The Photonovel Alliance
ALLIANCE INTELLIGENCEChapter 18CONSPIRACY





-Previously on Alliance Intelligence: Continuing his training under Jedi Master Qwarr, young Jaig Landow finally learns the truth about his mentor’s tragic service during the Clone Wars. A great load has been lifted from Qwarr’s mind, but Jaig now finds himself doubting the trust he once had in the old Weequay.


    



-Shortly thereafter, the duo is captured by Captain Crix Madine,newly appointed leader of the Storm Commandos and servant to Chief Inquisitor Tarsus…





-Who is hosting a confidential meeting at the Castle Gathreel, just days before Darth Vader himself visits to preside over the graduation of Headmaster Dreyfus’ class of young dark side adepts.





-While all this is happening, all is not well within Alliance Intelligence! A string of recent events has caused Hank Landow and the rest of Col. Airen Cracken’s strike team to doubt their leader’s mental health, as he plunges himself, and them, into constant work….





-Cracken’s recent behavior continues to trouble Hank as he and Havi wander the halls of The Alderaan Dawn. The two commandos have devised a plan that they believe can set their leader’s mind at ease, however, they need a little help.





-Stopping General George Naht in the halls outside his office, Hank issues a request for help.

——“Sir, we’d like to talk to you for a moment”.

-“Of course, Agent Landow,” the general smiles. “My time is your time”.






-“It’s about Colonel Cracken, sir. Lately, he’s been increasingly stressed. He spends every spare minute either in the field or planning for another mission. And all whole squad is starting to worry for his health. Both physically and mentally”.

——“Well, I’m certainly concerned in the dear Colonel’s health agent. What would you have me do about it?”

-“Well, sir, we thought it would be a good idea for him to get his mind off of his work, sir. For him to have something else to care about. And since you’re more familiar with the staff here, and who may be eligible and compatible with him…”






-“You’re telling me you want me to play match-maker with your commanding officer?” the General interrupts scornfully.

——“Well, that’s one way of putting it”, Hank replies sheepishly, his hopes crushed.






-“I’m a busy man, agent. I don’t have time to plan the love lives of my officers. I’m sure you’ll do fine on your own. As I always say, a happy soldier is a good soldier, isn’t that right, Nien?” The timid Sullustan nods in agreement and follows General Naht off down the corridor.





-“I told you he wouldn’t help”, Havi quips as the two turn a way, dejected. “Why don’t you just set him up? You’re quite the ladies’ man yourself”.

——“Airen and I have different tastes in companionship”, Hank scoffs. “Besides, I doubt any of the ladies around here are going to take any relationship advice from me anyway”. Suddenly, however, he is interrupted by a call from behind them.






-He turns to see Sgt. James “Snapper” Collett, brother to Admiral Liberance Collett and master of many trades, all of which largely useless to mounting a rebellion. Perpetually bouncing from job to job, Snapper is a nonetheless a beloved part of the Rebel Alliance and a close friend of Colonel Airen Cracken himself.

——“I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with George,” Snapper explains. “That old nerf herder can’t get the stick out of his butt long enough to be of any use, but I’m always glad to help out a friend”.






-“What is it exactly you have in mind,” Hank asks, skeptical of the irreverent sergeant’s scheme from the start.

——“Well, they have me working in H.R. now, so I have access to all the files on the rebels stationed here. And I’ve created an algorithm that can show which members are the most compatible”.

-“You’re telling me you created a dating net out of the Alliance’s H.R. files?”






-“Hey, a man gets bored…” Snapper is interrupted by an incessant beeping from his holo board.“Oh, dear”, he mumbles, reading the alert. “It appears we’ve received a distress signal from one of the A.I. field agents”.





- “Which one?” Hank asks, suddenly panicking.

——“Your brother’s.”






-Sure enough, Jaig and his mentor are in grave danger as, far away on the Planet Echaban, they have been captured by forces of the Imperial Inquisitors. We find Jedi Master Suun Qwarr as he slowly awakens in a cold, dark dungeon.





-“Hey, the new guy’s coming to!” a nearby figure shouts.





-As his eyes adjust to the light, a group of blurry figures becomes clearer. He is surrounded by fellow prisoners, who murmur quietly amongst themselves.

——“They say he’s a Jedi”, one whispers.

-“He don’t look so tough to me,” another replies gruffly.






-“Where am I”, Qwarr mumbles to himself. “Where’s Jaig?” He frantically looks around.





-“What have you done with my Padawan?!?” he yells, sending the nearest prisoner flying back with the Force.





-“Hey!” the tough Iktochi yells. “What do you think you’re doing?”





-He lunges forward, but the old master moves too quick…





-And slams his assailant’s face into the hard stone wall.





-Throwing him down on the floor, Qwarr yells again: “Where is he?”





-“Where…is…my…Padawan!?!” he screams, all the while brutally kicking the Iktochi prisoner.





-Suddenly, however, he hears a voice that he once knew, long ago, call out to him from the darkness.

——“Suun, stop!”






-Turning, Qwarr sees his old friend El-Les emerge from the shadows. The weathered old bounty hunter offered him refuge and his exile before being captured by the Empire in the Battle of Castille IV.





-“El-Les,” he murmurs. “I thought you were dead, old friend. I’m so sorry”.





-“Don’t be”, the old mercenary dismisses the apology. “You would have done the same for me. It was an honor to stand amongst your cause. But enough about the past. You wish to know where you are”.





-“We are imprisoned in the dungeons of the Castle Gathreel, an Imperial black site housing the Inquisitor Academy. This is the home base of Tarsus and his ilk, the focal point of their studies in the dark arts and their brutal training program of young force adepts. It’s all rather unsavory. And worst of all, we, as in us prisoners, are here because, as excellent fighters, they see fit to use us as training devices for the young Acolytes. None of those called in for training sessions ever come back alive”.





-“Well, that’s terrible,” Qwarr replies. “And who are your friends?” indicating the two prisoners accompanying El-Les.

———“This is Gran Selbuck, a spice trader and old friend from my bounty hunter days. He ran afoul of an Imperial patrol. And this,” pointing to the grim looking human, “is Willix, a royal commando with a fierce vendetta against Bane Malar”.






-“I ran into your rebel friends on Felucia”, Willix interjects. “Including the Jedi kid. He seemed like a good chap. Got myself captured before I could really get a chance to know him, though”.





-“You know Jaig?” Qwarr asks. “Have you seen him here?”

——“No, but if they kept you alive, I’m sure he is too. Those Inquisitor punks would love a chance to experiment on a bona fide Jedi”.






-“Experiment!?!” Qwarr yells. “I can’t allow them to hurt him, we must get out!”





-“Calm down, Suun. We’ll do everything we can to help you save Jaig. But it’s no simple task to escape from these dungeons. No one has ever survived an attempt”.





-Far above the dungeons, in a quiet corner of the castle, Jaig himself is awakening. He is in some sort of laboratory, the high tech equipment contrasting with the ruggedly archaic building structure.





-Watching his restrained form are the observant eyes of Kara Draco, the studious young acolyte. She has been carefully observing Jaig since the moment he was brought in.





-“Headmaster Dreyfus, he’s waking up!” The call attracts the attention of both Dreyfus and Mara Jade, both tired of waiting for their new prisoner to come to.





-“Finally,” Dreyfus grunts. “I’ve had quite enough of Tarsus’ mad experiments wasting my time. Let’s get this over with”. Inquisitor Talya rushes to his side.





-“Headmaster, beg my pardon, but we can not begin the tests until Lord Tarsus gives us the order!” Talya insists.

———“You do not tell me what I can and cannot do! Begin the procedure!” Dreyfus screams at the sinister surgical droid standing nearby.

-“I’m sorry, my lord, but I have orders not to begin until…”






-“Blast it all!” Dreyfus roars. Turning to Talya, he snaps: “I am going to speak to Tarsus. This is my Academy and I will not have him undermining my authority. When I return, we will begin the tests with or without that fool’s blessing!”





-A few brief minutes later and Dreyfus is storming through the Castle corridors to confront his rival about his meddling once and for all.





-Suddenly, however, he is stopped by Captain Crix Madine, head of Tarsus’ Storm Commandos.

——“The Chief Inquisitor is not to be disturbed, my Lord”.






-“I am the head of this castle, Captain,” Dreyfus growls. “And I am sick and tired of being told what to do. You WILL let me pass”. He pushes past the captain, but Madine steps back into his path.

—— “The Chief Inquisitor is in conference with many important guests, my lord, and…”

-“And I have been gracious to allow them to meet here. Now I don’t give a damn about him or his cohorts, you will step aside Captain and you will do it NOW!”






-When the trooper fails to yield, Dreyfus pushes him aside, moving towards the door to the great hall…





-In a flash, Madine ignites his dark saber, holding it inches from the Headmasters’ face.

——“You dare threaten me, trooper?” Dreyfus snarls.

-“Chief Inquisitor Tarsus will NOT be disturbed”, Madine reiterates.






-“Now, I’m going to ask you to leave”. For a moment, there is silence, only broken by the buzz of Madine’s archaic weapon, as the two men stare deeply and angrily into each others’ eyes.





-Finally, Dreyfus turns away.





-“This isn’t over, fool,” he barks. “I will make you dearly regret following that scum”.





-“Oh, I highly doubt that, old man”. Beneath his helmet, Crix Madine coldly smiles.





-As the tension builds between the two dueling Inquisitors, Tarsus’ final guest has arrived. General Yusef Quasile is admiring an ancient bust in the waiting hall, one of the many great trophies on display within the castle.





-He is broken from his thoughts as Sergeant Wilhelm Klink delivers a summons.

——“The meeting is about to begin, General. Are you ready to enter?”

-“Of course. I was just admiring the artwork. Let’s go in now, shall we?”

———“Um, sir, I’m afraid your aide isn’t cleared for this meeting”, Klink points to fighter ace Captain Lance Oxixo.






-“Oh, is he? I’m afraid I didn’t realize,” turning to Ox, he continues. “I’m sorry, Captain, but confidentiality and all that, I’m sure you understand”.

——“Of course, General. I’ll just wait out here for you and… Admire the artwork”.






-With that, the General turns and follows Klink into the grand hall. It is crowded with a group of top ranking Imperial officers from all factions of the Empire.





-He is immediately approached by Captain Madine.

———“It’s good to see you could make it, General. The Chief Inquisitor greatly values your presence”.

-“Yes, of course. I’m sure he does,” Quasile oddly tries to break away from the conversation.






-“Sorry to hear about your eye, sir. At least you finally got rid of that scumbag brother of yours on Felucia. You know, it’s been some time since I saw you, the high command conference on Coruscant two years back, I believe. I was just a sergeant then, but,”

——“Yes, yes, of course. You were a bright young trooper. Look how far you’ve come”.

-“I don’t recall you having much faith in me then, sir”.

——“Well, I don’t know,”…






The awkward conversation is interrupted by Tarsus himself, who calls the meeting to order.

——“Now, I’m not sure you’re all aware of why I’ve gathered you here today, so I suppose I ought to put that out there right now. I have assembled you because I know that you are of the same mind as me. The Empire has grown weak in the past decade, hampered by the mental and physical hindrances of our leaders. Now, this so called Rebel Alliance grows stronger everyday, but we are not prepared to face them. Our beloved Empire is in jeopardy my friends, and I have the plan that will save it.”






“As you know, tomorrow is the graduation ceremony for those who will become the newest Inquisitors. Lord Darth Vader himself will be in attendance. During that time, there will be an assault upon this castle. All of you and the other visiting dignitaries will be safely relocated, while Lord Vader and I remain behind to fend off the Rebels.”





-“I see where you’re going with this Tarsus,” industrialist Baron Techa interrupts. “This is madness!”





“It’s only mad if it’s impossible my dear friend. And this is far from impossible. It is certain. Tomorrow, as my forces ferry you to safety, Darth Vader and I will make one valiant last stand against the invading rebels. And when the time is right…”





-“I will kill him”.

TO BE CONTINUED…………




ALLIANCE INTELLIGENCE
<<  Chapter 17
THE SECRET ORIGIN OF MASTER QWARR
 
Chapter 18Chapter 19
SHADES OF DECEIT
 
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