The Trials and Tribulations of a Wookiee

By Nightelfcrawler

Author's Note: This is my first published Star Wars fic. The story does not mesh with any Extended Universe, but is rather my take on things that occurred after Return of the Jedi. This story focuses on my original character Katarra, and her life, more specifically crafted around the Star Wars Combine. Read and review if you like, but please no nitpicking, flames or grammar corrections.

Chapter Three: From Slavery to Freedom

- - - - - - -

"I entrust you to guard the ship while I am conducting our business." Jade said primly, finishing applying one final spray of adhesive to her already tightly primed curls. "I shouldn't be long, these Aldereaanian politicians are such a boring lout. Far too peaceful, they want to chat for ever… I hope to avoid that and conduct our business quickly in order to do some sightseeing." Her sharp green eyes slid to the tall figure shadowing her. "If you're good I may let you tag along. It's been ages since you stretched your legs on a good walk, isn't it?"

Katarra didn't answer. She knew better than to show any kind of response when Jade asked her a question. She was expected to simply listen. And she was very good at doing that.

"Very well. Watch the ship. And keep C-1 out of trouble? Last time he wandered off and got all muddy. I'd rather not have to have him buffed up again once we return home." Katarra bowed once to her mistress in acknowledgement as the young woman rose, her gauzy gown flowing gracefully around her slim form. Without so much as a backwards glance, she strode down the ramp and made her way towards the waiting transport vehicle awaiting to take her to her meeting. Katarra watched at the open doorway until she had vanished around the corner before relaxing.

"Well, some peace and quiet will be welcomed, don't you think?" C-1 muttered, shuffling out from the shadows of the hull. "Mud on my chassis, humph!"

Katarra chuckled and gave the droid a wide grin. Of all those whom she had to work with, somehow she enjoyed the protocol droid the most. Programmed to be a translator and dignitary, he had quiet the attitude, but he was at least one that had not been programmed specifically by the family, but bought to fill a roll. Therefore he was like her, loyal only so much as he had to be, and rather mouthy when he could get away with it. They had many a long conversation to chuckle over between them.

Which is why Katarra regretted what she was about to do.

She turned and made her way back into the ship, the droid shuffling behind her, babbling as he liked to do. "Really, Mistress Snow has gotten more and more insufferable over the years, if I may say so. She used to be quite pleasant, now she simply insults me whenever she can."

"If you didn't trip over every ripple in the carpet perhaps she might not need to." Katarra pointed out.

"It's not MY fault that I was assembled with two left feet!" The droid protested huffily. "I suppose that's why they got me on a discount rate… Really, it's embarrassing."

Katarra chuckled again and squeezed her way into the cockpit, flipping some switches to supposedly do some diagnostics. It was routine, normally. She had been flying the personal transports for nearly twenty years now for the snow family. She knew this shuttle and how it worked like the back of her paw.

She also knew some of the secret places she had purposely altered.

Her paw reached beneath the console and found the wires she needed, pulling lightly on them. As she yanked a small panel clicked open at her other hand, and the small pistol fell into her hand. She glanced back at the droid. She had a choice here. If she chose her initial plan she would probably get away without much incident, though have left the only one close to a friend she had. If she chose the second option she might have companionship, but might have the issue of being tracked and twice the chance of being recognized. Her heart ached at the thought. Perhaps if she offered a choice…

She turned, the pistol concealed in the folds of her robes. C-1 was babbling about the vastness of the lake by the Royal Palace, the lake where their mistress currently was. With a sigh, Katarra growled. "Shut up a moment will you?" C-1 blinked, but did so, fixing her with a puzzled tilt of his silver head. "Now listen close… do you want to get out of here?"

"You mean go for an unauthorized stroll? Goodness no, I would be deactivated for certain!"

"No…" Katarra said patiently, lowering her voice despite the fact it was highly unlikely that anyone near even understood her language other than the droid. "I mean leave. Permanently. Escape."

C-1 straightened up in alarm. "What?! You cannot be serious." When Katarra didn't break eye contact, he began to fiddle with his fingers as he often did when uncomfortable. "Dear me… you are serious. Oh my… that is quite risky, you do realize we will both be terminated if caught?"

"Likely. But if we're going to be caught, I'd rather be blown up into pieces than go back." Katarra growled firmly. "So I need to know…" She pulled the blaster and aimed it right at C-1. "Are you with me, or do I stun you and dump you out to say I took you by surprise?"

C-1 appeared even more distressed. "It goes against my programming to wish to leave my mistress. I simply cannot agree to this."

Katarra sighed. She'd been afraid of this. As much as the droid grumbled and groused, he was property, and not given the amount of free will she herself had. "Very well then. I'm sorry I have to do this." She lifted the blaster and the droid skittered back trying to voice a protest, but had no chance as she fired directly into his soft wires exposed at the neck. His eyes went dark and he crumbled to the ground. She sighed, lowering the gun. It wasn't enough to damage him permanently, as weapons were strictly monitored here. She'd had to construct a low-power electro pulse gun that wouldn't set off the alarms, yet still be strong enough to disable him long enough. Fortunately, it seemed to have worked. The droid was off-line. Katarra moved swiftly. The gun was useless now, one shot, one hit. She grabbed the droid and slung him over one shoulder, pocketing the gun and swiftly made her way down the ramp. She dumped him behind some cargo containers along with the gun, then swiftly made her way back up the ramp and began the launch sequence.

The trick to this was most planets had some kind of defense network where trying to illegally launch a ship would draw attention.

Alderaan was a peaceful planet. They had no such sophisticated system. They had alarm systems for attacks and basic defense craft, but the illegal launch of an unscheduled and diplomatic shuttle leaving the planet would not be enough to arouse suspicion until she had gone to hyperspace. Or so she hoped.

Katarra quickly fired up the hyperdrive, beginning to calculate the co-ordinates as she started the engines. Her heart pounded wildly as she punched the launch sequence and began to lift from the landing pad. The comm. crackled with a query that she ignored, the tower already asking what she was doing without broadcasting an exit protocol. She focused instead on forcing the engines to their full power, blasting up towards the upper atmosphere. No ships pursued her, though the comm. crackled more insistently. Seconds passed, minutes… then she was out of the troposphere as crystal clear stars shone brightly before her. Alderaan's moons were rising, brightly glowing on the horizon as she soared out of the planet's atmosphere, one step closer to freedom.

Katarra remembered wondering as she pulled the hyperdrive, whether she hadn't been paying attention to her history lessons. But the thought was gone in a heartbeat as streaking blue light replaced the view out her window as the ship leapt into hyperspace.

Still, days later she would realize the importance of the fact that that day, Alderaan had possessed one too many moons.

Katarra was barely aware her hands were gripping the controls tight enough to make her fingers tingle. She had done it… she could hardly believe it. The adrenaline was pumping so hard through her ears that she could hear nothing of the engine's normal whine, nothing of her heavy breath, nothing of the silence of having no one near her. She let out a small whimper of sound, and in that instant it was like a dam burst. With a mighty roar she howled loudly, her anger, pain, grief and glee all pouring out in one enormous venting. She surged to her feet and in one swift motion ripped the foul silk robe off, shredding it into tiny pieces and to add further insult, stomped on it. She knew her face couldn't possibly grin wider at this very moment. That is unless…

She turned and pulled out the mirror her mistress had kept so vainly, tilting it so she could get a good look at the control collar. Jade had stopped using her remote ages ago. She'd been sufficiently convinced Katarra would have never done what she'd just done, leave her high and dry. Of course, the family would be notified the moment she knew the wookiee was gone. Which is why Katarra had set a course for the closest shady place she could find. But first… She stared at the collar intently. If she couldn't get this off before arriving, she would be in serious trouble. Fortunately her nigh thirty years in service to the Snow family had given her not only ample chance to study her own, but to get her hands on some unused ones and tinker around. She knew exactly how to get it off. The trick would be doing it without sending an unwelcome dehabilitating pulse that would effectively end her escape. Carefully she pulled out the narrow pair of pliers that Jade used to pluck her eyebrows and began to tinker. It took her only five minutes to do, but those five minutes felt the longest five of her life. At last, the metal band depressurized, and she felt a cold draft waft against her neck as she tore it off in a hurry and flung it into the bulkhead with fury. The thing crumpled at her blow, dented and now useless. She rubbed her neck, feeling the tender raw flesh that had been deprived air, the fur matted and thin here.

But she was free.

Free at last.

By the time the Snow family heard of their missing shuttle having turned up, it was halfway across the galaxy deep in Hutt space. No one had made an effort to report the shuttle immediately, as the family had not thought to place a bounty out, merely notify the Imperial authorities. Kashyyyk had been their first thought, but the shuttle had not appeared there. No, the shuttle had been located at Nar Shadda. And there was little chance of them ever discovering where their runaway slave had gone from there. Katarra had vanished like a ghost, like her name spoke of her.

- - - - -

The universe was a much bigger place than she'd imagined. Granted, she'd known it was big, she'd studied the star charts, she'd seen the list of habitable and non-habitable planets, bases and outposts.

That still didn't mean she knew squat about the galaxy.

From Nar Shaddaa to Mos Eisley to Junction Station, Katarra took transport after transport, using her meager credits to buy her way on ships, working hard to earn more credits while she traveled, with the understanding it was all under the table. Of course, she couldn't be completely certain tongues wouldn't wag, so she bought some dye at one of the outposts and did something that she ultimately despised: dyed her fur brown. It was very odd seeing coppery fur where white had been, thinking she was merely a normal Wookiee. Not too many people paid her mind after she did this, and she could walk freely without her cloak, but every waking moment she loathed the need for the disguise. Still, it was refreshing to feel 'normal' for once. No bounty hunters would search for her this way, there were plenty of her kind out in the universe backwater planets, she'd come to discover. She was safe for now.

However, she found herself floundering for a lack of what to do with herself. Free at last, finally her trail well lost in the myriad of transports, with a new appearance, Katarra now had no clue on where to start looking for the one who had taken her family from her, the one who had made her an orphan. She had always wished to find him even as a child, planning to do so once she came of age. Now she was a grown adult and with no ties left to link her anywhere, she found herself lacking a starting point. She had no name, nothing to link him to anything she could uncover. She needed SOMETHING to go on.

She sipped her beverage, horrible tasting membrosia but at least it had a punch to it. She hadn't expected the bar here to stock anything more up her palate. It was crowded in Junction Station, many traders, mercs and other illicit dealers packed in for their meals. Fortunately no one thought twice about sharing a booth with a Wookiee. She was left in privacy, and if one glance didn't illuminate their noggins, the bowcaster strapped to her back reminded them who they were dealing with.

"Hey, get that pet off the bar!" Snapped an irate and rather drunk Corellian. Katarra glanced up towards the patrons, spotting the trouble right away. There was a small creature covered in soft fluffy fur seated on a stool, it's back legs holding it's front paws against the edge of the counter. As the voices raised around it, the small creature dropped back down, cringing, it's ears laying flat against it's back as wide black eyes darted around nervously. Now that everyone's attention was directed at it, the thing seemed to be frozen in place, alarmed at the raised voices. The Corellian wrinkled his nose and grabbed his glass, throwing it at the small creature. "Get lost, fuzzball!" The tiny furry thing darted off the stool, landing lightly on it's feet and scampered away as the man continued to hurl pieces of food after it. "Pest, vermin!" Surprisingly, the creature leapt towards the one place that might provide it enough shelter from the barrage of food and drink: Katarra's legs. It darted between her feet, and curled up in a ball sandwiched between her fur and the wall, and Katarra didn't budge, but turned her gaze challengingly towards the man, who balked with a fist of grilled giblets in his hand. Katarra barred her teeth, and he quickly turned back around, and forgot all about the furry creature. The bar was a hub of murmurs once more, as music resumed.

Katarra could feel the quivering of the small creature, as well as it's racing heartbeat. The poor thing reminded her of the tach from her home world. She didn't move, and let it continue to take refuge, feeling it's heartbeat slow to a less rapid pace. She had no idea how the poor thing got in here, perhaps an escaped specimen or someone's pet, but no one had come searching for it yet, so she wasn't about to chase it out.

However, what happened next surprised her to no end. "T…thank you…" Came a quiet whisper from somewhere at her feet, making her pause mid-sip of her drink. She glanced quickly down under the table, only to see the wide dark eyes of the small creature looking up at her with very obvious intelligence.

Well how about that.

She felt it quiver again, but it didn't seem to be as afraid, as it pulled away from her feet so she could see it better from her position glancing down at it. It's fur was pale white making it's dark eyes stand out even more. It quickly ran a small hand down over it's flattened long ears, and Katarra saw to her surprise that what might have been a paw on a small critter was actually dexterous little fingers much like her own, at a fraction of the size. It was no wonder the poor thing was frightened, being mistaken for a rodent when instead she was an intelligent, if small, creature. Katarra merely gave a low growl to acknowledge she'd heard it and returned to her drink. A few minutes later, tiny hands pulled the creature up onto the seat beside her, hidden from view from the rest of the bar patrons. Katarra glanced down at it, curiously as it blinked up at her and it's tiny whiskers quivered as it sniffed the air. She glanced to her plate of food, not very tasty, but nothing exotic, and grabbed a piece of steamed vegetable and held it out to the small critter. It quickly blinked and snatched it eagerly. "Thank you!" It said in it's high-pitched voice as it nibbled the steamed vegetable. Katarra sniffed a bit, smiling as she finished with her fill, leaving more for the small critter. After it had it's fill, the small furry thing began to studiously wash its fur to clean up, before smiling up at her. "I'm Asani. And I owe you for helping me." Katarra nodded with a light whuff under her breath. It wasn't like she could share her name with the creature, whatever breed she was. It didn't take long, however.

Asani turned out to be very chatty, more than making up for the quiet wookiee. As it turned out, Asani was used to being treated as she had been in the bar. Her race were known as Kushibaan and were often mistaken for cute pets and sold as such, given most of them didn't speak Basic to defend themselves as intelligent. Asani herself had picked it up from the trader who had been trying to sell her, then escaped after she'd been sold, a story not unfamiliar to Katarra. Like the Wookiee, Asani had been traveling from place to place, with less results due to her little known and smaller than average race. By the time Asani had told her everything about herself, Katarra was feeling a camaraderie with the small Kushibaan. Fortunate for the two of them, it seemed they had a common goal. It was therefore a mutual decision for them to team up. Asani was quite knowledgeable about the galaxy, having traveled more extensively than Katarra herself had, and the wookiee provided the protection and support that the Kushibaan needed. They were a natural pair.

Besides, no one was about to comment about the furry 'headpiece' that the wookiee had decided to adopt. Asani blended in so well with her fur in her normal white coloring, it was quite overlooked half the time. The two made a good team, and it was fair companionship for an otherwise lonely mercenary life.