A hidden smile graced Lilly’s lips as she followed the child Quaestor into the Major’s root cellar. House Hoth’s leader seemed too young for such a seat of responsibility. Yet the Mandalorian understood he had power within like the other spark fingers.
“Who is waiting down there?” The boy asked, his shoulders visibly tensing up as he slowed his pace. It wasn’t that he was afraid, he needed to figure out how his first move would go. However the hiss of depressurization as Lilly removed her helmet sent a chill down his spine.
“Don’t worry deary, Mako will be gentle with you,” her voice came in a whisper, so close to the Quaestor’s ear, he could feel his face heat up for but a moment. “At first.”
“So Henymory is down there then.” He had to say something, the Fade’s presence so close to him, it was throwing his mental preparations off balance.
“Now get going spark finger, best not keep Mako waiting when he called you here so politely,” her now gruff voice was accompanied by a little shove toward the door at the bottom of the stairs. It was then that Nathan realized the truth, he wasn’t putting the Satele Quaestor on the defensive. No, he had willingly played right into the Krath’s plan.
“I was right he did show up. Looks like you owe me 100 credits, Major,” Mako spoke as he rose to stand in the center of the room, a restrained man at the Quaestor’s feet.
“I don’t like losing, Deciarius,” Alethia replied, not taking her eyes off of the computer display as she tinkered with some settings. A vintage IT-O interrogation droid hummed menacingly beside her, tethered to the computer by a series of cables.
“Well come on then Nathan, let’s get this over with. Archenksova, this one needs to have words with Turel,” the Krath said as he used his foot to nudge the restrained man onto the floor.
The younger man stepped tentatively toward the Krath, as Alethia grabbed the restrained man and dragged him to a small holding cell along the side of the room.
“So what now?” Nathan said as his eyes looked upwards at his fellow Quaestor.
“Suspect’s choice, you can have me retrieve the information from you, or Major Cut and Pluck and her droid over there can have a turn.”
“Oh, there’s more to it than that,” Alethia chimed in, “I managed to get a shipment of interesting psychotropics off of some of the Plagueians. Well, what was left of them, anyway.”
“And what does your method entail, Henymory?” the Hoth Quaestor’s eyes shifting from Archenksova’s table of electronics and tourture devices to the droid.
“Oh I just need something that has been with you for a few months, after I have that I will be able to trace where you have been and what you have done. Won’t hurt a bit,” Mako’s lips twisted into a devilish grin as his eyes appeared to take on a green glow.
“I will try Henymory’s method. Should I go retrieve something?” Nathan was cut off as suddenly a steel grip grasped him by the shoulders. He fell to his knees as an armored boot pushed, not so gently upon them.
“Oh you have everything we need already, inside you. Major if you would be so kind as to bring the knife. Now Deciarius would you like it in the arm or the neck, either way works for me.” Nathan’s mind raced as Mako talked, inside him, arm or neck, on him for several months. Then his eyes widened as he realized what the Krath meant. The young man began to struggle against Lilly’s hold.
Archenksova strolled over casually, and it was all Nathan could do to maintain his composure as the the Krath and the Imperial loomed over him.
“If you struggle you will lose more than a few drops,” Lilly purred into the Hoth Quaestor’s ear as she held him down. Somehow her words reassured him, and the facade of intimidation put on by Satele’s Quaestor and Aedile seemed to melt away. A second realization hit Nathan as he heard his heart beating loudly inside his body. They needed my heart rate elevated, he thought.
“I’ll try not to make a mess, Lilly,” Alethia added, rubbing a synthahol-soaked swab over Nathan’s arm. She pulled the vibroblade from her belt and gently slid it over the boy’s skin.
“Always hate this part,” Mako said as he grabbed Nathan’s arm and licked the fresh wound, covering his tongue with Nathan’s blood. Sitting down on the dirt floor of the root cellar, the Arcanist focused on the Force. It swirled around him as his eyes closed and he entered a sort of trance. The Force began to show him the path Nathan had taken to the Root Cellar and then further back it went on and on. To Mako it was as if time was going quickly in reverse as he saw Nathan’s recent past.
Lilly released the younger male as her master started his trance. Quickly she applied a bandage to Nathan’s cut.
“What now?” The Hoth Quaestor asked, he could feel the Force flowing around Henymory as the trance progressed.
“We wait,” Alethia spoke from behind her screens.
An hour passed as Mako’s trance wore on. Then his eyes opened, slowly coming back into focus. Instantly Nathan knew that the Krath had seen everything, and a sort of relief washed over the young man.
“You are free to go Nathan. Though you need to let Turel and A’lora know about what happened. Alethia, it would seem you now owe me 200 credits. Wrong twice in the same day, that has to be a new record,” the Arcanist said, his usual emotionless mask fading away to reveal how exhausted yet relieved he was that his counterpart was not a traitor.
“An all-time worst,” she agreed. “But I suppose knowing Hoth’s Summit hasn’t been compromised is worth 200 credits.”
Odan-Urr Tactical Command
Mako and Lilly stood in the rear tactical command tent overlooking the initial extraction process as the Clan began to leave Florrum. For this first phase the Clan’s shuttles were transporting the unessential supplies to the larger ships in orbit. Phase two would be for unessential personnel and more supplies, and in the final phase the last of the Clan and what they had brought with them would be shuttled off world. Phase one had been going well for several hours and was nearing completion.
“Sir, priority one message, one of our shuttles is under attack!” a communications officer yelled out.
“Patch it through to the main speaker, which shuttle is it?” Henymory inquired.
“It is Vincent’s shuttle.”
The main communication table hummed as it projected the image of the shuttle’s cockpit.
“Vincent, what is going on?”
“Mako, we are under attack, our shield is failing and the main engines have taken several direct hits. We ran into an unexpected Inquisitor patrol,” the middle aged Mandalorian pilot’s voice was level and even as his hands expertly flew over the controls of the shuttle.
“Can you get away from them?”
“Negative, we need fighter support,” the Fade paused as the shuttle violently rocked and alarm claxons began to sound, “Hull breach in rear compartment, shields have failed, Main engines are going into catastrophic melt down.”
“How many on board with you Vincent?” the Quaestors voice was gruff as he held his emotions in check. Mako and Lilly had spent enough time serving on space ships to know what was happening.
“Only myself, left the copilot on Florrum for this run. We both know how this ends sir, could you get a message back to Kathrin for me?”
“Anything in particular you wish to convey?”
“Nothing really, she hasn’t talked to me in years. Just let her know, daddy was always thinking about her,” Vincent’s hands came to a stop as he sat back in the pilot’s chair.
“We will make sure she gets it,” Mako paused as he wiped the forming tears from his eyes, “You have served with honor and loyalty, Vincent, you have earned your rest.”
“Thank you, Mako, though rest ain’t in the game plan, I’ll go on ahead and get our forward position set for you. It has been a privilege t…” the transmission cut off, the final moment frozen on the display. In it Vincent was smiling as the fire of the shuttle exploding engulfed him.
Lilly buried her face in the Krath’s chest as the tears streamed forth. Mako closed his eyes as his own emotions swelled within. His hand switched off the display and he took a deep breath. The tent was silent as the various officers and specialists sat staring at the Quaestor.
“We will honor him later, right now we still have a job to do. Check in with the other shuttles, flag that location and route out possible locations of follow up ambushes. Quickly people, we can not afford to lose another shuttle!” The tent erupted with commotion as the occupants began to go about their tasks. Mako patted Lilly’s back and sighed.
“Go inform Turel once you have pulled yourself together.” Lilly nodded at her master’s words and walked slowly out of the tent.
Extraction zone 4
The rest of the first two phases had gone without incident as the Clan pulled out from the planet. The final shuttle was preparing to leave the surface with the last of the Clan’s personnel loading aboard. Mako and Lilly stood on one side of the rear loading ramp counting the passengers and checking them off the list as they boarded the shuttle. On the other side Turel and Alethia stood doing the same. A’lora had gone with the first wave, Nathan and Edgar escorting her.
“Go on and get seated, Major,” the Krath said after the last of the passengers walked up the ramp. Turel, Lilly, and Mako met at the foot of the ramp.
“It was a hard campaign. We lost too many, Turel. Was it worth it?” the Quaestor asked of his Proconsul as they looked out upon the desert terrain around them. Before the Jedi could answer a warning tingle shot down both men’s spines. Each moved quickly, hands dropping to sabers as they moved both moved to protect Turel from harm, a crack echoed out.
Warm liquid splashed against Mako’s face, turning around Mako saw her, falling to the ground. The Quaestor moved quickly as he knelt beside her, his hands removing her helmet. Blood poured from her neck, her carotid artery severed by the metal slug, her blue eyes already beginning to dim. A smile came to her lips as Lilly look up at Mako.
“I love you,” her voice was steady, yet weak, her blooded hand touched the side of his face for but a moment as her life drained away.
“I love you too,” Mako whispered as he drew her body into an embrace. His emotions swirled as the Force drew into him.
“Get her on the shuttle,” his voice raw, tears streaming down his face. Setting her down gently the Quaestor directed the Force into his legs as he took off toward the sniper. Rage filled him as he grew closer.
“Where is Mako?” Alethia asked as she poked her head out of the shuttle as Turel gingerly picked Lilly’s now lifeless body up, tears fell freely from his eyes as he carried his friend aboard the craft. The Aedile’s hands covered her mouth in shock as she saw the fallen Fade.
“Get this bird in the air, we need to go after Henymory,” Turel issued the order as he set the young woman down.
Several minutes passed as the shuttle maneuvered and located the Quaestor.
“Sir, you need to see this,” the pilot’s voice came over the comm link as they spotted the Krath. The loading ramp lowered as the shuttle spun to reveal the scene to the passengers. Alethia gagged as she fought to keep throwing up at the sight. Unable to watch the other passengers had to avert her eyes and turn away, retching - except for Turel. The Proconsul walked down the ramp as the shuttle hovered. He watched below as an Inquisitor agent floated in mid air, soaked in blood and entrails of his three recently deceased teammates.
The man began to scream as slowly his legs spread apart, the Quaestor, however did not stop. The Force swirled and mixed with Henymory’s rage as a sickening wet tearing sound accompanied the Inquisitor’s screams. Turel jumped to the blood soaked ground below as Mako utilized the Force to literally tear the agent apart from groin to throat.
The now dead Inquisitor fell to the ground with a sickening squish as Mako turned to face his Proconsul. The Quaestor was soaked in red, his emerald eyes looked upon Turel, his rage resided and was replaced by grief. The Krath held up a print out of a photograph he had retrieved from his victims.
“They were aiming for you,” Mako said as he pressed the picture of Turel against Sorenn’s chest and jumped up onto the shuttles loading ramp.
The Proxia Mustirion
Mako sat on the floor in a corner of the empty mess hall. Word of his final actions on Florrum had already spread throughout the Clan, each member would judge them in their own way. However they all would agree that they had been acts of the darkness. As such the mess hall had been cleared of its furniture and several guards posted at each entrance while Turel and Alethia had thrown the Quaestor into a refresher and provided him with clean clothes. They had not given Henymory back his lightsabers, not yet at least.
It had been several hours since he had been placed into the mess hall, since then none had come to see the Krath. It was understandable, such actions were not viewed kindly by most, even during full on wars. Mako however had no notion of time, as he had slipped into a dazed and catatonic state upon the shuttle. His eyes stared blankly at the floor as he slowly processed the loss of Vincent and Lilly upon Florrum. Mako had completely withdrawn into himself and had no reaction when the door slid open and A’lora, Turel, Nathan, Edgar, and Alethia along with the rest of the Jedi Council walked in.