When you have no way of measuring time such as chronometer or day and night, it all becomes blurred. I slept fitfully and each time I surfaced and opened my eyes it was dark. The sedative they had used on me slowly worked its way through my system leaving me shaky and delirious. I woke and slept with no concept of time, no idea where I was or how I had gotten there. Sometimes the room I was in was bright and there were people talking near me, someone’s hand on my forehead, and someone trying to get me to drink water. Sometimes the room was dark and I was alone. I had no way of telling how much time had passed. I was aware that I was not very well. I was aware that on some level I was fighting for something but I wasn’t sure what. In between the long moments of nothingness, I dreamed.
The desert called to me. Its winds that snaked across the sand whispered my name and its lure was powerful. I knew I was dreaming but I couldn’t come up from it so I walked, following the call I heard.
Tatooine burns during the day under the fierce light of two suns. By night the planet chills to the open sky as the heat escapes back into the darkness. It is a planet of many extremes and few compromises.
I walked onward aware of the heat on my bare feet, aware of the sting of sand flung against my skin by the wind. The suns’ glare created shimmering on the horizon and I knew a thirst like none other, yet despite these things I kept on walking forward.
In the distance I saw him. He was dressed in ancient looking robes and a poncho that had seen better days. His longhair whipped about his face by the wind, despite his efforts to keep it tied back. He was very tall, the last time I had seen him he had been kneeling in front of me. I ran to catch up with him but somehow he always managed to remain ahead of me.
I tried to yell out to him, calling for him to wait for me but I found I had no voice. Grief and fear overcame me and I stumbled to my knees in the sand. The wind had begun to pick up, the way it does before a sand storm. I felt a terrible despair sweep through me and it seemed to me that the wind whispered for me to give up, lie down and die. It was a seductive voice, soothing and lulling me into doing what it wanted. I bowed my head to its voice. Just as I was about to lie down and close my eyes I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“A’myshk’a, you must fight. You are stronger than this.” The bone trader said. He wore Navaari’s mask but the voice was that of Za’ar’s.
“How?” I asked.
“Listen to your heart.” He said. “Look inward and you will see you are not alone. Do not give up hope.” He withdrew his hand from my shoulder and began to move off into the swirling sand leaving me, once again, alone. I cried out Za’ar’s name and felt the tears slide down my cheeks.
I knelt in the sand. The wind danced about me. I drew a deep breath. I placed my hands at my hips and began to meditate, the way Master Kjestyll had taught me. As I did so I realised, I was not the little girl that Jyrki had known. He no longer knew me at all. What he saw when he looked at me was a ghost of the past and it made him sad. He couldn’t let go.
I did not know how long I had knelt like that but when I raised my head the storm had stopped and the suns had begun to set. There was only me in the vastness of the Dune Sea, but I knew in my heart the Bone Trader was right, I was not alone.
I woke clear headed. The scent of hot sand and desert wind lingered in my nose. I didn’t open my eyes instead I lay on the cot and allowed myself to take stock of my situation which wasn’t very good. Jyrki had changed and he had become dangerous to me. I had seen that bitter hardness in his eyes and it scared me. I had gotten the feeling that he would just as soon kill me with his own hands rather than allow me to return back to my place with the Empire. I knew that even if I had wanted to give up Lord Vader’s location I didn’t know where he was, but I did have access codes. I was certain that the moment the right people had known I had been abducted all my Imperial access had been removed, but there were slicers who could take an old code and use it, cracking the Imperial computers and I couldn’t have that. I would not allow that to happen. Not because I cared so much about the Empire but because I was not going to let Jyrki win. This had become very personal but I didn’t know why.
I lay there in the dark wondering how Jyrki thought he could go about getting information from me. I was certain he knew I wouldn’t voluntarily give anything up. He knew first hand how stubborn I could be, he’d even encouraged that from time to time. How did you win against an enemy that knew you almost better then you knew yourself? There had been a veiled threat of possible violence in his words and I was certain he had done that deliberately, letting me think and dwell on this. The anticipation of pain was often worse than the pain itself. I wondered if he would have the guts to hurt me himself or if he would let one of his thugs do it for him. They were frightening thoughts.
I concentrated on my breathing and thought about a conversation I had had with Master Kjestyll about the exercises at what Thrawn had called the Center and I had asked why the room was always dark. “It is a form of torture.” He had said. “Deprive the person of light, deprive them of the ability to tell the passage of time and you can deprive them of hope. Deprive a person of hope for long enough and eventually you can break their spirit, their will.”
“Does torture work?” I had asked thinking back to an experience I had had with Lord Vader and a rather unfortunate Rodian.
Master Kjestyll drew a deep breath. “A wise man once wrote a long time ago, torture is a fairly ineffective method of extracting information because the weak will tell you anything and everything you want to hear whether it is true or not and the strong will not break, they will choose death instead.” He said. “It seems to me that torture is more about the breaking of will and spirit. That makes it about power, rather than information. So if one is looking to dominate another being through fear it will either work or it will not. The problem is this. A spirit broken and bent by such means is a weak spirit who will not be much use. A strong spirit that will not break will be destroyed and that is also a loss. The use of torture is not always reliable for gaining information.”
“So how does one survive such an ordeal?” I had asked. It was unimaginable to me to experience what he was talking about.
“By finding strength from within. By remembering that no matter how much pain the body must endure that unless one allows it, one’s spirit cannot be broken.” He had said.
“You make it sound easy.”
He had looked at me. “The simplest of answers are often the most difficult to put into practice. You must find your inner strength and that is very difficult because in doing so you must face yourself.”
I lay in the darkness of the tiny room and wondered exactly what that had meant. I knew for sure that whatever was coming, it would not be good. I sighed as I slowly got up. My body was stiff and sore, my joints ached with a fierceness that was almost exquisite. I was filthy. It had been at least five days, maybe more since I had been taken from my flat and I had not been able to wash or get clean. My hair was matted and stank of stale vomit. My dress was soiled and uncomfortable. It was a ball gown and not really designed to be slept in and lived in but it was all that I had at the moment. I stood up and stretched slowly, carefully. It was painful.
There was enough light sneaking in from under the door that I could make out where everything was, I could see shapes and shadows. I went to the small sink and tried the tap. Water ran out of it. It was freezing cold but I didn’t care. I felt around to see if there were any towels or anything I could use as a cloth but there was nothing, there was only a small bar or soap. With a sigh I picked up the skirt of my dress and using my teeth I ripped at it. I tore off a long strip from around the hem and then tore a piece off of that. With my makeshift face cloth, the small bar of soap and the coldest water I had ever felt, I set about trying to clean up. It felt so good that I almost cried. I wanted to wash my hair but that was almost impossible, in the end I managed to rinse most of the crud out of it and I braided it as best I could, tying it with the clip from Cati and a strip of silk from my dress.
After that was done, and I felt more like a human being and less like a caged animal, I explored my room. There was not much to explore. The door slid shut side to side not up and down and it locked from the outside. It was smooth and there was no way I could open it from my side of the room. The walls were completely smooth, there were no openings, nothing to grasp on to or pluck out. With my hands I could feel air flow and after a few moments found the small vent in the ceiling. Even if I had wanted to get at it I couldn’t, there was nothing I the room tall enough for me to stand one and even if I could have reached it it was barely the size of my head.
The cot in the room was a basic standard camp cot. There were no parts I could take off it to create a weapon and it was made from a very light weight dura-plastic which made it strong but useless for anything but sleeping on it. Even the water jug and glass were plastic. Nothing in this room made a suitable makeshift weapon, even if I had found something using it to get any where would be a whole other story. If I was going to get out of here alive I had to find a different way, that would take some time and planning.
I sat back on the cot and drank the water that had been provided for me. A person could live a long time without food, over a month depending on health but water was a must. An average human could not survive more than a week without water. In the desert this time was significantly less. In school, on Tatooine, we are taught how to survive in the desert. The lessons were, of course, theoretical, but they were drummed into our head never the less. So I drank the water left for me and hoped there would be more to come.
What does one do all day locked up in a dark room? In my entire life I had not ever faced a situation quite like this one. It was strange to say the least. Waiting for something to happen, for someone to come and decide my fate was worse than having to work with Lord Vader on one of his bad days, at least with him I knew where I stood and what to expect.
I lay back down and decided to rest while I could. I was still tired, still worn out. Sleep deprivation could do a lot of damage so I figured maybe I should try to relax while I could because only Sarlacc knew what Jyrki had in mind for me later on. My stomach growled reminding me it was still there and I smiled when I realised I was hungry. It made a nice change from being sick all the time.
Since there was nothing else to do I decided to meditate hoping that this would help me be strong enough to stand up to what ever happened next. I was deep in meditation when the door opened. I was aware of it but I didn’t move. I used my senses and felt the presence of the woman called Valdia. She didn’t turn the light on and she didn’t close the door either. She thought I was asleep. I could feel her fear of me as well as her sadness. She was not happy with this situation, I could sense that. I listened as she put something on the floor and picked something up. I was aware that she was standing next to the cot, looking at me. I felt her hesitate there and picked up on her concern and her worry. She was also angry but it wasn’t directed solely at me. I let her think I was asleep and waited until she had left the room, my prison, before I got up to see what she had left. It was a plate with sandwiches and a new jug of water. Well, I thought, at least they weren’t going to starve me just yet. I ate slowly and was grateful. At least would not have to deal with Jyrki on an empty stomach. I lay back down and relaxed. Conserve energy until such times as you will need it. I tried to meditate again but instead I ended up letting my thoughts wander.
Time had slinked forward second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. As I drifted off to sleep I wondered if anyone was looking for me, I wondered if Thrawn had come back to find out why I had not joined him on the balcony to watch the fireworks. Thinking about him pulled at me in a way that ached more than all the physical pain I was experiencing. My hand had gone to the place at my throat where my necklace should have been. I wondered if he was worried about me, if he even thought about me at all. I sighed. That was a road of thought I didn’t need to go down. Instead I concentrated on thinking about his way with me, the gentleness of his voice, and the touch of his hands. I remembered his kindnesses, his friendship and his ability to still my fears with a single kiss but it was his face, his eyes and the sweetness of his smile that I held in my memory as I drifted off to sleep, uninvited tears leaked from under closed eyelids. I didn’t wipe them away.