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Old 09-17-2005, 01:46 PM   #2
Local curmudgeon
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I have never understood why the place I came from should be important to those that speak to me. I spent a decade of my life smoothing any accent from my voice, but still everyone asks where I come from as if it delineates who and what I am. Really! Human kind lives of over 7,000 planets, and with the non-human members of the republic, there are over a hundred thousand planets that people can live on.
I think people wonder where you are from so that they can fit you into a neat cubbyhole when dealing with you as a Jedi. They want to know in the hope that with this information, they can predict your actions by what is the norm for your home world.
Yet one of the very first things a Jedi learns is how to set aside her past and what her parents taught her in those brief years before they join the order. That is part of the reason the order usually chooses children between five and eight standard years old for training. Old enough that they can understand speech, yet young enough to have few preconceptions, and almost no prejudices.
In my case as you know, where I was born and where I remember being born are two different things. I have wrestled with that since the Sith War, and finally came to a decision.
I am no longer who I was, so my memories are all I have. I will die true to them.
Very well. Since I will be long dead when this record is released. I will tell you HK47. I was born on Deralia, a world still known for it‘s beautiful beaches, soft gentle rains.
But as the force has both a light and a dark side, so does my home planet. Where I came from on the Equatorial belt, it’s known for the varied homicidal wildlife, and the hunters that come from throughout the galaxy to hunt them.
Deralia was settled only because someone was greedy. The Tokara Company survey ship that discovered the planet was supposed to do a survey of the entire planet. Instead they surveyed the Northern Hemisphere, saw the lush islands of what is called the Cerulean Sea, and immediately thought of all the resorts that could be built there.
I have looked at the Republic Colonial Office specifications. One year is to be devoted to cataloguing all of the life forms present on every landmass above a specific size, and verify that they are not overly dangerous. But five hundred years ago, someone on the ship, or perhaps from the Company itself greased a few palms and registered the planet five months after it‘s discovery. They sold the planet to the Chartered Deralia Company, which opened colonization on the only major continent at the same time that Tokara began construction of the hotels my home-world is best known for.
I also checked the Jedi Archives concerning the now defunct Tokara Company. This wasn’t the first or the last planet they had ‘forgotten’ to check. Their headquarters on Coruscant closed abruptly when someone crashed a cargo ship full of Magnesite on it, blowing it and five square kilometers of the planet to dust.
Obviously an unsatisfied settler.
The colonists that came were the usual crowd, the disgruntled, those wanting more elbowroom, the ones hoping that this would be better than where they were from. There were 150,000 in that first wave.
By the end of the first planetary year (425 standard days) 5,000 remained on the main continent. Most died, for nature has no pity, and a human being is frightfully fragile. About 20,000 had taken one look at what they were facing, and wanted no part of it. Those that fled make up the servant class at all of those luxury hotels.
The others stayed. They learned the best way to kill a Thorm, a predator the size of a medium bulk transport. How to keep the herbivore called a Wambor from stepping on your home. A useful skill when dealing with something that Thorm prides hunt.
How to gather Katkin eggs without ending up in the food chain. How to gather the seeds and pollen of the Julot, which has the local nickname of the Harpoon tree.
They thrived by being faster and meaner than any species on the planet. A child isn’t even allowed out of the Kraal until she can identify every known danger, and can shoot well. Considering the possible dangers, I discovered that what I learned as a child was more useful in combat than what I learned in Boot Camp later. We’re known for being self reliant, and innovative. My mother died before I even knew her. She is just a large face holding me in my memory. Father remarried when I was six.
It wasn’t all danger. I remember riding Tirlat, running in the fields of Tuza grain, climbing the Jumja trees to pick a fresh melon. We also raised a few head of Kora, a local herbivore that isn’t too large, only five times human size. We also raised Bezek vines that were one of our two primary ways of earning hard credits.
Bezek is classified as a Grade 2 hazardous plant because the pollen is addictive, and causes anything with a sense of smell to charge blindly in to get a better sniff. The flowers have poisonous needles, which close on anything that enters them. The animals are sucked into the now closing flower, their fluids drained and the husks are expelled to become fertilizer.
There are only three animals that can safely get near a Bezek vine when in flower. The Goothi bird, which fertilizes the seeds, the Wambor, which eats the vine, and is too big to get stung, and man. But only a fool walks outside when the flowers are in bloom without a breather mask.
The nectar is sold to perfumers, who make some of the most sensuous perfumes known to the galaxy. The fruit is pressed for wine considered an aphrodisiac.
But we’re best known for the hunting and the guides that take you to your prey. There are over fifty predators ten herbivores, and sixty varieties of aquatic wildlife classed as Galactic grade game, meaning that when you hunt them, the odds are even as to who gets taken as a trophy even with body armor and military grade heavy weapons.
I think that is why the Jedi didn’t discover me earlier. Jedi don’t hunt, and view killing as something that sometimes must be done, but not something to do on vacations. They rarely came to our planet as judged because our local laws are draconian when it comes to crime. We have few if any civil violations because we are taught from birth to be bluntly honest. This may sound odd but survival depends on telling the truth and cooperation. A lie cannot protect you against nature, only a friend can. A man known for being self-serving, or lying doesn’t get help when he needs it. There is no colder way to die than to call for help when in need, and not get it.
By the age of ten, I was going out on hunts my father led. First as a bearer, then to help with children that some brought with them. Finally as a guide myself.
Most of the children were stuck-up prigs who looked down on me because I didn’t know their planets, music, actors, etcetera. They had inflated views of their own importance because they did know these things. There were times when I could have been a bit slipshod, and someone would have ended up dead. But even with my irritation with them, I never allowed them to come to harm. They survived to go home, either with the trophy their parent had taken, or, sometimes, with the coffin that held that person’s remains.
Some however gave me a deep yearning to go to their home-worlds, to see sunrise on Correl, to watch the waves of Chanderal smash into the cliffs at a speed unrivaled by any flying machine. My father always laughed at that. He hadn’t even been as far as our capitol city of Morla.
I was thirteen when I picked up an unusual hobby. The Echani Sword dance.
An Echani prefect had come along with his children, Bortu and Kalendra. Bortu was three years my senior, Kalendra was 14, a year older than I. They spent a month on the planet hunting, and I was hired to be their companion.
One evening ritual I was entranced by was when they practiced with ritual brands and swords held in both hands. I had learned the use of the Panga, the local bush knife; I had even learned the practical use of one as a weapon. But the way I had learned to use a blade was as dull as a dark room in comparison. It was like comparing dancing and just shuffling your feet.
Bortu was a master with his twin blades, placed in the same sheath, they were drawn, a stud pressed, and there were two separate composite blades. When he practiced, he used a pole with the bark still on it as his target. He would stand before it, then would leap into movement, the blades whipping from all directions, taking strips from the bark without touching the wood beneath.
But Kalendra was magic in comparison. She carried a ritual brand, folded into a single sheath, as were their twin swords. But when drawn, and the stud pressed, it snapped out, making a twin bladed staff. When seen side by side, Bortu’s movements could be seen by me to be mechanical. Kalendra danced as if the blade and the target were partners.
I have heard since I left my home that the Echani know nothing of war, that they are dilettantes, their fighters too hard to handle, their energy weapons underpowered, their ships too lightly armored, their swords too difficult to master.
To all their detractors, I say this; their warships are faster and more maneuverable than any in the galaxy. Almost fighters writ huge. Their fighters are like juvenile Tirga needing only a gentle hand to guide them to wonders few craft can achieve. Their energy weapons are light, but the Echani have always believed that a weapon is a needle, not a fire hose. A calm cool shot can kill any enemy with an Echani blaster, and can pick a target small enough that it looks like a miracle.
War was not a bloody bludgeoning struggle to the Echani; it was a game where those who knew the rules won. Pilots are trained to maneuver as violently as possible in simulators, and only those that can do so consistently go on to a real fighter craft. Their ground troops learned to shoot the target, not the landscape.
And the blade...
The blade is taught to all, but only those who know their own bodies can attain true mastery. They call blade fighting the ‘dance of death’.
After watching them for a few days, I asked to try my hand at them. Bortu refused, laughing. He had been practicing since he was six, and still didn’t feel he had mastered the twin blades. He didn’t expect someone almost twice that age to even scratch the surface.
But that evening, Kalendra drew me outside where no one would watch. “Dance with me.” She whispered.
“Dance?” I felt uncomfortable. Dancing was something the old people did, and it was linked to passage rites. She must have seen my thoughts because she laughed a light tingly sound that caused my blood to race a bit.
“If you wish to learn the dance of death, I must see you move. Stand as I stand, move exactly as I do, and I will judge whether you can learn.”
She took a stance with one foot advanced, hands even with her waist, and I matched it. “When I move a hand, you must move the opposite. She pushed her right hand forward. I measured the same distance with my left. “Excellent. Once you have the hands down, we shall add the feet. Now begin.”
She moved, and I matched her, slowly shifting first one hand then the other out and in, up and down. “Now two hands.” She moved one up and out, the other in and down.
She stopped, picking up two Bezek stakes about as tall as we were. Again she began moving, my motions matching. Now I saw the ends of the staffs as blades, my motions intercepting hers. She began moving her feet, stepping right and left in a circle with me at the center. But when I also moved, we became moths circling a central flame.
She began speeding up, and I kept up with her as long as I could. I missed a block, and she tapped my shoulder. She stopped, stepping back, and dropped the staff on the pile.
I was crushed. I had failed. But the next evening she was back. She had trimmed two staffs down, and tarred the ends. “The worst part of learning to sword dance is learning to keep your body out of the way. Every time you see tar on you, picture a limb being cut off.”
Bortu had decided that he wanted to actually hunt, so he spent most of his time out with the others. That left Kalendra and I alone. During the next weeks we were inseparable. During the day we hiked the nearby hills, where the hunting had cleared the major wildlife, thus limiting our dangers. In the afternoons when it was hot we would go to the soaking pool below the house, and lay back against the bank where it had been tiled, just relaxing in the cool liquid.
In the evenings we practiced the sword dance. I despaired of ever becoming as good as she already was, but she’d hug me laughing, and told me that practice was all she had that I had not.
The time flew by so fast that I suddenly realized one day that her father was due to leave in less than a week. I waited until father and the hunters had left, and took her hand.
“Do you want to see what I do for fun when there are no hunters? Something I have never shown another visitor to this planet?” I whispered. She nodded eagerly. We picked up our side arms and pangas, and I led her through the woods to the Grove.
A few kilometers from the house, there was a clearing large enough to land cargo ships in. No one knows why the trees never grew back. Small herbivores kept the small plants and grasses down until it looked like a manicured lawn, and now it was home to the Tirlat herd. I led her to the edge, touched her lips to make sure she would be quiet, and pointed.
At first glance a tirlat is funny. The average adult is about twice the size of a land speeder, with a barrel shaped body wide at the front so that it’s mouth can seine in pollen and smaller flying prey, and pointed at the back end. Their stomach acid burns so hot that they have hydrogen left from their diet, and this is stored in the bladders that lay all around their body. They drift along sometimes with the wind, but when they want to move, they have ribbon wings along the sides. They are an anomaly on the planet, totally inoffensive, and nothing on the planet eats them while they are alive. They look like a stiff breeze would kill them, though we have hurricanes that level the forests and I have yet to see a tirlat die of anything but old age.
To ride a tirlat, you have to imitate a Jollo cat, an arboreal predator the size of a human being. A primate, it climbs as fast as a human walks, and runs down branches, dropping on it’s prey from above. Not that a hunting Jollo cat would be able to hurt a tirlat. The cat would find that the rubbery skin of even a juvenile was too thick to be penetrated by her claws. The skin was also slick. All a baby tirlat has to do to escape a Jollo cat is fly.
I set my climbing belt for 10 percent gravity, motioned for Kalendra to do likewise, and leapt straight up at the lowest branch five meters above my head. I swarmed up on top, and caught her hand as she followed. We ran along the wide branch to where we were above the manicured land, and I pointed behind us at the tirlat I called Spooky. He got that name because his wings are almost translucent, and he looked like a ghost tirlat compared to the younger ones. Spooky I was told was older than the human settlement on the continent. He was slowly sculling toward us, his wings barely rippling.
I crouched down, uncoiling my climbing line. “When he flies under we drop down.” I waved the line, “This goes under his chin, and you sit down or lay down fast.” We waited impatiently as he sculled closer. Then he was below us, moving by. I gripped her hand, and as his body began moving below us I said, “Now!” And we dropped together. I flung the line in a practiced motion, making the weighted end spin down and around the neck. I caught the loose end as I dropped down to sit with my legs in front of the wings. “Sit down!” I shouted. Kalendra dropped down behind me, her legs straddling me, her arms around my waist.
It was good she had done so, because the ribbons stiffened into blades, and Spooky tried to escape. The wings came up then down in a powerful thump, and we shot forward. It wasn’t fast, even a child’s speeder bike is faster, but along with the slick skin, it would have thrown us backward off the body.
I held the line with both hands, and she held onto me. “It’s like a swoop bike!” She shouted. I had never even seen a swoop bike before, so I had nothing to compare it to. Then she gave the trilling wail of the Echani war cry. Spooky reacted to this with another thumping sweep of his wings.
We shouted in joy, then first she, then I, then together, we gave another cry, urging the gentle animal to fly even faster. As we flew I showed her how to guide him. Pull on one side, and he would move the opposite direction. Thump his barrel with your feet, and he would climb, though not very high. Lean forward, and he would head down until his belly ruffled the longer grass.
Kalendra leaned into me, her hands pressed against the front of my body, her head turned to lie against my back. “Let’s just let it fly for a while. I don’t know what I might do if I get more excited.” She whispered. We flew along in silence. As our movement and noise died, Spooky went back to rippling his wings. There was silence and peace. There is nothing like it in the galaxy.
Finally I guided him back to the glade. “We have to get off now.”
“Must we?”
“He will get sick if we ride him all day. We can come back later in the week.” I explained.
“How do we dismount?”
When I say now, tuck and roll backwards.” I felt her head nodding against my back. I released the line I held on the left, pulling it up to coil it again. “Ready,” I gave one last war cry. “Now!”
As before he snapped his wings straight out, and pounded the air. But without the line, we rolled backwards like a stone down a hill. Two rolls and suddenly we fell toward the ground. Kalendra landed sprawled, and I frantically stiffened my arms so that I landed above her without smashing down on her.
We giggled, looking at each other in the sheer enjoyment of the moment. Then the laughter died as we just drank in each other. Her hand rose, and touched my cheek, a feather touch. I leaned into the hand. She leaned upward, and her lips brushed mine. Her eyes held a sadness I didn’t understand.
“If only we had met last year.” She whispered. Then she was pushing me aside so she could stand.
The walk home was silent. Her mood had gone from happy to depressed like a light flicking off, and I didn’t know why. She wouldn‘t answer my questions. That evening, we practiced, but I was able to get past her guard easily. She wasn’t concentrating.
Instead of going in the house as was usual, she led me to the pool, stripped off her clothes, and slid into the water. I followed her, and when I was seated, she curled up in my lap. We were sitting in reverse of when we had ridden me at the back with my arms around her. She leaned into me, and I held my friend. I felt her jerk, and she turned, burying her face against my chest as she cried. I didn’t know what I had done to make her so sad. I asked but she merely shook her head, and held on to me as if I was a lifeline to sanity. “Hold me like you would never let me go.” She husked, and we sat there for an hour until finally we had to go in.
The last week was both sublime pleasure and sheer torture for both of us. We didn’t want to be parted, but being together was painful for some reason I didn’t understand. She was constantly touching my hand, my face. Hugging me just when she was in the mood to hold me. Sometimes when the mood struck us, we would hold each other, our lips brushing each other’s faces. I had never known such contentment. We rode the tirlat twice more, and every night after practice, we spent an hour in the pool cuddled.
Finally her father was done with his hunting, and the next day they were going to leave. That night, she drew me outside. I thought we were going to practice, but instead she went to the pool and slid into the water. I followed her, and she cuddled against me again. “I don’t want to go.” She said, her head against my chest. “I want to stay in this pool, in your arms forever.”
“I don’t want you to go either.” I whispered into her hair. “If only you could stay here.”
“But I can’t.” She sighed. “I must go. But will you promise me something?”
“Promise you won’t forget me.”
She kissed me one last time. The next morning they left, and I spent three days crying. My parents watched me during those days with what I took to be amusement. Later I understood that they knew what I was going through, and their amusement was only the feeling every person has seeing children grow up.
My only real pleasure after she left was the dance.
It wasn’t until years later, after I had left my home world that I finally had access to a library computer. When I looked up the Echani, I discovered that their mating rituals are deeply ingrained into their society. A boy can live to adulthood unencumbered, but a girl must be bonded at age thirteen. Nothing can break that life-bond except for death. Nothing is allowed to. When a child is bonded, she leaves her home, and lives with her bond-mate’s family until marriage. Their romantic fiction all hinges on people that break their bond to be with another, and the horrible events that ensue.
I discovered that Bortu had not been her brother, he had been her fiance-bond-mate. The man I had thought was her father was actually his.
There is however a self-bond. When the child loves another, or loves an ideal itself. Those Echani that become Jedi claim this. A self-bond has no boundaries, and is considered just as valid as a life-bond.
When someone mentions that an acquaintance is Echani there is a lot of nudging and winking going on. It is assumed because they have no strictures on marriage, that the Echani are lustful beings.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. An Echani wise man once said ‘if you lust after a woman today, you are madly in love with the clothes she decided to wear’. They believe not in following sexual desire, but love. To an Echani, sex is no more the be all of love than hair color is the end all of a woman. Love in their eyes is caring about another person so much that their well being is all you worry about. Making sure they never want is more important than your own needs. This extends in family, where children receive what they need whether it be a hug or a spanking. It extends in society by allowing love to flow freely between all.
“If only we had met last year.” She had said. She had meant it too. Under their laws, she could have claimed a self-bond to me. She would have left her home and become my what, wife? Lover? Significant Other? The fact that we were of the same sex would not have mattered to her people. Bio-geneticists are able to blend the DNA of any pair of the same species. They could have taken one of our eggs, fertilized it with the DNA of the other, even adjusted it so that we could have male children. We could have borne such children naturally for the Echani feel that all aspects of life both pleasurable and painful are meant to be experienced.
When I’m sad, I can picture us sitting in that same pool, with our children splashing around us, content in all things. But it didn’t happen. If she had bonded with me, I wouldn’t have become a Jedi. I would not be here now. How much would my life have changed if that had happened?

Not much of what happened in the Galaxy really affected us there. Our fleet was a pair of old Moravian Kontor class gunboats over a century old. Resorts and hunting preserves aren’t strategic targets. We knew that the Mandalorian war was happening, but except for a dip in business, we didn’t really feel the affects of it. When I had just turned twenty-one, the Sith war began. Again we were not really affected.
In my twenty-third year, my life changed. A Republic officer came to Deralia on a recruiting drive. Along with others he scoured the resorts looking for likely young people. But this one decided to check out the homesteads of the continent as well. It was pure luck. I hadn’t found any of the local boys that interested me, and sexual frustration can cause you to make abrupt decisions.
It was the first time someone had actually come to our Kraal that wasn‘t a neighbor or a hunter. When he arrived, I was sword dancing.
Of course I didn’t have a proper Echani ritual brand. They are hand made for the user, and while you can use someone else’s it is slightly uncomfortable. But once I had felt comfortable with the idea of an actual blade instead of a tarred stick, I had taken two pangas a section of conduit large enough to slide over the handles, and made a double bladed sword.
When I danced, I was in my own world. Nothing mattered except for the sweep of the blade, the placement of the feet, the click of the blade hitting the pole. I was almost as good now as Kalendra had been when she began teaching me, and I could feel her standing back and watching me with that gentle smile.
I stopped, and began to dismount the panga blades. That was when I heard a gentle clapping sound behind me. I looked over my shoulder at the man in a uniform I didn’t know.
“Well danced youngling. You’re not a local?”
“Yes I am.” I replied.
“Then where did you learn the Echani Sword dance?”
“From a hunter’s daughter.”
“Ah. May I speak with you?”
My brow rose at that. What might he have to say?
“I have already spoken with your father, as the law requires.” I nodded. Except for hunters who didn’t seem to care much about any local law the Republic representatives had always been punctilious about obeying them. Of course the first person that abused the trust of his guides and their families could easily find their rifle unloaded when something charged them.
Obviously he was either unmarried, or from a world that accepted concubines, slavery, or polygamy. To speak with me without permission could have caused an... Accident.
“I am recruiting for the Kolari Sector defense forces.”
“The majority of the fleet has gone over to the Sith. Soldiers are desperately needed to preserve the Republic-” I raised my hand.
I finished dismantling my weapon, then turned to go up on the verandah. My father was sitting with a hunter and some beaters, talking about the hunt they planned that day. He saw me coming, and raised his hand for silence.
“You spoke with him?” He asked. I nodded. “You going?” I shrugged, then nodded again. His eyes were sad, and he hugged me, something he rarely did. “You be careful. Hear?”
“Like a Bojuum hunt, father.”
He smiled. “Tell your mother.” He turned to resume his seat and conversation. That was as much of a goodbye as I expected from him. I walked into the house. Mother had a hunting pack already packed, sitting on the kitchen table. She was staring at it as if she was going to cry.
I touched it with my fingers. “Am I that easy to predict?”
To anyone who knows you?” She stood, and with a soft painful cry she hugged me. “Be careful.”
“I will.”
“Come home.” She finished, then she turned and fled the room.
I carried my pack, tossed it in his speeder, then leaned against it until he decided to leave.
The one thing that has bothered me since that time is that I never did go home again. I had promised my stepmother that I would but I never have
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