We know it took a long time to design and build the Death Star before the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And now there’s a new morsel of evidence as to how those pesky Death Star blueprints managed to change hands after Count Dooku had them in Attack of the Clones.

It turns out, Death Star blueprints changed hands during a pivotal, clandestine series of events that unfolded sometime at the end of the Clone Wars, according to a new excerpt from the Rogue One prequel novel Catalyst, that just appeared in USA Today. It’s all very cloak-and-dagger, but here’s what happens: A young Orson Krennic busts Galen Erso out of some kind of prison, reunites him with his wife Lyra and daughter Jyn, and then has a shady datapad exchange with someone named Chieftain Gruppe on the planet Vallt. From the excerpt:

Krennic opened his jacket and pulled out a datapad, calling Gruppe’s attention to something on the display screen, “Satisfied?” Gruppe nodded and Krennic handed the datapad to the chieftain. “Yours to keep.”

Here’s what it seems like might have happened: At this point in time, Krennic seems to be a military official for the Republic, and he’s commanding units against the Separatists. But, even at this stage, it seems like he’s a covert operative, probably working directly for Palpatine. As we know in Attack of the Clones, the Separatists — specifically Count Dooku — had the Death Star Plans at that point.

Disney/Lucasfilm
Disney/Lucasfilm

And while everyone might have previously assumed that Dooku just gave the plans to Palpatine/Darth Sidious at the start of the Clone Wars, that probably isn’t what happened, mostly because it’s too simple. Everything about the Clone Wars was designed to look a certain way, while accomplishing more sinister goals. In Attack of the Clones, Dooku says that their primary concern is that the Jedi not discover their “ultimate weapon.” The distinction here is this: Dooku knows that the Separatists and Republic war is artificial, that essentially there is only one side: the eventual rise of the Empire.

So, with that in mind, here’s some conjecture mixed with the new Rogue One info from Catalyst. Someone — probably Krennic and Galen — did design the Death Star for a secret Republic project. This project — like the Clone Army — was hidden from the Jedi. At some point, Palpatine makes it seem like the Separatists “steal” the plans, which means Krennic then has to steal them back. Krennic might be in on this whole thing or he might not. Either way, it’s possible this datapad exchange we see in Catalyst is Krennic leaving this planet with the Death Star plans. Sure, it could be some other datapad, but if the whole story of Rogue One is about stealing the Death Star plans, then it makes sense that the prequel novel will be perpetually answering the question: Where are these blueprints now?

The article also mentions specifically that Grand Moff Tarkin will feature in the book, which is relevant since he’s seen in Revenge of the Sith with Vader and Palpatine overseeing the Death Star. Plus, he’s obviously running the Death Star in A New Hope. Could any of this lead to a surprise appearance from Tarkin in Rogue One?

In addition to the excerpt, the USA Today piece to also contains new information from Lucasfilm Story Group Creative Executive Pablo Hidalgo: “This [book] is the idea of understanding who were some of its architects and what were they thinking?” Hidalgo also compared the relationship between Krennic and Galen Erso to the Social Network, effectively making Krennic like Mark Zuckerberg and Galen akin to Eduardo Saverin, and Facebook … the Death Star?

Finally, the article also states that Jyn Erso is a very young child in this book, meaning the flashbacks we saw in the last Rogue One trailer might be in Catalyst but also, might not.

We’ll find out when Catalyst is published by Del Rey on November 15, one month before Rogue One hits theaters.

Photos via Disney/Lucasfilm