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ALLIANCE INTELLIGENCEChapter 17THE SECRET ORIGIN OF MASTER QWARR





Jaig follows his Master through the plains of the next planet on their intergalactic tour: The isolated world of Echaban. Jaig’s mind is still unsettled by his brother’s outburst and the nagging feeling that Qwarr is hiding something from him.


    



These thoughts, joined with an overwhelming aura of negativity emanating from the planet itself, distracts the young Padawan, so that he is surprised when Qwarr turns around:

—“We’ll stop here, Jaig. Set up camp for the night”.






Later, night has fallen over the plains, and the two Jedi relax around a flickering fire.

—“Master,” Jaig asks. “Why are we here?”

“Well, that’s a most weighty question, young one”.






“No, why are we here, specifically here, on this world? I feel a… darkness about it. Like nothing I’ve ever felt before”.





“I have felt it too,” Qwarr replies. “The Dark Side is strong here”.

——“Then is it wise for us to stay?”

“We must stay, Jaig. I did not choose to land here for no reason. I felt called by the Force”.

“What do you mean?”






“I ought to have taught you this from the beginning. But now is as good a time as ever. You see, the Force connects and unifies every living being in the universe. As such, every being comes into existence with a purpose, destined to do some good that, though it may seem small, will bring light to the galaxy. But there is a choice. And many choose to turn their backs on their course, whether from greed, anger, or fear. This is what sets the Force off balance. That is the way of the Dark Side”.





“So you’re saying that it is our destiny to be here right now? And that the Force told you this? How does it speak to you?”

——“You have much to learn, Jaig, but it is growing late. We should rest”.

“Master,” Jaig murmers, as Qwarr lies back. “On Rocco 9, Master K’Kruhk said there was something about you I didn’t know. What was he talking about?”

——“I don’t know, Jaig. He never mentioned it to me. Now go to sleep”.






But as the Jedi drift into unconsciousness, Qwarr’s mind is troubled, haunted by dark shadows of the past…





He finds himself back in the halls of the Jedi Temple, surrounded by old friends. But his temporary sense of pleasant reminiscence comes to a halt when he realizes the occasion. It is the day of the Battle of Geonosis,





As his fellow Jedi depart, Qwarr pulls aside Coleman Trebor, recently appointed to the High Council.

——“Coleman, I can sense there is something you aren’t telling us.”

“Suun, there is nothing to worry about,” Coleman smiles in reply. “You have always been too worrisome, always seeing monsters in the dark. The Confederacy has crossed a line we must enforce. That is all”

——“What are these rumors of a secret army, I am hearing, then?”

“That is a mystery Master Yoda himself is following up on. Now come, or we will be late to the shuttle”.






Qwarr begins to follow Master Trebor when he is pulled aside by Clay Wondermauss, esteemed Jedi and Qwarr’s closest companion.

——“What troubles you, old friend?” he asks.






“I fear we have rushed into this battle. We know little of what lies on Geonosis, and…”

——“Calm yourself, Suun. You are tense. You need to stop worrying so much, it’s bad for your health”.

“Coleman already said as much,” Qwarr grumbles.

——“I think I know what you need. Jetta! Come here!” Clay beckons his young apprentice, Jetta Shyfleck.






“Oh, no. I’ve told you a thousand times, Clay, I don’t want an apprentice. They only get in your way”.

——“I hope you reconsider. Teaching youth keeps your mind sharp and strengthens your hope for the future. It’s just what you need”.

“Now you really are sounding like Coleman.” The two Jedi share a laugh as they walk down the corridor to the loading bay, never knowing what awaits them on the other side of the galaxy…






From this seemingly happy scene, Qwarr is dragged to Geonosis in the heat of the battle…





Forced to watch as the hopelessly outnumbered Jedi force is slaughtered…





Unable to stop as one by one his friends fall…





Victims of a war they would never understand.





The scene changes once more, and the painful memory gives way to a meditation chamber in the Jedi Temple. Qwarr’s past self is broken from his trance when Jetta enters.





“Master Qwarr, I need to talk to you,”

——“Yes, Jetta?”

“Before he di… before he became one with the Force, Master Wandermauss had talked to me about what I should do if… if anything ever happened to him. He said I was to ask you…”

——“No.”






“But Master,” Jetta looks desperately into Qwarr’s eyes. “You were his closest friend! What am I supposed to…” At this, the young apprentice breaks down, crying on Qwarr’s shoulder. Overcome by their combined since of loss, he chooses to agree to his friends request.

——“Yes Jetta, I’ll train you,” he pauses, considering the implications of this decision. “But you’ll need to pack your bags, I’m shipping out to the field tomorrow”.






-Now a flash through time, as Qwarr leads his own battalion of clones through a series of intense battles, slowly bonding with Jetta, yet all the while hiding the deep resentment within him, still stinging from the occurrences on Geonosis a year ago. Now, it stops at one battle, the one that would change everything…





It should have been a simple mission. Meet with a group of mercenaries to retrieve a top secret Speratist file and transfer it to Master Obi-wan Kenobi and his increasingly renowned Padawan, Anakin Skywalker. But an ambush has left Qwarr’s forces in retreat, and Kenobi and Skywalker are stranded in the jungle, directly in the path of the Separatist army. Having located the mercenaries, the file is now in Qwarr’s hands, and he orders a full scale operation. However, Jetta is not enthralled about the plan.





——“Master, I volunteer to lead the extraction team for Master Kenobi”. Qwarr silently turns to his apprentice.

“There is no extraction plan, Jetta”.

——“What?!” Qwarr tries to calm her, but to no avail.

“We can’t just leave them to die!”






——“We can and we will! This is a war, Jetta, and in wars, sacrifices must be made. It’s high time you realized that!”

“But Master, this is different. I had a vision last night! I know how to save them, clearly it’s the will of the Force for us to…”

——“Hogwash. You won’t jeopardize this mission and your own life because of a dream! Now go to the gunships…”

“But it’s the will of the Force. I know it! Master Wandermauss taught me many things about our purpose as Jedi…”

——“And look where it got him! He was an idealist, Jetta, and now he’s dead!”






Shocked, Jetta manages to sputter but a few words, before turning to run away. Qwarr watches her go, his pent up anger at his own Order blinding him from what is about to happen…





Deep within the jungle, Master Kenobi’s forces have been attacked and only a few are still standing.





“Sir!” Captain Rex runs up to Skywalker. “You and General Kenobi need to make a run for it! We won’t last much longer!”

——“No! There’s still a way out!” Anakin yells over the raging blaster-fire. “No one gets left behind!”






Suddenly, a cloaked figure leaps out of the jungle, attacking the advancing droids from behind! It is Jetta, and she has brought the band of mercenaries with her!





The Jedi are shocked at this sudden turn of events, as Jetta and the mercenaries decimate the Separatist forces!





However, as the fighting draws to a close, Master Qwarr’s subconscious mind struggles to turn away, for he knows there will be no happy ending to this battle…





And a lone Commando Droid fires off one fatal shot into the back of young apprentice Jetta Shyfleck.





With that lone shot, Jedi Master Suun Qwarr’s life is shattered forever. Years of pain and torment come rushing back as he is forced to relive this awful day. The day he turned his back on the Jedi Order…





The day he lost all hope…





Finally, the nightmarish vision stops and Qwarr awakes with an ear-splitting scream of horror!





“Master,” Jaig urgently asks. “What’s wrong?”

——“Nothing, Jaig. Just a… bad dream”. But suddenly, Qwarr realizes he can’t hide the truth forever. He must dispense with the shadows of the past if his new Padawan will ever trust him. With that, he looks up again. “There’s something I need to tell you”.






The next morning, the duo has broken camp, heading back across the plains to continue training.

——“Jaig, about what I told you last night,” Qwarr begins. “I sense that it troubled you”.

“Not at all Master.”






But as he walks, Jaig can’t help but feel disconcerted. Why had his Master not told him this before? And if Qwarr had lost faith all those years ago, could he really be trusted to teach him the ways of the Force now? These thoughts swirl around within the young Padawan’s mind, mixing and merging with the ominous cloud of darkness hovering over the planet.





And the source of that darkness lies just over the horizon, in the dungeons beneath the Castle Gathreel, training ground of the Imperial Inquisitors. Here, the final four members of the current class fight for their lives against prisoners in a lethal “exam”.





Kara Draco: A scholar at heart, Kara is an expert in the history of the Force. But her bookish demeanor masks a silent rage at being forever overlooked, a rage channeled through the dark side into power on the battlefield.







Luc Bar’Nett:
The son of a high-ranking Imperial official, Luc’s force-sensitivity was discovered early, and he has trained all of his life to master it. Arrogant, he has little regard for his classmates, and expects nothing short of graduating at the top of the class.






Gnarl: This savage warrior from a primitive, backwater planet was discovered when the Empire conquered his home world. His brutal nature and unwavering loyalty helped him overcome the Empire’s xenophobic nature and excel in Inquisitor training.





Mara Jade: A former street thief, Mara is plucky and resourceful, and is Headmaster Dreyfus’ favorite student. She is fervently devoted to the ideals of the Empire, having experienced first-hand life outside their legal code.





They are all observed by Headmaster Dreyfus himself. Beside him is Inquisitor Talya, one of the last of Nightsisters of Dathomir, spared by Palpatine himself in order to pass on her order’s dark arts to the next generation of Dark Side adepts.





“You have done well, Dreyfus”, Talya smiles. “Your first graduating class is the most successful ever”.

——“We’ll see,” Dreyfus murmurs. “There is still the Final left to be passed”.

“This battle nears a close. Is the champion ready?”






Dreyfus turns to the castle’s dungeon-keeper, who stands silently at attention.

——“Release the Wampa”.






“At once, my Lord”.





A creaking echoes throughout the arena. Mara immediately realizes what is happening.

——“Heads up, folks!” she yells. “Here comes the boss!”






Gnarl turns from dispatching the last two combatants…





But moves too slowly, and is batted away by a massive Wampa!





Mara and Kara rush to face the rampaging beast together.





“So, what’s the best plan of attack?” Mara asks her comrade.

——“Go together, each of us strikes from a separate side. Teamwork is key if…”






She is interrupted by a battle cry from Luc, who leaps through the air, pushes off the wall…





And dives at the Wampa, lightsaber whirling in the air…





Only to be casually brushed aside.





But the distraction gives time for his comrades to rush at the beast…





Striking it on both sides and cleaving it in two.





The battle over, Luc picks himself up out of the dirt.

——“That was the plan all along, right? Aren’t you even going to thank me?”






The four trainees look up to their supervisors.





—“Good work, class,” Dreyfus nods in approval. “You will have the rest of the day off to prepare for your final exam tomorrow. And remember, Lord Vader himself will be in attendance at your graduation”.





“If they survive the experience,” Talya grins wickedly. “Do you think that it’s true that Tarsus has a Jedi for us?”

——“I should certainly hope so. He promised to bring me one in exchange for all of his activities that I have overlooked”.






While they talk, the Dungeon Keeper approaches.

——“You have a message from Commander Shade, my lord”.

“What is is?”

——“Two Jedi appear to have landed on the planet…”






Several stories above and several minutes later, Dreyfus and Shade march into the castle’s trophy room.





“Tarsus!” the Headmaster shouts. “What is the meaning of this? I allow you to house your troops here, I give your bounty hunters control of the security programs, and now two Jedi land on the planet and you cover it up!”

——“Calm down, Dreyfus,” Tarsus smirks. “I have everything under control”.

“Then get your men out there and bring me those Jedi!”






“Of course. Captain Madine will see that they are dealt with properly”.

——“You will bring them alive Tarsus! You promised me a Jedi for the Final Test!”

“Headmaster, let’s not forget who is the superior here. Captain Madine will bring them back alive.”

——“And he will take Shade with him. You will not double cross me this time”. The two Inquisitors glower at each other as the tension in the room builds…






Finally, Tarsus relents.

——“Captain, take Shade and the rest of your squad. Bring me the Jedi. Alive”.






“At once, sir”. Captain Crix Madine swiftly turns and exits the room with Shade in toe. The impending crisis has been averted, but both troopers know that a physical confrontation between their masters is not far off…





Within just an hour, the Storm Commandos are in the air upon their mechanical Hunter -Class Drones. They quickly locate Jaig and Master Qwarr, as they continue their trek across the plains.





“Master, look out!” Jaig shouts, as the first scout swoops down to attack!





The two Jedi ignite their lightsabers as the Commandos circle, closing in on their prey.





Jaig rushes at the first trooper to land…





And engages him at once in a duel, furiously parrying his opponents vibroaxe…





Before finally seizing an opening, and cutting him down.





Qwarr turns to face his own opponent, with a more graceful, elegant style than his reckless apprentice.





But neither Jedi notices Shade, who has landed a short distance away from the rest of the Commandos, and is now moving in on foot.





Qwarr disarms his opponent with a swift kick, but before he can end it, his blade is stopped…





By Captain Crix Madine, wielding an ancient weapon Qwarr has only ever seen in history books!

——“Recognize this, Master? It’s a darksaber, you may have heard of it”.






Shocked, Qwarr is caught off guard, and is disarmed by the Captain…





Jaig rushes towards them, but before Madine fires a shot into Qwarr’s back!

——“Noooo!” Filled with rage, Jaig charges forward






Only to be shot in the back by Shade!





“Not bad for a clone,” Madine sneers beneath his helmet. “Particularly Dreyfus’ pet”.

——“I trust you used stun, as ordered?” Shade grunts.

“Of course”.






“Then let’s load them up and get back to the castle,” Shade asserts. “My master doesn’t approve of tardiness”.

——“And my master is master of us both,” Madine adds. “You’d be wise to remember that in the coming days, trooper. There’s a storm coming, and you’d best choose the right side”.

TO BE CONTINUED!




ALLIANCE INTELLIGENCE
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PATHWAYS
 
Chapter 17Chapter 18
CONSPIRACY
 
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