The Hunter’s Gambit
Written by Jim Limber Davis
Art by Adriane Hughes
Shakespir Edition License Notes:
This free ebook may be copied, distributed, reprinted and shared, provided it appears in its entirety without alteration, and the reader is not charged to access it.
Also by Jim Limber Davis, Published at Shakespir:
What Hope Will Come
Table of Contents
Chapter 01 Duma Strike
Chapter 02 Show Down
Chapter 03 God Hunters
Chapter 04 Bounty of the Hunter
Chapter 05Personal Demons
Chapter 06Hand of Revan
Chapter 07 Miranda
Chapter 08 Shattered
Chapter 09 The Culling
Chapter 10 Legacy
“Erik, there’s problem with the NAV computer,” Mako said with concern in her voice. Erikson, the captain and owner of the customized D-5 Mantis light patroller-gunship shifted his seat around and forward to the main flight controls. This was nothing new to him or the rest of his crew, but Mako never learned to be easy in these situations. She was his wife more or less, the love of his life. He was her savior and protector after nearly a standard year long struggle to win the title of The Great Hunt. A title thousands upon thousands compete for and only one wins every so many years.
She began expressing more concern, “Honey, we have to turn around.”
“You know we can’t do that in hyperspace,” Erikson retorted with a little concern in his voice too! Hyperspace scans indicated numerous large victory class vessels in their path emitting some kind of frequency that was disrupting the hyperspace lanes. “Mako, this might be the one,” Erikson told her. She never wanted to hear that from him. He saved her from a horrible fate on Nal Hutta and joined him only to fall for him hard upon the emotional heels of losing the only father figure to take responsibility for her as an abandoned child. Dying in the vacuum of space is not how she wanted to go.
Clicking the intercom, “Battle stations everyone. Torian fall in with Blizz. He’s gonna need your help,” Erikson relayed. Skadge, a nearly seven foot tall and extremely muscular Houk Erikson picked up during a contract that sent him to Belsavis a few years back, came stomping into the cockpit. He settled himself into a gunner’s seat and strapped in. “Oh, yeah! Dis gonna be fun!”
Moments later Gault Rennow, a Devaronian who lost a gambit and horn to Erikson on Tatooine, came hustling into the cockpit and seated himself in the other gunner’s chair and strapped in. Gault was a gambler, smuggler, profiteer, and general weasel willing to do anything but work for a credit chip until Erikson taught him otherwise. It was a potentially expensive lesson for Gault. One he was reminded of everyday with the way his head is now balanced due to a missing horn. “Maybe this will prove my allegiance to you. After all, how long can you really hold a grudge?”
2V-R8, Erikson’s sliced droid, was trying to relay something on the intercom when the Mantis was ripped from hyperspace and brought to a near halt; well relatively, going still roughly 1,100 kilometers an hour which is slow in comparison to jumped light speed. All lights in the ship went to a dull red, shields boosted to maximum, and Erikson smashed a lit blue button towards the top of his console. The modified EMP started a brief charge before emitting a massive neon blue pulse that radiated all about the Mantis.
“That’s three frigates. Time started. You don’t get the drop on me that easy, so hit ‘em hard boys,” Erikson charged, half talking to the crews of the ambushing vessels and his own crew! Skadge and Gault went nearly berserk. The three republic frigates were meant to ambush the hunter and his crew but failed. Gault laid hard on the controls ripping through the exposed hull of one frigate he was working on which began combusting internally due to the modified EMP blast. Turbo laser fire ignited the liquid thorium coolant in it and caused the frigate to explode. Skadge sawed off an engine of his target with green laser fire causing the frigate to begin an out of control spiral before self correcting. No shields for these frigates meant the turbo laser cannons Blizz and Erikson modified would skewer and slice through these light durasteel hulls. Fire from his turbo laser cannon shredded the frigate’s fuel tanks and finished it off in a fiery eruption.
Despite their initial success they were still receiving heavy fire. Blizz was in an uproar in the engine room and could be heard all the way in the cockpit barking orders, in his spazzing chittery little voice, to Torian. Jawa’s were often among the most clever of engineers but were ruffled just as easily as anyone else under pressure. However, Blizz was not the average Jawa. Among a genius species with a knack for mechanical engineering, Blizz was a genius among the geniuses. Each successive blast that racked the Mantis’ hull was stronger than the last as the ship’s shields began failing. And now they were in for it.
Asteroids. “LOOK OUT,” screamed Mako! Erikson tilted the controls and thumbed a switch causing the Mantis to barrel roll to its starboard side placing an asteroid between them and the third frigate. Coming around Mako acquired three missile locks and fired. Skadge and Gault finished off the frigate with laser fire through the engine’s thrusters.
“That’s how it’s done,” Erikson complimented his crew!
Coming up on another asteroid, Erikson steered close to its surface. As expected, six groups of two Talon fighters came screaming around, blasters wailing on full power. It was lucky Talon pilots always came in pairs, unlike Imperial fighters which swarm everything! Gault, Skadge, and Erikson ripped through them with their laser fire. “Over there,” Mako shouted and pointed! A Jedi fighter!
“I hate these guys,” Muttered Erikson. He may not have had Mandalorian blood in his veins but Mandalorian spirits comprised his heart. With shields back to maximum Erikson flipped a switch on his consol which boosted engine power to weapons and another to override the cooling feature of the Mantis’ missile bays. Mako acquired a lock and let loose a rapid salvo of four missiles. The Mantis’ turbo laser cannons, under Skadge’s and Gault’s control, wailed sending overcharged green laser bursts against the Jedi’s fighter. The Jedi was fast and evasive, but it wasn’t enough to dodge all of the missiles or even half of the laser bursts; nor was his piloting skills a match for Erikson’s today. It didn’t have to be this way. Sadly in Erikson’s heart of hearts he knew the Jedi was just following orders like another soldier, completely unaware of the truth about how he was the aggressor and Erikson the victim.
“We’ve got to stop that jammer! Mako, find where it’s coming from,” Erikson order! Coming around another asteroid spinning in place, a group of heavy Ace Talon fighters were charging them. The Mantis’ shields were cut in half. The team of three heavy fighters was reduced by a third; half of their wreckage slamming into the top of the Mantis’ hull with deafening blows.
The fighters came back around and Erikson yanked the controls down pulling the Mantis nose up and figure-eighting around two other asteroids in order to appear behind the two remaining synchronized Talon fighters. Three missile blasts followed their lock onto one fighter; a flurry of dozens of over charged green blaster bolts shredded the other. Adrenaline controlled Erikson’s movements which perfectly dodge all of the larger fragments the Mantis’ shields couldn’t deflect as they bounced off two asteroids being flown between.
“There it is,” Mako blurted out! “The signal is coming from the bridge of that command ship!”
There was no way they would make it to that ship in a straight line. Through the asteroid field they went. Seconds they had to regroup before three squadrons of Talon regulars were on them again. “There’s only one way through and it’s straight ahead so let’s heat things up,” Erikson growled!
“Is dat all you got,” Skadge grumbled! Skadge leaned heavy on his guns as Erikson barrel rolled and generally owned the flight controls. Laser bursts glanced off the Mantis’ shields along with Talon fighter wreckage. To the left of one asteroid, above and down and around a another, beneath and steering portside past three more, ducking beneath a set of spinning and pothole marked iced mountains on the starboard side and smoothly along the surface of a small moon sized asteroid the Mantis was piloted; all the while dodging laser fire and using laser fire to chew up everything coming at it!
Then a burst of blue fire struck the asteroid before them throwing up rock and debris knocking the Mantis away from the surface. Inertial stabilizers aided in course correction. “This is gonna be tight,” Erikson blurted out. Maximum power was reallocated to the shields and missile overrides were reinstated allowing launch tubes to cool sufficiently. Mako began locking targets on every gun she could on the G.R.S.S. Duma. Captain Duma was no regular idiot. He was a high ranking idiot and not much wiser than the exploded Jedi floating around in space behind Erikson. One missile after another found its target allowing Erikson to hold the Mantis steady on approach to target lock the main bridge.
Six seconds and released from the prototype Czerka Industries Ray shielded proton tube exploded a neon blue light that burn brighter than the one that knocked the Mantis back from the surface of that asteroid moments before. The torpedo found the bridge and shattered the shields, jamming equipment, glass, and communications array alike.
Erikson, pulling the Mantis up, flew around to make a second pass when a squadron of six heavy Talon fighters and another Jedi fighter began blasting them. The Jedi aren’t stupid but they aren’t as courageous as they are confident. The Mantis’ shields were dead, armoring was being shredded, and hull integrity was becoming an issue!
Another flip of a switch on the flight controls in Erikson hands began jamming targeting computers and equipment. The overwhelming red laser blasts ceased and started spraying wildly around the Mantis. Blizz was howling at Torian but managed to build up the shields strength again. Mako pummeled one, two, three, and a fourth fighter with double tapped missile salvos. Skadge and Gault finished off the remaining before focusing on the Jedi fighter. “Now we’ve got their attention,” Erikson pointed out with a bit of sarcasm as the Jedi flew head on into what seemed to be several dozen Talon regulars. When in doubt all government do what empires do and throw lives and money at the things they can’t control. Half of them were shredded to pieces and Mako impatiently acquired missile lock after missile lock on the Jedi fighter waiting for the missile tubes to cool and be readied again.
“WHOOO! That got ‘em,” cheered Mako, as turbo laser fire from the Mantis finished the Jedi in unison with Mako’s skilled targeting and Erikson’s legendary piloting. Erikson pulled hard on the controls whipping the Mantis around and down passed another asteroid to focus attention on two other frigates coming around in pursuit of Erikson. The Mantis opened fire.
The frigates were beginning to move again after the initial EMP blast Erikson set off. That EMP was recharged and ready for use again. Erikson pushed the throttle on the Mantis and charged the two frigates. They attempted to return fire but missed completely. Mako had locked on to each firing two salvos of four missiles again. Shields were wiped out, engines, stunned again, and lights darkened. As Erikson flew between both frigates he pressed that button again.
The second EMP caused minor explosions on board both frigates. He circled the Mantis around to finish them off. Skadge was humming with demonic delight as he commanded his turbo laser cannons to shred through the first frigate and into the second. Gault followed suit without a sound.
Smaller explosions could be seen throughout the rest of the vicinity of the asteroid belt around the two frigates just obliterated. The EMP destroyed the system controls of many other fighters leaving an opening for Erikson to make another pass at the G.R.S.S. Duma.
Mako finished off the remaining guns directed at the Mantis while Erikson squeezed off two more torpedoes. The bridge wasn’t just destroyed but complete abolished from the remainder of the vessel; and hopefully Captain Duma with it. That command ship was now on a collision course with the icy pothole marked asteroid they skimmed earlier. There is almost no reasoning with military minds set on the use of violence. It was something Erikson disliked, though he ended up being remarkable at doling out. He’d figure out his conscious later. So with shields up and at maximum, Erikson pulled starboard and out of the asteroid field to ready a return to hyperspace.
If Republic forces were smart enough to know he was on his way through here then a secondary destination would be best. Mako set the proper cords in the NAV computer. In seconds the stars streaked to long blue-white lines and then into swirling messes as the Hunter and his crew survived yet another ambush by the warring governments of the galaxy; governments playing many lives against one another and few in these contests wise enough to understand that no government will relinquish the power to tax and control.
The lives he took that day didn’t lay heavy on his heart for long. They didn’t even cross his mind the day after. To him they were just ships commanded by order following goons without the slightest understanding of who they were hurting by not asking questions of the authorities they took pride in showing obedience to. He didn’t know any of them. All he knew is that they were dead and behind him; that he was among the greatest hunters and pilots in the galaxy. What he really knew was that he was coming dangerously close to forgetting why he was even wanted by the Republic in the first place and why he needed to be more than just cautious in dealing with the Empire.
And if he was going to keep title of the galaxy’s greatest hunter, he’d have to ensure he walked that fine line without any stuttering. But for now, the Empire was going to hear word of this so he needed to get his recordings of the encounter to Imperial intelligence for an unexpected payday to continue his mission against these warring factions.
“Ahhhh! What the…”
That’s all the Jedi had time to exclaim before the crowded senate chamber started to panic. Mandalorians never landed on Coruscant in broad daylight, let alone in such a well guarded place by Jedi, none the less. Never!
But this was no average Mandalorian. It was him, the Republic’s most wanted here in the heart of the capital of the Republic. Even among the startled and panicked commotion every one of his footfalls could be heard, could be felt echoing through the floor of senate chamber.
Never before has such a bold move been made; certainly not against the Jedi by anyone less than what was commonly understood as their equals in power, the Sith; but the senate perhaps and not by a mere hunter alone. So this intrusion is the first since the Sith attacked Coruscant so many years ago and a bolder move as well! He walked toward the faltering Jedi with a cautious confidence. The Jedi reached for his saber.
It was ripped from his grasp and met midpoint between him and the Hunter. A device shot out from the Hunter’s left arm, snatched the Jedi’s saber and returned to the Hunter. In hand of the Hunter, with the aid of exoskeletal suit modifications, he squeezed the elegant weapon until it cracked and sparked declaring it no longer operational.
The Hunter continued toward the Jedi, he picked out the crystal from the destroyed saber and stuffed it in a pouch on his belt in time to react to a leaping Jedi intent on kicking the Hunter.
The Hunter pivoted moving his hands around the Jedi’s foot, snatching his ankle, and pulling him down. The Jedi crashed into the floor with a horrid snapping sound. The Hunter had seen to it that the Jedi wouldn’t be fighting back now with broken ribs.
The Jedi motioned to use the Force on the Hunter but nothing happened. “Wha…what have you…what have you done to me?”
Behind a combat helm with a T-shaped visor and forest green paint projected a metallic, almost recorded voice, and towering over the Jedi at nearly at just shy of two full meters tall, “You made the same mistake Malgus made. You thought you have control. But now you see that control is merely an illusion. It is not about control as much as it is about understanding and processing the circumstances faster than competitors.” But the Hunter didn’t mention his own Force sensitive abilities.
“Wha…wha…do you want from me,” the Jedi begged.
“Take me off the list. I’m not the Republic’s enemy. You know who I am. You also know I’m not guilty of the charges the Republic has levied against me. I will not stand trial in a court that is nothing more than a mockery of justice, an illusion, a trial of bread and circus tactics to appease the masses into empowering the various galactic banking clans and those in high office. Tell the master of your order, this Sateel Shan, to search the secondary data base on Tython. There she will find a pure copy of my record, unaltered. Someone, or something, in your beloved and corrupted republic has set me up. Make sure your master knows she is just another puppet in the long line of puppets that have guarded the oldest empire in this galaxy masquerading as a voluntary republic of republics.”
With a pained voice, “How….how do you know this about Tython,” the Jedi asked.
“It doesn’t matter how I know. What matters is that the list of crimes I’m accused of is false. And I won’t tolerate being charged with the deaths of anyone who attempts to take me unjustly into custody of an entity I do not recognize as legitimate beyond the unwarranted violence it employs to command respect. And I’m sure as hell not sticking around to be subjected to the shortsightedness of an order that is overly confident in its abilities, in its wisdom, and in its arguments that more thugs paid with stolen credits is the way to build peace. Search your feelings and tell me I am hiding the truth about this.” The Hunter continued.
There was a brief pause. The Hunter became aware of the silence in the emptied senate chamber. He had only a few moments before security would arrive.
“There is no lie, no deception in my motive here, Jedi. It is true that I work for the Empire on occasion but that allegiance extends to defensive contracts only. I’ve killed other Jedi before in self defense only. I will not hesitate to kill you or others to defend myself today. Because your organization protects the Republic and you blindly serve I could have wasted your life. I didn’t because I want exoneration and truth to set me free. I have every right to end each one of you for crimes against my past. So know that your order some to my skills after the stunt Captain Duma pulled. Those Jedi fired on me first after being part of a trap to arrest me falsely believing I was responsible for killing Republic personnel out of cold blood on Ord Mantel.” The Hunter reached into a pouch on his belt and pulled out a data chip, tossing it onto the chest of the broken Jedi.
“Take that data chip. Match that to your records and contact the names on that list. There are those in your order who can verify that information. But before you do anything else, tell Sateel Shan to BACK OFF. I know her where-a-bouts. I can find her just as easily as I can get back into this chamber.” The Hunter stopped short, pulling his blaster out to the ready.
Booted footfalls, hard and fast, were approaching the chamber. The Hunter flicked a switch on his right forearm. A soft pale blue glow illuminated around him and then faded. Three Jedi came running into the chamber.
The broken Jedi on the floor behind the Hunter tried to warn the new comers. “NO! Wait! He’s not…”
The entering Jedi all illuminated their sabers and affected aggressive fighting stances coming at the Hunter. The Hunter lit them all up with a furious hail of blaster bolters from his modified weapon. Deflected bolts ricocheted off the Hunters personal deflector shield, a device illegal in some Republic territories. While the Jedi were busy deflecting the bolts, the Hunter raised his left arm and fired in rapid secession six micro darts that the now defending Jedi didn’t notice.
Within seconds each Jedi was stumbling. The first Jedi’s saber was ripped from his hands in the same manner the broken Jedi’s was. Before the first saber could return, the Hunter released another device from his other arm and captured the second Jedi’s saber. The third Jedi attempted to throw his saber at the Hunter.
That was a mistake. The Hunter caught the saber and fired a single blaster bolter into the chest of that Jedi. He dropped in place. Each now succumbed more quickly to the serum than the broken Jedi on the floor behind the Hunter. Two shots cowed them much faster. This gave Erikson time to charge them with a boost of his jet pack. None of them had expected this. He knocked back and against the closed door they entered. The two fell stunned.
The Hunter walked over to the Jedi he blasted a hole through keeping his blaster trained on the other two. He reached into another pouch on his belt and pulled out a capsule of some sort. He kneeled next to the dying Jedi and crushed the capsule across his wound. The blaster bolt missed his heart and lungs but ripped through the first layers of the Jedi’s skin and muscles. Luckily all three were human meaning the healing agent would work faster.
The powder from the capsule bubbled and sizzled on the wound. Noticing this, one of the Jedi remarked, “What kind of killer gives kolto powder to his victims?”
Standing and crushing the three light sabers as before, removing their crystals, the Hunter began explaining.
“I’m no killer, you fool! You’ve got it wrong. But before I go…” The Hunter swung his blaster at the second Jedi he took a saber from making a large gash in his face. “That’s for Tatooine. I know you tried to set me up. The Mandalorion you’re looking for is Garnash. He killed your padawan. Not me. Come after me again and I’ll finish what I just started. I don’t appreciate you setting me up on Tatooine like that. You’re lucky I have no desire to earn an honest death mark.”
The Hunter turned back towards the broken Jedi dropping the three broken sabers on the ground in front of him, “Make sure they know everything. I mean EVERYTHING!”
The broken Jedi nodded weakly. The Hunter looked toward a darken corner and nodded towards someone. All of them were surprised. None had noticed another individual there. By the time the two exited and returned to their transport additional Jedi arrived in the senate chamber. Mako was glad no other security personnel showed up. She really didn’t want to have to shoot at anyone even though that’s why she was there.
Her husband was good at what he did. Perhaps he was too good. They were both innocent of the crimes levied against them by the Republic; but the Republic didn’t seem to care until that day. They knew about her husband, Erikson, but still had no idea who she truly was. That’s the thing about being one of the galaxy’s greatest slicers. Few know they exist and such knowledge becomes the equivalent a cold war arms race between other slicers.
So far as they both could tell there were no records in any of the Republic’s databases or the Jedi’s concerning the rest of the crew except for Blizz. But whatever they had on Blizz had to be a bad joke. For a society and order that prided itself on being too evolved to discriminate they certainly laid a thick foundation of hate for Jawas and Tusken Raiders.
“Hopefully they will deliver that message to their master. We might be on the payroll of the Empire but we’re not responsible for their crimes. Some of our jobs were questionable but we only killed in self defense; and the defense of others who were not provocateurs of unwarranted aggression anymore than the standard Republic soldier.” Mako felt the need to vent to her husband about these things from time to time. It made her feel better and he didn’t mind reinforcing the fact that he loved her by giving her what she wanted and needed when she wanted and needed it. It was better to get these things out of the way. Taking these kinds of venting sessions back to his captains quarters he shared with Mako wasn’t good for their alone time.
Mako continued. “No matter, I don’t think we will ever be rid of this life. The war isn’t going well for the Empire. We know we can’t trust the Republic. Both are pretty much equally responsible for the horrific state of the galaxy. But what are we going to do about it with so many people believing in these ridiculous ideas about order and control?”
Erikson was every bit of as much of a thinker as his wife. “The Hutts only have the power they do because of the laws forbidding so many things. I was turned into a hunter by the Republic’s and the Empire’s war with one another. The Republic stole my cargo ship. The Empire stole my family. And the only reason I was able to save you on Nal Hutta was because I was discarded there by Imperial negligence which made me realize I needed help.”
“Now we, and the rest of your crew, are all you have. And we are all each of us has because of this war. None of us have any family left accept each other now. Damn the Jedi. Damn the Sith. Damn both of their governments. Damn them all!” Mako was a rarity in the galaxy. Few understood her grief. Erikson knew it and probably better than she did.
His suffering was even more horrific because he remembered all of it. It wasn’t a story for him to uncover and simply empathize with. He remembered it every waking moment that wasn’t distracted by a mission or the beauty he called his wife. For now though, an outer rim world was beckoning to him. Gault Blizz had some information that piqued Erikson’s interest and promised to reveal clues about another mystery which surfaced just a few years ago. One in which had been revealing clues dreadfully slow over the last decade.
Tatooine had been a desert world for as long as recorded history could tell. It wasn’t the first planet to be inhabited by a major civilization so far as the rest of the galaxy knew. Then again, the galaxy’s civilizations have lost entire records of sentient species over the last twenty thousand years. It was as if there was a great forgetting just before the galactic republic came into existence. Few know anything about the time before the Republic. And those who do are near impossible to find.
With that in mind and no real Republic presence on Tatooine, Erikson felt reasonably comfortable about this turn of events. The only presence he had to worry about was Black Sun. The Huts, large slug-like sentient creatures, paid well to know of his movements; and they pay far more to keep him as an ally. The Huts also pay well to keep his path clear. Erikson’s done more than just a handful of favors for a variety of Huts. This kind of an earning is a very unique status in every Hut territory, save the Droogoos clan. Although, after Erikson killed several of their members upon being double crossed and set up multiple times none actually have the courage to stand in his way anymore.
That made Black Sun’s presence on Tatooine not much to worry about. They wouldn’t be selling anything to the Republic. And the Empire has them on a short leash due to their failures on Coruscant in the recent years while the Republic hunts them.
With a landing pad secured for several hours, the Mantis would be fine. Torrian and Skadge would be on board to keep guard and be ready to move if needed. It would be easy to just fly out except as Blizz so eloquently put it, this time of year for Tatooine is prone to sand storms that will shred the toughest armor as if the ship is reentering an atmosphere without shields and coated armor. Blizz, Gault, Mako, and 2V would be packing light and heading out. If Information Blizz deciphered was correct then Tatooine held others secrets than remnants of Czerka Corporation, an entity Erikson has been encountering more and more of late. At least that’s what Blizz says an elusive tribe of Jawas has been chattering about for three days while everyone seems to be laughing them off for being on the brink of death.
In fact they’ve been attacked numerous times by a variety of desert beasts in a particular location that most avoid. To them this band of Jawas is just tempting death. Blizz doesn’t think so and Erikson is inclined to believe him. What makes this story so credible is the fact that members of that same Jawa clan were also trying to protect something on Hoth, where Erikson saved Blizz’s life and took him on as a member of the Mantis’ crew.
Whatever was out there in the Tatooine deserts was going to bring a hefty payday. Hopefully one that wouldn’t involve having to point a blaster very often as such things are costly. Not in credits as much as in information and tech, similar to the payday that granted rare and powerful upgrades to 2V.
It wasn’t long before the five of them were well into the desert. Not much to see there. Before long they stopped seeing even the occasional treasure hunter. According to the coordinates Mako was tracking they were close, maybe eight thousand meters.
“What’s that on the horizon there,” Erikson pointed out? Blizz raised his terrain scanner, “Uuutinni! Chabba so ribbi takka taaki siobbi.”
Puzzled and concerned Mako chimed in, “Are you sure? I’m not showing any known Czerka Corp. facilities in this sector.”
“Chabba so ribbi takka taaki siobibibae!”
“If Blizz says that Czerka Corp., then I am inclined to believe him. The Republic and Empire don’t know everything, Mako,” Erikson expressed. “Blizz, have you been here before?”
“Neuhya,” Blizz stated a little excitedly. Blizz had never been here before but it looked a lot like a site he was exploring on Hoth. “Bitta batta pito peeka pi.”
“Just like Hoth, huh,” Erikson rhetorically asked as Mako’s locator began to chirp letting them know they had arrived. Apart from the remnants of a Czerka Corp. facility jutting out from the sand there was not much else around here. A few dips in the sand where local beasts likely once laid in weight for something. A few broken down and very old speeders worn down by sand and time also. Interestingly enough this facility seemed recently risen out of the sand, not uncovered by the shifting sands and winds.
“What do you think Blizz,” Erikson asked?
“Batto batta pito pee peta pi,” Blizz instructed.
“Mako, let Torian and Skadge know to be on alert. We’re going into that facility. Have ‘em ready to come blast us out as a precaution,” Erikson instructed. This wasn’t the first Czerka facility Erikson had entered. Czerka was an organization older than the Republic itself. To his knowledge, Czerka was easily twice the age of the Republic and among the oldest entities known in present day history. No one really knows how old Czerka Corp. really is anymore. They’ve created so many facilities over the centuries, employed so many, and crafted so numerous of ideas that they’ve often been fought over by governments.
And that thought led Erikson to a different idea. If the information Blizz uncovered was right then this facility might also be connected to their newest fortune; a fortune that could set them up for a hundred lifetimes and then some with both credits and truth.
They stashed their speeder and covered it in a camouflaging sheet of Czerka design that also dubbed as an anchor in case of a sand storm. The five of them piled into the facilities where previous Jawa tracks existed.
Upon Mako and Gault’s eyes adjusting to the much dimmer interior conditions they were met with a shock. Dead Jawas. Dozens of them were strewn on the floor. Some had been here for a long time and were very ripe. Others seemed very recent; within the hour recent, which caused Erikson to pull his blaster. The others followed suit.
“I didn’t much like this place when you found me here. I still don’t’ like this place,” Gault complained. He knew well the horrors of Tatooine. Gault had been stranded here before, a couple of times. This particular facility was new to him though.
They followed the signals Mako gave from her on the fly generated holomap of the facility and began to descend into it. Maybe ten minutes tops at a slow very cautious pace and they were where they needed to be. The facility was still in decent condition for being an estimated 900 years old give or take a few standard decades. Metallic floors, walls, and ceilings all perfectly preserved as well as the computer systems. And that puzzled Erikson. The other facilities that were part of Czerka Corp and out in the open like this were stripped of their tech and most of the structure too! Something wasn’t right.
“This is it, right Mako,” Erikson asked? “Yeah, but I’m not seeing what I think we should be seeing! Some thing’s missing. A control panel,” she told him.
“2V what do you see in here,” Erikson question the droid. “Well, sir, it appears to be a hollow chamber designed to be reversed. My sensors indicate that there are four other hollow chambers surrounding this one. One opposite the entrance we came through, two on either side of us, and one with an entrance below. My sensors also indicate that all chambers hold decaying remnants of organic material accept the chamber below, sir,” 2V proudly stated.
With a mechanized and low mutter through his helmet, “of course, I’m standing on the door too,” Erikson said. He stepped aside and looked at the floor he was just standing on. Brushing away some sand he found a faint sliver of a crack. This door was sealed just like the one aboard the Draconia, an abandon and thought lost vessel belonging to Czerka Corp. that was responsible for carrying new battle droid tech to the previous incarnation of the present Sith Empire; tech that Erikson and Blizz utilized to upgrade 2V with, making him much more useful than a whining protocol droid. Such tech was also illegal by Republic law. As it was, it was a reward for salvaging old Sith plans aboard an ancient lost cargo vessel Erikson was paid to find for some insane Sith Master he ended up having to kill a few years back.
With a magnetic grip, Erikson turned the hidden lock and pulled the door up. Lighting in the descending shaft automatically lit up cascading downward revealing the organic empty room 2V mentioned. “Gault, you come with me. Mako, 2V, and Blizz you stay here and keep a watch out. Something is too easy here,” Erikson warned.
Once into the lower chamber Erikson found a console. It was booting up upon his approach. Erikson reached into a pouch on his belt and removed a data chip, placing it into a data socket on the now booting console. The terminal didn’t seem to like the data chip, though the data chip found a way to placate the terminal and make it cooperate. Just another way Blizz let Erikson know he was a valuable member of the team. The language which appeared on the screen was a very old form of basic. Erikson had to read much slower to be sure to interpret it correctly.
This standard two to three minute job of data collection was turning into twenty minutes. That’s not a good sign by measure of his experiences. “Finally! I thought I’d never find the backup files,” Erikson said, relieved.
He downloaded the files to his data chip and ejected it from the console. Before he could turn around to leave, the screen changed colors. It switched from a standard black and green to a full blue with white characters on it. “Uh, that’s different,” Gault observed. “When does that ever happen?”
“I don’t know. Can you read that?”
“Sure can’t boss man.”
The screen read a warning in a very ancient language. With video recording active through his helmet Erikson made sure to get a good view of the screen. Then it changed again. There was a cycling of figures which began to diminish. That always means one thing. Erikson and Gault both looked at each other saying simultaneously, “RUN!”
Gault bolted up the ladder first yelling for the others to run. Erikson was right behind. Upon hearing those warnings from Gault, 2V alerted Torian and Skadge to pick them up.
The five made it out of the facility unharmed. They jumped in the speeder and began charging back towards the spaceport. Moments away from the facility the ground began to shake. The sand started jumping around like spattering oil in a hot frying pan as the Czerka Corp. facility was being reclaimed by the desert. The Mantis began a decent and picked up the rest of its crew. They boarded the Mantis in time. Skadge screamed out something about an impact from the cockpit as he boosted power to the shields.
Then a blast shook the Mantis washing it over with a wave of sand forcing it to skim the sandy desert floor hard. When the dust cleared there was a giant hole in the desert floor revealing scorched bedrock and a small crater. “I think it’s time we left Tatooine,” Erikson relayed. They blasted off the planet’s surface and made for their secondary rally point.
While in hyperspace they had time to begin decoding the data. Blizz was a tech genius but had no idea what any of the symbols meant. Not even 2V knew them and he was programmed to know more than a million forms of communication.
There were seventy file banks in total and the recordings from Erikson’s helmet. Each labeled in the same strange characters. One file in particular that had the most photos showed a red desert like planet. It was small and all of its measurements were eerily familiar. “Utiniiii! Utiniiiii! Mattak Beeka batta chu wamba titta tera kata!”
Erikson said nothing. He just starred at the photos until 2V said, “Blizz says that this planet shows the same measurements as Tatooine, adjusted for planetary drift and solar erosion of course.”
“I know what he said, 2V. I just want to know what these symbols are. They also appeared in part of the countdown after we extracted the data,” Erikson said pointing to four symbols drawn as M-A-R-S.
Bounty on the Hunter
En route to Yavin where Erikson maintains a secondary emergency base of operations, his crew began to get a bit irritated with one another being crammed into the Mantis for three days at a time between jumps. Hyperspace travel was fast, but it never seemed fast enough when traveling across the galaxy directly. And the puzzles of the data acquired on Tatooine made things even more frustrating.
Mako and Blizz both prided themselves on being fairly cunning and adept at problem solving. The fact that nothing could be found on the holo-web crawled under Mako’s skin. Blizz was slower to anger only because the joy of finding something new took longer to wear off for him than others. It was a rare kind of innocence in the galaxy anymore.
2V on the other hand continued to be cheerful and delightful to a point of making the others want to turn him into a bedpan. Such was his programming, even in battle when he sought his master’s aproval for scoring a kill on the battlefield. 2V made his way up the steps in the Mantis from the cargo hold to the main deck and general quarters which served as a common area with the ships main holo-terminal in the center. “Master Erikson, I believe I may have found something.”
That announcement made all of them jump up immediately, save for Skadge. Intellectual pursuits were not his forte. Bashing heads and causing general destruction was. “Okay, 2V, you better have something or you’re being recycled,” Erikson growled being a little testy.
“Sir, I recognized this symbol. It appears to have many similarities to the modern Czerka Corporation logo. I’ve processed all of the known Czerka Corporation logos and the earliest known logo only affects three minor changes from the logo on the last of these recently acquired data files. Please see here.” 2V pointed to the earliest known Czerka Corp. logo on the projected holo-image.
“Okay. I’m listening,” Erikson encouraged 2V to continue explaining.
“Sir, I have concluded that there is enough evidence to suggest that these files may now be the oldest known files of Czerka Corporation to exist. Also I suggest you bring your attention to the top of this letterhead. Notice if you will that there appears to be an acronym. The Last symbol matches the second symbol you enquired about after we departed Tatooine. It is speculated that Czerka used to be an acronym and now we have evidence to support that rumor. I’ve been trying to compare the oldest known pronunciations of basic and their associated written variants and have come up with this list here,” 2V followed up and handed a physical document to Erikson.
“So are you suggesting that this language the data is recorded in is an even more ancient form of basic? You’re not saying it’s the root language of Aurebesh are you,” Erikson asked.
“I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, sir. But that does appear to be the case. Although I will have to reevaluate the data and continue to compare samples of the new data,” 2V continued. “At this point, sir, I am inclined to suggest that your assessment is correct. What I have deciphered so far is that the original acronym was this: Computer Zero-point Electronic Kryptonian Applications. These words match with the tests I’ve run so far and match with an eighty-seven percentile.”
Mako walked toward the holo-projector, “that makes sense considering that Kryptonian based fuel cells were phased out of production by Czerka Corp. before it split apart.” “That’s correct, ma’am. Czerka Corporation was sundered sometime around the formation of the Republic. The is still some speculation about when concerning various historians and the actual date it was accepted as a galactic republic. Kryptonian based fuel supplies were banned due to their toxicity to many sentient species the fledgling Republic was trying to appeal to. Czerka Corporation was certainly willing to oblige this request since it recently, during the years leading up to the formation of the Republic, had an accident that irradiated an entire planet, so the rumors go and wanted to keep its contract with the new galactic government. The damage was so bad that the only way to correct the issue was to salvage what could be on the planet and evacuate,” 2V added.
Sitting on a crate by the stairs to the main deck Torian placed himself as comfortably as one could on a metal box. He wasn’t nearly as tall and well defined as Erikson. No, Torian was his own man. Brown hair, human, agile, Torian possessed skills in just the right concepts to compliment his captain. And that was enough encouragement to convince him to chime in, “2V, that’s not the planet that was hurled into its star that cause the star to separate is it?”
“I’ve heard that tale too. I thought it was only that. You don’t think Tatoo was the original star our kind originated from, do you Torian,” Erikson interrupted 2V to ask?
“Sir, if I may add…”
Torian cut off 2V, “It could be. But I’d have thought that would have been discovered long ago. Although, before the Sith demanded Mandalorian allegiance from us we often told stories about the first world and how various groups broke apart from that world’s governments. They free lanced themselves out to any who would hire them. They prided themselves on combat. We were told as children that they eventually parted ways after some kind of demonic invasion that slaughtered many of them in horrific battles. Those left went into hiding and founded a new home after rebuilding their code; the code that would become the Mandalorian code. This was well before Czerka Corp. existed. At least I think so. But if not it might have been part of an organization called Skynet. It was responsible for the creation of cybernetic implants for an ancient government military operation. All I know is that the tech from that organization found its way into the first who would set the foundation for Mandalorians.”
With the silence 2V took the opportunity to relay his thoughts, “sir, you bring up an excellent point about Skynet operations. The Jedi archives Master Erikson and I infiltrated a few weeks back yielded many excellent pieces of information. While not in any Republic databases, Jedi databases are kept separate with good reason. At least three thousand years before the founding of the Republic the recorded history of the galaxy was maintained by a council of member states on a world that was once called Autarchic. Since then that world has changed greatly. Today we know it as Coruscant. The archives were moved to a new location that is now considered the home world of the Jedi order, Tyhon. In those data banks are these secrets. The Jedi do not wish this knowledge to be made public for what will be obvious reasons. The first of which is that the Jedi predecessors, the Je’Daii…”
Blizz, with sudden excitement, broken in, “Ubatto minni tikka tikkae tikata rubatta untina!” 2V began to interpret and expound, “That’s correct. The foundation of the order of Je’Daii was eventually built around their successes in the defeat of an organization once known as Skynet. Skynet was a massive cybernetic production and research and development entity in addition to being a military supplier. It had intentions of its own and turned on sentient biological creatures; particularly those with abilities that eventually came to be the founders of an elite group of warriors who in turn would create the order of the Je’Daii. Also lesser known, according to Jedi records, is that Skynet was founded by non force based abilities on the premise of waging war against telepaths on an ancient world that no longer exists, Earteh; a planet located in the outer rim. This was Skynet’s first task before the demon wars. It is written in Jedi data banks that Earteh was the source world for Human life. However, other data conflicts with that stating Human life began on another world nearer the core of the galaxy; a world that has also been lost to time. It should be mentioned that there are rumors suggesting that Skynet sentience still exists on the manufacturing world of Mekis III. However, I do not have access to any data confirming those rumors.”
“Wait! Wait! What does this have to do with Tatooine and that planet with the red description, 2V,” Erikson asked?
“Well, sir, Jedi records also indicate that the star system Earteh belonged to held between seven and ten celestial bodies. Two were unable to be terraformed while one became the foundation for gas minding on gas giant type planets we use currently. In that system was a planet that supposedly once harbored life, the red planet. No one knows for certain the fate of the planet or why it was suddenly made barren; but what is known is that it was eventually terraformed and the occupants of Earteh began calling it home also. That red planet is the one that matches the description of Tatooine that Blizz noticed two days ago. That would make the Tatoo star system a good candidate for being one of the two original star systems Human life may have originated on. If evidence could be found that Tatooine is that red planet terraformed over multiple times then what other information might we find there, sir?”
There was a moment of silence. Everyone had said their piece that cared to except for Gault. That was strange considering Gault always had something to say about schemes and plans that involved anything to make a credit, fast, slow, or even just a credit at all. Erikson had known Gault long enough to ask, “What do you know, Gault?”
“I can’t say I actually know anything about any of this. I’m just surprised that I had been stuck on the dry ball of heat for so long that I never discovered any of this. It’s actually shameful given my reputation for finding secrets and treasures.” Erikson wasn’t convinced that was entirely true but let Gault slump back against the wall in comfort just the same.
“2V what else do those Jedi records say,” Erikson asked. “I’m afraid not much else, sir. There is a record of Skynet collapsing as a legitimate business, government contractor anyway. And there is evidence to suggest that Skynet may have survived but under a different name. There were also records of what appears to be Weyland Enterprises that was a spawn of Skynet operations during those ‘demon’ wars previously mentioned. Unfortunately, sir, Weyland Enterprises also collapsed. The only connection available now is the reintroduction of cybernetic organisms that were first developed by Skynet, refined beneath Weyland Enterprises, and reintroduced under the Utani Corporation. This is where Czerka Corporation enters the picture. By this time the Utani Corporation, according to Jedi records, was restructured after an industrial accident on an outer rim world irradiating the entire planet. The planet had to be destroyed. Whatever the Utani Corporation did to that planet set off some kind of core meltdown on the world. After that all mention of the Utani Corporation seems to have been replaced with the Czerka Corporation. Also, a small number-eleven to be exact-of Jedi records have similar symbols in their recordings to those recently recovered by your heroics on Tatooine, Master.”
Mako couldn’t contain her response, “Earteh was the planet hurled into its star?!”
“That would appear to be the case, ma’am. The ensuing blast of the exploding planet was enough to disrupt the stars stability and caused it to sunder in a violent explosion that ripped apart its system leaving being a few asteroid fields, a dead molten planet, and a new binary star system…,” 2V stopped short as if having an epiphany. “I believe that I may have misinterpreted the acronym of Czerka Corporation. The first word is not computer but Cyberdyne. That matches phonetically with language in the Jedi data banks.”
“Hold on a moment there,” Erikson blurted out with alarm. “How is this information useful to us?”
Stepping forward Gault realized he could make contribution, “I think I might have the information. Years before you blasted off my horn I ran into an informant who was obsessed with Czerka Corp. She always went babbling on about files they supposedly had that linked our universe with another. There was a civilization called the Quella or something similar. These Quella weren’t originally from here. I don’t just mean our galaxy but from our universe. Allegedly they were the creators of our universe, at least that what she rambled on about. Anyway, Czerka Corp. is supposed to have on file hidden away in one of its facilities data to reconstruct every known life form to have existed on the original Human home world; as well as all other species of life known at the time before shutting down that program because of some kind of war. So she goes on to explain Czerka Corp. made so many advancements because they had access to a higher form of life, to more complex genetic material to decode. Genetic material they could create whenever they needed to in order to engineer new things.”
“Are you saying that Czerka Corp. has genetic data files on life that is not only outside of our galaxy but outside of our universe,” Erikson exclaimed!?
“Sure seems that way, boss.”
“This may be the most important rediscovery of our time. We have to finish decoding that data and…” Erikson was interrupted by Skadge, “You gotta see ‘dis boss!” Erikson, Mako, and Gault headed for the cockpit, Blizz and Torian to the engine room. Everyone knew something was wrong.
Skadge was easing the Mantis out of light speed. They were back in the Yavin Star system but something wasn’t right at all. Imperial cruisers were everywhere. “Boss, wer’ bein’ hail’d,” Skadge said.
Erikson flipped a switch on his stations console. A message from Darth Malgus, the Empire’s Figure head, began to play. Malgus was known to have killed his master years ago upon their conquering of Koriban. During their assault on Coruscant Malgus had an explosive detonated in his face by an opposing Republic commando which scarred his face horribly. He survived that assault only to be pummeled by the new master of the Jedi council, Sateel Shan. He killed her master on the space station orbiting Korriban and then prepared to kill him in return further crippling his physical abilities. Now Malgus wears a respirator of sorts fitted with his black garb and red saber.
“Hunter, your service to the Empire has not gone without notice. But do not think you can hide secrets from me. I was there when your family was slaughtered. I know well of your plans of retribution against me. Sith trained or not, you know well our ways and had you been sent to Korriban you would have been trained and standing by my side right now. Yet you were not and even so will find me not so easy of prey. Surrender and you will be awarded fair compensation for your secrets. We know you found something on Tatooine and it is of the most vital importance to the Empire’s war effort. Do not attempt to run. This fleet is far greater than the bounty you collected on Captain Duma.”
Malgus was right about one thing. This Imperial Fleet was larger than Duma’s ambush. However, Duma’s men were better trained. Erikson punched the blue glowing button on his console. There was a brief hum from the Mantis’ engines before a bright blue pulse was emitted from it.
Erikson began the jump into hyperspace. Mako, Gault, and Skadge all stationed at the ready to open fire on any followers. The only thing they noticed was the decloaking of unfamiliar ships hit with the Mantis’ EMP. 2V was in the cockpit in time to notice that as well. “Lord Revan seems to have made a return. That surely will not go well for the Imperial fleet today,” 2V remarked.
The stars streaked into blurred white and blue lines as the Mantis escaped narrowly. Once in hyperspace Erikson had a moment to think. “Malgus wasn’t part of that fleet. I didn’t feel his presence there. I don’t know where he is but now we have another problem. There are a few things you guys should know about me and this is as good a time as any to let you know what we’re in for.”
En route to Corellia, the crew of the Mantis took a few moments to breathe and consider the events that just happened.
2V was continuously going on about Revan and blurting out possibilities of a new galactic government to work beneath. As a servant droid upgraded with ancient but somehow advanced weaponry, 2V always went above and beyond scanning the holonet for information about new conflicts and general galactic news. That wasn’t sitting well with Mako of late. “Oh! Come on! Just switch off already!”
2V-R8 took the hint and descended to the main cargo bay. Turning to Gault, Mako asked, “What do you know about Revan?”
“Well, I know he’s back now. I mean, I came across a number of Revanite artifacts in my travels but I can’t really say I know a lot except what the value is of those things I found. When we reach Corellia I can get a hold of a contact if you want?” It was clear in Gault’s voice that he didn’t know much and he felt as if he was letting down the team. And what he did know scared him. There was good reason for that too.
Erikson swiveled his chair around to face the interior of the cockpit. “You don’t have to say anything Gault. I know all about Revan. My parents were Revanites and tried to hide from everyone before the Empire returned. I was a possible candidate for Jedi training and my parents knew that the moment I was born.”
Mako sat forward. “Did they try to send you to the Academy,” she asked?
“No. They didn’t want me trained because I would have been conditioned and taken away from them. More importantly they felt I would be better off trained naturally by the Force. We’ve been together as a crew of five plus 2V for a few years now. I know you’ve all noticed I’m able to do a few things that don’t seem possible. Well, now you know the why. Here’s the how.” Erikson shifted in his seat and sat forward.
“I trained briefly beneath other students of Revan. What my parents couldn’t teach me I learned from the rest of the community. I wasn’t the brightest student or the fastest learner. My Force sensitivity was relatively low in comparison. I had to work hard to learn even the basic lessons. What I felt was a disability would become an incredible ally. I would learn that before I was ten. Republic troops raided the compound we called home. Our leadership was set up and blamed for crimes against the Republic. It was something about Mandalorians selling secrets and conspiring with Revanites to undermine the security of the Republic. I don’t really know. What I do know is that Jedi protectors accompanied the Republic troops to sniff out any force sensitive Revanites. They missed me completely.” Erikson paused for a few moments.
Mako took the opportunity to interject a thought. “Well, that explains why you were allowed into the Revanite camp on Dromand Kaas after we left Nal Hutta.”
Erikson continued. “Yeah. I wanted to tell you before but I couldn’t risk it. I thought it was strange that Imperial intelligence would send me into a camp they could have easily obliterated with regulars. Not one of my smarter moves, no. Although, I doubt the Revanites there recognized me. I am fairly certain that I recognized at least two faces there but don’t know anything about them.”
“If the Jedi couldn’t pick up on your abilities what makes you so sure the Revanites on Dromand Kass would be able too,” Gault asked. “And how would the Imps know about your abilities?”
“I don’t know. But I’m certain someone knew otherwise it’s not likely that I would have been sent there. Now that I know Malgus knows who I am…well, connect the dots for us Gault. So after Republic forces raided that camp they sent me to an orphanage. I bounced between a few homes before being sent to Republic training facilities. I read as many articles as I could find about Jedi training and focusing exercises. All of which I practiced in my spare time when not running training courses and out of sight. By the time I was eighteen I was prepared to graduate and be shipped off to another educational facility and would have been offered a position in the Republic Military. I bolted in search of my parents.” Erikson shifted again in his chair; and once more before deciding to stand up.
He walked across the cockpit to the doorway turning back to speak again. “That’s when I ran into a bounty hunter on my way to Corellia. I purchased a fair and my transport was caught in the cross hairs of a pursuing hunter. I took the controls of the ship after the pilot was knocked unconscious and made for the nearest station that was safe. Alderaan it was. I couldn’t stay long as I was now a fugitive of the Republic. I hid on Alderaan for a short time picking up jobs from the warring nobles and beneath the Republic’s nose until one day a smuggler made me a deal I couldn’t refuse. He was nearly drunk and belligerent but that didn’t stop the Alderaanian nobles from enforcing contracts of sporting entertainment. The smuggler challenged me to a duel. I didn’t want to but he pushed the issue and I saw an opportunity. We both fired. He missed in his stupor and I didn’t. I shot him in the leg. He collapsed and attempted to shoot again. I shot his blasting hand and he reached for a side arm. I shot him again in the chest. He stopped moving.”
Erikson hung his head for a moment before continuing. “I collected his ship and was now the owner of his cargo. I made good on his deliveries and credited the smuggler’s account with all the credits minus fuel so any of his surviving heirs wouldn’t be completely broke. Smuggling was my life for a few years afterwards until another Republic raid. They didn’t I.D. for being a runaway but did hold me for possession of unrefined spice I was transporting. I didn’t have the proper permits for such transporting jobs but it really was a legitimate run. I earned nearly thirty percent because I was fast and the buyers were sick of Republic red tape. The Republic just wanted control of Spice because it grants them a huge profit. It’s not terribly difficult to refine but takes some skill to make into a cheaper alternative medicine to Kolto products. And that hurts Republic coffers if the taxes are not imposed. Just more political favors destroying innocent lives beneath rule of law is the only reason I was targeted Credits to fight a war and maintain power.”
Torian came to stand behind him coming up from the communications room. “I thought I recognized you. That was you on Ord Mantell. You were the spice runner for group that would eventually change moral directions and become outright terrorists.”
Erikson turned to Torian. “I was. The Republic confiscated my ship and attempted to put me into holding until a trial. I wasn’t going to have any of that. The mess on Ord Mantell was their fault for over regulation casuing people to die from being dependent on their imposed authority. I never reclaimed my ship but I did learn while I was in Republic custody during that time that Sith had attacked a specific Republic world. They attacked a facility where Revanite followers were held in internment camps…where my parents were held.”
Gault stood up. “I’m sorry about that, boss. I don’t remember much about my folks. Lost them when I was young. But I’ve had good friends killed by Imperials. You’ve done me a great number of favors. Just say the word and I’m with you.”
Erikson looked up at Gault. “Thanks. It wasn’t long after that when I made another escape attempt. A group of us took control of the transport vessel and made for rebel territory on Ord Mantel. We bought passage off world and were tricked into being dumped on Trandosha. We were sold as gladiatorial tributes. I had to fight like never before to get of that world. And when I did I had to agree to enter some kind of contest that started for me on Nal Hutta. I think Mako can fill you in on the rest. From there I found each one of you and now here we are.”
Skadge’s ears had opened up intently and absorb this new information about his captain. “Ahhh! You don told me everyting I needed ta know. Where do I sign up for dis skull crushing? I wanna piece ‘o dis Sif lord!”
Erikson extended an arm towards Skadge. Skadge met Erikson’s arm in an arm grasp to show an accord had just been made as per Skadge’s custom. None of the others were to be left out either. “Honey, where you go, I go,” Mako reminded her beau.
Torian stepped closer. “Pokkad, for everything. My turn to serve you.” And of course Blizz crept into the mix from the engine room and naturally heard everything, being the tech genius he was with his gadgets. “Ehotemi matta bettea pitta utinnni!”
2V also listening in couldn’t help but to offer his services. “Well, sir, if you insist upon having Master Blizz along to ‘make the bad people pay’ as he says then I shall accompany you as well. I am thankful that you acquired me, Master. That Trandosian who previously owned this vessel was cruel in ways Sith cannot match.”
Erikson stood up a little straighter feeling better about the turn of events. With still several hours to go before reaching Corellia there was much work to be done. Copies of the data from Tatooine had to be made which kept 2V busy. Mako began prepping for potential contacts with Gault. Skadge went about in an eager hustle preparing his gear for a fight. Torian and Erikson descended to the cargo deck for lessons from Blizz, who eagerly explained his latest devices to them.
When they had plans that needed to be prepped for there never seemed to be enough time. Ship sensors alerted the crew to their approach of Corellia. Corellia was a world occupied by Republic and Imperial forces. War did ravage this planet but it was also quickly repaired by the forces of industry and two cartels, the Hutts and a lesser known faction, the Consortium.
Hutt territory was the safe bet. Even though Mako found multiple contracts out for Erikson listed on both Imperial and Republic channels, no independent hunters would attempt such given Erikson’s reputation. Champion of the Great Hunt was not the intimidating title. It was ‘the Merciful’ that stayed most hands. As a single being, Erikson had thus far still done more than any other alone to buck both the Republic and the Empire.
Erikson was indeed such. The fact that his crew was still with him entirely after nearly half a decade was proof of high quality of character and honor. Hutt territory was the safe bet.
The Mantis docked quietly in a private port free of bureaucracy filled customs. Corellian space during this war tended to yield to the ample number of mercenaries and smugglers without much questioning. The power of voluntary exchange that enabled the users to avoid the possibility of not being able to use their credits was far superior to the use of violence. These peaceful profiting minds who enabled the cease fire in this system and enabled the peace to be more than tenuous were the real powers on Corellia, not the governments which claimed violent jurisdiction with their militaries.
Multiple Hutts worked this area of Corellia. One in particular, Rioogoo the Hutt, was actively seeking the attention of Erikson. Seemed like a logical choice or trap. But as Mako was owed two separate favors by Rioogoo, it was the logical choice considering one of the favors was granted by the saving of Rioogoo’s life before her adopted father Braden was killed by Tarro Blood on Nal Hutta.
Rioogoo met them with much fanfare. He didn’t realize that Mako was Erikson’s partner now, both in business and pleasure. To Erikson he extended additional courtesies and praise. Hutts don’t typically do such things, but Mako proved to be an extremely valuable ally to Rioogoo after saving his life. She also recovered a hundred and forty percent of his fortune. Two favors performed and the affection of a Hutt for life. A rare sentiment and generally unwanted, though Mako understood the power of credit chips exceptionally well.
Rioogoo had information for Erikson that he wanted to exchange for a job. With his savior on Erikson’s arm, he simply gave up the information freely. Supposedly unknown to Republic and Imperial intelligence, Darth Revan is looking for Erikson because he know of his partial abilities. The Empire is seeking Erikson also. However, they know he has information from Tatooine. However, they do not know what it is, yet suspect it may be related to both the ancient cargo ship Imperial Intelligence contracted Erikson to find as well as their personal treasure hunt on Tatooine also. And the Empire also wants to interrogate Erikson for information as to why Master Revan wants him alive.
Erikson stood calmly for a moment considering this new information Rioogoo presented. “Rioogoo, I thank you. I will take care of your runner if I come across him. It’s a job worth doing considering I wouldn’t want to be stolen from either. If I find ‘em, I’ll send him back in carbonite and holo you the details. No charge of course!”
They retired from Rioogoo’s court for the evening. No sooner than did they arrive at their reserved suite than alarms started blaring.
Turbo laser fire was raining down on the Hutt’s defensive cannons. Unlike Republic and Imperial STA cannons, Hutt tech was heavily shielded on this world to ensure the protection of their industrial investments. Warring governments rarely understood the achievements required to build such industry. And they never appreciated it since everything governments tend to acquire is done through extortion sold as moral superiority, a trick when seen for what it is makes even the vilest Hutt seem honorable. So accordingly, their STA cannons returned fire and then some.
Smaller craft akin to Imperial fighters and transports began descending. None of the aggressors were allowed anywhere near the spaceport, but if the defending ground forces failed then those attacking Revanite forces would cut off Erikson from his preferred method of transportation off Corellia.
As they ran for the spaceport, the ground to their east began to shake. A thunderous roar bellowed out of the ground and following it was a B class frigate. Its guns were blazing continuous streams of destructive power towards the attacking destroyers. Few transports made it to the ground allowing Erikson and his crew to reach their ship. It didn’t matter who owned that emerging warship. It only mattered that it was protecting the Mantis.
Once inside the Mantis they were prepared to life off in seconds. And then their window of opportunity was gone. Now they’d have to create a new one right through the Imperial starship hovering above the space port and wailing on the Revanite destroyers.
That might be bad karma but if they stay there then the Empire would be able to can them like black market rancor meat. Then there was an opening. Revanite ships returned fire on the Imperial destroyer causing it to break formation giving the Mantis room to scrape by. And scrape by it did removing some of the already shoddy forest green paint job from the top of the Mantis.
Erikson piloted his ship knocking into the destroyer above them just enough to clear the spaceport walls below. Then they were off. Shields at maximum and dodging cannon fire, the Mantis flanked the Imperial ships and removed the Revanite’s line of sight. Now Republic ships were entering the mix. It seemed both Imperial and Republic forces were working to protect the manufacturing facilities.
Whoever Revan really was or is has gotten both governments at least concerned if they are going to join forces to combat him. In fact, Erikson couldn’t recall who Revan was because there was no Revan when he was a child; only talk of following in his footsteps. But he nor the crew had time to think about that. Blizz was on the intercom wailing about a foreign signal coming from the outer hull of the Mantis. Blizz flew up the stairs from the cargo bay and engine deck of the ship wearing magnetic grappling equipment and a breather.
Erikson touched the controls on his console and a hatch opened up in the room behind the cockpit. Blizz scurried up the ladder and scoured the hull of the Mantis for several intense moments. He found the tiny device and capped it in one of his many invented shielded containers before returning inside.
With that problem solved Erikson closed the hatch and swung around to face the ensuing battle. Multiple Hutt frigates were now blasting away at Revanite forces side by side with Imperial and Republic forces. In the chaos Erikson blasted of Corellia but not before receiving a coded transmission, that was written in the same language 2V decoded with information from the Jedi archives, from the Revanite fleet.
2V decoded the message in moments as the Mantis cleared the atmosphere of Corellia and leapt back into hyperspace.
“Hunter, you must surrender and cease your bounty. You are entangling yourself with forces you do not understand. Uncovering this secret will not yield the desired profit you believe it contains. Jedi and Sith alike will forever hunt you. There is no turning back if you don’t surrender to us. Cyberdyne systems must not be reactivated. You must contact us.”
Hand of Revan
There was silence on board the Mantis. Silence wasn’t unusual but the increasingly stagnant air and the tension in it were. The crew had experienced prolonged periods of time where they were held up on board before. This time was a little different.
Four separate warring factions just engaged one another on Corellia. Three aligned themselves against one and the outcome of that battle wasn’t clear, though it should have been with the amount of fire power levied against the Revanite forces. None of the Mantis’ crew saw that coming. They certainly didn’t see the assault’s sudden introduction of Revan as a major player on the galactic scene, let alone his assault on one of the most heavily fortified planets; and fortified by three different factions at that. Whatever Revan had his hands on was unique. That much is certain.
But Erikson didn’t have time to worry about those details. He could feel something pulling on his Force sensitive abilities. Whatever it was beckoning him was familiar and coming closer.
The tension was cut a little by Gault. “Close personal friends of yours huh?”
Gault wasn’t meaning to be insensitive, just always maintained a sarcastic tone. None within ear shot minded as Gault had done more than enough to prove the quality of his character to them over the years. In fact Gault was the In-A-Bind-Partner who would come in handy in the most perfect of imperfect situations.
Erikson shifted in his seat. “I suppose you could say that.” He shifted again, this time trying to shake that nagging feeling. “We should be prepared to engage anything when we come out of hyperspace. Consider our dropping out to be a guaranteed ambush.”
Torain turned to Erikson. “How do you figure?”
“It’s just a feeling I have. Something about my feelings tells me that we are being followed and no matter where we go, when we drop out of hyperspace we’ll be ambushed.” Erikson clicked a button on his console. “Blizz, prepare Mark twenty-one. I think it’s time to test that out.”
Excitedly Blizz responded. “Utinniiiii! Metta oobato metree bacco!”
Looking down on the console Erikson read that their hyperspace cords would empty them out in a little under a standard hour. “Blizz and I have been working on a modified version of the already modified EMP. It’s saved our lives numerous times. However, since Revanite ships were at the Yavin ambush I think it smart to change tactics. It’s better to not utilize the same tactics with the same tech repeatedly.”
Having that said put a little bit of a startle into the crew. Erikson continued, “I don’t think those were the same Revanite ships on Corellia as ambushed us in part at Yavin. I could be wrong, but the Mantis is not a slow vessel. Granted though, I don’t know what hardware is in Revan’s equipment. It was taking a beating back there and I don’t intend to see what kind of a beating it can give. Regardless, when we fall out of hyperspace we won’t have much time. Revan will likely attempt to shoot us down. At least that’s my gut feeling.”
“Maybe gwanna make fur da best fight ever,” Skadge stated proudly thumping his chest!
At that statement Mako reached for her beau’s hand to hold. She loved him and knew that he loved her equally as much in return. They were equally perfect in history, desire, and necessity for one another. They both knew it as much as the rest of the crew knew. Erikson and Mako were half the team just because of what they could do. But that never stopped Erikson from showing mercy and giving recognition and praise where it was do for the rest of the crew. In order for improvements to be made to Erikson’s team one would have to be removed and replaced.
Skadge was nearly the equivalent in combat to Erikson, just reckless and less reasonable. Torian absolutely carried the heart of the Mandalorian and was an excellent weapons technician. Blizz of course was a technological genius and loyal friend grateful for the kindness and mercy Erikson had shown him on Hoth where he joined Erikson’s crew. Unlike Mako, the four of them, Gault included, owed something special to Erikson; their lives.
He could have terminated them all in accordance to self defense protocols but didn’t. Well, for Blizz he outright saved his life from Imperials, junkers, and other hunters; and according to Blizz, also from other Jawas.
The crew owed a heavy debt to Erikson’s mercy. He kept them alive even from themselves. Now he was going to keep them alive from himself, from his past. And to do that required some last minute preparations.
Mako, Gault, and Skadge remained in the cockpit going over instruments and gauges. Erikson went below deck with Torian to talk to Blizz. They rerouted power to shields and their new EMMP. Erikson wanted to ensure they were able to get clear of these stalkers. With the EMMP they could take down any ray based shielding that blocked even the most powerful aftermarket EMP blasts. That would give them the go ahead to fire off the primary EMP.
Even 2V had a position of importance in times like these. 2V was connected directly into the ships secondary computer systems. Micro-bots were the minions of 2V. They would be utilized to repair hull damage, external weaponry, and general maintenance while 2V also communicated with the ships main computer system to find the troubles needing attention.
Whatever Erikson expected was something bad. Time was draining fast. He had one last task to perform before their jump was complete; back to the cockpit.
Resuming his seat in the cockpit Erikson glanced over the controls to see he had just a few minutes left. He turned to his three crew members by his side. “Revan’s forces have likely sensed my presence. I can only guess they’ve followed us because of that. Students of Revan are not like Jedi or Sith apprentices. They are taught to focus their energies differently. The difference is to be subtle and calm in ways that allow them to move through and use the Force without disturbing it on the surface or beneath. It’s all a matter of moving with the Force and hiding within its own natural waves. As grandiose as the Jedi make themselves out to be they don’t even do this perfectly since they rely upon the Force so heavily to enhance everything they do. They leave ripples, just deep enough not to notice on the surface. It likely sounds complex but it’s all about moving with the current of the Force to conceal and empower your blows and blocks.”
Skadge listened intensely to this. If it was about advantage he wanted to know.
Erikson continued, “It’s why the Jedi couldn’t sense me previously. I know Sith have trouble with that too. But there is more. Students of Revan can channel more than just rage to empower them. They channel all emotions unlike the Sith with their rage and the Jedi without. And with that ability I can suppress Jedi and Sith alike. So can Revanites. But I’ve never fought another Revanite before. And that’s why we’ve been manufacturing that serum we used on Coruscant.”
With time ending, each turned back towards their stations. They understood more and were ready. Remembering the ambush by Captain Duma, they all braced for a sudden and jarring deceleration. Then the stars began to reshape and blackness encompassed the vast nothingness of space again.
Shields went up. Missiles were auto loaded and their cooling systems were overridden. Power was redirected from the main turbo laser cannons and the EMMP was charging with the EMP in queue. Just as suspected multiple ships exited hyperspace right behind the Mantis as it was maneuvering to face the Revanites in attack position.
With a deep breath, Erikson waited the long moment for all thirty-seven vessels to exist hyperspace. Then the first EMMP was set loose. The smaller ships were pushed and shifted. All ships went dark for several seconds. Before more than a few seconds could pass the primary EMP was discharged.
Revanite ships began drifting towards the strongest gravitational force; a large asteroid that appeared beneath them from their points of view. The Mantis was being hailed again and received a new message. Erikson wasn’t going to stick around to find out what it said when he could listen to it in peace later.
The Mantis made another jump into hyperspace. And then another. They bounced about a bit making multiple jumps and shifting directions for several hours in between other lesser used hyperspace lanes and made a few dangerous new paths.
For the better part of a standard day they did this. After a few hours of Erikson feeling completely free of the Revan’s pull he relaxed; but he maintained his strategy. Eventually they ended up closer to the Hoth system. That turned out to be a bit of luck.
2V just came jumping and clattering into the Cockpit. “Sir! Sir! I’ve decoded another portion of the CZERKA Corporation data. You need to see this!” Checking over his console, the next exit from hyperspace would be twenty minutes from now. Whatever 2V had to say would make the time go by faster.
“Sir, it appears that the mentioning of similar CZERKA facilities on Hoth by Blizz may help us acquire new clues to this mystery. Hoth was among the first planets discovered pre-Republic founding. In fact it seems to be among the first planets terraformed before Humans made contact with too many other species. Also, pre-CZERKA entities established various research facilities throughout the Hoth system on multiple planets and asteroids. The Hoth system looked very different twelve thousand years ago when compared to today’s nav-charts. There were nearly thirty different planets in the Hoth system then. Also, the Hoth planets have a unique mineral inside of them. CZERKA documents reveal that this mineral was crucial in development of CZERKA equipment before they learned to fabricate cheaper alternatives. I propose that we visit the Hoth system to follow up on Blizz’s aforementioned lead.” 2V stood there affecting a proud stance as best his metallic body would allow.
Erikson sat back in his chair for a moment. The crew knew he was thinking. He would often purse his lips when he was thinking hard; and this occasion meant he knew something else. “2V, go back to decoding those documents and let me know if you come across a planet or system named ‘Miranda.’”
2V affected a very pleased-with-himself stance. “Absolutely, sir! I’m glad to be of service.”
Erikson turned around remembering to play Revan’s message finally. He pressed a button on his console to open the message channel, then another to play it.
“Apprentice Autarchic, you may well run for a long time but you will not escape me forever. I know you are going to the Hoth system. I will not follow you there. We will meet. I have foreseen it already. What you seek I already know. The Jedi have forgotten this and the Sith desire it dearly. It is not for their minds to recall. It is our destiny to maintain this order. If the Sith obtain this information then the galaxy is lost. If the Jedi remember this information then they will become more powerful. That is the reason we have returned. Do not intervene or you will be considered against us, apprentice.”
The message ended with a strong emphasis on ‘apprentice.’
The Mantis fell out of hyperspace and on the edge of Hoth space. They could hold up in a neutral outer rim station for at least a day or two. Here they could get some rest and 2V would have more time to work.
The crew of the Mantis made the Hutt controlled station on the edge of Hoth space, Cha-rooba, home for a day. The Mantis needed repairs and the crew some rest. Erikson was certain Revan wouldn’t be coming to Hoth. After the stunts Revan just pulled he’d have Imperial, Republic, Hutt, and various independent groups chasing after him. Just to be safe though, Erikson wasn’t planning on staying more than two standard days. That was a risk he knew he was taking. The entire crew knew it. And they all understood that time was of the essence.
Cha-rooba was a neutral space station for Hutts, hunters, smugglers, and business partners wanting to do business, relax, and spend their hard earned credits while avoiding legalities of the two empires warring over control of the galaxy. Even though the Hoth system maintained a heavy Republic and Imperial presence, there was little to worry about from either faction this far away from the Republic command located in the center of the galaxy; or even from Imperial command located on the exact opposite side of the galaxy on Dromund Kaas.
Everyone was ecstatic to get off the ship, but for a short time. It had become just as much their home as it was Erikson’s. Even though Mako was a holo-net genius, the best of the best at finding information, and had stashed Erikson’s half a trillion credits in various accounts and funds across the galaxy they didn’t like to stay in one place for long so they would be a target; certainly not in a highly trafficked location. However, having to reacquire a new home when not ready would never be something credits could compensate for.
The crew carried with them the basics while exploring Cha-rooba. They may have been the best crew working with the best hunter, but they weren’t that way because they were unprepared. Mako scouted out a few contacts she figured might be in the area for information. Gault swore he recognize a familiar ship in an adjacent hanger and was eager to check it out. Skadge of course headed straight for the fighting pits to earn easy credits. Torian lagged behind on the ship to rest while 2V continued his work decoding the data from the Tatooine CZERKA facility. This left Blizz nearly clung to Erikson’s side ready for any chance he could get to impress his boss.
The two of them went to do a little exploring which allowed Blizz to share all sorts of ideas with his boss. He looked up to Erikson and considered him more just a boss. He was Blizz’s friend and friendship meant everything to Blizz. Jawas were often treated with such contempt and animosity throughout the galaxy for the stereotypes associated with them since they first entered the galactic scene.
The time on Cha-rooba passed quickly. They all managed to get a little something to take with them before returning to the ship. Blizz picked up some much needed parts from the local scrap dealers. Torian eventually left the ship to get some replacement parts for his tech-staff and some odd trinkets for his personal collection of “stuff” Gault teased him about. Skadge returned with a bruise on the side of his face, not that it was very noticeable given his dark red and black skin color, and a fist full of data chips loaded with credits.
Mako and Gault both returned with information. Gault discovered an old fling and was able to get some details about old droid factories on the fourth planet in the Hoth system. Mako also acquired some information that matched Gault’s. Her information was a little more detailed.
Mako spread out a thin plasteel-paper topography map on the ships main holo-terminal. Pointing at several locations she began to explain. “Here, here, and here are the most common abandon droid facilities known. Here and here are two lesser known facilities; but over here is a cluster of facilities that digging around on the local holo-net servers yielded clues about.”
2V came up the stairs to inspect the map Mako laid out while Erikson began pointing at a location. “This secondary facility, here, what information did you gather about it?”
Mako looked over the map again and down at her data pad. “That facility is well known in comparison to the others but not actually explored. According to information that I have its main entrance, it’s only known entrance, was collapsed after a group of explorers attempted to blast their way past the wampa caves in the area. However, I also managed to find this.” She pointed to another section on the map that wasn’t near the facility at all.
2V was anxious to share his news. “That is likely to be an exhaust vent for the facility. The exact facility where the bulk of former CZERKA data servers should be stored. Master, I’ve uncovered new information and decrypted keys for access on Hoth, Tatooine, and Belsalvis. Unfortunately, I do not think we will be able to do anything on Belsalvis due to the Empires enormous presence there. I do think we might be able to access this one here. Also, in relation to your previous inquiry about a planet called Miranda, I may have found something.”
That piqued Erikson’s interest the most. “Okay, what’cha got?”
2V, a very proud droid all things considered, pointed to Mako’s map. “Well, sir, it would appear that the planet this particular map belongs to is the planet Miranda. CZERKA records indicate that it was once a terraformed planet used after the human populations of Earteh began abandoning their star system in search of a new one to call home. Records indicate that this present star system was that new home. One of the worlds was named Miranda. It was terraformed and later used as a military experiment to neutralize those with mutated genes which allowed for basic telepathy and telekinesis, the frontrunners to Force skills that Jedi and Sith use today. My research is still incomplete but it would appear that the government at the time, some kind of a federation, pumped a chemical compound into the planet’s atmosphere in an attempt to kill those who would evolve into the Je’daii. The experiment failed. Many humans on Miranda simply died outright. The remaining began to mutate into horrible vicious beasts. They reproduced rapidly and would spawn inside other creatures.”
Gault was listening in and suddenly jumped up at 2V’s last statement. “You mean to tell me that Rakghouls originated on a frozen Hoth world?”
“Well, Master Gault, it is entirely possible. However, at the time Hoth was not a frozen world. It was very much a pleasant world not all that unlike Alderaan. I would have to research other factors but this new data does seem to suggest that Rakghouls may have in part originated on Hoth, if not an earlier variation of them. In accordance to government protocol during that era, Miranda was utilized as a weapons testing facility. A smuggler, whose name I have not yet decoded, eventually broke through the government barriers and stole the secrets off Miranda and made the knowledge public. That set off a revolution against the federation and Humans began to expand even further into the galaxy. It should be noted here that Miranda was eventually bombarded from orbit and destroyed. In time the entity we know as CZERKA today would reacquire the planet after many changes in the system. They dug up all work that survived after nearly fifteen decades of excavation.” 2V was prepared to continue but Erikson interrupted.
“2V, this chemical compound that was pumped into Miranda’s atmosphere, have you decoded that at all in the files?”
“I have not Master. Although I am more than fifty percent complete in decoding the data I do not see any patterns or algorithms that suggest a chemical formula. If one does arise I will bring it to your attention immediately.” 2V stepped back for a moment no longer feeling proud since he did not have the answer his master was seeking.
Torian was interested in this chemical compound also. “You mean to tell me that the juice you and Blizz have been cooking up is old news? This has got to be what Revan was talking about. I bet if we find this formula that it could match what you’ve already got or even make it better.”
Erikson stepped away from the holo-station and made a seat out of an electronic crate. “That wasn’t exactly what I was thinking would be down there. But it is certainly worth a look. The metals 2V mentioned a while back could be the key to making the serum we’re using now more powerful. But why would Revan protect that and not use it? There has to be more. There is something else there that he is trying to protect. The serum can be neutralized and worked around if it becomes fairly common knowledge. So what else is there?”
Mako shifted the map around a bit and did some fancy folding before walking it over to Erikson. “This might be what Malgus and Revan are after.”
Erikson took the map and looked at it for a while. The map now showed a series of facility layouts. The one in question was different from the others. This one held numerous underground levels and was the one Erikson was interested in.
Erikson looked back up to Mako. “This was more than just a data center. This was a full blown research facility and manufacturing facility. But what’s with this room here? Why is it so much larger?”
Blizz was very excited to be a part of this crew. He had contributed more than was necessary but never felt like he was doing enough. So this was his chance to give a little more. He explained how the Jawas that he was previously teamed with several years back criticized him for his research into seeking other junk sites. He tried to explain to them that there were better sites on another planet in this system but they didn’t believe his tech could work well enough to show that.
So Blizz stopped trying to help and just followed orders until his group was accosted by Imperials and they tried to sell Blizz off as their leader to avoid persecution. That’s when Erikson showed up and gathered him up as part of the Mantis’ crew. But Blizz knew that there was more there. He was able to figure out that a large room was set beneath many levels and there were enough power relays and generators to create portals akin to those which make up the hyperspace lanes. He kept this information to himself in detail until now. What Blizz couldn’t figure out is why so much power generating equipment was needed so far underground.
Erikson, Torian, Gault, and Mako all looked at Blizz with big smiles. Skadge just walked over to Blizz, lifted him up to be face to face, and said, “I gots lots o’ respect fur you little techie. I’ma not gwanna consider eatin’ you no more!” Skadge put Blizz down and just roared with laughter.
That sound had the rest of the crew in an ocean of awkward feelings. They’d never heard Skadge laugh before in all the years they had him part of the team and it not sound demonic as if he was going into battle. In fact they’ve never witnessed Skadge get excited about anything other than destroying something.
After the initial awkwardness passed they all began formulating a plan. They had to get into that facility. Where others failed they would succeed. They had to with the resources they had access too. And such things included more than just a brilliant and skilled team. They had billions of credits to work with also.
With their plan set and geared prepped all they needed to do was wait till Miranda changed their site to early morning. Touching down on a frozen wasteland of a planet at night was bad business. At least in early morning conditions the planet’s star would warm things up just enough to make the trek somewhat easier.
With eleven hours to go the crew got some sleep. 2V recharged and fitted himself with additional armoring against the weather and potential wampas. He also took the liberty of preparing a week’s worth of rations on the off chance that something bad would happen, despite the fact that Torian, Skadge, and Blizz would remain on board ready to blast them out of where ever they might need blasting out of.
The morning descent was fairly routine, save for the wind gusts that made maneuvering the Mantis require actual caution. With Blizz’s scanning tech implemented into the Mantis’ systems a detailed scan was composed of the subterranean caverns. So long as the descending team could get to any one of three potential extraction points, the onboard team could blast away the icy cover and expose the caverns below to withdraw the team.
With those points plotted and numerous sensors set to relay communications incase the depths and facility structures impeded normal communications, the descending team departed. It was a fairly easy go, an hour’s walk with moderate caution. About thirty-two hundred meters worth of horizontal ventilation shaft to traverse and then down six levels to the main data centers.
They arrived at their stopping point. They had to set up a power station and then connect the data servers until they had the information they desired. Gault and Erikson set up the power station as forecasted since the equipment already on site was ancient and dead. While they worked, Mako directed her attention to the very first console inside the giant subterranean room. With power connected Mako, Erikson, and 2V went to work. Gault poked around looking and exploring. He didn’t go very far, about the lengths their light source stopped. After about an hour of working they had downloaded enormous amounts of data.
Another hour passed and Mako had finally moved from her first console. She looked up towards her beau. “Hey, I haven’t heard a thing over the com from the others. We really need…” Her speech was interrupted by the ignition of a light saber that had just penetrated her chest cavity leaving her last breaths gurgling and arms twitching.
Erikson dropped what he was doing to see the love of his life on Death’s bed. Mako’s eyes pushed passed the tears forming in Erikson’s. “I love…” And the purple light saber blade powered down withdrawing from Mako’s chest cavity allowing her to fall to the floor.
Erikson stood there frozen for two long seconds. His worst fear was just realized. His concentration on his dead wife rendered him unable to respond until it was broken by Gault’s actions. Gault had been hidden in the shadows poking around at some dusty equipment when he heard the ignition of Revan’s light saber and its cauterizing penetration of Mako’s armor and flesh as it exited through her chest cavity. He fired in rapid succession two dozen Force nullifying serum filled darts at Revan.
Revan reignited his saber in time to block maybe six of them. The liquid in them vaporized and caused small explosions that enveloped his blade for a split second. The rest dotted his body from mid-thigh to chest. Revan acted quickly to pull them out but that wasn’t enough. Even hidden behind a mask his body language said he wasn’t prepared for this; that he didn’t know this existed. That allowed Erikson time to extend his arm and launch his grappling tool. Revan’s light saber was ripped from his grasp. With blaster drawn, Erikson began wailing on Revan at Gault’s side.
None of their laser blasts hit Revan. He was pulling their blasts to his hand and dispersing them since he knew to expect them unlike the darts Gault fired from the shadows in a calm instinctual response. It was becoming increasingly clearer by Revan’s actions that he had no idea what just hit him. For someone initiating an offensive strategy he was utilizing far more defensive abilities. That much was clear to both Erikson and Gault. Erikson began a charge at Revan with a drawn knife in his fit of rage. He didn’t make it. The entire facility was rocked by an explosion on the surface. Erikson went crashing to the floor. Revan was knocked back into the hallway he crept in from while Gault was knocked against a rack of dusty armaments.
2V was left standing and began emergency medical protocols on Mako while trying to initiate contact with the rest of the crew. Gault and Erikson regained their footing only to see Revan gone and his saber with him. Erikson could feel fear in Revan that wasn’t being controlled. No Revanite, Sith, or Jedi allowed that to happen unless shaken dramatically. And with the coming epiphany, training, and ‘cool under fire’ intellect Erikson regrouped internally and he began lifting Mako’s body in order to get out.
“Sir! Sir! I have been equipped with a crude carbonite freezing apparatus designed for medical emergencies safer than the one you carry that we acquired after we raided the CZERKA starship. I can encase her in medical grade carbonite to keep her preserved.” 2V was equipped with many things that standard protocol droids weren’t. CZERKA tech, Blizz’s own inventions, and some modifications of his own just to name a few sources. 2V was certainly more than just a piece of property to the crew of the Mantis. He was indeed a vital member and even a friend.
Erikson laid Mako back down and 2V began the process. It was crude but quick and would keep her preserved long enough to get her to a bacta tank. Ground shaking blasts rocked the facility twice more; but 2V remained focused and continued his work flawlessly. With small magna lifts attached to the thin carbonite shell, they lifted Mako and began pushing her upright through the shaking facility.
They reached the nearest extraction point to find it already blasted open. They didn’t notice the cold until they’d been standing there for several moments waiting for the Mantis to finishing demolishing the small group of Black Sun pirates working in conjunction with several Revanite vessels. And then Erikson saw him.
Revan was down on the cavern floor. Gault raised his rifle. With a steady hand he fired off a blast. Revan went tumbling down. “Stars! That’s going to leave a mark,” Gault exclaimed proudly!
But Revan wouldn’t stay there for long. A drop ship was on him and he was reclaimed. He wasn’t dead but he was now out of commission for some time.
The Mantis made several passes over the blasted area where Erikson, Gault, and 2V waited with Mako in carbonite. Gault charged his rifle several times taking careful aim to fire a few shots and downed two Black Sun mercenaries. Their wait seemed like an eternity. But such is a handful of minutes in tense situations.
The Mantis finally cleared out the remaining attackers alongside Hutt paid mercenaries, late to the battle, and descended to pick up the rest of its crew. Once on board they made for Cha-rooba. There was nothing any of the medical personnel on board that station could do. Revan struck her heart clean through.
The only solace that Erikson had was the company of his team. And that wasn’t enough. Mako was just as much the heart and soul of that team as was Erikson. The two of them had created their crew and were the first members of it. Everyone else came later, even their ship.
Funeral preparations were made when they returned to Cha-rooba. Erikson made several holo-calls and set up passage to Nal Hutta. In the short ninety minutes they were on board the Cha-rooba station word had spread quickly. Black Sun and Revanites were being hunted all across the galaxy by Hutt cartels and Consortium pirates like.
Mako’s death would not go unpunished. Erikson’s loss would not go without vengeance. Mako did business with a great many Hutts and never pitted any of them against one another. She made certain to profit them off Imperial scum and on occasion Republic scum alike. Erikson had done nearly the same, minus those that tried to cross and double cross him. He was known as the Honorable and Merciful for good reasons.
Seeing a friend to the Hutts killed, regardless of the reason, was enough to wage war against the unfortunate bastard who killed her. But to cause the galaxy’s most noble hunters such grief was just rubbing salt into the wound and in poor taste concerning the fact that she was his wife.
Mako’s body was prepared for burial within a couple of hours. There was silence on board the Mantis. None spoke. The entire crew remained silent during transit to Nal Hutta. Not a single word was spoken. The heart break and sadness that filled the ship’s cabin was thick and fostering a rage in all the crew members.
It wasn’t until the second or third day of travel that the first words were spoken. Only Gault had the courage to interrupt Erikson’s mourning. “Say, I…well…Care to talk?”
“I don’t know Gault. I’ve had everything taken from me. My parents. My sister. Now Mako. What do I have left, Gault?” Erikson’s voice was shaking. That’s something it never did before. It only emphasized the severity of the situation to Gault. Erikson was more than just a man in thought and action. He was more than just the greatest hunter. To Gault, Erikson was and is his savoir and friend.
Gault took a seat on the chair in Erikson’s quarters watching his friend gently handle a holo-recording of his wife. “Do you remember a few years back, when you helped me follow up on a lead about an old flame?” Erikson nodded, Gault continued. “I found out later that she was killed in a raid on some high finance office just off Coruscant. She was set up. I never said anything. Granted I wasn’t as close but I do understand. I also want you to understand that you have more than you think. You still have the rest of us. We’re not going anywhere. The things you done for us on this ship…the things you’ve done because of the way you see the galaxy…that’s what has bought our trust…our respect. That’s why you are our leader, our employer, our boss, our friend…our family. And that’s why we’re not going to stop being part of your team in this galaxy. We all look to you as an authority because you have earned our trust and respect. Not the Empire. Not the Republic. Not the Hutts or Black Sun.”
Erikson shifted forward sitting on the edge of his bed. “I didn’t mean it that way, Gault. I know I have you all and I know you all stayed with me because of my character, because you owe me a debt for mercy. I just wasn’t expecting another loss so soon.” He forced back his tears as much as possible.
“Utannata tinanee batta buttacki tini!” Blizz crept into the door way of Erikson’s quarters.
That was the first smile seen on Erikson’s face since the tragedy. Blizz had a way with Erikson that none of the other crew had. What Mako was to Erikson romantically, Blizz was to Erikson in friendship. He always considered Blizz in the highest regards because Blizz didn’t offer judgment. He offered understanding, loyalty, and insight right from the start unlike the others who took more time. It was clear that Blizz was more of a long term thinker, problem solver like Erikson. Most importantly, the struggles Blizz and Erikson endured before they met were very similar, the betrayals, the fights, the losses.
“Blizz, I’m not your boss. But I am proud to be your friend.” Erikson was starting to feel better. Eventually Skadge joined the conversation, offered his sentiment. 2V even gave his and eventually invited the rest of the crew downstairs to a meal he prepared where Torian was waiting for his say.
Gault and Skadge took their meals back up top to the cockpit. Blizz returned with his to the engine room while 2V went about his duties with the data from Tatooine and now Miranda. “Pokkad,” Torian said.
“Thank you? For what?”
“For everything. You are the epitome of the Mandalorian spirit. I didn’t realize that when you picked me up on Taris. But I began to see more and more everyday you allowed me to stay on as your crew. I had my doubts to be sure. And there’s a reason why you won the Great Hunt so many years ago. You are the best at what you do because you’re not afraid to explore, understand, and utilize your emotions. And that makes you both terrible in both terms of cunning and honor. It’s why every champion since has been put in their places by you. None deserve that title until they have earned it from you. And for that I cannot every say that you will never be my older brother at heart. I made an oath to you all those years ago and I aim to keep it.”
Erikson was proud of his decisions over all. He generally made the right choices. He earned the kind of respect with his crew that Sith could barely fathom, Revanites could barely feel, and that Jedi took for granted. “No. Thank you, Torian. I mean that. They finished their meals in silence and went back about their business.
They dropped out of hyperspace and into Hutt territory. It was strange. This visit to Nal Hutta was different. Nal Hutta space was swarming with an unnatural amount of activity. Instructions to land were delivered to the Mantis from Jiguuna Spaceport. When they landed they were met with a silent fanfare.
Mako’s casket was taken from the Mantis and bore by Erikson, Skadge, Torian and Gault. 2V followed while Blizz walked at Erikson’s side. They walked through the spaceport, the crowd splitting without hesitation. The crowd was thick all the way through the spaceport docking bay and to Nem’Ro’s old palace; one of the very first and few Hutts to cross Erikson.
The procession continued through Nem’ro’s palace and into the gardens behind its walls. The march lasted almost three hours. Beyond a soft murmuring, the crowd was eerily silent. Once Mako was laid to rest next to her adopted father Braden was the first time anyone dared speak.
It was Rioogoo the Hutt. He was the second to know about Mako’s death apart from Erikson’s crew and began arrangements for this procession. He explained to Erikson and his crew everything; the crowd, the additional arrangements…everything. He even explained about the new war in the galaxy being waged against Revan. Bounties had been put on Revan’s head alive, dead on any Black Sun personnel.
Rioogoo wasn’t the only Hutt in attendance. There were more than twenty Hutts there. All of whom did business with and held Mako and Erikson in high esteem. The crew of the Mantis stayed in port for several days. Here they were protected by the economic might of the Hutts and the Consortium. This was power that the taxes of the Republic and Empire alike couldn’t match. The power the Hutts wielded in this way was very similar to the power and authority Erikson was granted by his crew and the Hutts. It was authority and power derived from the strongest quality of character. It bought plenty of power. In fact, for every Republic and Imperial soldier there were at least a hundred private mercenaries and armed agents employed by these private groups as well as superior skills and generally better tech.
Erikson’s crew would have the time to mourn and rest that they required. They did more to advance the cause of freedom from legalized oppression than any number of Jedi. The Hutts knew it. The regular mercs knew it. The smugglers and pirates knew it. Erikson played the Imperials like a seasoned musician playing a favorite instrument without any pressure or critical eyes. He made the Imperials work for him. And he had what none of the Imperials had, few Revanites had, and again, what the Jedi took for granted and paid for in blood money their precious Republic called taxes; he had real respect. He had respect as an honorable, sentient being; not as an authority skilled in unwarranted acts of aggression to spread lies about false noble deeds of protection.
With the new war against Revan waging strong, the chatter on the holo-net was that Republic and Imperial forces were claiming some kind of victory against Revan’s might. No Jedi or Sith acknowledged the intervening of private forces into their galactic conflict. But that would change.
Rioogoo and the other Hutts didn’t need Erikson’s permission to pay for his revenge. What they did for him was a show of respect and it didn’t go unnoticed. He took the time to gather his crew to prepare.
Aboard the Mantis he gathered them around the ship’s main holo-terminal. “A few days ago I made a number of holo-calls and sent several messages. What I’m about to ask of you is not an order. You can say no and I will not think less of you.”
None of the crew stepped back or even made a sign of wavering in devotion. Erikson continued, “I sent a message to Imperial high command and to the Jedi counsel. I’ll likely be walking into a trap but this has to be done. I cannot be certain if Darth Malgus will show or not. I am certain Jedi Master Sateel Shaun will. For those of you who don’t know, she is the highest ranking Jedi Master right now.”
Torain leaned forward on the holo-terminal propping himself up with both hands. “One Mandalorian against a Sith Lord and a Jedi Master? You are sharing the glory of this fight, even if I only get to engage their troops or take a hit for you!”
Skadge grunted with a nod in delight. Gault leaned casually up against the Mantis’ walls, “Show now we know who we’ll be shooting. When and where does the shooting take place?”
“Alderaan. We spring the trap on Alderaan.”
There was little resistance getting clearance for the Mantis in one of many of the private spaceports Alderaanian nobility controlled. Erikson performed a number of favors over the years for numerous Houses of Alderaan, Imperial, Republic, and independent alike. What the true accomplishment in this endeavor was, the placement of a meeting of three of the galaxy’s most powerful beings in one location.
Darth Malgus commanded fleets of millions of troops alongside thousands of Sith lords in training. Jedi Master Sateel Shaun commanded tens of thousands of Jedi knights and held great influence over the Republic’s military forces. Erikson commanded a crew of five down from six. Though his true power was in the respect he commanded across the galaxy from those harboring dissent towards both the Empire and Republic; governance without consent in general.
He was welcomed in far more circles of thought and exchange than the other two combined. Though they would not recognize such authority, if they understood it at all, Erikson commanded far greater power than any of two galactic governments had realized. And on Alderaan, Erikson would become aware of this power and the price tag his actions paid for.
Erikson’s personal wealth, while seemingly insignificant in the variety of pieces so many knew about independently, was but a fraction of the power he would ultimately command. For now, his reputation would grant him what power midi-chlorians would not; an abandoned material processing plant in the Juran Mountains would serve as this meeting place.
A single Alderaanian rotation was all it took to fill the hyperspace lanes leading to Alderaan. Word spread quickly in many Republic and Imperial circles, but no where nearly as fast as in independent communications; those which commanded credits for mercenaries, smugglers, and traders alike. Not a word or credit was demanded for payment from Erikson. His credit on merciful and honorable reputation had previously delivered was more than ample to choke to death any overwhelming possibility of Imperial or Republic presence on Alderaan for this occasion.
There were undoubtedly Imperial and Republic Special Forces present at the abandoned factory already. Erikson could sense their presence, along with those of other bounty hunters and independent supporters. What he could not sense yet was Malgus’ presence. The Factory smelled of old stale glitterstim spice used to manufacture healing agents and battlefield pain suppressants; no more after this contested territory wouldn’t cave to demands of loyalty to either side of the current galactic war.
Erikson’s crew didn’t speak much as they made their way to the main floor of the factory. Upon approaching the doors to a large room, there was the distinct sound of grit being crushed beneath boot. An Imperial Commando had given away his position. Skadge activated his personal shield, drew his vibro sword and rushed the direction of the sound.
The commando panicked opening fire. His laser bursts clarified his position and illuminated the grin of dark delight on Skadge’s face moments before the commando stopped breathing to the sound of a vibro sword plunging through his chest cavity. Skadge picked up the commando and used him as a primary shield against other laser fire coming from his victim’s team members. Gault, Blizz, Torian, and 2V all took cover engaging the others. Erikson stood in the middle of the fray flawlessly weaving between oncoming blaster bolts while returning some of his own.
Even among the boisterous laser fire the ignition of a lightsaber was very distinct. And so was Gault Renow’s voice. “Honey, I wasn’t interested in Kass City and I’m not interested now!” Gault pumped a flurry of shots into the Sith’s torso. Her light saber fell like lead to the floor, which Gault gathered up with large eyes at the thought of credits this sale would make on the black market.
The commandos weren’t much work for the Mantis’ crew. All shiny and right out of training, they may have been the best of the best where they were; but the galaxy is far larger than their little training ground.
The crew cautiously pressed on into the main factory room, mindful of laser blasts and fire fights elsewhere around the facility. If war hadn’t broken out openly on Alderaan since the Empire’s initial invasion strike, it soon would. A ship’s cannons just ignited the outside of the factory’s room. As the laser fire changed targets more Imperial commandos and the bounty hunters they were engaged with flooded the room.
Blaster fire was wildly scorching the factory walls and Imperials alike. The confusion of battle wasn’t a distraction for Erikson. His blasters functioned as if he had all the time in the world to aim and squeeze their triggers. He was calm and ready to unleash his rage. That time was now.
In an opposite corner of the room a lightsaber ignited a bright red fueling Erikson’s rage! His focus was unparalleled in this match against Malgus. This Sith Lord was beginning to feel something he’d never felt before. The partial breathing apparatus Malgus used after his first battle on Alderaan went poorly was splashed with the hue of his lightsaber and highlighted the anger on his face. While Erikson’s blaster bolts were deflected with some struggle, his Revanite training allowed him to transform and instill purified fear into his target. This concentrated terror penetrated Malgus’ psyche with ease. It was a new combat technique that only the most powerful Sith could employ and it was being employed on the galaxy’s chief Sith Lord by some for hire upstart force user, or so said Malgus’ expression turning to a mixture of fear, confusion, and surprise.
As Erikson drew closer, Malgus found it more difficult to block his blasters bolts and scrambled to Force rip the blasters from Erikson’s grasp; but as the distance closed, his control over the Force lessoned. Terror increasingly filled Malgus’ mind and heart in place of the hatred that fueled his power, that which fueled all Siths’ power. Erikson drew another blaster and emptied it. All of the serum filled darts were deflected and he discarded the gun only to replace it with a serum coated knife.
Malgus’ reflexes were still slowing as Erikson drew closer and focused more and more. Malgus attempted to swing his lightsaber. Erikson ducked and retaliated with a knife strike that cut Malgus’ hand. His lightsaber fell to the factory floor. Malgus reeled backwards in shock.
Erikson pressed him. He pressed him again and again with powerful determination to cut, poison, and destroy the evil that killed his family so many years ago. Malgus struggled to fight back. He threw a wild punch at Erikson’s head. Erikson moved like water spinning around the fist planting his knife in Malgus’ side. There were no screams of pain or agony. There was only a renewed rage inside of Malgus. It began supplanting the terror inside of him.
Malgus deposited a side kick into Erikson’s lower back knocking him sliding back and to one knee. The opportunity wasn’t lost in the moment. Malgus lunged for and grabbed Erikson, hoisted him into the air, and began to slam him to the ground. Erikson wasn’t going to have any of that. “Can you fly scum bag?”
Erikson activated his jetpack and reversed the throw onto Malgus. The factory ceiling was a good forty meters high and a jetpack assisted fall would certainly leave a mark. Malgus’ breathing apparatus was shattered on impact.
Erikson came back around to deliver a jet boosted punch to Malgus’ face. He missed. Malgus made a Force assisted jump out of a window pressing a button on his arm guard on his way. The fall would kill an ordinary man but Malgus had plans to rob the cliff side of his death. He escaped aboard a drop ship.
Erikson, back into the factory’s internal sky, opened a volley of rocket fire onto the remaining Imperial troops still engaged with other hunters and his crew. None surrendered. All had to be slain. Erikson would clear his conscious somehow later for this slaughter.
Upon landing, there was a rustling of fabric. A Jedi had entered the room through the same window Malgus exited. She was alone.
Erikson began his approach focusing on her as he did Malgus. He was furious. “Now will you listen to me? So many times I’ve had to kill because your system is broken. So many lives lost because your laws are broken. So many unnecessary conflicts because your beliefs are broken.”
Sateel Shaun stood there filled with a terror she had never known before. Whatever horrors flashed through her mind as she absorbed the energy from Malgus’ lightsaber into the palm of her hand years ago now were nothing in comparison to the current trials. Try as she might, she could not muster the strength to draw her lightsaber. Erikson’s presence was too strong for her. Her training had not prepared her for this. Her faith in the Force was shaken. Trembling and on the verge of tears she struggled to ask, “W-Why?”
“Because you destroyed my family. You took away everything I had. You didn’t even spare me. Jedi , though not yet beneath your command, ripped my parents from me, placing them in a P.O.W. camp that Malgus destroyed. Why? For the illusion of control, that’s why! You didn’t do these things though you are responsible for encouraging them by supporting rule of law that doesn’t give a damn about the consent and future of a ten year old boy. Majority rule is not consent if those disagreeing are afraid to stand up with a voice or must exit the jurisdiction being claimed. So when Jedi took my sister from me and tried to coerce her to train to be a Jedi, not Revanite, who is responsible? Her for disagreeing with Republic law or supporters of Republic law?! And nothing in your Jedi records show she survived that encounter. You destroy families every day and for what FOR WHAT?” As Erikson’s voice increased in volume it began to demand respect through fear in that factory room. His crew and the other hunters, in all the years they knew of him, had never seen this before. Erikson was about to kill the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy. At least Malgus put up a fight. Sateel just froze in place.
Sateel’s face was now streaming tears. She was reduced from the most respected and powerful Jedi Master in the galaxy to a hovelling, whimpering mess before the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter. “P-p-please! I only c-came here t-to t-talk. I want to know how to make things right.”
“MAKE THINGS RIGHT?! You wouldn’t’ know how to make things right if you could commune with every midi-chlorian in the entire universe. You and Malgus are just two sides of the same credit chip. You hide the makings of an empire behind the pretty poetry to justice and fairness, built upon what? Upon theft and lies of dependency and deception. At least Malgus and his boot licking minions make no show of what they have to offer. Your Republic is responsible for crimes just as horrendous as the Empire’s.”
Erikson was face to face with Sateel as he watched her head drop in shame of this truth. He took her lightsaber. “Look at this. It is the epitome of your failure to recognize your obsolete devotion to the Republic, to rule of law without regard for consent.” With his powered exoskeleton, Erikson crushed Sateel’s light saber. He let all of the pieces fall to the floor between them this time.
The power behind those words and actions didn’t once allow for any idea of profit to cross anyone mind in that room, not even Gault’s.
With her throat quivering, “I-I… I’m sorry. I don’t know… I didn’t know. I’m sorry. Please…”
Erikson didn’t let her finish. “Hindsight is always the clearest and apologies are always the quickest to be uttered when you’re in the obvious position of loss and failure; but you didn’t enter this room in that position. You entered it in a position of false control and power. I’ve been there so many times. Don’t worry. I’m not going to kill you, but now you know the terror I’ve felt because of your kind; because of your status quo. None of us still alive in this room wanted your precious Republic. We sure as hell didn’t want any part of the Empire either. What we wanted and still want is to be left alone.”
At that some soft murmuring began among the growing crowd of hunters and mercs. Sateel dropped to her knees beneath the weight of her failures in contemplation and the terror Erikson had bottled up in order to transfer it upon her. As she dropped, Erikson took a step backward.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be enemies, if you recognize that the rule of law you uphold by defending the Republic is founded on the same evil that the Sith embrace. How many of those precious credits does the Republic gather from all the thousands of systems beneath its rule are taken entirely out of unanimously consenting pockets? Does every single credit come from a willing participant?” The question was not rhetorical. “WELL, DO THEY?”
“No,” Sateel said softly, “they don’t, but…”
“BUT NOTHING,” Erikson screamed with no sign of patience. “It would be a good idea for you to find yourself in self appointed exile to contemplate on this matter. I don’t want any further conflict with you or any of your order. I certainly don’t want any more destruction. Between you and Malgus I’ve had everything ripped from me.”
Erikson turned to walk towards his crew. Sateel continued to kneel without showing any sign of recovery. As Erikson walked away from her, he noticed the abundance of other hunters and mercs who came to his defense. He turned back to Sateel.
“One last thing, Master Jedi. Do not under estimate the power of that which you believe you control and do not control beneath Republic law or your ignorant Jedi code. Your victories against Imperial and Revanite forces would not have been as numerous as they have without the Hutts and Consortium forces rallying together to revenge my wife’s death. Consider the power behind that single idea. You know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you don’t, then you had better learn to ask questions. Your Republic and the Jedi order will fall under the weight of the empire of ignorance it has been fostering. It may not fall today or even tomorrow. But mark my words. IT WILL FALL!”
There was nothing left to say. Erikson had his peace now. Malgus knew the power Erikson could wield and would not underestimate him again. No hunter capable of thinking for his self would dare take a contract on Erikson after this. Malgus would have to wage a three front war against Erikson and the various cartels, the Republic, as well as Revan. With Imperial losses mounting so quickly in the recent years, it is not something Malgus was going to risk at this time.
Sateel was the only wild card. Never before had a Jedi been broken like that, let alone the top of the order Jedi Master. Whatever was to become of that encounter would not be foreseen by even the most affluent Jedi Sage. What will come…will just have to come.
For now, it was time to go home. There wasn’t much to speak about until they walked out the front doors of that factory. The Mantis was landing before them. Erikson, Gault, Blizz, Skadge, Torian, and 2V all starred wondering who was flying their ship.
The Mantis landed and as the cargo ramp lowered a hunter dressed in Mandalorian gear, similar in construction and utility to Erikson’s, appeared. The stranger took off her helmet looking right at Erikson.
“Kassandra!? Kassie? But how?” Erikson was at a loss for words. His sister was supposed to have been killed on Tython years ago. He could feel her presence and recalled it as clearly as he did as a child.
“You’re not the only one to have survived Imperial and Republic arrogance big brother. This is your ship now let’s fly her outta here! We’ve got a lot to talk about.”
There wasn’t much time to reflect on the past. The present was still offering dangers to be mindful of. There was an explosion on the opposite side of the factory entrance where the Mantis was landed. Seconds later came the deafening booms of orbital strike cannons.
Imperial forces began open bombardment on the factory and surrounding areas. Everyone piled into the ship, Erikson taking the controls. He swung the Mantis around to the cliff face the factory was built near in time to see a drop ship crashed with Malgus running from it to another transport. Erikson directed the Mantis towards Malgus and opened fire with full turbo lasers.
A few seconds of those blasts and Erikson let up on the controls. He noticed that Sateel Shaun was laying on the ground behind Malgus. They engaged one another and she wasn’t moving very fast. The Mantis dropped from the sky dodging orbital bombardment blasts all the way.
Sateel was no fool. She knew a rescue when she saw one. With the last of her strength she force jumped to the small back ramp of the Mantis and held on tight with both hands. Erikson flew the Mantis north through the fiery chaos and to safety in a Republic aligned sector. For the moment it didn’t matter why the bounty hunter rescued her. The importance of such would come in time.
Erikson blasted out of that Republic sector on Alderaan with no time to waste. Multiple jumps were made and randomly chosen by the nav-computer totaling seven. “I always wondered why I couldn’t follow you. Smart thinking, brother,” Kassandra complimented. “But may I suggest these coordinates when you think we are out of harm’s way,” she asked as she handed him a data strip.
There was plenty of time now to ask questions, but the state of recent events left the ship’s captain and crew all confused and speechless. Slowly everyone ended up in the cockpit trying to figure out the answers to who, what, when, where, why, and how concerning Kassandra and Erikson. By the time Blizz made it to the cockpit Kassandra had about all she could handle with the wide eyes focused on her.
“Okay! Fine! I’m his sister and he is my brother. Get comfortable and I’ll tell you everything!”
She motioned for everyone to move out of the cockpit and into the storage and holo-communications room behind the cockpit. There she let them know her history. Everything matched precisely with what Erikson told them previously. And when there were discrepancies it all still fit perfectly when taking into consideration that Erikson believed his family to have been killed. He couldn’t have known, therefore it wasn’t his fault for the lack of knowledge.
Things got really interesting when Kassandra began telling about her travels leading up to the reunion she created. So many times she was so close to catching her brother. Sometimes she could have caught him but stayed behind on mission to follow up with research. And most of that research was done concerning Mako’s private queries on the galactic holo-net. Kassandra was quite possibly the genius slicer equivalent to Mako.
Kassandra wasn’t just trying to find her brother, she was trying to protect him; but from what she didn’t understand until recently. She was caught in the EMP explosion when Erikson fled Yavin. Where Erikson had a full crew to aid him, she was alone, a shadow of a shadow. Her specific set of skills was in observation and stealth, the tools of a slicer.
While Erikson proved to be a cunning mind, dangerous body, and a generous heart, Kassandra proved to be patient. She couldn’t save Mako. But was able to prove her value and claim her place aboard the Mantis with her brother and his crew by filling in the gaps in the work Mako started, 2V was working on, and Revan seemed to be after.
Erikson wasn’t going to try and hide the fact that he nodded off during some of his sister’s exposition; nor could she be upset at her big brother for such after taking on the galaxy’s two most known powerful force users in a single day; all of that on the heels of surviving an encounter with Darth Revan, of course. He was due some well deserved rest in order to help cope with his stresses. “So what do you know of Revan’s motivations concerning our search, Kassy,” Erikson asked as he was completely reacquainted with his long lost sister through the Force connection they shared?
“I’m pretty sure Revan knows the secrets hidden in the Jedi archives on Tython. I’m not convinced he understands what they mean. However, by revealing them to the galaxy, he feels the same as the Jedi who locked them away did. That they would grant power to so many and the governments and the Jedi order would be diluted to the point of the complete nullification of their authority.”
Erikson sat forward in his chair clasping his hands together and resting his elbows on his knees. “That would be worth protecting. It would be worth more than simply protecting and I suspect that there are other secrets out there which will explain why the Jedi have buried and forgotten those secrets, Malgus wants those secrets, and Revan is trying to kill us over them. I just hope that whatever we are on to is worth it. Credits I have. Its truth I’m after now.”
Erikson’s crew was watching Kassandra, waiting for her response. “Do you suppose those stories we were told as children were true, about the founding of the Republic after the first world was lost?”
“I think they might be, Kassandra. I think they might be.” Erikson stood up and ordered 2V to return to his post decoding more from the trove of information they recovered from Tatooine and Hoth. From the communications room Erikson could see the nav-computer showing they were about to exit hyperspace from their first randomly programmed jump. “Blizz. Torian. Get to the engine room and prep the first charges for an EMP burst. I don’t want followers and make sure we didn’t pick up any bugs on the hull.”
Blizz exited with a skittery murmur of excitement and delight. Torian exited with his eyes gazing warming on Kassandra’s soft but toned features and her light brown hair caressing her jaw line. Skadge didn’t need orders. He went to the cockpit and made himself comfortable at a gunner’s seat. Gault joined him striking up a conversation about how much Kassandra could be worth if she wasn’t Erikson’s kin.
“I heard that, Gault. If you want to keep your other horn you’ll find something else to talk about!” Kassandra was very clear and Gault shifted topics to a spice mining venture that would allow Skadge to crack a few Imperial skulls on a rock called Kessel.
They made it through their first jump with no hitches and began their second jump.
“So, we will have a few hours before the third scheduled jump. We should talk.” Erikson sat alone with Kassandra in the communications room. They swapped stories and told tales and generally caught up. For many, such a time would have taken weeks or months; but as creatures securely rooted in the mystical energies of the Force, they had learned all they needed with that connection and the knowledge one another was still alive. Though their parents were forever gone, they had each once more.
Neither one had every truly given up hope that the other was gone, well, in as so much as they were simply missing. With them together, the Mantis’ crew was about to embark on a new mission the likes the galaxy has not seen in a long time. Kassandra had spoken about dragons, magic, and lost civilizations which resembled something older than ancient human empires. And the most intriguing idea was that one of the human empires was significantly different than the others. Not a single trace of magic or Force usage was found or recorded as being used by any human. That empire was the one lost in the outer rim territories, on the side of the galaxy with Tatoo and Hoth.
“So, Kassy, where do those coordinates dump us off at,” Erikson asked?
“Galand is where we are going. I think there is something there that you should see. I don’t know what it is but I hope that by the time we get there your droid will have deciphered enough of the data you acquired on Tatooine to make sense of these temple structures I found as well as the eternally decaying skeletons of undead dragons.”
This piqued Erikson’s curiosity very much. “Wait, the Galandans are near-human species who evolved there. But I remember seeing something in data I retrieved from Tython about Galandan being called something else before. Uh…New Avalot or something.”
“That would be New Avalon, sir,” 2V assisted in remembering as he entered the communications room from downstairs. “The New Avalon system was one of the oldest systems in the galaxy that harbored human life before the first set of galactic disasters which caused enough fear to create the Republic among many of the core worlds.”
“Yes. New Avalon! Thank you 2V. Was there something you wanted?”
“Yes sir. I wanted to give you a compilation of the work I’ve completed so far. I thought you might want it while I begin the last section of decryption.” 2V handed Erikson a data pad and returned to his work station down stairs.
“2V, prep Kassy’s quarters, please,” Erikson instructed. “Kassy, I need to get some rest for a while and look over this data. Whatever you need, just let 2V know. And I think if you can make some time, Blizz would probably like to work with you about upgrades for your armor. I think you are going to need it where we are going together.”
Kassandra acknowledged her brothers generosity and devotion to a strong heart with an unexpected hug. “I’ve missed you and mom and dad.” She pulled back from the hug. “So how do you propose we show the galaxy the truth about its existence? I’m sure that will probably cause the collapse of the galactic governments?”
Erikson smiled at his sister. “First we get some rest. Then we plan.”
To be continued:
Book 2- Doubtful Pride
The Hunter’s Gambit
Set nearly a thousand years before the slaughter of Darth Plageuis and the rise of Emperor Palpatine with the execution of order 66, this series is about a young boy whose family was ripped away by Jedi serving the Republic. They wanted no opposition and followed their orders meticulously to terminate all non-Jedi orchestrated training and control all new Force sensitive beings to serve the Republic or be watched closely. This included the Revanite training camps where this young boy would be separated from his family. He was deemed not Force sensitive by the Jedi and orphaned while his parents and sister were sent to a prison and reeducation facility on a distant world. As he aged he learned a great many skills ranging from pilot and engineer to warrior and spy in the ranks of the Republic Navy all the while unraveling his secret powers, still unnoticed by the Jedi. From the age of five until twenty-two, this victim of Republic arrogance acquired skill after skill until he found a calling as a smuggler bringing medicine to the victims of the Republicâ€™s war with the Empire in order to earn the credits to free his family from that Republic prison planet by paying the tyrannical fines levied against them. Some benevolent defenders of liberty the Jedi and their Republic turned out to be. Eventually Republic law caught up to this young smuggler and his ship was confiscated. To make matters worse, he learned shortly thereafter that Imperial operations succeeded in destroying that Republic prison in a raid against Jedi leadership. Ten years later with nothing to lose, grudges still burning hot, and a team of allies at his side, Erikson Autarchic is about to change things forever if he survives the return of Revan.