When the wind died half an hour after leaving the camp, Zekk thought nothing of it, but now after the long period of silence, the quiet of the woods and the full shadows of tree limbs and leaves, sent an irrational chill of foreboding down his spine. Tightening his backpack Zekk grimly continued walking through the dense woods. Two hours remained, for him to reach the campsite and make it look like he'd stayed there for two weeks, he also needed to dig a fake grave, for Jaina's absent body.
Reluctance made him take his time at the start of the ten mile hike, but if this plan had any chance of succeeding, he could not afford to make mistakes. Conscious of Sax's silent footsteps, snapping twigs, and the sheer presence of another living soul following him, Zekk quickened his pace.
His dark clothes blended in with the surroundings, more and more as he moved further away from the Black Raven. Earlier that week, Mara had presented Jaina and him with new clothes. They were all black but fit them perfectly. In the shade of the forest it didn't matter what color his clothes were. He had a blaster strapped to his thigh, unfortunately his lightsaber was somewhere in Yuri's compound. Loss swept through him, he'd spent hours constructing his weapon and it was gone unless they somehow managed to defeat the dark Jedi. At least he assumed the older man was a Jedi, he understood the Force and knew how to use it.
Stopping at a dry leaf littered creek bed; Zekk took out his compass and made sure he was still going the right way before continuing. Mara said he had to go over a rather large creek before hitting the camp she found. He should have asked if it had water, it felt like he'd already walked halfway around the planet.
An hour later, sweating and swearing he found Mara's marker embedded into a tree. He pulled out the sharp hunting knife and headed in the direction the knife was pointed in. Fifteen feet away was the small campground Mara had started constructing. He dropped his pack on the sparse green grass and sat down to catch his breath and drink some water. After he finished half the water he stood up, untied the backpack flap and pulled the tent and stakes out. It wasn't the best tent he'd ever seen but it looked like it'd been through all kinds of weather. Already having practiced setting up his meager equipment it didn't take him long at all to finish.
Digging a small grave was going to take the most time and he only had maybe an hour left. Zekk took off his shirt and set to digging a six foot square about a few inches deep. By the time he was finished he was sweating and starving, but the work did take his mind off what was about to happen. He went back to his new camp and drank the rest of his water and sat down to wait in front of the small campfire he'd made. After he cooled down from the strenuous exercise he pulled his shirt back over his head and tucked it into his pants.
Not knowing what to do while waiting he decided to mediate, it wasn't easy especially now that Sax was close enough for him to sense the other man's thoughts. Zekk closed his mind to the other man and all other traces of life. It worked too well. When a twig snapped behind him, his body automatically whirled around pulling his blaster out at the same time, but it was too late.
A man all in black with a black helmet kicked the blaster out of his hand before he even turned around fully, the small blaster went flying through the air and landed with a small thud next to Jaina's supposed grave. A group of men and Mara quickly filled the clearing, all training blaster weapons on him. Yuri looked furious.
All of a sudden he knew he'd made a mistake. There was no way Yuri was going to let him live long enough to make it back to the mansion.
"Yuri!" He exclaimed, not having to fake his fear and dismay.
"Hold him." Yuri said walking over to him. The guard grabbed his arms and yanked them up behind his back, effectively holding him doubled over.
"My lord, is this the right boy?" Mara's cold voice interrupted.
"Yes this is him and my man will give you the reward when we return to the mansion." The man's black eyes drilled into his and Zekk couldn't stop the shudder that shook his body.
Mara's green eyes had never looked so hard she could have been a complete stranger for the way she looked at him. Wondering if this was all a trick on her part made him miserable. He had to trust her and he didn't.
"Sax! You can come out now!" She yelled, then explained to Yuri. "I had my man following the boy just in case he decided to wander off."
A few minutes later the short man with close-cropped hair came out of the woods and went to stand next to Mara, they exchanged a few words, but he couldn't hear them.
"Release him." Yuri ordered the guard once he was in touching distance.
His arms dropped limply to his sides but he stared back at Yuri refusing to let the other man scare him. Zekk tried to pour all his hate and anger into that one gaze. Yuri laughed the sound so startling Zekk never noticed the punch coming his way. The hammer like fist slammed into his jaw and knocked him to the ground, it was followed by a kick to his stomach, then to his unprotected ribs. The sudden violence of the attack took him by surprise; he had no chance to defend himself. A heavy weight slamming onto his back knocked the breath from his chest and Zekk tried to get up, afraid of dying from no air.
It wasn't until he felt cool air on his ass that he realized what Yuri was going to do but by then it was too late. A spear forced its way into him and the pain made him scream, Yuri grunted and thrust harder, digging his fingers into his hips. Sobs escaped his mouth and Zekk tried to picture Jaina anything to take his mind away from the violence being inflected on him. Zekk's hands grabbed the grass trying to brace himself from having his face shoved into the ground. His shirt was pulled up and over his head trapping his arms together and leaving his back bare. Teeth bit into his shoulder and rough hands grabbed his penis and pinched his nipples. It felt like it would never end and when it did he was too weak to do anything but lay on his side and cry.
"Pick him up and bring him to the transport, I'm not done punishing my slave." Zekk barely heard Yuri's commanding voice through the roar of blood pounding in his head. Surprisingly gentle hands pulled his pants back up and fastened them. Zekk was barely able to right his shirt; his ribs and arms ached so much. He looked up expecting to see Mara or Sax, but instead it was one of the faceless guards. The man picked him up and carried him to the vehicle about fifty yards away, despite his protests that he could walk just fine. After shoving him into the vehicle and pushing him to the furthest corner away from the exit the guard climbed in and took off the helmet. A surprisingly handsome face was revealed but the blue eyes lacked warmth. *No help from that corner* he thought despairingly, trying to stop his sobs.
The ride back to the mansion was smooth but terrifying in its uneventfullness. Yuri's stormy dark eyes stared at him, promising punishment. Zekk cringed inwardly, suddenly feeling dirty and self-conscious by Yuri's frank appraisal of his body. Fortunately, he could not read Yuri's mind, over the past week he learned how to block out everyone's thoughts, except for Jaina's. Mara and Sax refused to look at him, preferring the view of the forest. Zekk kept hoping the vehicle would crash and Yuri would die. But then they wouldn't get into the mansion or bring down the shield. He was a fool for agreeing to this insane plan. It wasn't until they reached the gates of the mansion that he realized that Yuri never even bothered asking what happened to Jaina. All the self-confidence he'd built over the few weeks of freedom was gone, stripped away with that realization as easily as Yuri's eyes stripped the clothes away from his sob wracked body.
"Time check." Kale's voice commanded over the speaker headset Jaina wore.
Immediately she glanced down at her watch, "1430 hours, over." She answered back. Hoping the signal would come soon. She, Kale, and Packard had been sitting on a hill overlooking the mansion-like compound for the last two hours waiting for something to happen. Jaina wished Kale would stop asking for the time, it only reminded her how long she'd been sitting here with her binoculars.
The huge mansion didn't look as intimidating as it did when she first woke up; but then again she hadn't seen all of it, just the living area and the courtyard. A whole other facility resided behind the mansion connected by two corridors, presumably to protect the people from the weather during winter.
Shifting uncomfortably she almost missed seeing Yuri's personal hovercraft enter the gates. As it was the small movement out of the corner of her eyes caught her attention and she trained the eye goggles on the car. It was startling to see something so far away up so close. She could even see Zekk's pale face staring blankly out of the window, and wondered if he could sense her.
"Kale, they're entering the compound." Jaina whispered into her headset, not sure why she was keeping so quiet.
"I see them. Just sit tight, we have to wait for the signal."
An impatient sigh escaped her lips; Jaina wanted to be doing something now. Imagining Zekk at Yuri's mercy again made her miserable and frightened of failing. Nightmares of rape and torture spilled over from Zekk's dreams into hers. She hadn't said anything to him about this new talent of his, it knowing that he really had no control over this ability, yet. Jaina knew Zekk loved her and would feel guilty for giving her his nightmares, although it made understanding him easier.
Another two hours passed in utter boredom for her. Occasionally a sense of disquiet would settle over her but when she traced the feeling using the Force, it was gone. Gradually the sky darkened into dusk and her nervousness increased. Something was wrong and Kale reduced his time checks to every hour. This was the longest she went without feeling Zekk in her mind and the sense of loss was terrifying. What if Yuri decided to kill Zekk? Would she know, would she feel the exact moment he died?
"Time check." Kale's voice startled her, had it already been another hour?
"1800 hours." She answered, training her spyglass on the compound hoping to see something different. Guards patrolling the perimeter stayed alert and only changed shifts every four hours. Packard was suppose to take care of the guards patrolling the side entrance they planned on entering.
They couldn't enter the mansion until the shield surrounding the place came down; Yuri installed it just after their escape. Mara and Sax had to find a way in to the mansion to bring down the field, Zekk was their ticket inside and would keep Yuri distracted long enough for them to disable the perimeter shield. Kale didn't tell her this until after Zekk left the camp not knowing he had a more vital part in helping them destroy the shield. Jaina could have killed the whole crew of the Black Raven then and there for leading Zekk into such a dangerous mission without the proper information. Ralph had held her back from punching Kale or reaching for the blaster she strapped to her thigh every morning.
She decided to direct her anger to the person who deserved it, Yuri, he was the one who caused all of them pain.
A few minutes later Kale's voice over the radio spoke up for the final time that evening. "It's time."
Jaina quickly packed her gear and headed down the hill, trying not to think of what can go wrong, she had to trust the Force to see her through this night.
Mara and Sax climbed out of the hovercraft first, then Yuri. He tried to stay in the vehicle as long as possible but the guard grabbed his wrist and dragged him out with little effort. His tears stopped a while ago so he glared at everyone. Zekk could sense Jaina somewhere nearby; it was an insignificant, faint tickling in his mind, dwarfed by all the towering masses of black, angry, feelings, but its presence brought great comfort to him nonetheless.
Refusing to make it any easier for Yuri to rape him again, Zekk let the guard carry him inside the cool building his feet dragging behind him. He felt foolish but didn't know what else to do to buy time for himself. In retrospect, all the thinking in the world hadn't helped him much. The guard barely broke a sweat and all the servant slaves stared at him, his black dirt stained clothes and bruised face. A strand of hair fell over his eyes and when he tried to move it the guard's hand tightened his grip on his wrists and twisted. Zekk screamed in agony even as he heard his wrist bone snap.
Yuri smiled in satisfaction, but Zekk could sense Mara and Sax only feigned indifference. "Take him to my room, Pellgrant and secure him."
"Sir what about his wrist?" Pellgrant asked, almost sounding concerned.
"You did a wonderful job breaking it, now take him away. I have business to discuss." Yuri didn't even bother to turn around and make sure his lackey obeyed him, he led Mara and Sax away.
What am I supposed to do now? Zekk thought, watching his saviors and tormentor walk away in increasingly spotty vision as his swelling wrist throbbed in numbed agony, sending waves of pain branching up his arm.
"Come along Nataku." A large hand gripped his shoulder and squeezed lightly, the implied threat of another broken bone motivating him to walk on his own. Zekk wondered how he was supposed to kill Yuri with a broken wrist bone, and no other weapons. All the moves Mara showed him required two hands. Blinking back tears of self-pity Zekk contemplated a new strategy for killing Yuri, wondering how his life had gotten so out of hand.
"The master won't be so hard on you, if you gave in." The gentle advice startled Zekk out of his murderous thoughts.
"Would you let yourself become someone's slave without a fight?" Zekk demanded angrily at the well meaning advice, his voice cracking like a boy's from the lump in his throat. Pellgrant's statement, despite whatever good intentions were attached to it, terrified him, for it implied that he was going to be there for a very long time.
"You should be glad you're a bed slave. Yuri owns a transpaisteel factory and it's hot dangerous work for the slaves who work in the boiler room. Here you live in the lap of luxury..."
"It's not the same and you know it!" Zekk interrupted. "I'm in love with a beautiful girl! Even if I were previously attracted to guys, I still would still never choose to be a slave. Yuri raped me! Sex is suppose to be about love, he makes it an abomination!" He was breathing hard by the time he finished his rant. Tears threatened to spill out of his eyes. How could he make this man understand how wrong it was to rape? It took him a few moments to realize that they were stopped in the corridor and that the guard, Pellgrant, was actually listening to him, his head cocked to the side and his eyebrows knit together in a disturbed frown, his eyes confused and wary.
"I had no idea you felt so strongly." Pellgrant said to the floor ineffectively, allowing the residue of his impartial mask to hide his agitation. Wasn't this boy a slave since childhood? Slavery was allowed on numerous planets when the Empire was in power, he'd assumed Nataku had been a slave since birth. Yuri must have altered the boy's records somehow.
"How long have you been a slave?" Pellgrant asked, wondering if his boss was as honorable as he once thought.
"I crashed on the planet about two months ago, I think. It feels like I've been in this nightmare forever." Zekk answered warily, quietly, not sure where Pellgrant was going with the question.
His suspicions confirmed Pellgrant remained silent, not sure what to do with this information. The planet government allowed all slaveholders to retain their slaves when the New Republic took over, but it was illegal to make any new slaves according to the new policy. Wondering what else Yuri may be hiding from him he guided Zekk to the infirmary.
"Where are we going," Zekk asked, after passing the door to Yuri's room.
"Your wrist is broken and since you're not suppose to be a slave you do not deserve the punishment escaped slaves normally receive. We'll have to appeal to the Byss's Legal Counsel to set you free. With any luck you'll be on your way within a month or so."
Zekk stared at the guard incredulous, "Where have you been?" Zekk yelled, "Yuri is in charge of everything on this planet! He practically owns Byss! He's not going to let me go free. He's the one who set up the shield around the planet! Don't you know what kind of monster you're working with? Yuri's a Dark Jedi."
"That's impossible." Pellgrant said, as if he didn't really believe it himself. "Yuri can't be evil, he's gives money and supplies to many homeless shelters and medical centers in the poor distracts of Byss Spaceport..."
Which is why I choose to work for the eccentric man, he thought silently, distressed by his part in Nataku's recapture and rape. Suddenly all the cruel acts and orders penetrated his wall of blind acceptance.
He'd been a fool.
"I'm sorry for breaking you're wrist." Pellgrant said, for the first time in years feeling ashamed of himself. He started this job thinking he was going to help people and slowly without even realizing it he'd ended up hurting innocent people all at one man's beck and call. As if sensing his guilt Nataku's expression softened.
"It's okay." Zekk offered, surprising himself and Pellgrant. Zekk anticipated hating the guard, but it looked like Yuri managed to fool half his staff into believing he was a decent fellow. Maybe that was how the Emperor was able to take power. No one had realized how evil he was until too late.
"Kandy is on duty today, she'll fix your wrist in no time."
"I hope so." Zekk said, weariness creeping into his voice. He was tired and in pain.
"So is Nataku your real name?" Pellgrant asked.
"No, my parents named me Zekk. Apparently, Yuri didn't like their choice." Once again his voice sounded bitter and angry.
Pellgrant patted his shoulder softly before manually slowing him down. "We're here."
Twenty minutes later, with his wrist completely healed Zekk felt more optimistic about his chances of escape and Mara's plan working. It was still relatively early, only about three in the afternoon. "Now what?" He asked.
"I have to take you to Yuri's room and secure you, before reporting to Yuri." Pellgrant answered automatically.
"So you don't mind knowing that your Master is going to rape me tonight?" Zekk said his voice thick with derision.
Pellgrant flinched at the hate evident in Zekk's voice. "If I don't do this Yuri will only replace me and choose someone even more ruthless than I. Before capturing you, Yuri gave me permission to use you, however I'm not going to. I like willing partners. Many of the men working for Yuri have shady pasts and may not feel the same..." The threat was unmistakable.
"I understand." Zekk said dying a little inside.
He continued walking towards his prison conscious of Pellgrant's every move. The guard was taller and heavier than he. Zekk felt fragile compared to the other man. Entering Yuri's room without fighting took all his willpower. Memories assaulted his mind and he concentrated on picturing Jaina. Panicking was not an option.
"Take off your clothes." Pellgrant's voice startled him.
"But you said you didn't..wouldn't.." Panic flickered at the edge of his control, causing his voice to flutter and his body to sway slightly.
Pellgrant's large hands gripped his shoulders and shook him. "Don't you dare pass out." The larger man ordered. "I'm not going to touch you. Yuri ordered your clothing burned and until I know what I'm going to do about this, I'm going to continue following his orders." The last sentence was practically whispered and yelled into his face. Was the room bugged?
"Oh." He said enormously relieved. Before taking off on stitch of his clothing, Zekk turned around.
"Nataku face me." Pellgrant ordered his voice somewhat apologetic. "I have to make sure you're not hiding any weapons." He explained.
Slightly embarrassed at undressing in front of a stranger he turned around and continued unbuttoning his black shirt, now taking his time.
During Zekk's slow undressing, Pellgrant found it hard not to stare at Zekk's body. Did this boy know what he was doing to him? The slower his hands moved the more graceful and erotic they became. It almost became a game to see how much skin would be revealed when the next button came undone. Only he knew that Zekk wanted no part of him, nor was he trying to seduce him. No wonder Yuri was so anxious to recapture Zekk. His artless grace and his unconscious beauty, were priceless. Desire flooded through his body and he moved. Swatting Zekk's hands aside he quickly ripped the shirt off, angry at himself for wanting to touch and kiss this young man boy. "Hurry up and undo your pants. You're taking too long."
Zekk glared at him, Pellgrant's face was a tad bit flushed. His skin hurt where the shirt was ripped off him. Stepping a few more paces back from Pellgrant, he quickly unbuttoned the pants and pushed them down, stopping only to take off his shoes. When he was completely naked, Pellgrant led him to the bed and handcuffed him to the headboard. "I'm not cuffing your ankles because it would be too uncomfortable and I'm not sure how long Yuri is going to be busy."
Pellgrant quickly gathered Zekk's shoes and clothes and left the room hating himself for almost doing the unthinkable.
Once the door slammed shut, Zekk tested the handcuffs seeing if there was any way to get out of them, but the chain didn't even allow for his two hands to meet. Zekk flopped back onto the pillow and tried to adjust his outstretched arms to prevent them from falling asleep. When he relaxed, the cuffs didn't pull too tightly at his wrists. With nothing to do and boredom beckoning, Zekk tried to think of what he did to cause Pellgrant to become flushed with desire. He'd seen that look in Yuri's eyes many times to not recognize it in other men. When he'd first seen the look he almost stopped unbuttoning his shirt altogether but then Pellgrant's gaze darkened so he continued disrobing, only slower. No wonder the man lost his patience. Maybe he was wrong about the look? It did feel warm in the room.
Trying to stay awake proved difficult once he relaxed enough to be comfortable on the pillows. After jerking his eyes open for the fifth time Zekk lost his battle to remain awake, exhausted from making love to Jaina the night before and then suffering one nightmare after another.
This time when he opened his eyes he was back on the empty planet. For the past three nights, he couldn't reach the planet in his dreams. Now it was morning and unearthly quiet. Normally birds would chirp or grasshoppers would be squeaking, but the world was completely silent, except for the wind rustling the tall grass. The tree he normally saw in his dreams was gone; the top of the hill he stood on allowed him to see for miles. The blue sky stretched forever.
As he watched a red wave washed over the greenish yellow grass. It started slowly, a dot of red at the edge of his vision and slowly the red drew closer covering the land. Zekk rubbed his eyes, positive that they were playing tricks on him, but the redness kept coming. Death. The word reverberated in his mind. This planet was dying somehow, fear clutched his heart and his vision swam. If I faint now I'll die, he thought forcing himself to remain standing.
This is just a dream, Zekk reminded himself over and over again watching helplessly as the redness consumed everything in it's path coming closer to him. There's no way I can outrun the wave, he realized even as his feet backed up. Before he could turn around and start running the wave crested the hill and knocked him off his feet.
His face splashed in the red wave and he gagged as the metallic tang of blood filled his mouth. He started swimming trying to stay above the blood and breath air. But it was so hard. The blood saturated his clothing and hair. Zekk could feel the blood wave carrying him quickly, like a river, to some unknown destination. When he heard roaring, he thought it was the blood pounding in his head but then he saw the other side of a cliff and realized the blood was falling like a waterfall.
For the first time, since the wave knocked him over he started screaming and fought to swim against the current. Death was waiting for him he knew it. Mom please help! Mom! Zekk mentally screamed. Out of desperation, he tried to see if he could feel the ground under him. The blood was too deep and he started falling.
"Shhhh...You'll be okay." A voice whispered in his ear.
"Mom?" Zekk questioned, blind in this dark new place. His hair hung limp and wet against his neck. That was the only sensation he could feel. There was no air, no heat, no cold, just floating and darkness.
"I'm not you're mother." The voice replied. Something stroked his back, just a sensation of pressure and then it was gone. He spun around and found himself spinning out of control. Warm hands stopped him. Even though he couldn't see he knew it was his mother. She was protecting him.
"You have no right to bring him here! He isn't ready!" She yelled, only it was a song. Trying to understand made his head hurt.
"He survived." Thousands of whispers sang back, childlike.
"We need him."
"The wave was red! Red!" She cried out almost hysterical.
"Darkness fills this child."
"Just give us time, give him time."
Zekk never heard his mother plead like this before.
"Very well two weeks."
"That's not enough time!"
"Two weeks...two weeks...two weeks..." the voices grew fainter as his eye sight slowly returned. Zekk was shivering with cold when he finally came to, in his mother's strong arms. Tears ran down her flawless pale cheeks.
"What happened." His voice shook with exhaustion.
She slowly lowered him to the ground before answering; "You were called." Her white dress was stained red. "And the dark forces wanted you."
"What?" Suddenly his exhaustion was gone, what dark forces?
"Zekk it's like the Force. In all eras, there are Dark Jedi and Light Jedi, you have to have both for balance. The anger and fear you hold appealed to the dark forces in the dream world. That's why blood pulled you in, not..." She trailed off and he wondered what guided her to the dream world.
Her voice hardened, "That is where you'll go in two weeks unless you are able to learn forgiveness and let go of the anger in your heart. There is nothing I can do to stop them next time. When you have finished training they'll let you go and you can join the real world. They do this for your protection and everyone else's."
"Do all people who go to the dark come back evil?" He asked holding his bloody knees to his chest.
Her hand tilted his head up to meet her eyes. She was smiling at his question. "No you won't turn evil if they train you. It's just a dark place and very frightening. You'll come out stronger than ever before. They don't allow anyone with true evil in their hearts to leave. The powers we control are too powerful. I trained in the light with gentle understanding teachers. In the dark you have to fight for everything. At least that's what your father told me. After you finish training you can visit either world. I just want you near me. That's all baby. I'm sorry for scaring you."
"You can visit me in either place I go can't you?"
"Yes, but the darkness doesn't like me. I disrupted their destructive powers, with my healing energy."
Not sure how any of this was possible and growing more confused by the minute, he hugged his mom again. Already he could feel it was almost time for him to go.
"I know it's almost time." She said reading his thoughts. "I need to take you a few places before you return. I didn't anticipate for them to come after you so soon. They don't get many candidates for the dark and they are eager for you."
Her words chilled him but he stood up anyway and held his mother's hand for dear life. The stains on her white dress disappeared before they shifted someplace else.
Mara sat at the dinner table listening to Yuri gloat over his success in taking over this backwater planet. She ate all her food and talked as little as possible. Sax was great at conversing with everyone and saying nothing. Just as she finished her plate of green vegetables, she felt Zekk's presence rush through her; she dropped her fork on the plate where it drew everyone's attention. Yuri frowned sensing something in the room as well. Mara picked up her fork and continued eating like nothing had happened. Might, as well the Zekk was gone anyway.
They had to wait until Yuri retired for the night before making their move. Hopefully, Zekk would keep Yuri distracted long enough for them to bring the shield around the mansion down. Before this night, she'd never been in the mansion. No one was allowed in the perimeter without going through extensive background searches that she and her crew had no hope of passing.
She had to talk to Yuri through primitive wire communications just to tell him about finding Zekk, now because she helped him capture his prize pet he was allowing her and Sax positions within his household. Yuri was overconfident by now, already he'd taken effective control of over half the planets government officials and would soon be declared Emperor of Byss. Or at least if he had his way that's what his new title would be. Mara hoped that once the shield came down, the New Republic would arrest him and she would never see his gloating face again.
A few minutes later, Yuri left the table and had one of his men guide Sax and her to a room they were going to share, for all of thirty minutes. That's how long she planned on waiting before making her move. Her lightsaber felt heavy hidden in her boot, fear of accidentally activating the blade, kept her tense.
Once the door to their room closed she and Sax scanned the room for listening devices and when they didn't find any both sighed, relieved. Sax, because he didn't want to worry about debugging the room, and her because she couldn't wait to take the lightsaber out of her boot.
"Are you sure thirty minutes is enough time?" Sax asked.
"It better be because I sent Kale the signal. Check the door and make sure we can open it." While Sax went to the door she opened her backpack and dumped everything on the table. All of it innocent by itself but when assembled could cause a lot of damage.
"The doors locked but won't take much to open it. I already rigged it to open in twenty five minutes." Sax said. He took up a position next to her and started assembling the explosives while she laid out all the materials needed.
"Good job, Demolitions." Mara complimented Sax because she knew he liked it.
Twenty five minutes later they exited the room both carrying bags of explosives and in Mara's case her lightsaber strapped to her hip, within easy reach. Mara used the Force to mask her presence and Sax's. She knew they passed Yuri's room when she heard Zekk screaming in pain. Guilt stabbed her, and she shook her head cursing Luke Skywalker for making her feel. "Come on," she whispered to Sax and started walking faster. He heard the screams too but didn't say anything.
They reached the back hallway where the house shield generator was located. Unfortunately, had to pass the heavily guarded hallway leading to the corridors. Jaina, Kale, and Packard were going to bomb the corridors once they breached the house shield. The Force came in real handy in passing the security guards; they didn't see her or Sax as they walked past them.
Wondering why it was so easy to reach the house shield generator she slowed and spread her senses, fingerlike in all directions, looking for a trap. Not finding anything, she continued. The explosives only took a few minutes to set up. They planned on making it quiet so that Yuri wouldn't call all his guards to investigate and if they judged him correctly, he probably told his first in command to not bother him unless it was a life or death emergency. Saving Zekk was last on their list of priorities tonight, unfortunately.
Pellgrant sat in his room staring at the computer terminal pulling up every record he could slice into about Yuri, his boss. Wanting and needing to know the truth about the man who hired him. The evidence was damning. He'd found records of Yuri's property, brothels and clubs mostly. The girls and boys found for the brothels all came from the homeless shelters and a few from orphanages that Yuri sponsored.
He poured himself another drink and continued reading.
The mansion's shields came down with a little fuss and Jaina almost laughed hysterically, as she knelt next to one of the corridors that ran to the shield generator. She planted one bomb set the timer on six and moved to the next location, four more times, each time setting the timers one minute lower so that they would all go off at the same time. After setting the last one she had three minutes to get out of the way. They had this part planned. All the corridors should blow up at the same time hopefully disrupting the internal shield.
After studying their attack plan, Jaina realized that it would probably be easier to kill everyone inside first and then bring down the shield, but Mara didn't want to kill any innocent people. Neither did she, but at the same time she wanted to succeed and get off this planet. Once she finished setting up the last bomb she took off her night vision goggles and ran towards the building housing the planet shield generator. She planned on hiding behind the building when the corridors blew up.
Her black clothes allowed her to blend in with the surroundings and none of the guards patrolling on top of the corridor's walkways noticed her. She bumped into someone when she ran around the corner and would have screamed if a hand hadn't clamped over her mouth. "It's me Kale. Did you set your explosives?" Jaina nodded her head, and allowed him to lead the way. Packard came around the other corner. Now they just had to sit and wait. Jaina looked at her watch; it had a light inside of it so she could read the digital numbers. When one minute remained, she covered her ears, leaning against the wall slightly. Kale calmly placed earplugs in his ear while Packard used his fingers to cover his ears, too.
The explosion when it happened shook the building she was leaning against effectively tossing her to the ground. Spitting grass out of her mouth, Jaina sat up slowly, checking for injuries. The ground shook as well she noted picking herself up and moving back near the wall and the relative safety from flying debris. Alarms started blaring and could arguably be considered louder than the actually explosion.
Once it stopped raining bricks, they rushed around the side of the building each holding two blasters, guards where coming out of the shield generator building and they shot them. Jaina couldn't see the mansion due to all the smoke and debris lying on the ground. Jaina coughed as dust filled her lungs, but continued to run, not wanting to get separated from Kale or Packard.
The internal shields were down and if the blueprints were correct they had to go down inside the earth to destroy the power generator. It was run by water, and would have been their first choice to disable the power supply, but from what Mara and her crew could find, the water came from an underwater spring, impossible to tamper with from the outside.
A few guards blocked the entrance so she shot them quickly before they noticed her. Almost feeling guilty for killing she tried to keep Zekk's face in her mind, especially after one of his nightmares. Kale took the lead and she raced after him keeping watch for any extra guards, they only had five minutes to destroy the generator before the back up shields came on and trapped them inside. With any luck though Mara would succeed in taking out the back up shields. Somehow Jaina doubted they would have enough time to set up enough explosives to take out he energy source and the generator.
After five drinks, Pellgrant knew what he had to do. Over an hour had passed since Yuri retired for the night. Reading all of Yuri's documents made him sick. Picking up his personal blaster, he walked out of his room and headed for Yuri's. There were a lot of guards walking through the hallways patrolling. He'd just received a memo in his room telling him that the mansion's shield was disabled, and technicians were going to fix it right away, before Yuri noticed that his security was breached. Pellgrant doubted the older man would notice, especially tonight. Reaching Yuri's door he paused, listening to Zekk's screams of pain. That decided his course of action. Quickly before he changed his mind, he knocked on the door. Yuri didn't answer it of course, instead he heard a muffled, "Come in!" from inside.
Gathering his courage he twisted the knob and stepped inside. "Sir the mansion's shields have failed." The blaster he'd hidden behind his back felt heavy in his sweating hand. When he raised his eyes to look at Yuri his jaw clenched in anger. Blood streaked Yuri's tan muscular chest. Zekk was suspended in the air, both wrists bound together. Whip marks and blood covered his naked body.
"Well have someone fix the problem, why are you bothering me?" Yuri demanded, not at all morally disturbed by the interruption. Zekk's pained filled eyes stared at him begging for help.
"Because of this," Pellgrant said and drew his weapon from behind his back. Just then an explosion rocked the foundations of the mansion and he stumbled trying to stay upright, a tug on his blaster and it was gone. When he looked up from his empty hand, he saw Yuri standing next to Zekk holding the blaster on him.
"You should have shot me when you first came in, Pellgrant. I wonder what made you behave so foolishly? Oh well it doesn't matter." Yuri squeezed the trigger. Pellgrant jumped to the side, but a searing pain blossomed in his shoulder and he cried out. Damn that hurt!
"Shit," Yuri cursed his poor aim. He shot again and this time he moved faster than before dodging out of the way. This continued for another minute and Pellgrant knew he was done for, there was no way he could avoid getting hit again. Yuri was smiling like a maniac. Not at all caring that he was shooting up his furniture every time he missed.
"Yuri!" A female voice yelled from the open doorway. It was Mara! "You're fight is with me!" the glow of a lightsaber filled the softly lit room.
Yuri cast aside the blaster and reached for his own lightsaber with the Force, it flew across the room and into his outstretched hand. Violet light emanated from Yuri's activated lightsaber. Pellgrant moved out of the way and towards Zekk. The boy was in danger of getting cut in half. He noticed Sax standing in the doorway and nodded in greeting.
The two combatants circled each other testing their blades. Sparks flew off both blades as they whirled them around, both trying for the killing blow before reinforcements arrived. It was obvious that both fighters were experts, Pellgrant hoped Mara won. While Yuri drove Mara back towards the doorway, he used his knife and cut the ropes holding Zekk suspended to the ceiling, Zekk fell limply into his arms. The blood made holding the boy harder, his body too slippery, but somehow he managed to pull Zekk away from the fighting, which was reaching an end if he judged correctly.
Mara was quick but Yuri had the longer reach. They must have fought for five minutes when objects off the bookshelves started flying across the room. Yuri must have started it, because the book hit Mara between her shoulder blades, rather hard. If anything that trick only spurned her on, she attacked with a ferocity that he thought only to see in men. Her braided red hair slowly started coming undone and her green eyes blazed. Yuri pounced at her, his naked chest gleamed with blood and sweat, and cornered her with quick hard blows. More sparks shot off the lightsabers and neither combatant were willing to give up. Pellgrant didn't know how long Yuri and Mara would have fought if the ground hadn't started shaking, in that one instant of distraction Mara sliced her blade across Yuri's neck, smoothly beheading the man.
She didn't pause to rest much to his amazement. "Come on we don't have much time left. Can you pick Zekk up and carry him?" It took him a moment to realize she was asking for his help.
"Yeah, no problem." Her partner, Sax, had his blaster out and led the way out of the mansion. Carrying Zekk slowed him down but not much. The air outside was cool and the breeze refreshing, that is when he noticed the chaos and destruction. The back of the mansion was completely gone and a big hole covered what used to be the planet's modified shield generator.
Three figures stood out on the horizon and Sax headed toward them. It was too dark to make out any features, but within moments, a ship flew overhead almost knocking him off his feet. One of the shorter figures staggered when the rush of wind hit, but regained their balance quickly. The lights on the ship almost blinded him as it started scanning for a landing location.
"Is everyone here?" Mara panted, now out of breath.
A tall man with blonde hair answered. "Everyone is accounted for, but who's the new guy." Now with the lights from the ship lighting the clearing he could see who was talking.
"I suppose a friend, he tried to help Zekk." Mara said. "Look Pellgrant, thank you for your help, but we have to go now just incase the explosion didn't destroy the back up planetary shield generator."
The doors to the ship opened and a large man bounded out, "Hey did everyone make it?"
"Yes! Ralph get Zekk. Everyone else into the ship now." Mara ordered not even sparing him a glance.
Ralph came over to him and gently picked Zekk up, his fury over the injuries unmistakable. Zekk passed out at some point and couldn't appreciate the gesture. "Thanks for helping." The man mumbled and headed back for the ship carrying his burden. Mara was the last one to enter. She didn't say anything to him, but did raise her hand in a farewell salute before entering the ship.
Pellgrant stood on the hill looking up at the stars a long time after the ship disappeared from view. Going back to the mansion and the chaos did not appeal to him. In fact nothing about his life appealed to him for the last year or two. Maybe it was time to start a new career. His arm felt numb where the blaster tore through his skin and muscle. Just what he deserved for working for a monster for so long he thought as he headed towards town, not ever wanting to see the mansion again.
To be continued