Letting the dreams leave

Session 4

When Yerran and Pern arrived the next night, Pern was the one who provided a more relaxed atmosphere. Being a young girl and very curious about the new city she found herself in, she had questions about the local government. She was most curious as to why there had been no meeting that day, when usually, a council meeting would have taken place. Jak explained that with the city-wide referendum taking place, in order to ratify the city's constitution, the council is undergoing a recess for the next 3 weeks, since having the constitution in a state of flux means any new laws would have little legality. The other reason for the recess was that the city was preparing celebrations to mark the 2 years since the fall of Baron Praxis' regime.

Jak then took the folder from them and read through the newest set of notes. Again, Yerran's was rather short. In today's session, Jak spent a great deal of time talking about his early impressions of and general life within the prison. It is clear by the ease of his explanations that imprisonment alone did not affect him so badly. He is understandably reluctant to detail those undignified moments. In a likely attempt to avoid reliving them he then talked about someone new, someone who was very involved in his adventures and yet was completely omitted from the stories told in the first session. Keira also provided more input and then she had a dialogue with Jak. It is clear this trauma (or traumas) has been a cause of tension between them.

Pern's notes had a lot less commentary this time, a lot less of her studious tone. Most of her notes were detailed descriptions of what he had said, organised into sections: his introduction to the prison, the medical examinations he was subjected to, his cell and Errol. The necessity he projected when talking about Errol means he places a lot of the blame for what happened to him on Errol. Jak couldn't argue against that, but he wished she was not so certain about it. He found it rather irritating that a girl as young as Pern was able to read him as easily as she could. He found it interesting, however, that her notes ended in a question. How many physicals - after being injected with Eco - did he have?

Keira was sitting on the sofa next to him, her feet tucked under her legs. She watched as Jak placed the folder onto the coffee table and started counting, concentrating as he held out his fingers.

"19, I think. Maybe 20. That was how many times I got injected with Eco, then had my physical. While strapped down." Pern immediately started scribbling more notes in her notebook.

"So what did they do next?" prompted Yerran.

"I was left in my cell for some days again, then one afternoon they took me to the same room. They didn't gag me this time, so I could move my head, even talk to them, but they never listened to me. There were 2 scientists there this time. There were usually 2 or 3 and I always had this sensor on my chest. The first time Erol was there. He said it was time to begin the Dark Warrior Program - didn't know what he was talking about back then. He just stood there and watched as one scientist filled a needle with Dark Eco." Jak frowned. "I knew what it was without asking and I freaked. I begged them, I pleaded that they didn't inject Dark Eco into me. But as I said, they ignored me. 1 needle emptied into me, then they took my blood pressure and watched my arms. Then they did it all again. They waited before doing it all again. Erol just made notes and didn't say anything. After a while, they were happy I wasn't suffering from it in anyway and they called the guards to take me back to my cell. Every afternoon this happened. Sometimes there was a day when I wasn't taken there, I never knew why. When they switched from injecting needles of Dark Eco to loading little sacks of Dark Eco into me, that was when they got their reaction. I would always throw up when the Dark Eco was nearly finished up."

"When was it they switched from injections to full-on IV treatment?" asked Pern.

Jak let out an exasperated breath. "I don't know. Can't remember. I remember those sacks were only like, half-full or something before they slowly filled it up."

"You mentioned vomiting," thought Yerran aloud.

"Yeah. After the first time it happened, they always held a bowl up to my mouth, knowing I would throw up again. I hated it. Throwing up is a humiliating thing to do anyway, but those scientist guys? They knew it was their fault. I wanted it to stop - the feeling and being made to absorb Dark Eco when I didn't want to. I noticed they always gave me a quick check at the start, make sure I was as healthy as possible. So, I stopped eating." He smirked. "It's not easy, forcing yourself not to eat. I never slept too well either. But after 2 or 3 long days of not eating, the scientists looked me over, gave me a longer physical, then said they couldn't do the experiment. I thought I'd be happy but I was just relieved. I kept on drinking my water and tea, but this time, I let myself eat a little fruit, or a little bit of bread. Every time they checked me, I was too weak to go through with it. I thought I'd won."


Jak ignored the tray of food enticing him on the floor. He sat curled up on his bed, staring at the screen in a daze. There was a broadcast of one of Baron Praxis' propaganda pieces, but he wasn't really paying attention or absorbing any of it. He just stared at the imagery while nursing his overwhelming abdominal pain and slight dizziness. He heard voices beyond his cell door, very angry ones. The door suddenly opened.

"JAK!" The boy jumped and stared at the angry and very real Baron Praxis, standing in his cell. Erol and a guard were entering behind him. "Jak, you're making the work of my men impossible."

Jak shook his head vigorously. "You can't use Dark Eco like that. It's uncontrollable. It's dangerous." His starving self meant his voice was a lot smaller and more pleading than he would have liked, but at this point, he was begging the baron to understand.

The city's ruler only sneered. "Dangerous? I know the dangers of Dark Eco well. I also know, I need to defend this city from the Metal Head threat! And you're my key to this." He noticed something on the cell's monitor. He strode to the young prisoner, grabbed his head and wrenched it to the monitor broadcasting the propaganda. "See this? These are Metal Heads. Truly dangerous and destructive. What I need is a warrior, with unrivalled power. And you could be it, Jak. You just need to obey."

"I don't need Dark Powers to defeat them, just give me normal Eco, I can use that."

Praxis gritted his teeth. "You know and understand nothing, boy! Bring him!" He marched out of the cell and 2 guards dragged Jak out behind him.

The young prisoner found himself in the lab and felt the lab technicians (as that was what they really were) strap him down as usual. Before he realised it, his head was being held in place and a hard gag was forcing his mouth open. The straps on either side of his jaw were tightly fastened, making it impossible to move his head. As the technicians stepped away, he realised with growing alarm that his mouth was being held open and his tongue forced into position. He saw a tube moving into his vision. He screamed, twitching his head side-to-side in a futile show of protest. He continued his desperate, wordless scream even as the tube was inserted into his mouth, muffling the noise he created. He found himself gagging and choking as the tube was forced down his throat, following the length of his food pipe.

Once the contraption was set up, the funnel hovering over Jak's mouth was placed in a stand. One of the technicians then poured in the jug of pureed foodstuff. The prisoner felt tears in his eyes and attempted to blink them away; a few of the tears escaped. He helplessly felt the viscous liquid force its way through his throat, pouring into his stomach without pause. Baron Praxis leaned into view, beaming triumphantly at him.

"That was a nice attempt at disobeying me," nodded Praxis, "but as you can see, we have ways of dealing with disobedience. Is this unpleasant for you? Well forgive me for having no pity! I award loyalty and only loyalty. For your disobedience...and stupidity, this will be the only way you're having your meals until I say so. Breakfast: here. Lunch: here. Supper: here. Bon appetit!"


Jak glared at the floor, curled his fists against his thighs. He had forgotten how humiliating the experience had been. "He meant it too," he continued in a low voice. "I was forced back there that evening. I was fed my..." he scoffed, "supper, then put back in the cell. I cried when the lights went out." He released a long breath. His mind lingered on the memory of being curled on the bed, blanket wound tightly around him, whimpering in the dark while tears trickled endlessly from his eyes. "I knew I had to get out of there.

"They didn't fill me with Dark Eco straight away. After every force-feed they'd measure my heartbeat. Then they would say if I could be ready that day or the next. Every time I was taken out of the cell, I'd watch as much of my surroundings as I could, trying to find a way out. One time, I spotted some sort of storage room, where chemicals were kept. Eco was kept in there too. I hadn't had any new Dark Eco injections for days and I felt no different, no bad effects. So I figured I'd run to that storage room and get the jump on them."


Jak paced up and down his cell, forcing himself to memorise his plan. He knew the guards would come for him at any moment, so he needed to be prepared. He nervously watched the door, partly desperate for it to open, partly desperate for it to stay closed. He took breaths to try and calm his nerves. Mentally, he repeated the plan in his head, pacing more calmly, until he became nervous again.

The door suddenly opened. The boy stood his ground as 2 guards marched in, preparing to handcuff him and march him to the examination room. As the first one grabbed his wrist, Jak suddenly launched his other hand up into the guard's straightened elbow, stunning the guard somewhat and then launched the flat of his foot into the back of the guard's knee, forcing said guard to collapse to the ground. Jak avoided the other guard's attempt to catch him and spin-kicked him into the other 2 waiting outside. The prisoner ran over the fallen guards and sprinted down the corridor to his right. He heard the guards' shouts and pretty soon, the entire complex was shrouded in the alarm.

"Prisoner, escaping!" chanted the loud robotic voice between claxons.

Jak kept sprinting, even as groups of Krimzon Guards gathered in front of him, as he knew speed was his advantage. To avoid their tasers, he swung over the metallic barricade lining the walkway bridge. He used his momentum to swing his feet into the chest of another guard. Jak had to jump to the ground and ducked low, trying to remain as small as possible before resuming his speed. As he sprinted past the guards, he headed towards where he had seen the red Eco being taken. When he came across lone or paired guards, he would simply slide under their arms and continue running. At some point he heard Erol's voice shouting down the metallic corridors.

Jak could feel his energy being sapped away, panting and wheezing more as he tried to reach his goal. He found the large door, briefly panicking when he saw it closed. Suddenly it opened and a lab technician stepped out. The sight of the young prisoner sprinting towards him left him stunned. Jak pushed him aside as he ran past and stared round him inside the storage room. He panted as he tried to locate what he had been looking for. He jogged to the end of the room, wondering which aisle to check, when he spotted the boxes containing the familiar red gas on an upper shelf. Grinning in relief, he grabbed onto the shelves, clambering up them like a ladder, while haphazardly trying to pull one box towards him.

"We have you trapped!" announced Erol, with the door pulled open wide and guards marching in behind him.

In his surprise, Jak lost his grip and the box he had been trying to grip slammed down from the shelf to the floor. The plastic container that surrounded it cracked from the impact.

Erol frowned in confusion. "What are you-"

Jak tore off the cracked part of the plastic and held his hand over the exposed opening triumphantly, wearing his first genuinely delighted smile in weeks. He quickly absorbed all the red Eco into his arm and tensed it, standing up and feeling ready for combat. But something was wrong. The triumph and confidence shining in his facial expression was visibly replaced by the look of pain and shock. The tingling he usually felt when absorbing red Eco did not ebb away, instead, it turned into a burning sensation, one that felt like the insides of his arm were aflame and the bone would burn to a cinder. This burning sensation washed through his arm and began spreading through his shoulder and chest.

The guards stared at this in horrified curiosity. Erol shook his head. "You foolish boy..."

Jak stared at his arm and screamed. His entire arm was swelling rapidly and unevenly. It was the colour of angry red and harsh blue bruising appeared in patches on his skin. Previously invisible veins popped up along his arm, while other parts of his arm's surface cracked open and bled. Jak clutched this arm, desperate to make the pain go away, to reverse this hideous mutation. He gritted his teeth and threw Erol a look of harsh accusation.



"That was the angriest I had ever gotten, by that point in my life. I wasn't sad, I wasn't humiliated, I wasn't scared, just grossed out and super pissed."

Do you remember what happened next?” asked Yerran.


He considered his answer. “I just remember anger and pain…then I passed out. I woke up in one of the cells in the doctors’ area. I was so tired, but I noticed I couldn’t move. They’d strapped me down onto the bed and I wasn’t wearing my prison uniform anymore, I was wearing some hospital gown instead and a sort of dressing gown over the top. The blanket was really soft too. The door to the cell was closed and I tried calling for Dr. Falton. It was some other doctor that came in; he was younger than Dr. Falton, he never said his name and never called me mine. He never called me anything actually. He was also gruff, kinda like Torn. He checked me over and told me what all the wires attached to me were for. I can't remember everything he said about my arm, I just remember understanding that the tubes were sucking out all the bad stuff and I needed to keep the bandages on. There were also tubes in my other hand, 1 was for putting this special water into me, the other to replace the toilet. He also injected me with this drug, saying that my injury meant I got an infection, which gave me a fever. So I needed this drug every so often to fight it. It also meant I was tired from this fever I had. I always felt way too hot. But whenever any doctor took the blanket away so they could wipe me clean, or change my clothes, I shivered like crazy. I felt like a really small, sick boy again. My dreams were usually of Sandover Village, too."

... "Are there any records you can get?" asked Pern.

"Records?" asked Jak in surprise.

"Yes, medical records. It's difficult writing all these notes about your experiences when you don't even know what happened to you, not fully. And all doctors have to write exact information on how they treated their patients. We can even find out the name of the doctor you talked about just now."

The city's ruler could only frown in confusion. "Why would you need to know any of that stuff?"

"We do not," clarified Yerran, "not really." She gave her granddaughter a stern look, silencing the girl before she could say anything further. "Those who visit us regarding a traumatic experience in a hospital, for example, often like to bring their medical records to their sessions, that way they can study the report of their treatment and have an objective record of what had happened to them. It usually helps them focus their memories and allows them to evaluate the necessity, or otherwise, of the actions and decisions taken for them. For us practitioners, it provides us some context for the visitors' experiences." Her sharp eyes softened in understanding as she gave Jak a reassuring smile. "It is not something you have to do. It is your choice whether you want to access those records and share them with us."

He shrugged. "They're probably all lost considering the baron's palace got destroyed during the Metal Head attacks. And other parts of the city got pretty damaged."

Pern vigorously shook her head. "Not true. I learned from other sessions I'm sitting in that Baron Praxis was a stickler for archiving information. Almost everything written down during his regime has been stored somewhere. So if you collect your medical records, you can collect your record of incarceration too."

Jak stared at her aghast. Collecting a record of his time in the prison, containing all the details of the suffering he had undergone, was the last thing he wanted to do.

"You told me earlier that Dr. Falton wanted to see you," contributed Keira. "Maybe you can ask him about what's in these records?"

He nodded in consideration. "Sure, I can do that." His voice betrayed his real intention of forgetting the possibility. "Anyway, what else. I remember all my usual bandages had been taken off. My feet and...hand were bare. This hand," he held up the one he had used to absorb the red Eco, "was wrapped in thick bandage like the rest of my arm. Every single time the bandage was cut off and replaced, I could see my arm shrink and all the cuts and bruises disappear. I was able to eat food for the first time in that medical bay - I think that's its real name. Yeah, medical bay. So there was that one doctor that never called me anything, Dr. Falton would look me over sometimes and he'd be the only one who took off the straps holding me to the bed, there was also that other doctor, really fat and never talked. One time he made the bed move so I could sit up under the strap, then he gave me hot chocolate."

Pern had stopped taking notes, giving him a very stony frown. Yerran watched him, patiently. He didn't need to look next to him to know that Keira watched him anxiously, forcing herself to remain still so she could maintain her agreed role of silent listener. Jak remained in place, recognising a cold, creeping dread wash over him. He swallowed a heavy, stiff lump in his throat. He suddenly stood up and marched to a nearby window, tensely folding his arms while he stared through it. He stood there, inspecting his reflection, not saying anything for what seemed like the longest time.

“When they figured I was strong enough they injected Dark Eco again, they stopped the force-feeding at least. That didn’t last too long though, they then put me in some gas chamber. Just, left me there for hours every time, making me lie there breathing Dark Eco vapor.” He sighed. “The way they preferred to pump the Dark Eco into me was through this…taser…thing. The Dark Eco carried in the electricity and I'd just get shocked.” He clutched his arms tightly and proceeded to speak in a lower voice. “Then there was the torture. Sometimes the screen in my cell would turn on during the night, I had to listen to Baron Praxis spout his bullshit. After my second escape attempt I was always zapped by guards’ tasers before being taken out of the cell. Then there was the sensory deprivation. Then…there was my punishment for trying to escape that second time.”

Jak went silent again, lost in his memories. For the first time in a long time, he allowed his mind to relive those events, not pushing the memories away like he usually did, like during all those times he had tried to live normally, convinced these thoughts would leave him alone one day. Now, even though he was taking part in these sessions, actively seeking treatment, he began to doubt they ever would.

"Jak?" prompted Yerran kindly, breaking the cold silence. "Could you describe the escape attempt?"


He stood still, much like a statue.


Jak lay on his bed, pretending to be asleep. He paid as little attention to the broadcasting propaganda as possible; in an effort to feel relaxed, his mind dwelt on memories of staring up at the sky as a boy, either during the day or night, alone or with a friend. Not for the first time he wondered what Daxter was up to while he was stuck in this prison. He hoped Daxter would be one of the first people he would see once - if - his plan worked and he escaped. The first part of that plan was to fool the guards into thinking he was asleep. On a previous occasion, he had taken a nap after lunch and after being shaken awake, he had noticed in his after-sleep daze that the guards were a lot more lax when he slept. A few times after that, he had pretended to be asleep when they came in and noticed the same thing. When he was awake, the 2 guards outside and 1 of the guards inside would hold up their tasers, pointing them at him, while the other handcuffed him securely. When he slept, or pretended to sleep, a guard would handcuff him while he lay on the bed and the other 3 guards abandoned their caution and chatted to each idly.

The door opened. Jak forced himself not to grin when the guards commented to each other that he was asleep 'again', moving on to the agreement that they were always more relieved when he was asleep, as it made him easier to handle. He waited until he could feel a hand on his arm, then he suddenly swung his other hand, colliding with the guards' face, or mask. Jak kicked the nearest standing guard in the knee, flattened his palm against the guard's neck and stole his taser. He viciously stabbed the activated taser into the other 2 guards, making sure he avoided their stabs. He sprinted out of the cell and turned left, deciding to descend as many sets of stairs as possible.

The klaxon sounded off rather quickly, the flashing amber light flooding the corridors and walkways. Some guards charged at him and he viciously performed a spin-kick attack, failing to realise that one of them had been hit so hard the guard had left cracks in the wall he had slammed against. In his attempts to run along the corridors and find an escape, he took care of every Krimzon Guard he came across with a strong attack, making use of the larger muscles he had formed for himself. He kicked them, sometimes kicking one into the other, he clotheslined them, he slammed them against the floor, a well, a walkway barrier. He sprinted thunderously to the bottom of another flight of stairs and saw a group of guards heading right for him; this time, a number carried guns with them.

The Krimzon Guards tried to surround him, using their numbers to overpower the fleeing prisoner. For his part, Jak fought against them rather well, kicking them, punching them, using all the momentum he had. But as they got closer, the space he had to move in became smaller. He felt one of them try to grip an arm against his neck. Jak kicked the arm of another guard, forcing the charged taser to drop, then elbowed the guard gripping him. As that guard stumbled, Jak pulled the gun from the guard's holster and began firing on the floor, forcing the other guards to retreat. This change did not last long; some guards charged their tasers while others used their guns to fire at the gun being held in Jak's arm.

The prisoner rolled to the side quickly and found himself with his back against the wall. A guard charged at him with a powered taser, threatening to stab it into him. In a panic, Jak fired several rounds into the guard, the shots blasting holes in the guard's head, neck, chest and shoulder. All activity stopped in stunned silence. Jak could only watch as the shot guard's eyes emptied, as blood flooded out of the inflicted wounds, as the body crumpled onto the ground.

This was the first time he had taken a life.

He forced himself to aim the gun again at the other oncoming guards, but the weapon was knocked out of his hand and he suddenly couldn't move, feeling the high voltage ripping through his body as he struggled to breathe.


"I don't think that is the first time you killed," interjected Pern. "What about Gol and Maia?"

"He didn't kill them," countered Keira. "He definitely never tried to. He had to defeat their machine and they fell into the Dark Eco Silo. We honestly couldn't figure out what could kill them or if they were killed, they would either have died from the long fall or from the Dark Eco exposure."

Yerran looked at Jak, who continued to stand with his back to them. "You were going to tell us about the punishment inflicted on you for this escape attempt?" she prompted.

He made no sound, no movement. "Do I have to?" he asked in a hollow, defeated voice.

"No Jak, you don't. But I did explain to you that I would need to understand what you went through."


Jak slowly awoke. He could feel random stings and burns covering his body. Another drip, another burn shot through him. He tried to move, but that was impossible. He was fastened down onto a bed, in a room he did not recognise. His ankles were locked down by metallic cuffs. A large metallic beam with grips covered his groin area and fastened his wrists on either side. Finally, his mouth was wrenched open by a gag, locking his head onto the bed, similar to the gag used during his force-feeding sessions. He was completely naked and his skin was exposed. He stared upwards at the machine above him. In a carefully selected randomised pattern, four needles moved above him, pausing at pre-programmed intervals. Where these needles stopped, some liquid Eco dripped out, dropping onto his skin and reacting violently. Green fell out of one needle, each of the three others was connected to red, blue and yellow respectively. The needles never hovered over his face.

With his senses more keenly aware, he felt welts, bruises, small cuts and burns covering his body in pin-pricks. The longer he lay there, the more often it occurred that Eco would drip where a wound already existed, causing an even more violent reaction. Jak, exposed, helpless, felt himself tensing, flinching, twitching and jolting from these reactions. As more Eco dripped on him, he felt some of the liquid reach the muscle under his skin, boring a hole deep within. He already had droplets on his chest and grew anxious at the possibility of the liquid Eco reaching his heart. He had no idea how long he was left alone in this room. Jolting, flinching and groaning helplessly, sometimes hearing the hiss on his skin. The machine above him refused to stop, as slow-moving as it was, almost as if it did not realise the teenager lay underneath it.

After what had felt like hours of anxiety and pain, the door finally opened. Jak pushed his eyes to the left, trying to see who had come in. It did not take long for Baron Praxis' face to come in to view. The youngster looked away.

The baron sighed. "I knew you'd try to escape again. It was only a matter of time. You don't like to do as you're told, I accepted that. What I never expected, was that you would kill someone." He leaned his face very close to the fastened prisoner's eyes. "Did you really think your punishment would be as light as the last time? Maybe if you'd only tried to escape, sure. But you killed one of my men. I make it very clear: in this city, no one attacks any of my men without consequences. This is why you're being punished this way." The baron straightened again, slowly inspecting Jak's exposed body with his eyes. "You have a wonderful gift, Jak. You can absorb and tolerate a lot more Dark Eco than anyone else. The only trouble is, you keep trying to stay out of my control and you still do not let any Dark Powers manifest. I need you, Jak. The only way you can ever leave here, is to become the warrior I need, to be as powerful as I need you to be."

Baron Praxis took out a hand-sized, purple-coloured taser. "I don't see any Dark Eco being fed to you," he pretended to observe non-chalantly. He suddenly activated the taser and stabbed it into Jak's thigh. Jak screamed through his gag, unable to resist the spasms flooding his body. Praxis deactivated the taser, glaring at his suffering prisoner, who wheezed through his nose while lying helpless to the remaining spasms. Blood flowed out of a deep gash on his thigh. "If you ever think of disobeying me! Ever think of killing a Krimzon Guard! Think of that pain. You will get plenty more of it." The prisoner suddenly jolted and yelled a muffled shout through his gag. Blue Eco had dripped onto his gash and had the apparent effect of converting the blood into acid.

Jak looked up at Praxis with tear-filled, yet angry eyes. The baron's demeanor then changed, from anger to one of cold satisfaction. He activated his small taser again and stabbed it into his right bicep, which already had a smarting burn. Jak screamed again, willing the pain to stop. It kept going. He felt his arm melting (that can't be right) and his vision wavered. His spasms became more violent and through the pain, thought he could smell blood.


"I got told later I was hurt so bad, they had to rush me out of the prison to a hospital."

"How long were you in the hospital?" asked a stunned Pern quietly.

For the first time in a while, Jak finally turned around to face them. "I dunno, I was kept asleep. Nearly 2 weeks, I think?" He found himself staring at Keira. She looked at him in an aghast expression, severely shocked and greatly distressed. He felt nothing but regret for making her feel like this.

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Written by Ruth Hüneke 2013

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