The Dark Stripped Bare 5

“Get up!” the voice was intrusive and harsh. The hands that yanked at me were strong and rough.

This was the umpteenth time I had been woken up this way. This had become a weird sort of routine. At strange, intermittent times the small prison room I was in would be flooded with light and I would be dragged awake and taken to another part of the compound.

The first time this had happened it had scared the sandjiggers out of me. I had been deeply asleep and the utter disorientation had left me confused and frightened. I had been hauled to my feet, my hands bound behind my back and taken to a small interrogation room. The room itself was ordinary and empty save for a single table in the middle and two chairs. No windows and bare smooth walls the colour of ship grey. It seemed very bright to me, but I was getting used to living in the dark so even a candle would have seemed overly brilliant.

I was seated in the chair that had its back to the door and left alone in the room for what seemed hours. At first I let my fear and my nervousness win. I was cold, scared and very much alone. It was a sure bet that Jyrki was counting on this to happen but what he no longer knew about me was that I had changed. Over the past year I had been tested and tried, trained and taught in ways he had no idea of. I was no longer the eager, infatuated girl he had known and maybe even cared for.

After what I had guessed had been about half an hour I calmed down. I remembered what Master Kjestyll had taught me and I concentrated on my breathing. I sought to become part of the stillness of this strange room and not try to fight against it. With my arms still shackled behind my back I relaxed my body and I centered as I had been taught to do so many times before. There is a place deep within that is still and calm, where one’s spirit resides. I went to this place and stayed there. It would give me the strength for what ever was coming next.

When I heard the door open behind me I didn’t turn around. While I didn’t want to give away exactly how much I had changed, I also did not want to show too much fear either. I knew who it was who had entered the room without looking and inwardly I sighed. Now it would begin this battle of wills. I raised only my eyes to meet Jyrki’s as he sat down across from me, sliding a data pad to my side of the table.

“I need yer access codes, Mouse.” Was all he said. His ice blue eyes were hard.

I just looked at him. I didn’t look at the data pad. I didn’t move. I didn’t speak. I just watched him.

“Why are yer being so stubborn? Do yer like suffering?” he asked, I could sense his slow rising temper as I held my tongue. “All yer have to do is give me yer codes and yer’ll be given decent quarters, hot meals, a shower, all the comforts of home.” The words held promise but his eyes remained hard.

Once I had thought of him as handsome and I suppose he was a good looking man but something had etched in his face and had taken away the subtle beauty I had once seen twisting it into something hard and cruel. I wondered what he had gone through in the last few years that had changed him so much, or if he had always been this way and I had just been too smitten to see it.

I stayed still and silent. There was nothing for me to say except no, and my silence said that for me. He had stood up from the table and paced around the room. I felt his tension keenly; he was angry and agitated, fighting with himself. The battle was not just between his will and mine but between his own self. He was scared of something but I could not sense what it was and without giving away more of my abilities than I wanted him to know I could not find out. Instead I maintained my own calm and stayed quiet. This wasn’t easy and I was scared but fear would kill me long before anyone or anything else would so I used all the training and teaching I had ever been given and I struggled to keep my calm. I felt him move beside me and fought to stay very still when he leaned in close to my ear.

“Smarten up, Mouse.” He said. “No one is coming to rescue yer. No one except me cares what happens to yer.”

Oddly enough this made me laugh.

He backed off immediately. “Yer think this is funny? Yer think this is some sort of joke?” the anger flared now.

I sighed and looked at him, moving for the first time since he had entered the room. “No, Jyrki, I don’t think this is a joke. I don’t think it is funny that you have kidnapped me, that you are holding me against my will, that you used dangerous drugs to sedate me, that you use methods of psychological torture to scare me. I don’t think this is funny at all. What is funny is that you actually believe you care about me.” I said. I couldn’t help the spark of anger I felt rising from the pit of my belly from touching my words. I squashed that down with a very deep breath. To give in to my anger would be to lose this confrontation.

“Mouse, all yer have to do to end all of this is tell me what I need to know.” He said, softening his voice, becoming my friend. He was lying, he didn’t actually know what he wanted from me.

“I know nothing. I cannot help you.” I said. I was just tired. This was like a broken holo recording that kept skipping and repeating over and over again.

“We’ll see.” He said after a long silence. He left the room without picking up the data pad. I sat still in the chair, alone in the room for a long time before the same gruff voiced man came back to return me to my room. I was grateful that he had taken the binders off after returning me to the small prison.

The next few times we had gone through this dance it had been the same thing. The fifth or maybe it was the sixth time I had lost my temper and it felt as though I had lost my mind. It had begun the same, the same stiffness, the same quiet battle of wills but at some point during the questions Jyrki had fired at me I had given into my frustration and anger. Something had snapped. I had gotten up and kicked at the table, shoving it violently towards him. I had gotten to my feet then and screamed at him. I had wanted to hurt him but with my hands tied behind my back all I could do was kick at him. It was a futile waste of energy. He had avoided my attempts to hurt him easily enough and after a moment of staring at me, he had left me in the small interrogation room, screaming at the walls like a lunatic. I didn’t know if I had gone mad or if it was normal to some how step outside one’s own self. I watched, as though from a great distance as this person, who looked and sounded a lot like me, threw herself against the walls, against the door until it was opened. Hands had grabbed at me and I had struggled, screeching, fighting until someone had doped me and the world receded into a never ending nothingness.

This time was different, this time Jyrki had brought along a friend. I recognised the woman called Valdia and took note of the wary unhappiness in her eyes. She stayed very quiet for most of Jyrki’s one sided conversation, watching me more than she watched him. After a while Jyrki had tired of my stubbornness and had nodded at her. I watched her with wary interest as she fought the protest that rose within her. What ever it was she was being asked to do, she was not happy about it. Jyrki had given her a hard, meaningful look which made her sigh.

She had come to stand next to me and cleared away hair from the side of my neck. I felt the pressure of the hypo spray and heard the hiss as she activated it. My heart suddenly raced, adrenaline flooded me and that terrible sense of fight or flight only served to scare me more. I felt the drug course through me and it was an ugly sensation.

Master Kjestyll had told me many times during out lessons together this one thing. Fear will kill you faster than anything else because it will cloud your judgement and cause panic to move you. I don’t think I had ever truly understood this statement because until this moment I had never known such acute fear, even though I knew it was drug induced. I was struggling to breathe and calm.

“How long before it starts to work?” Jyrki had asked.

“Couple of minutes, maybe.” Valdia had told him. “If she reacts to it the way she is supposed to.”

They waited. I sat shivering, my teeth chattered. Gradually the effects of panic subsided and a strange sort of euphoria took over. A part of me knew this was not real, a part of me knew that I was being drugged but the other part of me didn’t care. It was like floating on fluffy clouds. I closed my eyes because the room was doing some strange things. I could hear someone talking to me but the voice was very far away.

“Mouse!” someone shouted. It took me a few moments to realise it was Jyrki.

I opened my eyes to see him. I grinned. “Hey, you.” I tried to say but my words came out slurry. I felt as though I had just consumed an entire bottle of my father’s home made liquor.

“It’s working, I think.” said the woman by his side. “But this phase won’t last very long so you need to be quick about it.” She warned him. “Once this stage wears off she’ll be in bad shape. The side effects of bloom-spice are not pretty. Which is why this is a bad idea. If the General knew what you were doing he’d throw you out the nearest airlock.”

“Val, when I want your opinion I will ask for it.” He had said coldly. “We need the codes she carries in her head. We need the information on where that bastard is. You want another Alderaan? Sarlacc knows what the Empire is cooking up now. Mon Mothma’s group got that blasted battle station but that was a lucky shot, thanks to that Skywalker kid. You think the Empire is sitting still and not cooking up something bigger, stronger? The General would love to get the jump on the Imps and he doesn’t need to know about this just yet. He’s got enough on his mind as it is.” he spat the words out. I worked at not giggling.

“Don’t you dare bring up Alderaan. Of course I don’t want to see another incident like that, I lost my whole family except for my baby brother so don’t you dare lecture me. Of course we need information but this is wrong!” she said fiercely. She was very angry and I could see it surround her in a brilliant light. “And as for the General, well I am pretty sure that as much as he wants to learn as many Imperial weakness as possible this is not the method he had in mind!”

Jyrki nodded. “We need information and pussy-footing around won’t do that for us. Sometimes the only way to fight fire is with fire. The Empire would not think twice about doing worse than this if the tables were turned.”

My world spun. I felt as though my body were made out of rubber. In my head I heard a voice whispering to me to fight. It reminded me of Thrawn and I smiled thinking of him.
Jyrki grasped me by the shoulders, his hands were cold and his fingers bit into my bare skin. I tried to look at his face but it kept swimming in and out of focus. My stomach began to complain so I closed my eyes. I had never taken any kind of doping spice in my life before so this was completely new experience for me. I didn’t like it much.

“Mouse, where can we find Darth Vader?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Don’t know.” I told him fighting against the fact that my tongue felt as though it were three times its normal size. I kept trying to look at it but wasn’t having much luck. “He’s on his ship.”

“Where is his ship?” he asked.

“In space, silly.” I giggled and hiccupped.

“Where in space?” Jyrki asked, his patience wearing thin.

“On his ship.” I answered.

Jyrki growled in frustration. “This is useless!”

“Are you mad, don’t be mad. Lord Vader is always mad and I don’t think he likes me you know, he hits me when he’s cross.” I said with a sigh. “He doesn’t like anyone.” I added hoping that was what Jyrki wanted to hear. All I wanted was to lie down because the spinning sensation was getting worse.

Valdia frowned at my words and Jyrki sighed. “You sure this stuff is working?” he asked her.

I looked at Valdia who shrugged. “No I am not and I told you before I have no way of knowing how she will react to it. Using bloom-spice as a truth teller is unreliable at best.” She said crossly. “She reacted really badly to the feynox so I have no clue how this stuff will affect her. I told you this was a bad idea.”

I nodded. “Bad idea, bad idea.” I echoed, then giggled and hiccupped again.

“Mouse! Mouse, look at me.” Jyrki said guiding my face to his. I looked into his eyes, they were so blue. I remembered how much I had loved his eyes.

“You have such beautiful eyes, but they look angry. Why are you so angry?” I asked him. “Did papa say something to you? Did you lose the hyper spanner again?” I was becoming incoherent.

“Mouse, concentrate, what is your access code to the Imperial data network?” he asked ignoring my question.

I frowned and looked around. I had no idea where I was. “Issa lot of numbers.” I said nodding. “Can’t tell you them though, issa secret.” I said.

“She’s not going to tell you what you want to know. She’s very strong willed, even doped she’s strong. Her mind, her subconscious is fighting against the drug.” Valdia told him, folding her arms across her chest in a very ‘I told you so’ manner.

I looked at Jyrki who was still leaning in close to me. I wanted to touch his face but my arms were tied behind my back. I couldn’t remember why that was. “Where’s papa, is it supper time yet?” I asked suddenly. “Is he mad at me? Why are my hands tied?” I was very confused. My head had begun to pound and my stomach suddenly lurched. “I don’t feel so good.” I told him.

He had looked at Valdia and shaken his head. “This was a waste of time!” he spat.

“I warned you.” She snarled at him. She had been about to add more but I interrupted them both by vomiting violently. I sat on the edge of the chair, panting in short, quick and shallow breaths. My heart was pounding in my ears and cold sweat prickled all over my body. I felt as though I were dying, I hoped this was the case.

Jyrki made a sound of disgust and Valdia moved to my side. Her fingers were cold against my neck as she felt my pulse. She shone a small light into my eyes and I knew that she was worried. “That’s enough, Captain. Her body isn’t dealing well with this and she needs to lie down.” Then she added. “Unless you want her murder on your conscience, I suggest you end this now.”

“Get Brit to take her back to her room then!” he snarled. His fury suddenly breaking through his carefully constructed control. I looked at him his face. Our eyes met but I didn’t recognize him any more. I wanted to say I was sorry, I wanted to know why he was so angry with me, but I was afraid to say this out loud. My head spun and with a sigh I simply let the dizziness take over, let my head roll back and closed my eyes. Time bounced onward without me knowing.

I woke up on the cot in the small dark room I was being kept in. My mouth resembled a sewer and I was pretty certain that a bantha was dancing on my brain. The light was on and at my side, sitting in a chair that had not been there before was Valdia.

“How do you feel?” she asked. She put a cup of water to my lips. I sipped at it.

“Like death.” I told her, squinting. “How long was I out for?”

She pursed her lips tightly. She didn’t want to tell me.

“How… long?” I clasped her hand.

“Over 36 hours.” She said quietly, she was embarrassed. “I wasn’t sure you were gonna come out of it.”

“Why are you doing this to me?” I asked but it was more like a whimper.

She frowned and a strange expression of anger and sadness crossed her face. “Captain Andando says you have information that we can use to fight the Empire.” She said by way of explanation.

“What does he think I am?” I whispered truly wondering this myself.

“Someone with access to a lot of important information.” She answered.

“I’m just an office girl.” I said. “I am just an assistant.”

She just stared at me. “You work with high ranking officials.” She countered.

I lay back down on the cot and laughed which turned into a coughing fit. “I can tell you about what up and coming social functions are happening at the palace or about where the best tailors on Coruscant are.” I said. “Or maybe you need to know what size boots Darth Vader wears.”

She shook her head. “So you have no idea where the Imperial fleets are?”

“No.” and that was the truth.

I could feel her sudden flare of anger. Jyrki hadn’t been entirely honest with her. “What about access to the Imperial computer network?”

“Just low level clearance and just to the local network, for memos and messages and stuff.” I lied. “And that access would have been deleted the moment people knew I had been abducted.” I added.

She sighed. “The Captain told me you were involved in the destruction of Alderaan.”

I just stared at her for a moment. Jyrki had actually said that? I shook my head. “I have no part of the military, I’m a civilian worker. I had nothing to do with that at all. I lost family when the planet was destroyed.” I said sadly.

I could feel her indecision and stayed very quiet. She was already angry with Jyrki and she was weighing the truth of my statements against her dislike of his actions.

“I’m sorry.” She said getting up. “I don’t know what to do about this. I owe him my life and he’s really a good man.” She told me but she sounded as though she were trying to convince herself more than explain to me. “You know him from before, don’t you?”

I nodded. “He worked for my father.” I said and I could not keep the sorrow out of my voice. “He knew me as a child and he was like an older brother to me.” I swallowed the sadness down. “But he’s changed.” I added.

She drew a deep breath. “You need to rest. Your body doesn’t like the drugs we’ve been using. I don’t know why. I’ll try and bring you some food later on and some clean clothes. That dress is pretty disgusting. I don’t care who you are, you deserve to be treated like a human being not an animal. I don’t know why he hates you so much and I am sorry I can’t help you more. If it were not for the captain my little brother and I would be dead.”

I just looked at her and said nothing. There was nothing for me to say. I watched as she left the room, closed the door and the lights went off. I had lost all track of time; I had no idea how many days I had been in this place now. I lay awake a long time thinking about everything that had happened. I never did manage to fall asleep, instead I dozed fitfully. I was awake when Valdia came back into the room much, much later on.

She put clothes down on the chair for me along with a small kit of toiletries and some towels. “There is a toothbrush and stuff in the kit for you.” She said quietly. “I’ll bring food when it is done.”

“Thank you. You are very kind.” I told her, knowing she didn’t feel kind at all, she felt guilty. She nodded and left quickly. I made her uncomfortable. I was a reminder that the lines between right and wrong were very thin. She hated the Empire, I felt that every time the word came up but she didn’t hate me. What they were doing to me was exactly what they were fighting against. She was in conflict.

I got up slowly, my head protested but I didn’t care. I looked at the clothes she left me. Everything was used but freshly laundered. I stripped out of the once beautiful dress and sighed. I braved the freezing cold water and scrubbed myself until it almost hurt. Then, with a strange feeling of relief, I slipped into the clothes. Shorts and a t shirt became my underclothes and then the jump suit which was a little too large but I didn’t care. It was comfortable and more importantly, clean. I rummaged through the little toiletries kit and found the toothbrush and paste. I spent at least ten minutes cleaning my teeth and for the first time since I had been kidnapped I broke down and wept. It was as if the simplest act in the galaxy, this thing I had taken for granted my whole life, had suddenly become the most precious gift ever.

I was sitting on the bed when Valdia returned with a tray of food. She set it on the chair.
“Don’t eat too fast, you’ll be sick.” She said squatting down by the cot. “You need to gain some strength, keep food in your stomach and not throw it up.”

“You a doctor?” I asked.

She shook her head. “Just a field medic, patch folks up mostly.” She said. “But I know enough to see you aren’t looking or doing so well. I brought you some fruit juice and some more water. The stew doesn’t have much flavour but it’s hot and the apple is fresh.”

“Thank you.” I said shyly. “I hope you don’t get into trouble with Jyrki for being nice to me.”

Her anger suddenly flared about her like white fire. “I don’t give a smuggler’s kiss about what the Captain thinks. Even if you do work for the Empire, you don’t deserve to be treated like this, no matter what. I’m sorry I let it go on this long.”

“Lots of people work for the Empire.” I said. “Garbage disposal workers on Coruscant work for the Empire, I don’t see any of them here.” I said. “I’m here because it’s personal.”

She looked at me for a moment and then nodded. She had gotten my point. “Eat before it gets cold.” She said. “I’ll pick up the tray tomorrow morning.”

I made a noise that was a cross between laughter and a snort. “Morning, night, I have no idea what time of day or even what day it is any more.” I said.

She sighed then she told me what date it was. I did the math in my head and sat back against the wall. My heart seemed to stop. “That’s over three weeks? I’ve been gone for over three weeks? How is that possible? How?” I didn’t know what to think and the tears that welled up in my eyes were genuine. How could so much time have passed? It was all a blur since the fight in my flat, since they had kidnapped me. “I wish he’d just kill me and get it over with.” I said softly, trying not to cry. “It would be easier than this.”

She looked away from me. “I have to go.” She said quietly. I just nodded and didn’t say anything else. I didn’t need to. When I was once again alone I picked up the bowl of stew. She was right, it didn’t have much flavour but it was still warm and it tasted like heaven to me. I ate slowly, thoughtfully. The juice she had brought was sweet and cold and I savoured every sip. I kept the apple for later.

I needed to get out of here. I needed to make a plan because no one was going to come for me. There were no heroes and no rescues. I had no illusions about how unimportant I was in the eyes of the Empire. If I wanted to escape, I would have to do it myself. I just needed to wait for the right time, play my part and hope that some luck was with me.

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