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The crew of the Mantis made the Hutt controlled station on the edge of Hoth space, Cha-rooba, home for a day.  The Mantis needed repairs and the crew some rest.  Erikson was certain Revan wouldn’t be coming to Hoth.  After the stunts Revan just pulled he’d have Imperial, Republic, Hutt, and various independent groups chasing after him.  Just to be safe though, Erikson wasn’t planning on staying more than two standard days.


Cha-rooba was a neutral space station for Hutts, hunters, smugglers, and business partners wanting to do business, relax, and spend their hard earned credits while avoiding legalities of the two empires warring over control of the galaxy.  Even though the Hoth system maintained a heavy Republic and Imperial presence, there was little to worry about from either faction this far away from the Republic command located in the center of the galaxy; or even from Imperial command located on the exact opposite side of the galaxy on Dromund Kaas.


Everyone was ecstatic to get off the ship, but for a short time.  It had become just as much their home as it was Erikson’s.  Even though Mako was a holo-net genius, the best of the best at finding information, and had stashed Erikson’s half a trillion credits in various accounts and funds across the galaxy.  However, having to reacquire a new home when not ready would never be something credits could compensate for.


The crew carried with them the basics while exploring Cha-rooba.  They may have been the best crew working with the best hunter, but they weren’t that way because they were unprepared.  Mako scouted out a few contacts she figured might be in the area for information.  Gault swore he recognize a familiar ship in an adjacent hanger and was eager to check it out.  Skadge of course headed straight for the fighting pits to earn easy credits.  Torian lagged behind on the ship to rest while 2V continued his work decoding the data from the Tatooine CZERKA facility.  Blizz nearly clung to Erikson’s side ready for any chance he could get to impress his boss.


The two of them went to do a little exploring which allowed Blizz to share all sorts of ideas with his boss.  He looked up to Erikson and considered him more just a boss.  He was Blizz’s friend and friendship meant everything to Blizz.  Jawas were often treated with such contempt and animosity throughout the galaxy for the stereotypes associated with them since they first entered the galactic scene.


The time on Cha-rooba passed quickly.  They all managed to get a little something to take with them before returning to the ship.  Blizz picked up some much needed parts from the local scrap dealers.  Torian eventually left the ship to get some replacement parts for his tech-staff and some odd trinkets for his personal collection of “stuff” Gault teased him about.  Skadge returned with a bruise on the side of his face, not that it was very noticeable given his dark red and black skin color, and a fist full of data chips loaded with credits.


Mako and Gault both returned with information.  Gault discovered an old fling and was able to get some details about old droid factories on the fourth planet in the Hoth system.  Mako also acquired some information that matched Gault’s.  Her information was a little more detailed.


Mako spread out a thin plasteel topography map on the ships main holo-terminal.  Pointing at several locations she began to explain.  “Here, here, and here are the most common abandon droid facilities known.  Here and here are two lesser known facilities; but over here is a cluster of facilities that digging around on the local holo-net servers yielded clues about.”


2V came up the stairs to inspect the map Mako laid out while Erikson began pointing at a location.  “This secondary facility, here; what information did you gather about it?”


Mako looked over the map again and down at her data pad.  “That facility is well known in comparison to the others but not actually explored.  According to information that I have its main entrance, it’s only known entrance, was collapsed after a group of explorers attempted to blast their way past the wampa caves in the area.  However, I also managed to find this.”  She pointed to another section on the map that wasn’t near the facility at all.


2V was anxious to share his news.  “That is likely to be an exhaust vent for the facility; and the exact facility where the bulk of former CZERKA data servers should be stored.  Master, I’ve uncovered new information and decrypted keys for access on Hoth, Tatooine, and Belsalvis.  Unfortunately, I do not think we will be able to do anything on Belsalvis due to the Empires enormous presence there.  I do think we might be able to access this one here.  Also in relation to your previous inquiry about a planet called Miranda, I may have found something.”


That piqued Erikson’s interest the most.  “Okay, what’cha got?”


2V, a very proud droid all things considered, pointed to Mako’s map.  “Well, sir, it would appear that the planet this particular map belongs to should is the planet Miranda.  CZERKA records indicate that it was once a terraformed planet used after the human populations of Earteh began abandoning their star system in search of a new one to call home.  Records indicate that this present star system was that new home.  One of the worlds was named Miranda.  It was terraformed and later used as a military experiment to neutralize those with mutated genes which allowed for basic telepathy and telekinesis, the frontrunners to Force skills that Jedi and Sith use today.  My research is still incomplete but it would appear that the government at the time, some kind of a federation, pumped a chemical compound into the planet’s atmosphere in an attempt to kill those who would evolve into the Je’daii.  The experiment failed.  Many humans on Miranda simply died outright.  The remaining began to mutate into horrible vicious beasts.  They reproduced rapidly and would spawn inside other creatures.”


Gault was listening in and suddenly jumped up at 2V’s last statement.  “You mean to tell me that Rakghouls originated on a frozen Hoth world?”


“Well, Master Gault, it is entirely possible.  However, at the time Hoth was not a frozen world.  It was very much a pleasant world not all that unlike Alderaan.  I would have to research other factors but this new data does seem to suggest that Rakghouls may have in part originated on Hoth; or at least a variation of them.  In accordance to government protocol during that era, Miranda was utilized as a weapons testing facility.  A smuggler, whose name I have not yet decoded, eventually broke through the government barriers and stole the secrets off Miranda and made the knowledge public.  That set off a revolution against the federation and Humans began to expand even further into the galaxy.  It should be noted here that Miranda was eventually bombarded from orbit and destroyed.  In time the entity we know as CZERKA today would reacquire the planet after many changes in the system.  They dug up all work that survived after nearly fifteen decades of excavation.”  2V was prepared to continue but Erikson interrupted.


“2V, this chemical compound that was pumped into Miranda’s atmosphere, have you decoded that at all in the files?”


“I have not Master.  Although I am more than fifty percent complete in decoding the data I do not see any patterns or algorithms that suggest a chemical formula.  If one does arise I will bring it to your attention immediately.”  2V stepped back for a moment no longer feeling proud since he did not have the answer his master was seeking.


Torian was interested in this chemical compound also.  “You mean to tell me that the juice you and Blizz have been cooking up is old news?  This has got to be what Revan was talking about.  I bet if we find this formula that it could match what you’ve already got or even make it better.”


Erikson stepped away from the holo-station and made a seat out of an electronic crate.  “That wasn’t exactly what I was thinking would be down there.  But it is certainly worth a look.  The metals 2V mentioned a while back could be the key to making the serum we’re using now more powerful.  But why would Revan protect that and not use it?  There has to be more.  There is something else there that he is trying to protect.  The serum can be neutralized and worked around if it becomes fairly common knowledge.  So what else is there?”


Mako shifted the map around a bit and did some fancy folding before walking it over to Erikson.  “This might be what Malgus and Revan are after.”


Erikson took the map and looked at it for a while.  The map now showed a series of facility layouts.  The one in question was different from the others.  This one held numerous underground levels and was the one Erikson was interested in.


Erikson looked back up to Mako.  “This was more than just a data center.  This was a full blown research facility and manufacturing facility.  But what’s with this room here; and why is it so much larger?”


Blizz was very excited to be a part of this crew.  He had contributed more than was necessary but never felt like he was doing enough.  So this was his chance to give a little more.  He explained how the Jawas that he was previously teamed with several years back criticized him for his research into seeking other junk sites.  He tried to explain to them that there were better sites on another planet in this system but they didn’t believe his tech could work well enough to show that.


So Blizz stopped trying to help and just followed orders until his group was accosted by Imperials and they tried to sell Blizz off as their leader to avoid persecution.  That’s when Erikson showed up and gathered him up as part of the Mantis’ crew.  But Blizz knew that there was more there.  He was able to figure out that a large room was set beneath many levels and there were enough power relays and generators to create portals akin to those which make up the hyperspace lanes.  He kept this information to himself in detail until now.  What Blizz couldn’t figure out is why so much power generating equipment was needed so far underground.


Erikson, Torian, Gault, and Mako all looked at Blizz with big smiles.  Skadge just walked over to Blizz, lifted him up to be face to face, and said, “I gots lots o’ respect fur you little techie.  I’ma not gwanna consider eatin’ you no more!”  Skadge put Blizz down and just roared with laughter.


That sound had the rest of the crew in an ocean of awkward feelings.  They’d never heard Skadge laugh before in all the years they had him part of the team.  In fact they’ve never witnessed Skadge get excited about anything other than destroying something.


After the initial awkwardness passed they all began formulating a plan.  They had to get into that facility.  Where others failed they would succeed.  They had to with the resources they had access too.  And such things included more than just a brilliant and skilled team.  They had billions of credits to work with also.


With their plan set and geared prepped all they needed to do was wait till Miranda changed their site to early morning.  Touching down on a frozen wasteland of a planet at night was bad business.  At least in early morning conditions the planet’s star would warm things up just enough to make the trek somewhat easier.


With eleven hours to go the crew got some sleep.  2V recharged and fitted himself with additional armoring against the weather and potential wampas.  He also took the liberty of preparing a week’s worth of rations on the off chance that something bad would happen; despite the fact that Torian, Skadge, and Blizz would remain on board ready to blast them out of where ever they might need blasting out of.


The morning decent was fairly routine, save for the wind gusts that made maneuvering the Mantis far more difficult than normal.  With Blizz’s scanning tech implemented into the Mantis’ systems a detailed scan was composed of the subterranean caverns.  So long as the descending team could get to any one of three potential extraction points, the onboard team could blast away the icy cover and expose the caverns below to withdraw the team.


With those points plotted and numerous sensors set to relay communications incase the depths and facility structures impeded normal communications, the descending team departed.  It was a fairly easy go; an hour’s walk with moderate caution.  About thirty-two hundred meters worth of horizontal ventilation shaft to traverse and then down six levels to the main data centers.


They arrived at their stopping point.  They had to set up a power station and then connect the data servers until they had the information they desired.  Gault and Erikson set up the power station as suspected since the equipment already on site was ancient and dead.  While they worked Mako directed her attention to the very first console inside the giant subterranean room.  With power connected Mako, Erikson, and 2V went to work.  Gault poked around looking and exploring.  He didn’t go very far; about the lengths their light source stopped.


After about an hour of working they had downloaded enormous amounts of data.  As they were downloading the data to local chips they were also streaming it via encryption to the Mantis’ computers.  It was Blizz’s idea and a good one at that.


Another hour passed and Mako had finally moved from her first console.  She looked up towards her beau.  “Hey, I haven’t heard a thing over the com from the others.  We really need…”  Her speech was interrupted by the ignition of a light saber that had just penetrated her chest cavity leaving her last breaths gurgling and arms twitching.


Erikson dropped what he was doing to see the love of his life on Death’s bed.  Mako’s eyes pushed passed the tears forming in Erikson’s.  “I love…”  And the purple light saber blade powered down withdrawing from Mako’s chest cavity allowing her to fall to the floor.

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