Ashi Tevarl - Chainbreaker

Ashi stepped off the public shuttle onto the streets of Nal Hutta into a greasy rain that made her lekku feel disgusting, in more than one way. She let the memories go, passing into the back of her mind, as she pulled her hood up over them and covered what she could.

She had robed herself in her best, a green and white affair that took the drops of pollution like black stains, mottling it. She hesitated a few moments before waving to a nearby umbrella-carrying slave, one of her fellow twi’lek who had been lingering around for the purpose of shielding more important or wealthy travelers.

The slave was skinny. So skinny. Ashi had been that skinny once, before she’d met Mart, and discovered that her new home had a cheap, good restaurant. Now she had a good twenty pounds of muscle on her little umbrella-carrier, and that again in a comfortable pudge.

“What’s your name?” she asked, in Huttese.


“Thank you, Salria.”

“Oh, you don’t have to call me that,” Salria said, nervously.

“I know.”

They walked on down the causeway. Either side was fetid swamp, held at bay by a force-fence that electrocuted the aggressive wildlife that strayed too near the path. Some of their corpses, twisted and mutilated, littered the edges near some of the posts. Ashi wished she had names for them, but they were universally called ‘Fetah’, which meant ‘Garbage’. The other travelers passing down the causeway ignored them, but Ashi felt more and more uncomfortable. Their deaths, consistent and constant, were like pinpricks on her Force-sense, and they agitated her almost as much as the vicious mosquitos might have. How had she ever ignored it?

“Where are you going?”

She saw the nervous look on the little yellow twi’lek, and ranged her attention back to the way that, in fact, most of the passengers had chosen to go – towards the city in the distance, or a line of shuttlecars that were loading those bulky, obese slugs into the highest form of opulence.

It occurred to her that she was taking Salria away from her assigned duty. Something akin to heresy. Preoccupied, she hadn’t much thought about it, so when she looked back to Salria, she smiled apologetically.

Already, she was changing things. Ashi knew this was dangerous. She knew very well what the whisper in the back of her mind, that dark kernel of truth, that righteous anger, wanted her to do. But how far she indulged it, that was her choice.

“Carugallon’s palace, down this way.”

“I can’t accompany you there,” Salria informed her, “I need to stay near the taxi’s, Mistress.”

“Ashi,” said Ashi. “Please.”

“Mistress Ashi-“

“- just Ashi.”

Some of the veil of subservience dropped away. Ashi read her own frustrations on the slave’s face, so she drew closer beneath the broad umbrella, took her arm, and directed her out of the way of a wheeled drayage trundling down the causeway. They both got splashed.

“Do you want to?”

Ashi waited as the confusion and sudden realization did her convincing for her. She knew. Ashi knew. They stared at each other for a little while, in the dour, depressing rain, and Ashi nodded a little. Just a little bit.

It was enough.

They resumed their walk down the causeway, with Salria glancing behind herself nervously every few steps. Ashi felt tight in the back of her chest, near her center, a faint throbbing that told her that she’d answer for this somehow down the road. Maybe not this road. But some road, somewhere.

The Huttese palaces were splendid beyond anything a traveler could find elsewhere. They had a right to be; after all, they had cornered this planet on wealth alone, and kept it there through a systemic debt system that never ended. The slaves that kept the entrance neat and tidy, hurrying around to mop marble-white tiles even in this cursed rain, looked much like Salri had; dirty, mostly naked, entirely defeated. Only, Salria stood a little taller. She might not know who Ashi was, who she really was, and maybe she’d have been terrified if she found out, but she probably had an inkling. Slaves don’t survive without inklings.

She had the expression of someone desperate willing to die. Ashi felt it too. Every step, every breath, was now bold defiance. The rain made the air muggy and oppressive.

Ashi stopped in the center of the courtyard when she noticed an armed guard, not a Mandalorian – she’d grown a bit familiar with real Mandalorians by now to recognize a well-paid lookalike – noticed her approach and started down from a tower-like guard shack near the huge double-doors.

She waited until he was near enough to be in hearing distance before she raised her hand.

It twitched. She wondered at it before she realized, all of a sudden, that it was from a strong sense of de ja vu.

She had been here before. Not here-here – she had never stepped into this palace, never visited her mother, never left her pleasure-barge except to decorate someone’s arm. But she’d seen this before, and it chilled her to immobility as the guard came closer, wary now of a pair of Twi’lek in the open, and one of them motioning expressively. Suddenly, she wasn’t so certain about this – this was remarkably close to what she’d watched herself do, her dark self, months ago, in the cave. What Sandra had watched her do. The fire that raged inside her, given voice.

Ashi realized that she was running out of time.

She closed her eyes and pushed. Sandra had taught her well, and the guard’s mind snapped with no resistance whatsoever. He stopped a few paces away, his rifle half raised, and slowly began to lower it. Ashi had him.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, as Salria gawked, and the slaves standing around – fully expecting to watch a beating and expulsion, most likely something that happened infrequently – began to glance at each other.

“I am here to speak to someone,” she said, slowly, meeting the guard’s eyes. “Which is okay. I am just visiting, nobody will mind. Will you take me to the slave quarters?”

“That sounds okay,” the guard repeated, “I can show you. Please, right this way.”

That’s when the whispering started. Like the rainfall, a faint susurrus of speculation from the six or seven scrubbers, lingering around. But Salria didn’t whisper.

“You’re a Jedi?!” she squeaked, almost dropping the umbrella.

“Initiate,” Ashi corrected, struggling to split her attention as she fell in behind the confused guard, and finding it difficult. “Now, shush. I can’t keep this up for very long.”

Which was the truth. She didn’t have the reserves she needed. She wasn’t very strong with the force, to keep this up indefinitely, and the break in concentration would probably force her down a path she definitely, definitely didn’t want to tread.

She didn’t dare turn her head to look at the small following they’d gathered up as they made their way over the parade grounds following the bemused guard, either, so she said, “Get them to go away. To go back to work. Please.”

Salria left her side and Ashi refocused on the guard. He was struggling valiantly, though Ashi had already won, but the struggling made the task more difficult than it was on the small, stupid animals of her new home. Everything on Nal Hutta was some sort of vicious killing thing, or someone’s plaything, people and beasts alike. Sometimes both.

She waited as the guard pressed his hand on the door’s lock, and almost startled right out of it when her new companion came dashing back up to her.

“I’ve told them what you’re doing,” she babbled excitedly, “And they want to help, they want to come.”

“I haven’t even told you what I’m doing,” Ashi hissed.

“You’re freeing us?”

Kark, Ashi swore to herself.

Think fast.

She didn’t have the mental capacity to think fast, or even to really think hard at all, either for the guard or for herself, so she paired it down to what she really needed to do, and that was get through this door, free her mother, and abscond with her, hypothetically under the cover of suitably dramatic inky darkness. Like moving through treacle candy, she forced herself to look back at the little group of slaves.

Kark, she thought again. She didn’t know if mops could look martial, but that raggedy band really sold it.

She could feel her hold becoming tenuous. What was she going to do with this guard, once he snapped out of it? Once all her power was gone, she couldn’t hold him to this – and he’d raise the alarm. Ashi looked back to him, to the dutiful nonchalant stance, the open helpful expression twitching just at the very edges like a rictus. Sandra could have done this elegantly. Ashi felt like a byhorn bull, wrecking through a glassware shop.

Now, with friends she didn’t want, and help she didn’t need, and a real, serious problem.

I won’t kill anyone, she promised herself. No matter how much I want to. I won’t.

But all this was too irregular. She couldn’t just tell the guard to go back to his post, since his post involved watching the suddenly very martial, very uncivil slave cadre doing menial subservient labor, which was apparently not going to happen without a lot more convincing than Ashi had the strength or competency to manage.

She reached over and pulled off his helmet, and he smiled dutifully at her, drunk.

Then, she clocked him with it, as hard as she could. Every ounce of new muscle straining to deliver the blow. And he went down in a slump, against the side of the slave barracks door, which triggered the motion sensor on the door. Gently, elegantly, it opened, and he sprawled out the rest of the way.

The band let out a little raggedy cheer. Ashi just felt ragged, mentally exhausted, and totally empty.

Using the force like this left her feeling like she’d walked off a cliff, and it set the skin on her lekku tingling as though they had fallen asleep. Fortunately, the inside of this building was dark, so when she dropped the helmet onto his unconscious body and stepped gingerly over him, she found that she’d bypassed what she figured was the first layer of this manor’s security in a couple of steps.

“I’m looking for Cassedra Tevarl,” she told one of the crowding mop-rebels, “She’s my mother. Do you know where she stays?”

The boy, a little twi’lek with a mop twice his size and the expression of joyous revolution – the same as Salria’s, hell-for-leather, damn the odds – went, “Yeah! Follow me!” and took off at a run.

She followed, all the while worrying what exactly she was going to do with all these people. Heads poked out of curtains. Really nice curtains, velvet and lace and silk. Men. Women. Of course, she was walking through the equivalent of a brothel; no slave got any peace, even in sleep. Ashi could practically feel the dragging conversations. The hope. The speculation, the skepticism, pulling behind her like a cloak. She had broken their normalcy. Rather than feeling powerful, Ashi was beginning to get scared.

This is not how this was supposed to go. She wasn’t their savior. She wasn’t even a full Jedi. She wasn’t even the Padawan of a Jedi. She was just, Ashi.

Like she’d told Salria. Just Ashi.

She came up to the rapidly, excitedly pointing boy, and found herself hesitating at the entryway. The velvet curtains felt too smooth on her damp hand, and she grasped them for a moment before pulling them aside and peering into the dim darkness.


The shadow on the divan stirred, and she waited, not breathing, as it uncoiled and bleerily looked out into the comparative light of the hallway. Golden chains, glinting emeralds, and above that, the glint off of a pair of eyes that Ashi hadn’t seen in over a decade.

She let her worries go and rushed her mother, seven years old again, all the hope and the pain and the loss flooding her all at once. And when the startled twi’lek answered her, it was as painful.

“My little… Asharra?” She groaned, voice a shadow, her arms clumsy. Cassedra hugged back, but Ashi could feel the sluggishness. She forced herself to be more gentle, as the other slaves began to gather around the opening. As Ashi’s eyes adjusted to the light, she saw the glaze on her mother’s face, the unknowing, unfeeling touch of heavy opiates, and the weathering of age. It was more than just sleep.

The Hutt starved people. Beauty was forced on twi’lek. It was their only worth. Beauty, subservience – and her mother was diseased. Ashi could feel the wrongness in her arms, as keenly, even more keenly, than she sometimes felt the deaths of little bugs in her vicinity.

“I’m going to get you out of here,” she promised, gathering her mother up, so light, half-starved for beauty’s sake. But the words failed her after that. What was she supposed to say? Why hadn’t she thought about it?

Hey mom, I’m a Jedi? Hey, mom, fancy meeting you here, let me just take you to paradise?

She blinked away her tears as she rose, the shadow of her mother cradled in her arms like a child, like she’d once cradled Ashi, and turned back to the door.

And the faces.

So many faces.

“My mother’s in the next one,” said the twi’lek who had shown her this room.

“My sister’s in the manor house,” called another, a little further back.

They went on. So many voices. A whole crowd full of voices. And Ashi couldn’t think. She knew she couldn’t help them, shouldn’t help them. Shouldn’t have helped herself. The Force wasn’t meant to be used like this – freeing these people, even freeing her mother, was meddling beyond what any reasonable Jedi would allow. Maybe not beyond what Sandra would allow, but Ashi was uncertain of Sandra, as much as she loved her. She was young, and she was powerful, and she tread this uncertain ground with a scary amount of self-confidence.

But Ashi didn’t have that self-confidence. She worried. She knew this was wrong.

Was this the force, or fate, or cruel bad luck?

“Here,” she said, mustering her voice from somewhere, a requirement that left her throat feeling as dry as her eyes were wet. “Can you carry her for me?”

Someone rushed forward and she handed her mother off, watching her pale blue head loll against a broad, yellow shoulder. Ashi noticed the chain that bound her mother to the bed, and stared at it for a few moments, before she called her saber to her hand and lit the room in dull crimson.

She cut it.


By mid-day, the annoying rain had stopped, which was just as well.

The procession that carried Carugallon’s litter progressed stately beside his business partner, keeping pace with the tiny human in the black robe, and letting them converse comfortably without the hassle of stopping to eat. Carugallon was famished. And Carugallon was wet, because his stupid slaves couldn’t keep their wits about them.

They passed through the arched entryway in stately procession, and Carugallon looked about, ponderously, considering the appearance of his palace.

“Stupid bantha,” he grumbled, at the line of soggy twi’lek that had stopped their mopping to dutifully abase themselves. They should have had this all cleaned up by now, but it looked to Carugallon like it was only halfway done. He waved a hand to one of his mercenaries, one of those stupid fourth brigadiers, or whatever they were, he paid to manage these twi’lek.

“Find lazy,” he rumbled, “Make lazy pay. Go now, and do it.”

The mercenary hurried off into the courtyard to find the guard who by all rights should have been driving this trash, and Carugallon looked back to his silent guest.

“Slaves. So hard to manage.”

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Salri scooted into the canopied pleasure-room as pale as beaten metal and sweating as she pulled the guard’s helmet off her head and lekku.

“I can’t believe it’s working,” she gasped at Ashi, who was still being dressed – or rather, undressed, as the case may be. Salri couldn’t help admiring the blue twi’lek. Not only was blue one of those rare, sought-after colors by the Hutt, but Ashi was beautiful. Like a hero out of a fairy tale, or off the holonet. Like a legend. Her lekku were still being painted, and the dancer’s attire fit her a little snugly, but it worked on her build; she’d never pass for a waif like Salri, not in a million years, but her curves alone made Salri yearn for whatever the hell Ashi was on.

“You look great,” Salri encouraged, “You’re beautiful. Wow.”

The Jedi looked up at her and smiled, a little nervously maybe, but Salri smiled back with eager genuine feeling. Soon she’d be able to eat that well. Soon this would all be over, if she could just do her best job.

“Does he have anyone with him?”

“Yeah.” Salri hurried to remember, “A human. Big dark robe.”

“Kark,” said the Jedi. “Armor or…?”

“No, just the robe.”

The Jedi remained silent. Assisted by the house-slaves, she no longer looked like a Jedi, but Salri knew. Even if she was wearing a collar, and clinked with chains like all the other slaves, Salri would never, ever forget.

If she survived, at least.

But this was a Jedi, what could possibly go wrong?

“Alright,” came the answer, eventually, as Ashi stood up to look at herself in the mirror. Salri couldn’t read her expression exactly, but she thought it looked determined. Maybe a little paler than she remembered, but it was probably the makeup.

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Corugallon was lifted off his dias inexpertly, and transferred to his next, a splendidly rich cherry-red cradle of wood overflowing with cushions. He wiggled around to get comfortable and the slaves brought out the banquet. His guest took a seat in one of those little folding chairs, which Corugallon kept for just this sort of purpose.

He slapped at his side a few times to summon the dancers.

“You take one,” he told the human, as they began to saunter out and take their places. Free-dancers, pole dancers, wine-carriers. Corugallon was more than a little proud of his collection. He even had a few of those rare reds, and he’d made sure they were all color coded with the wine they carried, or the things they wore. They were dumb as oxen, and incessantly annoying on bad days, but it was almost as splendid as his collection of planetary fish, wandering around the great aquarium behind him.

He turned to watch a few of them swimming by, and picked out one he liked.

He pointed, and one of his body-slaves went to fetch it. A blue one, with huge tits. He side-eyed her for a bit, wondering why this one was so big, but dismissed it entirely when she fished out the side-creeper for him and offered it over.

He scarfed it, swallowing wholeheartedly, before looking back to the human.

“This one maybe,” he rumbled.

“No,” said the figure, “Thank you. I’d rather talk business, first.”

Carugallon reached out and grabbed the squishy twi’lek, who made the most adorable ‘eep’ noise, and shoved her over to him. Stupid thing. “Take anyway. Take massage. You will be surprised. Go, bantha, make him comfortable.”

He watched as she silently offered, and reluctantly, the man spread his legs, straightened his back, and settled into the shoulder massage.

“You no like her, there many others,” Carugallon offered, noticing the tension on the man.

“This is fine,” he stated, languidly. “May we continue, Carugallon? I must be on a shuttle in the morning. I would prefer it if we could finish this discussion before then. I have other great lords to visit.”

“What you want more?” Carugallon asked, settling into his own massage – it took three of the stupid things, but he drew more pleasure out of it, by appearance, than the human did. He would have to mark that slave down for whipping. Humans. Didn’t know how to appreciate anything fine in life.

He had already promised new ships, a full base on Huttlar. The darker side of it, obviously. It was a small thing, totally beneath notice on any scale that mattered. When he closed his eyes he could almost see the numbers crunching as he weighed the cost of that, against the number and quality of the materials that this human’s group was promising to produce. He didn’t much care for Jedi. He didn’t much care for Sith, come to think of it, or Revanites, or Revanchist, or whatever it was they were called. This showing proved it. So impatient. But if they could pay, they could pay, and hard coinage was what Carugallon cared about.

“I would like for you to speak on our behalf as to a treaty,” the man said, “There is a bill on your floor, which will…”

Blab la bla, bla, bla, blab la.

He closed his eyes and swallowed again, the fish still writhing musically in his gullet. It tasted exquisitely. He would be taking the finest shit in a few hours, and looked forward to it. Some of the things he had eaten today were fouling up his digestion worse than this incessant political prattling. Didn’t these fools realize that money talked louder than philosophy? What drivel.

He opened his eyes again not because the man had said something, but because he had stopped saying things.

Carugallon stared, perplexed, and a little uncomprehending at the slumped body on the floor, and the nervous looking twi’lek behind him. He blinked. Not nervous at all. She was looking at him.

“What you do?” he demanded.

He looked around, realizing that nobody was dancing anymore. Even his massage had stopped. They were staring at the fat-assed, stupid twi’lek by the chair, so he went back to staring, too.

“I need to borrow your calvacade,” the Twi’lek said.

Carugallon laughed. This was rich. What stupidity. He slapped his chair to summon his mercenaries, and one or two of them came in through the side-doors, sluggish. Internally he was irked. He would have to beat them, too, or have them beaten rather. What a mess.

He pointed.

“Kill it.”

When that didn’t work he grumbled louder, “Kill. It. Bantha-eared tailheads.”

He heard a distinct, uncharacteristic, and very unique sound behind him. A sort of Vruum sound. The dias beneath him was bathed in red. He struggled to turn to see who had drawn a lightsaber, but before he could see which of the slaves had, it went whirling over his back to snap into the hand of the blue twi’lek.

Both of its blades hummed fire-red in the golden antechamber. She twirled it and shredded the chair the human had been sitting on to pieces.

“Actually,” she said, “Sorry, but I need a ship. Too.”

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The tiny, packed corvette hummed to life under Ashi’s hands, as her heart thudded monsterously in her ears. She tried to remember the sequence properly. This was nothing like Sandra’s ship. Suddenly, Ashi wished she’d taken advantage of the opportunity to fly around Viscara, even if it wasted her Master’s fuel.

The others croweded in behind her, an entire tiny army of twi’lek, a press of flesh and hope and nervous energy that didn’t help matters.

“Is it locked?” Salri asked, and glancing at her, Ashi noticed that she was still carrying the umbrella. A folded umbrella. Bad luck to open them indoors.

Kark me, she thought to herself, That’s a stupid thing to focus on.

She looked back at the controls, and swallowed.

“No it’s just…”

“…try the red one?” called one of the other slaves, trying to squeeze forward through the press. This corvette was overloaded. Ashi felt like she was trying to manage a clown car.

“No it’s not that,” she said, “It’s just, there’s a clearance. Or something. I don’t know, it’s locked somewhere else.”

Silence. Somewhere in the back, a baby started crying, and was shushed. Ashi closed her eyes and tried to remember how to start slicing, except she didn’t have Sandra’s pad on her, and she wouldn’t be able to go back for her robes now anyway. It had been straight from the receiving room into this shuttle bay, and from there, straight into this corvette, a nervous wash of unbelieving fear driving her on as much as it drove on the slaves. She hadn’t had to fight anyone yet.


She could keep this promise to herself. But she knew this was going too well, she knew that there were so, so, so many things keeping slaves slaves, and that would be keeping her from freeing them. Beaurocracy. Debt. The slaves themselves. If just one of these, what, twenty people, suddenly decided that if they left their families – many of whom were kept in other manors by other Hutt – would suffer, she was an inch away from discovery and sudden death.

There were anti-air guns in Nal Hutta.

She opened her eyes again and tried the sequence one more time. The engines began to rumble. Ashi didn’t even know what she had forgotten, but whatever it was, she did it right this time, and she placed her hands on the control sticks to pull.

“You’re a hero,” Salri told her, clinging on to the back of the pilot’s chair at her elbow. Ashi felt remarkably naked, wearing this, and Salri wasn’t shy about touching her – clinging on to her. Their Lekku were touching, almost all the way down.

“I’m not a hero,”

“You’re mine.”

“I’m not,” Ashi asserted, “Everything I just did is totally, totally karking wrong. I don’t even know where to pilot this to. I’m totally making this up.”

She found another hand on her other shoulder, and glanced to the boy. The little yellow guy. Now he was clinging his mother’s hand, and she was trying to pull him back, to give her space.

“Anywhere but here, Jedi.”

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But I’m not a jedi.

She had wanted to say it, but it died in her throat. She couldn’t do it. In the end, she’d been weak, and selfish, and even if she’d succeeded, she knew that she was wrong. And she hated herself for it.

They achieved orbit, and thankfully, the towers ignored their lack of response. Nal Hutta was also a trade hub. They weren’t trying to dock, just trying to leave, and they were taking off from a private yard anyway, so they went. The viewports gradually showed space, and she wrestled with the controls a bit and tried to sort through the places already logged in the ship’s systems as destinations but couldn’t find any that she knew.

The people she’d rescued were sitting now, and variously singing songs or crying, or hugging each other. There was so much joy, so much emotion, so much disbelief. Ashi could hardly believe it herself.

She took the time to rub at her face, as space stretched out in front of her. Vast, empty, unfeeling space. She couldn’t take them back to Viscara. She couldn’t take them to Carugallon’s various outposts, all of which were neatly programmed in. And if she took them back to Ryl, they’d ping up, just like she might have once upon a time, and just be shuffled right back here. Probably back to Carugallon, and then, who knows?

He’d sell them, whip them, kill a few of them. Torture people.

And where was she going to take her mother?

Salri noticed her crying and hugged her, shushing her. “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

But it wasn’t okay. Ashi had fouled this up so badly. Everything had gone perfect, except that it hadn’t, not at all.

“Jedi,” rumbled a quiet, older voice from behind her.

She looked up and could see the reflection of the man in the starport, against space’s inky blackness. He was one of the moppers, one of the ones who had looked like he was willing to tear a Hutt’s limbs off with a squeegee. Now he seemed a lot calmer. He looked a lot less intimidating, too, bent over in his scrap of clothing, with his hands behind his back.

“You should go,” he said. “We’re not really your responsibility.”

Salri cut in, “I want to come with you, Ashi.”

“You can’t,” squeegee responded, apologetically. “Look at her. She’s gone far enough for us. She wanted to save her mother.” He wormed up through the press further, and peered at the star charts. Eventually he pointed. “Here. That’s a neutral waystation. Touch down here, and we’ll take the ship onwards. Maybe as far as Corsucant.”

Ashi looked from their faces to the controls, to the map. She rubbed at hers, to clear her eyes again. “Is that alright? I don’t want you to get recaptured.”

“If this keeps up,” squeegee observes, “You’re going to get recaptured yourself. You should take your mother. We’ve done some talking. Ryval knows a place, he says. We’ll survive. Besides, you have some place to be, I think.”


Ashi found herself standing in a starport again, half naked, barefoot, and carrying her lightsaber with as much dignity as that could afford her.

Remarkably, she didn’t really merit much consideration from the passersby, who were apparently entirely used to seeing mostly naked twi’lek girls in the nearby cantinas between shuttleports. They had found a short cloak for her, a gauzy affair that didn’t exactly cover anything visually but gave her a certain amount of regal dignity, but it didn’t really help matters much. Normally she would have worn pants. And shoes, at least, if not boots. It wasn’t like, even a year ago, she hadn’t been entirely used to this, but her situation had changed. Now there was a forearm-length lightsaber dangling from her lacy thong and threatening to ruin what was left of her presumed modesty, and it carried a heavier weight than the two-point-five pounds would imply.

And she felt that weight in her soul.

She watched the corvette leaving through one of the station’s view ports. She watched as it thinned, and entered hyperspace, heading towards Corsucant, and whatever refugee camp that Rayvachek - squeegee - had figured out from the other slaves. He had, as it turned out, previously been a freighter pilot himself, which would have been better to know before she had sat down at the controls to pilot them out of there. She would gladly have shoved him into the seat and let him go at it. But in the end, it was his ship now. Stolen, granted. But they’d figure it out, probably.

He had promised to find medical help for her mother. She had wanted to do it herself, but he’d been right - she shouldn’t be here. Not anymore. She had transferred him a bunch of credits from her bank and tried to be as helpful as she could, but in the end, she was a Jedi after all, even if she was just a novice - not a broker, not a mechanic. She couldn’t talk their way through customs any more than she could repair the ship or even pilot it.

Ashi stared out the viewport until even the little energy trails had subsided, and then she sighed and turned back to her own business, her own life, so to speak.

The Cantina nearby seemed like a good first bet. There weren’t any shuttles direct to Viscara, just like there hadn’t been any shuttles from Viscara direct to Nal Hutta, and she would have to wait for a connecting shuttle anyway.

“Shouldn’t you be onstage?”


She sat down. She ordered a drink. Ashi needed a drink.

How much had she changed? What exactly had she really done? She had only meant to free her mother. Instead, she’d somehow been foisted into a minor slave revolt, stolen a valuable pleasure ship, threatened a Huttese lord and held him hostage, smashed up a bunch of electronic equipment - the value of which she didn’t even begin to guess at -

Changed stuff. Changed lots of stuff. Just by showing up somewhere, she’d done all that, and the only real thing she’d done, was robbing some poor guard of his mental faculties and clocking him with a helmet. The funny thing was, the other twi’lek had done the rest - like she’d just been the spark to a torch.

The waitress, Ashi couldn’t help but notice, was dressed even less modestly, and she accepted the tall glass and thanked her for it, and sipped, as commerce and travel flowed around her. The seat was uncomfortable against her bare skin. She tried not to think about it.

When she looked up she realized the waitress hadn’t gone away. Not a Twi’lek, but a human. Brown hair, a vague smile. About as young as Sandra. “You’re her?”

Ashi blinked. “What?”

The waitress pointed at a holoscreen over on the corner, where a news report was playing. Ashi watched it for a while, uncomfortable.

“…I…” she said, and tried for humor, “Didn’t realize how cool that looked. The chair thing.”

“Personally, I think they’ve had it coming for a while.” The waitress leaned on the counter, blew a bit of her hair out of her face, and looked back to Ashi. “They’ve been trying to buy this station out for years.”

Ashi smoothed a lekku, trying to combat her nerves. “I didn’t intend to do this.”

“Where you headed now, hero?”

The question sounded innocent enough, and Ashi almost answered it honestly before her brain caught up to her tongue and redirected it. “Ryl.”

“That’s pretty far.”


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As Ashi wandered the busy causeways of the asteroidal starport, weaving her way through work-suited men and garish travelers, intermixed with what could only be called sex tourists heading for Nal Hutta – ‘business people’ would be the more gentile term – she tried to work out the solution to the current problem in front of her.

She had to get off this starport, and it wasn’t going to be as simple as buying a ticket off it, taking the shuttle, and waving by-your-leave to whatever passed for the law. She had learned from the waitress that her little escapade had made the news, and that Carugallon was very understandably pissed with her, and wealthy enough to bother with having some sort of vengeance which would probably end in murder or slavery or … murder-slavery or something ridiculously unpleasant for her. He’d never known her name, but he knew what she looked like, and unfortunately her look was distinctive. Blue twilek. Red lightsaber. Very little clothing.

Not only did she have to get off this starport, but somehow or other she had to get off the starport without anyone knowing exactly where she’d gone or where she were going, and just at the moment she felt like a very shiny fish in a very ugly pond.

That made simple things complicated. Again, she regretted leaving her robes, and hoped that they couldn’t get anything more out of them. The datapad was locked, anyway. If she had it, it wouldn’t have really availed her of much – a few slicing training programs, was all. It was just a directly purposed brick and it’s not like she was Miss Hacker. That was Sandra.

She wanted to call Sandra. But she’d got herself into this mess, and if she did call Sandra, and belly up, Sandra would get her out of it, but she’d probably get kicked out of the Order, or at least scolded pretty heavily. And then Sandra’d be involved in the mess and it would just get messier. Suddenly she was very glad she’d agreed to entrust her mother to the freed slaves; this would be hard alone. It would be totally impossible carrying a sick family member.

Ashi stopped near a concourse and took a while to watch the traffic. She knew, somehow, she would have to fit in, and this time ‘slave slut’ wasn’t the aesthetic she was going for.

It would be so helpful, she thought, if she could just use to Force to disappear, like Sandra could.

Ashi sighed.

She stood there for several more minutes trying to figure out some sort of pattern, or come up with some sort of idea, when she noticed one of the maintenance people backing through a door towards the inner concourses, the ones where the cleaning supplies and things were kept. She watched this happen a few more times while her plan formed.

She checked the departure board, and tried very hard to fix the numbers in her memory. Numbers were difficult for Ashi. She was barely competent with computers to begin with. It helped that most of the destinations were in Huttese. She could read and speak it well, particularly if she pretended, she were gargling.

Right. Yes. Okay.

She picked her moment and slipped through the door after one of the Mon Calamari janitors, who stared at her with an unamused expression. She couldn’t tell whether that was just his species or whether he was legitimately annoyed, so she said, “Sorry. I’m sorry. Is this the way to the lockers?”

“The lockers?”

Ashi prayed. She prayed so hard. She could feel every inch of his appraising gaze crawling over her exposed flesh like worms. This was a terrible feeling that she had to tamp down in order to smile. Happy Ashi. Stupid Ashi. Ashi with the tits and the legs and the lightsaber she was holding behind her rear and out of his sight.

“…New girl?” he asked, putting the pieces together. He hadn’t even got past chest level.

Thank you, thank you thank you thank you.

“Yeah. I’m sort of lost.”

He pointed down the internal causeway, back towards the Cantina. She thanked him, and danced around him just to show how thankful she was, artificially buoyant. The floor felt oily on the balls of her feet, and she was careful not to slip. It let her conceal her hands, so that when she turned away from him, she had her saber pressed against her stomach.

She hurried out of his sight and started looking for signs.

Bathroom. Other bathroom. Storage. Storage, storage, closet. Closet. She passed the back ends of several of the starport’s businesses, the curio shops and restaurants and typical commercial ventures that found it expedient to jack their prices up to catch travelers unawares, until she found the door she was looking for.

And here’s something she knew that Sandra didn’t. There were ways to act, like Sandra did, in front of the counter – and then there was what went on behind it. No waitress in their right mind, free and on their own, would ever not have spare clothing stashed away somewhere. Kark, was Ashi suddenly glad she was low-class slut rabble.

She dipped into the small shower area behind the Cantina bar, where the strippers clothed or declothed, and began to pick through the lockers. Most of them had locks on them, or handprint locks, but those were old and most of them were broken. She picked one at random and tugged at it. She picked a few more until she found one that was jammed, but that had a few stickers on it, and discovered that inside of it was a pullover top, and a few pictures of some boy.

Ashi paused a minute to appreciate this. He looked like a model. Lucky bitch.

Then she stole her clothing and quickly, very quickly, changed out into it. The girl had a jacket which Ashi took; pink leather, white pants, and a pair of boots that strapped up just beneath her knees. The shirt she found was a size too small for her and the pants strained uncomfortably, reminding Ashi that perhaps she had better start thinking about a diet or something if she wanted to go romping around like some sort of jedi-secret-spy, but she managed to fit into them with only a couple of seconds of worry about whether the stretchy cloth would tear. It seemed fit to.

Ashi checked herself in a mirror, and decided to toss her gold headband. It looked too gaudy.

She left it in the locker, thinking maybe, just maybe, it would balance out the theft somehow. Ashi had to swallow her guilt as she stepped back out into the maintenance causeway, picked her direction, and started off at a brisk walk.

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Her luck held right until she found the place where no traveler was ever supposed to be.

“You’re not supposed to be back here.”

Yes. Obviously.

She made eye contact with him, and reached out, pushing on his emotions and trying to break into his mind. She had done it to the one guard. She had done it to Sandra, though it had taken her a karking hour and a half. “It’s okay I’m here.”

The chiss stared at her, red eyed. “No. It isn’t.”


She looked past him at the long line of rollers that led directly into the belly of a transport heading for the central rings. Ashi didn’t know a lot about astral geography. In full disclosure, she knew next to nothing about it – beyond what she’d seen on Mon Calamari when Sandra had walked her through that breathtakingly beautiful map room, with its light-up floors and hanging holograms. Ashi had found her home planet, she’d found Nal Hutta, and she’d found Corsucant. They had spent a full hour staring at Corsucant. She knew where it should be. She kind of guessed where she should be. It seemed pretty simple to connect the dots somehow, even if the journey would take a few weeks. Or a month. Or whatever.

That didn’t matter much if she couldn’t at least contrive to stow away.

She looked back at the security guard.

“…You’re… really sure?”

He was really sure.

She was escorted back out onto the concourse and sat down on the end of a bench, before the security guard dipped back into the inner concourses to resume his patrol. Ashi leaned back on the bulkhead behind her and rubbed at her face.

Her saber felt cool against her mostly bare midriff, where she’d stuffed it beneath the jacket. She could feel the gentle pulsation from the crystal where she usually felt it, sort of strangely resonant in her gut, and it occurred to her that the thing was, at this point, basically dead weight. She kept having to hide it. But if she drew it out and used it, even just as a bluff to get somewhere, then what was the point of stealing clothing or trying to be clever?

Ashi tried to figure out some more ideas as she sat. She was hungry. Focusing on her gut had informed her, quite miserably, that she hadn’t eaten in a day or two. There you go, she mused to herself, that’s what you get.

People passed by. She was across from one of the restaurants she’d noticed from its back end, and considered going over to eat, but then she thought about the credit trail that would leave and resolved to try to make her stomach shut the kark up, instead. She wouldn’t starve. And even if she did starve, there would be a good meal on Viscara waiting for her. Ashi could abide. Yes. She could.

The sandwich cost about ten credits too much and she tried not to feel too ashamed as she ate it.


What would Sandra do?

Well, Sandra would … smooze her way onto some transport with regal bearing and nobility and a good and generous portion of her legs visible between a teensy-tiny skirt, is what Sandra would do. Basically, that’s most of what Ashi noticed about her Master; she was young, she was very pretty, and nobody ever pinged her for a Jedi at first glance. Innocent pretty girl. Amazing clothing choices. Smart, powerful, but like, not too powerful, otherwise that probably wouldn’t work and people would just be scared of her.

As it was, people just lined up to trip over her. And she smiled that perfect smile at them with the red lips and the charisma and, then, she did whatever she wanted. Ashi practically propped her up on a pedestal, herself. She certainly envied her confidence, even if Ashi knew what lay behind it.

Enough introspection.

Ashi eyed one of the starship captains. It had taken her a few hours too long to come up with this new plan, and a couple more sandwiches, and the loss of the rest of her hard-won dignity, but she was getting kind of desperate. The shuttle that she should have been on, if all had gone well, had left already. The freighters were all sealed tightly, and Ashi had too much of a headache to try messing with people’s minds again. The last time had been remarkably underwhelming.

It basically left her stranded with a very flashy sword and a set of stolen clothing, and her wits. Ashi didn’t know if she could rely on any of those things for anything. She didn’t feel very witty anymore and the pants were riding down, and up, paradoxically at the same time.

“Heya,” she said, sitting down next to him at the trades Cantina with the side-bar, which was totally not in any way shape or form why she had chosen to sit outside of it for the last half an hour. “Where you headed?”

He looked up at her from his datapad. This one was a Cathar. He reminded her of Kho, except that this one was the wrong color. Muscles. Like, muscles. His vest was open and all of it was visible through the fur. Peacocking was gender neutral. It was part of why she picked this one; maybe, just maybe, she could flatter him into this, or he’d flatter himself into it. It was probably normal for women to fawn over him. At least it relieved her of the stress of trying to explain anything.

He put the pad down to look at her. She waited.

“Runaway, huh?” he rumbled out, before looking back to his pad and his coffee. “Should just take you back to Nal Hutta.”

“Please don’t,” Ashi said, with a bit more emphasis than she meant to.

He snorted.

“I’ve got a berth for you,” he said.

Ashi had been about to launch into an argument, but stopped, perplexed at the easy acceptance. “Really?”


She waited for more. More did not come. He sipped his coffee, working his strange lionlike mouth around the lip of the cup and staring at whatever it was on his datapad. He didn’t even glance at her. Ashi had a strange moment of dysphoria. This seemed entirely too easy. She sat quietly by for a little while, her mouth shut, as she wrestled with the concept of looking a gift horse in the mouth, but in the end, she asked.

“You’re… really okay with just letting me onboard?”

He looked up again, fixing her in golden eyes.

“My wife,” he rumbled out, in his strange purring accent, “Passed away two years ago. You twi’lek always want off Nal Hutta. So I’ve got a stateroom. Pay as you go, stay as you like, leave when it suits you.”

Ashi opened her mouth, and shut her mouth, as the words clicked into place, and then the implications clicked into place.

“Oh,” she said.

She felt suddenly a little sick. The waiter came by with his breakfast, and Ashi asked for a coffee to try and settle her stomach. She wanted to get up and walk away, but her legs seemed rooted. Of course. Obviously. Ashi sipped at her coffee, when it came, as she sat by the taciturn Cathar, and tried to unpack everything she’d tossed off when she had got her windfall in Viscara, and broken her own chains. Some still remained, she found, as she searched her soul.

Ashi found two things there; the first, was that she really, really didn’t want him touching her. It wasn’t anything against men, anything against Cathar – it was that she hated the idea of it. The concept. Too many people had been entirely too free with her. Too many times she hadn’t had a choice. She had survived by shutting down, closing off, erecting walls, and by reaching out to others in the same situation. Her mind wormed away from thinking about it.

The second thing she found, the odd thing, was that it didn’t actually seem unreasonable in context. She wasn’t disgusted. Sick. Angry. Prideful. Wretched. Ashi, having practiced a bit of meditation, could watch these thoughts in a perspective she never had before, and she began to distinguish them apart from each other – here was the feeling in her gut, there was the shadow-grasp of an old rapist. There was the lightning jolt of her nerves in the base of her spine near her tailbone. Old memories. Not so old memories.

And because she could watch, because she was watching, she realized that now, at this very moment, she had an active choice to make.

She could make an active choice. The realization washed over her like a frozen river, and she shivered a little despite herself, clenching almost involuntarily, as though that would help anything.

But she had mastered her anger somewhere in the slave pit she’d rescued her mother from, and the realization lingered with her. She had been so proud of that, but now it tormented her waking mind. She hadn’t killed anyone on the surface. She had watched herself so carefully, had been so worried about becoming that dark-self she had defeated in the cave. She carried a red lightsaber, just to remind herself to watch, and now that she had been smaked into wakefulness, she almost began to regret it. She wanted to cut his karking head off. How could she even consider putting herself through this? Was this how Sandra felt? Sandra, who seduced people, thinking it was secret, and always said that she could do so without forming an attachment?

Was Sandra utterly disgusted by her lovers? Was she really as heartless as she always claimed to be? Ashi hadn’t believed it, and found it hard to believe, but just here, just now, she could believe it readily, and it horrified her straight to her marrow. Was this what Ashi would become, if she kept on trying to be a Jedi Shadow, like Sandra?

The Cathar stirred beside her, and she looked over to find he was watching her. The look wasn’t unkind, though she’d met few Cathar and couldn’t be certain. Ashi couldn’t bring herself to smile, and it must have showed, because his expression became long like his whiskers.

“What’s your name?”

“Ashi,” she replied automatically. Some nascent scrap of memory from the bar in Viscara, when Sandra had been trying to impart all her courtly conversational knowledge regarding small talk, came to the surface, and she continued on, “It’s short for Asharra. It means little starlight.”

“Asharra,” he rumbled, testing it out. He pushed his coffee mug towards the edge of the table. “It’s your choice, after all. I just get lonely over the miles. I am Korrl. My ship is leaving in an hour. Tell my lieutenant, a trandoshan named…”

But Ashi only half listened. The better part of her attention was on the strange emptiness that had started forming where her center was, and as he spoke on, she tested its boundaries to see just how far it reached, and wondered just what she’d done to create it, or whether it had always been there.

“Yeah,” she said, voice on autopilot. “I’ll see you around.”


Korrl awoke.

He sat up and yawned expansively and took a moment to ascertain his surroundings, an old habit from the war. His cabin in the Androit, the Captain’s cabin, seemed the same as it had always been, minus the addition of a different set of clothing discarded on the bolted-down dresser. He shifted, and eased himself off the side of the bed, so as not to wake his passenger, still sleeping, and then tested his knees.

Over the years his knees had gotten bad. They ached. He rubbed at them. Age had stolen a lot more of him than he had reckoned for, when he had started this career. Regular exercise, decent living. And he had quit drinking. That had helped. But it didn’t make old wounds or arthritis go away. One day, he would quit living like this. One day, maybe, he would just have his breakfast and his coffee and quit with women altogether, however beautiful, or however needy. Korrl had a lot of wounds, but none of them quite as open as his heart. Poor damn things.

It still hurt to stand up in the mornings. He found his way to the dresser, and moved Asharra’s discarded leggings aside to open it, fishing around for fresh drawers and a shirt before heading in to the attached shower. He noticed her lightsaber peeking from beneath the ludicrously decorated jacket, and picked it up, examining it in the dim night-light he kept going. Tilting it, he examined the crystals at the end, and then grunted, setting it aside. Looking back to the recumbent form on his bed, he wondered at the meaning, but decided he could deal with this later, when he was more awake, if it needed dealing with at all.

He would take a cold shower. He needed it. His bones needed it.

Halfway through the shower the door opened, and he turned to watch Asharra enter.

“Why?” she asked, accusatory. Through the wavy glass, he could see her expression dimly.

“Why what?”

He slicked back his mane, waiting for her to continue. When she didn’t, he shut the water off and moved the door aside. He found his towel where it hung on the rack, and wrapped it around his middle, letting his fur air-dry for the moment as he examined the embarrassed, strangely defiant woman.

“You knew, didn’t you?”

“Please,” he grumbled, “Stop speaking in riddles.”

“Aha.” Asharra pointed. “I know that stupid joke. You knew. When did you know?”

He sniffed at her. She smelled indignant. She also smelled like a lot of woman, but he set that thought aside, too, because even if he wanted to pick her up and toss her back into the cabin, he knew if he didn’t get sat down somewhere soon his knees would decide not to listen to him anymore.

“About twenty minutes ago.” She relaxed, so he came closer to her, put a hand on her shoulder. When she didn’t move, he reached up and cupped her cheek, and then touched the base of her lekku, where he knew there was a certain spot. Like clockwork. She seemed a little tense, but it eased in gradients.

“Are you going to turn me over?”

He raised his eyebrows, and let her stew on the question, watching her violet, downcast expression.


She looked up at him. He smiled a bit at her. His knees were killing him.

“Stand easy,” he assured her, as gently as he could, though he kicked himself mentally over the wording. Old Republic habits died hard. At least he hadn’t said ‘soldier’, this time. He could read her body language, now that he was looking at it, and cheating a bit. It said, ‘I’m a fighter’, but he could smell the uncertainty wafting off of her, and she didn’t look about to explode into violence, so he smoothed his hand back down her arm, and then settled it around her flank.

He sniffed her expressively, as a hint, and then said, “Shower. You’re safe, we’ll talk about it.”

It took a little more encouragement to get her to unclench, but he said all the patient things he could, and when he had shown her the spare towels and promised to fetch out some of his wife’s old clothing - he had no use for it anyway - he left her in the bathroom and returned to his cabin, where he found his chair and sat back into it.

Asharra had moved her clothing around, and flung it, he noticed.

A little chill started at the base of his tail and worked down it as he read the situation in the detritus. The lightsaber had disappeared somewhere.

It occurred to him, just at that moment, as he came a bit more fully awake, that he could just be in imminent danger. But the girl that had walked into the bathroom hadn’t seemed more than surface upset, despite the way she spoke, and he puzzled at it, trying to work it out. Eventually he rubbed at his temple and gave it up. Women. Who could know what went on inside their heads?

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Days passed, and Korrl couldn’t find a reasonable cause for complaint.

Having Asharra around, even though he was fully cognizant of how temporary and transactional that was, turned out to be a better distraction than he thought it might be.

She ate enough for two starving twi’lek. At least, he thought, she already seemed well fed enough not to throw up at the first large meal. But then again, she wasn’t his usual sort of passenger. Though he never saw the lightsaber again, after that first evening, he knew that she had to have it around stashed somewhere. The spare clothes he had on hand, some of the last remnants of Sura’s clothes, were a little loose on her, and he didn’t begrudge their loss. Years would pass before he could be rid of Sura’s clothing.

But they were just clothes, after all. Not the woman that had worn them. And he had to admit, she looked good in oversized shirts.

They would shower in the morning. Sometimes together, mostly alone. He usually rose first, his soul set on a clockwork as impassive and inexorable as a stop watch. He would relieve his lieutenant, the co-pilot, who managed the helm during the evening and then disappeared back into his cabin, with a few words and the usual turnover – rarely did anything happen on the mainstream runs between stations.

Asharra had asked him on the first day if she had to do anything else on the ship.

“No,” he’d told her, “Just keep me company.”

She did remarkably admirably. Though she would often go off to be quiet on her own – he didn’t quite know what she did, exactly, but she was quiet about it – sometimes she would come and sit in the cockpit and, though she had been observably sullen for the first couple of days, by the third she had opened up and begun to talk.

Korrl did not often feel like talking, but he liked listening to her. Rather than the usual beaten-down pawing, so often the case, it didn’t seem like Asharra had any ideas about impressing him or sucking up to him, beyond what was implicit between them. She slept with him. Rubbed his back, rubbed his knees. He had been feeling remarkably better lately and suspected that perhaps she had done something on her own, he just couldn’t place his finger on what. Almost all slaves knew how to do those things – but his knees had quit hurting this morning. He suspected it had something to do with what she was.

He had become used to slave stories over the years. They all started out differently, ended up being the same. But Asharra’s story went beyond that. She told him about her luck, and then about her friends, after the silence dragged on long enough. Absent, the story about her lightsaber hung unspoken in the air between them, and he suspected she was trying to protect those people with her silence. She did not trust him. He did not blame her.

On the fourth day, she came in a few hours after his shift started, and plopped her rump down beside him in one of Sura’s old shirts. It was cut Cathar style, with a lot of room to breathe, but he looked at the cloth rather than at what it left uncovered. The pattern gave him a pang.

“She liked flowers,” he said, glancing from the endless expanse of hyperspace, to pluck at it. “Sura did.”

Asharra looked down at the shirt, pulling it away a little to examine the pattern as well. Korrl watched her for a few moments longer before looking back to where he was supposed to be looking.

“Sorry,” the twi’lek said. “Should I go find another one?”

“No. Go ahead and keep it.”

The twi’lek went silent. He gave her a sidelong look, and found that she was sitting there contemplating him, legs folded in the chair, like a man might, if he were bored and felt like stretching. She made it seem natural, the minx.

“What?” he asked.

“Why… do this? I mean. Your wife, yeah, gone a couple years, and obviously this is really lonely. But don’t you think it’s wrong to pick escaped girls up, make them do all this for a ride off the planet?”

He snorted. “Most of them, it’s the only way they can pay for it. If not me, someone else. There’s worse people in the galaxy.”

“You’d have taken credits?” she asked, dubious, but with her usual dry wit. Korrl felt the beginnings of a smile, even a smirk coming on, but kept his expression as solidly serious as a statue. He had perfected it over years. Or maybe it had just grown on him.

He nodded. Asharra stared at him.


“Do I strike you as dishonest?”

“No, but-…“

She seemed a bit lame. Asharra had a way of sucking her cheek, he noticed, and he had the sense it was something like a weathervane for her. She never thought deeply without some sort of mouth movement. It reminded him a bit of a child, but usually what came out of that mouth of hers was either flippant, or so polite he knew she wanted to be.

“But I’m taking advantage of vulnerable women,” he finished for her, so she wouldn’t have to come up with it.

“-…yeah. Why?”

He tilted the freighter’s helm up and locked it into place, letting autopilot handle it by the numbers as he sat back and folded his arms. His side itched a little, so he scratched it.

“Would you rather pay credits?” he asked.

“You’re avoiding the question.”

“You,” he stated, “Cut me out of a crowd, watched me eat my breakfast, and then attempted to seduce me. I just gave you my terms.”

“I wasn’t attempting to seduce you. I just asked you where you were going.”

He twined his fingers, regarding her critically. He was very good at looking critical. It was one of his strong points. Old Sergeant Korrl could make ceremonial tomb guards feel nervous, and after a few moments of staring at him, peevish, the girl looked away.

“Fine. Okay. I figured you would say yes,” she admitted. “But what about everyone else?”

“I don’t do this so often,” Korrl explained, “But when I do, it’s usually for the same reasons. Some poor starved twi’lek comes up to me, wearing stolen clothing, and nervously offering to sleep with me while begging to get off the planet. These days I just assume that’s what it is."

That didn’t seem to satisfy Asharra, but she had started worrying at her cheek again, which meant she couldn’t come up with a reasonable accusation to the contrary immediately. He enjoyed watching her. He wasn’t quite sure whether it was because she was clever, or because he had been out here on the fringe too long without having a conversation deeper than the latest pirate sightings or astral weather more than once or twice a year. This time, he just waited.

It came out eventually.

“You could just take them off for free. If you care about it that much, why don’t you do something?”

He rumbled. Hummed.

“I’m getting old,” he told her, slow and thoughtful, himself. “We do what we can, with what we have, with what we’ve been given. The difference between the two of us is that I’ve been given time.”

“Who’s talking riddles now?”

“I only have a few regrets in life. Money spent on frivolities, got from work that ruined me. Letting my dreams pass, so I could fit to what was expected of me.” He cast his gaze over her, taking her in. Aside from the shorts, and that loose short, she was bare-legged again. “And missing chances at happiness. Even momentarily. If someone like you comes up and offers, I say yes. If I work for free, they don’t trust it, so I don’t. Have I mistreated you?”

Asharra barely opened her mouth but seemed to think better of it. Their eyes met for a while. Hers were lovely. Flecked indigo, almost a deep purple, quite a different hue from her skin. He tried to soften his expression and found that he couldn’t quite manage it. Habit made him stare her down so she looked down, herself.

“No. Not like I thought you would be. But… it’s still not right. I can’t say why, just now, but it isn’t.”

He rubbed at his chin, and itched his whiskers, feeling a little guilty despite himself.

“You’ve paid passage,” he decided, eventually, conceding a little bit, to salve his strangely wounded pride.

She looked up at him, a little surprised, so that he couldn’t help but finally smile.

“…but for all the food you’re eating…”

“Kark off!”

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He stayed true to his word, and his evenings became less interesting by certain measures – though, she still lay next to him and didn’t seem to mind it. She was at least a head and a half shorter, and fit snugly into him, seeming to prefer it despite her protests.

She would occasionally twitch in her sleep, but seemed fine to him, otherwise.

In the morning he asked her to rub his legs, though he didn’t feel like he needed it, anymore, and now he was certain she had done something to his knees. The Jedi were odd like that. He had seen men brought back from the brink of death by the few he’d seen accompany his platoon, and Asharra must have been capable of it, herself. After a few days, he found that she would still sometimes shower with him as well, apparently for the expediency – though what, exactly, she was in a hurry for, he couldn’t quite tell. It couldn’t have been the excitement of another day of watching him navigate through asteroid fields and hyperspace jumping through the blank stretches of sky.

Days turned into weeks. Their conversations ranged back and forth. He told her about his wife, since she seemed to be interested, and most of her collections were still around the freighter, like her books and the collections of rather pretty insects and baubles that he had stashed away in chests. They were keepsakes, the detritus of a feeling he’d once had, for someone he felt was irreplaceable, too valuable to throw away but too painful to stare at for too long.

The third week, at his lunch break, she sauntered into the small wardroom in a loose dress, more of a sari of gold broadcloth, with one of the books in her hands. Asharra never wore jewelry, he noticed, though she’d kept the slave collar she had arrived in – he wasn’t sure she actually thought about it. Most slaves just discarded them, hating them. Asharra, however, had simply forgotten she were wearing it – she’d had it on since the first instant that he’d noticed her in the starport.

He hadn’t mentioned it to her yet, though he was considering it. Khorrl was curious.

“Will you read this to me?” she asked, setting it down beside his plate of spare ribs. “I don’t know your language.”

He stared at the book, and then stared at her.

“You are aware how long it takes to read a book?” he queried, patiently.

“Yeah. I mean when you’re just sitting there at the helm doing nothing, Kor.”

He sat back in his chair and took the book up, brushing his hand over the cover to wipe the rest of the dust away. It was a familiar leather tome that weighed his shoulders down and he could feel his spirit flagging.

“Let me find you another book,” he said, setting Sura’s journal aside and patting it. This was going to be a long day.

Korrl read to her, in the small spaces where he could set the ship on a precise course. The Freighter didn’t move quite so fast, dragging a line of containers from starport to starport. They were in the usual lanes, as well, in the inner systems, so aside from correcting for other traffic he didn’t really have to pay that hard of attention to it. He would glance up every fifteen or twenty minutes, to check the numbers and course, and then return to reading to her.

He had read for about an hour or two about the animals and insects illustrated in the book, until she interrupted him.

“Could you read to me in Cathar?”

“Catherese,” he corrected, in galactic standard.

“Yeah,” she asserted.

He half closed the book, keeping his finger in place to examine her expression. She seemed serious.

“You won’t understand it,” he pointed out.

She just nodded, looking implacable. He squinted a bit at her, trying to figure out what was going on behind the indigo eyes, but he rumbled out his displeasure when he couldn’t seem to read the usually honest girl’s face. Asharra was half lidding her eyes, and sitting as still as a poised feline.

So he read to her in Catherese, and she did not interrupt him.

He didn’t see why she wanted to listen to the language until a few days later, when he woke up groggy to the stirring beside him and found that they were entangled in a different way than usual. She had stretched out and was examining him from a few inches away, overtop his chest. Asharra was heavy for a twilek, but nothing to him.

“Good morning,” she said.

“Good morning,” he grumbled, automatically.

They stared at each other for a moment while Khorrl woke up, and his ears caught up to him. When his brain got around to listening to them, he couldn’t help that they flicked right forward. Korrl sat up and looked down at her as she sprawled in his lap.


“Good morning,” she repeated, in Catherese.

He struggled for a moment to comprehend this, even though it was in his native language, and his mouth must have betrayed his bemusement because she smiled in a self-satisfied way. He reached out to pet at her lekk, and she didn’t so much as twitch. A good mood, then, he thought. A very good mood, for the odd slave-Jedi.


“Thank you.”