The door opened at Geren's approach, just as the Warden, Knox said it would. With the Twi'lek Mandalorian acting on the orders of the Mand'alor himself, Knox felt obligated to allow him full access and observation of the prison. According to Geren, it didn't seem to matter to the Mand'alor that Holmuroth was the most secure Mandalorian prison, he was taking every precaution to ensure that his prisoner, Tor Viszla remained incarcerated.
Geren stepped inside of the cramped, dimly lit room. The entire back wall was consumed in visual uplinks to the countless number of cameras installed all over the prison. In the middle of the wall was the status display of the facilities various systems. Tubed wires ran across the walls all leading to the security hub.
Only one Mandalorian manned the security hub, Sa'jek. Geren had met everyone among the clan except for the security technician. It was obvious Sa'jek didn't leave his chair in the hub very often. His hair ran past his shoulders and he seemed to never bother to shave. He never bothered to wear full armor. Glancing to his left, Geren spotted Sa'jek's gauntlets stacked off in the corner along with his flak vest and helmet, leaving only his brown colored knee guards still worn over his green flight suit. Geren approached from behind, slowly scanning over each screen.
"You're not supposed to be in here," Sa'jek said casually, still facing his computer.
"I have the Mand'alor's authority," Geren said, still lost in the many security feeds.
"Yeah I know, the boss said that earlier, Sa'jek replied stiffly.
"Just spoke with the Mand'alor, he wanted me to inspect the security hub," Geren explained. "Are you another son?" Geren inquired.
"Brother in-law," Sa'jek answered. "Long boring story, none of it your concern." Geren was still enamored by the display.
"So this is it then? All security for the prison is controlled here?" Geren asked.
"The one and only," the Mandalorian answered proudly. "Remote access is one-hundred percent impossible."
"Good," Geren said. His eyes had finally stopped scanning from behind his helmet and was now focused on a single visual. Looking straight down from inside a dark, tight square box Geren watched a man tirelessly exercising, pushing his body off the ground in perfect stride. "That's good." By the sudden flash of the muzzle and ring of a blaster, Sa'jek slumped forward in his chair, a trail of black smoke rising from the wound in the back of his head. Geren R'hill grabbed the body by its shoulders and heaved it out of the chair. The Twi'lek slid in place and placed his blaster pistol down on the console, mere inches away from where Sa'jek had placed his. First step was to lock the hanger down from the hallway. Geren checked his chronometer, it was finally time.
The doors to the hanger slid open and the stillness was shattered by the howl of the blizzard. Night had fallen on Harswee and the time had finally come. From the flurry of wild snow, a sleek black starship emerged and entered Holmuroth's hanger with ease. Little time was spent on landing procedures. The landing gear lowered along with the boarding ramp, both touching the floor at the same time. Eight black armored Mandalorians filed out, all with their blaster rifles leveled. Moving swiftly, they filed to the sealed door. Two broke off the formation and posted on either sides of the entry while the other six took cover behind crates.
"In position," Meltch Krakko reported into the comlink with a deep voice. Slowly the cross-sealing blast door retracted with a hiss. With the opening only a foot wide, the first blaster bolt was fired. The glowing bolt burned harmlessly on one of the crates. More blaster fire was sent as the entry grew wider and wider. The black armored Mandalorians returned fire sending their shots down at the three guards deployed to the hallway.
The three fired wild unfocussed shots trying to suppress the invaders. Through the hail of blaster fire, the black invaders trained their blasters and shot down the guards, left exposed and vulnerable in the narrow hallway. With a wail, the third guard was downed by a shot to the chest. With the hallway clear, the six invaders left their cover and filed down through the wide open door.
While on the move, one of the black Mandalorians noticed one of the guards still squirming on the floor. She mercilessly stomped on the guard's chest and held him down then fired a shot into his Mandalorian 'T'. The guard's head dropped with a thud on the floor and the invader continued down the hall with her comrades.
With the blast doors already opened, the black invaders burst through into the processing chamber. The air was thick with blaster fire. Bolts of various colors surged from either side of the round chamber. Upon entering, a purple blaster bolt struck an upfront invader in the throat. Meltch watched his comrade collapse, hearing him gurgle in agony as he died slowly.
The chamber didn't provide much for cover. Meltch kept strafing around the room, laying down a constant stream of red blaster fire from his heavy repeater. The guards put up a fight, suppressing the invaders with all they had but stood little chance against the ferocity of the Mandalorians in black.
Occupied with the constant volume of blaster fire from the invaders, they failed to notice the three thermal detonators rolled to their feet. In three consecutive blasts, the detonators threw the guards off their feet. Their armor was charred and smoked from the explosives as they laid crumpled and mangled on the floor.
Meltch directed the invaders to the center of the chamber where the elevator platform awaited. Two of the Mandalorians in black remained in the chamber, posted on opposite sides of the gaping elevator shaft. As the platform descended the fifteen yard shaft, the lights glazed over the dull black plates of the invaders' armor.
Meltch Krakko was no rookie. He'd been conducting high priority missions for more than six years and was one of the coldest, and most dangerous shadow operator among the Mandalorian clans, he never failed on an objective and this raid was as simple to him as running a simulator. As the lift moaned to a stop on the ground level, he sniggered darkly within his black helmet. So this was what the most secure Mandalorian prison had to offer? It seemed there was no real challenge left for him.
The cell block annex was empty and quiet with no guards to feebly attempt to stop them. "Which way?" Meltch inquired into the comlink as they entered the hallway without challenge. After a second's pause, Meltch indicated to the right most passage of the three. One remained as three of the invaders continued to down the hall and came to the cell block entry. The final blast door crept open while the three posted along both walls preparing to breach. With the door wide enough for entry, Meltch moved first, spinning from the wall into the room, scanning the left side with his repeater.
The other two fluidly poured into the cell block, one covering the right side while the third scanned the upper level of walkways. A brown armored Mandalorian guard crouched on the metal walkway and fired a burst of yellow bolts, killing the black armored invader. Meltch quickly redirected his focus, ducking behind the life support system of one of the metal box-like cells. The guard above fired another burst which struck the system which now coughed smoke and sizzled. Meltch stepped from the other side of his cover. He raised his arm and aimed his fist at the guard and with his other hand, pressed a control on his gauntlet firing a wrist mounted rocket. The projectile screeched with a flaring trail of smoke across the room till it impacted on the walkway. The explosion crumpled the metal walkway dropping it from its anchors in the ceiling, taking the guard with it.
The brown armored Mandalorian rolled from the wreckage, still dazed. The second invader approached the motionless guard and rolled her onto her back plate. The guard suddenly kicked the invader hard in the chest then rolled back onto her feet. The invader recovered, leveling his blaster carbine with a snap and firing a single shot. The brown armored guard dodged the bolt which skimmed a mere inch away from Meltch's face. From her gauntlet, the guard bore a vibroblade and attacked the black invader. With his carbine he blocked the attack before striking her helmeted head with the wooden stock of his carbine. She stumbled back, barely stunned but unaware of Meltch who approached from behind. He grasped her by the throat with one hand while stabbing her lower back just below the plate with his dagger in the other.
The guard gasped and struggled to breathe as Meltch withdrew his bloody, serrated blade. Leaving her in her own blood, the two invaders climbed the main stairway. Making his way down the metal walkway, Meltch wiped his bloody dagger on the sleeve of his grey flight suit before sliding it back into the sheath strapped to his chest plate. The two approached the cell to the right in the rear of the block.
"Open the cell," the shadow operator ordered over the comlink. Meltch stood back from the hatch in the roof of the metal box. A red light suddenly flashed green and the hatch opened. The two waited only a moment before Tor Viszla emerged from the entry and clambered out of the cell. He stood tall and broad before the two in black armor.
His long black hair was wild and the stubble on his chin darkened substantially. He grinned maliciously as he stared down Meltch with approval. All was coming together just as he had designed. Jaster Mereel thought he had the upper hand when in all actuality, Tor had always been three steps ahead of him. Tor was more prepared for his cause and was nearly ready to strike. Mereel may have his Prudii Kad to rely on, but Tor had his Death Watch.
"Sir," Meltch grunted with a nod to his commander.
"Very good, Krakko," Tor said. "Now tell that insect to open all the cells in this block," he commanded. Meltch relayed the command to Geren R'hill over the comlink while Tor stepped past them and strode down the central walkway junction.
All ten cell hatches opened with metallic clangs and moments later, four heads cautiously peeked into the light. Tor and his Death Watch watched as the Mandalorian prisoners emerged randomly from the cells. Some were rather lean and wore ragged, baggy flight suits. Their hair was long and beards grew wildly around the muzzle. Others were just as large as Tor, looking about them suspicious of their sudden good fortune. Before long all eyes rested on Tor and his men.
"Brothers," Tor called out. "We all share a common enemy. Whether you're willing to do anything about it will be seen in time. But at this moment, we all have the same goal, to raze this prison to the ground!" he roared and let his voice echo in the cell block. One of the larger prisoners stepped forward, glaring at Tor.
"And who are you?" he demanded.
"The one that decides whether or not your ashes will be left among the ruins of this facility," Tor sneered. The prisoner backed away, still glaring at Tor as he, Meltch and the other Death Watch operator pressed forward. None of the prisoners said anything more as they all made their way to the floor of the cell block. Tor swooped down to retrieve the dead guard's blaster rifle, yanking back the charging bolt as he led them through the remaining two cell blocks, savagely mowing down each awaiting guard.
The processing chamber was in ruins from the firefight between the remaining guards and Death Watch allied with the sixteen Mandalorian prisoners. Knox's entire body felt heavy. His vision was clouded and his ears were filled by the sound of his own slowing heartbeat. Despite the immense weight of his head, he managed to look up and see what had become of his home.
Wires sparked and smoke rose from burning debris. The walls were covered in blast marks and the instability of the prison's power flow caused the lights to pulsate and even at times flicker to darkness. In the corner, his dead family was piled one on top of the other, stripped of their prized weapons and armor.
In the tangling of bodies, Knox spotted a woman with short ginger hair, his wife, Yuri. Her dark brown eyes were wide open, fixing him with a dull lifeless stare. Knox clenched his eyes closed and turned his head away. To his right was his nephew. He was no older than thirteen yet didn't shed a single tear. The boy only let his lip quiver but refused to show any other emotion. Sa'jek would have been proud of his son.
Seven of their clan was still alive and lined up on their knees with seven of the sixteen prisoners standing behind them. They were all encircled by the remaining savage looking prisoners and the majority of the menacing Death Watch operators. Before them all stood Tor Viszla. Knox noticed his niece's blaster rifle rested against the barbarian's shoulder, a sign that Duriah was among the many dead. One of the Death Watch operators approached Viszla as he glared at the captive warden and his guards.
"All weapons and supplies have been gathered and loaded on to the ship, Sir," he reported.
"Very good," Viszla said with a wide grin. He then pointed to Geren with the barrel of the blaster rifle. "You," he called. The Twi'lek Mandalorian approached him with his helmet under his arm, his pale blue skin was dull in the dimness of the lights.
"Yes, Sir?" Geren asked. Tor snapped the blaster rifle back up and shot the Twi'lek without another second's hesitation. Geren's specialized helmet rolled away as he dropped dead on the floor, a smoking hole in his chest.
"You've outlived your usefulness to me." Tor stepped over Geren's body, redirecting his attention back on his helpless, broken captives. "Let this be a sign to all Mandalorians," he said with a sharp, broad voice. "If you swear loyalty to Jaster Mereel, then you show that you are weak and unworthy to call yourself 'Manda.' We will spread across all territories to every clan and offer a chance to our brethren to redeem themselves. This is the same chance that I offer all of you. Join my Death Watch and fight to bring down Mereel and those that dare serve him. We will raise our people to greater power than ever before. The choice is yours, join us, or die." No one spoke a word. The prisoners grinned and sneered maliciously but none of the guards dared look up from the floor. Knox glared back at Viszla. Through his swollen eyelids.
"None of us will ever join you, dar'manda," said a voice from among the guards. Looking down his left, Knox spotted his sister Reeda, recognizing her voice, weakened from pain. Her face was smeared with blood and struggled to keep one swollen eye open. Seeing the courage of both his nephew and sister, Knox couldn't help but feel proud, even on the worst day of his life.
"You?" he laughed. "Your carcasses are the sign. The offer is not for you," Tor said. He turned away from the line up and started towards the hallway to the hanger. "Take your time," he added over his shoulder. The prisoners all closed around Knox and his family, laughing with anticipation.
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