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by Stephen J. Sansweet

The Death Star

Designed and constructed in secret, the Death Star is the brainchild of the sinister Grand Moff Tarkin, governor of the Imperial Outland Regions. On board the Death Star, there are hundreds of prison levels capable of detaining entire populations. Metal cells line the prison levels like dark hives, encasing prisoners inside small black rooms of thick armor plate. Soundproof and escape-proof, the cells grip their prisoners with hopelessness and hide grim scenes of illegal interrogation and torture. Princess Leia Organa finds herself isolated in Cell 2187 in Detention Block AA-23. Each detention block is run from a local command post, where cells can be closely monitored. In the event of any disturbance or malfunction, central command is automatically alerted.

In orbital construction yards circling a remote planet code-named Despayre, this battle station was pieced together by technicians, slaves, and titanic robot factory machines. The completed Death Star is powered by a hypermatter reactor and is capable of destroying an entire planet with its prime weapon, a horrific superlaser. This abomination is the galaxy's ultimate weapon, and the greatest symbol of the Emperor's absolute power. Thousands of turbolaser battery emplacements speckle the rugged surface of the battle station, designed to defend it against capital ship assaults. Countless hangar bays house TIE fighters, shuttles, and other combat and transport craft. The station seemed invincible.

On first inspection by Rebel leaders, the stolen plans of the Imperial Death Star only make the situation look hopeless. The battle station is even larger and more heavily armed than the Rebels expected. However, Jan Dodonna spots a crucial weakness in the Death Star's design, which might allow a one-man fighter to set off a chain reaction in the station's core reactor.

The weak point is a small thermal exhaust port, connected directly to the main reactor. This exhaust port, only two meters wide, is protected in a trench running 50 kilometers across the Death Star's surface, toward the upper pole. Turbolaser turrets protect most of the surface with a deadly hail of fire, but the far end of the trench is thinly defended. A ship maneuvering into the trench at this point might have a chance of surviving the run and bombing the exhaust port.

This single chink in the Death Star's armor is the only hope for the Rebel forces to defeat the sinister Imperial battle station before it uses its planet-destroying laser to obliterate the Rebel Base on the Fourth Moon of Yavin. Thoroughly ray-shielded against laser fire, the port can only be hit with proton torpedoes, making split-second timing of the torpedo fire absolutely critical.

During the Rebel attack against the Death Star, the Rebel X-wing pilot Red Leader fires his torpedoes at the exhaust port but scores only a near miss, one of the torpedoes striking the side of the trench (causing substantial damage) and the other leaving an impact scar close to the exhaust port. Even the X-wing targeting computer was not able to hit the port, leaving the hope of the Rebellion with Luke Skywalker, who turns off his computer at the last second. But, of course, the Force was with him.

Death Star II


After the destruction of the first Death Star, the Emperor ordered the construction of a second planet-destroying space station even larger than the first. Assembled in orbit around the emerald moon of Endor, the second Death Star is protected by an energy shield projected from the planet surface below. This titanic weapon is only part of an insidious plan to draw the Rebels into doomed combat, for the Death Star's incomplete structure hides its full operational capabilities, and it is a giant trap waiting to fatally ensnare the Rebel Fleet.

But, the Rebels had other ideas; with Admiral Ackbar in command in his Mon Calamari Cruiser. On seeing that it was a trap, Ackbar first signalled for a retreat. But Lando Calrissian, piloting the Millenium falcon, had faith in Han Solo and his team on the Endor moon, who were at that moment fighting a battle to get Death Star's shield down. Lando persuaded Ackbar to stick around a while longer; and boy, did that pay off! Soon enough, the shield was down; and the second Death Star was history...


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