I drew a deep steadying breath and sat back against the wall, pulling the blanket around my shoulders. I was very aware of how filthy I was and how bad I must have looked and smelled. I just stared at Jyrki mutely, watching him squat down beside the cot. I didn’t speak a word to him; I had no idea what to say.
“Valdia tells me yer didn’t react well to the Feynoxinol. I’m sorry about that.” He said quietly. “But we had to subdue yer to get yer out of the Palace.” He watched me for a moment waiting to see if I would break my silence then continued. “I am also sorry about yer face. I didn’t mean to hit yer quite so hard but after yer fine display of skills on Rothana I couldn’t take any chances.”
I blinked. I had suspected he was behind this but actually knowing it hurt.
“Mouse, “he said placing a hand on my knee. “I need yer help.”
I drew my legs up to my chest, trying to make myself as small as possible. I didn’t want him touching me. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I felt the sting of tears prickle but I fought them. I didn’t want to cry.
“You beat me and kidnapped me because you want my help?” I asked. My voice was hoarse, scratchy and trembled. He picked up the cup of water and offered it to me. I didn’t take it from his hand and after a few moments he set it back down on the ground.
“Had to get yer out of there but didn’t think yer’d come easy.” He explained.
I was having a hard time digesting this information. “Why?” was all I could think to say.
“Empire’s got yer brainwashed, Mouse. I had to save yer before it was too late.”
I shook my head slowly. Too late for what I wondered but I didn’t ask it out loud. I could not believe what I was hearing. “You can’t keep me here.” I said.
“Yes, I can.” He said simply. “We need yer help. Yer have access codes to the Imperial network and yer know where Vader is, we need this information to stop them.” He said bluntly.
I shook my head at him. “I can’t do that. You need to let me go home.”
He smiled sadly. “Yer will give me the information we need, Mouse.” He said with a quiet certainty that made my heart skip a beat. “It will save lives. Yer will tell me.” And then after a moment he added. “This is yer home, now, there is no going back.”
I don’t think I had ever felt so exhausted, so lost in all of my life. I sighed and closed my eyes. “I can’t tell you what I don’t know.” I said.
I heard him stand up and I looked at him. “Yer’ll change yer mind when yer see that the Empire is evil and I saved yer life.”
“You’ve lost your mind.” I said softly.
He drew a deep breath. “I know it will take a while for the damage the Empire has done to yer to be sorted out. I know yer don’t mean these things yer say and yer didn’t mean what yer did on Rothana.” his voice was soft but there was now an edge to it that glittered like a razor blade.
I pinched the bridge of my nose to try and stave off the pain in my head. “I didn’t even know it was you.” I said.
He stood very still and silent for a moment then he leaned over me, bracing himself against the wall so that our faces almost touched. “I lost good people there.” He hissed. There was a weird hardness in his blue eyes I had never seen before. I was suddenly very afraid of him.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered. “I didn’t want for anyone to get hurt. I was just doing my job.”
“And what job was that?”
“Protecting the dancer.”
He stood back up and laughed. “A dancer? Yer think that piece of work the Emperor sent to Rothana was a dancer?” he shook his head. “Oh, Mouse, yer’ll have to do better than that.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” I was starting to get annoyed with this conversation.
I watched as he began to pace about the small room. “That woman yer say is a dancer killed three men and stole valuable information. One of those men had a wife and four kids, did you know that?”
“Why did she kill them, if that is really the case?” I asked.
“They were helping to supply weapons to the rebellion.” He said. “Empire doesn’t like us all that much, in case yer hadn’t noticed.”
I opened my mouth then shut it again. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t lie and say that Lianna really was just a dancer because even I did not believe that. I was in a bad place. I could feel this. “Is that why you were trying to kill her?” I asked.
“Don’t be ignorant! We were not trying kill her at all. We needed her alive, she had information valuable to our cause. Capturing one of the Emperor’s agents would have been useful to us, but yer messed that up, yer and yer friend in the mask. Not sure what that was all about but it doesn’t matter now. Instead of her we have yer. Perhaps in the end that is even better for us, after all yer work closely with the Emperor’s Iron Fist. Yer must know all sorts of things about him that we can use.”
“Jyrki, you need to let me go. You can’t keep me here.”
He looked at me for a moment and moved with that cat like grace I remembered so well to come and sit beside me on the cot. He caressed the side of my face that was not battered and bruised. I did my very best not to flinch but was unsuccessful. Hurt and surprise flashed in his eyes but it was quickly replaced with anger.
“Am I not good enough for yer any more?” he asked in a flat even tone that scared me more than his getting mad would have done. He smiled but it never reached his eyes. “Or is it that yer prefer the touch of an Imperial hand now?” He said coldly.
“My head hurts.” I said by way of explanation. I watched him, now wary. The hair on the back of my neck was standing on end. I just matched his stare. I didn’t want to back down, but I was very afraid. It was slowly dawning on me that I might not get out of this alive. I closed my eyes and drew a very deep breath. Fear would kill me faster than anything else would. I felt him move from my side to stand up.
“Get some rest Mouse. Yer need to recover yer strength.” He said.
I opened my eyes to look at Jyrki searching for the person I once knew but I didn’t see him in this man who stood before me now.
“Please don’t do this.” I whispered. “You can’t leave me in here all by myself.”
He just looked at me with an air of patient sadness. “We’ll talk when you’re feeling better and thinking clearly.”
I just stared at him.
“I’ll have Valdia bring yer some soup or something.” He said. “Yer don’t need to worry any more, Mouse, yer among friends. The Empire can’t find yer here.” And with those words he walked out of the room. The lights went back off and I heard the sound of the lock being engaged.
I sat still for a very long time before I lay back down and let the pain and exhaustion take over.