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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Episode 2: Oubliette

When nothing remains, everything is equally possible.
Acelan opened his eyes in the pale light of the  morning sun, casting his gaze across the large field of parok melons, many newly ripened from his meditations, vines fresh and full of life. Only a few hours earlier this field was struggling to produce, no irrigation or fertilizers can help crops unsuited for some planetary conditions, often times it is the meditations of the healers that help them survive and thrive. The parok and the other fruits and vegetables grown on the agricultural world of Bunjon III are a vital to help feed the Republic. Many such worlds exist, Bunjon II and III in this system alone feed two billion. It was the purpose of the AgriCorps, a branch of the Jedi Service Corps, to grow and harvest the crops on the agricultural worlds.
Acelan, stood up from his meditative stance and began walking back to the temple, it was time for breakfast. Though most healers eat breakfast before their mornings work, Acelan usually completes one field before eating. It was the cool freshness of the mornings on the Northern Continent and the sight of Bunjon rising in the East with its pale violet sunrises that brings him to the fields so early in the morning.
Falling into another daydream during the long walk back to the temple, Acelan visualized a grand Republic ship arriving to take him to be knighted back at the Jedi Temple on Dantooine or even Coruscant. He arrived and was presented to the Jedi counsel, and there his former teachers would tell him how wrong they were in their judgment that he would only be a healer at best, never a Jedi Knight and certainly never a Jedi Master. Oh well, nothing wrong with a daydream Acelan told himself.
Acelan snapped out of the daydream, only to see that there was no grand ship on the landing pad, but the was another ship, not a cargo carrier, it was for too small for that. Acelan wondered what kind of ship it was. He walked faster, hoping the ship wouldn’t lift off before he got back to the temple. As he got closer he noticed it was a landing craft from a larger Republic Cruiser probably in orbit. Acelan figured they were picking up food. His thoughts returned to his daydreams.
He hurried up the front steps and into the temple, there was a lot of activity in the main hall, heading in to find out what was going on, his best friend Veren grabbed him. “Hurry, you must get your things, we are going to the war Acelan, at least I’m sure your coming too!” Veren exclaimed. “Your not going to war young Veren, you are going to heal the war injured on Celic Prime, not fight on the frontlines, like we told you before”, Jedi Master Healer Kintrel corrected Veren. Master Healer Kintrel walked up with a Republic Shuttle Pilot; data pad in hand, the pilot said “And who is this young man?” Healer Kintrel answered the pilot, “This is Healer Acelan Genor, and I believe you read his name out earlier”. Checking his data pad, the pilot answered, “Why yes he is on the list, and with him, the total comes to 10 healers from the Bunjon System. The list is complete, we must depart as soon as possible.” Master Healer Kintrel looked at Acelan surprised “Please get 5 robes and your data pad from your quarters. I suppose you could take your training saber, not that you would be using it, but just as a precautionary measure, then meet the others at the shuttle. And may the force be with you both”. Master Healer Kintrel nodded at Acelan and Veren, dismissing them. Kintrel and the Shuttle Pilot, both turned and headed down the hall towards the shuttle. Acelan turned to Veren and said “Looks like we are getting to go off world for a while, it is exciting. After all, I don’t remember being off world much. I remember very little of being at the Coruscant Jedi Temple.” Veren replied, “ I still wish we were going to fight in the war, but healing at the hospital will let us hear lots of war stories I bet.” “Let’s go pack, I’ll beat you to the shuttle!” Veren exclaimed.

2

The Republic Cruiser Victory left orbit and set course for Celic Prime, close to the front lines of the Republic Sith War, later known as The Great Hyperspace War. The planet Celic Prime needed more healers to stabilize the critically wounded quickly so they may be moved to a planet further into Republic Space, the war front was approaching that system. With the lack of ships and the injured numbering into the hundreds of thousands, the move was proving to be a daunting task for the Republic.
The Victory had been in a few battles during the war; as such she was in need of repair, the reason she was probably chosen to make this particular run was because she was unfit for battle in her condition. The ship had to drop out of hyperspace periodically on route to Celic Prime because the hyperdrive was damaged. Her course was not direct; she had several jumps plotted with repairs continuing between them. Her third jump was plotted to take them into an uninhabited system. Usually this system would be a safe location to continue making repairs, after all the war front was still not close.
The Victory assumed an orbit around the third planet in this system, the small red star at the very end of its life glowed faintly in the center of the solar system. The crew continued repairs on the hyperdrive and major ship systems. “The situation is not the best captain, the damage is quite extensive across most of the ship, I’d hate to think we would be facing any combat, the ship just couldn’t take it” the ships engineer Lino said. “I know you don’t have to remind me again, that’s why were are playing ferry for now, did you find something else you didn’t find before?” Captain Rend answered. “It’s the fuel tank compartments, the hull plating has micro fractures that just can’t be fixed unless we dock, which we can’t do, so we need to avoid a firefight” answered Lino.
Just as Lino had informed the Captain of the new situation, the proximity alert sounded. “We have a contact Captain, scans are showing a ship on an intercept course approaching from aft” said the Helmsman. “Can you identify the of type of ship?” the Captain replied. “Yes Sir, it’s a Sith Battle Cruiser” the helmsman replied. “Prepare to jump to Hyperspace,” the Captain said urgently. “Yes Sir, course set, preparing to jump”. The helmsman affirmed. Just as the ship was about to jump, the Sith cruiser locked a tractor beam onto the Victory, control panels popped and the lights dimmed. “Sir, their tractor beam is overloading all our systems, we are loosing main power,” the helmsman yelled. “Fire cannons, we won’t let them take us without a fight!” the Captain yelled. “And send out a distress call!” Just as the captain gave the order to fire, the power of the Sith ship’s tractor beam ripped open the weakened hull plating that surrounded the fuel storage tank compartments. The force of the explosive decompression caused the fuel tanks to rupture and a huge explosion blew out of the side of the Victory, severely damaging the Sith cruiser at the same instance. The Victory had lost main power and began to descend into the atmosphere of the planet they were orbiting, explosions ripping through her superstructure. The crew and passengers rushed to the escape pods, Acelan was rushed into one, “Launch them now!”, a crewmember yelled.

3

Ten escape pods were launched, but the final explosion from the descending ship consumed five of them, five remained, hurtling toward the planet with a burning cruiser following close. Their trajectories changed slightly, three of the pods hit the ocean very close to one another with the remains of the cruiser landing on them dragging them to a watery end. The forth and fifth pods hit a rocky atoll, the fourth crashed into the rocks and cracked apart, the pieces landed into the lagoon past the shoreline of the rounded atoll. The fifth pod hit the rocks and also blew apart, but instead of crossing the rocks and back into the water, it changed trajectory, strewing pieces of itself down the beach.
The Sith Cruiser faired no better, caught in the gravitational pull of the planet, the burning ship listed into the atmosphere and fell burning to the planet below. Only one escape pod launched, joining its mother ship in the spiraling freefall. Roaring through the rainy night sky, the burning cruiser crashed into the alien sea, the escape pod landed not far away. Fires of the wreckage burned as the rolling waves took the remains of the larger ship under, only the small escape pod remained afloat, the waves carrying it towards a distant shore.
Acelan was vaguely conscious, his mind was cloudy, barely able to comprehend the pain he was in. “Focus, you must focus young healer…” he could hear that thought in his dreams or is this not a dream? His eyes opened with a start, his vision was blurry, his eyes were burning, and yet the sunlight was not too bright though. Acelan, tried to move, but the pain stopped him quickly. He was strapped into the escape pod, impaled on a small piece of rebar. There were two more in the part of the pod with him, they were healers by their robes, they were slumped over, and he wondered if they were dead. “Hello, are you alive? Hello!” Acelan yelled. No response from the other two healers, the force of the impact that destroyed the pod must have broken their necks he thought. Acelan unclasped the safety harness, he knew he had to un-impale himself, pulling with all his strength he pulled the metal from his body out of the wall of the pod in one try, only to pass out from the pain. He woke later in the morning, the pain was excruciating, he stood pulling himself over the side of the pod, he landed on the sandy beach. Pain, such pain he thought, he attempted to control the pain and stop the bleeding. Acelan had lost a lot of blood, he was not thinking clearly enough for meditation. Focus he thought, he must focus. Stumbling towards the shore, he knelt in the light waves as the water washed up onto the beach. He began splashing his wound with the salt water until the wound was clean; he placed his right hand on the wound visualizing the bleeding stopping. With his sight clearing Acelan looked out upon the pale blue sea, a mid mornings sun not quite overhead and the cool breeze blowing across his face. He finally was able to enter a meditation and his eyes closed as the meditation deepened.
Acelan awoke from the meditation with a start; the tide was higher, the water lapping at his waist. He looked down at his wound, it was closed, and he felt around to his back at the exit wound, it also had closed. A school of silver fish circled him like a spinning cloud and sea birds dived in the distance squawking as they flew overhead.

4

Where are the others from the Victory? Acelan stood and looked around scanning the beach with his keen eyes. Nothing but this part of his escape pod. Where did the others crash? Acelan had no idea what planet this may be, he was nauseated and had a headache, but he must continue to focus, the thought repeated in his mind.
Acelan climbed up into the part of the escape pod, he looked at the other two that did not survive, he was saddened, he must tend to their bodies soon. But, he needed food and water to survive, he must find some, somewhere. Checking the compartments in the escape pod, he found the emergency kits, food, water, medical supplies and blankets, no camping gear though. Obviously the escape pods were not meant for planetary landings, as the condition of the pod would attest to that fact. Acelan considered, what if the other pods landed somewhere else? Others could still be alive. Then he remembered Veren, anguish streaked through his mind. Did Veren his friend survive?
Acelan climbed down out of the escape pod and carried the supplies up the hill to the edge of the rolling rocky dunes. He opened a blanket and laid it on the soft sand under a small outcropping of rock, the second blanket he used for a pillow and sat with his head back against the rocky face. The water and rations were good surprisingly, unless his hunger was making his mouth believe they were. Acelan knew he needed to tend to the two other healer’s bodies. There was no wood for a funeral pyre, so with a piece of metal from the escape pod, Acelan dug two shallow graves in the soft sand and by the time the small sun was setting he had buried the two young healers. He didn’t know them, but gave them an honorable funeral meditation nonetheless. They were from one of the other Bunjon Temples he supposed, Bunjon II or III, he didn’t know.
Acelan made his way back to his small camp near the pod, but the pod was gone, taken by the outgoing tide. “Now this is really turning out to be a bad day”, Acelan said, sighing. The metal, he could have used his lightsaber to have cut the metal for a better camp, he thought. Too late for that now, but he had done the more honorable thing by burying the two dead. Gathering up rocks he fashioned a mound and using his lightsaber he heated the rocks to a high temperature, this would keep him warm if the temperature got much lower. The night was cold, the sea breeze made it seem a little colder. Not many sounds that night but the light waves lapping at the shore and a few creatures flying overhead, he fell into a deep meditation, then to sleep. Acelan awoke the following morning, the small sun barely lighting the planet’s surface. Acelan could see the sun dimming and brightening with his naked eye, not a good sign. The small red star was dying and dying quickly. The realization he was truly alone on a planet that was likely nameless and in a dying solar system. He knew that the Republic Fleet may not know that the Victory was destroyed. He realized that there may never be a rescue.
Acelan knew he needed to explore and see what more of this planet was like. The possibility existed that the planet may yet be inhabited. Climbing up onto the dunes, he looked around to see that the beach was really a large, atoll, kilometers across. Climbing up higher on the outcropping he could see quite a distance in each direction, despite the faintness of the daylight on the planet. Though it was daylight the planet was not getting any warmer.


5

To the West was the continuous circle of the atoll broken in a few places and to the East the atoll circled back towards a larger landmass, the center of the atoll was an enormous lagoon. Acelan decided to walk in order to access if the planet was truly uninhabited. The waves washing up on shore, the flying creatures overhead were diving into the sea for fish was interesting to watch he thought, it was a peaceful place. Nearing the landmass the beach receded and the water almost covered the rocks, there were crablike crustaceans that he had never seen before in any Jedi archive, large blue and red crabs, with enormous claws scurrying into the surf, half a meter in diameter. Acelan thought to himself, food would not be a problem if the crabs were edible.
As Acelan approached the landmass he saw a structure, not far up the hill from the shore. The closer he got the more he could see, there was a fence around a compound of some kind, a building, rows of towers behind it, a large warehouse like building that was partially collapsed and scattered equipment parts. Far to the right he also saw some sort of silos and a star ship-landing pad. He began to run, hoping that some form of people, aliens or whatever lived or worked here. “Hello, hello!” Acelan yelled, as he got closer. There was no answer to his calls; he reached the gates pushing them open. “Hello is anyone here?” he called out, still no answer. Looking around at the scattered and deteriorated debris, he figured out the place had been abandoned for quite some time. Acelan let out yet another sigh, investigating further he noticed that behind the compound the field of towers were actually large droid like towers with six legs, they looked rusted into place. This must have been a mining operation at some point in time, long abandoned by the looks of it.
Acelan was disappointed, but then he had not expected to even find such a shelter on this planet. The planet was may truly be uninhabited, the tell tale signs of a thriving civilization are all too clear, ships flying overhead, even Bunjon as sparsely populated as it is, has its fair share of ships in the skies, there were none in the skies above this planet. He walked back out to the beach and knelt for an afternoon meditation, his side still ached, the wound was healing nicely, but another meditation would help nonetheless.
Listening to the sound of the sea has had a profound effect on Acelan’s meditations. As he drifted off in meditation he told himself all would be alright. Deep into his meditation, Acelan became aware he was not alone. A chill ran up his spine and he stiffened, had he betrayed his awareness of whoever or whatever was right behind him? Fright filled the young healer; he knew it was not someone from the Victory. In a flash he stood, turning towards the unknown standing behind him.

Episode 1: Padawan

When the way before you is not clear, let your actions be guided by the force.

The cool ocean breeze blew through Aarik’s shoulder length blonde hair as he ran down the seashore. His lithe body was moving like a gualama across the pale sand; his white linen padawan robe blowing in the breeze and the small waves lapping at his feet. “There is one!” Aarik yelled, though he was the only one to hear it, running about fifteen meters he came upon what could be a perfect specimen. Picking up the shell Aarik examined it closely, white with pale grey spots like a snow nexu, Aarik thought to himself. No holes whatsoever, now this was a specimen worthy of adding to his collection. Aarik pulled out his data pad and scanned the shell, the instrument chirped and identified the shell as Concus Maculosus Magni.
Aarik sat for a while and watched the small waves and the small Janta fishing boats much further out at sea. Aarik sensed the approaching Jedi coming towards him, he made no attempt to stand or acknowledge their approach, but continued to look out at the vast sea. “Master Melucian is waiting for you Aarik”, Jedi Master Hairon said rather perturbed to his padawan. “Oh my, is it that late already?” Aarik said standing and smiling, actually he was surprised that the time had gone by so quickly. “Yes, it is that late and he cannot wait all day for you, he is a busy man Aarik” Taedron answered. “Now get back to the temple right now,” Taedron ordered. Aarik answered insincere tone, “Yes Master”. Taedron glared back at his younger padawan, he caught the hint of disrespect Aarik’s voice in front of the Jedi Knights accompanying him.
Taedron turned and headed up the beach with the other Jedi back to the temple. Aarik was always impressed when he saw his master and the knights in their flowing robes. Aarik loved his Master, with all his heart, he couldn’t imagine living his without Taedron. But on the other hand, Taedron was a little too stuffy for his age, even though he was a Jedi Master and it was up to Aarik to keep him in check. Aarik watched them go, smiled and headed back to the temple.
Aarik knew he was in for it later when Taedron returned from training and he looked forward to it. Master Melucian was waiting; he had better move it faster. Aarik hurried back towards the docks. Aarik reached the docks and climbed the stone stairs up to the top. “Ah, there you are Aarik!” Fiechen, a Weequay fisherman, ran over and grabbed Aarik. “I have something for your father, just take a look at this goober fish, perfect I do say so myself. Now tell Cook to bake it with sea salt, onions, osberry seed oil and butter, young padawan.” Fiechen instructed handing Aarik the sack. “Yes, I will tell him, thank you”, Aarik smiled taking the sack with the quite heavy goober fish stuffed into it. No sooner than he had walked ten steps he heard a squeal “Aarik!” it was from Fiechen’s human wife Frauda. “Hello there dear, I was headed into town to take my sister Aunga some flowers and fish, but I was wanting to see you before I went and give you!” Frauda placed a crown of flowers onto Aarik’s head. “There you go dear, I just picked them this morning, a crown fit for a prince of a boy like you”. Frauda said smiling proudly. “Thank you Frauda, that was very kind of you to think of me.” Aarik said smiling. He leaned over and gave Frauda a little peck on the cheek. She smiled turning red, this was probably the highlight of her day.

2

Aarik was greeted, stopped and fawned over about fifteen more times even before he got to the end of the docks. He was popular with the common folk of the small Dantooine village near the small Jedi temple. The few colonists had come from different worlds looking for a simpler life after the wars had ravaged the galaxy. Dantooine was one of the first planets to begin a natural recovery on its own from the terraformation by the Vong’s Shapers. Farms were re-established all over the northern and southern end of the continent, many along the shores of the beautiful inland sea created by the Vong’s Shapers. Many of the organism’s originally introduced to the sea by the Vong had quickly been replaced by genetically created species from Dantooine’s fossil record.
Aarik was an extraordinarily good looking young man, twenty years old, six foot tall, blonde shoulder length hair that curled ever so softy, the brightest white smile, icy blue magical eyes, sculpted physique, porcelain skin and a face that many called the face of a god, with supple yet angular features.
By the time Aarik had gotten back to the small temple complex, he had a train of people behind him, one carrying the goober fish in a bag, another a large sack of oysters, the next a basket of sand crabs, then Frolly with a crate of something Taedron had ordered from some planet somewhere and lastly little Fixten carrying a stick followed by six huurton puppies. Aarik looked back at his entourage and sighed, wishing he had a private beach. Entering the kitchen Cook directed the men where to place the different items. Then Cook set out a plate of tarts and a cup of tarine tea for Aarik. Aarik ate a tart quickly and sipped the tea, then headed out of the kitchen.
Aarik started up the stairs to change clothes when Master Hairon started “Ah, there you are Aarik, Master Melucian is waiting for you at the temple” she said smiling. “I am just going to change and I’ll be back down”, Aarik said. Mrs. Hairon let out a little covered cough. “Is there something else Mrs. Hairon?” Aarik asked. With her head slightly lowered and her eyes looking up she held out a bottle. “Oh no, not that time again” Aarik said. “It’s this day every year, as it has been for the last twenty years you have been alive Aarik”. Mrs. Hairon had actually chosen to forget that Aarik did not come to them until around ten years of age. “My special Spring Potion has made you the way you are today, just look at how you turned out” Mrs. Hairon said in a most sincere voice. Mrs. Hairon knowing this was not entirely true, had convinced herself years ago of the truth of it. “You say that about all your potions, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Remembrance Day, Festival of the Sea, Special Daily potion, the list goes on, I honestly can’t remember them all” Aarik Answered. “Well, you don’t get any complaints do you?” Mrs. Hairon questioned. “That is because I am the one always complaining” Aarik said smiling. “Please, just drink it and it will be over quickly.” She said with that determined smile. “Fine” Aarik said letting out a big sigh, he took the bottle and headed upstairs to his room. Ghastly stuff her potions are, but she believes in them. Mrs. Hairon aka Versax was once a spiritualist in the Nightsister Clan on Dathomir and left the order many years ago with a certain Hambas “Swifty” Hairon, a dashing smuggler and renowned chef, now years later, is simply known as Cook here at the academy.

3

Aarik believed in the spiritual path of the force Mrs. Hairon had taught him, he had learned to prepare their connected concoctions from native and off world herbs, he had taken these potions for years. Aarik has seen what they could do with the right ministrations in concert with the force for healing. Aarik ran his hands through his hair and undressed. Standing there in his underwear, Aarik looked at himself in the mirror. Looking more closely at his body, she maybe right about the potions, he thought, for his body was nice.
In actuality Aarik’s body was far beyond nice, it was like an exquisitely sculpted piece of pale marble, perfect in every detail. Aarik put on a sea blue silk shirt and a fresh white linen padawan robe, the crown of flowers matched perfectly. He opened the bottle of Spring Potion, turned it up. Aarik’s body trembled from the bitter taste and he made a terrible face. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve, grabbed his new shell and headed out to the temple to meet Jedi Master Melucian.
Aarik’s teacher Jedi Master Melucian was keeper of the restored Jedi Temple on Dantooine, which the guardian training facility shared the grounds with. “Hello Master Melucian, sorry to have kept you waiting, I lost all track of time this morning”, Aarik said bowing. “Well hello there young padawan, how is your day so far?” Melucian said returning the bow to the young padawan. “I have had a busy day already looking for sea shells along the beach to add to my collection and how has yours been? ” Aarik asked smiling. “Fine Aarik, thank you for asking nice crown by the way.” Melucian answered. “Master Melucian, I would like to work on Science today for my afternoon project, especially to analyze the data on the resurgence of the native plant life and the rate of the Yuuzhan Vong terraformation reversal,” Aarik said showing the seashell to the Master Jedi. Aarik removed the crown of flowers and set it on the table.  Melucian said, “Aarik this is a most perfect specimen of a Concus Maculosus Magni, a large spotted seashell.” Aarik said, “I was hoping it would be a good specimen for my collection.” Aarik continued smiling. “It seems that we may have underestimated the ability of the newer species' abilities to overcome the adversities they to face to establish.”