Year 2975: Dheru


Time flows like a river, always forward, sometimes slowly, sometimes with a speed so fast it passes in the blink of an eye. Memories are made. Revolution. War. The rarity of peace so short when it happens that it seems a dream. Time flows.

The black eagle takes off.

Flying through the sky of a worn-torn planet, the eagle passed destruction as if it were simply normal. Ruins stood within sand and rocky regions, leaning on the wind as it carried the bird on by. The sun pounded on the dark wings, pushing on the bird's freedom, a weight meant to break.

But the bird flew on, over diamond mines, passing war factories in the sand as it neared the city. Big ships came from the city, flying ships, spaceships, heading for the vastest frontier known to man. It was here, hidden among the fumes of a broken human settlement, that the eagle rested. The bird clawed into the ruins of an old human church, long forgotten. No life came here any longer. The free eagle could rest safely.

Then came the girl. Green eyes that had been gazing at the graying sky saw the mythical creature and met the red eyes with a gasp. Surprised, but not worried, the bird simply ruffled his feathers and began pecking at the sand and grit that had gathered in his wings.

The girl stared a few moments longer, her own black hair catching sand in the desert wind. Then, as if answering a voice in her mind, she gave a nod and dashed away into the Zoranian-controlled space port. No one but a few curious eyes took note of the girl in the bland brown dress, gray cloak and aging sandals. She dashed through similarly clothed humans, pausing only once to wait and bow to a Zoranian patrol.

Eventually, she slowed her pace, glanced around to check for watching eyes, and feeling satisfied to see none, she opened an alley way door and marched down to the underground of the Dheru Resistance force.


Underneath the Dheru surface – located somewhere west of the Aria space port itself – Jake Reed sat on an empty cargo box, staring forward at his prized spaceship. Having escaped Zoranian slavery from the heart of Zoran itself, Jake felt like he owed his ship more than an existence gathering dust underground. Four years ago, he had stolen the Emperor's own secret private vessel, re-colored it black and re-named it the Black Eagle. If he had tried any other ship, there was no doubt the Zoranian forces would have been able to catch him. Using both their surprise and the ship's superior capabilities, he had been able to free himself from Zoranian control. Jake nodded to himself. Yes, the ship deserved better, much more by far.

"You know, if it weren't for the red on your sword hilt, I wouldn't be able to see you in this light."

Jake turned his head to the annoying boy who insisted he was a partner, and shrugged. Mitchel Maxell was really only a year younger, but his happy-go-lucky attitude got on Jake's nerves more often than not. Mitchel had never faced slavery. None of these Dheru fighters had. Of course, any Dheru fighters that had been true warriors near twenty years ago had been taken to Zoran where there was no escape. Except for Jake. He had escaped, but then, Jake wasn't truly from Dheru, though the rest of his family was. Jake had been born on Zoran, the first human child to do so.

"Last time you made that comment, you said it was my eyes."

Mitchel laughed, nearly knocking over the candle-lamp sitting on the ground at his feet as he rocked his legs forward. "Not that it really matters. You're not exactly the stealthy type when it comes to missions. You know, Chaze hates that about you."

Jake shot his self-proclaimed partner a glare. "I don't give a shit what Chaze thinks. I didn't join the Resistance here to sneak around and gather information. At least on Zoran we blew shit up."

Mitch winced, the artificial candle flame making shadows across his boyish face. Silence stalked around the hanger and Jake turned his attention away from the brown haired, blue-eyed happy child. Uncrossing his arms, he began to finger the katana hilt, running fingers over the cross-stitched grip his mother had designed. His mother. Shaking his head, Jake slouched forward on his seat. Memories were better left alone. He had a new life now.

Instead of serving Zoranians, he was fighting against them. He had done exactly what he had promised himself. Using the mocked sword as his weapon, Jake had broken free and gotten his revenge. After his first few months of freedom, which he spent in space, alone – well, alone with a droid – he had realized that chasing down and destroying a few Zoranian fighters wasn't giving him the satisfaction he wanted.

So he sought out the Dheru Resistance, joined their ranks, and soon discovered that they all saw him as some sort of prophesized hero. They all looked at him as if he were going to rescue everyone, save humanity. It sickened him. Damnable cowards were always looking for a miracle, for someone else to save them. Not to mention, the Resistance leader, Chaze Gunweed, wasn't creative enough. Spying missions? Single-kill ambushes? Where were the failing factories? Where were the mass murders? The Zoranians just kept going on about their lives, brushing off the Resistance attacks as if they were nothing but dust on their uniforms.

As much as all the inaction annoyed him, Jake was put even more on edge by the rumors. Talk of a green-eyed hero on Dheru had attracted Venz-xarl to the planet. Venz-xarl. Jake ran a hand through his black hair—spiked now, how his mother always wanted—and shivered before he could stop it. If there was ever a reason to run, it was the knowledge that his old slave master was on the planet, hunting him.

"I need to get out of here," he muttered.

Mitchel dropped from his own box seat, picking the lamp up as he moved closer. "You always say that. I can't imagine why."

Jake raised an eyebrow, glancing toward the bobbing light, which caught and bounced against a hilt belonging to one of the two short swords Mitch used. "Can't imagine why I hate it here?"

Mitch laughed, though it seemed a little forced and didn't echo through the darkness. "Surely you don't hate me…or this place. Just a joke, right?"

Shaking his head, Jake pushed himself off the cargo box, sending a glare to Mitchel when the annoying man tried to move closer. "It's just not enough. Nothing is enough. Damn it, why can't I have control of a space fleet?"

"Like the Elvians?"

Jake clenched his hands, feeling his anger explode. "Elvian traitors! If it weren't for them…" His anger drifted away at the memories.

Thoughts of his father spouting those same words when he was younger. Thoughts of his mother praying, praying to no one in particular, she would say, just praying for something. Thoughts of his genius brother finally working up the courage to talk to him, to map out his escape. One day, he would rescue them. One day, when he had more than a single ship and a single sword.

"Jake, talk to me. I can help."

Falling back to the present, he glared at his self-proclaimed partner. "No, you can't. No one can help me with this."

Silence echoed through the cargo bay. Jake stared into the darkness, watching the shadows bouncing around the candlelight. Trying to think of what his next course of action should be. He wanted big. He wanted more. He wanted something he just didn't have the resources to pull off.

And yet, he knew that no one could help him. No one else saw the opportunity as a true possibility. No one else wanted to take the risk. Everyone was playing it safe. And as they played it safe, nations were falling.

Earth wouldn't help. They were busy fighting the Elvians and the Xenese. Jerchu wouldn't help. They were lost and different from the beginning, but now they were especially useless. Controlled, enslaved worse than Dheru. Used to make the war weaponry that was killing their kind on the main front.

No one could help.

He sighed, running a hand through his black spikes of hair, just as a female voice intruded on the quiet darkness. "Perhaps you should accept the help that is offered, even if it is not what you are specifically searching for."

He spun at the sound, the black cape he had added to his uniform rustling at the quick movement. With the dim artificial candlelight, he could only make out the shape of the newcomer standing in the tunnel entrance. Hair tied back in a ponytail, hands behind her back, wearing a dress of some sort and sandals… Probably just one of the many jobless, poor humans without anywhere to go. The Resistance was full of that sort. If Mitchel hadn't been so good with his blades, Jake would have scoffed and hated the man more since he had made the Resistance base his home, seeing as there really was nowhere else.

He narrowed his eyes. "What does it matter? Nothing changes anyway."

The little light streamed out down the tunnel entrance, creating shadows around the strange girl that danced along the walls and floor. She kept her hands behind her back in a somewhat non-threatening position. It made him wonder if she was hiding something, but her gaze seemed to hold him. Not that he could see her eyes, but the angle of her chin and the strength to her seemed off, compared to what he was used to – the normal Human stance here on Dheru. It seemed... defiant.

"Everything changes. All the time. People change. Nature changes. Even the stars change."

Narrowing his eyes further, Jake put his hand to his sword hilt and dropped into a stance of his own. A defensive stance. A warning.

He saw her eyes widen slightly and her posture relaxed, her arms moving out, forward, crossing in front of her chest. She almost took a step forward. Her body seemed to lean as if wanting to, but she held back. Why did she hold back?

Her display put him even more on edge. He was not used to seeing defiant, aggressive people around here. Who was she? Where had she come from? Certainly not from Dheru. The accent wasn't right anyway. Even that seemed off.

A hand touched his arm and he spun, releasing the sword, stopping it halfway out of the sheath when he realized it was only Mitchel. Damnable man. Jake growled, opened his mouth to snap something at the child who appeared more concerned over him than the stranger. He should know by now not to touch him. Everyone in the Resistance should know that.

Movement came from the tunnel and he forgot all about his anger toward his partner. The girl was gone.

"What the hell..." he muttered.

Where could she have gone? That fast? Even with the little light he should have at least caught a shadow, or been able to hear her footsteps leaving. But then, he hadn't heard her footsteps as she approached.

Something was wrong. Off.

"Relax, Jake, there's nothing there," Mitchel said, standing close but at the accepted distance now.

"Where did she go?" Jake growled.


He blinked. Releasing his grip on the sword, letting it slide back into its sheath, he turned to his Resistaince partner. When he searched the man's face, he detected nothing in his posture to indicate he was lying or teasing. Mitchel was easy to read when it came to such things. But the look in those eyes showed worry, and the slump to the shoulders indicated a helplessness.

Jake clenched his teeth and turned away.

"Nevermind." He crossed his arms for a moment, thinking.

Occasionally soldiers were known to fall to a madness, seeing threats where there were none. Talking to people that didn't exist. But that had seemed so real. And he didn't feel any different. He wasn't really a soldier, either. He was a Resistance member, an escapee from the slave life of Zoran. Life was stressful, but no where near as bad as his time there.

Something was definitely wrong. And it couldn't be him.

He shook his head and started walking down the tunnel entrance, not even sparing a glance for his ship. The black cape trailed after him, as did the footsteps of his boyish partner.

"Jake, where are you going?"


"Now? It's still daylight."

He gritted his teeth. The coward. "I'll be fine. Don't follow."


He spun, glaring into the eyes of the annoying little brat. Everyone was so weak here. It bothered him. He had expected more. It angered him, frustrated him. There should have been better, should have been more. They were all so damn useless.

"Don't. Follow."

Without waiting for a response, he turned back and continued walking into the darkness. He didn't need a constant light beside him to see, as long as there was something behind him or in front of him – and Mitchel always carried a light. Jake was used to the darkness. He had lived on Zoran after all.


The warmth of the sun felt incredibly good after so long. Although he called the Dheru Resistance members cowards for avoiding the surface during daylight, Jake didn't do much work in the exposed light either. But he was from Zoran. He had a different reason. He was more used to the darkness; he worked better without the sunlight. Not because he was worried about being seen, but because the light tended to distract him.

And the warmth was only nice for so long.

Sweat was already beginning to bead at the back of his neck and on his forehead. The gel in his hair threatened to melt if he stayed out here too long, even hidden in the shade of an alley space. Mitchel had once told him that the black he wore made the heat worse, but Jake wasn't about to change his choice of clothing. It was his mark. It was his.

Black and silver, like the katana and its sheath. Slave colors on Zoran. Red sewn into the grip to show defiance, and hopefully more mockery toward Venz-xarl, seeing as red was his old master's color, his mark. Jake had been forced to wear a red uniform on Zoran, just as he'd been forced to keep his hair cut to Venz-xarl's standards, at a length that made it impossible to gel for the Dheru warrior spike style.

Now he wore black, with silver edgings and a silver eagle design on the shirt. Even his belt was black with red and silver lines on the edge. He would take their slave colors and he would kill them with it. He would take their slave sword and destroy them. He would throw their mockery in their faces and they would learn to fear him.

Jake stared out at the busy streets of the Aria spaceport, watching the Zoranians push through the huddled masses of poor Humans. As he stared, hunkered down in a small unnoticeable shadow between two Human shops, he let his thoughts drift. He watched as ugly Zoranian patrols passed time after time, making him think back to the large lizards he had found on his one Earth visit. Except they were lizards standing upright, wearing uniforms, and speaking with all the civilized qualities one would not expect to see in an animal.

"And so we called them aliens..."

Jake shook his head at the memory, the words from some random Human he had met on his visit. The words were actually from a book, and the Human had seemed disappointed to realize Jake didn't read, couldn't read. Explaining slavery to that man had seemed impossible. Like he wouldn't accept that Jake had come from another world, that a Human could even be born outside of Earth.

There were reasons he had left that place, original Human planet or not.

"Find him. He's here somewhere."

The deep grating voice, every word sounding like a cut-off hiss, like every other Zoranian but different. Recognizable. Because of the way it curled around the vowels.

Jake froze and looked out in the streets, toward the nearest market square which was a few buildings down. He saw what he had feared and started to feel his fingers shake as he leaned against the wall, feeling the mix of clay and rock against his hands. Amid all the other Zoranians in the area, red seemed to be a suddenly common color. Red and blue. One Zoranain in the center of the crowd had a mostly blue uniform with several honorable decorations and a red sash and symbol.

Familiar eyes gazed toward his hide out, and Jake had to keep himself from falling backwards. He barely kept himself from jumping back further into the shadows, fighting to keep control over his emotions.

Of all the times...

Of all the places...

Why did Venz-xarl have to be...

"Oi, Master Jake." A cool metal hand touched his arm, nearly causing Jake to cry out.

He bit back and swallowed the fear, forcing himself to focus, forcing himself to calm. Venz-xarl hadn't spotted him yet. He was still safe. He was free. They couldn't find him. He was safe as long as he stayed back and stayed hidden. Should he wear the hood on his cloak or keep it down? Would it matter?

Biting his lip, he turned around to face the droid he knew was behind him. The one person – or thing, really – that was allowed to touch him. Seeing as a droid was programmed, unable to hurt, unable to betray. For the most part, droids were unable to think beyond their original professional use. D-K21 had been his coordinate droid, found and reprogrammed on the Black Eagle, the one who had made it possible for Jake to find Earth in the first place, and then Dheru. D-K21 was a little different from other droids, too, in the respect that he – it – could hold a conversation and seemed to know things outside of his – its – little programmed area of profession.

It had been some time since Jake had seen D-K, though. He let the droid wander around the spaceport, letting it do whatever droids did. And D-K seemed to enjoy the strange freedom. But it had been a while. It would have been nice to see him again, except this was bad timing. He had to run, and the droid would most likely follow or draw attention.

Damn. How do I...

"Oh, greetings, Master Venz-xarl."

Jake froze, feeling his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth. Backing up against the side of the building, he dug his fingernails against the dried cream colored clay chipping away. Little flakes fell to his feet as he worked to compose himself. Slowly, he turned to face the Zoranian in blue and red that he knew would be standing there, watching him. Venz-xarl was always watching him; he tended to watch and wait far more than one would expect of a Zoranian Conqueror.

The Zoranian had his hands behind his back, but Jake knew the monster was ready to pounce at him should he make one wrong move. His old training started to kick back in. His brain began to shut down. He felt his hands shaking, felt his legs growing weaker.

And then Venz-xarl spoke. "Perfect."

With that word, Jake felt his defiance and rage spring back up. He clenched his hands into fists and pounced off the side of the building. He saw the Zoranian move forward, but he was already running the other way. Pushing D-K21 out of his way, using the metallic surface of the droid as a hard surface, he leaned back and shoved his way forward. Refusing to look back, partially afraid that one look at his old master would knock him back into a slave mentality, Jake just focused on running, as fast and as far as he could. Away from Venz-xarl. Away from the betrayal of his droid. Away from the pursuing patrols now notified of his position.

He had to move. Fast.

His feet flew out of the alleyway, racing down the busy street at a close half-pace to his heartbeat. Short, quick breaths escaped him. Pain tingled in his legs as he shot one leg in front of the other. Air stung against his eyes as he watched his progress through the streets.

He kept an eye on the Zoranians he flew past. Most weren't paying enough attention to notice him until it was too late. Hopefully, he could keep it like that. He just had to find somewhere to go. For the moment, he was running aimlessly, just running, because thinking was too difficult to work for among the irrational fear.

He shouldn't have been so afraid, but it was Venz-xarl behind him. It scared him more than he would ever admit out loud. If any Zoranian knew his ways, knew how to catch him...

After all, even back on Zoran, Venz-xarl was the one to put a stop to his crazy mischievous deeds among the Resistance. Any bombardment, any infiltration, Jake was always the best one, always on top, always leading the way...until his Zoranian master showed up on the scene. Not that he cowered and ran every time. At first, he would try to outmaneuver the alien master, always trying to be one step ahead of Venz-xarl's plans.

Unfortunately, the Zoranians didn't idolize Venz-xarl for nothing. A Conqueror was a big deal, a tough thing to accomplish; it didn't involve simply conquering another planet. Being a Conqueror meant one had maneuvered themselves politically to be just as important – or sometimes more important – than the Emperor himself. If not for the Zoranian oaths keeping the Emperor on top, there could have easily been a new monarchy setup, a new family in charge. Venz-xarl was pretty much on the same respect and power level, except for the fact that he willingly served the Emperor.

Why Zoranians followed those oaths so well, Jake would never understand. With such a militaristic lifestyle and power hold, why put faith in a religion? A religion over a real, live, person as if they were a Great Almighty Being. Why?

Not that Jake understood the Earth religions either. Worshiping something or someone you couldn't see seemed about as silly to him as falling down for an Emperor family that would be the same as everyone else if you took out the level of respect and honor.

It probably never would make sense to him. Why would Venz-xarl, with all his political power and authority, bend knee to a lazy Zoranian he could easily shove to the side? Jake hated to admit it, but on a deeper level, he found respect for Venz-xarl. The damn alien was always ahead of him, always ready. Except for that one time. Jake had only managed to outsmart his master once, and that was when he used the Princess to set himself free. A betrayal from the royal family itself. Of course Venz-xarl hadn't expected it.

But now...

He felt like he was back on Zoran, racing around trying to think of ways to slip away, wishing for a miracle, whether or not he believed in such things. He wished for it all the same. Some way to escape. Somehow...

"Got him!" The exclamation of a local Zoranian came shortly before the tug from behind.

Jake's fast running spree was suddenly ended by a choking pull around his neck. As his feet flew out from under him and he crashed to the ground, reaching hands up to his collar, Jake realized why the cape was such a stupid idea after all. All the lectures from his brother, Paul, came rushing back as he struggled to undo the clasps keeping the black cape connected to his shoulders.

Which was a lot harder than one might think. The Zoranian that had made the lucky grab wasn't about to let go anytime soon, and on top of that little fact, he was also dragging Jake along the sandy ground, back the way he had come. Back toward Venz-xarl. And that little fact made Jake's hands tremble as they fought to be released.

Finally, the Zoranian stopped dragging, and Jake could focus long enough to get one side unclasped. Now, he just had to get the other side and he could get back to running.

"Not exactly the way I expected our reunion, but not too far from my guess either."

The voice made him freeze – but just for a second. His brain registered Venz-xarl. Fear made him start to shut down once again. But he clawed his way back for air and reached for his sword.

Being in a terrible position, he wasn't sure what he could do, but people were watching. He had to show them what it meant. What defiance meant. How to not give up. How to keep fighting even when all looked lost. He had to show by example. That's all he knew how to do; that's all he cared to do. To be honest, the defiant show was more for his own selfish benefit than for the poor humans of Dheru. He had to fight back years of trained reactions; he had to defy those habits. Even if freedom at this point looked hopeless. He had to do something.

Venz-xarl was hovering above him now, blocking the sun, creating an interesting shade. With a hand on his black sheath, Jake pushed himself up on one elbow, one step from releasing the sword. He saw the crowd of Zoranians forming around him. They recognized him now. Some had seen him throughout his Resistance life on Dheru, but he had always made sure to keep it quick in a feeble attempt to keep them from recognizing him, to keep them from reporting to Venz-xarl. But they recognized him for sure now, as did the human crowds watching from beyond.

He could feel eyes on him from seemingly every angle. But he focused on just one pair: his old master still hovering above him. Gritting his teeth, Jake tuned everything else out and focused on the object of all his fear.

"This won't last," he growled.

Venz-xarl simply leaned forward. "No, it won't."

As the Zoranian leaned down, Jake unsheathed his sword in as fast a rush as he could manage. For a split second he lost control of his balance. The sword came out and slashed across and then the pull of gravity had it and Jake's uneven weight distribution falling back. His back hit the ground again, but he reacted differently. Instead of staring dazed, he reacted. With a quick roll – being careful with the blade of his weapon – he positioned himself and pushed himself to his feet as fast as possible.

Venz-xarl was behind him immediately, a lizard hand gripped around his sword wrist. Jake twisted and struggled, fighting against the monster, pulling his free arm back in order to attempt to forcefully punch his way to freedom. Of course, he knew that solution wouldn't work, not against Venz-xarl, not against any Zoranian.

Fear began to creep up again. Curses flew out of his mouth at an alarming rate. The katana fell out of his hand and his arms were pulled behind him. It wasn't just Venz-xarl behind him, of course, but Venz-xarl had been the one to take his main hope out of the picture so quickly.

His knees hit the ground, dirt flying up as he fought. A scaly reptilian hand pressed against the back side of his head, forcing that down, too, until his mouth was full of dirt. He kept spewing the curses, kept fighting. At least they didn't have the electric whips. At least it wasn't painful.

But he would not fall this easily! He couldn't! Not now!

If only he believed in something... If only...

A strange cry filled the air. A squawk, as if from a bird of prey. But the pressure pushing against Jake's body disappeared. He heard the Zoranians complaining. Heard Venz-xarl curse, something he hadn't heard since...

"Jake! Run!"

The female voice that reached his ears over the strange cacophony caused him to pull his reactions back together. He shot to his feet as fast as possible, grabbed the katana sitting in the ground, now smudged and covered in grime and sand. He sheathed the sword and started running, ignoring the cape behind him that fluttered oddly in the wind with only half of it connected to his shirt.

However, Jake did spare a glance back, curious as hell to see what had saved him from such a hopeless predicament. He froze in his place and felt his jaw drop when he saw a legendary bird attacking the Zoranians. A black eagle. His sign. His icon. It really did exist. And it had saved him.

"Hurry. This way."

He turned from the crazy sight and faced the familiar girl. The nondescript outfit, but the outlandish expression and mannerisms. The one Mitchell had not seen in the underground. She was back. And holding out a hand, as if inviting him somewhere.

Jake lowered his eyebrows and felt his personal defenses spring up. Everything that wasn't already set high moved up a notch. He did not trust this girl.

The girl, however, just rolled her eyes. "Like you have a choice?"

Glancing behind him to see that the black eagle had flown off somewhere else and the Zoranians were starting to look around for him again, Jake winced and gave in. He really didn't have a choice.


He didn't get a chance to finish the question. After accepting her hand, he was pulled down into an entrance of the Dheru Resistance. An entrance even he didn't know existed. Who the fuck is this chick?

As soon as they were encompassed in darkness, she stopped, leaving him to run into her, seeing as he had not expected her action. Finding his footing again, he felt his anger start to leave his control.


"Shh!" Seeing as it was too dark to see, instead of making a motion to be quiet, she reached over and slapped a hand over his mouth.

"Okay, that's it!" Jake snarled, ripping the hand away. "Don't fucking touch me again!"

"Grow up," she muttered. "Follow."

"Like I can follow in this -"

"For a hero of the Resistance, you're really stupid," the girl whispered at him, though the voice sounded further away and as if she had thrown it over her shoulder.

With a growl, he stepped hesitantly in the direction of her voice. "I didn't ask to be -"

"No one ever does."

"Are you just going to keep interrupting-"

"Yes, until you stop talking," she whispered again. He could almost sense the glare.

What is this chick's problem? I don't get it. Why 'save' me and then bitch at me for stupid things?

"That's better."

He grunted, still slowly following her voice in the darkness. He actually reached up and pulled the other side of his cape – the free side – back around to the front to clasp it together again.

"The Zoranians are above us, so that's why you need to be quiet. This is one of the tunnels from before the invasion on Dheru – the invasion you were born in. That's why no one knows about it, I guess. It does seem like they found a few and believed that to be it, instead of searching around to see if there were any more," she started to mumble off, speaking of things he couldn't understand, mentioning names and places he had never heard of.

"But I was born on Zoran."

This brought her back to her focus point. "Right. Well. The invasion is the reason for that. Anyway, your ship should be around here, I think."

He blinked. "My ship?"

Before the strange girl could respond, a small light showed itself within the tunnel and he could definitely see the girl in front of him, though there was something different... But more importantly, he saw the Black Eagle spaceship. The place where he had started this whole crazy day.

But why bring him back to his ship? Why not just lead him down into these tunnels and set him loose, seeing as he had been rescued from the Zoranians?

And then he noticed a strange figure. He had expected to see Mitchell still hanging around the ship area, but there was a different stranger now. If it wasn't for the light coming from his open spaceship shining directly on this new arrival, Jake probably wouldn't have even noticed the stranger in the darkness. He had never met someone that could hide in darkness so well. Zoranians didn't have much light on their planet, but even then it wasn't hard to actually see buildings and people. But this guy was just...dressed in black with dark hair and a dark complexion... he even had a black bird on his shoulder.

"Wait a second here!"

Jake froze, refusing to move another step toward this strange trio. The girl that only he could see was connected with the black eagle that had attacked the Zoranians. Both had been involved in a rescue mission. Which meant the new stranger was involved too?

It was too good to be true. Too coincidental. Jake hated coincidences.

"What are you people? Why come help me? Why are you here at all? What the fuck is going on?" The katana was out. The defense posture was set. The eyebrows lowered. The eyes angry, distrustful.

To his great surprise, the two strangers didn't even seem to care about his presence and especially not about his questions. The girl rushed for the dark man. The bird shuffled its feathers. The two humans embraced and then the two spoke to each other, words impossible to make out through the whistling sound of wind. Wind? Where was the wind from?

Grinding his teeth, Jake snapped. "Hey! Explain this!"

The man looked up and moved forward, putting the girl behind him. His mouth was set in a frown. His hands didn't move from their position beside his body. He just simply looked out at Jake from across the secret launch bay, and he began to speak.

"I apologize but we cannot say too much on who we are or what we are about. But I can give you our names. I am Drask. Kyroque is the one behind me who led you here. Avin is the raven. And you will have to accept that we are here for good intentions. I am here to advise you to get off this planet – and then to provide the opportunity for you to do so."

Jake growled. "Why do you want me off planet? Are you going to do something to Dheru while I'm away? Are you leading me into a trap?"

The man named Drask simply shrugged. "Whatever I say, you will still believe what you first assumed, so I think it matters not. I have come to rewrite what has been undone."

"Right. Like that makes any sense."

The girl stepped forward, giving a glance to Drask as she pushed him aside. As she took control, the strange man backed away into the shadows, putting a hand to his head as he did so, as if something else were on his mind, as if something else were bothering him. Jake wanted to ask about it, but for some reason he felt an emphatic need to focus just on the girl. What was her name again? Ah yeah, Kyroque. Odd name.

"Remember what I said earlier? Accept the help that is offered to you, even if it's not what you're specifically searching for."

Unable to hold back the anger anymore, Jake felt himself explode. "Stop saying that like it's easy to do! I accepted help once without being wary and it turned into a trap! I will not make that mistake again!"

Kyroque turned away from him and looked toward the dark man, biting her bottom lip as she did so. "This is going to be harder than I thought..."

To his surprise, the man shook his head. "It doesn't matter. We have to go."


"We did what we could, Kyro. The rest is up to him. I can't stay here any longer. He's coming."

Jake stared at the two of them, watching her shoulders slump, wondering why the strange man had such urgency in his voice. None of it was making any sense at this point. He opened his mouth, about to ask a question, but then they disappeared. One blink the three of them were standing there. And the next blink, they were all gone. The girl, the man, and the bird.

Just like earlier. Without any footsteps, echoes, or any kind of noise. Not even a goodbye. Just gone.

"Dammit. I am not going crazy!" At least his shout echoed around the chamber.

But now he was left with the ship. His ship. The Black Eagle. And his sword. The katana. Glancing down, he let out a rush of air, and sheathed the sword.

What else was he going to do anyway? He had complained about wanting to leave Dheru. Now that Venz-xarl was on the planet, there wasn't a better time to run.

He wasn't doing it because they had suggested it. He was leaving because it made the most sense to him. He was running from Venz-xarl. Until he found a way to combat the Zoranian Conqueror, he was going to run.

Too bad his D-K droid had turned out to be dual-owned. A betrayal from a droid shouldn't hurt.

But being alone was going to suck, even if it was the safer route.