Star Wars: Aberrant Cause

Chapter 15

Aveyla awoke in a slow, sluggish manner. The shock of forced sedation had become uneasily familiar to her and she did not feel the usual fear of waking up in a strange new place. Her figure slumped and her hand on her forehead, she tried to focus her eyes and her breathing, not paying attention to the strange sounds or smells around her. Her time in Toropu's possession had dulled her sense of time and she barely remembered the trauma associated with her departure, for she assumed whoever took her would be no different and her new surroundings were merely a cell of a different color.

Slowly, her senses began to adjust.

There was a rough, warm blanket draped over her and the bedding she was on was soft. The air was warm, but stale. An aromatic smell filled her nose and her tired eyes fell on a bowl of various foods. It was a strange departure from her usual madness, but the smell of the food and soft bedding aroused her wits, making a tremor run through her stomach loudly.

Rubbing her hand across her emaciated stomach, she flicked her tongue over her dry lips and glanced around the room, which was mostly empty aside from boxes and supplies. Dignity gave away to hunger and she snatched the food, hungrily shoving in her mouth despite the danger it might possess. Toropu's men had barely fed her lately, so the food was greatly welcomed, though due to her weakened state and the speed at which she ate, she choked and nearly heaved the food back onto the deck plates of the room.

"Slow down and take it easy," said a voice, which startled her. She quickly felt defensive and her body tightened, with her eyes falling on Saz, the man who had taken her from Toropu. He stood at a distance, his posture also full of tension and his hand resting on the grip of his blaster. He was looking at her with concern, but he was also wary of her.

Due to exhaustion, but also due to depression, she stayed perched on the bed, the bare skin on her back pressed against the rough, cold metal of the wall. She did not know the man, nor understood why he had taken her. All she knew was pain and betrayal, which made her as dangerous as a cornered animal.

Saz watched her with a mixture of pity and apprehension. While he was concerned with her deteriorated health, he knew nothing about her, including just what Jedi powers she could use on him. He also found himself unconsciously pouring his eyes over her, amazed that a woman could be so beautifully shadowed. The curve of her body and the heaving of her breasts dominated his vision, not to mention the abundance of the lavender skin he could see. While he had always preserved the memory of Alexis, he had been alone in the Shed for a long time and his primal instincts reacted to her primal allure, making him drop his guard ever so slightly.

"Look, I'm not going to hurt you so why don't you…" he began, stepping towards her with a relaxed posture, but a sudden gesture from her hand locked an invisible force around his throat, making him gag loudly and grasp at it. Even as he lifted into the air slightly, the toes of his boots barely able to graze the floor, he struggled to fight it, not fully realizing the situation. A dark, sinister look was in her eyes and it seemed displaced from the rest of her, like it was coming from someone just behind her.

Oddly, the look in her eyes also told him she did not want to hurt him. He was confounded by her duality.

Feeling he was not going to be let go by her generous side, Saz struggled to get his hand to his blaster and pulled it to bear on her, trying as best as he could against the onset of unconsciousness. Had he been able to aim properly, he would have shot her in the head, but his aim was shaky and the shot he fired impacted the wall next to her head, making a burst of rust and metal spray into the air and claw her across the cheek and throat, something that broke her trance and made her yelp out loudly. Saz fell to the deck hard and coughed, clutching his throat and trying to fill his lungs with air. He could barely believe he had let his guard down enough to be in that situation.

Inwardly, he berated himself for being careless.

Sitting back and raising his blaster to her again, he found her clutching her bleeding skin, her body collapsed on the bed and her breathing heavier than before. It was if she had been assaulted even more than he had, and now was released in much the same manner. Despite the fact she had lifted him from the deck with a raised hand, he found her looking pathetic and small, like a small girl who feared the dark night. His pity did not allow him to relax this time, but he did revel in the fact that she was so fascinating to him that he was happy he had not turned her over to Utility yet.

He simply had to learn more about her.

"I…don't want to hurt you, but…don't do that again," he hacked, rubbing his neck with his free hand and keeping his sights on her. When she failed to respond and remained motionless on the bed, he struggled to his feet and caught his breath, amazed such a fragile woman could be so powerful. "Is your name Aveyla Rom?" he asked, though was convinced he had the right Jedi Twi'lek slave girl.

Aveyla felt the stinging wounds on her skin and the receding darkness in her heart. Her eyes lingered on the man and the blaster pointed at her head, with a part of her wishing he had not missed. Weak and afraid, she did not answer him at first, curling her body up around her as she lamented her fate. Her despair might have consumed her, until her lithe fingers ran protectively across the nape of her neck and found no collar or chains. The man had removed them, for whatever reason, which meant she could assault him without reprieve.

That small fact gave her hope as she look at him.

Hugging her mostly naked body and relaxing against the dark currents in her heart, she answered him with a single nod, assuming her lost identity. Saz noted her eventual response and relaxed a bit as well. "My name is Saz, and even though I seem to get thumped every time I say this, I'm not going to hurt you. Do you understand?" he said firmly, keeping his eyes locked on her.

Again, she nodded, but nothing more.

Saz took this as a sign that he would not get attacked this time and he slowly lowered his blaster, though kept it in hand. His other hand was still rubbing his throat, as if he could help dispel the crushing sensation that still lingered. "Okay, I hope we have an understanding then. You don't choke me from across the room and I won't shoot you in the face," he said, trying to lighten the mood, though the lack of her response denied him of that.

Still hacking, Saz gestured to the food with his blaster and bobbed his weapon, hoping she would understand and continue eating. He turned from the room and stumbled back towards his ship, figuring his first encounter with a Jedi a success since he was still alive. He collapsed onto a crate and rolled onto his back, coughing and hacking, while resting his blaster across his chest.

"Technician, how did your interview with the organic Aveyla Rom go?" N4 asked from the open cockpit of the ship, its voice echoed from the interface on his wrist.

Saz convulsed and pressed the cold metal of his gun to his forehead, as if to ward the throbbing from his mind. "Great, N4, just great. Everything went great," he groaned, "If I pass out, wake me up if she tries to kill me again."

While the man was obviously trying to recover from the encounter, N4 computed his response and the status of his body signals. It was an obvious contradiction.

Once more, the droid was befuddled. "I'll never understand organics," it said.

For the next several days, the atmosphere in the Shed was tense. Aveyla remained in the storage bay, silent and displaced as she regained her strength. After their first encounter, Saz only entered the room to bring her food and water, and he carried his blaster at his side each time. As he went about his business keeping the base in working order, he would only hear her moving to use the toilet, though soon afterwards she would quickly return to the storage bay and then fall silent once more. While it was strange to have a visitor, it was as if she was not even there, so he could barely tell the difference.

Aveyla did not know what the man wanted from her. Whenever she passed to a new master, she would almost immediately begin serving them, yet he had not requested a single thing from her. It was strange. A part of her felt guilty for attacking him and that he was giving her food and water without demanding anything in return, but her defenses were still lingering from her enslavement to Toropu and the fate of Master Xerros, which led her to continue avoiding him.

After some time in this arrangement, Aveyla had gotten her strength back and felt a victim to her curiosity. She did not know where they were, whether a station or a ship. It brought her to depart her haven, her coarse blanket clutched around her, to see just where she was and how she might escape.

Her explorations did not take long. She already knew the way to the bathroom and there very few other rooms not sealed off. Moving slowly, she examined every place she found until she came across the hangar where the Peripheral Muse sat. The black ship looked very inviting to her and she saw it as her only way to escape and continue her hunt for Sheon.

Her bare feet padded on the grimy floor quietly as her eyes remained on the ship, but a sudden burst of compressed air startled her and she flung her eyes upwards to an open access hatch. The hatch was quickly filled with the torso of the man who had taken her and he was coughing loudly. Smudges and dirt caked him and he was sweating from the repairs, but he soon realized she was standing there and their eyes met.

Time froze. Saz did not expect her to be out and about. Since he was repairing in the service tunnels, he did not have his blaster and was armed only with his small utility blade. Since she could effortlessly choke from three meters away, he did not feel entirely confident about his chances should she become angry once more.

He stared at her like a man caught in infidelity. "Just so you know, there are ten automated defense turrets aimed at you right now so don't get any funny ideas, Jedi," he hissed.

Aveyla took a step back and looked around for the defense system, her eyes wide with fright. Despite an overwhelming desire to run back to her room, her eyes wandered back up to him and she pulled the blanket around her even tighter, her bottom lip bit in anticipation of his cruel command to open fire and end her life.

Saz barely believed she was the same person who had nearly choked him to death. She appeared like a frightened animal, and her wide eyes and fearful expression accentuated her beauty. Against logic, he felt guilty for lying to her, but also felt intoxicated by her. Her movements were primal and her silence fed the mystery about her. Talking to her even under false duress made his heart race and his hands sweat. It was a strange effect that she had on him.

"Wait right there. If you run away, you'll be gunned down in an instant," he lied once more, then crawled out of the access way and onto the stepladder. Descending to the hangar floor, he immediately walked over and started to put his blaster on, trying to act composed about it but feeling extremely rushed to arm himself. Once he was finally armed, he turned to her, his back against his ship and his hands busy running a rag over them to clean off the grime. "So, Jedi, are you ready talk now?" he asked, trying to convey authority upon her.

Her response was silence, and she was trembling under the blanket. Once more, Saz felt a wave of guilt wash over him and he felt like he was bullying a small girl.

Instead of her voice, a mechanical voice came crackling out from the open cockpit of the ship as N4 decided to join in. "Technician, I was unaware that you installed a turret defense grid in the facility," it said, though the observation drew a hard elbow from the man, who inwardly realized the futility in trying to physically jab an armor-plated warship.

"You're not helping," Saz growled up to the ship.

While he expected the revelation to draw some response from the woman, Aveyla was still in place, clutching the blanket tightly and keeping her eyes fixed on him. Saz found that surprising. "Well, there may not be a defense turret grid but there are electrical restraints built into the floor to restrict the movements of prisoners," he explained, once more plainly lying to her.

"Technician, I was unaware that you…" N4 once again start, but this time Saz cut him off by pressing a button on his interface and cutting the transmission.

"Again not helping," he nearly sung, annoyed at his clueless partner. He quickly looked back to his visitor and found her still anchored to the floor, with the blanket falling further and further over her face, as if she was trying to retreat from him. It made him sigh loudly and tip his hat up, the perplexed look on his face reflecting just how confused he was about her. "Seriously, do you even speak Basic?" he mused, more to himself than to her.

"What do you want from me?" she asked from the depths of her covering.

Saz was shocked. Hearing her voice for the first time gave him a lewd sense of accomplishment and he cocked his head slightly, as if trying to see her now shaded face. "Right now? I'll be satisfied with you not turning me to mush with your crazy Jedi powers," he replied, trying to garner a response from her.

She was silent a moment. "I'm not a Jedi," she said firmly.

Saz froze. Her confession took him completely off guard and he appeared very confused. His information had labeled her as a Jedi, so her admission made him anxious. She picked up on his confusion and trembled slightly at the subject. "I was only trained for a few years. I'm no Jedi," she repeated, fighting to keep the memory of Xerros from her mind.

Saz sighed a bit in relief. "You seem pretty capable to me," he responded, rubbing his throat. She did not reply. "Jedi or not, there are a lot of people who seem to want you. You've got a bounty on you and it's enough to make anyone rich," he explained, watching her for any quick movements or retaliation. Most marks reacted violently when learning they were being turned in for a bounty, so he had told her to see what reaction it brought.

Her silence continued to linger. "Oh," she then replied and turned from him tp head back to her room.

Saz almost called out after her, but remained quiet. Her dull reaction confused him even more and he watched her until she disappeared into the storage bay, then let out a huge breath of relief and leaned back against the ship. Dealing with her left him exhausted, but only because she shattered any expectation he had of her.

"Technician, retaining the organic Aveyla Rom only increases the chance that you will come to harm. I recommend that you turn her over to Utility at the soonest possible opportunity," N4 said, giving him an emotionless return to the reality of his situation.

Saz turned and laid his arms across the ship, resting his chin on them. His mind was a torrent of thought, but his heart was surprisingly lucid about the matter. There was no way to mask the fascination he had for her. "Not yet, N4. I want to keep my eye on her for a little bit longer," he replied, dismissing the merit of danger to continue finding out what expectations of his she could break. The droid was silently processing that information and trying desperately to understand his organic partner. Saz was content to let that confusion linger.

Just as he was about to head back up the stepladder to finish his work, this time keeping his blaster with him, he paused as he tossed a casual question to the ship, "How long do you think it would take to install a laser-turret defense system around here?"

It took almost three weeks for Aveyla to adequately observe her captor's schedule. There was very little interaction, but she became more and more empowered in exploring her new surroundings. She often padded around the rusted deck plates with her bare feet, quietly searching out every corner and room of the defunct asteroid base, but she was becoming infinitely familiar with it and more comfortable each day. When she was not searching, she was alone in her room, silently meditating and oddly enjoying the solitude that had found her.

Despite this, she was still watching.

Saz was wary of his guest, but he had become accustomed to her presence. He had fallen into routine, with maintenance to the Shed and supply runs dominating his time, but he had not taken a job since rescuing Aveyla. Reminded of his earlier experience, he kept his blaster with him at all times and he did not try to speak with her, but rather watched her as she skittered around the empty corridors. He also slept with his door locked and N4 keeping a constant link with him about the movements of the Twilek.

In the droning silence of an artificial night, after Saz had long since turned the power down and locked himself behind the safety of his rusted doors, a silent figure was moving through the hangar. Confident of his scheduled movements, Aveyla was making her move to relieve herself of her captor and continue her search for her beloved Sheon, though a small, moaning guilt lingered with her about her imminent actions. The man had been unbelievably kind to her since taking her from Toropu, giving her a warm bed and food while demanding nothing in return or once causing her harm. Had she not been so jaded, she might have trusted him.

A lifetime of slavery and suffering had driven most of the trust from her.

With hardly a sound, she had mounted the ladder next to the black fighter and slipped into the cockpit, her heart a flurry in her chest and her senses highly attuned to her environment. The threat of a turret defense system was still in her mind, though she had never seen any evidence of it, but she felt oddly safe in the ship and she ran her fingers over the controls, her eyes desperately seeking out the right combination that would allow the fighter to come alive and allow her an escape from her prison, despite how hospitable her prison had been.

It was significantly more complex than Xerros's shuttle.

"You are not authorized for flight operations of this vehicle, Aveyla Rom," a voice from the ship blurted and made an audible squeal from her lips fly into the silent hangar. Her hands clasped at her mouth, Aveyla looked around the dark surroundings for her captor, but saw no sign of him.

While she had often heard the man speaking to the ship and a voice had often answered, she never understood the source of that voice until trying to take the ship. "Hello?" she whispered, her eyes moving around the various controls and sleeping displays.

"Submit your inquiry, Aveyla Rom," said the voice from a hidden place amongst the controls.

At once, her suspicions that the voice came from the ship itself were confirmed and she once more glanced about to see if Saz had come. The hangar was still dark. "I want to leave. How do you fly this ship?" she asked frankly, expecting the voice to be a simple computer system within the ship.

"You are not authorized for flight operations of this vehicle, Aveyla Rom," repeated the voice and the skittish Twilek felt a wave of frustration overcome her.

"I should have known it wouldn't be that easy," she hissed under her breath and continued to fumble around the controls, unaware that she could have easily vaporized the hangar with the weapon systems she was carelessly handling.

"I advise you to return to your habitation. Without authorization from the Technician, you will not be able to operate this vessel and if you commit further operations against my systems, I will be forced to disable you," the voice continued.

Aveyla paused, her hands held still as she looked around. "Disable me?" she asked.

"The Peripheral Muse is a Cygnus Spaceworks Imperial Missile Boat-class vessel with advanced weapons systems and security protocols, in addition to capabilities integrated by the Technician. This ship was designed and built using the latest Imperial technologies with the highest levels of secrecy. The tools at my disposal are fully adequate to prevent you from operating it," came the response.

Aveyla felt no reason to doubt the voice and relaxed her hands, slipping them between her legs and appearing much like a child being scolded for taking something that was not theirs. "Do all Imperial warships chat like this?" she asked quietly.

"I am MIME-SD-N4, previously assigned as a security droid at an Imperial facility. Due to variables beyond my programming, I was integrated into this ship by the Technician and now act as partial control systems and fire control. I am unaware of any other vessel in the Imperial Navy that has been outfitted in such a manner, but I have not linked to the main network in some time to verify the terms of your inquiry," N4 said.

"So, this Technician is an Imperial?" she asked, her voice shaking slightly.

"The Technician is no longer active in the Imperial Register," it responded, keeping the details of his departure from the Navy a guarded secret.

Aveyla did not know exactly how to feel about that, for she had always been taught to avoid the Imperials and for good reason, yet this man had seemed kind to her and never given her a reason to hate him. A growing number of questions were building in her mind, though she was not sure how much information she could glean from this unusual companion of his. "What can you tell me about this Technician? Why did he come for me and why is he keeping me here?" she asked.

"I cannot provide you with information I do not possess, Aveyla Rom. The reasoning behind his actions are unknown even to me and my understanding of you organics is limited to anatomical data and the most efficient ways to disable or eliminate you," it answered candidly, which drew a long silence from the woman. Being a security droid, N4 had very specific programming. That programming still served him in the capacity of a warship, but gave it very little leeway in how to interact with Saz or his guest. Every day was a learning experience.

"Do you trust the Technician?" Aveyla found herself asking carelessly, looking around the cockpit after her eyes had lingered on the ID badge hanging from the controls.

"Trust is an organic concept of which I am unable to process. However, the Technician is the only organic that I provide unrestricted access to the systems of this ship, as would I for any conscript he designated. If I were to define this provision in terms of how organics relate, I would find the term 'trust' applicable," N4 explained.

Aveyla found herself dwelling on the words of the droid more than she expected. Trust had not come to her in a long time but the ones she did trust were inconsolably seared into her heart, which was the primary driver of her search for Sheon. In light of that, she found it unnecessary to place her trust in this man despite the fact she felt somewhat safe with him. It was as if there was only enough room in her heart for one person, though even that steadfast rule was betrayed by the fact she still harbored affection for Abe'ian. A confusing jumble of thoughts and emotions were stirring in her as she rested silently in the ship, in the company of a stoic droid philosopher.

Idly, as she sighed and leaned back in the seat, her eyes wandered upwards, where she found a distinctly contrasting black scar on the ceiling of the cockpit. The scorching had not damaged any controls or switches, but had deformed the alloys and marred an otherwise clean cockpit. Reaching up, she ran her fingers over the scar and pursed her lips, noticing how the damage did not seem particularly new or that any attempt was made to repair it. "What's this?" she asked, almost to herself.

N4 took longer than usual to respond. "A prime example of organic behavior I cannot process. The Technician discharged his sidearm and affected superficial damage to the interior surface, yet he has not made efforts to repair it," it explained, as Aveyla continued to run her fingers over it. While it did not seem overly unusual, she was fascinated by the sensation she felt, as if there were some residual feelings left over. "The Technician's behavior and vital signs at the time were atypical and he would not respond to my inquiries, nor has he ever spoken of it since."

Upon feeling the residual feelings in the scar, Aveyla felt compelled to look back to the ID card and the picture of the woman on it. She was obviously someone that the man felt strongly for and she could sense the desperation and grief from the moment that caused the scar. For feelings to focus and linger was exceptional and she could almost imagine what the man had felt when the weapon had discharged.

It frightened her.

With her hands back between her legs, she stared at the scar a bit longer before letting out a deep sigh, resigned to the fact that she was not getting out of her own volition, although that fact did not overwhelm her as expected. "I'm sorry to bother you this late, MM...S...uhm, talking ship. I think I will return to my habitation now," she said solemnly and began to climb out of the cockpit.

"Your presence was of no hindrance to my scheduled tasks, Aveyla Rom. Thank you for your compliance," responded the ship.

Aveyla felt slightly amused by the response as she padded quietly back towards her room, grateful that she did not wake the man. While her escape plan had been futile, she was not defeated by that, while also feeling as if she had gotten to know the man better by proxy. That thought would help her go to sleep as she laid back down, not at all as anxious as she had been at the beginning of her night.

At the other end of the hangar, a silhouette was framed by a faint light, watching the events transpire as a motionless sentry. In one hand was a blaster and the other was lit by the soft glow of a computer interface relaying every word spoken from the confines of the ship. After the woman had long disappeared back into the storage room and the ship had once again gone dormant, the figure stiffly faded from the doorway and disappeared with the killing of the faint light.

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