The silent black of space was suddenly torn by the sudden arrival of the shuttle. With the appearance of a fierce bird in mid strike, the angled, sharp nose of the bow pierced its way toward the awaiting frigate. Its sharp wings sliced through space, bearing the red claw-like emblem of Clan Viszla. As it neared the open side bay of the frigate. The sharpness of the hull sliced through the energy shield of the bay. The wings of the shuttle rotated inward into the ship's landing configuration. The feet of the landing gear extended, then the ship touched the deck, cushioned by the slight compression of the landing gear.
The bay had been rearranged to accommodate the shuttle. Two distinctly different and highly customized starfighters had been stowed in the far corners of the bay, leaving the shuttle alone in the center of the deck. Standing about clad fully in armor were ten of the twenty-eight Mandalorians accompanying Jaster for the tour of work. Color filled the bleak grey interior of the docking bay from the various schemes and designs worn by the proud force of the Mand'alor.
Standing out before them was Montross, donning his helmet and blaster as ordered by Jaster. He stood in wait with his massive arms folded across the silver plates on his chest. Standing beside him was Geren R'hill clad in his own red, weathered armor. Not far behind them, Hos Brenth clad in his silver and yellow armor sat on a crate with his heavy repeater laid across his lap.
From the underside of the shuttle extended a ramp with jets of steam shooting from the valves. A large, black, armored figure walked down the ramp wearing a flowing, tattered, red cape. Five more similarly armored Mandalorians followed. From the midst of the watchful Mandalorians, Hos Brenth took note of just how close each of Viszla's men kept their weapons.
Without breaking his stride, Tor Viszla removed his helmet, releasing his long black hair. Smug confidence stole away his expression on his harsh face. Whatever was on Viszla's mind, Hos didn't like it one bit. He was adept at perceiving danger and foul intentions, a sense he honed from his early years among pirates. Tor stood before Montross with his helmet held under his arm. The two tall Mandalorians were at eye level. The cold, expressionless face of Montross' traditional Mandalorian helmet served him well, both representing and hiding his scowl.
"I don't believe we know each other," Tor said. "But I remember you from Concordia. What are you, Mereel's boy?" he asked with a squint of his steely eyes. Montross smirked from behind his helmet.
"I've just got Jaster's back, something you'd do well to remember," he said snidely. He turned away from the dark Mandalorian and made his way to the door in the back of the hanger.
"How nice for him," Tor muttered as he followed. The two were silent as they made their way to the upper levels of the frigate. Montross pressed a button and the door slid open with a hiss. Without invitation, Tor stepped inside to a three sided room.
Three leveled bleacher like seats were situated against two adjoining walls, bathed in the blue holographic glow of a projection display in the far corner. Standing in the glow was Jaster Mereel clad in his grey armor. The red cape sat on his shoulders like the mantle of a king. Placed on the panel of the holo projector was his helmet. The veteran Mandalorian's hard expression gave nothing away, only lending a chilled feeling to whomever was trapped in its gaze.
"Dismissed, Montross," he said. The large Mandalorian nodded to his mentor then left, closing the door behind him.
"I like the ship, a bit quaint though," Tor said. He then walked further into the room. "The previous Mand'alor had five of them everywhere he went," he continued as he placed his own black helmet beside Jaster's. "And the welcoming party," he grinned with bemusement. "I'm surprised you didn't have me disarmed." He stared down Jaster with a sneer, his crooked teeth showed dully in the blue light. Jaster however was like stone, not flinching a single bit, always scrutinizing Tor with his piercing stare.
"You have very limited time to tell me why I'm still here," he finally said.
"Of course," Viszla said. "You're a busy man, I'll get right to it then." He turned and faced Jaster, merely feet away from him. "I've received intelligence of a potential threat to Mandalore. The pacifists, the New Mandalorians," he muttered the name bitterly, "have intentions to join the Republic." Tor paused, studying Jaster's unwavering expression. "Being an initiate as you were, you probably are not familiar with our heritage and the gravity of what this means. Mandalore's feud with the Republic goes back to thousands of years, back before the time of the Sith Empire. Perhaps you're familiar with the 'Buurenaar be Tracyn'? he asked.
"Storm of fire," Jaster translated. "Yes I'm familiar. The Republic's preemptive bombardment of Mandalore, scattering our people and inspiring the New Mandalorians."
"Yes," Tor replied bitterly. "A great majority of these decenters were people of my clan. And to have them spit on the grave of our ancestors by reaching out to the Republic in friendship is a grievous insult." Tor's expression grew uglier and more resentful with every word.
"I'm not yet hearing of any threat to our people, Viszla," Jaster said in a sharp tone of his own. It wasn't hard to see what the brute-like Mandalorian was leading to.
"Well then, Jaster-"
"That's Mand'alor, to you," Jaster shot at him with a strong tone. He reasserted his authority and kept Visala in his place. For a moment, it worked. The Mandalorian was taken aback, his harsh gaze opened wide but quickly squinted again with new found resentment.
"Yes of course, Mand'alor," he said through grit teeth. "Let me illustrate this for you. The New Mandalorians' allegiance to the Republic would open our space for their ships to come and go as they please; space that our ancestors fought for, died honorably and conquered; and no Republic vessel has dared venture in." His furious passion mounted as he spoke. "We would lose our power over many worlds. What's more is that sooner or later, the Republic and its Jedi will take interest in our existence. And surely the pacifists will urge them to do something about it." Jaster's gaze refocused as he listened. Some truth was just said, even he couldn't deny that. "As we are now, we cannot endure another assault. Our people will be hunted down and destroyed simply because of what we believe in."
Tor's tone had suddenly changed in Jaster's ears. He felt the sympathy and desire for his people, it was a mutual desire, but Jaster couldn't ignore his instincts. He knew Tor Viszla well enough. From the short time that they'd crossed paths, he'd learned much about the infamous clan leader. His ways were questionable and had once or twice before tempted Jaster to intervene. Nothing here was different.
"I don't disagree with you there," Jaster said. "But it will not go that far. We are not the same enemy the Republic once knew."
"You're right," Tor nodded. "Divided as we are, we are weak. But united…" There it was, the fire in Viszla's eyes. It was all consuming without feeling or thought for anyone or thing that was in its way. "If the full might of every true clan was mustered, we would be unstoppable. We could take back Mandalore and restore our people to the glory of the days of old. With such a force, we could expand our borders, realize the dream of our ancestors. The Republic would be in our grasp and every wrong to us would be reprimanded. We could have the entire galaxy. Just think of it!" he exclaimed.
"I am," Jaster said, finally managing to tear away from the flame in the Mandalorian's eye. "Destruction, oppression and genocide. That is what I see, and there is no honor in it." Viszla straightened his tall posture and glared at him with his mouth hung open.
"You are foolishly turning down the opportunity to rule the galaxy," he said in an exasperated tone. "Every planet of every system to be at your command; wealth beyond your imagination, every breathing thing, man, woman and child at your feet." Jaster glared right back, even stepping up close to the dark Mandalorian.
"I see nothing more than oceans of innocent blood," he said coldly. "Don't forget who you are talking to, Viszla. I established the Supercommando Codex, and if you want to continue to be a free man, you'll let this all go." For a moment the two men glared at each other, both waiting for the other to break first. Tor backed down and turned away from Jaster. He knew it would come to this. The Mand'alor was a stubborn man trapped by his moral code, a weakness that would only get in the way. He placed his hand on the dome of his black helmet.
"It's our destiny, Jaster," he said. And it will be realized without you!" Tor spun around with a jagged vibroblade bared from his gauntlet. He swung at Jaster, going in for a quick kill but the Mand'alor was far ahead of him. Jaster hadn't once let his guard down from the moment Viszla stepped inside. He dodged the blade, allowing his instincts to move his body. In a split second, Viszla attacked again, still only slicing nothing but air. Enraged, he lunged with a growl. Jaster side stepped the attack then made his move. He grasped Viszla's wrist and swung him around. Kicking out the Mandalorian's legs from behind, Viszla dropped to his knees but not before Jaster swiped Tor's blaster pistol from his hip. Taking little time to aim, he fired a single shot, shattering the blade on Viszla's gauntlet. Immobilized, Tor was grappled down in Jaster's hold, while having his own blaster pistol at his head.
"Montross!" Jaster bellowed. The door had opened and the broad Mandalorian had a foot inside. Already alert from the blaster shot, his hands cradled his blaster. The Mandalorian in silver and blue looked at Viszla then slid inside completely, leveling his snub rifle. Jaster released Tor and kicked him to the floor. His black armor plating clanged on the deck from the weight of the impact. Viszla rolled slowly to his back, first looking down the opposite end of Montross' trained barrel. "I should kill you, Viszla," Jaster said while still aiming the blaster pistol. "But I don't kill unarmed prisoners, so its your lucky day." Jaster turned and took his helmet from the panel on the holo-projector. He then set Viszla's blaster down beside the Mandalorian's black helmet. Jaster placed his helmet on his head and stepped out into the hallway as he keyed his comlink. "Hos, any movement among Viszla's men?" he inquired.
"Not much, Jaster," he answered. "Everything alright?"
"We'll see," Jaster replied as he glanced back over his shoulder inside the room. The clanging of boots brought two more Mandalorians down the hall. Protruding from the back of one of their helmets was a pair of lekku, fully wrapped in tough leather. Jaster normally identified his men by their armor patterns, but never had to when it came to the only Twi'lek he had in his immediate forces, Geren R'hill.
"Geren," he called.
"Yes, Mand'alor?" the Twi'lek clad in red armor replied.
"Tor Viszla is under arrest. I'm entrusting you to take him to Holmuroth. The funds will be transferred to your usual account once you contact me from there."
"You got it, Sir," Geren chuckled. "I'm sure the men there will appreciate the new face," he added. "When do I leave?" he inquired.
"Not just yet," Jaster answered. "Something I have to take care of first."
Jaster walked past them and navigated his halls to the lower levels, finally approaching the door to the hanger bay. Upon its opening, he stepped inside and walked briskly through the gathering of his men. As he walked, they made way for him, and straightened their postures in respect. Jaster made his way to the front then stopped, standing solidly before his numbers, facing down the five darkly clad members of Clan Viszla waiting from a distance at the feet of their shuttle. Each of them recognized the Mand'alor and stood beside each other. Few of their helmeted heads searched the gathering of Jaster and his men, searching for any sign of their leader. Their body language gave away their thoughts and worries. Jaster saw weapons being clenched and feet shifting into defensive stances.
"Tor Viszla has been arrested for treason," Jaster declared loudly. "I order you to stand down and return home. I will not ask again. The hanger rang with a thin echo of Jaster's voice. Silence soon set in as blood rushed through the veins of every armored man on board. The odds were of little consequence to five of Clan Viszla, each were poised and ready to strike and likewise, Jaster's band of twenty-six were equally ready. It seemed as if seconds had stretched into the length of minutes. Just one false move from either end, and the hanger would be alit with the searing glow of blaster fire. Finally the dark armored figures stepped back and one by one, filed up the ramp, back inside their shuttle. Mandalorians gathered along the wall of the hanger eased their weapons as they watched the shuttle rise from the deck and turn around, flying out of the docking bay. Jaster stood before them, watching the sublight engines shrink as the ship soared to the brown surface of the moon, Concordia. "Geren, bring him out," Jaster said over his comlink. From the gathering of Mandalorians, Hos approached him.
"So Viszla's under arrest, what's that about?"
"It's a long story, Hos," Jaster replied. You'll understand when I address the men."
Murmurs filled the hanger, questions and extrapolations. The doors opened again, allowing in the enraged screams of a madman. All eyes fell on the thrashing Mandalorian as he spit and spewed profanity. Hold him from behind was both Montross and Geren R'hill. Tor's hands were bound behind his back. His armor mounted flak vest and gauntlets were removed, leaving only the Mandalorian in his black dark grey fatigues. Wrists bound from behind, Viszla was dragged to the front of the hanger.
"Fools! You'll all burn!" His venomous gaze then befell on Jaster, glaring straight through the traditional 'T' visor of his helmet. "You're a coward, Mereel," he hissed. "Kill me now, because I will kill you and it won't be clean." Jaster stepped closer to Viszla, his visor a mere three inches from the man's crooked nose.
"I'm a law-man, Tor," he said in a low tone. "I don't kill prisoners." He stepped back and indicated to one of the awaiting Starfighters in the corner of the hanger. "Take him away." Geren and Montross both dragged Tor away, the enraged Mandalorian bellowing over and over calling Jaster a coward. His screams were finally cut out by the closing of the starfighter's boarding ramp. Jaster turned away and made his way to the door with Hos still behind him. "Assemble the men in the ops center," I'll explain everything there."
"You got it, Jaster," Hos mumbled.
They were all waiting for him. The ops center was filled with curious Mandalorians, but they would have to wait. Jaster passed the op center on his way back to his quarters. He had little time to return and curb their impatience. He moved to the com terminal and stood before it. The emitting plate glowed as he keyed in the frequency. He didn't have to wait long for an answer. Projected on the plate was a holographic figure of a short haired woman. Her complexion was just as dark as her black plated armor. Grid around her waist, she wore a grey kama with brown leather holsters clasped to her thighs. Her hands set on her hips as a sly smile crept onto her lips. There was history between Jaster Mereel and Naja Lovac but they were both professionals.
"Mand'alor," she greeted. "This is unexpected. What might I do for you?"
"Reconnaissance on the Viszla compound on Concordia," Jaster answered, going straight to the point.
"Viszla?" she echoed with a cocked eyebrow. Her sneer deepened even further. "Expecting trouble?"
"Tor Viszla has been detained and his people are wound tight," Jaster explained. "I want eyes on them."
"Understood," Naja said.
"I want this done with the highest discretion. Purely recon," he stated sharply. "Do not engage them unless fired on."
"Alright," she said with a nod. "I'll send one of our more stealthy operators. He'll deploy within the hour. I'll send you his personal com channel for further instructions."
"I appreciate it, Naja." By the sound of it, this was exactly what he wanted, but still he would play it out cautiously. A call into the Prudii Kad was usually a double edged sword. They were the blackest of any mercenary unit that Jaster was among an elite few to know of. But they had no limitations, regardless of their orders, a job would be done. The last thing Jaster wanted was a war and all he could hope for was that he didn't just light the fuse.