Edge of Empire
Daughter of Tol Shala
Talik was the eldest daughter of Tol and Hirani Shala. Her childhood was very happy – she loved her parents and her little sister Tann. Talik inherited her mother’s talent for dance and the performing arts. The life of the young Shala girl in the city of Amaranthe was ideal, and the troubles of the rest of the galaxy were very far away.
Talik’s world came crashing down when she and her sister were awoken in the middle of the night by their mother. The sisters were hurried to the back of the house and huddled under cover with their mother while they watched their father firing his hunting blaster out the window. The night was filled with the sounds of blaster fire and the screams of the wounded. Talik was paralyzed in terror, clinging desperately to her mother.
Suddenly a group of raiders burst into their house. Her father, already wounded from incoming fire, charged the intruders, swinging his depleted hunting rifle like a club. Talik watched him fight desperately, but there were just too many raiders, and she screamed in despair as she watched her father take a blaster shot to his chest and collapse to the ground.
Hirani tried to hold her daughters close, but the raiders tore them from one another. The next few hours were a blur of shouting and shoving. Talik found herself crammed into a shuttle’s cargo hold with dozens of girls and women from her clan. Many were injured; most were crying. Some number of black-armored humans paced through the gathered girls with shock batons, quick to administer punishment to anyone who got out of line.
At some point, Talik finally passed out. When she awoke, she found herself in very spartan quarters with seven other girls, all dressed in simple, identical jumpsuits. They spoke in whispers to each other, but no one knew who the raiders were. All they knew was that none of them had seen a single male of the clan captured. All of the girls had stories of their brothers and fathers being slaughtered by the raiders.
Talik discovered that she was onboard a starship of some kind. She had never been to space before and the sensation of her first hyperspace jump made her (and several of her cellmates) sick to her stomach. The black-armored guards only shouted orders and insults during this time, guaranteeing that the young girls lived in a constant state of fear.
In time, the starship arrived at its destination and landed. The new planet’s gravity was slightly different than Ryloth, and Talik, usually blessed with a dancer’s grace, found herself to be unusually clumsy. The tension rose as the now-familiar sounds of the ship disappeared. Talik heard other cells being opened one at a time by the black-armored guards, followed by their angry shouts and the sounds of shock batons used against sobbing girls. Soon, her own cell was opened.
The guards wasted no time and started shoving the girls out of their cell. Talik did her best to hurry, but her clumsiness earned her several painful shocks from her impatient captors. They were herded quickly through the ship to its debarkation ramp. The bright sunlight pouring in through the opening was blinding after so much time in the dark ship’s hold. Talik covered her eyes and instinctively stopped, earning her yet more angry shocks.
The captors guided the girls off the landing platform and across a wide area of sandy ground. Several tropical trees provided some shade, but the facility in front of her commanded her attention. It was a large structure with a prison feel. Thick, ugly walls surrounded the structure and guards were stationed frequently along their route. Her group was forced through the main entrance into the welcome darkness of the structures interior. Inside appeared to be the rest of the girls that were stolen from Amaranthe.
Talik tried to find her sister and mother, but her attempts to move through the crowd drew the attention of the guards who mercilessly shocked her into obedience. Several long minutes passed as more girls joined them in the entrance hall. Finally, a human man came into view standing at a balcony overlooking the assembled girls. He introduced himself as Decker Krim and explained that he was the arbiter of life and death for all the Shala women from now on. Adherence to the rules would be rewarded. Disobedience would be punished. This was the moment that Talik learned what it was to hate.
The next ten days established the new routine for Talik. Her cell block of 18 girls was awoken early every morning by a loud alarm over the prison’s PA. The girls were cleaned and fed, then returned to their cells. They were then set to various tasks: cleaning, cooking, and other menial busywork. One by one each girl was taken away to be interviewed. Usually, the girls would return. Sometimes, a different girl would return instead. Soon, it was Talik’s turn.
Two black-armored guards grabbed her from the cell and marched her to the upper levels of the facility. The uppers levels were much nicer. The humans here wore casual work clothes, and many of the men stared at Talik with evil eyes as she was marched past them. Talik did her best to be brave like her father, but was not very successful. She was taken to a small room and seated in a surprisingly comfortable chair. She was given clean water and good food, which she ate greedily. Once she was finished, a kind-looking twi-lek man began to ask her questions. The man was clearly not Shala, but he made sure that Talik knew that he hated what was being done to her and wanted to help. His masters had told him that Talik could go home if she would just answer a few questions.
Deep down, Talik knew the man was lying to her, but she was desperate for any chance at escape. The man, who introduced himself as Reego Wasala, took full advantage of her desperation. Reego asked about Talik’s life in Amaranthe, what she did and who she knew. He asked about the art museums, clan treasures and old stories. Talik answered as best she could, but she simply didn’t know the answers to most of his questions. My father would know, she thought angrily to herself, if you hadn’t killed him!
This cycle of sleep, eat, work and interview continued. Talik noticed that the number of girls in her cell black began to decline. No one knew what had become of the missing girls, but everyone feared the worst. Talik knew she had to escape somehow. She hadn’t heard anything about her mother or little sister, and feared that they might not even be on the same planet. Once she got away, she would somehow find them and get them free as well.
Her chance came with the arrival of a supply freighter. The ship had dropped off a large number of supplies and was in the process of refueling when a small explosion occurred somewhere within the prison. The energy fields locking the girls in their cells flickered and died. After just a moment’s hesitation, Talik and her cellmates bolted.
The power problem affected all the cells in Talik’s block, and dozens of girls raced to find some kind of escape. The black-armored guards responded quickly and brutally. One by one the Shala girls were violently recaptured and thrown back into their cells. Only Talik avoided recapture.
Talik had managed to sneak past the guard line and out the main prison entrance, which was open to receive cargo from the freighter. As luck would have it, it was night time and Talik was able to scurry through the darkness towards the refueling ship. She didn’t have a plan other than to get away, so she slipped onto the vessel, made her way to its cargo bay, and hid herself inside a ventilation duct.
The minutes passed with agonizing slowness as Talik waited in the cold ductwork, certain that she’d be caught and punished. But after what seemed like an eternity, she heard the ship’s crew return to their vessel. Some minutes later, she felt the ship lift off and make its way back into space. She had made it past the first obstacle, but the danger was far from over.
She remained hidden in the cold ventilation ducts for as long as she could, but after a day she had to find a way to get food, water and warmth. She had counted four members of the crew, all duros. She had no idea what they were saying to each other, but she was certain that these were bad men. Talik waited until ship’s night and the crew had gone to sleep, then slipped out of her hiding spot to explore. She found the galley and helped herself. A quick search of the ship provided her with a pair of warm blankets. She took her new possessions back into the vent work and settled in for the trip.
Talik’s luck came to an end on the fourth night aboard the duros’ ship. The crew had noticed the missing rations and supplies, and concluded that they had a stowaway on board. That night, when Talik snuck out of her hiding spot, the duros crew grabbed her. She tried to twist away, but the men were much stronger and did not hesitate to beat the young girl until she ceased her struggles.
The ship’s captain, a low-life ruffian named Joller, decided that he could make a good bonus by keeping Talik’s presence a secret from Decker Krim and selling her himself. He was of the opinion that a submissive slave would sell better, so for the next several days Talik was routinely beaten, given medical treatment, and then beaten again. He was careful not to scar her and made certain that the bruising was completely healed by the time they reached their destination.
Talik had never known such pain and despair was possible. There was no escape on the ship. Nowhere to hide. Nowhere to run. There was only the beatings and the anticipation of the next beating.
Talik lost all sense of time while trapped with captain Joller. The beatings were administered randomly and had no bearing on anything Talik did. She knew she had to run, but as the ship was travelling, there was nowhere to go. Finally, after what seemed like months, Talik felt the ship finally dock.
Time ticked by as Talik listened to the sounds of the duros moving about the ship and arguing among themselves. The cargo lift engaged, heavy crates moved and eventually the sounds of the crew faded away. For the first time, the ship was quiet.
This was her chance. The door to her cell was locked, of course, but Talik had noticed that the poorly-maintained ship had exposed power leads that might connect to the door actuator. She had no idea what she was doing, but in desperation she began jimmying the wires. The Force was with her, and after several very painful shocks, the cell door slid open.
Talik moved cautiously through the ship and found the main cargo bay had been left open. She peered outside to see the vast, dirty interior of a space station landing bay. Four other small starships were docked here and the bay was busting with activity. The air smelled of spilled fuel, coolants and lubricants, and the cacophony of whistling droids, shouting people and churning machinery made it hard for the young girl to concentrate. She searched about carefully for any sign of her abductors, but it seemed that they had left the ship unattended, trusting that Talik was sufficiently subdued to discourage any escape attempt.
Talik slipped off the rusty starship and began sneaking across the large docking bay, hoping to get to one of the passages leading deeper into the station. She had almost made it when the familiar and hated voice of captain Joller cried out from behind her. Talik ran as fast as she could.
Captain Joller and one of his crew chased after Talik, but for once she had a slight advantage. Talik’s small stature and training as a dancer server her well, and she maneuvered quickly though the crowd. Joller was nothing if not persistent, however, and bulled his way after the fleeing girl.
Talik ran without any destination in mind. She found herself racing through cargo management facilities, open markets and maintenance corridors, but always the duros stayed with her. Talik felt herself nearing exhaustion and forced herself to keep going – just a little further.
With the last of her endurance failing, she rounded a corner in a dark and seedy section of the station and slammed into the towering form of a wookie. The young girl bounced off the surprised wookie and collapsed to the floor, the last of her energy spent. Despair overcame her as she realized that she would soon be back in Joller’s cruel hands.
Mohr, the powerful wookie mercenary, had just concluded his business with his handler in the run-down cantina deep in the underbelly of the space station. Mohr was very selective when taking jobs, and while that kept his honor intact, it did nothing to put money in his pocket. His handler had been getting increasingly frustrated with Mohr’s “principals” getting in the way of a payday, and the two had just finished a heated argument. Mohr ended the exchange by growling, “I’d rather starve with my honor than thrive in shame!” and stormed out of the cantina… right into a young twi’lek girl. The girl bounced off of the mighty wookie and collapsed onto the ground and into a puddle of some kind of fluid.
Mohr was caught off-guard and, for a moment, just stood there dumbly looking down at the girl. She was clearly exhausted, injured and terrified. She struggled to get back out of the puddle and up on her feet, but collapsed again. Then she looked up, and Mohr saw the world of pain and loss in the young girl’s eyes. She was too exhausted to speak, but the desperate pleading her expression was unmistakable.
Mohr quickly got ahold of himself, but before he could help the girl up out of the mud, two rough-looking duros spacers rounded the corner onto the passageway. They saw the girl, shouted in triumph, and pulled out wicked-looking shock batons. It took them a moment to realize that Mohr was not backing away.
The bigger duros looked up at Mohr and growled, “the girl is mine! Back away, carpet-back!”. He held up his shock baton and glared menacingly at the big wookie. Mohr noticed that the other duros seemed a bit less certain of the situation than his boss, but it was clear that he’d follow the bigger duros’ lead.
Mohr was already in a foul mood from his meeting with his handler, and being confronted by these miserable men who liked to beat up little girls provided him a perfect excuse to vent his anger. The big duros sensed that Mohr was about to attack and smashed his shock baton hard into the side of the wookie’s head. Talik, very familiar with what those weapons could do, yelped in fear. Mohr, however, didn’t seem to notice at all.
The mighty wookie grabbed the duros by his arms and swung him like a rag doll into a nearby lamp post. The second duros pulled a knife and tried to stab Mohr in the back, but the wookie reached back and caught hold of the attackers arm. He squeezed hard and the duros squeeled in pain as he dropped his knife. Mohr then lifted the terrified duros over his head, howled in anger, and slammed him into ground. He hit with a sickening crunch and lay still.
The bigger duros had managed to get back up after being thrown. He pulled out a blaster pistol and fired. Talik saw the blaster bolt strike the wookie, but once again he shrugged it off and charged. The duros panicked and tried to run, but it was far too late. Mohr barreled into the duros thug and pummeled him into unconsciousness. Then, with a final authoritative grunt, he stood up, brushed himself off, and returned to the awestruck girl.
She was still sitting in the dirty puddle, looking back up at him. Mohr was used to most non-wookies looking at him with fear, hatred or contempt, but the little twi’lek just looked up with a big smile of gratitude. Mohr started to say something, but stopped when the girl surged to her feet and wrapped her arms around him in a powerful hug.
Mohr really wasn’t sure what to do. This area of the station was frequented by very dangerous men, and a lot of eyes watched him from the shadows, curious to see what happened next. At the very least, Mohr would get the girl out of this part of the station and maybe help her find her family. Once she was safe, he could get back to business.
Before he knew it, a year had passed, and Mohr discovered he very much liked having young Talik around. Once she had recovered from her ordeal and started to feel relatively safe once again, her natural exuberance and charm started to come though. Mohr loved her youthful energy and curiosity – it revitalized him and reminded him of the simple joys of life from before the Dark Times. Mohr took it upon himself to teach Talik how to survive in the dangerous paths of the galactic underworld, and to his surprise she took surprisingly well to it. Mohr took pains to teach her right from wrong, but he also made sure she could take care of herself when things would go bad.
Talik came to love Mohr like a big brother. She trusts him implicitly and gets uncomfortable whenever she is away from him for too long. She has learned shyriiwook and how to deal with the unsavory men and women who control all the dealings that happen away from the watchful eye of the Empire.
Mohr learned from Talik about what had happened to her parents and her sister. And he learned the name Decker Krim. Nothing would make Mohr happier than to see his adopted little sister reunited with her family, but deep down he suspects that such a reunion will never take place.