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Before - Legends Wrehn, The Great Hunt Champion - For A Reason

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by PlanetSmasher, May 11, 2021.

  1. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Title: Wrehn, The Great Hunt Champion - For A Reason
    Author: PlanetSmasher
    Timeframe:
    The Old Republic Era.
    Genre: Action/Adventure
    Characters: All OC characters, Darth Nox (My version of Darth Nox), Darth Malgus (for bit parts)

    Summary: Wrehn, a Great Hunt Champion among the Mandalorians, gets access to the best paying jobs. More often than not, those jobs turn out to be the most dangerous. She's also attracted a lot of trouble for herself, and has had to blast her way out of many situations. Wrehn's wisdom is questioned as she takes on her most lucrative job for a Sith lord, the notoriously ruthless Darth Nox.

    Notes: This story takes place during the Star Wars: The Old Republic era. Around about the time when Nox Ascended the Dark Council.

    I hope you'll enjoy this. I look forward to comments and critiques.

    __________________________________________________________________________________________​

    Chapter One: Wrehn, The Hunter, and The Hunted​

    The Rodian male sat in his ray-shield jail cell at the 427th Imperial Army Police Station, in Limdast City, on planet Ziost. He hugged his knees to his chest, shivering, still recovering from the after effects of carbonite freezing.

    The station duty sergeant, having verified the identity of the shuddering Rodian, proceeded to make an entry in the station's logs. Meanwhile, an Imperial army clerk registered the Rodian's information into the planet-wide inmate database. As expected, the Rodian was wanted in several cities across Ziost. Several arrest notices had appeared from around the Imperial world. This made Ziost the eighth Imperial planet the criminal was wanted for his violent crimes.

    The duty sergeant, after receiving authorization from the station commander, proceeded to transfer seven hundred twenty five thousand Imperial credits into the bounty hunter's business account. Then he prompted the Chiss hunter to give her digital signature, verifying the bounty reward amount was correct.

    Very shortly after, the hunter felt the buzzing hum of her personal datapad and, retrieving it from her utility belt, verified that she'd been properly paid for her work. Yehw'reh'nomai gave her best customer service smile.

    "It was a pleasure doing business with you, Sergeant," she said.

    "Right," the sergeant replied.

    He was mystified by her friendly smile. Until a moment before, the Chiss woman’s expression was dour, speaking of a woman who didn’t brook any nonsense from anyone. Her sudden friendly disposition gave the Imperial soldier an excuse to say what was on his mind.

    "I wasn't so sure, when the Dark Council permitted Aliens to be granted Imperial citizenship and all of that a few years back, but I have to admit you Aliens aren't such a bad lot."

    The Chiss woman kept silent, her smile beginning to recede from her face while her customary dour expression began its return.

    Turning to look at the captured Rodian, the Imperial soldier explained what he’d meant. The cobalt blue skinned bounty hunter couldn’t help but notice how strong his Imperial accent was.

    “I guess every group has their bad seeds," he said, and returning his gaze towards the Chiss, concluded, "and every group has their hardworking, dedicated folk who strive to do good for the betterment of Imperial society."

    Yehw'reh'nomai, realized that the sergeant, a human male with carbon black skin, meant well with his words. She decided there was no cause to take offense.

    "I think you’re right, Sergeant,” she told him, saying no more on the matter, but instead saying, “If our business is concluded, then I’ll take my leave. May you enjoy prosperous days ahead."

    The cobalt blue skinned Chiss woman with the bright red eyes (all red, no whites) turned and walked out of the army police station and made her way to a parked speeder. Two of her crew waited patiently in the vehicle for her return.

    One thing that he’d gotten wrong was lumping her together with a Rodian. She was Chiss, not Rodian, not Advosec, not Bith, not Duros, nor any of the other myriad species in the galaxy. She was Chiss. This tendency of humans to categorize everyone as either human or alien was mildly irritating to her.

    Yet, she quickly put it out of her mind. It wasn’t a big deal to her. The bottom line for the bounty hunter was that she was properly paid for her work.

    The other thing the Imperial Army sergeant had gotten wrong was assuming that she was an Imperial citizen. Yehw'reh'nomai was not. She was Mandalorian. Although the Chiss woman was Mandalorian, she maintained her independence, choosing not to join any of the clans within Mandalore society.

    When Yehw’reh’nomai chose the life of a bounty hunter, she had also abandoned Chiss society. When she had accepted Mandalorian citizenship, she had also renounced her Chiss Ascendancy citizenship. Yehw’reh’nomai’s status among Mandalorians, however, was quite unique. She was the only living Great Hunt champion in the galaxy.

    Five years ago, Galactic Republic SIS agents, together with Jedi, had attempted to murder her and her crew. They were after Yehw'reh'nomai and her crew because of their very successful hunts on behalf of Imperial Intelligence. She and her crew had killed or captured key members of the SIS and a Jedi who’d worked closely with their agency.

    __________________________________________________________________________________________​

    Five years ago...

    Yehw'reh'nomai and her crew walked down a busy durasteel walkway in a popular entertainment district. She and her crew were celebrating her victory in the Great Hunt. They’d already stopped at two drinking establishments having had a drink or two at each pub.

    Mako hailed a taxi. She was a petite, cybernetically enhanced human with creamy white skin and straight, jet black hair cut just below her ears. She was also the first to join Yehw'reh'nomai, as the Chiss bounty hunter recruited members for her crew.

    “We’re gonna be late to the party if we don’t get going, Champ,” Mako had told her employer.

    “We will be among such distinguished warriors!” Torian Cadera proclaimed with such pride, “We will be counted as one of them! Others will look to us as great warriors with a name! We owe it all to you, Great Hunt Champion.”

    Torian Cadera was a human male with white skin, a reddish complexion, and sandy crew cut hair. He was the only other Mandalorian on Yehw'reh'nomai’s crew. Unlike Yehw'reh'nomai however, he was a staunch Mandalorian traditionalist.

    “We’re gonna have access to the best jobs! The credits are really gonna start coming in!” Yehw'reh'nomai said, excited about their future.

    “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Gault said, rubbing his palms together with a clap, “Credits! Lots and lots of credits!”

    Gault was a Devaronian male, with very red skin and two horns protruding from the top and front of his forehead. He had one of his horns filed down and hollowed out after an attempt on his life resulted in the horn taking damage. To those who didn’t know him, it seemed as though he had two complete horns. In reality though, he had a prosthetic horn attached which contained tools for slicing computers, deactivating manacles, breaching looked doors, and other tools that could aid in his escape from confinement.

    The bounty hunters piled into the taxi operated by a Twi’lek male. He became deeply worried, having so many heavily armed and armored people pile into his cab, but he kept his cool, adopting a dry and indifferent attitude.

    “Where to?” the taxi operator inquired.

    “Club Vertica Casino!” Mako chirped, excitedly.

    The taxi ride was quite the tourist show for the passengers. They were treated to brightly colored holographic advertisements, buildings decorated in plasma field lighting with ever changing colors and shades, and many, many tall sub-buildings. For once, Skadge, a burly Houk male, was completely blown away. Each time the Houk looked up at the sky, he saw the enormous pipes and air circulation ducts on the ceiling of the main building floor instead.

    “What floor are we on?” the Houk asked the taxi operator.

    “We’re on the seven hundred thirty ninth main building floor. We’ll be on the roof in another twenty minutes, if the traffic keeps moving,” the Twi’lek answered his passenger, seated behind him.

    “The roof?” Yehw’reh’nomai asked, adding, “I thought Club Vertica was up in the air.”

    “It is,” the taxi operator replied, “But its not over this building. We gotta get out of this building and go a few buildings over to get to it.”

    “A few buildings over?” Gault asked, mildly curious.

    “We’re five buildings over from the Karagga The Unyielding district building.”

    He knew one of them would ask, so the Twi’lek explained.

    “We’re in the Bienna The Hutt building district.”

    As the taxi exited the roof of the Bienna The Hutt building district. The passengers were again blown away by the forest of towering buildings that rose hundreds of stories up from the roof of the main building. The towers were enormous, measuring a few kilometers across.

    “Hey! Look at that!” Gault said, pointing, “You can see the cities inside of the towers!”

    Each floor of the mammoth durasteel and transparasteel towers had mini cities of twenty to thirty story sub-buildings inside. The local speeder traffic on each floor were quite congested.

    The taxi continued to climb until it was high over the tops of the towers, merging with a major freeway.

    The taxi passengers’ minds were blown away by the size of the traffic. It was as though they were in a swarm of flying insects. The freeway route was filled with so many lanes, and several layers, of traffic – all going in one direction. A thousand meters higher up was a similar swarming throng of traffic, all headed back in the other direction.

    Finally, after a forty minute commute, the Three Jewels of the Karagga the Unyielding district became visible. The three massive structures floated in an area void of mega towers. Far below the Three Jewels was the rooftop of the Karagga The Unyielding district building. The entire roof, along with the tens of thousands of utility buildings and maintenance sheds, was painted white. The faint blue glow of a force field hovered over the roof, far below.

    The Three Jewels were the center of tourism, commerce, and high society living. They were The Promenade, which levitated, along with her younger and much smaller twin siblings, Club Vertica and Star Cluster casinos and hotels.

    The Promenade was a mini city, ten kilometers across, levitating hundreds of stories above the rooftop of its main building far below. The Club Vertica and Star Cluster hotels and casinos were much smaller, at only a kilometer across as they were only hotels and casinos, but the two also levitated above the rooftop of the main building far below them.

    Located on opposite sides of the Promenade, Club Vertica and Star Cluster slowly orbited the floating mini city. The hotel casinos, made two orbits over a single Nar Shaddaa day night cycle. The hotel and casino guests, sitting in outdoor patios, could enjoy their drinks and fine cuisine with an ever changing cityscape around and below them.

    The tourists could watch the same ever changing cityscape in the daylight, during breakfast, and again, later at night as they had dinner. The Promenade itself made two rotations per day. The residents and tourists, living in apartment homes or staying in hotel rooms, at the outer perimeter of the floating mini city could also enjoy the ever changing city views.

    Residents and tourists who stayed in luxury apartments or hotels on The Promenade had the added bonus of watching Club Vertica and Star Cluster slowly drift by, as they made their own orbits around the Promenade.

    Actually, very few tourists ever had the patience to watch the crawlingly slow change in the cityscape. It did, after all, take all day and all night. Fortunately, for the tourists, there was a high production quality time-lapsed holographic video which showed off this view in an entertaining fashion.

    The program was only thirty minutes long. It featured the voice of a well-known and respected Hutt news anchor who performed the narration. The famous news anchor detailed various points of interest, tourist attractions, and many popular shopping districts as the aforementioned attractions swept past the point of view of the holo-recorder. For a nominal cost, tourists could purchase this holographic video and watch the changing scenery at their leisure, while learning of other places they could visit – and spend their credits.

    All three floating mega constructions were wirelessly powered from several enormous and powerful baradium reactors. These reactors took up so much space, that the top two floors of the main building far below had to be combined into enormous two hundred meter high spaces. Operating speeders of any kind for any reason underneath any of the levitating structures was strictly forbidden and carried very stiff penalties for surviving violators.

    The speeders always suffered severe electrostatic discharge damage to their class three or class three aurek (3a) repulsorlift generators. They always suffered catastrophic power failure and, invariably, the disabled speeders ended up plummeting to the main building rooftop, far below.

    In the early days after the Promenade had first been levitated, during its construction, several such crashes had already taken place. A famous incident occurred where a speeder crashed through the roof and onto a reactor coolant vessel.

    This prompted the evacuation of the top six stories of the main building for many kilometers all around the accident. The evacuation lasted twelve weeks, until repairs to the reactor’s cooling system had been completed and the contamination cleaned up.

    The cost of repairs was a paltry three billion credits, which was negligible compared to the loss in business in the evacuated areas. That loss had totaled a whopping forty nine billion credits during those same twelve weeks.

    As a consequence, traffic laws were enacted prohibiting the operation of speeders underneath the floating mini city and its satellite casino hotels. To protect the rooftop of the massive building below, and to protect the baradium reactors just under the rooftop, powerful force field generators had also been installed onto the main building rooftop.

    There was still the problem of drunken speeder operators, thrill seekers, and other idiots who believed that somehow they could make it all the way across – or who very well knew that they wouldn’t make it at all. These dolts, for whatever reason they gave themselves, risked the lethal joy ride underneath one of the three levitating structures. Invariably, they never made it.

    “It isn’t fair to the insurance companies to have to pay out damages for such utter stupidity!” lobbyists vehemently argued on behalf of the insurance industry, “Those are not accidents. Those are deliberate acts of foolishness! Acts of foolishness must not be covered in speeder insurance policies!”

    Yet, Karagga the Unyielding had reasoned that someone had to pay for damages done to the rooftop of the main building which, despite the force field’s protection, still suffered some damage. Unmentioned by any party during the hearing, however, was the fact that Karagga actually owned the property in question.

    Fees, and other inducements, had to be paid to the great and wise Karagga the Unyielding. These fees were quite helpful to the supreme mogul in formulating a practical and equitable solution.

    In a fair and just ruling, the magnificent and benevolent Karagga the Unyielding had issued his decree.

    “The unfortunate demise of the foolish speeder operators must never be used as an excuse to get them out of their financial responsibilities. These fools had, after all, flagrantly violated very strict traffic regulations. If the estates of the decedents could not meet their fiduciary obligations, then the responsibility must naturally fall to the surviving relatives of the irresponsible deceased speeder operators.”

    Never mind that the decedent had been paying premiums to these insurance companies, in some cases for many years; this was a fair and just ruling. Never mind that this ruling effectively nullified legal and binding contracts for services, and that the ruling effectively rewrote the terms of those policies; this was a fair and just ruling. Never mind that third party persons, not responsible for the business dealings of their deceased relatives had been involuntarily made a party to those business dealings; this was a fair and just ruling.

    To argue that the ruling was other than fair and just required the payment of fees and other inducements, and the families of the dead speeder operators could never afford to pay those. So, they simply resigned themselves to comply with the order.

    The families and estates had to pay the fines and half of the damages on behalf of the dead moronic speeder operators. The insurance companies were then only responsible for payment of the remaining half of the damages. However, Karagga ruled against the forfeiture of life insurance benefits to the survivors of such utterly stupid speeder operators.

    “The beneficiaries are not at fault for the utter lack of sense on the part of the imbeciles who so stupidly killed themselves operating their speeders beneath class twelve repulsorlift generators,” Karagga the Unyielding stated in his ruling, “It is bad enough that the surviving relatives have lost one of their own, but to deny them financial benefits while also requiring them to pay half of the damages, too? It is too much to ask of them.”

    The fees and inducements paid by the insurance industry had turned out to be insufficient. As such, the insurance industry didn’t get all they had set out to get, but it was certainly better than nothing. Also, the surviving families were granted a small amount of relief with the ruling. At the very least they could apply their survival insurance benefits towards the damages for which they had been made responsible.

    Ironically, this ruling also led to a significant reduction in attempts, by morons, to drive beneath the three levitating structures. As idiotic as those dimwits were, most didn’t want to risk heavy financial burdens on their relatives – on the off-chance they failed to make it all the way across….

    Yehw'reh'nomai’s taxi took the complex ever changing route to the floating casino hotel. The speeder lanes for the Promenade and the twin hotel casinos, were constantly changing. It depended on the orientation of the Promenade and of the location of the twin hotel casinos.

    Speeder operators had to pay attention to the ever changing positions of their destinations. It was not unheard of for hurried drivers to arrive at the wrong hotel casino, or to the wrong quadrant of the Promenade.

    After debarking their taxi, the party of bounty hunters strolled, talked, and laughed it up on the enormous speeder port at the main level of the floating hotel casino. Yehw'reh'nomai and her party drew a lot of attention from curious onlookers.

    The party of five were heavily armored, two of them in Mandalorian armor. They were heavily armed, too. Four of the gang were armed with standard military blaster rifles. Their leader was armed with twin police duty combat pistols.

    Five very stern looking Weequay Hutt security officials quickly approached the five unknown, heavily armed individuals. They stopped the party of potential trouble makers just outside the main entrance and questioned them.

    “Are you hear on business or pleasure?” one of the Weequay asked, in a firm but polite tone.

    He wore the look of a competent security official who wouldn’t take any guff from the bounty hunters.

    “Pleasure, Wrehn said, wearing a happy grin, and lying, “We’re celebrating my birthday.”

    The Great Hunt was a closely guarded secret among Mandalorians, and the existence of great hunt champions was also a secret. It was a matter of pride among the Mandalorians that very, very few outside of their society were aware of those two secrets.

    Non Mandalorian bounty hunters almost never participated in the Great Hunt, and if they were, it was by invitation only. Yehw’reh’nomai had been invited. Upon her victory, she was also offered Mandalorian citizenship.

    In a flash, the stern looks on the Weequay officials were replaced with friendly smiles.

    “Please, enjoy your stay at Club Vertica Casino and Hotel,” the lead official said, most cordially.

    He pulled an envelope from within his armored vest and offered it to Wrehn.

    “Enjoy this voucher for complementary casino chips, and two free drinks for you, and for each one in your party.” the official said, “Good luck at the slots or at the card tables, and Happy Birthday, honored guest.”

    “Woo-hoo!” Wrehn cheered as she accepted the envelope.

    “As a reminder, and as a caution, please remember that at all times, roughhousing, combat, and bounty hunts are forbidden within Club Vertica and Star Cluster Casinos and Hotels,” the security official stated, still smiling, “These regulations are in place for the safety of all our guests and are very strictly enforced.”

    With that the five smiling security officials stepped to the side to allow the Chiss hunter and her party to enter.

    “We’re gonna have a blast!” Gault said, “Oops! I meant, fun. We’re gonna have fun! There shall be no blasting, Skadge. It’s against the rules, here.”

    “How long do we gotta stay at that party?” Skadge asked, ignoring the Devaronian, “We ain’t got there yet, and it’s already boring.”

    Wrehn shook her head disapprovingly at the Houk’s idea of what constituted boring, but decided against saying anything about it.

    “Skadge, you should give a lot of thought on broadening your horizons,” Gault said, sagely. “Shooting at bounty marks, and blowing crap up isn’t all there is to life. Ya know?”

    “Like what?” Skadge challenged, skeptically.

    “Like making credits, spending credits, traveling to new cities, planets, and star systems,” Gault stopped himself, to regard the Houk brute before asking, “Have you ever thought about finding a mate and settling down in a nice house, burrow, nest, and having kids, pups, broods?”

    “I ain’t ready for that,” Skadge said, explaining, “I have to mature another ten or twelve years.”

    “You’re not mature!” the Devaronian exclaimed, “That explains everything! You’re not mature. I should have known.”

    “Gault. Stop,” Mako warned, sternly.

    Wrehn froze in her tracks. After a couple of heart beats, she turned about to face the Houk.

    “You’re not old enough to have kids?” she asked, her incredulity was off the charts.

    “Not for another ten or twelve years,” Skadge confirmed, coming to a stop in front of his employer.

    “You’re still a kid?!”

    “I ain’t no kid!”

    “You’re a grown adult. Right?”

    Blasted bantha poo! I might be in violation of every child labor law ever written by every government, territory, and empire in the whole blasted galaxy!” Yehw'reh'nomai was especially worried because of the line of work she was in.

    “Well… I’m not mature, yet,” Skadge said, uncomfortably.

    I’m employing a child warrior!” Yehw’reh’nomai thought, in a panic.

    Mako, fascinated by the revelation, walked closer to the two to listen in.

    “Are you old enough to legally drink alcoholic beverages?” Yehw’reh’nomai asked, tersely.

    “I don’t like booze!” the Houk said, before asking with some indignation, “Hey! What is it with all the questions? I don’t go for other species, if you’re trying to come on to me.”

    Mako turned about and covered her mouth with her right hand to suppress her laughter. Gault laughed uproariously. Even Torian was not immune and gave in to the levity of the moment.

    “Skadge,” Yehw'reh'nomai said evenly, calmly, “You’re not my type, either.”

    “That’s good,” Skadge said, seriously, “It’d be kind of weird if you was into me.”

    “I’m not into you,” Yehw'reh'nomai said, tersely.

    Mako, Torian, and Gault could quickly tell that Yehw'reh'nomai was at the verge of losing her composure. Skadge, on the other hand was not as quick as the others to pick up on the signs.

    “That’s good,” the Houk said, “Can we talk about something less gross, now?”

    Mako now covered her mouth with both hands, but her laughter escaped, nonetheless. Torian erupted into full, unbridled laughter.

    “Give it up, Wrehn,” Gault said, between bouts of laughter, “Skadge just isn’t interested. Just accept it, already. You’ve been dumped!”

    “Gault! I’m gonna slug you!” Yehw'reh'nomai declared.

    The ill-tempered Chiss woman could no longer stand against the humor of the moment, however. Even she had to give in to laughter. Skadge, however, didn’t understand what was so damned funny.

    “I don’t like being laughed at,” the Houk groused.

    “We’re not laughing at you, Skadge, we’re laughing with you – at Wrehn!” Gault said.

    The conversation had moved on to several other topics as they made their way, finally reaching the ground floor turbolift lobby of Tower Four. The party of hunters had exited the turbolift on the one hundred and thirtieth floor of Tower Four, one of eight towers of the hotel, unhurriedly walking down the fancy hallway, laughing and joking towards suite T4-130-B052. This suite was located in Wing B of the tower, and was a long walk from turbolift lobby B.

    The floating casino and hotel was an enormous structure. Eight glass towers with oval footprints and of varying heights rose from the circular kilometer diameter base. The towers ranged from seventy stories to two hundred stories high. The circular base was, itself, five stories high, and was filled with casinos, restaurants, bars, holographic and stage performance theaters, and many other entertainment venues and other fun distractions.

    Below the ground floor were all of the power distribution points, the class twelve repulsorlift generators, sewage, water purification, heating and cooling, and everything else needed to keep a massive building structure functioning. Those areas were strictly off limits to tourists. Security was very, very tight in those areas.

    In between and all around the glass towers, covering the entire open deck, was a manicured garden park. Beautifully trimmed shrubbery surrounded the base of the towers, and lined the walks. There were many walk ways, paved in white resicrete, meandering throughout the park. Park benches were interspersed along the walk ways.

    Picnic tables featured in the open grassy areas of the park, and although barbecuing or grilling was not allowed, levitating waiter droids darted to and from occupied tables taking orders and bringing out picnic lunches. It was a very nice park. The effect was that of a tiny city of glass towers in the middle of an idyllic meadow with tiny copses of nicely trimmed trees scattered throughout.

    Wealthy revelers from all over the galaxy spent their time and credits enjoying a great time at the two vacation resorts, Club Vertica and Star Cluster hotels and casinos.

    Yehw'reh'nomai and her crew laughed at a joke Gault had told, but a shiver went down the Chiss woman’s spine. She froze in her tracks and drew her twin Coro-Sec Arms high-rate repeating blaster pistols.

    Her crew instinctively reacted, pulling their blaster rifles from the weapons bracket on the backs of their armored cuirasses. Gault and Mako aimed the way, they’d come, while Torian and Skadge aimed in the direction they were headed.

    Yehw'reh'nomai, her blasters pointing up, looked in both directions of the corridor. The sliding doors of the hotel suites on the right side of the gently curving hallway were all closed. There were no doors on the left side. After a moment, Wrehn and her crew began to relax again.

    “What spooked you, Wrehn?” Gault asked.

    “I don’t know,” Yehw'reh'nomai answered.

    She holstered her pistols and took one step and froze again, drawing her weapons again. This time, she was aiming at one of the doors as she approached carefully, leaving her wary party behind. Wrehn alternated her attention between the door and the stain on the carpet in front of it. The Mandalorian bounty hunter confirmed that what she was looking at were bloody boot prints leading from the closed door. Her heart sank when she looked at the suite number on the door, T4-130-B052.

    Blast!” Yehw'reh'nomai cursed under her breath.

    She backed away from the door, stepping back to where her team waited, covering her movement. She whispered her orders.

    “Mako, start scanning for traps at that door and see what you can detect inside. I’m going to pry the door open. If the panel opens instead, pull down the handle. Torian, Gault. You two go in, one left and one right, clear the room. Skadge, you follow me in. We’ll clear the rooms on the left, while Torian and Gault clear the rooms on the right.”

    Her team approached the door and stopped when they were in position. Yehw'reh'nomai re-holstered her pistols, then looked at Mako.

    “Outside of door is clear,” Mako whispered, “The doors and walls are shielded, can’t scan inside.”

    Yehw’reh’nomai jammed her armored-gloved fingers into a maintenance access recess in the door frame and pulled mightily. Doing so would expose an emergency door release bar which Mako would pull down to unlock the sliding door. However, as the Chiss woman and her crew expected, the door slid open without any resistance. The emergency door release mechanism had already been pulled.

    Her team moved quickly and expertly.

    Torian shouted, “Left cleared!”

    “Right cleared,” Gault shouted.

    “Scanning interior!” Mako shouted.

    Right behind Torian and Gault, the Chiss woman rushed into the hotel suite and veered to the left with Skadge at her heels. Her pistols were already drawn and aimed forward.

    Her face twisted into a mask of rage, as she dashed to a tiny hallway leading to the other rooms of the suite. She had to step and jump over the bodies of her fellow Mandalorians, and of her fellow Great Hunt Champions, to get to the doors of the other rooms.

    In very quick succession, she hit the door contacts of each door and very quickly scanned the interiors of the two spaces. One was a bedroom, the other was the fresher. Both were empty and seemed undisturbed. She dashed into the bedroom and smacked the closet door contact with the but of her right pistol. It slid open revealing an empty and unused closet.

    “Room cleared,” she said.

    Yehw’reh’nomai turned about, walked out of the room and looked in the fresher a second time. It was still empty. She turned to face the main room. At the opposite side of the main lounge were the doors of additional rooms. There, she watched as Torian and Gault also returned to the central lounge of the suite of rooms. They’d just completed their own searches of the two bedrooms and the freshers on that side of the Suite.

    “Skadge,” Yehw'reh'nomai ordered, “stand guard at the main door and make sure no one tries to ambush us from outside.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” the Houk grumbled as the barrel chested brute complied with his orders.

    Yehw'reh'nomai’s stomach was in knots as she surveyed the carnage. There were nine bodies splayed or heaped onto the blood soaked carpeted floor. None of the dead bounty hunters wore their helmets, but then neither did anyone in her team. Five of them didn’t have their armor on, either.

    Opened bottles of various spirituous liquids had been toppled over, their contents spilled all over the caf tables, and onto the carpeted floor. A single unopened bottle of a very expensive rye whiskey blend, imported from Alderaan, remained on the caf table.

    “Look at this, Wrehn,” Gault said, “By the way, dibs on the rye whiskey.”

    Yehw'reh'nomai walked to where the Devaronian stood, taking a moment to glance at the bottle of spirituous liquid.

    “It has a gift card with my name on it,” she remarked, “It’s mine.”

    Stopping beside Gault, she saw the message scrawled onto the carpeted floor beside the body of a woman. It was written in her own blood.

    SIS Jedi

    “Three bodies are missing,” Torian Cadera said.

    Yehw'reh'nomai looked to were the Mandalorian stood. She saw where blood had pooled in three places on the carpet, but the bodies were gone. She surmised that the attackers had taken their dead and wounded with them when they left the scene.

    The Chiss bounty hunter took another look at the dead and, after a cursory examination, found that half of the dead, still had their pistols holstered, or their blaster rifles were leaning against a wall. They had been taken by complete surprise. The others seemed to have drawn their weapons, but were only able to fire off a few shots, as evidenced by the three missing bodies.

    “Mako, take still images and video of everything,” Yehw'reh'nomai ordered, “Did your scans turn up anything?”

    Mako began to walk carefully, tiptoeing around the slaughter, so as to not disturb the crime scene. She recorded everything via her cybernetic interfaces with her ocular, auditory, and olfactory senses. Using her cerebral cybernetic interface, she connected to the holo-net, accessed her computer in her quarters aboard Yehw’reh’nomai’s freighter, and uploaded terabytes of data to it. All of this was done in real time.

    The cybernetically enhanced petite woman uploaded all of the images, the video, chemical and organic substances detected in the air, and other data to her computer via the holo-net. Remotely, she set a software program on her computer to run various analysis algorithms on the evidence that she’d collected.

    This software suite would search for finger prints and any other evidence normally invisible to the unaided eye. The analysis conducted by her software would reveal other insights into how the dead Mandalorians were taken out so easily. Was a suppressant gas used to dull the reactions of the hunters, for example? Later, when she and her team returned to Yehw'reh'nomai’s starship, Mako would review the results of the deep analysis.

    “Scans turned up no traps or eaves dropping tech, Boss,” after a moment of looking about the large lounge room, Mako said, “I’m done recording the crime scene, Boss.”

    “Let’s get out of here, team. The party’s over,” Wrehn said, working to keep her outrage under control.

    Wrehn and her crew quickly left the scene. They fled towards the opposite end from which they’d come, going towards turbolift lobby A. The hunters, fearing traps and ambush, took the stairs down ten stories, before switching to the turbolift, going down to the tenth story. From there, they took the stairs the rest of the way down to the main level.

    There were many thousands of party goers, gamblers, and tourists coming, going, or milling about. There were several hundred concierge personnel selling every goods or services that one could ever imagine. Wrehn and her crew had secured their weapons, remembering the Weequay security officials from before. They knew there would be hundreds of other security officials watching the crowds. Holding their weapons in their hands would call attention to themselves.

    Wrehn’s team rushed to the taxi kiosk and piled into a taxi without waiting in line nor ordering one from the kiosk droid.

    “Hey! That’s our taxi!” an outraged tourist shouted.

    “Shush, Dear! They have blasters!” her husband warned, “We’ll get another one.”

    The driver, a hardened old Advosec, took a couple of good whiffs of the air in his cab. He didn’t smell the scent of battle on his passengers. The retired Galactic Republic soldier decided they’d fled a situation without resorting to using their blasters and decided to reward them with his services.

    “Where to?”

    Bienna The Hutt building district Spaceport, concourse thirty nine,” Yehw'reh'nomai said.

    The driver drove. For most of the trip, the bounty hunters kept silent, until the driver couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer.

    “Did you get your Mandalorian armor at a swap meet, or are you two the actual thing?”

    “We are Mandalorians,” Torian replied.

    “You ain’t fooling me. I know you guys are on the run. What’d you do, rob a bank?” the driver asked, with a laugh.

    “SIS are involved,” Torian replied.

    “Then that’s the end of my curiosity,” the driver replied.

    After that, the cab had been plunged into silence for most of the remaining trip, until Skadge broke that silence.

    “That was the most boredom I’ve ever had in a long time. Let’s hurry and do that again, Wrehn.”

    “Blast!” Gault cursed, “I forgot to pick up that unopened bottle of rye before we left the suite. Dammit!”

    “Can it, everyone,” Yehw'reh'nomai said, with such low energy, “I don’t want to hear it.”

    “You’re the last one,” Torian said to Yehw’reh’nomai.

    “The last one what?” Mako asked, as the cab driver’s ear seemingly perked up.

    “The last Great Hunt Champion,” Torian said, “The only other living three had just been slaughtered.”

    Mako suddenly began to weep.

    “I’m sorry, Wrehn!” she lamented.

    “Don’t cry, Mako,” Yehw'reh'nomai tried comforting her friend, but with no energy in her tone, “It just means we’ll get all the jobs with the big credits.”

    Yehw'reh'nomai’s friend wouldn’t stop weeping.

    “Tell her, Torian,” Yehw'reh'nomai implored.

    “The weight of their legacy now rests on Yehw'reh'nomai’s shoulders. There are no others left to shoulder that burden,” Torian said.

    Mako wept louder.

    “Idiot!” the Chiss woman said, rebuking Torian, “You’re supposed to stop her crying, not make it worse!”

    Yehw'reh'nomai shook her head disappointingly at Torian. She found herself also on the verge of tears. Her gaze morosely settled on Gault.

    “Sorry, Wrehn,” the Devaronian said, “All I could think of to say is that now all of the big credit jobs are gonna go to you.”

    For some inexplicable reason, Mako found that confession from Gault, funny. She started laughing.

    “Great job, Gault!” Yehw'reh'nomai said, smiling brightly. She was, herself, saved from wallowing in tears.

    “You guys gonna pay up, or what?” the taxi driver groused.

    The crew poured out of the stopped taxi. Gault shared a look with Torian and shrugged his shoulders.

    “Women,” Torian remarked.

    “Yeah,” Gault replied.

    Having been paid, the taxi driver happily pulled around to get in the cue for a new passenger. Yehw’reh’nomai and her crew began to make their way through the enormous park lot filled with rental speeders and people carriers. Yehw’reh’nomai’s starship was another six kilometers away.

    She had no intention of walking all the way there and was determined to rent a people carrier to get her to her starship. As the crew of bounty hunters approached the rental service kiosk, walking between the parked speeders, blaster bolts began zipping past their heads.

    The last Great Hunt Champion dove for cover between the parked speeders and drew her weapons. Skadge was already returning fire and laughing up a storm.

    “Now, I’m having some fun!” the burly Houk declared.

    Yehw'reh'nomai’s eyes went wide when she watch Torian throw a grenade into the midst of parked rental speeders. She could only imagine the fires the explosive munition was going to cause. Instead, she was dazzled by the extremely bright blue white strobe of light that resulted. This told the Chiss woman that it was an Electromagnetic Pulse grenade.

    Fortunately, she wasn’t looking in that direction and wasn’t completely blinded by the strobing flash of light. Suddenly, the enemy ambush team appeared. The electronics of their stealth shields had been disabled, revealing the assailants. Yehw’reh’nomai immediately took aim and began shooting. In a very short time, their ambush was broken as her team of hunters returned well aimed shots.

    Enough time had passed, allowing the ambushers to restart their stealth field generators. As the enemy vanished from view, the firefight suddenly ended. The ambushers fled the scene, leaving their dead behind. Yehw'reh'nomai and her crew remained at the ready, however. They waited for their attackers to restart their ambush.

    “Anybody hurt?!” Yehw’reh’nomai shouted her inquiry at her team.

    Gault answered, “I’m good.”

    Mako replied, “No problems, Boss. Did you guys see the Jedi with them?”

    Torian reported, “No injuries.”

    Skadge, “Are we gonna waste time yapping, or are we gonna go after ‘em?”

    A full minute had passed before Yehw'reh'nomai decided that the enemy had actually fled. Hutt security was certainly on their way by now.

    “Torian, Gault, search the bodies. Look for clues. Skadge keep your eyes peeled. If they come back, make them pay. Mako get images of their faces. You saw a Jedi with them?”

    Yehw’reh’nomai and the others hadn’t seen the Jedi.

    “Yeah,” Mako chirped, “I’m guessing none of you guys did, huh? Then, it was my cybernetic implants that pick him up through whatever stealth field he was using.”

    “That EMP grenade should have knocked out whatever stealth tech he was using,” Torian said.

    “Less chatter, more work! Hurry it up, we’ve gotta clear out of here before Hutt security shows up.” Yehw'reh'nomai said, urging her crew.

    While her team conducted their tasks, Yehw'reh'nomai quickly approached the vending machine styled kiosk and rented a people carrier. The cobalt blue skinned Chiss woman entered her credit card number and began the ordering process. While ordering the conveyance, she went over the ambush in her mind.

    They screwed up and tripped their ambush while we were still in cover among the parked speeders. They should have waited until we were in the open at the kiosk. We got lucky.

    The vending machine assigned an automated carrier to her from the vast park lot outside of concourse thirty nine of the gigantic spaceport.

    Yehw'reh'nomai and her crew piled in and rode the open cab wheeled droid to her rented landing bay. Six kilometers and twenty five minutes later, the team of bounty hunters rushed off of the carrier and up the massive ramp of her freighter.

    “Gault, launch the ship. Get us off of this moon,” Yehw'reh'nomai ordered.

    “You don’t want me to get a launch window?” Gault asked.

    “Those SIS might come at us here and wreck my starship. I can’t afford that. Get us off the moon.”

    “Hey, you’re the boss. It’s your Hutt Space starship license you’re risking.”

    “Just let me know when we’re out of the atmosphere. I need to put in a call to Mandalore,” Yehw'reh'nomai replied.

    The D5-Mantis medium patrol craft, manufactured at Kuat Drive Yards, and modified to perform as a light freighter, had been out of Nar Shaddaa’s atmosphere for twenty minutes before Yehw'reh'nomai finally got around to calling Mandalore. She’d been reviewing the evidence Mako had gathered.

    Mandalore was the chieftain – king of the Mandalorian clans. Since the Great Hunt Champions were involved, Mandalore had to be involved.

    Wrehn told him, "SIS and Jedi raided the hotel suite where I was gonna party with the other champions. They were all killed in the raid with their crews."

    Mandalore stared blankly for some time before he finally managed to ask, "How do you know it was Jedi and SIS?"

    "One of our dead had written in her own blood, SIS Jedi next to where she died,” Wrehn replied, “Then as me and my crew went back to our ship, we were ambushed by a well disciplined group of operatives accompanied by a Jedi. We were ready for them, though. We killed a few and made the rest run for it."

    "Very well,” Mandalore said, somberly, “I'll find out what I can, and return in contact with you."

    "Mako,” Yehw’reh’nomai ordered, “Give Mandalore a copy of the evidence you collected.”

    “You got it, Boss.”

    “Me and my crew want to be the ones to get vengeance on them, Mandalore," the Chiss woman told the Chieftain – king.

    "Of course it should be you. You are the last surviving Great Hunt champion. It is your place to seek vengeance for the murder of your fellow champions."

    Mandalore cut the connection.

    "We can't let this go,” Yehw'reh'nomai told her crew, “We got to hunt these guys down and make them pay."

    “Do we really have to go back after them, Wrehn?” Gault asked, plainly not keen on the idea.

    The only other Mandalorian in Yehw'reh'nomai’s crew, Torian Cadera, shouted something in Mando’a, the Mandalorian language, at the Chiss woman. Then turning to the others, he repeated what he'd said, but in Basic.

    "Death is too good for them, but that is what they'll get!"

    "You know, Torian,” Gault Rennow, a conman, and a highly skilled sniper, replied, “you could save a lot of time and effort if you'd just say it in Basic the first time around, every time around."

    "You'd save us all of lot of time,” Skadge chimed in, laughing, “if you didn't say anything at all!"

    Mako, the only one among them who was cybernetically enhanced, laughed and was about to add her own two credits, but suddenly became serious, making her report.

    "I got something!"

    Mako had been scanning the holo-net, making a deep search through her brain's direct connection to the local global information network.

    "There's a hit called out for us!” She said, a bit excitedly, “The reward is a half million credits for our capture or deaths. The Exchange Gang put out the call! It just came out a couple of minutes ago!"

    Yehw'reh'nomai, whose core name was Wrehn, observed with some respect, "The SIS move fast."

    Shortly after, Mandalore had got back in contact with Wrehn and her crew.

    He told them, "You have recently done work for Imperial Intelligence. It is for the highly effective nature of your work that they have targeted you."

    Wrehn was wanted for her successful hunts. She had captured a Jedi who worked closely with the Galactic Republic Strategic Information Service, the SIS, and had killed his two padawans.

    She had also successfully killed or captured several Galactic Republic government officials and military officers. It was a very lucrative contract with their client, Imperial Intelligence, the Sith Empire's spy agency.

    Wrehn became introspective.

    "They could have ambushed us on the way to or from the party at the suite without killing anyone else,” the Chiss woman said, “They didn't have to slaughter the others."

    It was obvious on the holographic image of Mandalore that he was struggling to keep his fury under control.

    "It was a cowardly attack,” the Chieftain – king, said, “but the scum have wounded our honor when they so easily killed our very best. Our best were caught unaware and unprepared. You cannot let this insult stand. Our honor must be restored.

    “You, our last Great Hunt Champion, must show the galaxy what an aware and prepared Mandalorian hunter is capable of. The secret society of clients throughout the galaxy must see that those scum got lucky and that their luck has run out."

    A data stream began to download into the ship's intra-galactic holo-transceiver. It was a list of fifteen names with fifteen holographic images of human men and women, members of the SIS team that was formed to go after Wrehn and her crew. The data included the image of the Jedi and his name as well.

    Mako immediately recognized the Jedi. She, Yehw'reh'nomai and the others also recognized some of the other faces in that file. They were the four agents that had been killed in their failed ambush just outside of the spaceport concourse.

    There were no identifiers, datapads, communications devices, nor any other items that could be used to identify the dead operatives. Even their weapons were of different manufacture. No two weapons the ambushers used were the same. They were high quality weapons without any serial numbers to trace ownership. The only clues Wrehn had were their faces.

    "Mandalore,” the Chiss woman said to the chieftain – king, “we killed four of those people in the images you sent us. We had to take their masks off to look at their faces. These guys here,” she said, pointing out which four those were, and adding, "At the hotel suite, we saw evidence that at least three dead or wounded were removed from the scene. So, the way I see it, seven of the fifteen have been taken out.

    "You have some real good sources,” Wrehn said, laughing ruefully and telling Mandalore, “That was fast, and accurate. You wanna share your source with me? I'll pay you good." As though it were an afterthought, she added, "By the way, the Exchange Gang put a half million credit hit out on us a few minutes ago. I think the SIS are behind it."

    Mandalore laughed, telling Wrehn, "You know who my sources are. Make your own contacts." Becoming serious, he said, "Make them pay, Yehw’reh’nomai. Make the SIS pay. I'll take care of the Exchange Gang."

    He cut the connection. Yehw'reh'nomai pointed at the holographic images.

    "Find them, Mako," the Chiss hunter ordered her computerized human employee.

    "Already found the Jedi, Mako replied, “He's founded an orphanage on Nar Shaddaa a couple of weeks ago, and already got orphans living there. Oh! And happy coincidence, all fifteen of the orphans happen to have the same names as those fifteen SIS agents, and we killed four of them."

    "At least give me a chance to finish giving an order before you finish carrying it out!" Wrehn said, laughing.

    "I'm just that good. You know I won't hold back," Mako replied before telling her employer, "You have an incoming message from Bienna The Hutt building district Spaceport Authority."

    "Good. I need a hanger to dock my ship,” Wrehn said, “We need to get back there before they leave the moon."

    "Put him or her on," Wrehn was in the middle of saying, as a Twi'lek's holographic image appeared on her ship's intra-galactic holo-transceiver.

    "You have violated regulations that were put into place to ensure the safety of all starship traffic,” the male Twi'lek official said indignantly, officiously adding, “That was a very reckless act. If you wish to ever return to Nar Shaddaa, for business or pleasure, then you must pay the fines and other penalties which shall be imposed."

    "O.K.,” the Chiss bounty huntress said, “but just to let you know, I had extenuating circumstances."

    "Oh? And what might those circumstances be?" the spaceport authority official asked, obviously unimpressed.

    "Some Republic SIS agents was after us. They were trying to kill me and my crew. We was running for our lives."

    It was clear that the Twi'lek official did not believe the bounty hunter’s story.

    "SIS agents were after you, clearly," the official replied before adding, deadpan, "The fine is forty five thousand credits, in Hutt currency. Additionally, also in Hutt currency, your penalties are in the amount of fifty thousand credits."

    He looked smugly at the Chiss woman as though he’d expected her to exclaim in outrage at the ridiculous penalties and fines.

    "That's all?! I thought it was gonna be worse! Mako, pay it."

    "Already paid," Mako replied.

    The official’s smugness was quickly replaced by indignation as Wrehn returned her attention to him.

    "I need to book hanger space for my ship, I need to get back."

    The Twi'lek clearly flustered, tried to speak, "Back?! You just… You owe…. I just…"

    He paused to listen to someone outside of the pickup range of the holo-transceiver he was using. He seemed to deflate as he listened to whoever was speaking to him. Then, returning his attention to Wrehn, the Twi’lek official spoke disgustedly.

    "I see that the fines and penalties have been paid in full. I'll book you the same hanger space you had before. The same deposit and daily rates apply."

    "Thank you," Yehw'reh'nomai replied, in a neutral tone.

    She turned to Mako and opened her mouth to speak, but Mako had cut her off.

    "It's paid," the cybernetically enhanced woman said, smiling impishly.

    "Let me get the words out!" Wrehn complained, frustrated.

    The Chiss bounty hunter recomposed herself before returning her attention to the Twi'lek official, and asked for landing codes. Those were transmitted to the ship, and immediately thereafter the Twi'lek official cut the connection.

    Yehw'reh'nomai turned to the Devaronian.

    "Gault land the ship."

    She then turned to the Mandalorian.

    "Torian, get your heavy assault blaster rifle."

    Turning to her cybernetically enhanced employee and friend, "You too, Mako."

    To the Houk, she ordered, "Skadge, get your blaster cannon. We're going to have us a small war."

    Skadge shouted, "HELL YEAH! That's what I'm talking about!"

    Her crew scattered to go about their preparations. Yehw'reh'nomai also made her way to her captain's quarters and went straight to her weapons locker.

    She unholstered her medium duty blaster pistols, and secured them in the locker. She removed her armored vambraces, and replaced the left one with a modified vambrace which had a one shot flame thrower attached to it. She replaced the right one with a vambrace that had a four shot mini rocket launcher attached.

    Next she donned her full head and face helmet.

    She switched it on and spoke a command, "Begin pre-combat diagnostic test."

    As the electronics suite builtin to her helmet started its preprogrammed diagnostics checks, she detached her holsters from her thigh armor, and attached another set of holsters in their stead. Then, from her weapons locker, she took two heavy assault blaster pistols, carefully inspecting both before holstering the pair.

    She had these blasters made special for her by a well known armstech on planet Duro. The pair of blasters had cost her two hundred and forty thousand credits. They were very expensive, but well worth the cost.

    These blasters were capable of taking out heavy war droids. They put out a lot of energy, and had a very, very fast rate of fire. The only disadvantages were that they ate through power packs very, very fast, and got very hot, very fast.

    Wrehn walked out of her quarters, took two steps and stuck her head in the control bridge. Gault was already slowly gliding the ship to its landing spot.

    Wrehn, shocked into surprise, thought in great alarm, "That was too fast!"

    Worried about the ship's exterior paint, she asked the red skinned Devaronian, "Did you burn us through the atmosphere? You didn't burn us through the atmosphere, did you?"

    "You said we needed to get to them before they left the moon,” Gault Rennow replied, “To me that sounded like, burn us through the atmosphere. So, I burned us through the atmosphere."

    The Devaronian touched the ship down in its landing space, and then began the post flight shut down procedure. When he had completed the shut down procedure, he swiveled the pilot's seat and got out. He found Yehw'reh'nomai, helmet cradled in her arm, staring at him quite intently.

    "What?" the Devaronian asked defensively.

    Yehw'reh'nomai’s tone was deadly serious when she spoke.

    "You are going to scrape the burned paint off of the hull, and get it ready for a fresh coat of paint – if you make it back alive," then adding, "Get your heavy assault rifle, we're going in for a serious firefight."

    Gault, looked down at the deck and sighed.

    "So, if I get killed, I can get out of scraping the hull." he said, as though thinking it over.

    "I won't let you off the hook that easy, Gault," she answered.

    There wasn’t a gram of humor in her demeanor that Gault could sense from his employer.

    “It’s that, or you’re gonna pay for a new paint job for my starship,” Wrehn said.

    The angry Chiss woman departed the bridge to return to her captain’s quarters, only a couple of steps away from the bridge.

    Gault shook his head as he walked out of the control bridge, and past the captain's quarters towards the back of the ship. The Devaronian walked to the metal grate staircase in the cavernous cargo bay, taking them down to the lower deck of the light freighter.

    At the bottom of the stairs, he turned back towards the front of the mostly empty cargo bay. There was a six passenger speeder parked in the front right corner of the cargo bay. It was tied down to the deck with tie-down straps. On the left were three ray-shield brig cells. They were empty of prisoners, so the ray-shields were deactivated.

    “Gault?”

    The Devaronian stopped and looked up when he heard Yehw'reh'nomai call down to him from the upper cargo deck, high above the main cargo deck. He waited to see what she would say. Her expression was somber.

    When she didn't say anything, he asked, "What?"

    "Gault,” Wrehn told him, somberly, “Please, be careful, today. O.K.? I don't want anything to happen to you before you scrape the hull clean."

    Then she turned away, laughing up a storm as she made her way back to her quarters.

    Gault shook his head, amused, as he made his way to the crew quarters, which he shared with Torian Cadera, and Skadge.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2021
    Mira_Jade and Kit' like this.
  2. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter Two: A Shooting Gallery​


    Wrehn, Torian, Gault, Skadge, and Mako all climbed out of their speeder and walked to the end of the alleyway. Mako had a scanner wirelessly linked to her cybernetic implants. Standing at the corner of a sub-building, she aimed the hand-portable scanner around the corner of the sub-building and into the alleyway. Only her hand and the scanner held by it were exposed.

    "No sensors detected," she reported.

    “You sure?” Wrehn asked her computerized human employee.

    “It’s safe, Boss,” Mako said, “These guys got sloppy, not setting up sensors in this ally.”

    “Then let’s get going,” Yehw’reh’nomai said to her crew.

    Wordlessly, the bounty hunters walked to the end of the alleyway, ignoring the riffraff digging through the trash. Again Mako pointed a device, this time a holo-videography imager, from around the corner of the sub-building, again exposing only her hand. Wrehn held up her transceiver, which displayed the holographic video Mako was capturing.

    Wrehn and her crew studied the holographic video of the shop front half a block up the street, across the metal plated roadway. They were on the three hundred fifty second story of the main building. It was deep in the bowels of a gigantic seven hundred story mega-building capable of housing tens of millions of residents. The main building, named after its owner, was called the Rooronu the Hutt Building District.

    Most of the main building floors were like individual cities, with tens of thousands of residential apartment buildings, store fronts, office buildings, and industrial parks on each floor. The mega-building had a dozen spires pointing skywards above the gargantuan roof top. These spires rose above the seven hundred story main building.

    The dozen spires were, themselves, an additional three hundred stories tall. These spires housed several millions more. Those who lived in the towers were the super wealthy, and the businesses were all high end retail shops, eateries, and professional offices. The super wealthy had windows with views of the cityscape that stretched from horizon to horizon. However, deep in the bowels of the mega-building, only the shops had windows.

    The Speeder traffic was heavy, and the sidewalks on both sides of the street were crowded with throngs of pedestrians walking to and fro on the metallic sidewalks on both sides of the street.

    "This is not going to be easy," Wrehn thought.

    The alleyway behind the shop, which held their interest, had two remote sensors in it. Her crew would be detected, and they would lose the element of surprise. So, going in from the ally was out.

    "Looks like we don't have a choice," Wrehn told her crew.

    "Frontal assault it is! This should be all kinds of fun!" Gault said, with false enthusiasm.

    He'd meant that to be flip and sarcastic, but Skadge didn’t get the joke.

    "Ha! Ha! That's my kind of fun!" Then, meaning it, he said, "Wrehn, sometimes you really know how to make work fun!"

    "Cut the chatter!” Wrehn snapped at her crew, “These guys ain't chumps. We mess this up, we die!"

    When the speeders had come to a stop for the traffic signal, Wrehn pushed a button on a remote control. This activated two sentry defense droids guarding the alleyway across the street, behind the row of shops and apartments.

    “Turrets are active,” Wrehn informed her crew.

    These sentry defense droids, turrets, were essentially self-propelled automated blaster cannons. Wrehn had carefully programed them to attack any armed target that exited the rear entrances of the shops, while carefully avoiding unarmed targets.

    The bounty hunter crew made a mad dash across the road, between the stopped speeders. Then they ran down the block towards the shop front, which was The Orphanage of The Most Resplendent and Most Benevolent Rooronu the Hutt.

    The pedestrians on the street began to shout and exclaim their surprise and worry over what they saw developing. The crowds of people ran out of the sidewalk dashing into open shops, or running into the street through the stopped speeders to get away from the impending battle.

    Before Wrehn and her crew could get to within fifty meters of the shop front, two heavy war droids, of Chiss manufacture, rolled out of the shop’s sliding door. The war droids unfolded themselves and immediately began to fire a heavy barrage of blaster cannon fire.

    Wrehn's crew had reacted on seeing the droids rolling out of the shop. Coming to a crashing stop, her crew got down on a knee. Wrehn, Mako, and Skadge activated targeting spoofers, which were attached to the left breast of their armored cuirasses. The spoofers confused the targeting systems on the droids, at least for a short duration. Meanwhile, Torian and Gault deployed portable polarized ray-shield projectors.

    The ray-shields activated just before the droids’ targeting systems had compensated and corrected for the spoofers’ effects. The ray-shields glowed a brilliant translucent golden yellow as they began absorbing the blaster cannon fire. Inside Wrehn’s helmet, her environmental reticle displayed the very sudden rise in temperature as the ray-shields gave off terrible heat in exchange for absorbing the tremendous energies from the steady stream of blaster bolts.

    From behind the kneeling hunters, Skadge stood, and carefully aiming his blaster cannon, fired a volley through the polarized ray-shield, first at one droid, and then at the next, destroying both droids.

    Gault and Torian both deactivated the ray-shield projectors, leaving them where they were to cool down, and joined the rest of the team to advance to the shop front. The recessed sliding door was locked.

    Wrehn attached an explosive charge onto the door after peeling the backing off of the adhesive. She then activated the timer and rushed back out and stood to the side of the recessed entryway. One and a half seconds later, the explosive charge went off. The metallic shop front her team stood in front of, and the metallic sidewalk, on which they stood, shook powerfully from the blast.

    Immediately, after the blast, the crew activated their personal shield generators and rushed into the shop with Torian and Gault leading the way in. They were immediately greeted with a long burst of blaster fire from one shooter. Torian and Gault immediately returned fire, forcing the single shooter to retreat from his perch.

    Mako stayed within the recessed entryway, keeping watch of the street. She was their lookout for Hutt security forces, or SIS reinforcements. She watched the street clear, as the remaining pedestrians and speeder traffic evacuated the scene.

    Inside the shop, five grenades came out through an open doorway from the back room, Torian, Gault and Wrehn all shouted "GRENADE!"

    Each team member including Mako, outside, activated their personal blast shield generators and lay prone on the floor of the store front. The blasts of the five grenades buffeted and pounded them, but their blast shield generators protected them from the worst of the blast waves, while their full armor saved them from the shrapnel.

    "Skadge, let 'em have it!" Wrehn shouted.

    "HELL YEAH! That's exactly what I wanted to hear!" Skadge shouted, rising to his feet.

    After making a couple of adjustments to his weapon, he let loose with an unending volley of blaster cannon fire. The blaster bolts fired at an unbelievably high rate, and each bolt of energy blasted holes into the walls, large sections of the metallic back wall started to collapse onto the floor. Two SIS operatives were immediately killed with shrapnel from the explosively disintegrating wall.

    Wrehn got to her knees and gave hand and arm signals to Torian Cadera and Gault Rennow. The two immediately got to their knees and prepared to throw high explosive grenades into the back room. On Wrehn's signal, Wrehn, Gault, and Torian threw their grenades into the back room, while shouting, "GRENADE!"

    Skadge ceased firing and dropped to the floor with his teammates.

    The three surviving SIS operatives could be heard, as they shouted, "Grenade!"

    All three ran out the back door into the alley.

    At the end of the alleyway, Wrehn's sentry defense droids noted the three sentients which had entered the alley. The two droids scanned the sentients and identified weapons on each of the three. This matched the criteria for a valid target for which the droids had been programmed to attack and destroy.

    Each droid targeted the armed sentients, exchanged targeting data with the other in a series of quick clicks, chirps, and bleeps. The droids agreed on which droid would engage which target, so that their fires would not overlap. Then the two polled each other and agreed to commence firing without a countdown. Immediately, the two sentry defense droids began firing at their respective targets. All of this occurred in a quarter of a second.

    Two SIS operatives were blasted to death and never saw it coming. The third SIS agent had just enough time to register the situation before he was blasted to pieces with the fires of both droids. The agents didn't have a chance. It was as though they were in a shooting gallery – for droids. Meanwhile, the riffraff in the alley screamed, shouted, and ran for their lives.

    The self-propelled automated blaster cannons droids scanned the alleyway for additional targets. Finding no other valid targets, the droids returned to wait mode, scanning the area around them every fifteen seconds for threats.

    Mako had been keeping watch of the street. Her helmeted head seemed to be on a swivel as she unendingly turned her head from side to side, scanning both ends of the boulevard, looking for signs of danger. Her cybernetic implants augmented her senses. Nothing escaped her notice. Not even the Jedi who tried to Force persuade her to sleep, though he was still quite a distance away.

    Mako screamed into her helmet comm mic, "JEDI! JEDI! JEDI!"

    "Mako, inside! Now!" Wrehn shouted.

    As Mako entered the smoking interior of the shop, she shouted, "He's coming from the same direction we came! I didn't see anyone with him!"

    Wrehn shouted her commands, "Torian, Gault take the back left corner! Skadge, take cover behind the holed up wall in the back room, start blasting the minute you see him! Mako with me!"

    Mako followed Wrehn to the right back corner of the shop front. The team waited for the Jedi, hearts pounding. A massive wave of sleepiness hit Wrehn and her crew.

    Mako's cybernetic implants recognized the externally induced drowsiness affecting her brain, and reversed this drowsiness by stimulating her brain. It did this by causing a signal to be sent down her nervous system which triggered a blast of adrenaline to shoot into her blood stream. That's twice, her cybernetic implants saved her from this Jedi.

    Mako recognized that Wrehn and the others were not so fortunate to have such implants. She opened a panel on her armored vambrace, and pushed a combination of buttons. This caused a hypodermic needle in her teammates' helmets to extend a needle into the necks of the drowsy bounty hunters, and inject them with a military grade hyper-awareness stim.

    Wrehn's crew woke right up and became hyper-alert, just as the Jedi entered the shop front through the blasted out doorway.

    Wrehn shouted, "FIRE!"

    But that wasn't necessary. Her team had already begun firing. The Jedi, lightning fast, activated his personal shield generator, and had his lightsaber up, deflecting hundreds of blaster bolts. Many of the high energy bolts began to return to her team members.

    Wrehn shouted, "Fire faster!"

    Wrehn adjusted the controls on her special-made custom blaster pistols to fire at maximum power. She fired a shot at the Jedi. When he attempted to deflect the blaster bolt, the energy bolt exploded on his lightsaber beam. The force of the blast sent him flying, but his shield generator saved him from the searing energy of the dissipating blaster bolt.

    The Jedi, forcing his way back into the shop, used The Force to lift Mako, and sent her flying into Gault and Torian. The three hunters fell, heaped in the corner. He used a powerful blast of Force Push energy at Skadge, sending the Houk crashing into the far back wall.

    Before the Jedi could direct his attack against Wrehn, she had released the safety on her left Vambrace. Pointing her left arm at the Jedi with her wrist bent unnaturally downward, she activated her one-shot flame thrower at him. Nothing the Jedi could do could save him from the stream of burning liquid that splashed all over his drab-brown outer robes.

    His robes on fire, he quickly shed them, revealing white metallic armor that had been underneath his poor man's robes. However, before he could be freed of his burning robes, Wrehn had released the safety on her right vambrace. Pointing her right arm at him, again, her wrist bent unnaturally downward, she let loose a mini rocket. It exploded, point blank on the Jedi's shield. His shield generator had expended all of its energy on guarding the Jedi from that attack. Wrehn fired her left blaster pistol at him again, and again, the Jedi blocked the blaster bolt with his lightsaber, but this time, when the blaster bolt exploded on his lightsaber beam, he was terribly burned by the disbursing blaster bolt energies.

    The Jedi used The Force to speed his way out of the store front, making his escape.

    Wrehn shouted, at her team, "On your feet! On your feet! He might come back!"

    Her crew, however, were already struggling to get back onto their feet, when she shouted her commands to get up. They readied themselves, waiting for the Jedi's return. After a time, Wrehn realized he would not come back.

    "Torian, take a look outside," Wrehn ordered.

    Without hesitation or complaint, Torian Cadera ran to the doorway, then carefully scanned his way outside, his heavy assault blaster rifle aimed at whatever his eyes scanned from behind his helmet visor. He even scanned up on the awnings of the store fronts, up and down on both sides of the street.

    After a few more seconds of intense searching, he finally shouted, "Clear! The enemy is not in sight!"

    "Mako search the area for anything that may yield intel on the enemy,” Wrehn ordered, “Skadge, make yourself useful, and look through the bodies for intel on the enemy."

    "Don't forget to turn off your toys in the alley,” Skadge replied, “I got three dead nerf turds out there, I gotta search."

    Wrehn took out her remote and deactivated her two droid self-propelled automated blaster cannons, then she ordered, "Gault! Go out front and recover our ray-shield generators! Torian, you cover him!"

    Gault ran out the front door to carry out his task, as Wrehn turned to the task of helping Mako search for datapads, comm devices, and other items potentially containing intelligence on her enemy's activities.

    A short time later, Gault had returned, placing the two portable ray-shield generators onto the floor of the shop, and Skadge had come back from the alley.

    "Hutt security forces approaching from down the street!" Torian called out.

    "Fire a volley of warning shots," Wrehn ordered.

    Torian did, letting loose with a long burst of blaster fire. The energy bolts sailed over the heads of the Hutt security teams, approaching on foot, which had come to investigate the commotion.

    "Hutt forces withdrawing!" Torian called out, a moment later.

    "Torian, Gault! Grab the ray-shield projectors!” Wrehn shouted, “Skadge! Are you done searching the bodies?!"

    "I’m right here. You ain’t gotta shout,” Skadge groused.

    “Blast it! Did you search the damned bodies, Skadge?!”

    “Yeah, yeah. I ain’t found nothin’ on them scrubs,” Skadge replied, on the edge of irritability, “Just like the ones we searched earlier.”

    "We got all we need,” Wrehn said to Mako, “Let's wrap this up." Then to the whole team, "Let's wrap this up, everybody. We'll withdraw down the alleyway, pick up our turret droids, and high tail it to our speeder. Move! Move! Move!"

    Ten minutes later, her team were piling into the speeder, with Gault in the driver seat.

    Wrehn swiveled her helmetless head and made sure all of her team, who'd also removed their helmets, were aboard.

    "Drive!" she ordered.

    Gault drove.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2021
  3. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter Three: Who Cares About Regrets?​


    At the spaceport hanger deck, still three kilometers from her starship, Wrehn spoke into her personal holo-transceiver.

    "Ship, unlock ramp, break seal and drop."

    Wrehn agonized over the charred paint on the hull of her starship. The extent of the damage became more and more evident as they drew nearer to the vessel. Wrehn started to realize that they were closing in very quickly to her starship. In fact, she realized that Gault was driving entirely too fast. He drove as though he'd forgotten what brakes were for.

    It seemed they would crash into the back of her ship and then get crushed beneath the massive, slowly lowering ramp, which gradually revealed the brightly lit, cavernous cargo bay inside. The Chiss woman was growing more nervous about the Devaronian’s driving and felt a sudden need to say something about it.

    "Slow down. Yeah? We're almost there."

    There was no change in the speeder's velocity as it continued to hurtle towards the back of Wrehn's Mantis-class freighter. She looked over at Gault and saw a crazed look on his face. She thought of the red skinned Devaronian, with his two short horns protruding from the top of his forehead.

    "He even looks like a speed demon," Aloud, she said, "If you want to keep being our getaway driver, you'd better start slowing down. We're almost there."

    Gault's crazed look developed an ever widening, pointy toothed grin.

    "Almost there, isn't the same as being there," he said.

    "You're not getting out of scraping the hull clean,” Wrehn said, firmly, “but I'll let Torian and Skadge help you."

    "Now, that's more like it!" Gault replied, jovially, as he finally let off the accelerator and began applying the brakes.

    Torian didn't say anything, but he took on a pained expression. On the passenger side back seat, he aimed his displeased visage towards the back of Wrehn’s head.

    Skadge, on the other hand, complained loudly, "I did my job, good! You ain't gotta make me do that crap! I ain't doing it!"

    "Skadge, can it!” Wrehn shouted, “You're helping! It's that, or I'm leaving you right here for Hutt security to get you!" Then, realizing that's exactly something Skadge would like, added, "Without MY blaster cannon!"

    The Houk looked hurt.

    "I had fun today, boss.” he replied, “Why you gotta ruin it like that?"

    Becoming frustrated, Wrehn sighed heavily, giving in to Skadge’s complaints.

    "Fine!” she exclaimed, “You don't wanna help Gault scrape the hull clean! But it's either that, or you’re gonna help Mako with the paperwork!"

    "But! But…!" Skadge began to protest, but then fell silent as he thought it over.

    "Fine!” he acquiesced angrily, “I'll help Gault! I hope you're happy!" Thinking he was insulting her, he spitefully added, "Slave driver!"

    Wrehn looked over her shoulder, in astonishment, at Skadge in the driver side back seat. She was surprised that this was the worst he could come up with. Thinking that he'd scored a hit, Skadge doubled down.

    "Yeah, you're a slave driver! No fun to work for!"

    Wrehn turned to face forward again, and kept silent.

    "You are quite bossy," Gault volunteered.

    Torian added something in Mando'a, which he then translated.

    "That means, unreasonable task masters are never great leaders."

    Wrehn shot Torian an angry look, over her shoulder.

    "Torian, remember?” Gault counseled, “We talked about this. Say it in Basic, the first time around, every time around."

    "You guys make it sound like I'm the bad guy, here,” Wrehn grumbled, turning in her seat to face forward again, “That ship is our home. We gotta take good care of it. You know?"

    Gault eased the speeder into the cargo bay of the freighter, parking it in its customary spot in the corner of the voluminous space and shutting the motor down.

    Turning to Wrehn, he announced triumphantly, "Now! Now, we're there!"

    "Hey, Boss! Good news!” Mako chirped, finally adding her two credits, “One, Gault didn't kill us with his crazy driving. And two, The Exchange Gang just yanked the bounty hit on us! We're not wanted anymore!"

    Wrehn took in the news, but remained silent as she opened the passenger side door and got out. Skadge and Torian opened the passenger and driver's side rear doors, getting out as well. Mako exited on Torian's side, taking his hand.

    Torian pecked her on the cheek and whispered something in Mando'a in her ear. Mako smiled, nodding her reply and returning his kiss. She then let go his hand.

    Wrehn walked around the speeder, making her way towards the metal grate staircase at the opposite corner of the huge cargo bay.

    "Mako, get us clearance to launch," she ordered, looking over her shoulder.

    "Already done,” Mako replied, “and it looks like we're getting special treatment. We got clearance to launch in only fifteen minutes! Crazy, huh?!"

    Wrehn broke out into laughter at the center of the cargo bay on her way to the stairs. She stopped, turned around to face Mako.

    "Why can't you let me give the order first, Mako? Why?" she asked, with a big grin. Then turning to Gault, she ordered, "Launch the ship to high orbit. I haven't decided where we're going, yet."

    Gault was already at the entrance to the crew section at the front of the cargo bay.

    "Sure, slave driver. Why not?” the Devaronian replied, adding sarcastically, “Do you want me to prepare a bath and a massage for you while I'm at it?"

    Refusing to be baited, Wrehn simply turned and walked the rest of the way to the metal grate staircase at the side of the cavernous cargo bay. As she walked, she spoke into her personal holo-transceiver.

    "Ship, raise ramp, lock and seal for flight!"

    The huge ramp began to slowly rise.

    "Good work, everyone!” she shouted, as she started climbing the staircase, “Thanks for not getting your asses shot off!"

    However, her crew had already exited the cargo bay and had gone to their quarters in the crew section.

    On the second deck of her ship, Wrehn walked to her captain's quarters. Inside of her stateroom, she set her helmet on a work table. It had expended its dose of hyper awareness stim, and the stim cartridge had to be replaced.

    Walking to her armor locker, she removed her heavy nylex fabric gloves which had metal armor plating on the backs and around the wrists of the gloves. She set her gloves in the locker, and then stepped to her weapons locker.

    At the locker, she unholstered her special-made blaster pistols from their custom holsters and secured them in the weapons locker. She would inspect them later. Wrehn detached her custom holsters from her thigh armor, putting those in the weapons locker as well.

    Then she removed her modified vambraces, setting them down on the work table beside her helm. Those needed to be serviced as well. Wrehn heard someone walk past her quarters to the control bridge, as she removed her armor.

    "Must be Gault getting ready to launch the ship," she thought.

    She removed her utility belt and set it on the work table with her vambraces and helm. The belt also needed to be serviced.

    The generator coils on her belt had to be inspected. If the generator coils, in one or both units, had melted, even a little bit, then the one, or both units would need to be replaced. If both the blast shield and the energy shield generators passed inspection, then she would only need to replace their depleted batteries.

    Yehw’reh’nomai unfastened the heavy nylex fabric straps on the right side of her cuirass. The back of her armor swung open, away from her back like a shell, as she lifted the armor off to her left. She set the cuirass in the armor locker.

    Wrehn unbuckled the straps that held her shoulder and upper arm guards in place. Her shoulders and arms slipped out of the armored pauldrons, upper arm and elbow guards as though she were shrugging out of a jacket.

    Sitting at the side of her bed, Wrehn removed her heavy armored boots. Standing again, she unfastened the heavy nylex fabric straps on each side of her pelvic armor, causing the front and back to separate and open like a clam shell. These were attached to the tops of her thigh armor. She pushed the pelvic and thigh armor down like a pair of pants, and slipped her legs out of them.

    After setting her boots and her pelvic and thigh armor in the locker, she unzipped her navy blue molytex mesh full-body under-armor, from the extended neck collar down to her waist. She peeled the heavy, flexible anti-shrapnel, thermal resistant, one piece armored suit off, leaving her cobalt blue skin exposed, except for black sports bra and briefs.

    Wrehn set molytex full-body armored suit in the armor locker, then proceeded to seal it shut. Pushing a couple of buttons got the armor cleaning system to begin its cleaning cycle. It started by spaying a mist of antibacterial chemicals and other solvents to begin the cleansing of her gear. Then it released nano-droids which scrubbed her armor clean at the microscopic level and made micro-scale repairs.

    Wrehn turned to make her way to her fresher, but stopped in her tracks. Gault was leaning in her open doorway.

    "So that's what you look like under all that armor,” he quipped, “You ready for that massage, now?" Then as an afterthought, added, "Oh, and by the way, we're in orbit. Where do you want to go?"

    "Set course to Mandalore,” Wrehn replied in a business-like tone, “We're gonna lay low in Mandalorian Space for awhile. Also, I need to have a face to face with Mandalore." Softening her tone, she added, "Then, when you're done with the fresher, come back up to my quarters. I'll take you up on that massage, and I wanna see what's under your armor, too."

    “Oh, how I like those orders," the Devaronian said, as he left to carry out his task. To himself, he thought, "I'm going to enjoy this, but I know I'm gonna regret it, later."

    After setting course, and walking past the captain's quarters, with the door still open, he glanced inside. Wrehn wasn't in view, but her bra and panties were on the floor where he'd last seen her.

    He picked up the pace to the crew quarters.

    "But who cares about regrets?" he thought aloud, to himself.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2021
  4. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter Four: A Meeting, Ship Repairs, and Shore Leave​


    Wrehn's meeting with Mandalore the Vindicated aboard his flagship in deep space went quite well. She secured his aid to investigate the raid at Club Vertica on Nar Shaddaa. The Chiss bounty hunter turned over, to the chieftain-king, the recovered items from the SIS agents she and her crew had massacred in their safe house on Nar Shaddaa.

    Mandalore the Vindicated, whose birth name was Artus Lok, promised to put the considerable resources of the Mandalorian Empire and its ally, the Sith Empire, to work on determining who ordered the raid.

    For Wrehn and Mandalore, it wasn't enough that the SIS operatives were slaughtered and the Jedi terribly wounded. They wanted the official who'd ordered the murder of their fellow Mandalorians and former Great Hunt champions. Wrehn made Mandalore the Vindicated swear an oath to tell her everything the investigation turned up.

    It’s been known, by Imperial citizens and by many outside of the Sith Empire, that the Empire had been ruled for over one thousand three hundred years by the same emperor through an utterly ruthless centralized rule. However, unlike the Sith Empire, the Mandalorian Empire was a loose affiliation of clans whose chieftains supported a very strong clan chieftain to lead all of the clans. If ever any of the other clan chieftains felt that the current chieftain-king was failing in his leadership, it was not uncommon for one or more of those chieftains to ultimately challenge his rule.

    However, Mandalorians haven't always chosen a Mandalorian chieftain to rule over all of the clans. In fact, there have been many periods in their history when many decades would pass without a Mandalorian chieftain-king chosen to rule over their empire. During those times, the clan chieftains were content to rule over their own territories without concern for their neighbors' wars or other affairs, unless they were locked in a dispute with a neighboring Mandalorian clan.

    The clans would unite to choose a chieftain-king to lead them all whenever confronted with a great crisis, or a great opportunity. After nearly three centuries, since the last chieftain-king, a time had come again that forced the clans to unite and choose a chieftain-king from among their number.

    Over a decade before, when the resurgent Sith Empire brought war on the Galactic Republic, the Mandalorians saw a chance for renewed glory, and for a chance at avenging their defeat at the hands of the Galactic Republic three hundred years before.

    They chose a strong clan chieftain to lead them, but his rule caused a schism among the Mandalorian clans when it became rumored that he was a pawn of the Sith Empire's Imperial Intelligence. Many of the clans remained neutral, while other clans fought each other in support for or against Mandalore the Lesser, as he came to be known once his connection to Imperial Intelligence became known.

    That was when Artus Lok, a renowned clan chieftain made his move against Mandalore, challenging him to and slaying him in single combat. Thus, Artus Lok became Mandalore. He was named the Vindicated because he restored honor to the title and name of Mandalore.

    Mandalore the Vindicated reunited the clans, returning strength and honor to the Mandalorian Empire, and refocusing the Mandalorian clans' war potential on the Galactic Republic. His leadership helped to keep the clans focused on the fight against the Republic, alongside the Sith Empire, this time however – for a hefty price.

    Mandalorians viewed warfare as a product or a service that had to be contracted out and paid for by a client. The client, in this case, was the Imperial Army, who made extensive use of their services. Although Mandalorian naval assets were also available, the Imperial Navy, most unlike the Imperial Army, very rarely hired Mandalorian fleets.

    In the case of Mandalore the Lesser, the Sith Empire enjoyed very low prices. However, Mandalore the Vindicated corrected that discrepancy, tripling the rates the Empire had been paying. This was in part to punish the Sith Empire for their meddling and manipulations in Mandalorian affairs, and because Mandalore the Lesser had greatly undervalued their services. It was plainly just a good business decision to raise prices.

    Yehw'reh'nomai didn't want any part of that. She liked running her own business, and liked her independence. As a Great Hunt champion, she rated direct access to Mandalore, but very rarely made use of her privilege to do so. She didn't want to be put in a position where she would end up owing favors to Mandalore. Wrehn made it clear to him that she didn't believe he was doing her a favor in this case, either.

    "Mandalore, this isn't really my problem. It's very much your problem, though. For me, it's just personal. For you, it's a matter of defending Mandalorian pride and prestige all across the galaxy. You can't let them get away with this. For me, it's just a matter of, 'they pissed me off,' and I want to make them pay dearly. I can just walk away from it and just let it go. You can’t.

    “But I see it as a matter of you and I working together to get what each of us want from this. You want to restore the honor and prestige of the Mandalorian Empire. I just want revenge. Since we both will get what we want from it, we won't be owing each other any favors when it's all said and done. See?"

    Mandalore clearly didn't like her view of her role in this, but he had very little choice. He had much bigger concerns to worry over, but neither could he ignore this affront to Mandalorian honor.

    "I don’t see it entirely the same way you do,” Mandalore said, grudgingly adding, “I am glad that, at the very least, you feel some need to take some part in this matter. You are partly right, however, I simply cannot let this go unanswered. However, as Great Hunt Champion, neither can you. I’ll agree to your terms, Yehw'reh'nomai. We’ll not owe each other any favors."

    In this way, Wrehn would get full access to Mandalorian and Imperial intel and other Mandalorian support and not be indebted to Mandalore. Meanwhile, Mandalore wouldn’t be indebted to Wrehn for helping him, as the Great Hunt Champion, to restore the Mandalorian Empire's honor.

    A few hours later, Wrehn and her crew were in her ship, in deep space, headed to the territorial space of one of the more friendly Mandalorian clans. She had good relations with some clans and not so good relations with other clans, despite being the Great Hunt Champion.

    Yehw'reh'nomai wanted to get some work done on her ship, and she needed a new paint job after Gault Rennow had burned through the atmosphere on Nar Shaddaa, causing atmospheric friction to burn up her ship's paint job.

    In her captain's quarters, Wrehn thought back to her passionate fling with Gault.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________________​

    It was a fun two hours, but as the afterglow began to wear off reality had set in. For as long as she'd known him she knew that he was a swindler, a liar, a thief, and although he wasn't a scruffy looking nerf herding scoundrel, he was a scoundrel nonetheless.

    She respected his abilities, which was why she kept him on her crew, but as someone she could allow herself to get close to… Wrehn realized what a terrible lapse in good sense she'd exercised.

    It also got under her skin that he'd let his swindling nature get in the way of a moment of pure pleasure. Gault had the telemetry to actually think that he could get away with using her giddy feelings of the moment to get out of his impending arduous task. Lying next to her, he traced his fingers down her back.

    "What if you hired some cheap labor to get that charred paint scraped off instead?" he proposed.

    Realizing what he was up to, Wrehn became irked and let him have it.

    "You are cheap, Gault. As cheap as they come. Can’t get anyone cheaper than you."

    Her sharp tone changed, and she spoke sweetly.

    "I'll tell you what,” she said, a sly look in her eyes, “I'll throw in five thousand credits, as a bonus for supplementary services rendered."

    Gault was a professional gambler, an accomplished con-man, and an undetectable cheat. Putting on his best sabacc face, he masterfully hid his humiliation at the insult.

    "For that kind of money I'll work anything you want, even an old and rundown hag..." he replied casually, pointing at Wrehn, touching between her breasts.

    The Chiss woman’s eyes widened and she opened her mouth to reply, but before she could speak he said, "...like your ship."

    Wrehn was actually a few years younger than he, and quite athletically toned.

    "Even if you are cheap labor,” Wrehn countered viciously, “I'd still expect you to earn every credit."

    Gault, refusing to rise to the bait, simply got out of her bed and began to dress.

    Finished dressing, he headed to the door, and just before opening it to exit, he stopped and turned to face Wrehn.

    "Let's not make a habit out of this. Doing this kind of work is bad enough once. Believe me, it’ll be more a chore than fun, for me. I won't want to do it again, even if you paid me thirty-k."

    What is he talking about?! I was great in bed!” Wrehn thought, scandalized.

    Just as she opened her mouth to tell him off, he cut her off with his punch line.

    "So don't worry, I won't scorch the ship's hull again. I don’t want to scrape the hull clean again."

    Wrehn suddenly became unsure about whether he was speaking about her performance or about the ship's hull. She hesitated, thinking about what he’d actually meant and lost the momentum for her next scathing remark.

    Gault made as though to leave, the door sliding open, but stopped and turned to face her again.

    "And don't worry, I'll be discrete. I won't tell anyone that you felt compelled to offer to pay me to do extra work."

    Wrehn, lying naked on her bed, bristled on hearing this. Her forced smile was already too tight, and only became an angry grimace on hearing his words.

    "I'll be sure to credit your account as soon as possible!" she said raising her voice.

    The door slid shut, and she ran to it to open it again. She shouted at Gault, already at the top of the metal grated stairs.

    "You've really earned it!"

    Wrehn shut the door and made her way to her fresher, furious and, for reasons she did not understand, in tears.

    Enjoying her furious response, Gault's sneering grin widened as he descended the stairs. He knew that his words had struck her hard. Reaching the lower deck of the freighter, his sneering grin diminished, becoming an angry sneer. He still stung at the humiliation of being treated like a male prostitute.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________________​

    Wrehn was brought back to the present, with Gault's ship-wide intercom announcement.

    "Leaving hyperspace in one minute."

    The ship had been in hyperspace for nearly four days since leaving Mandalore's flagship. During that time, she hadn't spoken directly to him except to give orders, and he hadn't spoken to her except to acknowledge her orders. Their good-natured and playful banter was gone.

    The other crew members had noticed, except for Skadge. He was kind of thick-headed when it came to interpersonal relations and social cues. Skadge merely enjoyed the quiet that had descended the ship's crew.

    "It's really been peaceful around here with nobody yapping about anything,” he said, “I like it."

    Wrehn watched the chronometer as the minute expired, and after a small queasy feeling in her gut had subsided, she listened to Gault's announcement.

    "We're in Mandalore space, adjusting course to intercept Concordia. We'll be in orbit over Concordia in forty five minutes."

    Concordia was a moon of planet Mandalore, the Mandalorians’ home world and capital of the Mandalorian Empire. After establishing an orbit over the moon, Gault asked for clearance to land. Wrehn and her crew spent nearly half a day waiting for clearance. After the long wait, Wrehn's ship finally touched down in a shipyard on Concordia. An hour later, Wrehn, along with Skadge, was in the office of Rast Amurdo, a Rodian male.

    The shipyard chief told Wrehn, "You're always going to need new paint. Overtime, you're just wasting money on repaints. Why don't you invest in an atmospheric re-entry force shield generator? Parts and labor, one and a half million."

    "No deal,” Wrehn replied flatly, “I just want the paint job, and the hyperdrive reactor cooling system looked at."

    Rast Amurdo shrugged his shoulders.

    "It's a good deal I'm giving you. You shouldn't be so fast to turn it down."

    Wrehn kept silent, watching Rast impassively until he gave in.

    "Fine. Paint job and inspect the hyperdrive cooling system, only. Paint and labor for the paint job, one hundred sixty thousand. Hyperdrive cooling system inspection labor, seventy five thousand."

    "I already had the old paint scraped off good,” Wrehn countered, “You've got a clean hull to work on. Sixty five thousand."

    Rast became mildly incredulous.

    "Labor alone is forty thousand,” he pointed out, adding, “Cleaned hull or not, their union says they get the same pay. The paint is going to be sixty thousand 'cause you want a fancy three tone camouflage paint scheme. Then I've got tax, environmental clean-up fees, toxic waste disposal fees, on and on. All of them fees add up to almost what you're offering to pay. Where am I and my business partners gonna get our profits from? I'm not budging. It's gonna be one hundred sixty K."

    Wrehn looked as though after thinking about it she was going to stand up to leave, but before she could push herself up from her chair, Rast spoke up again.

    "Look. How about I cut thirty K from the hyperdrive cooling system inspection? You'll be paying cost for labor on the inspection. What do you say?"

    "I'll take that deal."

    Rast nodded approval, and immediately typed in the terms of the deal into his computer. Then, after getting her frequency, he uploaded a digital copy of the contract to Wrehn's datapad. After reading it carefully, Wrehn signed it and transmitted it back to Rast's computer.

    Upon returning to her ship, she told the crew, "We'll be on the moon for at least five days, Mandalore days, not Concordia days. Take four days off. Come back to the ship in four days."

    A Concordia day was nearly two weeks’ worth of days on Mandalore.

    "Four Mandalore days, not Concordia days," she reiterated.
     
  5. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter Five: Wrehn's Core Reactor Woes​


    Wrehn's crew wasted no time at all in leaving for their shore leave, scattering on their own getaways from starship and bounty hunter life for a few days.

    Torian and Mako left together. As a Mandalorian familiar with their customs and traditions, Torian was sure to show Mako the best in Mandalorian festivities and hospitality. Wrehn smiled, watching as they left the ship together. She knew they had something going on between them.

    Skadge had gone in search of the fighting pits.

    "You and Torian always talk up Mandalorians. I wanna see for myself what Mandalorians really have in 'em," he told Wrehn, as he hauled all of his combat gear off the ship.

    Wrehn didn't think Skadge would return – not alive anyway. She credited him his final pay in advance of her crew's scheduled pay date.

    "He may as well spend his money before he dies," She figured.

    Gault didn't even look her way as he left the ship. She was struck with guilt for the way she'd treated him. She realized that she’d gone overboard with her reaction, but she kept her feelings about it to herself.

    Despite what she thought of him, she realized she liked him – “as a colleague,” she told herself. Wrehn wondered if Gault would even return to the ship to reclaim his gear when his leave was up.

    Wrehn booked a room at an inn only a few kilometers from the shipyard. She paid daily visits to her ship, looking in on the progress the shipyard workers made on her ship's paint job. She was greatly pleased at what she saw.

    "It's really starting to look great!" she thought.

    On day three, Wrehn had gone back to the shipyard to meet with Rast Amurdo. He wanted to talk to her about her ship. Walking into his office, Wrehn saw someone else waiting with Rast for her arrival.

    Rast and the other shipyard worker stood as they greeted her. Rast waved Wrehn to a seat at the front of his desk next to where the other shipyard worker, a Duros female, sat. Rast began with introductions.

    "Yehw'reh'nomai, this is Kliegga Raanahn. She is the lead hyperdrive engineer at our shipyard."

    "My core name is Wrehn,” she said, turning to face Kliegga, “You can call me that."

    "Very well, Wrehn,” the Duros hyperdrive engineer said, bowing her head, “You may call me Kliegga."

    "There's still more work to be done with the paint job,” Rast said, “but we are progressing on schedule. The work shall be done late tomorrow evening."

    Despite Concordia's very long day-night cycle, actually because of it, time on the moon was measured using Mandalore's day-night cycle.

    "The painting will be done early after the mid-day hour,” Rast Amurdo continued, “but the paint must be cured, and that will not be done until late in the evening. However, we are ready to report on your hyperdrive cooling system."

    Turning to Kliegga and waving a hand towards her, he handed off the reporting to her. Kliegga nodded towards Rast, and then turned to face Wrehn.

    "Your cooling system is fine,” she said, flatly, “but your hyperdrive is running hot because the hyperwave suppressor coil has been nearing failure. It needs to be replaced. You still have somewhere between forty to fifty, maybe seventy, hyperspace jumps before it finally goes out on you. However, it may also fail the very next time you try to jump into hyperspace.

    “I’m amazed you were able to use it for as long as you have!" Kliegga said, “I’ve never seen a hyperwave suppressor coil this badly degraded and still functional!”

    With her heart jumping into her throat and a cold ball of ice sinking into her gut, Wrehn hid how badly she'd been shaken by the news.

    "O.K. Show me," she said, simply.

    Rast could see the surprise in her eyes, but was amazed at how well his customer seemed to be taking the news. He nodded and stood from his desk. Kliegga and Wrehn both got to their feet with him. The three walked from the office and made their way across the huge open air shipyard to Wrehn's ship.

    Centered at the bottom of the ship's huge ramp, which was in its raised, locked and sealed position, was a pressure hatch. This hatch opened unlike normal ships’ pressure hatches. Normal hatches retreated into the ship’s hull, breaking its seal. Then it would slide up, or to one side, until only the very edge of the hatch was visible.

    In the case of Wrehn’s starship, there were two hatches. The outer hatch would retreat into the ramp and then slide to the left. Then the inner hatch would retreat into the ramp and slide to the right. Three rectangular metal plates slid out from the massive ramp, creating steps leading up to the opened hatch.

    Rast, then Wrehn, followed by Kliegga stepped up and through the opened hatch into the ship's cavernous cargo bay. The three immediately made their way to the engineering section beyond the crew quarters.

    A flashing amber light high up on the overhead of the cargo bay caught Wrehn's attention. This told her there was a recorded message waiting for her on her intra-galactic holo-transceiver. Wrehn continued to the engineering section, making a mental note to view the message later.

    Kliegga walked to a control panel and immediately began to punch in a series of codes. The hyperdrive reactor vessel, as tall as a single story single family house tilted out, from its reactor yoke-mount, to a vertical position. After fully extending from its yoke-mount, it lowered vertically to the deck. The huge hexagonal reactor vessel opened up at one of the six rounded corners.

    The Reactor Rotor and Counter Rotor assembly (RRCR), and the Hyperwave Suppressor Coil assembly (HSC) were inside the reactor vessel. The HSC was a cylindrical yoke with tens of thousands of meters of a single thread of ultra-fine copper wire wound around the outside of it. The RRCR floated freely within the HSC.

    Kliegga handed Wrehn a magnifying lens so that she could inspect the fine wire. Wrehn climbed a service ladder to get to the HSC. There, Wrehn leaned towards the coil and held up the magnifier.

    She could plainly see the thousands of nicks and abrasions on the fine copper windings in just a few centimeters of the wire’s length. The wire, as fine as it was, hadn’t been cut all the way through anywhere along its entire length. However, there were many deep cracks that threatened to sever it.

    Kliegga explained, raising her voice so that Wrehn, descending the ladder, could hear.

    "The nicks and cracks are what is increasing the inefficiencies that are causing the rise in reactor temperatures. It isn't your reactor cooling system. In short, a fix would require a reactor overhaul."

    At the bottom of the ladder, Wrehn sighed, shook her head, and expressed her disgust as she returned Kliegga's magnifier.

    "Blast!" she cursed, angrily, before asking, "How much and how long to fix? And how'd this happen?"

    Kliegga pointed at the reactor rotor and counter-rotor assembly, and said, "Look at all of the chromium work. It's all supposed to be shiny, like a mirror, but it's all matte. That means you've been running the reactor above its rated operational specifications. You probably got a real good performance boost from it, but it greatly shortened the operational life of your hyperdrive reactor.

    You probably still have another six hundred hyperspace jumps with that Reactor Rotor and Counter Rotor assembly, but your hyperwave suppressor coil isn't going to last you very much at all. The most I would say is between forty to sixty hyperspace jumps. However, as I’ve said before, it could fail at the next hyperspace jump you try."

    Kliegga could see that Wrehn was becoming more upset, but she had to ask.

    "You've probably been noticing ever diminishing performance from your engines, and fuel consumption was getting worse over time. Yes?"

    Wrehn was definitely in a dark mood, now.

    "Let's just talk about the hyperwave suppressor coil, for now," she said, clearly frustrated.

    Rast spoke then.

    "Four million credits,” the Rodian said, explaining, “I have to send your HSC to a certified HSC refurbishment facility to rewind your coil. It's not something I can do here. So, that’s three million for the rewound coil. Then when I get it back, one million to tune the coil to your existing RRCR.

    “A brand new HSC will run you six million, but you still have to have it tuned to the RRCR, so that’ll run you seven million credits," he volunteered, "You'll probably want to start saving up for a new RRCR assembly. There's no refurbishing that. You're looking at fifteen million credits for a used one that’s in good shape. A whole new reactor won’t go for less than fifty million, depending on the aftermarket manufacturer."

    Wrehn, angry at the expenditure she had to endure, replied disgustedly, "Fine! Three million to refurbish the HSC, and one million to tune it. Four million, total. How long to get it all done?"

    Rast answered, "Two weeks."

    Wrehn forgot how time on the moon was measured. She became greatly alarmed at the time her ship would be grounded.

    "Two weeks?! Wait, did you mean Mandalore or Concordia time?!"

    "Mandalore, of course," Rast replied.

    Wrehn relaxed a bit, relieved it would be fourteen days, Mandalore, and not twenty eight weeks, Mandalore.

    "O.K. Draw up the contract,” she said, nodding her acknowledgment, “I'll be at your office to sign it later."

    “Good luck, Wrehn,” Kliegga said, nodding her goodbyes, before turning to leave.

    "I'll be in my office for another three hours before I lock up for the shift,” Rast told Wrehn, “I can get the ball rolling and make the call to slot in a time for my friend, on Mandalore, to be ready to receive your HSC – if –you sign the contract before then."

    Without waiting for an answer, he departed the engineering department and Wrehn's ship. Wrehn looked at her exposed hyperdrive reactor core and realized Rast was giving her low-ball estimates. She realized that he’d been pitching low performance reactor cores. She shook her head in bitter disappointment.

    "Fifteen million for a used hyperdrive reactor core, for this freighter?" she thought, “My baby would be so damned slow and sluggish if I did that.

    She realized she was going to have to shell out no less than twenty five million, but very likely much more than that, if she wanted a used high performance reactor core that was still in good shape. Additionally, in this case, her four million credit expenditure for a refurbished HSC was a waste. A new hyperdrive reactor core already came with a new hyperwave suppressor coil assembly already factory tuned to the new RRCR assembly.

    Wrehn knew that most of the fortune she had amassed from all of her jobs was about to be absorbed by this expenditure. To top it all off, she fully expected to lose her crew.

    She expected Skadge to get stupidly killed in an arena fight. She knew Gault had probably already quit her crew. She also worried that Torian and Mako would quit when they learned that Wrehn no longer had a ship to actually take on and complete contracts with.

    Then Wrehn came to the realization that she was essentially stranded in the Mandalore star system.

    “Blast it all!” she cursed, furiously.

    She would only be able to make local freight deliveries between Mandalore, Concordia, and other points within the Mandalore star system to earn a living with her starship. She wouldn’t be able to jump into hyperspace to leave the star system until her hyperdrive reactor was repaired.

    Wrehn recalled that she had a recorded holo-transceiver call waiting. She left her reactor core in its offline and exposed state. Yehw'reh'nomai walked out of her ship's engineering department.

    In the huge cargo bay, she turned towards the bottom of the metal grated stairs at the back of the cargo bay to her right. At the top of the stairs, she walked through the upper cargo deck to her ship's Command and Communications space. The C&C was a few meters behind the control bridge. The door to her captain’s quarters was on the right, in between the bridge and the C&C.

    Wrehn sat heavily on one of the padded swiveling chairs bolted to the deck around the holo-transceiver. She activated the device to retrieve the recording. The familiar holographic image of her favorite bounty broker popped up, a Twi'lek male named Kathten Relmus.

    "You are being requested by name,” the recording said, “It is a galactic heavy hitter – a very heavy hitter. Except that I'm advising against taking this job even though he's promising, Name your price, I'll pay it…”

    Wrehn paused the recording, knowing that the timing was just too perfect. She knew it was a complete coincidence, but this was just too much. She needed a huge sum of credits, and here she's being told about a prospective client willing to pay it.

    "What are the gods playing at?” she whispered in dark amusement, “What will I end up getting myself mixed up in?"

    She resumed the playback. Kathten's frozen image resumed where it had left off.

    "I'll assume you'll do the smart thing and turn this job down, but if you're not gonna be smart, get a hold of me, and I'll tell you the details."

    The message ended. Wrehn immediately returned the call.

    "I thought you had good sense and wasn't gonna call back," Kathten Relmus told Wrehn upon answering.

    "How heavy a hitter is he? Who is it?" Wrehn asked, getting to the point.

    "He sits on the Dark Council. It's Darth Nox."

    Kathten wore a look on his face that said he fully expected Wrehn to reject the job out of hand.

    "What does he want done? Will he really pay any price I name?" Yehw'reh'nomai asked.

    He was deeply surprised that Wrehn expressed interest in the job. He looked at her without saying anything for a while before speaking.

    "Wrehn, turn this job down. Didn’t you hear me? I said it was Darth Nox. Don't do it."

    "Will he pay?"

    "Don't get greedy, Wrehn,” Kathten said, advising the bounty hunter, “I don't have any reason to think he won't pay, but he's a Sith. Worse than that, he's a dark lord. Worse than that is that he's got a very well justified reputation for killing people who let him down. Do not take this job, Wrehn. I'm only telling you this because I like you. Don't do it."

    "Why? What's the job?"

    "Something he is willing to pay any price for."

    Before Yehw'reh'nomai could ask him anything else, he cut the connection after his parting advice.

    "Take a couple of days to think this through, Wrehn. Please take my advice."

    Wrehn swiveled the chair to the side and got up from the padded seat and made her way to the captain's quarters, just before the control bridge. There, she sat at her desk and went through her books and calculated how much of her small fortune would go towards getting a new hyperdrive reactor core. She didn't like the numbers she saw.

    She figured that without any major expenses, she should have amassed several tens of millions before her retirement. Now here she was, looking at already spending over two thirds of her current wealth for a major repair.

    Wrehn walked to her bed and lay down to think it through. She realized Kathten's urgent warning to not take the job had working for this client is suicide written all over it. She meditated on the question. Wrehn had forgotten that she had to sign the contract with Rast. As a result, getting the ball rolling to start the work on her hyperwave suppressor coil would be delayed.

    "Should I do it?" she asked herself, just before drifting off to sleep.
     
  6. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter Six: One Very Bad Customer​


    Wrehn awoke with a start. She looked at the chronometer on her desk and cursed a vile oath when she saw that several hours had gone past. Rast Amurdo's office was closed for business, and she hadn't signed the contract. Work on her hyperdrive reactor core would be delayed.

    Wrehn looked through the small portal from her bed at a bright and sunny day. If she were on any ordinary planet, it would be dark outside. It would be late in the night.

    However, this was Concordia. It would remain daytime for a few more galactic standard days. Concordia's nights were just as long as its days. A complete day night cycle on the moon lasted two weeks’ worth of day/night cycles on Mandalore, and Mandalore's days were just a bit shorter than a galactic standard day.

    Wrehn rose from her bed and pulled the shade, in its tracks, down over her portal before walking out of her quarters. She felt miserable, having slept in her street clothes and shoes. At the back of the upper cargo deck, she took the stairs down to the main deck and turned towards the front and center of the cargo bay. Walking past the crew quarters section, she entered the engineering department.

    At the reactor control panel, she punched in a combination of buttons which caused the reactor container vessel to close. The hexagonal containment vessel seemed to take forever to close, but it eventually did. Wrehn’s patience was wearing thin as she watched the reactor vessel slowly get hoisted back up in front of its yoke-mount. She sighed, frustratedly watching the reactor vessel slowly tilt back towards her, to assume its proper angle before getting backed into its yoke-mount.

    The whole affair only took three minutes, but she felt as though she’d been standing there forever.

    Damn. It’s like waiting for water to boil,” she thought.

    Wrehn left the reactor deactivated. There wasn’t a need to activate it since the ship was connected to an external power source at the shipyard, and it was going to be disassembled anyway to remove the RRCR and HCS when the work got started.

    Yehw’reh’nomai returned to her captain's quarters and began to remove her street attire. She returned to bed, this time properly attired in her bed clothes. As she lay back to sleep, she decided she would contact Kathten Relmus when she awoke again in the morning. Wrehn decided she would accept a meeting with the Sith lord to discuss the job and the money.

    Wrehn found herself waking again, this time to a distinctive tap on her door. She knew right away it was Mako. Wrehn got up from her bed and made her way to the door and hit the door contact. When the door slid open, she found both Mako and Torian waiting outside of her quarters.

    "Did you two have a good time?” Wrehn asked, yawning, “Are you married now?"

    She laughed, sleepily at her own joke.

    "Are we that obvious?” Mako asked, deadpan, “How'd you know we got married?"

    Wrehn stopped laughing and snapped fully awake and in quite a shock.

    "You two really got married?" she asked, nearly shouting.

    This time it was Mako's turn to laugh.

    "Nah! I just wanted to see what you'd do!" Laughing raucously, she added, "You should have seen the look on your face! It was priceless!"

    Wrehn, shaking her head sighed heavily.

    "Mako, it's too early for that sort of joke," she said, forgetting that she'd just made that same sort of joke.

    Torian Cadera was laughing at Mako's prank.

    "I didn't see Gault or Skadge," he said.

    "Skadge went to the fighting pits," Wrehn replied, with a shake of her head.

    Torian made a face, realizing that Skadge might not return.

    "Yeah. He's probably dead already," she said, gloomily.

    Mako, looked shocked at Wrehn’s prediction.

    “No,” she said, in a tiny voice.

    Shrugging her shoulders and just as gloomily, Wrehn added, "Gault might come back to get his final pay and to pick up his gear."

    "You gonna try to talk him out of leaving?" Mako asked.

    Wrehn's tone in her reply plainly expressed her doubts for any chance of success.

    "Yeah."

    "Really?!" Mako asked deeply surprised, then commenting, "The way you two have been giving each other the cold shoulder, I figured you'd be all too happy to leave him on Concordia…"

    "I'll let him quit the crew after this next job,” Wrehn said, “If I take this job, it's gonna to be a really big payday. Kathten said to turn it down, so it'll probably be near suicidal. I get to name my price, though, so it might be worth it. You know?"

    "Is there anything you'd like me to start researching for this job?" Mako asked.

    "Yeah,” Wrehn said, nodding affirmation, “Learn what you can about a Sith named Darth Nox."

    "Taking out a darth will put a very bad strain on relations between Mandalore the Vindicated and the Sith Empire,” Torian said, deeply concerned.

    Mako nodded emphatically her concurrence.

    “We'd be wanted as criminals,” Torian went on to say, “I'm with Kathten. Turn it down."

    "He's the client," Wrehn corrected, and before Torian or Mako could say anything else, Wrehn told them, "I need to get in the fresher. Then I've got to get some breakfast in me. I'll talk to you two later."

    "I'll make breakfast,” Mako offered, “so come to the crew mess hungry."

    Wrehn smiled, nodding her promise to arrive hungry. Then she slid her door shut as Torian and Mako turned to make their way towards the metal grated stairs.

    An hour later, Wrehn walked down the stairs to the main cargo bay deck. She made her way to the common crew mess, where the crew prepared and ate their meals. Mako spoke to Wrehn as she entered the space.

    "I made your favorite, fried Corellian egg toast with Naboo khabbaah tree syrup. Torian brewed the caff, so it's strong." Seeing the surprised look on Wrehn's face, she added facetiously, "Guess who didn't come back dead?"

    Wrehn had already spotted Skadge seated at a table pouring another cup of Torian's caff while watching the Mandalorian sporting news on his portable holo-transceiver. Wrehn couldn't believe it. She was stunned to see him alive.

    "Skadge, what are you doing alive in my ship?” Wrehn blurted out, quite facetiously, “I'm not gonna believe that you actually won the tournament. So don't lie about it,” Wrehn shook her head in disbelief, adding, “but here you are, drinking caff in my ship."

    Skadge spoke angrily, accusing the Mandalorians of being sore winners. Torian, having already heard the story from Skadge, only shook his head in amused disgust.

    "I made it all the way to third place!” Skadge told Wrehn, “My opponent was mad because I quit before he could kill me. He won! But he wanted to kill me, too. It's not my problem if the others were too stupid to know when they lost! The worst of it was the crowds were too busy booing me to cheer the winner…."

    "Did you get your third place trophy?" Wrehn asked teasingly, knowing the answer already.

    Skadge eyed Wrehn, suspiciously.

    "Torian says there ain't no third place…"

    Wrehn was glad to see Skadge, which kind of surprised her a bit. Wrehn surprised herself again, when she realized how happy she was to see him.

    "Well, I'm glad you out-smarted them and knew when to throw in the towel."

    "I beat twenty of the turds for brains before I finally got beat," Skadge said, bragging. Becoming mystified, he added, "The turds for brains didn't know when to quit. I had to kill 'em to make 'em stop."

    Wrehn became incredulous on hearing that.

    "Come on! You tried not to kill them?” she asked, challenging Skadge's assertions, “Well, did you at least try to beat them senseless?"

    "I'd knock 'em silly,” Skadge spoke earnestly, “Then I’d, walk off to sit in my corner, and when the dumb scrubs came to, they'd come at me again. They made it hard for me not to kill 'em! The crowd kept booing me 'cause I wouldn't kill 'em the first couple times the scrubs came back at me. Said, I was being cruel to my opponents. Said, I was playing with their honor," adding in genuine frustration, "Here I was, tryin' to be a good sport, an' the lousy nerf herders, couldn't take a hint an' stay down! Then they get mad at me for having the good sense to quit when I was beat!"

    "I think you were right, Skadge,” Wrehn told the burly Houk, “They were too stupid to know when it was time to call it a day."

    Torian gave Wrehn a stern look of disapproval, but she ignored him.

    "See! I was smarter than those scrubs!" Skadge proclaimed triumphantly to Torian’s disgust.

    "How much prize money did you get?" Wrehn asked, curious.

    Skadge smiled a huge toothy grin and bragged.

    "I made a killing!" remembering one of the rules of the tournament, he thought aloud, "Maybe that sore winner was mad 'cause he couldn't take my winnings from me on account that I wasn't dead…"

    Torian shook his head in disgust. He’d had enough and said what he felt had to be said.

    "You're twenty victories were made into a sham when you shamelessly begged for your life!" Leaning forward to look intently into Skadge's eyes, he added with scorn, "It is a disgrace that you kept the victor's money instead of giving it to him when he bested you."

    The Houk became incredulous at what he’d just heard.

    "Torian, I ain't that stupid,” Skadge said, “What you said is stupid."

    "I'm with Skadge on this,” Wrehn said, shocking Torian, “Who goes to a tournament that lets you quit or choose death, but the losers keep choosing to die AND lose their prize money – on purpose?"

    Mako, to Torian's disappointment, told him a bit contritely, "I'm sorry hon, I'm with Skadge and Wrehn on this, too."

    Wrehn became surprised when she heard Gault's voice, from behind.

    "When Mako can agree with Skadge on anything, then you know the galaxy is getting shipped to the wrong hell in a mislabeled shipping container."

    Wrehn took a chance speaking to him.

    "Well, look who made it back. How many poor scrubs did you get to clean out before you got caught and had to make a run for it?"

    "As if you really cared about any of that," Gault replied, smoothly, then getting straight to the point, "I’ve decided to jump ship, here. I just came back to get my gear and my pay before I strike out on a new venture that I'm going to start up on Mandalore. A very promising little deal to rake in the credits has presented itself, and I intend to take advantage of it before I decide it's time to travel the galaxy to play tourist."

    Wrehn knew this was coming, but it hurt her nonetheless. She felt it was her fault, but she was too proud to apologize. Yet, she knew it was too late for apologies in any case. Instead she tried inducements.

    "Well, before you quit my crew, you should know I was offered a really big job. It might be risky, but it has a very, very huge payday."

    Torian and Mako both looked at Gault, waiting for him to make his move.

    Skadge, back to being oblivious, asked Gault's question.

    "How much they offering?"

    "I get to name my price," Wrehn said, looking at Gault.

    Gault arched his eyebrows, and whistled at what he heard.

    "You must be desperate to take a job like that,” he quipped, then asked, “What's the job, and who's the client?"

    "According to the gossip on the Holo-Net,” Mako answered soberly, “he's a leading member of the Dark Council, and a guy who killed his way to the top – with everybody watching him do it. Everybody's scared of him. He's one very bad customer."

    "What's so special about that?" Gault asked.

    "He's the new guy on the council, and the old timers are staying out of his way," Mako said, simply.

    "If you're all done chit chatting, then pour yourself a cup of caff and follow me to the command and communications section,” Wrehn said to her crew, “I'm gonna contact Kathten Relmus, to get the details from him and to get him to put us in contact with the prospective client."

    "You interested in one last job, Gault?” She asked, gently prodding Gault, “It really is going to be a big payday."

    Gault looked steadily into Wrehn's eyes, and could see apprehension in them.

    "What's her angle?” he wondered to himself, “She's not saying what's really bothering her…," aloud, he said, "I'll play along for a while. I want to see what this is about."

    Wrehn and her fracturing crew walked out to the cargo bay and then up the stairs to the command and communications section. Wrehn brought her plate up with her, being the only one who hadn't eaten, yet. With everyone seated, sipping from their cups, Wrehn forked a few mouthfuls of Mako's cooking before dialing up Kathten's frequency.

    Kathten shook his head sadly.

    "Wrehn, don't say I never warned you," he told Wrehn and her crew.

    Wrehn, mouth still full, still chewing, and swallowing between words, said, "Kathten –, I'm a Great Hunt champion. – Chances are – I can do this job –. O.K.?"

    "Famous last words," Gault muttered under his breath, but everyone heard him.

    Wrehn ignored the remark.

    "Tell us about the client," she demanded of Kathten.

    Kathten gave up.

    "Well, maybe you'll all go in a blaze of glory, and we can sing songs about your heroism," the Twi’lek said, facetiously.

    "Cut the stupid yapping, and get to the point!” Skadge snapped, angrily.

    Torian’s anger was clearly etched on his facade.

    "We have a well-deserved reputation of our own. Do you take us for weaklings or fools?"

    "He probably thinks we're both, Torian," Gault added, unhelpfully.

    Kathten's holographic image put up both hands, placatingly.

    "Now, now. There's no need to take it like that” the bounty broker said, “I'm just saying that some jobs aren't worth taking."

    "I said that we will be the judge of that, Kathten!” Wrehn shouted, “Now answer my damned question!"

    Wrehn forked in another mouthful of Mako's cooking. Kathten sighed, shaking his head and finally got to business.

    "Darth Nox recently ascended to the Dark Council. He took Darth Thanaton's place after slaughtering most of his supporters, and taking Thanaton, himself, out.

    “Before that, he was known as Lord Kallig. Lord Kallig threw the Galactic Republic off of Taris, trashed the Balmorran revolution, and crushed the resistance against the Sith Empire's conquest of Corellia. He's the kind of guy that does not suffer failure. He’s executed Sith and Imperial generals who’ve let him down."

    "But does he pay his bills?" Gault asked.

    Kathten, shook his head in disbelief at the brazen disregard for good sense.

    Stifling a chortle, he replied, "I don't have any evidence that he does not."

    "What does he want mercenaries for?” Wrehn asked, “It looks to me like he already has Imperial troops to command. Why does he want to hire mercenaries?"

    "I don't know all the details. I'm still digging, but it seems that there's some Empire on Empire violence going on here. I think the Imperial Military is split between two factions of Sith…. They seem to be at odds about something or other."

    "So, he needs a mercenary army to augment his forces?" Wrehn asked, interrupting.

    "It's as good a guess as mine," Kathten answered, shrugging his shoulders.

    "Or he doesn't trust the troops around him," Gault proposed.

    Torian added his assessment.

    "If Gault is right, then Darth Nox might be on the losing side of the divided Sith."

    "I'll talk to him,” Wrehn told Kathten, “Get us connected."

    Kathten nodded curtly and cut the connection.

    "If he really wanted an army,” Wrehn observed, as she thought things through, “he would have talked to Mandalore, not to me. He wants body guards."

    "So, you'll have to subcontract a few more crews to make up a big enough force to counter any Imperial troops that might betray Darth Nox," Torian said, nodding his agreement.

    "I don't like the idea of splitting our winnings with too many partners,” Gault interjected, “Let's not go crazy hiring too many."

    "I found something on the holo-net,” Mako chimed in, adding, “A big time Sith just declared himself Emperor of the Sith Empire, and he's got half the Empire on his side. This isn't just some Sith dispute, it's a full out civil war!"

    Gault clapped his hands excitedly.

    "Oh, wow!” the Devaronian said, realizing what this meant, “That is big news, and that means big opportunities to make big credits!" Turning to Wrehn, Gault asked, "How much were you thinking of gouging him for?"

    "I'm going to start the negotiations at a hundred and fifty million."

    Everyone fell silent as they each mulled over their own feelings and thoughts on the situation.

    "We should see what he says first,” Mako cautioned, “before we name our price. I don't want us getting priced out of a job 'cause we got stupid greedy."

    "What's wrong with being greedy?" Skadge asked.

    Gault seconded, adding his two credits.

    "Yeah, Mako, what's wrong with asking for more?" Quickly adding, "But I'm with you. We should talk to this Sith, first. I don't want us selling ourselves short, either.

    "Get your gear ready,” Wrehn ordered, “If they're having a civil war, then we got to gear up for a war."

    With that, her crew got up from their seats and filed to the top of the stairs at the back of the upper cargo deck, to make their way down to their respective quarters on the main deck. Wrehn returned to her captain's quarters in the opposite direction, forking another mouthful of Mako's cooking as she walked.
     
  7. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter Seven: The Contract​


    Seated in a padded chair in the command and communications section, Gault had his face planted in the palm of his hand. He shook his head slowly as he worked not to laugh out loud at what he'd just learned. Torian had on a look of deep concentration. Mako stared numbly at the holo-transceiver, not so much staring at it as staring through it. Skadge laughed out loud.

    "Well, your ship looks real nice with that fancy paint job you got for it,” The Houk said, “I'm sure glad I busted my rump helping Gault scrape the hull clean for you. We can set up a nice patio outside and look at how pretty the ship looks. And don't worry. We won't remind you your ship can't fly! Hey! Let's throw a party for…."

    "Shut your fat mouth Skadge! I don't want to hear it!" Yehw'reh'nomai shouted furiously at the Houk.

    Skadge laughed even harder, as Gault, at his limit, allowed a snort to escape from behind his palm. Wrehn heard it. She knew Gault had a lot he wanted to tease her about, but for some reason he really seemed to be trying not to let her have it. Looking at the rest of her crew, she could tell they were probably thinking of packing their gear and calling it a career. She tried to reassure them.

    "Torian, you had part of the plan I already had in mind when you suggested we hire some additional crews. I intend to hire one of the Mandalore's Hammer Naval Battle Group's frigates. The Razor's Edge is not only a fighting ship, but it can house a hundred troops in addition to the ship's crew and complement."

    Gault, finally succeeded in suppressing his urge to laugh.

    "How do you intend to keep the captain of the Razor's Edge from taking over your operation?” the Devaronian asked, finally making eye contact with Wrehn, “How will you keep the leaders of the other mercenary teams in line? Once they find out you don't even have the credits to fix your own ship…"

    Wrehn interrupted, testily snapping out her answer.

    "I'll be acting as the lead contractor, with the other team leaders and the owners of the Razor's Edge as subcontractors! You know me, Gault. I won't let anybody step on my toes. I'm going to need you guys to help me keep the subcontractors in line, though."

    Torian finally spoke.

    "Two hundred fifty million."

    The crew fell silent as they thought on what they believed was Torian's estimate of what Wrehn should charge their prospective client.

    "Fifty million to hire the frigate, and maybe another fifteen million for the mercenaries,” Gault said, thinking out loud, “That's sixty five million. That leaves a hundred eighty five million for us, but…

    "Gault, it's a civil war between the Sith,” Torian said, interrupting, “Mandalorians are going to charge a premium. We're also going to find ourselves picking sides and fighting each other. We're going to charge extra for that. This is a time for price gouging. It'll be a hundred million for the frigate, and fifty million for just one platoon of mercenaries, and we'll need at least two platoons. That's two hundred million right there, and those are optimistic estimates. It could end up being way more."

    "Then we only make fifty million after paying the extra help? I don't like it," Gault said, starting to show concern.

    "Why not get Imperial troops and pay them instead?” Mako suggested, “They're used to being way underpaid anyway. We could offer them a few million and they'd be excited to take it."

    "Great idea, Mako. I'll smooth talk the Imps," Gault, said. To Yehw'reh'nomai, he suggested, "You and Torian handle hiring the frigate."

    Wrehn was gladdened to hear Gault commit to sticking around for this job, but she felt Mako missed a small but vital detail.

    "I hope Imperial troops like money," she said, smiling at Mako. Turning her smile towards Gault, she added, "If they like duty and honor more, your suggestion could end up with a few of us under arrest on bribery charges."

    Skadge not catching the finer points Wrehn had laid out, scoffed at her.

    "Since when are you scared of bribing anyone? You do it all the time."

    Mako had gotten Wrehn's point and spelled it out for the Houk to see.

    "Skadge, bribery works most of the time, but when it's a civil war, everyone changes sides, and you don't know who's on what side anymore. So, you got to be careful who you're bribing."

    Skadge's facade took on a look of deep concentration, as he mulled over Mako's words.

    As he pondered the matter, Gault interrupted him, poking his massive bicep with his finger, and teasingly chiding the brute.

    "Skadge, you're going to sprain your brain if you keep that up! I need you alert while I talk to the Imps."

    Skadge felt terribly insulted.

    "I'm in great shape! I ain't gonna sprain nothing!" he countered, defending himself.

    "Good!” Gault said, veiling another insult behind his compliment, “I need your strong muscles! You can’t lift much with your brain, can you? So, let's use your muscles instead. Your muscles are what's important for our next job."

    Skadge was close to realizing he'd been called stupid, but was easily distracted as Gault hopped out of his seat. The Devaronian started flexing his biceps. He challenged the Houk.

    "Come on Skadge! Show me what you got!"

    Skadge got up from his seat and proudly flexed his biceps, each easily more than twice the size of Gault's thighs.

    Gault spoke excitedly, to cover his amusement at Skadge's expense.

    "That's what I'm talking about! Those are some big blaster cannons! Those'll come in handy and make up for your lack of acumen!"

    Gault stood beside Skadge, comparing flexed biceps with the bruiser. Again, Skadge had the feeling that something about Gault's wording seemed a bit off, but he couldn't put his finger on it.

    Skadge gave up on figuring out how he'd been ridiculed, and instead asked, "Why do you need my strong muscles for anyway, Gault? I thought you was gonna talk to 'em."

    "Well, it's simple, Skadge,” Gault explained, “You're gonna show how big and strong you are so that the Imps don't get the wrong idea and think that I don't have any backup. It's not important that you lack sagacity." Poking at Skadge's biceps again, he concluded, "You got it where it really counts."

    Listening to Gault speak made Mako think of a used speeder salesman. She shook her head disapprovingly at the mischievous Devaronian.

    "You just love playing with fire. Don't you, Gault?"

    Straining to hold back his laughter, Gault gave a smile that was too wide, making him look more devilish than usual. His perfect white teeth contrasting sharply with his red skin.

    "Life would be boring otherwise," he replied, turning to Skadge for confirmation, "Ain't that right Skadge?"

    "I like working here,” the Houk confirmed, “There's always something fun to do."

    "This is the very reason why we do our jobs,” Mako said, in a businesslike manner, “because there is always something fun in our jobs to do, like taking this incoming call from a very official-looking Imperial government holo-frequency, for example."

    "What's so fun about…," Skadge started to ask.

    "Shut it, Skadge!" Wrehn snapped, cutting him off. Then, "Mako, put it though."

    Gault resumed his seat. It was one of ten that was arranged around the holo-terminal in the command and communications section of Wrehn's ship. The holographic image of a female Togrutan with a very aggressive and forebodingly dark pattern tattooed onto her face, montrals, and probably, her neck appeared. Her armor had a high protective collar that hid her neck and throat from view. It wasn’t possible to see if her neck and throat were also tattooed.

    Most Togrutans wore their clan colors, tattooing them onto their faces, montrals, and necks. Sometimes they even tattooed patterns onto their shoulders, arms, hands, and even onto their chests. The Togrutan clans usually liked using bright yellows, blues, reds, and other bright natural colors with small hints of white and, very rarely, black.

    This Togrutan was very, very different. Her markings were predominantly black and white, more black than white, with a splash of bright red centered vertically on a field of white, on her face.

    She wore black robes with bright red markings. Underneath her robes, she wore a flexible very heavy synthetic fabric armor with metal plate armor sections riveted onto the flexible armored fabric. The armor was also black with bright red markings. Her knee high boots had metal shin guards which ended in a spike, pointing up and away, above the knee.

    "Very handy for kneeing someone to death," Wrehn thought of her shin guards.

    The Togrutan spoke somberly.

    "I am Ashara Zavros, Lord of the Sith. My master, Darth Nox, Dark Lord of the Sith, will speak to you shortly. Before he does, I will convey to you the proper decorum to use when addressing him."

    "We're Mandalorians, here,” Wrehn interrupted, speaking brusquely, “We don't have nor need decorum. We only need to do business. If he has a job for us, we'll hear him out, but if he thinks we're going to bend and wallow for him, he's gonna be real disappointed. If he's done business with Mandalorians before, then he should already know this."

    The Togrutan remained amazingly calm throughout Wrehn’s rude interruption.

    "What you have said is true when dealing with ordinary Sith lords,” the Sith lord said, “However, this is no ordinary Sith lord. He is a dark lord, seated on the Dark Council. At the very least, be respectful to him and remember to address him as, Dark Lord. I will now advise my lord that you are awaiting his presence."

    The Togrutan's image vanished. Mako and Gault both spoke at the same time.

    "Wrehn," "Boss…"

    Gault told Mako, "You first."

    "Boss, don't push it with him,” Mako cautioned Wrehn, “I've been doing research on him. I think we should be careful with him. Sith Politics is kind of tricky. He's got to destroy anything that makes him even appear the least bit weak – just to send a message to the other Sith that he's not weak."

    "When doing business with a rancor,” Gault added, as though giving sage advice, “it's important NOT to poke the rancor's hide, not even with a very, very long stick."

    Wrehn expected Mako to have information on their client, since Mako was connected to the Holo-Net via her cybernetic implants, but Gault surprised her.

    "Gault, what do you know about this Sith? What's got you spooked?"

    "Did you forget what Mako just told us down in the crew mess?” Gault replied, incredulous, “He's on the Dark Council, Wrehn. He murdered his way up to that post with everybody watching him do it – and nobody called him on it! He's got to have some real spooky credentials to be able to be where he's at the way he got there. What more do you really need to know to be careful about how you deal with him?"

    The Togrutan's holographic image returned.

    "The dark lord has been called away to an urgent conference. He has charged me with negotiating the contract with you, and with coordinating your part in his plans."

    Wrehn, got straight to business.

    "So, what's the job?"

    "How much do you know of what's happening, currently?" Ashara Zavros asked.

    "Are you Imps really having a civil war?" Wrehn asked, remarking, "You're not even done fighting with the Republic, yet. What? Is the Republic starting to bore you guys?"

    Ashara ignored the impertinent inquiries and comments.

    "A civil war is a good way of putting it," the Sith lord remarked, then went on to explain, "Darth Malgus, an agent of the Dark Council, has committed treason. He has usurped the Imperial Throne, elevating himself above the Dark Council and declaring himself Emperor. It is a direct affront to the true Sith Emperor and to the Dark Council.

    "He has subverted much of the Empire, gaining the support of many moffs, high admirals and high generals, as well as the support of several prominent Sith lords. Additionally, he has garnered the political support of foreign governing bodies.

    “The Hutts, through proxies, have shown him favor by lending him many trillions of credits to finance his war of treason and rebellion. Meanwhile, the Voss have sent emissaries to observe his battle against the true Sith Emperor and the Dark Council.

    "My lord, Darth Nox, is leading the war against Darth Malgus, the usurper, but we have found many spies, saboteurs, and subversive elements within the Imperial Navy and Army. Because of this, my lord must endure the humiliation of relying on hired mercenaries to follow him into battle."

    "Am I hearing you correctly?” Wrehn asked carefully, “He doesn't trust his own forces?" Then, with much incredulity, she asked, "Is he looking to hire a Mandalorian army to fight the Imperial Army?"

    Ashara maintained her cool demeanor as she replied, "He trusts his Imperial forces to fight in the name of the true Sith Emperor against the rebellious scum. He trusts them to fervently destroy those who have abandoned their loyalty to the true Emperor. He trusts them to seek the destruction of those who flocked to the support of that charlatan and usurper, Malgus. Darth Nox, however, does not trust them to watch his back.

    "The Army has proven to be susceptible to subversion. Mercenaries, on the other hand, are only susceptible to whomever signs a contract for their paid services, and the Mandalorians have a proven track record of honoring their contracts."

    Wrehn looked pointedly at Gault.

    "So, hiring Imperial troops on the cheap is out of the question," Wrehn said to him, then addressing Ashara Zavros, "How many Mandalorian warriors does he want on his – security detail?

    Ashara nodded, confirmation.

    "Security detail is a good way to put it,” she said, “but the dark lord also sees it as his personal additional firepower." The Sith lord concluded, "Twenty Mandalorian warriors should be enough."

    Wrehn disagreed, shaking her head to show it.

    "I think he's going to need no less than sixty Mandalorians,” she told the Sith lord, “Two heavy combat platoons with overpowered weapons. If he's worried that his Imperial troops will turn on him at the last moment, then we'll have to be ready to survive betrayal and destroy the traitors.

    "That is NOT going to be cheap. We'll have to use responsive-shielded armor – rated to withstand Imperial Army blaster cannon fire, and we'll need weaponry capable of destroying Imperial Army heavy war droids. It's going to be a blood bath."

    Wrehn fell silent and lowered her chin to her cupped hand. She took on a look of great concentration, as though working out several pertinent details in her mind. Ashara Zavros' image looked on silently as she waited for Wrehn to say what was on her mind.

    Mako, Gault, Skadge, and Torian looked intently at Wrehn, waiting to see what price she would exact from the Sith. Wrehn made that, thinking really hard, pose when she was about to charge a really high fee.

    "This job is gonna be a ton of fun. We're gonna do a whole lotta fighting and killing and blasting things to pieces!" Skadge said, excitedly.

    Wrehn finally looked up at Ashara's waiting holographic image and named her price.

    "One billion credits, with seven hundred million in advance for upfront costs."

    Ashara's eyes widened in surprise, but before she could protest, Wrehn itemized the expenses.

    "I need to hire a frigate to transport the troops. I need to negotiate the contracts with the clan leaders of each platoon of mercenaries. I'll likely have to purchase their weapons and armor, or replace their damaged weapons and armor. That's a business expense. Finally, I'll likely have to pay a bereavement bonus for each mercenary killed in action to their next of kin. Gods forbid if the Imperial Navy attacks and destroys my hired frigate! Then I've got my own expenses to worry about for my own crew."

    Ashara gave Wrehn such a look of shock and surprise. It was the most emotion, Wrehn had seen come from the remarkably calm Sith lord. Wrehn felt she had to point out a few things, to make her sale.

    "If you think I'm gouging you, then consider that I'm going to get gouged by the crews I hire, especially the Mandalorian Navy frigate. According to you, my crews might run the risk of getting jettisoned into space if I rely on subverted Imperial naval forces for transport.

    I wanted to charge you lower prices, it's why I wanted to bribe Imperial troops, but you said Imp troops are a no go, that they can't be trusted. Since you're fighting a civil war and can't trust who's on whose side, that's how it has to go. One billion credits with seven hundred million in advance for upfront costs."

    Ashara, opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it again and also closed her eyes. She seemed to go into meditation for a time.

    When she opened her eyes again, she declared, "Very well. We have a deal."

    Wrehn fought hard against her elation, barely managing to maintain a sober expression.

    "Mako, draw up the contract, and transmit it to our client for their signature."

    Mako, not trusting herself to speak, managed a single worded response, "Right."

    Gault and Torian both stared at Skadge. Their eyes bore into him as though they were willing him into silence. Skadge was Skadge, however. No amount of powerful willing was going to keep him from saying his say.

    "Now that's what I'm talking about! We're gonna go on a killing spree!"

    Wrehn, straining to hold back her panic, used every reserve of calm that she could muster and spoke to him in a very calm and reserved manner.

    "Shut it, Skadge. I don't want to hear it."

    "I have received the signed contract," Mako said.

    Wrehn's personal datapad hummed and vibrated on her utility belt. She pulled it out of its compartment and read the message on its screen.

    "From: Cignos Statti Bank of Nar Shaddaa. To: Yehw'reh'nomai. Esteemed banking customer, 700,000,000 credits, Imperial currency, have been deposited to your account. Converted to Hutt currency it translates to 689,395,231 credits. Your total savings is now 754,634,022 credits, Hutt currency. Have a bountiful day!"

    Wrehn looked up at Ashara's image, fighting desperately against smiling or showing any kind of excitement.

    "We'll be ready in one galactic standard week,” Wrehn said, her voice nearly cracking from the thrill that she felt, “Where do you want us?"

    "I'll contact you with those details in a few days," The Sith Lord replied, soberly.

    Ashara cut the connection and her holographic image was gone.

    Wrehn, Gault, Mako, Torian, and Skadge stared blankly at the empty space above the holo-terminal for a few seconds, before Wrehn finally let out an ear splitting, high pitched "WOOOOOOO!" Followed by a full-throated, "YEAAAAHHHH!”

    Mako jumped up and down, shouting in jubilation. Torian wore a very big smile. Nodding towards Wrehn, he gave her his congratulations, speaking first in Mando'a, and then translating it into Basic for the benefit of the others.

    "That means, 'Congratulations, Commander! You have done a very great thing!"

    "Wrehn, you've outdone yourself!” Gault said, applauding enthusiastically, “This has got to be the greatest con I have ever witnessed in my life! I don't think I'll be able to top that for a very long time!" Turning to Torian, he spoke sagely, telling him, "Torian, remember. Say it in Basic, the first time, every time."

    Skadge laughed happily, declaring, "Yeah! We're gonna blow a lot of crap up! That's what I'm talking about!"
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021
  8. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter Eight: A Very Cold World​


    Wrehn jerked her head up as a flight of four Imperial fighters greatly startled her with their banshees’ screams. The four fighter bombers streaked by, one after the other, very low across a star littered sky on their way to a bombing run. She noted that the anti-air ion cannon, protecting their tiny makeshift spaceport, remained motionless, neither shooting at nor tracking the fighter bombers as they shot past overhead.

    "Then those were friendlies,” Wrehn thought, nervously, “I hope."

    She wore her brand new heavy, full-body, powered, reactive, armored suit for this mission. The new armored suit had built in personal adaptive environmental control systems to keep the wearer cool in hot environments or warm in cold environments.

    Calimos-Peent manufactured Wrehn's new powered armored suit. They specialized in high threat, extreme environment armored systems. It was a wholly owned subsidiary of Brenna Armor Systems. Both companies were based on Csilla, Wrehn’s home world.

    In addition to climate control, her new armor boasted intelligent reactive protective systems. These systems were designed to detect and avoid threats. One of the protective systems did this by activating actuators that moved the suit and its occupant out of harm’s way. The suit could actually dodge incoming attacks. Another of the active protective systems in her suit was designed to intelligently determine which shield generator array to activate depending on the type of incoming threat detected.

    There were other active and passive protective systems which made survivability in difficult, high threat environments a greater likelihood. To manage all of these systems, life support, and to communicate with its occupant, a tiny positronic brain with an artificial intelligence was incorporated into the wearer’s helm.

    The average cost of these powered armored suits was around two million seven hundred and fifty thousand to three million credits, depending on features. Wrehn didn’t get the three million credit version of the suit, because she didn’t like chasing her bounty marks in the vacuum of space.

    She preferred to confront her bounty marks on planets, moons, or in starships and space stations, places with breathable air. Wrehn hated being in the vacuum of space. Space was too dangerous, she believed. She shivered at the idea of getting knocked away from her ship, or getting a rupture in her suit and slowly but painfully dying from asphyxiation.

    The high price tag of her suit, and the extreme environments the suit was designed for, was the reason her armored system was rarely seen in use. In fact, she’d never seen such armored systems before, until she started shopping for new armor for this job.

    The marketing team did a great job selling Wrehn on their company’s powered armored suit. She’d bought five of them, one for herself and for each of her crew. Skadge's and Mako's suits cost one hundred fifty thousand more, because they were off sizes. Skadge's suit was huge, and Mako's was very small.

    Wrehn’s sixty hired mercenaries brought their own equipment. She briefly inspected a few of them in the dim starlit ice field.

    "It's nothing as fancy, but it's not crap either," she thought.

    She watched as her two hired platoons of heavily armored Mandalorian warriors, unloaded crates of munitions and other supplies. Four field portable battery chargers, rolled down the ramp of their dropship. Those were important. As personal force shield generators or blast shield generators depleted their batteries, the batteries would need to be quickly recharged. The same was true for their blaster rifles. Those also used batteries that needed recharging in the field.

    The portable battery chargers were actually droids on tracks. The droids would follow the platoons, staying out of trouble but remaining constantly ready to accept and recharge batteries.

    Wrehn thought about how ubiquitous droids were. Even her very expensive all environment, powered, armored suit was really just a droid that she put on. She was wearing a droid that not only protected her from the very cold atmosphere of Ilum – just a few degrees above liquefying, but she was armored against pretty much anything short of a strafing or bombing run from enemy fighter craft.

    Additionally, the suit assisted her movements. She could march for tens of kilometers carrying a heavy load with very little effort. The suit did the heaving lifting for her.

    Ilum’s orbit was so far out from its parent star, that the star appeared as though it were just a very bright, extra large star in a night sky filled with smaller, normal sized stars. Yet, it was high noon – in the middle of summer – on the southern hemisphere of the planet. The frozen water and carbon dioxide ice made Ilum's landscape glow a ghostly dim bluish white, as the light of the stars and Ilum's super distant sun barely lit up the world.

    Wrehn, standing with her crew, watched as the two leaders of her hired platoons approached her. The two stopped in their tracks and turned around to watch a long series of extremely bright flashes of light reflecting off the bottoms of clouds in the horizon.

    The flashes lit up the entire landscape, casting eerie shadows across the surfaces of the frozen water and frozen carbon dioxide ice fields. The methane clouds were themselves reflected off the surface of the methane lake nearby, as they were illuminated by the distant explosions.

    Probably them bombers striking their targets,” Wrehn thought.

    The two Mandalorian leaders came to a stop before Wrehn. One of them spoke to her in the Mandalorian language, Mando'a.

    "I greet you, Sister. Will we join that glorious battle on the horizon?"

    Wrehn disappointed him, replying in Mando'a.

    "No. That's not our fight. That fight might even end up being pointless."

    "How so, Sister?"

    "We shall support my client as he fights for his faction against his faction’s enemies by providing him with personal security and to add our firepower to his battles. If my client wins his battles, the war shall end."

    Torian Cadera spoke up.

    "From here on out, Brother, refer to her as Commander, or as Great Hunt Champion."

    "I meant no disrespect, Brother...," The platoon leader replied, to Torian.

    His helmeted head swiveled towards Wrehn, as he finished his reply, "Commander."

    Wrehn began issuing her orders.

    "Torian, you go with Captain Tartan. You'll lead his platoon, but Captain Tartan will relay your orders to his men."

    "Understood, Commander."

    Wrehn's helmet swiveled towards Gault Rennow, speaking in Galactic Basic, she told him, "Gault, you go with Lieutenant Dremon. You'll lead her platoon, but Lieutenant Dremon will relay your orders to her men."

    "You got it, Boss," Gault replied.

    Captain Tartan, Lieutenant Dremon, Torian, and Wrehn were all Mandalorian. Wrehn's helm was already pointed towards Gault, but the three others all swiveled their helms as they regarded Gault's lax behavior.

    Neither Wrehn's team nor the Mandalorian platoon members' helms had transparent visors. Those could shatter. The helms completely obscured their faces, so the disapproval showing on their visages could not be appreciated by Gault.

    To see the landscape around them, the helmets had sensors that projected holographic images onto a screen in front of the wearer’s face. The screen curved around his face, just beyond his peripheral vision. It also extended above the wearer’s brow, and below his lips, giving a very good approximation of seeing in the real world.

    This was the industry standard in visor-less helmet construction. In some models, as in the case of Wrehn’s helm, the screen rotated within the helmet with her head as she looked up, down, and side to side.

    The screen, however, displayed more than just a three dimensional image of the landscape – and of each individual gathered for their leaders’ meeting. Range, direction, elevation, altitude, and other information was also displayed on the screen. No one’s face was visible, but identifiers superimposed onto the images of each armored individual helped to determine who was who.

    Gault understood a few words of Mando'a, but didn’t speak it.

    "I'm not Mandalorian, like you four,” he said in Basic, “I don't have to call her Commander."

    Wrehn signaled Gault to switch to the team channel. Gault, Torian, Mako, and Skadge, as well as Wrehn all switched to a private channel that only her crew could receive. Wrehn spoke directly to him.

    "Gault, don't make me regret putting you in charge of these troops. Don't embarrass me in front of them again. For this job, you're calling me, Commander. You got that?"

    Gault sighed.

    "Yeah, sure. Fine," he said, a bit peeved and switched back to the general channel.

    Switching back to the general channel, she issued her next orders, again in Galactic Basic.

    "Mako, Skadge, you're both with me," the Chiss hunter ordered.

    Before the two could reply, she quickly went on, "In a couple of minutes, three Imperial dropships will land here. They'll transport us all to the insertion point at the enemy's command and control center.

    “Imperial forces loyal to the incumbent Emperor, are fighting for control of this planet with rebelling Imperial forces supporting the challenger to the throne. This planet has a very valuable mineral resource which they just took from the Republic and the Jedi.

    "Whoever controls this mineral resource will gain a technological advantage over the other. That's all I know about what's at stake on this planet. At stake across the galaxy is the Imperial throne. My client, a dark councilor wants us to escort him and his party to the insertion point, and to deliver them safely to the command center and to the Sith who, out of the blue, decided to call himself emperor.

    "We'll be linking up with this Sith delegation, soon. So be on your best behavior and watch what you say around them. I don't know if any of you have worked closely with the Sith before, but they can get really touchy over the stupidest things."

    Soon, Wrehn would forget her own advice.

    Captain Tartan spoke in Galactic Basic, with a heavy Mandalorian accent.

    "Commander, you have dealt with these Sith before?" he asked.

    "Yeah, a few years back, I took a job for a moff whose daughter was a Sith lord, Vereta Fraabaal. She was working for another Sith who got on the wrong side of Sith politics on Dromund Kaas. The Dark Council was gonna send Imperial troops to wipe these guys out.

    "The moff hired me to assassinate his daughter, to preserve her honor and to spare the rest of his family from the fallout that was gonna affect his whole clan for having ties with the wrong Sith."

    Wrehn laughed, adding, "We ended up freezing her in carbonite, smuggling her out of her bosses' compound, and taking her back to her dad. He cried like a baby, thanking us to high heaven and giving us a bonus. But his daughter, Vereta Fraabaal, swore to kill us for rescuing her instead of killing her honorably, 'cause now she owed us a debt."

    Wrehn laughed again. Torian and Gault laughed with her.

    “Fun times,” Gault quipped.

    “Yeah,” Torian agreed.

    "She never came after you, Commander?" Lieutenant Dremon asked, also in Mandalorian accented Basic.

    "Oh, no!” Wrehn replied, laughing some more, “She came after us a few times while we was still on Dromund Kaas. The last time she tried, we shot her up pretty good, but her shield generator lasted long enough for her to get away, but we ended up shooting off one of her arms below the elbow. She stopped coming after us, after that."

    "Uh… Commander, here comes company," Mako said.

    She pointed, and everyone turned to look. Wrehn could see nothing but the black sky with its powdering of stars. She activated her helmet's visual enhancement filters, and saw three craft flying very low, following the terrain, as they popped up and down over the peaks of frozen carbon dioxide covered mountain ridges.

    As the ships neared, Torian spoke.

    "Commander, have we been given IFF codes to screen for friendlies and bad guys?"

    Wrehn turned her eyes towards the bottom right corner of her in-helmet display, and saw that the IFF indicator was faded out, meaning it hadn't been activated. She cursed herself as she corrected that error. A second later, the three approaching craft, were highlighted with green borders. The others in her crew, and her hired mercenaries were all automatically updated with the IFF codes as well.

    As the ships made their final approach to land, it became clear that these were the three Imperial drop ships they'd been waiting for. The three craft landed, kicking up clouds of frozen carbon dioxide and frozen water crystals.

    Wrehn began to walk towards the drop ships.

    "Skadge, Mako, come with me,” she called out, “The rest of you join your platoons."

    Torian and Gault followed their respective Mandalorian officers to their respective platoons of mercenary fighters. Mako and Skadge followed Wrehn to the far edge of the landing field, a mostly flat sheet of frozen water and carbon dioxide ice.

    The ship to Wrehn's left was the only one to show activity after the landing. A single individual exited from an airlock. The individual, in an ordinary space suit approached Wrehn's small party. The individual was taller, and bulkier than Skadge, and was armed with an oversized savage looking vibrosword, which he carried in his hand. He came to a stop before the trio.

    "I am here to confirm that you are the wretches my master's mistress has hired to be his fodder," the behemoth said.

    Reining in a scathing retort, Wrehn replied to the taunt in a neutral tone.

    "We'll be the most expensive fodder he's ever hired, and he'll be surprised at how much damage us fodder will do to his enemies."

    The behemoth, dwarfing even Skadge, stepped around Wrehn and her small party, and looked in the direction of her hired guns.

    "You will be overworked,” the behemoth said, “We will battle our way to a great enemy. You should have brought more fighters." Turning to face Wrehn, he ordered, "Load your trash onto those two ships."

    The behemoth pointed at the two ships from which he did not emerge. Accordingly, Wrehn gave her orders.

    "Torian, Gault get your troops on board the middle and right-most dropships."

    To the behemoth, Wrehn said, "I'm getting on the ship you got out of. I need to talk to your master and make final arrangements with him."

    "I will not permit filth to be in the presence of my masher,” the towering monster replied, “You may,…."

    Wrehn had enough.

    "Listen, you lump of bio-waste,” She shouted, at the hulking humanoid, “I've had it with your crap talk! I'm providing a service to your master, not to you! I need to be in his face to work out the details, before we land at the insertion point." Pointing at Skadge and Mako in turn, she added, "And I'm taking these two with me. So, if there ain't enough room on your master's ship, then you can ride on one of the other ships."

    The monster behemoth remained silent. His hand and arm moved as though it could not decide whether to raise his savage weapon in preparation of swinging it down on the vermin before him, or instead reach for a button on the forearm of his other arm. After a moment of indecision, his free hand finally pushed the button on the space suit bracer on his other arm.

    "Stay here," the monster growled menacingly.

    Then it turned away, making its way back to the ship from which he'd come. The behemoth waited outside the airlock, on the ice. He waited until another, much smaller, figure emerged and descended the ladder on the side of the dropship.

    Wrehn shifted her attention from the monster to Torian and Gault, and watched as they led their troops to the Imperial dropships. The Mandalorian mercenaries, laden with their equipment, crates of munitions and other supplies, loaded everything up the rear ramps of their Imperial transports. The dropship that brought them to the planet’s surface took off, to return to the Razor’s Edge, the Mandalorian frigate Wrehn had hired to bring her and her hired guns to Ilum.

    The monster and the normal sized figure both approached Wrehn's party of three. It was definitely a Sith Lord. The individual wore a lightsaber on each hip. The Sith stopped before Wrehn, somehow knowing which was the leader without her sensors being updated on who was who. She spoke without preamble.

    "If you are not careful with your tone of voice, the dark lord may slay you, and order your teams killed. The dark lord will allow you on his ship. Only you. The others shall board the other shuttles."

    Wrehn realized the Sith was Ashara Zavros.

    "You're pretty mild mannered – for a Sith."

    The behemoth activated his vibrosword and lifted it above his head, making as though to attack, but Ashara stuck her arm out, holding back the monster.

    "It is my most fervent desire to see my lord succeed. I believe that with his influence, the Dark Council shall be satisfied with complete conquest over the Galactic Republic, and with their conquest the wars shall end."

    The arm she held out slowly swung forward, and her spread open fingers balled up, except her index finger, which she used to point at Wrehn's helmeted face.

    "I will slay you myself if I think you will get in his way. Do NOT disrespect my lord. Do you understand me?"

    Wrehn, not wanting to lose out on the remaining three hundred million credits owed for this contract, decided to tone down the attitude.

    "Alright, already. I get it,” she replied, raising both hands placatingly, “You want me to behave and show some manners. I get it. OK?"

    Turning to face Skadge and Mako, she told them, "Get on the other drop ships. Looks like I gotta take care of the last minute details on my own."

    "I'll try to keep in contact to help you with the numbers,” Mako replied, “if you need it."

    "Mako, I can at least do math on my own," Wrehn said, as she turned to follow Ashara and the beast, Wrehn added, "But keep your ears open anyway, just in case something happens. You know?"

    "Yeah. I'll be ready to instantly correct your math errors," Mako replied with a snort.

    Wrehn sat in the last seat, at the back of the dropship. The Sith all sat at the head of the troop compartment. All of them wore space suits with their helmets off. She overheard them talk. They planned to remove their space suits once they had entered the base, and change into their armor. They expected that, inside the base, the temperatures would be at normal settings for the survival of the rebelling personnel. She counted six Sith in all, plus that monstrous beast. Seven, total. She later found it had a name, Khem Val.

    "Why didn't I just do what that monster told me and ride with the others?!" Wrehn thought in dismay, “I can’t believe my rotten luck!

    One of the Sith in Darth Nox’s party turned out to be the daughter that she'd smuggled to her father instead of killing, Vereta Fraabaal. Wrehn had kept her helmet on, worried that the crazy Sith would just go after her right inside the dropship.

    "Mako," Wrehn said in a very low voice over her crew's private channel, "You're not going to believe who's on the dropship with me."

    "Wait! Let me guess!” the cybernetically enhanced human female asked, facetiously, “Darth Nox?"

    "Vereta Fraabaal," Wrehn said, simply.

    Mako laughed raucously.

    "Wrehn, you got some real strange luck!"

    Wrehn only sighed and shook her head in disbelief.

    Darth Nox rose from his seat and made his way to the back of the dropship.

    He sat in the seat across from hers and briefly inspected her armor.

    "Remove your helm,” he ordered, “I want to see with whom I'm speaking."

    "This particular suit model has the helmet permanently attached to the chest piece," Wrehn answered, lying.

    "I can sense your fear,” Nox replied, flatly, “and I can tell that you've just lied to me. Do not do that again. Now, remove your helm."

    "There's no helping it," she thought, hesitating.

    With a hiss of the escaping climate controlled air inside her suit, she unsealed and unseated her helmet.

    As Nox studied her face, Wrehn could hear Vereta's voice, "What? No, it can't be..."

    Vereta fell silent again, as Nox turned his gaze to regard the Sith lord. After a moment to quietly watch her, the dark lord returned his gaze to Wrehn.

    "She seems to know who you are," he observed, then asking, "You've met before?"

    "It was complicated business,” Wrehn said, dryly, “I make it a policy not to discuss other client's business deals. So, let's leave it at that."

    Nox was about to speak, but Wrehn cut him off.

    "Think of how well I'll protect the secrets of our business deals,” she said, as though explaining a special feature of her services, telling the dark lord, “If I'm not gonna talk about my other clients' business with you, then you can bet that I'll keep all of your business deals with me quiet, too."

    “You think we’ll do business again?” Nox asked, doubtful.

    “I have lots of repeat customers. They like my work,” Wrehn said.

    Nox nodded his acceptance of her explanation of keeping quiet, then went on to explain his plan.

    "Imperial forces shall breach the base perimeter air locks and enter the base. We shall follow behind my forces. You will provide security for me and my special operations team. When we have reached the usurper, you shall provide security, keeping all enemies from reinforcing the false emperor."

    "You won't need me and my troops in your fight with the uh…., False Emperor?" Wrehn asked her client.

    "Filth!” Khem Val interjected angrily, “You shall address him as Dark Lord!"

    Wrehn was about to tell Khem Val to plug his mouth hole shut, but remembering who were all sitting in the troop compartment with her, instead spoke politely.

    "I'm a Mandalorian,” she said, reasonably, explaining, “He ain't my lord. He's my client."

    Then she fell silent, waiting for Nox to answer her question, and waiting for the fireworks to begin.

    "Let me slay this vile scum, Dark Lord!" Vereta said, her voice shaking with fury.

    Nox shook his head, denying her request. Instead, he produced a small yellow pad of flimsiplast, used to take short hurried notes by scrawling with the pressure of one's finger across its surface. He returned the pad to its compartment on his utility belt after tearing a sheet of it from the pad. He folded the small square sheet into ever smaller squares until it was a very small and tightly bulked up square. He then flicked it at Wrehn's face.

    The impact the folded page on her cheek made an explosive crack of sound, and snapped her head back. Fortunately for her, the raised back collar of her armored suit prevented her head from snapping all the way back, or her neck would have broken.

    Not only did the dark lord attack Wrehn with that piece of paper, he used Force Push against her.

    Wrehn’s entire mass was shoved back against the seat she sat on, causing the metal frame of her seat to warp out of true.

    "Do not try my patience,” he told her, in a cool unhurried manner, “I'm worked up to a killing frenzy, and I could just as easily start my killing spree with you."

    Wrehn unsealed and unseated her armored glove. She touched her cheek, which stung painfully. Her hand came away covered with so much blood. Her whole body ached. Wrehn didn’t understand how he’d done that to her, but it was kind of scary to her.

    As she removed her other glove, Darth Nox leaned back in his seat. He watched impassively as Wrehn applied an ointment onto her face to stop the bleeding.

    "I forgot your question,” Nox said, “Ask it again."

    Wrehn knew she was backed into a corner. She felt she was swallowing back bile, but it was her fury that she swallowed back, and her pride, as she repeated her question.

    "You won't need me and my troops in your fight with that false emperor, uh…, Dark Lord?"

    Darth Nox smiled, nodding approval of her fearlessness. Even though he felt that her fearlessness was born out of ignorance of his power and what he was capable of.

    "Remember to address me as such, from here on out. Do you understand?"

    "Sure, Dark Lord," Wrehn replied, smoothly.

    Her face was cast down in shame, and her anger made her voice low. Nox cocked his head and cupped his hand to his ear, as though he had trouble hearing.

    "Yes, Dark Lord," Wrehn snarled, her jaw clenched.

    Khem Val snorted, and spoke angrily.

    "Filth! You have no power! You aught not speak as though you held power! Know your place! Or I shall feast on your carcass!"

    "Dark Lord,” Wrehn declared, “my troops and I will provide you the best customer service your money is paying for,” she said, with a bit of sarcasm. With a bright smile, which stung her cheek, she added, “You don't have to worry about whether we’re packing enough firepower! We'll keep your Sith safe and sound, Dark Lord."

    Nox turned to face the forward end of the crew compartment.

    "Lord Ashara, you've failed to convey to these mercenaries how to conduct themselves in my presence,” he told her, as though he’d found a typing error in an electronic document, “I'll have to do it for you."

    “Forgive my failure, Dark Lord,” Ashara replied, evenly, “I overestimated their intelligence.”

    With that, he held his hand out towards Wrehn, palm up, as though he'd expected her to put something in it. Wrehn felt searing pain on her cheek again, as a bloody projectile shot out of her face and snapped to a stop, hovering over the palm of his hand, dripping her blood into the palm of his hand.

    Wrehn clutched at her face, gritting her teeth and growling in agony. It felt as though a piece of her flesh had been torn out from inside of her cheek. She looked at the dark lord as he subtly waved his other hand at her. An unseen force pried her hands away from her face.

    The bloodied folded flimsiplast, hovering over his palm shot into her face again. Wrehn screamed, from the agony. Then the blood soaked wad of flimsiplast ripped itself out of her face again.

    She screamed in agony again. The pain was too much.

    Nox leaned back again, waiting for Wrehn to look at him.

    When she did, he told her, "We could do this all the way to the drop point. Have you appointed anyone to take your place, should you die? Who is your second in command?"

    Wrehn realized she was going to die on the eve of making the biggest bank of her hunting career.

    She decided to swallow her pride.

    "You have made your point very clear, Dark Lord,” she said, “For the money you're paying, I should be much more polite. I apologize."

    “I don't accept apologies alone,” Nox said, explaining, “If I accept an apology, I’ll expect tributes be attached with it. Think of a tribute that you can offer me, one that will ease my wrath towards you."

    A small shudder and bump told the passengers in the dropship that they had arrived to the insertion point.

    Wrehn applied a thick slathering of the ointment to the ragged wound on her cheek, plus a half dose of kolto, to deaden the pain. She didn't want her mind fogged up by the side effects of kolto, even though her face felt as though it were on fire. She replaced her helm, as did the Sith and the monster named Khem Val.

    She got her gloves back on and activated her helmet electronics.

    Immediately, Mako was on.

    "Wrehn! What happened, you were out of comm! We couldn't reach you! Is everything alright?"

    The sounds of explosions thumped through Wrehn's helm as the ramp dropped down.

    Yehw’reh’nomai walked down the lowered ramp instead of using the side airlock, how she got in.

    "I'm still alive. Aren't I?"
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2021
  9. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter Nine: The Udmanta Mine Incident​


    The open and vast ice field came to an abrupt end at the bottom of a ridge of ice covered mountains. At the foot of these mountains, scattered across the shattered and cratered ice as far as the eye could see in the dim light, were the crushed, dented and twisted pieces of black armor. Within these ruined pieces of armor were the mangled, smashed, shredded pieces of the Imperial men and women who'd once worn them.

    In the dim light of the stars and the very distant sun, their frozen pools of blood seemed to stain black the broken fields of frozen water and carbon dioxide ice wherever their broken bodies lay. They died fighting to breach the huge fortified airlock embedded in the bottom of the mountain, or they died fighting to repel the invaders who sought to breach the airlock.

    The battle between the fractured Imperial military was extraordinarily fierce. Imperial troops fought with a will and without hesitation. Their fierce battle only came to an abrupt end when a flight of Imperial fighter bombers swept over the battlefield, unleashing their deadly payloads on the battling warriors below.

    Darth Malgus' forces had attached white epaulets onto the armor on their right shoulders, or painted their right shoulder pauldrons white, to differentiate themselves from the forces loyal to the Sith Emperor. In the dim light of Ilum's day, the white seemed to be a very pale and dimly glowing blue-white color, like the endless fields of ice.

    This small alteration to their dark grey armor was the only way for the two sides to tell each other apart in the very dim daylight of Ilum. Yet the indiscriminate bombing run killed friend and foe alike. It was a slaughter.

    Meanwhile, fifty kilometers from the bottom of the mountain, stood a prefabricated single story office building with twenty office spaces and a large conference room. It was protected by a powerful ray shield projector. Its interior was brightly lit. This was the makeshift headquarters for Darth Nox's forces. The dark lord had to keep his helmet on, however, because the building was not heated.

    Darth Nox expressed his fury at the commander of his forces for failing to breech the airlock as planned. General Reyldah Chagreth offered a solution to the dark lord of Sith.

    "Dark Lord, I have an alternate plan for breaching the base, if you will permit me to explain."

    "Spit it out!" the angry Sith lord barked.

    "I have engineering units on standby. With your permission, I'll send them in to breach the ventilation systems to create alternate entryways."

    Wrehn listened skeptically to the general's plan, becoming doubtful it would work. She became impressed that her client was not some mere politician when he expressed his own skepticism. His battlefield knowledge was illustrated when he berated the general.

    "These ventilation systems are protected with automated blaster cannon turrets throughout the system, and the defenders have probably booby trapped every ventilation system leading to the outside by now! Any ventilation conduit large enough to allow passage has probably been rigged to be collapsed. This is why the plan was to breech the main airlock, and you have failed!"

    “It is why engineers are the main focus of the assault,” the general said, speaking crisply to hide her fear, “They will deactivate the automated blaster cannon turrets and neutralize any booby traps and demolitions that we come across.”

    Wrehn had gathered her subordinate leaders for an impromptu conference. She signaled them to switch to the command channel so that the Imperials would not hear.

    "There's no way anyone's getting in through the airlock, now. The enemy are gonna strengthen security there,” Pointing a thumb over her shoulder at Darth Nox, she added, "and I agree with him about the ventilation systems."

    Nox had the tip of his blazing deep red lightsaber pointed at the general's helmet visor. Her fear ridden face was hidden behind the visor of her helmet. General Chagreth had been desperately attempting to convince him of her plan. However, the dark lord seemed to have become aware of Wrehn and her small group huddling together, seemingly with their own agenda.

    "Any ideas?" Wrehn asked her subordinate leaders.

    Captain Tartan spoke a short phrase.

    "Udmanta mine incident."

    Wrehn had no idea what that was.

    "Huh? What's that?"

    Torian, nodding approval at what Tartan referenced, explained.

    "The Udmanta mine incident. Nearly a hundred years ago, a mutiny occurred on Hethem'cour Two, in Mandalorian space. The leaders of the mutiny barricaded themselves in one of the deeper mines. Callan Hadraah, the chieftain of clan Ormourh ordered a shaped antimatter demolition charge be set on the mountain over the mine.

    "The charge was set off, and most of the mine was collapsed. Fissures were opened in the mountain that led to parts of the mine that hadn't collapsed. He sent sweeper teams down with orders to clean out the remaining mutineers."

    Wrehn turned to Mako.

    "Get me schematics for this base." Turning to Gault, she said, "See if you can smooth talk some of the engineers into giving us a shaped antimatter charge so that we can blow out a big chunk of the mountain. Maybe we can blast a hole and create our own entryway." Turning to Torian, she asked, "What do you think?"

    "Commander, listening to the general and her subordinates, it seems they were trying to gain access by subverting the locking mechanisms and bypassing the security systems. They should have just blasted the airlock clean off,” Torian said, as Captain Tartan nodded his concurrence, “They’ve lost the element of surprise though, and the enemy know that the airlock will be attacked again. They’ll be ready, like you said.”

    “It could still be done,” Captain Tartan said, adding his two credits, “but it’ll cost a lot more lives to succeed."

    Wrehn's party hadn't noticed that Nox was listening in on their conference. None of them imagined that his Imperial forces had the wherewithal to crack Mandalorian codes and decrypt their signals. The Imperial Army had been listening in on their conversations ever since her group had landed on Ilum, waiting for Nox's arrival at the meeting place.

    General Chagreth didn’t know what it was that distracted the dark lord, but with Nox's attention momentarily taken from the general, she breathed a sigh of relief. Fear induced sweat rolled down her face under her armored helmet.

    She thanked the stars that the dark lord had deactivated his weapon and stopped paying attention to her. She knew, however, that she would eventually return to his attention, so she used that time to think of a new strategy to sell to the dark lord.

    "The rubble would have to be cleared,” Torian said, continuing his analysis, “but the cryogenically cold air would be unbreathable, and would catch the defenders inside the base by surprise. Many of them would freeze to death before they could get into all environment protective armor."

    Darth Nox turned to his general.

    "Have you not tried simply blowing off the door?" he asked.

    "To keep in compliance with the dark lord's requirement of preserving the…," the general said, trying to explain.

    "Forget that!” Nox shouted angrily, cutting her off, “Just get me inside!"

    General Reyldah Chagreth snapped a salute, stomped her boot.

    "Yes, Dark Lord!" she shouted with military crispness.

    She performed a militarily crisp about face and began to shout new orders.

    "Colonel Fruntz…!"

    The general never got to complete her orders. She collapsed face first – dead – onto the floor of the unheated prefabricated office. She barely registered the searing heat of Darth Nox's saber burning through the back of her armor and then through her heart before her world went black.

    She died quickly, mercifully. And mercifully, his saber beam did not pierce the front of her armor, so her blood stayed inside of her armored suit. The officers didn’t have to watch her blood pool and freeze on the cryogenically cold floor of the office.

    The dark lord spoke after watching her lifeless armored corpse become still on the floor.

    "Colonel Fruntz, who is in command with this failure now out of my way?"

    The colonel snapped to rigid attention, rendered a crisply executed salute, and smartly stomped his boot on the white painted metal floor.

    "I am, Dark Lord, until headquarters sends her replacement," Colonel Fruntz answered.

    “Good,” Nox replied, “While we wait for her replacement, get your troops to blow that airlock out of my way.”

    “As you wish, Dark Lord!”

    Darth Nox walked out of the dead general's command center to make his way to another office in the building, dedicated to his use. The beast, Khem Val, and two other Sith followed him out. Three Sith remained behind.

    When the doors slid shut behind the retreating party of Sith lords, Ashara Zavros, one of the three Sith who remained, began to berate the officers.

    “Fools!” she shouted, derisively, “What sort of imbeciles would continue to send limited assets, over and again, to needless destruction while following a failed plan?!”

    She looked at each of the officers in the command staff with deep disdain.

    “General Chagreth deserved her execution!” Ashara declared, “She lacked the vision to see that the plan had failed! She lacked the courage to inform the dark lord that the plan had failed and that a new approach was required! She lacked the imagination to quickly try a new approach!

    “Her failure is not that she lost the battle. Her failure was that she kept following the same failed plan and wasted precious resources! Her cowardice kept her from telling Darth Nox early on of the need for a new approach. Do not follow her example,” Ashara declared, “and do not disappoint the dark lord again!”

    One of the two Sith spoke up, thinking to deride Ashara and embarrass her before the Imperial officers and to belittle her before the other Sith lord.

    “What does it matter how many of these fodder die? It is their duty to die if needed. We can always order their replacements.” He smirked, adding, “Or did the sight of so many bloodied and mangled corpses disturb you?”

    He’d seen her distressed reaction at seeing the carnage on the frozen landscape after she’d gotten off of their dropship at the battlefield. The surviving remnants of one of Nox’s divisions were conducting a fighting withdrawal from the airlock, back to their fallback position. The survivors of Malgus’ forces fired relentlessly at the retreating enemy, but they did not, nor could they, conduct a pursuit of their enemy.

    Ashara whirled about to face him, took two stomping steps to get in his face with a finger pointed at his helmet where his nose would have been.

    "The Empire is at civil war!” she shouted into his face, “What reinforcements will we get, and from where?! Wherever the Emperor's loyal servants are, they are facing the traitorous scum who have opted to follow the usurper! There are no reinforcements to be had!

    “Even if reinforcements were to come, how would we know what side they had come to support?! The loyal forces we have here are ALL THAT WE CAN DEPEND ON! We cannot afford to be wasteful!"

    "Get your filthy alien hand away from my face!" he growled, his voice shaking with fury and his jaw clenched.

    "Make me!" Ashara snarled.

    The Sith went for his lightsaber. Ashara used her other hand to shove him away, using The Force to send him flying into the back wall of the makeshift command center office. She drew her lightsabers, igniting them both, and stood at the ready.

    The Sith lord hadn't even ignited his weapon before he found himself slamming into the wall and getting the wind knocked out of him. His dropped weapon had clattered to the floor and skittered to the side of the room and under a desk. He looked, dizzily about for his weapon. Ashara pointed towards the desk with the menacingly humming red beam of one of her weapons.

    "Your arrogance shall be your undoing, alien trash!" he spat out, caustically.

    He reached for the desk, and tried to move it with The Force, intending to throw it at Ashara. However, she anticipated this and countered, using The Force to keep the desk in place. This struggle caused the piece of military office furniture to shake, bounce violently, groan loudly, and warp out of shape, as the two Sith fought for control of the desk.

    Ashara used her other hand to focus as she used The Force to lift her opponent into the air and then throw him onto the already destroyed desk. He crashed off of the desk top, causing it to cave in even more. Bouncing off the ruined desk, he slammed into the other wall with a resounding crash.

    Ashara used The Force to send the ruined metal desk sliding to the other side of the Office. The Imperial officers, men and women, scattered to avoid the hurtling desk, as Ashara leapt into the air at the other Sith lord. He lay on the floor winded and on his back. He struggled to get up, but saw Ashara in the air, both lightsabers pointed towards him like daggers.

    It was too late for him. Both sabers, one bright red, the other bright blue, plunged into the floor, on either side of his helmeted head.

    Ashara's darkly tattooed face was twisted with fury, but was hidden from view within her helmet.

    "I would kill you!” she began, shouting furiously, “but my lord needs you alive to face Malgus,” she said, greatly reducing her fury. In a low but very menacing tone, she concluded, “We can finish this, if you wish, after Malgus is dead."

    The Sith lord was shamed. He sought to humiliate the Togrutan female but instead found himself brought low. The other Sith finally spoke.

    "This is what happens when you underestimate your opponents and overestimate your own power."

    The defeated Sith was further shamed, as the other Sith added, "Lord Ashara, he can't be of any use to the dark lord if he can so easily be beaten. He never even had a chance to ignite his weapon,” the Sith lord said, laughing, “Are you sure we need to keep him?”

    Ashara deactivated her weapons and stepped back from her beaten opponent.

    "Get to work!” she ordered the officers, “The dark lord will not tolerate another failure from you.” To her beaten opponent, “You had better prove your worth when we face Malgus and his treasonous followers.”

    Ashara turned towards Wrehn and walked to where she, her crew, and her hired platoon leaders stood watching the fight.

    "I'm surprised that you yet live,” Ashara remarked to Wrehn, “Perhaps the dark lord has kept you on a whim. Keep your eyes on the back of your head opened. Remember – this time – to keep your tongue in check.”

    With this warning, and after watching how Nox had unhesitatingly killed his general, Wrehn realized that her client was not at all hesitant about ruthlessly removing incompetents and failures from his path. She realized that he was quite arbitrary about who he decided to execute or to spare from his wrath.

    “Follow me,” Ashara ordered the two Sith who remained with her, “We must report to the dark lord. He will have orders for us.”

    Wrehn, her crew and the Imperial officers present, silently watched as the three Sith left the command center.

    Switching to her crew's private channel, Wrehn warned her crew.

    “Hey guys. Keep on your toes and on your best behavior. I may have pissed off our client during the ride here on the dropships. He may be waiting until after the mission to take us out. If that happens, then it's gonna get tricky. Got it?”

    Gault was unsurprised, yet he shook his head in disapproval. Torian made a pained expression, which no one saw behind his helmet visor. Mako whistled her forlorn worries. However, Skadge was more optimistic on his take of the situation.

    “Well, this'll make our job a real challenge! We’ll have a lot of fun!”

    “What has happened?” Lieutenant Dremon asked Gault.

    Gault replied in a brightly enthusiastic tone.

    “Do you remember her advice to be on our best behavior and to watch what we say around the Sith? Well, she wasn't on her best behavior and may not have been watching what she said around the Sith. So, we may have trouble with them later. It's nothing to worry about. No trouble at all. Just a mere inconvenience, a minor setback, an….”

    “Can it, Gault!” Wrehn growled, frustratedly.

    “… error only a novice would make,” Gault finished, glibly.

    Wrehn didn't like Gault's glib way of ridiculing her blunders.

    Gault couldn't see Wrehn's face under her helmet, but he imagined that she was scowling at him. He snickered at her discomfort.

    Wrehn couldn't see Gault's face under his helmet, but she imagined that he was giggling and making faces at her expense. It angered her greatly that she was bothered by this.

    Having enjoyed his laugh at Wrehn, Gault got back to business and made his report.

    “Commander, it's a no go on the request for a shaped anti-matter charge.”

    Wrehn was greatly surprised by this.

    “Really?” she asked, incredulous, and forgetting Gault’s glib ridicule from earlier, she asked, “What did they say?”

    “They laughed at me and asked if I was kidding. When I told them I was serious, they laughed even harder.”

    Wrehn got on the Imperial command channel.

    “Who's the ordnance officer?” she demanded.

    A gruff Imperial Basic accented male voice came on.

    “Who is it that thinks she needs to know?” the gruff speaker asked, imperiously challenging her.

    “My name is Yehw'reh'nomai. I'm leading the mercenary forces hired directly by Darth Nox for special operations under his direct command.”

    “What can I do for you, Yehw'reh'nomai?” he asked, much less imperiously, and much more politely.

    “I need demolitions. Specifically, I need a shaped anti-matter charge.”

    “I can't give you one of those. We need to capture that base, not turn it into a crater.”

    “I want to make a crater next to the base, so that I can knock a hole into one of the walls on the lower levels and make my own entrance.”

    “Officers,” Colonel Fruntz ordered, cutting in, “Switch to the internal command channel.”

    Silence followed for several long minutes before the gruff Imperial male's voice finally came back on.

    “Imperial combat engineers will carry out the demolitions. You must report to Darth Nox for orders.”

    “Yeah, sure,” Wrehn replied dryly, adding, “I hope you get a promotion for my idea.”

    “You have my sincerest thanks,” the gruff voice replied.

    “That was dishonorable of them, Commander,” Torian groused.

    “I've got another idea for you to steal,” Wrehn said, sardonically, to the gruff Imperial ordnance officer, “When that charge goes off, it'll shake the base so badly that they'll be disoriented for some time. Use that time to blast the main air lock off, and take that opportunity to enter the ventilation systems, to make several inroads with your troops so that you can capture the base.”

    Captain Tartan nodded great approval of her plan, as did Torian.

    “Thank you, Yehw'reh'nomai” Colonel Fruntz said, in a very sincere tone, “You may have saved us from mass executions with these recommendations. If we succeed here, then only a few of us senior officers will die for our earlier failure and not the entire command.”

    There were problems with Wrehn’s second suggestion, but Colonel Fruntz didn’t want to get into that and spoil his heart felt expression of gratitude for Wrehn’s first suggestion.

    Wrehn was taken aback by the colonel’s comment. She wondered whether Nox would actually do something so excessive. Instead of asking, however, she thought about what that meant for her and her mercenaries after the battle.

    She began to realize just how ungratefully ruthless her client really was from that short exchange. Wrehn recalled all of the warnings her bounty broker, Kathten Relmus, had given not to take the job. Just as soon as his warnings popped into her mind, however, she pushed those thoughts aside, recalling instead what her payday was going to be – if she survived to enjoy it.


    Returning to her – not as private as she believed – channel, she spoke to her team.

    “Gault, Torian, I want you to get together with Captain Tartan and Lieutenant Dremon and come up with an escape plan for after we complete the mission, in case Darth Nox turns on us.”

    “Why are you already thinking of running away?” Skadge complained, “There's only seven of 'em, and more than sixty of us!”

    Wrehn turned to Skadge and said, “Skadge…. If you say one more word, I'm firing you without pay AND without getting to join the fight. And I'm leaving you here on Ilum.”

    Skadge opened his mouth to protest, but then closed it without uttering another word. He didn't want to miss out on the fight. It promised to be so much fun...
     
  10. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter 10: Yehw'reh'nomai's Battle Plan​



    The following day, Darth Nox stood on a bare patch of rock at the summit of a ridge of mountains covered with carbon dioxide ice. He wore a silver toned, lightly armored space suit, as did his team of Sith lords.

    Through his helmet visor display screen, he gazed up at the black, star littered late morning sky. The bright and perfectly round disk of Ilum's star dominated all of the other bright stars around it. The disk of Ilum's star seemed to be no larger than a small grain of gravel in the black sky. It shown as dimly as a cheap light probe in a cavernous space, dimly lighting up the ice covered landscape with an eerie blue-white glow from horizon to horizon.

    He brought his gaze down from the sky, turning it to his right. There he looked at the heavily armored Mandalorian mercenary that his wife and apprentice, Ashara Zavros, had recommended to him and then hired at enormous expense.

    The Mandalorian and her inner circle of four others wore the same model armored suit which, when viewed in proper lighting, was mostly white with sea blue accents and markings. Though, in the dim sun and star light, their suits appeared to glow dimly in a blue-white hue with dark grey accents and markings.

    Nox reflected that Yehw'reh'nomai's armor contrasted sharply with what the rest of the Mandalorians wore. They wore armor that was bronze colored with green accents and markings, but which appeared to be dark shades of grey in the dim daylight of Ilum.

    He understood that this lack of uniformity in their armor, weapons, and even in their allegiances, was owed to the fact that Mandalorians were a fragmented feudalistic society that rallied around a very powerful leader, as long as there was a collective need for such leadership.

    He tried to reconcile the Mandalorians' ways with how the Sith viewed their own place within the Sith Empire.

    "Even I cannot trust my followers to remain loyal to me to the bitter end,” he confessed to himself, “if I cannot demonstrate my power over my enemies. If my followers believed I was weak, they would abandon me to my powerful foes."

    He noted the time, in tiny red numerals on the left side of the display screen in his helmet. The dark lord spoke to his contractor, on the restricted command channel.

    "We shall see if your plan will work, Yehw'reh'nomai."

    Darth Nox then turned his gaze out to the horizon, in front of him, and spoke a single worded command on the general command channel.

    "Attack."

    Wrehn was greatly surprised by his remarks to her.

    "How did he know it was my plan?" she asked herself.

    An eerie dim world exploded into a brilliant white light, which was magnified by the reflective white surfaces of the frozen water ice and the frozen carbon dioxide ice, covering nearly the entire landscape. Wrehn’s eyes were blasted with the brilliant white glare from her optical display.

    Even as she squinted her eyes, to guard against the brilliant flash of light, she began to think that perhaps she had the Imperials wrongly figured out. She began to think that she had wrongly accused them of taking credit for her ideas. She began to think that pride had prevented the gruff sounding Imperial ordnance officer from defending himself from her assertions the previous day.

    "Maybe he thought it was beneath him to tell me off…" she reasoned, but then recalled, "But Colonel Fruntz thanked me for giving them a plan that would save some of their necks. They had to have taken credit for it."

    The automatic filters of her optical and sensor arrays adjusted the lighting levels of the display screen inside her helmet. She was now able to make out the super white hot fireball, at the top of the growing mushroom cloud. The white hot fireball roiled its way up, as anti-matter and matter combined. The shaped charge blasted a focused five gigaton jet of explosive energy into the ground about one kilometer from the side of the underground base.

    She abandoned her line of thought as she beheld the spectacle that was the effects of a shaped anti-matter cratering charge.

    Along with the rising white fireball, a huge lake's worth of water ice melted and was hurled outward in all directions in the form of compressed steam. The frozen carbon dioxide instantly ablated into its gaseous form, sending out a shockwave of very, very hot compressed gas, right behind the blast of superheated compressed water vapor.

    The super hot compressed water vapor and carbon dioxide gas instantly melted, or blew into smithereens, everything that wasn't solid basalt rock. A mountain's worth of frozen accumulated space dust and solid basalt bed rock was also hurled into the sky as though a giant caldera volcano had erupted explosively.

    Darth Nox spoke on the general command channel.

    "Colonel Fruntz, in consideration of your plans. Wait until the dust and rocks come back down before attacking the airlock. You may actually need to dig out the airlock once the dust and rock has settled back down again."

    Colonel Fruntz was General Reyldah Chagreth's executive officer but was now in command in her stead. It was painfully obvious what he needed to do, and he’d already planned for it.

    However, he respectfully replied, "As you say, Dark Lord."

    The world began to shake under Wrehn's feet. She became greatly relieved that she and her party stood on exposed solid rock, barren of any ice. She watched the ice sheets below her, on the face of the mountain, shatter into giant shards which then raced down the mountain's face. The racing shards almost instantly degraded into billowing clouds of powder, cascading down the mountain slope in an enormous avalanche.

    She, and everyone around her, were caught off guard by a blast of frozen water crystals, carried by a wave of carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide gas was already crystallizing into ice again, when it blew her and her entire party backwards onto their backs.

    The shockwave, accompanying the waves of water crystals and of the crystallizing carbon dioxide gas, also brought with it an enormously gigantic clap of thunder. For an instant, this shockwave compressed her body – even within the protection of her powered armored suit.

    The thunder rolled on and on and on, echoing across the entire landscape, causing a fresh round of avalanches throughout the entire region.

    Then the winds changed directions. The frozen carbon dioxide and water ice crystals, driven by an enormously powerful wind, stopped and suddenly changed directions. They were suddenly pulled back the way they’d come, and were blown back in by the partial vacuum that was created at ground zero, a hundred and fifty kilometers away.

    Wrehn struggled to stop her tumbling across the black basalt rock, after having been tossed – first away from, and then back towards the blast. She feared getting blown off the mountain, but instead found herself scrambling back onto her feet. Her ears were wringing, and she felt as though she'd been hit with a giant hammer.

    Immediately after getting back onto her feet, she got on the channel to her team.

    "Platoon leaders,” she ordered, “take roll of your troops! Figure out if any of your people got knocked off the mountain!"

    Torian, Gault, and her hired officers all replied, nearly in unison.

    "Yes, Commander!"

    Wrehn looked about in the waning light of the rising fireball, and found both Skadge and Mako checking each other's powered armored suits for damage. Looking about some more, she found her client, Darth Nox and his Sith followers in various states of recovery.

    Darth Nox laughed merrily.

    "Ha! I rather enjoyed that, Yehw'reh'nomai!" he remarked to Wrehn.

    "Yeah, I had a real blast! We ought to do that again, sometime," Wrehn quipped, forgetting herself. Belatedly, she added, "Uh…, Dark Lord."

    Nox pointed at her, observing, "Good! You're learning."

    Wrehn remained silent, not trusting herself to speak. Her pride was hurt, and she was angry at how she'd been so easily nerfed by her client. She knew her stubbornness would surely have gotten in the way of good sense and gotten her to say what she really felt.

    Yet, Wrehn contemplated whether his good humor was a sign that she and her crew might be in the clear of his malevolent need to punish those who ran afoul of his wrath. Wrehn finally realized that it was a very easy thing to do – to run afoul of his wrath.

    She reflected, thinking of Colonel Fruntz’s comments and of General Reyldah Chagreth's execution at his very own hands. However, before she could think anymore on what Nox's good mood meant for her team, Mako's worry filled voice cut in via her team's private channel.

    "Wrehn, we've got, maybe half a minute before we get pummeled by the falling rock from that blast. We need to move."

    Wrehn spoke on Nox's restricted command channel.

    "Dark Lord, we got to get back onto our dropships and move. Rocks are about to fall on our heads!"

    She didn't wait for her client's reply as she quickly switched back to her team's channel.

    "Mandalorians!” she shouted, “Get on your dropships; we're leaving, now!"

    There was no hesitation. No questions were asked, as her two platoons of mercenaries rushed quickly back to their ships. The pilots had already been warned, and were readying their ships for a hurried launch.

    The ramp wasn't even raised, and Wrehn hadn't even taken her seat when the dropship sprang into the air and rocketed away from the epicenter. The ships were not fast enough, though. A few clods of frozen dust, and rocks big enough to hold in both both arms, struck the armored hulls of the three fleeing ships. Inside, the troop compartment sounded like being on the inside of a drum, even through their helmets.

    Wrehn had finally taken a seat and began to scan the interior of the dropship. She began to worry over how many troops she had lost.

    She called out, "Platoon leaders, give me a head count!"

    Switching to her private channel, she called out, the names of her crew.

    "Mako!"

    "Yeah?"

    "Torian!"

    "Commander?"

    "Gault!"

    "Present."

    "Skadge!"

    No answer.

    "Skadge!"

    Still no answer.

    "SKADGE! ANSWER ME, BLAST YOU!"

    "Why you gotta call my name last? What, I'm not a good enough team mate for you?"

    Wrehn surprised herself with how relieved she was that the Houk was still accounted for. However, she wasn't going to show him this soft spot which she just realized she had for him. It was almost motherly...

    "Skadge, I was just worried that I had just got done spending nearly three million credits for your armored suit, and that I was already assed out of those credits without getting any use out of it."

    Mako burst out laughing.

    "Damn, Wrehn!” she remarked, “That was just so mean!" She laughed some more, then asked, "Hey Skadge, you gonna take that?"

    Skadge had fallen silent again.

    Mako, becoming concerned over his silence, asked, "Skadge, you're not letting what she said get to you, huh?”

    "Shhhhh! Let him think, Mako," Gault said, cutting in, deadpan. Yet his sarcasm was thick.

    After a bit of silence, Skadge had his retort.

    "At least we all know whose starship don't work!"

    Gault burst out laughing, hard, on hearing what the Houk had said. Not because of what was said, but because his sarcastic jibe, about Skadge needing time to think had turned out to be true.

    Gault finally caught his breath after all of that laughter, then spoke to the cybernetically enhanced human female.

    "You see, Mako? Give him some time to let those gears turn. A thought will eventually be produced!"

    He laughed again. Skadge, unsure whether he was being insulted, protested weakly.

    "Hey, wait a minute, Gault. What are you saying?"

    Gault deflected and lied.

    "You came up with a great come-back, Skadge!" Gault told the clueless Houk.

    Wrehn shook her head, grinning inside of her helmet at the humor of the moment, but she didn't want to let stand Skadge's retort. She was about to speak, when she finally noticed the plain silver space suit among the bronze and green armored battle suits in the lighted crew space of the dropship.

    Wrehn stood and walked to the silver suited passenger. She could tell, right off, it wasn't her client. The suit was smaller than his, and the lightsaber weapon, attached to the utility belt, was different from his.

    Switching to Nox's restricted channel, she asked, "Who are you? Don't you have your own dropship to be on?"

    Nox's voice came on.

    "Who are you speaking to?"

    "Whoever it is that I'm standing in front of. Uh… Dark Lord," Wrehn replied.

    Nox chuckled over the restricted command channel.

    "So, you weren't lost to me, after all, Lord Vereta,” he said, “You at least made it to one of the other ships."

    "It would take a great deal more to end me than a mere evacuation drill, Dark Lord," Vereta replied, embarrassed that she had to ride with vermin and trash.

    Nox laughed on hearing that, and Vereta’s embarrassment worsened, and her fury against the Chiss bitch, standing in front of her, grew.

    "Good!” Nox replied, “I'll need you at least a short while more before Malgus' traitorous followers end your existence."

    "Dark Lord, I will not shame you!" Vereta replied, fervently.

    Wrehn had already returned to her seat, all the while listening in on the Sith as she shook her head in derision at her circumstances.

    "What is it with my damned luck,” she wondered to herself, “always putting me in the worst situations?!"

    Darth Nox did not acknowledge Vereta's oath. Instead, he reported on the situation.

    "Reports are in that the worst of the falling debris is over. My forces are on the move to breach the airlock and any other access points they come across. I have already ordered our dropships to take us to the crater. Once, at the scene, we shall search for exposed walls of the lower levels of the base. We shall breach the exposed wall, and enter the base."

    Ten minutes later, Wrehn was stepping down the ramp into a pitch black landscape. It wasn't until she cleared the tail of the dropship and looked up to see the stars that she realized they were at the bottom of a very deep pit. The stars were partially obscured by a cloud of dust which the calm frigid winds lazily blew away from above the crater.

    Without the water and carbon dioxide ice to reflect the dim starlight, the landscape within the crater was black with darkness. The pilots of the dropships had switched on their dim anti-collision marker lights to help the low light sensors on everyone's helmets to display the landscape on the screens within their helmets.

    Wrehn laughed at what she saw with the aid of the low light enhanced display. They were probably four hundred and fifty meters down at the bottom of the crater, at the crater's sloped wall. The crater seemed to be about two kilometers in diameter. The crater floor sloped gently downward towards the center, where it seemed to bottom out to about a hundred meters deeper.

    Turning again, to face the crater wall, her video display showed several levels of the exposed broken walls of corridors and exposed broken office spaces, which had been breached at several locations of the underground base.

    Clearly, a part of the base had been destroyed and excavated along with the rock and dust from the rest of the crater. Wrehn spoke on her command channel, ensuring that her two hired Mandalorian platoon leaders could hear what she had to say.

    "I think if we'd have done it, it would have been worse."

    Oh, yeah,” Gault agreed, “We would have screwed that up, and the Imps would be blaming us for breaking their base."

    Darth Nox's voice came on the general command channel.

    "Colonel Fruntz, the entire side of the base has been exposed in the crater wall. There are several breaches to take advantage of. Send in your forces through these breaches and search for Darth Malgus. Report to me when he is found."

    "Yes, Dark Lord!"

    On the restricted command channel, Nox issued new orders.

    "Let us enter the base from one of the breaches on the lowest exposed levels."

    "Dark Lord, my guess is that, if he's still alive, he's making his way up to escape,” Wrehn suggested, adding, “Just looking at the exposed and damaged passageways and rooms, gives me the impression that the entire base is shook up pretty badly. Expect power to be off line, ventilation and climate controls taken off line, turbolifts off line, and so on."

    Nox issued new orders.

    "Colonel Fruntz, keep a large force on the surface, at all of the possible entry ways. Look to capture or kill any survivors, and report any Sith escaping to the surface."

    Again, Colonel Fruntz didn't want to embarrass the dark lord by pointing out that it went without saying.

    Instead, he professionally replied, "Yes, Dark Lord!"

    Colonel Fruntz's troops had already captured a few thousand treasonous scum who had managed to escape the ruined subterranean base.

    Meanwhile, Darth Nox had been getting a strong impression from The Force about Darth Malgus.

    He turned to one of the silver space suited Sith standing near him.

    "Lord Ashara,” Nox said, “he's waiting for me to find him."

    Inside her slightly oversized and uniquely shaped helmet, designed to accommodate her montrals, Ashara closed her eyes and concentrated on The Force.

    After a moment, she opened her eyes and with urgency in her tone reported.

    "My lord, he is coming here!"

    As soon as those words left her lips, a section of wall from one of the exposed levels shattered with chunks of masonry flying outward and down onto Nox and his waiting Sith and hired mercenaries. They all scattered and dashed back, away from the wall of the crater to avoid the falling debris.

    Wrehn shouted commands at her subordinate officers, even as her subordinate officers began shouting commands at their troops. In very short order, the Mandalorians had reorganized themselves, taking cover behind the rubble which had been strewn throughout the bottom of the crater, the remnants of the bedrock mostly cleared out by the antimatter cratering charge used earlier.

    The mercenary warriors let loose a barrage of blaster fire, concentrating their fires at the newly opened hole in the wall one level above the bottom of the crater. Two heavy war droids, their shields up, took up positions at the opening and began to unload their blaster cannons at the Mandalorians.

    The dropships quickly lifted off. The mercenaries scattered for cover, forced to hunker down and take shelter from the murderous cannon fire. The Mandalorians took cover behind large pieces of solid chunks of broken rock and frozen clumps of dust which had accumulated over a few billion years during the formation of the planet.

    Each warrior randomly popped out from behind cover to fire off one or two bolts at the war droids before returning to cover. Long painful experience had taught them that taking the time to fire off that third bolt would guarantee them getting killed by a war droid. So, none of them took the time to fire off that third bolt.

    Nox watched, disgustedly, as Malgus and four other Sith jumped down into the crater, immediately followed by a couple dozen Imperial troops.

    The Mando fighters corrected this situation when they launched two anti-armor self-guiding missiles at the heavy war droids, destroying them both.

    Wrehn shouted orders.

    "Gault! Get your people to concentrate their fire into that hole. Don't let anymore Imps out of there! Torian! Pin down and destroy the Imps that made it out of that hole! Mako, Skadge! Follow me!"

    Wrehn burst out from behind her rock shard, running hard with Mako and Skadge abandoning their own rock shard shelters as they ran after her.

    The three dropships had hurriedly lifted up into the frozen air to avoid the droids’ cannon fire. Their shields would have held up against the cannon fire, but the pilots weren’t sure what other armaments the droids were equipped with. The particular model war droid they observed could also be armed with anti air ion cannons.

    When the two war droids were destroyed, they turned on their landing lights, suddenly blasting the impromptu battleground with brilliant light. The entire scene was bathed in stark white light, momentarily blinding friend and foe alike.

    The shuttles repositioned themselves to change the angles of their lights. This eliminated the pitch black shadows cast by the thousands of rock shards, of all sizes, littering the crater floor. Imperial troops on the ground loyal to Darth Malgus, fired their blaster rifles at the three dropships, but to no effect. The dropships' ray shielding absorbed the energy quite easily.

    Wrehn's helmet sensors automatically adjusted themselves to the sudden blast of light, making the display go easy on her eyes. She quickly spotted Malgus' four Sith in battle with four of Nox's Sith and his beast, Khem Val. Looking about, she found Nox and one Sith standing by his side.

    They just stood there looking, not at the battle, but at something else. Wrehn turned to look in the direction Nox and the other Sith were focused and found that it was a lone Sith who had their attention. Wrehn assumed that it was likely Darth Malgus. She saw that he had his attention riveted on Nox and the Sith at his side, whom Wrehn assumed was Ashara Zavros, because of the shape and size of her helm.

    Malgus and his Sith followers wore black Imperial Army Special Forces, all environment, battle armor, with their white painted pauldrons. Nox and his Sith followers wore their plain silver toned, lightly armored space suits. Realizing that her client's enemies held the advantage in armor, Wrehn decided to give Nox's Sith a hand. She changed directions as she ran, so that she could slip behind the battling Sith.

    Wrehn shouted her orders, as she ran, on her crew's private channel.

    "Torian, take over command for a bit!"

    "Roger!"

    "Skadge, Mako, I'm gonna do the shooting. You guys watch my back!"

    Both Skadge and Mako responded in the affirmative, as they maneuvered behind the four traitorous Sith. Wrehn decided to start by eliminating the one enemy battling two of Nox's followers. As she came to a stop, she drew one of her two blasters, and began to aim in.

    Before she could get her weapon steadied on target, all four enemy Sith leapt into the air, doing backwards somersaults.

    "SKADGE! OVERHEAD, FRONT!” Wrehn shouted out urgently.

    She could see that all four Sith were going to land right in front of her. Mako and Skadge were still turning around to face forward, and Wrehn was still lifting her pistols to adjust her aim at the airborne Sith. Then Wrehn's display screen flashed a red tint, warning of imminent danger.

    Suddenly, without further warnings, she found herself flying backwards. She landed and ran backwards a few steps and came to a halt, with her weapon pointed at one of the Sith, which had landed at arm's length from where she had been standing a moment before.

    Wrehn didn't know what had happened, but her weapon was still on target, so she began firing, as did Mako and Skadge standing on either side of her. Wrehn never ceased to be wowed by the crazy Force worshipers' ability to do the seemingly impossible, Jedi and Sith, alike. For instance, the enemy Sith were deflecting all of her and her companions’ blaster bolts with their beamed melee weapons.

    Darth Nox's followers renewed their attacks on Malgus' followers, forcing Wrehn and her party to cease firing.

    Wrehn finally took note of a message in very small print flashing at the bottom right corner of her display screen.

    "Emergency threat avoidance system activated – high energy melee weapons."

    Wrehn cleared the flashing message from her display, wearing a huge grin on her face.

    "You guys get a red flashing screen and a flashing threat avoidance message?" she asked, as the flashing message cleared.

    "You seriously got your money's worth with these armored suits!" Mako replied, very impressed.

    Skadge though, seemed dissatisfied.

    "How do you shut this thing off?” he asked, before adding, “I wanted one of 'em to get up close so that I could pound 'em on the head."

    Speaking firmly, Wrehn warned the Houk.

    "Skadge, don't mess with my suit. If you mess it up, it's coming out of your pay."

    Nox's attention was turned to his subordinates' battle, because of the blaster fire coming from that direction. Watching the situation carefully, he shook his head in frustrated disapproval. He angrily chastised his followers.

    "Khem, stop playing with your food and kill it, already! Xalek, you are my apprentice. Show them what you've got and stop holding back. Or do you mean to embarrass me?"

    Xalek was thoroughly humiliated. His fury rose. He'd been conducting a technically calculated battle. He wanted to learn what his opponent could do. Instead, to Xalek's chagrin, his master mistook his calculated strikes and feints as weakness.

    Xalek used The Force to knock his opponent to the ground and pinned him there. He then leapt onto his prone enemy, driving his sabrestaff into his enemy's throat, where the armor was the thinnest. He immediately turned about and dashed forward a few meters. As he advanced on Vereta's foe's back, he used The Force to force the enemy to his knees. He then stabbed Vereta's opponent in the back of his neck, again taking advantage of the armor's weakness.

    Meanwhile, Khem Val parried his opponent's lightsaber with his savage oversized vibrosword and, with his huge size advantage, simply reached forward and grabbed his opponent by the arm and flung him several tens of meters to the side. He turned away from the Sith, taking several steps towards Malgus.

    Pointing at Malgus with his weapon, he came to a stop.

    "Master, that is my food!" he told Nox.

    The hapless Sith whom Khem had tossed aside, as a toy he'd grown tired of playing with, rose to his feet. Wrehn saw him get up. She pointed both of her custom made blaster pistols at the Sith, and let him have it.

    The Sith lord reacted quickly, powering up his shield generators and using his weapon to deflect Wrehn's blaster bolts. She hadn't cranked the power all the way up, so her bolts were not immediately destabilized on contact with his lightsaber beam. Instead, they were deflected away at different angles from the Sith lord's weapon.

    Mako and Skadge both ran to get different firing angles on the Sith. Mako stopped and began firing her blaster rifle at the Sith, with Skadge stopping a few meters later before he opened up on the Sith lord.

    Wrehn's blaster pistols had gotten hot, however, and automatically shut down, forcing her out of action. The Sith lord then concentrated his defense against Mako and Skadge, and proceeded to advance on the two as he deflected their bolts.

    Wrehn placed her pistols on the frozen shattered bedrock, at the bottom of the crater, to let her guns cool faster. After making adjustments to her weapons, changing out the battery packs, and after letting them cool rapidly on the cryogenically cool rock surface, she picked up her blasters and aimed in on the Sith.

    Wrehn let him have it again.

    The Sith lord had ignited a second lightsaber, using it to block Wrehn's blaster bolts. The highly overpowered energy bolts were extremely unstable. The instant the first bolt made contact with his weapon's cutting beam it destabilized and instantly diffused its energy in an explosive burst.

    The Sith was knocked over by the force of the rapidly expanding energy, which quickly depleted much of the energy from his shield generators. The rest of Wrehn’s shots missed.

    Skadge and Mako, however, fired him up where he lay struggling to get back up onto his feet, depleting the remaining energy of his shield generator batteries. Soon, some of their blaster bolts impacted his Imperial cortosis reinforced plate armored suit. He had finally risen to his feet, and made a mad dash for Mako and Skadge.

    Wrehn, already aiming, fired off a single bolt, striking him on the white painted pauldron. The blast energy blew his armored arm clean off, along with his heat-blackened pauldron. The quickly spreading blast wave sheared his helmet off, taking his head with it.

    The Sith's body tumbled in the air, following behind his helmeted head onto the edge of the light bathed battleground. His body crashed in a heap, at the edge of the lighted battleground, as his helmeted head bounced and rolled out of the lighted area and into the darkness.

    Wrehn scanned the scene for more enemies, but found the battleground had become silent. She just happened to watch, as the last enemy Sith fell dead at the hands of Nox's followers. She called for a status report on her team's private command channel.

    "Torian! Report current status!"

    "Rebelling Imperial forces arrived in reinforced platoon strength. Part of their platoon deployed in the field, with the rest getting trapped inside the base. We destroyed them in the field, and then pressed the attack through the breach in the wall the enemy had made when they first arrived at the scene.

    "Imperial forces loyal to our client are infiltrating the base from the upper levels of the exposed base walls. I expect enemy forces to evacuate via the lower levels. We'll probably get more company, soon.

    "Local hostile Imperial forces have been neutralized. We sustained four killed, and four wounded. We had an advantage in numbers with an almost two to one margin in our favor. Mandalorians are consolidating their positions. Awaiting further orders."

    "Good work,” Wrehn replied, “I’m assuming command. Standby for new orders."

    "The rest of the fight is mine and my followers’" Nox declared.

    Recalling her earlier thoughts on how it was that Nox had known it was her plan, Wrehn became suspicious that her team's private encrypted channel might have been compromised when Darth Nox spoke right on cue on his restricted command channel.

    Nox gave additional orders.

    "Keep your mercenaries out of this, Yehw'reh'nomai," Nox ordered.

    She kept her suspicions to herself, as she replied.

    “You got it, Dark Lord.”
     
  11. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Special Notes: The dialogue in bold text is an exact word for word copy from the dialogue the player character, Darth Nox (in my case as the player), and Darth Malgus have in the cut scene, depending on the dialogue choices you make. This dialog takes place just before the big boss fight. In the game, "Star Wars: The Old Republic," the Darth Nox character uses a tone that shows sympathy with Malgus' ideals even as Nox disagrees with Malgus' methods for achieving those aims. I changed the tone of voice Darth Nox delivers his lines to reflect his own selfish motivations. Malgus is the boss you have to beat in the game.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Chapter 11: Victory and Defeat​

    Wrehn watched as Darth Nox and Lord Ashara approached their enemy. Khem Val and the other Sith following Nox also converged on Darth Malgus' left. She concluded that Nox had the decided advantage, but Wrehn didn't understand The Force. She didn't understand that Nox and his whole party were the underdogs, here.

    Wrehn spoke to her crew on her private channel.

    "We're done, here. Our client can handle the rest. Have you thought of a way to hijack those dropships? If our client loses, we'll need to escape and those ships are our only way out."

    She kicked herself, mentally, after her question was out. Wrehn was still unsure if their private encrypted channel had been compromised. She didn't want to communicate her concerns over the comm system for fear of tipping off the Imperial Army that they'd been discovered eaves dropping on them. Wrehn realized, however, that her reticence was a mistake, and wished she'd given some clue to her crew that the Imperial Army was probably listening in.

    "We've already got our people in place,” Torian reported, “They had 'equipment malfunctions' which forced them to be 'evacuated' onto two of the dropships along with the seriously wounded. If any of the leadership give the signal, they'll hijack the ships and bring them down for us to board." Concern tinted his tone, as he added, "I think our hired guns will turn on us and hand us over to our client.

    “They indicated concerns that we won't be able to pay them the balance of what we owe. We have to watch for signs that they are negotiating with our client to work out a deal with him for a reward. Since, it seems, you stepped in it with him, they might be thinking of handing you over to him."

    "In fact, I know they'll turn on us,” Gault interjected, “As soon as Torian was done briefing them on our contingency plan for a getaway, they had a private off channel chat with each other. I couldn't hear their comm, but the way they stood around pointing at each other and waving their arms around got me thinking they were arguing about something. Only thing I can think they'd argue over is money. I think they're ready to turn on us. It's the only time they'd ever spoken off channel to each other where we couldn't hear them."

    "If our client loses,” Mako chimed in, “they might try handing us off to his enemy to try to get him to let them go."

    With the nexu out of the bag – if the Imperials were actually listening in – Wrehn concluded there was nothing else that could be done about it.

    "Alright. Good reports, Torian, Gault,” she said, “You make a good point, too, Mako."

    After a moment to think, she gave new orders on her command channel.

    "Torian, Gault, good work with your platoons. This job's almost over. Hand over control of your platoons to Captain Tartan and Lieutenant Dremon and then return to me. Captain Tartan, Lieutenant Dremon, you both report directly to me now. Report your status."

    Captain Tartan gave his report.

    "My troops have created a perimeter defense against possible incoming attacks from ground forces attacking from the open. Lieutenant Dremon's platoon has secured the breached wall, from the inside, to keep enemy reinforcements from reaching us from within the base. We are ready for new orders."

    "Remain vigilant and standby for orders as I get them from our client," Wrehn said.

    What she really wanted was to separate Torian and Gault from their hired guns, and consolidate her own position by bringing her crew together.

    Wrehn added a warning to her hired mercenaries.

    "There's a fight coming between the Sith. Keep out of this fight and stay out of their way. The Sith want to settle it amongst themselves."

    Captain Tartan immediately shouted his own orders.

    "First Platoon, expand the line!"

    He wanted to get his troops out of the way of the coming fight.

    Wrehn watched as Tartan's mercenary warriors rose up from crouching behind the rubble and then proceed to move further away from the crater wall and deeper into the crater, expanding their curved perimeter line, until they exited the illuminated battleground.

    "That opens up the distance between my crew and theirs,” she thought to herself, as she watched the mercenaries move, “More space for my crew to run around in if Tartan and his people start any trouble."

    Mako urgently gave a series of hand signals to Wrehn, which Wrehn quickly acted on. Dialing up a frequency on her armored suit's built-in communications gear, she caught a fragment of Nox's remarks on an old unencrypted Imperial Army guard channel which had been abandoned since the Imperials' civil war began.

    "... betrayed the Emperor and the Sith Empire! Why should I hear your treasonous words?!"

    Getting right to the point, Darth Malgus replied, "The Empire is withering away. Soon it will be obliterated by decadence and antiquated ideals. Yet still you struggle to keep it from healing.

    "Don't you see? Our survival demands a new Empire, tempered by alien alliances and strengthened by tolerance."

    Darth Nox grudgingly admitted the truth in Malgus' words, disgustedly replying, "I've seen the Empire's weakness." Angrily, he added, "We must change to survive, but you're going about it the wrong way!"

    Malgus, expected that Nox would reject his cause.

    "You know the Dark Council would never willingly relinquish their power," the usurper said, before telling Nox, "Our civil war shall be the pyre upon which the Sith Empire will die and a new empire be born. Nearly half of the Imperial armies and navies support my cause.

    “I have amassed armies and navies whose ranks are made up of aliens. They live in our empire without status, without motivation to contribute to the empire. They have allied with me in support of my principles. They seek an end to the Empire's old ways of exclusion from power and wealth. I have given them hope for a chance to become a meaningful part of the empire.

    “I will give them inclusion and let them earn the power and wealth their merits and capabilities will allow them to achieve. It will be a true meritocracy for Sith and non-Sith alike, for human and non-human alike."

    Malgus drew and activated his lightsaber. Nox and his followers all reactivated their own weapons in response.

    Nox, a newly minted dark councilor, scoffed his enemy.

    "You're right about one thing, Malgus,” Nox told the betrayer, “I would never cede my power – power that I had worked so hard to obtain – to a usurper like you!" Then he excoriated Malgus, telling him, "You could have been a dark councilor! You certainly merited the post. You could have used your power and influence to steer the Empire towards your ideals and principles.

    “You had the respect of the Dark Council. They would have listened, and probably agreed with some of your ideals. Instead, you squandered your power and influence, and wasted the Empire's resources and might in a fruitless war that will set back these ideals you profess to embrace!

    "You could have overcome Marr's influence over the other dark councilors and steered them down this path. Instead, all that you've managed to accomplish is to almost certainly give the victory to the Galactic Republic! Your betrayal has weakened the Empire to the point of vulnerability to our foes. You are nothing more than a mere traitor!"

    "The time for talk is past!" Malgus declared, before proclaiming with great zeal, "Die, or defeat me! Either way, the Empire is reborn!"

    He leapt into the attack against Nox's followers, immediately striking down one of the Sith lords with his weapon and quickly following that up with a massive force push attack that sent Lord Xalek flying out of the light washed battleground and into the darkness.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Captain Tartan toured the expanded perimeter. He wanted to ensure his fighters had taken up good defensible positions. He knew the chances of an enemy attack, originating from outside the ruined subterranean base, was quite nil. However, not being prepared, even for such a slim possibility, was still a very reckless act of irresponsibility. So, being the responsible commander that he was, he prepared for an attack he was all but certain would not come.

    As he inspected his troops' new fighting positions, he also checked each mercenary fighter, inspecting the condition of their armor and weapons, ensuring his troops were not starting to freeze and that their wounds and injuries were all reported for treatment later. His seriously wounded had already been evacuated onto the dropships and were receiving emergency care. He made sure his injured troops, still in the field, had enough kolto to deaden their pain until they could get proper treatment.

    Their service droids followed along as he went, allowing his troops a chance to swap out expended shield generator batteries, depleted weapons batteries, and to swap out the battery packs which powered the heaters, respirator air scrubbers, communications gear and sensors in their powered armored suits. Some of the troops also replaced grenades which they'd expended during their battle with the rebelling Imperial troops.

    His men and women fighters ooo!-d and ahh!-ed at something which held their attention instead of the perimeter defense. He turned towards the lit battleground, nearly two hundred meters from his new perimeter in the darkness, and watched as the hulking beast, who served their Sith client, was sent flying several tens of meters out of the light washed battleground and into the darkness.

    Returning his attention to his troops, he addressed the warriors.

    "Those Imperials weren’t bad fighters, and we’ve gained glory for ourselves. A great day, today! But are you ready for greater glory?! Are you ready for a real fight?!"

    "Are you really going to challenge the Great Hunt Champion?” one of his troops asked, “We're not done with this mission, yet."

    Tartan sensed the doubt in her tone.

    "She is just a mercenary with really good gear and a very fancy title,” he replied, trying to reassure her, “Don't let that make you forget your own abilities. And besides, you heard it yourself, our mission is over. We're just waiting for these Sith to kill each other off."

    Another chorus of oh!'s from his troops made Tartan turn quickly to take another look at the Siths' battle. He'd heard stories of it before, but until he'd just seen it for himself, he never would have believed that they could make big rocks fly just by pointing their hands at them and flicking their wrists in the direction they wanted the rock to fly. Another of his fighters asked a question, which returned his attention to the inspection of his troops.

    "How are you planning on collecting the rest of the money she owes us? If you attack her before our mission is over, you think she'll still pay?"

    Yet another of his fighters commented.

    "Miir makes a good point, Captain. How are you planning on collecting if you anger the Great Hunt Champion?"

    Tartan had already lost the support of Lieutenant Dremon. She had adamantly refused to join him on his adventure. Also, the doubts expressed by some of his own troops was an indication that he might lose control of his own platoon if he forced them down this path.

    "Alright, I'll let you decide,” he offered his troops their options, “If you want to get into a real good fight then come with me. If you want to play it safe and sit it out, then stay in your positions on the perimeter. But if I win, you're only getting half pay. If I die, you get full pay, and you get to pick a new platoon leader to lead the platoon, but Lieutenant Dremon will take command of the company. She'll represent the company to collect the balance of what the Great Hunt Champion owes."

    His troops became chatty on hearing his proposal and shouted their well wishes and their jeers.

    "Fight well Captain!"

    "Here! Here!"

    "I'll write songs and epic poems of your glorious death, Captain!"

    "Aye, but let another do the singing,” Captain Tartan replied, “Your singing can haunt the dead, and if I die, I don't want to be haunted!"

    Raucous laughter followed his retort.

    "I nominate Bem'na for next platoon leader!" another of his troops shouted.

    "I'm honored for the vote of confidence,” Bem'na shouted, “but shouldn't you wait until the Captain's dead, first?"

    More raucous laughter ensued.

    "Enough with the chirping!” Captain Tartan shouted, good-naturedly, before asking, “Who's with me?!"

    He was surprised to get as many troops to follow him as he did, ten in all.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Malgus spun about, swinging his weapon until it crashed into Khem Val's savage vibrosword, stopping the huge monster's attack. Malgus quickly followed that up with a vicious front kick, powered with The Force. Despite the size difference, Khem Val was sent tumbling backwards through the frozen air.

    Before the huge Dashade crashed into the ground several tens of meters away, Malgus sent one of the shattered rocks lying on the crater floor, hurtling at Khem Val. Khem quickly rose to his feet and, saw the huge rock hurtling towards him. He used the broad side of his vibrosword to block the rock. It saved his space suit from damage, but the rock's momentum knocked him back down again.

    Vereta and another of Nox's Sith followers attacked Malgus together. Malgus reached with both hands towards them and unleashed a torrent of Force Lighting from each hand. Vereta quickly reacted, capturing the lighting directed at her with her lightsaber, and quickly redirected it to the shattered stone surface on which she stood.

    Her comrade was not so quick. His space suit's systems were fried in the attack, and his suit ceased to function. He quickly began to lose heat and, quite rapidly, the air in his suit began to become too stale to breathe. He turned to flee Malgus, but the False Emperor showed him no quarter. He used The Force to send a rock shard flying at the fleeing Sith's helmet.

    Again, the Sith was not quite fast enough when he dodged. The shard's sharpened edge glanced off the side of his helm, slicing a narrow hole which let Ilum's cryogenically frozen atmosphere to enter his suit. The Sith died horribly, unable to scream out his anguish, as super cold air rushed into his mouth and down into his lungs, causing the blood in his capillaries to freeze solid. He fell to the rock surface writhing and kicking in agony.

    The frozen capillaries and air sacs in his lungs, airway, the mucus membranes in his mouth and sinuses all shattered, as he attempted to breathe out the still one hundred seventy degree below zero air out of his lungs. His lungs felt as though they were on fire, and every breath he took was sheer torment. Compounded to the torture in his chest, was the fact that his head was also rapidly, and painfully, freezing.

    He did not feel this agony for long, however, since his head and brain froze very quickly. Although it felt like an eternity to him, his ordeal was over in just under a minute when he lost consciousness. Very shortly thereafter, he died.

    While her ally died, Vereta fired off a blast of Force Lighting at Malgus, which he deflected with his weapon. She immediately followed up her lightning attack with a powerful Force Push attack that sent Malgus flying. Vereta quickly turned about and ran to stand at Darth Nox's side, opposite of Ashara.

    Malgus recovered, regaining his feet. Unlike Nox's party who were only equipped with fragile space suits susceptible to harsh treatment, Malgus wore Imperial Army Heavy Operations armor, specially modified for Ilum's frigid climate.

    Not only was his armor able to withstand the punishment of slamming onto the rocky surface, but his armor was treated with a laminated layer of cortosis. It was able to withstand several blaster bolt hits in the same area, and was resistant to lightsaber beam cuts.

    Malgus was surprised then to see one of Nox's followers return to the battle. Xalek returned to the light washed battleground, and reignited both ends of his sabrestaff. He dashed forward in the attack against Malgus, reaching his offhand towards his enemy and zapping Malgus with Force Lighting.

    Malgus was not quick enough to deflect it with his own weapon, and stood trembling from the shock. Xalek thrust his sabrestaff at Malgus' armored breastplate, but Malgus' shield generator, combined with his cortosis laminated armor allowed him to withstand the attack.

    Malgus recovered from the Force Lightning attack and brought his lightsaber strike, augmented with the power of The Force, to bear against Xalek. Darth Nox's apprentice, used his sabrestaff to parry the powerful strike, then he spun to give momentum to a Force powered back kick, sending Malgus flying.

    Lord Xalek canceled his follow up attack when he caught a glimpse of the gargantuan form of Khem Val flying through the air at Malgus. Khem's huge vibrosword slammed into the rock surface at the bottom of the crater, where Malgus had just recovered. Malgus scrambled to his feet and dodged the monster's leaping attack at the last instant.

    Springing from harm's way, Malgus used The Force to lift several rock shards from the crater floor and sent them hurtling at Khem Val. Even as Khem Val nimbly dodged the flying debris, Malgus immediately followed up his flying rock attack with a Force Push attack, sending Khem Val tumbling in the air and out of the light washed battleground and into the darkness for a second time.

    As Xalek prepared to strike at Malgus, Nox spoke his command.

    "Lord Xalek, stop."

    Clearly frustrated, Xalek angrily shook his sabrestaff as he deactivated it. Angrily stomping his foot on the ground.

    Xalek battled to keep his voice calm, but he growled out his reply through clenched teeth.

    "As you wish…., my master!"

    Xalek, furious, made his way to his master's side.

    Nox walked towards Malgus, accompanied by Ashara and Vereta.

    "Lord Xalek,” Nox ordered, “find Khem Val and get him aboard one of the dropships."

    "Master, if the Dashade is too weak to...," Xalek began to protest.

    Nox cut him off.

    "Lord Xalek, if I hadn't stopped you, you would have died, too. You aren't ready for a challenge such as Malgus. He’s been holding back against both you and Khem Val. Now, go find Khem Val as I have instructed."

    Xalek knelt before Nox.

    "As my master commands!" he declared with clear fury in his tone.

    Xalek rose to his feet and turned towards the darkness, in the direction Khem Val was sent flying, to complete his task. Nox returned his attention to Malgus, walking towards his enemy.

    "I thank you for paying me the courtesy of patiently waiting for me to finish my business with my apprentice, but if I were in your boots, I would have struck with everything to fell my distracted foe."

    "You are the product of your dead master, Darth Zash,” Malgus replied, disapprovingly, “Craftiness, manipulation, and deceit were her hallmarks, and I see you honor her memory with your own boasts of underhandedness."

    "You don't approve?” Nox asked with genuine surprise in his tone, “After all, isn't that how you betrayed your Emperor and our Empire?"

    "I have watched your progress over the last few years,” Malgus replied, ignoring Nox's retort, “I have seen you grow in power and stature. I have heard of your powerful mastery of The Force.

    “Over the past year, I’ve heard of your prowess in your battles against Darth Thanaton's followers. And just over a month ago you finally defeated Darth Thanaton himself. Now I want to see this power with my own eyes. Let me test your strength, Nox!"

    With that, Malgus caused several rock shards to lift into the frigid air of Ilum, and sent them flying at Nox. Malgus watched as the rocks all sailed through his enemy, just as he felt a violent shove against his back, which sent him stumbling forward.

    Somehow – Malgus did not know how – Darth Nox had fooled him into believing the dark lord was still in front of him. All of this time, however, Nox had been sneaking behind him for the sabrestaff attack at his back. Again, Malgus' personal shield generator and his cortosis reinforced Imperial Army Heavy Operations battle armor saved him from a lightsaber strike.

    Malgus immediately spun about to face his enemy, but Nox had immediately, followed up his sabrestaff strike with a very powerful Force Lighting attack that drained the remaining energy of his enemy's personal shield generator. Malgus was also electrocuted in the attack and had trouble moving his arm to position his weapon defensively.

    Ashara Zavros, Lord of The Sith, used The Force to cause several rock shards to go flying into Malgus' back. Malgus was knocked forward onto his helmet-visored face onto the cold, hard, shattered stone floor of the crater.

    Nox immediately leapt into the attack, landing next to Magus and drove his sabrestaff into Malgus' back again, this time burning a deep gouge into his armor. Nox leapt back before Malgus could grab his space-booted foot with his free armored gloved hand.

    Malgus pushed himself up, springing back to his feet.

    Facing Nox, Malgus spoke condescendingly.

    "You're pin prick attacks do nothing to..."

    Malgus was surprised by another attack, as he was violently shoved forward again. This time Ashara had struck at his back with her own lightsaber. Malgus realized that Nox and his follower were working to burn through his armor, attacking the same spot on his back.

    He immediately turned about to face his attacker and Force Pushed Ashara, sending her flying across the brightly lit battleground. She tumbled, hurtling towards the crater wall beneath the breach in the exposed section of wall from which Malgus and his dead followers had emerged earlier. Malgus chose to ignore the gaggle of Mandalorian mercenaries watching the battle from within the breach in the wall above the crater floor.

    Ashara, however, did not crash into the wall. She landed against the crater's rock wall on her feet, and immediately sprang back at Malgus. Her two lightsabers blazed, the blue one on defense and the red one pointed in the attack. Malgus dodged to his left and escaped both Ashara's frontal attack and Nox's sneak attack at his back.

    Nox halted in his tracks and then used The Force to capture Ashara, in midflight, and set her onto the rock surface in front of him. Ashara immediately dashed to the side to flank her enemy again.

    Malgus came to a stop after dodging. He turned to face Nox.

    "Cowardly!" he spat out.

    "It's more like the two of us are quite effective!" Nox said in his retort. Tauntingly, and laughing at Malgus, he added, "If you don't want to die by my hand then remove your helm, freeze to death, and rob me of my victory! I promise that I won't take credit if you die by your own hand!"

    He laughed mockingly at Malgus, again.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    "Any luck yet, Mako?" Wrehn asked her human computer and holo-net browser.

    Wrehn couldn't see Mako shaking her head slowly inside of her helmet, indicating a negative response, but Mako answered verbally.

    "I got their frequency, but they're using a very tough encryption algorithm. There's definitely a lot of chatter, but all I'm getting is a bunch of high pitched beeps and clicks."

    "They're up to something,” Gault said, cutting in, “Some of them are abandoning their positions on the perimeter."

    Wrehn changed channels.

    "Captain Tartan,” Wrehn called out, “Why are some of your troops moving? They need to keep watch at the perimeter."

    "How did you ever become the Great Hunt Champion?” Captain Tartan replied, “Did you cheat, somehow? You've barely fired your weapon at any of the enemies, here. We did all of your fighting for you."

    Wrehn cursed under her breath.

    "I don't have time for a mutiny now, Captain!” she shouted angrily, then vehemently ordered, “Get your people back in position and stand by for my orders!"

    "I'm going to show my men some real fighting!" Captain Tartan replied, becoming excited.

    "Captain Tartan, honor the contract!" Torian shouted furiously.

    "We are honoring the contract,” Tartan replied, reasonably, “Lieutenant Dremon is defending the breach, to prevent the Imps from reinforcing your client's enemy, and the bulk of my platoon is maintaining the exterior perimeter against a possible but very unlikely counter attack from an enemy outside the base. Only a small part of my platoon is joining me to challenge the Great Hunt Champion."

    "I wanna play!” Skadge declared excitedly, “Come on! Let's have a little fun!"

    Torian, Gault, Mako, and Wrehn all shouted, "Shut it, Skadge!"

    Gault tried to reason with the hired gun.

    "Say, Captain, didn't we have a deal? We're paying you top credits for this job. Don't tell me you're trying to renegotiate the terms, now that..."

    Mako cut in, speaking as though trying to explain a simple concept to a dimwitted Gamorrean palace guard on Hutta.

    "Captain Tartan, Wrehn is the Great Hunt Champion – for a reason!"

    Captain Tartan answered, sounding mystified as to why Mako couldn't understand.

    "But this is why we are challenging her. We want to see it for ourselves."

    Clearly frustrated, Mako threw her hands into the air.

    "Of course! I should have known! It's one of those Mandalorian things!" she shouted, angrily, making air quotes.

    Turning on Torian, Mako excoriated him.

    "Why do you Mandalorians always gotta prove stuff with a fight to the death?! You people don't make any sense!" Pointing a thumb over her shoulder at her boss, she added, "Why can't you be more level headed and practical, like Wrehn?"

    Greatly startled, Mako gave a little hop and chirped out her great surprise.

    "Oh!"

    Behind Mako, Wrehn had unloaded on Captain Tartan on full auto with her twin blasters. Wrehn's mouth also blasted her fury at her subcontractor.

    "You miserable mynock's turd! I'll vaporize your ungrateful carcass!"

    Everyone dove for cover, everyone except for Wrehn who was shooting wildly at Tartan as he scrambled for cover behind a rock shard, and Skadge who was whooping and hollering. The brute happily detached his heavy blaster rifle from its carrying mount on the back of his armor.

    "Yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about, Wrehn! Let's get 'em!" he shouted, excitedly over Wrehn's foul curses.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________​

    Meanwhile, taking advantage of Malgus' attention on Nox, Vereta used the time to concentrate as she built up power in The Force. When she was ready, she released a powerful bolt of Force Lighting at her enemy. However, Malgus, without even looking her way, brought up his lightsaber and deflected the lighting attack right back at her. She barely blocked her own Force Lightning attack with her lightsaber, narrowly escaping a humiliating death with her own attack.

    "The Empire cannot stand with one such as you leading it!” Malgus shouted at Nox in a scathing rebuke. Disgust tinged his tone, as he added, “It is people like you, with your back dealing, and back stabbing that has weakened the Empire, draining it of its capable leadership with each assassination! It is why the Galactic Republic will gain such an enormous advantage over us!"

    Nox laughed out loud, as Ashara pointed out the obvious.

    "It is your treason that has divided the Empire against itself and that has given our enemies in the Republic the advantage! For all of your noble talk of giving all Imperials a chance to rise according to their own merits, you have robbed them of the very chance with this betrayal! The Dark Council will never consider such a possibility again, because it will be associated with your treason!"

    "Actually, if I were to propose such a thing,” Nox said, speculatively, “and successfully implement it, I could gain a great following of aliens who will owe their new found elevated status to me… That could prove to be a powerful tool to further my own goals." Returning his attention to Malgus, he added facetiously, "Thanks for the idea, Malgus. I think it has serious potential for my own ambitions."

    "Such open and shameless hypocrisy!” Malgus shot back, indignant, “You battle me to preserve the throne for the ineffective Emperor Vitiate. Yet, you seek the throne for yourself?!"

    "Well, of course,” Nox answered, as though it was obvious, “I'm just not ready, yet. But I'm not going to let you have the throne, either."

    The quality of the lighting changed as one of the dropships moved from its position illuminating the battleground. This had happened earlier, as the Mandalorians evacuated their wounded onto the two dropships which had brought them into battle earlier.

    Nox surmised this probably meant that Xalek had found Khem Val and was loading his corps onto one of the craft. The Sith lord battled to keep his grief behind him, not wishing to lose his furious fighting edge, but he vowed to himself that he would give Khem Val a glorious burial.

    With the light source removed, the lighting on the ground changed, creating shadows. Nox hoped the change in the lighting caused enough of a distraction for him to take advantage. He concentrated as he built up power in The Force, and when he thought Malgus might attack, Nox unleashed a terrible blinding bolt of Force lightning at his enemy, which Malgus deflected into the rocky ground with his weapon.

    Ashara dashed forward in the attack and struck Malgus in the back with her red beamed saber, burning deeper into his armor. Meanwhile, Nox used Force Persuasion again to trick Malgus into believing that he was standing in place, preparing for another lightning attack, but Nox was actually creeping around to get behind Malgus for another attack with his sabrestaff.

    Malgus pivoted adroitly, turning to strike Ashara with his lightsaber, Ashara crossed her two weapons, blocking Malgus' attack and used The Force to trap his weapon in the crux of her crossed saber beams. Malgus couldn't pull his weapon free. He then gave Ashara a vicious Force powered front kick, which sent her flying towards the crater wall again. Ashara was forced to release his weapon so that she could use The Force to guard against his powerful kick.

    Again, Ashara maneuvered herself so that she could bounce off the wall with her feet. Instead of launching herself off of the wall in an attack against the usurper, as she had done before, she simply landed on the ground near the crater wall. Standing at the ready, her red and blue beamed weapons both seemed to hum their menacing threats of death at the False Emperor.

    Despite successfully guarding against his powerful kick, she still suffered from the blow. She stood winded, trying to catch her breath and began to realize that she could not match his power.

    "He is strong!" She thought to herself, worriedly.

    Ashara was coming to understand that Malgus' power might actually be greater than what he had demonstrated. She started to see that Malgus was very likely holding back. Lord Ashara realized that Darth Nox was in danger, because he had not yet realized this for himself.

    "Is he toying with us?" Ashara asked herself.

    Meanwhile, Malgus had spun again to face Nox. Thrusting both hands forward as though he were shoving a heavy object, he blasted Nox with a powerful Force Push attack. Nox's Force Persuasion attempt failed completely. Malgus would not be tricked a second time.

    Nox's phantom image vanished while the real Nox appeared, tumbling end over end, as he flew into the darkness out of the lighted battleground. He used The Force to recover, landing on his feet. His face, chest, belly, the front of his thighs all stung mightily, as though he'd done a belly flop into a pool of freezing water from a great height. Ignoring the stinging pain, he ran back towards the lighted battleground and noticed that Malgus was not there.

    Instinct!

    Nox deactivated his weapon and threw himself to the left, rolling to avoid a rock shard hurled at him from the darkness behind him. The rock fragment crashed into the lighted ground ahead of him, as he sprang back to his feet, reigniting his sabrestaff and pivoting to his right to face his enemy.

    In the darkness, all that the dark lord could see was Malgus' bright red lightsaber beam, angled down alongside his leg, illuminating a small patch of ground and dimly bathing half of Malgus' black Imperial Army armored suit in its red glow.

    Malgus took a running leap into the air, his red glowing weapon rose above his head. Nox quickly reacted, dashing to his left, towards the lighted battleground. Malgus landed where Nox had stood a moment before and immediately turned in the direction Nox had dodged and charged at the newly ascended dark councilor.

    Nox stood at the ready with his sabrestaff, then reaching his offhand towards Malgus, fired off a blast of Force Lightning. Malgus was forced to lower his weapon to intercept the lightning attack with his lightsaber as he closed in on Nox. Thus, his attack on Nox was spoiled.

    Nox took advantage of this, attacking as though he would thrust his weapon at his enemy's gut. Malgus halted to avoid Nox's attack to his midsection and moved his weapon to parry Nox's thrusting attack, but Nox quickly flipped the rear beam of his doubled beamed sabrestaff up and over towards the front, thus raising his weapon above Malgus' parry, and instead thrust his weapon at Malgus' throat.

    Malgus dodged the attack, spinning on one foot while raising his other to land a side kick into Nox's hip, sending him stumbling and rolling to the side. Nox quickly recovered, and was back on his feet, his sabrestaff at the ready.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Torian, on a knee, stuck his head out from behind a rock shard and located some of the Mandalorians who had decided it was a great idea to challenge Wrehn and her crew to a battle of skill and cunning. He took aim with his blaster rifle and used its laser range finder to determine their distance.

    Then he loaded a self-propelled grenade at the end of his blaster rifle and switched his weapon's fire setting to Launch Grenade. Faint green holographic reticles were projected above his weapon, with twin vertical lines on each reticle, one near the muzzle, and one above the pistol grip at the trigger housing group. He punched in the range his weapon's laser range finder had indicated, adding four extra meters.

    Two thin red horizontal lines appeared in the reticles, one each at the front and back holographic projections. He lined up the two red horizontal lines with each other and with the target area while also aligning the four vertical green lines and setting the target area between the green lines before finally squeezing the trigger. A very low powered blaster bolt discharged from his rifle, igniting the propellant in the self-propelled grenade.

    The grenade shot forward with a sharp bang, arcing up and then down as it traversed the one hundred and fifty three meters his range finder told him was the distance to his target. The grenade traveled an additional four meters past the huge rock shard, behind which the three mercenaries took cover. It detonated just one meter above the shattered rock surface, four meters past the three warriors.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Darth Nox turned to look behind himself upon hearing a grenade blast through his helmet. He was greeted by the sight of variously colored blaster bolts flying back and forth in the pitch black area outside of the lighted battleground.

    A few of the bolts flew well over his head and struck the crater wall behind him. The errant blaster bolts expended their energies as their uniformly aligned energy waves were suddenly disorganized and radiated in all directions with the force of a powerful blast. Pieces of the crater rock wall shattered and were sent scattering onto the crater floor in the lighted area of the battleground.

    Nox switched to his restricted command channel.

    "Have Darth Malgus' forces pinned us against the crater wall, Yehw'reh'nomai?" he anxiously asked his contractor.

    Panting for breath and growling out some of her words, Wrehn nearly shouted her reply.

    "Nah! Just some of my – hired guns messing around. They – BLASTED K'LOR'SLUG! YOU'LL PAY FOR THAT! Uh, sorry about that. I – I was saying they got bored of – just sitting around. Sorry about – the distraction. Don't worry about it. I'll get this – this mess sorted out."

    Nox, shook his head in disbelief at what he'd heard.

    "Get this straightened out quickly!” he ordered, in great frustration, “You're embarrassing me in front of my enemy!"

    Wrehn was, herself, feeling embarrassed in front of her client.

    "You got it, Dark Lord!" she growled out, angrily.

    Nox turned about and found that Malgus had not moved.

    Nox thought that his enemy was foolish for not taking advantage of a distracted foe.

    "You certainly are quite the gentleman, Malgus," Nox told him.

    He'd meant that as sarcasm, but there was no irony in his tone, so Malgus took it as a complement. He gave Nox a slight bow at the waist, acknowledging what he thought to be praise.

    Malgus returned the mistakenly perceived gesture, complementing Nox's battle prowess.

    "From our small exchange with our lightsabers, I can gauge your proficiency in the martial arts. You're skill with that weapon is not just technical, but is telling of your combat experience. I can see there is truth to the many claims of your personal involvement on the battlefield from the way you handled yourself, here. Now, let me test your power in The Force."

    Nox wondered what dark secrets he might glean from his battles with his enemy as Malgus let his hatred and his malice radiate from him. Nox felt the power of the Dark Side flow from Malgus in crushing waves. He felt himself become overcome with fear and felt himself losing command of his thoughts. The aura radiating from his enemy was terrible!

    Nox felt the pressure of Malgus' power push against his being and felt it sapping his strength. He felt as though he would be crushed by it as he sank to his hands and knees and found himself barely able to take in a breath as the crushing aura seemed to squeeze his entire being.

    Through his rapidly growing fear, even as he fought desperately to keep his sanity, Nox thought to himself, "I want that power!"

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Zigzagging towards a covered and concealed mercenary, assisted by his powered armored suit, Skadge rapidly closed the distance to the lone Mandalorian fighter. He jumped up and over the rock and came crashing down, feet first, onto the crouching Mandalorian fighter.

    Skadge rolled forward and ended up on his feet again. He pivoted on his right foot, snap-turning his bulky frame, made even bigger by his armored suit, and pointed his blaster rifle at the mercenary lying spread eagle on the rocky crater floor. Skadge could see on the display screen in his helm, the low light image of the mercenary laying, unmoving, on his back.

    Skadge walked to the motionless fighter and gave a light kick on the mercenary's helmet. There was no reaction.

    "Ha! Ha! Too easy!" the Houk brute declared, merrily.

    He turned to run off to where he'd last seen another fighter taking cover behind another rock shard.

    Wrehn had seen what the Houk had done with her suit.

    "Skadge, I swear I'm gonna dock your pay for the damages to my suit!" she shouted angrily.

    "This suit is a lot of fun!” Skadge replied, happily, “I'm gonna see what else it can do!"

    Gault and Torian had both rushed to the large rock fragment, behind which the three Mandalorians had been taking cover. They found the three warriors, unsteady on their feet, staggering back to the safety of the perimeter. They were determined to rejoin their comrades who were still manning their posts on the perimeter after refusing to take part in the challenge. The three had abandoned their weapons, leaving them behind.

    "Damn!” Gault observed, amazed, “Still alive after taking a hit from a grenade? Those are some pretty damned good armored suits they've got on!"

    Torian had gathered up the abandoned blaster rifles and leaned them against the rock. He stepped back a few paces and then, firing his own rifle at the weapons, destroyed them.

    Gault watched as the stumbling and staggering trio made their sluggish escape.

    "Do we finish them off?" he asked.

    "No.” Torian replied, “Under the rules of a challenge of skill, if you can't fight, then you leave the battle. They have left the battle, and by destroying their weapons I have made sure they cannot return to the fight."

    Wrehn heard what Torian had said and angrily shouted her questions at him.

    "You mean I can't kill 'em?! I want to kill 'em! Why can't I kill 'em?!"

    Torian replied, shocked at Wrehn's attitude.

    "If you killed them as they retired from battle, it would be seen as unsportsmanlike! It would sully your reputation!"

    "I just want them dead!” Wrehn furiously shouted, “To hell with my reputation!"

    From behind a large rock fragment, she scanned ahead but found none of the renegade Mandalorians she'd shot at a moment before.

    "Damn it, Tartan!” she cursed, “Where did you hide your miserable mynock's hide?!"

    "Try asking him that on the command channel, Wrehn.” Gault said dryly, “I don't think he heard you on our private channel."

    "That was a rhetorical question, smart ass!” Wrehn shot back, hotly, “I know he wouldn't tell me, even if I did ask him on the command channel!"

    Then she took off running to where she'd last seen the mutinous mercenary captain. Mako darted after Wrehn, taking cover as cover became available. As Wrehn ran past a pile of rock ruble, a mercenary popped up, taking aim at her back, but he dove for cover as two blaster bolts streaked past him, with a third one exploding on the right side of his armor. It was Mako who'd gotten the Mando fighter.

    She ran up to the felled mercenary to be sure of her kill. When she found him, he was rolling onto his back. She watched as he then began to push his weapon away from where he lay, wounded.

    Mako, pointing her blaster rifle at him, snarled on the command channel, "Do I have to finish you off, or are you gonna quit?"

    The poor woman gasped in obvious agony, "I, I quit."

    Ironically, Mako became surprised that it was a female fighter. She pivoted on her heels without saying another word, and continued chasing after Wrehn, covering her boss' rear.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Ashara found Vereta and spoke to her.

    "You and I must work as one to complement the dark lord's attacks against the traitor."

    "Did you see what he did to my Force Lighting attack?" Vereta asked, concern tingeing her tone. Vereta didn't wait for Ashara's reply, instead answering her own question. "He deflected it back at me!" She added with urgency, "He nearly killed me with my own attack!"

    It wasn't fear of death that caused Vereta to utter those words, but her realization of the difference in power and control of The Force Malgus exercised with the way he'd deflected her attack. She realized she was a mere acolyte when compared to Malgus and his control of The Force.

    "I watched him block your attack without looking to see from where the attack had come,” Ashara replied, “He is very strong in The Force. And this is how we will distract and harass him, so that the dark lord may find an opening to strike him down."

    "You want me to offer myself up as a target?!” Vereta asked, becoming incredulous, “just so that the dark lord might have a chance to strike at Malgus?! I will not!"

    "Of course not!” Ashara clarified, “We shall be distractions to him. It may present the dark lord with a chance to find an opening in Malgus' defense for him to exploit."

    Switching to the guard channel, Ashara contacted the pilots of the shuttles.

    "Shuttle crew that landed to recover the servants of the dark lord, answer me."

    "Talon One, my lord. What are your orders?"

    "Ask Lord Xalek to switch to the guard channel, so that I may converse with him."

    "As you command, my lord."

    A couple of moments later, "This is Xalek. What do you want?"

    "How long did you plan on hiding and sulking on that ship?!" Ashara caustically demanded, her tone dripping with derision, "Please, don't tell me you were actually going to run and hide from Malgus?"

    "YOU WILL REGRET YOUR INSULTS!" Xalek furiously bellowed.

    Vereta couldn't see Ashara's smirk under her visored helmet, as the Togrutan switched back to Nox's restricted command channel and told her, "Give me a little space. Lord Xalek is furious. He might come at me, and I might need to duck and dodge him a bit until I can point him at Malgus."

    "We cannot afford to be distracted,” Vereta remarked, then asked, “Lord Xalek isn't going to get in our way, is he?"

    Ashara dodged left, away from Vereta as an unknown object came tumbling towards her. The object crashed against the crater wall and clattered to the crater floor. It was an Imperial blaster rifle, bent out of shape with pieces of it springing off of it as it tumbled to a stop.

    Xalek, running at full tilt, launched himself in a flying leap at Ashara. He gave a furious shout, but his helmet conspired to hide his ferocious battle cry from everyone else, since it wasn't broadcast over the communications system. Xalek held his sabrestaff like a javelin as electricity arced in his free hand. Meanwhile, he caused a rock shard to launch at his rival's back.

    It was an excellent technique. Distract an opponent from the front with a fearsome display, while sneaking an attack from behind with Force thrown objects, but Ashara Zavros had sparred with him many times in the past, and knew his moves. She reached behind herself and wrenched control of the flying rock shard from Xalek, and sent it flying towards Malgus instead. Malgus dodged the rock. Ignoring Ashara, as he continued his conversation with Nox.

    Ashara used The Force to pull her rival, Xalek, towards her and forced him to the ground six meters in front of her, using The Force this time to keep him planted to the surface. Xalek could not pick his feet up from the fractured rock on which he stood. He was trapped.

    "Good! You are in a fighting mood!” Ashara told him, “Now, focus your rage at Malgus, but don't let your fury cause you to so easily lose control of your senses. See how easily I captured you? Go support the dark lord."

    "Do not presume to lecture me,” Xalek barked back, “and do not order me around! When this is done, look to our own duel. I will finally end you!"

    "The dark lord will miss you,” Ashara replied, “but if that is what you want, I will not stop you from dying at my hands."

    Ashara released her rival, and Xalek took off running towards Nox, intending to fight two on one against Malgus. As he neared his master, he noted that the dark lord was on his hands and knees. He feared his lord was wounded, and hurried his steps to aid his master.

    Instead of coming to his master's rescue, he ended up dropping to his hands and knees, succumbing to the horrible crush of malign hatred blanketing the area around his enemy. He had entered a field of crushing darkness that filled him with such fear and plunging him into a terrible sense of dread.

    His breathing became quick and shallow, and sweat burst from his pores. It was all that he could do to keep his panicked mind from flying out of control. Tears of abject woe gushed from his eyes.

    "Master! What is this?!" he cried out.

    Nox replied, his own breathing was labored and his voice subdued.

    "This is Malgus' power…," but then, despite his unreasoned fear, he added defiantly, "…, power that I want!" After a pause to catch his breath, his voice betraying his weakness, he ever defiantly added, "Grow stronger with me, Lord Xalek! Use your fear! Turn it into hatred! Embrace this darkness and let it fuel your hatred of our enemy!"

    Up until now, his master's communications with their hated enemy had been on an old guard channel which had been abandoned by the Imperial Army when it split into two factions at the start of the Imperial Civil War, which was why Xalek was shocked to hear Malgus' voice on Nox's restricted command channel.

    "Lord Xalek, cast aside your old title. Join me, and receive a new title in my new empire. I will teach you more about The Force than your weak master can. Or would you rather die on your hands and knees?"

    Xalek labored to lift his heavy hanging head to look at his master, and found Nox on his feet, standing strong with his ignited weapon in one hand, and his free hand balled into a fist.

    "Choose wisely, Lord Xalek,” Nox simply told Xalek, “Whom will you serve?"

    Xalek immediately heard the difference in Nox's voice. It was strong, and his master no longer labored to breathe. At that moment, Xalek realized that Nox had already overcome his terrible unreasoning fear, and that he had become stronger, overcoming Malgus' god-like power. Xalek resolved to follow Nox, choosing to defeat his own fear with hatred.

    Xalek began his battle against Malgus' will. It started as a low growl of resentment. The growl grew in intensity, becoming fiercely defiant. With his defiantly fierce growl, Xalek's resolve also grew, and with his growing resolve, his anger took hold and quickly bloomed into such hatred! Xalek roared out his hate filled fury as he fought the crush of darkness pressing against him and, rising to his feet as had his master, fought off Malgus' terrible control over his mind, body, and spirit.

    He then turned to face Malgus, and raged at him.

    "I WILL NEVER SERVE YOU! I WILL GROW STRONGER WITH MY MASTER, DARTH NOX!"

    With that, Xalek unleashed a long torrent of Force Lightning at his enemy, which Malgus deflected using his lightsaber. Nox wasted no time, dashing forward with his own attack, to pierce through the deepening gouge on the back of Malgus' armor. As Nox neared his hated enemy, Xalek ended his Force Lightning attack, so that Nox would not get caught in it.

    Malgus quickly pivoted, turning to face Nox just in time to deflect Nox's sabrestaff as he parried Nox's thrusting attack, now aimed at his belly. With both weapons occupied, crossing their cutting beams, Nox reached forward and placed his space suit gloved offhand on Malgus' armored breastplate. Just as Nox attacked with a focused blast of kinetic Force energy at Malgus' heart, Malgus sent a blast of kinetic Force energy outward, negating Nox's attack and sending his enemy flying backwards.

    Malgus thought to leap into the attack at Nox, but found himself welded to the frozen rock floor of the crater. His boots were being held down with The Force. Malgus turned at the waste and blasted Ashara, several tens of meters behind him, with a blinding white bolt of Force Lightning.

    Ashara was shocked at the distance that Malgus could accurately shoot Force Lightning. She reacted quickly however, catching the lightning attack using her blue lightsaber. In an instant, Ashara touched the tip of her blue saber to her red beamed weapon, near its hilt. Then she touched the tip of her red saber to the fragmented black basalt rock crater bottom. In this way she channeled Malgus' Force Lightning attack into the rocky ground. She had done all of these steps so quickly, that it could not be followed with the naked eye.

    At that moment, Vereta, standing much closer to Malgus than Ashara, released a Force Lightning bolt attack at his back. Malgus twisted at his waste, facing the other way, and catching the Force Lightning bolt with his own saber, deflected the attack right back at Vereta.

    In a flash, however, Ashara dashed forward, at an angle towards Vereta, with her weapon extended. She caught the Force Lighting bolt attack in front of Vereta, this time using The Force to redirect the lightning to the crater floor, thus saving Vereta's life.

    Ashara then changed directions, bounding forward towards Malgus' back. He still couldn't move his boots off the rock surface without risking damage to his armored footwear, and he couldn't turn to face her attack. Malgus bent over backwards at the knees, suspending himself with The Force, and thrust his lightsaber at Ashara just before she could reach his vulnerably exposed back.

    With her forward momentum, Ashara had no choice but to bound over him, using The Force to propel herself high above the reach of his extended weapon. However, Ashara had entered Malgus' field of hatred and corruption. She felt the maddening fear and panic which threatened to fog her mind in unreasoning terror, and she felt her body being crushed from all directions as she tumbled high above him. She began to lose focus, battling mightily to keep Malgus' boots firmly tethered to the rock surface.

    Malgus, however, reached up for Ashara with his left hand, as she tumbled past high above him, and used The Force to grab her in mid-flight. He then swept his hand sideways and down towards the rock littered surface of the crater on his left side.

    Ashara, in his grip, changed direction ninety degrees, in midair and followed the arc of his hand, smashing onto the crater floor. Malgus then stood straight up again, as Ashara's grip on his boots was broken. Spinning about, pivoting on one foot, he swung his arm towards the crater wall, as though hurling a ball.

    Ashara's winded and battered body was thus thrown against the vertical rock surface, where she crashed limply against the crater wall and rebounded a short distance back, falling in a heap onto the crater floor. The Mandalorians watching the fight from the breach in the wall, and who'd been cheering Ashara on, let out a chorus of disheartened oh's, as their favorite underdog was finally defeated by their client's enemy.

    Malgus felt himself being violently shoved forward, forcing him to take several stumbling steps forward as he tried to regain his balance. His toe got caught on a rock shard sending him tripping forward. Reflexively, he converted his forward fall into a forward roll, and ended up on a knee facing back at his attacker, reaching with his free hand.

    It was Xalek who'd attacked that point in his armor which Nox and Ashara had been trying to penetrate.

    "Blast it all!” Xalek cursed furiously at his own stupidity, asking himself, “Why didn't I go for the weak spot at the back of his neck?!"

    That was all he had time to think, as Malgus blasted him with a blinding bolt of Force Lightning. Xalek's world went dark, as he felt flat onto his face. His weapon deactivated as it struck the rock surface clattering away from where he lay.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Skadge whooped loudly, and then shouted on Wrehn's private channel.

    "I got another one! Look at 'em run!"

    Wrehn's team was forced to momentarily fall back as they regrouped. Once grouped, her team prepared to go back on the offensive. From the outset, when Wrehn began shooting, Tartan lost members of his team in ones and twos, leaving him with only himself and four others.

    "Blasted she-nexu!” Tartan cursed, and groused to himself, “Already took out over half of my people!"

    Captain Tartan got on his platoon command channel.

    "We can't underestimate them,” he told his remaining team mates, “See what fighting solo has got us?"

    "It's more like she started shooting before we could go over the ground rules," one of his men complained.

    "At least she hasn't killed any of our people, but they're shooting at full power, like they want to kill us! Hell, they're using grenades!" another of his team mates added.

    Tartan gave his orders.

    "We're going to get in their faces. We'll finish this, here and now. If it goes into hand to hand combat, we'll have a better chance to break up their momentum and take them down. We got the advantage in melee combat. Two of them are women."

    "They got that monster Houk with them,” one of his men objected, “And have you forgot? One of those women is the Great Hunt Champion."

    "It's more like they have the advantage!" another of his people added, laughing.

    Tartan cut in, curtly.

    "Look sharp! Here they come!"

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    "I wish I had my blaster cannon,” Skadge observed, “This would have been over a long time ago." A moment later he laughed, adding, "I'm glad I ain't got my blaster cannon with me. This would have been over a long time ago!"

    "Gotta stretch out the fun times, right?" Gault observed, laughing.

    "I got it! I'm in!" Mako chirped, excitedly.

    "Tell me what you've got, Mako," Wrehn demanded.

    "They're gonna fight hand to hand!"

    "There they are! Look sharp!" Torian Cadera called out.

    A viscous grin exploded onto Wrehn's visage. Her cheek stung smartly, reminding her of what Nox had done to her face. She understood the kolto was starting to wear off, but she decided against administering another dose. She wanted her wits to remain sharp.

    "Let them come!" Wrehn growled out with grim determination, before giving her orders, "Everybody, set your blast shields to full power, I'm gonna drop a concussion grenade in the middle of it all."

    "Aw, not that! I hate that!" Gault complained.

    "Yeah! Let's do it! Skadge shouted, pumping his fist in the air.

    "Can I stay back until after the blast?" Mako asked, plaintively.

    "No-yeah,” Wrehn answered, “After the blast, start picking them off with your blaster rifle."

    "Hey! I'm the sniper, here!” Gault argued, “Let me stay back to pick them off!"

    "Gault, you're moving forward with me,” Wrehn ordered, “and that's the end of that discussion!”

    The Devaronian shook his head in disgust, within his helmet, but kept silent.

    "Let's go! Now!” Torian shouted, “They're coming!"

    "Close in on the attack!” Wrehn ordered, “Shoot as you scoot!"

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    "Here they come!" Tartan shouted, warning his team. When he noticed one was not among them, he added, "The little one's stayed back! Find her then keep their team between her and us, so that she can't snipe at us!" Then he ordered, "Open fire! Close the distance to the foe!"

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Both teams ran hard at each other while shooting. Their shots were wild, with only a few rock fragments getting hit, and most of the shots going either too high into the air or too low onto the shattered rock surface. When the two teams clashed, one of the renegade mercenaries had brought his weapon up over his head to slam his opponent with the butt of his weapon, but Skadge was too big, and much faster than he had expected.

    Skadge swung from down low, leveraging his full weight, momentum, and the power assist of his powered armored suit. His balled armored fist, arcing upwards, caught the Mandalorian mercenary in the mid-section. The Mando mercenary flew up and over Skadge's head. The hapless mercenary crashed onto the rocky crater floor behind Skadge as the Houk darted for the next Mandalorian mercenary.

    "Why couldn't I bring out my sniper rifle?!” Gault complained to himself, “Why do I have to get in close and dirty with these turds?!"

    Intending to flank the enemy team, he ducked around a large rock shard on the crater floor, but he suddenly found himself face to face with one of Wrehn's hired guns, apparently with the same idea in mind. Both immediately leveled their blaster rifles, point blank, at each others' opponent's midsection and fired a shot. Wrehn's hired gun missed. Gault didn't.

    The hired gun’s bolt flew between the crux of Gault’s elbow and his chest guard. However, the disbursing energies of Gault's blaster bolt on the hired gun’s breastplate armor knocked both the poor mercenary and Gault backwards away from each other. Both combatants slammed onto the rocky floor of the crater on their backs.

    The mercenary writhed and kicked, while clutching at his midsection. His shield generator and armor saved his life, absorbing the majority of that energy blast, but enough residual energy remained to heat his armor to the point of giving him first and second degree burns to his abdomen and chest. Thankfully, his armor cooled very quickly in the super frigid atmosphere of Ilum, which greatly limited the extent of his burns.

    Gault's armor did a better job of protecting him from the disbursing energies of his blaster bolt. He also saw his chance skip out on the rest of the fight. He had no intention of getting mixed up in melee combat any more than he had to.

    "Gault is down!” Mako screamed out, “Gault's down!"

    The Devaronian felt guilty, listening to Mako become distressed.

    "Sorry, Mako,” he thought to himself, “but I'm not gonna risk getting killed on my last day on the job with this crew."

    He'd become rankled at Wrehn's snarky comment.

    "Gault, quit goofing off! Get back on your feet and get to work! I got your vitals displayed on my screen!"

    Needless to say, he was displeased, as well as embarrassed. He rolled to his side, and got onto his hands and knees.

    "I'm not goofing off!" he complained, adding as he got to his feet, "I was just catching my breath! And let me add that you monitoring my vitals without telling me is an invasion of my privacy!"

    "I lied, Gault,” Wrehn explained, “I don't have your vitals. So your privacy is protected!" She laughed raucously at Gault's expense, adding, "This is the biggest payday you will ever make on my crew. I'm gonna be sure you earn your keep!"

    Gault could only shake his head in disgust as he muttered obscenities under his breath.

    Wrehn had missed her chance to drop the concussion grenade in the midst of the melee, because the fighters were already disbursing, and she’d been busy with both blasters.

    Meanwhile, Torian had leapt into the air and landed a flying kick on his opponent's breast plate. The mercenary stumbled backwards until he lost his footing and crashed onto his back, but before he could get onto his feet again, he found himself looking straight into the muzzle of Torian's blaster rifle.

    Torian menaced out the mercenary's choices.

    "Give up or die. Which do you choose?"

    The Mando fighter lay back onto the crater floor, speechless.

    Torian wasn't satisfied with that and let his opponent know it.

    "I didn't hear you,” Torian said, adding, “I'll take your silence as your wish to die."

    "I know I'm beaten! I yield!" The Mando pleaded, raising both hands pleadingly.

    "Don't move from this spot,” Torian warned him, “I'll make sure you die if you do."

    "I won't get up until it's all done! I swear it!" the Mando fighter assured Torian.

    Tartan found himself with only one fighter remaining by his side. The two mercenaries looked around themselves and found all five of their opponents still on their feet, and slowly closing in on them both. Tartan's last remaining fighter cast aside his rifle and lay down.

    Tartan tapped the helm of the surrendering fighter with the toe of his boot.

    "Heh. Blasted coward," he half jokingly cursed.

    "Sorry Captain. We started eleven strong against five, and in no time at all, we're down to two. And they haven't lost a one. I say that means we're beat."

    Tartan shook his head, disgusted at himself and at his team. He looked up at Wrehn's crew as they approached, walking the last few meters to where he stood. He knew which one of them was Yehw'reh'nomai. She was the only one with twin blaster pistols.

    "Your crew is sharp,” he said, complimenting her and her people, “It was our mistake to underestimate them."

    Wrehn said nothing, as she gave her attention to adjusting the control settings on her twin blasters.

    "I'm all that's left of the challenge,” Captain Tartan said, “I ask that even as I acknowledge your team's victory, that you grant me the honor of single combat against you."

    She raised her weapon, leveling it at his breastplate and replied, "Granted." Whereupon she immediately let loose a single shot into his chest.

    He was blown off of his feet and crashed onto his back. His shield generator was completely depleted by the shot, and the paint on his armor became scorched. He felt his chest warm up, where the remaining energies expended themselves on his armor.

    Unlike his subordinate, who suffered burns to his chest and midsection, Tartan wore his thermal protective under armor beneath his heavy armor. He believed the added bulk and discomfort was worth not getting burns, and it paid off.

    His armor had saved him, but he still faced a furiously outraged opponent, and didn't expect to be spared. He was too weak, woozy, and wobbly to scramble to his feet, and ended up just lying on his back.

    Wrehn walked up to the defeated Tartan and pointed her other weapon at his visored face.

    "I SOOO WANT TO KILL YOU!" she declared, furiously.

    After a long silence she lowered her weapon.

    "But I have a reputation to maintain," Wrehn said to Tartan as though disgusted she couldn’t get her wish.

    Tartan's shaking voice came back.

    "I y-yield, g-Great Hunt ch-Champion."

    Wrehn holstered her pistols.

    "Enough messing around!” she ordered, “Get back to your posts!"

    Torian pumped a fist into the air, letting out a big, "Whoop!"

    Torian was excited that his employer had chosen to end the challenge in such good form.

    "HAIL YEHW'REH'NOMAI! HAIL THE GREAT HUNT CHAMPION!" he shouted exultantly.

    The shout was taken up by Tartan's defeated mercenaries.

    "HAIL YEHW'REH'NOMAI! HAIL THE GREAT HUNT CHAMPION!"

    The other Mandalorians, who'd been watching the match, both on the perimeter out in the open rock strewn crater floor and from the breach in the crater's wall, cheered and fired their blasters into the black, star filled afternoon sky, filling it with many hundreds of blaster bolts of several different colors. They cheered Wrehn's victory, and cheered her forbearance. She chose not to slay their company commander, as was her right. They rather liked Captain Tartan.

    "HAIL YEHW'REH'NOMAI! HAIL THE GREAT HUNT CHAMPION!"

    ___________________________________________________________________________________​

    Darth Nox had come to finally understand that the extreme cold had conspired against him this whole time.

    He looked around the light flooded battleground at his defeated servants.

    "All dead,” he thought bitterly, “The Force is with Malgus."

    He seriously thought about escaping and instantly became infuriated at the fact that he would actually entertain such an idea. He spoke bitterly to his enemy.

    "I and my servants have killed you several times over, Malgus. This cold saps the heat energy from our weapons and keeps your armor cold enough to make piercing it a real chore."

    Then he growled out through clenched teeth, because admitting this truth struck him at his core.

    "The Force is with you, Malgus."

    Darth Malgus knew full well that he would be rejected, but he made another attempt to recruit Nox anyway.

    "Then you know you are beaten. Kneel before me and become my servant, Darth Nox. I shall strip you of your old title and grant you a new one in my new empire."

    Nox had become livid on hearing those words. His low voice quavered in rage as he gave his answer.

    "I would rather die a tortuous death than to kneel before you, worm!"

    Vereta had been listening to the exchange between Nox and Malgus. She didn't want to die. She'd already been nearly killed twice. She realized how outmatched they all were in the face of Malgus' power, and she had ceased to believe that Nox could win.

    She finally understood that Malgus had been redirecting only her Force Lightning attacks, back at her, because he had seen some flaw in the way that she carried out her attacks. She realized that until she figured out this flaw, she could never even hope to be a match for him.

    "I yield to you,” Vereta declared, kneeling, “Emperor Malgus! I shall relinquish my title and serve you in your new empire!"

    Nox looked at Vereta's space suited kneeling form and cursed her cowardice.

    "In the end you were utterly useless to me." he told her. Turning to face Malgus, he said, "You can have her. I have no need of her."

    Malgus walked over to Vereta.

    "Thank you for your declaration,” Lord Vereta, “but I would have preferred it if you had made your decision to support me a bit sooner than this…,"

    Malgus reached his offhand towards the surrendering Sith Lord and blasted Vereta, where she knelt, with a blinding bolt of Force Lightning.

    "… but I don't need you either," he told her dead body.

    The juggernaut warrior turned about to face Nox.

    "I thank you for paying me the courtesy of allowing me to complete my business with my servant," he told Nox.

    Nox tsked disgustedly.

    "Blast! My mind is wandering!” he said, chiding himself and adding, “I’ve wasted a perfectly good opportunity to stab you in the back."

    Malgus re-ignited his lightsaber, and Nox followed suit.

    "And here I thought I could think you had died with some honor,” Malgus retorted, “but it was just a lapse that caused you to miss a chance to be underhanded before I killed you."

    Nox dashed forward in the attack, discharging a bolt of Force Lightning at Malgus' helmeted head. Malgus raised his weapon and deflected it, while countering with a Force Lighting attack of his own. Nox used his own weapon to defend against Malgus' attack. Nox, then lifted his weapon to block Malgus' powerful downward swing of his weapon.

    As soon as the two weapons clashed, Nox bent to his knee under the weight of Malgus' truly powerful blow. Malgus instantly brought his weapon back up for another strike, believing that Nox was seeking death in battle.

    However, Nox reached forward with his free hand, and as soon as it touched Malgus' armored knee, he blasted it with a powerful and sharply focused wave of Kinetic Force energy, crushing his enemy's knee within his armored legging.

    Nox rolled forward as Malgus screamed out his agony and collapsed to his hands and his one good knee. Nox immediately stood and turned to face his enemy. Using The Force, Nox blasted Malgus with Force Push, flattening Malgus face down onto the rock floor at the bottom of the crater. Nox then leapt high into the air and came down over Malgus' exposed back.

    The dark lord drove his sabrestaff into the gouge he and his servants had been digging out of Malgus' armor. His weapon finally pierced through the tough, cortosis and cold-reinforced armor. It burned through his spine, scorching into his enemy's internal organs, and after boiling through his belly from the inside, finally came to a stop at the inside of the front of Malgus' armor.

    He wrenched his weapon's cutting beam out of his enemy's back and, holding it up to the black, star filled afternoon sky, roared ferociously in victory. At that moment, hundreds of blaster bolts of various colors, blue, red, yellow, orange, and green rose up through the black afternoon Ilum sky. It was as though colored rain were falling up towards the heavy dusting of stars. Nox's rush of victory was magnified by this glorious display of colors racing to the stars.

    With his remaining strength, however, Malgus managed to roll onto his side, and pointing his unsteady hand at Nox, standing over him in exaltation, blasted his conqueror with a bolt of Force Lighting.

    Nox was struck by the attack, but his shield generator absorbed much of the energy before being depleted. Nox didn't realize he'd been struck in an attack until he found himself on his back, wondering why there were so many stars swimming around among the stars littering the black afternoon sky.

    He quickly sprang onto his feet, shook his head to clear the fog out of his mind, and looked about the area. He stood, unsteadily on his feet, woozily and wobbly, until he found Malgus lying on his side on the shattered deeply frozen rock of the crater floor. With Malgus dead, and his victory sealed, his mind was freed to remember his dead followers and his dead wife, Ashara.

    Looking about, he saw Xalek sitting silently on a rock shard, facing towards Nox and his defeated foe, Malgus. It gave Nox hope that at least Ashara might be alive.

    Nox turned towards the crater wall, and found Ashara piled in a heap on the crater floor near the wall. Ashara hadn't moved since getting thrown into it by Malgus.

    Feeling a pang of despair, Nox called to her.

    "Ashara?"

    He walked towards her, his steps becoming increasingly hurried.

    "Ashara?!" he called out again.

    Nox fired off another blast of Force Lighting at Magus' corps as he rushed passed the unmoving traitor. The Force was strong with his hated enemy, Nox knew. He wanted to be sure his foe was dead. That was all the time and energy Nox was willing to expend on Malgus, as he ran towards Ashara's still and crumpled form.

    "Ashara!" He cried out again, tears spilling from his eyes.

    Nox carefully untangled her body, piled against a rock shard near the crater wall, and carefully stretched her out on her back. Hope came back to him as he watched her struggle to move her hand to point at the side of her helmet. Her comm gear had been damaged. She signaled she could receive but not transmit. He was overcome with great relief that the worst had not occurred.

    Nox cut out his communications gear, then he touched his helmet to hers.

    "Ashara, what are your injuries?" he asked.

    Ashara's voice came back through the vibrations of the two helmets against each other. She was in obvious pain.

    "Sore all over, my ribs hurt, maybe some are broken. My arm hurts. It's probably broken. Maybe I have a broken leg, too, my lord." Then she asked, "My lord, did you defeat your enemy?"

    "I'll activate your medi-aid system," Nox told Ashara.

    "Yes, please."

    Nox pushed a few buttons of her space suit's controls under a panel on her forearm. The built in medi-aid system administered a large dose of kolto.

    After a short time, Nox touched his helmet to Ashara's again, and asked, "How's that? Do you need another dose?"

    "This is fine, my lord."

    "Malgus is dead,” Nox told her, “We have won."

    "I wish I could hear the celebrations when you announced it to the Empire."

    "You are the first I have told, and you make a good point. I should tell the rest of the Sith Empire, and put a stop to the civil war."

    Nox stood and turned to face Malgus' dead body again. He saw Xalek standing over Malgus' defeated form. Against hope, Nox fervently hoped that his most faithful companion, Khem Val, had also survived.

    On the general command channel, Nox made the announcement.

    "Malgus the Betrayer is dead. The False Emperor is destroyed, killed by my hand. Long live the true Emperor, Vitiate!"

    "Long live the true Sith Emperor!” Colonel Fruntz repeated excitedly, and telling Darth Nox, “Well done, Dark Lord! I'll get this news reported across the empire immediately! Again, Dark Lord, congratulations on your hard fought victory!"
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2021
  12. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Chapter 12: Tributes, Payments, and Celebrations​


    The Imperial Army forces loyal to the Dark Council and to the legitimate Sith Emperor had cleared some of the rubble at the bottom of the crater and established a temporary command center in a prefabricated insulated building. It was easier to build the temporary headquarters inside the crater.

    Outside the rim of the crater was a ring of rubble and dust completely unsuitable for building anything on top of. It was a wonder Nox's forces were not buried under the literal mountain of rubble that settled around the crater for kilometers.

    In addition to several prefabricated barracks, hasty field prisons, and two field hospitals under assembly nearby, an expedient field hospital was built into the temporary headquarters. Wrehn sat reclined in an exam chair with a surgical grade droid standing over her, repairing the considerable damage done to her face.

    "The kolto you self administered, along with the topical ointment you applied to your wound, helped to keep the inflammation to your face down, and it helped to keep infection from setting in. You have done well, Patient 2461-KR32," the droid said, praising its patient.

    Wrehn had refused to give the droid her name. She'd been in that chair for nearly an hour when the droid completed its surgical repairs.

    "You will regain full use of the muscles in your cheek,” the surgical grade medical droid told her, “However, the wound will scar. You may wish to seek elective surgeries to repair the scaring that will result. So, follow up with your favorite medical treatment facility at your leisure."

    The droid inspected the micro sutures before spraying a thin coating of an ointment that promoted fast healing, and then applied an adhesive antibacterial bandage which also promoted rapid healing to her left cheek, completing Wrehn's medical treatment.

    The surgical grade medical droid stepped back, allowing Wrehn to get up from the exam chair. She walked to the sections of her powered armored suit, piled on the floor at the side of the room, and began to suit up. Mako helped Wrehn to get the suit assembled with her boss inside of it, and helped with the suit systems diagnostics and safety checks after powering up the suit. Picking their helmets up off the floor, the two women stepped to the door holding their helmets in their hands.

    "Thanks for your help, Mako,” Wrehn said, “I'm glad to have the armor back on. It's kind of chilly in here."

    "Yeah, sure. Glad to help. That bastard really did a job on your face. Should we do something about him?"

    "Nah. It was my fault. I knew his people were watching, and I tried to make him look like any stupid ol' client."

    "My face is freezing!" Mako complained, changing the subject.

    The climate controls for the prefabricated building heated the interior to just over nineteen degrees Celsius. The army engineers were still working on increasing the heat.

    Wrehn and Mako stepped out of the treatment room and stomped down the hall towards the med center exit. The two women stepped through the sliding doors and into the main corridor.

    Torian, Skadge, and Gault were in the corridor, waiting. They picked their helmets up from the floor and accompanied Wrehn as she made her way to the conference room on the headquarters side of the prefabricated structure.

    "I don't see no difference,” Skadge told Torian, “These guys were smart. They knew when to quit. Them other scrubs were dumb. They didn't get a clue, and I had to kill 'em."

    "Torian, when Skadge's argument makes more sense than your argument,” Gault added unhelpfully, “then you have to know that your argument really stinks."

    "That was a different sport, with different rules!" Torian countered, frustrated, that his teammates didn’t get it.

    "I followed the rules,” Skadge pointed out, “I quit when I was beat. And the rules said I could keep my money. So, I did, and they booed the hell out of me instead of cheering the winner!" He added, as though revealing a bit of wisdom, "They were dumb, Torian."

    "You'll never understand. You're…," Torian said, disgustedly, shaking his head in frustration.

    "You guys still on about that?!" Wrehn cut in, asking in surprise.

    Gault filled her in.

    "Skadge made a good point, comparing his matches on Mandalore and this match we had a few hours ago."

    "These guys were smart,” Skadge cut in, and explained, “They quit when they was beat, not like them other scrubs."

    "Give it up, Torian,” Mako chimed in, “That 'die honorably when you don't have to' crap is just pathetically stupid."

    Torian stopped in his tracks, clearly angered.

    "You don't understand because you aren't Mandalorian," he told Mako.

    Wrehn stopped and turned to face Torian adding her two credits.

    "I'm Mandalorian, and I don't get it."

    Torian pursed his lips, forcing himself to keep silent. He didn't want to tell Wrehn what he really thought about her being 'Mandalorian.'

    She turned and proceeded down the hall with her crew following. Rounding the corner, the group saw a door guarded by two Imperial Army soldiers. Stopping before the helmeted armed guards, Wrehn addressed the two.

    "I'm Yehw'reh'nomai. The, uh, dark lord wants us here for the debrief."

    One of the guards motioned the group in while the other guard pushed a contact, causing the door to slide open on the left side of a huge meeting hall.

    Wrehn’s team stomped their way into the expansive and brightly lit conference room. The conference room, like every other part of the prefabricated structure, had off white painted metal wall panels and light grey painted metal floor and ceiling tiles. The large meeting hall was filled with armored Imperial Army officers, cradling their helmets in their arms.

    The dull roar of many voices filled the air as many dozens of conversations and impromptu meetings were held. Wrehn and her crew stomped their way to their right, to the back of the room. At the back, they turned to their left and, upon reaching the center of the back wall, set their oversized helmets down onto the floor and leaned back against the wall.

    A short while later, the door Wrehn and her crew had just entered slid open; a soldier marched in and, stomping his armored boot on the metal floor, snapped to attention and shouted, "The dark lord approaches!"

    The soldier exited, and the door slid shut again. The room crashed into silence, briefly, before suddenly filling with the cacophony of stomping armored boots on the metal floor, as the officers rushed to their places.

    "Command! Fall in!" Colonel Fruntz ordered, stentoriously.

    The officers, already moving into position, quickly arranged themselves into ranks and files, standing at attention.

    The door slid open again, and the soldier guarding the door shouted.

    "The dark lord enters!"

    "Command! Salute!" Colonel Fruntz shouted, stentoriously.

    Carrying their helmets and still wearing their metallic silver-colored space suits showing signs of recent combat, abrasions, cracks, gouges, and scorch marks, Darth Nox and his apprentice, Lord Xalek, entered the conference room.

    They turned to their left, walking briskly to the front of the conference room. Xalek turned towards the left and walked to the corner of the conference room, while Nox walked to the back of the only military office furniture in the large space. The desk and its chair were centered at the front of the meeting hall.

    Stepping behind the army metal field desk, Nox set his helmet on the left side of it. Then he took his seat on the army metal field chair behind the desk. Xalek stood in the corner of the room, behind Nox to his right, with his helmet set on the floor at his feet.

    The sixty men and women of the Imperial Army command staff all stood at attention while saluting with their right hands and cradling their helmets in their left arms. They stood in ranks and files with the senior most ranking officers standing in the front ranks.

    At the side of the room, opposite from the sliding doors, was a long range intra-galactic holo-transceiver. Projected at one quarter scale above the device, was the holographic image of a formation of admiral ranked officers, also standing at attention in ranks and files and saluting. The admiral officers were aboard the flagship of the fleet of Imperial Navy warships in orbit over Ilum. This fleet was loyal to the legitimate Sith Emperor and thus supported Nox's operations on Ilum.

    Way in the back of the conference room, Wrehn and her crew continued to lean against the back wall. They felt no need to stand at attention with the Imperial army and navy officers.

    After scanning the faces of the men and women arrayed before him with his eyes, and with The Force, Nox finally waved his acknowledgment of their salute.

    "End salute!" Colonel Fruntz ordered.

    The command staff officers in the room, and the admirals on holo, all snapped their arms back down to their sides.

    Nox spoke a single command.

    "At ease."

    The officers relaxed their stance, but remained silent.

    "Colonel Fruntz, report."

    Colonel Fruntz stomped his boot as he snapped back to attention.

    "Dark Lord! Before I begin my report,” the Imperial Army officer began, “may I recommend that we clear the mercenaries from the conference room? There are many details in the report that are secret, and…"

    Nox interrupted.

    "Noted."

    He commanded.

    "Yehw'reh'nomai, step forward. I'll conclude my business with you, first."

    Wrehn signaled her crew to stay put as she walked alone to Nox's desk. Her heavy powered armored suit assisting her movements, she stomped across the metal floor until she came to a stop before his desk.

    "Have you thought of a tribute for me?" Nox asked.

    Wrehn blinked. Confusion expressed in her eyes.

    "Huh?"

    "Did you forget what we discussed on the shuttle ride to here?” Nox asked, seeming surprised, “I told you to think of a tribute to appease my anger."

    Wrehn tilted her head in genuine surprise.

    "You're still mad about that?" she asked, belatedly adding, "Uh… Dark Lord."

    "Well what did you think I called you up here, for?"

    "Um, to pay up? You owe me three hundred million credits, and I'm not giving you that as tribute, Dark Lord."

    "She learns nothing!" Mako thought, angrily, rolling her eyes and shaking her head.

    "How about I do another job for you, and charge half price?” Wrehn suggested, “Only one job at half price, though. All other jobs after that, I'll charge regular rates."

    Nox looked at Wrehn in wonderment and shook his head in disbelief. Suddenly, he burst out laughing. His laughter subsided after a moment, and he complimented Wrehn.

    "You are fearless! You know what I can do to you. That wound on your cheek is nothing." Nox pointed to his right, adding, "My apprentice is seething with fury. He's barely containing himself. He wants me to order him to slay you where you stand. You know all this. You know how it will end if I grant his wish, yet you stand there, defiant!"

    Wrehn gulped back her fear, remaining silent.

    "I can feel your fear of me,” Nox told her, “but I can also feel your resolve not to bend to me."

    "Yeah. My line of work is dangerous,” Wrehn said, “Sometimes the hardest part is getting the client to pay up after a job's done. It usually ends up in a fight, but after I kick the crap out of 'em, they pay up. But I know you're not like that. Being a dark lord and all of that, you wouldn't want it getting around that you don't pay your bills. You have a reputation to protect and all of that."

    Xalek took his weapon into his hand.

    "Please, Master, let me kill her!" he pleaded.

    Nox flicked his finger and Wrehn's bandage ripped from her face, exposing the healing scar that remained on her face after her initial treatment. Wrehn was surprised by this and flinched. The disturbance to her wound sharply stung her cheek, but she stifled back a yelp. She could feel fresh hot blood run down her cold cheek, down to her jaw line, and then down her throat.

    "Our medical droids do good work. Don't they?" Nox observed.

    Wrehn kept silent. After some thought, Nox nodded as though coming to a decision.

    "That shall be your tribute to me,” Nox announced, “the scar I gave you. Every time I hire you for a job, I want to see that scar, so don't heal it any further. Leave the scar on your cheek. If you heal it, I shall have you hunted down and killed."

    Wrehn knew if she refused, Nox, his apprentice, and every officer in the room would attack her and her crew. She knew she was seriously outnumbered.

    Her stubborn pride got in the way of good sense, however. Not wanting to appear nerfed, Wrehn spoke facetiously. She attempted to make a mockery of Nox's demands.

    "Oh, yeah. A keepsake from our good times together. Something to remind me of you every time I look in the mirror, yeah? O.K., let's go with that. I'm sure it'll make you feel big every time you see it on my face. Yeah?"

    Nox's furious eyes bore into Wrehn's eyes, as sweat began to bead on her forehead.

    "Blast it, Wrehn!” the Chiss bounty hunter and mercenary thought to herself, “Shut your damned mouth already!"

    In the back of the room, Gault and Mako had their faces buried in the palms of their hands, as they shook their heads in disapproval. Torian tensely swept his eyes across the Imperial officers' backs, looking for signs that a fight was about to break out. However, Skadge merely wore a smirking grin of amusement.

    Xalek, becoming extremely incensed, shook his weapon in great frustration, but kept silent as he waited in vain for his master to give him the word.

    Nox had a brief surge of rage, but he managed to restrain his impulse to blast the mercenary with Force Lightning.

    "Yeah," Nox replied frostily, to Wrehn’s impertinence.

    He didn't understand why he should spare this mercenary, but his wife and apprentice, Ashara Zavros was quite adamant about the visions granted her, via The Force. Ashara explained that Wrehn's long term usefulness to him would outweigh her obstinate nature.

    Nox considered that Ashara hadn't given him any faulty advice since he'd taken her captive. He'd later fallen in love with and married Ashara. And over the years that he’d known her, Ashara had shown every indication of her unyielding support to his cause, as well as her love for him.

    In the end, Nox decided to trust Ashara and put up with Wrehn's willfulness.

    To Xalek's great consternation, Nox relented.

    "Good,” Nox told Wrehn, still in that frosty tone, “So we are in agreement. The scar on your cheek is your tribute to me."

    Immediately, he pulled out his datapad and typed something on it.

    "Where should I deposit this three hundred million?" he asked, adding, "I feel like I'm the blind being robbed, here. Don't think I'll pay such exorbitant prices again."

    Wrehn was completely taken off guard.

    "Well, uh... Um...," she stammered.

    Then she took out her own datapad and forwarded her business account details to his datapad for this transaction. Nox fiddled with his datapad a bit more after that, before securing it to his utility belt. Shortly, thereafter, Wrehn's data pad vibrated. She read the message on it.

    "From: Cignos Statti Bank of Nar Shaddaa. To: Yehw'reh'nomai. Esteemed banking customer, 300,000,000 credits, Imperial currency, have been deposited to your account, which is 278,952,312 credits, Hutt currency. This brings your total to 967,790,462 credits, Hutt currency. Have a bountiful day!"

    Wrehn secured her datapad in it's compartment on her utility belt, then putting on her best and sincerest customer service smile, she addressed her client.

    "It's been a real pleasure doing business with you, Dark Lord! If there's nothing further for us to discuss, I'd like to take my leave, since our business is now concluded."

    Nox was shocked and became amazed at her complete change in attitude. It was as though she were a different person.

    "Yes. You may go," he said, simply.

    Xalek's shoulders slumped as his arms relaxed down along his sides, and his head tilted downward. He was greatly displeased, but he kept his thoughts about his master's decision to let her go unpunished to himself. His eyes seething with fury followed Wrehn as she happily turned about and stomped her way to the back of the conference room.

    Wrehn picked her helmet up from the floor and signaled her team to follow her out of the conference room. The five mercenaries stomped their way to the side sliding door and exited the large meeting hall.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________​

    Two Galactic Standard weeks later, Wrehn, dressed in civilian attire, was sitting in her guest officer's quarters aboard the Razor's Edge, which was in orbit over Mandalore's moon. The Razor's Edge was the frigate Wrehn had hired out from the Mandalore's Hammer Naval Battle Group. She sat behind her desk enjoying a drink with Captain Tartan and Commander Grommy, the frigate's commanding officer. The three Mandalorian mercenaries celebrated the successful and profitable completion of a major contract.

    Wrehn's two subcontractors had been paid in accordance to the agreements in their contracts, and her subcontractors were very happy. Neither of them knew how much Wrehn had made from this job, however. Had they known, they most certainly would have attempted to renegotiate their contracts. Renegotiations among Mandalorians tended to involve a few battles. However, since they didn't know how much Wrehn had made from this job, no battles had broken out.

    Wrehn's crew, also in civilian attire, had been busy loading their weapons, gear, and armor into a dropship of Mandalorian design. Soon the dropship would ferry them down to the surface of Concordia, planet Mandalore's moon. Tartan's company had also packed up their gear. They were loading it all unto two other dropships that would ferry them down to the surface of Mandalore after the Razor's Edge had established its orbit over the planet.

    Wrehn told Commander Grommy, "I'll keep your contact information. You never know when you have to transport a bunch of rowdy fighters to another job. Just don't expect to get paid as much."

    "It was a civil war,” Grommy replied, soberly, “Prices go up for everything."

    "At least we didn't have to fight our own on this job, just the Imps," Tartan said, adding his observation.

    "What do you mean?” Wrehn asked, and pointing out a bit snarkily, “You picked a fight with another Mando down there and nearly got your men killed over it."

    Tartan, shook his head in frustration and in disgust at how that had turned out for him. Before Grommy could ask, Tartan told him.

    "Me and some of my troops wanted a bit of sport, so we challenged the Great Hunt Champion to a match. She fights hard and dirty."

    "Is there any other way to fight?" Wrehn asked, surprised that he would think so.

    An over head chime sounded out a signal.

    "Your dropship's loaded and your crew's aboard," Commander Grommy told Wrehn.

    The three stood on their feet, shook hands all around, genuinely smiling at each other.

    Wrehn left the table on her way to the door of the guest quarters. She stopped and turned to face Captain Tartan.

    "You've got a decent crew,” she told him, “I got your contact information too. I hope you don't mind doing business with me again in the future."

    "I'd be honored, Great Hunt Champion," he replied, smiling proudly.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________​

    On the launch pad on Concordia, Wrehn spoke to her short, slightly built, cybernetically enhanced human female friend.

    "Hey, Mako, get us a ground crew to unload the gear and move it all to a temporary staging area, then hire a transport cargo speeder to take it to the ship at the shipyard."

    "You got it, Boss."

    Although, Mako didn't seem to be doing anything, she used her cybernetically enhanced direct connection to the Holo-Net to find the cheapest labor and transport nearby the shipyard. Then she filled out an electronic order form for services from each company and paid the deposit for each company. All this, while she held Torian's hand and whispered into his ear.

    "I want you, SO bad."

    Torian smiled at her and gave her a quick kiss on her lips.

    Wrehn looked at her crew affectionately, and decided to make a speech.

    "You guys rock! You made me look real good. You made me crazy rich. I'm gonna pay you fifty million each," adding quickly, "That's final. Not negotiable."

    "Hell! I could retire on this!" Mako quipped, instantly regretting it when she realized Wrehn was eyeing Gault.

    Wrehn, looking straight into Gault's eyes replied to Mako's quip.

    "Yep. You sure can, if that's what you want."

    Gault turned to look at Torian.

    "You gonna retire?" he asked.

    "Nah. I'm young, strong. Have lot of fight left in me. I'm sticking around," Torian answered.

    "How about you, Skadge?" Gault asked the Houk.

    "Retire? Ha!” the Houk replied, laughing, “This job's too much fun! I ain't quitting!"

    Before Gault could ask Mako, Wrehn cut in with her own question.

    "How about you, Gault? You gonna call it a career?"

    The Devaronian cast his eyes downward, developing a slight melancholy look on his face

    "Yeah. I am," he said.

    Wrehn opened her mouth to speak. She was about to ask him to reconsider.

    Gault saw his opening and chose that moment to cut her off. He’d figured out what she was thinking; he could see it in her eyes. The Devaronian realized that she wanted him to stay on her crew, but he spoke up with a sad smile on his face.

    "In about ten or so years, I'll quit. As long as you keep pulling in the jobs with the big paydays, I'll stick around to get my cut of the action."

    The melancholy was gone, replaced by an impish grin.

    Mako hopped up and down, happily clapping her hands together.

    Torian, smiling broadly, clapped Gault on the back of his shoulder and said something in Mando'a.

    "That means, A Warrior knows when he's had enough glory, and when he wants more of it!" he explained.

    Wrehn shook her head smiling at Gault.

    "Blast him! That scoundrel almost made me make a fool of myself again!" she thought.

    "Torian,” Gault counseled his teammate, “remember, say it in Basic the first time, every time."

    Torian laughed merrily

    "I'll teach you to speak Mando'a, yet!" he declared.

    Skadge thought he’d poke fun at Wrehn.

    "Wrehn, now you can fix your hunk of junk ship! Ha! Ha!" the brute said, pointing at his employer.

    "By the time I'm done with its overhaul and refit, it's going to be the fastest starship in the galaxy!" She told him. Squealing with glee, she added, "I'm gonna splurge on my baby!"

    The End​
     
  13. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    First of all, I truly hope, that if you've read my story, that you enjoyed it. However, if there were some things that didn't sit well with you about my writing style or about the story in general, I hope you'll tell my why. I want to improve my writing, but cannot in the absence of critiques.

    Thus, I am making a shameless request for critiques, comments, and reviews.

    (PS If you wish to shower my story with praise, I'll take those, too. ;) )