The Photonovel Alliance

-At a seedy space port, a nervous guard stands at attention outside a rickety abandoned building.


-Suddenly, inside, a commotion breaks out. The screams of blaster fire ring out and a flood of terrified outlaws bursts forth on the run.

-Right behind them comes Inquisitor Mara Jade, lightsaber blazing!

-The overwhelmed guard is quickly eliminated, barely slowing down the attacking acolytes.

-Fleeing the scene is one panicked Calamari rebel spy, who had been seeking to smuggle himself off the planet with the aid of an outlaw crew, now running for their lives alongside him.

-Thinking they are safe, the group comes to a halt as the rouges’ leader turns on the spy.

———“I say we ditch the dead weight!”

-Before he can act, however, Gnarrl and Kara drop down in front of them, lightsabers drawn and ready for action.

-The smugglers don’t stand a chance against the Inquisitors…

-Who make short work of those who try to fight.

-The spy sprints away down another pathway with the surviving criminals…

-With their Imperial pursuers close behind!

-Just when he thinks he’s in the clear, the rebel ducks as Sgt. Klink steps out from behind a wall, shooting dead the final smuggler!

-Klink turns away with a smile as the spy is placed in restraints to be taken in for questioning.

——“Look at them. Smugglers and killers, every one. Those are rebels’ allies, the lawless scum dredged up from the pits of society”.

“Things sure can look different from a new point of view, can’t they? Now, I believe you had something to tell me…” he turns to a disguised Hank Landow, who silently stands by, weighing the gravity of the decision he is about to make.

-Far away, at the secret Alliance Intelligence base on Alderaan, Gen. George Naht has summoned Alpha Team to a mission briefing.

——“I am pleased to announce that our best efforts have at long last yielded results!”

“We have received word from one of our deep cover informants that General Hochsetter is at long last emerging from hiding to personally oversee a deal with the Black Sun Syndicate. With help from our agents within Black Sun, we have deduced the location of the meeting on Ord Mantell. You will be sent there to eliminate him from the playing field once and for all”.

“Agent Shade has opted to remain grounded for this mission”, Naht continues as the former Stormtrooper turns away, secretly regretting his newfound allegiance. “He will remain here, as will Col. Cracken…”

“What?” Cracken jumps out of his seat.

——“Airen, you’ve been placed on medical leave after the reports of certain… incidents on your previous mission. You failed your last psyche evaluation and will remain grounded until you’ve had time to recover. You’ve been through a lot lately, colonel. Take a break”.

-Livid, Cracken turns and exits the briefing room as his team silently watches.

“In the absence of Colonel Cracken,” Naht continues, unfazed, “Commander Willix will assume command of Alpha Team”.

-Far away, on the grounds of an extensive Ord Mantell estate, General Hochsetter stands motionless, blade drawn. He listens to the quiet breeze rustling across the plain. His cybernetic eye is turned off, for this fight, he wants no enhancements.

-Then, a branch snaps. The general leaps into action as two repurposed Commando Droids lunge at him, vibro-blades outstretched, on the attack!

-Moving with elegance for a man of his age, Hochsetter side steps the attack, parrying the droids’ blows and going on the offensive.

-In the heat of battle, his blade locks with the droid’s staff. Unable to free it, he grips the staff himself…

-In a burst of strength, Hochsetter rips the staff from his assailant and strikes out with both hands, eliminating the duo in a flurry of sparks and smoke!

-As the deactivated droids collapse to the ground, he turns to see his confidante, Major Krillen, approach.

——“General, the Faleen is ready to meet”.

“Good”, Hochsetter sheaths his blade. “Do you have my uniform prepared”.

——“It is waiting in your quarters, sir”.

“Thank you, Major. And no word on Tarsus?”

——“No, sir. There’s no signs our meeting here has attracted his attention”,

“As it should be. This treaty is vital to expanding our control in the Outer Rim. I will not allow that insolent fool to interfere”.

-A brief shower and wardrobe change later, Hochsetter strides confidently onto a patio conference chamber, overlooking a beautiful Mantell vista. Already gathered are his Imperial negotiators and several Black Sun Vigos, but no sign of the cartel’s infamous leader.

-Suddenly, the room comes to attention as guards swiftly march onto the patio to the opposite end of the table, surrounding a masked, luxuriously robed figure.

-The leader of Black Sun removes his mask, unveiling the smirking face of Prince Xizor.

———“A pleasure at last to meet you, General. Let’s get down to business, shall we?”

“I don’t think I need to explain how valuable this deal is to both of our respective organizations, Xizor,” Hochsetter begins. “And I know you have your doubts about an alliance, considering your organizations considerable… Questionable side businesses. However, I am here to assure you that the Empire will be willing to overlook such transgressions in exchange for…”

“You come here with promises,” Xizor interuupts, “As the Empire always does. And I certainly don’t need to lecture you, General, that the graveyards are filled with those foolish enough to make deals with the Empire”.

-Before Hochsetter can respond, Xizor is approached by one of his guard, whispering in his ear.

———“Did you misplace one of your negotiators, General?” he asks, turning back to the table.

“No, I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

——“Well that is certainly curious, because there is a Cpt. Madine making quite a disturbance in my hanger bay at this very moment, and he claims to be a part of your entourage…”

-In the hanger, Black Sun guards surround an Imperial Hunter Drone, ridden by Captain Crix Madine, leader of the Storm Commandos and Tarsus’ right hand man.

-Furious, Hochsetter marches through the guards straight to Madine.

———“What the hell are you doing here?!”

“My squad just stopped by on planet to refuel. I figured I’d pay you a visit, check on how things were going, you know, lend a helping hand”

——“You don’t even have clearance to know about this mission, trooper.”

“That’s Captain, sir. And my visit was a personal request of Lord Tarsus”. Madine dismissively walks past his superior.

——“Well, Captain”, Hochsetter replies with icy, dripping condescension, “Meet me in the outer gardens tonight. We need to have a talk”.

-Hours later, as dusk falls, Cpt. Madine walks out into the shadowy castle gardens, cautiously scanning for a potential threat. He remains confident Hochsetter would never lay a hand on him, for fear of his master, but knows on Ord Mantell, anything can be made to look like an accident. A rustling noise draws his attention…

-And an instant later, the rotting, reanimated corpse of a Genosian drone lunges out of the shadows towards him!

-In a flash, Madine drawls his prized darksaber, slicing through the zombie’s arm. It falls limp to

the ground, but barely fazes its mindless owner.

-Suddenly, a second drone leaps from the branches above! Madine topples forward, the darksaber dropping to the ground out of reach as the alien bug lets out a deathly screech!

-Its cold, dead fingers reach out, grasping at Madine’s armor, its limp tongue hanging out as it tries to bite at his helmet. It takes all of his strength to hold back the undead warrior until, suddenly, the attack stops.

-Out from the shadows steps Major Krillen, his eyes glazed over as the drones slowly shamble behind him, away back into the darkness. Madine rushes to stand and find his weapon…

-Only to be grasped from behind by General Hochsetter himself, blade drawn!

———“Like I said, it’s time we have a talk, Captain”.

-Krillen’s eyes clear as he steps forward to hand his general a massive Genosian sonic blaster.

——“I want to send a very clear message to our mutual acquaintance…” Hochsetter growls…

“You can’t just threaten me like this…” Madine protests.

“Oh, but I can. Because I’m the one with the blaster in your face”.

———“I WILL report to Lord Tarsus about this and…”

“I would expect nothing less, Captain. You WILL report back to your master and you WILL make one thing very clear…”

“If he ever interferes in my operations again, I will be coming for him. And NOTHING will be able to protect him then. Now scurry on back home, and don’t let me see you on this planet again!”

-The next day a rebel transport sweeps down out of the sky into an abandoned patch of land some miles away from Xizor’s castle.

-Disembarking the shuttle is Alpha Team, armed to the teeth and now under the command of Commander Hiram Willix.

“The job is simple,” Willix immediately asserts his command. “Our source has provided blueprints of the ground, getting in should be easy. You all know your positions from the briefing, so I see no sense in repeating them”.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Havi quips. “My poor, tiny brain just can’t handle all that short term memory sometimes…”

——“We don’t need any sass from you, fish!” Willix barks. “Roll out!”

“This is going to be fun,” Havi snickers to Sila, who only rolls his eyes in reply.

-With that, the strike team marches off, leaving Sila and B2 to ready the shuttle. The tension is high among the drastically restructured unit, now under new leadership. And Willix himself keeps his eyes straight ahead, ignoring the jabs of his subordinates, his mind fixed on one thing: To prove himself better than Colonel Airen Cracken.

-Back within the castle, General Hochsetter accompanies Xizor throughout the luxurious halls of the mansion, as the indulgent prince attempts to impress the increasingly irritated general, who struggles to hide the fact that he is utterly sickened by such pointless extravagances so common amongst the Imperial bureaucracy.

——“But about the deal, prince,” he finally attempts to regain control of the conversation, only for his comlink to again begin to buzz.

“You must be kidding…” Hochsetter mutters under his breath. “I’m sorry, prince, but there is yet another interruption to deal with”.

“Take care of this,” Xizor orders his security chief. “And then we’ll discuss the other matter you brought to me”. The chief turns away, leaving the prince to glower ominously.

-Back in the hanger, it is this time the Inquisitor Squad, including Hank Landow, that now stands confronted by Black Sun guards.

“First Tarsus sends his lapdog, now his petulant children to harass me?” Hochsetter enters the scene already livid. “You know, I know I should be flattered he cares this deeply about attacking my progress here but you know what? The last time I checked I still maintain authority over all of you, and I am thoroughly out of patience for today. So LEAVE. NOW. That is an order”.

-Utterly intimidated by the imposing general, Sgt. Klink, trembling, barely manages to eke out a response:

“I’m afraid there’s something you need to know, first, sir”.

-In the meeting room, the Imperial entourage swiftly marches in to find Xizor waiting.

-Unbeknownst to either party, far above them perches rebel agents Bif and Orrimarko, preparing to pull the trigger on their mission.

“Xizor, I have just been informed of a conspiracy within your organization…” Hochsetter speaks

——“Oh, really”? the prince interrupts. “So have I. Did you really think you could walk into my own home and just kill me?”


-In an instant, the guards open fire as Xizor turns and flees the room!

“O-kee, itsa time to go,” Bif jumps back in shock. “Let them kill eachothers, weesa outta here!”

-Krillen slams Hochsetter to the ground as blaster fire rings back and forth between the two sides in utter chaos.

——“Sir, what the hell just happened?”

“I don’t know,” Hochsetter. “But I can guarantee who did it.”

-Under cover from the Imperial troopers, the two get up and flee the patio, as the sounds of random violence ring out from throughout the entire castle!

-Within the building, the other rebels find themselves caught up in the confusion.

———“You got a contingency for the ”Everyone Randomly Starts Killing Each Other“ situation, Commander?” Havi pipes up.

“Yeah. It’s called shoot anything that moves and get the flark out of here!” Willix barks back while opening fire. “Get moving, now!”

-In the midst of the massive brawl, Orrimarko finds himself lost and separated from the faster Bif. He is shoved out of the way by a fleeing Black Sun operative…

-Who runs straight into the arms of the waiting Inquisitors! Ori hides in time, but stays to watch, and is shocked by what he sees!

-Both of his former rebel allies Hank and Jaig Landow approach the massive Inquisitor pinning down the captured agent.

-G’narrl hoists the terrified Trandoshan up by his head, face to face with Hank.

——“This your man on the inside?”

-Hank hesitates for a moment, his insides twisting and turning, sweating as if he knows he is being watched. He knows this operative has risked his life to provide vital information to the rebels. Hank also knows he is a heartless Black Sun killer. Finally, he silently nods in affirmation.

-From his hiding place, Ori watches in horror as G’narrl dismembers the screaming Trandoshan limb from limb, as the Landow brothers turn to leave. But Ori cannot peel his eyes away, not from the brutal execution, but from the betrayal of two of his closest allies!

-At the hanger doors, Hochsetter is dealing with his own betrayal.

—— “Sir, what’s going on?” one trooper asks

“Black Sun seems to have become convinced we’ve conspired to murder Prince Xizor”.

——“Um… Have we?”

“No. But after today, I believe I just might”.

-The hanger bay doors slide open, but Black Sun guards are waiting on the other side, opening fire and catching the Imperials off guard.

-Hochsetter, however, leaps into action, drawing his personal blade.

-The element of surprise gone, the guards are quickly overwhelmed.

“Pathetic” Hochsetter mutters as he kills the last assailant. “It’s a shock no one’s killed that idiot yet if these are the people defending him”.

“Get to the ship!” he orders the remaining troops. “We leave now.”

——“Sir, we still have men inside the estate…” Krillen speaks up.

“They can find there own way or they can die. I will not waste another second on this damned planet”.

-Meanwhile, on another level, Orrimarko is also struggling to escape the fortress when he too stumbles across two Black Sun agents.

——“Um, I’m just passing through”, he smiles. “Mind lendin’ me a ride?”

-The guards rush him, and Ori opens fire, quickly shooting one down…

-Before the second gets to him, knocking his gun to the floor. The two struggle for control…

-Until Orrimarko gains leverage, slamming the guard back into a nearby fighter.

“I’ve always wanted to fly one of these,” the rebel climbs inside.

-Shortly thereafter, the antique Starfighter roars out of the hanger and into the sky, as Ori attempts to regain contact with the rest of his team.

-As this is happening, Sila touches the shuttle back down to pick up the strike team.

-The three rebels turn to see Bif running towards them in the distance, but no sign of the last member of their team.

“Where’s Orrimarko?” Willix immediately asks.

——“Weesa got separated when things got crazy. If heesa not out here already, then he dead”.

“Damn it. Let’s go, the whole perimeter will be crawling with Black Sun agents looking for us!”

“You don’t mean we’re just going to leave him here!” Havi protests.

——“You heard Agent Bif. He’s most likely dead. We can’t risk the whole mission for one soldier! My priority is to get this team out alive!”

“Colonel Cracken would never…”

——“Well, maybe that’s why I’m here and he’s not!”

-The ensuing awkward silence is finally interrupted by a buzz on the teams com network.

———“I found my own way out of town, folks!” Ori calls in. “Let’s meet up at the next friendly spaceport. We could all use some drinks and, uh, I’ve got some interesting information to report”

-The team silently boards the shuttle.

——“So, uh, how’d the mission go?” Sila asks.

“It’s a long story,” Havi sighs. “Let’s talk later. We could all use a break right now”. With that, the ship departs in silence, the battered team already on the breaking point, in no way prepared for the revelations that their reunion with Orimarko will bring…

<<  Chapter 27
Chapter 28Chapter 29
Brought to you by Choi

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