Dinner that night was mediocre compared to their usual fare. It must be the guests, or Yuri didn't want the visitors to know how much money he had. She and Zekk sat next to each other and shared a plate of what looked like something that crawled out of the ground on four claws. It was red and they had to break open the shell. The meat tasted bland and Jaina had to force herself to eat it, for the last few days the idea of eating meat was starting to revolt her. Just the thought of the poor animals that died just so she could eat made Jaina lose her appetite. She tried to listen in on the conversation, but the business jargon they talked in quickly confused her and within seconds she was lost, and decided to ignore the four human guests sitting around the table. She tried not to judge them, they might be fair businessmen, but the more those shifty eyed men looked at her and Zekk the sicker she felt. The Force was telling her something was seriously wrong with the men, but it didn't say what.
She continued to play with the food, by pushing it from one side of the plate to the other. Zekk continued to watch his hands, so he wouldn't accidentally look up at the guests. Yuri said a slave was to never look at his betters in the eye, and he threaten to punish Zekk after the dinner if he his eyes left the table during the negotiations. Jaina tried to convince Yuri that his rule was ridiculous, but Yuri said it was either that or the floor, eating out of a pet bowl. After that ultimatum Jaina quit arguing. Yuri left the headband in the room after Zekk promised to obey him. So now they sat together, both in uncomfortable silk trousers and in her case a white silky see through shirt with no sleeves. Zekk didn't have a shirt on. His gold collar and gold earrings adorned his upper body. They both felt naked in front of the businessmen. Although Yuri was suppose to at least pretend that Jaina was his daughter he treated her like a possession.
Jaina quickly looked up as the five men in the room raised their voices and started shouting. Her mouth gaped open in shock when one of the businessmen pulled a blaster out of his jacket and fired at Yuri. Yuri jumped out of the way, pulled out his own blaster, and started firing. The other men joined the fight and within moments, the room was filled with firing from Yuri's bodyguards and the businessmen. As soon as Jaina realized that there was going to be a big fight she grabbed Zekk's arm and pulled him off his chair and onto the floor so they wouldn't be shot on accident. They crawled under the table glad that the long white table cloth hide them, and Jaina started moving towards the exit, trusting that Zekk was following her.
The dinner table was wide enough for Zekk to crawl up next to her. He whispered in her ear, "What about the head band?"
"It's in Yuri's room. Come on we have to hurry." Jaina started crawling to the end of the table; she waited for Zekk to catch up before she scrabbled out from under the table laying low on the floor to avoid the laser fire, she concentrated on making it out of the room. It wasn't until she was in the hall running towards Yuri's room, did she notice Zekk right behind her. She smiled in relief. They made it to Yuri's room in less than a minute and Jaina tried turning the knob first. Lately, Yuri started leaving his room unlocked. She sighed, relieved that the door opened on her first try. She didn't know how much time they had before the fight downstairs would be over.
"Where does he keep the headband?" Jaina called out to Zekk as she scanned the room.
Zekk entered the room, and pointed to the desk in the far corner, hidden by the shadows. "Over there! Come on we have to hurry!"
Jaina ran over to the desk cutting across over the bed in her haste. "I know!"
The headband sat among the clutter of papers and books. She grabbed it quickly and scampered back to the door. She thrust it into Zekk's hands. "Come on we have it."
She led the way to the transport garage. They could still hear the fight in the dinning room. Jaina assumed all the guards were in the house helping Yuri defeat the four businessmen and their guards. She slapped the panel to open the garage doors, and raced to the transport hovercraft closest to the opening door. She jumped in the driver's seat and Zekk scrambled over her to the passenger side. "Duck!" Jaina yelled as she started the engine and pushed the accelerator before the doors had finished opening. They sped out into the night and Jaina drove as fast as the transport would run. They needed to get to town before Yuri organized a search.
Neither of them spoke during the one hour drive to the Byss spaceport, both of them too nervous. Zekk kept looking over his shoulder, expecting to see vehicles in pursuit. Jaina wanted to laugh once they where on the road, but Zekk's manner suggested terror at the thought of recapture, so she controlled the impulse. He fidgeted with the headband the whole time.
Byss spaceport loomed over them sooner than Jaina expected. The city lights glowed in the sky for the past twenty minutes, but seeing the actual city in its glory, took her breath away. So many lights. One section of the city had blue lights. The one next to it had green, and then red, purple, yellow, orange, and pink. She drove the hovercraft until she found a spot to park the vehicle. A street full of bars, lounges and shops was the perfect place to leave Yuri's transport. "Come on Zekk lets get as far away from here as possible." She climbed over to the passenger seat and jumped onto the sidewalk, she could already see Yuri laughing at the report of Jaina Solo, daughter of General Han Solo, squished by a hovercraft during her escape attempt. Loud music could be heard over the other hovercrafts and ground transportation vehicles speeding down the street. There were hundreds of people on the street and Jaina had no idea where to head.
"Jaina, lets start moving. The inner city should be safest. We need to find out how to take this collar off as well. We are attracting attention."
Jaina glanced around looking at all the people and realized that Zekk was right. People were staring at them, most of the focus on Zekk. They had to get him away from this crowd of humans and aliens who gawked at the two teenagers. Deactivating the collar was her new top priority she needed Zekk's ability to help them hide from Yuri and fight off all threats. Finding new clothes wouldn't hurt either Jaina thought looking down at the flimsy fabric covering her arms. She might as well be naked; the white material didn't hide anything.
A young human male with purple hair pulled out of the crowd gracefully and glided towards them. He stopped in front of Zekk and ran a slender hand down Zekk's chest before Zekk could stop him. "I have a room available if you have the credit, are you interested?" he asked in a low husky tone.
Zekk stared at the boy in shock before replying. "Umm..no thank you my sister and I have to go somewhere." He backed away from the boy.
The boy followed him persistently, "I'll be quick, so you won't be late for you "appointment"?"
"No. No. Its okay we have to be going."
Jaina scowled impatiently scared of being caught by Yuri's men while they stood on the street trying to fend off the advances of a hustler. Obviously Zekk was not going to tell the guy straight out that they had to go. She pushed herself in front of Zekk and the hustler, ignoring the flash of anger spark in the hustler's purple eyes before they went blank again.
The hustler smiled and looked down at Jaina, "How about you beautiful? Would you be interested in an hour of pleasure beyond your wildest dreams?"
Jaina's eyes widened and then narrowed in anger she didn't expect the boy to proposition her! She restrained the urge to slap the smug expression off the handsome face. "Look boy we have to go. So find someone else to bother!" She grabbed Zekk's hand and started running away from the hustler and the stolen vehicle.
She continued running as long as possible, crossing from one street to the next barely stopping to see where the streets lead. She opened herself to the Force and tried to let it guide her to safety. Thirty minutes later they were far away from the overcrowded respectable business center, and in the loud, dirty, and poorly lit section of the city. She slowed and tried to catch her breath, before she tried to analyze her surroundings. The street ahead of them was covered in shadows, and one lone street light peeked out two blocks in front of them. The only lights came from the bars and brothels lining the streets. The neon colors cast strange shadows on the humans and aliens loitering on the sidewalk. Some people slouched against the brick building in a drugged stupor while others stood by the entrances to clubs hustling sex, drugs, or stolen goods. Jaina stopped and concentrated on using the Force, she knew they were close to safety. Now if only she could pinpoint where she needed to go. The loud music and buzz of conversation was a constant distraction. In the nicer business area, Jaina could sense that people where happy, sad, full of hope, excited and alive. On this one street Jaina sensed so much despair and hopelessness she wanted to cut herself off from the Force before the despair devoured her mind.
She felt a tug at her arm and she looked up startled at Zekk's concerned face. "Jaina what is going on you've been standing there for the past two minutes?"
She blushed and shook her head she didn't want to tell Zekk what she sensed from the people, so she told half the truth. "I opened myself to the Force hoping it would lead us to safety or help, and the feeling is very strong right now, but I can't pinpoint it." She lifted her head from starring at her shoes to see how Zekk would react.
Zekk nodded his head, "Well that explains why you looked so sure of where you where going. Why don't we just try going into the bars and see what happens?"
Jaina smiled, "Okay, you get to pick first. Which one should we go in?"
"Follow me." Zekk said after staring at each of the seedy bars for a minute. None of them looked promising.
Zekk led her into a bar with a red neon sign in a language she didn't know. The bar was crowded, noisy, and full of different aliens and humans. She concentrated on the Force again, but she couldn't feel the blanket of safety in the bar, in fact her instincts screamed danger! "Zekk come on we have to leave. Now!" She dragged him out the door just as a group of tall human men stood up and tried to weave their way through the throng of people standing by the bar.
Jaina immediately ran into the dancing bar next door, she wanted to lose those men. She tried using the Force again and this time everything felt right. This bar looked the same as the last, except more people were dancing to the strange music the mixed alien race band played. She and Zekk, held hands so they wouldn't lose each other in the crowd of aliens and humans. She wanted to hide in the back of the bar away from the entrance, in case those men decided to follow them in here. Hopefully, the darkness of the bar would hide them better. "Zekk come on lets find a place to sit!" Jaina had to shout near Zekk's ear for him to hear her over the loud music.
She led Zekk over to the small two person tables she first noticed because they were more isolated than the others. She didn't really pay attention to the other people sitting at the tables, because they looked like normal human traders, expect for the woman with red hair, she was the prettiest woman there. Jaina stared at her a bit too long, because the woman lifted her head from man she was whispering something to and looked right at her. Jaina quickly turned her head away, afraid of causing any trouble. She glanced over to Zekk; he was looking around at the guests too.
They sat down in one of the corner tables, and Jaina made sure she sat where she could see if anyone approached their table. Zekk leaned over to her and she moved closer to him so he wouldn't have to yell as loud for her to hear him. "Is this the place?"
She cupped her hand by his ear and yelled back. "Yes! But I don't know who is supposed to help us? It's just a feeling I have! Maybe you'll recognize someone we know?"
"I don't know anyone here! We have to get this collar off soon, he can track me with it. Here try on the headband and see if you can deactivate it!" Zekk had to yell to be heard over the pulsing music that just started. He thrust the headband at her and she had no choice but to accept it.
The headband felt funny on her head. She didn't know how Yuri could wear this without feeling absurd. She tried to think of what she had to say to deactivate the headband and decided to try for the simplest commands. "Headband deactivate Nataku's collar."
"Authorization code is needed to deactivate collar 543." A small female voice piped out of a speaker on the headband.
Jaina looked at Zekk in despair she didn't know Yuri's codes.
"Maybe I can help you?" Jaina flinched back and reached for a blaster or lightsaber that wasn't strapped to her hip. She was concentrating so much on Zekk that the red hair woman walked up on them without either of them noticing.
Jaina decided politeness was the best policy in situations like these. "I'm sorry but this is a private matter. My friend and I'll figure it out soon."
The woman's green eyes hardened. "The only thing that can take that collar off is a lightsaber or the authorization code."
"But I left my lightsaber at the Mansion!" Jaina exclaimed in disappointment.
She covered her mouth once she realized what she let the stranger know. She glanced over to Zekk, but he was shaking his head either fighting not to cry or laugh.
The woman laughed uneasily. "What happened to you Jaina? I thought your uncle or father would have taught you the art of discretion."
While Jaina stared at the beautiful woman with her mouth hanging open, Zekk stood up and introduced himself. "Hi I'm Zekk. Jaina lost her memory in the crash to the planet so she isn't herself, are you Mara Jade?"
"Yes the one and only. I've been stuck on this planet for about four months with the crew from my new ship the Black Raven. I guess I picked the wrong time to branch out. So what is your story?"
Zekk fingered the collar around his neck and glanced over at Jaina before he spoke. "Princess Leia came to this planet for unknown reasons, and Jaina decided follow her mom after Princess Leia failed to report back. I don't know what happened to Princess Leia or Jaina after they arrived. Yuri never said anything about the Chief of State being on the planet. I followed Jaina and some weird energy field crashed the Rock Dragon. I woke up in the Mansion. Yuri was trying to train Jaina to be a dark Jedi, and he wanted me for, 'Zekk paused for a moment not sure what to say,' other reasons."
Mara Jade lifted one eyebrow making a small point to glance down at his flimsy trousers. "I see."
Zekk stared down at the table, trying to control his reddening face before he looked at the ex-imperial assassin. "Please can you help us. I have to get this collar off before Yuri finds me. I mean us." Zekk stood there blushing at his mistake; he really had to get this collar off, soon.
"Come with me. My crew and I are staying at the Purple Dawn. The place is cheap and doesn't ask questions. I can take off the collar once we are somewhere more private. I think I can get some clothes for you two as well. You kind of stand out in this crowd. Oh and Jaina take off that headband it looks ridiculous."
Purple and yellow flower petals slowly drifted down onto the black circular rug under Yuri's favorite chair in the parlor room. Yuri reached over to the stand next to his chair and pulled another flower out of the vase. This time he picked a red rose. He smelled the sweet fragrance, before tearing off an outer petal.
"Master Yuri, we've taken care of the dead bodies, but Jaina and Nataku are missing." The captain of Yuri's personal guard reported his eyes shifting nervously towards the door to his right. He wanted nothing more than to leave his master's angry presence.
Yuri glared at him, and stood up. "I know they are missing you dolt! I want you to find them before the night is through or you are a dead man. Do I make myself clear?"
He gulped and nodded his head. "Yes master. I'll do everything in my power to find your missing property." He turned to leave.
"Wait. Here is a tracking device." He tossed a small black box at his Captain, "Its going to take them time to cut off Nataku's collar. This will buy you extra minutes. Now go!"
Yuri sat back down in his chair and stared into space. Probably planning revenge he thought. He felt sorry for the two teenagers, who defied his master. They were going to suffer.
"Where are we going?"
"Jaina this is the fourth time you asked and the answer is the same. You'll see when we get there. I can't afford to reveal my lodgings until you and Zekk are safely within. Now be quiet." Mara Jade continued to lead them through a labyrinth of street alleys and small hidden sidewalks.
Zekk had a headache, his feet hurt, and he could barely keep his eyes open any longer, yet he followed Mara and Jaina without complaint. They were the only ones that could protect him from Yuri. He didn't know what he would do if he had to face Yuri again, but right now he'd never felt more naked. Jaina knew what Yuri did to him. At least with his uncle the shame was muted by the fact that only he knew what happened. His worst fear was someone finding out. His only consolation was that Jaina didn't have all her memories back.
He brought up his hand and touched his neck, still not quite believing the hated collar was gone. Mara cut it off with her lightsaber once they got away from the crowds of people. Now all he needed clothes that covered his body. He hated feeling so naked. When that street boy propositioned him, he didn't know what to do, thank the Force Jaina was there. He reached out with his mind and touched the Force, it gave him peace. This time he would fight to the death before he let Yuri have him again.
Mara made one last turn and stopped. They were at the back entrance of a club in the darkest part of the alley. Crates and metal garbage dumpsters, hid them from the any passerby's notice. Mara picked a good back entrance to her hide out. Now he just needed to find out why she was hiding. "We're here. Follow me and don't speak."
She knocked four times on the door, paused and knocked three more times in rapid succession. The door swung open and she waltzed in ushering Jaina in front of her, he followed close behind the tall woman. A medium sized man aimed his weapon at them but didn't say anything when Mara lead them down the dark hallway to a larger room. Inside the building looked old. Poor lighting didn't hide fading wallpaper or flaking wall plaster. The worn wooden floor creaked with every step. He barely noticed Jaina siding up next to him, she grabbed his hand in a hard grip. He sensed her anxiety and wanted to tell her not to worry, but Mara said not to speak so he settled for squeezing her hand in return. At first the room was empty save for metal boxes, wooden stools, and one broken lopsided couch. His feet ached, but nothing said "Please sit on me." With his luck he'd get a splinter in a hard to reach place.
Mara lead them to the other side of the room near a set of stairs leading up to the second floor and said calmly, "We wait here."
He could tell Jaina wanted to ask why and was barely keeping her questions to herself. She kept fidgeting, and it was starting to make him nervous! This Jaina, he noticed, had little patience. He wondered if this was her core personality or not? Her experiences at Yuri's mansion had to shape her somehow. She might not realize it but Yuri abused her as well. He shied away from thinking about Yuri and focused on his situation. He didn't understand why they had to wait downstairs. What was so important that even Mara, a captain of her own ship was delegated to waiting like a servant?
The building was cold, but with Jaina squeezing his hand so hard his fingers felt like they were going to pop off, he couldn't rub his shoulders to take away the goose bumps. He tried not to shiver. Running for their lives kept his adrenaline pumping and he didn't feel the cold outside, but now they were standing still, waiting for something to happen. This only made him more aware of his surroundings and his body. Jaina also started shivering and he didn't know whether he should ask Mara Jade if she had any spare coats in any of the boxes littering the floor. He opted for staying silent, so he pulled Jaina into his arms, forcing her to let go of his hand.
She almost fell down, she was so startled by his unexpected move. He almost didn't catch her, he didn't expect her to flinch away from him, tripping on a loose floorboard. Luckily, he worked out, everything happened so fast he didn't even remember the Force. He was able to grab her upper arm in a tight grip and he yanked her up to him, their chests hit and he wrapped an arm around her waist holding her to him. She was trembling. Mara looked at them with amusement and some pity. She put a finger to her lip indicating they had to remain silent. He was amazed Jaina didn't squeak or something. He looked down into her upturned face. A slow blush filled her checks and she quickly looked down resting her head against his chest, her brown hair tickled, and her warm arms wrapped around his waist made his back shiver, it felt good.
He wished he could speak. It would be so much easier. He lifted Jaina's chin and indicated that they should sit down on one of the long wooden boxes close to the ground. She nodded her head and released her hold on his waist. He felt so tired, his ankles and knees hurt, the silver sandals Yuri picked out for him, were not made for running. Jaina leaned her head against his shoulders and fell asleep. He sighed and leaned back against the wall. It was cold against his back, which helped keep him awake. The old Jaina would stay awake no matter what until she knew it was safe.
He wanted Jaina to regain her memories, soon. Right now she was so vulnerable and scared, he needed to protect her. It wasn't because she was Jacen's sister or his best friend. She was more than that to him. His heart felt lighter when she was around and a flush of warmth would fill his chest. She was his best friend and maybe it was time for him confess his love. He would have to wait until she had her memories back, but he couldn't deny his feelings for her anymore. She might not feel the same way, but he had to find out! Especially after his experience with Yuri.
He wished his mom were alive. He just wanted her to hold him tight and tell him everything was going to be okay and that he wasn't disgusting for giving into Yuri. He hoped Jacen, Tenal Ka, and Lowbacca never found out what happened down on this planet. Running away would not impress Master Skywalker and with his luck he would land into more trouble anyway.
Right now he would settle for Mara Jade as a motherly figure, he looked up at the tall woman standing against a stack of boxes and almost laughed. He couldn't imagine her as someone's mother. Her red hair was braided down her back, and she had on black leather skin tight clothing, and a lightsaber and blaster hooked to her belt, it wasn't the clothing however that was intimidating. Mara's green eyes looked cold and calculating every time he glanced over in her direction. He hoped she really was going to help them and not sell them to slavers or something. He sensed that she wanted to help, but she could be using the Force to deceive him.
His stomach fluttered with anxiety and he almost bolted, carrying Jaina with him. What was taking so long? Mara must have sensed his fear, because she walked over and sat down next to him and rested a hand on his shoulder. He tried hard not to flinch but even knowing she was going to touch his shoulder his body reacted. He green eyes stared into his with sympathy and she sent a wave of comfort to him, using the Force. Master Skywalker must have taught her a lot during her short breaks at the Jedi Academy. She had to be decent otherwise Skywalker wouldn't teach her how to use the Force. He held onto that thought and kept repeating it. He didn't notice how tense his body was until his muscles started aching. He was holding himself so rigidly that he must have resembled a statue.
Two hours later, they heard a noise at the top of the stairs. Four men wearing an assortment of clothing walked in just as quietly and indicated for them to follow. Mara looked relieved at their presence and stood up first. He shook Jaina awake and covered her mouth before she could blurt out, "Where are we?" He gave her a few minutes to remember before helping her stand up. His body felt stiff and his legs almost collapsed. Mara quickly grabbed his arms until he steadied.
They went up the stairs and followed the men into another alley and into a hovercraft with a hood. Zekk knew Mara betrayed them when the four men surrounded him and Jaina and bustled them into vehicle, even if he wanted to run he couldn't. The four men were easily a foot taller, and had lots of muscle. Jaina sat next to him in the car. Mara sat across from him with two of the men. While the other two sat in the front, one of the men was driving.
"Did you bring extra clothing?" Those were the first words out of Mara's mouth.
"Yeah your call took us by surprise, that's why it took so long, we didn't expect you to call until tomorrow. The request for clothing probably took the longest. No one was willing to give up their clothes." As the black hair man with a large scar running down one cheek spoke, he reached into a bag he had stowed under the seat, and pulled it out. He unzipped the blue bag, pulled out an assortment of clothing, and tossed them to Jaina. "Here those should fit you. Boy, I couldn't find anything in your size so I picked out one of my shirts, and a pair of Mara's pants, they should fit you. I hope you don't mind, boss lady?"
"No it's okay. I can find them something else to wear later. Hurry up and change, we are changing vehicles in a few minutes. This one is stolen isn't it?"
"Just like you said. We've kept this quiet. Talon Karrde would be proud."
The other man sitting next to the black hair guy with the spiked haircut, spoke. "I wouldn't start celebrating until we reach the ship. I don't know what's going on, but there are about fifty to one hundred men searching the city. Last time I saw them, they were stopping people on the streets asking questions, and occasionally pulling cars over and inspecting them. They're armed so no one has fought back yet, but we need to be careful."
He didn't know what to say or where to begin asking questions, so he quickly slipped the man's dark blue shirt over his head, and pulled on the dark pants which fit just about right, the waist stretched, which was probably why the dark hair man picked them out. Jaina had already put on the orange shirt and yellow pants. None of the colors flattered her.
He wanted to ask questions, but something inside him was saying, "No I'll be hurt, don't talk." He looked out the dark window watching shops, clubs, and people passing by fast. Tears threatened. Yuri would zap him with the damned collar anytime he spoke without permission, after a few days it was just easier to give in, Yuri was hurting him for so many other reasons, and not talking seemed like the easiest rule to follow.
Jaina was his lifesaver. "What is going on? Who are you guys? Why couldn't we speak in that building? And where are we going?" She demanded once she finished rolling up the bottom of the pants.
Mara chuckled softly. "One question at a time. First, the man siting next to me is Kale he's my right hand man on my ship the Black Raven, the man next to him with the ugly spiked haircut is his partner, Ralph."
He brought his hand to his hair and ran it over the spikes sticking up, "Hey I like this hair!"
Mara continued speaking, ignoring his indignation. "I'm just glad he's useful. Kale wouldn't accept this job unless Ralph came with him. The two in the front are Sax and Packard. Sax is the one driving, and Packard is the only one in my crew who is married, his wife also works on my ship. We are a small crew but everyone here exceptionally talented." She stopped took a breath and continued with a sigh.
"I guess I need to give you back ground information. Four months ago, on a routine cargo flight to this planet an energy field caused us to crash land. Our ship wasn't too badly damaged, we were able to come to town to get spare parts to fix it, but its taking us more time, because we are trying to avoid Yuri Barcel, he's fast become the most powerful man on this planet. Right now he has his men impounding all the ships that crash on this planet. We don't know what happens to the pilots if they survive, but I'm guessing he's killing them off or keeping them as slaves. We were lucky, I was able to hide the ship using the onboard scanners to deflect a tree signal. We've been staying at the ship for protection, and I've been going into the spaceport to collect information. The Force was with you tonight. I was suppose to meet a contact in that club, but he never showed, that is why I took the roundabout way of getting into our meeting house. I don't know what is happening, and the one person who may have the information is in a comma at our ship. Anyway, I set up a signal that hides people but sound vibrations caused by human voices, shut it down. Its new technology and not quite perfected yet. Anyone scanning from the air for people in abandoned buildings would not have detected us, I hope. As for what is going on, I was hoping you two would explain, but I think we should wait until we get back to my ship and after you've had a nap. Zekk is about to pass out. I don't think the energy field is going down within the next week so you'll have time to catch up."
"Mara, we're here. You people back there better move your asses! I'm not waiting for anyone!" Sax yelled at them from behind the driver seat. He stopped the car suddenly, and he and Jaina flew forward. He landed in Ralph and Jaina crashed into Kale, Mara moved away once she saw them coming. Mara opened the door and jumped out, Kale dragged Jaina outside, and he followed as quickly as possible trying to avoid Ralph's help. He didn't want anyone to touch him. Sax had parked the stolen hovercraft car right behind the one they were going to take out to the forest, so it didn't take long for them to be situated back into a moving vehicle. Only this time, Jaina and him had to squeeze on top of the men in the back seats. This car was much smaller than the last one. Mara was squeezed against the window, with Jaina sitting on her lap.
"Where am I going to sit?" He asked stupidly, desperately wanting to trade places with Jaina.
"Hey you! I don't care what your issue is! Sit your ass down, I can't see out the back window!" Sax angry red face glared at him as he was trying to move closer to Jaina.
His back was touching the ceiling. Kale pushed him toward Ralph who was sitting by the window. Ralph grabbed his waist and forced him to sit down on his lap. He tried getting back up again, panic ate away at his control. Ralph tightened his thick arms and tried calming him down. "Look I don't know your name, where you are from, or what happened to you, but I promise I won't hurt you. The ride isn't going to take long and the man I love is sitting right beside me along with your girlfriend and my boss, who only hires respectable people. Kale and I have two children at home who are five and six years old. Relax. We are going to protect you."
Zekk blinked his eyes and tried not to cry. He was so tired and scared. He wanted to believe this man. The Force told him that Ralph was speaking truthfully, he had to trust something, and it might as well be the Force. He relaxed back against the man's chest. His head rested on Ralph's shoulder. Ralph wasn't as comfortable as the seat, but at least he Ralph wasn't sitting in his lap. The dark hair man with spiked hair was at least 250 pounds all muscle.
Jaina was sitting on Mara's lap and looking out the window, with a sad expression on her face. In all their adventures, he'd never seen Jaina look so down, even when they thought they were going to die. She always fought back against everything. Was he doing this to her? Or maybe she always had to be a fighter because of Jacen? Her life started three weeks ago and since then Yuri blackmailed her, showed her how a man could treat another like property, and abused her physically. He couldn't imagine Han Solo ever slapping any of his children.
Wishing he had a chance to sleep during the day, Zekk tried to keep his eyes open. Yuri wanted to spend his last night before his supposed business trip with him. It could have been worse, he thought in retrospect. Instead of whipping him or using the stun collar, Yuri decided to physically restrain him. Brownish blue marks stained his wrists and ribs. A fair trade for less pain, he thought at the time, but now the bruises reminded him of Yuri. Light slowly faded from the inside of the car as they drove further and further away from Byss Spaceport and the city lights. Against his will his eyes drifted shut, and he told himself, "Only for a few minutes will I close my eyes."
Mara glanced down at the girl in her lap, who was peacefully sleeping away, and then back toward Zekk, who whimpered and mumbled a variety of words, mainly, "Please No. Stop. Help me," and the most disturbing one of all, "Please kill me." Ralph looked toward her for help. Ralph really was a gentleman, and he was trying to keep Zekk's face from hitting the window without really touching the troubled teenager. She took notice of his struggle to stay awake and for a while thought he might actually accomplish that goal. But after resettling the sleeping Jaina on her lap, so her legs wouldn't fall asleep, Zekk was out cold. His head leaned back, unavoidably using Ralph's enormous shoulder as a cushion. His dark hair fell to his shoulders and she had to admit she wished she was younger, Zekk was so handsome, but it looked like his heart was set on Jaina.
Mara felt the tinniest twinge of guilt when Zekk realized he would have to sit on one of the men. She knew the car was going to be small, so made sure Jaina was right next to her when they got in. She sympathized with Zekk, but he weighed more than her, and no way was she going to sit in his lap. It was going to take three hours to get to their destination, because they were playing it safe tonight. It was impossible for her not to notice the his harem styled clothing or lack thereof, bruised wrists, bite marks on the boy's back and neck, and the swollen red lips. His eyes, the window to his soul, looked just as bruised and used. She'd seen Zekk before when he was working as a bounty hunter, after his stint with the Shadow Academy. He'd been quiet, but confident. Right now Zekk looked a thousand light years away from confidant. He was terrified.
Jaina, for better or worse was physically all right. Her memory was gone, but with any luck it would return within the next week or so. She still couldn't get over the changes in Jaina. She was definitely going to have to ask what happened.
She leaned her head back and hoped Zekk wouldn't cry out anymore. Ralph was started to look pissed off, and Kale kept looking at Zekk and then Jaina. She could already see him thinking. What a weak boy, the girl survived god knows what, and she's sleeping peacefully. She closed her eyes and had almost drifted off to sleep when a loud "No!" pierced the car. She started awake in time to see Zekk hit his head on the Plexiglas ceiling and fall unconscious into Ralph's arms.
"What happened?" she asked sleepily.
"I don't know one minute he's sleeping and the next he bolts awake. I guess he forgot where he was and panicked. He's breathing normally so he's okay. Yuri did this to him didn't he?"
"Yeah, the asshole. You saw the bruising didn't you?"
She could barely see his nod. "Yes, I saw. No wonder he has nightmares."
"I'm sure the Jedi can help him. They'll probably make him mediate on some temple. Hell all we can do is keep him away from the bastard that did this, and maybe get revenge. Zekk will have to work this out for himself."
"You don't think anything happened to the girl do you?"
"No from what I understand up until a few nights ago, Jaina thought Yuri was her father. This is Jaina Solo."
Ralph whistled. "No kidding. The New Republic will come to the rescue then or at least try."
Kale for the first time decided to speak. "Look I don't want to burst anyone's bubbles, but remember we have a mission and we can't count on the New Republic to send help. I'm all for helping the kids, but do you think they are going to help us?"
"Kale, they are about one year away from being declared Jedi Knights. Jaina and her band of merry friends are known for sticking their noses in everyone's business and offering help. I think we should give them a few days to rest before we tell them our plan to take down the field generator. Right now they'll be against it, but with food and rest they'll be thinking instead of reacting. Jaina may look like she's relaxed and sleeping peacefully, but that's just a show. She's terrified and strung almost as tight as Zekk." Mara decided to stop talking, before she said anymore. She did not want her crew to know she had Force talent. They might start expecting her to pull miracles out of her ass, instead of using their heads.
She tried going back to sleep again, but Zekk's nightmare ruined any chance of her sleeping on the ride back to her ship. Now when she looked out the plexi glass window she saw men hiding in the shadows. The Force told her nothing moved in the forest, except for small animals and the wind. Yuri, the name itself made her furious, he used to work with her and Talon Karrde until they found out he was dealing with slavers behind their back, it almost got them killed, after they got out of that mess Talon told him to get lost.
She hadn't heard from him until she went on a routine trade mission to Byss. He was the talk of the town. He came in with tons of money, set up a power base, and left the locals alone. They didn't know what hit them, until one day their ships couldn't leave the atmosphere and other ships started crashing into the planet. She didn't know who funded Yuri but she intended to find out. First they had to get off the planet.
"Wake up sleepyheads! We are here!" Sax yelled from the front seat, coming to a sudden stop.
Jaina jerked awake at the loud noise and banged her head on the ceiling. "Ow! Damn!" She yelled and rubbed her head, scowling at the scrawny driver. For a small man he sure knew how to raise his voice.
Ralph opened the door, and climbed out half carrying Zekk. "Hey what's wrong with Nata...I mean Zekk?"
"He banged his head on the ceiling too hard. He's breathing. Don't worry." Ralph answered her as he hefted Zekk over his shoulder.
Kale got out next and walked to a black pool of darkness in front of the car. She glanced up at the sky to see why it was so dark, usually the moon provided enough light to see at night. The stars had disappeared as well. Clouds. She decided she hated them as she tried to follow Kale in the pitch dark. Mara stayed by her side and so did Ralph. Sax and Packard where already at the edge of the lake, when they arrived. Kale grabbed her arm to keep her from stepping into the cold water. "Wait here. We need to hide the hovercar."
Ralph came up to her next and knelt down, letting Zekk slip from his shoulders. He laid Zekk down on the ground gently. "I have to help them. Watch him." Before she had a chance to protest at being left behind he was gone.
Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dark, but even so she could barely see Zekk on the ground next to her. She could see faint light reflected off the surface of the lake. Houses stood on the opposite side of the lake. She could here the men and Mara faintly cursing as they tried to shove the hovercar into the lake without turning on the electricity. It took a few minutes, but at last she heard splashing and an indistinct suction noise, as the water slowly filled the craft and pulled it under the surface. This side of the lake must have a steep drop off.
She felt relieved when everyone returned. The forest life was strangely silent.
"Come Jaina, we are almost there. We have a boat with a silent motor attached so we can cross the lake."
"What about the hovercar?" She asked wondering how they would return to the spaceport.
"Don't worry we have others. That one was stolen, too."
"Oh." She decided she needed more sleep before she spoke to these people again. She tried to pick Zekk up to carry him over her shoulders, but he was too heavy and she couldn't get a good grip on him. She wanted to be helpful, but she couldn't even pick up her only friend. Yuri was right, she was a failure.
A hand fell on her shoulder startling her. "Here I can pick him up." It was Ralph.
She stood up and moved toward the boat. Mara was breaking glow sticks, which quickly emitted a red light. She climbed onto the boat, it rocked, and she clung to the metal bar on the edge until it steadied again. There was enough room for six people, someone was going to have to sit on the floor. She moved to the back and sat down on the long padded bench running across the back of the boat, trying to stay out of the way. Her knees were scrunched up next to her chest, but at least she had a backrest.
Kale helped Ralph move Zekk onto the boat. She scooted over to the side so Kale could sit Zekk down next to her. The boat rocked even more when Ralph jumped on. That man had no fear. She held onto the side, wrapped an arm around Zekk's unconscious form, and held him to her. His head rested on her shoulder and she shifted uncomfortably. His head felt heavy.
"Is everyone on board." Sax asked quietly, for the first time.
"Zekk and I are on board." She answered.
"I'm here too," Ralph answered sitting down on the space next to Zekk.
Kale moved past Mara and Sax who stood at the controls, Sax held out his arm stopping Kale. "You and Mara need to sit up front. We need weight up there to keep the bow of the boat down. I plan on driving fast. Packard, you stay up there, you hardly weigh anything but it might just help."
Sax didn't start the engine until he was happy with everyone's seating arrangement. She knew why too! The boat exhibited signs of capsizing at the slightest gust of wind. The ride across the lake in the perilous boat was strangely uneventful. Wind and water lapped at her face, waves caused the boat to bounce a few times, her companion's mutual silence, and she loved it all. She hadn't had so much fun since she first woke up three weeks ago, with her memory gone.
(This is an adventure. I wonder if I had a lot of those before I lost my memory.) She shook the thought away, not wanting to know about her past life, she was more concerned with the present. She knew when she met Yuri the next time, he was not going to be feeling fatherly love towards her. She wondered how he was going to react when he realized that not only was Zekk missing, but so was she. Probably with little composure she thought with a smile. He deserved it. She knew how much he loved appearances, and his other "slaves" were going to know two of his possessions managed to escape.
Another wave bounced the boat up causing Zekk's head to slip from its perch on her shoulder. She used her arms and tried to keep him upright, but the boat continued to bounce up and down. Her wet hands slipped on his bare arms. Just as she was about to cry out in frustration a deep warm voice said, "Here I'll take him. I'm taller than both of you. I can hold him up."
"Thanks Ralph." She blushed. Again someone had to help her.
How did anyone stand someone as useless as her? Did she have any talents? Yuri implied that she was good at fighting, but when he tested her, she failed more often than not. For some reason tears filled her eyes. She rapidly blinked them away; grateful no one else in the boat could see her weakness. Strength and confidence, those were going to see her through this experience, not tears and pity. She looked out across the seemingly endless span of black water, wanting nothing more than to find a bed she could fall asleep into without wondering how many new bruises her father was going to inflict on Zekk. She was tired, that explained her moodiness.
Finally after an eternity, Sax slowed the boat down, and came to a complete stop. "We're here. Packard help me tie the boat."
She looked over the side of the boat trying to see where here was, but dark trees greeted her. She stood up and stretched her legs, they felt wobbly after sitting down for so long. "Do you need any help with Zekk?" She asked Ralph before she headed toward the front of the small boat.
"Naw go on ahead. Kale will help me get him off the boat." He answered.
Without saying anything else, she turned around and made her way to front. It rocked just as much as the first time. "Jeez...how did this bucket carry us across the lake without dumping us out?" She muttered to herself when the boat rocked again and she had to grab the steering wheel to keep from falling.
When she got to the edge of the boat, the tinniest twinges of fear made her hesitate. How far off the ground was the boat and why couldn't she see the ground?
"Come on Jaina we don't have all night." It was Ralph standing behind her.
"I'm going. I'm just trying to see where I'm going to land, that's all."
"Kale. Help her."
Strong hands seized her waist and lifted her. Her feet barely touched the dry rocky ground when the hands let go, she stumbled away, and would have fallen if Mara hadn't steadied her. Now she was a klutz! She mumbled a quick thank you and went to stand next to Packard.
"We're almost there. Mara and I will have the only red flashlights so stay close. We are only four miles away from the ship, that means no talking. I'll lead the way." Sax finished speaking and had already started walking away before she realized that he wasn't going to say anything else. She ran to catch up with him. Ralph and Kale walked close behind her. Ralph was still carrying Zekk, so they walked slowly. Mara and Packard took the rear.
At first she didn't notice her sandal straps chafing her ankles, but after one mile rolled into the next, the minor annoyance quickly turned into pain. She tried pushing her feet all the way into the sandals so the back straps wouldn't hit her ankles, it worked briefly and was hard to maintain. She wanted to ask if they could stop for a minute to take off her sandals, but she didn't want them to think she couldn't pull her own weight or that she was a spoiled princess. Gradually her speed dropped, she barely noticed Ralph, Kale, and Packard passing her so focused on pain stabbing at her ankle. She started crying silently when she looked up and couldn't see anyone.
"Come on Jaina, take your time I know how to reach the ship."
She sniffed back her sob and wiped her hand across her eyes, grateful that Mara stayed with her. "My sandal's. They're killing my feet." She intended to laugh at the end of her statement, but instead it came out as a sob.
"Jaina, we are almost there, if it wasn't for poisonous nettles scattered throughout this forest I would tell you take off your sandals. As it is, bear with the pain for now. You can make it. I know you can. You and your friend are strong individuals. When we get to the ship we'll heal the cuts and get you and Zekk food to eat."
Mara's words although not exactly soothing, helped a lot. It gave her a focus. Get to the ship and take off the damn sandals. At least Mara knew she was in pain. Hell getting zapped by Yuri's damneded lasers didn't hurt so much. She took a few minutes to compose herself and collect her thoughts. "Okay lets go, I can make it."
The rest of the way to the camp consisted of her concentrating on Mara's black heeled boots. One step then another and another and another. Rocks, trees, leaves, the sound of rustling in the tree tops, none of it distracted her. She had to stay focused or she would start crying again.
An eternity later, Mara stopped and called out meaningless words, before escorting her into a small clearing with a yellow light glowing in the middle. (That must be the ship) Clouds still covered the sky leaving everything dark.
"Where here." Mara said leading Jaina up a metallic gangplank that closed behind her.
Once the walkway closed, she stripped off the hideous silver sandals, now stained with blood and carried them with her. The floor was cold, but she couldn't remember the last time her feet felt this good. It made no sense.
"Where's Zekk?" She asked.
"I'm taking you to him now. Both of you are going to bunk down in our med outclove. There's a bed and enough floor space for you two to take turns sleeping on the floor. I'll bring you blankets and a pillow. I would like to give you somewhere nicer to sleep but the ship is packed and as you can see it's small."
"Don't worry about it, I'm sure at some point in my life I've slept in worse places. I really appreciate your help. I don't know how long Zekk and I would have lasted on our own. I didn't realize Yuri was so powerful on this planet."
Jaina said, with her eyes downcast, doing what Yuri trained her to do, behave submissively.
"Yeah if only the local government had a backbone. Bunch of peacekeepers, but no army. The natives on this planet didn't offer much of a fight when the Empire came through. Pacifist aliens. They were taken away to work in spice mines and asteroids. What few of them are left now control the government, but their power is tenuous. That is why a man like Yuri is so powerful. No on to stop him. Okay we are here."
Jaina didn't know where here was, Mara took quite a few twists and turns, walking slowly so Jaina could limp after her. "Hey look who's awake!" Ralph said, cheerfully once they opened the door and walked in the dimly lit room.
Zekk was sitting up on a narrow cot like bed. It was embedded in the wall. It was the kind that folded up to take up less space when not in use. She didn't know how she knew that, it just popped in her head.
"Hello Zekk, how are you feeling?" Mara asked quickly grabbing a small pin light and shining it into Zekk's eyes.
He squinted his eyes and turned his head, while his pupils dilated.
"Follow the light, Zekk. Stop looking at Jaina. You can talk to her after I finish this check up. You hit your head hard. I don't think its a concussion. Okay I'm finished. Now Jaina sit on the bed and give me your feet." Mara stood up went to another cabinet and pulled out white bandages.
Ralph crowded in behind her. "What happened?"
"The sandals chaffed Jaina's ankles so badly they are bleeding. I forgot to mention new shoes. Jaina stay still while I put these on. It should heal your feet in a few hours." Mara talked while applying the bandages. She liked that, the nurses at Yuri's mansion never spoke to her when they gave her ice for her bruises or bandages for cuts and scrapes.
"I'm finished, Ralph can you help me find bedding for these two, and maybe some nightclothes?"
"Sure. You two wait here. I'll give you a tour tomorrow."
Once Mara and Ralph left the room, it felt uncomfortably silent so Jaina blurted out, "Zekk, you're so lucky Ralph carried you, my feet never hurt so much before in my life! Yuri..."At Zekk's dark glare at the mention of Yuri's name, Jaina stumbled to a halt, "Ummm... anyway I'm glad your head is better." She decided not to talk anymore for the rest of her life. Why did she keep blathering stupid inane remarks. Zekk was never going to like her now! She didn't know what to say to him now that they were in a quiet room, with no one spying on them or the threat of abuse hanging over their heads.
They both started talking at the same time. She stood up and limped to the other side of the room. She needed space. The expression on Zekk's face was priceless, once he saw her clothing. She started laughing. "I wouldn't say anything if I were you. You can go first. Really."
Zekk scowled at her but then seeing her smile he grinned. He's so beautiful. He could be wearing orange and yellow and look ten times better than her. "All I wanted to say was I realize that your memories started only three weeks ago, and I understand why you might mention Yuri's name a lot. Don't feel bad if you accidentally say his name. You helped me escape from there, and for that I don't know if I can ever repay you."
"I was going to apologize for speaking mindlessly, again. I keep messing up. I feel so useless. I don't know who I am and that scares me! But I do know I don't want to hurt you. I'll try to mind what I say from now on, but please forgive me if I mess up." Tears burned the back of Jaina's eyes. What was wrong with her?
What did Yuri do to her! The Jaina he knew...he could be saying that till he died. She needed to get her memories back. Yuri obviously did everything he could to undermine her confidence and self-respect. His head ached, but his heart hurt more. He wanted to slap her and tell her to stop crying, she never cried! Instead, he stood up and hugged her tight. He wanted to cry too, listening to her.
Maybe it was the Force speaking to him. Women lived longer than men, they showed their emotions. He could not remember who told him or if he read it in a book somewhere. Showing his emotions now would be a mistake. He needed to remain detached until he was off this planet or Yuri was dead. Till then he needed a cool level head, once he got back to the Jedi Academy then he'd let himself freak out. He wondered what Master Skywalker would say if he went to the gym and proceeded to punch the padded walls. Anger, relief, and sorrow, didn't two of those lead to the dark side of the Force?
Right now he wanted to scream and rail at the gods, the sky, Yuri. Killing Yuri for what he did to him and Jaina, wasn't enough. Hurting him and then killing him might be. He wanted Yuri to suffer just as much as he did. That man raped him, humiliated him, and made him feel things he did not want to feel, and he was helpless to fight back, the collar took care of that. Dirty and ashamed, those feelings would not disappear overnight.
But not only did Yuri hurt him, he fucked with Jaina as well. The girl he knew was bright, confidant, not afraid to make mistakes, and she had a zest for life. "Shh...everything's going to be okay. You'll see. Your memories will come back and we'll laugh about this someday." His voice cracked on the last part. He was going to bury everything that happened to him on this godforsaken planet in the deepest darkest hole his mind could make and do his best to forget.
He rubbed Jaina's back through the hideous orange shirt or was it yellow. He didn't want to open his eyes to check. He was content to rest his chin on the top of Jaina's head. Her shirt and pants really clashed with her short brown hair. She looked so beautiful in the white silk "clothing" Yuri picked out for her. He tried not to look at her, tried not to feel jealous when those business men goggled her, tried to keep his own reaction down. She never wore anything so skimpy or revealing in all the years he'd known her. She had always worn long pants and long sleeved shirts, or coveralls. She loved to work with her machines and engines.
A cough near the door way, reminded him that he was still not completely safe yet. "Hey we brought the blankets. One of you will have to sleep on the floor, I can't guarantee that the cot is any better, take turns if you want." Ralph walked into the room and dumped all the bedding he could find onto the small dark green cot. Ralph thrust a bundle of clothing into his free hand, and quickly left the room. The door slid shut behind him. The room turned pitch black for a few minutes until his eyes adjusted to the small emergency lights hanging over the sink and bedded to the walls along the counter tops. A switch next to him turned back on the lights. He gently tried pushing Jaina away from him but realized fairly quick, that she was already half asleep.
"Come on Jaina, help me with the blankets so we can both sleep." He shook her and she came out of her daze. Dark circles lay under her eyes. She really was exhausted. He remembered that she had to hike the rest of the way in.
She moved away from him and went to the cot to see what type of blankets they had. There were two sheets but only one thick blanket. It wouldn't be a problem if it were summer. The inside of the ship was a uncomfortable sixty degrees. He unfolded the bundle and pulled out two pair of shorts and two tank tops. He laid them down on the cot to see which was the larger size. Ended up that both shorts were the same one size fits all, with elastic waistbands. He chose the larger tank top and handed Jaina the smaller one.
They both moved to the opposite sides of the room, turned around and quickly got changed. There was a empty shelve in the cabinet and he stuck his clothes onto it. "Hey Jaina, put your clothes here, so you can find them in the morning. He didn't dare turn around until she said something indicating that she was dressed.
"Okay, give me one more moment."
He heard rustling and then she was next to him, all her clothes neatly folded. She put them on the shelve next to his heap of clothes, and went to the cot. There was more space on the floor to sleep than on the small narrow cot. "Do you mind if we shared the floor? We can put the thick blanket down on the ground and if we use both sheets, our bodies together should keep us warm." She was rubbing her arms, trying to get rid of the goosebumps. He forced his mind back to the blankets instead of staring at her chest. What was wrong with him? She is his friend, he should not be looking at her like a sex object.
"Oh yeah, I'm okay with it if you are."
"Duh I came up with the idea. Okay now help me spread the blanket. I'm so tired. I think I can sleep for a year."
"You're tired! I know I can sleep for two years." He quipped back trying to keep the mood lighthearted. He laid the white sheet down first, it looked cleaner than the light blue sheet. Once they had the sheets down they realized they didn't have pillows.
"I'll go find Ralph or Mara and see if they have extra pillows." He offered. At that moment he couldn't care less if he slept on rocks, but he knew Jaina liked sleeping on a pillow.
She pursed her lips together and her brows drew close. "Wait a minutes. This is the med center, right? Check the cabinets. There should be extra supplies in here." Sure enough they found two white pillows in the cabinet above the cot. They already had pillowcases on them, to which he was grateful.
"I'll turn off the lights." Jaina offered since she was the last one up. He arranged her pillow so that it was next to his.
She turned off the light and quickly got into bed, or in this case on the floor on a blanket. He heard her hitting the pillow, before she dug her head into it. Faint orange light shone from under the door. Obviously it didn't bother either of them, before he knew it he was slipping into dreams.
continued in Chapter 4 New Powers