Jyrki’s eyes, even more blue than I remembered, bored into mine as though by doing so he could see past my face and into my soul. I did not back down or look away. I had learned in the last few years a thing or two about myself and he no longer intimidated me instead he made me angry and anger was easy to use. I had loved this man once, the very sight of him had made my teen aged heart race and my knees weak but over time things had changed and it never ceased to astound me how quickly love could turn to hate.
He had aged and the last couple years had not been kind to him. His once handsome face was now etched with the lines of battle and stress, worry and something else I could n0t define, something I had not picked up on when I had seen him at the med-lab after Cati had died. A fresh scar ran down the side of his right cheek and there were fresh bruises on his knuckles. He had been in a fight recently and it had been a hard one. His long hair, which had once been blacker than a Hutt’s heart was now peppered with strands of white. It had not escaped my notice that he still had a slight limp as he had walked into the cantina to make our meeting. That limp had been my doing from our fight on Rothana, although at the time he had not known who I was. I wondered absently if his limp reminded him of me, then decided I didn’t really want to know the answer to that one.
“Yer look well Mouse.” Jyrki finally said, breaking the strangled silence between us.
I arched an eyebrow at him. “Where are they?” I asked pointedly. I did not have time for niceties and I wasn’t about to sit and make small talk with the man who was holding my family against their will for reasons I still did not know.
“Safe.” He replied after a terse minute of quiet. “Mouse, yer need to understand…”
I waved a hand abruptly at him, cutting him off mid sentence. “I don’t have to understand anything!” I hissed through clenched teeth, leaning into the table to get closer to him. “You kidnapped my family to get to me. Now I am here so get to the point, what do you want?”
He sat back in his chair and toyed with his glass. “I need yer help.” He finally said.
I could not have been more surprised than if he had told me he wanted to marry me. “What?”
“I need yer help.” He repeated.
There was a lengthy pause and then I replied carefully, “And for that you took my family hostage?”
“Would yer have come if I hadn’t?”
I glared at him and shook my head. “I’m done with you.” I told him. “You chose your side and you made your position clear. You hurt me, damn it, you very nearly killed me and not just once and for what?” I pressed, “Because you cannot let go of the past.” I bit back the words that threatened to spill out of my mouth angry and vicious. Ranting at him would be pointless, my words would fall on deaf ears so I drew a deep breath, swallowed my fury at him down to answer the original question. “No, I would not have come, not for you alone.” I said. “Now…my family….”
He nodded and again we stared at each other. “They’re safe, if that’s what yer need to know.”
“What do you want in exchange?” I asked. He had not lied but something was not quite right in his words. I might have been able to sort it out had I opened up to the force but I did not want him to see my strengths in this area. My force talents, since he had first met me, had become far stronger than I wanted him to know. My talents had been honed and sharpened by both Lord Vader and the Emperor and while I had not become what either man had wanted I had still learned. I was certain that even Jyrki would be concerned by what I could do were I to let the full extent of my training both in the force and the combat arts fly. It was a hidden weapon and I wanted it to stay that way until I absolutely needed it.
“I told yer, I need yer help.” He was being deliberately evasive.
I waited him out instead of pushing, giving him a get to the point look.
He leaned into the table, his body language letting me know he did not want anyone else to hear what he had to say. “I need yer to help me kill Luke Skywalker.” He said.
For a moment all I could do was stare at him, unsure if I had actually heard him correctly. Then with a shake of my head I simply said. “You’re mad.”
He leaned back in his chair again, anger flashing in his beautiful eyes. “Perhaps,” he said carefully, “but hear me out.”
I folded my arms across my chest, sitting back against my chair back and waited.
“He is the son of Anakin Skywalker….” He began, trying to find the right words to explain his plans.
“I know that!” I interrupted.
“Anakin turned to the dark side….”
“I know that as well.” I said bluntly, annoying him.
He drew a deep breath. “Mouse…yer must see it, the connection?”
“You think the son of Anakin Skywalker will turn to the dark side.” It was not a question.
Jyrki nodded. “I know he will.”
I cocked my head to one side. “Know? How?”
“I’ve seen it.” He said quietly. “I’ve had force visions of the future. He takes on the mantel of Emperor; he turns to the Dark side to rule the galaxy.”
I shook my head slightly. I, too, had seen this vision but I wasn’t about to tell Jyrki this. “How can you see the future?” I asked putting as much disbelief into my words as possible.
His shoulders heaved with the sigh he made. “It’s a force talent. Sometimes some people who are force sensitive receive visions of the past or the future.” He explained, slumped over with the burden of it all. “I was trained from the time I was a baby to trust in the force and all its ways. I have had visions all my life Mouse.”
I shook my head. “But how can you see the future if it hasn’t even happened yet? And if you can how do you know that is exactly what will happen? The future can change.”
He nodded. “Master Yoda used to say that the future was fluid and always in motion but even so there is still truth in the visions. A few weeks before Anakin Skywalker came to the temple with the five-oh-first I had a dream about him. I saw him dressed all in black and where his face had been was emptiness, like a black hole, swallowing all the good all the light in the galaxy. In my dream he was destroying the jedi temple stone by stone.”
“It was just a dream.” I countered playing devil’s advocate. I knew enough about these sorts of dreams to fill a book but I wasn’t sure I wanted to share that with Jyrki.
Jyrki snorted. “I had spoken about my dream with one of the masters and he had looked worried as I did so. Anakin Skywalker was controversial at best amongst the council members of the Jedi Temple and even we children knew that. I grew up knowing him, admiring him but also being a little scared of him. He was the Chosen One. He was so strong in the force that it was almost as it he shimmered in it, but there was a terrible darkness to him as well. Whispers of his temper, his impatience and his attachment to his mother as well as other people, all the things we are taught from the very beginning to avoid were in him. Even Master Windu did not trust him.”
“I though it was all harmony and love at the Jedi temple.” The sarcasm in my voice made me sound petulant but I didn’t care.
Jyrki made a face and shrugged. “They were troubled times, Mouse. The galaxy was at war. The jedi were supposed to be keepers of the peace not warriors but Anakin was the best there was. He and his master Obi-Wan were heroes to us, they almost always won and they always came back alive but I heard the whispers when the adults thought us children were not paying attention. They thought Anakin was unpredictable and dangerous, that he relished the fights he lunged into too much and he killed too easily. There were also the rumours that he was having an affair with Senator Amidala. Towards the end, just before all nine Corellian hells broke loose; there were even rumours that she was pregnant. I didn’t understand then, I was just a small boy at the time, but now I do, she carried Anakin’s child, well…children.”
“How does this make Luke evil?” I asked, trying to unravel his insane logic.
Jyrki gritted his teeth and glanced away. “I’ve seen him turn, just like his father. He will find the spirit of Palpatine and take it into himself, turning to the Dark Side to rule over the galaxy. I’ve had the same dream over and over again. History repeating itself all over again and I cannot let it happen. I cannot let anyone else suffer the way I suffered, the way all the children and people in the Jedi temple suffered or the way the galaxy suffered under the rule of a sith master.”
“Okay, so you’ve seen him in a vision, that doesn’t mean you have to kill him.” I countered, frowning. “I thought he was the hero of the rebellion, how can someone who has done so much for your side of this conflict suddenly be so bad?”
“He is a hero. Without his skills as a pilot we would never have won, without his help at Endor Vader and Palpatine would still be alive but that doesn’t change the fact of what will happen if I don’t stop it.” He said flatly, “Which is why I need yer help.”
“What the hell can I do?” I asked. “I don’t even know him.”
Jyrki smiled and I didn’t like it much. “Yer are force sensitive, Mouse.”
I snorted. “My powers are nominal at best.” I lied.
Jyrki raised both eyebrows. “Yer underestimate yerself. Even as a child yer powers were strong. If ye’d had been trained properly yer’d have been a powerful jedi, I am sure of that.”
“Well I am grateful that never happened. I hate the idea that I would have been brainwashed into a weapon for the Jedi masters to use.” I shot out before I could censor myself.
Jyrki shrugged. “Yer had so much potential, Mouse. I wish I could have done more to save yer.”
I sighed and shook my head. “I still don’t see how you need my help in your quest. You are quite capable of killing Luke Skywalker yourself, hell you’ve shown me how violent and vicious you can be.” I snapped. “I will not kill him for you.”
“I am not asking yer to kill him for me, I need yer to distract him for me.” He tried to explain.
I shook my head. “You’re asking me to be the bait and that makes me an accomplice. You’re asking me to swap my family’s life for Skywalker’s. I can’t do that Jyrki. If I do that I am no better than Anakin or for that matter, you.”
Jyrki clenched his jaw. “I will get what I want. I need yer help, I have yer family in a place yer will never find and they will die if yer don’t help me.”
He wasn’t lying and fear rippled through my heart. I didn’t know what to do and I was certain he meant every single word he had just said. He was nuts and hell bent on doing this terrible deed.
“I need time to consider this.” I said after a long pause.
His smile was nasty. “Yer mean yer need time to wait to see if yer can get help. Well if that’s the case, forget it, he won’t help yer.”
“The Tze’yusha’Jin.” He replied.
“Uncle Vahlek?” I asked as my heart skipped a beat. I hadn’t actually been thinking about him but something in Jyrki’s smirk scared me.
“Yer uncle…” Jyrki snorted. “He’s not related to yer at all!”
“I know that but he’s family all the same.” I bit back, “What about him?”
“He won’t be coming to help yer out this time because he’s dead.”
I suppose my face must have blanched because Jyrki automatically reached forward to touch my hand, some measure of comfort for the bad news he has just dumped on me. I snatched my hand away from him as though he would burn me and he scowled. I tasted his words and knew that he was not lying to me. He really believed Uncle Vahlek had died. My heart seemed to stop and I held my breath as though in doing so I could make his words go away.
“How do you know this?” I eventually whispered.
“I watched him die.” He said simply.
I shook my head in disbelief. Uncle Vahlek was Tze’yusha’Jin, one of the best in the galaxy if all I had ever been told was correct. He was a well trained assassin and hunter, killing him would not have been an easy task. “How?”
Jyrki sneered. “I told yer to warn him that I’d deal with him if he did not back off. I knew he was following me I knew what he was after. Did he think I was stupid? He’s not the only one who has received training at the hands of the Anzati. He came after me here, would have succeeded except he’s not a force user and I am. We fought not too far from here on one of the gantry-ways. He lost his concentration just long enough for me to kick him over the side and he fell. No one could have survived that fall and I have not felt his presence since.”
I could not stop the tears that welled up in my eyes. Jyrki had not lied and as he had spoken I could almost see what he was describing in my head, as though he were force projecting the images to me much the way Lord Vader used to do. “You bastard.” I whispered, anger welling up from deep inside my gut. I had to fight from reaching across the table to grab him and smash his head with my fist. “You have no idea…no idea at all.” I half babbled, wanting to tell him that he had just murdered the man who might very well be his father. I clapped a hand over my mouth to keep the secrets from spilling out. Hot tears ran over them and I was trembling.
“He came after me.” Jyrki said sounding sulky.
“You tried to kill me with an Anzati blade.” I spat, “He’s my sworn guardian. What did you expect him to do?”
Jyrki stared at me. “That was an accident, Mouse. I didn’t know the blade still held poison.”
I shook my head. “You’re as stupid as you are vengeful.” I was too angry now to watch my words or care if what I said triggered his temper. “You want me to help you kill Luke Skywalker because you’re afraid he’ll turn to the dark side and use his powers in anger but you are just as bad.”
“I never used my force abilities in rage, Mouse.” He spoke so softly it caught me off guard. “I have never once done that but you have, haven’t you?”
I was about to retort but realised he was telling me the truth and as I thought back to every encounter we had ever had including the time he had saved me from being raped I understood it was the truth. He had never used rage to fuel strengthen his powers, although I was certain that sometimes anger had tainted his motives. He had perhaps seen what he could gain from that but he had never used it. He had watched what turning to the Dark side had done to Anakin Skywalker and it had stuck with him forever, this terrible memory which had become Jyrki’s greatest fear. He was also right about me. I had tasted that surge of power driven by anger and hatred. The Emperor had seen to this personally. I knew that taint of blackness and how easy it would have been to open up and allow the anger to rule but it was a choice that was made consciously and I chose not to use it. However, it seemed that, unlike Jyrki, I wasn’t scared stupid by it either.
“That’s why you want me to do this for you isn’t it.” I asked quietly.
“Yer’ve touched that darkness, I feel it Mouse. I sense yer anger and I can feel yer desire. Yer ruled by yer passions, even now I sense it in yer.” He shrugged almost arrogantly, as though he were somehow better than I was because he had never succumbed to that dark side of human nature and I wanted to slap him, proving him right which infuriated me even more.
“That may be so but at least it doesn’t make me act like a frightened durni, kidnapping people and using blackmail to get what I want!”
He avoided that topic by saying, “It’s a simple thing. I need yer help to get to Luke Skywalker.”
“Why don’t you just go to him yourself? If you tell him you’re force sensitive he will take you on as a student and then you will be as close as possible to him. I heard he was trying to rebuild the jedi order, isn’t that what you want?”
“Only a Master could rebuild the Jedi Order and Skywalker doesn’t have the training. He’s the son of a Sith Lord and he will walk his father’s path, I have seen that much. I will not allow him to know that I have this power because he will try to corrupt me if he learns of it.”
There would be no arguing with him about this. How could one argue with insanity? “How do you expect me to help you then?” I asked switching to a less confrontational tack.
“I know where he will be in seven day’s from now. Yer will find a way to meet with him in private and I will deal with him when yer do.” He said.
“By deal with him you mean kill.”
“It is the will of the force, Mouse, I have seen it. Why else would I have been sent these visions if it were not?”
I didn’t think he wanted to hear my answer so instead I stayed quiet thinking about how I could possibly circumnavigate this mess. “Where will he be?
Jyrki smiled and it sent a shudder down my spine. “Yer must think me stupid to give up that information.” He said.
“You’re asking me to be an accomplice to murder. Stupid is not the first word that comes to mind.”
“Yer haven’t agreed yet.”
“I want assurances my family are safe and well. You could be lying for all I know.” I spat.
Jyrki smiled slightly. “Still have not honed that particular skill yet? I would have thought that Palpatine would have taught you better.”
“A lot of what you thought was wrong.” I said through gritted teeth. At least he had no idea of just how much better my force powers were which would be a small point in my favour.
He sighed and dug out from his pocket a small holo recorder. He set it on the table and pushed it to me. “There is a message from yer father on it but I suggest yer open that up in private. Yer’ve got two days to decide his fate and that of the rest of yer family. I will be here at the same time two days from now and if yer answer is yes then I give the word to set them free if yer not here I will have them killed and a bounty placed on yer head as a traitor to the Rebellion. Yer may have erased all records of who yer worked for but I know and I have ways of getting information. It would be a shame if yer face were to be plastered all over the HoloNet as Vader’s protégé.”
“I was never his protégé!” I yelled. People turned to stare at us and I felt a hot flush creep into my cheeks.
Jyrki smiled nastily knowing he’d found a sore spot to dig at. “I beg to differ on that point, Vader liked yer, he trained with yer, and he taught yer things. I know because Antygra told me all about yer relationship with that man as well as how Palpatine favoured yer. I have data stored away that wasn’t erased, enough to condemn yer and yer family forever. I even know about yer alien lover, what was he called… ah yes the Grand Admiral Thrawn, also dead, by all accounts. There is no one from the Imperials left on yer side Mouse. I’m all yer’ve got. Do yer really want to lose the last people who care for yer for the sake of the Sith? Yer will help me destroy the Skywalker legacy and end this reign of terror forever. It is that simple and yer have no choice.”
I managed to look away, feigning sorrow at his words when really I was angrier than I had been in a long time. My shoulders shook with the weight of it and it took all my strength to shove it down as deeply as I could. By the time I looked back at him I had my emotions under control. “Alright.” I said, “I’ll do as you ask but my family goes free and after this you will leave them alone forever or I will make sure you regret it for the rest of your life.”
He smiled. “Smart girl. I knew yer would see reason sooner or later.” He ignored my threat, he did not think of me as all that dangerous.
“Reason has nothing what so ever to do with this.” I spat.
“Everything I have ever done was for yer Mouse, don’t yer understand that? Yer have no idea how terrible the Dark Side can be and yer have no idea how much I want to protect yer from that evil path.”
I shook my head. “You are completely insane.”
“Perhaps, but if that’s what it takes to end the reign of the Sith then so be it.”
“Luke Skywalker is not a Sith Lord.” I said, surprised at the words coming out of my mouth.
“Neither was his father until he was turned. It only takes one thing to do the job.” Jyrki countered.
“It was the brutal torture and death of his mother by Tuskens that twisted Anakin Skywalker. Would you do the same to me?”
That surprised Jyrki, I read it in his eyes. He had not known this but in the end it changed nothing. He blamed Anakin for destroying his life and now he was going to get even. No matter what he told me his reason underneath it all it was still revenge. I glared at him as I stood up to leave, reaching to grasp the holo recorder from the table but as I did so he grabbed my wrist. “Don’t try anything stupid Mouse, yer not that good. I should know I taught yer.”
I just stared at him until he let go of me, picked up the recorder and left the cantina without looking back. My hand was shaking as I slid the recorder into my satchel and for a moment I thought I would be ill as a wave of dizziness washed over me. I had agreed to help assassinate one of the Galaxy’s most beloved members to save my own family. Never mind what I thought of him, Skywalker was a hero and by helping to murder him I would go down in history as reviled as Palpatine and Lord Vader were or die in the process of trying. Neither outcome was something I wished for.
I stumbled back to my hotel room, unaware of my surroundings. The sensation of being followed was there but I had felt someone watching my every move ever since the first time I had left the Cantina, now I did not care any more. It was most likely one of Jyrki’s people, I know they had followed me before and had even searched through my hotel room when I wasn’t there but anything of value I had I kept on my person. If he had hoped to find out anything more about me he was mistaken.
I got back to my room and all but flung myself down on the bed too wound up to think, cry or sleep. I had two days to come up with a way out of this situation as well as how to rescue my family and I wasn’t sure I could do this, especially not alone. When I suddenly remembered what Jyrki had said about Uncle Vahlek the tears came. I could not believe he was dead; I didn’t want to trust the news Jyrki had given me but I knew he had told the truth. The ache of loss hit me hard and sudden. I curled into a little ball on the bed and wept.