Velko Jahen returns in Hidden Danger, picking up the character that Cavan Scott created in First Duty. Velko, a veteran of the Soika Liberation Force, is now serving as an appointed Republic Administrator. The awe of the Starlight Beacon has worn off a bit as Velko has settled into her job. When we revisit her at the beginning of this story, she is preparing for the station to host Galactic Agriculture Alliance. It is not as exciting to the war veteran, but then she sees a girl with a plant that looks familiar. And then other strange things start happening…
Note: Because these are short stories, I will completely spoil the plot, so be warned.
A New Day, an Old Threat
Velko Jahan has Drengir trauma. Starlight is getting ready to host its first major event since the opening ceremony, which will see many agricultural scientists aboard Starlight. Being around plants does not sit well with Velko, having dealt with the Drengir infestation on Starlight from Marvel’s The High Republic. So when she runs into a little girl carrying a potted plant that looks very familiar, who is in a place she is not supposed to be, she is on high alert. She questions the girl, who turns out to be Avon Starros from Ireland’s middle-grade novel, A Test of Courage.
It is nice to see The High Republic authors bring their characters from one medium to another. Avon is trying to find a faster way to get the plant, which is fragile and needs high humidity to thrive, to the dining facility. Velko tries to get more information but loses the girl and ends up shrugging off the encounter. Days later a fight suddenly breaks out between two scientists who are friends and the Head of Security, Ghal Tarpfen, stuns them to stop the fight. Everything appears under control until alarms go off and the Jedi are called to the dining facility because a riot has started. The situation jogs Velko’s memory that the plant Avon was carrying had vines similar to the Drengir. Jedi Gil Jaretto tries to use the force to calm the scientists down, but that doesn’t work, and Tarpfen has the security droids release a crowd suppression. Questioning the scientists reveals that something they smelled from a plant triggered their aggression and led to fighting. Of course, this traces back to the plant that Avon had, and she and Tarpfen once again must investigate peculiar circumstances.
For a short story, a lot of details and information are packed into Hidden Dangers, and out of all the short stories so far, this could have the biggest impact moving forward. The mystery is solved when they meet Avon’s mentor, Professor Glenna Kip. Professor Kip created a hybrid, splicing a flower with a less violent strain of the Drengir. We can discuss, at length, the wisdom of experimenting with dangerous lifeforms and how often THAT works out for the best in Science Fiction stories, but characters never seem to learn. Kip reveals that the Republic believes the hardiness of the Drengir could be spliced with other crops to help less fertile worlds. Tarpfen and Velko have a reasonable response, worrying that other people could create hybrids for nefarious reasons, and the Drengir could begin seeding themselves. Kip says that won’t happen, that she has tried creating seeds from the Drengir, but it is impossible. Which means it likely will happen. Or Professor Kip and Avon’s work will be used by the Republic to ultimately defeat the Drengir.
While it is a little confusing how Avon went from experimenting on droids to working in galactic agricultural science, it makes sense that she would be working with a scientist who is modifying/cross-breeding plants. Avon is a logical, curious mind. She is also still in communication with Jedi Vernestra Rwoh and probably hears about all the problems the Jedi are facing in the galaxy, figuring that she could help people more working in agriculture science.
It is a unique pocket of the galaxy but a pocket that is relevant because of the Drengir. We know that they, like the Nihil, are defeated because they are no longer a threat during the Prequel era, so this scientific research could be a stepping stone in defeating them. There are other avenues explored in the novels that could lead towards eliminating or increasing the Drengir threat, but Hidden Danger seems like a gateway to both scenarios.
In addition, we learn that the hybrid’s vines produce a scent that gave Velko a darkside-type vision of a Drengir and memories of her time at war. These include watching her Commanding Officer, Aila Gris, get shot and killed. More opportunities for our High Republic citizens to face new horrors with Drengir hybrids that can give visions and cause aggression. As for the Drengir as secondary antagonists in The High Republic, I toggle between weariness and interest in the sentient plants. I wish they would either be silent or have better-constructed sentences, but adding new layers to the Drengir through hybrids keeps things interesting.
There is also more to learn about Velko and her past, so we will see if those stories continue in Star Wars Insider Magazine or if Velko will jump to novels or comics next. If she does, I hope her adventures continue under the pen of Justina Ireland as Hidden Dangers is the best short story so far out of the three.