Star Wars: Aberrant Cause

Chapter 21

The trip from Telos would take ten standard hours in hyperspace, but there had been some drastic changes to the arrangements in the Peripheral Muse. Rather than loading Aveyla into the storage pod, Saz had asked her to ride in the cockpit with him, if only to help pass the time and further look over their information to be prepared for the task ahead of them. It took some modifications to the fighter to accommodate her, such as an improved life support system and extra provisions. Several systems were reprogrammed to allow better access with another body in the way, as well as some loosely added padding to make up for the hard edges and corners.

The flight had been stiff, but very intimate.

"The Vharna system is isolated and unremarkable. Seven planets, with only one being remotely habitable. The biggest problem is…" Saz was reporting, showing a star chart on the main display when he was distracted by Aveyla squirming and laughing softly. As she was lying back against him to give a clear view to the display, her squirming had a distracting effect due to their tight quarters.

"What?" he asked with a grin.

Aveyla rubbed a gloved hand across her neck, rolling her eyes playfully. "You're breathing on my tchin," she said, slightly embarrassed by the effect it had on her.

It had taken Saz a long time to figure out when she was talking about her lekku in such a manner, but he also knew that it was a very sensitive part of her body. The admission mirrored the playful nature of their entire trip.

Saz grinned even more and continued his briefing, not going out of his way to spare her lekku. "The problem is that this area of space is the Daunkk," he said, typing into the controls as the star chart was replaced with biological information and an image of a short, squatted humanoid species. They resembled humans, but were thicker and had prominent brows and sunken eyes.

Aveyla stared at the image. "The Daunkk?" she asked.

"Yeah. Nasty little guys, from what I hear. Tough and resilient. They love anything that makes them powerful. Ships, weapons, shields, and they don't care who they steal it from. They're supposedly not good at fixing what they steal though, but that just makes them need to steal even more," Saz explained, not hiding his disdain. "They don't speak Basic, they don't trade and they don't negotiate. Their grab-first, kill-first philosophy makes everyone avoid them, but their ships usually can't get them to the surrounding systems too often, so they're little more than a local menace. The general rule is to leave them alone, unless they get too close. If that happens, a turbolaser is about the only thing they understand."

Aveyla continued to stare at the image. A shudder ran through her. She had a bad feeling about them.

The freighter captain's report was the Devaronian woman was dropped off on Vharna V, and that he barely escaped a marauding party of broken, smoking ships as he tried to take off. As he left, he saw that the woman had been swarmed by dozens of these creatures and was fighting them with a yellow lightsaber.

"Sheon. Why did you go to such a place?" she asked, hugging herself slightly.

Saz also had a bad feeling about it. Normally, he would not choose any job that made him deal with a troublesome species like the Daunkk. His technological edge made him confident their decrepit ships would pose no threat to the Muse, but the plan was the land on the surface to search for the Jedi. The report from the freighter captain was that Vharna V was covered in a strange energy field that made a ship's sensors nearly useless.

Finding a single Devaronian Jedi was going to be a challenge.

Trying to change the mood, Saz flipped off the display and moved her hips with his hands, shifting her weight as he tried to let the blood flow back into his leg. His touch broke her from her worried trance.

"Sorry," she said, trying to find a position that would be the most comfortable for him.

Saz smiled. To help her, he slipped his hand across her stomach and leaned her back against him, if only to take some of her weight from being centered at her buttocks. Their positions were infinitely more comfortable when they were aligned, and Aveyla felt the heat burning in her face.

But she did not resist.

"So, what will you do when you find her? Does that mean you're going to do the Jedi thing after all?" he asked, concentrating more on the aftermath of finding her beloved mentor, alive and well.

Aveyla rested against him fully, idly running her fingers over his arm. "I…don't know. I think if Sheon asked me, I would be honored to follow her as a Jedi, but…" she said, doubt showing in her face.

Saz felt chills run up his arm from her touch. "But what?"

"The Jedi are hypocrites," she said bluntly, much to his surprise. "On Ruusan, I read much of their history and seen both the Dark side and the Light side of the Force, even within the Jedi themselves. There is much death and chaos in pursuit of the Dark side, yet just as much sworn in the name of the Light. They seek to destroy one another, but exist only in the presence of the other. It seems meaningless." As someone attuned to the Force who was neither Jedi nor Sith, she was not bound by either of their ideologies. Through her teachings from Sheon and Xerros, and from her experience with Malgus's holocron, she had tasted both points of view, yet felt drawn to neither explicitly. The Jedi were idealists and did often serve the common good, but they ignored the most basic facts about their existence all in the name of their code. The Sith were blind to all but the prominence of the Force, and would often let the galaxy burn around them for it.

"I couldn't give up all that I am…all that I feel, because I fear what I may become. The Dark side is also part of the Force, and must be part of the Jedi. One does not achieve balance by destroying one's opposite. That only leads to imbalance. It is the same for the Sith, who fear any sliver of compassion within themselves, and see it as a weakness. One must accept themselves, whole and flawed. Only that way can one understand the true nature Force," she explained, feeling strangely relieved, as she had never been able to voice her opinions to anyone before.

Much of this was beyond Saz's understanding. He understood technical schematics and mechanical thresholds, not the true nature of the Force. Even after seeing the amazing things she was capable of, he resigned himself to hydrospanners and wrenches, for they were real and tangible; something could he twist in his hand.

Understanding the Force was best left to those that felt its currents, and he was content to simply listen to her speak of it.

"Do you understand the true nature of the Force?" he asked.

Aveyla laughed bitterly. "Not at all. I am a child compared to Sheon or Master Xerros and am confused as often as I am confident. Perhaps in ten lifetimes, I may begin to understand the true nature of the Force," she replied.

Saz was baffled by that as well, but noticed a flashing light on his control panel. It was time. "One minute to the Vharna system. Time to go find your teacher," he said as he made preparations to exit hyperspace. Aveyla tightened her hand around his arm and nodded, feeling overwhelming anticipation about meeting her again after so long.

But the Force had led her back to Sheon, and she would use her newfound powers to help her with any troubles she had encountered, leaving aside any arguments of ideology to the time when they were safe, and she had spent ten lifetimes embracing Sheon in tears.

The Muse entered the system and found several warships lingering around the fifth planet. The ships were falling apart, some venting atmosphere into space and some missing entire components. The most notable of these was an old Corellian Blockade Runner, though only three of its impressive engines seemed to be functional and it almost appeared to be drifting in orbit.

None of the ships appeared to detect the small fighter as it slipped into the atmosphere of the planet.

Vharna V was a dead, brown world. Much to Saz's surprise, there was not even plant or microbial life on the surface, despite the presence of standing seas of brackish water. A strange energy field did encompass the entire planet, as reported, and Saz wondered if it had anything to do with the lack of anything alive. This energy affected his sensors, but he was able to detect vague clusters of life in the canyons and valleys that dotted the landscape, but he had already concluded that these were the camps of the Daunkk, judging from the thick smoke that rose from them.

There were no signs of a single, Devaronian lifesign anywhere.

"Looks like we'll have to do this the hard way. Ready to get your feet dirty?" he asked.

Aveyla felt the anxiety of battle and let out a shaky breath. She was not sure she would ever be ready, but the stakes were too high for her to give in to her fears.

"Yes," she replied.

The barren wastelands were alive with battle. A broad range of colored blaster fire was illuminating the darkened canyons and crevices, and it was moving. The aggressive Daunkk, with their varied collection of technology and weapons, were rabid in their careless pursuit over the landscape, which cost them more and more warriors to the cauterized gashes that covered their dead.

Aveyla was tiring. The Daunkk were unorganized, but they were tough and came in numbers that nearly overwhelmed the young woman. With a great deal of skill, she nimbly navigated the canyon she was in, using her red-bladed shoto to deflect incoming blaster fire and to dispatch the occasional Daunkk who got in too close. When her concentration and the terrain allowed, she would thrust her free hand out and send a dual-bladed satellite out from her side, where it would catch the enemy by surprise and remove one or two other pursuers.

Yet, they still came and Aveyla was starting to believe in their fierce reputation.

Rounding a jagged outcrop, the Twi'lek was suddenly faced with an ambush of several Daunkk, who had placed a heavy blaster cannon to cut her off. Not as dumb as they put on. The rain of blaster fire from behind the barricade slowed her and she barely had time to use the Force to pull a large rock between her and the emplacement before a huge blast erupted from the cannon, where it pulverized the stone and threw her backwards from the concussive energy. Although landing on her feet, several powerful hands seized her arms and body, making her drop her shoto, as well as lose control over the satellite module. The two Daunkk shrieked something in their native tongue, and one reared up a large, serrated blade, obviously aiming to remove her saber arm. Although writhing against the grip, she could not break away from their powerful hands and desperately looked above for some much-needed assistance.

Suddenly, a large blast exploded from the wall of the canyon next to them and startled her captors. Much to her surprise, the barricade had fired on them all, obviously paying no care to their own warriors in the mix. Not as dumb, but definitely as ruthless. The two that had captured her staggered and it was all that Aveyla needed. Regaining her concentration, the grounded satellite module burst into life from its dusty bed and flew towards them, severing the arm of the blade wielder. The chaos then allowed her to kick off of the squealing warrior and roll backwards over the other, landing behind him and Force-pushing them both into the barricade. In the chaos, the others were squealing and trying to realign the cannon.

In spite of the danger, Aveyla was motionless, her mind focused on her silent lightsaber as it came together into a single piece between her outstretched hands, where it was then snatched as she rushed forward, a beautiful golden blade bursting from its end. By the time the enemy had aimed, the end of the cannon was cleaved near the chamber, where the massive amount of energy destroyed the emplacement and killed all who were inside.

Aveyla was already around the next bend. As she ran out of the canyon, she found a large, open plateau where the smooth rock ended sharply and fell into a large valley; a sight just as lifeless and brown as the rest of the world. Aveyla stopped at the edge and looked for a way down, or even a ledge to drop to. There was nothing. Dead end.

From the direction of the canyon, more Daunkk warriors were approaching and there were now mechanical sounds accompanying them. Soon, dozens of warriors burst from the canyon mouth and several armed, wheeled vehicles came quickly skidding across the sloping sides, throwing dry, brown dust into the air. The overwhelming force was already sending blaster-fire at her, though thankfully their distance affected their aim and she was able to block it with her lightsaber.

But their distance was closing, and they did not appear to be interested in negotiation.

Aveyla was blocking an increasing amount of incoming fire, her golden lightsaber the last line of defense from the onslaught, when a thundering roar filled the air. The Peripheral Muse rose up from the edge behind her like a black raptor. A few of the Daunkk's shots pounded harmlessly into the fighter's shield and a shriek from their ranks was answered by a hail of missiles and blaster fire from the batteries of the Muse. The Daunkk and their vehicles were engulfed in explosions and dust as their pursuit forces were wiped out, leaving Aveyla to wilt tiredly, but look up to the floating fighter with a grateful smile.

"Sorry I'm late," said a voice over her comlink.

"I'm very happy to see you," she sighed, wiping the seat from her face.

The cockpit of the fighter opened up and revealed the pilot, who edged the ship closer to her. "Need a ride, stranger?" he yelled dashingly.

Though exhausted, she leapt with a little help from the Force and landed on the ship, then slipped into the cockpit with him as the glass closed. Their business with the Daunkk force concluded, they headed back to the main camp to clean out the stragglers and look for any clue to Sheon's presence.

Though essentially wiped out, the Daunkk forces stubbornly attacked Saz and Aveyla after they landed, pinning them in separate areas of the camp as the black shadow of the Peripheral Muse flashed overhead. Aveyla was managing the smaller number, despite her exhaustion, though Saz was considerably less successful. Notoriously, he was not skilled at ground combat. He also had never seen someone take three shots from his modified blaster and continue coming, but rumors of the Daunkk's prowess were obviously not exaggerated and he was cursing under cover, fanning dust from the air as more incoming fire peppered the ground around him. "I could use a little help here, buddy," he yelled into his interface, his face covered by his filtering mask and his goggles pulled down.

More fire struck disturbingly close before a huge explosion signaled a welcomed end to the assault. The Muse zipped by overhead. "Hostiles have been eliminated, Technician, but scans are inconclusive as to the status of the remaining forces," said the mechanical voice from the other end of his link.

"Rodger that," he replied, rising from his cover. Another shot suddenly hit the building next to him and he flinched wildly, then turned on a wounded Daunkk as it stumbled towards him. Firing in return, his first three shots missed and a second shot from the Daunkk nearly hit the same spot on the building as its first. Saz's fourth shot impacted in the warrior's shoulder and twisted its body, making another shot fire wildly into the ground.

Saz's next shot hit the Daunkk in the head and the figure dropped, much to his relief. "Ah hah! Hah!" he taunted, his knees wobbling from the adrenaline.

When the Daunkk twitched, Saz flinched again and shot it two more times.

"Take the hint!" he screamed at it.

"Saz?" said a voice behind him and he turned his blaster on Aveyla, though instantly turned it upwards and drooped in relief, glad he had not accidentally shot her.

She had not even reacted to his aim. "Are you okay?" she asked, looking him over for injuries.

Saz was leaning with his hands on his knees, shaking his head. "No problem. I could do this all day," he replied, then stood straight and dropped the mask from his face. "How about you?" Aveyla shook her head, though she had a few visible bruises and cuts showing against her sweaty skin.

The two of them took a moment to gather their strength, then continued into the ramshackle compound. The Daunkk had obviously sent nearly all of their warriors out after Aveyla's first assault, with their remaining forces now laying scattered about the camp. Expecting to find a commander, they found empty rooms and no sign of a command base. The Daunkk had simply rushed at them with their full force. Only some poorly maintained security droids were left in the hallways, which fell easily to Aveyla's lightsaber.

Saz got one as well.

Guided by Aveyla's feelings, they came to a dark, foul area of the compound. There were bodies of other species in cells and cages, along with some much older bones. Anxiety was heavy in the air as the two searched the cells, fearful of what they might find, until they came across a cell that had obviously been guarded well.

Aveyla lingered at the door, then slapped her hand on the switch.

The room was putrid. There were almost no furnishings and only a rough pile of rags in the middle of the floor, soaked with blood and other bodily fluids. On those rags was a single body, collapsed awkwardly and mangled by obvious abuse. Her right arm had been severed above the elbow and poorly wrapped with dirty rags. The disembodied arm was lying nearby, shriveled and black. Her body was stained with dried blood and festering wounds, and her legs were injured beyond use.

The woman had obviously suffered a great deal in her captivity.

Aveyla's eyes faltered. "Sheon!" she cried, rushing to the Devaronian woman's side. She was thin and dirty, and did not move. Aveyla dropped her lightsaber and dropped to her knees, cradling the woman as she looked into her contorted face.

It appeared as if they had arrived too late, as the Jedi appeared far beyond death.

Saz looked around the room and scowled. "Animals," he sneered, kicking a toppled bucket that had been a poor attempt at a latrine. He had seen many terrible things in the galaxy, but nothing as gruesome as that room.

It took everything he had to keep himself from taking his ship and repaying the Daunkk for their crimes.

"Aveyla…" came a ghostly voice, one that instantly shook the Twi'lek from her sorrow. Sheon's frail body twitched slightly and her eyes opened. They were gray and faded, obviously useless, but moved as if remembering when they once functioned normally.

Aveyla felt a bitter laugh escape her lips as she realized the Jedi lived. "Yes, I'm here, Sheon."

Sheon's lips almost formed a smile, but she appeared to use her energy to reach her remaining hand up to touch Aveyla's face, with the latter clutching it frantically amidst her sobs. "You've finally come, child," Sheon whispered, her voice sounding relieved. The Twi'lek could find no answer beyond her sobbing, soaking her mentor's hand with her tears.

Even Saz had trouble controlling his emotions and turned away from the scene to stand in the doorway. "Put down in the complex and unlock the emergency supplies, N4. I need the medical kit right now," he ordered, and was happy to divert his attention.

"Who is the other?" he heard Sheon say, and looked back to the two.

Aveyla looked to him, panicked but trying to hide it. "He's my…friend," she answered.

Sheon showed even more relief and lowered her hand to her chest, conserving her energy. "That is wonderful, child," she said, closing her eyes again.

Aveyla felt her panic rise, but soon realized the Jedi woman was resting. She felt other things welling inside of her, just as Saz had felt, but was focused on the fact that Sheon was alive and that she was safe in her arms, beyond the terrible things that the Daunkk had done to her. With all of her strength and all of her power, she would make sure that no one would ever harm her again.

Just as the rising whispers in her mind were telling her.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.