As the title suggests, this book features people and groups who are having allegiance issues. Han Solo is resentful about how it seems like everyone is assuming that he's committed himself to the Rebellion, although he hasn't left yet, and while Luke Skywalker is utterly committed, he worries about Han and is very green. Five stormtroopers desert from the Star Destroyer Reprisal and form a sort of vigilante group called the Hand of Judgment, believing that the Empire has abandoned the ideals that they signed up for. Mara Jade is in the prime of her career as Palpatine's secret agent and assassin, the Emperor's Hand. Consciously, Mara is absolutely certain of the rightness of the Empire, but she is on the hunt for traitors and there are numerous tiny hints that she's against various aspects. Meanwhile, Leia is sent to negotiate between various Rebel leaders who are threatening to leave, and to investigate a regional governor who claims to want to secede, but is really doing all of this to gain power.
It's a Zahn plot, so a lot of things are happening at once, and the plotlines tangle together. Luke and Mara don't meet until The Thrawn Trilogy, so it's the stormtroopers who interact with both Mara and the Rebels. This is notable as being the first Zahn Star Wars novel to never mention Thrawn. Not once. There's a fleeting mention of Grand Admirals, but that's it.
Allegiance provides examples of the following tropes:
- 24-Hour Armor: It's regulation that stormtroopers must wear their armor when outside of their barracks section, even when off-duty on an Imperial Navy ship. Captain Ozzel of the Reprisal hates seeing stormtroopers wandering around in armor, but the troopers won't agree to be confined to barracks, so they're allowed out in plainclothes. This is just the first minor rule infraction the ISB gets annoyed about when it stations its own unit aboard.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: The Commodore tries this, enduring mild sensory deprivation in order to concentrate on voices and make himself into a Living Lie Detector. Mara messes with his technique by using the Force to stir up currents in his water tank and air supply.
- Band of Brothers: The stormtroopers who become the Hand of Judgment. An Imperial Security Bureau officer comes down on one of them for refusing to shoot unarmed civilians and in the process aims a blaster. The trooper's training kicks in and he kills the officer. The trooper's four friends collectively go "Oh, Crap!" and very quickly decide to go with him as he leaves, since he'll be executed if he stays and they'll probably be executed too, for associating with him. Although they argue, they stay together even later.
- Body Motifs:
- Mara Jade: the Emperor's Hand.
- The 501st Legion: Vader's Fist.
- Five idealistic stormtrooper deserters: the Hand of Judgment. (Zahn uses the hand motif a lot. There's also the Empire of the Hand and the Hand of Thrawn, from the Hand of Thrawn duology. It's an easy metaphor.)
- Lampshaded; LaRone, the leader of the five stormtroopers, when asked for his squad's unit designation, goes blank and ends up blurting, "Mostly, we're known as the Hand of Judgment." Away from everyone else, he gets ribbed relentlessly by the other stormtroopers.Quiller: You could have just picked a unit number at random. It's not like he could have checked before we got offplanet.
LaRone: Fine. Next time you can be the officer and group spokesman.
Quiller: Great. Does that mean you're promoting me from finger to thumb?
Grave: No fair. I want to be the thumb.
- Lampshaded again later, when Mara saves them from Vader and the 501st and hears out their story. She lets them go, but tells them this:Mara: That Hand of Judgment name of yours? Lose it. There's only one Hand in the Empire, and I'm it.
- Ironically, this is not true at all, much to Mara's displeasure in future stories.
- Bullet Holes and Revelations: LaRone is snidely accused of disobeying orders by an ISB officer who then pulls a blaster on him. LaRone instinctively wrests it away, the officer pulls out a holdout blaster, there is a "soft flash, a muted blast"—and the officer falls dead. Damn You, Muscle Memory! Stormtrooper combat training doesn't cover ISB officers playing threat games.
- Burial in Space: This is Tannis's Last Request to Mara, should he die of his burn injuries. He does, and she obliges him.
- Villim Disra, one of the villains of the Hand of Thrawn duology, appears here as a planetary official on Shelkonwa. He uses his connections to the criminal underworld (also on display in Hand of Thrawn) to assist Governor Choard in his planned secession from the Empire, only to turn around and betray him to Vader at the first opportunity to start his own rise in the Imperial ranks.
- In response to Disra's summons, Vader arrives in his brand-new flagship, the Super Star Destroyer Executor—the same enormous ship in which he chases the Rebels across the galaxy in The Empire Strikes Back.
- Mara Jade watches Vader get defensive over something he's looking up at a terminal, and muses that the Emperor won't be pleased if Vader's been looking up Prince Xizor and Black Sun again. Instead, he's in the early stages of his investigation into Luke Skywalker.
- Luke and Leia learn to operate a couple of acquired speeder bikes. Leia stops Han from driving hers so that he can have a free gun hand, resulting in both twins getting the hang of the controls well before they need to chase troopers through a dense forest in Return of the Jedi.
- Captain Ozzel of the Reprisal is fairly stupid and easily manipulated, and though he escapes justice for his role in the book's events, Mara asks Vader to keep an eye on him. Vader will respond by promoting him to Admiral and putting him in charge of his squadron, where he can be subject to You Have Failed Me at the first opportunity—famously, at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back.
- Chekhov's Gun: Hiding from the Empire on Shelkonwa, Leia spots a burglar breaking into a house with children inside across the street, and attempts to go after him by shooting a drainpipe off her building so she can swing across the alley on it; at about the same time she realizes what a dumb idea that is, the thief is scared off by her blasterfire anyway. Later, she, Luke, and Han are hiding in that same alley from scout troopers on speeder bikes. She finishes shooting the drainpipe with perfect timing for it to fall into the alley and knock both scouts out cold.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory!: After refusing to kill unarmed civilians, Daric LaRone is confronted by an ISB officer who pulls a blaster on him. LaRone knows this is typical ISB threatening and he'll probably be let go, but when the officer takes it a little further, jabbing the stormtrooper with the muzzle and letting his finger tighten on the trigger, LaRone's training kicks in and he kills the officer. Oops.
- Deadly Gas: Mara and the stormtroopers find a wall with embedded canisters of acidic, corrosive cryseefa gas, and have to go through the wall without touching the canisters or setting off the alarms that would make the canisters release.
- Exploding Barrels: The Commodore's men try to kill Mara and Tannis with some barrels full of flammable liquid in a hallway, counting on her to deflect blasterfire into them. It works fairly well; both Mara and Tannis are burned, and Tannis later succumbs to his wounds.
- Five-Man Band: A bit stretched, but it works:
- Fix Fic: Stormtroopers who are not only useful, but badass? They can all aim properly (especially Grave, the sniper), and their reputation as the masked face of Imperial might allows them to pull off gambits and face much longer odds than five soldiers should really be able to handle. Also, their armor is actually effective against small arms fire.Without even appearing to aim, Grave shifted his blaster slightly and sent a shot sizzling past the living shield's ear to blow a hole in Cav'Saran's face.
- Survivor's Quest—also by Zahn—did it first with the four stormtroopers of Aurek Seven, who are a deeply Badass Crew. Since Choices of One confirms that Thrawn hired the Hand of Judgment to train his own elite squadrons, it's to be expected. It isn't just the Hand of Judgment, either—the narrative in Allegiance also goes out of its way to remind the reader that the stormtroopers on the Death Star were under specific orders to let the heroes go...
- Flaw Exploitation: Governor Choard isn't exactly a hero, but his assistant Disra does spend a long time finding all of his buttons, and influences his boss into planning to secede violently from the Empire. Disra, as it turns out, is orchestrating all this so he can report the treasonous activity and get promoted. Given that twenty or so years later he's a Moff of no small power, we can assume that his report to Darth Vader was well rewarded.
- Good Feels Good: The five stormtroopers intend to go hide somewhere and live out their lives after escaping the Reprisal, but that's before they discover that their getaway vehicle is chock-full of weapons, armor, and everything they need to operate as an independent unit. After foiling a bandit attack on some farmers, they develop a taste for helping people and start looking for more situations they can fix.LaRone: We swore an oath to defend the people of the Empire. There are a lot of other dangers out there they need defending against.
Brightwater: Actually, I was kind of hoping you'd say that. For all the bumps and bruises, this hero stuff definitely helps you sleep better at night.
- Heel Realization: LaRone and the other stormtroopers have already begun to realize that their service to the Empire might not actually be making the galaxy better at the beginning of the story, especially after Alderaan. After being forced to desert, they find that they're actually better able to help people free of the constraints of the Imperial chain of command.
- Hidden Weapons: Mara Jade keeps a hold-out blaster in a tiny holster in her boot, and another up her left sleeve.
- Honor Before Reason: When Leia sees burglars breaking into a house that has a child in it, she barely thinks about the fact that she's hiding out and firing shots will probably call official attention to her. She's seen what burglars can do when they run into someone.Chivkyrie: That was a brave and honorable thing you did. We must hope it will not in turn bring destruction upon us.
Leia: It might. But it was something I had to do.
- Horrible Judge of Character: While in his presence Mara Jade thinks of the Emperor as "a good and wise man." Of course, she is his agent, connected to him by the Force, and there are a lot of subtle cues that she subconsciously knows how evil he is. Plus, her snap judgments of everyone else are pretty sound.
- Human Shield: Attempted by Cav'Saran when the Hand of Judgment puts him on the ropes, but Grave just shoots past the hostage.
- Indy Ploy: In the opening, Han, Luke and Chewbacca are smuggling the last members of a Rebel cell off the planet Teardrop, when the Star Destroyer Reprisal arrives to destroy the cell. With some fast maneuvering from Chewie and some faster talking by Han, they manage to convince the Reprisal that the outbound Falcon is actually an incoming medical ship, and the Star Destroyer (after obligingly shooting some pirates off their backs) promptly orders them to turn around and leave the system. It's nice when you get to obey some Imperial orders for a change.
- Informal Eulogy: Mara doesn't really know any memorial speeches; the Emperor considers rituals for the dead a waste of time. When the Boxed Crook she has helping her dies before she can get him to a medical facility, she offers what words she can remember from her childhood before giving him a Burial in Space.
- Interservice Rivalry:
- The Imperial Security Bureau and the Stormtrooper Corps really don't like each other. The stormtroopers resent ISB for using stormtroopers of their own (meaning the Stormtrooper Corps gets blamed for whatever atrocities ISB might commit), while ISB, in its professional paranoia, thinks the Corps should never been opened up to non-clone recruits.
- Mara and Vader don't like each other, either. Their relationship seems to range from Vader trying to kill Mara (he jumps to the wrong conclusion and flies into a rage) to both of them calmly trading their impressions of a possibly-corrupt governor, and Mara asking Vader to keep an eye on Captain Ozzel, since she doesn't trust him. She does muse that at least they both hate the ISB.
- I Remember Because...: The stormtroopers are interrogating a pirate, who self-corrects an answer from "about a week" to "eight standard days." He starts to explain how he knows, but Brightwater doesn't care and cuts him off.
- It Works Better with Bullets: At the climax, Marcross seemingly turns on the other stormtroopers to side with Governor Choard, who turns out to be his uncle, and gives him his blaster. But Marcross merely wanted to verify that Choard was guilty of treason, and when he incriminates himself, Marcross points out that he removed the power pack. There's still enough juice for one shot, though, but fortunately Mara throws off Choard's aim and Marcross only gets hit in the shoulder.
- Never Hurt an Innocent: Refusing to kill innocent civilians on the ISB's say-so is what gets LaRone in trouble and leads to the Hand of Judgment's desertion.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Obi-Wan patiently guides Luke through using the Force to figure out the combination for the room he's been locked into, taking a far more active and direct role than his Spirit Advisor form is usually depicted as being capable of.Obi-Wan: Focus on the keypad. Focus on the numbers. ... The first number is seven.
Luke: I'm not—I can't see it.
Obi-Wan: [sigh] The numbers are seven seven eight one three one two.
- Not in This for Your Revolution: Han resents how Leia and the Rebellion leadership seem to think that his Changed My Mind, Kid moment at the Death Star means he's now in for the long haul. But he cares too much about Luke and Leia to cut and run just yet.
- Pants-Positive Safety: Han Solo's blaster is confiscated by the Hand of Judgment. A chapter or so later Luke gives him a tiny hold-out blaster. When they confront the Hand of Judgment again and Han doesn't feel like shooting, largely because he's outnumbered by stormtroopers who have much bigger blasters, he starts to slip the hold-out into the usual holster, but realizes that it would get lost in there and he'd have to fumble for it, so it goes into his waistband.
- Recycled INSPACE: The elite ex-commando unit performing good deeds while on the run from the government that unfairly burned them bears more than a passing resemblance to The A-Team.
- Shoot the Hostage Taker: Aiming past a Human Shield for a Boom, Headshot! is easy for a sniper of Grave's training.
- Spirit Advisor: Obi-Wan tries to guide Luke into using the Force to find his own way out of predicaments, but Luke is still too inexperienced, so Obi-Wan is forced to be increasingly direct with his advice. Luke is a bit resentful at first that Obi-Wan is holding back, until he points out that Luke is never going to learn if Obi-Wan keeps spoonfeeding him.Luke: You know, you could make this whole thing a whole lot easier.
Obi-Wan: Your uncle could have carried you around on his back until you were fifteen, too.
Luke: [grimaces] Sorry.
- Squad Nickname: LaRone picks "Hand of Judgment" in lieu of a numeric designation on the spur of the moment. It's not very good as a disguise (everyone who hears it comments that it's very nonstandard for a stormtrooper squad), but they grow to like it.
- State Sec: The Imperial Security Bureau is a paramilitary organization with its own officer ranks, equipment, and stormtrooper squads, charged with rooting out spies and traitors and very zealous about it, to the point of inserting its own spies among Imperial Navy crews and stormtrooper divisions. ISB notices LaRone intentionally missing his shots when ordered to kill civilians, which directly leads to the Hand of Judgment's desertion. They have a better budget than the Navy, too; the Hand steals a modified ISB freighter that turns out to be packed full of weapons, equipment, and cash, perfect for covert spy missions. ISB Colonel Somoril, in response, adeptly manipulates the Reprisal's Captain Ozzel to send the Star Destroyer where he wants it to go to recapture the deserters.Major Drelfin: We're the Imperial Security Bureau. What we say is principle; what we decide is regulation; what we do is law.
LaRone: And whoever you order shot is dead?
Drelfin: So you do understand.
- Super Window Jump: Mara Jade twice uses fancy Force-assisted acrobatics and her lightsaber to cut a round hole through both a stone wall and a window before she actually hits them. She notes that the window was much easier.
- Sure, Let's Go with That: The stormtroopers stumble into a situation in which a corrupt cop, Cav'Saran, has placed an entire city in his thrall, after his flunkies confiscate their speeder bikes as illegal weaponry. LaRone and the others had completely forgotten how odd it would look to have military equipment in their supposedly civilian freighter. After they get done throwing their Imperial weight around and restoring the honest cops to their positions, the new chief assumes that they had left the speeder bikes out deliberately as bait. LaRone readily agrees with the idea.It was amazing sometimes how hindsight enabled people to jump to such incredibly wrong conclusions.
- Sympathetic P.O.V.: Zahn likes portraying Imperials who aren't monsters.
- True Companions: The Hand of Judgment may argue a lot, but they stay together. Han Solo isn't willing to throw himself fully into the Rebellion, but Luke and Leia are his friends, and he won't simply abandon them.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: As usual for Zahn, between the heroes' and villains' points of view he interweaves at least five plot threads skillfully. The plotlines belong to Mara Jade and her mission to follow a pirate/corrupt Imperial connection, Daric LaRone and the Hand of Judgment with their efforts to do good and figure out what to do next, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo fumbling with Han's reservations about the Rebellion while on a mission, Leia Organa and her quest to keep bits of the Rebellion together, Villim Disra's gambit to get more power, and Captain Ozzel with his increasingly desperate attempts to hide the fact that five stormtroopers defected from his ship. And each of these plotlines forms its own narrative, but is related somehow to all of the others.