Title: Free as the Wind
Author: Laura of Maychoria
Genre: Action/Adventure
Timeframe: Post ESB
Summary: A pilot, his Wookiee partner, a Rebel slicer and an unusual street vrelt band together to escape Crenellia and the Imps pursuing them.
Author's Note: While my hands are hurting this badly, I'll post some of my old stuff. This is my first ever fanfiction, written when I was fifteen or so. I had just discovered fanfic and was extremely excited that I could write in the SW universe and people would actually read it! This was before TPM came out, and so I created my own characters and put them in a typical Rebels-versus-the-Imps-type situation. Since then I've touched it up a bit and added a couple scenes, but this is basically the original story. I'll post every couple of days until it's all up--it's not a long story. Let me know what you think! I have other stuff with these characters, too.

Part 1: The Streets

The Sylel Wind limped toward the Crenellian port-city, Rismyne, at less than half power.

"This is it," her pilot, Caeben Matock, told his companion disgustedly. "We've got find a mechanic to patch the Wind together."

His copilot, Arramylian, wurfled agreement. Too many shortsighted upgrades had left their lovely little freighter falling apart internally, though she still appeared to be in shipdock-new condition.

"Sylel Wind, you are cleared for landing in docking pit 23," the space flight controller announced over the com.

"Copy, control," Caeben replied, following her coordinates.

Once he had set the Wind down as smoothly as possible in her shaken condition, the young pilot turned to his Wookiee friend. "Arra, let's find a cantina and a drink before we go looking for a good fixer."

Arra grumbled an assent. He rubbed his brown and black streaked heard where it had struck the ceiling in the bumpy landing. After this hair-raising ride, he needed a stiff drink.

X

"Thirteen!" Kaltyk yelled, spittle spraying on Jae's averted face. "Thirteen credits! That's all?"

Jae Tallen nodded mutely, wishing he could flee the gang leader. He knew all too well what was coming next. But his arms were pinned by two of Kaltyk's cronies, and he could not move.

"Hold him down," Kaltyk ordered. He had already removed his belt, and he flourished it in Jae's face with a smirk. "This'll be a good one."

The thirteen-year-old was shoved face down to the filthy alley pavement, cheek pressing cold, rough stone, sewer-stink in his nostrils. He closed his eyes as Kaltyk's buddies bore down with their weight to hold him there, and one of them pulled Jae's ragged tunic up, baring his back. Familiar despair flooded him, slight frame tensing in anticipation of the first blow. This daily ritual was growing more and more difficult to endure.

Kaltyk's belt lashed down, adding another stripe to the welts already covering Jae's back. The boy jerked, bit his lip, willed himself not to satisfy them with a scream. Still his fingers scrabbled convulsively at the pavement, as if pathetically trying to dig an escape. Stars above, Kaltyk was strong.

He was nearly twenty, strong enough to subdue any of the homeless youths in his territory. Punishing Jae for his failure to procure the daily of quota of thirty credits would not draw a drop of sweat from his greasy face. But it was beyond Kaltyk's power to make the boy steal or beg.

The beating went on for what seemed hours to the young Crenellian taking it. At last Kaltyk replaced his belt and Jae was dragged to his feet to face his tormentor again. Kaltyk's eyes flashed with rage, his lip curling, at the hard-set determination in Jae's blue eyes.

"Still thinking of running away? Don't forget this." He pointed at the stun bracelet on Jae's left wrist. The device was programmed to stun the wearer when carried beyond a certain point, and effectively kept Jae under Kaltyk's thumb. "You can't take it off without the code, and only I have that. Your fancy little tools are worthless."

Jae didn't flinch. The boy already knew that his efforts at removing the bracelet only activated it. And always when he woke from the stun bolt, Kaltyk was standing over him, belt in hand.

But his tools were not worthless. Jae could fix anything set before him, and that preternatural talent was all that kept him alive. He earned credits repairing whatever he could—his only source of income. He would rather die than steal, and begging never seemed to work for him, especially not in this neighborhood. Perhaps his eyes were too bright and capable, despite ever-present bruises, ragged garments, and ghost-like skinniness. He'd much rather live on his skill, anyway.

Kaltyk snorted. "Let him go."

He and his gang vanished into the night.

Jae sighed and set out in search of a job for the tiny tool kit strapped to his hip.