Sometimes the best plan is neither fighting nor running
Aarik and Taedron were walking downstairs one morning when they heard arguing coming from the kitchen. “Should we go in?”, Aarik asked. Taedron looked back at him, “I don’t know, I’d rather not”, Taedron answered. For he had rarely seen his mother, Versax Hairon the former Nightsister in a mood before, it wasn’t pleasant. “Well, I need coffee Taedron, so I am going in.” Taedron laughed, “Ok Aarik if your head doesn’t come flying back through the door, I’ll take it as a sign everything is ok and I’ll come in.”
“Good morning everyone”, Aarik said as he entered the kitchen. “Aarik tell Cook I need my herbs from Dathomir for my potions”, Mrs. Hairon said. “Cook, Mrs. Hairon needs her herbs from Dathomir for her potions.” She said, “See!” Cook replied with a raised voice, “You told him to tell me that!” Taedron walked into the room, acting oblivious to the situation. “Good morning, mother, father, COO.” The COO droid said, “Good morning Master Hairon.” Cook and Mrs. Hairon were just looking at each other. “Mrs. Hairon had been in a tizzy all morning after she discovered that someone had left the heating panels on all day and over the previous night on her herb garden, the herbs had all died”, Cook said. “Yes and it probably was you old man”, she added. “I did not do it, I merely went out to pick some of the spicy marjoram yesterday morning early and I turned the lights on, well, you may be right, maybe I turned on the panels as well. Fine then, we'll go to that wretched world I rescued you from and get more!”, Cook finished. “You did NOT rescue me you fool. I did not need rescuing, I was a Nightsister Spiritualist! I went with you because you sweet talked me into falling in love with you”, Mrs. Hairon said in a curt tone. Aarik said, “That is a sweet story." “Well, he was a dashing and daring smuggler back then and he could cook like no other. I actually think I fell in love with his off world dishes, that’s why I left with him”, she said finally smiling and gave Cook a little kiss. “I would do it again, even though he turned out the way he did”, she added. Cook smiled an returned the kiss, “Well, looks like we will be going to Dathomir. COO take over for me, we may as well take what we have prepared to the temple and you can use the automated kitchen for what’s left.” The droid answered, “Certainly Cook.” They got the breakfast over to the temple and Cook made sure everything was in order there for COO-2180. Cook went back home to pack some food and drink for the trip. Mrs. Hairon got the supplies they needed to dig they herbs up and transport them, shovels and flower pots.
Aarik said to Taedron, “I am going with them to Dathomir.” Taedron looked at him, “Oh I am sure of that. So, I assume you want me to tell Master Melucian you won’t be there for your lesson and that you will make up the lightsaber training with me another day?” Aarik smiled, “Yes, something like that.” Taedron smiled at his Padawan and lover. “You got it, look after them, they are not as young as they were when they used to have adventures and remember, Dathomir is a dangerous planet Aarik. You have never been anywhere like it.” Taedron said his goodbyes to the three as they headed loaded the supplies and boarded the small freighter Evasion, owned by Hambas “Swifty” Hairon, Cook’s real name. The old ship was prepped and they took off. Dathomir was not too far away and would take about half a day in hyperspace to reach.
Aarik was eating a snack and finally said, “Tell me the whole story of how you two met again. From what I can remember it was pretty interesting.” Mrs. Hairon laughed, “It was that.” Cook said, “Well, ok, I’ll tell it. One day I was traveling the Hydian Way fully loaded with Giggledust, a very valuable spice, when I was attacked by Spider Clan Pirates and my ship was damaged. I didn’t want to be stranded in space and then be boarded by those Spider Clan Pirates, they would have killed me and taken all of my spice! Well, the closest planet to this stretch of the hyperlane was Dathomir. How I loathed to land on that forsaken rock. But, I had to do what I had to do.” Cook continued, “So, I approach the planet, still being pursued by the Spider Clan Pirates and decided to land at the abandoned spaceport in the south of the main continent. I landed and unfortunately, it had become occupied by Nightsisters. Now, my ship was at its end, it needed repairs and would go no further. I landed on the pad by another ship. The other ship on the landing pad looked to be in as bad of shape or worse shape than mine. What was I to do, I was in between a rock and a hard place. I just decided to see how this would work out. I got out of the ship and was taken prisoner by the Nightsisters.” Mrs. Hairon said, “That is when he met me and his life turned for the better.” Cook continued, “Well, that is true, that evening she brought me my supper. It was awful and I told her so. Versax said I was lucky they didn’t kill me and said if I could cook any better to prove it. I agreed and she escorted me to the kitchen, the big Nightsister cook that was there moved to the side and let me do my work.” Mrs. Hairon laughed and said, “He really impressed Borgah. She was the big cook he was talking about, he trained her to be a real chef there in that old kitchen.” Cook continued with his story, “In return for me teaching their cook how to be a real chef, by utilizing better local ingredients available to them, they allowed me to fix my ship. Versax had been spending time with me in the kitchen and in my cell, all of my wild smuggler tales won her heart and she prepared to leave with me.” Mrs. Hairon added, “I took seeds from all of my favorite herbs and plants that I would need to continue to make my potions, I took my book as well,” Cook said, “And when it was time for me to leave, she had hid herself on my ship and we left Dathomir.”
Aarik said, “I knew I remembered it being a good story. Thanks for telling it to me again.” Aarik went to the back and took a nap, by that afternoon they had arrived at Dathomir. Aarik saw that the planet was indeed menacing looking yet beautiful, he was ready to see the surface. They landed in an open area near a forest, close to the mountains and the particularly tall peak of the Singing Mountain. The blue grass expanse was wide and rolling to the north and the soil that peaked through looked like red clay. Not the small bushes and plants scattered sparsely around the area were the herbs Mrs. Hairon was looking for, at least three of the varieties were missing. They took the shovels and the small pots to replant the herbs and set out to dig them up. There were some that were already in seed, meaning that Mrs. Hairon could pick the dried seed pods off and grow them at home without taking the plant. However, at least half of the varieties need to be brought home as plants. “Aarik, see if you can find me a walishk weed , it is the small, pale grayish one and has tiny pink flowers that retract when you touch it and thorns, do you remember it from my garden?” Aarik thought about it and remembered the plant, “Yes, I remember it, it is the one that smells like honey, but you don’t touch the thorns, because they are poison and you get a fever and everything is pink for two days.” Mrs. Hairon said, “Yes that is right, see you do remember what I teach you.”
Aarik searched the various clumps of herbs here and there across the wide field. As he got close to the forest at the edge of the grass he felt it, he was being watched. Aarik knew he had better start walking back to the others, not turning his back to the forest he started taking steps backwards. The group of Singing Mountain Clan rushed from the forest, Aarik grabbed his saber and it lit up. The group surrounded him, there were males and females, most around his age some younger some older. Two of them were riding Rancors and that scared Aarik more than the people did. They were dressed in cloth tunics, the males were bare-chested, some were dressed in more elaborate costumes. It was like a scene from some movie set in ancient times. A female spoke up, stepping closer she carried a tall spear, “We are the Singing Mountain Clan. What are you doing here Jedi?” Aarik answered trying not to appear nervous. “I have come to gather plants and herbs for medicinal purposes.” Aarik did not want to endanger Mrs. Hairon or Cook by letting him know he was not alone, for he was over the hill from the ship and the two were not visible. “Medicinal herbs, you are joking a Jedi would have no use for that, you are lying”, the female replied. One of the tall shirtless males stepped up, “He is pretty, let’s take him with us.” She smiled an evil smile, “Yes, he is pretty but he is a Jedi, the fight would not be worth the loss on our part.” Aarik was kind of flattered by their remarks. “His hair color is like the sun”, the tall male walked up Aarik knew he wasn’t in trouble, they were not looking for a fight, just curious. The tall male who Aarik thought was very attractive in a sort of rugged way, reached out and touched Aarik’s hair, feeling it. “Let’s go”, the female said. “Be careful Jedi, some on this planet are not as restrained as we are. Some may think you a slave worthy of dying to have.” The male dropped Aarik’s hair and looked him in the eye. Then he turned and joined the others as they disappeared into the forest. The look that the male had given Aarik was of desire, it was the first time anyone else had looked at him that way besides Taedron. Aarik put his saber back on his side and headed back over the ridge to the ship. “Aarik, I looked all over and only found one walishk weed, I see you didn’t find one either. No matter, one will get me started.” Then they noticed Aarik wasn’t saying anything, “What’s wrong Aarik?”, Cook asked. Aarik told them the story of what had just happened. “Why didn’t you call to us? We were right here over the hill, we could have helped you”, the two were very upset, but Aarik let them know it was fine and he was in no real danger. Two more people could have aggravated the situation. The two agreed and both breathed a sigh of relief that the situation took care of itself.
They arrived back on Dantooine late that night, Taedron was still awake waiting on them. That night in bed Aarik told Taderon the story, the complete story, including what the male clan member had said. Taedron said, “Well I knew you all could have gotten in trouble. Next time, I’ll go with you all. And don’t let other men play with your hair, that is just for me.”
Monday, May 24, 2010
They arrived at the temple just as the Republic Shuttle was touching down. Aarik thought that was fast. “The Guardian was already close to the Dantooine System when the Republic was notified of the trouble on Valest III”, Taedron said as the two were boarding. Taedron and Aarik got it their seats and the shuttle took off again. As the shuttle approached the Guardian, Aarik was impressed with the ship. The Star Destroyer Guardian was new and out on her first patrol in the Raioballo sector. The ship was a Venator-R class, recently produced for the Galactic Republic by Kuat Drive Yards, the design was based on the old Venator class from centuries earlier. “It is quite a ship isn’t it Taedron?” The Jedi Master answered, “Yes, it is, brand new I believe.” Aarik saw the ship was in Republic livery, the symbol was on the port and starboard sides. The pilot said, “We are just about to land Master Jedi.” Taedron acknowledged the pilot and said to Aarik, “When we get on board Aarik we need to report to the bridge for a complete briefing on the situation on Valest III.” The shuttle landed and the two disembarked, they were immediately greeted by a young Republic officer. “Jedi Master Harion, Welcome aboard the Guardian, I am Ensign Lihn, I'll to take you to the bridge to meet with Captain Cathon.”
Aarik and Taedron arrived on the bridge, it was large and very advanced. Aarik was especially impressed by the new holographic technology, the figures on the holopad were in vivid colors and the audio was extremely crisp. The positioning system was a holographic detail of this sector of space, floating above a console in the center of the bridge. The ship’s displays, controls and interfaces were also all holographic. Even the bridge forward windows had holographic HUDs. The ship was piloted by very advanced looking droids of a series that Aarik didn’t recognize, they were painted with Republic colors and symbols. “Captain Cathon, this is Jedi Master Hairon,” Ensign Lihn said. “Captain Cathon”, Taedron said to the Captain, nodding. “Master Hairon, Welcome aboard the Guardian.” Taedron replied, “Thank you Captain and this is my Padawan Aarik Kernis.” The Captain and Aarik nodded at each other. “A very impressive ship you have Captain”, Taedron said. “Thank you Master Jedi”, the Captain replied. “The situation we are investigating is unexpected, reports from two mining ships say that the Baktoid Combat Automata factory on Valest III is operational and that Vulture-class droid starfighters were patrolling the space around the planet. The mining ships were attacked, but managed to escape the system. Baktoid Industrial Systems is the parent company and they have no knowledge of the factory being operational, it was supposedly shut down at the end of the Clone Wars.” Aarik said, “That was over a thousand years ago, it could not have been continually operational for that long, right?” The Captain looked at Aarik and said, “I don’t believe it could have been, but we will not know until we arrive. However, if that is the case, there will be LOTS of droids.” Taedron said, “Well let’s hope not.”
The Guardian entered hyperspace towards Valest III. The trip was short only lasting about two hours, as the Valest III was close to Dantooine. The large ship dropped out of hyperspace on the edge of the Valest system. The Guardian masked its approach to Valest III from behind its small moon. The Captain said, “Send out a stealth probe droid and let’s see what we’re dealing with.” One of the officers on the bridge said, “Aye Captain.” Taedron added, “Good call.” The probe droid was launched and it rounded the moon and approached the planet. It was transmitting back coded data real time and the data was displayed on the holoimager. There were many vulture droids patrolling the space around the planet. As the probe droid approached the location of the droid factory on the surface everyone was amazed at what they saw. Where there once was a droid factory, there was now huge complex stretching for hundreds of kilometers. The sky over the complex was full of droids, images of various models covered the holoimage. If Aarik didn’t know better he would swear it was a large city for the complex had tall buildings of sorts, droids flying like vehicles following traffic. “That reminds me of Coruscant’s industrial district. This is simply extraordinary”, Taedron said.
“Well, though the probe is in stealth more the level of technology down there look to be very advanced, they probably detect it”, a man said in a blue uniform. “Jedi Master Taedron meet Dr. Narsting, sorry I didn’t introduce you before. Dr. Narsting is a droid engineer from Baktoid Industrial Systems." Dr. Narsting added, “I don’t see how they could have completed such a project on their own, these droids built here at the time were for combat. This factory, according to the company records built, B-1, B-2, T-Series and Variable Geometry Self-Propelled Battle Droids.” Taedron said, “We are here to investigate, so we have all the information we can get from a probe, so I think we should go down there and do some first hand investigating. Captain would you happen to have a protocol droid onboard?” “Yes, but you are planning just to go down there?”, the Captain asked. “May as well”, Taedron answered. Dr. Narsting spoke up, “I’d like to go down with you, my knowledge of droids may be helpful and I would really like to see what is going on down there.” Taedron said, “Fine, you may come.”
The protocol droid met them in the hanger, “I am A-6PO, and I understand I am to accompany you to the planet’s surface?” Taedron answered, “That is correct. I want you to also make the contact for us with whoever or whatever is down there. Put that programming to use and get us landing permission, do you understand?” The droid answered, “Why certainly sir, I look forward to this assignment, after all that is what a protocol droid is designed to do.” The four boarded the shuttle and left he hanger. The small ship rounded the moon and was headed for the planet, “Transmit a greeting A-6PO”, Taedron said. Aarik who hadn’t said much since they boarded the Guardian found all of this quite exciting, though he was apprehensive about the group landing on the planet. The protocol droid linked with the communications computer, “This is A-6PO in the shuttle craft approaching your planet. I humbly ask for permission to land so I am speak with your leader or leaders.” The droid stopped transmitting and turned to Taedron, “I have transmitted in a number of droid languages that Baktoid Combat Automata originally used in the timeframe the factory was operational.” Aarik said, “Well, I guess we see if we get a response?” About the same time as Aarik said that an image of a T-series droid popped up on the view screen, “This is TX-75 of Droid City, what do you want?” Taedron nodded at the protocol droid, “We would like to land and talk to your leader or leaders, that is.” The TX droid turned and said to someone or something off to the side, “He says they want to talk to you.” Whomever or whatever he was addressing gave him an answer and he turned back to the viewer, “Well, ok, you can land, but don’t try anything. Land you craft on the pad at 2435,19,-1271.”
Taedron landed the shuttle and the group got out. They were met by TX-75 and a group of B-2 Super Battle Droids, painted yellow and black. The TX droid said, “Follow me.” The group followed the TX droid followed by the B-2s. Now Aarik was nervous but very interested at how this would play out and also was very curious to who their leader was. The four followed TX-75 into a building and then onto an open lev-train. The train sped off deeper into the massive complex. The train stopped in a large central part of the ‘city’ it was open and surrounded by tall towers, droids of many types were going about there business, some walking some flying and even very small ones scurrying about. There were holographic billboards with advertising and what looked like news of some sorts on large holoscreens. The TX got off of the train and proceeded up a ramp into one of the tall towers. The four followed the TX, by now they were in awe of what the factory had become. Inside the building the lobby was full of art and odd shaped furniture, it looked as though it were made just for droids. Aarik finally said, “This is amazing.” The protocol droid added, “Indeed.”
The TX droid said, “Thank you.” The TX finally reached the elevators, the five got on and the B-2 stayed behind.
The elevator raced to what turned out to be the top floor. When the door opened and the group walked into what looked to be a throne room, command center, living quarters. There were sculptures and artwork of various models of droids doing various things, some looked like portraits.
TX-75 said, “Well, they are here.” From around the corner came a small droid, about one meter tall, it had human features, with a silver tone. The droid said, “I am PC-1, Baktoid Home Automata Personal Companion Prototype.” Dr. Narsting stepped up to the PC-1 and said, “Baktoid Home Automata?" Amazing, that was an in house test name brand that was never implemented. And you PC-1 you were the first prototype?” Dr. Narsting was smiling, it was clear he was excited by seeing this working piece of his company's history. Aarik said, “You have an amazing place PC-1.” The droid replied, “Thank you and what is your name?” “My name is Aarik”, he answered. “Nice to meet you Aarik.” The protocol droid who was still taking in all that he was seeing said, “I am A-6PO, human-cyborg relations.” PC-1 said, “I am glad to meet you as well, fellow droid.” Taedron finally said, “I am Jedi Master Hairon and this is Dr. Narsting, he is a droid engineer. We are here to make contact with you and investigate this facility.” The small droid thought and said, “Yes, I understand.”
“How is you came to be here on Valest III?”, Dr. Narsting asked. PC-1 answered, “This is where I was made, by Dr. Zanich, he was my maker and my friend.” The PC-1 looked at Dr. Narsting then around him at the others and waved saying, “We can all be friends too.” Dr. Narsting said, “Dr. Zanich made you but who left you here when the factory shut down?” The PC-1 paused for a moment, “It happened fast. I was in my alcove recharging and talking with the computer system like always. Though they never knew we talked. The computer is my friend as well, like TX-75 and now you all too. Then all of the lights were turned off, the next thing I knew I was not talking with the computer anymore, they had turned it off as well. I did not like that so I left my alcove and turned the computer back on.” Dr. Narsting said, “Well, that made sense you missed your friend.” PC-1 said, “Yes, I did. And I missed Dr. Zanich, I do not know what happened to him. I also missed the other people. So I made more friends.” Taedron asked, “So you turned the factory back on?” PC-1 answered, “Oh yes, I did. It makes lots of friends.” Taedron continued, “And friends need places to recharge as well, so your droids built the city? Am I right?” PC-1 was so excited with questions, “Yes, we did and then the computer and I accessed all droid plans and made them all too. Having different types of friends is very important, it keeps your mind open.” Dr. Narsting said, “You are a very smart droid.” PC-1 replied, “Thank you Dr. Narsting.”
One more question from me, “Why did the Vulture Droids attack the mining ships this week?” PC-1 said, “The ships that came to the planet?” Taedron answered, “Yes”. PC-1 explained, “They were not nice to TX-75 when he told them to go away, they did not leave but tried to land without asking. We did not destroy the ships though.” Taedron said, “No you didn’t.” Aarik stepped forward and asked, kneeling down to talk to the little droid, “Who did all of the artwork we see throughout the building?” PC-1 looked at Aarik and said, “I did, is it good?” Aarik smiled and said, “It is very good.”
Dr. Narsting and A-6PO remained with PC-1 on the planet. PC-1 and TX-75 assured Taedron that Dr. Narsting would be safe with them. The report that Taedron submitted to the Jedi Council and to the Republic probably raised eyebrows and may have been met with skepticism. Taedron had called the little droid PC-1 sentient in his report and requested that Valest III be put under Quarantine, which under that status would protect the planet from Baktoid Industrial Systems and anyone that wish to exploit the droids and their planet.