Spoilers: The Young Jedi Knights series
Zekk stared down at the holopic he held in his hands. It was of a girl who appeared to be in her late teens, with long, jet-black hair, dark eyes, and tan skin. She wore the faintest glimmer of a smile, although her expression was anything but a happy one. Her clothes were made of black leather, and she was wearing a black cape with a crimson lining. Zekk sighed. "Where are you?" he wondered aloud, never once taking his eyes away from the holopic.
Suddenly, Zekk felt a hand on his shoulder, and he jumped about a kilometer. "Jaina," he said quickly as he shut off the holopic, put it in his pocket, and turned around.
"Are you okay?" Jaina asked, wondering why Zekk had reacted that way when she had walked up. Normally, he would have sensed her through the Force.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Zekk assured her.
"What were you looking at?" Jaina asked, her brown eyes searching his green ones.
"Just an old pic, nothing important," Zekk told her.
Jaina raised her eyebrows. "Are you sure? You seemed awfully lost in thought when I walked up."
Zekk leaned down and gave her a quick kiss. "I'm sure, Love. Now isn't it about time for dinner?" he asked.
"Yeah, that's why I came looking for you," Jaina said, deciding not to push the subject of the holopic with Zekk.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Zekk asked, echoing the words Jaina used often. Then he reached down, took her hand, and they walked to the mess hall in silence.
A young girl stepped out of a transport and looked around her new surroundings. She took a deep breath and glanced at the massive temples in front of her. It had been so long since the last time she had been on Yavin IV, although memories of the place still haunted her dreams. Of course, her last visit there had been under different circumstances.
Luke Skywalker walked out to greet the new trainees that had just arrived.. There were five of them-three girls and two guys. One of the girls caught Luke's attention immediately. She was small, with long black hair that she wore pulled back in a tight ponytail and big, dark eyes. It was her eyes that brought her to Luke's attention. They looked sad, as if they had seen much more than a girl of her age should have.
Luke talked to the trainees, welcomed them to the Jedi Academy, and told them what they could expect from their training. The dark-haired girl hung back, and avoided making eye contact with Master Skywalker. Luke told the new trainees to go inside the temples, and that either Kyp Durron or Tionne would show them their quarters.. However, he stopped the sad-eyed girl as she began to go in, saying he wished to speak with her.
The girl felt a streak of panic shoot through her. Did he know? Had he seen through her that easily? But the Jedi Master spoke calmly, and she felt herself relax.
"I sense the Force is very strong with you," he told her, meeting her dark eyes with his soft, blue ones.
"Thank you, Master Skywalker," she said shifting uncomfortably.
"Tell me, what is your name?" he asked her.
"Kayla," she told him quickly. "Kayla Lewis."
Luke nodded. "Welcome to my Jedi Academy, Kayla," he said with a smile.
"I am honored to be here," she told him, and she truly meant it. It looked as if things were finally going well in her life.
"You can go on inside now and get your living assignment. I'll see you tomorrow morning in class," he told her.
Kayla nodded, then picked up her bag and hurried into the temple.
Jacen Solo sat down on the edge of his twin sister's bed. "Hey Jaina, did you hear five new trainees came in today?" he asked.
Jaina nodded. "Yeah, I heard," she replied, her voice sounding distant.
"You okay, Sis?" he asked, noticing that Jaina didn't seem quite herself.
Jaina considered keeping her thoughts from Jacen, but decided that would be foolish, if not impossible. "Yeah, actually something is sorta wrong. It's no big deal, really," she said.
"Well, what is it?" Jacen asked, genuinely interested.
"It's Zekk," Jaina replied.
Jacen raised an eyebrow. "He didn't hurt you, did he? 'Cause if he did, I'll kill him," he said.
Jaina rolled her eyes at her brother's overprotectiveness. "No, he didn't hurt me. He's just seemed really distant for the past couple of days, and today he was looking at a holopic, but he shut it off when I came up and then wouldn't tell me what it was. I'm just being a worried girlfriend, I guess," she explained.
"Maybe," Jacen said. Then he asked, "Have you tried to talk to Zekk about it?"
"No, I'd rather not try to drag anything out of him. He doesn't like to talk about what's on his mind very much, and I'm afraid he'll get mad at me if I pry," Jaina said with a sigh.
"Well, then I don't know what to tell you," Jacen told her. "Maybe you're right, maybe it is nothing. Zekk is a rather moody guy, it's probably just that."
"I hope so," Jaina said as she flopped back onto her bunk.
Kayla looked around the audience chamber where the Jedi trainees were filing in to hear Master Skywalker speak. She shifted uncomfortably on the stage. She didn't really want to go through a formal introduction, but Skywalker insisted, saying it was the best way for all the trainees to get to know their new comrades. Kayla looked up to see a familiar face in the crowd. Quickly, she looked away, not wanting to make eye contact. She figured as long as she could avoid him while she was there, her Jedi training would go perfectly well. She could start a new life for herself and never have to look back. Of course, she knew that would most likely be impossible, seeing as Master Skywalker was about to introduce her to a room full of people that included the one person who could ruin all her plans.
Zekk felt his jaw drop as he looked down at the last new trainee Master Skywalker introduced. It couldn't be her. No, she was gone from his life for good-most likely dead-so that girl couldn't possibly be her. But that was a face Zekk knew he'd never forget. Although her hair and clothes had changed, there was no doubt in his mind who he was looking at. Not only was she not dead, but she was here at the Jedi Academy.
"Zekk, are you planning to sit there all day or what?" he heard Jaina ask after the assembly had ended.
"Um, yeah, I just want to, um, talk to someone first. I'll catch up with you in a bit, Jaina," he said as he got up from the hard, stone bench.
"Okay," Jaina said, wishing she knew what was going on in his mind. "I'll be working on the *Rock Dragon* with Lowie."
Zekk gave her a hurried kiss. "I'll come find you," he told her as he walked towards the front of the chamber.
"Tempest!" Zekk shouted after the young woman.
Kayla spun around. *No, Zekk, please, not now* she thought to herself, but she said, "Hello, Zekk."
"What are you doing here, Tempest?" he asked.
"It's Kayla now," she informed him. "Now please, leave me alone."
"Okay, Kayla," Zekk said, making her name seem foreign to even Kayla's own ears. "I'm not going to leave you alone. You walked out of my life three years ago. Now I want answers. Tell me, what are you doing here."
"I'm training to be a Jedi," she told him.
"Oh really?" Zekk asked. "Or are you a spy like Brakiss, trying to destroy the Academy?"
Kayla suddenly became very aware of all the Jedi trainees milling about. "Please, if we're going to talk, can't we go some place a little more private."
"Fine, come with me," Zekk said as he began to lead her towards his quarters.
Kayla obediently followed.
"What are you doing here?" Zekk asked again as soon as he shut the door to his quarters.
"I told you, I'm training to be a Jedi," Kayla said, her voice exasperated. "And not a Dark Jedi. You have a lot of nerve, acting like I'm some sort of evil person when you yourself were Brakiss's 'Darkest Knight.'"
"I know," Zekk said, looking down. "I'm just confused as to why you're here, as well as upset over the way you left me. Sith Spit, Temp...Kayla, I thought you were dead. I mean, when you never showed after the battle. I looked for you." Zekk looked up at her and then continued. "I was a bounty hunter, for a while, did you know that? Well, I was. And I was always looking for you. I kept that search secret, but I was looking for you all the same."
"Why?" Kayla asked. "Why'd you spend all the time trying to find me? Why didn't you just stay with your Jedi friends, replace me with Jaina sooner? You always loved her; she meant something to you that I never could. What made you want to find me so desperately? I would never do anything but pull you back down the dark path! We were never good for each other, Zekk."
"I know," Zekk said softly. "But I loved you all the same."
Kayla sighed. "There's something I think you need to know about me," she said, sitting down on the bed.
Zekk sat down across from her. "What is it?" he asked.
"There were these former Imperial Guards who used old holos of Palpatine and created a scam that became known as the Second Imperium. I was in league with those guards. I knew it was just a sham the whole time. It was my job to keep an eye on Brakiss, to make sure he didn't grow smart and discover the truth about the 'Emperor.' All I had to do was be his girlfriend, get him to let me be close to him," Kayla explained.
Zekk looked at her in shock. "So you were playing Brakiss the whole time," he said, his throat suddenly dry. Then a new thought crossed his mind. "Were you playing me, too?"
Kayla shook her head. "Of course not. I loved you, Zekk. I didn't mean to fall for you. It just happened." She laughed a little. "You almost ruined everything, you know that? When you asked me to run away with you, I was really going to do it. I knew they would find me, probably kill us both, but I was going to be an idiot and do it. But after the failure of the attack on the Academy here, I wised up. I knew I'd lost everything, but you were back where you belonged. You were with your old friends, you were with..." Kayla paused for a second. "You were with Jaina."
Zekk winced at the pain that was in her voice when she said "Jaina." He knew that Kayla had always believed that the love Zekk had for Jaina was stronger than anything he ever could have felt for her. "You could have at least come to say good-bye," Zekk said after a moment. "Let me know you were all right."
"I wanted to Zekk, I really did," she told him. "But I knew if I came back that I wouldn't want to leave, and I knew that couldn't happen. You and I just aren't meant to be. I know you know it, too."
"So why are you here now?" he asked.
"Because I want to be a Jedi," she told him, sick of repeating herself. "I want to learn how to use my Force talents the right way. You won't tell who I really am, will you Zekk? You won't ruin this one chance for me. Please, if you still care about me at all, keep this one secret for me."
Zekk sighed. "No, Baby, I won't tell anyone. I'll keep this secret for you. But please, don't make me regret this."
"I won't," Kayla promised as she got up from his bed. "See you around sometime," she said as she headed towards the door.
"You bet," Zekk said with a slight smile. Then she was gone.
Zekk fell back onto his bed. After all these years, she was back in his life. But he didn't love her anymore. Did he?
A couple of days later, Zekk was sitting in the jungle, thinking. He had been able to avoid Kayla since the talk they had had when she first got there, but he knew he couldn't stay away from her forever. And his thoughts were in constant turmoil, which was really putting a strain on his relationship with Jaina.
Zekk heard someone walking behind him. "What are you doing out here?" he heard someone ask.
He turned around to see Jaina. "Oh, um, hi," he said.
Jaina raised her eyebrows. "I don't even get a hug?" she asked.
"Um, okay," Zekk said as he got up and gave her a small, pitiful hug.
Jaina looked hurt. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothing, nothing's wrong," Zekk said, just a little too quickly.
"No, something's wrong," Jaina insisted. "I've kept my mouth shut for long enough. I'm your girlfriend, I don't want to be left in the dark like this."
"Maybe I'd rather not tell you, alright," Zekk replied harshly.
Jaina looked like she was going to cry. "Fine," she said, her voice wavering. "If you don't want me around I can take the hint."
"Jaina, no, wait!" Zekk called. But it was too late. She had already run off.
Zekk slumped back onto the rock on which he had been sitting. Why did things suddenly have to get so complicated? Everything had been going great in his life before this. He was a Jedi Knight, he had a place where he felt like he truly belonged, and he had Jaina. Now the reappearance of one person in his life was threatening to ruin it all. He knew he should just be honest with Jaina-otherwise he could lose her-but what could he tell her? And he had given Kayla his word that he would keep her secret.
Zekk sighed. No matter what he did, one of the two women was going to be angry with him. "I have a bad feeling about this," he muttered.
Kayla woke from fitful sleep. The nightmares she had been having for as long as she could remember were steadily getting worse. She slipped out of bed and put on her robe. Although the night air of Yavin IV was warm, Kayla felt cold.
She walked over to the small kitchenette and began to fix herself a glass of warm nerf milk, hoping it would lull her back to sleep. It didn't. After three glasses she was just as awake as ever. Something wasn't right; she could sense it.
Slowly, Kayla turned around. Instinctively, she reached for her lightsaber, although she had not carried one since she left the Shadow Academy. A dark figure stepped from the shadows. Kayla tried to scream, but before she could, her whole world turned black.
Zekk sat up, wide-awake although it was still several hours before dawn. Suddenly, he heard a scream rip through his mind. He recognized it immediately as the girl he had once known as Tempest. He got up, threw on some clothes, grabbed his lightsaber, and ran down the hall to her quarters.
When he go there, Master Luke was standing by the wide-open door to Kayla's quarters. Zekk stopped in front of his teacher. "I...I heard her scream through the Force," he explained, finding it hard to get the words out.
Luke nodded. "So did I. I rushed over here, but I was too late. She's gone," he explained.
Zekk felt his heart sink. "Are you sure? Maybe she just stepped out for a little bit, and..." he stopped, knowing that that wasn't true. Someone had taken her by against her will, he could sense it.
"You knew her before," the older man stated. It was not a question.
"I loved her once," he replied, figuring it was pointless to try to keep anything from Master Skywalker. "But that was a long time ago."
"She needs you now, Zekk," Luke said solemnly, understanding that Zekk didn't want him to ask any more questions about the nature of his relationship with the mysterious Kayla. "She needs someone to rescue her."
Zekk nodded. "Tell Jaina I'll be back soon."
"I will. And may the Force be with you," Luke replied.
Zekk gave his master a grim smile and then took off for the hangar bay.
Zekk knew that he should do a full diagnostic scan on *The Lightning Rod* before he took off, especially since the ship was as old as it was, but he just didn't have the time. Kayla got farther away from him with every second that passed.
Steadily, Zekk began to pilot his ship out of the atmosphere of Yavin IV and into space. He took a deep breath, using the Force to calm himself. "It's just like being a bounty hunter again," he muttered. "Only this time Kayla's life depends on me finding her."
Zekk had always had a knack for finding things. He had used that talent as a scavenger in the lower levels. Later, he had discovered that what he had always believed to be luck was, in actually, a sign that he was a Force-adept. There had been a time when Zekk had misused his Force skills, become a Dark Jedi, Lord Brakiss's Darkest Knight. That was when he had known Tempest; that was when he had loved her. However, that was then, and this was now. Now she was simply a friend-a friend in desperate need of his help. He had to save her. If not just for her, then for himself. She was a chapter of his past that he had to close if he ever wanted to move on with his life-especially his life with Jaina. Maybe saving Kayla would be the way to do that. And if it wasn't, well, he'd cross that bridge when he came to it.
Zekk considered searching for any trails he could follow to where Kayla was being taken, but he figured whoever had her would probably use a series of microjumps to avoid being followed. If he tried to follow them all, his search would quickly turn into a wild goose chase. Instead, he focused on the Force as he looked down at the navicomputer. He reached down and entered a series of coordinates, trusting in the Force to bring him where he needed to go. He pulled the lever in front of him and watched as the stars around him faded into the starlines of hyperspace. "Please, Tempest," he whispered. "Let me find you this time."
"He what?" Jaina asked as her Uncle Luke filled her in on Zekk's whereabouts.
"Jaina, someone had to go after Kayla," Luke said, trying his best to avoid telling his niece the actual reason why it had been Zekk and not someone else who had gone to save her.
"Why did it have to be Zekk? And if he did have to go, why'd he have to go alone? It's a dangerous galaxy, and..." Jaina stopped in mid-sentence, not wanting to voice any of the horrible thoughts that were running through her head. She was near tears. First Zekk had been acting strangely, pushing her away, and now this.. She wasn't sure she could handle it.
"Jaina, it had to be Zekk for a lot of reasons," he tried to convince her.. "For one, Zekk used to be a bounty hunter. He's had practice with this sorta work. And for another, he was awake when I first found that Kayla was gone. Someone needed to go right then, hopefully before she got too far away from us. Zekk was there, ready to go with an easily accessible ship. If we had taken the time to organize a group it could've been too late."
Jaina nodded to let her uncle know that she did see where he was coming from. Still, she had her doubts. "You're hiding something from me, Uncle Luke," she said. "What is it?"
"I think that's something you need to discuss with Zekk when he gets back," Luke replied. Then he turned and left Jaina standing alone.
"If he gets back," Jaina muttered when her uncle was out of earshot.
Zekk sat alone in the cockpit of his ship and stared out into hyperspace. Everything seemed so strange to him-familiar, and yet so unfamiliar at the same time. Before, when he had been a bounty hunter, he had been running from a dark past, trying to find who he was, who he had become. Now here he was again, only this time he wasn't running from anything. In fact, he felt more content in his life than he ever had before. Still, here he was again, searching. He was searching for more than a person, just like he had been before. Only this time, he wasn't searching for an escape. He was searching for answers. He had to know, where did he stand with Tempest, or Kayla, or whoever that woman was? Did he love her, or did he love Jaina? Was it possible for him to love them both? And if it was, who did he love more? Kayla herself had said that she had always known that Zekk loved Jaina, loved her more than he had ever loved Tempest. Was she right?
Zekk groaned a little bit, sick of all the unsettling thoughts he couldn't get rid of. "That's the one thing about being alone out here in space," he said to himself, "it makes you think."
Zekk glanced down at the chrono. It would be another two days before he dropped out of hyperspace and to wherever it was he was going. He guessed he could try to get some sleep. Up until then he had been running on adrenaline, but now it was becoming apparent that he had woken up too early. Trying one last time to push his more disturbing thoughts from his mind, Zekk got up from his chair and walked to his bunk in the back of the ship.
Zekk couldn't have been asleep for more than an hour when he was awakened.. He looked around his cabin. Something was wrong. "Sith spit," Zekk muttered as realization sunk in. The ship wasn't moving. "Sith spit!" he said again as he rolled out of the bunk and ran to the cockpit. He pushed a few buttons, trying to get the ship started again, but he had no luck. His ship was dead in space. He sank back in his chair, a feeling of complete and utter hopelessness washing over him. "I knew I should have run a diagnostic check," he said to himself. But Zekk knew there was no point in dwelling on that now, for he understood, as well as anyone could, that you could never change the past.
Jaina suddenly let go of the large piece of metal she had been using the Force to lift up to Lowie. "Hey, Jaina, watch out!" her twin brother Jacen yelled as he jumped out of the way to avoid being flattened.
Lowie looked over at Jaina, and barked a comment of concern. Jacen looked at his sister and saw that she was as white as a sheet. "Jaina? What's wrong?" he asked, running over to her.
Jaina shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. "Zekk's in trouble," she finally forced out. "I just felt him cry out for help through the Force."
Lowie let out an inquisitive growl. "Master Lowbacca wishes to know if you desire to go after Young Master Zekk," piped up Em Teedee, Lowbacca's small translator droid. "I personally believe that such a venture would be rather dangerous, but it has become clear over the year that you young Jedi Knights enjoy danger."
"We don't like danger, Em Teedee," Jacen said, "it just seems to like us."
Jaina nodded grimly at her brother's comment. "We have to go after him. Zekk could really be in trouble. I love him too much just to let him do this on his own when he could get hurt," she said in answer to Lowie's question.
Jacen nodded his agreement. "Okay, let's make these last repairs to the *Rock Dragon,* and then we can get Tenel Ka and go looking for Zekk," he said.
Jaina smiled a little at the prospect of finally being able to search for Zekk. "Well," she began, "What are we waiting for?"
A few short hours later, Jaina and Jacen Solo, as well as their friends Tenel Ka and Lowbacca, were following Zekk's hyperspace trail, hoping that they weren't too late and that their dear friend and fellow Jedi was not harmed. Tenel Ka placed a strong, comforting hand on Jaina's shoulder. "He will be fine," she assured her companion.
Jaina nodded. "I know. I can feel it," she said, although her voice didn't convey the optimism of her words.
"We're coming up on Zekk's last known coordinates," Jacen called from the cockpit.
*Please, Zekk, be here,* Jaina thought. Then she calmly got up and walked to the front of the ship, dreading what she'd find when she pulled them out of hyperspace.
The starlines turned back into stars. Jaina felt her heart leap. There it was-Zekk's ship, the *Lightning Rod.* But something was wrong. She couldn't sense Zekk anywhere. Yes, that was his ship, she would recognize that beat-up old bucket anywhere, but Zekk was not on it. She looked around at her friends. They could sense it, too.
"Looks like we're too late," Jacen said softly.
"No," Jaina said, refusing to give up hope. "Zekk is still out there somewhere, I can feel it. We can't just accept this as defeat. We have to keep looking."
"Jaina, I want to find Zekk, I really do," Jacen said. "But this is a big galaxy, and we don't even know where to being to look. The four of us wandering around aimlessly is not going to do Zekk any good. I say we go back to the Academy and regroup. Maybe we can get some help from Mom."
Jaina shook her head. "You know how slow the New Republic can be," she reminded her brother. "By the time they get a search organized for Zekk, chances are he'll already be dead. We just don't have that kind of time. I know we don't have any leads, but we're Jedi, so we have the Force. It will guide us to Zekk. We can't stop now. We have to at least go aboard his ship. Maybe something there will help us."
"Jaina has a point," Tenel Ka said.
Lowie growled his agreement.
Jacen knew when he was beaten. "All right, we might as well search the ship," he conceded. "But let's be smart about this. We really won't be any help to Zekk if we're all dead."
The other three nodded. "Let's board that ship," Jaina said.
"What are we waiting for?" Tenel Ka asked, mimicking Jaina in such a perfect tone that Jacen found it eerie that the voice came out of his girlfriend.
It was dark on the ship, and the young Jedi knights had to turn on their lightsabers in order to see. Tenel Ka reached down and took hold of Jacen's hand with her bionic arm. She had lost her original arm in a lightsaber battle a few years prior and had only recently chosen to get a replacement. She had simply grown weary of doing everything one-handed.
Jaina noticed her brother holding Tenel Ka's hand. She couldn't help but feel sad, as well as a little jealous, at that sight. She missed Zekk and had been missing him since before he had run off in search of the missing Jedi trainee. It was almost as if he'd been gone for weeks, although Jaina knew it had only been a few days. Jaina hoped that when they found him, she and Zekk could work things out. She wasn't sure if she could handle it otherwise. "I don't think he's been gone long," she said, breaking the silence.
"I think you're right," Jacen replied. "I can still feel his presence fairly strongly."
Lowie sniffed the air, then with a series of grunts, pointed to the cockpit and started walking. "Master Lowbacca wishes for you to follow him," Em Teedee called back a needless translation. The three human Jedi gladly followed their wookiee companion.
Lowie wiped his hand on the back of the pilot's chair and then looked down at the blood that was now on his fingers.
Jaina felt some comfort at Tenel Ka's words. She knew that Zekk was indeed alive. Still, she also knew that he was in danger. "Lowie, check the navicharts and see if there are any planets around here that someone could possibly have taken Zekk to," she said as she began to scan the room with the Force, hoping to find some clue as to where Zekk was.
Jaina looked down at the floor and saw a cylindrical-shaped object laying there. She bent down to pick it up. "Zekk's lightsaber," she said softly. Suddenly, Jaina felt an unbelievable wave of emotion wash over her. She sunk to the floor, her legs no longer strong enough to support her.
Jacen, Tenel Ka, and Lowie all rushed over to her. Jacen took her by the hand and led her over to the co-pilot's seat. "What happened?" he asked.
"I'm...I'm not sure," she said, her voice shaky. "I think it was trace of what Zekk was feeling right before he left."
"What did it feel like?" Tenel Ka asked, hoping that Jaina's experience could give them some clues to Zekk's current whereabouts.
Jaina took a deep breath, trying to sort through her thoughts. "It felt like...pain... and regret. He felt like, he'd let someone down...someone he cares about very much," she said slowly. She looked up to meet Tenel Ka's gaze. "I think it's Kayla Lewis. He knew her before...almost in another life..." Jaina grew silent. She didn't want to acknowledge the other thoughts she was picking up.
"Do you think he left the *Lightning Rod* against his will?" Jacen asked.
Jaina nodded. "That much I'm sure of," she told her brother.
Jacen took a deep breath. "Well, then I guess we better find him."
Zekk rubbed his sore head as he woke up. With a pained groan, he sat up on the hard bunk. He blinked twice to focus his eyes and then began to survey his surroundings.
"Where am I?" he wondered out loud.
"Good question," said a familiar voice behind him. "I've been here three days, and I'm still not totally sure where 'here' is exactly."
Zekk spun around, a little too quickly for his head. "Tempest-you're alive!"
"How many times do I have to tell you it's Kayla now?" she replied with a facial expression that may have almost been a smile. "And yes, I am alive. Although after spending only three days in this place, I'd almost rather he'd just killed me."
"He?" Zekk questioned. "Who is 'he?'"
Kayla walked over to Zekk and sat down next to him on the bunk so she could talk quietly. "Remember how I told you the whole Second Imperium was nothing but a scam run by some former Imperial Guards?" she asked.
Zekk nodded. "Of course I do."
"Well, one of them is still alive, and he's the one that brought us here," she explained.
"Why?" Zekk asked her. "What does he want with us?"
"Well, he said he wanted me because I knew of his involvement with the Second Imperium, but I don't know why he grabbed you, too, since he didn't know I had told you. I'm guessing he simply grabbed you because you were looking for me," Kayla said.
A puzzled look crossed Zekk's face. "Then why doesn't he just kill us?"
Kayla shrugged. "I don't know," she replied. "Maybe because we're Force-sensitives and he wants us for something."
"Well, whatever his reasoning is for capturing us, I don't think it's so he can simply say hello," Zekk said. "I say we try to find a way out of here."
Kayla nodded her agreement. "I've been trying to figure out a way to escape ever since I was brought here. I think the best chance we have is to surprise the guard who comes in everyday with a meal."
"Sounds good to me," Zekk agreed. "Here's a way I think would work..."
Kayla leaned in closer so she could here Zekk's whispering.
The Solo twins and their friends spent a little more time on Zekk's ship, trying to find any clues they could that could help them even the tiniest bit, but they were unable to find anything useful. "I guess we'll just have to trust the Force completely then," Jaina finally said. Although Jaina had great faith in the Force, she still wanted some sort of tangible lead towards the man she loved.
The four young Jedi went back on to the *Rock Dragon,* using a tractor beam to tow the *Lightning Rod* behind them. Jaina sighed as she watched the stars turn into starlines as they sped towards the nearest planet in hopes that they could find Zekk-or at least something hinting towards his whereabouts.
Jacen placed a steady hand on his sister's shoulder. "Don't worry Jaina. We will find him." He said in the most comforting and certain tone he could manage.
"We have to," Jaina replied, her voice weak as if she was fighting tears. "I don't know how I'd survive without him."
Kayla and Zekk could here the sound of someone whistling coming towards the door of their cell. "Here comes the guard," Kayla said as she quickly threw herself on the ground. Zekk nodded and knelt down beside her.
Soon, the guard came into the cell, carrying a plate of something that Zekk didn't think could even be legally classified as food. "Hey, get over here. She collapsed," Zekk called to the guard.
Zekk silently thanked the Force when the guard quickly set down the tray and ran over to Kayla. Zekk had hoped that whoever had captured them wanted them alive for some reason, and therefore the guard would be somewhat concerned if one of them appeared to be hurt.
As soon as the guard leaned over to see if Kayla was alive, she struck. She grabbed his arm and flipped him against the stone floor, causing him to hit his head just hard enough to be knocked out cold. Then, so quickly that to Zekk it almost seemed to be with the same movement she had used to attack the guard, Kayla grabbed a keycard from the fallen man's pocket. "We might need this later," she said gruffly. Then she turned and walked out of the cell.
Zekk hesitated in following her. Kayla turned around. "What is it Zekk?" she asked. "Are you starting to like it in here or something?"
"No," he replied. "It's just for a second there, well, the way you looked when you took out that guard, you reminded me of the person you used to be."
Kayla's expression was grim. "Old habits die hard, Love," she said. "Now come on. We don't have all day."
Zekk nodded and then followed her out of the cell. Quietly and carefully, they walked down the corridors that lead away from their former prison. "What's the plan now?" Zekk asked Kayla in a whisper.
Kayla shrugged. "I just figured we could wander around here until we eventually found a hanger bay where we can steal a ship."
"That's the best you can come up with?" Zekk asked.
Kayla shot him a dirty look. "It's not like we have much to work with here," she snapped.
"Well, there has to be something we can do besides wander around aimlessly waiting for someone to find us and stick us back in a cell. Or worse-kill us," Zekk shot back.
"Do you have a better idea?" Kayla asked.
"Not at the moment," Zekk admitted, "But I'm bound to come up with something."
"Oh yeah, I forgot, you're a tactical genius," Kayla quipped. "I guess that's why Brakiss made you his Darkest Knight."
Kayla's words made Zekk jump back as if he had been stung. Kayla saw how her statement had effected him. "Sorry," she said, her voice much kinder than it had been a few minutes prior. "I tend to get snippy when I'm stressed."
"It's okay," Zekk replied. "I just don't really like being reminded of when I was the Darkest Knight."
"I can understand," Kayla said. "I don't particularly like being reminded of when I was Tempest."
Zekk didn't respond to that, and the two of them continued to walk down the long corridor in silence.
Not much more than an hour after the *Rock Dragon* had gone into hyperspace, it stopped suddenly, making the return to realspace with a quick jerk.
"What was that?" Jacen wondered aloud.
Tenel Ka looked around, noticing that the ship appeared to be running smoothly and not damaged in any way. "I believe," she said, "that that was the effect of a safety device my grandmother had installed. It's supposed to pull a ship out of hyperspace if something that could possibly destroy the ship appears to be in the requested flight path."
"If that's the case," Jacen said, "what's in our way?"
Jaina got up from where she was sitting and began to walk towards the cockpit. "There's only one way to find out," she said.
Lowbacca barked out in surprise as soon as he got to the cockpit and looked out the window at what it was that had stopped them. Behind him, Tenel Ka gasped. "It looks like the Shadow Academy!" she exclaimed.
Jacen nodded. "Only somewhat smaller," he added.
"I think we just found where they took Zekk," Jaina said grimly.
"Zekk," Kayla said after about an hour of aimless wandering, "is there something about this place that seems familiar to you?"
"Yeah, I think we've passed this spot twice already," he replied.
Kayla shook her head, refusing to argue with him again about the fact that they were not only lost, but also that by now someone was probably looking for them, although no alarms had been sounded. "No, not that, something else."
Zekk felt his blood run cold. "It looks like the corridors of the Shadow Academy," he said.
Kayla nodded. "My thoughts exactly," she replied.
"Well, I guess that proves that it was definitely one of those Imperial Guards you talked about that grabbed us," Zekk said.
"Was there ever a doubt?" Kayla asked.
Zekk didn't respond, and Kayla stopped in her tracks. "There was, wasn't there. You still don't trust me completely," she accused him.
"I'm doing my best to trust you, Kay," he responded, "I really am. It's just hard."
Kayla glared daggers at him. "What makes it so hard? You trusted me back on the Shadow Academy, when we were lovers, and I was a lot less trustworthy back then. You were on the Dark Side once, too, you know, and you came back. Why can't you accept that maybe someone else could as well?"
Zekk hung his head, making himself appear partially ashamed. "Sometimes I don't even trust myself," he said.
Kayla turned around to face Zekk. Gently, she took his face in her hands and brought it up so she could look into his emerald-green eyes. Suddenly, she found that there was so much she wanted to say, but she didn't know how to say any of it. Zekk reached up and took her hands in his. They leaned in for a kiss.
Lowie growled a question. "Master Lowbacca wishes to know what you want to do now?" Em Teedee translated.
Jaina blew a stand of hair from her eyes. "I guess we can try to board it," she suggested.
Tenel Ka shivered at the thought of boarding something that so closely resembled the Shadow Academy, but what other choice did they have? They had to find Zekk. "Try to find a docking bay, Jaina," she said.
Jaina nodded her agreement. *There is no try,* she thought to herself. They had to do. They had to find Zekk. Slowly, Jaina piloted the ship closer to the space station.
"There," she heard Jacen say from behind her. He pointed to what appeared to be a docking bay right in front of them.
"I see it," Jaina replied. "Now let's just hope we can get in." Steadily, she guided the small craft towards the much larger station. As they approached the docking bay, the massive steel doors opened, allowing them to enter. Almost as soon as the ships were safely through the doors, they slammed shut, making the four young Jedi Knights jump a little.
Once Jaina and Lowie had completed the landing cycle, the group left the ship, their hands bent close to their lightsabers. "It sure is quiet in here," Jacen commented, as they walked off the ship and into the docking bay, which was lit only with emergency lighting.
"A little too quiet if you ask me," Jaina replied.
"This is a fact," Tenel Ka said as she moved closer to Jacen.
"Any idea where we go from here?" Jacen asked his sister.
Jaina shook her head. "Not really, but Zekk is definitely somewhere on this station. I can sense him."
Before their lips could meet, Kayla and Zekk saw a figure, dressed from head to toe in crimson armor, appear from the shadows. Kayla let out a cry and Zekk pulled her closer to him. She buried her head in his shoulder. "I don't want to have to face him," she whispered.
"But my dear Tempest," the Imperial Guard said as her heard her words. "I all but raised you. I made you what you are today!"
Kayla fought back the tears, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing her cry. She pushed away from Zekk. "I'm no longer Tempest," she declared defiantly.
"You may say that now, but soon you and your friend here will once again be my servants, willing to carry out my every order by using that infinite power known only to the Dark Jedi," the guard sneered.
Zekk shook his head. "No. Kayla and I aren't going to be your Dark Jedi," he said. "We've both battled the Dark Side and won, and you aren't going to turn us back."
"Such big words from a Trash Collector," the guard said, calling Zekk by the name his old rival Norys had called him back on the streets of Coruscant.
"I am a Jedi Knight," Zekk retorted.
"I can see why the Emperor had your kind eliminated," the guard growled. "Jedi have never caused me anything but trouble." The guard sighed heavily. "Well, I guess since the two of you are so stuck on the idea that it's better not to accept the opportunity I'm offering you, I might as well eliminate you the way the Emperor did the other Jedi." The guards reached into his crimson robes and pulled out a blaster. "Which of you two wants to be first?"
Kayla stepped in front of Zekk. "What opportunity are you offering?" she asked.
The guard lowered his blaster ever so slightly. "Just the chance to be the first of the Empire's newest attempt to create an order of Jedi dedicated to the Dark Side of the Force. The two of you would be in command of a facility similar to the Shadow Academy, only this time it would lack Brakiss and his idiocy. You would be there as the Empire finally rose from its ashes and crushed the Rebellion once and for all," he replied.
A slight twinkle lit Kayla's eyes. "You could really give us all that?" she asked, taking a step towards the guard.
"All that and more," he promised.
Kayla's grin was almost feral, and Zekk immediately recognized it as the one she had worn almost exclusively when she had been Tempest. "On second thought," she said, "that does sound rather intriguing."
"Kayla, how can you be saying this?" Zekk asked, wondering if she had been only pretending the whole time she had said she was changed. But if that was the case, why had the guard gone to all that trouble to kidnap her? Had it all been no more than a trap for Zekk?
Kayla turned around to face Zekk. At first the look on her face was pleading, almost as if she was begging him see things her way, but then it faded into something that could only be described as maniacal love. "Zekk, Darling," Kayla said, her voice frighteningly sweet, "Can't you see it, the two of us ruling the galaxy with our own legion of Jedi? We could be together, really be together, without having to worry about Brakiss, or Jaina, or anybody. Just the two of us. Wouldn't that be wonderful?" She placed her hands on Zekk's chest and looked up at him with her dark, smoldering eyes.
Zekk pushed her away. "No. I don't want that. I don't want to be a Dark Jedi again. And, I...I love Jaina!" he declared.
"Give up on him, Tempest, My Sweet," the guard said, raising his blaster again. "He's never going to do what we want him to do. Skywalker's corrupted him too much already. Might as well just kill him." As soon as he finished his sentence, the guard squeezed the trigger of his blaster, and a bolt shot out towards Zekk.
Jacen, Jaina, Lowie, and Tenel Ka hurried down a corridor, with the feeling that something terrible was happening to Zekk. Suddenly, Lowie stopped in his tracks and began to sniff the air. He growled, and Em Teedee translated. "Master Lowbacca says that he believes he can smell Master Zekk, Mistress Kayla Lewis, and one other person he does not recognize, just a little ways ahead of us."
Suddenly, as if to punctuate Em Teedee's words, the sound of a blaster firing, quickly followed by a woman's scream, came from the direction Lowie had indicated. The four Jedi pulled out their lightsabers and ignited them, lighting the dark corridor green, violet, turquoise, and molten bronze. Then, they nodded in unison and ran towards where they hoped to find Zekk alive and well, although they knew that it didn't look good.
"No!" Kayla screamed as the blaster bolt sped towards Zekk. Suddenly, she lunged between the guard and Zekk, causing the bolt to hit her squarely in the shoulder. Kayla grabbed her shoulder in pain and fell to the ground.
Zekk immediately fell to his knees. Kayla slowly opened her eyes. "I'll be fine," she said, her voice soft and barely audible.
Zekk nodded, realizing that the bolt had hit her in a manner that would not be fatal unless she could not get some sort of medical attention.
The guard re-aimed his blaster at Zekk. "Looks like I'll just have to try again," he said.
Suddenly, the blaster went flying from the guard's hand. "Think again," Zekk heard a familiar and welcome voice say. He looked up to see Jaina, holding her lightsaber in one hand and the guard's blaster in the other. Behind her stood Lowie, Jacen, and Tenel Ka, all of them with their lightsabers drawn and ready for battle. Zekk had never been more grateful to see anyone in his life.
The former Imperial guard knew when he was defeated. At the sight of the Jedi, he turned and ran down the opposite corridor.
The Jedi Knights didn't bother to chase him.
Zekk looked down at Kayla. "Did you really want what he was offering?" he asked her.
Kayla shook her head no. "I was only stalling; trying to give you enough to time to us your tactical genius to figure us a way out of this." She tried to give Zekk a smile, but the pain she was feeling caused it to be more of a wince. Zekk picked her up, and joined his friends and they ran towards their ships.
As they approached the docking bay where the *Rock Dragon* and the *Lightning Rod* were stored, a series of alarms went off. Kayla lifted her head off Zekk's shoulder. "If this really is a smaller version of the Shadow Academy, then that's probably the station's self-destruct sequence starting," she informed her companions. They began to run faster.
Tenel Ka, Jacen, and Lowie ran on to the *Rock Dragon,* while Jaina followed Zekk and Kayla on to the *Lightning Rod.* As soon as they were on the ship, Zekk put Kayla down and ran with Jaina towards the cockpit.
Kayla followed them, and sat in the seat behind Zekk. She watched how Jaina and Zekk worked together as pilot and co-pilot. They seemed to move perfectly in sync, although they didn't say a word to each other, as if they were anticipating each other's actions. Kayla felt a sort of sad happiness wash over her as she realized that although she had lost Zekk forever, he was in love with Jaina. She knew he would be content. Still, she wished she could be the one to make him happy, but she knew that this was probably for the best.
The two Jedi-piloted ships sped away from the space station as it exploded, sending out a shockwave that rocked both ships, but not more than what the pilots could handle. Suddenly, a third ship joined the mix. Kayla felt her breath still in her chest. "That's the guard," she said. "I can feel it."
Zekk and Jaina stilled for a moment, unsure of what to do next. Would the guard attack them? Their questions were soon answered, however, when the small, enemy ship shot off into hyperspace.
"What was that?" Zekk heard Jacen ask from the companel beside him.
"Kayla says it was the guard from on the station," Zekk replied.
"Where did he come from?" Jacen asked.
"I'll explain later," Zekk replied. "For now let's just go home."
Beside him, Jaina punched the coordinates into the navicomputer and then punched the hyperdrive, sending them on a course towards the jungles of Yavin IV.
"Kayla, wait!" Jaina called after the dark-haired woman as she prepared to board the shuttle off Yavin IV.
Kayla turned around to face Jaina. "Yes?"
"Do you really have to go?" Jaina asked. "You should stay here, become a Jedi. You're ability to create Force storms could be really useful."
Kayla raised an eyebrow. "You really want me to stay here, even now that you know about my past with Zekk?" she asked.
Jaina nodded an affirmative. "I trust you both enough to know nothing would happen between you."
Kayla smiled. It was nice to know someone trusted her. "Thanks for the offer, and believe me, I'd love to stay," Kayla said. "But can't right now. Especially not with that Imperial guard running loose the way he is. I need to find him and stop him, before he finds someone to help make his dreams of a Dark Jedi-run Empire come true.."
Jaina gave the older girl a quick hug. "I understand."
Kayla smiled and then turned back around to board the ship. Suddenly, she stopped and spun around to face Jaina again. "Can you do me a favor?" she asked.
"Of course," Jaina replied.
"Take care of Zekk for me."
Jaina gave Kayla a lop-sided grin. "Will do," she promised.
Kayla returned Jaina's smile, turned around, and boarded the ship.
"May the Force be with you, Kayla Lewis," Jaina whispered softly, as she watched the shuttle break through the atmosphere of the small jungle moon.