion's senior controller Wyron Serper, who alerted General Carlist Rieekan of Alliance High Command. Summoning headquarters personnel Leia Organa and Han Solo, Rieekan and Serper discussed the information with their fellow rebels, who were unfamiliar with the code language that the probe communicated in. After the protocol droid C-3PO alerted the Alliance leaders that the code was potentially Imperial in origin, Captain Solo and his first mate Chewbacca left Echo Base to engage the probe. Believing that the two may require backup, Rieekan ordered Rogue Squadron pilots Ten and Eleven to rendezvous at Station 3-8.
As the probot traveled through an area just north of Ceyan Range, it was in the midst of informing its masters that there was no life on the planet when it detected movement by a nearby snowbank. Investigating more closely, the droid discovered the Wookiee Chewbacca and fired three volleys of blaster fire at the furry assailant. Solo emerged from a cluster of rocks behind the probe, striking it with his own blaster. In the midst of the skirmish, XJ9-CS14 began to transmit a signal alerting the Empire to send all available units to its coordinates, but the message was cut short when Captain Solo fired another shot at the droid, causing it to initiate its self-destruct sequence. XJ9-CS14 erupted in an explosion, coating the white dunes in black-metal dust.
- "I think we've got something, sir. The report is only a fragment from a probe droid in the Hoth system, but it's the best lead we've had."
"We have thousands of probe droids searching the galaxy. I want proof, not leads!"
- ―Captain Piett and Admiral Ozzel
Although the droid was damaged beyond repair in the explosion, Alliance Major and materials analyst Capin Harinar was able to determine from the wreckage that the droid was indeed a Viper probe and speculated that Echo Base was compromised. Following the droid's discovery, Rieekan and Organa gave the order to begin the evacuation of the base, believing that Imperial forces would soon come to the planet. During the procedure, the Imperial defector Thane Kyrell was tasked with setting the Alliance's tauntaun mounts loose; the rebel recruit lamented the necessity of the evacuation in the wake of the probe's swift discovery.
Despite the interruption in XJ9-CS14's transmission, fragments of its report reached the girl Maela, who by that point had joined Project Swarm's transmission recovery unit. Immediately suspecting that the structure was of rebel origin, she attempted to take control of the droid remotely just before she lost the probot's feed. Realizing that it had self-destructed, Maela called over fellow transmission analyst Dirjo Harch, who was reluctant to pass the information on to higher authorities in the event that Maela's speculation was proven unfounded. At the behest of his fellow team members, however, he personally sent the message to Captain Firmus Piett of the Super Star Destroyer Executor, the flagship of Darth Vader's Death Squadron.
Piett relayed the report to Admiral Kendal Ozzel, who dismissed the information, believing the generator could have belonged to the simple smugglers the planet was known for instead of the rebels they pursued. Upon the insistence of Lord Vader, however, Death Squadron was ordered to move out to the Hoth system. Word of the impending attack made its way through the Executor, with Lieutenant Nash Windrider informing Lieutenant Commander Ciena Ree of the probe's work in uncovering the base. The news also reached Harch and his crew, who gathered to celebrate their success. Although the girl Maela would have preferred to remain at her station and view Hoth from the lens of another probe on the planet, she reluctantly joined the others, planning to inform her mother of the triumph she had achieved through XJ9-CS14.
Battle of Hoth and continued fame
- "This is the tactic the First Order chooses to emphasize? Probe droids have become a weekly nuisance for Resistance fleet elements."
- ―Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo of the Resistance reflects on Major Harinar's report on the probe from decades earlier
Within the next few days Death Squadron arrived at Hoth; Admiral Ozzel, seeking to surprise the rebels, commanded the fleet to exit from hyperspace close to the system. Darth Vader, however, was displeased with Ozzel's tactics, and executed him immediately. When questioned about Vader's motives after the fact by Captain Canonhaus of the Star Destroyer Ultimatum, Commander Tian Karmiya speculated that Ozzel had failed to account for the Alliance's discovery of XJ9-CS14, making his surprise tactics useless. Despite Ozzel's blunder, the Empire's actions on the snow world were massively successful, ensuring that the event that came to be known as the Battle of Hoth was remembered as one of the most devastating losses for the Rebellion in the war.
Although the probot had initially failed to realize the scale of the rebels' presence on Hoth, it would go on to become famed for the part it played in the Galactic Civil War in the following years. During his service with the Resistance, the military organization of an older Leia Organa, decades after the war, Admiral Gial Ackbar resolved to blame Rieekan for the droid's discovery of the base; writing within a collection of Rebellion Era documents known as The Rebel Files, he pondered how the probe had managed to land on Hoth without the Alliance noticing. Fellow Resistance admiral Ushos O. Statura later answered this question, correctly speculating that the droid had masked itself as an impacting asteroid. Another Resistance member, the B1-series battle droid R0-GR, commented on the probe's actions in his "droidography," a book that compiled information on droids throughout galactic history. The battle droid also managed to obtain a copy of XJ9-CS14's final transmission, which he included in the volume.
The First Order, a successor state to the Galactic Empire, took inspiration from the use of probes like XJ9-CS14, utilizing their own probe droids to infiltrate the Resistance. Members of the Resistance navy like Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo and Black Leader Poe Dameron were cognizant of the weekly dangers caused by these droids; after discovering Major Harinar's original report on the Hoth probe, both individuals took separate notes in the The Rebel Files, citing the legacy of problems they had inherited from the droid destroyed on the ice world so many years prior.
- "GLORY TO THE EMP-KZZZSHHSHHHHH."
- ―XJ9-CS14's final transmission before exploding
XJ9-CS14 was a Viper probe droid with black plating and black sensors with a full height of 1.6 meters. Major Harinar speculated that its model number was between X0037 and X0172. While the droid was able to function completely on its own, independent from outside sources, it could also be remotely directed by organic technicians; this allowed for individuals to pilot the droid and interact with objects in the probe's environment as if the operator were there themselves.
Although programmed specifically to be a tenacious hunter, it did not consider much of the evidence on Hoth to be indicative of what the analysis subroutine of its droid brain would identify as "rebel activity." Even after the droid detected Echo Base's energy output and discovered its shield generator, the probot felt that the planet's temperature was too low to allow for life to exist. It was not until the droid came into contact with the Wookiee Chewbacca that it realized Hoth was home to rebels. In its final transmission, XJ9-CS14 proclaimed its allegiance to the Empire before self-destructing.
Project Swarm analyst Maela felt a kind of camaraderie with the droid, as she did with all Viper probes. She considered XJ9-CS14 to be a window into exotic worlds, desiring to approach tauntauns on Hoth just as freely as the probot was able to. After learning of the droid's destruction, Maela felt a twinge of loss, imagining herself dead in the snow of Hoth instead of the probe. After reading the report of Major Harinar on XJ9-CS14 from shortly before the Battle of Hoth, Poe Dameron, a pilot of the Resistance, regarded the droid with contempt, noting that it and all other probes had no sense of self-preservation. The B1 battle droid R0-GR, who considered XJ9-CS14 to be grotesque, shared similar opinions to Dameron on the probes' longevity, though confessed that he, too, may have considered "taking the easy way out" had he been in the same position as the Hoth droid.
- "'Fraid there's not much left."
"What was it?"
"A droid of some kind. I didn't hit it that hard. It must've had a self-destruct."
- ―Solo and Organa, after XJ9-CS14's destruction
XJ9-CS14 came equipped with a powerful blaster and a self-destruct mechanism that could activate a set of charges surrounding its circular base. Although the droid was equipped with only light armor, it was capable of withstanding multiple blasts from Han Solo's DL-44 heavy blaster pistol. The probe had five arachnid-like manipulator arms that it used to gather information. The droid traveled using a repulsorlift and silenced thrusters, enabling it to stealthily hover within meters of an enemy without being heard.
The probe also possessed a data recorder, a central processor, and a transmitter dome, all of which were severely damaged during the probe's self-destruct, preventing Alliance Major Harinar from recovering any information the droid had learned. Within its transmitter dome, the droid was equipped with a powerful HoloNet transceiver, a device located at the top of its sensor-laden head. Linked to two high-frequency transmission antenna, the transceiver allowed XJ9-CS14 to transmit data of the shield generator to the Empire.
Behind the scenes
Conception and design
XJ9-CS14 first appeared in the 1980 film Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, though it remained unidentified until the 2018 reference book Star Wars: Droidography revealed its designation in an Aurebesh message included in the text.
The scene in which Han and Chewbacca encounter XJ9-CS14 was shot in Finse, Norway on March 10, 1979. To achieve the effect of the droid floating over the ground, the filmmakers planted a large probe prop on tracks hidden in the snow. As for the scene in which the droid rises from the crater, a scale model prepared by art director Joe Johnston was used and slowly raised through a miniature set. According to Ben Burtt, the film's sound designer, the iconic audio of the droid was actually the electronically-altered voice of "a well-known Shakespearean actor," though he did not identify the performer.
The book Star Wars: Complete Locations identifies the Star Destroyer that deployed XJ9-CS14 as the Stalker, whereas the book Star Wars Character Encyclopedia: Updated and Expanded names the ship as the Avenger. This article assumes that Complete Locations supplies the correct name, being the more recent source. Additionally, the height of the droid in Character Encyclopedia is listed as 1.6 meters. This is contradicted by the model-making book Star Wars: Droid Factory, which lists the much different height of 0.3 meters, or just 0.93 feet. As this number is much smaller than the size of the droid seen in the film, this article disregards the Droid Factory number as an error.
In a 2017 issue of the magazine Star Wars: Build Your Own R2-D2, the probot is incorrectly stated to have six manipulator arms. This is contradicted by the model used in The Empire Strikes Back, as well as by the illustrations in the magazine itself, which depict the droid with five arms. The film's junior novelization also erroneously describes the probe as having only four arms. This article recognizes the five manipulators seen in The Empire Strikes Back as the canonical number.