- "I will enter the Academy, say the right things, and succeed. I will learn how the Empire works. I will find Dhara. And I will wait for the resistance to develop, for someone to rebel. And then I will help those rebels bring the Empire down."
- ―Zare Leonis
Zare Leonis was a male human Imperial cadet at the Academy for Young Imperials on the planet Lothal who worked as a spy for the rebels. Born to Leo and Tepha Leonis on the planet Uquine, Leonis and his family traveled as part of their work for the Empire before settling on Lothal. Leonis joined the planet's Imperial Academy to discover the truth about what happened to his sister, Dhara, who had vanished from the Academy.
Leonis began his schooling on Lothal at the Junior Academy of Applied Sciences, in which he played as the center striker of the school's grav-ball team, the AppSci SaberCats. During this time, he led the team to a winning season but also had to contend with the xenophobia of the school's athletic director, Janus Fhurek. He also began to learn of the Empire's activities on Lothal and how his friend and grav-ball teammate, Beck Ollet, tried to rebel against them. It was also during his time at the Junior Academy that he learned of his sister's disappearance, resulting in his decision to enroll in the Imperial Academy.
At the Academy, he struggled to present himself as a model Imperial cadet. Secretly, he aided rebel activities and searched for any information that could aid his search for his sister, assisted on the outside by his girlfriend, Merei Spanjaf. During his time at the Academy, Leonis walked a fine line, appearing on the outside to be doing everything he could to serve the Empire, but struggling for any scrap of information that would lead him closer to his goal. His activities drew the attention of the Galactic Emperor's fierce Jedi hunter servant, the Grand Inquisitor, but he also picked up a mentor in the form of the instructor Lieutenant Chiron, an instructor at the Academy with a sympathetic nature.
Leonis's activities ultimately earned him a transfer to the Imperial Academy on the planet Arkanis. It was there that Leonis's sister was being held; however, his mission took an unexpected turn as he learned of the presence of a secret society within the academy, the Commandant's Cadets. Founded by the Academy's Commandant, Brendol Hux, the goal of this group was raise Imperial officers hyper-loyal to the Galactic Empire from an early age. Leonis made it his mission to infiltrate this society and ultimately succeeded, but his true nature was betrayed by his old friend and teammate Beck Ollet, who had been captured and brainwashed by the Empire. He underwent a sham tribunal and was sentenced to death, but the last meal offered to him by Chiron provided him with a chance to escape. After reversing the Empire's brainwashing of Ollet, the two, with the help of Spanjaf, his family and friends, and the group of rebels from Lothal known to him as "the Spectres," Leonis succeeding in rescuing his sister and escaping the grip of the Empire.
- "You're from Lothal, right?"
"Born and raised. And ready to see the galaxy. You?"
"Here, there, and everywhere. I was born in Uquine, in the Colonies, but before we came to Lothal we lived on Hosk Station."
- ―Zare Leonis and Jai Kell discussing their origins
Zare Leonis was born on the planet Uquine of the Colonies region of the galaxy in 20 BBY, around the inception of the Galactic Empire, to agricultural scientists Leo and Tepha Leonis. He was raised along with his elder sister Dhara by his parents and the family nanny droid Auntie Nags. The Leonises moved around a lot due to the nature of their parent's occupation, and he spent most of his childhood living aboard space stations, such as Hosk Station. During his childhood, Leonis and his family would live on several worlds including Moorja and Viamarr. The Leonis family was sympathetic to the Empire, seeing it as a great improvement over the slow bureaucracy of the Republic and the corruption of the Trade Federation.
Junior Academy of Applied Sciences
A new home
- "You are a Leonis, and that is the farthest thing from stupid or useless. You will adjust to the Junior Academy for Applied Sciences, you will earn the marks expected of a Leonis, your application to the Imperial Academy of Lothal will be accepted, and you will join Dhara next year. Until then, you must be patient."
- ―Auntie Nag's advice to Leonis
At the age of fourteen years, Leonis and his family immigrated to Lothal, a backwater planet in the Outer Rim Territories. His parents found work at the Ministry of Agriculture's Lothal branch and settled down into an apartment in Lothal's Capital City. His sister Dhara, who was a year older than him, enrolled at the Imperial Academy on Lothal. A month after his family's relocation to Lothal, Leonis attended a function organized by his parents to celebrate his sister's acceptance into the Imperial Academy. During the function, Leonis socialized with a few Imperial officials, including Lieutenant Piers Roddance, Ames Bunkle, and Governor Arihnda Pryce, who extolled the purported progress of the Galactic Empire. Near the end of the function, Zare and Dhara promised to keep in touch while she was training at the Academy.
Since Leonis was too young to enroll at the Imperial Academy, he became a student at the Junior Academy of Applied Sciences during Lothal's autumn season. He also joined the school's grav-ball team, the AppSci SaberCats, and became the team's center striker. Leonis and his team were coached by the Duros Coach Ramset, who was known for his conservative methods. During his time with the SaberCats, Leonis also befriended the team's kicker Merei Spanjaf, a teenage Corulag girl who became his girlfriend and the team's fullback Beck Ollet, a Lothal human boy who was the son of jogan fruit farmers. While Leonis excelled in grav-ball, he found agricultural science boring and loathed his Current Events class. His Current Events teacher Tralls used the class as a platform to disseminate Imperial propaganda. When Leonis questioned the official Imperial account of the Trade Federation's crop engineering program on Chrona, which contradicted his parent's recollections, Mister Tralls chided the youth for stepping out of the Imperial party line.
During a successful grav-ball match in Lothal's fall season, Leonis led the SaberCats to victory over the rival West Cap City Carvers by a margin of 38–36 despite ignoring Coach Ramset's strategy. Following the match, Leonis learned from his fellow teammate Ollet that AppSci's athletic director Janus Fhurek was using his school to identify prospective recruits for the Imperial Academy. Ollet's jogan fruit-growing family had recently moved from the Westhills to Capital City after the Imperial Agricultural Collective had purchased his family's orchards and farms for a substantial sum. Unlike Leonis, Ollet was suspicious of Imperial intentions towards Lothal. Despite their differences, Leonis and Ollet remained close friends.
An education in life
- "Don't let it rattle you. We're up by two, three minutes to go. Go down the grid for a touch-score and we're up by six and they're beaten. Or if we get the kick-score, they have to come all the way back for a touch to tie. Keep your cool and we've got this."
- ―Leonis leading the AppSci SaberCats in a match
During the autumn season, Leonis readily adjusted to his new home and surroundings on Lothal. Following the match, Leonis conversed with his sister Dhara via datapad and updated her about his activities at school and his new friendship with Ollet and Spanjaf. During the conversation, Leonis learned that his sister was taking officer-training classes at the Academy and planning to pursue an internship at Imperial headquarters. Dhara quickly worked out that Leonis had a crush on Spanjaf. The following day, Leonis met up with his friends Merei and Ollet after his Crop Management class. Spanjaf used her computer hacking skills to locate Ollet's old farmstead, only to discover that the Imperial authorities had classified the area for some unspecified excavation project. Ollet was upset since this land had traditionally been used for jogan fruit harvesting, but Spanjaf believed that there was a glitch on the Agricultural Ministry's database.
After a match between the SaberCats and the Green Dragons, Leonis and his two friends traveled to Ollet's former family orchards. While visiting Ollet's old homestead, the three friends were startled by a group of neks, fearsome yellow-furred creatures with sharp teeth. However, they were saved by a human guard, who had been sent by the Imperial authorities to protect the land from trespassers. After Ollet revealed that this farm had once been his home, the man relented and revealed that he too had to leave his land in Kinpany Gap after the Imperials had requisitioned it for mining. The man also revealed that droid pickers were now being used to pick jogan fruit; something which distressed Ollet because the droids were incompetent at their work.
During a home game between the SaberCats and the East City Brawlers, Leonis and his team had to contend with the opposing team's two burly fullbacks and their unpredictable coach, who utilized unpredictable strategies to frustrate the SaberCats. Furthermore, the players engaged in rough contact, which normally would have been considered a foul, if not for the referee. He ignored Leonis's attempts to reason with him, insisting that the game was played rougher on Lothal. During the game, Leonis's fullback Ollet lost his temper and assaulted one of the Brawlers, leading to his ejection from the game. Leonis advised his friend not to lose his temper but Ollet protested that he could not tolerate a rigged game.
Later, Leonis and his family visited his sister Dhara during the Imperial Academy's Visiting Day. As an Imperial cadet, Dhara was required to reside at the Academy. At the insistence of his mother and Auntie Nags, Leonis donned his formal Imperial tunic. During a private moment with Dhara and his parents, Leonis related his friend Ollet's predicament with the Agricultural Ministry reclassifying his family land for mineral extraction. When Leonis expressed concerns about the effect of the Empire's industrialization policies on ordinary people, his parents conceded that some things had to be sacrificed for the well-being of the galaxy. Moving on to lighter fare, the four family members joked about Lothal's obsession with grav-ball; which the family's droid Auntie Nags regarded as a "dangerous and dirty" sport.
Due to Leonis's athletic and leadership skills, he eventually attracted the attention of the school's athletic director, Janus Fhurek, who attempted to court the young man's favor by offering to speed up his admission to the Imperial Academy. However, Leonis came to distrust Fhurek after the latter derided the team's Aqualish member Hench Sina as nothing more than a "brute-force" fullback; inadvertently exposing the athletic director's xenophobia. When Leonis defended Hench, Fhurek lectured the youth that a leader could not allow his affection for his players to blind him to their shortcomings. Despite his disagreement, Leonis did not argue with the athletic director. Later, the SaberCats defeated another rival team called the Thrashers by 44 to 18 points.
- "You want leadership? Then here it is: Coach Ramset and I spent the entire fall making these players into the best possible SaberCats team. And that's the team that's going to play."
- ―Leonis standing up to the xenophobic athletic director Janus Fhurek
As Leonis spent more time on Lothal, his disillusionment with the Galactic Empire grew. Following the grav-ball match, Leonis and his two friends Ollet and Spanjaf visited Ollet's old family orchards, which had been turned into an Imperial mine. They also discovered that several anti-Imperial insurgents had attached detonators to several Imperial seismic surveyor droids. Leonis contacted the Imperial authorities with his comlink. When Imperial stormtroopers arrived, Ollet told the authorities that the insurgents had fled north; when in fact they had actually gone south. This gave Leonis a hint that his best friend was somehow connected to these insurgents. Following the failed bombing incident, Leonis was visited by Lieutenant Piers Roddance from the Security Ministry. While he mostly answered Roddance's questions honestly, he omitted Ollet's act of misleading the stormtroopers.
During that winter, Leonis's dissatisfaction with the Empire's land expropriation policies reached a new level. The young Leonis found himself increasingly at odds with his father Leo Leonis, who fervently supported the Empire's policies and viewed the growing insurgency on Lothal as a disease. While Leonis saw the attempted bombing of the surveyor droids as a protest action by frustrated farmers who had lost their lands and farms, his father regarded them as troublemakers. Leo acknowledged that the Empire made mistakes but that it had good intentions. Leonis's mother Tepha understood the farmers' grievances but accepted the Imperial line that protests and civil disobedience would only lead to violence and anarchy. Leonis concluded that his parents thought that the best way to fix the Empire's mistakes was to serve it and show people a better way.
Following the winter exams, Leonis and his SaberCats team competed in a home match against the South Capital City Volunteers, beating the visiting team by twelve points. However, their victory was bittersweet since Leonis was annoyed with Ollet's unwillingness to follow the rules. While traveling home on his jumpspeeder, Leonis encountered his sister's friend Ames Bunkle, who was a stormtrooper cadet at the Imperial Academy. Leonis noticed a profound change in Bunkle's character; the youth had abandoned his name in favor of his operating number DX-578 and took a humorless view of life. This brief incident only heightened Leonis's growing distrust of the Empire. However, Leonis was later relieved to learn that his sister Dhara had not experienced the same brainwashing that Bunkle had endured.
On the eve of his team's tenth season tournament, Leonis was summoned to a meeting with his school's athletic director Janus Fhurek. During that meeting, Fhurek ordered the removal of the SaberCat's two alien members—the Rodian Frid Kelio and the Aqualish Hench Sina due to their non-human physiognomies. Citing the lack of any league rule banning non-human players, Leonis refused to comply with Fhurek's wishes and kept the two non-humans on his team. Leonis related the incident to his parents who, while sympathetic to Leonis, advised their son not to antagonize Fhurek since that could jeopardize his plans to join the Imperial Academy. During the tournament, Leonis led the SaberCats to victory over the rival Forked River Mavericks by thirty-two points; which qualified his team to compete in the league championship. In retaliation for Leonis's insubordination, Fhurek transferred Kelio and Sina to the Technical Institute for Agricultural Research, a less reputable institution than AppSci.
That winter, Leonis's dissatisfaction with the Empire heightened after his friend Ollet revealed that the Empire had begun strip-mining several outlying former farms and orchards. The Imperials utilized giant construction droids which created extensive pollution. This incident greatly disturbed Leonis and forced him to question his long-cherished view that his beloved Empire would never do anything wrong. During a home visit by his sister Dhara, Leonis related his concerns about the Empire's policies to his big sister. In response, Dhara defended the Empire by arguing that the best way to reform the Empire was to work from within and that the status quo was preferable to the chaos of the Clone Wars. Despite their differences, the two siblings respected each other and Dhara helped Leonis to submit his application form to the Imperial Academy by vouching for her brother's "good moral character." Unknown to Leonis and his parents, this would be their last meeting with Dhara prior to her mysterious disappearance.
Later, Leonis found a way to get back at Fhurek when his friend Spanjaf discovered that Fhurek had made a bet that the SaberCats would win by eight points during the final grav-ball tournament match without alien help. Using this information, Leonis carefully guided his team to victory over the Kothal Roughnecks by a margin of six points; causing Fhurek to lose his bet. Leonis's act of defiance only angered Fhurek, who sought every opportunity to make life difficult for Leonis. He issued the young grav-ball center striker with several demerits for trivial misdemeanors, tried to sabotage his Imperial Academy application by sending a letter questioning his fitness for Imperial service and black-balled him from participating in upcoming sporting events, such as chin-bret or track and field.
The spring of discontent
- "I know. But if there's an answer to what happened to your sister, you'll find it in there, not out here."
- ―Beck Ollet advising Leonis to infiltrate the Lothal Imperial Academy
Two months after his quarrel with Janus Fuhrek, Leonis's discontent with the Galactic Empire reached a new crescendo due to two major incidents that spring. First, Leonis and his friend Beck Ollet witnessed Imperial stormtroopers shooting a peaceful gathering of farmers in the Westhills who had gathered to petition an Imperial government official over the loss of their homes and farms in the orchard-lands. Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, the Imperials deployed stormtroopers and AT-DP walkers. When the farmers refused an order to disperse, the commanding officer, Lieutenant Roddance, gave the order to open fire. Leonis and Ollet managed to flee on their jumpspeeder but were greatly traumatized by the incident. Leonis was further distraught by a HoloNet report that the farmers had provoked the shooting by destroying mining equipment and attacking surveyors.
This was followed by the twin blow of news to his family that his sister Dhara Leonis had allegedly run away from the Imperial Academy during a training exercise. The only consolation that the Academy's Commandant Cumberlayne Aresko could offer the Leonises was that the Imperial authorities were committing all their resources to search for the missing cadet. Leonis nevertheless suspected that the Imperials had covered the true reason for his sister's disappearance. While his father Leo accepted the official Imperial story and blamed himself for not recognizing Dhara's perceived distress, his mother Tepha shared Leonis's suspicion that the Empire was not telling the truth.
The following day, Leonis received news on his datapad that his application to study at the Imperial Academy had been accepted. However, the previous two events had disillusioned the young Leonis so much that he deferred his application. During a meeting with Spanjaf, Leonis vowed to find out what really happened to his sister. Later, Leonis punched the athletic director Fuhrek in the eye after the latter taunted him with the remark that disloyalty ran through the Leonis family. During the late spring, Leonis formally graduated from his school but found little joy during the graduation ceremony due to his family's circumstances.
During the summer holidays, the Leonis family received no news about Dhara's whereabouts. After delays in contacting his Lothal friend Ollet, Ollet turned up unexpectedly in a service alley outside the Leonis family apartment. Knowing that the Imperials were monitoring the HoloNet, Ollet had wanted to contact his best friend in person. According to Ollet's parents, their son was spending the holidays riding jumpspeeders around Lothal with his cousins prior to starting work as a harvest supervisor. In reality, Ollet had joined an underground anti-Imperial resistance group in Lothal. Leonis learned that Ollet was an insurgent when they visited an Imperial mining camp and discovered that Ollet had blown up several Imperial mining droids.
Shortly afterward, an Imperial Troop Transport arrived at the minefield and pursued Ollet. During the ensuing skirmish, Leonis tailed the transport on his jumpspeeder and managed to slow it down by throwing a detonator. Due to Leonis's actions, Ollet and his associates managed to cross a nearby bridge and escape their Imperial pursuers. Leonis fled the scene before the Imperials could notice his presence. The following day, Leonis and Spanjaf received a message from Ollet to meet him at his old school's grav-ball grid. During their meeting, Ollet revealed that the Imperials had traced his landspeeder. Ollet and Spanjaf both encouraged Leonis to infiltrate the Imperial Academy so that he could fight against the Empire from within. In the end, Leonis decided to go to the Imperial Academy in order to discover the fate of his sister.
Later, Leonis shared this idea with his mother Tepha and also related the incident with the unarmed farmers that led to his disillusionment with the Empire. His mother reluctantly acquiesced to Leonis's plan but warned her son that they could never tell his father, who was still a fervent supporter of the Empire. The two resubmitted his application to the Imperial Academy which was promptly accepted. During a visit to the market, Leonis witnessed Imperial stormtroopers raiding a shop and arresting three suspected insurgents, including his classmate Ollet. One of the stormtroopers participating in the raid was his sister's friend Ames Bunkle, who was now only known as DX-578. This incident further convinced Leonis to persevere with his plan to infiltrate the Academy. Later, Leonis was present at a ceremony organized by his mother to celebrate his admission to the Imperial Academy and perpetuate the ruse that her son was a loyal Imperial subject.
Academy for Young Imperials
- "And the issue of target selection, Leonis? How would you address that?"
"Uh, I guess I need to learn how to assess tactical alternatives better, ma'am."
- ―Sergeant Currahee and Leonis
Following his acceptance to the Academy for Young Imperials, Zare Leonis was questioned by Sergeant Currahee, a female intake officer. She commended his fast reaction time and field of vision but questioned his target selection skills. She asked him where he imagined himself in Imperial service and he replied simply that he wanted to serve the Empire. Regarding the tactical issue, he suggested that he simply needed to learn to select targets better. She noted his leadership qualities and asked if serving as a stormtrooper would be beneath him, but he replied that he just wanted to do his part. She then moved on to the issue of his sister, stating that she had abandoned her Academy training. Hiding his true reasons for joining the Academy, Leonis merely asked if there had been any news about her because he and his family were worried. She asked him if he ever dreamed about her. He replied that he did, but they were "just dreams," wondering why she was asking. She said she was simply curious, then recommended him for the standard orientation and welcomed him to the Empire.
During his two-week orientation at the Imperial Academy, Leonis was assigned to Unit Aurek, a four-member cell that was part of squad LRC077. His fellow unit members were Jai Kell, Nazhros Oleg, and Pandak Symes. While Leonis befriended Kell and Symes, he had an antagonistic relationship with Oleg, who was widely regarded as a selfish bully by his fellow cadets. During orientation, Leonis and his fellow cadets had to do frequent running drills and were often berated by Sergeant Currahee, who was known for her harsh but effective training methods. On one occasion, Currahee taunted Leonis by asking whether he was going to desert like his sister.
Leonis also stood up for Symes, a weaker cadet who had been forced by his parents to enroll at the Academy. Oleg regularly bullied and belittled Symes in front of the cadets with the intention of convincing him to pull out of the Academy. On one occasion, Leonis sprung to Symes' defense when Oleg tried to force Symes to hand over his fruit bar. When Leonis knocked Oleg's fork out of his hand, Oleg challenged him to a fight. However, another Imperial officer named Lieutenant Chiron intervened. After punishing Oleg, Chiron led Leonis to his office. While Chiron disagreed with Currahee's harsh training methods, he stressed that she wanted to create capable cadets who were willing to succeed at all costs. Chiron understood that Symes wanted to live up to his expectations but conceded that the Empire did not tolerate weakness. He also took a genuine interest in Leonis's family circumstances and offered to help find his sister. Thus, Leonis found a mentor and advocate in the form of Lieutenant Chiron.
As their training progressed, Leonis and his fellow cadets participated in a military exercise that involved them deploying from a Sentinel-class landing craft into a lake. After disembarking, the cadets had to reassemble their E-11 blaster rifles and then navigate an obstacle course through broken terrain while being shot at by Imperial blasters on trainer setting. During the training exercise, Leonis did his best to keep Unit Aurek together and to protect Symes. When Oleg taunted Leonis for "babysitting" Symes, he responded that they were better off as a unit of four. Leonis's genuine concern for his unit led the other Aurek members to elect him as their leader.
Since the trainers held the higher ground, Leonis ordered his squad to advance in file formation to avoid being detected by the snipers. While crawling to their rendezvous point, Symes sustained a nervous breakdown. Against Oleg's protests, Leonis insisted on helping their fellow comrade. When Symes refused to move, Leonis reluctantly rejoined his fellow cadets. Shortly later, he was stunned by a trainer; which translated into a "kill" in the exercise. Following the exercise, he related his experience to his mentor, Chiron, who commended him for his leadership, initiative, and improvisation. Despite getting "killed," Chiron pointed out that Leonis had secured the objective of the exercise. When he asked about Symes, Chiron revealed that the cadet had voluntarily withdrawn from the Imperial Academy. Using Leonis's knowledge of grav-ball as an analogy, he reminded him that an Imperial soldier could not quit under fire since that endangered the life of his comrades. While Leonis disagreed with Chiron's assessment, he held his tongue.
- "I mean, what kind of lessons does that teach? First, they emphasize teamwork, but then they punish it and reward selfishness. It doesn't make any sense."
"I don't get it either. Maybe it's a test."
- ―Leonis discussing his Academy experiences with Spanjaf
Having completed the two-week orientation program, Leonis contacted his parents by datapad to assure them that he was doing well at the Imperial Academy, informing them that he and his fellow cadets would be undergoing assessments to determine their branch of Imperial service: the Imperial Army, the Imperial Navy, or the Stormtrooper Corps. Since the Academy for Young Imperials was a one-year academy, cadets were obliged to complete their training off-world at various specialized academies. He also commed his girlfriend Merei Spanjaf, who informed him that she was planning to search for Dhara Leonis by hacking the Imperial data network on Lothal.
As their training progressed, Leonis and his fellow cadets adjusted to the daily rhythm of life at the Academy. After Sergeant Currahee failed to find any indiscretions during an inspection, Leonis and the rest of Unit Aurek took it as a good sign. Leonis and his fellow cadets were further mollified to learn that their Unit had survived a cull which had eliminated several other members of squad LRC077. From Commandant Aresko, Leonis learned that the Imperial Academy practiced a policy of "winnowing out the unworthy" in order to find the best cadets for the Imperial Military. In private, Leonis vowed to not allow his progress at the Academy to distract him from his mission to find Dhara.
For the rest of the autumn term, squad LRC077 underwent numerous assessments that were designed to measure the cadets' physical prowess, mental acuity, leadership skills, and strategic adaptability. Most of these assessments took place in a special chamber called the Well, where the floor could be remotely reconfigured to simulate a wide variety of obstacle courses. Leonis's first assessment in the Well involved climbing up a structure called the Pillar. The winners, cadets de Grom, Wheeler, and Jai Kell, were rewarded with an extra dessert ration and a free period. Commandant Aresko announced that future winners would be rewarded with weekend passes and work details at Imperial headquarters and Leonis resolved that he would win strive to win these assessments in order to infiltrate Imperial records to discover the fate of his sister.
As the training assessments progressed, hostilities between Leonis and Oleg deepened. While Leonis valued teamwork and looked after his fellow comrades, Oleg was selfish and only cared about winning at all costs. During a second assessment, which involved leaping from repulsorlift platforms to plant their team's flags on the Pillar, Leonis became discontented with the Academy's conflicting attitude towards working together. While the Academy emphasized teamwork, these assessments seemed to reward selfishness. When he raised his concerns to Lieutenant Chiron, the officer explained that the assessments were designed to simulate real conflict situations where officers were forced to consider competing priorities while trying to complete a mission.
Following an assessment, Leonis encountered Piers Roddance, now holding the rank of captain, while heading to Chiron's office. While Roddance was a family friend, Leonis had lost respect for him after he ordered stormtroopers to open fire on a crowd of protesting farmers. Roddance had learned about Lieutenant Chiron's inquiries into Dhara's disappearance. He assured Leonis that the Empire was investigating his sister's disappearance and urged Leonis to focus on his assessments. Later, Leonis encountered Lieutenant Chiron, who was unhappy that Captain Roddance was interfering with his inquiry.
On Visiting Day, Leonis and his fellow cadets were allowed to meet their parents at the same amphitheater where he and his parents had visited Dhara the previous year. After chatting with his parents, Leonis managed to speak with his girlfriend Merei Spanjaf. Spanjaf revealed that she had used snoopers to infiltrate the Imperial data network on Lothal. She had also created a fake Imperial Security Bureau account to access classified files. She promised to update Leonis if she came across any information on Dhara.
The rebel infiltrator
- "I think this device has a built-in sensor, which would trigger that [a security sensor]. You try walking out with this thing, the whole facility goes on lockdown."
"Wait... are you trying to help me?"
- ―Leonis and Dev forge an alliance
Later that term, the Academy for Young Imperials received seven transfer cadets from other academies on Lothal to replace the washed-out cadets who had failed the Orientation program. To replace Pandak Symes, Unit Aurek was assigned Dev Morgan, a transfer cadet from the Pretor Flats Academy on the far side of Lothal. While Morgan quickly befriended Kell, Leonis initially disliked the new cadet for his cheeky and boastful demeanor. Leonis's rival Nazhros Oleg was openly hostile to Morgan and derided him as a "moisture farmer." Leonis was suspicious of the newcomer and speculated that he was a spy or linked to the plot that ensnared his sister.
Unknown to Leonis and his fellow cadets, Dev Morgan was actually a pseudonym for Ezra Bridger, a member of a Lothal rebel cell. Bridger had infiltrated the Academy to steal a decoder containing the coordinates for an Imperial convoy transporting an enormous kyber crystal to some undisclosed project. Leonis kept a careful watch over the newcomer. He and the other cadets participated in further assessments to test their skills, and during such assessments, he, Morgan, Oleg, and Kell wore colored shape indicators on their helmets: a yellow circle, a red square, a green diamond, and a blue triangle. During one such assessment, which involved the cadets using repulsorlift platforms to climb out of the Well, Leonis noticed that Morgan seemed to possess an uncanny foresight that gave him an edge over the other cadets. Leonis, Morgan, and Kell were the three winners of the exercise and were rewarded by being assigned to work as aides at the Imperial Complex in Capital City.
Leonis's suspicions of Morgan were confirmed when he witnessed the cadet making contact with an astromech droid, a disguised Chopper and part of the same rebel cell. Leonis assumed that Morgan was using the droid to get information about the assessments. He raised his concerns to Spanjaf, who used her hacking skills to access Morgan's file on the Imperial data network. She quickly discovered that Morgan was a pseudonym and deduced that he was not at the Academy to serve the Empire. However, Leonis was unsure whether Morgan would be on his side. He also promised to use his position as an aide to get Spanjaf a decoder that would allow her to create a fake Imperial Security Bureau account.
While working at the Imperial Complex, Leonis caught Morgan in the act of trying to steal a decoder from the ISB Agent Kallus' office. Realizing that Morgan was working against the Empire, he decided to treat him as a potential ally. Knowing that the decoder contained a built-in sensor, he warned Morgan not to take it out since it would cause the entire facility to go into lockdown. Later that night, Morgan confided to Leonis that he was part of a rebel cell that needed the decoder to stop an Imperial shipment. Leonis then revealed that he had infiltrated the Academy for the purpose of finding his missing sister Dhara. Convinced that Morgan was a friend, Leonis agreed to help him steal the decoder since his friend Spanjaf also needed it. After tossing a chance cube, Leonis allowed Morgan to take the decoder first but extracted a promise that his rebel associates would hand it over to Spanjaf once they had finished with it. To infiltrate the Imperial headquarters again, both cadets vowed to excel at the next assessment.
The following day, Leonis and Morgan participated in another exercise in the Well which involved the cadets shooting targets to activate the repulsorlift platforms necessary to climb to the top. During the assessment, Morgan sabotaged his friend Kell's progress in order to further their plan to steal the decoder. With Spanjaf's help, Leonis secured a fake procurement order for podracer parts. While Leonis attempted to get Agent Kallus to sign the fake procurement order, Morgan used his Force powers to levitate the decoder into a ceiling vent.
Confronting the Inquisitor
- "How admirable. Well, Leonis. Let's take a walk, shall we? I want to know everything about your former friends."
- ―The Grand Inquisitor invites Leonis for a private "chat"
Despite stealing the decoder, Leonis and Morgan's partnership was further complicated by an unexpected development. While navigating the ceilings of the Imperial headquarters, Morgan had learned that the Grand Inquisitor was planning to visit the Academy the following day to take him and Kell into custody since they met his "special criteria." After Morgan admitted he was indeed Force-sensitive, Leonis quickly realized that the Empire had kidnapped his sister because they had learned she was Force-sensitive. While Dhara had never been tested for Force-sensitivity, Leonis suspected as much, as she could sense his presence and thoughts.
After passing the decoder to Morgan's droid, the two cadets agreed that they had to stop the Grand Inquisitor from kidnapping Kell. While Kell was initially skeptical due to his bruising encounter with Morgan earlier that day, Leonis managed to convince him after recounting his sister's disappearance from the Academy. In the end, the three cadets resolved to escape from the Academy by winning the next day's assessment in the Well. Commandant Aresko had announced that the three top candidates would be rewarded with a ride on an AT-DP walker. Leonis and Morgan planned to use the walker to break out of the Academy and meet Morgan's rebel associates, who were waiting in a landspeeder outside.
The following day, the three rogue cadets put their escape plan into action. However, the trio encountered an unexpected setback when Morgan was beaten in the exercise and Oleg came in the second place. Despite their predicament, Morgan told Leonis and Kell to stick to the plan and that he would figure a way to get on board. While Leonis, Kell, and Oleg were riding the AT-DP walker, the rebel astromech droid Chopper planted a detonator which crippled a nearby AT-DP walker. This gave Kell the signal to stun the driver and Oleg. Kell and Leonis then took charge of the walker and marched towards the gate, but came under attack from an Imperial Troop Transport.
With much difficulty, Kell and Leonis managed to use the walker to breach the Academy's gate. Outside, they were joined by Morgan and his rebel associates; Morgan had managed to hitch a ride by climbing the walker under the pretext of combating the "rebels." Kell agreed to accompany Morgan and his rebel associates, but Leonis stayed behind to continue his mission to find his sister. To create the ruse that he was a loyal cadet who had been accosted by the "rebel" hijackers, Leonis pretended to open fire on the rebels' landspeeder when Commandant Aresko and his stormtroopers arrived.
Following the rebel "attack" on the Imperial Academy, Leonis received a commendation from the Academy instructors for resisting the rebel attackers. He was also visited by the Grand Inquisitor, who interrogated him regarding Morgan's nature and actions. Leonis claimed ignorance of Morgan's rebel sympathies and feigned Force-sensitivity; claiming that he could still sense the presence of his missing sister Dhara. Later that night, Leonis was contacted by Spanjaf, who revealed that she had discovered that Dhara was still alive but that she had been forcibly inducted into a top-secret Imperial project called Project Harvester, based at the Imperial Academy on Arkanis. Leonis toyed with the idea of getting Spanjaf to forge a transfer to the Arkanis Academy, but this would have attracted the attention of Imperial authorities. Instead, Leonis used his time at the Academy to supply Bridger and the rebels with intelligence about Imperial High Command.
Maintaining the charade
- "They can lie for you here, but they won't be there when you're questioned. I know things about you, Leonis—I know what you've done. Get your story straight—and make sure it sounds better than your version of what happened on the walker."
- ―Nazhros Oleg threatening Leonis
Following the incident with Kell, Leonis was forced to walk an increasingly shaky tightrope as he tried to maintain his facade as a loyal Imperial cadet while seeking to advance his mission to rescue his sister from the clutches of the Empire. During a morning training session with his fellow cadets, his nemesis Nazhros Oleg expressed that he thought he was a "fraud" and that he didn't believe his story regarding what happened in the incident in which "Morgan" and Kell escaped. Though Leonis maintained a defiant front, Oleg swore that he would one day prove that he was lying.
Leonis began experiencing nightmares about being discovered. One such nightmare saw him brought directly before the Grand Inquisitor, who openly questioned his claim that he knew his sister was not dead because he had always been able to sense her. He tested Leonis by ordering him to lift a cup using only the power of the Force, then called him a liar when he was unable to do so. Leonis's nightmares were in some ways not far from reality, as that very morning it was announced that all cadets at the Academy for Young Imperials were to be questioned individually regarding recent treasonous events. Stories soon began to circulate throughout the Academy that such interviews were happening all over Lothal and that certain cadets had already confessed to treason and been taken away by stormtroopers. Leonis, however, dismissed all of these as rumors to his fellow cadets, but when he was again confronted directly by Oleg, the two fought. The incident was described as an "accident" by Leonis and his fellow cadets, but Lieutenant Currahee warned that any further "accidents" would result in a full investigation. After she left, Oleg warned Leonis that he needed to get his story straight, as his fellow cadets would not be there when he was questioned.
Leonis was relieved to discover that his own questioning was to be handled by Lieutenant Chiron, as Chiron had always expressed a very favorable opinion of him at the Academy. Indeed, Chiron handled the questioning with a light touch and it seemed as though the session would proceed as little more than a formality when it was suddenly interrupted by Captain Roddance. Roddance insistently dismissed Chiron and then proceeded with a far more intense line of questioning, calling into suspicion everything from Leonis's actions during the incident with "Morgan" and Kell to his behavior at the Junior Academy of Applied Sciences. Roddance described it as being very "convenient" that Leonis was connected to so many people apparently involved in seditious activity who were not available to be questioned, but was forced to let Leonis go, as he had no hard evidence. Before doing so, however, he forced him to participate in an exercise, one whose purpose he did not understand. Leonis, however, understood it all too well, as in the exercise, he was shown a monitor with an image of a cup, a starship and a speeder. The screen was then turned around, and Roddance asked him to tell him what was now on the screen.
Not much of a break
- "A T-shirt and shorts? You must be freezing!"
- ―Spanjaf meeting Leonis during the winter break
Shortly after being interrogated, Leonis spoke with his girlfriend, Merei Spanjaf, via comm. Knowing their conversation was likely being monitored, neither could say what they really wanted. Leonis was startled by the deep bags under Spanjaf's eyes and how her hand shook as she reached for her datapad's screen. Both were limited to terse statements of facts, Leonis briefly relating the curious exercise that he had been made to undergo, as he felt it would seem suspicious to anyone listening in if he left it out. He signed off reassuring Spanjaf that it would not be long until winter break.
It was indeed not long before he was woken up early in his own bed at home, relieved that there were no Imperial officers shouting at him. Instead, there was only the nanny droid Auntie Nags offering him a cup of hot chocolate, which he gratefully accepted. That morning, Leonis's father nattered about the state of lawlessness on Lothal. When Leonis asked what they were doing that morning, his mother told him that they thought he would want a day without being told what to do every single minute. Pretending to agree, Leonis secretly felt adrift without a schedule to keep. He decided later that morning to go on a morning run with Merei Spanjaf, but she was aghast to find him dressed for the cold morning in nothing but a t-shirt and shorts. As he ran while she kept pace alongside him on her jumpspeeder, he related to her a series of exercises and drills until she was not able to take it anymore, wondering if he was ever going to ask her what had been happening with her. He apologized and agreed, but then became panicked when he learned the truth of her recent activities: working with the Gray Syndicate, a minor but dangerous crime syndicate based on Lothal, in order to keep away suspicion regarding the snooper program she had used to dig up information on his sister, Dhara. He was upset that her efforts to help him had placed her in such great danger, but she was determined to see things through.
On the final day of his break, Leonis was relieved to have a chance to speak with his mother, Tepha, alone. A few blocks from a marketplace, both admitted to each other that they were worried. His mother's greatest fear was that her son would make it to Arkanis, only to end up disappearing just like her daughter. As Leonis reiterated that it was the only way, they observed a group of stormtroopers marching through the marketplace with a Faust in binders, also stopping to arrest an Ugnaught. Back at home, Mr. Leonis happily reported that the Empire was conducting a crackdown on dissent and sedition on Lothal and that all military personnel were to be involved.
- "On Arkanis you'll be able to become the exemplary Imperial officer I know you can be. I've known you could be such an officer since the moment I saw you, Zare. But you have to hold on a little longer. Please tell me you can do that."
- ―Chiron to cadet Zare Leonis
Back at the Academy for Young Imperials, the cadets learned quickly that "all military personnel" included cadets of the Galactic Empire. Captain Roddance, dressed in field armor, informed them that there were to be no more training exercises for the foreseeable future. Instead, the cadets would assist in law enforcement activities on Lothal, their performance measured by how many violations of Imperial law they uncovered. They were to work in pairs, each assigned to a grid of city blocks, to go door-and-door checking registrations and asking citizens about any illegal activities they may have observed. Even questioning the need for such activity was considered a violation of the law to be recorded and reported. While Oleg smiled at the news, Leonis had to fight to keep himself from throwing up on the spot. He was then dismayed to learn that his partner for the exercise was to be Oleg. Both protested, but Lieutenant Chiron told them that Roddance had requested the pairing personally. Trying to give Leonis a warning, he held eye contact with him.
Beginning the mission, Leonis took lead and Oleg predictably protested. Leonis pointed out that somebody had to take lead and Oleg replied that they would take turns. Leonis could think of no good counter for this and therefore grumpily agreed, but again tried to assert himself by saying that they should keep their faceplates raised so as not to scare people. Oleg again objected, stating that they would respect the face of the Empire, and lowered his faceplate. Leonis told him to have it his way and rang the buzzer of their first house. The woman inside told him that she was making breakfast and would have to come back later, then clicked off. Oleg sneered that Leonis was letting the woman treat him like a door-to-door salesman. He reached for the buzzer, but Leonis told him it was still his turn. He told the woman that she was required to answer by order of the governor. The woman, a Sullustan, came to the door, and he asked her if she knew of any illegal activities. She said it was a quiet block and her neighbors seemed like good people. Leonis thanked her for her time and let her head back inside.
Oleg asked him if he had finished being useless and the two moved on to their next house, where Oleg buzzed insistently and told the man who answered that he had sixty seconds to come outside. Oleg immediately asked if everyone in his family was registered with the Empire. He said that he was registered automatically, being a worker for Sienar Fleet Systems, but his wife and son had not gotten around to registering yet because they had been working double shifts, but he had been told that there was a grace period for new residents. Oleg replied that the grace period was at the discretion of the authorities, which meant him. He pumped the man for information in exchange for leniency. Getting little response, Oleg started to mime putting down "failure to register" on his datapad, resulting in the man giving him information on a bar down the street whose barrels of ebla lacked tax stamps. Oleg continued interrogating the man for a time, ending with a warning that the Empire would check up on his family's registrations. Afterward, he turned smugly to Leonis, but Leonis was not impressed. He noted that the man was already a loyal citizen who spent his day helping the Empire build TIE fighters. He mocked Oleg's efforts, but Oleg reminded him that they were now to be judged on results, and he was already behind.
Back at the Academy Roddance praised their results, but gave most of the credit to Oleg. Leonis was startled, as he knew the only way that Roddance could have known this would be if Oleg was communicating with him privately. Oleg reported on how they had found a number of instances of evasion of customs taxes. Chiron commented that as these customs duties were new to Lothal, Governor Pryce had felt that education was a better approach than fines and arrests. This led to an argument between Roddance and Chiron regarding Imperial procedure, one which Leonis could tell had pushed his mentor nearly to his breaking point. Leonis decided to continue along Chiron's line of questioning, leading Roddance to emphasize that the strength of the Empire was loyalty and that there would be "no allowances made for anything short of absolute loyalty to our Emperor and unquestioned devotion to our cause."
The next day, Leonis had a private meeting with Lieutenant Chiron in the troop transport bay to prevent their conversations from being recorded by the Imperial authorities. Earlier that day, he and Oleg had participated in an operation to place the children of fugitives under "protective custody." Despite the repugnant nature of the order, Leonis had complied to his best efforts and comforted the children. When Leonis related his experience to Chiron, the Lieutenant expressed revulsion at the Empire's policies but conceded that Agent Kallus' orders were specific. He admitted to being foolish for challenging Captain Roddance the day before but had wanted to protect Leonis. He told him that his transfer to Arkanis Academy had been approved and urged him to hang in just a little longer. Though still unsure, Leonis forced himself to look Chiron in the eye and nod.
Leonis felt guilty, as Chiron's efforts on his behalf were based on living the lie of being the perfect Imperial cadet. Furthermore, he was beginning to wonder if the suffering of innocents was justified by his quest to save his sister, finding himself waiting with dread for an order that he would refuse to obey. Following Supply Master Yogar Lyste's investigation into the evasion of customs duties, the order was sure to come down any time to raid the warehouse, with Oleg in charge and Leonis ordered to assist. Although he disliked it, he seemed nevertheless determined to get some satisfaction, needling Oleg about what a great service they were doing for the Empire, looking for tax stamps. Oleg replied that the only fair system was one in which the law was absolute, with neither fear nor favor. Leonis shot back that Captain Roddance could not have said it better himself, hoping to rattle Oleg by showing that he was aware that Roddance was monitoring their communications.
The two found that, as suspected, none of the goods in the warehouse possessed the required tax stamps. Oleg ordered everyone arrested, only to receive a sudden shock. Some of the men within the warehouse were, in fact, his uncles. Upon seeing this, he said there was a mistake and ordered the stormtroopers to release them. Confused, they turned to Zare Leonis, who lowered his faceplate and issued an order of his own. He told them the men, having broken Imperial law, were to be taken into custody, and Oleg relieved of duty.
- "You're being transferred to the academy on Arkanis."
"You mean next year, sir?"
"I mean as soon as it's processed."
- ―The Inquisitor and Leonis discussing his mid-year transfer to Arkanis
The morning after this, Leonis was shaken awake back at the Academy for Young Imperials, informed by Lieutenant Currahee that Captain Roddance wished to see him in his office immediately. Leonis arrived in the office, to find a wary-looking Roddance standing beside his desk and the Inquisitor standing behind it. He was immediately reminded of his nightmare. Roddance lectured that what happened the day before was a lesson in loyalty, a test that Oleg failed. Despite his dislike of Oleg, Leonis could not help but replying that he did not know the truth about his uncles. Roddance replied that it did not matter, as his uncles were a weakness, and one needed to purge oneself of all weaknesses to serve the Empire. Leonis asked if this included compassion. This got the Inquisitor's attention and he stated that compassion was the most insidious weakness of all, but that they were not there to discuss that.
The Inquisitor announced that Leonis was to be transferred to the Officers Academy on Arkanis, effective as soon as it could be processed. Leonis, stunned, managed to reply that he was honored to serve the Emperor. The Inquisitor asked who could doubt that commitment but stared into his eyes, causing Leonis to try to shield his mind. Leonis then spoke outside with Currahee, who informed him that he was being upgraded to a class-three intel/courier clearance, something that he would need on Arkanis. Handing him a code cylinder, she quipped that he should not lose it, as "the replacement forms are a nightmare."
As Leonis headed back to the barracks, he bumped into an astromech droid that he recognized as "Dev Morgan's droid." The droid was carrying a message asking Leonis to meet him outside that evening with any information he could provide about imminent Imperial actions, as the situation was life and death. Leonis was startled, even more so when he heard a voice calling his name from behind. It was Chiron, who told him to be at ease, as he had not meant to startle him. He asked about the droid, and Leonis lied that it had simply stopped him because he had dropped his code cylinder. Chiron congratulated him on his transfer, pleased that others had noticed what he had seen in him from the beginning. As the two parted, Leonis was simply glad that he would no longer have to lie to the one man at the Academy who had always been kind to him.
Returning a favor
- "There's something you should know."
"Don't tell me you're gonna miss me, Dev."
"What? No... I mean, sure. But... look, that's not it. My real name is not Dev."
- ―Morgan and Leonis's last conversation
The next morning, Leonis found himself alone in the barracks after enduring the good-natured taunts as well of congratulations of his classmates. As he was awaiting transfer, his lessons at Lothal's Academy for Young Imperials were over. He tried to convince himself that having passed the Empire's tests, his remaining concerns were simple paranoia. Leonis met with Ezra Bridger, the rebel he knew as "Dev Morgan," at sunset. He informed Bridger that he had gained access with his new privileges, stating that Agent Kallus was preparing for a massive operation at the Lothal City Capitol Building, though he assumed it was a drill. Bridger insisted it was not and turned to leave, but not before Leonis informed him about his transfer to the Arkanis Academy. Bridger then attempted to tell Leonis his real name, only to be interrupted by a squad of stormtroopers.
Bridger was forced to bolt, elbowing Leonis in the chest to throw suspicion off him. When approached by the stormtroopers, Leonis claimed that he had caught the "loth-rat" selling black market goods. He joined in the chase, but Bridger escaped. Afterward, Leonis was confronted by a wild-eyed Oleg, who had watched the preceding commotion from beneath a barrel. Seeking revenge against Leonis, Oleg threatened to expose Leonis's dealings with Morgan. Leonis replied coldly that nobody would believe him and Oleg attacked. Leonis, however, won the fight and told Oleg that he had gotten his "just rewards." He warned Oleg that he would find out what he was capable of if they ever saw each other again. After Oleg had fled, Leonis told a Stormtrooper Commander that there were criminals everywhere and recommended a full sweep.
Shortly following this, Leonis's girlfriend, Spanjaf, was surprised to receive a comm from him at a time that normally would not be approved, very late in the evening. In the message, he informed her that he was being transferred to Arkanis, one step closer to their goal. He said he was sorry for messing up what they had and not expressing more appreciation for everything she had done for him. He promised that he would succeed in what they had worked for, no matter what it took, and signed off. Spanjaf, concerned, decided to risk logging on to the Empire's network using her forged ISB credentials. She quickly discovered that Leonis had been transferred to Arkanis as part of the Inquisitor's investigation into his purported Force sensitivity and alleged connection to Morgan's rebel band. Spanjaf disclosed the grim news to his mother, Tepha, who lamented that she was going to lose her son as well.
Before traveling to Arkanis, Leonis was interrogated by Potalla, an Imperial assessor looking into the Lothal insurgency and particularly the officers Commandant Cumberlayne Aresko and Taskmaster Myles Grint due to the issues at the academy. She singled Leonis out for attention because of his involvement in the incident with the AT-DP. Maintaining his charade, Leonis praised both Aresko and Grint as excellent officers who helped mold him into an outstanding cadet. She pressed him for details regarding the AT-DP incident, suggesting that if not for knowing better, she might believe that he was helping the rebels. He reiterated that he had been threatened and was taken by surprise, but did everything he could. Potalla was satisfied and revealed that she had never seriously suspected him of being a traitor, but rather wished to learn if he lived up to the glowing reports he had received. She called him a fine future officer and wished him well on Arkanis.
Arkanis Academy and Garel
Arrival on Arkanis
- "You better get some sleep, Leonis. We've got live-fire exercises in the afternoon. It wouldn't do to take a blaster bolt to the head because you're yawning."
- ―Cadet Le Hivre welcoming Zare Leonis
Leonis was delivered to Arkanis on an Imperial shuttle by a grumpy pilot who was concerned with keeping his schedule. Upon arrival, he was greeted by a lightning storm and startled by the sudden appearance a feminine programmed droid designated DDM-38. The droid took him to his dormitory, answering his questions along the way, such as about when the Academy was established and how prior to its founding, a native species had created a fortress on the planet. He spotted a stone tower, which the droid told him was forbidden to cadets. She also warned him to stay off the beach, as it was dangerous. She showed him his bunk and dormitory, ignoring his plea for her to turn off her light, which was disturbing the other cadets. He was told that breakfast was at 0600 and despaired, as it was already 0400 on the planet, but only late afternoon on Lothal. The unsympathetic droid told him only that "Officers deal with far worse hardships" and left.
Leonis took a moment to consider his situation, how he was there because the Empire had taken his sister, Dhara. He worried that it might be too late to save her, but then shored up his resolve. As he pulled on a t-shirt, he was greeted by a fellow cadet, Orman le Hivre. He apologized for waking everyone up, but the cadet shrugged it off, blaming it on the droid. He told Leonis to not bother trying to dry off, as it was always wet on the planet. Even when it was not storming, there was always drizzle or fog and sometimes sleet. He told him to get some sleep so as to not die in the day's live-fire exercises. After a very brief rest, Leonis took porridge at breakfast and then tried to sit down at the same table as le Hivre in the mess hall, only to be told he could not sit there, not being "one of them." Though they treated him nicely, he was forced to find somewhere else in embarrassment. He was summoned by a boy with red hair named Penn Zarang and sat with him, as well as the cadets Tigard Manes, Bedal Cerroux, Chan Harra and Anya Razar. They fell to discussing their homeworlds and during the discussion, Razar mentioned that she would not be sitting at that table much longer, eyeing the table Leonis had been forced to abandon. Zarang explained that the table was for a group known as the "Commandant's Cadets," but in order to join the group, you had to be invited and pass a mysterious test that was never explained. Razar cut him off, saying that Zarang would never know anything about it because he was unable to stay off academic warning.
Following this first breakfast, Leonis attended his first class at the academy, Strategy and Tactics with Colonel Julyan. Leonis quickly found the class to be more intense than anything he had experienced in Lothal's Academy for Young Imperials but stimulating nevertheless. Despite his exhaustion, he found himself quite engaged with the class, until he remembered that he was there on Arkanis to save his sister, not to become a model Imperial. Even so, he found himself on the spot when Julyan asked him to recall his time as a center striker on the grav-ball team at the Junior Academy for Applied Sciences. Julyan wanted to know what Leonis had learned in that role that would make him a better Imperial officer and he replied that he had learned to improvise. When pressed on the question of why some would succeed while others would fail, he said that some of it was luck, but also the quality of the players in combination with the leadership shown. Julyan liked Leonis's answers and continued with an example of how what Leonis had said applied to the leadership of the Imperial General Romodi. As he did, Leonis noticed his fellow cadets' looks of respect and realized he had passed a test.
- Leonis: "What's so special about that table anyway?"
- Zarang: "It's the commandant's table. It's reserved for the Commandant's Cadets."
- Leonis: "And how do you get to be a Commandant's Cadet?"
- Harra: "You get invited."
- Cerroux: "Invited and tested."
- ―Leonis learns about the existence of the Commandant's Cadets
Leonis's training at the Arkanis Academy continued and he found himself, as part of one of these exercises, riding an unusual insect-like creature called a diplopod. He soon got the hang of it, though his compassionate side was repulsed by having to use an electro-prod to control the creature. For the exercise, his squad leader was Anya Razar, who told him not to waste time on Xan Lanier, a fellow cadet who was generally regarded as the worst in the class. Leonis disliked this idea but again reminded himself of what he was there for. During the exercise, however, Lanier was killed by live fire, along with Zare's diplopod. When he reported the incident he was shocked to be told that he was still showing "status green" and should advance to the next objective. Then, after the exercise was completed, he was told that there would be no inquiry into the death of his fellow cadet, simply that the droid who had met upon arrival at the academy, "DeeDee," would let him know if more information was needed. That evening, Leonis discovered a group of cadets taking Razar to a secretive area known as "the tower." Razar told him it was alright, but he sensed an opportunity and tried to follow. He was shortly intercepted by DeeDee, however, and told that he would be given demerits for being out of bed. The next morning, he arrived at breakfast to find Razar sitting at the table with the other Commandant's Cadets.
Leonis's demerits came with a punishment—to clean out the academy's diplopod stables. Other than this, however, the incident involving Lanier was not referred to again. Leonis began paying closer attention to the Commandant's Cadets and noticed various interactions between them. He began to think of them as a cell, a sort of secret academy. During one of his classes, Julyan lectured about counterinsurgency operations, leading him to think of the rebels he had encountered, and wondering if it was it was really impossible to defeat the Empire. He also wondered if it might be possible only if you did not know it was impossible. Following the afternoon's training exercises, the cadets were lined up for a special assembly. An important visitor was arriving at the academy, landing at a secret area known as Area Null. Leonis's fellow cadet, Zarang, said that if you believed everything you heard, the Emperor himself had a throne room there. When Leonis asked if this was really true, however, Zarang froze up, saying it was not something they talked about. After the cadets assembled, the visitor was marched in by the droid, DeeDee, and it turned out to be the Inquisitor. Leonis wondered if the Inquisitor was there for him, or Dhara, but tried to remain calm, figuring it was possible it was for an entirely different reason. Then, however, the Inquisitor looked straight in his eyes, and DeeDee ordered him to join the Inquisitor on the commandant's balcony.
After brief words of welcome, the Inquisitor came straight to the question of why Leonis had tried to enter Area Null. He lied and said he was trying to help his fellow cadet, but the Inquisitor called him out for lying and asked if he had sensed something. Leonis decided to take a gamble, pretending again to be sensitive to the Force. He claimed that there was something in the tower that he was meant to find, though he was unclear what it was. The Inquisitor then asked him if Dev Morgan had ever mentioned the tower to him, or Project Harvester. Leonis again expressed befuddlement and the Inquisitor bared his teeth and advanced on him, but before things could go any further, DeeDee interrupted with a message, a priority encrypted communication from Lothal. The Inquisitor had to leave, but promised Leonis that he would soon capture Morgan and his companions and all would be revealed.
- "You're there because they want you there. The Inquisitor engineered this—for his own reasons. Which means you have to get out of there, Zare. Get off Arkanis and as far away as you can. Before he comes back."
"And abandon Dhara?"
- ―Despite Spanjaf's warnings, Leonis refused to abandon his sister Dhara
With the Inquisitor gone, Leonis fell back into the rhythm of attending classes at the academy and searching for ways to advance his agenda to help his sister. He continued to shine in classes such as Julyan's, hoping that his strong academic performance would attract the attention of the Commandant's Cadets. Three days after the Inquisitor had left, Zarang asked him if he wanted to join him in Scaparus Port. Leonis was unfamiliar with it, and Zarang explained that it was a couple of klicks up the coast and about the only place the cadets could go for any sort of fun. Leonis was wary, especially since being with Zarang was not likely to advance his agenda, but agreed because Zarang had been kind to him. They discussed their history, Zarang explaining that he joined the Empire in the hope of protecting people from pirates and slavers. His parents had died at the hands of Zygerrian slavers. Leonis found Zarang's goals noble, but wondered to himself how long it would be before Zarang ended up becoming the thing he had yearned to fight.
In Scaparus, Leonis's attention was drawn to the fact that nearly every shop advertised that it had a private comm booth. Zarang explained that the academy's commandant, Brendol Hux, only allowed cadets at the academy one fifteen-minute comm session every month because he felt that contact with outsiders was detrimental to military education. He also likely personally monitored the comm traffic. Jasko of Jasko's, however, maintained private comm booths, something he was happy to do, as he had washed out of the academy and wanted to get even with Hux. The comm booth was costly, but Leonis found it worth the risk to get in touch with his parents back home on Lothal. He was greeted by Auntie Nags, who was dismayed about him comming in the middle of the night. He explained that the time was different on Arkanis and it was the only chance he had to comm. Nags reluctantly accepted this, as Tepha Leonis was getting up anyway. Leonis noticed immediately that his mother looked alarmed, but before she could say anything, his father, Leo, joined the conversation as well. As Leo knew nothing of his son's true intentions in coming to the Arkanis Academy, nor the danger he was in, the group ended up making small talk about the weather on Arkanis. Tepha ended the conversation by saying that her son should talk to his girlfriend, Merei Spanjaf. Leonis was hesitant, as he felt he had blown things with Spanjaf, but his mother insisted it was important.
Leonis got on the comm with Spanjaf, who was wary as to whether their connection was really secure. Despite this, she warned him of what she had found out about his transfer to Arkanis not really being a promotion. He, however, had already surmised as much from the Inquisitor's visit. He told her that he had found out where Dhara was being held and asked if she could use her security clearance, but she could not, as it would raise flags away from Lothal. She asked him if he remembered the smell of the jogan blossoms the night Beck Ollet took them to the Westhills, and he said that he did, but wondered why she was asking. She said it was just something an old poet she knew had mentioned. He called it spooky because he had just bought a jogan himself in the market. She urged him to leave the planet before the Inquisitor came back, but he would not abandon Dhara. She could only hang her head as they signed off.
- "Buy salt, sir. Give it to your nerfs."
"So you would coddle their weaknesses? Is that any way to create a strong herd, cadet?"
- ―Leonis and Commandant Hux disagree philosophically
Two days later, the cadets were rounded up during breakfast and taken to the cliff edge by the beach near the academy. Commandant Hux showed them that there was a rogue young nerf who was searching the beach for salt. The cadets watched as the nerf was consumed by a vicious sea creature. They laughed as Hux quipped that this was why the academy lacked aquatic sports, but Leonis was secretly appalled by the slaughter. Hux then asked the cadets how they would stop what they had just seen from happening. Leonis's idea was to buy salt and give it to the nerfs. Hux asked if he would coddle their weaknesses, but Leonis replied that it was better than dead nerfs that were of no use to them. Hux agreed with this but said that the real solution was to train the nerfs so that they would know better than to go near the beach. He said it was something to think about as they began exercises on Sirpar the next morning, which he described as a "forge where many an officer has been created—or broken."
Exercises on Sirpar, an offer
- "It'll happen in the field maneuvers three days from now. Use this [rigged E-11 blaster] during the exercise. You and your target will be on different sides—it's all been arranged. Engage and disengage the safety three times in a row and your E-11 will fire full-intensity bolts. Don't worry—you'll be cleared without an inquiry. It'll be just a slight weapons malfunction."
- ―Cadet Anya Razar inviting Leonis to join the Commandant's Cadets
Sirpar was indeed a demanding challenge for the cadets of Arkanis's academy, as the planet had a significantly higher gravity than was standard on most Imperial worlds, such that it made Leonis's muscles ache. The cadets were assigned to a three-day tour and broken into groups intended to simulate actual military combat. Leonis was granted the rank of lieutenant for the mission, with Cerroux as his sergeant major. They were to command stormtrooper units that had been rotated off active-duty for the purposes of the training. Leonis wondered, however, whether the stormtroopers obeyed orders out of training and discipline, or out of blind obedience. The exercises left Leonis exhausted, but his team did well. On the final day, however, his team was "killed" in combat, but nevertheless secured their objective. Following the exercise, he was approached by Razar with an offer he had been waiting for: an invitation to join the Commandant's Cadets. They told him he would hear from them within a day or two regarding a means to prove he was serious.
Back at the academy, Leonis received a surprise invitation. Lieutenant Chiron, his mentor at Lothal's academy, was on Arkanis and asked to meet him in his new office during his first free period. He reported as ordered and discovered that Chiron had been transferred to Arkanis following a shake-up at Lothal's Academy for Young Imperials. Aresko and Grint had been executed by the Inquisitor for their failures and Roddance was now ruling the academy. Though Roddance was not unhappy to see Chiron gone, he had actually been transferred there by Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, who wished for him to investigate Commandant Hux and a secret society. This, of course, was something Leonis knew about, but he was ill at ease about the idea of revealing everything all at once. He knew that getting into society might be his only chance to find his sister. He asked for a day or two, which Chiron gave him. He then asked Chiron if anyone had come with him, mentioning that the Inquisitor had visited recently. Chiron shocked Leonis by revealing that the Inquisitor was dead, killed by a group of insurgents that had been troubling the Empire's operations on Lothal. Leonis felt a great, but short-lived relief. Though it was true the Inquisitor was dead, the Empire had other servants.
That night, Leonis was woken by the Commandant's Cadets and summoned the academy's banquet hall. There, le Hivre told him that his initiation task would happen during field maneuvers three days from then. He was to kill fellow cadet Penn Zarang using a rigged E-11 blaster, which would be blamed as simply "a slight weapons malfunction." Leonis was shocked, and it showed on his face, causing le Hivre to ask him if his dedication was only pretend. At breakfast the next morning, Leonis responded with shrugs and monosyllables when talking with Zarang. He wondered what he could do, feeling his task monstrous, but knowing he needed to join the Commandant's Cadets to rescue his sister. Zarang seemed to be everywhere that day and thinking of killing him made Leonis's stomach roil. By the next day, he knew what he had to do.
Charade of death
- "No! This is crazy!"
"Penn, think. If I refuse, either they'll kill both of us or someone else will get invited to join them. Someone else will get the order to demonstrate their loyalty. Only that cadet won't tell you it's coming. If you stay here, you'll die."
- ―Penn Zarang and Zare Leonis
That morning, Leonis went straight to Lieutenant Chiron's office and explained the situation. Chiron was just as disgusted as Leonis was and said that this would stop now. Both, however, were stymied by the fact that they needed more information in order to be able to prove their claims. Leonis insisted that there was no way he could go through with the deed, but Chiron had an idea as to how it could be done without anyone dying, so long as Zarang trusted Leonis, which he did. Leonis was to bring Zarang to the diplopod pen two hours after lights out. Deedee would be placed on a special assignment, to prevent him from being caught. That evening, Leonis roused Zarang from the bed, warning him not to make a sound if he wanted to live. They arrived at the diplopod pen, Leonis explained the situation. Zarang was shocked, wondering why he would be chosen to be killed when other cadets had lower marks than him. Chiron had brought a bag with a side of nerf, which would be buried as a stand-in for Zarang's body as he was on a transport to somewhere else. Zarang was upset, not wanting to leave the Empire, but Chiron promised that he would raise his case with Governor Tarkin if necessary. Zarang looked to Leonis for confirmation, and Leonis told him that he could trust Chiron. When Zarang still hesitated, Leonis reminded him that it would have been a lot easier to kill him. Zarang reluctantly agreed to the plan, taking a shovel.
The next morning, it was quickly noticed that Zarang was missing. Leonis was soon approached by le Hivre, who told him that he was finished for warning Zarang. Leonis, however, replied that this was hardly the case; he had killed him. Zarang had already pulled down their class enough, so he had simply hastened the deed. He took him and Razar to the grave, but when they got there, le Hivre was disbelieving. He told Leonis to dig him up and show him, but Leonis replied that he had already done the dirty work. le Hivre could do it himself if he wanted to do so, but it would not be pleasant, because things decayed fast. le Hivre and Razar dug for several minutes, eventually hitting something, a cadet's jacket. Tired, Razar gave up, but le Hivre suggested they could get a construction droid to find out for sure. Razar said that he could do what he wanted, but the class was starting soon and she did not want to get a demerit for being late. With that, le Hivre welcomed Leonis to the Commandant's Cadets.
- "One moment, cadets. Another group is finishing a bit of business in our ceremonial room... Project Unity. Former dissenters who have reconsidered their errors and rededicated themselves to the Imperial cause"
- ―Brendol Hux leads Leonis into a trap
Having achieved his goal of making it into the Commandant's Cadets, Leonis was invited to dinner that evening with Commandant Hux. Putting on his black dress uniform, he made his way to dinner, where Hux announced that with the addition of Leonis, their ranks were completed. They had proved themselves exemplary servants of the Empire and it was time for them to learn the group's ultimate purpose. He explained that prior to becoming a servant of the Empire himself, he had served as a junior officer in the Grand Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars, communicating tactics and strategy as determined by Jedi Generals. He felt that there was something they could learn from their defeated enemies. The Republic's clone troopers were effective not simply because they had been trained for battle, but bred for it. However, due to being genetically identical, they were susceptible to biological agents and pathogens, something that the Separatists had often tried to take advantage of. Hux's plan was to train nonclone soldiers from birth, similar to the way the Jedi trained their Padawans. The cadets cheered as Hux explained that they were to work alongside him to execute his plan, to create legions that would ensure the Empire would live forever. Leonis joined them, forcing himself to smile. Repulsed inside, he knew that with his goal so close he could in no way betray any of his true feelings.
The group ate and celebrated, then droids cleared the tables. Hux announced that it was time for Leonis's initiation. The group marched to the beach, where two cadets tossed flares into the water. The group then made their way to Area Null. Leonis was edgy with anticipation about the fact that he was now closer to his sister than he had ever been since the last time he saw her. They prepared to enter the Commandant's Cadets ceremonial room, but first had to wait for another group to exit. A group of boys and girls in orange jumpsuits exited the room. Hux explained that this was Project Unity; former dissenters who had come back to the Empire. Leonis observed the glassy-eyed, blank-looking individuals, wondering if they had been brainwashed or drugged. Then, to Leonis's shock, one of the individuals began marching toward him. It was his old friend, Beck Ollet. Leonis turned away, but it was too late. Ollet rose his arm, pointing it directly at him.
- "... And every day, on every planet in the Empire, more people are realizing what I've realized and saying what I've said and doing what I've done. I'm going to be silenced. I'm going to be killed. I know that. But the Empire can't silence all the people like me. It can't kill all the people like me. Or it will be an Empire that rules nothing. That is nothing."
- ―Leonis speaking in his defense
Ollet revealed what he knew of Leonis's deception and Leonis was forced into revealing everything else through interrogation. He gave up everything he knew about "Dev Morgan," pleased only that he knew none of it would be of any use. He was able to keep the true nature of Chiron's presence at the academy a secret, but only because he was not asked. He was sure that had he been asked, he would have said anything to make the interrogator droid stop what it was doing to him. After this, he was thrust into a military tribunal. He was darkly amused that he was made to wear his dress uniform, wondering if they would shoot him if his shirt was untucked.
Leonis figured he was in for a lengthy review of his crimes, but Julyan, who was holding the tribunal, seemed determined to keep things at a brisk pace. He told him that he was charged with fraudulent enlistment, making false official statements, perjuring his oath as a cadet, dereliction of duty, destruction of Imperial property, conspiracy, providing aid and comfort to enemies of the Galactic Empire, espionage, assault on Imperial personnel, attempted murder of Imperial personnel, sedition and treason. Leonis pleaded guilty on all counts. When asked if he had anything to say in his defense, he replied that he had always wanted to be a servant of the Empire, to make the galaxy a better place, until he saw it for what it really was. The Empire taught him lies at school, subjugated alien races, murdered innocent people to advance its propaganda, and kidnapped his sister. He stated defiantly that the Empire could not kill everyone like him, or it would be an Empire that ruled nothing, that was nothing. Julyan coldly asked him if that was all, then laid out his sentence. He was to first be expelled from Imperial service. At this, the Commandant's Cadets stepped forth and stripped him of his uniform. Julyan then sentenced him to death the next morning, to be carried out by firing squad.
That night, Leonis was visited by Chiron, who was disappointed that Leonis had not told him everything. He said that what happened to his sister was terrible, but had been done by misguided people that had perverted Imperial policy. Leonis's response was that he had seen the truth, that the Empire that Chiron believed in was a lie, the real Empire being that of people like Athletic Director Fhurek, Captain Roddance, the Inquisitor, Tarkin, Palpatine, etc. Chiron offered to have Leonis enrolled in Project Unity, but Leonis replied that there was no way he wanted to end up like Ollet. He did, however, acquiesce to Chiron's request to have Ollet talk to him.
Leonis's conversation with Ollet was brief and unproductive. Ollet told him that Project Unity had helped him, but Leonis wondered how given that they had brainwashed him with drugs. Ollet replied that the medications were actually to calm him down and that he missed them when they took him off of them so that they could question him for the tribunal. Leonis asked if he remembered the time the Empire ruined his family's jogan fruit orchards, how they killed people who only wanted to talk. Ollet's response was that those people were being used by the Empire's enemies, part of the contagion of separatism. Realizing the conversation was pointless, he told Ollet to get out. Chiron then came back in, and Leonis told him he would rather die than become a Project Unity drone. Chiron's response was that there was only one thing left, to ask him what he wanted his last meal to be and who would bring it. Leonis quipped that he wanted a properly prepared nerf steak brought by a pirate captain with a fast ship for hire. Chiron, naturally, refused this request but offered anything else that Leonis wanted, and to bring the meal himself. Leonis replied that Chiron should send Ollet to bring the meal, and told him what he wanted.
A jailbreak and a rescue
- "Right. But how do we get past the two stormtroopers outside?"
"I was thinking a handoff and a center striker sneak. You remember the play?"
- ―Ollet and Leonis discuss escape tactics
Leonis was woken in the morning by a scowling Imperial officer. The man then left and Ollet entered, accompanied by a droid who deposited a covered tray. Leonis started immediately, asking Ollet if he remembered Lothal. Ollet told him it was pointless. Leonis disagreed and uncovered the tray to reveal two jogan fruits. He handed one to Ollet, telling him to smell it, as it would remind him of home. Ollet did so, and the effect was almost immediate. "They...they destroyed everything," recalled Ollet, "And when people wanted it to stop they killed them." He apologized, explaining to Leonis that the Empire had done things to him. Leonis replied that it was not his fault. Ollet asked about Dhara and Leonis told him that she was alive somewhere in the tower. Ollet told him it was hard to think straight, but they should go get his sister. Leonis asked if he knew the layout of the tower, but he did not. Leonis found this unfortunate but said that they would fight their way to the roof and try to get a transport. As for the two stormtroopers guarding the cell, it was time to make use of their grav-ball training; a handoff and center striker sneak. Though not ready, they put their plan into action.
Ollet commed to the guards outside that he was ready to come out. When the door slid aside, he rammed the stormtroopers' midsection and wrested away his blaster, handing it off to Leonis. Leonis then shot the other guard, then the one wrestling with Ollet. The two then raced to implement their plan. Leonis told Ollet to shoot out the cameras while he tried to find Dhara, but he was unable to navigate the academy's unfamiliar computer system and was then shut out entirely. With laser fire sounding everywhere, it seemed as if all might be lost, until Leonis heard a familiar voice. It was his girlfriend, Merei Spanjaf. She told him his mother and father were safe on Garel and that she had come to rescue him, along with "Dev Morgan" and his friends, "the Spectres." What was more, she and her mother knew the layout of the tower and were ready to help him find his sister.
An armored girl, Sabine Wren, or "Spectre-5," explained the plan. She and Garazeb Orrelios ("Spectre-4") would take Merei Spanjaf's mother, Jessa, down to the main computer node to lock out the Imperials. Merei Spanjaf would slice into the computer there to find Dhara, while "Dev Morgan" ("Spectre-6" / Ezra Bridger) would hold the roof. The group worked quickly. Spanjaf already knew that Dhara was in cell seventeen, but still had to get around a lockdown to open the cell. While she took care of this, the group covered the elevators and Ollet said the situation reminded him of grav-ball, wondering how many points they were losing by and how much time was left on the clock. Leonis reminded him that it was the final score that mattered. Spanjaf finished her work and Leonis rushed for the cell, discovering Dhara, just as expected. She was in bad shape. She barely seemed to recognize him and, upon hearing his voice, dismissed him as a hallucination, a trick of the Inquisitor.
Leonis assured her that he was real, and told her that the Inquisitor was dead. Their parents were waiting for them. Trembling, Dhara took her brother's hand and rose shakily to her feet. As he put his arm around her, she realized it really was him. It was a happy reunion, but both were still in danger. As they left the cell, they encountered a retreating Spanjaf and Ollet, who had been pinned down by stormtroopers. The other group was in trouble also and there were TIE fighters inbound. Beck Ollet decided that there was no choice but to make a sacrifice. He would carry a detonator given to them by Wren, using it to obliterate the stormtroopers, even though he would most likely die in the process. He told the two Leonises that Lothal needed them, that they would spark a fire that would turn the Empire to ash. He left, saying that it was possible he might get lucky. He then charged the control room, accomplishing his goal, but dying in falling stone, a sprig of jogan blossoms in his fingers. The group hurriedly sought escape, only for another terrible reversal. The door to the auxiliary elevator opened, revealing Lieutenant Chiron and a contingent of stormtroopers.
Chiron told Leonis that it was over. Leonis raised his blaster, promising that they would both die if Chiron acted. He indicated his sister and told him to think about what the Empire had done to her. Chiron promised she would not be harmed, but Leonis was adamant, telling Chiron that the Empire he believed in existed only in his head. Chiron looked miserable but promised that everything would be investigated. However, he would do his duty. At this, Dhara seemed to come to a decision. Stepping forward and raising her hands, she simply said the word "no" in a barely audible voice. Shrieking in rage and pain, her eyes seemingly burning like fire, she summoned chunks of rocks and metal, pummeling Chiron and the stormtroopers, leaving them prostrate on the deck. As Spanjaf called everyone into the elevator, Leonis knelt beside Chiron, closing his lifeless eyes. He then led his sister to the elevator, where Spanjaf asked what had just happened. Leonis replied that he did not know, but told her not to tell anyone. The doors of the elevator opened and the group fled across the roof and into the Ghost, the modified VCX-100 light freighter that served as the home-base of the Spectres. By the time the Imperial TIE fighter reinforcements arrived, their quarry was long gone.
Repercussions and happy reunions
- "It really is you, Zare. I'm so tired but I don't want to sleep. I'm afraid I'll wake up and this will all have been another dream."
"It isn't. I'm real, and you're safe. Now go to sleep. When you wake up I'll be here and Mom and Dad will be waiting."
- ―Dhara and Zare Leonis, after escaping from Arkanis
Once the Ghost was in hyperspace, Spanjaf and Leonis led Dhara to a bunk, where Leonis asked to be left alone with her for a minute. She told him that she had dreamed he would come. She had seen it all and been forced to tell it to the Inquisitor. He had become angry at the times she was unable to remember. Leonis told her that it was all over, and she should finally get some rest. She was afraid she would wake only to find it had been another dream, but her brother promised her that when she woke, he would be there and their parents would be waiting. As she slept, Leonis talked with "Dev Morgan," who finally told him his real name, Ezra Bridger, promising to introduce him to the rest of his friends when they got to Garel. Later, Leonis and Spanjaf shared a happy reunion over tea. Leonis wondered what was next for them. Though not wanting to continue to fight, he felt they had no choice, given their skills and knowledge. Spanjaf suggested that they help Bridger and his friends, and noted that there was probably something useful in the thousands of classified documents she had stolen using her forged clearance.
The Ghost docked at Garel City. Leonis told his sister that their parents were there and asked if she was ready. She said that she was, so they exited the ship. Leonis was thrilled to be greeted by bright sunshine as the group emerged from the vessel. Then, he spotted his parents. He looked back to his sister, who slowly broke into a huge smile, then raced into her mother's arms. Together, the group shared a huge embrace, Dhara Leonis begging for her parents to not let go.
Although Garel was considered a place of refuge compared with the Empire's blockade of Lothal and aggressive efforts, it was nevertheless also under the yoke of the Galactic Empire. After fleeing to Garel, members of both the Leonis family and the Spanjaf family joined with the Statura family in working to liberate the planet.
Personality and traits
- "All I ever wanted was to be a servant of the Empire—to make the galaxy a better place. But then I saw the Empire for what it really was."
- ―Zare Leonis
Zare Leonis was a teenage human male with dark skin, black hair, and dark brown eyes. Around the time of his attendance at the Imperial Academy on Lothal, he weighed 50 kilograms and stood 1.65 meters tall. Born and raised in a family that served the Galactic Empire, he was brought up on the idea of Imperial loyalty. While it was always expected that he would attend Imperial Academy and serve the Empire, events on Lothal and the disappearance of his sister forced him to re-examine his worldview. Leonis possessed strong leadership qualities and a strong sense of justice. As a leader, Leonis preferred to foster a sense of team spirit among his comrades. These qualities made him a respected and competent leader of his school's grav-ball team, the AppSci SaberCats, and later of his unit at the Lothal Imperial Academy. Unlike his older sister Dhara, Leonis was not Force-sensitive. Smart and talented, he and everyone in his unit at the Academy for Young Imperials, Aurek, were considered potential Imperial officer material, excepting the wash-out cadet Pandak Symes.
Zare Leonis had a strong moral compass which led him to stand up for what he perceived was right. On one occasion, he stood up and defied the athletic director Janus Fhurek's demand that he remove his grav-ball team's two alien players. This earned him the respect of his team-mates. Later, Leonis's moral compass led him to express revulsion towards the Empire for murdering protesters in the Westhills and distorting reports of the massacre. Possessing a shrewd sense of judgment and secrecy, Leonis was also able to mask his true intentions at the Academy from many. At times, however, he felt guilty about having to deceive his mentor, Lieutenant Chiron, who had become an unlikely friend. Leonis also sometimes had to resist the urge to interfere in perceived Imperial injustices at its academies. At these times, he reminded himself of his true objective in rescuing his sister and that it was not up to him to try to right every Imperial wrong. His natural drive to excel also often caused him to want him to do his best in Imperial training exercises and classroom lectures, even when the side of him that knew he would never serve as an Imperial officer was repulsed.
Leonis was tenacious and willing to face tough odds to achieve his goals. He would continue fighting even when it seemed like all might be lost, using his wits and the strengths of those around him to overcome adversity. If necessary, he was willing to die for what he believed in, but not before speaking his piece. Due to his personal experiences, Leonis came to regard the Empire as a force for oppression and injustice that used fear and terror to maintain its grip on the galactic masses. He also rejected the argument that the Empire's excesses were misguided perversions of Imperial policy.
Skills and abilities
- "It's only been a month but I swear you're taller. Must be all the grav-ball heroics."
- ―Dhara Leonis commenting on Zare's height and grav-ball interests
Zare Leonis was well-built and physically fit. He excelled in the sport of grav-ball and became the leader of his school's grav-ball team, the AppSci SaberCats. While he had a good field of vision and reaction time, he was poor at selecting targets. However, Leonis made up for this by being a good leader who was able to quickly improvise when unexpected obstacles arose. In addition, Leonis's grav-ball skills made him proficient at unarmed combat, a trait that proved useful during a skirmish with the antagonistic Nazhros Oleg, a former fellow cadet. He was also trained in how to ride a diplopod.
Although considered potential officer material, Zare Leonis and his fellow cadets in Unit Aurek were all expected to undergo the same training as basic stormtroopers. As such, Leonis regularly wore stormtrooper armor and was familiar with its operation, including the helmet. In order to provide easier identification during exercises, Leonis's armor was customized with a yellow circle emblem. Leonis also knew how to operate a blaster. He was rated as having issues he needed to improve with target selection, but was nevertheless able to somewhat convincingly fake firing at fleeing rebels without actually hitting them. He also had limited knowledge in operating Imperial equipment such as an All Terrain Defense Pod. In transferring to the Arkanis Academy, Leonis was provided a code cylinder giving him a class-three intel/courier clearance. He was expected to operate it and safeguard it, as the replacement forms for it were considered highly tedious. At the Arkanis Academy, he was trained in operating an electro-prod in order to control a stubborn diplopod. He possessed rudimentary skills in operating Imperial computer systems, but lacked the slicing talents of his girlfriend, Merei Spanjaf.
Behind the scenes
- "Zare would be one of the newcomers, part of a family that genuinely wanted the galaxy to be a better place and thought the Empire was making that happen. How would someone with that background react to Lothal, and deal with the creeping realization that the Empire was actually making the galaxy far worse?"
- ―Author Jason Fry explaining Zare Leonis's origins
Zare Leonis first appeared as the lead character in Jason Fry's Servants of the Empire series, a four-part tale covering the character's infiltration of the Galactic Empire to find and rescue his sister, Dhara Leonis. His original appearance was seen in Servants of the Empire: Edge of the Galaxy, published in October 2014, with the series concluding with Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy, in October 2015. Leonis also appeared in Star Wars Rebels, in which he was voiced by Bryton James. Leonis appeared in Rebels episode "Breaking Ranks," first aired on Disney XD on November 3, 2014 and also had a brief appearance in "Vision of Hope," aired on February 2, 2015.
The basics of Zare Leonis's backstory, that he was an immigrant to Lothal who wanted to serve the Empire and that his older sister had disappeared while in service to the Empire, were inherited by Jason Fry, with him being left to shape the finer details.
Fry cringed at the idea of some fans that Leonis's character must be in some way related to Finn, the stormtrooper turned Resistance member first seen in Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. He believes he was not made aware by the Lucasfilm Story Group of Leonis being black until after he had begun his work on the Servants of the Empire series and had developed a storyline regarding anti-alien prejudice. He considers Leonis's being a black quarterback a happy accident with real-world implications, even though white-on-black racism does not exist within the world of Star Wars.
As of March 29, 2017, author Jason Fry stated that he knew of no plans for further adventures of Zare Leonis's character, but he had ideas for where his campaign against the Empire and his relationship with Merei Spanjaf might go if it were decided for the adventures to continue. He further stated that should they not that it was "fun to think of Zare and Merei continuing the good fight."
Leonis was featured as card #18 in the trading card set 2015 Topps Star Wars Rebels. The details provided regarding the character on the card mostly conform to those stated in other sources, though it lists his homeworld as being "unknown," when it was actually revealed to be Uquine in Servants of the Empire: Rebel in the Ranks. There is also some inconsistency regarding Leonis's age. Although Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide stated that he was fourteen years old as of the events of the Rebels episode "Breaking Ranks," the episode's book adaptation, Rebel in the Ranks, stated Leonis was fifteen years old and his fifteenth birthday was depicted earlier in Edge of the Galaxy.
- Who Are the Rebels?
- Servants of the Empire: Edge of the Galaxy (First appearance)
- Servants of the Empire: Rebel in the Ranks
- Star Wars Rebels – "Breaking Ranks"
- Spark of Rebellion: A Star Wars Rebels Cinestory Comic
- Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice
- Star Wars Rebels – "Vision of Hope"
- Path of the Jedi: A Star Wars Rebels Cinestory Comic
- "Assessment"—Star Wars Rebels Magazine 11
- Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy
Notes and references
- Servants of the Empire: Rebel in the Ranks
- Servants of the Empire: Rebel in the Ranks, which adapts the events of the Star Wars Rebels episode "Breaking Ranks," states that Zare Leonis's is fifteen years old. As Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates this episode to 5 BBY, it can be deduced that Leonis was born in 20 BBY.
- Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide
- Star Wars Rebels: Head to Head
- Servants of the Empire: Edge of the Galaxy
- Star Wars Rebels – "Breaking Ranks"
- Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice
- Star Wars Rebels – "Vision of Hope"
- "Assessment"—Star Wars Rebels Magazine 11
- Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy
- Dawn of Rebellion
- "Star Wars Rebels Recounted" – Star Wars Insider 156