Airen Cracken: A top agent in the Rebel Alliance's Intelligence branch, Col. Cracken has been a major figure in the fight against the Empire for years, ever since he and his close knit team left their home planet of Conturuum to join the larger rebellion. But recent events have torn the original team apart, and the loss of his friends under his command has Cracken unprecedentedly stressed, and inwardly doubting his own leadership abilities.
Commander Shade: Formerly one of the Empire's most highly trained commandos, Shade was forced to flee when his master was murdered. Now he serves alongside the rebels but secretly plans on staying only long enough to gain revenge on the conspirators who deposed his true master, Darth Vader.
Willix: This hardened fighter lost his old cause and fell in with the Rebel Alliance. A stone-cold, pragmatic soldier, it didn't take long for Willix to come into conflict with the leader of his squad: Col. Airen Cracken.
Sila and Hans Kott: These two brothers hail from the Fangorn Empire, a segmented political group in the Outer Rim. Both served the Empire until Sila joined the Rebel Alliance and Hans deserted his post, conflicted about his role in the Imperial Military.
Cpt. Oxixo: One of the highest ranking TIE Fighter Aces in the Imperial Navy, Ox was partnered with Hans, serving together through many battles. He is the only person who knows the truth about Hans' disappearance, but has kept the secret, out of loyalty to his closest friend.
Previously on Alliance Intelligenceâ€¦
-Hans Kottâ€™s return home took a sudden turn when he realized it was all part of a grand ruse to steal a fleet of transports from the Imperial auction yards. Devastated by his brotherâ€™s perceived betrayal, he refuses to take part in the scheme.
-Despite Hansâ€™ rejection of the plan, Cracken, covering up a crippling bout with self-doubt, orders the mission to proceed without him, but Sila refused to give up on his brother, and triggered the Imperial alarms attempting one last meeting!
-Meanwhile, across the galaxy, Hank Landow enjoys unexpected freedom as the prisoner of the Inquisitors, but has yet to make contact with his brotherâ€¦
-Hank silently stares down at Jaig and his teammate and newfound love Kara as they overlook the gardens of a world where the Dauntless Knight has stopped to refuel. He tries to think of something to say, to bridge the gap that now lies between him and his brother. But he cannot bring himself to raise his voice, only watch, still, in silence.
-He is startled by the sudden appearance of Sgt. Klink, his amicable captor.
------â€œItâ€™s high time the two of you had a talkâ€.
â€œWhat? No, I donâ€™t know what to say. He gave up on everything we believed inâ€¦â€
-----â€œFrom a certain point of viewâ€¦â€
â€œTell me,â€ Klink continues â€œWhen Mara first interrogated you, did she spin some yarn about her brother, something about him getting killed by rebels?â€
â€œWell itâ€™s a load of crock. She was an only child. Thatâ€™s how she got so good at manipulation, if you ask me. But I did have a brother Hank. During the Clone Wars, we lived on a neutral world that didnâ€™t much care for the Republic. But then one day the Confederacy rolled into town. They murdered my brother in cold blood. And so, of all things, I joined the Army of the Republic. And Iâ€™ve been fighting for justice ever sense. It just goes to show, you can never predict what someone will do for a brotherâ€¦â€
-Lightyears away, on Tirith, Cpt. Oxixo marches down the halls of the Imperial garrison, on the hunt for the intruder he believes assaulted Hans in the gardens, not realizing that it was Hansâ€™ own brother, Sila.
â€œSir,â€ a trooper calls out to him. â€œWe have a report!â€
-Ox turns back to see an earnest Fangorn soldier standing at attention.
------â€œWhat is it?â€
â€œThe intruder has been apprehended, sir. Weâ€™re holding him in the interrogation chambers nowâ€.
-Elsewhere in the same garrison, Willix and Shade nervously wait as Inspector Zulu, held at gunpoint, gives them access to the spaceport controls while alarms sound.
-Suddenly the trooper they had encountered earlier, Shadeâ€™s old squad mate, bursts into the room
------â€œInspector, theyâ€™ve captured the intruder and need you inâ€¦ Wait, whatâ€™s going on?â€
-Without hesitation, Willix shoots the trooper dead as Shade watches, his helmet covering his horrified expression.
â€œYouâ€™re never going to get out of here alive, idiotsâ€, the Inspector scoffs, finishing the codes. â€œThis is one of the largest Imperial garrison outside of the core!â€
â€œWeâ€™ll see about thatâ€, Willix stares him down.
â€œYouâ€™re coming with usâ€.
-In the interrogation chambers, Ox is shocked to see the intruder revealed as none other than Sila Kott, highly wanted rebel terrorist and brother to his closest friend!
-In a few moments, Hans rushes into the chamber, confused.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€
â€œWe need a momentâ€, Ox mutters, shoving Hans back out the door and into the hallway.
â€œHow did you brother get here, Hans?â€
------â€œI donâ€™t knowâ€¦â€
â€œAre you sure, because right now this looks very bad for you. Wolffe is looking for any excuse to discredit you and heâ€™s already determined that you helped Sila sneak back in!â€
â€œThatâ€™s not true!â€ Hans protests.
-----â€œIt better not be. Iâ€™m risking my whole career to stand up for you. Donâ€™t betray me againâ€.
-Ox backs away as the rest of the officers exit the chamber. He turns to General Wolffe and walks off, quietly urging the Supreme Leader to calm his accusations. Mayor Riechenbach, however, stays behind with Hans.
â€œI have everything under control,â€ the Mayor assures Hans.
------â€œI donâ€™t want you to have everything under control!â€ Hans snaps back. â€œI want you and my brother and the rebellion, and all of the secrecy and backstabbing out of my life! I didnâ€™t come back for this!â€
â€œThen hereâ€™s the codes to the cell. Do what needs to be done, and this will all be overâ€.
â€œWhy did you come back?,â€ Hans glares at his brother, walking back into the chamber.
------â€œBecause you're my brother! I donâ€™t want to leave without you!â€
â€œYou don't want... Well, did you ever think to ask me what I wanted? You just assumed Iâ€™d love to leave behind everything I knew and everyone I cared about to join your little crusade?â€
-Silaâ€™s bonds slip off, dropping him to the floor.
------â€œWell thatâ€™s not the life I want, Sila. Get out while you still can. This is good-byeâ€.
-As a devastated Sila flees the compound, Willix and Shade march through the back gate with their prisoner leading the way.
------â€œThis is insaneâ€, Inspector Zulu is still complaining. â€œWhat is even your point here?â€
â€œWhereâ€™s Cracken?â€ Willix scans the area. â€œWe need to ditch this nerf herder.â€
-Suddenly, the Inspector lashes out, grabbing Willixâ€™s blaster!
-He turns to shoot Shade, who reaches for his blaster but freezes, unable to shoot a fellow
-But before he can pull the trigger, a shot rings out and a blaster bolt rips directly between the Zuluâ€™s eyes, killing him instantly.
-â€œHeesa dead!â€ Bif shouts from atop a distant shelter.
â€œWhat the heck was that?â€ Willix bends down to retrieve his blaster. â€œWhy didnâ€™t you shoot?â€
-Before Shade can reply, Cracken and the other rebels arrive at the scene.
------â€œHave you seen Sila?â€ Cracken asks.
â€œNo, what am I, his babysitter?â€ Willix scoffs. â€œWhat, did you lose your little wunderkind?â€
â€œHe must have gone back to try and talk to his brother. Weâ€™ll need to stay out here until we hear from himâ€.
â€œWell, if he went back in, then heâ€™s the one who set off the alarms and heâ€™s either locked up or deadâ€ Willix replies. â€œWeâ€™re sitting ducks out here, letâ€™s roll outâ€.
â€œWe donâ€™t leave anyone behind!â€ Cracken snaps, slamming the new agent into a wall. â€œI donâ€™t know how you did things wherever the hell it is you came from, but I donâ€™t just abandon my men!â€
-------â€œThen you had better start keeping a better hold on them! If you keep us out here, youâ€™ll lose your whole damn team!â€
-Calming down, and realizing the breadth of the situation, Cracken steps back
------â€œWeâ€™ll move to the hangers and meet the seller. Once we have the ships, we can wait for Sila. He knows how to get thereâ€.
-It doesnâ€™t take long for the rebels to reach the hanger in question, but the walk seems like an eternity for those worrying about their missing friend and the increasingly volatile emotional of their leader.
-At the gate, they are confronted by a gruff manager.
-----â€œWeâ€™re here to meet Niles Handelâ€, Cracken declares.
â€œAre all of your missions like this?â€ Shade whispers.
------â€œWeâ€™ve had a rough few monthsâ€, Havi sighs in reply.
-The team marches into the hanger, a shady, ramshackle establishment somehow maintained with precision and order by itâ€™s beaurocratic management. towards the back auction lot, where the fleet of transports wait.
â€œDonâ€™t move!â€ an armored figure lurches forward, blaster drawn.
------â€œOkay, calm down,â€ Cracken smiles. â€œIâ€™m the buyer. Whereâ€™s Niles?â€
-The ominous, cloaked leader of the gang confidently struts forward.
-------â€œYou have the payment?â€ Bif steps forwards with a heavy bag.
â€œItâ€™s all hereâ€, Cracken pulls out a large, crystalline orb from the bag. â€œThe spice, as arrangedâ€.
â€œBut now hereâ€™s the thingâ€, Niles shakes his head. â€œWords been going around lately. I know who you are now. Col. Airen Cracken, the Empireâ€™s most wanted. You alone have a bounty worth that spice and then some. And you had the courtesy of bringing your whole team. So letâ€™s just sayâ€¦ the price has gone upâ€.
â€œThis is all weâ€™ve gotâ€, Cracken replies cautiously.
-----â€œWell, thatâ€™s just too badâ€ Niles motions to his men, who circle the rebels weapons drawn.
-The team groups up as theyâ€™re surrounded by Nilesâ€™ gang. Things look bleak untilâ€¦
-Sila pushes his way to the group.
-------â€œSomeone reneg on the deal again, Colonel?â€
â€œWill this help?â€ He holds up an ancient Fangorn death mask, suspiciously similar to one in Supreme General Wolffeâ€™s private collection.
â€œThisâ€¦this is acceptable,â€ Niles struggles to hide his excitement with his priceless new prize. â€œI will accept it. Now get out of here before I change my mind and something painful happensâ€.
â€œExcellent work, Silaâ€ Cracken smiles as the team prepares to depart in their new shuttles.
â€œBut whereâ€™d you get the mask?â€ Shade asks.
-------â€œOh, they just had the old thing lying around the castleâ€â€¦
-As the transports depart for the rebel base, General Wollfe reclines in his throne room, completely oblivious to what has transpired, instead dwelling on his plan to eliminate Hans Kott and his brother once and for all.
â€œExcuse me, sir, thereâ€™s a Cpt. Oxixo here to see youâ€, a protocol droid interrupts his brooding.
-----â€œLet him in. Hopefully he broke that rebel scumâ€
-The door slides open to reveal Oxixo and a squad of Stormtroopers, blasters drawn.
-------â€œKarl Wollfe, you are under arrest for treason against the Galactic Empireâ€, Ox declares. â€œYou are officially relieved of your duties as Supreme General and will be transferred into imperial custody awaiting trialâ€.
â€œThis is outrageous treason!â€ Wollfe shouts as he is led away. â€œYou wonâ€™t get way with this!â€
â€œPardon my asking, master Mayor, sir, but what exactly is going on?â€ the confused protocol droid approaches Mayor Reichenbach as the guards exit.
------â€œIt appears that our formal generalâ€™s personal access codes allowed a highly wanted rebel spy to escape the Imperial garrison along with one of his personal artifacts, which were then used to illegally purchase a squadron of transport shuttles. So sloppy. I expected better of himâ€.
â€œSo what happens now?â€ Hans asks, hours later.
------â€œMayor Reichenbach will hold the Supreme Generalâ€™s position until a proper replacement can be found. Unless youâ€™ve changed your mindâ€.
â€œNo, I've had quite enough of politics for ten lifetimes. Iâ€™m just still not sure what I want to do now. Iâ€™m home, but nothing is the way that I left itâ€.
â€œThen I may have something for you Hans, but before I ask this next question, I need to be absolutely sure", the Captain looks cautiously around, wary of being overheard. "Can I trust you? Are you still loyal to the Empire?â€
-------â€œOf course! Youâ€™re the only friend I have left, Ox. Iâ€™d never lie to youâ€.
â€œThen listen carefully. Iâ€™ve been recruited for a secret mission. Thereâ€™s been a conspiracy, itâ€™s vast within the Empire, how high up it goes, no one knows. But everything that has happened in the last few months is a lie!â€
â€œDarth Vader is alive!â€
TO BE CONTINUEDâ€¦â€¦..
Thanks for reading! Sorry it took so long to get this posted, my summer has been super busy. And a huge shout-out to Chewie, for being an amazing human being and supplying me with a set of spare heads after Hank's noggin was misplaced during a move. The new head for him is on display for the first time in this chapter. I hope you all enjoyed this and the set-up for the commencement of the final storyline! Now all I have to do is figure a way to edit the final three chapters, seeing as how Photoimpact went and died with my parents' old computer while I was off at school. As always, all comments and critiques are highly encouraged in the space below, they're what keeps me going through the end with this, so they're all incredibly appreciated!