The Mandalorian Protectors

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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

Cadden had gone two days without sleep. Despite his condition, he was able to manage to get the ship to the system without incident though the sleep deprivation had kicked in after the first thirty eight hours. His eyelids were getting heavy, now, as he approached the planet Mandalore.

Cadden fought the exhaustion as he entered the atmosphere and navigated the small craft to the Keldabe spaceport. The landing was rough, but manageable, and he sat back in his chair as the engines shut down. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Cadden had thought for some time where he would go after Cazzik had declared he would release him from custody. This was the one location he kept returning to when he scanned through his options. No other place seemed right to him. And now that he was here, he felt uneasy about leaving the ship, about returning to the people he abandoned.

He had to wonder if the Mandalorians would even take him back, after abandoning his duties as their leader. He saw a Mandalorian approach, though it was impossible to tell if he could recognize the individual or not. Here comes the welcome wagon, he mused. No turning back, now.

Cadden made his way to the ship's small boarding ramp and approached the waiting armor-clad warrior. This one sported the traditional green color scheme that many chose for their appearance, and showed no notable features to help him distinguish who it was he was addressing. But the man knew him, unsurprisingly.

"Blackthorne," the man addressed him with a nod. It felt unusual to him; he had gown used to being addressed as Mandalore. Simply calling him by his last name felt weird to him.

But then, I'm not Mandalore, he thought. Not anymore. He holds no obligation to address me as such.

"Mand'alor requires your presence," the Mandalorian continued.

"I'm tired," Cadden said, "and I do not answer to a Mandalore. Can it wait until I've gotten some rest?"

The man shook his head. "That is precisely why he wishes to see you now. You've been gone for two years. This cannot wait."

Cadden gave him a look, but ultimately knew better, and reluctantly seceded to the request. More of a demand, really. He was loaded on a transport and delivered to the Protectors' meeting hall, where Garen alone stood.

"Wait outside," he told Cadden's escort. The man nodded and took his leave. Cadden must have looked as tired as he felt, as he noticed Garen was looking him over. "You look like osik."

"I've had a rough couple of days," Cadden said. Years, more like. Though he couldn't share that with Garen. Partially because he didn't know what to share, but predominately because it would put him in a very bad position.

"I'm not giving your title back," Garen declared matter-of-factly. This took Cadden aback. It wasn't the first time the man had told him this, but it was in the way he said it. Almost posessively. "I am Mand'alor, now. The Mando'ade look to me for direction, now."

"I'm not here to take the title back," Cadden said, slightly insulted this was the way he would be greeted. "I'm here for respite."

"If you choose to stay, you will prove your worth." Cadden gave him a quizzical look, which begged for more information. "There are those that wish to see me abdicate from my position. Side with me, prove to me your loyalty to Mand'alor."

"And how would I go about doing that? " Cadden asked. "I'm exhausted, I can barely stand. Let alone think straight. I need rest."

Garen produced a sword of distinctive beskad features. Cadden tensed up. "What I offer you is rare," Garen said, before looking over the sword as though it were the first time he'd ever seen it. "You can either accept it... or get off my planet."

Cadden narrowed his eyes at the man, though knew better than to be defiant. He considered Garen's words carefully. It was an ultimatum, essentially, and one he didn't much care for. But where else did he have to go? "What do you want from me?" he finally said.

Garen averted his attention from the sword. "Fight for me, where I choose. I can't give you your position back, but I will give you a position of power, so long as you promise to fight by my side, as I once did for you."

He didn't have much else a choice. Cadden nodded in agreement. "I don't have anything," he said. "No armor, no weapons.…"

"Well, we can fix that," Garen said, and offered Cadden the sword. "This belongs to you. We found it in the Udine system two years ago, when we were looking for you."

"This isn't mine," Cadden said, taking it. He never saw it before in his life. "There must be a mistake."

"No mistake, my friend. This belonged to an ancestor of yours." Trak. Cadden should have figured. "And, by extension, it belongs to you."

Cadden looked at the inscription on the blade. His mando'a was a bit rusty, but he was able to figure out what it said. A warrior is more than his armor. He looked back at Garen. "Vor entye." Garen nodded. "What about armor, and ranged weaponry?"

"I will arrange that. For now, we will establish some temporary quarters for you until we get you settled in." Cadden nodded and turned to leave. "And Cadden?" He stopped and looked back at Garen. "There are those within the Protectors' ranks that would see me removed from power. Forcibly, if they had it their way."

"Why?" Cadden asked. The first thing he wanted to ask was, What have you done? But he knew better than most that much had changed in the past two years.

"They do not agree with my methods," Garen simply said. "I'm leading the Mandalorians to a better future. And they do not want to see this happen." He paused a second, as if he were choosing his next words carefully. "They will feed you lies about me. Under no circumstance are you to associate with them." Cadden didn't acknowledge Garen, and instead continued to walk out. He got to the door before Garen spoke again. "If you break this agreement, you will no longer be welcome here. Ever."

* * *

The following day was a little busy for Cadden. He didn't get much sleep, but it was enough to be able to operate on a somewhat decent level. He was still nowhere near the top of his game, still getting used to living without feeling the Force. It had been arranged, as promised, to get him armor and weapons, and by midday he had all the basics he needed for his new role. Truthfully, Cadden had hoped for something less violent, at least while he coped with what had happened to him and while he tried to figure out how he came to where he was now, but in hindsight he knew better. Mandalorians had more need for warriors than they did for dedicated farmers or mechanics or others of the like.

Evening came about, and he found himself tired yet restless. He had since received word that Garen was making him an honorary general, and would be sending him to the "front lines" in a few days. Whatever was designated as a front line, anyway. He was told it would help get his head in the game, get him all sorted out. Damn trial by fire concept, he thought. Mandalorians were notorious for such methods, something many outsiders would frown upon. Yet, he understood why. Even though he had only been with them for a year, he had spent that year fully immersing himself in their culture, learning their ways and their language. It was but one of many reasons why he had become their new Mandalore.

So when he was given his assignment, he played the good soldier and accepted it, despite his reservations on his capacity for getting back into the fight.

He had decided to spend that evening in the Oyu'baat, and took a few drinks to take the edge off. For the most part, everyone had left him alone; word traveled fast on Mandalore, and he had been there for over a day. A few had welcomed him back, others simply stared at him, while select pockets of individuals glared in disgust, likely due to his abandoning them.

One of the latter had even approached him. "Blackthorne," the man said, his tone far from friendly, "you've got nerve showing your face around here, after you abandoned us." Cadden looked at him, his skin tone a dark tan, and standing at nearly two meters tall. He wore a very serious expression, and seemed ready and willing to bring his conflict to violence. "You're not welcome on Manda'yaim, or in the Mando Cabure."

"Your leader tends to disagree with you," Cadden objected. He looked over the man who stood accusing him. "Tell me, what exactly have you done for the Mando'ade?"

The man scowled at the comment, knowing full well what he was being compared to. "We don't answer to you anymore, dar'manda. Who you were doesn't matter. It's who you are now that counts. And who you are now is a nobody. An outcast who has lost his way." Cadden turned his attention back to his drink, staring at the half empty glass. "You don't deserve to wear our armor, you don't deserve to be called a Mandalorian."

"Ne shab'rud'ni..." Cadden said slowly, lowering his voice.

The man chuckled. "You don't even have the pull to do anything, other than be Mandalore's little lapdog."

Cadden finished his drink and slammed it on the table, before springing into action. A fist connected with the man's face, while a foot drove into one of his friend's gut. The third of the small entourage tried landing a powerful blow to Cadden's back, but he moved too quick for it to connect, and instead of neutralizing Cadden he found himself with a broken arm and two dislocated ribs.

The second Mandalorian rejoined the fight, and landed a blow against the side of Cadden's head, dazing him temporarily. It was long enough for the big guy to regain his senses and lock him in a bear hug clinch hold, before bringing Cadden down to the ground in a back mount position. His still-fighting friend brought his foot down on Cadden, winding him.

Cadden managed to muster enough strength to lock his legs around the man's own and send him to the ground, before delivering sufficient force to his sternum to take him out for the count. Without delay, Cadden rammed his head back into the big guy's face, causing him to lose his grip, and Cadden struggled away from him, easing to his feet. He looked around at the other patrons of the tapcaf, none of which either dared or cared to intervene. Mandalore, he thought dryly. When he noted the big guy wasn't going to get back up anytime soon, Cadden lowered his guard.

He found the fight had drained his energy more than he had expected. Whether it was due to his exhaustion, his disconnection from the Force, or the drinks he had beforehand, he wasn't sure, but he did his best to keep others from noticing. "I don't need pull to put people like you in your place," he chided at the incapacitated man, wincing a little in pain. Gonna be feeling this in the morning. "Whether you like it or not, I'm back, and I am still a Mandalorian. Call me dar'manda again and it will be the last word you ever speak." He tossed a credit chip to the barkeep for his drink, and walked out of the tapcaf, somewhat ungracefully, and into the brisk night air. He spied a couple individuals looking at him, though he'd gotten used to it since he arrived. Everyone wanted to know if Cadden Blackthorne returned, and some apparently even had their own agenda.

Cadden made it back to his quarters without incident. No doubt he'll have to explain what went down in the morning. He dressed down, cleaned off both his blood and the others', and retired for the night.

Morning couldn't have come sooner, and no more than a couple hours after getting up he was standing before Garen. Both were wearing nearly full armor, minus their helmets, though Cadden had the distinctive feeling his was for a far more specific reason.

"Care to explain to me why, barely a day after you arrive, you've put two of my guys in the med bay and busted up a third's face?" Garen asked.

"Let them call you Mandalore's lapdog and dar'manda," Cadden said. "See where it gets them."

Garen had to grin, despite now being down three deployable men. "So for honor," he said. "Regardless, clearly not everybody shares my sentiments on what to do with you. Many have contacted me, demanding banishment, or worse. Mandalorians don't typically take kindly to desertion."

Cadden watched as Garen triggered the holo display, and a strategic map popped up. "I'm expediting your deployment," he said. Cadden frowned. "Maybe if you earn some glory on the battlefield, those that hold you in small regard will see you in a different light."

"I nearly got my sheb handed to me in a bar fight," Cadden said. "I think that should demonstrate, alone, I'm not fit for battlefield operations."

Even if true, this battle shouldn't be much worth worrying over," Garen said. "You'll be accompanied by the Black Brigade to Ord Cestus."

Ord Cestus? What was so important about Ord Cestus? "What is the mission?" Cadden asked. "I can't imagine Ord Cestus requiring Mandalorian intervention."

"They've become a problem," Garen said, "and the Mandalorians are being called in to deal with it. You will get the full spectrum of the details after you arrive."

Cadden didn't like being in the dark, but knew there was little point in pressing for more information. Garen wasn't going to share it. He simply nodded, instead. "Then I'll prepare for departure," he said.
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

As the two Mandalorians exited Garen's house, Cadden was the first to notice the two bodies on the porch, but only by a split second. He held his arm out to keep Garen from advancing, yet Garen just shoved right by him and approached Mav Priest's corpse. There were several arrows protruding from it, with one holding a data disk.

Cadden examined the two bodies as Garen set up a link between their helmets. He recognized the symbol on the armor. "Death Watch," he said. Cadden looked at Garen, his helmet hiding his earnest concern over this finding. "I thought these guys were wiped out."

Garen didn't say a word as his gauntlet loaded the disk. The visual popped up on both of their HUDs.

"Hello, Garen," a man Cadden immediately recognized as Freedom Nadd said. "As you are well aware we don’t see eye to eye. I find it hard to agree with someone who openly slaughters innocents in the name of a greater Mandalore."

Cadden looked at Garen with a concerned look, despite being hidden by his visor. The man simply ignored him.

Freedom moved slightly in the picture and it adjusted to include Kyr, Jess, Sarai and three captured Death Watch operatives. Each in various states of bloody torture, one was openly naked and noticeably missing a rather important part of his anatomy. “We have, as you can see, three of your men," Freedom continued. "They have admitted they are indeed members of the Death Watch, that you are their leader and that they were operating under your orders when you attacked our transports carrying supplies. If you don’t believe or you want to deny that you were involved, don’t worry… attached to this message is their confessions. But let’s make this easy.”

Holding up a blade Sarai pushed it into one of the men’s shoulders between the joint and the shoulder blade itself. He began talking rapidly confirming everything Freedom had just stated and continued talking about the mission itself. Kyr punched the man in the face shutting him up before wiping off the blood on another man’s chest. “As you can see we’ve broken each of them in various ways. Kyr even used one of your favorite techniques which he referred to as ‘akin to a teenage boy seeing a naked girl for the first time’ in terms of it’s usefulness in torture.”

Shrugging, Freedom turned the camera to focus on just him. “Now we’re going to get personal for a moment because this, you and me… this is personal. You approved a bombing at my yaim with my ade, my children, inside. You sanctioned an attack that has my brother, my ad’ika, in a med ward clinging to life. You took it even further by killing innocents and not caring for the lives of those who are Mando’ade. This is where you get to choose which way you go, Garen.”

Without warning another head popped into the screen. The blonde haired female narrowed her eyes and sat next to Freedom. “I just wanted to let you know that I hate you," she said. "You're aredar’manda to not just me but to anyone associated with Freedom and Kyr. You are going to die before this comes to its end. Bye, ba’buir.”

Sarai disappeared as quickly as she appeared in the screen and Freedom smirked a bit. “You know I almost feel for you having your daughter hate you. Sarai, I’m sorry, she’s known as Pirud to you, correct? She's quite the student. Quite the combatant. And will become more with me than she’d ever have become with the Priests. She’s right, though, Garen; you will die before this war you started comes to an end and the line is rather long on who wants to kill you. I am a man of my word, you know this from the Xen’Chi War. I may not be the one to kill you but I will be one of the men who ensures it happens.”

Freedom stood and the camera followed him before he looked at it once more. “Just so we are clear, I am not referring to you when I say this next statement, Garen." There was a brief pause. "I’ll be coming for you soon Mandalore. Don’t worry, it will all make sense soon enough."

The recording ended, which left a very uncomfortable silence between Cadden and Garen. "Death Watch?" Cadden said. "You brought back the frellin' Death Watch? And to make matters worse... they work for you?"

Garen was thankful that his visor shielded his facial expression, as it was all he had to hide the completely dumbfounded look on his face. "It's all a lie," he said slowly, carefully choosing each word that came out of his mouth. "These are the usurpers. Lead by that hut'uun and his Jetii dog. They planted this in an attempt to divide the Mando Cabure more than they already have." He looked at Cadden for a moment, allowing what he had to say next to provide deeper impact. "You currently have two choices: either join the others who are deploying to Ord Cestus, or take that shuttle and leave."

Cadden glared at Garen for a brief second, before taking his leave. Something isn't right, here, he thought. How could this be the man I entrusted to lead the Protectors? Where did I go wrong?

The walk to the deployment team was a long one, despite the relatively short distance, but it gave Cadden plenty of time to start thinking things through and processing the situation he had found himself in.

Garen was left alone at his porch as he looked over Mav's dead body, and Sil's not far away. He knelt before each in turn, examining them as though there was some deep, unexplainable mystery to be solved. He realized that if he didn't do something about this, soon, he would find himself in over his head.

Frellin' Clan Aden, he thought. As if this situation wasn't bad enough. While he didn't regret his actions, he did regret that they brought him to this juncture. He activated his comm. He needed to get ahold of a couple individuals.

* * *

Ord Cestus was predominately a barren planet with little significant value on a political scale. Cadden had received some additional information from the XO of the mission, taking note of the specific target Garen had selected. The rest was considered "classified material."

"Classified?" he objected. "The hell you mean, 'classified'?"

"Problem is, Blackthorne, you lead osik," the Mandalorian said, rather bluntly.

"I'm your damn general," Cadden reminded the man.

"Honorary, Blackthorne," he said harshly. "You will participate in the battle, but your rank means nothing, here. Only your stature will determine what power you have with us." Cadden narrowed his eyes in disgust, but said nothing. He couldn't determine if he was more pissed off at the XO or at Garen. "Many Mando'ade don't much care for your presence among us. Better get used to that. Deep wounds take a long time to heal."

"You one of them?" he asked bitterly before putting on his helmet. The Mandalorian didn't answer. Of course you are, he thought. Starting to think returning to Mandalore was a bad decision. Though Cadden was certain he was more than welcome to leave whenever he wanted. He couldn't remember the last time he felt so much tension with an entire group of people.

"Better brush up on your Resol'nare" he continued. "Adhere to that, you might actually make a few burc'yase before you die."

How reassuring, Cadden thought. There was something different about all this, though he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Perhaps he just wasn't thinking clearly, or maybe when Cazzik blinded him to the Force it had unforseen psychological effects on him. There was a whole host of other explanations he could have gone through, but to even scratch the surface of the possibilities was a tiring thought. "I'll keep that in mind," he said dryly, not bothering to hide his disgust. The Mandalorian gave him a nasty look before putting his own helmet on.

"Better get to it, Blackthorne. You're part of the landing party." Though Cadden couldn't see his face, he had the very distinctive feeling a grin popped up. "You are our general for this mission, after all. Our generals lead from the front."

The Meteor-class Q-carrier touched down on the planetary surface with little incident. They were fired at for a brief period of time, but it was nothing to worry themselves over. The boarding hatch slid open and the ramp lowered, signaling them to move out. Without a word, Cadden was the first out of the transport, followed closely by a dozen other Mandalorians. The rest of the armor-clad warriors weren't far behind, and other landing craft started touching down soon after.

Between the Black Brigade and whatever other support Garen saw fit to provide to the mission, there were a total of thirteen Q-carriers and a mere handful of freighter-sized craft present in the landing zone by the time the last ship touched down.

Cadden was approached by the very familiar woman known as Ruusaan Kahd, the Brigade's leader. "We are at your disposal, Blackthorne, as always," she said. It was a relief to him to know that not everyone viewed him with such little regard.

"What, exactly, are we doing here?" Cadden asked.

"Political cleanup," she said straightforwardly. "Go in, eliminate our targets, get out." Cadden frowned. This wasn't much more help than the briefing with the Mandalorian in orbit.

"And we need a whole army to do this? Who are our targets, exactly? All I was told was high officials in a corrupt government."

"The Hive Council," she said. "I'm sending the data to you, now. They hold a tight possession over this world. The local military won't take kindly to our presence."

"All the better," another Mandalorian spoke up. Cadden didn't recognize this one. "The greater the fight, the greater the glory."

Cadden narrowed his eyes. He didn't like how this one thought. "Let's get this over with," he said, and made the command to move out.

They made their way to ChikatLik, the planet's capital city, whereupon they met their first local resistance. Cadden thought it strange that it would take them this long to meet with the opposing military, but nonetheless coordinated the attack. Between the natives' droids and the variety of species they fought, Cadden noted few X'Ting in their military's ranks. He recalled they were down to endangered status, so found it easy to excuse this as a basis for necessity.

However, even in his still-recovering state, he couldn't simply overlook the fact that the droids fought better than most of the living members of their military. This is drastically one-sided, he realized. Aside from the droids, perhaps even including them, this wasn't a military. It was a militia. I bet a vast majority of them don't even know the first thing about combat. Let alone how to fire a weapon. He relied on his years of training and experience to pick out the trained individuals in their ranks and focused on them, while doing what he could do to keep the untrained alive.

Several of the other Mandalorians didn't see the conflict in the same perspective, and simply fired upon anything that moved that wasn't on their side. Including the rare civilian that got caught in the middle of the conflict. He witnessed a small group of escaping Wroonians, possibly a family unit, receive several shots as they all, children included, fell to the ground dead.

They weren't stray shots. And they didn't come from the enemy militia. Cadden spared a glance in the direction they came from as one of the supercommandos he didn't recognize divert his attention to one of the enemy "soldiers."

"Do not fire upon the civilians!" He ordered harshly over the comm.

"Stow it, Blackthorne," the other responded, "you ain't my Mand'alor."

Cadden narrowed his eyes and immediately broke from his own personal advance, making his way toward the man. The Mandalorian saw his approach, but more importantly saw the business end of Cadden's carbine pointed right at him from a dozen meters away.

"No innocents are to be harmed," he ordered over the comm. "We are Protectors, not butchers."

The Mandalorian laughed. "If you say so," he said, clearly mocking him. "But if I were you, I'd point that thing somewhere else. I've seen you fight, you're not much of a good shot. Anything that happens between us will not end well for you."

He's right, Cadden thought, before finally turning his blaster on the enemy forces. I am out of practice. Many of the Mandalorians that surrounded him would likely best him in marksmanship. He wondered if Garen did that on purpose.

More time had passed, and Cadden bore witness to a handful more instances of innocent lives paying for acts of war. The Mandalorians fought their way to the underground entrance to the X'Ting Hive Council's location. Cadden led the Mandalorians through the caverns until they eventually found themselves in what they figured was the Council's meeting area.

The room was nearly empty, save for the droids that were there waiting for them. They opened fire on the mechanical guards, disabling them within moments, but not without taking a few casualties themselves. A Mandalorian approached one of the droids and took out some equipment to scan its data. He soon had his information and relayed it to the rest of them. Following these clues, the Mandalorians worked their way deeper into the caverns, until they came upon a well-fortified door.

Ruusaan nodded to one of the Fifth Company's shock troopers, who immediately got to work planting his ordinances. Once completed, the charges were set and the door exploded open.

Within the bunker were all twelve Council members. One of them, who Cadden assumed was the leader, began speaking in in their native language, using clicks and buzzes.

"Anyone got that?" he asked.

"He's asking why we're here," Ruusaan said, "what we want from them."

Cadden narrowed his eyes in disgust. His analysis had proven true. All he had seen were acts of self defense. On the surface, he even watched as their militia did what they could to defend evacuating civilians from the Mandalorians. This was the final piece of evidence to convince him they shouldn't even be there. "He isn't the only one." He looked at Ruusaan. "These are our targets?" She nodded, though Cadden could tell from the minor nuances in her posture and the way she nodded that she was on the same level as he was. He turned his attention back to who he assumed was their Regent. "We're leaving," he told the Mandalorians. "There is no honor in this."

Several shots rang out, as the Council members dropped to the ground, dead. Cadden snapped around, carbine leveled at the assailants. The same supercommando from outside with two others then turned their aim from where the Council previously stood to Cadden. Ruusaan and the other members of the Black Brigade joined Cadden in the standoff.

"Mission complete, Blackthorne," the supercommando said, undeterred by the situation. "I'd lower your weapons, if I were you. Don't want to anybody getting hurt, now do we?"

"Pretty damn tempting right about now, actually," Cadden said with a sneer. "You disobeyed a direct order, twice."

"Thought I made it clear before," he said. "I don't answer to you."

"No," Cadden said, "but when I'm through with you, you won't be answering to anyone." With that, laserfire erupted in the room. The firefight only lasted a couple seconds, with the victory going to those with the quickest trigger finger. All three of the Mandalorians were lying motionless on the floor. "Retrieve their bodies," Cadden said. "They need to serve as an example to the others."

They dragged the Mandalorian bodies to the surface, where they were deposited in view of a few of the other supercommandos that accompanied Cadden and the Black Brigade. The fighting had dwindled down quite a bit since they had gone underground, and a healthy amount of ChikatLik had been affected by the battle. "These three disobeyed a direct order, and murdered twelve innocent X'Ting," he declared. He looked around, many of the bodies scattered around being civilians as well as the militia. There were still sounds of battle in the distance, and every now and again he could hear cries for mercy and screams of pain and suffering in the mix. He exchanged looks with Ruusaan, before looking at the supercommando in ash-gray and green armor before him. "Call the others off," he ordered. "We've nothing to gain here."

"You made a grave mistake down there, Blackthorne," the supercommando said, thick with a Concordian accent. "Mand'alor isn't going to be happy about it."

"What's going on, here?" Cadden asked slowly. "What's the real mission?"

Cadden and the E'tad spent the remainder of the battle in confinement for their defiance. Cadden assumed the default judgement for their actions would have resulted in execution, given all that he had witnessed that day, yet they were instead detained.

Once the battle was over, they were delivered back to Mandalore with armed escort. Cadden didn't know what became of the others, but he was brought before Garen personally. He didn't look overly pleased. "When you came before me," Garen said, "you swore to fight for me, yet you directly disobeyed me and cost the lives of three of my supercommandos in the process. The battle was supposed to be a simple one, not the cluster you had to turn it into."

"They were killing innocents," Cadden said, not caring about any kind of backlash. "What was I supposed to do, ignore it?"

"People die in war," Garen said harshly, daring Cadden to continue. "I have half a mind to get rid of you. Either by way of exile or execution. Either way would please those that want to see you out of the picture. And now I have to decide what I'm going to do about Ruusaan and the others who sided with you."

"I thought a good leader didn't succumb himself to the whim of those around him," Cadden said, defying the chances of what his words could cause. "They do what they feel is right, and accept the consequences of their own actions."

Garen nodded. "That they do," he said, putting his hand on his blaster. Cadden tensed up. "I'm going to turn a blind eye to this mess. But only this one time. Dare step above my authority again, and you will be dealt with accordingly." His hand fell from the blaster. "I'm not doing you any favors here, Cadden. You're painting your own target on your head, and I'm not going to intervene if anyone tries to remove it from your shoulders. You can accept the consequences to your actions."

Cadden grimaced. "You're too kind," he said dryly.

Garen glared at him. "I could always put a hole in your head and call it a day," he threatened. "You're a good warrior, Cadden, and I'd rather not see that talent go to waste. But the Protectors are mine to command, now. Not yours."

"Certainly doesn't look like it," Cadden said. "Why would Kyr and Freedom be rallying against you?"

"I've already told you, they don't agree with my methods."

"Of what? Killing civilians, and fellow Mandalorians, without regard?"

"Collateral to the end objective," Garen argued coldly. "I need not explain myself to you."

"No," Cadden said, opening the door, "but I'm willing to wager a guess you will be needing to explain yourself to them someday." He left the room, disallowing Garen the opportunity to offer a response.

Garen looked over the data on the holodisplay before him for a brief moment before slamming his fists on the counter. He opened a comm link and a Mandalorian sporting black and dark blue armor showed up before him on the display. "Things are getting out of hand," he told the man. "I have a task for you."
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

Cadden had settled in for the night in his quarters, his armor stowed away properly with his weapons returned to him. He had inquired on the E'tad before returning to his temporary living arrangements, but was told their fate was still pending, words he didn't much care to hear.

The words from both Freedom the other day and Garen earlier that day echoed to him. What had become of the Mandalorians? Nothing seemed right to him. The slaughtering of innocents, the killing of their own for political gain, the conquering of neutral territories for the simple reason of advancing an agenda. But you've done worse, haven't you? he thought. Was it really as bad as he was making it out to be, or was he selectively choosing his information and making irrational assumptions based on limited observation?

A healthy number of Mandalorians had made it quite clear to him he wasn't welcome in the Protectors anymore. Can I blame them? he wondered. I left them for my own personal vendetta. Only two years later came back, and even then I can't say with certainty it was completely by choice. He stared into the visor of his helmet for the longest time, what felt like ages to him. I'm a broken man, Cadden finally realized. They're right. I am dar'manda. I have no purpose, no heritage. I've lost my way, and myself.

He didn't even hold a presence among the Mandalorians anymore, save for Ruusaan Kahd and her unit commanders, all of whom were currently detained. For following him instead of Garen. You're going to get some good people, good warriors, killed, just by being here, he thought. It seemed enough a reason for him to decide to slip away from the Protectors, but there was something that nudged him to stay. He had a feeling, buried deep, that he was needed here. That, perhaps, it was where he ultimately belonged.

Besides, where else would I go? Who else would be so willing to take me in without putting me on trial, or even killing me? I'm hardly even welcome here, and they likely haven't heard of what I've done, yet. It was either that, or they didn't care.

"Just stay the course," he found himself saying to his reflection. "This is just the beginning. A lot has changed, and will change. I-"

The wooden door burst open and a Mandalorian clad in black and dark blue armor came barging in, blaster pointed toward Cadden. Cadden had already gone for the nearest weapon he had, and was ready to use it.

Cadden let the blade fly and it impacted the blaster hand, giving him a brief window of advantage to take the man down quickly. He went to tackle him, despite the size and likely strength differences between the two. He managed to bring the man to the ground, but the advantage was only temporary and the Mandalorian was able to throw him off. They both got back on their feet, and the man quickly made his next move.

The Mandalorian grabbed Cadden by the throat, his strength easily overcoming Cadden's. He gasped for air as the man started to squeeze, and hammered his elbow into his assailant's arm, between the armor padding, several times. The man groaned in pain and loosened his grip, enough for Cadden to get a good couple breaths of air before jamming his knee into the Mandalorian's hip.

Cadden backed away, nearly stumbling, before looking at him. "Who are you?" He demanded, his voice slightly raspy. "Who sent you?"

The Mandalorian had retrieved his blaster and fired at Cadden. He dodged out of the way, but wasn't quick enough as a bolt impacted his right shoulder. Cadden grunted in pain, and the Mandalorian honed the blaster on him once more. He managed to avoid additional fire and made his way to the small study in the back of his quarters.

The Mandalorian followed him in, though Cadden grappled his arm as he entered the room and wrestled the blaster out of his hand. Cadden fired at the man's leg hopelessly, before he knocked the weapon free and it skid across the room.

The Mandalorian slid his own blade out of its sheath and brought it to Cadden's throat. He grunted in pain and slowly lowered the weapon. The man looked down and saw the same blade that Cadden used earlier sticking between his left ribs. He stumbled back. "Who... sent you... ?" Cadden repeated, wincing in pain from the blaster shot.

The Mandalorian didn't say a word, and instead stumbled to the floor. Cadden retrieved his blaster pistol and pointed it right at him. "I won't ask again," he said. Still no response. Cadden fired several shots, ending his assailant's life.

He walked up to the dead body and started to examine his possessions. Located on his person was a datapad which, upon inserting it into his reader, Cadden learned the man's name was Garlen Kell. He was given orders to off Cadden "by any means necessary." Cadden narrowed his eyes as he saw one other name pop up on the screen, and subsequently removed the datapad from the reader.

He heard a faint rumbling noise. As it gradually grew louder, Cadden was quickly able to identify it as engines. Multiple engines, too big for speeders or swoops. They must have been transport craft. As the sound was near overhead, laserfire lit the area up, and Cadden was knocked off his feet. Frak, he thought. What now?! Without waiting for an answer, Cadden got back to his feet and made his way to his gear.
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

Garen Starfall looked over the data before him, presented by the presiding members of the Council. The campaign had gone off without a hitch, despite Blackthorne's unexpected return. And now, with his many victories in the sectors surrounding Mandalore, Garen had turned to a direct hit against the dissidents among his own people. The bombing of Enceri was a message, not just to the Mandalorians who remained on the sidelines, who did not fight for him, but also to those that were against him and his rule. It was a message that spoke of the consequences of crossing him, and that he would go to any lengths to secure his people's future under his leadership.

Sitting on the Council in Kyr's former position was a new face. While she was small-framed, Kyla Vizsla's reputation proved her a more than capable warrior and a worthy adversary to any who dared to cross her. The fact she was also the presiding leader of the reborn Death Watch movement certainly didn't detract from her importance of being on his council. Or her usefulness. While Kyr and Freedom believed the Priests to be at the head of the movement, Garen would have direct control of the organization through the absolute loyalty of its true leader.

Unsurprisingly, it was Clan Vizsla that had provided the loudest voice in pushing for, and later supporting, the Protectors' new direction. And it had been Garen's agreement that started the relationship with her clan which evolved to what it was today. His lack of reluctance to push to conquer made him a close, and very important, ally.

"Clan Aden continues to resist your rule," Kyla said. "I have Jhar Priest actively subduing Enceri as we speak. It should send a sufficient message to them and their supporters."

Garen looked over his council members, looking for unfavorable reactions to his new move. If there were any, most hid them well. Though there were a couple that showed disfavor toward this new approach. Fortunately for them, they didn't speak up. He needed to know who was with him and who was not, and the only way he could do so at this juncture was to push the right buttons. The bombing of Enceri would be the right button.

"Mand'alor," Ge'tal said, "I still do not believe it wise to wage war on your own people. Killing those who do not wish to get involved is not very honorable."

Garen glared at his war advisor. The man clearly chose his words carefully, and as such was free from repercussion. However, the underlying meaning of what he said was thinly veiled. Likely on purpose. The man is tactical about what he says, just as he is with his war advice, he thought. However, it does put his loyalty in question. "The decision is made, and final," he said. "They need to be made an example of." He looked around the table as he spoke. "Each one of you brings forth specific skills and influence that keeps us running strong." And in the wake of war against Kyr and his Jetii dog, I will need to be able to take full advantage of them, should their clan be subdued for good. "Should any one of these parts of the machine fail, then we are finished. The Mando'ade will be finished."

"And what about Blackthorne?" Jesik asked. "Despite his unwillingness to take up leadership, or formally rejoin our ranks, his very presence could cause a significant rift, and possibly even tear the Mando Cabure in two." This, if course, could easily leave them wide open for external threats to take advantage of their weakened state.

"Blackthorne doesn't want to reclaim his mantle," Garen said. "He's barely the man he used to be, as it is. Besides, I doubt we'd need to worry about him. He's become... indisposed."

"What?" Karric's face showed extreme disappointment. Garen couldn't say he was surprised; the man worked closely with Cadden to rebuild the Mandalorians. If anyone would respond negatively to this news, it would be him. "What happened?"

"Clan Aden raided his living quarters. One of them fell by his own hand before they took him. He's been unaccounted for since." He paused a moment, silence filling the room. "He's likely dead by now."

"Do we know this for certain?" Nedth asked. While the Zabrak didn't have as much cause as the MandalMotors CEO would to express concern over Cadden's wellbeing, Garen could understand why he would ask. At one point or another, each person at the table once called the man their Mandalore. "Should we not send someone to investigate?"

"You seem to forget what became of the last three that Freedom had detained," Garen shot back. "They torture their prisoners for information, then they end them." The latter wasn't exactly true, as they couldn't confirm it, but manipulating the unknown fate of prisoners did have its usefulness. "We cannot afford more of these losses. We must assume the worst, and push on."

Garen knew Freedom didn't go to Cadden so he could try to extract information from him. Blackthorne didn't know anything about Garen's dealings and hardly understood what he was working toward. He did know that they were, essentially, recruiting him. What good it will do them, he thought. He's broken, lost, and out of touch with every one of his skills and abilities. He's a hollow shell of a man, a mere faint shadow of what he once was. And nearly every Mandalorian would rather die than see him return as Mandalore. The man was a deserter, abandoning the Mandalorians at a peak time of need for a strong leader. And while Garen was at first reluctant to take a position he didn't want, he had grown into it and adapted, and now fiercely defended his title and dared anyone to challenge him to it. A vast majority of Protectors had looked to his leadership during the Xen’Chi War, and most of them flocked to his side during Clan Aden's splitting away. They wouldn't be so keen on accepting anyone else, at this juncture. Least of all Cadden.

What, then, is your game, Freedom? he wondered. The man showed an unusual interest in Cadden, which left Garen weary and suspicious. But what more could he do, at this point? He spoke the truth about sending someone to learn of the man's fate; if they failed, the Mandalorian would be captured and tortured, likely for information in much the same way as the the members of the Death Watch had been. And then Garen would be down another warrior and they wouldn't even have the information they sought.

"We could use an Aka'jor-class shuttle to scout the Aden residence from above," Karric suggested. "It won't be perfect, but the craft is low profile, and they wouldn't risk shooting down an unarmed vehicle."

Garen was hoping to bypass the subject altogether, to avoid the risk of learning something unfavorable to him, but there wasn't much he could do to keep Cadden's fate unknown at this point. He reluctantly nodded in agreement. "Very well," he said. "We will perform aerial reconnaissance. The pilots will scan the area for Blackthorne and report what they discover." If anything at all, he thought. There was no guarantee an aerial surveillance of the Aden residence would even produce anything useful. It was over reliance on the possibility that Cadden would be outside at the time of the reconnaissance. But if it satisfied their curiosity and keeps what order is left, I'll humor them.

The rest of the Council meeting was discussion of logistics in their campaign of the surrounding sectors of space. Kyla even made strong suggestions to expand their reach out and start assaulting more fortified worlds than those they had been targeting, but much to her dissatisfaction it was met with largely unfavorable responses. The majority had agreed fairly quickly that such a maneuver could bring the Mandalorians to a swift end by the hands of any number of organizations or governments that would retaliate. Specifically the Jedi or the New Republic, possibly even the Empire.

Garen found himself agreeing with this decision, and said it would fall back under review when their home front situation had been resolved. Tensions were rising too fast to start openly attacking targets that could draw additional attention toward them.

Kyla considered it cowardice, but Garen was quick to put her in her place, stating the was nothing cowardly about keeping the Mandalorians from being destroyed. "We simply cannot afford the manpower or resources to front open war, not with Kyr and Freedom opposing us," he declared. "Once this resistance they've created is purposely dealt with, we can reevaluate our assets and wartime readiness and look at the possibility further."

Kyla narrowed her eyes, but kept spent. She clearly didn't much care for that answer, and yet despite her political pull as the leader of the Death Watch, which provided Garen with a healthy percentage of his manpower, held her tongue. Garen knew this wasn't the last time they would discuss this between them, but for now the notion was quelled.

"We will continue to raid nearby pockets of space," he went on, "but nothing more. Priority one is to rid us of Clan Aden and its influence."

"And how do you propose to do that?" Kyla spat. "I don't see them bending the knee, and your ultimatum expires tonight, Mand'alor." It nearly seemed she used that title out of spite.

She needs to be reminded of her place, Garen thought. Of who put her in this position. "Clan Aden will burn," he said, matching her tone and adding a flare of authority on top of it. "Dissidents are intolerable." He paused. "No matter the form it resides in."
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

Garen had received information back from the flyby above the Aden residence. The report was, to say the least, unusual. Freedom and his men were beating Cadden Blackthorne senseless. But what concerned Garen was why. They held no reason to torture Cadden, nor any cause to subject him to violent retaliation. True, the man had left the Mando Cabure at a dire time of need for him and his leadership, but Garen found it hard to swallow that this was why they took him.

What is your angle? he wondered, looking at the holo before him. It didn't make sense that a Jetii, no matter their political standing, would be so willing to subject a man to such things. He narrowed his eyes as he studied the brief vid and images the pilots had managed to capture. What are you doing, Freedom?

"What are you going to to tell the rest of the Council?" Kyla asked, looking over the recordings by his side.

"The truth," Garen simply said. "It can be a powerful motivator, after all." He didn't take his eyes off the report. "What we see is Blackthorne being subjected to all sorts of physical abuse. We don't know why. Therefore, what conclusion do you think will be drawn?"

"You don't fear this may bring support from those that want to see Blackthorne dead and gone to Kyr and his aliit?"

Garen shook his head. "There may be a few that might, but no less than the majority would stay loyal. They wouldn't agree to his policy of dormancy." Garen thought for a moment, analyzing the stills, vids, and supplemental information. "It still raises suspicions, however. I'd expect this behavior toward one of your men, but toward Cadden?"

Kyla just shrugged. "Perhaps they hold a deep grudge," she offered. "He did, after all, abandon us during the height of the Xen'Chi War. Most Mando'ade would see him dead for that, alone. The popular opinion is he's dar'manda. That takes more than a simple act of returning to us to recover from."

"While an entertaining notion, I doubt this has anything to do with grudges." He pointed at a part of the vid. "There. What does that look like to you?"

Kyla focused on the small portion of the recording. "It's almost like they're keeping him alive intentionally. They're beating him to an inch of his life, then stopping. But why?"

Garen frowned. "I don't know. We need to keep eyes on them." But the question was how? They couldn't send anyone in on foot, and consistent aerial flybys would raise suspicions fairly quickly. But he couldn't just reassign one of his ships to orbital reconnaissance, either. He thought on the situation a little longer before making his decision. "I want a Pursuer-class enforcement ship watching them from orbit," he finally said. "I want regular updates on all activities, no matter how mundane."

The Pursuer would be the ideal fit; it could carry up to eight people and last five weeks with a full stock of supplies. The ship was small enough to not be missed in the fleet, and more importantly to go unnoticed, yet powerful enough to deal with any overly-curious adversaries from Clan Aden if it came to that.

It would be a boring job, yet it was essential. Garen wasn't anticipating any negative reactions to the ship's presence in orbit, and so would classify this mission as strictly recon.

"I know of a few that would take this task," Kyla said. "I'll get right on it."

"This mission must remain under wraps," Garen said. "I cannot stress enough how critical it is that nobody learns of it. If word gets out, it could compromise any further intelligence on Clan Aden."

She nodded. "Nobody will know," she assured him, and took her leave.

Garen met later with the Council to update them on Blackthorne's situation. Unsurprisingly, there was a growing level of concern for the man's wellbeing.

"We cannot send an extraction unit," Garen argued. "They have both Kyr and Freedom on site. Those two alone make a tactical extraction damn near impossible. And anything greater could result in Blackthorne's death, anyway. There is nothing we can do."

Ge'tal reluctantly agreed with Garen. "Unfortunately, Mand'alor is right," he said. "No unit could stand against a Mando-trained Jetii, and Kyr has his reputation for a very specific reason. Plus the other Mando'ade that reside there make any operation suicidal, at best. A full frontal assault does not work for us, either. I'm afraid Blackthorne's fate is sealed."

"We need to focus on more pressing matters," Garen said. "The Protectors are falling apart around us. If we don't do something about this uprising, soon, we will be seen as vulnerable to external threats. Kyr and his allies must be put down, no matter the cost."

"My men are ready to serve, as always," Kyla said. Garen looked at Nedth.

"I can rally together a force to directly deal with the Aden household," the Zabrak suggested. "It might take a few days, but a sizable strike team can be put aside to directly combat them."

Garen nodded. He was expecting war to break out, soon, because of Enceri. However, the tensions had be escalating steadily ever since Kyr broke his aliit away from the Protectors. At this point, it was simply a matter of time. "Do it," he said. "I want a full roster before implementation takes place."

"And what of the fleet?" Jesik asked. "With the firepower that offers, we could surely end this threat swiftly, and with minimal casualties."

Garen had to admit the notion was appealing. Though he could not repurpose the Assault Fleet, the Defense Fleet could be averted to that task fairly easily without leaving them open to external threats. "Reallocate the Defense Fleet to the task," he said. "I don't want them just dealt with. I want them wiped out." Garen paused for a moment. "Bombard the Aden homestead."

He could sense the objections coming from Karric and Nedth. Ge'tal was hesitant to agree to this decision, as well, and made no effort to hide it. "You disagree with my decisions?" he asked coldly.

"Mand'alor," Ge'tal said, "isn't that a bit... extreme? While we have enemies there, we also know that Kyr's grandchildren reside there. We're talking about killing innocent children for a quick victory."

"Casualties in war," Garen simply said. "Plus elimination of future liabilities."

"This is too much," Karric said. "First Enceri, now this? Where do we draw the line?"

"These are aruetiise," Garen snapped at the MandalMotors CEO.

"They are Mando'ade!" the man spat back. "Ade! And you want to reduce them to ash? For what purpose, to quell an uprising due to a war you started?"

Garen clenched his fists in anger at these words. Before now, none of them dared speak against his tactics. At least not openly. But now he had Ge'tal and Karric openly disagreeing with him, and Nedth looked like he had something to say about it, as well.

"This is madness," the Zabrak said. "Open war against dissidents is one thing, but what you're ordering is murder. This I cannot, and will not, condone. This is not something Cadden was building us toward."

"Victory through any means necessary," Garen reminded them, his voice harsh yet calm. "There are only two sides to this: mine, or theirs. Kyr wants to see us stagnant, which will result in our demise. If you want that, then there's the door." He pointed to the exit. "But you will be stripped of all power and political standing among the Mando Cabure." Uneasy silence followed, and Garen was the one to break it. "If you're not with me, you're against me."

No one moved, and the three that spoke out against him kept their silence, though it was clear they still held a great level of disagreement over his decision. "The Aden homestead will be wiped from the face of this planet," Garen continued, "regardless of the casualties."

"No stronger message could be sent," Kyla said in agreement. "If Enceri does not get the word out, this will."

Ge'tal gave her a glaring look. He didn't much like this woman; she had been a driving influence on Garen's actions for quite some time, now, and he was starting to sense there was something more to the dynamics of their relationship. "Word that our Mand'alor is out of his frellin' mind," he dared say. This brought a very harsh look from Garen, but he ignored it. "This decision will not end well for you," he said, giving Garen his full attention. "Even if the bombardment succeeds, it will demonstrate a reign of fear to the other Mando'ade. This never works in the ruler's favor."

"Noted," Garen said dismissively, then looked at Jesik. "When will the fleet be ready?"

Jesik shrugged. "Two, maybe three days," he said. Just enough time for the orbital reconnaissance to gather any other information for him. "We'd need to pull ships from specific deployments to keep our defenses strong."

"It will do," Garen said. He looked over each of the Council members in turn. "Kyla, I have a special assignment in mind for you and your men. Jesik, I want you to personally oversee the bombardment. Nedth, I want those names ASAP. Karric." His gaze was locked with the man for a bit longer than the others, carrying with it increased tension. "Increase production on Meteor-class Q-carriers. They will be needed in the coming weeks." Finally he looked at Ge'tal. "I want intel on all potential targets outside our space. I expect a top ten list by the end of the week." While he was giving each one their specific assignment, he was actually probing their expressions and posture for signs of doubt. He was able to take Jesik and Kyla out of the list of suspects, while he knew he would have to keep eyes on Karric and Nedth. Ge'tal, he wasn't certain of, but given the man's past and reputation, he felt it wise to commit to the possibility of treason from him at since point, as well.

Suspicious eyes on three-fifths of his council members. He felt he could only trust two of them, now. If they spoke out against him any further, observation would turn into action. The meeting was concluded, and Garen was left to himself. In times past, he would talk to Valery after a meeting. But the insurgents' assault on his home saw to the end of that. The only way he could protect his people, now, was through brute force against his enemies. Not sitting dormant hoping that protocols and procedures that had already been established would succeed. That's what got Valery killed. It's what got Carissa killed. No, he had to remain proactive, it was the only way, the only solution. Victory, no matter the cost. That was his philosophy. And he would follow it to the bitter end.
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

OOC: Edited post. A bit has changed, so be sure to reread it all.


Garen was sitting in the Oyu'baat tapcaf when the holo screen flickered. At first, nobody paid it any real attention; most Mando'ade were preoccupied with whatever else they were doing to take their minds off the daily grind to realize just what was going on. Garen was sitting closeby, so he could hear what was on the projection. His attention shifted when he heard Freedom Nadd's voice.

“This is Freedom Nadd," the Jetii announced, "and I am sending this message to all who will listen." He was dressed in his beskar'gam, sans the helmet. "Firstly I am going to say this to the demagolka who calls himself Mandalore." Garen had to grin at that. Still calling names over a difference of opinion. "You are a hut’uun. You bombarded my yaim, my home." Well, technically, it was Kyr's yaim, not his. "If you think you know me and what I am capable of. You know nothing.”

By now the tapcaf had gone quiet as the rest of the patrons decided to listen to what was being said. Not out of respect, but rather out of mild curiosity. Garen didn't flinch or look around, but rather kept watching with mild amusement. Freedom had always been rather arrogant and hot headed. For the man to claim he could best him in combat was taking a very bold step.

Freedom’s voice changed, his eyes got colder. “From this day forward Garen Starfall is no longer to be Mandalore of our people because of the atrocity he committed today." Garen heard laughter erupt around him, though it was brief. Looks like they disagree with you, Jetii, he thought. "Many of you will find this whole recording obnoxious, I get it, you all stand with the so-called Mandalore. This message is for those of you who have an issue with the di'kut who is running the Mando Cabure." Freedom adjusted his posture and became rock hard, cold and completely detached. "You killed my vode, Garen. You nearly killed my children. They are lytlings, and you will pay for what you have done. There are plenty dead because of your attack, but one death makes you a marked man."

Freedom reached off screen and stepped back. He held up what appeared to be a shoulder plate that belonged to Kyr, based on the remnant of its color scheme and what was left of the Clan Aden symbol. The armor plate was scorched, dented, and scratched up, making it nearly indistinguishable. So he didn't survive, he thought. Part of him was disappointed by that, but it was brief, before the logic took over once more. Deep, cold, and calculating. Kyr and his aliit had their chance, Garen gave them several. This was a result of their doing, not his. It was a threat that had to be eliminated, one way or another, no matter the cost.

Garen could see the anger swell through Freedom. “There are hundreds of you out there, maybe even thousands of you, that know who this armor plate belongs to. This belonged to Kyr Aden, my father, and today he died so you could try to cull us from your imperfect view of Mandalore. He would find you a coward for the way you carried out that attack, Garen, though there aren't many on this planet who would agree.”

Garen smirked. There were some chuckles from the tapcaf patrons as well. If only Freedom bothered to understand what he was working toward. The man and his aliit were so self-centered and self-absorbed, all they could think of was their own opinions. That was what got Kyr Aden killed, not an orbital strike. So short-sighted, he thought. Garen had been waging war against all enemies of Mandalorian freedom. For this... aruetii… to label him a coward was nothing more than an empty insult.

"What you did today was not only kill Kyr Aden but also placed us at the head of the list of all those who would want to see you die." Though, Garen knew, that list was small, and not worth his time worrying over. It was an empty threat. He was, easily, one of the best combatants on Mandalore, and among the Mandalorians as a whole. To concern himself over such small threats would do his vision no good. "I do not doubt your resolve, Garen. I do not doubt that you believe you are right. You are an intelligent commander. Smart, intentional and passionate. You wouldn't be the leader of the Mandalorians if you weren't. I respect your abilities, Garen, but I somehow think you doubt ours."

Garen played out the scenario in his head. There were very few he would consider his equals, and to his understanding they were either all dead, or on his side. Kyr was one of the few Garen truly considered a threat, and even so, the man was no better than he was in combat. Freedom was a strong fighter, he knew, and while the man may have the Force, that didn't make him any better than Garen. Garen knew how to deal with Force users. He was trained personally in the matter by Cadden himself. There wasn't a better combatant among the Protectors than Blackthorne when he was their Mandalore, and Garen had since grown exponentially in his own skills. Even if Cadden had somehow survived the bombardment and got his senses together, Garen was confident he could best the man in one-on-one combat. And Cadden was a confident warrior, cold and calculating. That made Garen far more dangerous to Freedom than the Jetii realized.

“We, Clan Aden, are the last people you ever wanted to see in combat opposing you, Garen," Freedom continued. "You even admitted as much when the Xen’Chi set foot on this world." While true, he noted that Freedom was trying to use words to their advantage that Garen had spoken at the time to boost Mandalorian morale. He had to wonder how that might shape the following events. "We were trained by the best, we were taught to think by the best, and we are the best fighting machine this planet has." That was an exaggeration, and part of the same morale speech he once offered. Clan Aden consisted of many good, notable warriors, Garen gave him that, but he doubted he could call them, collectively, the best of the best. "If we weren't you wouldn't have turned us into your personal kill squad."

But you were merely one of many scattered throughout our territories, Garen mused. The saying of putting all of one's bets on one Sabaac hand came to mind.

Freedom adjusted his belt before holstering his blasters with what Garen saw as a smug, overconfident grin. “I am coming for you, Garen," he continued. "We are coming for you and your Death Watch dar’manda.”

Just try, Garen thought. I have well over the majority of the Mando'ade supporting me and my efforts. Freedom wasn't present during the assembly of chieftains and other heads of the Mando Cabure back during Sivter's war. There was overwhelming support for his actions and vision among the Mando'ade. If the Jetii thought he and his allies stood any kind of chance, he was gravely mistaken.

Through tightened lips Freedom cracked his neck and spoke once more. "Don't bother trying to trace this message. We have it seeding through dozens of channels." Garen didn't expect for them to get sloppy. He already figured tracing the message wouldn't lead him to its source. "You are gutless, Garen, and because you are I will see to it that you no longer breathe before this war is over. Think on your next set of actions carefully, because an animal is most dangerous when backed into a corner." The transmission ended, resuming what had been previously playing.

What war? he chided the man silently. All that they had done so far was throw insults and threats his way, and scuffle a few times with his men. It was no war. His arrogance and overconfidence will be his death, he thought.

Freedom's warnings and claims meant nothing to Garen, however. He hid nothing from the rest of the Mando'ade. All of this was just as much what they wanted as it was his desires. Freedom's message would ultimately fall on deaf ears, he decided, and those few that could have potentially followed the man would instead look to Garen before the week was over. He would not allow the Jedi to gain any footing. He briefly thought on his next move. Freedom really didn't leave him with a whole lot of variety, but luckily for Garen he still held a significant advantage over Clan Aden and their allies.

Garen knew making a counter statement would hurt more than it would help. He toyed with the idea of telling everyone that Blackthorne was taken and tortured by Clan Aden needlessly, but it seemed to him the majority of the Mandalorians couldn't care less. Besides that, the tone that would carry might lose him some following. Maybe that's what Freedom is hoping for, he thought. He could see that as being part of a Jedi's ploy. No, rather, Garen would speak with the Council and formulate a plan of attack against these aruetiise.

The rest of the evening was uneventful. Garen had begun formulating the next plans in his move to eliminate the threat Clan Aden posed to the future of the Protectors. A future he was willing to fight and, if need be, die for. Garen made the call for the Council meeting first thing in the morning. The sooner they took charge and developed a plan of attack, the sooner this whole fiasco could be done and over with. They had a new target, and contrary to belief he did not see it in Freedom. The man was hoping to scare Garen into surrender. But Garen did not get intimidated easily. He fought Xen'Chi Chosen in one-on-one combat and was trained personally by Blackthorne in dealing with Force users. He even had an ace up his sleeve if Freedom dared follow through with his threats. No, Freedom was of little concern to him. Garen saw another individual to be far more deadly and far greater a threat than a Jetii playing Mando'ad.

Jetii has no place among Mando'ade, he mused. Basic common sense dictated there would be a conflict in cultural beliefs. He recalled that Cadden had several struggles being their Mand'alor and a Jetii, though he never claimed to be the latter. He had a lightsaber, wielded the Force, and was not hell-bent on ruling the galaxy or others or seeking additional power. Made him a Jetii in my sight. Blackthorne's afflictions affected the Mandalorians as a whole, unfortunately, and could possibly have lead them to where they were today. Another reason not to trust a Jetii with leading our people. Their code made them a slippery slope to deal with, and a psychological nightmare. Mando'ade were much simpler in retrospect. Follow the Resol'nare, fight with honor, contribute to the Mando'ade, the Mando Cabure, and their wellbeing, and live one's life with honor.

Garen didn't see that in Freedom. He thought back on the man's message, and the mentioning of being at war with him. Garen couldn't help but smirk. If this were a war, they'd have all been dead a long time ago. While his efforts were admirable, Freedom did not have the tact that Kyr possessed, nor what was found in Jahaal. He thought on their clan's motto. Haatyc or'arue jate'shya ori'sol aru'ike nuhaatyc. Better one big enemy that you can see than many small ones you can't. Freedom was the one big enemy, Jahaal and the other Adens were the many small ones. And Jahaal would take over the clan, if his father was dead. With a fire in his eyes for vengeance, very much different than Freedom's. It's the quiet ones that you have to watch out for, he mused. They are the ones who would strike when and where you least expect it. He didn't find it wholly odd he hadn't heard from Jahaal since the assault. The man was likely going to play on subtlety, as opposed to Freedom's soon-to-be short-lived rally cry.

They would have to keep their ears to the ground, watch for any suspicious activities and movements. Chances were high that Jahaal would start building up their arsenal in preparation for war. A real war. Not this jehaatir Freedom was claiming they were engaged in. Openly threatening Garen and publicly declaring his intent wasn't going to help Jahaal's cause any. Though Garen supposed he owed the Jetii some small level of gratitude, as his message did tip him off on what to expect next. Which will make any further moves made by them damn near impossible. Garen would use Freedom's attempts to forge alliances against them, and squelch all their prospects in one fashion or another. He reveled in the thought that what Freedom assumed would give them an edge, in truth, effectively removed any advantage they could have otherwise had. It ultimately hurt them far more than it helped. No one will rush to their aid, and anybody they approach will brush them off, at best. Worst case scenario, lives would be lost. Either instance was a loss to Nadd and his ilk.

Garen smirked at how he would make Freedom's message backfire. They would have been far better off not sending one out, he thought. Not that he was complaining; Garen would ensure that those few left to take a side would take his and anyone remaining would be far too cautious to support the Jetii and Clan Aden's movement. If they were looking for assistance and sympathy, they would find none among the Mando Cabure.

Morning came and Garen prepared himself for a busy day. He put on his armor in full and left his residence for MandalMotors Hall, where he was due to meet with the Council. No doubt this meeting would be an intense one. Two members of the Council were completely supportive of his decisions, two were clearly against them, and one... well, he wasn't sure where Ge'tal stood. The man always chose his words carefully, whether he completely agreed or disagreed with Garen. He couldn't tell, in those instances, if Ge'tal was against him and his decisions or just trying to provide sound advice from a neutral perspective.

He walked into the Council meeting room and took note that everyone was already present. He silently took his position. Nobody spoke, and Garen knew from the tension in the air alone there was some smalltalk before he arrived. They all knew why he made the call for this meeting, and it was clear to him there were differing opinions on what their next step ought to be.

Ge'tal would advocate caution, but not directly oppose preparing for war, he thought. Jesik would support a swift operation, though only after Kyla made the recommendation. Karric would be directly, and vocally, against it and Nedth would be hesitant to get onboard. Though he'd reluctantly agree to war if properly persuaded.

He already had the whole meeting mapped out, now all he had to do was steer it to the proper conclusion. Garen looked at each in turn before speaking. "No doubt you have all seen Freedom's broadcast," he said. "None of it should seem a surprise to you." He paused a moment before opting to address the most pressing matter. "What are the results of the clean sweep on the Aden homestead?"

"We found Kyr's body outside," Kyla said. "His helmet was on the ground beside him, and his body was charred, but it fit his profile."

"Are we certain it was him?" Garen asked.

"Not without one hundred percent facial recognition," Kyla admitted, "but there's no reason to believe otherwise. The armor sported his colors, his clan sigil, and the helmet had the Jaig eyes in his chosen color. The body physically matched his, as well. There's little reason to believe it wasn't him."

"Little reason is still reason enough," Garen said. "We'll operate as though he's dead, but I won't accept it as hard fact unless I see his unmistakable corpse in front of me." He looked at each Council member in turn before speaking up again. "My patience is running thin," he continued. "I've tolerated opposition against my decisions and my will thus far. I will no longer be lenient on the matter. I'm instigating martial law effective immediately. All comm channels will be monitored, all suspicious activity reported."

Kyla was the first to speak. "We need to take an indirect approach toward Clan Aden, Mand'alor," she said, as predictable as ever. "Root them out. We should take prisoners and get information from them. Violently, if necessary."

Jesik nodded in agreement. "If Freedom dares challenge your authority, it would be best to exploit every weakness they have at the moment."

Garen shook his head. "Freedom is not our primary target," he said. "Jahaal is. While putting the Jetii down would be doing everyone a favor, eyes need to be on Jahaal, not Freedom."

Ge'tal nodded. "I agree," he said, perhaps too quickly for Garen's liking. "Freedom is providing the public face to their movement. He is not in charge, and Jahaal has likely already taken the reins and, soon enough, will unleash his vengeance. This will spell trouble for us if Kyr is truly dead. It would make Freedom's threats look tame in comparison."

"Even if Kyr is still alive, Jahaal is far bigger a threat than Kyr's Jetii dog," Kyla offered. "He would strike at us where it hurts the most, and if we're not prepared for it he will succeed."

"I will ensure our men are well prepared for any upcoming conflicts," Nedth chimed in. "We'll keep an eye out for any of Clan Aden or their allies, nip their progress at the bud."

Garen nodded. He looked at Karric. "I need you to screen all requests for purchases through MandalMotors."

"It will put delays on orders and profits," Karric warned Garen. "It could even mean losing some business."

"It's a risk I'm willing to take," Garen said.

"Very well," Karric said with a nod, albeit hesitantly. But Garen could understand why. "Emergency protocols are to be put in effect immediately."

"Keep on the lookout for suspicious activity," Garen instructed all of them. "Report anything you learn directly to me immediately." He paused a moment. "Likely their next move will involve recuperating from this loss to their operations. I do not expect to see much open conflict with Clan Aden or its supporters. However, any movements, no matter how insignificant they appear to be, need to be stopped. We've shown them we will no longer tolerate their rebellious nature, now we must show them they have no place among us." Garen narrowed his eyes, making no effort to hide his contempt. "I want to see every Aden wiped from this galaxy. They will all pay for their treachery."
Last edited by Cadden on Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

OOC: Wasn't thinking when I did this post. This is supposed to be an edit of the previous one. I'll be editing this post later with a new post. Unless someone can remove it for me, since apparently I cannot. :oldrazz:
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Vaemar »

OOC; My characters wiki article that I just made, if you want to know about him

Darth Nox wasn't happy. He wanted more power, and he needed it now more than ever. Times have changed, and he is getting restless. He will have to evolve and adapt with this new world. Now others may think that Mandalore is the one place that powerful Sith Artifacts aren't going to be at, but Darth Nox knows that it is. Mandalorians collect all kinds of stuff without even having a clue as to what it is. He also felt a very strong presence of the dark side on the planet, something powerful. Whatever it was that he was sensing, he was going to find it.

His ship exited hyperspace just then. He didn't want to take anything fancy, so his Enforcer-Class Cruiser Glory would have to do. Almost instantly after exiting hyperspace, the cloaked Lambda Shuttle exited the hangar, escorted by a squadron of also cloaked TIE defenders. The TIE defenders returned to the Enforcer once the Lambda landed and uncloaked, as it no longer needed their protection. The Lambda had landed at the Mand'alore's capital city. The shuttle opened up, and 8 Imperial Commandos in Black armor ( stepped out, with 4 on each side of the rampart. Darth Nox then stepped out, and paused to look around. The Artifact.. he thought. It is here.
"War isn't about dying for your country, it's about making the other bastard die for his." - General George S. Patton
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

All had been eerily quiet since Freedom's message was sent out. Garen had buckled down on security and had his people monitoring all frequencies and scanning for any anomalies and hidden messages and frequencies. He took all precautions necessary to ensure the Adens and their allies would not get the upper hand. He had been receiving scattered reports of new buildings being constructed outside Mandalore's population centers, but there were no indicators of unusual activity during those couple weeks to push Garen into action, and he chose to dismiss them.

"Mand'alor, Kyla said, approaching Garen at the command console, "my men have been put on high alert for any activities by these traitorous cowards. We have been noticing some unusual patterns, lately. It could be nothing, but..."

"It could be everything," Garen finished for her. "Do you have any proof? It has been two weeks since the broadcast. I'm not about to initiate a wild bantha chase based on speculations."

"No, Mand'alor, we do not," she admitted. "But they are taking precautions to go directly from one point to another in as little time as possible. One of my officers suggests they're running covert recruiting sessions with the population."

Garen frowned. If they were able to sway even some of the Mando'ade to their cause, it could be considered a loss to him. However, if he was seen as directly responding to these movements, they might go underground again, and Garen could lose any leads to their whereabouts. "And you are certain these individuals do not know they are being watched?"

"I am certain, Mand'alor."

Garen was quiet for a minute, contemplating his options. Perhaps it was time to send a message to Freedom and Jahaal. "Very well," he finally said, "I shall deal with them appropriately."

"If I may, what do you have in mind?" Kyla asked. Garen triggered a command on the console and some information appeared on the holo. Kyla's eyes widened a second, before her surprise was replaced with a grin. "No clearer message could possibly be sent," she agreed. "I shall have my men feed them updates on the suspected movements."

Garen simply nodded. This was the turning point, what would make or break the Aden resistance. He turned his attention back to battle preparations against the nearby Demetras sector as Kyla took her leave. He had his eyes on Phindar, Todirium III, and Belthu, specifically. Todirium III would not require anything more than a small contingent of Mandalorians to conquer. Phindar he saw as being a fairly easy target, as well, given the attitude of the typical Phindian. Belthu would put up a bit more of a fight but, in the end, they too would fall, and after all three worlds were conquered Garen would reach toward the other planets in the sector. Before long, he would have the beginnings of a fledgling empire on his hands, enough to stop the Jedi and, given enough time, even the Galactic Empire, from threatening their existence.

The next day a single Meteor-class Q-Carrier was prepped for departure, paired with a half-dozen Pursuer-class Enforcement Ships and a dozen Gladiator-class Assault Fighters. Garen didn't think anything more would be necessary to conquer Todirium III's small populace, based on the forward reconnaissance he had received the other day. The planet housed a very light defense force, enough to repel forces the likes of typical pirate raids or mercenary attacks.

But not a small Mandalorian invasion force. He was sending enough men and women to end the conflict quickly, but not so many to lessen his homefront advantage against the Adens and their allies. A mere handful of Mandalorians was enough to conquer a planet as minimally defended as Todirium III, and Garen was unwilling to send more than necessary out on missions until this business with his enemies at home was settled. They would strike against Jahaal and his allies fast and hard, and strike where it hurt the most. If he was lucky, it could even turn a few of their people against each other. Division among the ranks, thus weakening them to a point where he could take the advantage he needed to end them once and for all.

Garen personally oversaw the preparations for the mission ahead. The materials that Todirium III would yield them was well worth the risk, and would give MandalMotors the boost it needed to finish replacing their starship losses over the past couple years. The launch site was a prime target for the insurgents to strike, if they were going to move against him in any way. Fortunately, the procedures went without a hitch and, by midday, the small attack force was lifting off for their target destination.

"Guess we were wrong to raise suspicion," Jesik said. Garen didn't avert his attention from the launch area as he watched various Mandalorians go about cleaning up. "I half expected Freedom or Jahaal to try something."

"There is nothing wrong with ensuring our survival," Garen said. "I would much rather be suspicious and find no issues, than let the first step in our future be sabotaged due to carelessness on our part."

"Makes sense," Jesik admitted. "Were you expecting Freedom to show up?"

"Hoping, more like," Garen said. He was looking forward to putting the man in his place, personally, but was slightly disappointed to see he would not get that opportunity. He had to admit, the Jetii knew when to pick his battles. Admiring even small qualities of Freedom was no easy thing for Garen; it was no surprise he had no liking for the man. He frowned and turned to face Jesik. "What is the word on our territories along the Rimma?"

"We've managed to quell the resistance movement that sprung up on the Empire's former worlds," Jesik said, "but if they manage to make a well organized effort, I couldn't see us holding it without reinforcements."

"Which we cannot presently spare," Garen mused. "Send two Spectres out there to monitor the region. We need to remain vigilant for any suspicious activities on every world, moon, and station we occupy." He paused a moment, considering what he was going to say next. "If suspicious activity is noted, apprehend the individuals immediately. If they resist... kill them."

"What about at Midpoint? That would be one hell of a mess."

Jesik had a point. If Garen had to falter anywhere, it would have to be there. Midpoint was designed, built, and ran as a galactic business venture, and to maintain that level of vigilance on that station would be extremely detrimental to their present operations there, and could severely jeopardize the agreement they had with the administration, there. And a takeover was an incredibly bad idea. "Midpoint will have to be the exception," he said. "It shouldn't make a significant difference in the end results, anyway. If we intercept suspects in our controlled territories, we shouldn't need to worry about them hiding their operations at Midpoint." Additionally, it would be an incredible waste of resources, and could easily strain their operations on Mandalore to the point of tipping the scales in Jahaal's favor.

Jesik nodded. "Very well. I'll put in the orders, and keep on top of this, personally." Garen didn't respond, and Jesik took his leave. The Mandalore kept his eyes on the cleanup crews at the launch site. A thousand thoughts raced through his head of the coming events. Their conquests in the Demetras sector would yield extremely valuable results in his campaign. However, he was now fighting against two fronts: one there, and one in their own territories against the Adens and their allies. It wouldn't be much longer before they would be squelched, however. He had the best of the best on the job.
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

The Hellfire dropped out of lightspeed in the Mandalore system, and as the craft reverted to realspace, Guan observed the lush world and its two moons come into view as the ship's engines stabilized to cruising speed. He could immediately feel something was off. He looked at Ryy'Suuk and Neddac briefly before returning his attention to the planet before them. "Something is wrong," he said. "This doesn't feel right." Was it his father? Without being able to feel his presence in the Force, it was difficult to say. Though he could feel the presence of one strong in the Force on the planet's surface. Freedom, he figured. It added another unknown variable to what he was feeling, but Guan knew better than to jump to conclusions. "Keep your eyes open," he continued. "I don't know what we can expect."

Guan piloted the ship to Keldabe and landed in the spaceport. As he powered the ship down, he noted a couple Mandalorians approaching the docking bay. The trio were soon descending the boarding ramp, Guan covered head to toe in his white Mandalorian armor, complete with black cape and red Jaig eyes on his helmet.

"Blackthorne," one of them said, somewhat surprised to see him, "you've been gone a long time. We thought you were dead."

"I'm looking for my father," Guan said, getting right to the point. "Has he been here?"

The two Mandalorians looked at each other for a couple seconds. "Follow me," the man said.

They led Guan to MandalMotors Hall, the official meeting place for the Council. When they entered the Council meeting room, they saw but one person. He was unmistakable in appearance, and rightfully so. The Mand'alor typically stood out, but not like a sore thumb. Any trained Mandalorian, official or, in Guan's case, honorary, could make the distinction fairly easily. Guan removed his helmet in respect. "Garen," he said.

The man nodded back, though Guan was somewhat troubled over the fact that he did not remove his helmet for this meeting, as he had in the past. "Guan," he said. "It's been a while."

"I've been... busy. What is this? Why was I brought here?"

"I'm told you are looking for your father." Guan nodded. "I hate to be the burden of bad news, but your father is dead."

Guan couldn't believe what he was hearing. "What?" he said, his voice and facial expression betraying him and expressing no small amount of distress. "Are you sure?" Garen just nodded. "How?"

"Blackthorne returned to us weeks ago," Garen said. "I put him in a position of honor as one of my generals. However, he came to us at a bad time. He was staying with the Adens when insurgents bombed their homestead. Cadden and Kyr were both among the casualties."

Guan couldn't believe what he was hearing. Ryy'Suuk growled a question and Guan looked at him. "Where is his body?" he asked.

"I imagine still in the rubble," Garen said. "We're still cleaning the mess up. All I know is he was confirmed to be in the residence at the time of the incident. We're trying to locate the base of operations of these insurgents, as we speak. Make no mistake, Guan, they will suffer for this."

"I… thank you," Guan managed. "If you don't mind, we need a place to stay for a few days. I was hoping to get my father's aid in something, and knowing he is dead... well... I don't know what to do."

Garen nodded. "I shall make arrangements," he said, as Guan placed his helmet back on.

After they left, Neddac was the first to speak up. "Guan, I am sorry," the droid said.

"Something isn't right," Guan said. "I couldn't get a feel for anything from Garen." Ryy'Suuk roared a question. "No. Typically one can get some kind of notion through the Force on what an individual is saying. From Garen, I was getting... nothing. That doesn't usually happen, unless the individual is exercising techniques to keep from being probed." There was a moment of silence. "I don't like this."

Once they got to their assigned quarters, Guan removed his helmet. "My father is still alive," he said. "He has to be. I need both of you to look for him."

"If Garen is, indeed, hiding something, then that would draw attention to us," Neddac said. "Better that you let him find you. If he is still alive, you need to make your presence known, make him aware that you are here, looking for him." Ryy'Suuk roared his agreement.

Guan thought about that for a moment. There was a certain level of risk involved, but as he considered what Neddac had to say the more sense it made. He nodded. "Very well," he conceded. "What do you suggest?"

"Find someone you know you can trust," Neddac simply said. "Whoever gave you your training, perhaps."

Guan thought on this for a moment. At this juncture, until he had the full story, there were only two individuals he fully trusted. He turned to both of them. "Find out where Togra Locklear and Kevin Rasok are," he said. "Let them know I would like to speak with them."

Guan later learned that Togra was reported dead, though the details of the report were left vague. This raised a questioning attitude in him, but Ryy'Suuk urged him not to go prying in it. Neddac, however, was able to locate Kevin and scheduled a meeting with the man at a local tapcaf.

Guan met Kevin that evening in the establishment. It was no Oyu'baat, but in this case that wasn't a bad thing. Neither him nor Kevin wore their armor, at Kevin's suggestion, but Guan had little trouble finding the man in his corner.

"So I hear you're looking for your father," Kevin said, cutting to the point. Guan just nodded. "I take it Garen told you he died."

"That's right," Guan said. "Do you have any information on his whereabouts?"

"You don't trust the Mand'alor?" Kevin took a long drink of something Guan could only guess. His voice became quiet. "Truth of the matter is, I can't say I blame you. Garen's been... different... ever since… well, the incident." Guan's reaction questioned Kevin for more information, but the man just waved it aside dismissively. "It's something you don't need to know about. Better if you didn't, anyway. Our Mand'alor has gotten it in his head that the best way to secure a future for us is to end the future of anyone who isn't us. Only a matter of time before he oversteps his boundaries and pisses off the wrong people at the wrong time. Kyr organized a resistance movement to try to stop him, peacefully, but they paid dearly for it."

"The bombing of the Aden homestead," Guan said. Kevin nodded and took another swig of his drink. "Did Kyr and my father survive?"

Kevin shrugged. "That's what the reports say," he said dismissively, his voice back to normal. But Guan knew better. The Force hinted him at something more going on, and he immediately realized Kevin wasn't telling him everything. The man was smart, and knew about a Jedi's ability to sense when something was off. He was doing it intentionally, Guan realized.

"Hypothetically, if they were to survive the bombing, where do you suppose they would be?" Guan asked, picking up on Kevin's cues of discretion.

"Could be anywhere, I suppose," Kevin said with a shrug. "I'd be more concerned about how you could find the right guy, while not getting on Garen's most wanted list." He leaned forward. "Garen will let you off the hook the first he hears of this," he said quietly, "but repeat offenses will have harsh repercussions. He's buckled down severely on homeland security these past couple weeks." Kevin leaned back again. "Where you staying, kid?" he asked, his voice a normal volume, now.

"Garen found me a room near MandalMotors Hall. I'm staying there for a few days while I sort all this out."

Kevin frowned. "That won't do," he objected. "Come to the farm. I'm sure Laura and Venik would like seeing you back with us, safe. And it'll give you better accommodations for whatever your Jetii ba'jur would have you do."

"Will Garen have issue with that?" Guan asked.

"I'll deal with him," Kevin said. "Just take your ship over. You can use the same spot you did last time. I'll meet you there." Guan was getting ready to get up. "Easy there, hotshot," Kevin said, stopping him. "Have a drink or two. On me. My condolences for your father."

Guan looked at him for a second before easing back in his chair. He understood. Stupid, he thought. If I'm being watched, leaving without purpose will just increase suspicions, if any exist, of my actions.

The two sat for a good hour as Kevin explained to Guan the gap of time between when he last saw his father and when he arrived on the planet. He immediately picked up on the notion that Kevin was giving him the "PR" version of the story, the one that Garen would have had him hear. Regardless, it was enough for him to know his father was not reverting to the monster that dark side spirit turned him into.

It was getting late, and Kevin got out of his seat. Guan followed suit. "I'll see you at the farm," Kevin said.

Guan nodded. "Thank you," he said. "We appreciate this."

Guan, Neddac, and Ryy'Suuk vacated their room and made their way to the Hellfire, where they started prepping the ship for liftoff. The trip to Kevin's farm would only take a few minutes, but if the man had vital information for Guan on his father's whereabouts, he didn't want to stay in the room Garen had provided him any longer than necessary. The ship lifted off and Guan guided it to Kevin's farm. It wasn't until the ship was fully powered down when he saw Kevin approach. "Inside," he said, looking around. "This Isn't the best place to talk."

Guan nodded to his companions, who followed him into the homestead. Once they were situated, Kevin provided Guan with the full report on what had happened in the past couple months, down to exposing that Garen was the one who ordered the bombardment of the Aden homestead, and Kevin and his family were secretly sympathizers to the resistance movement Kyr started.

Guan kept silent for a moment, taking the information in. "So my father is alive?" he finally asked.

Kevin nodded. "Seems Kyr's building him back up to retake the title of Mand'alor from Garen."

"So you can get me to him?"

Kevin sighed. "That's where things get tricky," he said. "Garen buckled down on all communications. And likely he's watching the every move of anyone who's had ties with Kyr in the past." Which, Guan knew, was quite a few. Kevin was one of them, joining Kyr as one of Garen's most influential friends. "I try contacting them, or going to them, my family's safety becomes jeopardized."

"So, how do I speak with him?" Guan asked. "This isn't exactly a blue milk run I'm going on." Kevin looked at him long and hard, and Guan quickly figured he was trying to determine if Guan would be up to the task he was about to suggest. "I'll do whatever it takes," he pressed.

"I'm just a sympathizer," Kevin said, "but I've got contacts I keep in touch with often. They make regular stops, here, to place small orders for armor." Right, Guan nearly forgot Kevin was a smith. "One of them should be dropping by in a couple days. She'd be your best bet at getting ahold of Cadden. But that will be putting you directly in Garen's crosshairs. That armor, those Jaig eyes, they're going to mean osik to Garen and his followers. Do this, there's no turning back. You'll be painting a target on your head that any of his Mando'ade would be more than willing to take a shot at."

"I understand," Guan said. "My mission is to find and save my brother, not fight Garen."

"They won't care," Kevin warned. "If you pose a threat to him and his objectives in any way, you are a target. You make contact with the resistance, you become a threat." Kevin got up. "Sleep on it. Meditate, or do whatever you Jetiise do. If you're still keen on doing this, when my contact arrives, then it's all on you. I've got a family to protect, I won't take part of this. I'm already risking enough, as it is, doing what I've done."

"I understand." Guan rose from his chair, as well. "Thank you, again, for taking us in. You have no idea how much I appreciate it."

"Oh, I think I've got a fairly good idea," Kevin said. The Mandalorian left the living room to the three.

"Are you sure we can trust him?" Neddac said after a moment of silence. "It could be a trap."

Guan shook his head. "No," he said, "Kevin isn't like that. This is the real deal." Things were bad on Mandalore, but Guan couldn't get involved. He had to find his father, and save his brother. He had to save his family. "Let's get some sleep," he said to Ryy'Suuk. He needed some time to weigh Kevin's words and determine if what he was about to do was worth the risk.
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

It had been two hours since Garen had pursued Cadden and his companions from Concordia to Mandalore, before they gave him the slip in the Olankur forest and the trail went cold. Garen had called upon Kyla, and had been waiting nearly an hour in his command center before she arrived. "I said this was urgent," he grumbled.

"I apologize, Mand'alor," she said, "but I came across some information you may find rather interesting."

"I don't need interesting," he said, agitation overwhelming his composure. "I need useful. I need information that will win this conflict with Blackthorne and the Adens."

"Then perhaps you should see for yourself." She handed him a data disk, and waited for him to insert it into the console and pull up the information. "We just discovered an individual who has been hunting Blackthorne for several weeks, now. Reports are hazy, but they all suggest that, whatever it is, it has been identified as an unstoppable metal... golem." Garen raised a brow. "It won't stop until it finds him and, based on reports, it wants him dead."

"I imagine that fills the bill with many in the galaxy, at this point," he said dryly. "Why should I treat this... thing... any differently?"

"If my information is accurate, it has even fought Jetiise looking for him. Cazzik Wyn and Blackthorne's ad, Guan, specifically."

Garen stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Find this… golem," he said, "I will want to pay a visit to it, personally."

Kyla nodded. "We already have," she said. "It was last seen in the Charros system, a couple days ago. Locating it won't be a problem."

"And why is that?"

"It was last seen taking a Firespray-31-class patrol and attack craft." She paused a few seconds. "A red Firespray. Identified as the Pursuer."

Garen frowned. Was that even possible? The way he understood it, Blackthorne's legendary ship was destroyed years ago. "Very well," he said. "I want you on top of squelching the resistance in my absence. Use whatever means necessary. I'm going to find this golem."

Later that night, Garen boarded his personal ship and fired up the engines. It wasn't long until he broke the atmosphere and entered lightspeed enroute to the Charros system.

The trip took several hours, and at each waypoint Garen meticulously scanned the area for Blackthorne's old ship. He had no luck by the time he reached the Charros system. The ship had been identified by traders and business associates to the Xi Chartians, and had left the system shortly after. Garen knew that chasing Blackthorne's assailant across the galaxy would not give him any results. Time was valuable, and right now he couldn't afford to spend much more on this prospect.

"Mand'alor, a voice came in over his comm, "we just picked up the ship you are after, it dropped out of lightspeed near Nar Shaddaa. Caused quite a commotion, here, too, before it left the system again. The reactor is running hot, we can chase it and keep you informed on its whereabouts."

"Do it," Garen said. "I want that ship located."

Upon arrival in the Y'Toub system Garen was immediately contacted and fed information on the whereabouts of the Pursuer. The ship had stopped several parsecs from Rinn, and those that had attempted to claim it were discovered dead. A small field of debris surrounded the Pursuer, by now, and his contact reported no recent activity in the region. The locals had gotten the point and dubbed the ship cursed, vowing to stay away from it.

Garen plugged in the coordinates that were fed to him and made the microjump to his final destination. He entered the region of space the Pursuer rested in and looked the ship and its surrounding debris field over intently. He frowned. While he knew of the legends surrounding Blackthorne's first Firespray-31, he somehow doubted it could take on that many freighters and come out of it unscathed. There was more to this than met the eye. He would have to tread lightly.

Garen brought his ship in close to the Pursuer and initiated the docking sequence. Donned from head to toe in his armor, he opened the docking hatch and proceeded into the cargo hold of the ship.

Only to be immediately meet with hostile force. A large, lumbering mechanical abomination lunged at him, and while Garen was fast enough to take a few shots, he quickly lost his EE-3 carbine. He unsheathed a beskad and scratched the surface of the armor before that, too, was lost. The golem gripped him tightly and brought him close to its head.

"Blackthorne," It grumbled, its voice filled with hatred. "Die."

"I'm not... Blackthorne," Garen said, struggling against the strain the creature put on him. "But... I can... tell you where he is." The golem grumbled again. "We... share a common enemy. I provide you... with his location... you relieve me... of the problems he's giving me." Garen managed a grin beneath his visor. "Alternatively... I destroy this ship... and both of us with it." He had managed to position his right gauntlet in the exact direction of the ship's reactor, and the golem wouldn't be able to stop him from firing the miniature rockets on time. The initial impact would only put a hole in the floor, but it would only require one extra second to send the second into the reactor and ebbs them both.

The golem growled and, after a few seconds, loosened its grip. "Prove to me you are not him," it said.

In a measure of good faith, Garen removed his helmet with his left hand, keeping the rocket launcher ready, revealing his face. The golem finally released him. "Where is Blackthorne?" it demanded.

"He's on Mandalore," Garen said. "Where, exactly, I do not know, but I can guarantee all you'd have to do is show up in this ship, and he will come to you." The golem started to move against Garen again, as he expected. "However," he continued, "you won't make it five seconds without the proper authorization codes." It stopped short, causing Garen to grin triumphantly. "That's right, you kill me, and you will never get to him. I will provide you the codes to authorize access to Mandalore, after I'm outside your grasp. You may then to go the planet and pick up your prize. Do we have a deal?"

The golem grumbled again, before backing off. "Leave," it demanded.

Garen eased himself, and looked at his weapons, nodding at them. "Not without what's mine," he said. The golem allowed him to retrieve his gear, and Garen departed the ship. Once he was outside the Pursuer's range, he transmitted the codes as promised before jumping into hyperspace. He thought on the encounter and how it was only by his quick thinking and his leverage over the situation he didn't join the wreckage that had surrounded the Pursuer.

This one is the perfect solution to all my problems, he thought. It kills Blackthorne, and Clan Aden and their allies will crumble. The advantage will be mine to finally put an end to this folly Kyr had started.

On the way back to Mandalore Garen received word of a resistance strike against a Death Watch bunker within one of the beskar mines on Concordia. The battle resulted in several casualties on his side, and half as many on the resistance's. More importantly to him, however, was unconfirmed reports of Kyr Aden's presence on the battlefield. The man sported a similar armor color scheme and his tactics mirrored those of Kyr's, but there were no eye witnesses that could verify his identity.

It was enough for Garen, however, and when he arrived back on Mandalore he was introduced to the results of the report. Jerris was dead, the bunker was completely destroyed, and one of the Mandalorians involved in the attack, either Cadden or Kyr, was being tracked. However, the Mandalorian was not staying still for long, so even if it was Kyr he would not lead them to the resistance's headquarters. It mattered little. Whichever one it was, they would be worth the effort to eliminate. It wasn't long after until he received word that the dodgy Mandalorian sported the blood red and black armor pattern that Blackthorne was known for. "It could be a trick," he said to Kyla, "but that will be our new friend's problem, not ours. Be sure that, once the Pursuer arrives, it's fed with his location. I want him out of the picture sooner rather than later."

"As you command, Mand'alor." Kyla left to do her work, and Garen continued to monitor the Mandalorian's movements. It was a gamble following this individual, but it was the only move he had at his disposal. Within half an hour, he received word that the Pursuer had entered the system, and was soon enroute to Concordia.

And now we wait, he thought. Soon this will be over.
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Re: The Mandalorian Protectors

Post by Cadden »

It had been a few days, now, since Cadden was dealt with. Garen had learned, after he made the deal with that... thing... that one Kroda the Hutt wanted both it and Blackthorne. It was an opportunity Garen could not refuse, and so gave the Hutt the tracking frequency that had invaded Cadden's armor. While he had hoped to have ended things more swiftly on Concordia, he'd take a small victory, but a major blow to Clan Aden's morale, over defeat and letting his enemies gain even small influence.

Their resistance had been quiet, and even his Spectres were coming up empty-handed. He'd wounded Kyr's followers more than that bombardment ever could by taking Cadden out of the picture. Even if it were at the cost of the beskar mine and one of his most loyal Spectres. A small price to pay for securing our future, he thought. Since he'd learned that Cadden had been the resistance's new leader in Kyr's stead, Garen was committed to showing them that not even Blackthorne was beyond his reach. This simple act sent a message to them on how futile their efforts were. No doubt, now, Kyr would be back in charge, and the man wouldn't be able to play dead much longer. They had to have been aware of how high a risk of exposing their ploy it was in having him tag along for the fight. And, so long as Garen's source remained undetected, he'd get vital information on the resistance. Their hideout wasn't as safe as they thought. Though its exact whereabouts seemed to remain unknown to even Garen's informant, as not all members of their resistance, or their allies, were privy to that information, he had been able to narrow it down to somewhere within the vast expanse of the heavily forested Olankur region. Of course, this didn't help, much, as the area was hundreds of kilometers of veshok trees.

Regardless, Garen opted to wait, rather than initiate a strike on its general location, and this time keep this intel to himself. No one could know, not even the Council. He wanted to give Kyr the benefit of the doubt, give him this one last chance to surrender and accept the direction the Mando'ade were being led in. With their morale devastated, and Kyr's only real chance for victory taken away, Garen had little doubt that subduing him and his followers would be far simpler a task. And, while he trusted the members of the Council, or, at least, most of them, he didn't want anyone taking matters into their own hands. Despite appearances, Garen didn't want to see his own people in ruin, not even Kyr and his resistance. But he could no longer be lenient toward what they'd been doing. If they wouldn't accept Garen's vision, now, in the face of utter ruination, then he'd have no choice but to finish what he'd begun. Though he couldn't burn the entire forest down, it wouldn't take much political pull to discern the exact location of their hideout and bring it, and its residents, to an end.

Though now Garen had another problem, in Cadden's son, Guan. While the boy didn't openly pose a threat to the stability and future of Mandalore, Garen couldn't leave him unchecked, either. He'd arrived looking for Cadden and, just a few days later, he'd left with Kevin Rasok. This raised suspicions with Garen and, upon investigation, learned Guan was, ultimately, going after his brother, Jerik. This did not mean, however, that the young Blackthorne was not a threat to their future and, with Kyla's urging, Garen ultimately decided to send two of his Spectres after Guan. He had already made an enemy of Kyr and his aliit, and they had poisoned Cadden's mind beyond recovery for Garen to count him as a friend and ally once more, so there was no turning back. Garen knew he'd ventured to the point of no return, though he strangely felt little remorse for his actions. He didn't prefer how this conflict against Kyr and his allies had developed, but he did not feel apologetic for his decisions. He had to do what he had to do, to keep the Mando Cabure intact and stable.

Something his enemies were making increasingly difficult for him to do. Fortunately for Garen, he had the bulk of the Mando'ade on his side. The majority of the clan chieftains and other leaders supported his cause; as well they should, as his cause was, in truth, their cause. Ever since the chieftain assembly during Sivter's war against the galaxy, Garen did little more than serve as the guiding hand for the Mandalorians' voiced desires. He only took center stage after the bombing of his home and the loss of his wife and daughter. Garen clenched his fist as he recalled that day, burned forever into his mind, as clearly as though it were just yesterday. Togra Locklear had notified him of the bombing by insurgents upon his homestead, and he'd held Valery in his arms as she'd passed away. They had later found Carissa's body in the wreckage. His fist tightened in rage. While Kyla Vizsla had been instrumental in bringing those responsible for the act to justice with the aid of the Death Watch, Garen had, by the time of Valery's funeral, dedicated himself to securing the Mandalorians' future and ensuring something like that would never happen again. He'd lost everyone in one act of terrorism, that day. Not only did his wife and daughter die, but so did the promise he'd made to Carissa's original father, a good warrior, a good man, and a good friend.

He was interrupted by the door opening and the Council appearing before him. The call he'd put out was unorthodox, but necessary. Garen waited until they were settled in. "The resistance has shown its true intention," he announced. "No doubt you have all heard the news and read the debriefs. Blackthorne was pushing them toward open aggression against the Mando Cabure." He looked at each in turn. "Furthermore, we have eye witnesses that swear Kyr Aden is still alive. This direct insurrection against us cannot go unpunished, but I am willing to grant leniency if he and his allies step forward and lay down their arms, and pledge to our cause."

"And if they do not?" asked Ge'tal Senaar. Garen could tell he already suspected the answer, and he guessed the war advisor was not going to like it.

Garen considered his words carefully before he spoke. "This open aggression can only be answered in a manner befitting treason," he said slowly. He analyzed their reactions as he let the statement sink in. "Any further acts will be answered in kind. Violence begets violence. If this is their decision, then they are to be wiped out with extreme prejudice."

Jesik was the one to speak up. "Mand'alor, If I may, Kyr and his supporters, despite being relatively low in number and unpopular in their vision for our future, do still hold sway among the Mando'ade. If you wage open war on them, you will be putting a divide among us that cannot so easily be healed. If you win, Kyr Aden will be seen by many as a martyr, even to those who do not agree with his beliefs. He is... was... the leader of the Spectres and one of Blackthorne's candidates to succeed him. And if he wins, we'd have chaos and anarchy among our people as there are many who would want to dethrone him as quickly as he'd succeed you. Far be it from me to assume Ge'tal's role in the Council, but I do not see any quick and seamless way of recovering from open war."

"And you agree with this?" Garen asked Ge'tal.

Ge'tal nodded solemnly. "There is a risk that what he says is true," he said, "though I cannot say for certain on its finality."

"Since when were we a people that idolized martyrs?" Kyla put in, and Garen couldn't help but note the glare of contempt from Karric. "We began with Jaster Mereel, then Jango Fett, followed by Mandalore the Resurrector and Fenn Shysa, before we even got to Blackthorne. Yet we do not idolize, nor worship, any of them or what they've done." She gave Garen a hard look. "I say you've been too lenient on these aruetiise. The only way to end this is through open war."

"Abs where do you propose we start?" Ge'tal asked sternly. "We don't even know where they are, much less who they're connected to. Ever since we bombarded Kyr's homestead, they've gone dark, and adopted Clam Aden's motto a little too well." Better one big enemy that you can see than many small ones you can't. Garen knew their motto well, and the fact that not even his spy could report on their new headquarters location only proved how tight a ship Kyr was running. Garen didn't even know about Blackthorne taking the reigns of their resistance until a couple days prior to meeting him on Concordia. "We cannot fight what we cannot see, Kyla, and Kyr's people have vanished since the fight on Concordia."

"And we have no leads on connections?" she asked. Garen could detect the agitation in her voice. "Root them out by striking at those who would support their cause?"

"Not since Concordia," Ge'tal repeated, this time more sternly to drive his point home.

"Enough," Garen finally said. "This bickering is pointless. What we do know is that Cadden was placed in charge of Kyr's resistance, and we have accounts that Kyr is alive. While we lost a beskar mining compound and several good men and women, we struck a significant blow to the resistance. Cadden Blackthorne is now out of the picture, and they are licking a grievous wound. Their morale will have been struck hard by this defeat, and while it is not the solution we were hoping for, it has given them pause to reevaluate their position in this useless conflict they've been stirring." Garen looked at each of them in turn. "They cannot, therefore, believe they have a chance when we can take away their kintan strider while they play it on the offensive."

"Be careful of such confidence, Garen," Kyla warned. "A death gambit is no easy thing to recover from."

Garen frowned. "Kyr wouldn't put Blackthorne out like that," he argued. The man thought too highly of their former Mand'alor to sacrifice him for any reason. Garen didn't need a spy to tell him that. No, this was no kintan strider death gambit. Garen knew Kyr better than that. "They made their move, and they paid the price. Once he realizes they have no other advantages against me, Kyr will have no choice but to secede and end this foolishness. If he does not, then he will quickly learn he's run out of pieces and the game will be won." Garen narrowed his eyes. Kyr was fortunate enough that he was being as soft as he was, though Garen's patience with him had run dry, and he would not tolerate any further opposition to his command. "This is their last chance to back down and accept the Protectors' future."

"With all due respect, Mand'alor," Kyla said, "you have been far too lenient toward them already. Kyr had his chance to bend the knee to you. Your response in destroying his homestead showed you would no longer tolerate their resistance to your command. I strongly urge you to hunt them down and finish them off while they are still weakened. If they gather their strength, you may not have a better opportunity, and your stagnation could be your undoing."

"Kyr, however misguided he may be, is still considered a valuable asset if he can see reason," Garen said, agitated. He once would have called the man a friend, but he couldn't in good conscience do so, now. Not after everything Kyr and he had done to each other. "The man was the leader of the Spectres for a reason, and I'd sooner have him alive and serving the cause loyally than dead, if possible." He noted Kyla's contemptuous look. "You disagree with my reasoning?"

"Kyr is set in his ways," she argued. "You may remain hopeful, but it will be for naught. Kyr will not submit. He, and his followers, must be destroyed, sooner rather than later."

Nedth shook his head slowly. "I must agree with Mand'alor on this one," he said. "Kyr's beliefs may not be the popular opinion, but he does still hold major influence within the Mando Cabure. If he were to be persuaded to submit, then his resistance will follow him, and peace within our ranks will be restored."

Kyla snorted. "Peace within our ranks," she muttered. "You sound like a Jetii."

"But he's right," Garen said. "Despite differing personal beliefs, the fewer Mando'ade we have, the fewer can protect our borders and our interests. War would not only mean their lives, but also the lives of those who fight them. Thus far, casualties have been minimal and tolerable. What you propose will dwindle our ranks and leave us vulnerable to further incursions, or worse." He took a deliberate breath. "We will wait and see what they decide, at this juncture, and that is final."

Kyla fell silent, though Garen could tell she only did so out of respect to his authority. She was not swayed, though she would accept his judgment. It didn't mean she had to agree with it. She was becoming more direct with her personal beliefs, which gave Garen reason to look at her thoughts with more scrutiny. It wasn't so much that he distrusted her, but that her more forward beliefs of rule through strength and war could lead them down a path unfavorable to the future of the Protectors.

"What is the status of our forward operations?" Garen asked.

"Two more worlds have submitted to our superiority," Ge'tal said. "We are about to stage a major assault upon Bompreil, pending your consideration." Garen nodded for him to continue, and Ge'tal input the data disc containing the plans into the computer. Within a moment, the holo display flickered to life and the temperate world came to view. "There is little, here, to offer in terms of resistance," Garen's war advisor continued, "however, the planet is within close proximity to Republic space, and one misstep could bring their ire."

"What is your plan?" Garen asked.

"A swift strike and clean sweep," Ge'tal said matter-of-factly. "We need to hit them hard, and hit them fast, before word can get out we're even there. Regardless, Bompreil is lightly defended, and shouldn't take more than a couple squads to conquer. Pair this with a single Dreadnaught, and the system could be ours within a couple weeks."

Garen nodded in approval. The Dreadnaught's purpose would be to serve as a blockade and jam any communications so that cries for help could not be sent out. While their warrior tradition practically demanded they face any adversaries that they came upon, or that came upon them, he was also well aware that, if the Republic were to respond to Bompreil's request for aid, they would then send a far bigger force than the Mandalorians could hope to counter to quell their movements, and possibly even eradicate them from the galaxy. Garen was confident of the Mandalorians' abilities, but even he had to admit that facing off against a full-fledged attack force was suicide, and he would not become known as the Mand'alor that drove his people to ruination. If he was given a few months, notwithstanding any further resistance, he could build up a sufficient force to combat any Republic attacks. Until then, however, they had to tread lightly.

"As soon as it is over, I want Rally Masters to bring in fresh blood," he instructed. This wouldn't be the first world that had done this with, and it wouldn't be the last. So far the program had met with moderate success, despite the initial reservations from both several of the chieftains and from Ge'tal. However, the results could not be argued. Many of those conscripted into the Mandalorian ranks stayed on their homeworlds to bolster the Mando'ade presence already there. This served the program far better, in the long haul, than the alternative, as it gave many of their new recruits a reason to fight. However, during their more recent conquests, Garen saw trouble brewing, and while there were those from each world they'd conquered that didn't create problems for them, there were also others that either did right away or were labeled as high probabilities in doing so further down the line. It wasn't to the point where Garen had to decide whether or not to pull the plug, but if the gap continued to grow he would be faced with that choice, and possibly make future engagements that much more difficult to plan out.

So far, however, they had little trouble with the new Mandalorians they were bringing onboard as a result of the Rally Master program. Those that did cause issue were dealt with appropriately, and those that did not served as loyally as Garen could expect from otherwise forced conscription. The few that volunteered into the Mandalorian ranks were of particular interest to him, however, as he'd planned to fully envelop them into their warrior culture in time. They were the key to the future successes of the crusade Garen had taken up.

The meeting was soon adjourned with a renewed sense of direction to take the Protectors. They would wait and see what Kyr would do next, now that Blackthorne was out of the picture, while at the same time continue to pursue dominance in the Demetras sector. If the conflict with Kyr escalated to war, then so be it, but Garen did not want to have to sacrifice so many good warriors, despite their political position, if he could at all help it. He would have to wait and see what would happen.
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