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This article is about the Imperial Sector Commander. You may be looking for the lieutenant in Darth Krayt's Galactic Empire.

"Nature seems to have compensated for his lack of hair by making him exceptionally thick-headed!"
―Simon Greyshade, regarding Zertik Strom[src]

Zertik Strom was an officer in the Imperial Navy who, in 0 ABY, launched an ill-fated attempt to seize control of the massive casino space station known as the Wheel. The son of an Imperial governor, the relentlessly ambitious Strom quickly established himself as a fast riser in the Imperial Navy, gaining renown for single-handedly putting down a rebellion on the planet Armstiss while still just a lieutenant. Strom was soon made not only one of the youngest fleet commanders in history, taking control of a Pursuit-class light cruiser known as the Enforcement, but also the Sector Commander of the Mid Rim region containing the Wheel.

Although the Wheel had long had a deal in place preventing Imperial troops from operating aboard the station, Strom desired access to the station's profits and devised a plan to justify an Imperial takeover. Strom staged Rebel attacks on merchant starships in Wheel space, and although station administrator Simon Greyshade quickly sussed out Strom's intentions, he struck a deal with the commander to allow his plot to go through in exchange for Leia Organa, a Rebel leader hiding aboard the station with whom Greyshade had long been infatuated. Although Strom accepted the proposition to work together, the wily Greyshade soon stabbed Strom in the back, instead partnering with the Rebels to expose his plans. Greyshade's duplicity led to an all-out battle between Strom's stormtroopers and Wheel Security, in which Greyshade killed Strom with a proton grenade and put an end to his schemes.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Fast riser[edit | edit source]

"The Wheel's sanctuary is a courtesy of the Empire. As the Empire's chief representative in this sector, I elect to withdraw that courtesy—until our troopers find and slay every being on that freighter!"
―Commander Strom[src]

A relentlessly ambitious young Human male Imperial officer, Zertik Strom made his name in the years leading up to the Battle of Yavin, where he became one of the youngest fleet commanders in the history of the Imperial Navy. Strom's father was the military governor of the planet Daschua, and Strom was driven from early on in his adult life to advance up the career ladder. Strom first came to wider attention while serving as a lieutenant underneath a Captain Strayit on the Marshall Awe. The young officer earned renown for single-handedly suppressing a rebellion by the Poporov merchants of Armstiss, not only taking a blaster bolt intended for Strayit but fighting through the pain to shove a thermal detonator down the resistance leader's pants and throw him off a cliff onto the rioters. The ensuing blast leveled the merchant district, killed most of the rebels and caused the few survivors to lose heart, and Strom was rewarded with a promotion to first officer of the warship Peacehawk.[3]

Zertik Strom and Simon Greyshade conference aboard the Wheel.

On the Peacehawk, Strom served under General Ulric Tagge, a member of the ancient and wealthy House of Tagge. Although Tagge regarded Strom as perhaps too ambitious for his own good, Strom earned a sterling reputation in his new post, and before long he had advanced to command his own fleet of patrol ships. Strom's new group of warships was led by a Pursuit-class light cruiser known as the Enforcement.[3] Strom also took a leadership position as a starfighter pilot, personally commanding a squadron of TIE Advanced x1 fighters.[4] Although Strom had found himself in a relatively high station at a young age, he was still driven by a compulsion to continue to rise.[3] In 0 ABY, he had become Sector Commander of the region of space containing the Wheel, a massive space station that served as one of the galaxy's most popular and profitable casino resorts. In his capacity as the area's commander, Strom formed an uneasy relationship with Wheel administrator Simon Greyshade, formerly of the Imperial Senate.[2]

The Wheel had long enjoyed a peculiar position within the Empire: the "immunity sphere" surrounding the station ensured that Imperial ships were barred from the facility in exchange for taxes and an enforcement of an anti-alien bias.[3] However, the ever-ambitious Strom had eyes on the Wheel's steady profit stream,[5] and in 0 ABY, he got to work on a plot to launch an official Imperial takeover of the Wheel. Several months after the Battle of Yavin, Strom's starfighters attacked a House of Tagge merchant ship transporting Wheel profits, staging the incident to look like a Rebel raid[2] and secretly stashing the credits for himself.[5] The assault destroyed the ship and left it listing—Strom called his fighters back to the Enforcement immediately after, laying in wait for the next ship to come upon the wreck so he could pin them as Rebel marauders. As it happened, that next ship was none other than the Millennium Falcon, a freighter belonging to Rebel hero Han Solo that had played a crucial part in the famous Rebel victory at Yavin. The Millennium Falcon immediately broke for the Wheel upon encountering the Enforcement, and although Strom ordered his crew to open fire, the deceptively nimble craft made it to the station unharmed.[2]

Although the existing agreement between the Empire and the Wheel prohibited uniformed stormtroopers from boarding the station, Strom elected to withdraw the Wheel's sanctuary courtesies and send troops aboard to apprehend the crew of the Falcon. The Enforcement landed at the Wheel's Imperial dock, and Strom's troops began roughly interrogating Wheel Security about the fugitives' whereabouts, prompting a holo-call from a furious Greyshade. Strom refused the former senator's demand that he withdraw his soldiers, claiming that the fugitives had plundered the Tagge ship and stolen the Wheel profits—a lie that Greyshade bought, convincing the administrator to allow Strom to continue his pursuit on the condition that one of the Rebels be brought to him alive for questioning. Strom accepted the deal even though he had no intention of leaving any of his quarry alive, fearing that they could call his story into doubt.[2]

Plots and counterplots[edit | edit source]

"Strom... I think you've gone mad."
"Merely reckless, Greyshade. Though not as much as you... or do you deny that's a Rebel leader by your side?
―Simon Greyshade and Zertik Strom[src]

Zertik Strom destroys one of Master-Com's droid bodies.

However, Strom soon found himself double-crossed by the duplicitous Greyshade, who recognized via security recording that one of the Rebels hiding aboard the Wheel was an old Senatorial acquaintance, Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, with whom he'd long been infatuated. Although he'd promised to allow Strom's stormtroopers to hunt down the Rebels, Greyshade instead sent Wheel Security to capture Organa and Solo and bring them to him on the command deck. Strom was enraged when he found out about Greyshade's treachery, bursting into Greyshade's chambers with a squad of stormtroopers and destroying the droid body of Master-Com, the artificial intelligence that governed the Wheel's systems. Strom threatened Greyshade's life with his blaster, only to be disarmed by, to his surprise, Master-Com, which had used its ability to upload its consciousness into a new droid body. Unperturbed, Greyshade asked Strom into his chambers, where he approached the commander with an unexpected offer: the former senator had long been fixated on Organa, and revealing that he knew all about Strom's plot, proposed that he would let Strom proceed with his plans if he allowed Greyshade to have Organa at the end of it all. Greyshade also promised to eliminate Organa's companions: Solo, his Wookiee first mate Chewbacca, and a young man named Luke Skywalker who had been unconscious for some time in the Wheel's medical bay.[6]

Not believing his luck, Strom was delighted to accept the deal,[6] and with Greyshade out of his hair he got back to work creating a pretense for an Imperial takeover of the Wheel. Strom soon staged another Rebel attack near the Wheel, this time using an X-wing starfighter to devastate a Rulaarian pleasure yacht almost immediately upon its departure from the station. The ship's destruction terrified the Wheel's denizens, but their fear soon turned to exultation when a squadron of Strom's TIE fighters conveniently arrived just in time to dispatch the X-wing and save the day. Greyshade paid Strom a visit on the Enforcement that night and rebuked the commander for what he saw as a clumsy and transparent staged attack, driving Strom into a rage as he refused to alter the pace of his plot. Strom demanded action from Greyshade in turn, and the administrator promised him that the deaths of Organa's companions were a foregone conclusion: in fact, Solo and Chewbacca had been entered in the Wheel's infamous "Big Game" gladiatorial contest, where they both had been set up to die. Greyshade even invited Strom to watch the battle from the casino's lavish royal lounge, and at Greyshade's suggestion, the commander gave his crew shore leave to watch the Big Game and gamble to their hearts' content.[7]

However, even as Greyshade wined and dined Strom in the luxury box, the administrator was once again working behind the Imperial commander's back. With Strom and his crew enjoying leave on the station, Greyshade sent a team of Wheel Security onto the Enforcement, storming the cruiser and reclaiming the pirated Wheel profits Strom had taken from the Tagge ship.[5] Meanwhile, while watching the fights with Greyshade in the royal lounge, Strom suddenly felt faint and collapsed: Greyshade had drugged his drink. As it happened, the ever-deceitful former senator had actually been working on another plan all along. First, he allowed Organa and an awakened Skywalker to obtain video of Wheel Security recovering the stolen profits from Strom's ship, evidence that would expose Strom's scheme. Then, Greyshade lured the pair into a trap, apprehending them and offering them an alternate deal: he would allow the Rebels to expose the Empire's dealings and to escape unharmed, only in exchange for Organa remaining with Greyshade. While Strom remained unconscious on the lounge floor, Organa and her friends became the latest to accept a proposition from Simon Greyshade.[8]

Zertik Strom and Simon Greyshade's final confrontation

Strom finally awoke from his stupor to find Greyshade's plot well underway: Greyshade, Organa and Skywalker were preparing to leave the station, while Solo had met his apparent death at the hands of Chewbacca in the Big Game. Strom stumbled onto the casino deck and, with a crowd of onlookers, declared martial law on the Wheel and ordered his troops to kill Greyshade and the Rebels on sight. Strom was heartened to find that the civilians, convinced of the genuineness of the Rebel attacks on Wheel space, generally supported his position. Strom's announcement brought his stormtroopers and Wheel Security into open conflict, starting a battle that added another dimension when Master-Com uploaded a recording of Wheel Security recovering the stolen profits from the Enforcement, causing a riot among the Wheel civilians who realized that Strom had duped them. The fighting quickly engulfed the Wheel, and Strom made a beeline for Greyshade, who made his stand in the smoke-filled docking bay. Strom battled his way through the mob to confront the administrator, whose blasters had run out of charge. However, the wily Greyshade had one more trick up his sleeve: a proton grenade which he used to blow Strom to smithereens and deal himself a mortal wound in the process.[1] With both Strom and Greyshade dead, the Empire ultimately took control of the Wheel, although Master-Com eventually became administrator when the Rebels liberated the station several years later.[3]

Personality and traits[edit | edit source]

"I believe in action, Senator... and I'm not departing the Wheel until I see some from you!"
―Zertik Strom, to Simon Greyshade[src]

Zertik Strom piloting his TIE Advanced x1 starfighter

Unlike many Imperial officers, Commander Strom was not motivated by patriotism or honor—his first and foremost pursuit was accruing power for himself. And to Strom, gathering power meant forever moving upward in his career, as he believed that true power came from the respect and subordination of others. Although his bald head was his most striking feature, Strom was a muscular, powerful man, which allowed him to perform certain physical feats that aided him on his single-minded rise up the career ladder. However, even the lofty station in which Strom found himself at a relatively young age was never enough for him, eventually leading him to grasp for even more in his doomed plot to take over the Wheel.[3] Strom's ambition was augmented by a violent and explosive temper, and an impatience that prompted him to move his plans along as fast as he possibly could.[7]

Strom's TIE Advanced

The ruthless and cunning Strom got the opportunity to show his guile during the affair on the Wheel, but he ultimately didn't prove clever enough to fool Simon Greyshade, a man who prided himself on his duplicity, and who read Strom's scheme and outmaneuvered him at several turns. Strom was not a man who took being outwitted lightly, as he responded by flying into rages and quickly turning to violence. However, Strom was still glad to work with Greyshade when the opportunity arose,[6] feeling that he had little choice otherwise: Strom would be ruined if his superiors learned that Greyshade had uncovered his plans, while Greyshade's life would be forfeit if he was found to be harboring a Rebel leader, creating a situation where the two had to trust one another. Although he was working with a man who he found to have no principles, Strom's volatile mood changed for the better in the days after their partnership was formed, although in his eagerness to assert control he began to rush things and make some clumsy errors.[7] That soon changed when Greyshade betrayed Strom for the final time, leading to the commander to give into his rage again and ending in his violent death.[1]

Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]

Commander Strom originally appeared in Star Wars 18: The Empire Strikes, written by Archie Goodwin and released in 1978,[2] and appeared as a major antagonist in several ensuing issues of the original Marvel Star Wars comic run. During his comic appearances, Strom was illustrated by Carmine Infantino.[1] Over 30 years later, Strom's first name of Zertik was given in Viva Space Vegas! The History of the Marvelous Wheel, a pair of 2013 reference articles written by Abel G. Peña and Rich Handley, which gives additional background information on the character.[3]

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

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