A month had passed since Zak had returned from the depths of the jungle with the newcomer. After a week of Zak and Luke working together to develop her speech and basic social behaviours, Rebekah Jordan had been given a room of her own and had been permitted to join the general populace of the academy. Luke still wasn’t ready to include her in lessons until her social skills had developed more and she became more at ease, more comfortable with her surroundings.
Zak couldn’t fault him for the decision.
For the most part, Rebekah still had not entirely adapted to life at the academy. She didn’t turn a corner without first gluing herself to the wall and peering around it, looking for dangers and threats. She jumped in fright when groups of people travelled near her, or when there were loud discussions. At meal times, she simply grabbed her food and took off to the nearest dark corner she could find to consume it in privacy.
But Zak was confident that they would make progress. She seemed to trust him more than anyone else, and he sometimes caught her sneaking around behind him wherever he went.
Recently, Zak had made an unusual request of Luke Skywalker. Since returning to the temple, he had been unable to shake the thought of fixing the Sentinel he had seen in the hangar bay of the cruiser. He had no way to justify the intense desire, just a need to do it; something to do in his free time. Possibly even give him something to work on with Jaina Solo, and the others if they so pleased.
Putting the request to Luke, he had expected to be denied outright. It had come as a slap in the face when the elder Jedi had agreed with the idea and transmitted a request to GemDiver on Zak’s behalf to see if Lando was so inclined to retrieve the Sentinel shuttle and deliver it to the temple. A second slap in the face was incurred when Lando had agreed to do it without debating that he didn’t have the manpower to spare for such a foolish request.
It was delivered the next day and Luke himself used the Force to relocate it to the hangar, and from there down into the underground bay, showing off the power of the Force to Zak and Tash that they could one day possess themselves. It was more than enough to whet Zak’s appetite to learn the ways of the Force … more than enough.
So exactly a month after they had brought Rebekah back to the academy, Zak was to be found in the underground hangar. He wasn’t alone either. Jacen and Jaina Solo had both made an appearance, as had Tenel Ka, Lowbacca and his own sister, Tash. He knew that they weren’t all. Whether they knew it also or not, Zak had seen Rebekah skulking after him, watching them as they huddled in a small group near the foot of the loading ramp and discussed the assignment. He was inclined to let her play spy if she wanted to; it was all about gaining her trust and making her feel comfortable.
Zak was so excited about working on the shuttle that he didn’t put up any argument when Jaina asserted herself as co-project-leader. In fact, he welcomed it. Two tech-heads were better than one, he thought. It might even speed up the repair work.
After discussing it for at least a half hour, the group split into two. Zak, Jacen and Jaina took a pair of toolboxes from the supply shelves and started up the ramp into the ship to start on the internal repairs while Tash, Tenel Ka and Lowbacca would remain outside with another pair of toolboxes to start on the outer hull. Rebekah, naturally, stayed exactly where she was hiding and watched from there.
The plan was that in two hours, the two groups working on the project would swap over, but if Tash and the others had finished the hull work before then which wasn’t exactly likely, they would all work on the internals.
Zak didn’t want to spend too long on the assignment for the day. He still had Jedi study to be getting to. He and Tash, while fast learners and readers, were still well behind the Solos and their friends in terms of training and knowledge. They had much to catch up on, and Zak wasn’t fond of being so far behind, even though it wasn’t really their fault.
Zak and Jaina started by working together on the helm and navigations controls. It was a two-person job and Jacen hadn’t been shy from admitting that he didn’t have the slightest clue how to assist without getting in the way. Instead, he went to work on the life support systems in the back, retrieving a schematics pad from the stack Luke Skywalker had provided—courtesy of New Republic Intelligence.
“Micro-wrench,” Zak said, holding his free hand out towards Jaina. His other hand held a bundle of wires in place above his head so that they wouldn’t drop from the underside of the control board and hit him in the face. Jaina slapped the tool into his hand and he flipped it around to grasp the handle tightly before pushing the tip into the open panel and sealing the bolt for the brace that would keep the wires up themselves.
“Okay, I think that’s about …” he grunted, holding the wrench out for Jaina to return to the toolbox and feeling the anticipatory, cold slap of a hydrospanner. “Yep, that’s done. Sealing it up now and we can give it a test power-up.”
“You’re not too bad at this,” Jaina said. Zak wasn’t sure what to make of the tone she’d used. It wasn’t quite proud, but it wasn’t quite mocking. He decided to take it as it was worded: a statement of fact.
“Kind of a hobby,” Zak replied.
He closed the panel above his head and covered the bolt in one corner of the panel with the end of the spanner. He turned it on and drilled the bolt back into place, sealing that corner and moving on to the next to do the same.
“Hey, Jaina,” he heard Jacen’s voice call from somewhere to the rear of the shuttle.
“What?” Jaina called back.
“I’m done with the environmental controls,” Jacen shouted back. Zak directed his gaze from the sealing job above him to Jaina beside him, who looked as sceptical as he guessed he did. “I think,” Jacen added uncertainly.
“I’d better go take a look,” said Jaina. Zak nodded with a sigh as she pushed herself up to her feet and trudged off to join her brother.
Zak finished sealing the panel shut and then grabbed a satchel of micro sealer from the toolbox and tore open the pack with his teeth before pulling the lump of gelatine out and tearing a strip away. He pressed the strip of sealant against the crack of the panel above him and watched as it crept into the crack and hardened. Smiling, he tore strip after strip until he had sealed all four sides.
Only after he had sealed the panel completely did it occur to him that he’d just wasted good sealant strips if his rewiring job hadn’t done what he’d hoped it would. He grimaced and grasped at the faint hope that he had done it properly. He probed with his pitifully developed senses. It felt right to him.
The Solos returned noisily; Jaina was giving Jacen a telling off for having crossed a wire wrong and almost shorting the system he was supposed to be fixing. Zak chuckled when they stopped at his midsection on either side of him, still bickering.
“Jaina, you got to it before there was any serious damage,” he pointed out. She glared down at him and he held his hands up in a defensive gesture. “I’m not taking sides; I’m just saying that there was no harm actually inflicted.”
“Jeez, Jaina,” Jacen started, “you’re acting like a Wookiee that just had her butt handed to her in djarik.
“Could have gone much differently, though,” Jaina said, shooting a dirty look sidelong at her twin. Zak shrugged and turned his hands so they could help him up. Jacen grasped his left hand while Jaina grabbed his right and both pulled.
And suddenly he wasn’t in the shuttle anymore.
He was on board a ship, but it wasn’t like any ship he had seen before. Two figures danced around each other, indistinct, all of their defining details blurred so that he couldn’t identify who they were. Each of them wielded a lightsaber against the other—violet against ruby-red.
When the blades clashed, they sent sparks and flashes of light across the surrounds. Metal, junk littered the floor around them, and a hovering disposal droid nearby backed away from them as best it could.
The best Zak could tell, the combatants were man and woman. The man wielded the red blade, and was missing one of his arms. The woman had both of hers. Both of them moved like they were wounded, exhausted, but at the same time neither of them seemed to waver in their resolve. Even with as little training as Zak had, he could just sense the darkness coming from the man with the red lightsaber. So that meant that his opponent had to be a Jedi.
Zak strained his eyes to try to make out some kind of detail, tried with all his might to see who it was that was fighting right in front of him like he wasn’t even there. But, try as he might, he could find no feature on either of them that gave them away. Even the way they moved as they fought was alien to him, an unknown quality.
Rebekah and Luke were the only ones he had seen move in combat while wielding lightsabers. And even just watching that one short encounter was enough for Zak to recognise how they would move if he saw them again.
These two were clearly not Luke or Rebekah. That, at least, was a relief to know.
Zak was taken aback when the man switched his weapon off all of a sudden, and a strange aura that wasn’t quite light, or dark, emanated from him. He spoke to his opponent in words that were as blurred together as his features, but in some way seemed like a kind of plea. But the woman ignored him, swinging wildly, choosing to treat his words with as much mind as an insect beneath her feet.
Perhaps he had it all wrong. Perhaps she was the dark one, and he had confused what he had been feeling and from whom.
When he realised that his words weren’t getting through to her, he decided on retreat. He dashed past the woman to the door, but was brought up short when she raised a hand and it slammed down in front of his face.
He backtracked, wheeled around.
And then he was gone again.
When the colours and rushing wind subsided again, Zak found that was still on his back on the shuttle. He gulped heavily and opened his eyes to see Jaina leaning over him, her fingers pressed against the side of his neck, feeling for his pulse.
“Zak!” Jacen said with a cheeky grin. “Welcome back to the land of the waking. I was just about to run and grab Tash to wake you up.”
“Uh …” Zak said, shaking his head. Jaina removed her fingers from his neck and rocked back onto her knees to give him space.
He shook his head again and rubbed at his eyes to drill the image of what he had seen into his mind. He needed to remember it for what he planned to do next. Someone had to be told, and he could think of only one person who would matter.
“Are you okay, Zak?” Jaina asked him. He looked at her, saw the worry on her face, the guilt, and he was glad that it wasn’t the pain and anguish he had just seen.
Whatever had happened to him, she was afraid that she had set it off. He couldn’t quite understand how. He couldn’t even explain what it was he had seen. The future? The past? Something happening right now in a far off place?
“Yes,” he said, gulping down more air and sitting up. “Yes, I’m fine.”
“Someone fainted, methinks,” Jacen said. Zak looked at him to see the cheeky smile was still upon his lips. He was teasing and Zak shot him a glare to let him know that it wasn’t at all appreciated. “Perhaps … not, then,” he added as an afterthought.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jaina persisted. Zak nodded.
“What happened?” he asked them.
“You fainted,” Jacen said, sounding serious this time. “No, seriously,” he added when he saw the biting look Zak renewed in his direction, “you totally fainted … passed out … lost consciousness—whatever you want to call it, that’s what you did. We went to help you off your butt and you went completely limp for a few seconds and then seized up and didn’t move for like, I dunno.”
Jacen looked to Jaina for help. “You were out for the past five minutes,” she added. “Any longer and yes we would have gone to get Tash, or Uncle Luke.”
“I’m glad you didn’t,” Zak said, relieved. “It was probably nothing. Probably just stress,” he added. “You know, with everything that’s happened and all.”
“What do you—” Jacen started until Zak pushed himself to his feet and flexed his arms and legs to work the kinks out of them. “Everything in working order?”
“Working perfectly. All greased up and ready to go,” Zak replied with a smile. Jaina got up beside him.
“Going where, exactly?” she asked cautiously.
Zak felt the gentle touch of a passive probe coming from her and he sealed himself off. It was the first thing he had dedicated his time to learning. It wasn’t that strong of a seal, and he doubted that Jaina wouldn’t be able to penetrate it, but he was holding onto the hope that once she knew it was there, that she would get the message and not try to probe any further.
“To see your uncle about this dizzy spell,” he said, half-truthfully. “See if he agrees with my assessment before I stop by the infirmary for some sleeping meds.”
The Solos looked at each other uneasily but nodded to him nonetheless. “Will you be back, or are you done for the day?” Jacen asked.
“I think I’m done for the day,” Zak admitted a little ruefully. “But if you guys want to continue, go for it. I just need to get a little more rest, I think.”
“Okay,” they both said in unison. “I think we’ll call it for the day too anyway,” Jaina added. “Would you like company?”
Zak smiled at her, catching her eye for just a moment longer than was normal. “I’ll be all right,” he assured them both, so that Jacen wouldn’t get the wrong idea. “Really. I’ll see you later tonight?”
“Sure.” Jacen smiled back, biting on whatever remark he’d been about to let loose on them, and Zak turned and left them there.