Star Wars: Aberrant Cause

Chapter 2

Costain Proulx stepped off the shuttle and into the Maw Installation for the first time months after the first Death Star was destroyed. The ripples felt through the Empire had presented him with a unique opportunity, to accept an assignment on the Empire's most secret installation for researching weapons and technology. Being a young technician with a heart beating for the Empire, it was a fantastic chance.

Born to a respected naval family on Anaxes, it was always expected of him to join the Navy as soon as he was able. His father, who had captained a warship during the Clone Wars, had done all he could to get his son into the academy with high standing, hoping the boy would become an officer and, one day in the future, command a starship as he had done. However, the younger Proulx did not have the same knack for command as his father, but rather excelled at tinkering with ships and reviewing design schematics. He was a pair of hands, always eager to dismantle a droid or reprogram a computer. His talents were recognized in the academy and he was commissioned as a technician, rather than an officer. It was not as prestigious as his father had hoped, but he received high honors at his graduation and an impressive station right from the beginning. It was enough to bring a smile to the old veteren's face.

During his days in the academy, he had picked up the nickname 'Saz' from his fellow students, due to a similar sound of an arc welder he was fond of using in the Academy garage. Liking the name so much, he kept it with him even after graduation and insisted on its usage on any assignment he received. Of course, he did not request it of officers, but most who worked with him just called him Saz.

Saz's ability to solve problems and his endless portfolio of creative ideas shuttled him along in the Imperial Navy, so much so that the Department of Naval Intelligence had taken interest in him. With the reeling loss of the first battle station around Yavin, wheels began to move to position the young man in a place where his ideas and talents would best serve the Empire. The requirements were simple. He would no longer be able to visit his family. He would have to pass rigorous testing and sign an entire pile of disclosure agreements. His existence would be classified and he would disappear from the galaxy. It was all so he could tinker with some of the most advanced technologies the Empire had to offer.

He signed the agreement without even telling his father.

Some weeks later, he found himself buried in heart of a realm of black holes and secrets the likes he could never imagine. The station was a collection of asteroids all linked together by access ways and guarded by a fleet of Star Destroyers. Not many in the Navy even knew it existed, but he was there. He would not be the scientist developing new superweapons or designing the latest starfighter, but he would be the one with his hands inside of them, feeling how they worked and putting the theories into practice. He was more satisfied that way. There was too much drama in the galaxy beyond a hydrospanner.

His first year in the Maw was a big change from his time at other installations. Security droids roamed the halls and did not ask twice when someone was in an area they were not given access to. His tasks ranged from maintenance on ships to diagnostics on things he had never seen before, of which their purpose was never revealed to him. He was smart enough to grasp the basics of anything he touched, but for his own safety did not engage any scientists in the finer workings of their project. He learned to keep his mouth shut and his hands in motion.

Demonstrating his skill at working on all forms of technology, Saz was soon given high levels of security clearance and access to some of the Empire's deepest secrets. Spending his free time pouring over files and schematics, he often found himself consciously steering away from some of the darker projects contained in the databanks of the station. He felt guilty some days for ignoring what the Empire was doing to the denizens of the galaxy, but he also felt displaced from it all, nestled far from the fangs of the rebellion or cries of suppressed worlds. It was easy to ignore the plights of the galaxy when working in a place no one knew existed.

The most rewarding aspect of his career was the ability to develop new forms of technology or refine ones that already existed. He was an accomplished chemist, fabricator and computer programmer, which allowed him to see some of the wonders, and terrors, the Empire developed in their dark, black purse. His passion for technology led him to discover some buried secrets in the databanks of the station, including a breadth of super weapons fathered by Wilhuff Tarkin and advanced designs for TIE-fighters. While only seeing a fraction of total technologies in the databanks, Saz was intoxicated by the brilliance of Imperial scientists. He always had to find more, digging deeper and deeper into the databanks.

One piece of technology that Saz was particularly interested in was a stygian-triprismatic polymer that could be used to reduce the sensor profile of ships or other vehicles, making them harder to detect. He had always been befuddled why military spacecraft were painted bright gray, making them stick out in the blackness of space. In his mind, coating a ship in this type of black polymer would greatly increase the lethality of the ship, though the high cost did make it prohibitive on most warships. Instead, he dreamed of coating a fighter, small and agile, so that it could disappear from an enemy's sight and strike out of the darkness. In his spare time, he was developing his own formula for the coating, along with a proposal to his superiors to test it on one of the many TIE fighters stationed as test craft in the Maw. One day, he dreamed, he would see such a ship fly, and it would grant him the prominence needed to use even more resources for his designs.

One of his other projects was something that would potentially get him into lots of trouble, should he be discovered. While working in droid maintenance, he was tasked with fixing a security droid designated MIME-SD-N4 that had been showing odd behavior and faulty design. After noticing some anomalies, Saz succumbed to his tinkering nature and began to experiment with the droid instead of correcting the anomalies. Personality subroutines were programmed and he began using the droid to store some of the restricted files he had found, not wanting to keep them in his security profile. Saz found that the security droid became somewhat of a friend to him. He was also using the droid to spy on the workings of the station and tap into classified transmissions from outside the Maw, in an effort to keep in touch with what was going on in the galaxy. He was one of the few people on the station to know how the rebellion was faring against the Empire.

One day, after a couple of years in Maw, Saz came across a piece of technology that made his mouth water. A fighter, which had been developed by Chiss Admiral Thrawn had been brought to the Maw for protective storage. The Emperor himself had ordered all prototypes to be kept safe, so the flow of technology would be kept from enemy hands. This order placed the technology into Saz's hands and he could not keep himself from witnessing it for himself.

Sneaking into a restricted hangar with help from his pocketed security droid, Saz found the craft in a protective garage, closed by security protocols and ten levels of encoded protection. It took Saz thirty minutes to get through them all.

When he did, the garage creaked open, revealing a lethal fighter that was the pinnacle of Imperial design. It was based on a successful line of Imperial assault shuttles and had two dedicated pods of missiles along the top, in addition to standard ordinance launchers. This feature gave the craft its namesake, the Imperial Missile Boat. Along with the incredible armament, the craft had prototype engines that allowed them to run at twice their capacity in short bursts, along with a tractor beam weapon and heavily reinforced shielding. The fighter was a warship in its own right and Saz spent hours scouring the ship, popping maintenance hatches and visually dissecting the cockpit.

He had fallen in love with a ship he would never get to fly. With nothing more than basic flying courses in the Academy, he was not sure he even could fly it, but due to its exclusive nature and advanced technology, the ship became the apex of his desires for putting his hands on the Empire's finest technology.

As fate would have it, however, it was not the only thing he fell in love with at the Maw.

During a normal test flight one day, a TIE fighter fitted with experiment navigation systems had experienced trouble and was struggling to make it back to the station. To minimize risk to the station and other craft, the fighter was ordered to land in a maintenance bay instead of the main hangars. Following orders, the disabled ship proceeded to the bay and attempted to land, though the malfunctioning computers made the approach difficult and a standard landing impossible. Crashing hard into the deck, the fighter was expertly handled by the pilot and made a landing that not just anyone could accomplish. The fighter slid into the back of the bay, a fire igniting from the sparks and fuel, and finally came to a stop just meters from where Saz had been working on a space probe. It was quite a shock to him.

Without thinking, he rushed over to the burning hulk and tried to disengage the hatch, coughing heavily as the toxic fumes began to fill the area. He could see the pilot struggling in the cockpit, but the damage had been substantial. He only had moments to free them from the ship, or they would be consumed along with it.

Grabbing a nearby pry bar, Saz wrenched on a spot known to be weak, forcing the hatch to pop open. With it broken, Saz pulled the pilot out and helped them away from the fiery debris. Leaving droids to suppress the fire, Saz and the pilot fell into a heap outside of the bay, Saz hacking from the fumes and rolling onto his back. The pilot was fairing much better, still wrapped tightly in a flight suit, but barely moved from the shock, sitting back against the bulkhead.

After a moment, Saz rolled a bit and looked at the pilot. "Hey buddy, you okay?" he heaved.

The pilot twitched a bit, then reached up to undo the flight mask. Upon removing the mask and hood, Saz set his eyes upon a beautiful young woman with tangled brown hair. It was even more shocking than the crash. "No worries," she responded, leaning her head back against the bulkhead and laughing in defiance of her close escape. He had never seen such a beautiful woman before and her smile was bedazzling. Having a moment to look at her, he could see a distinctly female figure in the flight suit and momentarily forgot how sick the fumes had made him. The vomit welling up in his throat and bursting out onto the deck brought him back to reality.

The pilot laughed, happy she did not have to share that feeling. Reaching out and patting him on the back, she helped him clear out the sickness, despite the sour smell it presented. She was simply happy to be alive. "You really saved me back there. What's your name, hand-spanner?" she asked as she rubbed his back.

"Saz," he responded, though it sounded more like a convulsion than anything.

The pilot laughed. "Well, I'm going to assume that's your name. Nice to meet you, Saz," she said, patting him a few more times. "The name's Alexis, and I hope you'll let a girl buy you a drink for saving her life," she said, smiling widely at him.

"Yeah, sure. Looking forward to it," he hacked, still writing on the deck in agony over the burning in his chest. She laughed even more.

That was the day he met Lieutenant Alexis Muse, the brave test pilot whom he fell deeply in love with and became the catalyst that would ultimately cause him to become a wanted fugitive from the Empire.

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