A Collection of Fan Fiction from WoW, SWG and more!

A Free Slave is Still a Slave (Xephron Tide and Aayahpoy’shiri – SWTOR)

OOC Note: It’s not often I get a writing partner as prolific or as fun as Xephron.  This is the first of many stories I’ve written with him.  It is reposted with permission.

 

Aayahpoy’shiri closed the lid of the small crate smiling to herself, quite pleased with the fifteen thousand credits she counted out and secured. She gathered the hem of the dark blue dress she wore and pushed the crate beneath the bulkhead as she rose to her feet. From a few contacts, she heard that Tiocou Dejan, her master, had been on Tattooine, doing what business he could there for the different criminal sects that thought they ruled the planet. Fifteen thousand credits was the price of both her freighter and her freedom, or so she hoped. In the back of her mind, she knew that she had the courage to kill him should he refuse, she was tired of being seen as a slave. Regardless of her path to freedom, so long as Tiocou lived without payment, that’s all she would be. And when dealing with Brolla or any Hutt, Poy felt she needed a stronger foundation to stand on. 

The Twi’lek slipped through the corridors of her ship to her quarters to change out of her dress and into her usual garb. The elegance that she appreciated in the privacy of her sanctuary had no place in her line of work. Even with her contract with the Vanguard, she kept her professional facade close at hand. It was rare that she drop it without knowing if they would report her bounty. It had been too long since she had trusted anyone beyond the Kiva’s or Remy.

Feeling more secure in her worn leathers, blasters at her hips, Aayahpoy’shiri strolled down the ramp of her freighter, looking for someone to inform of her trip to Tattooine and that she would be gone a few days on business.

Another day, another successful training session. Xephron wrapped the towel around his neck and clipped his training saber to his belt. He was shirtless, but decided that he was more comfortable that way and elected to simply drape his black shirt over his shoulder. Behind him, the training droid hauled itself down the hallway towards maintenance. Xephron was getting rather good with his footwork in utilizing Shii-Cho. His Master, Knight Commander Broon Khavar had told him that he needed to work on the basics of the form, to be able to use it until he fell from exhaustion, and that that exhaustion should come only after hours and hours of doing the form.

So Xephron had been working on the form for days at a time. Until every stroke was second nature.

He smirked to himself, walking out of the training bay and moving to the nearest door to outside. He needed some fresh air. He surmised that the closest opening to air was the hangar. An odd place to be right after a heavy sparring match, but Xeph figured that the hangar was peaceful in it’s own way. The sounds of tinkering, the noise of engines, it was a constant reminder of progress.

He entered the Hangar after a few minutes and squirted a stream of water from the bottle he had been carrying around to his training sessions. When he finished drinking, he looked up and saw Poy walking towards him. She was a new friend and the look on her face was something that mystified Xephron.

Xeph really liked Poy. Something about her just seemed to bring out the best in him. She was a great friend indeed, or muchi as she had taught him. And it didn’t hurt that she was attractive to boot. He wave to her and walked up casually, forgetting for the moment that he was still naked from the waist up.

“Hey you. You look like you’re going somewhere…”

The Smuggler raised a finger as she rose up onto the tips of her toes to look past Xephron, her turquoise eyes darted about the hanger seeking an officer or someone more attached to the higher ups than this kid. Seeing no one she lowered herself and smiled to the Jedi, her thumbs hooking naturally to the buckle of her belt. “And you look like you made a wrong turn when you were aiming for the ‘fresher.”

She shook her head, offering a flat chuckle, “I’m sorry, I guess you’re as good as anyone to deliver the message. I’m taking off a few days, muchi. There’s a bit of business I need to take care of.” Poy shrugged lightly, Xephron had proved himself to her a few times and though she had no reason not to put trust in the new friendship that formed with him, she couldn’t put herself behind it completely. Part of her worried that meeting him at Brolla’s Palace was a bit too serendipitous despite her gut telling her that she was a moron.

Xephron smirked at her joke. He reached up and grabbed at both ends of the towel with his left hand, letting his arm dangle from his grip.

“Just got done training actually. Was just getting some air. Hangar seemed as good a place as any.” He shrugged looking around.

It must have been nice to leave whenever she wanted. It wasn’t as if Xephron had a huge yearning to leave at any given moment but it was just the principal. Being able to do something as opopsed to not being able to. If he wanted to take leave, he would have to ask permission and get clearances and blah blah blah.

Or he could just do like he used to and just up and leave. One way spoke louder to mentality than the other. Xeph just didn’t feel like pissing his Master off any more than necessary. Sometimes it was just nice to keep Khavar on his toes. It was said, after all, that a Master and Padawan relationship was supposed to be beneficial for both individuals. Broon trained Xeph, and nurtured his talents, teaching him the ways of the Force, and Xephron would constantly throw Broon some kind of proverbeal curve ball, forcing him to think a few steps ahead to head off such instances. Whether it be in the sparring ring, or in a verbal conversation.

Xeph just kind of prided himself on being unpredictable. It’s just what he did.

But he was also a Jedi Guardian, or at least one in training. He was the kind of guy who saw several options in situations but picked the loudest of them. For instance, if there was some kind of drug deal going down, and he and his team were outside the door, sure you could pick the lock, yeah, you could stage a breach at the windows outside and be very tactical, but Xeph would rather just kick the door down. The quickest route between two points was, after all, a straight line. Why play someone elses game and run the labyrinth when you could just use your own talents and plow straight through the middle to reach your prize?

That was how Xephs mind worked in situations like that. But this situation was different. Sure he could relay the message to the Commander that Poy was leaving for a couple days, but something didn’t feel right. The Force was pushing him towards something in this situation, but he couldn’t tac it down with his finger. What was it trying to tell him?

“I’ll call Commander Khavar for you Poy, but… look are you okay? You seem a bit… nervous? Maybe? It’s hard to tell, I’m not used to reading the body language of a Twi’lek. Where exactly are you going, and to do what?”

Questions, so many questions. Poy shook her head, “It’s just another contract.” She stated rather quickly, dismissively, not really trying to hide the fact that she was lying through her lekku. “Just inform the Knight Commander I’– actually, do you know where he is, muchi?”His question unnerved her. It had been the better part of twelve years since Aayahpoy’shiri had lived in any sort of communial setting and even now she preferred the sanctuary of her ship where she could pretend to have some semblence of privacy. She had broken free of the bonds of slavery to rid herself of such control.

She didn’t look away from Xephron as she spoke, though her expression had turned coldly professional.

Xephron narrowed his eyes slightly as he noticed that slightly less than subtle shift in Poy’s demeanor.

“A contract. A contract that you don’t want to talk about. Poy, one thing you need to learn about being here is that regardless of your chosen profession, we are a family. Family looks out for each other. You’re giving me the vibe that I should be coming with you…”

Xeph took another shot of water from his bottle and eyed the Twi’lek evenly.

“You can trust me Poy. I’m not in the business of hurting people, unless they hurt other people. In which case I hurt them. But thats irrelevant. Look, you want company? I could use a day or two away from whipping up on old rusty the combat droid, and you look like you need a few laughs.”

The Twi’lek sighed, visibly relaxing a bit though her regard of Xephron remained wary despite their past interactions. She knew he could hold himself well enough with the thugs within Brolla’s palace and she trusted him to have a cool head. He was still an outsider and as Poy had come to understand things, the way Jedi did business was without any idea of subtlty. She reached out and took his water bottle from him to take a drink, “Hit the ‘fresher, you smell like dirty boy and not with that sweet edge that exists in my quarters.”

Poy smirked. Her lekku with writhing with the myriad of thoughts that raced through her mind. Xephron could complicate things, he could also provide a strong backup should things go south with Tiocou. “I’m going to Tatooine to buy myself. I’ve got a few contacts that tell me my master is in a small settlemant a few hundred kilometeres west of the Dune Sea.”

Xephron smiled and slipped a thumb into his lightsaber belt. “Here I thought I could just slip aboard the ship and shower on there. It would have been a vulnerable moment for you to take advantage of me.” Xeph winked and turned to walk back the way he had come. He turned lightly over his shoulder and called back.

“And don’t even think about leaving without me lady. I’ll be pissed, and you don’t want a pissed off Jedi following you around the galaxy.”

He smirked and stuffed his hands into his pockets, walking briskly back to his quarters. He quickly gathered his gear and equipment and placed them on his bunk, before rushing to the shower to rinse himself off. He washed his hair quickly and left it spiked in it’s natural way as he exited. After toweling himself off, Xeph strapped on his pistol holsters, tucked in his sleeveless black tunic, and clipped his belt straight. He grabbed his Mando Kama and slipped that on as well, then tucked his most prized possession into the back of his belt, under his kama and out of sight.

His black leather gloves.

He double checked his boots and decided to leave his mock up armor behind for this trip. One last look around his bunk told him that he had all he needed. The last part of the ensemble was his fathers lightsaber. He looked “Fate Bringer” over and nodded to himself. He had everything he needed.

Xeph grabbed his pack and slung it over his shoulder, then started back for the hangar. Hopefully Poy had actually waited for him.

The Vatak’ultuka was still sitting in the hangar with the boarding ramp leading into the cargo hold still down. Its Twi’lek pilot however was nowhere to be seen.

Aayahpoy’shiri secured the secondary cargo hold that she had recommisioned for use as a temple behind a retro-fitted blastdoor. She couldn’t explain to anyone let alone herself why she took such precautions to hide her faith, it seemed a silly gesture. In her heart there was nothing but pride for her beliefs. Though the disaappointment in herself for failing the Kiva’s of the Shiri temple at times, overwhelmed her. It’s why she ran. Behind the facades she wore for the amusement of others and for her own protection, she knew how rare one gifted to be an oracle for the Tribes were. And she had pissed on it.

Her voice carried a low sung song of praise and worship to the Goddess Kikka’lekki as Poy drifted through her freighter, preparing for flight. Her tea was made and sitting in the cockpit, the cargo bays had been secured. The hypderdrive was functioning at its peak and the engines were clear and fueled. Her golden fingers clung to the edge of the doorway as she peered out and down the ramp, scanning the hangar for her crew for this trip and offering a wave to Xephron once she had spotted him, “I’ll get us clearance then!” She shouted and turned on her heel, meandering towards the cockpit.

With a heavy sigh and a flop, Poy landed herself in the pilot’s seat. She leaned forward to hit the switch of the comm unit, “Vanguard Command, this is Vatak’ultuka requesting permission for departure.” She spoke with a flat and calm tone, her fingers dancing over the navicomp before reaching over to the controls to spin up the engines. It was a few moments before verification came through. She was quick to look over her shoulder, “Get the ramp, muchi!” She shouted back, not really knowing if he had boarded or not. She’d idle and wait, regardless.

Xeph was happy to see the ship still there when he came walking back up. He hustled up the ramp when he saw Poy ascend. He heard her call from the cockpit and nodded to himself, looking around for the ramp controls. After a few button presses, the ramp was hissing shut. Xeph tossed his pack to the floor and walked up to the cockpit.

“Not a bad ride here Aayahpoy’shiri.” Xeph had never used Poy’s full name before. It seemed difficult for humans to pronounce, but he found that the more phrases that she taught him in her native tongue, the easier it was to let the letters roll off of his tongue.

He plopped down in the Co-pilots chair and watched her fingers fly over the console. She definitely had a love for flying. And who wouldn’t? In her line of work it was to be expected. You had to love the craft in order to continue it so long. He simply placed his hands behind his head and relaxed.

“So… we are going to go and buy… you. Interesting sentiment. I take it we are heading back to your former Master. Should be a fun trip, I’ve never been to Tattooine before. Heard it was kind of warm there.”

Xeph knew that the trip could be hazardous. People who were in the slavery business didn’t necessarily like to let slaves go. Now he was glad he was tagging along. He could provide a bit of security for his new friend should the need arise. Or a show of force, should that also be necessary.

Poy tugged her goggles down over her eyes, her hand slipping from the Navicomp once the course had been plotted to ease onto the yolk. The ship’s thrusters fired and the Twi’lek naturally guided them out of the hanger and into the atmosphere before offering Xephron a sidelong smile. His pronounciation of her name was slightly off, but he was getting the hang of it. “It means a regret on the wings of a song.” A soft snerk at the cliche of the translation, “My misha was a Gida and never wanted a child so she named the one she had, Regret. It’s why I prefer to be called Poy, a pilot going under the name of wings is a better sentiment I’ve found.”

The radiant blue of the Aldaeraan sky began to give way to a hazy purple hue, fading into the sheer black of space. With the influx of stars, Poy slipped her goggles back up atop her head, her lekku writhing to adjust themselves as they always did with the motion. “And yes, we’re going to purchase my freedom. I stole it a few years ago along with this ship and have spent that time saving what credits I could. Now, I have enough and hopefully Tiocou has the sense to accept the offer.” Despite her intial distrust of his motivations to come with her, the Smuggler was beginning to open herself up. What else was there to do in the reaches of the black?

She gave no warning before hitting the switch to boost them into the hyperspace for the long haul to the Outer Rim. The pinpoints of stars beginning to elongate as they whisked past. “Might as well get comfortable. We’ll be here a while.”

Xeph nearly fell out of his seat as Poy hit the hyperdrive. He smirked his famous smirk and righted himself.

“You know, the Twi’lek people are a bit more poetic than galactic society gives them credit for. I’ll call you Poy from now on then. I don’t want you to think I regret being around you. So I’ll not use words that mean regret, in any language if I can help it.”

He thought on the things he knew about the twi’lek people and was ashamed that aside from the fact that they made magnificent dancers, and that he had never met an overweight twi’lek, he knew very little about them. They had a while yet before they reached their destination, he might as well find out what he can about them now. If he could do so in a not-so-pushy manner. But first thing was first. He swung his chair around and kicked his feet up on Poy’s arm rest, so that she couldn’t leave.

“Don’t worry about, Tiocou was it? I’m sure he will see reason in the end. And if he doesn’t… Well… we will figure something out.”

His eyes flicked over to her goggles and he smiled. He rather liked looking at her eyes, but the goggles seemed to come down regularly. His thoughts immediately flicked back to Mira. He realized he hadn’t told her or Cross that he was leaving.

Well they would find out eventually.

“Tiocou’s an old frotz of an arms dealer, too old to deny reason when he sees it. Unless having his ship stolen out from under his nose by what he believed to be a perfectly content slave changes a man.” Aayahpoy’shiri kicked her feet up onto the console, crossing her ankles and relaxed in her chair. She reachesd an arm over to sling against his feet on the arm of his chair, her gaze shifting over the young Jedi. There was a look of curious interest on her face, one of her tattooed eyebrows raising at the sight of that smirk. “How familiar are you with the slave trade in general? You look alot younger than you seem, but it could be my askew vision of humanoids in general.”

Xeph let his features remain indifferent at the contact. He simply listened to the question and nodded. It was fair. He was young, that was true. But he had a bit of experience in this kind of thing.

“I was raised in a Black Ops organization based out of Deralia. Their sole purpose was to weed out corruption and corporate espionage. But we did our fair share of taking out small time crooks and the like. When I was 14 years old, I took part in a raid on some drug lord who was trying to break into the slave trade business. Slave trade is illegal on Deralia so we were the big heroes when we busted the place up. No one knew it was us of course. But the fact remains that no matter what planet I go to, I always see Slavery as wrong, no matter how you slice it. Other than the fact that I helped take a dealer out once, I really don’t know all that much about the trade. I don’t care for it, and the fact that we are going to get just one more person away from such a thing is just fine by me.”

Xeph shrugged from his slouched position. “I also have a tendered feeling that those in the trading of people have a weak spot for money. We could use that should the need arise. Offer him more than he expects and it should make him less keen to a violent turn. That’s just random thoughts though, I’ve never met the guy. Hopefully we can get you free and clear without incident. But if not. I have a few cards up my sleeve. And I wont let anything happen to you. Of that you have my word Miss Poy.”

He winked playfully. It was all common conversation to him. The thought of violence just didn’t bother him like it did other people. He was used to it.

Sometimes he even craved it. But in a Justicy, honorable kind of way…

She rolled the words over in her mind before repeating them slowly, “Miss Poy.” The cockpit filled with the sounds of her chuckling, “It’s just Poy. There’s no need to attach anything to it, Muchi.”

Her regard over him slipped away as she looked out into the black, “On Ryloth, selling the eldest daughter into slavery can raise your entire family out of a lesser caste or feed them for a generation. It can pay for the construction of a temple. It’s been a tradition amoung Twi’lek’s to profit from the beauty of our women, it even has a name in our language. Vassij’ra. I was no different than so many of my sisters, blessed with Kikka’lekki’s gifts and then punished for carrying them. I don’t blame my misha for selling me, as wrong as I may think the trade is, I can’t deny what it does to help the clans on Ryloth. It’s a source of income many never had.”

Poy smiles softly and rolls her shoulders back in a light shrug, her fingertips drumming at the toe of Xephron’s boots. “If it’s a fight to be had with the old chir’aki though, it’s my fight.”

“Blame or no blame, understanding or not, you’re going to walk away from this with nothing less than what you’re after.”

He had never heard anything of Ryloth before. It was strange to think that selling your own child could raise your standing in the community, such a thought was utterly and completely foreign to Xephron. He knew that his understanding of such a thing was basic at best. Sometimes having lived 90% of his life on Deralia was a damning notion. It practically ensured that he had remained ignorant of the galactic policy of certain things, and he still sat in the dark when it came to most cultures outside of his own. Had his father actually raised him as a son, instead of pawning him off to Breen Omahri, Xephron might have seen a lot more of the galaxy, and had been trained properly how to foster his talents within the Force.

But that was all wishful thinking at best. He couldn’t change his past anymore than he could alter the future before it’s time. He was what he was now because of the decisions of others, and himself. There was no going back, and Xeph wasn’t sure he would if he could.

His eyes flicked around lazily in the cockpit until they finally fell on Poy.

“So are you going to give me the 20 credit tour or what?”

It was her turn to smirk and she did so to hide a whimsically amused grin, “Are you going to move your feet?” Her hand dropped down to grasp the underside of his ankles and his lifted his feet with ease and swiveled her chair to face him. “Might as well.” The sentiment dropped from her lips as she pushed herself to her feet.

If body language could portray sarcasm, her courtsey would’ve warranted a round of applause. “Welcome to Chateau Poy’Shiri.” One of her long, golden arms motioned to around the cockpit of her Corellian XS Freighter. It was a testament to the Smuggler’s love of her work. Everything about the cockpit was pristinely clean and well cared for. The only two seats in it were at the helm, a friendly reminder that there was nothing but business to be done here. A small Twi’lek amulet to the sun dangled from the center of the main viewport. “It is here you will find the office of Miss Poy’shiri. She sees very few clients here, or people for that matter. She believes that any distraction from her explorations to the black are much like a… blue ball?” Poy gave a friendly sing-song of a whistle and clasped her hands behind her back, turning on the ball of her foot she sort of sashayed down the corridor.

Tchun, her left lekku writhed to drape over her shoulder as Poy came to a halt in the small galley. What counters had been there for any preparation had been covered with crates and boxes. Anything from spice to booze, blasters and bobbleheads. Atop one of the crates was a kettle, beside it an open box filled with cups and different satchels. Above the kettle, hung a collar from the hull. Poy failed to motion at it, instead she motioned to the couch, “This is the galley and also the crew quarters of this luxury liner. It is here that Mister Tide will be finding his rest. Miss Poy assures him that the couch is one of the finest she could purchase on Naboo.” A bemused smile and a wink at Xephron before she continued on. The thick scent of incense hung throughout the ship. “Miss Poy also apologies for the lack of food. She tends to sustain herself on a fungus based tea while travelling in space. She has not found a human who cared for such a thing so she does hope you brought your own rations. If not, she’s sure that we will be out of hyperspace shortly. ”

Her heels click together as she moves down the corridor, motioning casually to the retrofit durasteel plating of the cargo bay she had closed off earlier. “Miss Poy requests that this room remain closed off. There is a breach in the hull.” She lies, naturally and carries on, only to stop a moment later to motion at the second cargo bay where Xephron had entered in from “This is the cargo bay, Miss Poy prefers that the cargo kept in there go untouched as it not usually hers.” She nods quickly and chuckles before moving on.

Another quick pause in front of the open door leading into Poy’s quarters, “These are the sleeping quarters of Miss Poy. For your own health, you may wish to remain out.” From what could be seen in the corridor, they were a haphazard mess that spoke volumes of Poy’s need to rush everywhere and perhaps a slight neurosis to her character. The Twi’lek lowers her voice as she looks over her shoulder,”Or tell her to get off her lazy lekku and clean them.” Another chuckle before she turns to Xephron, “Any questions about the tour so far, Mister Tide?”

Xeph followed Poy around her ship, smirking at the novelty that the woman was making out of the ordeal. For someone that hadn’t initially wanted him to tag along, she certainly jumped right into the role of guide. It was nice to see for Xephron at least. The fact that she had a sense of humor spoke volumes about her character.

She had been through a rough life, no matter how you sliced the deck. Being sold into slavery by your own kin…Xeph didn’t care if Poydid understand the reasons, there was no way someone could not feel abandonment from something like that. But Poy didn’t wear her heart on her sleeve. She apparently had demons just like everyone else.

Hell, Xeph had been a victim of his own past right up until he had decided that enough was enough. He had hunted down his particular troubles and kicked them in the teeth. And in the process, he had met Deakan Omahri, had met the love of his life, Mira, and in fact learned more about himself than any other single instance in his life. That ordeal had dropkicked the sharp edges of his squared off psyche and formed him into a well rounded individual.

For a Tide… that is.

Maybe this trip was Poy’s breaking point. Maybe it was her “I’ve had enough” speech. If it was, Xephron was glad that he could help her along the way. Even if it wasn’t, he would make the most of the trip and deign to help in whatever fashion he could. He really liked Poy. She was a true individual. A free spirit that was proverbially trapped in a cage made of glass. Apparently this trip was going to be her steps to open the cage door, but with glass, pecking in the wrong places too hard would be just as dangerous as if the cage master had taken a hammer to the thing. There wouldn’t be any way that you made it out unscathed.

He kept his thoughts on the subject to himself though. As much as he liked Poy for her individuality, he also respected privacy. And yeah, while she didn’t exactly throw her emotions out in the open for everyone to see, Poy was someone Xephron figured he needed around. Her personality made it easier to relax. And relaxing was nothing short of a godsend in Xeph’s line of work. Sometimes you just needed to unwind. He found it easier, being around Poy and her strange ways. In a way, she was very refreshing, regardless of how messy she seemed to be.

It brought a bemused smile to Xephs face to go from the sparkling, pristine cockpit, to seeing the galley and how messy it was.

At the mention of fungus tea, Xeph was immediately glad he had indeed brought rations with him.

He stuffed his hands into his pockets and smiled genuinely at her back as he followed her onwards. It was an interesting thing for Xephron, something of a conundrum at times. How could someone so engrossed in battle, who wore the scars of their past, namely the physical scar over his left eye, be so easily amused? Didn’t normal warriors walk around like the galaxy was anyone’s worst nightmare, and they were the boogeyman placed in said nightmare to frighten the children of the universe? Everyone he’d met since his days in Black Tide who’d been on the front lines somewhere or another, they all looked as if no light could pierce their minds. No amount of laughter would ever soften their souls.

Xeph on the other hand, had in fact killed before. He had been in some very close calls, he’d been wounded, blown up, perforated, shot, stabbed, had had limbs broken. And yet he was happy as a bird in flight, just looking at the strange little mannerisms of Poy the Twi’lek smuggler.

Maybe it was the Jedi training. Maybe the drills and meditations that Khavar had pushed onto Xeph had made him a calmer, more happy-go-lucky being.

Or, Xephron mused with himself, maybe it was Poy…

He shrugged mentally to himself and continued following her around “Chateau Poy’Shiri.”

He did in fact notice the collar hanging in the galley, but figured if she wanted to talk about it, she would. It was simple.

When they reached Poy’s quarters, he noticed that the galley had been a museum display of crystal and splendor in comparison. His eyebrows rose to the ceiling at seeing the room and his bemused smile returned to him. His only comment was simple.

“…really?”

His mind went down the wrong path immediately as the words were out of Poy’s mouth warning him off of the room. He wondered if it would indeed be worth it to sneak in while she was changing or something, then he realized it wouldn’t be very Jedi-like of him.

Then again… Xeph wasn’t exactly a typical cookie cutter Jedi either…

“Uh Questions? No, no questions. We will have to stock this place with real food when we get to Tattooine. Fungus tea is your prerogative, but us squishy humans prefer not to ingest things that can grow spores inside of us. I’ll be alright until we find some supplies for the return trip though.”

He smiled at her again. When he looked her in the eye, he realized that his hands began to shuffle in his pockets uncomfortably. Why was that?

At that moment, Xeph wondered what Mira was doing back on Alderaan…

“Not a bad ship muchi. Bit messy, but it suites you. If you don’t mind though, I’m going to go clear some space in the galley so I can meditate until we reach our destination. Or I could just do it in the cockpit, whatever is more convenient for you.”

He looked up and down the hallway of the ship idly, waiting for her response.

Poy rolled her shoulders back in a shrug, “Whatever suits you…” She paused, narrowing her eyes over him. Had he just called her muchi? Her word had been stolen from her! A sly grin toyed at the edges of her lips and she rolled up onto the balls of her feet, a finger coming up to tap her chin a moment, “mah bukee.”

She nodded at her new term and began to turn on her heel, stopping suddenly and turning back to Xephron, “The ‘fresher is the next door and the engine room is just past that. If you happen to need either of them for anything. We should be arriving at Tatooine in about an hour, I’ll still need a bit to check in with some contacts if you can use more than an hours meditation.” Her humour hadn’t fallen away entirely, though the business edge to her personality had definatly returned with that emotionless expression; an expression that was almost always belied by the half-cocked grin that often snuck up on her.

The Twi’lek turned on her heel again, making her way to the cockpit. Her voice rose in quiet song, “Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand…” It faded off with her.

“…take me out to the black, tell them I ain’t coming back…” She continued on as she flopped back into the pilot’s chair and kicking her feet up onto the console; crossing her legs at the ankle and rummaging in her side satchel for the sabbacc card she always seemed to thread through her fingers. “…burn the land, boil the sea, you can’t take the sky from me…” She smiled, reasting her head against the back of the chair as she stared out at the stars that swept by them. There wasn’t a damned place she would rather be.

Xephron nodded and retreated to the engine room instead of the galley, figuring that there might be a bit more room to utilize there. When he arrived, he looked around and nodded to himself. This room would do. The steady thrum of the drives would help him lose himself in his task. Xephron had made it a practice to meditate after his training sessions, if only to try and find gaps in his technique. He had not gotten to do so following his earlier session due to the rapid departure.

Xephron stripped off his tunic and undid the clasps on his armor boots, sliding them off and placing them neatly over out of the way. He would have slid his cargo pants off as well, normally he meditated in his skivvies, for reasons that bordered simplicity in all aspects, but doing such a thing might be considered indecent to someone not expecting it… so he elected to stay partially clothed at this juncture. He walked barefoot over to a wall mounted speaker system and pressed the button down.

“Poy, I’ll be in the Engine room. You may have to rouse me when we hit dirtside, I’ll be borderline unconscious.”

After that, Xeph walked to the center of the room and sat cross-legged facing the door. He wasn’t used to having a time frame on his meditation. And honestly, lately Xeph hadn’t really taken interest in how long he was out. As of current, he lacked the control and awareness associated with meditative mastery, that would allow him to remain aware of his surroundings. So for the time being, he just went until his eyes opened.

He took a deep breath and centered himself, placing his palms down on his knees. It was chilly at first. Space was cold after all and Xeph had taken his shirt off. But a tiny application of the Force allowed him to shrug it off to the point where it didn’t bother him anymore. He drew the rest of the Force to his mind and let it take him. He cleared his mind of everything except what he recalled of his blade work hours prior. The movements of his weapon as it parried and deflected that of his robotic opponent.

His thoughts carried him away from the Engine room itself. Outside of his conscious mind, Xephron was no longer sitting on the floor. His innate talents with the Force had manifested and he had unconsciously raised his body off of the cool deck plates of Poy’s ship. As his mind delved deeper into his memory, pulling more medichlorians to react to what he wanted, more objects began floating around him. The deeper his mind went, the more cells activated to the Force’s call. The problem with this was that Xephron had more medichlorians than the typical Jedi. Maybe not as many as Grand Master Shan, Or Broon, and probably on par with the members in the Vanguard. But none of those individuals was really someone you could consider as typical. Each had, and would continue to accomplish feats that normal Jedi would find as insurmountable.

Pretty soon, Xephron’s boots, shirt, a hydrospanner, several wires, and apparently a loose deck plate were in orbit around his floating body. His hair was waving slightly, as if he were situated in a sphere of gentle wind that was making all of this possible.

His chin was pointed down and his head was tilted towards the door as he receded further and further, trying to be critical about his form.

But inside of his mind, things weren’t quite as peaceful. No matter how hard he tried, Xephron’s mind kept roaming towards something other than his lightsaber technique.

The Force carried his conciousness back through the black void of space and landed back on Alderaan. Images of Deakan and Mira began flashing past his mind’s eye. Shortly following, it was only Mira that was flashing back and forth before him. Not long after that, Mira’s face became crystal clear, as if she was standing right before him. But almost immediately, the clarity faded and Mira’s face was blurry, indistinguishable. Then Deakan’s picture came back, and then Xephron saw himself kneeling in front of them both. It was a hologram that they had taken when they had come to Alderaan not long ago. The three of them together as a unit. As a family. Everything was crystal clear in Xephron’s mind, all except for Mira.

He could see Deakan Crossvale Omahri down to the last detail. His own body was exactly as it should be, but for some reason, he just couldn’t focus on Mira’s features.

It was confounding. Was this some sort of message? Was Mira in danger?

An hour came and went, and it only found more random objects gravitating towards the orbit that seemed to establish itself around Xephron Tide’s floating body.

“And the Commander takes it!!” Poy exclaimed, laying the sabacc card out on her hand, grinning like a fool. The small electronic cards were all laid out over the center console of the cockpit. Poy had won against herself with a flush. Commander, Master, Mistress, Ace and an Idiot against a second hand of an Ace, a Queen of Air and Darkness, a Commander and a Moderation. It wasn’t unusual for her to play long games of Pazak and Sabacc with herself on these journeys through hyperspace, espicially when she had company. A second person on the ship often times meant that she would remain out of her temple and to a lesser extent her quarters. Well… she smirked to herself and leaned back in the pilot’s seat once the cards had been collected and returned to her pack. Sometimes another in the business knew better ways to pass the time. The smuggler let her mind linger on the last trip she had made in the Vatak’ultuka.

Her reverie was broken by the chirping of the hyperdrive. The stars beginning to return to their normal form as pinpricks in the serenity of space. Poy was quick to pull her feet from the console and lean forward, her fingers whisking over the navicomp and navigational controls before her hand drooped down to take the yolk of the freighter. A sing-song whistle escaped her lips before she flicked her tongue against the silver rings through her lip. “Time to see whose going to bend who over.” She mumbled and pulled her goggles over her eyes before activating the comm relay.

“Aayah, baby!” A chipper, albiet rough voice greeted her through the comm. “Following through on that information I sent your way, I see. How in the nebula’s eye are you, sweet thing?”

“Cut the poodoo, Izak. I’m not here to humour you this time.” She replied, her tone was one of warm amusement despite her words.

“That’s not what you said last time, my Tolian Pateesa.” The voice chuckled.

“Mm. And how many flame outs did you give me, ‘last time’?” She asked, entering the freighter into a steady orbit around Tatooine.

“Not nearly as many as I thought you’d need.”

“Where is he, Izak? As much as I’d like to land in that sandpit and come see what sort racket you’re running these days, I’ve got company on this one.”

“Next time you come around these parts. It’s you and me, Aayah. You owe me.” The navicomp dinged, a set of coordinates flashing onto the screen as the comm went silent. Izak Amadeo was a man of his word. She had met him through a Kiva who had travelled to Tatooine to bring blessings of Kikka’lekki to those enslaved there, he was her bodyguard. Though the drunk gambler was less a bodyguard than a comedian. As Poy grew to know him, she realized that the Kiva might’ve hired him for a completely task. She snickered at the memory and plotted a course, following the coordinates he sent.

She flipped the comm unit again, “This is the freighter Vatak’ultuka requesting permission to dock.” She spoke monotously to whomever had the controls at the Mos Espa Spaceport. After a few moments clearance was given and Poy pressed another button of the comm panel, “OooooTIIINI!” She called into the comm trying her best to mimic a Jawa without giggling.

Xeph was still lost in his own mind, trying to muddle over things and why he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Mira. He tried time and again to reach some kind of conclusion, asking the Force for guidance, but every time it kept coming back to the same image of her, blurred and unrecognizable.

And for some reason, his subconcious was drifting towards a crowd of Jawa’s yelling at him…

Aayahpoy’shiri groaned whe she heard no response and flipped on the auto-pilot before climbing out of the pilot’s chair and wandering down to the engine room. She tapped a steady rhythm against the hull was she walked. Perhaps she needed to shout louder next time. A shrug to herself, she was still learning how to deal with Jedi. She supposed she’d get to their habits in time.

The smuggler turned the corner into the engine room, her eyes going wide at the sight of pratically everything but the engine floating.”Now, if I could do this… I might clean.” She mumbled quietly behind a snicker of amusement.

“XEPHRON!” She yelled after a moment.

No response. The twi’lek pulled her goggles to the top of her head and marched further in to place a hand on the Jedi’s shoulder. “Ootay alema, ma’allesh circoo.” Her voice spoke clearly in ryl and she gave his shoulder a friendly squeeze, hoping the contact would rouse him.

A hand on his shoulder.

A hand on his shoulder? How could… oh!

Xephron opened his eyes and covered his face immediately as a cacophony of racket ensued as a ton of objects hit the floor around him.”Damn! Jeez Poy just let me know next time, you don’t have to throw things at me to get me to come too!”

He looked around at the scattered items and realized that there was no way she could have thrown all of it at him at the same time. It was very curious, to say the least. He didn’t really know what to make of it. But then again he had never really been that deep in meditation before.

“Uh… did… I do that?”

Poy pursed her lips together, her brow raising up slightly as she nodded a few times. “Ayup. That’s all you, muchi.” She tooks a moment to look around at the scattered objects, the racket they had created when he came out of his meditation she expected, regardless it started her out of her skin. Her hand lightly patted at his shoulder, “We’re here. Clean this up and join me in the cockpit.”

It was a simple statement before she darted back to the cockpit, dodging through the corridors easily. She knew that they would be through the atmosphere soon and Poy knew all too well that the landings initiated by the autopilot were a hell of a lot rougher than any bird she had put down. Her lithe form jumped into the pilot’s seat with ease and she terminated the autopilot; pulling back on the yolk to bring the freighter down into the Mos Espa Spaceport, which wasn’t much more that a shed out in the sands. Under her breat a series of curses emerged, she had almost been too late.

Xeph raised his eyebrows at the scattered mess. He simply nodded at Poy as she dashed back to the cockpit. That had… never happened while he meditated before. He would have to ask Broon about it later.

He quickly slipped his boots back on and started cleaning up the engine room. He didn’t have any glue or anything so the loose deck plate was carefully placed back in it’s rightful spot, he’d have to let Poy know that the ship needed a repair or two. After a few minutes of cleaning, Xeph was done and made his way back to his travel backpack. He reached inside of it and drew out a lightweight hooded cowl. It was thin enough not to hamper movement but thick enough to keep sand from blowing into his eyes.

Xeph slipped it down over his neck and put the hood up before re-donning his sleeveless tunic. After which, he clipped his mando Kama onto the back of his pants. In retrospect, he figured he actually did look like a Sith. But hey, Xeph just really liked the color black. Someone once told him that certain colors represented your personality. Blue meant something along the lines of calm and loving. White was something like calm, but reserved. Red was of course, aggressive. But black… black meant ambition. It made sense for Sith acolytes and Masters alike to wear, they were always aspiring for more power. But Xephron was ambitious in a different way. He wanted to be stronger so that he could defend more people. Any situation he was placed in, was potentially dangerous, and Xeph traveled with quite a few companions at a time. Most of which were more than capable of defending themselves, but he wanted the option of being able to take on such a burden of defending them all. His ambition was only as far as his own skills extended. So in that respect, black worked.

He kept his hood down for the time being and left his pack by the exit ramp, then moved back up to the cockpit. He slipped behind Poy and placed his hands on the back of her chair just as they were coming down. He cemented himself to the deck with the Force as they came in so he didn’t need the crash webbing of the co-pilot chair.

“Alright. We’re here. What now? Going straight to make the best bargain buy of your life or did you want to walk around for a bit first?”

The Twi’lek reached up and pulled her glasses down over her eyes to guard against the blazing radiance of Tatooine’s twin suns. She knew from experience how that light reflected off the sand and had no desire to suffer from the hallucinations aided by temporary blindness a second time, “That would be up to you. I’m personally one to take care of business first. Once that is done… we can play.”Poy had no troubles with guiding the ship to the edge of the small spaceport and fewer troubles making a smooth landing. As they set down the winds kicked up around the ship, sending trails of sand in all directions. Small stoned pinged against the windows of the freighter sound much like scattered rice hitting the floor.

“Mos Espa from what I remember is, like most of Tatooine, run by the Hutts. Keep on your guard, muchi. And please, be subtle?” She nodded, pursing her lips as she smiled to reassure herself that taking a Jedi wouldn’t bring more trouble that it could’ve been worth. She swung her legs around and pushed up and out of the pilots’ seat, patting Xephron on the back as she moved past him. “I need to grab a few things. If it suits you, there’s a cantina about a kilometer into the city. I can meet up with you there.”

Poy didn’t feel the need to take any unneccessary risks, nor did she feel the need to walk into such a situation without the blessings of the Goddess. Xephron had his meditation, she needed her time of prayer and was willing to risk her make-shift temple being seen for it, though she hoped the Jedi would be more curious of the outside planet than her. She came to the retro-fitted durosteel blast door and entered in the code for it to slide open. It did so with a quiet thunk and she slipped inside, entering the command to close it behind her. No time was wasted as the Smugger stripped down; her belt with all its’ blasters and hydrospanners clattering against the hull, the rest of her clothing being neatly folded for ease to get back into once her plea to Kikka’lekki was complete. Poy pulled the sheer white robe from the wall and slid it over her head as she came to center of the cargo bay and folded her legs beneath her to sit on her heels, her hands coming together, palms flat. “Misha Kikka’lekki, Keep me safe as I move through this day, may I guard against accidents with awareness, use good judgment and common sense in taking risks, be always aware of my surroundings and others, may I always remember to be prepared for changes. Bless and keep me safe as I move through this day.”

She placed her hands flat on the floor and bents down for her forehead to touch the grated before she leaned up to kiss the statue of the Goddess before rolling up onto her feet and removing the sheer white robe. Poy took her time in redressing herself, keeping a watchful eye on the statue. In her mind she was begging for the dealings of the day to go smoothly in order to assuage her fears.

Xeph smirked at her comments. “Subtle is what I do. I’ll meet you in the cantina in an hour.”

He walked to the exit ramp and slapped the controls, lowering the exit ramp. He looked down and checked his blaster, and his heavy pistol in their thigh holsters, then glanced at his lightsaber with a nod. Everything was in place, so he stuffed his hands into his pockets and strode casually down the ramp.

As soon as the wind hit him, Xephron Tide found Tattooine’s predominant feature. It was damn hot. He was immediately glad that he had his hood, as it protected him from the blowing sand. He had to narrow his eyes and tilt his head down to make sure he didn’t go blind. The swirling sand was simply everywhere.

It wasn’t so bad though. He got used to it quickly as he walked around the starport. As he walked the streets, Xeph found every stretch of being known to the galaxy, all of which looked like the belonged in gangs in some run or another. It was amusing to see.

Upon thinking about what Poy had said about being subtle, Xeph discreetly shifted his lightsaber to a hook further back on his belt, so that it was then hidden from plain sight and safely behind his Kama.

He passed vendor stalls here and there, hanging meats and crates of fruit and vegetables. He smiled kindly and declined several offers for little tidbits. Though he did finally stop and ask for directions to the cantina that Poy was talking about. One of the locals directed him to the North and he followed ths street to the establishment. When he slid through the door, his skin immediately began to cool. He strode straight up to the bar, drawing a few glances for his attire, but otherwise was left alone. He ordered some water and sat down in a corner of the cantina, away from scrutiny so that he could observe the beings milling about here and there. Even for the early afternoon hour, the place was rather crowded.

He just sipped his water and waited for Poy to come along. Business was always first, but he had gotten to play all he wanted so far. His observations were building and pushing his mind through the ignorance he had about mannerism and details of the desert planet of Tattooine.

Aayahpoy’shiri took care in securing the retro-fitted blast doors behind her before she ducked into her quarters for a worn brown leather duster that she slipped into with ease. She didn’t need the extra heat it provided on this hellish planet but the protection for her skin was always a benefit and Poy had always been one to take care of herself. Vanity was a sin and one she held close to her heart despite her attempts to hide her beauty with piercings, tattoos and that rogueish swagger. She paused breifly in the galley to crouch down for the small lockbox filled with the credits that would easily buy her freedom, or so she hoped and she disembarked from the Vatak’ultuka.

With her dust covering her body and her goggles secured over her eyes, the Twi’lek was seemingly unphased by the shifting sands and desolate heat of the planets surface. She had briefly considered calling Tatooine a home when she first ran from her master. Izak Amadeo had offered her sanctuary, calling her a fool when she didn’t accept it. The need to explore the galaxy had called out too strongly to her soul for her to seek a sanctuary. It would’ve been another thing to hold her down. Sometimes safety was just another cage.

She waved a hand dismissively at the different barkers and merchants that tried to ply their trade as she slipped through the streets of Mos Espa with the ease of familiarity. Her hands never ventured far from her blasters. On the streets of Mos Espa, she was a Twi’lek without a collar. On the streets of Mos Espa, there was a dozen people that would see every Twi’lek woman was bound by a collar. Despite her precautions, she moved naturally, casually to the entrance of the cantina.

As she entered, she reached up to pull her goggles up to the top of her head and shake the sand from her lekku. It would get everywhere if you didn’t protect yourself. Everywhere. Poy paused at the bar long enough to grab a cup of Jawa Juice and tosses a few credits onto the counter in return as she glanced around, smiling softly to herself as she spotted Xephron.

“Here’s the deal.” She began to say, plopping down with all lack of grace in the chair across from the Jedi. “He’s at a compound about thirty kilometers outside the city. I’d fly in, but I don’t want to risk the Vatak’ultuka. So, we’ve either got to secure ourself a speeder or we’re walking. Got a preference?”

Xeph took another sip of his water as he listened to Poy. She had been right on time.

“Hm.. Walk or speeder. I could use the exercise but for point of ease for your… cargo… It would probably be a good idea to get something a bit faster. So speeder it is. I’d normally plan this whole thing out ahead of time, but the whole… “Fly by the seat of your pants” thing is working for me right now. So let’s get something a bit faster than legs and get this show on the road.”

Xeph smiled at he and slipped a few coins onto the table as he finished his water.

“Look if you see anything going wrong when we get there, anything out of place for this guy, just give me a signal of some kind. I don’t know how he operates and what kind of reception he is going to give us. That being said, I might not even be allowed to enter his compound since I am an unknown. If I can’t walk in with you, I’ll find a way in, trust me. But I will need to find you. So I brought this little gem…”

Xeph reached casually into his pant pocket and pulled out a little cube, then tossed it to Poy.

“Looks like a chance cube, actually a transmitter. If we get seperated, I’ll be able to find you. I don’t want to make you nervous at all, but even playing things by ear has some inevitabilities. I don’t want this charming fellow to take your money, and take you back as well. So unless you have a better idea…”

Xeph shrugged casually as he slid to the edge of the booth he was occupying.

Poy caught the cube with ease and slipped it into her left side satchel. “Tiocou Dejan is an arms dealer, he’s one of the old kung of Nar Shaddaa, he actually grew up in the lower levels. I don’t think he’s returned since. Chances are, you’re going to have to remain unnoticed. When we get a speeder, we’ll ditch it five kilos out and I’ll walk in.” She took a drink of the Jawa Juice, her eyes remaining on Xephron as she spoke. “He’s cautious, but he knows I don’t work with a partner. Little does he know anymore.”

A wry snicker.

“I’d like to come out of there with both my credits and my freedom, but something is going to have to give. The compound he’s in is his son’s, I’ve been there a few times. It’s only fortified to ward against Tusken attacks, defenses there are minimal and he won’t have any guards. It’s a family visit which makes it both easier for us and slightly more complicated if things go badly. I don’t have to tell you that I don’t want to get his daughter-in-law involved or his two grandchildren to get involved in this. Tiocou was never a man of cruelty.” She finished her Jawa Juice and rose up from the booth. “A slave would be lucky to find him as their master. If of course, they find happiness in such slavery.”

Xephron nodded slightly, thoughtfully. “So a… kind… arms dealer. That’s a first. Well if there aren’t any guards then it makes things a bit easier. I can remain out of sight if we get out 5 kilos and walk the rest. Could be best to drop me off around the back and then circle around with the speeder and walk in from a safe distance. It’ll give me time to get into position while you go back around. That way I can secure the rear of the compound discreetly and make sure we have options. Just click your comm once when you are about to enter and I’ll respond with the same.”

Satisfied with the plan of action, he stood and offered a hand to Poy, to help her from her seat. “Don’t worry about the women and children. Should things come to a fight, I’ll make sure they don’t get hurt.”

Tall order Kid… you’re already vowing to protect Poy in the event of a fight, and now you’re taking into account the unknown, with an equally unknown capacity, against an unknown force.

Xephron remained passive on the outside as he walked out of the cantina with Poy. The Force was his ally, and a powerful ally it was. But would it be enough to save everyone involved?

He hoped that his skills would be up to snuff. But he at least knew that Poy’s safety came first. He had come here for her after all. To make sure that she got out alright.

That was his mission. And with that, he slipped back into mission mode. Absolutely serious on the remaining aspects of their task.

“I wouldn’t say he’s kind in terms of business. But to me? He always was.” She shrugged casually as they walked through Mos Espa. Poy had pulled the goggles back over her eyes and whistled a bit of a song as she got her mind in order. She was nervous, though not obviously so. Her lekku continually writhed along her back, carrying her thoughts along with it. “Sounds like a good plan, Muchi.” She stated finally as she caught wind of a familiar form in the sea of faces within the bustle of the city. Her hand came to clap Xephron’s back and she dodged through the crowd, threading herself between people and through the merchants stalls.

“Nasaarlinn’sro!” She shouted after the Tolian Twi’lek man, finding it hard to catch up with a man who moved with was much grace as she did, if not more. His sienna coloured lekku were easy to pick out of the crowd, standing at least a foot taller than most of the humanoids gathered in the streets to conduct business. He looked over his shoulder at the sound of his name, a pair of goggles also covering his eyes.

“Krak!” She yelled again, watching as he pulled his hood up over his head and disappeared into the crowd. Poy was smart enough to know that if she gave chase, it would draw attention to them. Just the attention she wanted. Without another though, she barrelled through the crowd after the other Twi’lek.

Xeph stopped in mid stride as Poy took off. She was hoofing it off after some other Twi’lek, presumably a male, though Xeph hadn’t been in a position to see. They were already going to cause a scene with her running about, he decided not to add to that by chasing after them.

He simply pulled his hood down a bit lower on his eyes and pulled out his datapad casually. After a few keystrokes a red dot began strobe with a direction indicated by an arrow.

It looked like the tracker was working well. But instead of following Poy directly, Xeph decided to walk down an alley to the left and see if the path led him on an intercept course. Mos Espa had a few winding side streets. One of them might bring him right back to Poy. And if she got into trouble along her little flight, he would be close enough to intervene.

The whole stealth thing really was underrated. He decided to invest more time in such practices when he returned to training…

The Twi’lek was fast, nimble as he dodged through streets of Mos Espa. He didn’t need to look behind him to know that Poy was close behind him, she always gave chase. Nasaarlinn’sro could predict the movements of Aayahpoy’shiri as well as he could control his own. He had come to know the movements of daily life better than she had in her absence from the city and managed to slow her by lacing through a few merchant stalls before slipping into an alley not too far from the edge of the city. He reached up to pull down the hood of his cloak and leaned back against the rough sandstone wall, taking the moment of peace to center himself once more.

It was only a moment of peace that he was allowed before she caught up to him, not even caring to slow down as she tackled him; jumping up to wrap her arms about his neck, her legs drawing up to entwine his waist. He smirked and held her close with one arm, reaching up to pull down her hood and push up her goggles. “Freykaa nonna, tenii circaa?” He asked, curling her fingers just under her chin.

“We just got in, we won’t be here long I’m afraid. I didn’t expect to see you.” She whispered in response, leaning forward to brush her lips over his, allowing her lip rings to linger. He bit at them and pushed her away despite his need to take her somewhere more private and keep her there so that she would not continue to run so fast or so far. Nasaarlinn’sro had spent too much of his own time worrying over the smuggler’s well being.

“We. Who is we?”

“Xephron Tide, he is a member of the Vanguard with me. I didn’t expect him to join me on this trip, but in many ways I’m glad for it in case what we’re doing goes to the wompas.” She explained and leaned forward again, the stubborn Twi’lek that she was. She pushed her back again, denying her for now.

“You shouldn’t be here, he’s at the compound. Your arrival has probably been reported to him already, Nonna.”

“I was hoping it would be, I’ve come to buy my freedom.”

Nasaar leaned his head back against the sandstone wall as he blinked a few times, “Already?”

She nodded and slipped down from him, knowing that the Jedi would track her soon enough. His hand slipped from her waist to take her hand. “Are you prepared for Jasshi’rr then?”

Poy lowered her gaze, reaching back to pull her goggles back down over her eyes, “No. It would be unfair to be one being with you now, there is too much to do still before I can give you that.”

He nodded, knowing the answer long before the question was ever asked. Their time would come, he didn’t doubt. Until then, they both had freedom to enjoy. “Will you at least tell me where you are these days so that I may come to see you?”

Poy chuckled, smiling up at the much taller Tolian, “Will you let me borrow your speeder?” She asked with a wink, rolling up onto the balls of her feet and bouncing excitedly.

“After what you did the last time, I’m willing to live in ignorance.”

“It was just a scratch, Nasaar!”

“A scratch!” He poked at her stomach causing her to grab his hand and spin away from him. “A scratch! You somehow managed to not only run into a Sandcrawler but bury half the frotzing bike in the sand!” She laughed heartily, managing to smile innocently up at him. A look he knew better than to buy for any amount of credits.

“Please, Nasaar, this is my freedom!” She tugged at his hand like a spoiled child begging for a new doll. The Twi’lek chuckled, he was going to say yes regardless of her actions, but her show amused him greatly.

“It’s in the north garage.”

“Alderaan.”

The large Tolian pulled his hood back up and pushed off from the wall. His lips curled into a smug smile as he pulled up Poy’s hood as well before he bent down to give her exactly what she had wanted from him earlier. A kiss. Fierce enough to leave the smuggler standing there stunned at what was said with just one simple action and giving him a chance to slip into the alley. He really didn’t give a damn if she brought his speeder back to him in any condition or even at all, he finally knew where to find her.

Xeph walked at a brisk pace through the side streets, keeping his datapad at the ready so that he could refer to it at a moments glance. It was one of those situations where he wasn’t sure if he should be dire about it or take his time. Poy’s exclamation certainly didn’t warrant alarm. She had chased someone sure, but it hadn’t been an outcry of anger, it seemed more like.. excitement.

He neared the blip on his screen and he put his datapad away. He was on the opposite side of the alley where Poy had stopped. Her voice couldn’t be heard, but he didn’t hear blaster fire either. So he didn’t rush. Xeph just looked up at the dwellings that lined the alley. The one closest to him was two stories high and he could see the tip of a door outcropping on the roof. He bent his knees slightly and sprang straight up, using the Force to propell him further up as he reached the apex of a normal human’s jump. His right hand gripped the edge of the building as he rose higher.

Xephron’s legs swung out to his side and he easily vaulted the roof’s lip in a fluid motion. When his feet hit the ground, his hands immediately stuffed themselves into their respective pockets as we walked over to the roof access outcropping. A quick peek over the edge of the building saw that Poy and her… friend?.. were speaking. He didn’t want to eavesdrop, as she wasn’t in direct trouble.

Nodding to himself he walked to the other side of the roof, stepped up onto the lip and dropped out into open air down into the gap between buildings. Another small application of the Force cushioned his knees against harsh impact when he landed. Looking around, he saw that no one had really noticed his descent. Patience was one of those things he was learning about, as it was apparently a necessity of being a Jedi, so he leaned against the wall of the building he had jumped off of, staying in the shaded spot, just enjoying the air until Poy was ready to move.

This was her task after all. He was just along to make sure she got out alright. So in that respect, he had all the time in the world.

It took the Twi’lek a moment to regain her focus. She knew that she could find Nasaarlinn’sro here but she never expected it, their dance was once of secrecy and Poy was far from ready to spill those secrets. She reached up to adjust her goggles and hood before glancing around the alleyway to make sure she hadn’t been seen. Her chase to catch up to Nasaar earned enough attention that Tiocou would know of her presence in the city. It wasn’t out of the plan. She turned northwards and began on her way, she didn’t need to ask Nasaarlinn’sro to borrow his speeder, she could’ve just taken it. She knew the codes to his hangar bay all too well. He never changed it. One of the benefits of his line of work, no one truly sought his head. He was the head hunter.

The smuggler easily weaved her way through the streets of Mos Espa once more, having forgotten just for a moment that she had company with her this time around. She would not be needing to face Tiocou alone. This time, she had back up. “Krak.” She muttered at the realization that she had ditched Xephron in the streets before remembering the chance cube he had given her. He’d find her. No need for her to pause unnecessarily to wait for him to catch up.

Mos Espa was a city of traders, of smugglers, of farmers and slaves. The daily bustles rang true of galatic commerce and the scents wafting up from the different stalls truly stank. Roasted chubas, pickled nunas, all forms of meat that made Poy’s stomach churn as she made her way through the city to the small unmarked hangar on the northern edge. Quickly, she typed her name into the access panel and listened for that familiar click of the door, letting her know it had unclocked before she leaned against it to await Xephron.

Xephron waited for a few minutes and finally looked down when his datapad beeped. Poy was moving again. She must have taken another way out of the alley when she had finished with her friend.

He shrugged and pushed off of the wall he had been leaning off of, slipping a hand behind his back to brush himself off of the residual sand that seemed to enjoy clinging to his clothing. His right hand removed his datapad from it’s pouch and he pulled up the tracker again. She hadn’t gone too far, he was sure he could catch up.

As before, Xephron stuffed a hand into his pocket and began walking with his datapad within eyeshot for reference. His skin was getting hot now, given that the last few minutes had been spent in blissful shade. While Xephron didn’t mind working on his tan, having twin suns bearing down on you all day was a bit rediculous. He would have to find some cover for his arms soon, otherwise he would be returning to Alderaan looking like a steamed crab.

Another few minutes passed and Xephron finally caught sight of Poy. He slipped his datapad back into it’s propper place and jammed his right hand into his pocket as he approached.

“Friend of yours I take it?”

Short and simple. If she wanted to divulge, she could. Otherwise, Xeph didn’t see it as being much of his business, unless it was something that could potentially endanger her.

“Something like that.” Was the only answer that Aayahpoy’shiri gave on the subject. The history between she and Nasaarlinn’sro was complicated enough and explaining it to an outsider was not on the list of her priorities. What would she explain? They had known each other as children in the temple, both being trained by the Acar’ya. That he was taken off when she was still a young girl to train in the Teras Kasi, when her partner in this was a Jedi. Exactly what Nasaar was trained to hunt. She could explain that they had met again shortly after she was sold into vassij’ra, that they had fallen in love and he dreamed of a day that she would free herself. When that day came she ran from everything, including him.

There was no need to tell such a tale.

The Twi’lek pushed open the door of the hangar to reveal a series of speeders of all makes inside parked alongside an elegant starfighter. “Take your pick of speeders.” She told Xephron with a wry grin, failing to mention that they would now be expected.

Something had changed in Poy since her seeing that other twi’lek. It was a subtle thing, and Xeph couldn’t really put his finger on it. But maybe she seemed a bit… colder perhaps? He didn’t mention that he had noticed that. But there was definately something dividing them at this point. It didn’t bode well for their task in the least. But he would deal with things as they came.

He slid his eyes over the various speeders in the bay and nodded to a double seater with an enclosed top. “That’ll do.”

He kept his gaze on the speeder, but let his peripherals watch her movements.

What was it that had changed? It was starting to put him a little on edge, though his features remained solid and stoic.

“Well, I guess that just leaves one thing left, doesn’t it? Let’s go get your freedom back muchi…”

Xeph hopped into the speeder’s passenger seat and made himself comfortable, ever watchful of something that could go wrong. She hadn’t initially wanted him to come along in the first place. What would it mean to the smuggler to have him near something so dear to her? Well if nothing else…

He was about to find out.

Poy climbed into the driver’s seat of the speeder and locked down the hatch as she rolled the engine to activate the thrusters. “Courtesy of an old friend.” She murmered and hit a key on the console to open up the hangar door. “Sometimes things that are in the past come to aide us.” She began to explain as she piloted the speeder easily out of the hanger, hitting the same key to close the hanger door behind them. The sands of Tatooine had begun to build up, blowing more violently. A sandstorm would be coming soon. Small creatures scattered from the path of the speeder as they raced across the dunes, banthas, ikopi, dewbacks looking up from burying their noses in the sands to watch them zip past. “And sometimes, we only think they’re to aide us. Tiocou has a Teras Kasi with him.”

She rummaged in the pocket of her duster, her fingers shifting over the steering wheel of the speeder and tossed a datapad into Xephron’s lap. “The code to access it is Aayahpoy.” Her lekku twitched. The way Nasaar had kissed it. Desire, regret, sadness. She tasted it, she felt it in her gut. There was no consolation in his motion though, that was enough to appease her and give him away. He didn’t mean to kill her, he just wanted her where he could find her so that she wouldn’t run again. Poy would not be forgiving.

The speeder came to a slow halt five kilometers out from the compound and Poy looked over at Xephron expectantly, a certain vunerability to her normally mischievious visage, “What happens here will remain between us. This is my past, this is what I have strode to move past. It will not make me a better person, it will not make me a stronger person, but it is what I have to deal with in order to face another flight in the black. Tiocou is expecting us, I krakked up. Whatever plan we had is now out the perverbial window, if I go in alone, he’ll know that you’re out there waiting for the right moment. If we go in together, they’ll remove you from the equation. At this point, I don’t care if we go in with your lightening rod blazing or not.”

Xephron’s lip quirked into a smile at the mention of a Teras Kasi artist being with Tiocou. That would be challenging. He knew little about the Teras Kasi artist, except for rumors and hearsay. But what he did take from all of the rumors was that the Teras Kasi art was created as an answer to the Jedi Art. It was a martial style of fighting that somehow countermanded a Jedi’s strengths. He would be interesting to see how such a concept worked. A person couldn’t punch you in the face if you held their arm with the Force. He would have to remember that if things came to blows, that he would have to keep his distance. No brawling with a Teras Kasi Artist.

His eyes locked on the datapad that she tossed to him. It was an odd gesture. But he didn’t ask questions as his fingers flew over the pad with the passcode. He also found it strange that her name was the entry code to someone else’s datapad. Still, he kept his mouth shut as he perused the files there.

His ears listened as she continued to read. He looked up as she started getting serious.

“Don’t worry Poy. Regardless of what happens, it will stay between us. I’m not one to give personal secrets away. And while stealth might have helped us, should something go awry, it really isn’t my style. I’m more of the kicking in the door type. It might not serve us well here, so I say we walk in and knock. But listen…”

Xeph grew serious as well, as he looked her dead in her eyes, beautiful as they were.

“You don’t see this as making you better. But I’ll share something with you. We all crave certain things that mean nothing to others. This is your freedom we are talking about. It means not having to look over your shoulder for someone to slap some stun cuffs on you for being who you are, for craving something that belongs to you. After today, no one will ever be able to claim you, ever again. So long as I draw breath, I vow that you will be free. I feel confident enough to say that because it is an instance like this, that carries weight with it… This is how I become free. Helping someone to achieve freedom themselves. This is what I live for. So even if it doesn’t carry weight for you, that you want to speak of… Just know that I would rather be nowhere else right now, than helping you to achieve what you deserve.”

Xeph kicked his feet up on the dashboard and tossed the datapad onto the seat. “Besides…”

He smirked and looked up at her, “Kinda want to find out how Teras Kasi works….but lets try diplomatic first.”

Aayahpoy’shiri blinked, staring at Xephron as he spoke, his words painting a clear picture to the character behind the mantle of the Jedi she had just recently come to know and call friend. “The datapad belongs to the Teras Kasi. His name is Nasaarlinn’Sro, we’ve had a… colourful history. What he wishes is to tie me into slavery to him so that he can take me as the ‘one’. It’s a ceremony of marriage, but he wishes it by force. I loved him once, this stings. Seven years ago it would’ve broken my heart.” She reaches out, the tips of her tapered fingers drawing down his cheek with a feathery touch. “I’ve never needed protection, I’ve needed a friend. A partner. In Vanguard I’ve found plenty of possibilities, even scored myself Remy.”

She leaned her head forward to touch her forehead to his. He was hot in comparison to her cool skin, despite the twin suns of the planet Poy remained cool having grown up in the sun of Ryloth. The constant heat, it’s only escape being into the caves. “Thank you for your honesty and your help, muchi.” She whispered, her voice low and raw. All the defenses that the Twi’lek had constructed she allowed to drop, showing him what she could. Her lips brush against his lips, an action that made her pull back quickly, blinking.

Xephron was surprised, though not shocked to hear about who the Teras Kasi artist was. It posed a few complications to his grand idea. If Poy cared about the guy then Xeph would have a problem beating the stuffing free of him. But it was nothing more than that. Just a complication. If things got rough, Xephron would do what he had to. He would make sure his vow as kept, and Poy would be free of all types of slavery, willing servitude or otherwise.

This Nasaarlinn’Sro wouldn’t have Poy if she didn’t want him to. And the thought of being bought from one slave handler to another for forced marriage utterly disgusted Xephron Tide. One should be able to make the choice, not be told who and what and where. That is why he liked Poy. Even while shackled to some unwilling bonds, she still tried her best to remain a free spirit. Under Xephron’s eye, she would do nothing but that.

It was these thoughts that seemed to go nova in his brain, pushing themselves into nothingness as her fingers slipped to his cheek lightly. His eyes shot up to meet hers as she continued on. He smirked before the part that happened next.

“Remy is a good guy, regardless of his numerous flaws. No one is perfect, but he at least has his own idea of honor. If nothing else, you do have a friend in me.” His smirk turned into a smile, which slid it’s way off his features as she leaned into him.

Her skin was cool to the touch, soothing against his warm, sun baked flesh. It sent tingles down his body. He as about to respond to her final comment when his mind went completely blank of thought. Her lips brushed against his, and his soul erupted into an inferno. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling, but rather one of endless yearning. His breath escaped his lips and left him winded as he closed his eyes. All thoughts of Mira were thrust from his mind, only to immediately return when she quickly pulled away, blinking.

Once again, the Force thrust the image into his brain. Mira’s form without a face.

Damnit! What the hell is that supposed to mean!? Just TELL ME!

Xephron was frozen in place staring into the great void that seemed to open before him. His chest began to burn and his heart started beating even more rapidly than when Poy had been so awesomely close. It was then that he realized that breathing was indeed a necessary factor for continued existence. He let out a short gasp and immediately sucked air back into his lungs several times.

His eyes wide now, Xephron looked up at Poy, unconsciously licking his lips as if hoping to taste the feeling that he had unwittingly wanted since he had met Poy. Mira was on his mind now, and for that, now he felt ashamed. But the question burst into his conscious mind now.

Why didn’t kissing Mira feel anything close to that? Even just a brush from Poy sent Xephron’s mind reeling.

Composure should have come easier to a Jedi Padawan, but Xephron was finding it hard to locate his. He sat up straighter and cleared his throat, also blinking rapidly as his eyes hit the floor of the speeder car. All thoughts of the conversation previously were having a hard time pressing their way back into his skull after having been so utterly booted out by more important things at the time.

He nervously ran a hand through his hair and gave a weak smile to Poy. He cleared his throat once more and looked straight out the viewport.

“Erm… yeah uh… we should probably get this over with huh…?”

Nice one Tide… very smooth. Honorable soul and intent mean nothing when compared to your blabbering inability to recover from certain things… congratulations… you’re a moron…”

Xeph squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose tight. He needed time to think about what had just happened. And he knew that he wasn’t going to get it. Maybe a good rumble with Nasaarlinn’Sro was exactly what he needed.

Beat some sense back into his brain…

…. Or let the guy kill him and free him from the new torment that his soul was bound to endure every time he looked at Poy and wondered “what if”….

She watched him for a moment, a flash of fear crossing her face as she couldn’t but to think she had crossed a missplaced line that had never meant to be crossed. A mumbled apology was quick to come from her despite lacking any sincerity. Her lips tingled, twitching into a soft smile. The tip of her tongue rolled against the rings in the side of her lip, encourging that feeling to remain with her. She had pulled back in the disbelief of her own actions, of pushing herself. She wished to do it again, but she would do it as a free Twi’lek.

Another stolen glance towards Xephron as she pulled her lekku over her shoulders to wrap them loosely around her neck before she adjusted her hood and pulled her goggles down over her eyes. She would betray nothing more as she attempted to steel herself for what was to come. In Poy’s heart she knew she would shame Nasaar. Not by kissing the Jedi, but a simple action if she was given the chance.

Her fingers danced across the piloting console of the speeder to urge the thrusters once more, speeding them off towards the compound that was just in view. Her mind was anywhere but on the task and for Aayahpoy’shiri, that tended to be best. The trip back to Alderaan would be an interesting one, tense if she had to venture a guess. His expression, his body language didn’t change that line thought at all. She had never seen anyone pinch the bridge of their nose after such a rush.

Poy’s mind didn’t calm so much as she pulled the speeder to a halt in front of the compound. Two guards coming out to flank the speeder as Poy unlatched the hatch and pushed it open. She raised her hands up to show that she didn’t have a weapon drawn. “Mi bosco de Tiocou!” She exclaimed upon seeing the two. Slowly, she reached down for the small container of credits and held it up for them to see. “Mind taking me to him? I’ve got his credits.”

One guard saddled up to the opposite side of the speeder keeping both his eyes and his carbine focused on Xephron as Poy stepped out of the ship. The guard was quick to grab the container and the back of her neck. Poy’s hands fel to her sides as she was roughly pushed through the doors of the compound.

Xephron brushed his feelings aside and steeled himself for what was to come, he had to concentrate in order to get her out of this. It was going to get ugly quickly if he didn’t have his wits about him. His eyes closed pulling the comforting wrap of the Force around him like a security blanket. The speeder lurched forward, and before he knew it, they were in front of the compound that would bring Poy her freedom. Xeph ran a quick hand through his hair and reached behind him, under his kama and plucked his black leather gloves.

It was a motion that Poy had likely only seen once before. It was a gesture that spoke volumes about his current mindset. He could fight without the gloves, he could operate without them. But in slipping them onto his hands… it was a sign that Xephron Tide meant business. There was nothing else besides his task, utterly and completely. He looked down at the leather material and deliberately slid them over his fingers, letting the familiar contours of the material rub into their customary portions of his fingers. The hatch opened up and Xephron barely even noticed. He slid his remaining glove over his flesh and pressed a fist to the tip of his forehead.

His awareness kicked back in now. His peripherals caught the one guard hauling Poy away. His eyes then snapped over to the one with the gun on him. He shook his head.

Time to go to work.

His right hand flicked, and with it, the power pack from the armed guards carbine ejected itself from it’s home. The confused man looked down at his now useless, uncharged weapon and watched the pack fall. Xephron was already moving to Poy. His mind seized hold of her captors wrist and constricted it hard until he heard, and felt the pop of the bone breaking. He howled in pain and spun on Xephron, releasing Poy’s neck.

A Snap-hiss tore through the air and the sound of a blaster sliding from it’s holster followed it. Poy’s guard backed up a single step as the Orange blade of “Fate Bringer” divided the air between him and Poy’s back. Xephron’s guard stopped fumbling for his power pack as he realized he had a blaster pointed at his head. And for a moment, all was still.

“You will not touch miss Poy, ever again… If you attempt to do so, you will lose your hand next time. Now. Both of you will place your weapons on the ground, and lead us to Mister Tiocou, calmly.”

No one moved.

Xephron narrowed his eyes, letting the scar over his eye show better in the light of the twin suns.

“You can do as I say, or you can stand there and die…I am not of the humorous mindset today…”

The guards back off almost immediately, stepping back from the pair a few feet. Their hands came to raise up once their weapons were on the ground before them. Aayahpoy’shiri stepped forward to pick up one of the carbines and rested it against her shoulder, her lips curling into a wry smirk as she slipped her goggles to the top of her head and pushed back her hood. Her lekku writhed, communicating in a language not any one of them would understand as they unfurled from her neck. “How much is Tiocou paying you?” She asked, stepping up to take her small case of credits back from the guard who had taken hold of her.

“Not enough.” The scuffier of the two answered in a rough voice of a man who had spent too much time on this ill begotten rock of a planet.

“Didn’t think so.” She levelled the carbine to take aim at the head of the guard who had spoken. “Go to Mos Espa now while you still have a chance to seek other employment opportunities.”

The two guards didn’t need to be told twice.

“I heard that there’s a cantina in Mos Eisley hiring bouncers…” Was the conversation that could be heard as the two guards casually walked off.

Poy lowered the carbine and turned to regard Xephron. Her gaze lingered on him for a moment too long, again toying at the rings through her lip. A quick blink and she turned on her heel, “This way.” The Smuggler instructed and pushed through the door into the compound to lead through a series of hallways. In the deeper levels of the farm house, the chittering sounds of young children could be heard. The droning hum of a generator, obviously used to keep the area cooled in the heat of the twins suns. She moved through the halls with natural familiarity, the sounds becoming more distant.

Another series of doors.

The Twi’lek pushed it open with the butt of the carbine and stepped through, a smile curling at the edges of her lips at the sight of the two men sitting at a sabacc table. The couldy grey eyes of the aging human man fixed on Poy as he turned to look up at her. A hand adorned with liver spots gripped at the arm of his chair. The Tolian Twi’lek across from him stood up slowly, his lekku twitching. Poy knew what he was telling her and she failed to listen.
This is why she had wished to come alone.

“Aayah.” Tiocou Dejan began to speak, “It’s been yea—“

Before the old man even had a chance to complete his statement, the Twi’lek had raised the carbine once more, firing a quick series of three shots. The chair tumbled back.

The male Twi’lek rushed forward.

A clattering of sound as the carbine fell to the floor.

Nasaar’s arm was pressed hard against her throat, pinning her hard against the wall. She didn’t move to kick out at him. She stared. Her expression hardened with a primal fury. Despite her words of understanding to her past, Poy had hid away a deep rage. She had never intended to buy her freedom.

She took it by the same force that she was sold into it.

Xephron followed Poy through the halls. When they reached the final room, he noted the two sitting at the Sabaac table. The elder had to be Tiocou. The liver spots dotting his body was evident of his age and season. The other, had to be the Teras Kasi Artist that Poy had spoken of.

No sooner had Xephron made his assessment and the old man rumbled a couple of words, then a series of three bolts lanced out and ended his life. Xephron had no connection to the man, but felt his life expire as the Force whisked from his flesh, leaving an empty shell. An instant later, the other Twi’lek had Poy pinned against the wall with his arm. Xephron was at a loss of words, he had come prepared to defend Poy, to talk on her behalf, and even to purchase her from Tiocou as a business proposition that would end in no loss of life. Xephron would have freed her immediately, as soon as they were clear of the place, but this… this changed everything.

And then her lips met his in his mind once more. The “almost” kiss that never should have been. In that instant, Xephron had felt his soul collide with Poy’s. She had shown him her heart. Her actions just now… he could only imagine how long she had been planing it. This was the reality of slavery. Regardless of how pleasant life with a Master was, every last experience would be taken utterly and completely from a slave. Poy’s every wish had been ignored and replaced with what someone else wanted. And so in the end, she had taken the only thing left that mattered.

Tiocou’s life.

Xephron snapped back to the present. His teeth gritted as the Force slammed through his conscious mind. His left hand lanced out and gripped Nasaar’s entire body. Normally his focus wasn’t so clear as to be able to move a persons entire body. But this time was different. This time he could feel the Force raging through his every cell. The sight of the man’s arm pinning Poy to the wall… it did nothing but solidify his own inner strength.

His voice came as a deep, burly growl as he wrenched with his mind. “Get your hands……….. off…….. of her!!!”

The muscles in his left arm bunched, as if he were grabbing hold of a duracrete slab and acted as though he were trying to hurl it a thousand yards. He even had to take a step forward with his right foot to plant it into the floor as he hurled Nasaar. The Twi’lek soared straight and true, away from Poy and crashed through the sabaac table he had previously sat at, but the pull was stronger than to have a single table interrupt the flight. He continued through the air and planted into the far wall, leaving fissures along it’s surface with the impact.

Xephron stepped protectively in front of Poy with two strides. Slow… deliberate. His saber once again ignited at his side. He made a single wide slash into the floor before him, tilting his head down so that he was staring at Nasaar across the room with tops of his eyes only. His blade burned a line before his feet, scorching it’s way through effortlessly.

“Her life is in my hands now. You want it? You will have to take it from me. Life is full of choices…. this one belongs to you.”

Nasaarlinn’sro’s body raged, shaking in pain and disbelief. He had known Poy since she was a girl. Always the child to help those in need, never one to instigate a fight despite the pranks she had played. He knew she had never taken a life. He could see it in her eyes now, the relief that she had claimed what she had always wanted. She had claimed her vengeance. The Teras Kasi slowly pushed himself to his feet with purpose, his regard shifting from Xephron to Poy and back again attempting to calculate how the two of them would work together. He had felt that her heart was no longer his when he had kissed her before, he had known it for years. Since she ran from everything.

“Do you know what she is, Jedi?” He asked, his voice flat and amber eyes blazing with adrenaline. He knew better than to move to the Jedi. The muscles of his back flexed as he rolled his shoulders back, his body easing into a defensive stance. “Do you care what she is? Her lekku should’ve been removed when she was sold into Vassij’ra for how she failed. This is not your business, but I suppose when you have those lips on your cock it doesn’t matter now, does it?”

Taunting words.

Anger.

For all the practice of discipline within the Teras Kasi, Nasaarlinn’sro lost touch with all of it. The situation far too personal for him to keep a clear head.

“Nasaar, your presumptions will be your undoing. Libraries can be written about what you actually don’t know when you open your mouth to utter such slander.” Poy hissed from behind Xephron. “What made you think for even an instant that I would not lead you to the same fate as Tiocou if your plan had come to fruition?”

Nasaarlinn’sro did not answer.

He struck.

Running towards Xephron with the speed of a Teras Kasi, making his attempt to flank him and strike at his side to disable him with the intense strikes of a spitting rawl. Poy reached out as she saw Nasaar move to wrestle away the lightsaber from Xephron’s grasp. She swung, not really knowing what the hell she was doing but hoping that her heart would guide her aim to be true.

A thud.

The Twi’lek reeled backwards, stumbling over himself and to the ground.

A thick lekku twitched, detached from the head of Nasaarlinn’sro at Aayahpoy’shiri’s feet. She shook, stumbling back against the wall, the lightsaber still clutched her hand.

“You’ve gotten what you deserve, Nasaarlinn’Sro.” She growled, her voice weak and her skin paling.

Xephron shook his head at Nasaar’s words.

“Honestly? No. I do not care what she is. What she failed to do or what she does not fail to do in the future doesn’t mean a damn thing to me. All I know is that she is my friend and that I will protect her to my last.”

Nasaar’s speed took him off guard. He wasn’t prepared to see the Twi’lek able to cross the length of the room in a couple of bounds that would give any Jedi Knight a run for their credits.

As soon as the man twitched, Xephron was moving to sweep his lightsaber. But Nasaar was already inside of his defenses.

Kriff he’s fast!

Xephron was only just able to grab the man’s wrist as a punch angled towards his own chest. And then it was a battle of brute strength. Xeph braced his feet on the floor to prevent him from getting pushed backwards and off balance. His right arm struggled to bring the lightsaber down while his left quivered from the struggle of preventing Nasaar from hitting him. Not only was the Twi’lek fast, but he was physically strong as well.

But a Jedi didn’t only have a lightsaber as his only weapon. His grip started to slacken on his lightsaber’s hilt as sharpened nails from Nasaar’s fingers started to sink into his wrists, drawing blood. Xeph gritted his teeth and let the blade go, preparing to draw his new enemy forward into his knee. But Nasaar let go.

Things happened so quickly. Xeph saw the flash of orange followed immediately by the sickeningly familiar stench of roasted meat. Smoke rose between Nasaar and Xephron as the former staggered backwards clutching his severed lekku.

Xeph grimaced. He didn’t know much about Twi’lek physiology, but what he did know, was that the head tails in their species had a lotof nerves in them. And Poy had just severed a good portion of them. Nasaar must have been in shock because he hit the floor without a sound besides strained disbelief.

The Jedi didn’t miss a beat after that. His hand ripped his blaster pistol free and fired two mercy driven stun bolts into Nasaar… before the screaming could start. He slowly re-holstered his pistol and turned to Poy, still holding his lightsaber. He carefully and gently took it from her shaking grip, powering down the blade and replacing it at his waist.

Xephron saw her skin pale from it’s normal tint. Immediately he knew. This was the first time Poy had taken a life. Xephron remembered the same haunted look in his own eyes from his first time. Over the years, killing hadn’t become easier to dish out, but rather easier to cope with. He reached out and pulled her into a gentle embrace, resting his cheek on her forehead.

Xephron Tide did not, in good conscious, agree with how things had gone down. But when she would look into his eyes, she would not find mistrust, contempt, or hate. She would find understanding. Just because he didn’t agree with the way things had happened, didn’t mean he didn’t understand why they had happened.

“…Come on muchi… Let’s get you home. Château Poy’Shiri is waiting for you.”

When she didn’t move, Xephron took the initiative. He had to get her away from this place. His heart ached when he felt her aura from just standing in these halls.

His arm slipped under her legs and swept her up, and he began carrying her out the way that they had come. Her container of credits began floating behind him, seemingly of it’s own accord, as if it didn’t wish to be left behind either.

He took Poy away from that horrible place, leaving his own blood dripping to the floor on his way out.

 

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