Justina Ireland ties the last Phase One Starlight short story into her novel Mission to Disaster and gives us a backstory for Ghal Tarpfen, the Mon Calamari Head of Security for Starlight. Velko, whose POV we have been used to having the past three stories, takes a back seat as we learn about Ghal’s past under unfortunate circumstances.
**Spoilers for Shadows Remain, Mission to Disaster, and The Fallen Star**
The Tragedy of Ghal Tarpfen
“Shadows Remain” begins within a dream of Ghal Tarpfen, and we learn something we did not know: She was a member of the Mon Cala Royal Guard. Her dream quickly becomes a nightmare as she is relieved of her duties because of a betrayal. The betrayal is that she fell in love with a male Mon Calamari named Shenrick, who was above her station. Well, that might be underselling, turns out Shenrick was third in line for the throne of Mon Cala (and we learn he is the current King). So, yes, the tough Mon Calamari Security Chief that has been giving Venko a hard time once fell in love with a Prince! But unlike Cinderella, what happened to Ghal and Shenrick is more realistic. Ghal was tossed aside so he could marry someone more aligned with his class (the Tarpfen family is near the bottom of Mon Cala society).
This Mon Cala doomed love story sets the stage for the predicament in which Ghal soon finds herself. During a late-night shift, Ghal gets a message from a Nihil with straight-forward demand: during her nocturnal rest cycle, she is to disable specific cameras on the station or else they will expose her past. While Ghal does not care about tarnishing the King’s reputation, she knows that the news will reflect and affect her family back on Mon Cala. As she waits to figure out how to approach this problem, a request from Ghirra Starros comes in, and Ghal goes to check in on the Senator, only to discover the Senator is working with the Nihil before she is subdued.
Ghal gets taken off of Starlight on a Nihil ship and, after subduing two Nihil (one which she recognizes is a Senator’s aide), she makes her way to navigation to try and escape. Other Nihil ships arrive and fire upon the ship before she can figure out the control system. Before she dies, Ghal sends a message out that the Senate is compromised, naming Senator Starros and the aide to Senator Noor of Sereno. Frustratingly, but not surprising, the name drop in her message is not clear when it reaches Starlight (which makes sense if you have read The Fallen Star), so Ghirra goes undetected.
The Jedi discover that Ghal was a target of extortion and get the remaining pieces of the puzzle from the Mon Calamari’s message that the Nihil are involved. Velko is distraught at the news of Ghal’s sacrifice but is determined to bring those responsible for her death to justice.
Looking at the Star Wars Insider Starlight stories as a whole, while some have been thoroughly entertaining, I was disappointed in the lack of different POVs. The initial announcement of these short stories promised perspectives from different people aboard the Starlight Beacon. In reality, it has only been three perspectives: Pikka and Joss Aldren, Velko Jahen, and now Ghal. But these short stories have mainly focused on Velko Jahen and her involvement in the Soikan Wars (also mentioned in Mission to Disaster by Dr. Mkampa to Avon Starros) and her romantic history with Vane from “Past Mistakes.” And Ghal’s POV is likely just a catalyst for Velko’s next journey (I do think she is still alive post The Fallen Star). It is a shame that we learn Ghal’s past is significantly more interesting right before she dies but, since she has only played a part in these short stories, it is not as impactful as someone like Stellan Gios’ death.
So where is Velko Jahen? We know that Starlight is sabotaged after this because events from Mission to Disaster are happening during this story (Imri Cantaros and Vice President of Dalna, Hackrack Bep, are on board). Velko Jahen appears in Mission to Disaster where she speaks with Imri, but she is not even mentioned in The Fallen Star. Therefore, it is not a stretch to wonder if she is on the ship at all during the most recent adult novel. It is hard to imagine that she would be on the station, and we would not hear from her at all since she is an aide to the Republic Head of Starlight Beacon and specializes in security. So, either it is a plot hole from The High Republic team in not mentioning her presence during the attack on Starlight, or she leaves shortly after the events of “Shadows Remain” to find the Nihil responsible for Ghal’s death.
I could go either way on this: I do not see the Soikan getting time off to chase Nihil for revenge, but they now have information that the Senate is compromised with Nihil operatives. Velko’s experience could be used to investigate this, which might put her in the path of Avon Starros (who now suspects her mother). A team of Velko, Imri, and Avon investigating Senators makes sense if Vernestra and Avon are off fighting more Nihil by the time events in The Fallen Star take place. I also believe that The High Republic team has meticulously planned this story and all the characters’ arcs so we will get an answer.
Pikka and Joss Aldren, who do appear in The Fallen Star, are somewhere in the galaxy with Affie, Leox, and Geode until they get a new ship. If we do not get a mention of Velko in Midnight Horizon or the comics past that, then we likely won’t know what happened until Phase Three as Phase Two will take place 150 years in the past. But Velko has been interwoven across publishing more than the Aldrens, appearing in the short stories, novels, comics, and even the audio drama The Tempest Runner. Along with her introduction to canon, we were also introduced to her species, the Soikans, and have since had some lore (specifically the Soikan War). The Soikan War seems important, especially now that it connects to other characters, like Dr. Mkampa, who is still around after Mission to Disaster.
Until we get more solid answers, we do know that the time on Starlight is over as next month’s story involves Jango Fett and Sam Wexler. I hope that The High Republic continues to publish fiction in Star Wars Insider because there are plenty of other spaces in the galaxy during this time that could use some extra love.