They were getting ready to lift off. No stun cuffs had been necessary. The boy was beaten, because his spirit had taken another unbelievable, crushing blow. And Kurie sat, unmoving and immovable in a passenger seat. Jayk and Leara knelt beside her, pleading with her to tell them what was the matter. She looked behind her, indicating the back hold where the boy was lying.
“Him,” she said, trying to control the emotion in her voice. “He’s my...brother.”
Leara gasped, but Jayk was already shaking his head. He spoke to Kurie in his calm, sensible voice. “Kurie, come on. I know you’ve never seen another Firrerreo before that you can remember, but I think it’s a bit more reasonable to assume he’s just another orphan, like you.”
Kurie fixed Jayk with a solemn gaze not characteristic of her. “No, Jayk. You’re wrong. I feel it. I felt it the minute I saw him, but until the dye washed out of his hair it didn’t make sense.” She raised a hand to her eyes, weeping. “He’s my brother.”
Leara could think of nothing to do but put her hand on Kurie’s shoulder. Little Tasio curled onto her lap and whimpered. Jayk squeezed Kurie’s hand, briefly, and then headed down the ramp and into the station.
Despite Jayk’s disbelief, Kurie was right. It said so in the files he found in the office of the young boy, who had earlier identified himself as Niko Kitana, or just Nik. Jayk told the boy what he’d found, which seemed to upset the him. He could have found out anytime, but he chose not to look in Senn’s files. After all, Nik thought he knew everything about himself.
He had been afraid to look and be disappointed again.
Jayk brought all the files with him, which were contained in an unguarded computer console. A scolding R7 unit followed him onto the ship. Nik muttered a word of thanks. A boy who had only an hour ago been his enemy had become polite. The sad irony almost made Jayk weep. Because Niko Kitana had not suddenly realized the error of his ways, and had an abrupt change of heart. No. The boy’s heart, his spirit, his soul was crushed under the cruel weight of uncertainty of the self.
Nik flipped through the holo files numbly. It was all here. Everything Nik had never known about himself, and never wanted to. The adolescent had been content with his identity. He was a boy born on Dathomir to the clan leader, rejected for his power. Why had he carried out his dark ambitions if not to take vengeance for his lost, faithless childhood? Who was there to blame but Tyns Ja and the clansisters?
Tyns Ja wasn’t his mother. His mother wasn’t alive.
But his sister was.
Nik reopened the file and looked at it again. What he read was the history of another boy, a Firrerreo. Nik was a human. He had to be. How could someone live for thirteen years and not even know what species they were?
Disgust and rage filled the boy. How could he not have known? This was all wrong, wrong. Nik hadn’t known a single true fact about himself except for his name. And like an idiot he had believed Axum. He had given in to the Dark Jedi’s every wish without a fight. He had become the Darkest Knight not just because he wanted vengeance, but because he had wanted to believe Axum.
Nik had willingly let himself be tainted by the affliction that was the dark side. He hadn’t wanted to turn, but stupidly he followed a master he hardly knew. And now the walls were closing fast, and who would rescue him?
Kurie knocked tentatively at the durasteel door to the back hold. “Come in,” a gruff voice responded. The girl hit the latch to open the door, slip inside, and shut it behind her.
Nik sat on a small bench on the right side of the door, head bent, black and silver hair disheveled and hanging about his pale face. Not having cleaned up after the encounter on Telti, he sat in his torn leather armor, his cape in tatters. The lubricating fluid had dried after hours in space, but his skin was sticky and his clothing thick with grime. A small computer console sat to one side, but several feet away as if he couldn’t stand to be too close to it. A red R7 unit rolled close to him, booping softly, showing a sympathy it couldn’t feel, but somehow understood.
Kurie, with her hair falling neatly about her shoulders and her jumpsuit clean and neat, contrasted him sharply. She sat on the bench across from him, her brown eyes clear, studying him, wondering if she should speak first. She didn’t know what to say. What could she say to a brother she hadn’t known existed all her life? Worse yet, an agent of the dark side?
She cleared her throat, trying to find the center of courage inside her. “Hi,” was all she could manage.
The boy lifted his head to look at her. His eyes were cloudy, with dark circles underneath them. His face contorted, fighting something inside. In a few seconds, it cleared again. He regarded her calmly. “Hello,” he answered her, his voice low and scratchy.
Kurie looked at him sadly. Although he was a year younger than her, Nik looked so old...she bit her lip. She mustn’t cry in front of him. Trying to spark conversation, she looked over at the computer. “So...you know, then?” She of course knew the answer.
“Yes,” he said softly. “But I...” His eyes welled up with tears and he looked away.
Kurie struggled with a solution. Should she comfort him? But she hardly knew him. Would he reject her?
She set her jaw firmly and knelt before the tortured boy. “You what?” she asked gently.
Nik looked up at her, straight into her eyes, and somehow he felt relieved. She was not interrogating him, he thought. She was worried about him--about her brother. The thought shocked him, but he saw in her eyes their bond. They were clear, different from his--but Nik’s had been like that, once, so long ago...
Tears sprang to his eyes anew. He regretted so much. He had been good, once, like her. Why had he turned? Why? The boy looked inward and shuddered. It was black, as black as coal. But hidden in there, somewhere, was a flickering candle of the virtuous boy he once was.
“I thought I was from Dathomir,” he told her, shaking his head. “I thought I was from Dathomir.” He couldn’t bring himself to tell her anything else.
And yet somehow she understood that this was connected with his fall to the dark side. Hesitating no longer, Kurie embraced him. Nik gripped his sister tightly, not understanding the gesture and not caring. No one had ever hugged him before, and the feeling was wonderful.
When Kurie pulled away, she wasn’t sure, but she thought Nik’s eyes were just a little clearer.