- "Mostly, we're known as the Hand of Judgment."
- ―Daric LaRone
The Hand of Judgment was a group of five stormtrooper deserters who performed multiple vigilante operations across the Empire in the months following the Battle of Yavin. They left their post aboard the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Reprisal after the leader of the group, Daric LaRone, killed Major Drelfin of the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB). The Major had threatened LaRone after accusing him of insubordination during a mission to the planet Teardrop, and LaRone was forced to kill the Major in self-defense. The four witnesses to the event—Korlo Brightwater, Taxtro Grave, Saberan Marcross and Joak Quiller—decided to desert with their friend as they feared the ISB would severely punish them for doing nothing to save the Major. They were able to steal a modified Suwantek TL-1800 freighter, the Gillia, which was outfitted with a substantial amount of military supplies and weaponry. Hoping to avoid capture by the ISB, the group traveled to Drunost, a planet controlled by Consolidated Shipping—where they encountered and destroyed a swoop gang which was attacking a group of farmers, who in truth were Rebel smugglers—and to Janusar city on Ranklinge, where they removed the corrupt Patroller Chief Cav'Saran from power.
They first went by the name "Hand of Judgment" when on Ranklinge, when LaRone—who had been chosen to be the group's spokesman—was unable to come up with an authentic-sounding fake operating number. From Cav'Saran's files the stormtroopers discovered a connection to the BloodScar pirates, who had been recruiting other illegal groups in the Shelsha sector, and who were also involved with the swoop gang they had destroyed earlier. They returned to Drunost, where they encountered Han Solo and Luke Skywalker—two Rebels who were there to learn more about the fight between the five stormtroopers and the swoop gang, when the Hand of Judgment had inadvertently rescued Rebel smugglers. Together with Solo and Skywalker, who were also interested in tracking the pirates, the Hand of Judgment headed to the BloodScar's base on the mining planet Gepparin, where they found a link between the pirates and Barshnis Choard, the governor of the Shelsha sector. They followed the lead to Shelkonwa, where the crew of the YT-1300 light freighter Millennium Falcon—Solo, Skywalker and Solo's Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca—also wanted to go as they had a friend who had gotten into trouble on the capital, Makrin City.
Leaving the Rebels to search for their friend, the Hand of Judgment went to help a downed ship which had landed near them and encountered an Imperial agent, Mara Jade. They helped her stop a stolen AT-ST which had been put on autopilot by a pirate. After the fight, Jade protected LaRone and his companions when they were questioned by a member of the 501st Legion, but demanded their help as a return favor in infiltrating the governor's palace—Jade had a reason to believe Governor Choard was a traitor to the Empire. The group got into the palace and the Hand of Judgment arrested the Governor to stand trial for his treason. While separated from the stormtroopers, Jade had heard about a group of five stormtrooper deserters and realized that they were the Hand of Judgment, but when Darth Vader questioned the group, she covered them again, claiming they belonged to her. After hearing the truth about the Hand of Judgment and why they had deserted, Jade decided to let them go while she investigated the matter.
For the next two months the Hand of Judgment traveled from one place to another continuing their vigilante activities. When Jade got another mission which involved infiltrating the governmental palace on Poln Major—according to her information Governor Bidor Ferrouz of the Poln system was planning to defect to Rebellion—she decided to employ the Hand of Judgment again. When Jade found out that the Governor had been coerced to co-operate with the Rebels—his family had been abducted under the orders of warlord Nuso Esva—the Hand of Judgment took him under protective custody while she went after the kidnappers. With help from a group of alien refugees identifying themselves as the Troukree, led by their spokesman called Vaantaar they had met in the capital of Poln Major, Whitestone City, the stormtroopers were able to ward off the attacks on the Governor's life by Nuso Esva's followers. When the Governor and his family had been secured, Vaantaar took the Hand of Judgment to meet his master aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer Admonitor. Senior Captain Thrawn was interested in having LaRone and his companions under his command in his shadow Empire in the Unknown Regions. He wanted them to train a new group of stormtroopers where aliens would also be welcomed, and in the end the Hand of Judgment accepted the offer and named their new unit the 501st Legion.
- "As Brightwater pointed out, I'm the one who killed Drelfin. Maybe they'll let you go back to the unit."
"Of course, as Grave pointed out, Palpatine's Empire may not be worth serving anymore. I was under impression we'd already been wondering about that when all the rest of this went down."
- ―Daric LaRone and Joak Quiller noting various opinions on their desertion
In 0.5 ABY Imperial stormtroopers Daric LaRone, Taxtro Grave, Saberan Marcross and Joak Quiller, along with their scout trooper friend Korlo Brightwater, were stationed on board the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Reprisal when the ship was tasked with rooting out a rumored Rebel base on the planet Teardrop. All the Rebels evacuated before the Star Destroyer arrived, but the Reprisal's Captain, Kendal Ozzel, still decided to deploy the troops to attack a city on the hills, which was suspected of having harbored the Rebels. LaRone, Grave, Marcross and Quiller were among the stormtroopers who participated in the attack while Brightwater was on patrol duty outside the city. Members of the Imperial Security Bureau, who were accompanying the task force, ordered the soldiers to shoot defenseless civilians. After the attack Brightwater told LaRone how the official reports would say there had been a Rebel ambush in the city, but the five soldiers suspected that there had been nothing of the sort and thus no legitimate reason to kill the entire population. During a conversation with LaRone, Grave suggested the ISB had only wanted to see if any of the stormtroopers would purposefully miss his shots. Grave and LaRone had also made the observation that the first people who were targeted were aliens.
Several days after the massacre, ISB Major Drelfin came across LaRone and his companions in a passage on board the Reprisal. He recognized LaRone and accused him of insubordination and treason—he had missed his shots on purpose when ordered to kill the people on Teardrop and the ISB operatives had noticed his lack of precision shooting. The confrontation ended when Drelfin threatened LaRone with a gun and the trained battle reflexes took control of the stormtrooper, who grabbed the weapon and shot the Major in self-defense when he pulled out his back-up gun. LaRone's four friends, who were present for the event, realized that he was in serious trouble, and that their own situation was also questionable as none of them had tried to stop LaRone. The death of an ISB major would soon be noticed, so the group came to reluctant conclusion that their only way out of it was to leave the Reprisal immediately. Following Quiller's advice, the group decided to grab one of the modified ships the ISB had brought on board, choosing the Suwantek TL-1800 freighter named Gillia as their vehicle of escape. To get out of the Reprisal, LaRone pretended to be Major Drelfin and tricked the ship into dropping out of hyperspace so that they could leave. As the ISB was known to perform missions the fleet knew nothing about, they were allowed to go on their way before anyone found out about Drelfin's death.
When searching their new ship, the stormtroopers found a wide variety of armor and weaponry as well as forged identity tags and money—the ship itself was also equipped with false registry papers. Seeing the military equipment, the group thought that they could become mercenaries, but they still remembered the oath they had sworn to the Empire and the New Order, and they were hesitant to hire themselves out for criminals. After the massacre on Teardrop—combined with the rumors they had heard about the destruction of the planet Alderaan—they had been wondering if the Empire they had served so loyally really was worth their allegiance. The large amount of money the ISB had stored aboard the Suwantek allowed the stormtroopers to survive for a while without finding work, so they decided to head for Drunost, a planet controlled by Consolidated Shipping and which thus had almost nonexistent Imperial presence, to buy fuel and provisions before they would try and find a more permanent hiding place.
While LaRone and Grave were shopping on Drunost, a swoop gang attacked a group of farmers near where the stormtroopers' Suwantek was parked. Because LaRone had grown up as a farmer, he wanted to help them—he was unaware that in truth the "farmers" were smuggling weapons for the Rebellion—and with his companions he made short work of the swoop gang, letting the farmers go on their own way. The incident, however, forced them to leave Drunost before they had gotten all their supplies—they didn't want to wait for the Reprisal to track them there. The battle with the gang also forced the stormtroopers to think about their chain of command, as they knew battles required someone to lead while others followed the orders, and in the end LaRone was chosen to become the leader of their team.
Becoming the Hand of JudgmentEdit
- "All right, I give up. Somebody say it."
"Okay. The Hand of Judgment?"
- ―Daric LaRone and Taxtro Grave after the first came up with the name of their group
After they departed from Drunost, LaRone's group headed to Ranklinge, a planet in Shelsha sector of the Colonies, where they intended to complete their shopping. When they landed in the city of Janusar, Sergeant Whisteer of the local patrol group tried to shake them down. The patroller also confiscated the two Aratech speeder bikes which had been found on board the Suwantek. When the patrollers were gone, a starport worker named Krinkins told them that the one behind the extortion was in fact the Patroller Chief Cav'Saran, who had taken the entire city under his control. Such a misuse of power angered LaRone and his companions, who decided to release the city with the help of few honest patrollers, who had lost their job when Cav'Saran had taken over. After a day of making plans and shopping, LaRone led his group to the Patroller Central, where their contact from the spaceport was waiting for them with the ex-patrollers and a sizable crowd. When LaRone confronted Cav'Saran about his actions, the Patroller Chief decided to make a fight for it with the support of his most loyal followers, but the five stormtroopers cut them down easily. After the corrupted patrollers had been dealt with, the former senior officer Colonel Atmino, who LaRone assigned to take charge of the city temporarily, asked the stormtroopers their operating numbers. LaRone told him they were called the "Hand of Judgment" because he had no better ideas at that time. While the other members of the group later teased LaRone because of the name—at first LaRone himself considered it to be rather lame—they decided to keep it.
The newly named Hand of Judgment then went through the information they had gained from Cav'Saran's files and compared it with what they knew about the swoop gang they had faced on Drunost. They noticed that both groups had suspicious connections with a pirate group called the BloodScars. They decided to return to Drunost to learn more about the swoop gang, but instead they found one of the farmers in close conversation with a suspicious group of people that included two Humans and a Wookiee. Believing that the group might be connected with the pirates, they followed their YT-1300 light freighter to the Purnham system, where they became allies of convenience with the group against two pirate ships. The pirates were attacking a ship that had been acting as bait in a trap planned by Han Solo, the captain of the YT-1300. After destroying one of the pirate ships, the Hand of Judgment boarded the remaining vessel, which had been incapacitated during the battle. From the two pirates they captured alive, the Hand of Judgment learned that the BloodScars had been gathering smaller groups under their command. The pirates also told them about a mercenary named Caaldra, who had been meeting with the leader of the pirates. In the end the information learned from the pirates was not as useful as LaRone had hoped it to be.
The conversation with the two Humans they had been following turned out to be more fruitful, but the Hand of Judgment had no way of knowing that they had met some very important Rebel figures—the crew of the Millennium Falcon consisted of Solo, Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker, who each had played a major role half a year earlier in the Battle of Yavin destroying the Death Star. Solo was extremely suspicious of LaRone and his companions—even though he had no idea they had Imperial background—but they were still able to co-operate in tracking down a likely location of the BloodScar pirate base. LaRone decided to keep Solo, Skywalker and Chewbacca locked up in three of the cabins while they would follow the lead to the Gepparin system, where they expected to find the pirates. But when they arrived at Gepparin, in addition to pirates, the Hand of Judgment found the Reprisal. The Star Destroyer had gotten there slightly ahead of them as Captain Ozzel and his ISB associate Vak Somoril wanted to destroy the pirate base as an excuse to kill an Imperial agent, Mara Jade, who had infiltrated the place—they were afraid that the woman had found out about the five missing stormtroopers, which would have been a threat to their careers. In fact Jade was completely unaware of the desertion of LaRone and his friends, until the special operations personnel who had been sent to accompany her during the infiltration mentioned it to her. She was not very interested in the runaways as her own mission took priority.
While LaRone and his companions were trying to get away from the Reprisal, Skywalker, Solo and the Wookiee were able to escape from their confinement, and their timely help enabled them to get loose from a tractor beam the Reprisal had on their ship. Chewbacca, who was flying the Millennium Falcon, lured the Reprisal after him and led it in a useless chase toward the Alderaan system while the stormtroopers landed to search what was left of the pirate base. In the command bunker they found a communications unit that was set to send messages to Shelkonwa, the capital planet of the Shelsha sector. Because Solo and Skywalker—the latter had learned through the Force that their friend, Leia Organa, was in trouble on Shelkonwa—also wanted to head that way, they decided to stay together a little while longer, even after both learned of the others' affiliations to the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. After Chewbacca returned with the Millennium Falcon, they headed out to the capital planet, hiding the Corellian vessel along the way.
Working for the Emperor's HandEdit
- "You have the entire Five-oh-first. You certainly won't begrudge me my Hand of Judgment."
- ―Mara Jade to Darth Vader
When the Hand of Judgment arrived on Shelkonwa with Solo, Skywalker and the Wookiee, they found the Star Dreadnought Executor orbiting the planet after Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith, had personally arrived to search for Organa, whose presence in Makrin City had been reported to him by Chief Administrator Vilim Disra. The faked military registry information the stormtroopers had for the ship allowed them to land unchallenged at Greencliff Regional Spaceport. As the city was crawling with stormtroopers of Vader's personal escort from the 501st Legion, the Hand of Judgment decided to accompany the Rebels during their search to make sure they would not fall into Imperial hands. When they were nearing their target—Skywalker had used the Force to locate Organa as well as roaming patrols they tried to avoid—they saw how a small spaceship was shot down nearby. LaRone decided that their duty was to go and help there, and ordered his Rebel allies to continue on their own while they would go and see what had happened.
The Hand of Judgment found a young, red-haired woman fighting an AT-ST that had shot down her ship. She introduced herself as Jade and used a high level Imperial recognition code, ordering the Hand of Judgment to help her to stop the rogue vehicle Caaldra—the pirate who had arrived on the planet just ahead of her carrying fifty stolen AT-STs—had set on autopilot. They were also helped by Chewbacca, who was piloting the Suwantek and acting as bait, and Solo's group, who were attempting to return to the ship without drawing unwanted attention as they had already found Organa. Soon after the battle, official stormtrooper patrols arrived on the scene, but as the young woman noticed LaRone's reluctance to identify his group, she covered them, claiming that they were a special unit given under her command. After they left the scene together, Jade wanted LaRone to tell her all the things he had not told to the regular military, but he spun a story of half-truths to hide the fact that they were practically military deserters and she accepted it only demanding that the Hand of Judgment would, for the time being, take orders from her. Seeing they had no other option, the Hand of Judgment hesitantly accepted.
Because Marcross had grown up in Makrin City, he was chosen to guide his friends and Jade to a secret entrance to the Palace grounds—Marcross had learned about the door as a teenager when his friend and cousin, the Governor's son, Crayg, had used it to slip away to the city. After they had located the door, Jade took command again and led them further away, where she was able to use her lightsaber to cut an opening in the wall. When they had gotten inside the Palace grounds, Brightwater separated from the others and headed to the main gate on his speeder bike to prevent any possible escape attempts, while Jade led the other four across the garden toward a side door, which opened into a kitchen. On the grounds, Jade told LaRone what their mission was about—she suspected that Governor Barshnis Choard of Shelsha sector was a traitor to the Empire as she believed he had been involved with pirate activities, as well as his having attempted to kill Jade. Such charges deserved a death penalty and the woman wanted the stormtroopers to help her to bring justice upon the traitor. When the team was crossing the garden a large and easily flammable plant startled the stormtroopers, who revealed their presence by shooting at the frightening apparition. The incident forced Jade to improvise their plan of entrance and she was separated from the Hand of Judgment. The troopers used the kitchen door, while the agent cut her own way in through a wall of the upper floor.
After Jade had been separated from the Hand of Judgment, she learned from Caaldra about a group of five stormtroopers who had deserted from the Reprisal. She soon figured out that they were the same troopers she had commandeered and who were now hunting for Choard. While Jade struggled to overcome the trap Caaldra had set for her, burning the room where she was, LaRone and his team made their way through the kitchen and into the reception hall. There they attempted to arrest the Governor to stand trial for his treason, but unexpectedly Marcross turned against his companions. He had not told his friends before that Choard was actually his uncle. The stormtrooper handed over his weapon to the Governor, but the older man turned it against Marcross and revealed that he indeed had been planning to separate Shelsha sector from the Empire. Marcross had been suspicious of his uncle, but wanted to see the truth with his own eyes—the weapon he had given to the Governor had only one shot left, which wasn't enough to do serious damage. Jade, who had reached the balcony during the encounter, helped the stormtroopers by throwing a mist canister among the group. Despite the canister not being designed for indoors use, the mist distracted the Governor enough to foul his aim and save Marcross' life.
Even though the Governor had confessed his treason in front of everyone and had attacked the Hand of Judgment, LaRone demanded his companions leave Choard alive so he could be tried in court. Soon Jade came down from the balcony and joined the group, around the same time Vilim Disra—who was secretly behind the faked plot to separate Shelsha sector from the Empire to discredit Choard and in turn position himself to become the sector governor—entered the reception chamber with Darth Vader and his 501st Legion. The arrival of the Dark Lord of the Sith and his private troops made LaRone uneasy, as he feared that their desertion would be revealed and they would be killed. LaRone was also certain that Jade had discovered the truth about them, but to their surprise the woman covered the group again, claiming that they were hers and comparing her relationship with the Hand of Judgment to the one that existed between the 501st Legion and Darth Vader himself.
After she had led the deserter stormtroopers safely away from Vader and his cohorts, Jade demanded to hear the whole truth about their desertion and what they had done since then. While she strongly believed in the goodness of the Empire, Jade also understood why LaRone and his companions had seen no other choice but to run away. She also promised to find out exactly what had happened on Teardrop and who was responsible for the massacre of the civilians there. Jade was willing to let the Hand of Judgment go on their way, but demanded that they drop the name of the group and stay out of sight and trouble. After leaving the group, Jade arranged a special permission for their ship to depart—she had no idea that Solo, Chewbacca, Skywalker and Organa were hiding on board. The Hand of Judgment returned the Rebels to the Millennium Falcon, hidden away to the outskirts of the system, and went on with their new career as vigilantes despite Jade's warning.
Going out with a bangEdit
- "We're going out anyway. We know that. Let's go out with a bang."
- ―Korlo Brightwater
After the events on Shelkonwa, the Hand of Judgment stayed on the move for the next two months. They traveled from one planet to another and continued to perform similar missions where they saw a need. However, playing heroes took its toll on the equipment and money the ISB had stored on board their ship, and after those two months the group had to start considering retirement. When they had taken out yet another mercenary hideout, they had to admit they could not keep up with it for long anymore. They considered the matter and concluded that they still had enough equipment to survive a couple more missions. They were particularly interested in stolen elections on the planet named Elegasso. However, on their way to Elegasso, the Hand of Judgment decided to stop on another planet called Pickerin to sort out a simple case where a group of sculptors had been forced into slave labor.
When the Hand of Judgment landed on Pickerin, they immediately fell under an unexpected gas attack. All five members of the team went down without firing a shot at their attackers. They later woke up and met the leader of their captors, who turned out to be Bok Yost, the corrupt politician from Elegasso. Yost had put out the rumor about the sculptors in order to prevent the Hand of Judgment from reaching Elegasso. The politician had expected the stormtroopers to react to his actions and had set the trap for them with the help of a group of mercenaries. The Hand of Judgment thought it was the end of them, but suddenly Mara Jade interfered and rescued the group. The Emperor had ordered Jade to find out if Governor Bidor Ferrouz of Candoras sector was plotting with the Rebellion and intended to defect. The woman had remembered the team from their earlier encounter on Shelkonwa, and decided to commandeer their help on her new mission. To the Hand of Judgment it was clear that Jade would not take no for an answer. On the other hand, they had been planning on doing something important for their last mission, and they figured that taking out a treasonous Governor seemed to fit well with that plan.
On their approach to Poln Major, capital of Candoras sector, Quiller noticed a familiar looking YT-1300 light freighter on a landing platform: the Millennium Falcon. Although Marcross thought that Solo's presence with his friends confirmed the suspicion against the Governor, the Hand of Judgment decided not to report the Rebel presence to Jade. At least they wanted to speak to Solo first to find out what they were doing in Whitestone City, the capital of Poln Major. When they were walking around the spaceport, gathering intelligence, they witnessed an encounter between two groups of aliens. A group of Pineath accused Troukree weaponsmiths of selling poor quality items and the encounter threatened to turn violent. LaRone and his companions interfered and were able to sort things out without bloodshed. After things calmed down, the leader of the Troukree, Vaantaar, told the Hand of Judgment about a warlord called Nuso Esva. The warlord's expected attack on their homeworld had forced the Troukree to seek sanctuary in the Poln system. To reward the stormtroopers' help, Vaantaar presented one of the knives his people had crafted to LaRone, who in turn handed it over to Brightwater, who had developed a liking for all kinds of souvenirs.
The next day Jade helped LaRone and Marcross masquerade themselves as part of Ferrouz's stormtrooper force. With the help of the two soldiers she infiltrated the palace grounds—she pretended to be a prisoner, who the stormtroopers suspected of shoplifting. While LaRone and Marcross accompanied Jade into the palace, the rest of the Hand of Judgment were standing guard outside. They saw a flash riot, where an unsuspecting Luke Skywalker got blamed for murdering the Governor, who in fact was still alive. Hearing about the riot through their comlinks, LaRone ordered the others to rescue the young Jedi. Just before the riot started outside, Jade, who had reached the governor's office, learned that Ferrouz's family had been kidnapped to force the Governor to make a deal with the Rebels. According to Ferrouz, the kidnapping had been organized by Nuso Esva—the same warlord the Hand of Judgment had heard about from the Troukree. While Brightwater carried Skywalker safely away from the riot, the young Jedi also referred to the warlord, revealing that the Rebel presence in the Poln system was due to the fear of the Warlord.
When Jade was leaving the Governor's office—she had decided to leave him alive while she investigated the situation further—a group of people attacked them, which added support to Ferrouz's explanation of the events. Jade, Rebel representative Vestin Axlon, who had entered the Palace to meet with Ferrouz, and the Governor were hard pressed by their attackers until LaRone and Marcross came to their rescue. During the fight the Governor had fallen unconscious which Axlon said to be due a ricochet brushing his head. Despite the Governor's condition, Jade was able to locate his emergency passage, through which they reached a relatively safe spot outside the palace grounds.
Protecting the GovernorEdit
- "We've got trouble. Governor Ferrouz has just called Pakrie and told him where we are."
"He says he wanted to draw some of them away from his family for you."
- ―Daric LaRone and Mara Jade about Bidor Ferrouz's foolhardy trick
Through the sewers Jade, Axlon, LaRone and Marcross got the Governor to the basement of the Whistling Wind tapcafe, where the other members of the Hand of Judgment joined them in defense of Ferrouz. After the Governor had been settled and covered with pieces of stormtrooper armor in case they would be found, Jade headed out to find out exactly what was going on and where Ferrouz's family was. While she was gone, Skywalker contacted LaRone using a comlink he had found among the things Brightwater had left for him, his own comlink had been damaged during the riot. Axlon, who was still with the stormtroopers, demanded Skywalker join them despite LaRone's protests. Axlon's insistence to have Skywalker come to the tapcafe triggered some suspicion in Grave, who had heard how people during the riot had claimed that the young Jedi had murdered the Governor with a lightsaber, and it led into more suspicion. The Rebel diplomat understood he had been discovered to be one of the contacts the rioters had in the Palace, so he pulled his gun, shooting at Grave and Quiller. The unexpectedness of Axlon's reaction took LaRone and the others completely by surprise—only Marcross had time to raise his gun, but the Rebel shot it off his hands before he had time to use it. Axlon had the situation under his control before the Hand of Judgment could do anything to stop him.
When Axlon believed he was the master of the situation, he agreed to explain his actions to the Hand of Judgment and Governor Ferrouz, who had regained consciousness. Esva had convinced Axlon that Imperial Senior Captain Thrawn had been directing Grand Moff Tarkin, when the Human had ordered the freshly constructed Death Star to destroy Alderaan. Axlon admitted helping Esva to lure the Chiss officer into a trap, using Ferrouz's assassination attempt as a bait, the Rebel even admitted having concussed and shot Ferrouz during the battle in the Governor's office. Brightwater, who had done all he could to help his two wounded comrades, joined the other two who were standing a bit farther away from the Rebel. While helping his friends Brightwater had also managed to free the knife the Troukree had given them, and while Axlon was speaking to his contacts through comlink he prepared to use it when opportunity would present itself. Behind Axlon's back Ferrouz had worked one bottle of spirits down from a shelf near him and after the comlink call was terminated LaRone spoke to the Rebel to keep his attention away from anything the Governor might be doing. Axlon explained what kind of a deal he had made with Nuso Esva—the Hand of Judgment learned that in his blind anger from Alderaan's destruction, the Rebel had fallen to the web of lies spun by the Warlord—believing that the alien would bring his military forces to aid the Rebellion after Thrawn would be defeated. Ferrouz's assassination had been planned as a bait to force Thrawn into Poln system, where Esva had prepared an ambush for him, which would have at least destroyed Thrawn's military career in the Empire, if not killed him.
At the moment when Ferrouz got his hand on the bottle of alcohol he had been reaching for, one of the pieces of stormtrooper armor, which had been piled on him for extra protection, slipped. Hearing the noise, Axlon turned his attention to the Governor, and thus gave an opening for Brightwater to act. The scout trooper kicked the knife to Quiller, who was closest to Axlon—the Rebel had believed Quiller to be out of the fight after his wound—Quiller buried the weapon in Axlon's chest, killing the Rebel. When Axlon was out of the fight LaRone hurried to contact Skywalker and explain what had happened. LaRone warned Skywalker to stay away from their hiding place in case one of Axlon's contacts spotted him and followed him to their sanctuary. To his mild surprise LaRone learned the situation was reversed—Skywalker had spotted Axlon's contact, Dors Stelikag, sitting in another tapcafe with his goons and the Jedi was able to tail him when they started searching for the stormtroopers.
Despite the surprise and mild resistance from other members of the Hand of Judgment, LaRone used Axlon's comlink to inform the Rebels about Axlon's betrayal. He also called Chewbacca, who was at the spaceport, and asked him to bring them the bacta tank they had on the Suwantek, as it was necessary for Grave who urgently needed medical attention. At the same time LaRone also dispatched Brightwater out to find help from the Troukree, who they had met soon after their arrival. While Jade was searching for the Governor's family and Skywalker kept Stelikag and his team under surveillance, there was nothing else for the Hand of Judgment but to prepare their defenses. They were prepared to risk their own lives to keep the Governor safe in case the enemy would find them. After some time Chewbacca brought the bacta tank for them—taking Axlon's body with him in exchange—and Brightwater soon returned with their five Troukree allies.
After Quiller gave some fast lessons about using blaster weapons and stormtrooper tactics to the Troukree, the group had nothing else to do but wait and see how events would develop. When Jade found her way to the hiding place of the kidnappers and reported the size of the opposing force, Governor Ferrouz decided to help her by luring some of the guards away from his family. To the horror of the stormtroopers his way to do that was as simple as it was dangerous to them: the Governor called Major Pakrie, who they suspected of being a traitor, and told him where they were hiding and pretended to ask for help. They didn't need to wait too long for the first move against their stronghold, but the stormtroopers were well prepared and survived it with relative ease, sending their enemies running outside the range of the jamming device the attackers had set up themselves to call for back-up. The next wave of Nuso Esva's troops, who attacked the basement, had an E-Web heavy repeating blaster, but the Hand of Judgment and their allies survived that attack too, despite the fact that they lost one of the Troukree, who sacrificed his own life to protect LaRone.
- "Once again, we appreciate the offer, sir. But we've seen enough action. Possibly more than enough."
"You misunderstand me, Squad Commander. I don't want you to fight. I want you to train."
- ―Daric LaRone and Senior Captain Thrawn
In the silence that had followed the sacrifice of the Troukree, the Hand of Judgment suddenly noticed that Grave had regained consciousness during the bacta therapy. While the sniper was still in bad condition, he wanted to participate in their defense. The third attack to their sanctuary came through the supply lift of the tapcafe, which the attackers blew into pieces with shaped charges. Because the Hand of Judgment and their allies had expected the attack to come from that direction, they had set up their defenses accordingly and effectively. Because Grave was still in the bacta tank the attackers didn't consider him to be a threat and he took out a large number of enemies before they even noticed that he was there. When Nuso Esva's people figured out that they could not break their defense, they decided to blow up the entire tapcafe on top of the defenders. Their Troukree allies—who had some back up waiting outside the tapcafe—prevented the plan. They also turned off the jamming device their enemies had set up to disrupt the communications of the defenders. When LaRone and Marcross climbed up through the remains of the supply lift, they were surprised to find out that the Troukree had the situation under control. However, this revelation got them suspecting that their allies might not be the simple refugees they pretended to be.
When Vaantaar joined them and his Troukree compatriots, the alien made it very clear that he wanted the Hand of Judgment to follow him. He also revealed that he knew who they were, and used that information to force LaRone and his friends to come with him to meet the mysterious master of the Troukree. When LaRone said that they might not be willing to go with Vaantaar's people, the Troukree made it clear they had no choice—he was ready to use violence if necessary, but would prefer that the stormtroopers came willingly. After making sure that the Governor was safe, LaRone and his friends had no other option but to follow Vaantaar's group to the spaceport and board a vessel of unknown type. Despite LaRone's questions about his mysterious master, Vaantaar remained elusive about his identity.
After Grave and Quiller's wounds had been properly treated, Vaantaar finally took the Hand of Judgment to meet his master. LaRone, who had learned that they were on board the Star Destroyer Admonitor and who had studied the ship's reports of the battle of the Poln system, had figured out that the master was Senior Captain Thrawn, and he was not surprised to meet the only alien who had gained a high commanding rank in the Empire. However the plan the Senior Captain had for them was more of a surprise to all members of the Hand of Judgment. Thrawn was well aware how LaRone and his companions had become military deserters and wanted to make sure that the ISB, or anyone else who might want to punish them for that, would not know where they had gone. Instead of wanting to have them join his regular stormtrooper units, Thrawn wanted them to train a new generation of stormtroopers for his shadow empire. Among these new stormtroopers Thrawn employed aliens like Vaantaar and his Troukree, who were first in line to volunteer for training, and others who had allied themselves with the Senior Captain. When they learned about the threats lurking in the Unknown Regions—according to Thrawn some of these were even worse than Nuso Esva, who they had just tangled with—the Hand of Judgment soon decided to accept the invitation.
Having considered the matter, Grave suggested they should name their new unit as the 501st Legion, because they had always been considered to be the best. When others asked him about his choice, he claimed they should aim high with their new team and designation as the 501st would help them to do so. When they all had agreed that they would accept the job Thrawn had offered, only Brightwater did not seem to be overjoyed by it. To explain his sour mood, he told the others that when he had lent his utility belt to Skywalker, the "lucky coin" he had acquired had been among the things. While he agreed that their new job was important, he wished that they had met with Skywalker again before leaving, so he could have gotten his druggat back. The mysterious vanishing act the Hand of Judgment had pulled on Poln Major had its effect on Jade as well. While she found herself missing the stormtroopers, her sense of duty as an Imperial agent overrode her sentimental feelings. However, she chose to keep their Suwantek for herself or to be returned to them, if they ever came back. The legacy of the Hand of Judgment later produced units like Aurek-Seven to serve the Empire of the Hand.
- "I spoke to you of their loyalty to one another. This is but one more example."
- ―Vaantaar to Senior Captain Thrawn
The members of the Hand of Judgment were friends even before they chose to leave their post on the Reprisal, sharing their concerns about the Teardrop mission among themselves. They all held equal military rank before defecting, but chose LaRone to act as the Squad Commander. Throughout their adventures they became an even more tight-knit group and were willing to risk death and torture to protect one another.
- "I was watching you during our little discussion up there. You stood quietly by and let everyone voice their opinions, even blow off a little steam. But then you stepped in and calmed everything down before it could degenerate into a full-fledged argument."
- ―Saberan Marcross about Daric LaRone's leadership skills
Daric LaRone was the leading member of the Hand of Judgment. He was a native of the planet Copperline and before he defected with his friends, he had served in the Imperial Army for ten years. During the mission on Teardrop he missed his shots on purpose to avoid killing unarmed civilians, which later led into the confrontation with Major Drelfin. His decision not to shoot gave him a moral high ground—at least compared to Marcross, who privately admitted to having shot civilians—among his companions and his natural leadership abilities made him the spokesperson of choice for their team. He knew his companions well enough to read their moods from their pose even when in full armor and the helmet covering their faces.
While he acted as the leader of the team, LaRone also trusted his companions to make their own choices. He allowed Marcross to deal with Choard the way the other one saw fit—though he reprimanded his friend later for having been careless when handing a weapon with one shot left to the Governor—as well as trusting Brightwater to go through with the scout's plan to deal with Axlon when the Rebel turned against them. When things were calm and they had time to consider things, LaRone listened to any worries and objections others had and gave them fair consideration. While he found Thrawn's initial offer to be flattering, he knew that the entire Hand of Judgment had seen their fair share of front line duty and had become tired of fighting, and was prepared to turn down the job. His sense of duty—combined with the differences between Thrawn's Empire of the Hand and the Galactic Empire—led him and the others to reconsider and finally accept the post as training officers, helping to defend against threats originating from the outskirts of the galaxy.
- "Hey, I fly speeder bikes for a living. Sitting-down work. I'm not the one who always has to be running around everywhere."
- ―Korlo Brightwater
Korlo Brightwater was the scout of the Hand of Judgment, flying the two speeder bikes they had found on board their commandeered vessel. Out of the five members of the team, Brightwater's faith in the Empire was the strongest and continued beyond the point when the others had already decided that the Empire was not what they had thought it to be. Early on he blamed LaRone for their defection and wondered if they could go back to the Empire, but had accepted their situation by the time they were ready to leave Shelkonwa—by which point he found their new way of life helped him sleep better at night.
Brightwater was curious about different races and creatures of the galaxy, carrying a datapad with which he could access a set of pictures of different lifeforms. He was also interested in collecting different items as souvenirs from their adventures and had at least one old druggat—he considered it to be his lucky coin—and LaRone gifted him with the Troukree knife Vaantaar had given them. He had a good sense of humor, and he joked with his companions even when seriously hurt. He used to do maintenance work on his speeder bike even before the Hand of Judgment deserted, which turned out to be useful practice when he later had to keep the two bikes they had found on Suwantek in fighting shape.
- "That's because you insist on standing still while you line up your shots. I'm telling you, speeder bikes are the way to go."
- ―Korlo Brightwater teasing Taxtro Grave about sniping
Taxtro Grave acted as the sniper of the Hand of Judgment carrying a T-28 sniper rifle as his weapon of choice. Grave was tactically intelligent figuring out the reasoning behind ISB actions on Teardrop—realizing it might have been a test to see if any stormtrooper missed their shots on purpose—as well as being the first to notice that the Rebel representative, Axlon, was trying to trick them and Skywalker on Poln Major. Next to LaRone, Grave was the most disillusioned about the Empire and what it had turned out to be—he even wondered if the Empire hadn't always been a monstrous entity, but they had just not noticed it before Alderaan was destroyed.
- "I've had some experience watching leaders in action. But knowing the theory doesn't mean I can actually do it. Besides, even if I could, I don't think the others would really support me. I get the feeling they find me stiff and a little overbearing."
- ―Saberan Marcross about leadership and the attitude of others toward him
Saberan Marcross had a privileged background as a nephew to Governor Choard of Shelsha sector and he grew up together with the Governor's son. He was well informed—even so much that LaRone suspected him for having contacts among the ISB—knowing some of stormtrooper regulations by heart, and had first hand experience from theory of leadership, having watched some leaders in action. He was also the first co-pilot of their ship, but later LaRone replaced him in that role. He was a close friend to LaRone and in private confessed to him that he had participated in the slaughter of the civilians on Teardrop. He was disturbed to discover that his uncle was involved in treason against the Empire, but he was willing to offer his relative the benefit of the doubt—when Choard himself confessed his treasonous intentions, Marcross revealed that he had given an empty gun to Choard.
Marcross tended to the two landspeeders they discovered on their ship, fixing them after the battles. Among the members of the Hand of Judgment, Marcross was the least comfortable with working with Solo and his Rebel friends, later even thinking that they should treat Solo's presence on Poln Major as a sign of Ferrouz's treason. Like his companions, Marcross saw the need for the work Senior Captain Thrawn was doing in the Unknown Regions, and supported the idea of them accepting the job as the training officers.
- "Those engines have been upgraded probably six ways from Imperial Center, and odds are everything else beneath the plating has, too. Ditto for the rest of the ships."
- ―Joak Quiller showing off for this friends
Joak Quiller's primary responsibility among the Hand of Judgment was to fly and take care of their ship. According to LaRone's observation Quiller was a reasonably good pilot, but disliked being a passenger when someone else was flying. He knew more about ships and flying than any of the other members of the team, and was also well informed about news concerning the Imperial fleet. When studying ships, he was able to recognize signs of modification and knew the normal performance parameters for both military and civilian spacecraft. Quiller made it his habit to use locking codes for the control systems of the Suwantek to prevent anyone from stealing it. During the two months he flew the ship, he didn't stumble across the hyperdrive kick setting, learning about its existence only from Jade when they hurried to get Brightwater into a bacta tank after the woman rescued them on Pickerin.
Behind the scenesEdit
The idea of the Hand of Judgment is based on an idea Timothy Zahn got from a conversation with 501st Legion founder Albin Johnson in the StellarCon in 2004. The refined idea finally became the Hand of Judgment in Zahn's novel Allegiance in 2007. The stormtrooper team also earned their own entry in The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, as did each individual member of the team. In an interview with The ForceCast in 2007, Zahn stated that he would like to write a story about the Hand of Judgment being kidnapped by Thrawn and consequently joining the Empire of the Hand. This later happened in the novel Choices of One, published in 2011. The final conversation between the members of the Hand of Judgment was intended to show a connection between the team and later members of 501st, who appeared in Zahn's novel Survivor's Quest. During a Facebook conversation in January 2013, Zahn expressed his interest in writing one more novel which featured the Hand of Judgment, but no such book was ever published.
- "Jedi Library"—Star Wars Insider 91
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
- "Blaster"—Star Wars Insider 126
- The Essential Reader's Companion
- "Scoundrels? We like the sound of that."—Star Wars Insider 138
- "Imperial Icons"—Star Wars Insider 148
Notes and referencesEdit
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 1.30 1.31 1.32 1.33 1.34 1.35 1.36 1.37 Allegiance
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 Choices of One
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Wall post. Timothy Zahn (August 21, 2012). Retrieved on August 27, 2012. "Yes, Su-mil's group (and all other 501st units from the Empire of the Hand) ultimately stem from the Hand of Judgment training course." (archive copy created on August 23, 2012)
- ↑ Johnson's part in the creative process is stated in the Acknowledgements of Allegiance.
- ↑ The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 13 ("Hand of Judgment")
- ↑ The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, Vol. I, p. 94 ("Brightwater, Korlo")
- ↑ The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, Vol. I, p. 360 ("Grave, Taxtro")
- ↑ The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 245 ("Larone, Daric")
- ↑ The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 288 ("Marcross, Saberan")
- ↑ The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, Vol. III, p. 64 ("Quiller, Joak")
- ↑ Microcast - In The Cantina With Timothy Zahn. Retrieved on August 16, 2012.
- ↑ Wall post. Timothy Zahn (January 23, 2013). "If there are to be more books, and if LFL/Del Rey/Disney decide to let me write some of them, I have a trilogy project to pitch where the third book would also be the third book of the Hand of Judgment series (Allegiance and Choices of One). Again, I don't know if that will happen" (screenshot)