Tom Angleberger is the author of the Origami Yoda series, and two in-universe Star Wars stories: a novelization of Return of the Jedi called Beware the Power of the Dark Side! and The Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear! Below, he introduces a selection from his new short story “Bane’s Story,” part of the upcoming collection The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark, due out on Aug. 25.
The Clone Wars is so good. Watching new episodes back in the day, it really felt like a weekly gift someone was giving us. So much imagination, so much artistry, so much care went into those story arcs.
I almost missed it. I was busy writing my own Star Wars-inspired stories. Luckily, Origami Yoda readers kept sending me pictures of their own Clone Wars origami. Before my book series had ended, The Clone Wars had infiltrated the pages and I was hooked on the show. It added so much depth to the stories of Anakin, Padme, Obi Wan, Captain Rex, Boba Fett, Darth Maul and other movie characters. But I also loved the new characters, especially Ahsoka and Ventress and the collision of their storylines.
And then there’s Cad Bane. Bane is just straight up great Star Wars: a planet-hopping bounty hunter that stepped right out of a spaghetti western. (In fact, he was inspired by The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’s Lee Van Cleef.) The story arc where Bane is hired to kidnap Palpatine is loaded with classic Western material. Dooku’s putting a gang together to pull a big job — the biggest — but first he’s got to get the gang leader, Eval, out of jail. So he hires Bane to bust him out — in coffins, no less — but a masked outlaw tags along. The outlaw says he’s Rako Hardeen, the man who killed Obi-Wan Kenobi.
But the way the show tells that story, we know all along that the masked outlaw isn’t Hardeen. It’s really the hero, Obi-Wan Kenobi, in a high-tech disguise. Seen from that point of view, it’s a very important part of Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side. He, too, is deceived by Obi-Wan, after all.
There’s some heavy stuff there, but I wanted to focus on the fun parts by telling the story from Bane’s point of view and in his own, tough-as-a-gundark, voice. He doesn’t know it’s Obi-Wan behind that mask. In fact, he doesn’t have any idea just how far the lying and deceit go … and they go way beyond Obi-Wan, who, of course, is being fooled, too, along with all of the Jedi.
That’s The Clone Wars: secrets, lies and betrayals. Who can you trust to give it to you straight?
Cad Bane. See, he never got paid for the job. So now he’s ready to tell all – from the jailbreak to the shoot-out on Naboo.
But before he can discover the truth he’s got to pass Dooku’s deadly test, known only as ... The Box.
I was curious to see who else Eval and Dooku had talked into taking their test. It was an ugly bunch, and Hardeen didn’t do much to make it prettier.
There were a couple old acquaintances, including that Kyuzo Embo. You know him, right? He’s not half bad. Not half as good as me, though.
There were also a couple old enemies and a few small-timers I’d never met.
But the one that stood out was the slime-sucking, knock-kneed hammerhead wearing my hat. Well, it wasn’t my hat, but it looked a lot better than the one I’d picked up on Nal Hutta.
“Nice hat,” I said. “Where did you get it?” Everybody got real quiet waiting to hear his answer. He looked me up and down before he answered—by reaching for his blaster.
I drew one of my LL-30s and blasted him before he even got his gun out of its holster.
I plucked my new hat off his head as he crashed to the floor. A perfect fi t.
“Well,” said Dooku. “It looks like Bane has found our first weak link. Anyone else have unfinished business to take care of ? No? Then welcome to the tournament.”
Dooku waved at Eval’s big box. From up close it looked like a building-sized womp rat trap.
And when we got inside I realized that was basically all it was: a trap. Nothing but dirty tricks and trapdoors. Flamethrowers in one room. Poison gas in the next.
And always some sort of trick before you could escape—like diving through the poison gas to find the exit.
I never had much trouble getting through each door, but what bothered me was that I was usually the second one through. Hardeen kept getting there ahead of me.
Twazzi beat me a couple times, too. You ever meet her? Well, watch your back if you do. She’s as fast as a Thunian wart-hornet and kinda looks like one, too.
Embo wasn’t as fast, but he always managed to make it through each door just in time.
The last challenge was an impossible round of target shooting. Normally, a moving target’s no challenge for me. But this one moved at random. No way to guess where it was going to go next.
And did I mention we were standing on a narrow platform high above a pit of flames?
This cocky gunner, Sixtat, grabbed the rifle Eval had supplied us.
“Step back, boys. I’ll show you how it’s done.”
He started blazing away. He got a couple hits and then he missed. The platform gave way underneath him, and he fell into the pit of flames.
Not sure which killed him, the fall or the flames, but either way I wasn’t in a big hurry to go next.
“I get it,” said Hardeen. “If we miss the target, this platform gets smaller. Soon there won’t be any platform left.”
Another hatch opened and Hardeen grabbed the rifle inside.
At least I’ll finally get rid of him, I thought.
Except I didn’t. That ugly son of a Hutt never missed.
Seven shots. Seven hits. Seven impossible hits. Who was this guy?
Then he went for eight and his rifle just clicked.
“Oh, what a shame,” chortled Eval from the doorway. “Out of charges. It’s also important for a bounty hunter to be lucky . . . and your luck just ran out.”
He tapped a controller. The platform under Hardeen disappeared.
And that cocky punk fell into the pit.
I flung out my electro-lash and caught Hardeen before he hit the flames.
Well, like I told Eval right then: “If you’re going to kill him, do it like a man.”
Dooku must have agreed with me. A blank wall turned into a huge screen showing his face, and his voice boomed into the Box.
“You heard him, Eval. Show us what you are really made of.”
Most of the flamethrowers at the bottom of the box turned off , giving Hardeen and Eval a large space for a brawl. The rest of us watched from our platform.
It was hardly a fair fight. Eval had a controller to activate all the leftover dirty tricks he’d built into the Box. Flying droids swarmed Hardeen, and walls popped up to trap him in a maze.
And yet a minute later, Hardeen had trashed the droids and escaped the maze. Then he busted the controller and knocked Eval senseless. “Finish him, Hardeen,” Dooku’s voice boomed.
But Hardeen just walked away.
“Very disappointing,” grumbled Dooku.
“All due respect, I just want to do my job and get my money,” Hardeen said.
It was the first time I’d agreed with him about anything.
“Nevertheless,” said Dooku, still glaring at us from the screen, “congratulations on surviving the Box.”
Just like Eval had predicted, there were five of us left: me and Hardeen, Embo, Twazzi, and this gas bag Derrown. When I say he’s a gas bag, I don’t just mean that he talks too much. He’s a Parwan. Ever met one? They fill themselves up with some kind of gas and float around grabbing stuff with their tentacles. It looks ridiculous.
The rest of the twelve were all dead—killed by Eval’s cheap tricks and traps. I wasn’t exactly crying over any of them, but I was glad Twazzi had made it—she owes me money.
The platform lowered itself and we stepped off to join Hardeen and the cringing would-be crime lord, Moralo Eval.
“Tomorrow you will kidnap Chancellor Palpatine at the festival on Naboo,” Dooku told us. “With the leader of the Republic as our hostage we will demand the release of all Separatist prisoners. If our demand is not met, the Chancellor will be executed. Either way you will help reshape the galaxy.”
That old buzzard sure likes to hear himself talk. But the next thing he said did get my attention.
“The operation on Naboo will be run by Cad Bane. All of you work for him now.”
Hardeen started to object, but since he could barely stand after that beating, he gave in.
As for me, I was thinking about how much my fee would go up now that I was running the show.