Mud Squad sits, stripped of weapons, supplies, and rank, rotting in prison. The only good news was that their execution, scheduled for the following morning, was to be conducted by Mandalore the Crusader himself. Waiting for death, the group only had a single Warden guarding them, and a single unusual interrogation droid. When the Warden left to make her rounds, the interrogation droid began asking unusual questions, in the end questioning the groups desire for freedom, and unlocking their cells. The squad disposed of their guard, rearming in the process. The Interrogation Droid once again appeared, offering them safe passage off the planet if they could reach a ship hidden within a nearby canyon, zooming away.
Alerted of their escape, the Mandalorians were in hot pursuit, unwilling to let their captives escape so easily. The squad made their way across the fields towards their goal, running and gunning to keep the oncoming forces at bay long enough to escape. Entering the cave, the group found a hidden shuttle, piloted by the strange interrogation droid which took them away from the Mandalorian’s death camp.
Docking with a large freighter, the droid led the group through its various cargo holds, oddly devoid of any other passengers or crew, to a strange central room, in which stood two figures, one an ominously familiar bodyguard droid, the other a tall Chiss male in some type of military garb. The Chiss spoke in a commanding voice, introducing himself to the group as Garath’raw’nuruodo, or Thrawn."
The military leader of the Empire of the Hand, he explained their mission of defending the galaxy against the threats of the Unknown regions of Wild Space and those from beyond. They had been watching the exploits, many seemingly impossible, of the groups various members since they had been intercepted by one of the Hand’s agents aboard the Hutt luxury ship Bright Bauble.
He also introduced them to the Cult of Illviii, three members of the Empire of the Hand who, although they are not actively under the Hand’s direction, followed their orders and assisted in their missions. These droids were introduced, Shioshi, the Bodyguard droid who had been encountered several times by the group before hand, Lekad, the interrogation droid who had freed them, and Grez, who was currently away on another mission for the Empire of the Hand.
Having explained his position, Thrawn made his offer, to give Mud Squad a position in the Empire of the Hand, to help eliminate the threats to the galaxy which members of the Squad had witnessed since the beginning of their battles. Of the most concern to the Empire of the Hand was the mysterious emergence and disappearance of an ancient Sith Lord who had awoken within the Black Temple during the battle against Nom Anor. Knowing their past regarding these events, the group was the perfect operatives to put in search of this potentially dangerous Sith Lord, and if necessary, exterminate him.
But as he explained this, the freighter was suddenly rocked by explosions, and Lekad began to alert them that the ship had been breached. Thrawn turned to the group, the ground beneath him raised slightly, revealing his presence was merely an embedded hologram platform upon which the image of Thrawn has been projected this entire time. He revealed that this ship had been forced to serve as their final test to join the Empire of the Hand, as the dangerous Mandalorian’s responsible for the groups training had caught up with them, and Thrawn now tasked them to sever their ties with the Mandalorians.
The Mandalorian Intelligence Agency had infiltrated the ship, stealthed and cloaked commandos firing from cover, snipers and deadly mine-laying spider droids. When one member of Mud Squad convinced a Mandalorian scout to turn sides, they were shocked to see the trooper gasp for breath and suddenly collapse to the ground, his throat crushed through the Force. And in the end, the head of the MIA, declaring himself the Mandalorian Partisan, the first of a new order of Force-sensitives who would serve the glory of Mandalore in the coming war. But even he was eventually defeated by the group.
A second hologram of Thrawn, the first having been destroyed during the battle, approached, flanked once again by the two Cult droids. Surveying the damage, Thrawn spoke his regrets for having to involved themselves in the local politics of the Mandalorians, but all information pointed to something more sinister behind the recent string of attacks. And with the knowledge of the traitor turned Underlord Swindle, Thrawn decided that the Empire of the Hand needed to intercede and hamstring the efforts of both organizations by eliminating their leaders. The mercenaries who had been Mud Squad were tasked to assassinate Mandalore the Crusader and Swindle.