How Wilhuff Tarkin's Own "Apprentice" Nearly Killed Princess Leia
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One of the greatest aspects of the Star Wars franchise is its ability to deliver stories across various different outlets, not just in the form of movies. We've had many books focusing on some of our beloved characters, as well as TV shows and comics. This helps make it appeal to all sorts of fans. Lately, Marvel have had huge success with their comics focusing on the galaxy far, far away with one (simply titled Star Wars) focusing on the time between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. During this series, we are introduced to a deadly character in the form of Commander Zahra, who almost successfully manages to kill Leia and alter the story as we know it.
Zahra is introduced as a Commander in the Imperial Navy, commanding the Star Destroyer Tarkin's Will and seems to have a very personal vendetta against the Rebels, in particular Leia. As the series progresses, we learn her backstory and begin to understand the driving force behind her. She rose through the ranks of the Empire and attracted the attention of none other than Governor Wilhuff Tarkin. Seeing her potential, he brought her and two other candidates to his homeworld of Eriadu and tasked them with hunting down an albino veermok on the Carrion Plateau. The successful candidate would become his personal protege or apprentice. Zahra grasps this opportunity with both hands. Not only does she bring back the head of the veermok, but she also takes out her competition, seeing them as nothing more than an additional test.
Tarkin is very pleased with her results and so keeps his promise. As the Empire continued to rise, Zahra rose with it under Tarkin's mentorship. After several years of working alongside him, she attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the Imperial Navy and began seeing him very much like a father figure, as well as a mentor.
Around 0 BBY (before the Battle of Yavin), Zahra is sent on a mission by Tarkin to wipe out the warlord Burnium Ro on the planet Ikkrukk. She is given command of Tarkin's own flagship, the Carrion Spike, and takes a strike force. Finding her target, she follows him to his base and destroys it.
Expecting to return to yet more praise from her mentor, Tarkin informs her that her mission was actually a failure. She had not killed Ro, but instead a decoy. This results in Tarkin questioning his choice of her as apprentice and so he sent her to be reassigned. Destroyed by this, and determined to amend her mistake, she instead tries to track the real Ro down. After finding him, she returns to the Death Star seeking an audience with Tarkin, but this just happens to be at the same time the Rebels are making their attempt at destroying the space station. She is refused her audience, so steals a shuttle and leaves to finally kill Ro. However, as she leaves, the station is destroyed by the Rebels. As we all know, Tarkin's present at the time of destruction, and Zahra holds Leia responsible for his death, swearing vengeance on her.
Flash forward to present day, to the time of The Empire Strikes Back, after the Rebels escape Hoth, Darth Vader himself seeks Zahra out on the planet Kessell. She had been assigned here in charge of the mining facility following the Battle of Yavin. He gives her the chance to avenge her fallen mentor.
She takes control of a Star Destroyer, which was damaged during the Battle of Yavin, and rechristens it Tarkin's Will. Her crew is also made up of Imperials who lost someone close to them in the Death Star's destruction, giving all those on board extra incentive to aid her in her hunting down of the Rebel survivors.
Zahra uses a tracking system she developed some time ago to track down divisions of the Rebel fleet and sets about obliterating them one by one, leaving each division in a very vulnerable situation. Eventually, her hunt leads her to Fourth Division, in which Leia Organa is present. Seeing the opportunity to confront her nemesis, Zahra uses her shuttle to board the ship Leia is on, despite being in the midst of a space battle. Successful, she makes her way to the engine room and disables the safety systems. She then contacts the vessels commanders and informs them of its imminent destruction, if Leia does not come to her in the engine room herself.
Not willing to sacrifice anyone for herself, Leia goes to the engine room to confront Zahra. Zahra hides in the shadows and promises Leia freedom if she can make it to the other end of the room safely. As Leia attempts to do just that, Zahra begins telling her life story whilst randomly attacking. She is successful in slashing Leia more than once with her blade, but before she is able to strike a final blow, she is contacted by Tarkin's Will to say they need to flee the battle. As she attempts to flee, she is also confronted by Luke Skywalker, but she easily evades him and makes it safely back to her ship via jetpack.
Although she's not able to deliver a killing blow, Zahra's content with what she has achieved, as she believes her ability to attack Leia and draw blood would mean the Rebels would lose faith in their leader and see her as less of a symbol, more human. We know, of course, that this fails, but it just goes to show, had he not been contacted by her ship to flee, Zahra could easily have killed Leia, and this would have led to a very different outcome indeed.
Did you know about this character and these events? Be sure to let us know your thoughts.
Until next time!
Written By Jordan McGlinchey
Syndicated From Culture Slate