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.


<<  Chapter 27
Chapter 28  
Brought to you by Choi

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