Jaig Landow and Jedi Master Suun Qwarr: The shy, force-sensitive brother of Hank Landow, Jaig served on Col. Airen Cracken's Beta Squad until he was recruited for Jedi training by Master Qwarr, a jaded old Jedi who felt called to emerge from hiding when he met Jaig. On a training mission, they were both captured. Qwarr was thrown into the dungeon of Castle Gathreel while Jaig faced mental manipulation by the Inquisitors.
Chief Inquisitor Tarsus: The devious leader of Palpatineâ€™s brigade of force-users, The Inquisitors, Tarsus long desired to bring Jaig over to the Dark Side. He recently murdered his rival Headmaster Dreyfus, and his currently conspiring to assassinate Darth Vader himself, to further his own mysterious plans.
Commander Shade: The loyal clone attache to Headmaster Dreyfus, Shade suspected Chief Inquisitor Tarsus as the force behind the disappearance of his master. His theory was proved right when Tarsus had him thrown into the dungeon where he aided in the release of the prisoners.
Bane Malar: An enigmatic bounty hunter, Malar is currently leading a hand-picked team of elite hunters in the employ of Inquisitor Tarsus.
Commander Wilhelm Klink: A veteran of the Clone Wars, Klinkâ€™s failures to capture Col. Cracken and his team have left him indebted to Tarsus, who now uses him to run personal errands.
The Acolytes: Mara Jade, Kara Draco and Gnarl are young dark side adepts trained under Headmaster Dreyfus at Castle Gathreel. Their "graduation" was thrown into disarray when teammate Luc Bar'Nett was killed in an arena exercise. Now, as Darth Vader arrives for their commencement ceremony and the Headmaster is nowhere to be found, they don't have any idea what will come next.
The Rebel Alliance: General George Naht commands the Rebels Black Ops branch: Alliance Intelligence. It's chief agent, Colonel Airen Cracken leads an elite team including Jaig's brother, Hank, Cracken's longtime Wookiee bodyguard Saigorr, pilot Sila Kott and the Aleen mechanic Havi. Cracken has led a force of agents to storm Castle Gathreel and rescue their Jedi friends. Emotions and tension run high as they dash headlong into this new battle.
Previously on Alliance Intelligence:
-After an extended incaracration within the Castle Gathreel, Jaig and Master Qwarr finally have hope of rescue, as Col. Cracken leads a mission to infiltrate the fortress and save his friends. Qwarr, Willix, and their new ally ex-Commander Shade, have been freed from the dungeons, but Jaig still remains captive elsewhere in the upper levels.
-However, the rebel forces have little idea what theyâ€™ve walked themselves into the middle of: a scheme by Chief Inquisitor Tarsus to assassinate Darth Vader himself!
-In an isolated corridor, Col. Cracken impatiently awaits word from the two teams he sent on recon to locate the prisoners, while his own squad attempts to gather information on the building they have just invaded.
-As they approach a turbolift, Cracken looks down to Havi, his faithful tech specialist.
------â€œThink you can hack into their system and get a map of this place?â€
â€œOh, I can do more than that!â€ Havi chuckles to himself as he slaps on his goggles and examines the computer console next to the door. â€œThis fortress may look impressive, but itâ€™s old as heck. I can access the entire security network from hereâ€.
-A few short minutes later, he hops back up.
-------â€œAll done?â€ Cracken asks.
â€œIn record time!â€ Havi smiles broadly. â€œAnd it looks like weâ€™ve got company!â€ The rebels whirl around, expecting approaching Stormtroopersâ€¦.
-But instead it is only Sila Kottâ€™s search party returning to the main group.
--------â€œNo sign of any prisoners on our levels, sir,â€ the young trooper reports. â€œHave you heard from the other squad yet?â€
â€œNo,â€ Cracken replies. â€œWilson insisted we go silent on coms. But if he doesnâ€™t get back soon, Iâ€™m breaking it. Weâ€™re bound to meet resistance eventuallyâ€.
â€œYeah, we didnâ€™t see any troopers in our search at all,â€ Sila sounds worried. â€œCreeped me outâ€.
------â€œIâ€™m picking up plenty of signals here,â€ Havi reports, but none near usâ€¦yet. Iâ€™m starting to think this could be some sort ofâ€¦..â€
â€œTrapâ€. Cracken finishes the sentence. â€œWhatever it is, something isnâ€™t right. Have Saigorr keep some troopers and stay here on guard. Everyone else come with me. Weâ€™re going to find out just what the hell is going on hereâ€.
As the rebels traipse unawares through the castle, high above their heads Chief Inquisitor Tarsus enters the Banquet Hall, bustling with major Imperial dignitaries.
-----â€œEveryone, remain calmâ€, he shouts out. â€œBut I have some urgent news. A rebel force has penetrated our defenses and the castle is under attackâ€.
â€œWhat?!? How is this possible?â€ one of the visiting businessmen calls out in shock.
-------â€œIâ€™m afraid we have reason to believe that Headmaster Dreyfus betrayed us to the terrorist forces before disappearing from the premisesâ€.
â€œBut do not worry,â€ Tarsus continues. â€œWe have secure transport to ensure your safe evacuation of the building. Follow Commander Klink to the exit at the far left end of the hallâ€.
-Stormtroopers and commandos flood the banquet hall, hastily ushering the confused party guests up and to the exit in strict, military fashion.
â€œExcuse me, sirsâ€ Commander Klink cautiously approaches Darth Vader and Moff Hochsetter, who remain in conversation with fellow officers, ignoring the evacuation. â€œI need you to come with me, for your safetyâ€.
â€œI have no intentions of running away from a fightâ€, Vaderâ€™s voice booms out, causing Klink to take a sudden step backwards. â€œI will stay hereâ€.
-Unsure of what to do, Klink hurries to his master.
------â€œChief Inquisitor, sir, umâ€¦ Lord Vader is refusing to leave. What should I do?â€
â€œLet me speak to himâ€.
-Tarsus needs not move, for Vader is already there to assert his decision.
-------â€œI will be staying here, Inquisitor. My men and I fight with you. Presuming you yourself plan to stay?â€
â€œOf course I am,â€ Tarsus scoffs. â€œThese rebels donâ€™t stand a chance. Find whatever troopers you brought with you and follow meâ€. Vader glares at the arrogant Inquisitor as he walks away.
-In little time, Vader and his loyal pilot Sgt. Townsend march swiftly behind Tarsus and Cpt. Madine towards the lower levels of the castle, seemingly towards a dead end.
-However, the â€œdead endâ€ slowly creaks open to reveal an entrance to the castleâ€™s extensive secret passageways.
â€œWe have reason to believe the rebels have hacked into our security feeds,â€ Tarsus reports. â€œWhile we cannot risk disabling all the cameras, there will be interference. This passageway, however, is not under surveillance; therefore allowing us to ambush the invading forceâ€.
-With that, Tarsus turns and swiftly marches into the passageway. Vader follows, but is pulled aside by Townsend.
------â€œSomething is wrong here, sir. I donâ€™t like itâ€.
â€œNeither do I,â€ Vader breathes deeply. â€œBut this fool has tried to undermine me for too long. Today he will learn to respect his superiorsâ€. With that, the duo turns and step forth into the darkness.
-Many floors below, Saigorr and Sgt. Oâ€™Hara stand guard at the rendezvous point with two other rebel soldiers. Suddenly, the wall behind them begins to slide open, revealing Vaderâ€™s ominous form. Saigorr barks out a warningâ€¦
-But it is too late! Vader and Townsend are first out of the gate, taking out two of the rebel guards.
-Seeing this, Sgt. Oâ€™Hara runs to warn the others. But the noble wookiee warrior stays behind.
-Battle axe waving in the air, he charges towards Vaderâ€¦
-Landing a blow that barely seems to faze the dark Lord.
-In moments, the duel is over. A sharp roar of pain echoes out down the hallsâ€¦
-The mighty Saigorr has fallen.
-By the time Oâ€™Hara reaches the other rebels, they all seem painfully aware of what has happened.
â€œWhereâ€™s Saigorr?â€ Cracken pushes his way to the out of breath sergeant. â€œWhat happened?â€
--------â€œVaderâ€¦..Vaderâ€™s here,â€ she replies through gasp of breath. â€œHe killed Hutch and Baz andâ€¦.and Saigorrâ€.
â€œThat son of aâ€¦.â€ Filled with rage at the murder of his long-time protector, Cracken loses his cool, attempting to charge back towards the fight, but is stopped by Hank.
-------â€œAiren, calm downâ€ the soldier breaks rank, addressing the colonel by his first name. â€œEarlier today you warned me about my personal feeling risking the mission. Now Iâ€™ve got to return the favor, okay? Going back there is suicide. Saigorr would want us to finish the missionâ€.
â€œYouâ€™re rightâ€, Cracken sighs remorsefully before regaining his authoritative poise. â€œWeâ€™ve got to keep moving and find a way to bring this whole castle down on Vaderâ€™s headâ€.
-Elsewhere in the castle, the three surviving Acolytes sit in their barracks, dwelling on the events of the past day and the death of their longtime comrade, Luc Barâ€™Nett.
â€œItâ€™s hard to believe Luc is goneâ€¦.â€ Kara muses.
------â€œAnd good riddance,â€ Gnarrl growls. â€œThat little frack got what he deservedâ€. The conversation ends as an alarm blares out through the castle, signaling an evacuation.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ Mara Jade asks as their supervisor scurries into the room.
------â€œIt seems the castle is under attack by the Rebel Allianceâ€, the officer reports. â€œYou are to evacuate the Castle immediately. Go to the South Hanger, your ship will beâ€¦â€
â€œNo!â€ Mara interrupts. â€œWeâ€™re not just going to run away! Headmaster Dreyfusâ€¦â€
â€œHeadmaster Dreyfus has disappeerd and is wanted for treason against the Empire. You WILL retrieve the young Jedi from the Med Bay and vacate the premisesâ€. With that, the supervisor crisply turns and leaves the shocked students behind.
-------â€œI guess that means weâ€™ve graduatedâ€, Gnarrl scoffs.
-The siren blares out elsewhere in the Castle, where an Imperial officer stares down a hallway towards the invaders just out of site.
-------â€œYou are surrounded! Give up you blasters and surrender and the law will look fairly on you!â€
â€œLike hell it will,â€ Colonel Cracken shouts back, popping his around the opposite corner long enough to fire off a shot at the officer.
â€œFools,â€ the Imperial scoffs.
------â€œWhat do we do now, sir?â€ a trooper asks.
â€œWait. The others are coming up behind them as we speak. There will be no escapeâ€.
Suddenly, a sound echoes out from behind them, a clamor of stomping feet and shouting voices. The troopers turn to figure out what is happeningâ€¦
-Just as the army of newly liberated prisoners swarms the hall!
-Led by Master Qwarr, they quickly overwhelm the shocked Imperials.
-Confused by the ruckus, Cracken steps out into the hall, only to see the officerâ€™s dead body tumble out into view.
-In an instant, the hall is filled with a ragtag band of Rebel forces and former inmates. Immediately recognizing the agents and Qwarr, Cracken rushes towards them.
â€œWhereâ€™s Wilson?â€ he asks.
------â€œWhereâ€™s Jaig?â€, Hank speaks at the same time.
â€œIâ€™m afraid your fellow officer didnâ€™t make it,â€ Qwarr regretfully replies. â€œBut he has been avengedâ€.
--------â€œDamn,â€ Cracken sighs. They have already lost too many men today.
â€œJaig is being held elsewhere in this facility. I must find him now. Take this boy, ensure he sees it too safety,â€ Qwarr motions to Charles, the young prisoner he befriended in the dungeon. â€œI will see you again soon, with your brother, if it is the will of the Forceâ€.
â€œI canâ€™t let you go alone!â€ Cracken shouts as Qwarr calmly walks away. â€œVader is back there, itâ€™s too dangerous!â€ Qwarr does not reply, he simply follows his calling, walking away, down the hall, until he reaches a corner and is out of site.
To Be Continued When Part 2 Arrives Later This Week!
And no, there is no need to adjust your monitor, the wonky sizes were an unfortunate happenstance. I don't know what caused those pictures to save wrong, but I was unable to reshoot, so here it is. I considered shrinking down the entire chapter, but when I looked at it, I just didn't like the way it turned out, especially when it was just for 10 frames in the whole chapter. So hopefully it wasn't too distracting. All the sizes should be in their proper order once Part 2 gets finished next week! As always, thanks for reading, and leave all comments and suggestions below!