The war that had begun two years earlier had spread throughout the galaxy, with brutal battles taking place on Belsavis, Voss, Corellia, and Ilum. While the Republic and the Empire battled one another, they also had cause to join against mutual enemies, such as when Darth Malgus declared his "New Empire" and unleashed a stealth armada using Ilum's Adegan crystals, and the siege of the palace of Karagga the Unyielding, the Hutt Cartel's Supreme Mogul, on Nal Hutta.
After the death of Karagga, Toborro rose to power as the new Supreme Mogul of the Hutt Cartel, and sought to take advantage of the war between the Empire and the Republic in order to establish the Hutt Cartel as a dominant force in the galaxy. To achieve this, the Cartel seized control of the independent resource-rich world of Makeb, on the border between the Republic and Hutt Space. The seizure was aided by the Hutts purchasing the loyalty of the InterStellar Regulators, a mercenary army that had served as Makeb's defense force. While a handful opposed the Hutt takeover, the vast majority of the Regulators joined the Cartel's forces in claiming the planet.
Toborro's ultimate intention was to end the war between the Republic and the Empire and bring the galaxy under the dominance of the Hutt Cartel, harkening to the glory days of the ancient Hutt Empire. The key to the Hutts' plans for galactic conquest was a substance found only on Makeb known as "isotope-5", which possessed tremendous gravity-twisting properties. Even a small amount of this substance could serve as a near-unlimited power source, giving the Hutts a tremendous advantage.
The galaxy responds
The Hutt Cartel's power grab on Makeb raised alarms among leaders of the Republic. The Jedi High Council, after meditating on the matter, believed that the Hutts intended Makeb to be a staging ground for a greater war of conquest. Supreme Chancellor Leontyne Saresh personally travelled to Keylander Station in orbit of Makeb to oversee the deployment of Republic forces, calling upon heroes of the Republic and the Jedi Order to liberate Makeb from the Hutts' tyrannical rule and end the Cartel's ambitions. In return for Republic support, the people of Makeb - long independent from the conflicts that had engulfed the galaxy - were prepared to formally join the Republic.
The Empire also had a vested interest in the battle for Makeb, as their initial victories in the renewed war with the Republic had been overturned by Malgus' rebellion and by increasing infighting among the Sith. By the time of Makeb's conquest, the Empire was estimated to be on the brink of collapse, which would occur within the year barring a miraculous reversal of fortune. Learning of the Hutt conquest and the discovery of isotope-5, Dark Council member Darth Marr devised a plan where a handful of operatives, aided by an elite support team, would secure the Cartel's supplies of isotope-5 without arousing suspicion from either the Hutts or the Republic, whose forces on Makeb vastly outnumbered anything the Empire could bring to bear.
The Republic forces arrive
The Republic coordinated efforts for the liberation of Makeb with Shalim Avesta, leader of the Makeb Business Council and de facto Chief of State. Operating from his secluded plantation, Avesta led a small band of his personal guard and loyalist Regulators who refused to betray the people of Makeb. When Saresh's emissaries arrived, he reiterated that the people of Makeb would be willing to join the Republic if they ended the Hutt occupation. In the first order of business, Avesta requested that the Republic forces locate his niece, Dr. Lemda Avesta, a geophysicist who had gone to find evidence that the Hutts' deep-core drilling was responsible for the increasingly serious groundquakes on Makeb's surface when she was captured by the Regulators. After meeting with her rescuers in a groundquake shelter, Lemda revealed that the seismic readings proved the Hutts had sealed Makeb's fate. The groundquakes would increase in severity and cause entire mesas to collapse, and eventually gravitational decay would destroy Makeb's atmosphere, killing all life on the surface.
While imprisoned by the Regulators, Lemda overheard a conversation pertaining to a Hutt contingency plan called "Project Failsafe". After returning to the Avesta plantation, she informed her uncle and the Republic forces of her discovery, believing that it was intended to stabilize Makeb in the event of a major crisis. Ilosov, head of the loyalist Regulator forces, believed that the data pertaining to it would be found in the computers of the Hutt Cartel's embassy in Talaos City, the planetary capital. Chief Hurkwill, Talaos City's former head of security, had set up the defenses of the embassy when the Hutts arrived, and gave the Republic team tips on how to circumvent and disable them. Once inside, they convinced Ecklin, the Mon Calamari representative to the Cartel, to grant access to the embassy archives, where they found a message to Toborro from a Devaronian named Veedrig revealing the true nature of Project Failsafe: The construction of a massive starship, "the Ark", to carry Toborro, his entourage and his entire supply of isotope-5, leaving Makeb to its death.
Lemda determined that the Ark was being constructed as a hollowed-out mesa known as the Giant's Spear. The Republic forces moved in and engaged the Regulator defenders, and forced the construction crew to complete the Ark for the evacuation of Makeb. In response, Toborro sent an army of Regulator war droids to march on the Avesta plantation. Shalim Avesta worked out a plan to lure the war droids out by sending them false orders, then luring them onto a hard light bridge - the main means of foot travel between mesas - and retracting it as the droids walked onto it, sending them falling seven kilometers down into the planet's core. The Republic forces then boarded the Storm Carrier, a massive floating battle platform that acted as the Regulators' command ship, and overloaded its reactor. As the ship's power failed, they also managed to defeat Vice Commandant Grevin, the Regulator commander, and his elite guard before escaping from the crashing vessel.  Stubbornly refusing to give up despite the odds turning against him, Toborro unleashed a series of isotope-5 war droids against the city of Tarlam, threatening to unleash more droids to massacre Makeb's citizens if Avesta and the Republic did not surrender the Ark. In response, the Republic forces went to Tarlam, destroyed the isotope-5 droids, and evacuated the town.
Though the Republic held the Ark, Toborro gloated that they would never get it to fly without the isotope-5 fuel rods. Calling on engineer Gez Addar to examine the Ark, they confirmed this, with Addar stating outright that only the isotope-5 fuel rods could propel such a massive vessel through Makeb's atmosphere. In order to gain access to the fuel rods, the Republic forces turned to an unlikely ally - Dr. Juvard Illip Oggurobb, a well-respected Hutt scientist who had designed the Ark and a series of war droids running on isotope-5. Dr. Oggurobb offered his expertise on Toborro's technologies in exchange for passage off-world. Toborro had increased his mining operations to maximum, accelerating the destabilization of Makeb's core. While taking control of and shutting down the deep-core laser drills, the Republic team encountered Private Vendelik, the son of a Makeb mining foreman who had joined the Imperial Military to defend his homeworld. Mortally wounded by Hutt Cartel forces, Vendelik informed the Republic team that in order to stabilize the core, they had to reduce the pressure by venting the emergency release valves. Taking over the primary control center, the Republic team managed to vent the massive heat buildup in the planet's core, buying enough time to obtain the fuel rods.
- "When you are all dead, Toborro will still remain! This galaxy is mine!"
- ―Toborro's madness becomes clear
Realizing that Toborro was insane, the leadership of the Hutt Cartel turned on him and sought to negotiate with the Republic heroes who had opposed them. Shalim Avesta was outraged, given how readily the Cartel had followed him in its conquest of Makeb, but the Republic forces were able to negotiate an agreement with the Cartel leadership, allowing them passage off Makeb aboard the Ark if the Cartel ended its neutrality and aligned with the Republic in the war against the Empire. With no choice, the Cartel agreed. However, Toborro still held the fuel rods to the Ark within his palace. Dr. Oggurobb revealed that he had constructed a secret passageway into the palace that Toborro himself was unaware of. With his help, the Republic team could enter Toborro's palace and end his madness once and for all.
Confronting Toborro in his throne room, the Republic forces were forced to contend with a massive isotope-5 war droid known as "Toborro's Glittering Fury", which held the fuel rods needed for the Ark. Despite the immense power of the war machine, the Republic team destroyed it, claiming the fuel rods. The mad Hutt lord ignited his private supply of isotope-5, intending to take his attackers with him; the Republic forces escaped from the palace as it collapsed, burying Toborro beneath it. The ignition of the isotope-5 caused increased tectonic activity, but the fuel rods were safely delivered and the Ark managed to lift off into the atmosphere, while the Republic forces escaped the collapsing Giant's Spear onboard Shalim Avesta's personal shuttle.
The Empire makes its move
While the Republic was evacuating Makeb, Darth Marr had dispatched his strike team via shuttle to the surface, but Makeb's atmospheric turbulence caused the shuttle to crash on one of the planet's mesas. In order to maintain a link between orbit and the surface, the Sith ground force had to take control of one of the planet's gravity hooks, massive turbolifts running from the surface to a platform in orbit. Gravity Hook Seven, the closest one to the crash site, was chosen for the operation. After neutralizing the Regulators' communications on the surface, the team rode up to the orbital docking ring and confronted the Whiphid Commander J'Ruush, who commanded the gravity hook on behalf of an "Archon". Once J'Ruush was slain and Gravity Hook Seven taken, the Sith forces met the leaders of their support team - Katha Niar, a Human bureaucrat from the Ministry of Logistics; Captain Hanthor, a Cathar officer recruited as part of the "Alien Initiatives" following Malgus' attempted coup; and Lord Cytharat, a Pureblood Sith who had been a student of Malgus, and continued to serve the Empire in atonement for Malgus' betrayal.
The first step in claiming the isotope-5 was track down Solida Hesk, the Zabrak businesswoman whose corporation had initially discovered it. Niar and her team determined that Hesk was hosting a summit of three Hutt clan lords at her resort estate on one of Makeb's mesas. Gaining access to the estate and the Hesk corporation's records, the Imperial team was able to determine that a large stockpile of isotope-5 was being held in a vault designated "Stronghold One", initially designed for the planetary treasury. In order to ensure Stronghold One would not receive reinforcements, the Imperial team organized a revolt of the planet's citizens led by Pollus Avesta, the brother of Shalim Avesta, who was leading resistance forces in the field.
Once the planet was in open revolt, the Neimoidian scientist Nadrin Tro of the New Thinking Division proposed that a series of explosive charges be set off in the volcanic mesa where Stronghold One stood, destroying its primary power source - including its security grid - without arousing suspicion. Once the detonation was set, the strike team went in to claim the isotope-5 vault, with Cytharat leading troops in support to prevent reinforcements from following. Guarding the entrance to the vault was a massive prototype war droid, and the Imperial team was forced to redirect the room's turret defenses to make a dent in it, and also lower a forcefield holding back magma to break through its energy shields.
Upon entering the vault itself, the team discovered only one full isotope-5 container; the rest had been used to build an army of similar battle droids. One droid came to life and activated a holocom. The Hutt who appeared identified himself as Szajin, "First Archon of the New Hutt Empire and shadow chief of the conquest-world Makeb", and claimed that all the isotope-5 he had not already used was in Makeb's core - and once the core exploded, the isotope would be destroyed with it. The droid then attacked, but was subsequently destroyed. However, all of the droids began to activate, and the Imperial team was forced to escape. Darth Marr was displeased to learn that the isotope was gone, Makeb was on the brink of destruction, and the Hutts were aware of the Empire's presence. The Dark Councillor was working to forge a new regime for the Empire, united in a common cause and no longer shackled to an unseen Emperor, and isotope-5 was the key to achieving it.
Consulting with the support team, as well as science and engineering experts from Taris and Quesh, it was determined that an energy pulse in Makeb's core was required to map out all of the deposits of isotope-5, and from there a way would be developed to stabilize the core. The abandoned drilling station where the isotope was first discovered was determined to be the ideal place to set off the pulse, but it also caused a groundquake. After initiating the experiment, the team raced to an emergency bunker, they were confronted by a Regulator squad, sent by the Archon, who had been keeping tabs on the mine. After defeating the Regulators, the team made it to the bunker, where they were trapped for six hours before Katha Niar and a squad of Imperial troops came to rescue them.
After rescuing local engineers to run the drilling platforms, the Imperial support team developed a plan to restore the core's equilibrium, disrupted by the rapid removal of isotope-5, by firing the mining drills into it and accelerating the destabilization process. The destabilization would be too rapid to cause the projected core explosion, and eventually the core would achieve a new state of equilibrium. The Imperial team moved to capture the three mining platforms - the same platforms that had been initially shut down by the Republic. Once all three drills were taken, the drills were fired into the core, causing massive tectonic and volcanic activity planet-wide. However, the intended aim was achieved, and the core achieved equilibrium.
The team then received a transmission from Darth Marr, informing them that the Republic and Hutt forces were fleeing the planet, believing it was now in its death throes; the team informed him that the core had been stabilized. The increase of isotope-5 energy had begun to disrupt offworld communications, and it would be some time before they would be restored.
Showdown with the Archon
- "You call yourselves men of war? Observe, and see what an Archon of the old Hutt Empire can do!"
- ―Archon Szajin engages his Imperial opponents
Upon returning to the abandoned drill station, which had become the Imperial base camp for the stabilizing operation, the Imperial strike team learned that the Archon had sent an elite Regulator squad in an assault shuttle, and took Katha Niar and others prisoner for interrogation. From them, Szajin could learn exactly what the Empire was doing on Makeb. To stop him, the Imperial team travelled to the outskirts of the Archon's palace, not far from that of Toborro, finding it was protected by a powerful energy shield. Taking control of each of the three laser batteries, the Imperial team was able to penetrate the shield and make their way inside the Archon's stronghold. There, they found Niar nearly dead, having been tortured by Szajin to obtain information of the Empire's movements on Makeb.
Entering the Archon's throne room, they found him in conference with three Regulator commanders who were evacuating their troops, and reassured them that he had proof Makeb was not in imminent danger of exploding. Once the atmospheric interference cleared, he would recall the fleet. The Archon's throne moved back to reveal a gigantic war machine powered by isotope-5, and he took the controls to face his Imperial opponents personally with a rain of missiles and a powerful laser beam, reinforced by refueling droids empowering his creation with isotope-5. The Imperial team stood their ground and destroyed the Archon's war machine, and managed to preserve the secret of their success. Katha Niar succumbed to her wounds shortly thereafter.
After the successful evacuation, Shalim and Lemda Avesta met with Supreme Chancellor Saresh on Keylander Station. Saresh chastized the Avestas for concealing the fact that Makeb was unstable, to which Shalim, and the Republic team that had aided him, replied that the Hutts' deep-core mining had caused the instability. The Chancellor was also less than pleased with having to ally with the Hutts after what they had done to the planet, but recognized the necessity of an ally in the conflict with the Empire.
The Empire, however, managed to achieve the goal they had set out to accomplish: securing Makeb and its supply of isotope-5 for the Empire, all without attracting the notice of the Republic. However, it came on the heels of an announcement by the Republic leadership that the Sith Emperor, whose disappearance had triggered Malgus' attempted coup, had been slain by the Jedi. Darth Marr confirmed that the Emperor was gone, either dead or dying, and it would be up to the Dark Council to reform the Empire into a more stable regime, and the isotope-5 they had secured would be a major step in that direction.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Rise of the Hutt Cartel (First appearance)
Notes and references
- Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopedia
- Video Documentary: Conflict on Makeb, on SWTOR.com
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Imperial Mission: "Countdown to Doomsday" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Republic Mission: "Trouble in Paradise" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Republic Mission: "Shelter from the Storm" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Republic Mission: "Failsafe" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Republic Mission: "The Ark" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Republic Mission: "Hitting the Hutts" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Republic Mission: "Old Feuds" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Republic Mission: "Consulting the Expert" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Republic Mission: "Planetary Surgery" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Republic Mission: "Taking on Toborro" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Imperial Mission: "To Pierce the Heavens" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Imperial Mission: "The Monstrous Mesa of Solida Hesk" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Imperial Mission: "A World Aflame" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Imperial Mission: "Stealing Thunder" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Imperial Mission: "Descent into the Core" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Imperial Mission: "Recruitment Day" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Imperial Mission: "A Cure for Armageddon" on Makeb
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Imperial Mission: "Revenge of the Archon" on Makeb