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Bright Lights, Bigger City

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#1
Jorah zos Darnus

Jorah zos Darnus

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G E O N O S I S

GOLBAH CITY, CAPITAL OF THE CONFEDERACY || GEONOSIS SUITE

 

The young Dathomiri boy stood along one side of the rail car.

 

Through the transparisteel glass, amber eyes peered from out of the tram at the urban jungle that sprawled across the planet in a mass of durasteel and glass. Situated in the arid wastelands of Geonosis, Golbah City was an oasis. A modern metropolis that stood in contradiction to its spartan surroundings.

 

The arid climate and the urbanization made the youth's tribal customs seem primitive, so he had forgone the traditional loincloth for something more in line with the societal norms. The chang quan style shirt hung loosely on his gangly frame. The asymetrical divide between white and black embroidered with gold accents that seemed to accentuate the red skin of the deceptively Zabrak looking squire.

 

A length of zyed cloth tied at the waist served as the simple, rustic belt that cinched the outfit together. Simple, black trousers fell over the tops of his feet, which were bound in the traditional caligae sandals.

 

A short, metal baton at his side was the only indication that he was armed. Otherwise, nothing about him would have suggestion that he was part of the Knights Obsidian. The train slowed as it pulled into a station, depositing the youth on the platform as the doors to the train opened. A credit cube tracked the fare as the boy emerged from the commuter side to the starport proper.

 

The Obsidian Squire had visited the Order of the Silver Jedi as part of his training under the Mandragora. First at Onderon, where he had helped the offworlders to secure a monastery that served as home to a cloister of Ithorian holy men. Then, at Kashyyyk, where he had taken in the capital of the Jai and listened to their beliefs regarding the so-called Force.

 

But, even if he did share in their beliefs, he could still value the friendship that existed between the Jai and the Confederacy.

 

As part of which, he had invited one of the Jai to see the Confederate capital.

 

Waiting at the starport, the young Dathomiri checked to see if the boy's flight recorder had been logged yet or not. It seemed that Jerek of the Zenduu was one of those offworlders who styled themselves as navigators of the sea of stars that existed between worlds.

 

Jorah did not care for space travel. Star cruisers were vile creations. Artificial constructs that sealed one into a box of recycled air. Even the notion of space travel seemed wholly unnatural. Yet, it seemed a necessary evil of modern life.

 

Still, Jorah had no interest in this skill of piloting. He preferred to pass the time in space through training or indulging the moving images that were known as holo-vids -- activities that took the mind away from being segregated from the natural world.

 

Jerek Zenduu


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#2
Jerek Zenduu

Jerek Zenduu

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Geonosis. The ringed planet was the capital of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, and a frequent destination for the diplomats of the Order of the Silver Jedi, as well as their accompanying padawans. More importantly, it was the site of the Arkanis Tri-Sector 5000, an annual race that began on the canyon of the planet’s fourth moon, and then threaded asteroids which made up the desert world’s rings, before completing an artificial circuit over the capitol of Golbah City. Or, it had been last week, while Jerek was still at the Silver Rest on Kashyyyk, watching the live broadcast over the HoloNet.

It wasn’t the same as actually being there.

When only a week later Jerek had found himself en-route to the Confederate homeworld while accompanying his Master Veiere Arenais, he made sure to have his J-2 Starfighter brought along. The circuit above Golbah City was already dismantled and stored away for reconfiguration in the next year, and the lunar canyon was closed to public traffic for safety reasons. But there was nothing that could stop normal traffic from flying through the ring belt around the planet, and so Jerek spent the days before the trip studying the race’s latest course through the rocky rings above the orange-red world.

The Flashdance performed incredibly, and there was little else that needed to go right. Jerek had managed to convince a navigator in-transit to help him program the circuit into his ship’s wraparound HUD system so he could mark the asteroids used in the race. The boy had the advantage of knowing the pattern beforehand, something the race’s competitors wouldn’t have had until the day of, but most racers practiced on the courses of previous years anyway. He also benefited from arriving so soon after the race had completed, the asteroids had little chance to shift their orbits already, or collide and break up as they were wont to do over their natural lifespan. Given a few million years, the rings would become a fine dust without much substance to race through, but they were here today and that was the only other thing that mattered.

Jerek’s heart still pounded as he set the Flashdance down on the landing pad, his mind playing and replaying the tense flight through the weaving rocks. Their gravities often allowed them to whip around each other, and his tiny vessel with its repulsors was free of such restrictions, but also ignorant of them. Maintaining control while avoiding the obstacles, collision with such would almost certainly mean the destruction of his craft if not himself, was a task even more challenging than a fighter-infested hot zone. Not even the Roche Asteroids were so tumultuous, something the Jedi Ace might have to mention to a few of his other pilot jock friends. So long as the Silver Jedi were allied with the Confederacy, taking advantage of a new training opportunity for pilots would surely be beneficial to both nations.

Climbing out of his fighter, the Jedi youth deposited his flight suit’s helmet on the seat before grabbing a change of clothes from his stashed bag behind it. He’d made plans to meet with Jorah, a Dathomiri boy he’d partnered with the new Silver Jedi world of Onderon. As reluctant as he was to admit it, Jorah’s presence had come in handy during the ruping crisis there, and Jerek had built a begrudging respect for the young shaman. Since Allya Vi'Dreya had been unable to meet her boyfriend this time —an ironic turn of events from the last few months— Jerek had messaged Jorah instead.

A nearby shop provided the venue needed to change clothes. Though Jerek tried without much luck to get his sweat-soaked hair to resume its traditional volume, it remained stubbornly plastered to his head from being smashed inside his helmet. Normally, the boy made good use of a shower after flying to tame it. Alas, today he would have to make do with a slicked-back look, joining his v-neck white teeshirt and black trousers for a look that was not at all an attempt to emulate a Taris swoop gang that had featured in a popular holofilm. In the dry heat of the Geonosian climate, a pair of sunglasses completed his preparations against fashion crimes in the desert city.

Fully primped and reasonably preened, Jerek signalled the shaman youth with his HoloLink, ”I’m landed and ready when you are, just outside of the Golbah Spaceport in the Hub. You here yet?”
 

Jorah zos Darnus


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#3
Jorah zos Darnus

Jorah zos Darnus

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A slight vibration alerted the boy to the call.

 

Reaching up, the Dathomiri touched just behind his ear. A discrete earbud comlink kept all Knights Obsidian linked even when not performing official duties. It was a utilitarian device, only intended for short distances. But the communication relay towers ensured that range was enough to cover Golbah City.

 

Outside of the city was a different story, but here at the city spaceport the communications went through fine. As his finger brushed against his ear, the call connected.

 

”I’m landed and ready when you are, just outside of the Golbah Spaceport in the Hub. You here yet?”

 

Amber eyes prowled the urban jungle before him, peering through a forest of people that were mulling like a disorganized herd in and out of the starport's main plaza. "I am also present at the starport," the youth answered, in his accented Basic.

 

As the horned boy looked off to his right, a figure in a white shirt caught his eyes. Making his way toward the familiar presence, the youth was pleased to find that the person was, indeed, Jerek of the Zenduu. Pausing, just outside of handshake range, the Dathomiri gave a bow toward the older boy. As he straightened back up, Jorah brought his right hand across his chest. Holding the palm over his heart, he then extended the arm outward with the palm flat, as though to indicate Jerek. "Yat dyfor," the youth stated warmly, supplying the greeting in his native tongue.

 

As his arm dropped back by his side, the Dathomiri took another step closer as he switched to Basic. "Welcome to Golbah City. Are you..." he began, only to trail off as he tried to recall the word in Basic.

 

Meal? No. Hunt? No.

 

Making a gesture as though to indicate leaving this place, the boy said the only thing that he could think of to connect meaning to what he was trying to convey. "...eat?"

 

Travel from Kashyyyk to Geonosis was long. Jorah imagined that Jerek might be hungry after that ordeal.

 

Jerek Zenduu


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#4
Jerek Zenduu

Jerek Zenduu

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"Are you...eat?"


Jerek didn't have to struggle much to figure out what Jorah meant by that. The smells that wafted by from street vendors and little cafes tucked into the corners of the spaceport itself only served as reinforcement for the growing protests made by his stomach that flying was hungry work. Flying a racing obstacle course was famishing work. His starfighter had stocks of food and a unit to reheat them, but in space those always seemed bland and not at all satisfying. He didn't use them unless he had to.

Oh, and Jerek could have pushed himself further, lasting for some hours more without any nurishment if he needed, or at least that's what he wanted to believe. Truth be told, he had never tested the limits of drawing on the Force alone for sustinence.

Luckily, he wouldn't need to test that here.

"You're a mind reader!" the Jedi youth told the young shaman approvingly. Jerek still would have preferred to spend his time with his girlfriend, but that wasn't an option. And between serving as glorified wallpaper while his master made friends with the Confederate dignitaries or painting the town with a youngling, the choice wasn't hard. He glanced down at the red-and-black tattooed face of Jorah, finding yet another way to be impressed by him, making the boy already glad he wasn't anywhere near his master.

"I would totally go for a bite, I'm so hungry I could eat a whole bantha!" Jerek only wished he were joking. The desert setting and empty stomach coupled to make a mean force of craving, and he was hard pressed to ignore it.

Golbah City wasn't familiar to him, but Jerek took a moment to scan the streets as if something would come to him anyway. The only reward the Jedi youth received for his efforts was a distinct feeling of unfamiliarity. He'd never had a chance to visit before, despite coming close a few times at Allya's behest. He looked back to his new partner in dine, "Know any good place around here?"
 

Jorah zos Darnus


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#5
Jorah zos Darnus

Jorah zos Darnus

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"You're a mind reader!"

 

A look of confusion was plain upon the Dathomirian's face. What did reading have to do with eating? "Dou... tzeamu?" the horned youth uttered after a moment. His expressive, amber eyes blinked as he tried to process the meaning behind 'mind reader'.

 

He'd asked if the Zenduu wanted to partake in a meal. This was his answer? But what did it mean?

 

"I'm so hungry I could eat a whole bantha!"

 

...so that was a yes?

 

The off-worlder method of communication was very confusing. Much allusion. Many metaphorical references. As much as Jorah worked to study and learn the vocabulary, he found there was a lot about meaning that seemed to escape the text books. Perhaps he should try watching more holo-vids?

 

There was one that even took place on his home planet. A reality holo-serial based out of the City of Talay, titled Talay Shore. Despite having been from the planet, Jorah had probably spent more time in Golbah City than he ever had in the City of Talay, so it might actually be interesting to see what his homeworld looked like from the off-worlder perspective.

 

"I show you Mandragora secret," the boy offered, beckoning the Jai to follow as the horned youth turned. Making his way through the spaceport terminal, he guided Jerek to the light rail station that serviced this part of the Hub.

 

As the pair boarded a tram car, the Dathomirian pointed to a railway diagram of the city. "We go to the Fringe," he explained, pointing out their stop.

 

Jerek Zenduu


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#6
Jerek Zenduu

Jerek Zenduu

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A Mandragora secret, that's what the shaman youth had told him. Jerek wondered as they climbed aboard the commuter train that would take them out to the Fringe, he had never really had the chance to understand the Confederacy's relationship with those mysterious forcers. Their secular Knights Obsidian were more prominent, and easier for the Jedi padawan to understand. The Force, an Order, a Lightsaber. Simple. Just like the Sith, the Knights Obsidian seemed to mirror the Jedi in that respect, even if their different philosophies and loyalties were in conflict.

Jerek couldn't quite put his finger on the Mandragora. Jorah seemed to be more religious in a way that not even the Jedi practiced, uttering prayers and spells instead of communing with the Force directly through self-discipline and meditation. It seemed primitive. The boy would have wondered if Jorah was even a Force wielder but for what he had seen himself.

"How do they work?" he asked idly, looking at the younger boy next to him on the train. "Your people, I mean. The Mandragora."

That was kind of a broad question, but Jerek was kind of broadly curious.

The train sped past some of the waning facilities the Trade Sector offered, its flight from the Hub into the sprawling outskirts evident by the lowering heights and narrowing widths of the buildings nearby, the horizon punctuated by pockets of the desert landscape where the city grew less dense as they journeyed toward their destination. "You still use the Force, but you don't call it that, right? And you don't use a lightsaber."

How could one even use the Force without a lightsaber, anyway? The crystal at its heart was a focusing element for its wielder, the weapon was not simply a trademark or preference of the Jedi after all. It had both meaning and practical use.

What did the Mandragora have in its place?
 

Jorah zos Darnus


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#7
Jorah zos Darnus

Jorah zos Darnus

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The doors to the train closed. There was a slight shift as the tram pulled away from the platform, as the light rail picked up speed toward the outskirts of Golbah City.

 

"How do they work?"

 

The horned youth turned his head up toward the human teen. Turning away from the map of the transit system, the Dathomirian was, at first, uncertain of just what the Zenduu referred. How did the Mandragora... work? Did he mean, like, here? In Golbah City?

 

To be honest, Jorah wasn't really all that clear. He knew that there were some kind of permit involved. And something called a visa. That went inside of the passport... or was the passport something else? The boy was a little confused on these details because the Knights Obsidian had taken care of all of those things for him. He had an identicard that allowed him to travel to any Confederate world. And it even allowed him entry to SIlver Jedi worlds.

 

But how did it work? Or how did people work that weren't Knights Obsidian..?

 

"You still use the Force, but you don't call it that, right? And you don't use a lightsaber."

 

Amber eyes just blinked.

 

Oh, that's what the Zenduu was talking about. How did Mandragora use magic? How could he explain such a thing? The Jai did not believe in the spirits. Without belief in the spirits, there seemed no context to even begin to form understanding. "You don't believe in the spirits, but you can still cast magic," the boy offered in reply, turning the question back on the Jedi. "This make no sense."

 

The train rolled to a stop, the door opening as the tram made a brief stop. They were approaching the Fringe. "One more stop," the Dathomirian noted, before the doors shut again and the train started moving.

 

"Knights Obsidian are like you," the boy commented. "They call upon the spirits, though not call them by that name. Instead, they say Force. This not bad, just... different."

 

Jerek Zenduu


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#8
Jerek Zenduu

Jerek Zenduu

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"It is different, I suppose," the Jedi youth mused on his younger companion's assessment.

"You call it magic, but there's really nothing magical about it. It's just.." and Jerek launched into an explanation of the science behind a Jedi's Force connection that would have made Master Malssi'kunn pleased —perhaps enough to reconsider lower grade Jerek received in the course. The padawan wasn't sure he truly understood why this worked, but he could at least help demystify the process for someone unaware, or for himself as well. Staying grounded was something he was finding more and more important. "...and that's basically it. I know I don't really think of that when I use the Force myself, either, but that's what the process is really like."

It would be difficult to try to utilize that knowledge directly, anyway. His mind, along with so many other sentients', worked on imagery and allegory instead of direct manipulation. He couldn't just tell his body to do a thing, he had to visualize it or some kind of story that tricked himself into what he desired. As strange as it was for a flyboy, most of his visualizations involved water, as if the Force were an ocean he could explore or scoop up a part of into a pitcher.

He supposed it wouldn't be too different to speak a spell instead of that, after all.

A tone sounded in the train, warning its occupants of the upcoming stop. Jerek started and motioned to Jorah, "This one, right?"

The padawan let the young shaman lead the way, grateful for the chance to be inattentive for the moment. The scenery of the Fringe all blurred together around him as he thought more on the subject of his real connection to the Force.



Jorah zos Darnus


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#9
Jorah zos Darnus

Jorah zos Darnus

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It was times like this that Jorah wished that his Galactic Basic was better than it was.

 

The Zenduu seemed to want to have a conversation about the source of magic, but Jorah was having a difficult time understanding what the Jai had to say, and was frustrated by an inability to articulate himself in kind for the same reason. One thing was clear, the perception that this Force existed was the problem. The Zenduu saw the effect and tried to find reason based on that alone.

 

That was inherently flawed, since it examined only the effect and not the cause. But Jorah could not organize his thoughts to where he would be able to express them in the common tongue. So, instead he said only, "Whatever source of magic is, it is not of man. Man can not define."

 

The perceptions around them were malleable. How many times had Jorah found himself in a vision, without knowing at what point he was no longer interacting with reality? All of this was guided by the spirits.

 

When the train had arrived at the second stop inside of the Fringe, the Dathomirian boy led the Jedi from the rail station toward the outskirts of the city. The desert wastelands were clearly visible on the horizon, as the pair approached what appeared to be an old refueling station.

 

"This Mandragora secret," the boy offered, as he led the Zenduu inside.

 

Jerek Zenduu


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#10
Jerek Zenduu

Jerek Zenduu

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Jerek blinked in mild confusion as he entered through the doors of what the young shaman had called a Mandragora secret, the mysteries of the Force fading away from the forefront of his consciousness to ponder at the sight before him instead. An old, run-down diner? Hollowed out of an old refueling station, it was not the most rustic venue he’d ever set foot in, but still it was hard to see what Jorah found to glorify in this. It had a few rows of shelves and a deli in the back, making the whole affair look much more appealing for someone with an apartment nearby than someone who had just traveled across the whole city just to patronize. Still, the Jedi were taught to be gracious to anyone who offered them a gift, so it was important for the Jedi youth not to judge too harshly.

And still more importantly, Jerek was hungry!

”I’m grateful to be let in on your secret,” the boy intoned solemnly to Jorah, giving him a small bow in appreciation. Jerek was still unsure what the right custom was with the Mandragora shaman, they were unlike anyone he had dealt with in the Confederacy before. The Mandalorian displays of strength or the Sith appeals to vanity didn’t seem appropriate here, so the teen simply asked, ”What’s good here?”

The smells of the diner were far more appealing than the sights, at least. The deli seemed to hold fresh-made goods, some of them still requiring preparation, but others ready to eat straight out of the case. From behind, the deep scents of a kitchen at work wafted forth, tantalizing Jerek’s senses with the sizzling of cooking food. He could smell a deep fryer, and spy its results sitting on the tables of patrons dotted around the diner, and they were making his stomach rumble again.

It took Jerek a moment to see beyond the food to the customers consuming it. Nearly every one of them sported the tattoos of the Dathomiri practitioners, rendering him as a true outsider even more than he was on Geonosis to begin with. Self-consciousness crept up on him, threatening paralysis, leaving him wishing Jorah was a little taller or a little more assertive. Or at least that Master Veiere was here, he was the diplomat.

Absent an alternative, Jerek shrugged and took the lead.

Making his way up to the deli counter, the de-facto Jedi diplomat of the place scanned over the menu displayed above, trying to identify something by the sparse descriptions that accompanied the listed items. Apparently the Mandragora secrets extended both to the location and contents of this diner, leaving Jerek bewildered as to what a Big Mak was or if double everything was a smart choice to make here. For all he knew, he was gambling on setting his mouth on fire or something equally distasteful.

”I’ll do the Bik Mak, and…” he looked to Jorah to help him add anything else that was worth trying.
 

Jorah zos Darnus


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#11
Jorah zos Darnus

Jorah zos Darnus

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"Yol Jai meni su'ku shuree."

 

Approaching the counter a few steps behind the older teen, the youth spoke in the tongue of Dathomir. Jerek had heard the boy speak it before, and may have even caught the familiar use of the term Jai. The pair of Zabrak-looking men behind the counter both responded in kind, sparking a rapid fire exchange that flew by Jerek as the younger boy traded comments with the staff in the obscure language.

 

At that point, Jerek might have noted another detail about the establishment. The staff were all male. Each with the same distinctive likeness to full-blooded Zabraks that Jorah displayed.

 

Nightbrothers. Every one.

 

"It is done," the red and black colored youth stated, switching to Basic as he turned and regarded the human. No currency had been exchanged, yet it seemed as though their order had been put to task. The two behind the deli counter went to work. One at the fryer and the other at the grill, as the task of assembling a pair of trays began to unfold.

 

"Bik Mak," the youth stated, recalling Jerek's request. "Bold choice for first time," the Dathomirian offered cryptically.

 

After a few minutes, the trays arrived. Jerek's was a cheeseburger that could only be described as double everything. A double patty, double cheese, double bacon that was piled high and accompanied by a basket of tater tots. The other tray was a slightly more humble meal; a single patty cheeseburger that was accompanied by a basket of what looked like pork rinds.

 

Again, no currency was exchanged.

 

Picking up the tray with the double everything burger on it, the teen held it out for Jerek to take. Then he picked up his own tray and motioned toward the tables.

 

Jerek Zenduu


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