The Cauldron is a novella by Atarumaster88. It is within the Origins of the Exiles as part of the Force Exile Series. The Cauldron tells of the experiences of the ARC trooper Alpha-28, one day known as Spectre, in 21 BBY.
Welcome, my friend, to a galaxy far, far away. Enter the realm of Jedi and bounty hunters, soldiers and droids, rulers and beggars, aliens and humans. From Stackpole’s Corellians to Traviss's Mandalorians, immerse yourself in a universe with the exotica of Zahn, the wit of Allston, the grimness of Stover, the daring of Ostrander, the imagery of Luceno, the detail of Wallace, and most importantly, the vision of George Lucas, to whom we owe it all. And if you listen close enough, you’ll hear the sweet sounds of John Williams’ score in the background. Welcome to Star Wars.
Before the dark times and before the Empire, the Jedi Knights were guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. Their presence sustained the Republic for centuries, but even they could not stop or foresee their own downfall. In the waning years of the Republic, Jedi, soldiers, and explorers strove to find their path, fought for causes dearly held, and discover themselves. Little did they know that these experiences would shape and try them to face the coming storm of exile—or worse. These are the origins of the exiles.
Amidst the strife and battle of the Clone Wars, the ARC troopers are the best of the best of the Republic's clone army, tasked with completing the hardest missions with the least assistance. Yet after a harrowing escape in space, ARC trooper Alpha-28 is assigned a top-secret mission to the volcanic world of Orin that will pit him against a duplicitous Republic official with intrigue that will challenge even a soldier of his abilities.
Rewinding the security footage, Alpha-28 started tracking each of the meals and where they were delivered. Sure enough, he found a discrepancy. Seven plates had been delivered to the Magma Conference Room. He checked the schedule—nothing was supposed to be happening in Magma. Now that was suspicious. After closing down his station and erasing his queries, he left the security room without mentioning his discovery to anyone. He’d unofficially bugged the room—along with all the conference rooms—hiding the device inside the counter-surveillance gear. He’d stop by his room, check on the logs from Magma, and send a quick report to the general during the natural lapse in attention caused by the shift change at security. Then it’d be time to swing by Magma if the situation warranted. He smiled tightly. Or if an opportunity presented itself.
- Alpha-28, Grand Army of the Republic (Human male)
- Roxana Taskien, Republic Intelligence (Human female)
The ARC trooper Alpha-28 narrowly escapes an ambush while onboard the Star Destroyer Pride of Anaxes. After returning to Coruscant and recovering from the attack, he is assigned a secret mission by General Venasee to kill a duplicitous Republic ambassador, Niven Rayees while the ambassador is negotiating with miners on the volcanic world of Orin. He is also to make the ambassador's death appear to be the fault of the miners, to put pressure on them. Meanwhile Republic Intelligence agent Roxana Taskien is tracking down leads of her, which lead her to join the delegation to Orin.
Taskien and Alpha-28 meet each other and start to get to know each other, but both have hidden purposes. The ARC plants small distractions and uses clever gambits to infiltrate the Republic's security systems on Orin with an eye to assassinate Rayees. Taskien is trying to stop a leak in the Republic from ruining the negotiations. Taskien eventually finds Rayees conducting shady side deals and he approaches her, trying to win her over. She rebuffs his advances and leaves, disgusted. Alpha-28 observes the exchange and is more convicted than ever in his mission. However, before he can act, the resort is attacked by mercenaries. Alpha-28 and Taskien lead the defense and repulse the mercenaries, with the ARC slightly wounded during the firefight. Afterward, though, Taskien learns that the general is actually the traitor, not the ambassador, and has been duping Alpha-28. With General Venasee on the way, Taskien searches out Alpha-28, knowing that he will soon make an attempt on the ambassador's life. She finds him and stops him by revealing what she has discovered and addressing him with the name "Spectre," which she had given him earlier. Instead of killing the ambassador, Spectre shoots down the general's gunship after Venasee opens fire on the Republic entourage. Taskien then tells Spectre, who's decided to keep the name, that he will likely be exonerated after a debriefing.
Behind the scenes
The Cauldron was released in May 2017 as the twentieth entry in the Yanibar Tales. At approximately 22,300 words long, it is one of the longer Yanibar Tales. The Cauldron is also one of only three Yanibar Tales to be set during the prequel movie timeframe. It, along with the other prequel movie-era stories, was moved to Origins of the Exiles in July 2020.
The Cauldron was written as the intended prequel to Force Exile III: Liberator, which was released three years prior and would explain both Spectre's history with Taskien and the origin of his name. The long delay was due to Atarumaster88 losing interest in writing the story and the lack of a good outline and plot for the story. The plot proved difficult to work with and unwieldy due to needing to write all of the intrigue in a believable manner while also developing a deeper relationship between Spectre and Taskien. While the first draft was finished in last 2016, a major plot hole identified by a beta-reader that undermined a key plot element was cause for Atarumaster88 to pause work for several months until he found the motivation to finish the story. The work was published in May 2017 after revisions that left it considerably longer to correct that error. After an extensively critical review by Sakaros in May 2020, Atarumaster88 used that feedback as well as input from his wife to correct and re-vamp the story, which was re-released in July 2020. At that time, the story was also moved from the Yanibar Tales to Origins of the Exiles as part of a larger reorganization of the pre-Fugitive content of the series.
The Cauldron is relatively light on references to canon works. Orin is a canonical planet, but aside from that, the only other canonical reference was to Spectre using a similar trick as Garik Loran in Mercy Kill to compromise the Republic's datanets. This was intentional, as Mercy Kill was the last canonical work that the author bought and invested in before the old Expanded Universe was declared non-canon.
Outside of Star Wars, the tone and themes of The Cauldron were influenced by the Bourne series and other spy thrillers in a similar vein. The eponymous natural feature of the story was inspired by a picture of a natural gas fire in Turkmenistan known as the Door to Hell.
Recognition and reception
The Cauldron currently has no awards or featured work status.
Notes and references
|Force Exile Series|