Star Wars: Aberrant Cause

Chapter 14

A Jedi on a leash was a prized possession for any pirate to have. Toropu, a Quarren captain with an entire fleet of virulent warships allied to him, was very pleased with the one that had been brought before him. Aveyla became the crowning piece of his collection of slaves and servants. Not only was she a Jedi, but she was beautiful as well. Her mannerisms indicated she had already been enslaved sometime in her life, which made it easier to subdue her, but as a measure of control a collar was put around her neck that could be activated by any of his crew, and it would send such a shock of pain through her that prolonged use would possibly kill her. While she was defiant at first, months of seclusion and repeated uses of the collar had reverted Aveyla into the quiet, introverted child that Sheon had found on Nar Shaddaa.

Rowdy parties on the pirate's flagship, the Affluent, were a common thing. The whole fleet pillaged random ships or convoys, but also raided nearby systems and generally was a notorious menace to that part of the galaxy. Due to a thin presence of Imperial and New Republic authorities, the group acted with a large degree of freedom, which afforded them ships and equipment that were unrivaled in the area. Toropu rewarded his crew lavishly and punished them violently, which assured that he remained at the head of his organization despite his chaotic profession. Even his Jedi slave was shared with the fleet, as long as they dared to risk bodily harm by getting too close to her. Even with her restraints, Aveyla made use of her training and had seriously injured many of Toropu's crew, though the months and months of confinement were beginning to wear down her defenses and the frequency pirates thrown across the room or being choked by an invisible hand slowly waned. It became more of a game with the crew, with each ruffian seeing how much they could get away with before being slammed against a bulkhead, which would then earn the woman a shock from her collar. Some reacted with disoriented laughter, while others fumed with anger and revenge, but none were ever to seriously harm the slave, on orders from Toropu. He watched with the utmost pleasure as she came closer and closer to breaking, waiting for the day where she give up and be ravaged by the crew.

Aveyla's restraints were not only a collar around her neck. With the training she received and the power she possessed, she could have easily decimated her captors and tried to escape, but there was something else that drove her back to a shadow of herself.

She was afraid.

The memory of Xerros's fate made her fear her own power, though she also feared that there was another power harbored somewhere in her heart. While the revulsion at being touched and molested by the pirates made her utilize the Force in defense, she held back her anger and desire to have revenge upon them. Every time she felt the anger well inside of her, she felt the black spot in her heart become stronger and the same power that had killed her Jedi Master threatened to overtake her. Despite knowing it would earn her freedom and justice for her captors, she fought it desperately.

Losing herself to that power was a worse fate than the one she suffered under Toropu, for she felt once she gave into it, she would never be able to face Sheon again. So she endured, fighting with herself and with the pirates, unsure how she would ever break free of her chains and whether she would someday tear down the ship around them.

It was a dark time for her.

Sitting a short distance away and looking out over the pirate fleet, Saz was cradling his chin in the cockpit of the Peripheral Muse. It was possibly the largest fleet he had dared to assault. Despite the fact it was made up of older ships, he recognized the upgraded gun turrets and fighter patrols, which told him that the captain of the group invested his money into keeping his teeth sharp, which was certainly the primary reason that he could still operate in such a lawless region.

Even with the impressive upgrades to their ships, Saz had remained in the area undetected for hours as he observed the movements and transmissions of the fleet. It was a testament to his own teeth. "Technician, I have calculated the possibility that the organic Aveyla Rom is present on the capital ship as seventy-three percent. I have also calculated a successful direct assault on a fleet of this size at thirty percent," said N4 over the speakers in the cockpit.

"Thirty percent, huh?" Saz repeated, looking exhaustively at the Star Destroyer Affluent. It was the challenge, for even though it was an older design, it was still potent and the assault required him to infiltrate the ship on foot, something he never liked to do. Still, the reward was worth the risk and Saz had already been thinking about how to proceed. "N4, I already have a plan, but it requires you to be able to fly around by yourself and not crash into a planet or something," Saz said, sitting up straight and running a last system check on his ship.

N4 was silent a moment. "Technician, the chances of impacting a planet in this area are statistically impossible. Your attempt at making humor at the expense of my navigating capabilities does not seem fitting for the situation," it replied.

"Just trying to expand your programming, buddy," Saz said with a smile, working on a computer terminal at his right hand, "Can you do this?"

N4 processed the flight plan and details input into the terminal. "Technician, I have amended the chances of success to seventy-two percent, provided an adequate distraction can be provided to instigate this course of action," it said plainly.

Saz smiled and checked his sidearm, the pushed it back into its holster. "Don't worry. With a Venatorlike that, I think I have a good idea," he said and prepared to put his plan to capture Aveyla Rom into motion.

On the bridge of the Affluent, Captain Toropu was sitting his command chair and staring out over empty space. His bridge crew was mindlessly talking about trivial things, which included the recent attempts to subdue the Jedi slave in Toropu's grasp. The subject made the Quarren sneer at the thought of breaking the Jedi and the pleasures that would follow, but he was a very patient man and enjoyed the process just as much as the payment. Waiting would make that day all the more gratifying.

"Captain Toropu, we've detected a ship nearby," one of his crew said, bringing him from his daze.

"Be more specific, you lug. What kind of ship," Toropu said, looking from the man to the empty space out his front window.

The man did not answer, which drew a sharp glance from his commander. "I'm sorry, but it's not there anymore. There was a small ship, but then it disappeared," he said reluctantly, obviously not wanting to earn the ire of his captain.

Toropu slammed his hand down on the arm of his chair, glaring furiously at the man. "Don't report to me on sensor ghosts! If there was a ship out there, you would see it!" he roared.

"Sir!" said another member of his crew, "I'm also detecting a ship out there." By the time Toropu even looked over at the new claim, the ship had disappeared from the sensors.

Over the course of a few minutes, the ghost ship appeared and disappeared off the sensors and several other cruisers in the fleet also reported the ship, though no one could verify it visually or maintain a lock.

Toropu was silent. He sat looking out into the blackness of space, trying to analyze the situation. While he was normally patient, the proximity and frequency of the contacts made him agitated and that caused him to appear out of control of the situation, something he did not like. He continued to look out of the breadth of windows, despite the fact they did not show him anything. "Send out a fighter patrol," he ordered.

After the pilots were scrambled, the long bow doors of the Affluent began to open in preparation to launch Toropu's fighters. Having a couple of squadrons of agile fighters had always been one of Toropu's advantages over his enemies and he thoroughly enjoyed watching his ship break open to release them into the fray. He had even risen from his chair and approached the windows to see his ship open its massive jaws, a gratified look in his eyes.

Before a single fighter could even leave the flight deck, a torpedo materialized out of nowhere and rocked the launch bays with a huge explosion, nearly sending Toropu into the pit crew beside him. The whole ship shuddered at the explosion and nearly half of the fighters were lost. By the time Toropu had regained his footing and glared out the window, two other ships in his fleet were being lit by explosions. He was aghast. "Launch fighters! Target the enemy! Bring the cannons on line!" he was howling, but despite the fact his crew was working frantically to obey, nothing was happening on the outside of the ship.

"Sir! We don't detect any enemy ships!" one of his crew yelled.

Toropu was furious, berating the woman for not being able to see an attack when it was destroying the ship around them, yet another explosion tore into the ship and power fluttered. It only enraged the Quarren more.

While fighters had finally escaped the gored launch bay and were frantically searching for a target, not one ship in the fleet could find the source of the destruction, despite the net of sensors strewn all about. More and more destruction rained down as missiles destroyed fighters and laser-fire strafed a smaller corvette, but it was only when one of the cruisers began to fire randomly into space did ships bear fire on other ships. Toropu's fleet began to fire on itself, either out of fear of betrayal or simply because they were panicked by the assault. Chaos erupted, but a carefully crafted plan was already in effect.

Near a docking bay on the Affluent, Saz was pressed against a wall as the ship was being rocked all around him, watching frantic pirates running through the hallways. His plan, thus far, had been working fine, though the Star Destroyer was being tossed about more than he had anticipated. "Hey! Watch that friendly fire!" he howled into his interface, scolding N4 for attacking the capital ship while he was on board.

"Technician, I have not fired upon the primary since you boarded. Other ships within the fleet are firing on one another, including the one you are on. Perhaps this was not such a good idea," said a crackling voice over his interface.

Still reluctant and stiff, Saz had not moved from his place mostly because he did not know if the next part of his plan was going to work. The ship was rocked once more and nearly threw him to the decks, which was motivating him more and more to get moving. "Not really the best part of my plan, but too late to stop now! Keep up the diversion, N4!" he yelled and dashed into the hallways where hundreds of pirates were flowing through the ship to try and mediate the conflict.

In the chaos, no one paid much attention to Saz. As he was dressed in unremarkable clothing and was armed like any other pirate, he was mistaken for a member of the crew, even ordered several times to get to his station. With his heart racing and his blaster holstered, he navigated the damaged ship in his search for the Jedi.

Outside the ship, a battle of misconception raged on. Being invisible to the surrounding fleet, the Peripheral Muse pierced the breaking lines of ships, firing her weapons randomly not to attack, but to confuse. Some other commanders thought their allies would attack them, which only fueled on the conflict and despite the fact Toropu was trying to get control on the situation, he also found himself firing on several ships, if only to save his own.

The search for Aveyla Rom took longer than anticipated. There were too many things that could happen if the fighting died down or if the ship was damaged too much, so time was his greatest enemy. While familiar with the layout of that class of ship, it was nearly impossible to recall the schematics while running on damaged decks and adrenaline. Reality was a harsher opponent than study.

When he finally came across the holding cells, Saz was drenched with sweat and already fighting a desire to abandon the mission and escape the ship. His blaster in hand and a stun grenade in the other, he slowly walked through the cell block, looking in each cell for something that resembled the data he had been sent from Utility. Most cells were empty, while some had wild prisoners and defiant crew members.

Coming upon an occupied cell, he found a young Twi'lek woman slumped against the corner, her eyes open and her hand pressed securely against the wall, as if to feel the throes of the ship with her flesh. While the inside of the ship was bedlam, she appeared displaced from it all and almost welcoming the destruction. The look on her face fascinated Saz, for he had never seen such despair before. He had also never seen such an exotically beautiful woman.

"Hey! Are you Aveyla Rom!?" he yelled at her, trying to get a good look at her face. She did not respond, despite a tremor at the sound of her own name. Her masters never learned her name, which was by merit of a slave's existence, so hearing it called to her disturbed her strange complacency.

Saz could not wait for her to answer and snorted, aiming at the control panel for the cell and destroying it with a single shot. "Twi'lek, female, purple. It works for me," he said to himself and took a defensive stance, remembering she was reported as possibly a Jedi. "Come with me and I'll get you out of here," he called to her, though his blaster was kept trained on her.

Finally her eyes moved, shifting over to the alien figure calling to her in the chaos. After her months of torture at the hands of Toropu, she had welcomed the destruction that was going on around her. To be consumed with the ship would have been an acceptable fate to her, yet some stranger had come with a blaster and intent, neither of which she wanted. Her progression among owners and masters had defined most of her life and she had grown tired of it, her resolve nearly gone. Had she been kept much longer, subject to the foul smiles and rough hands of the pirates, she might have simply given in to her dark urges and let her power destroy everything around her. There was only a single thought that kept her going, and it was finding one of the very few to ever show her true kindness.

A thought of Sheon spurred her into action.

A sudden force threw Saz against the wall of the cell block and he grunted in surprise, nearly dropping his blaster and grenade. Aveyla was on the move, rushing past him and headed to wherever she could find a ship. She said nothing, nor wanted anything from the stranger, but such a chance would not come again and she knew she had to escape, even if she did not know to where to go.

Saz regained his bearings quickly and looked at the empty cell, then cursed his luck. He did not have time to chase around a rogue Jedi on a slowly exploding ship, so he was quick to run out after her, not knowing what to expect. The Twi'lek woman was trapped at the end of the passageway where debris had blocked the path, so when Saz rushed out he let out a yell of surprise. She was not more than five meters away, yet she looked disoriented and weak, as though she had none of the power renowned to Jedi.

Saz pointed his blaster at her. As if feeling his presence, she slowly turned her head to look at him and the utter apathy in her eyes once again gave Saz a moment of awe. Dark shadows bathed her figure in an ominous light and her tranquil posture sent a shiver down his back. Almost an eternity passed between them, bound by mere seconds before the ship was once again twisted by battle, bringing Saz from his daze.

Without a word, he tossed the stun grenade and spun back into the cell block to be spared of its effect. The hallway pulsed with a bright light, and then was silent.

Peaking out, blaster first, Saz found the woman in a heap on the floor, unconscious and limp. He expected not even a Jedi could deny the affects of a stun grenade, but still approached her reluctantly and with his weapon firmly aimed. After checking her and making sure she was incapacitated, he found himself looking over her face, which was beautiful, but sad. It made him linger a moment, before finally shaking it off and throwing her over his shoulders.

"So light…" he remarked, feeling her soft skin under his touch and the lack of her resistance. While visibly enamored with her, he could not allow such a distraction when his escape would be twice as difficult as his approach. With his captive in tow, the pirates would be sure to notice him. That fact was compounded by the extra baggage in his hands, but he now knew the way back to the extraction point.

For some reason, he felt stronger and faster than before, and he was more confident that he could accomplish his task. He did not know where the sudden boost came from.

"N4," Saz said into his interface, "Meet me at the dock. I'm on my way."

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