The Photonovel Alliance

-In the depths of the castle, Tarsus’ personal tour draws to a close in the steamy, flaming heart of the fortress. Vader follows cautiously behind watching not the magnificent pipes fueling the academy, but instead his dangerously courteous host.


“And this here is the lifeblood of Castle Gathreel”, Tarsus explains. “These furnaces are among the largest in the galaxy, they produce enough energy to power the entire facility and leave more left over to be stored and shipped to other bases. Here, we are entirely self sufficient”.

———“What was this place before the Empire…. collected it?”

“The fortress of just another run of the mill local warlord. Had power over a few of the surrounding systems. He was, of course, no match for the power of the Dark Side.”

-As Vader examines the massive generators, Tarsus steps away, an alarm sounding on his watch. Rebel forces have been spotted approaching the castle’s airspace. He silently sends word to Captain Madine to ignore the threat, before turning back to his guest.

“It’s time we return to the others”, Tarsus smiles. “We wouldn’t want to keep them waiting, would we?” Vader doesn’t offer a reply, he simply begins to walk back, his mechanized breathing silent under the roaring sounds of the furnace.

-Elsewhere in the castle, Tarsus’ personal bounty hunters Bane Malar and Bossk escort a struggling, masked prisoner down the dimly lit hallway towards the dungeon.

There, they meet the massive Dungeonmaster, whose hulking form fills the hall before them.

———“Who’s this”? he grunts.

“A PERSONAL prisoner of Chief Inquisitor Tarsus”, Malar’s voice hisses through his mask. He knows the Dungeonmaster is also a part of the conspiracy he was been hired to protect. “He is to be kept off of the books. We were never here. This man no longer exists”.

-The brute nods in understanding, dragging the prisoner away from the hunters, who hastily exit his hellish domain of darkness.

-With a crash, the mysterious stranger is thrown prostrate into the holding cell.

-Several prisoners rush to see the new inmate. One, a curious Klaatu, attempts to pry off his mask…

-Only to jump back after receiving a fierce electric shock!

-“Let me try”, a nearby prisoner hisses. As a Lutvian, he is nearly immune to electric shock, and cautiously leans in to pry off the mask from the seemingly unconscious new prisoner…

-Revealing the dazed yet still furious face of Commander Shade!

-“He’s a Stormtrooper!” the Klaatu shouts, impulsively kicking Shade in the face.

-This, however, only manages to agitate the commando, snapping him out of his daze. Grabbing the leg of his attacker, he slams him forcefully, face first, into the ground.

-Dragged to his feet by another group of prisoners, he just keeps fighting…

-“Kill him!” the Lutvian shouts, the fight ignored by the Dungeonmaster. A prisoner who doesn’t exist has no need of protection.

-A crowd of inmates surrounds Shade, as he futilely attempts to fight them all off.

Suddenly, a number of the violent prisoners are thrown to the ground with a sudden but unseen force. Master Qwarr steps forward out of the shadows.

-“Come with me, Commander,” the Jedi offers calm reassurance, having sensed Shade’s identity as a familiar, if antagonistic, presence. “The rest of you will leave this man be”. In fear of the legendary powers of the Jedi, the prisoners stand down.

-Qwarr brings Shade to Willix, still in despair after his horribly failed attempt at escape.

——“What’s a Stormie doing down here?” he asks.

-Without looking the rebels in the eye, Shade begins his story: “Something horrible is happening…”

-As Shade describes Dreyfus’ murder, Tarsus’ scheme, and his own ensuing arrest, Tarsus himself returns with Vader to the Banquet Hall where an entourage of Imperial and galactic dignitaries are assorted, milling about in various conversations.

-“Lord Vader, it is wonderful to have you here at last”, Inquisitor Talya welcomes them. “I hope you enjoyed your tour of our humble facilities”.

————“It was…. informing”, the raspy voice of the dark lord replies.

-“I shall go and ensure the meal is proceeding according to plans,” Tarsus assures Vader. “And, um… You don’t eat, do you?”

———“Everything I require for sustenance has already been arranged for, Inquisitor. See to your formalities”.

-As Tarsus leaves, Vader turns to find himself confronted by Moff Hochsetter.

———“This is a miserable waste of my time”, Hochsetter grumbles. “Tarkin may adore chatting up this spineless rabble, but I have an army to attend to”.

-“I assure you, Moff, that I abhor these occasions as much as you do,” Vader replies. “But such are the sacrifices we must make to ensure the Empire runs smoothly”.

-Little do any of the honored guests at the banquet know, but stealth rebel transports dropped a battalion of Alliance soldiers onto the surface an hour ago, and that battalion, led by none other than Colonel Airen Cracken, has now reached the base of the mountain and are attempting to find their way in!

-However, all is not well in the rebel ranks, as Cracken is confronted by his fellow officer, Lt. Harrison Wilson.

———“I am starting to question your judgement in leading this mission, Colonel. I know General Naht holds great faith in you, but you’ve acted brashly in bringing us here. You attachment to the Landow boy is clouding your vision!”

-“We have yet to encounter any form of resistance, Wilson,” Cracken replies. “As far as I can see, we’ve yet to face any manner of danger so far in this mission…”

——“Exactly!” Wilson snaps back. “We have no idea what this place is! We could be walking right into a…” he is cut off by a sudden explosion, out of site from both officers.

-They swiftly march to the sound of the blast, unsure of what lies in store…

-But are instead confronted by Hank Landow.

——“I’m afraid some of the men got tired of finding a quiet way in, colonel…”

-“And by some of the men you mean you.” Cracken replies disapprovingly.

The Colonel marches on, to the site of the blast, a few traces of smoke emitting from an upper ledge.

-With help from another soldier, he scales the wall to see the results of Hank’s handiwork:

-A small but accessible hole being cleared by Orrimarko and Sila Kott.

-“It ain’t much sir, but it’s big enough to fit in,” Orrimarko reports, smiling. “Hank and I did ourselves a mighty good one, don’tcha think?”

———“And you probably alerted the entire castle to our presence”, Cracken replies, staring down into the hole.

-“But that doesn’t matter now. We’ve got to keep moving. Sila, you and Lt. Wilson will each take a team. Spread out through the lower levels and try to break out our prisoners. The rest of you will stay with me. We’ve got to figure out what this place is, and how to get rid of it”.

-Snapping to attention, the rebels enter single file, crawling down into the darkened inner workings of the Castle Gathreel, entirely unaware of what they are walking into…

-But as Hank moves to follow the first two teams, Cracken holds him back.

———“The hell do you think you’re doing?” Hank snaps at his leader and friend. “I’m going with them to find Jaig!”

-“No. Wilson was right. We can’t focus on the mission because we’re too personally invested. You stay with me. We have no idea what this place is, and we need to find out fast. I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

-Down dimly lit corridors, Lt. Harrison Wilson and his team of rebels search for the missing Jedi through the bowels of the massive fortress. So far, they have shockingly encountered no resistance, but that is about to change…

-Two Stormtroopers appear at the end of the hall, raising their weapons at the intruders!

-“Warn the Dunegonmaster!” one shouts before, caught off guard, both are gunned down by the rebels.

-“Dungeonmaster?” Wilson is confused.

———“Sounds like we’re headed in the right direction!” Orrimarko replies, clearly excited at the prospect of more shooting. Nien Nunb simply nods in agreement.

-Just a little further down the hall, the quartet of soldiers find themselves face to face with the dungeon itself.

——“I’m gonna bet that’s we’re they’re keepin’ our pals”, Ori mutters, lifting up a massive hand-held laser canon. “Brace me, ‘Tenant. This thing has a hell of a kickback!”

With an ear-splitting blast, the canon fires! Wilson races to prop up his staggered teammate…

-While the blast rips into the front gate of the dungeon cell.

-At first, nothing happens. Then, with a creak, the massive door comes crashing down. The shocked prisoners slowly shuffle towards the outside so long denied them…

Until suddenly, with a shout of surprise and jubilation raised up in countless alien tongues, they begin to pour forth into the outer chamber.

“We are the Rebel Alliance”, Wilson cries out over the pandemonium. “We have liberated you and are in search of two of our own…”

———“Hey, man,” Ori tries to pull the passing inmates aside. “What he means is, we’d really like some help finding a couple Jedi and then blowing up this joint”.

-The rebels garner little help from the crowd, but both Ori and Wilson spot a figure moving towards them. Neither of them have ever met Master Suun Qwarr, but they have seen pictures and immediately recognize the noble Jedi.

“Master Qwarr, I presume?” Ori asks.

———“That would be me”, the old Jedi replies.

“Where’s the other one?”

“The Inquisitors have Jaig prisoner elsewhere. Willix and I can rally the other inmates. Then you will help me find my Padawan”.

-In a few short minutes, the rebels lead a march of those prisoners willing to take the fight to their captors. The going is rough, as their eyes must suddenly adjust to the seemingly blinding light of the corridors beyond the dungeon’s darkened walls.

-Suddenly, their path is interrupted by the Dungeonkeeper Droid, standing defiantly in front of the armory.

———“Halt!” the heartless, mechanical voice drones. “The alarm shall be sounded. All prisoners remain calm and kneel down on the ground. The…”

-In a flash, Nien blasts the droid to oblivion.

-Willix kneels down over its charred hull.

———“I can use this to rewire the programming on the weapons, so we can use them at full charge”.

“There’s no need for that”, Commander Shade steps forward. “I can get you inside any room in this castle. And arm all of the weapons”.

———“Oh, and who are you, exactly?” Wilson inquires.

“I can vouch for him”, Qwarr intercedes. “He’s a former officer whose superiors turned against him. He’s on our side now”.

-Within the armory, two troopers and the supervising officer wait and chat, oblivious to what is going on outside.

———“You know what’s really fun?” the first trooper asks. “Beating the prisoners”.

“You’re just now figuring that out?” the supervisor laughs. “That’s one of the few perks to this job”.

“That and the cool weapons you can pick up from the new guys,” the second trooper chimes in, holding up Master Qwarr’s lightsaber. “I’ve always wanted one of these things! You think the boss would let me try it out?”

-The trio is caught off guard when suddenly the door to the armory slides open and a mob of rebels and freed prisoners is revealed on the other side.

“Who let them out?” the first trooper blithely asks before being promptly shot. The second echoes a bloodcurdling scream as he ignites the lightsaber upside down, impaling his leg!

-The officer manages to utter one last “Die, rebel scum!” before he too is shot and the prisoners flood the room, scrambling to get their hand on the best weapons.

-Qwarr kneels over the moaning second trooper to retrieve his blade.

——“I believe, sir, that you have something that belongs to me”, he chuckles, before using the Force to slip the guard into sleep.

“The weapons should be fully unlocked and ready for use”, Shade reports.

“Good, now everyone listen to me”, Wilson promptly reasserts his position as leader. “We need to rendezvous with Colonel Cracken and the rest of the assault team…”

-His orders are cut short by a horrified cry as the Dungeonmaster himself steps forth from a back room of the armory, wielding a massive bladed staff! In one fell swoop, he decapitates the prisoner closest to him.

-Wilson opens fire, but the blasts only bounce off the master’s armor…

-And Wilson is fatally impaled on the end of the staff.

“Stay back!” Qwarr shouts. “I’ll handle this”. With a loud buzz, he ignites his saber, too long absent from the master’s hands.

-In a whirlwind flash, he leaps across the room, sending sparks flying as he brings his saber down upon the Dungeonmaster’s staff!

The brutal warden in his heavy armor is used to beating defenseless prisoners, but Qwarr is a master Jedi, and moves fast, dodging the next blow…

-Before, in a display of sudden, Force-fueled agility, scaling the wall and flipping into the air! The Dungeonmaster barely has time to react, as Qwarr drops down from above…

-And severs the his head from his body.

-A hush falls over the crowd, in awe of the Jedi’s prowess. Qwarr, himself, is barely fazed.

“You say Colonel Airen Cracken is leading you on this mission? He is a great soldier, but he knows not the depths of what is occurring here. You must all follow me, for this battle is only now just beginning”.

<<  Chapter 21
Chapter 22Chapter 23
Brought to you by Choi

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