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ALLIANCE INTELLIGENCEChapter 21DOOMSDAY CLOCK (PART 2)





Jaig awakes in a faded, dream like realm. Unsure of what has happened, he attempts to collect his bearings through the fog.


    



But as the fog clears, he is horrified to see it unveil the dead bodies of his fellow rebels, strewn across the mound he sits atop.





As he struggles to look away, he instead locks eyes with the ghostly figure of his brother, Hank, staring at him from across the field.





“You abandoned us, Jaig”, his voice echoes out. “You left us to follow a blind master and look what’s happened. The Jedi are dead, you should have left them buried”.





“No,” Jaig stammers, “You don’t understand. You never understood. I have to do this!”





“Traitor!” Hank shouts and charges towards his brother, almost floating across the field of dead bodies…





Until, in a flash of light, he transforms into a massive winged beast, the likes of which Jaig has only seen in legends and nightmares.





Jaig turns to flee, but the beast is quick and gains rapidly.





Utterly disoriented, the young Jedi trips and falls to the ground, his foot tangled in the weeds.





But as the fearsome monster looms in for the kill, a shadowy figure leaps out of the fog, igniting a yellow lightsaber blade, and dispatching the beast.





Squinting through the fog, a dazed and thoroughly confused Jaig attempts to make out the features of his apparent savior. Slowly, the figure turns…





Revealing the wickedly grinning face of Inquisitor Talya.





Back in the land of the conscious, the final gladiatorial battle of the young acolytes’ training is drawing to a close.





Lightsabers whirl and blaster bolts streak across the arena as the trainees dispatch each of the hardened prisoners.





Far above, El-Les and Granluck survey the battle field, keeping watch as Willix attempts to maneuver loose a maintenance hatch hidden in the upper level of the arena.





Back below, the final combatants are dispatched, yet the battle doesn’t end.

———“Why isn’t it stopping?” Luc whines. “We killed everyone, didn’t we?”

-“Some of them must be hiding, I can sense them” Kara replies. “Fan out, we need to eliminate them fast, before the time runs out!”






As the acolytes hunt for the desperate escapees, Jaig is confronted in his nightmare realm by the one who, unknown to him, has orchestrated the entire sequence: Inquisitor Talya.





“Come, lost one,” her voice purrs, both parts menacing and comforting. “These visions are not what must be. The Jedi have led you astray”.





“There is only one way to save your friends, to end this senseless violence. The dark side of the Force is more powerful than you could ever imagine…”





“I’ll never turn to the dark side!” Jaig spits out, the fog filling his lungs.

———“You poor, misguided child. You’ve listened to the lies of the Jedi long enough. Don’t you think you ought to hear the other side of the story?”






“Enough, witch!” In a flash of light, Master Qwarr appears to Jaig, reaching out to his apprentice’s mind from the depths of his cell.





Talya falls to the ground at the sudden appearance of the Jedi.

——“M..m..master…” Jaig stammers. “W..w..what are you doing here?”






“I’m here to help you break free, Jaig. This spell can only control you if you let it”.

———“Master, what she said, was any of it true? Are they all doomed?”

-“The Dark Side holds nothing but lies to deceive you, young one. Take my hand, and we’ll leave this place”.






But as Qwarr struggles to retrieve Jaig from the Inquisitor’s witchcraft, the prisoners become increasingly worried.

———“I think they’re onto us,” Granluk worries.

-“Stay calm,” El-Les reassures him. “It should only be a little longer…”

———“Wait, I think I hear something!”






Suddenly, Luc leaps from behind a rock and charges the two prisoners, lightsaber buzzing in hand!





They scramble to respond, but the arrogant acolyte dispatches Granluk with ease.





Shocked at the loss of his friend, El-Les lets down his guard and loses a hand as the result, pain streaking through him.





Recovering, he finally manages to open fire, striking his assailant in the shoulder!





But the injury barely registers with Luc, who, filled with blood-lust, charges on, overwhelming the old bounty hunter…





Before plunging his saber straight through El-Les’ heart!





The death of his dear friend sends shockwaves straight into Qwarr’s highly focused mind…





And just as Jaig is about to take his hand in the dream realm, he disappears just as he arrived, dragged back to consciousness in another flash of light!





El-Les’ lifeless body slumps to the ground. Luc sneers

——“Looks like I win this one, Kara”.






Suddenly, however, Willix, having been hidden, attempting to gain release from the arena, charges out from cover, his massive rotary canon blazing with vengeance for the death of his allies!





Caught completely off guard, Luc is riddled with countless bolts of energy, launching him back off the ledge…





And landing dead at the feet of his classmates below. They raise their own sabers to respond, only to hear the whining sound of the arena closing. Willix’s canon is disabled and he is shocked unconscious. The remaining acolytes can only stand, shocked and confused, among the bodies of the prisoners and their former teammate.





Just as confused as the trainees, the Dungeonmaster appears from atop the control booth.

——“We have experienced some…unexpected difficulties. Students, please return to your chambers, the body of Luc Bar’Nett will be properly attended to. Guards, return all surviving prisoners to the dungeons!”






As the lights fade out in the arena, so do those in Jaig’s dream. Abandoned by his master, he finds himself surrounded by the spectral figures of those he knows as enemies.





“The Jedi are the ones who lie, Jaig. They want to hold their power over you, they can’t allow you to harness the full power of the force. That is why they are dead and we, the Sith survive. But the galaxy is still weak, hindered by false leaders. Join us Jaig…”





“And together we can destroy Vadar, and the Emporer, and bring peace to the galaxy once and for all”….





As Jaig slowly fades back to consciousness in despair, the Dungeonmaster storms through the back halls of the arena level, hunting for the fool who disabled the contest.





And he comes face to face with Shade.

——“Don’t tell me YOU shut down the arena”, the hulking master growls.

-“Inquisitor Dreyfus has disappeared and I cannot locate him, all previously scheduled plans must be put on hold until…”






“So YOU turned off the arena?”

———“Yes. It’s standard protocol in the case of potential harm to the Headmaster”.

“Go to command and report it then! Go see Lord Tarsus! Do anything, but stop interfering in my work!”






Shade turns and storms off down the hall. As he exits earshot, the Dungeonmaster speaks softly into his comlink.

——“You may have a problem. He’s onto you”.






Marching swiftly through the castle to the command center, Shade’s thoughts lie on attempting to decipher who in the mountain he can trust. He is thoroughly convinced that Chief Inquisitor Tarsus has done something horrible to his master, and that he likely has a vast team of conspirators throughout the castle.





But he grinds to a halt when confronted by Bane Malar and his full squad of bounty hunters.

——“Is there a problem, Commander?” Malar’s voice eerily echoes through the modulator on his helmet. “You seem distressed”.






“Get out of my way, Malar!” Shade snaps in reply. “This is an Imperial matter, it is no concern of yours!”

———“As Lord Tarsus’ personal security supervisor, everything that happens in the castle is my concern, clone,” the hunter’s voice reeks with derision. “You’re just panicked because your precious master has gone away and you can’t think for yourself. Why don’t you come along with us. We’ll help you solve this problem”.






The bounty hunters move in, but Shade fights back and flees away down the hall…





Blasters are drawn, and shots ring out, echoing down the halls…





Though outnumbered 6 to 1, Shade has been trained to the peak of all Imperial Commandos. In a flash, he overwhelms Boba Fett…





Tossing him through a nearby display!





But he stands no chance against the gang of vicious mercenaries, as Bossk grabs him from behind…





And slams him to the ground with enough force to cripple an average man.





The hunters drag Shade back to his feet as Malar approaches.





“Your master is dead, Commander, there’s nothing you can do about that. You can, however, rethink our offer. In the future of the Empire, Lord Tarsus could use many men like yourself…”

———“I will never serve that traitor!” Shade spits out in reply.






“That’s the problem with clones like you,” Malar laughs to himself as he pulls out an electric shock gun. “In the War, they took their time. The ones now, well, you can’t even think for yourself, can you? The bright side to that is, I suppose, it will make the reprogramming a whole lot easier”.





With that, he stabs the shock gun into a gap in Shade’s armor, sending searing jolts of electricity through the commando’s body. His cries of pain echo down the corridor, but they are alone on the floor. No one can hear him scream.





Far below, a somber procession approaches the gates of the dungeons as Willix, the sole survivor of the gladiatorial challenge, is returned to his cage.





The stormtroopers clear a path as the massive gate creaks open.





Willix’s stern face barely offers a twinge of acknowledgement as he walks stiffly into the dungeon he believed he’d never see again.





The prisoners crowd him, no one to their memory has ever returned from the arena. But he pushes past them, back into the shadows, where Suun Qwarr waits grimly.





The two at first only stare into each others’ eyes, unable to convey the grievance that has occurred.





Finally, Qwarr whispers “I know…… But there is still hope”.

———“Not anymore”. Willix turns and walks away, far from the glow of the few, flickering lights illuminating the dungeon. Watching him leave, Qwarr can only place a comforting hand on the shoulder of the now motherless child beside him, knowing deep in his heart that things are only about to get worse.






The wind blows hard and cold against the castle’s exterior landing platform. Chief Inquisitor Tarsus stands defiantly stiff against the gusts, his two closest confidants at his side. Commander Crix Madine and Sergeant Wilhelm Klink.

——“Guard your minds, men,” he warns. “The dark lord’s mental prowess is weak, but so are your own defenses. Fail now, you will die”.






Across the platform, an Imperial entourage exits a regal shuttle, led at the front by Darth Vadar himself.





Tarsus approaches energetically, greeting the imposing Sith with a crisp bow.

———“Welcome to Castle Fangorn, Lord Vadar. And guests.”






“I apologize for Grand Moff Tarkin, as he was unable to attend this ceremony”, Vadar replies, his legendary mechanical breaths audible even over the wind. “In his place, Moff Hochsetter has chosen to attend”.

———“I don’t believe we’ve met, sir, but it is a pleasure…” Tarsus’ hand of friendship is rebuffed by the cold gaze of the one-eyed officer.






Ignoring the insult, Tarsus carries on: “Commander, see to it that Lord Vadar’s shuttle is properly secured. Sergeant Klink, escort his entourage to their guest quarters, then to the Grand Hall for dinner”.





“And you”, he turns to Vadar. “I have a personal tour of the castle planned for you. We have so much to talk about…”

TO BE CONTINUED………




ALLIANCE INTELLIGENCE
<<  Chapter 20
DOOMSDAY CLOCK (PART 1)
 
Chapter 21Chapter 22
THE CAVALRY
 
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