Shattered

 

Erikson stood there frozen for two long seconds.  His worst fear was just realized.   His concentrated inability to respond was only broken by Gault’s actions.  Gault had been hidden in the shadows poking around at some dusty equipment when he heard the ignition of Revan’s light saber and its cauterizing penetration of Mako’s armor and flesh as it exited through her chest.  He fired in rapid succession two dozen Force nullifying serum filled darts at Revan.

 

Revan reignited his saber in time to block maybe six of them.  The liquid in them vaporized and caused small explosions that enveloped his blade for a split second.  The rest dotted his body from mid-thigh to chest.  Revan acted quickly to pull them out but that wasn’t enough.  Even hidden behind a mask his body language said he wasn’t prepared for this; that he didn’t know this existed.  That allowed Erikson time to extend his arm and launch his grappling tool.  Revan’s light saber was ripped from his grasp.  With blaster drawn, Erikson began wailing on Revan at Gault’s side.

 

None of their laser blasts hit Revan.  He was pulling their blasts to his hand and dispersing them.  It was becoming increasingly clearer by Revan’s actions that he had no idea what just hit him.  For someone initiating an offensive strategy he was utilizing far more defensive abilities.  That much was clear to both Erikson and Gault.  Erikson began a charge at Revan with a drawn knife in his fit of rage.  He didn’t make it.  The entire facility was rocked by an explosion on the surface.  Erikson went crashing to the floor.  Revan was knocked back into the hallway he crept in from while Gault was knocked against a rack of dusty armaments.

 

2V was left standing and began emergency medical protocols on Mako while trying to initiate contact with the rest of the crew.  Gault and Erikson regained their footing only to see Revan gone.  Erikson could feel fear in Revan that wasn’t being controlled.  No Revanite, Sith, or Jedi allowed that to happen unless shaken dramatically.  And with the coming epiphany, training and ‘cool under fire’ intellect regrouped Erikson internally and he began lifting Mako in order to get out.

 

“Sir!  Sir!  I have been equipped with a crude carbonite freezing apparatus designed for medical emergencies safer than the one you carry that we acquired after we raided the CZERKA starship.  I can encase her in medical grade carbonite to keep her preserved.”  2V was equipped with many things that standard protocol droids weren’t.  CZERKA tech, Blizz’s own inventions, and some modifications of his own.  2V was certainly more than just a piece of property to the crew of the Mantis.  He was indeed a vital member and even a friend.

 

Erikson laid Mako back down and 2V began the process.  It was crude but quick and would keep her preserved long enough to get her to a bacta tank.  Ground shaking blasts rocked the facility twice more; but 2V remained focused and continued his work flawlessly.  With small magna lifts attached to the thin carbonite shell they lifted Mako and began pushing her upright through the shaking facility.

 

They reached the nearest extraction point to find it already blasted open.  They didn’t notice the cold until they’d been standing there for several moments waiting for the Mantis to finishing demolishing the small group of Black Sun pirates working in conjunction with several Revanite vessels.  And then Erikson saw him.

 

Revan was down on the cavern floor.  Gault raised his rifle.  With a steady hand he fired off a blast.  Revan went tumbling down.  “Stars!  That’s going to leave a mark,” Gault remarked!

 

But Revan wouldn’t stay there for long.  A drop ship was on him and he was reclaimed.  He wasn’t dead but he was now out of commission for some time.

 

The Mantis made several passes over the blasted area where Erikson, Gault, and 2V waited with Mako in carbonite.  Gault charged his rifle several times taking careful aim to fire a few shots and downed two Black Sun mercenaries.  Their wait seemed like an eternity.  But such is a handful of minutes in tense situations.

 

The Mantis finally cleared out the remaining attackers alongside Hutt paid mercenaries, late to the battle, and descended to pick up the rest of its crew.  Once on board they made for Cha-rooba.  There was nothing any of the medical personnel on board that station could do.  Revan struck her heart clean through.

 

The only solace that Erikson had was the company of his team.  And that wasn’t enough.  Mako was just as much the heart and soul of that team as was Erikson.  The two of them had created their crew and were the first members of it.  Everyone else came later, even their ship.

 

Funeral preparations were made when they returned to Cha-rooba.  Erikson made several holo-calls and set up passage to Nal Hutta.  In the short ninety minutes they were on board the Cha-rooba station word had spread quickly.  Black Sun and Revanites were being hunted all across the galaxy by Hutt cartels and Consortium pirates like.

 

Mako’s death would not go unpunished.  Erikson’s loss would not go without revenge.  Mako did business with a great many Hutts and never pitted any of them against one another.  She made certain to profit them off Imperial scum and on occasion Republic scum.  Erikson had done nearly the same, minus those that tried to cross and double cross him.  He was known as the Honorable and for good reason.

 

Seeing a friend to the Hutts killed, regardless of the reason, was enough to wage war against the unfortunate bastards who killed her.  But to cause the galaxy’s most noble hunters such grief was just rubbing salt into the wound.

 

Mako’s body was prepared for burial within a couple of hours.  There was silence on board the Mantis.  None talked.  The entire crew remained silent during transit to Nal Hutta.  Not a single word was spoken.  The heart break and sadness that filled the ship’s cabin was thick and fostering a rage in all the crew.

 

It wasn’t until the second or third day of travel that the first words were spoken.  Only Gault had the courage to interrupt Erikson’s mourning.  “Say, I…well…Care to talk?”

 

“I don’t know Gault.  I’ve had everything taken from me.  My parents.  My sister.  Now Mako.  What do I have left, Gault?”  Erikson’s voice was shaking.  That’s something it never did before.  It only emphasized the severity of the situation.

 

Gault took a seat on the chair in Erikson’s quarters.  “Do you remember a few years back, when you helped me follow up on a lead about an old flame?”  Erikson nodded, Gault continued.  “I found out later that she was killed in a raid on some high finance office just off Coruscant.  She was set up.  I never said anything.  Granted I wasn’t as close but I do understand.  I also want you to understand that you have more than you think.  You still have the rest of us.  We’re not going anywhere.  The things you done for us on this ship…the things you’ve done because of the way you see the galaxy…that’s what has bought our trust…our respect.  That’s why you are our leader, our employer, our boss, our friend.  And that’s why we’re not going to stop being part of your team in this galaxy.  We all look to you as an authority because you have earned our trust and respect.  Not the Empire.  Not the Republic.”

 

Erikson shift forward sitting on the edge of his bed.  “I didn’t mean it that way, Gault.  I know I have you and I know you all stayed with me because of my character, because you owe me a debt for mercy.  I just wasn’t expecting another loss so soon.”  He forced back his tears as much as possible.

 

“Utannata tinanee batta buttacki tini!”  Blizz crept into the door way of Erikson’s quarters.

 

That was the first smile seen on Erikson’s face since the tragedy.  Blizz had a way with Erikson that none of the other crew had.  What Mako was to Erikson romantically, Blizz was to Erikson in friendship.  He always considered Blizz in the highest regards because Blizz didn’t offer judgment.  He offered understanding, loyalty, and insight right from the start unlike the others who took more time.  It was clear that Blizz was more of a long term thinker, problem solver like Erikson.

 

“Blizz, I’m not your boss.  But I am proud to be your friend.”  Erikson was starting to feel better.  Eventually Skadge joined the conversation, offered his sentiment.  2V even gave his and eventually invited the rest of the crew downstairs to a meal he prepared where Torian was waiting for his say.

 

Gault and Skadge took their meals back up top to the cockpit.  Blizz returned with his to the engine room while 2V went about his duties with the data from Tatooine and now Miranda.  “Pokkad,” Torian said.

 

“Thank you for what?”

 

“For everything.  You are the epitome of the Mandalorian spirit.  I didn’t realize that when you picked me up on Taris.  But I began to see more and more everyday you allowed me to stay on as your crew.  I had my doubts to be sure.  And there’s a reason why you won the Great Hunt so many years ago.  You are the best at what you do because you’re not afraid to explore, understand, and utilize your emotions.  And that makes you both terrible in both terms of dangerous and noble.  And for that I cannot every say that you will never be my brother.  I made an oath to you all those years ago and I aim to keep it.”

 

Erikson was proud of his decisions.  He made the right choices.  He earned the kind of respect with his crew that Sith could barely fathom, Revanites could barely feel, and that Jedi took for granted.  “No.  Thank you, Torian.  I mean that.  They finished their meals in silence and went back about their business.

 

They dropped out of hyperspace and into Hutt territory.  It was strange.  This visit to Nal Hutta was different.  Nal Hutta space was swarming with an unnatural amount of activity.  Instructions to land were delivered to the Mantis from the Jiguuna Spaceport.  When they landed they were met with a silent fanfare.

 

Mako’s casket was taken from the Mantis and bore by Erikson, Skadge, Torian and Gault.  2V followed while Blizz walked at Erikson’s side.  They walked through the spaceport, the crowd splitting without hesitation.  The crowd was thick all the way through the spaceport docking bay and to Nem’Ro’s old palace; one of the very first and few Hutts to cross Erikson.

 

The procession continued through Nem’ro’s palace and into the gardens behind its walls.  The march lasted almost three hours.  Beyond a soft murmuring, the crowd was eerily silent.  Once Mako was laid to rest next to her adopted father Braden was the first time anyone dared speak.

 

It was Rioogoo the Hutt.  He was the second to know about Mako’s death apart from Erikson’s crew and began arrangements for this procession.  He explained to Erikson and his crew everything; the crowd, the additional arrangements…everything.  He even explained about the new war in the galaxy being waged against Revan.  Bounties had been put on Revan’s head alive; dead on any Black Sun personnel.

 

Rioogoo wasn’t the only Hutt in attendance.  There were more than twenty Hutts there.  All of whom did business with and held Mako and Erikson in high esteem.  The crew of the Mantis stayed in port for several days.  Here they were protected by the economic might of the Hutts and the Consortium.  This was power that the taxes ideals of the Republic and Empire alike couldn’t match.  The power the Hutts wielded in this way was very similar to the power that authority Erikson was granted by his crew and the Hutts.  It was authority and power derived from the strongest quality of character.  It bought plenty of power.  In fact, for every Republic and Imperial soldier there were at least a hundred private mercenaries and armed agents employed by these groups as well as superior skills and generally better tech.

 

Erikson’s crew would have the time to mourn and rest that they required.  They did more to advance the cause of freedom from oppression than any number of Jedi.  The Hutts knew it.  The regular mercs knew it.  The smugglers and pirates knew it.  Erikson played the Imperials like seasoned musicians playing their favorite instrument without any pressure.  He made the Imperials work for him.  And he had what none of the Imperials had, few Revanites had, and again, what the Jedi took for granted.  He had real respect.

 

With the new war against Revan waging strong, the chatter on the holo-net was that Republic and Imperial forces were claiming some kind of victory against Revan’s might.  No Jedi or Sith acknowledged the intervening of private forces into their galactic conflict.  But that would change.

 

Rioogoo and the other Hutts didn’t need Erikson’s permission to pay for his revenge.  What they did for him was a show of respect and it didn’t go unnoticed.  He took the time to gather his crew to prepare.

 

Aboard the Mantis he gathered them around the ship’s main holo-terminal.  “A few days ago I made a number of holo-calls and sent several messages.  What I’m about to ask of you is not an order.  You can say no and I will not think less of you.”

 

None of the crew stepped back or even made a sign of wavering in devotion.  Erikson continued, “I sent a message to Imperial high command and to the Jedi counsel.  I’ll likely be walking into a trap but this has to be done.  I cannot be certain if Darth Malgus will show or not; but I am certain Jedi Master Sateel Shaun will.  For those of you who don’t know, she is the highest ranking Jedi Master right now.”

 

Torain leaned forward on the holo-terminal propping himself up with both hands.  “One Mandalorian against a Sith Lord and a Jedi Master?  You are sharing the glory of this fight, even if I only get to engage their troops!”

 

Skadge grunted with a nod in delight.  Gault leaned casually up against the Mantis’ walls, “Show now we know who we’ll be shooting.  When and where does the shooting take place?”

 

“Alderaan.  We spring the trap on Alderaan.”

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