On a temporary platform in the middle of a deserted public venue, a girl was on her hands and knees. Clutching a brush with rough synthetic bristles in her right hand, she scrubbed the panels in vigorous circular motions, using her left hand to prop herself up whenever she had to lean especially far forward to clean particularly pesky patches of dirt. A bucket of soapy water stood at her side, and her bare feet were tucked beneath her, the ragged hem of her old gray dress draped over her ankles.

Normally the platform, which was set up again and again at various locations, would be cleaned before every show by a squat little droid on treads. But the droid had suddenly broken down earlier that morning. One minute the oiled servos were cheerfully cycling, an ultrasonic vacuum swirling in noisy arcs across the boards, and in the next the old machine ground to a halt, filling the air with the acrid stench of smoke as its engine sputtered and died. The circus manager, Tevye, had bought the droid used and neglected to keep up with proper maintenance, letting it go for years without regular testing and tune-ups in the name of saving money. It was bound to break down eventually, and today was simply the day their luck ran out.

“But someone still has to clean up!” the Twi’lek had exclaimed upon hearing the news, wringing his sharp-nailed hands. Looking around frantically, Tevye’s red eyes landed first on Omie, seated on a bench. He lunged forward, seizing her arm and dragging her to her feet. “Omie, you do it—and quickly!”

“Tevye!” protested Abelard the acrobat, who was helping some of the crew pack up nearby. “How will she be able to see what she’s doing?”

Tevye paused, flustered. In his agitation and stress—they were short on time, and he had a dozen other things to worry about without a broken droid throwing a wrench in his plans—he had forgotten that the girl was blind. “Well… can’t she use the Force to see, or whatever?”

“Don’t be ridiculous—” Abelard began, only to be interrupted by Omie herself.

“Just give me the cleaning supplies,” she said, sightless eyes staring straight ahead.

And so it was that she came to be scrubbing the platform, which was due to be folded and packed away within the next hour as the traveling circus went on its way.

Abelard, who had helped corral the exotic animals into their cages, left the others to finish loading them onto the ship and headed for the platform. Omie heard his boots climbing the metal stairs behind her, but didn’t stop her work even when she could sense him standing directly above her.

“Omie,” he said softly, crouching down beside her.

At the sound of her name spoken so close to her ear, she paused but didn’t so much as sit up.

“Omie, you weren’t made to be a servant,” Abelard continued. “You should have fought back when Tevye first grabbed you.”

“When you first rushed to rescue me, you mean?” she joked, the corners of her mouth curling slightly upward.

He chuckled. “Whatever you do, I can only support you.” Turning his eyes to the puddle of soapy water before her, he spied the reflection of her downturned face on the shining surface. “You may not be able to see it, but even the floor longs to be your mirror.”

His compliment drew a small smile from Omie, but the true meaning of physical beauty was a mystery to her. She had been born blind, and knew nothing of what lay beyond the darkness she had always known—save the Force, which gave her a very different kind of sight. A field of vision that was unknown to Abelard, for whom the Force was a mystical magic power that he didn’t understand. “I’m nearly finished, I can feel it. Won’t be long now, and then you and the boys can dismantle the platform.”

Abelard’s gaze lingered on the puddle reflection, as though he were trying to commit the lines of her face when she smiled to memory. Omie was indeed beautiful, with silvery skin, azure blue eyes, and a face like a lunar goddess. As near as anyone could tell, she appeared to be of mixed Togruta and human ancestry, bearing the features of both species. Her lekku and montrals, however, were deformed—there was bone and keratin where there should have been flesh, causing them to curve upward and behind her head, where they twisted together in odd ways like the roots of a tree. Not too long ago, the tangled ends of her headtails had to be surgically separated when their combined weight became too great. The unpleasant, painful nature of the operation had prompted one of the circus strongmen to harp about “the horrors of miscegenation” over drinks one night. Abelard had rearranged the man’s teeth for him with bloodied fists, and the ensuing brawl racked up yet another medical bill that was enough to make long-suffering Tevye weep.

“...I’ll finish it,” Abelard said. “Don’t worry. You go on back to your quarters and rest. It’s been a long week.”

“But I’m almost—” As he reached for the brush, his hand touched hers. With a sigh, she let go. “I guess I am tired. And if you want to do it, who am I to stop you?”

She stood up and headed for the steps, descending carefully. There was no railing for her to hold onto, yet she was able to make her way to the ground. Abelard watched her until she turned a corner behind a caravan and disappeared from view, then he attacked what was left of the dust and grime clinging to the boards.

Omie walked among the clusters of hovervans and carriers, passing by workers hurriedly folding structures into smaller, compact shapes that could be stowed away in the bellies of ships, animal trainers and groomers herding exotic beasts from a thousand worlds into enclosures, and performers, having exchanged gaudy costumes for ordinary street clothes, packing up their acts. She hugged her arms to her chest, rubbing them as though she were cold. Her steps slowed to a stop, and she stared unblinking at something only she could see. The future…


A harsh female voice shouting across the field snapped her out of her trance. She turned, hearing the hum of repulsorlift engines approaching and dying as the vehicle was put in park. Then, the distinct limping walk of Tevye approached amid a flurry of frazzled activity.

“What are you doing here? You realize we’re about ready to leave this rock?” the circus manager cried. He paused, and Omie sensed the change in his mood, belabored irritation replaced by cautious curiosity. “...What have you got in there?”

“A monster from the Id,” the nasally old woman replied. She lowered the intensity of the energy field which held her quarry. “Trust me, you don’t want to miss this.”

Tevye shuffled over to get a better look. His curiosity quickly gave way to nausea. “What is that?”

“You tell me,” the old woman said with a smirk. “I bought him off some slavers—they said he was a Forcie, hence those funny-looking cuffs. He’ll get violent without them, but once the cuffs go on, he’s as tame as a kitten…”

She spoke at length, telling all that she knew about the prisoner and how he had been captured on Nar Shaddaa, where he’d been sleeping on the streets and scavenging for food, but Tevye barely heard her. Encrusted with dirt, blood, and who knew what else, he could just make out the creature’s gnarled face, which was harelipped, missing a nose and an eye. His body from the waist down was equine, with hooves instead of feet. Tevye supposed he was a Half-Bothan, but his satyr-like appearance seemed unnatural as a curse; the animal parts might as well have been sewn on in a grotesque mockery of man’s ascent to bipedalism. He was deformed, unfinished, sent before his time into waking life only half made up, and then bruised and battered by a cruel, unforgiving galaxy. The circus manager had seen few things more hideous than this pitiful creature.

“Slavers? You mean that is a sentient being?” Tevye covered his nose. “I can smell him through the field! He stinks worse than the animals… and Force, what happened to his face?” Hearing footsteps behind him, Tevye whirled around and came face to face with Omie. “Did you finish with the platform?” he asked, glad to look at something far more pleasing to the eye.

“Abelard insisted on taking over and letting me rest,” she said, her tone distracted. “Why have you put a man in a cage?”

“Because he was already in a cage when I bought him,” the old woman replied. “And so far he hasn’t said a word of Basic. I don’t know if he even understands what’s happening. Think he might be slow, empty-headed, whatever you call it. An idiot.”

“His head is not empty,” Omie took a step forward. “I can sense his mind. He is afraid and in pain.” Venturing as near to the energy field as she dared, she leaned forward and spoke to the prisoner. “Hello. Can you speak?”

There was a rustling of hay and dirty rags from inside, and then a very small, very quiet voice said, “Yes.”

“That doesn’t prove anything,” the old woman sneered. “He could’ve been trained to give simple answers to questions like that. I suppose it doesn’t matter, though.” Turning to Tevye, she held out her withered, bony hand. “How much would you give me for him?”

“For him?” Tevye glanced back at Omie, who was still talking to the prisoner and receiving short, breathy answers, then worried his lower lip between his teeth. “We could bathe him, I suppose… have the doctor take a look at him… but if he’s as stupid as you claim—”

“I’ll charge only half my usual price." The old woman licked her lips. “Think of what you could do with him. I know you’ll say your artificial ones work just fine, but monsters made of rubber and foam latex, plastic surgery or Sith alchemy just aren’t the same. And forget hiring a shapeshifter. It’s the freaks of nature, Tevye. They’re the ones who draw the biggest crowds. You can’t make them, you can only find them. They don’t even have to be physically deformed. They just need to be weird as hell. Deviants, misfits, sacred monsters. So long as their quirks and eccentricities are unique to them and no one else, you can make money off it.”

“How do you know this one wasn’t made in a lab?” Tevye retorted. Regardless, he was already seriously considering her offer. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but the thought of leaving the deformed creature with her, no matter how disgusting and horrible to look at he was, didn’t sit well with Tevye’s conscience. “Omie, ask him if he can walk.”

Tilting her head at the sound of her name, she asked the question, waited, then said, “He says if he has help. And… he needs water to drink.”

“He’ll have plenty of water on the ship.” Tevye held up his credit chip between two fingers, much to the old woman’s delight. “Food and lodgings, too, provided he cooperates with us—and he’ll have to keep those cuffs on… anyway, what’s the little devil’s name?”

Omie stood by impatiently as the old woman, having swiped Tevye’s credit chip, unlocked the cage. Only after the prisoner had crawled out and into harsh daylight did he answer the question.


“Well, Messala,” Tevye began, pleased that he no longer had no choice but to think of him as “the creature”. “Welcome to the family.”