The Culling

 

 

There was little resistance getting clearance for the Mantis in one of many of the private spaceports Alderaanian nobility controlled.  Erikson performed a number of favors over the years for numerous Houses of Alderaan, Imperial, Republic, and independent alike.  What the true accomplishment in this endeavor was, the placement of a meeting of three of the galaxy’s most powerful beings in one location.

 

Darth Malgus commanded fleets of millions of soldiers alongside thousands of Sith lords in training.  Jedi Master Sateel Shaun commanded thousands of Jedi knights and held great influence over the Republics military forces.  Erikson commanded a crew of five down from six.  His true power was in the respect he commanded across the galaxy from those harboring dissent towards both the Empire and Republic; galactic governance without consent in general.

 

He was welcomed in far more circles of thought and exchange than the other two combined.  Though they would not recognize such authority, if they understood it at all, Erikson commanded far greater power than any of them had realized.  And on Alderaan, Erikson would become aware of this power and the price tag it commands.

 

Erikson’s personal wealth, while seemingly insignificant in the variety of pieces so many knew about independently, was but a fraction of the power he would ultimately command.  For now, his reputation would grant him what power through midi-chlorians would not.  An abandoned material processing plant in the Juran Mountains would serve as this meeting place.

 

A single Alderaaninan rotation was all it took to fill the hyperspace lanes leading to Alderaan.  Word spread quickly in many Republic and Imperial circles, but no where nearly as fast as in independent communications; those which commanded credits for mercenaries, smugglers, and traders alike.  Not a word or credit was demanded for payment from Erikson.  His credit on merciful and honorable reputation had previously delivered was than ample to choke to death any mainstream possibility of Imperial or Republic presence on Alderaan for this occasion.

 

There were undoubtedly Imperial and Republic Special Forces present at the abandoned factory already.  Erikson could sense their presence, along with those of other bounty hunters.  What could not sense yet was Malgus’ presence.  The Factory smelled of old stale glitterstim spice used to manufacture healing agents and battlefield pain suppressants; no more after this contested territory wouldn’t cave to demands of loyalty to either side of current galactic war.

 

Erikson’s crew didn’t speak much as they made their way to the main floor of the factory.  Upon approaching the doors to a large room, there was the distinct sound of grit being crushed beneath boot.  An Imperial Commando had given away his position.  Skadge activated his personal shield, drew his vibro sword and rushed the direction of the sound.

 

The commando panicked opening fire.  His laser bursts gave his position away and illuminated the grin of dark delight on Skadge’s face moments before the commando stopped breathing to the sound of a vibro sword plunging through his chest cavity.  Skadge picked up the commando and used him as a primary shield against other laser fire coming from his victim’s team members.  Gault, Blizz, Torian, and 2V all took cover engaging the others.  Erikson stood in the middle of the fray flawlessly weaving between oncoming blaster bolts while returning some of his own.

 

Even among the boisterous laser fire the ignition of a lightsaber was very distinct.  And so was Gault Renow’s voice.  “Honey, I wasn’t interested in Kass City and I’m not interested now!”  Gault pumped a flurry of shots into the Sith’s chest cavity.  Her light saber fell like lead to the floor, which Gault gathered up with large eyes and the thought of credits this sale would make on the black market.

 

The commandos weren’t much work for the Mantis’ crew.  All shiny and right out of training, they may have been the best of the best where they were; but the galaxy is far larger than their little training ground.

 

The crew cautiously pressed on into the main factory room, mindful of laser blasts and fire fights elsewhere around the facility.  If war hadn’t broken out openly on Alderaan yet, it soon would.  A ship’s cannons just ignited the outside of the factory’s room.  As the laser fire changed targets more Imperial commandos and the bounty hunters they were engaged with flooded the room.

 

Blaster fire was wildly scorching the factory walls and Imperials alike.  The confusion of battle wasn’t a distraction for Erikson.  His blasters functioned as if he had all the time in the world to aim and squeeze their triggers.  He was calm and ready to unleash his rage.  And that time was now.

 

In an opposite corner of the room a lightsaber ignited a bright red and Erikson’s rage too!  His focus was unparalleled in this match against Malgus.  This Sith Lord was beginning to feel something he’d never felt before.  While Erikson’s blaster bolts were deflected with some struggle, the pure fear his Revanite training allowed him to transform and instill in his targets penetrated Malgus’ psyche with ease.

 

As Erikson drew closer, Malgus found it more difficult to block his blasters bolts and scrambled to Force rip the blasters from Erikson’s grasp; but as the distance closed, his control over the Force lessoned.  Terror began to fill Malgus’ mind and heart in place of the hatred that fueled his power, that filled all Siths’ power.  Erikson drew another blaster and emptied it.  All of the serum filled darts were deflected and their gun was discarded, replaced with a serum coated knife.

 

Malgus’ reflexes were still slowing as Erikson drew closer and focused more and more.  Malgus attempted to swing his lightsaber.  Erikson ducked and retaliated with a knife strike that cut Malgus’ hand.  His lightsaber fell to the factory floor.  Malgus reeled backwards in shock.

 

Erikson pressed him.  He pressed him again and again with powerful determination to cut, poison, and destroy the evil that killed his family so many years ago.  Malgus struggled to fight back.  He threw a wild punch at Erikson head.  Erikson moved like water spinning around the fist planting his knife in Malgus’ side.  There were no screams of pain or agony.  There was only a renewed rage inside of Malgus.  It began supplanting the terror inside of him.

 

Malgus deposited a side kick into Erikson’s lower back knocking him down and to one knee.  The opportunity wasn’t lost in the moment.  Malgus grabbed Erikson, hoisted him into the air, and began to slam him to the ground.  Erikson wasn’t going to have any of that.  “Can you fly scum bag?”

 

Erikson activated his jetpack and reversed the throw onto Malgus.  The factory ceiling was a good forty meters high and a jetpack assisted fall would certainly leave a mark.  Malgus’ breathing apparatus was shattered on impact.

 

Erikson came back around to deliver a jet boosted punch to Malgus’ face.  He missed.  Malgus made a Force assisted jump out of a window pressing a button on his arm guard on his way.  The fall would kill an ordinary man but Malgus had plans.  He escaped aboard a drop ship.

 

Erikson, back into the factory’s internal sky, opened a volley of rocket fire onto the remaining Imperial troops still engaged with other hunters and his crew.  None surrendered.  All had to be slain.

 

Upon landing, there was a rustling of fabric.   A Jedi had entered the room through the same window Malgus exited.  She was alone.

 

Erikson began his approach focusing on her as he did Malgus.  “Now will you listen to me?  So many times I’ve had to kill because your system is broken.  So many lives lost because your laws are broken.  So many unnecessary conflicts because your beliefs are broken.”

 

Sateel Shaun stood there filled with a terror she had never known before.  Try as she might, she could not muster the strength to draw her lightsaber.  Erikson’s presence was too strong for her.  Her training had not prepared her for this.  Her faith in the Force was shaken.  Trembling and on the verge of tears she struggled to ask, “W-Why?”

 

“Because you destroyed my family.  You took away everything I had.  You didn’t even spare me.  Jedi beneath your command ripped my parents from me, placing them in a P.O.W. camp that Malgus destroyed.  Why?  For the illusion of control, that’s why!  Jedi beneath your command took my sister from me and tried to coerce her to train to be a Jedi, not Revanite.  Nothing in your Jedi records show she survived that encounter.  You destroy families every day and for what!?!  FOR WHAT?”  As Erikson’s voice increased in volume it began to demand respect through fear in that factory room.  His crew and the other hunters, in all the years they knew of him, had never seen this before.  Erikson was about to kill the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy.  At least Malgus put up a fight.  Sateel just froze in place.

 

Sateel’s face was now streaming tears.  She was reduced from the most respected and powerful Jedi Master in the galaxy to a hovelling, whimpering mess before the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter.  “P-p-please!  I only c-came here t-to t-talk.  I want to know how to make things right.”

 

“MAKE THINGS RIGHT?!  You wouldn’t’ know how to make things right if you could commune with every midi-chlorian in the entire universe.  You and Malgus are just two sides of the same credit chip.  You hide the makings of an empire behind the pretty poetry to justice and fairness, built upon what?  Upon theft and lies of dependency.  At least Malgus and his boot licking minions make no show of what they have to offer.  Your Republic is responsible for crimes just as horrendous as the Empire’s.”

 

Erikson was face to face with Sateel as he watched her head drop in shame of this truth.  He took her lightsaber.  “Look at this.  It is the epitome of your failure to recognize your obsolete patriotism to the Republic, to rule of law without regard for consent.”  With his powered exoskeleton, Erikson crushed Sateel’s light saber.  He let the pieces fall to the floor between them.

 

The power behind those words and actions didn’t once allow for any idea of profit to cross anyone mind in that room; not even Gault’s.

 

With her throat quivering, “I-I… I’m sorry.  I don’t know… I didn’t know.  I’m sorry.  Please…”

 

Erikson didn’t let her finish.  “Hindsight is always the clearest and apologies are always the quickest to be uttered when you’re in the obvious position of loss and failure; but you didn’t enter this room in that position.  You entered it in a position of false control and power.  I’ve been there so many times.  Don’t worry.  I’m not going to kill you, but now you know the terror I’ve felt because of your kind; because of your status quo.  None of us still alive in this room wanted your precious Republic.  We sure as hell didn’t want any part of the Empire either.  What we wanted and still want is to be left alone.”

 

At that some soft murmuring began among the growing crowd of hunters and mercs.  Sateel dropped to her knees beneath the weight of her failures in contemplation and the terror Erikson had bottled up in order to transfer it upon her.  As she dropped, Erikson took a step backward.

 

“It doesn’t have to be this way.  We don’t have to be enemies, if you recognize that the rule of law you uphold by defending the Republic is founded on the same evil that the Sith embrace.  How many of those precious credits does the Republic gather from all the thousands of systems beneath its reign are taken entirely out of unanimously consenting pockets?  Does every single credit come from a willing participant?”  The question was not rhetorical.  “WELL, DO THEY?”

 

“No,” Sateel said softly, “they don’t.”

 

“It would be a good idea for you to find yourself in self appointed exile to contemplate on this matter.  I don’t want any further conflict with you or any of your order.  I certainly don’t want any more destruction.  Between you and Malgus I’ve had everything ripped from me.”

 

Erikson turned to walk towards his crew.  Sateel continued to kneel without showing any sign of recovery.  As Erikson walked away from her, he noticed the abundance of other hunters and mercs who came to his defense.  He turned back to Sateel.

 

“One last thing, Master Jedi.  Do not under estimate the power of that which you believe you control and do not control beneath Republic law.  Your victories against Imperial and Revanite forces would not have been as numerous as they have without the Hutts and Consortium forces rallying together to revenge my wife’s death.  Consider the power behind that single idea.  Your Republic and the Jedi order will fall under the weight of the empire of ignorance it has been fostering.”

 

There was nothing left to say.  Erikson had his peace now.  Malgus knew the power Erikson could wield and would not underestimate him again.  No hunter capable of thinking for his self would dare take a contract on Erikson.  Malgus would have to wage a three front war against Erikson and the various cartels, the Republic, as well as Revan.  With Imperial losses mounting so quickly in the recent years, it is not something Malgus was going to risk at this time.

 

Sateel was the only wild card.  Never before had a Jedi been broken like that, let alone the top of the order Jedi Master.  Whatever was to become of that encounter would not be foreseen by even the most affluent Jedi Sage.  What will come will just have to come.

 

For now, it was time to go home.  There wasn’t much to speak about until they walked out the front doors of that factory.  The Mantis was landing before them.  Erikson, Gault, Bliss, Skadge, Torian, and 2V all starred wondering who was flying their ship.

 

The Mantis landed and as the cargo ramp lowered a hunter dressed in Mandalorian gear, similar in construction and utility to Erikson’s, appeared.  The stranger took off her helmet looking right at Erikson.

 

“Kassandra!?  But how?”  Erikson was at a loss for words.  His sister was supposed to have been killed on Tython years ago.  He could feel her presence and recalled it as clearly as he did as a child so many years ago.

 

“You’re not the only one to have survived Imperial and Republic arrogance big brother.  This is your ship now let’s fly her outta here!  We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

Next Chapter- Legacy

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