Unlike Charles Soule’s short story in the last two Star Wars Insider issues, the character we meet in First Duty, Velko Jahen, is new. Go Together, which had the benefit of having characters that we would meet in Light of the Jedi, was almost two separate stories in one (before and after The Great Disaster) and had a compelling married couple whose motto ties seamlessly with the title.
First Duty is one single short story that serves mainly as an introduction to high-level staff members aboard the Starlight Beacon. Because this story is carrying the weight of introducing so many characters who we will probably see in some capacity moving forward, it is not as engaging as Go Together and the story is secondary to the background information of the main character.
Note: Because these are short stories, I will completely spoil the plot so be warned.
First Duty: Part One
In the first few paragraphs of First Duty Part One, Velko Jahen’s description of Starlight Beacon is “a gleaming lightsaber revolving regally in the star-filled expanse of the frontier.” It is the kind of description that is so dead-on that I wonder why it hasn’t been written in copy in any of The High Republic content until now. It is also how Jahen sees the Starlight Beacon: as a symbol of hope and salvation from the horrors of her past. She is a Soikan, which is an entirely new species being introduced to canon (and maybe that is why we get an illustration of the character that we didn’t for the first short story).
And because it is a new species to the Star Wars universe, we get a little back story on Soika, specifically that it had at some point during Jahen’s lifetime gone through a conflict, resulting in war. Formerly a veteran of the Soika Liberation Force now newly-appointed Republic Administrator, Jahen is in awe of the new station even amidst the chaos caused by The Great Disaster.
During her hurried tour to meet her direct supervisor, Rodor Keen, Velko runs into Jedi Master Estalu Maru, who we have seen in The High Republic comics dealing with a Hutt corpse. I am sure Rodor Keen being the Head of Republic Operations on Starlight will be a reoccurring character as we get more stories in the novels and comics set on the Starlight Beacon, but for now Keen pawns Jahen off to Security Chief, a Mon Cala named Ghal Tarpfen who also is a new arrival at Starlight.
Things go south from there as Jahen finds herself keeping guard over Ambassador Ceeril of Rion (an Outer Rim planet which has been mentioned briefly in Rebels) who is a level ten paranoid that someone is trying to kill him. However, the fears appear to be justified when, after a distraction with a medical patient attacking the staff draws her and Tarpfen away momentarily, they find Ceeril unconscious from a blaster bolt to his chest.
First Duty: Part Two
Given that there was an assassination attempt on the Starlight Beacon, it was only a matter of time before the Marshal of the station, Jedi Master Avar Kriss, made her way into the story and Jahen’s hero-worshipping is on full display. Kriss has built a reputation from the events of the Light of the Jedi (people in the galaxy are referring to her as the Hero of Hetzal). Kriss, Master Assek, and Burryaga have just returned from a diplomatic mission and naturally have questions. After reviewing the security footage and seeing that the signal was scrambled right before the attack, Jahen figures out that Ceeril orchestrated his assassination attempt, presumably to get the Hassarians thrown off Starlight Beacon though that is never made clear. The conclusion is all wrapped up quickly with Jahen impressing Keen, Tarpfen, and the Jedi before a distress signal indicates a problem in the Kazlin system. And on to the next adventure and an end to this oddly paced short story.
The story focuses on various conflicts with species in the Outer Rim: Jahen’s home planet has two dominant species of Soikans, the Livtak and Gagic (who are distinguished by color) and she is a mix of both. Meanwhile, Ceeril, who is a Skembo, feels his life is in danger because members of a species rival, the Hassarians, are also in the med center. These mini conflicts and tensions could be a hint at what’s to come in future stories as the Republic continues to expand its influence in the Outer Rim, and the Nihil continue to undermine them.
Perhaps Velko Jahen will be important to The High Republic and this short story will serve as a key insight to her decision-making in future stories, but I think she would have been served better being introduced in Scott’s The High Republic comic first. Canon junkies who are reading these short stories would have likely read the comic and would be able to put faces to the characters on the page.
As for the publishing method, I know placing these stories in Star Wars Insider Magazine is a way to drive purchases for canon junkies; however, by having these spaced out in parts with a month in between, and not having the engagement of a comic book with illustrations, the stories are not engaging enough to stay with you or want to read again.
I do think they should consider publishing these at the end of future novels as they have done this in the past with other short stories from Star Wars Insider. Or even publish these in a short story collection of tales from Starlight Beacon (if Canto Bight can get a book of short stories, Starlight Beacon sure can).
Next month’s issue is the first part of the last short story planned for Star War’s Insider with author Justina Ireland.