Jaina watched Zak follow the monster and his stormtrooper escort out of the cell, down the hall and out of the cell block entirely. Then, she was alone.
She was left to wonder what Brakiss could possibly have to discuss about with Zak that he didn’t want her to hear, especially when she knew he knew that Zak was only cooperative enough to maintain their lives, but not to the point of subservience.
But she soon remembered that she wasn’t entirely alone. The security officer at the control panel near the entry to the cell block watched as the last of Brakiss’s personal guard filed out of the cell block and then hit a couple of controls on the board in front of him. The door snapped shut and Jaina heard the distinct sound of locking mechanisms slotting into place.
This worried her a little. The cell block door was usually left unlocked so that Brakiss or those under his command could check up on the prisoners at random intervals. It was a negligible power drain, but locking the door did still divert a tiny amount of power.
The fact that this officer had taken the time to lock the cell block door meant that either Brakiss wasn’t expecting to be back to see her any time soon, or that the officer had something in mind that he wouldn’t want his peers or superiors witnessing.
Jaina frowned, angry.
The security officer couldn’t be that ill-informed that he wasn’t aware that both she was a Jedi and that Zak was a Jedi-in-training. The only assumption she could make was that the man thought that the cell was blanketed by the effects of the countless Ysalamir they had dotted throughout the station to strip away the Force. If that was the case, then he was about to make a mistake grave enough to award Jaina the freedom she had been waiting for since their capture.
She could knock out this fool, snatch up Zak’s lightsaber, such as it was, and hope that it was complete enough to slice her way to Zak, grab him, and find the nearest hyperspace-capable ship and leave.
Jaina snorted. She’d fought her friend Zekk during the Shadow Academy’s assault on Luke’s academy years ago. It stood to reason that Brakiss would be at the very least ten times the swordsman that Zekk had been then. Jaina didn’t have much hope of fending him off for very long while Zak got the hint and escaped. Then again, her own swordsmanship had improved a lot since then.
The security officer approached the cell, and shot one last look at the locked door before turning to watch as Jaina buttoned up her blouse and tucked it neatly into her pants, mumbling curses to herself the entire time about the perverted nature of Imperials, not caring if the guard heard her or not.
She looked up at the Imperial and stared back at him through narrowed eyes, waiting for him to go back to his station and deactivate the ray shield.
Then, suddenly, the man’s skin began to ripple subtly, as if made of liquid and responding to an object impacting it. It was an effect she had seen only in that of her friend from the Praxeum.
He too was a shape shifter, and the way this Imperial was changing before her eyes gave them away to be of the same species. When he finished, Jaina noticed that it wasn’t even a man. The person that stood before her now, post-shift, was a woman.
And Jaina recognised her!
“No kriffing way!” she said in disbelief, approaching the ray shield to look the pseudo-Imperial in the face.
In fact, the person that stood there now was no Imperial. She was a Jedi Master, and a member of the Jedi Council. Her name was Kylia Okras.
She had once been a student of Luke Skywalker’s, before Jaina’s time, and Luke himself had said that she was one of his finest students. She had even assisted him with the teaching of the next generation of students after she had graduated and had remained there for a few years, only ever going off world when assigned a mission by the council. The council had then offered her a seat, and she had since been appointed their representative to the Praxeum on Yavin 4.
Her long white-streaked-grey hair was tied back and her grey eyes sparkled with what Jaina realised to be gratification to see her relatively unharmed. Though, Jaina noticed, she still wore the greys of an Imperial soldier. She smiled.
“It’s good to see you again too, Jaina Solo,” the Jedi said with a smile. “I only wish that it was under … uh … better circumstances?”
“What are you doing here?” Jaina asked. “How? I mean, I knew that the Jedi Council wouldn’t have given up on us, but how the hell are you able to keep your identity safe from Brakiss?”
“Skinshifting helps,” Kylia said with a sly grin. “As do the Ysalamir he has all around the facility,” the older Jedi continued. “Alas, I am not here for you and Zak.”
“What?” Jaina said at once. “Why?”
“I have been here for over a year, Jaina,” Okras said. “The Jedi Council had heard rumour that Brakiss might still be alive, but they had no evidence to substantiate the rumours, or an idea of his motives if he truly were alive. I was dispatched to try and work my way into this outpost to see what I could find out.”
“And Brakiss just let you?”
“He wasn’t here,” Okras said. “He arrived many months later, after the Ysalamir were put into place and the cell blocks re-engineered for holding Jedi, and took direct command. He claimed he was acting under a higher authority.”
“Higher authority?” Jaina gasped. She was sure her hearing had failed her for a moment. “But … but Brakiss is a higher authority. Mustafar would freeze over before he would ever allow himself to be subjugated by someone else.”
“When he started the Shadow Academy, he was working for the last clone of the Emperor,” Kylia reminded Jaina. Jaina didn’t have anything to say to that.
Kylia Okras looked to the door again, and then, satisfied that no one was trying to get in, continued. “But, since his arrival, he has received several high priority communications through the holocomm system that I have been unable to trace, nor discover the contents of. And the clearance level required to even see the records of those communications is ridiculous. There’s no way I would be able to falsify that kind of clearance.”
“Maybe he just doesn’t want any of his inferiors getting into his personal business,” Jaina suggested. But she could taste the desperation in her own words. “Well, can you break me out of here … while you’re here?”
“I can’t do that, Jaina, I’m sorry.” Kylia shook her head apologetically. “It would only alert Brakiss that there is a spy on board, and he would call in everyone that’s ever been in the cell block while you and Zak have been here. His office isn’t cut off from the Force. He’ll be able to interrogate all of us until he finds out who the spy is.”
“Make it look like a fault in the ray shield power relays and say I escaped. I can hit you on the head to make it look convincing, if you like,” Jaina offered, compressing one hand into a fist and lightly punching her other hand.
“What of Zak? Would you just leave him here with that man?”
Jaina frowned. “No—absolutely not. I planned to go after him.”
“And would you face Brakiss in a foolish attempt to retrieve Zak on your way off the station?”
“Well, when you put it that way …” Jaina started.
“I thought not. And even if you did, and survived, the two of you would need to secure transport and transport codes to get by the Imperial ships in the sector keeping this station secure from the Republic.”
“Way to spur the positive thinking, Master,” Jaina said sourly.
The older Jedi chuckled. “Do not fret; youngling. I have a plan. My tenure here is almost complete,”—something about the way she said that spiked an alarm in Jaina’s mind—“and rest assured, I will not leave without ensuring that the two of you had a way to get free.”
She paused, and inclined her head in thought. “Incidentally,” she continued. “How is Zak coming along with his lightsaber?”
“Very well, actually,” Jaina started. “He just needs a few more pieces of metal to finish the coverings, and then some crystals to focus the beams. I think he’s planning on lifting them from the lightsabers in our next training session.”
“He’s very lucky that Brakiss has a small collection of lightsabers at his disposal, and that he’s gotten away with all the pieces he has taken so far. I’m personally finding it less than credible that Brakiss hasn’t noticed yet.”
“If he has, then why hasn’t he done anything—” Jaina was cut off by a sharp bleeping from the security console by the door.
Okras whipped around instantly to face it, skinshifting on instinct as she strode over to the door. Stepping around behind the control board that had grabbed her attention, she looked down and pressed a couple of controls.
“I’m sorry to have to cut this rather pleasant reunion short, Jaina Solo,” Kylia said sadly after a few moments. Her voice in her Imperial officer form was low, but not deep, and slightly gravelly. “But it appears that my identity may already have been compromised.”
“What’s going on?” Jaina demanded.
“My quarters are being searched. I should have expected that Brakiss would have everyone’s quarters searched after I gave away the station’s last location to Republic Intelligence. My lightsaber is still in there—hidden, but it might not stay that way.”
He—she—looked up at Jaina, and nodded before opening the door and rounding the console. She stopped at the doorway, and turned back to look at Jaina.
“Goodbye, Jaina …”