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ALLIANCE INTELLIGENCEChapter 24THE EMPEROR'S HAND





-It has been a little over one month since the destruction of Gathreel, but Tarsus has fully stepped into his new position of authority. But not all of the Empire’s top officers have taken kindly to the change in management. Exiting a top-level briefing, General Lars Hochsetter, chief commander of Imperial Security Bureau, approaches the former Inquisitor.


    



“Lord Tarsus, there is a matter of which I need to speak to you”, the General begins.

——“General, if this is about the Inquisitor program, I must repeat that it is out of your purvey of knowledge, much less influence. Your opinion on how I run the program holds no sway”.






-The conversation is interrupted when Cpt. Madine, leader of Tarsus’ elite Storm Commandos, approaches with a report.

———“Sir, we’ve received an alert from Stonagel Technologies. They’ve had a security breach”

“Do we have a suspect?”

————“He has been located. The new Inquisitor squad was sent his location”.






“Good. Thank you for the update, Captain”. Madine turns to go, leaving Tarsus and Hochsetter alone.

————“You’re not paying attention to me”, the General snarls. “I’ve already spoken with the Emperor himself on the matter. He agrees that you no longer have the time to oversee the Inquisitor program yourself. Thaal Tuiy, the Emperor’s Hand, has been placed in command and is already in route to take his new position”.






-Furious, Tarsus whirls around.

———“The Emperor’s Hand is an assassin, nothing more. He is in no position to oversee the teachings of the new Inquisitors! You have no authority…”

“No, Lord Tarsus”, the title drips with sarcasm as Hochsetter hisses it out. “But OUR master the Emperor does. Unless you would challenge HIS wisdom on the matter…”






“I won’t forget this, General” Tarsus snaps back, spitting out his foes title with equal vitriol before turning away. Soon, he thinks to himself, soon he will have everything aligned, and the petty bureaucrats and senile emperor have no chance to stand in his way.





-As Tarsus schemes at the center of the universe, far in the outer rim a far different plot is unfolding. Rebel Commando Hank Landow slips discreetly through the backstreets of a seedy trading port on a backwater moon, in search of the defecting scientist from Stonagel Technologies, one of the Empire’s top military contractors.





“I’m here to meet Pete Steppenwolf,” Hank tells the bartender outside of a rundown haven for local criminals.

———“Who’s asking?”

“His faithful servant Dante,” Hank replies, using the prearranged codeword.






-The bartender gestures towards the entrance to the lounge.

——“He’s inside”.






-As Hank ducks through the low door into the building, he can only wonder what sort of a fugitive would demand his contact such a ridiculous title. As such, he fails to notice the Imperial probe watching his entrance through a silent, unblinking red eye…





“Excuse me, sir, all customers must check their weapons at the door,” the lounge supervisor steps into Hank’s path.

———“I’m no customer,” he mutters, catching site of his quarry across the room. “I’m here to drag one out of here”.






“Ah, you must be Dante!” the slightly drunk scientist shouts as Hank approaches. “Come join the party!”





“I didn’t come all the way here to watch you get drunk in a brothel,” Hank puts his foot down. “You want your money, we leave now”.





“You’re no fun”, Dr. Steppenwolf mutters as the duo leave.

———“It’s not my job to be fun. I’m here to keep your dumb self from getting killed until you get my boss whatever it is you ran off with”.






“It’s so damn bright out here,” the doctor complains as they step outside.

——“Stop complaining. You have any idea if there was a chance you were followed here?”






“Of course not,” Steppenwolf coughs before drunkenly tripping over his own feet. “I’m a professional”

————“The only thing you’re a pro at is leaving a trail a mile wide, Bronsky!” a woman’s voice shouts out…






-The duo turn to be confronted by newly sworn in Inquisitors Gnarrl and Mara Jade.

———“How’s you know my name?” the doctor slurs.

“Because we’re here to put you under arrest, moron”, Jade quips.






“Fine, take me. You’ll probably be more entertaining than this loser”. Bronsky throws his hand in the air as Hank shoves him aside, drawing his blaster.

———“Like hell you’re surrendering!”






-Before he can fire a shot, Gnarrl picks the rebel up off the ground and hurls him onto the bar!





-In an instant, the plaza erupts, as its drunken criminal inhabitants rush to confront the disturber of their peace. The massive Inquisitor is in turn more than happy to expand his list of targets.





-Hank, utterly confused and thoroughly frustrated by what should have been a simple extraction job, opens fire on his assailants…





-Only to groan in mildly distraught anger when Mara Jade ignites her lightsaber, casually deflecting his attacks while Gnarrl continues his barroom brawl.





“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he shouts as the Inquisitor yanks him up and over the bar with the Force, slamming him to the ground.





-The wind knocked out of him, Hank can barely resist as Gnarrl chokes him into unconsciousness. The last thing he sees is the arrival of the local authorities, responding to the sudden outburst of violence.

———“Ma’me, please drop your weapon and place you hands behind your head…” the first officer orders.

“Idiots!” Jade snaps. “We’re Imperial Inquisitors on official duty and you are hindering our operation! These men here are dangerous terrorist agents!”

———“Can I see your authorization, miss?”, the officer replies, unfazed.






“I have their authorization. You can leave now, thank you”, Sgt. Klink steps forward from behind the officers. As they leave, he glares sternly at the two young Inquisitors. “I see you two managed to make a mess of things here”.

———“Gnarrl stepped out of line, sir,” Jade replies. “But we’ve also captured the doctor’s rebel contact”.






-Looking down at Hank’s unconscious body, a look of recognition dawns on his face as he realizes the Inquisitors have just captured the brother of their newest recruit.

———“Is something wrong, Sergeant?” Jade asks.

“I’m not sure”….






-Onboard the Dauntless Knight, the young Inquisitors mobile base of operations, blaster bolts fly as Jaig Landow and Kara Draco duel a duo of reprogrammed Commando Droids, supervised by their instructor, Inquisitor Talya.





-Despite being significantly behind his fellow acolytes in training in the dark arts, Jaig’s Jedi training creates a solid foundation for the ideal Inquisitor. Although he still maintains doubt towards the ethics of his new mentors, his love for fellow agent Kara Draco has eased the transition, as the beautiful and scholarly Inquisitor’s knowledge of Tarsus’ brand of Sith philosophy slowly wins him over.





-Jaig’s lack of experience and survival instinct shows through, however, as the training droid lands a hard blow directly to his face.





-Kara quickly covers for him, however, dispatching the droid with a powerful push of the Force.





“Excellent work, Kara,” Headmistress Talya nods approvingly as she powers down the training session.





“I wish I could say the same about Master Jaig” she continues, condescendingly, declining to look at her increasingly disappointing pupil. “You remain unfocused, you must learn to channel your dark energies if you ever hope to reach your potential. I can sense great untapped anger and fear within you. It would be a shame for all of our efforts to go to waste, don’t you think?”.





-Suddenly, a shrill alert notifies her of an incoming message.

——“Headmistress, this is Captain Trelg. Your presence is required on the bridge at once”.






-Jaig and Kara follow Talya to the bridge where the nervous Captain awaits them. Also present are two Shock Troopers, blocking view of their mysterious commander.





“What is going on here?” the agitated Headmistress confronts the troopers. “I have received no notice of any inspections…”





“This isn’t an inspection”, a chilling voice mutters from behind the troopers, who step aside to reveal a stiff figure, clad in a tightly-pressed Imperial uniform.





-He turns, his chiseled, stern face void of emotion, blue skin stretching tight against a pointed skull, cold eyes glaring out from within. Thaal Tuiy, the Emperor’s Hand has been seen by few in person, but the stories of his heartless exploits leave no doubt of the identity of who is standing before the Inquisitors.





“Your methods have been deemed unsatisfactory,” Tuiy brushes past a shocked Talya. “You can consider this a… hostile takeover. You are hereby removed from the Headmaster’s position. Henceforth, the Inquisitors answer to me. Now, where is Sargent Klink?”





-About an hour later, the doors to the bridge slide open. Sgt. Klink, Mara Jade, and Gnarrl return, their new prisoners in tow. Klink attempts to access the holding cells, only to find his executive controls have been revoked.

——“What the hell…,” he mutters, confused.






“Sergeant Klink, step away from the console”, the Shock Troopers swiftly enter the bridge.

———“Excuse me?” Klink is taken aback.

“There has been a change in management in the program. You and the remaining Inquisitors are to report directly to Commander Thuiy in the briefing room for further details. We will escort the prisoners to their holding cells”.






“Commander Thuiy,” Mara whispers to Klink as they walk towards the briefing room, thoroughly confused. “Is that…”

—“The Emperor’s Hand. I met him once before. And frack us all, everything you’ve heard about him is true”.






-In his cell, Hank Landow lies in silence, many divergent strings of thought running through his head. He has been a prisoner many times before, but that was all before Jaig’s disappearance. The loss has shaken him, lowered his guard, and he knows he now pays the price for it. His hardened military instincts have been diluted by grief and regret. But as he hears approaching footsteps, he knows one thing remains: His unbroken resolve to the rebel cause. For Cracken, for Jaig, for everything he believes in, he will never break.





-But the door to Hank’s cell remains closed. Instead, the scientist he was sent to extract is strapped into an interrogation chair

—“Who the hell are you?” Dr. Bronsky, otherwise known as Steppenwolf, scoffs as Thaal Tuiy casually paces towards him. “I was hoping you would at least have the decency to send the hot one”.






“You truly are as dense as your file suggests”, Thaal shakes his head as he unfurls the Corellian steel chain he wields as his signature weapon. “How an idiot such as yourself achieved such prestige in weapons design is a foul mark on Stonagel Technology’s good name”.





“I am the Emperor’s Hand, and that is all you need to hear to know exactly what I am capable of doing to you. Now, tell me everything you know about the rebel team sent to extract you, or I will break every single solitary bone in your miserable little…”





“Whoah, whoah, whoah, slow down there, ya big blue elf!” Bronsky forces a smile. “No need for violence! I can tell you everything you need to know…for the right price”.

——“Your price is your life, traitor. That’s the only trade you get to make”.

“Sounds like a good deal to me”.






-A few short minutes later on the bridge, Thaal prepares an abrupt departure when he is confronted by Sgt. Klink.

——“Where are you off to at the hour, Commander?” the veteran handler inquires.

“To finish the job your agents bungled, Sergeant. Return to your quarters”.






“Commander, we need to talk…” Klink grabs ahold of the assassin as he attempts to turn away…





-In a flash, Thaal lashes out with his chain, wrapping around Klink and dragging him to the ground.





“There is no talking necessary, Sergeant. I believe the current situation was made quite clear in the briefing. You and your team are grounded until I deem them fit to work in the field. We do things my way now. No questions asked”.





“You’re making a mistake,” Klink gasps for breath as Thaal turns away. “You don’t know agent Landow’s team like I do…”

——“I don’t make mistakes,” Thaal scoffs. “And I do know that I will do what you and your fool master Tarsus have failed to achieve all these years. I’m going to kill Airen Cracken”.






-Miles away, night has fallen on the outskirts of the town. A soft breeze blows across the hills as a silent figure stalks through a rocky outcropping. The doctor had told Thaal that the Cracken’s extraction site was somewhere outside the city limits. It didn’t take long for the assassin to locate the most likely spot to conceal a rebel shuttle. Suddenly, he stops, his excellent hearing picking up a voice. Slowly, he steps forward…





-Only to be thrown back by a massive explosion!





-As the dust clears, Havi, Col. Cracken’s tech support, shuffles towards the prostrate form of the intruder and picks up his fallen lightsaber.

———“Hmmm…. I wonder who we’ve got here…”






-In an instant, Thaal snaps back to attention, his chain whipping out and dragging the shocked mechanic to the ground!





-His mind concussed, his body screaming in pain, Thaal ignites his lightsaber in a rage to finish off the rebel whose trap caught him unawares…





-Only to experience a final moment of shock as two blasts from behind rip through his torso!





-Walking out of the darkness, Agent Willix and Col. Airen Cracken look down at the dead assassin who has fallen atop the dazed Havi, who coughs back to consciousness.

———“I think we’ve got a problem, Colonel”…

“Damn it, call the General. We’ve been compromised”.




ALLIANCE INTELLIGENCE
<<  Chapter 23
WILL OF THE FORCE
 
Chapter 24Chapter 25
EXTRACTION
 
 >>
Brought to you by Choi


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