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He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath the ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,
unless the mother's womb whence all have birth.
J.R.R. Tolkien, “Mythopoeia”

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On the Periphery

The powerful thrum of vast fan blades swallowed any sound of the Jedi’s passage as they circumambulated the perimeter of the Republic camp until at last, aided by the alacrity that the Force provided, they slipped away from the sight of prying eyes. Simris stood alone at the camp’s edge, her back to the massive fans and a stout Ugnaught at her side who, though not consumed by the dark side of the Force, bore the tell-tale darkness of one who has killed before—not unlike the Blackspur mercenaries that guarded the Republic facilities. Both miners wore the same red cloth tucked into their belts. They were watchful for the passage of guards, clearly wary for a moment when the hot beam of a searchlight passed them by. The archaeologists that Quillow and Yerin had talked to had since gone to sleep with the rest of the camp, so now the Jedi stood alone, obscured behind the cacophony of the fans. From the distant marching of Blackspur feet they had heard around the camp’s perimeter and the bright glow of the rotating searchlight, it was clear that there were few sentient creatures other than the Jedi who could have the power to defy the will of the Republic within that ruined stretch of jungle.

Signalling wordlessly to the Jedi as they approached, Simris and her companion suddenly bolted across the field toward a vast rock away from the sight of the camp, dashing away until they were all well out of sight, disappearing further into the treeline until there was no possibility of their discovery.

As the two miners finally came to a stop, Simris called out to the Jedi: “Gunni Simris, if your friends didn’t tell you. The Ugnaught goes by Caix. I heard that you could help with our little situation?”

“And what would that situation be?” Yerin asked, canting her horned head. “I’m afraid that I don’t have all the details, but… I would be glad to help.” Perhaps it was rash, but to her there seemed to be no better course of action.

“You saw what was going on with your own two eyes, didn’t you?” Simris said, a fire in her belly as she begins to elucidate the situation. “The foreman’s right about two things: we get better pay than farmhands in the Hetzal system and we’re safer than smashbulb runners on Coruscant. This gig’s putting my little son through school back home too. But you see how the Governor’s people treat us, don’t you?

“We’re Republic citizens the same as you or them, and yet they treat us barely better than droids; they’d rather let us heal up the ‘natural’ way than cut into any of their oh-so-precious bacta supply. You saw how many of us are still wounded from that cave-in—just a little bit of the governor’s cash would go a long way. We’re the ones doing the work, after all, while good-for-nothing Gaff sits on his lazy ass waiting for the rest of us to finish up. If they helped us a little more on the injury front, or hell, if they paid us a little more… we could sleep a little easier at night knowing nobody’s gonna waste away when the sun comes up again. That’s what I want: a good night’s rest. And I know Gaff sure as hell ain’t going to give that to us without a little convincing.”

The Duros’s red eyes darted between the gathered Jedi, searching for any sign that she had stirred the Jedi’s hearts to action.

Quillow thought a moment, taking in a few slow lungfuls of crisp natural air. Even the short distance away from the camp was enough to help him think more clearly. The Ithorian's eyes narrowed as he gazed around at the black spears of a ruined jungle. Each had begun as a sprout and a sapling; looming vigils destroyed. Though better than inside the camp proper, Quillow was still very aware the tonic of wilderness here was sullied.

Quillow had never worked a day in his life if one were to use the societal definition of the notion—Ithorians simply did what nature permit and called them to do, and their leaders merely offered guidance and translation. Quillow felt as called to the Jedi purpose now as he ever had—the idea of 'work' was very foreign to him, as it was many Ithorians, and while being exposed to beings throughout the galaxy during his time as a Jedi served to help his understanding, he never fully empathized with people such as the miners. To do something purely for one's own ultimate survival, or for a beloved child or family—there is nature in that, but the Republic should be a safeguard against the tribalistic conclusion that can lead to. A smart beast doesn't abandon its cubs knowing they can grow strong—as the astute archaeologist had said, there's a lot one can learn from nature.

Quillow's eyes flicked to the Duros as he looked at him the same way he looked at the blackened trees abound.

“I too am displeased with this... governor. I would help you and yours, assuming we find a way past the mythical red tape of the Republic. Might you have had something specific in mind as to what we may do?”

Simris shook her head. “The most pressing thing right now is that they’ve been paying us in scrip as of this month. Bunum Bonds is the ridiculous name they have for it. The situation’s temporary, Gaff says, but it means we can’t send remittances home at the moment and that we gotta buy supplies at Coppergrin markup plus pay for medical treatment at a higher cost—it’s hurting a whole lot of us. I don’t think the company is nearly so low as to not pay us in Republic credits, but that’s the way of things at the moment. I just want to….

“Now, I don’t want to hurt nobody. But you all got the laser swords, if you catch my meaning. I’m sure Gaff could make a persuasive argument to Coppergrin bigshots if he had a little help. Or hell, empty his pockets and give us the credits himself.”

Calm, Delste heard Nikdoris’s words in her ear as she shuffled her weight from foot to foot; her fingers twitched for action. You must be calm. You must be harmonious. You are too quick to let your emotions stir your actions. You will never become a Jedi if you do not master this. Nonetheless, the words of warning appear to go unheeded as she scowled out towards the horizon. “I don’t see what it would hurt to press on Gaff just a little bit more. He hardly seems like he knows what these people are actually going through out here.”

“We cannot threaten a man so needlessly! We would become no more moral than the Hutts then, and as equally unaccountable in our abuse of power,” Varman firmly replied. “The Council would not condone it; neither would it be in accordance with the light side of the Force. I agree that we must seek to help the galaxy in whatever way we can, but… it cannot be in the manner in which you and your friend insinuate we should act.”

“Then why else do you peacekeepers of the galaxy carry around laser swords anyways?” Simris huffed.

“A Jedi’s weapon is for defense—” Varman began.

“Yeah, yeah. If you’d rather spitshine Gaff’s boots till they’re shinier than a chromium speeder, be my guest. I just thought your lot would help people—real people.”

“We serve the Force, Gunni, which means we are just as much under your employ as we are his—or any others’, for that matter,” Quillow retorted. “I agree that Gaff seems an incapable leader, and that threatening him would only serve to create painful memories.” The Ithorian took a few labored breaths in thought.

“But there must be a way to nonviolently achieve what you wish that could curtail any malice or intimidation—I share the Padawan’s sympathies that an otherwise ‘conventional’ means would involve not only too much paperwork, but time that would only foment your strife…” Quillow thumbed at the trinkets on his belt. Perhaps it is best we do as Gaff says for the time being, until an opportunity presents itself, he thought.

“Would there be a way to peacefully...or, well,” Yerin began, quickly correcting herself, “nonviolently incentivize Gaff to pay you all properly? If he’s paying you in credit, is there any money coming out of this enterprise at all? And I suppose one should ask where it is all going.”

“There’s money in it,” Caix cut in, his voice a low growl. “Or there will be at least—they bring all the sparstite we mine up into the Republic headquarters over there, keeping it till they can ship it off for processing. Coppergrin has deep pockets and Merano ones nearly as deep. It’s all greed if you ask me.”

Yerin couldn’t help her mind from wandering. Will the workers ever be paid at all?

“So we follow the money.” Sunao murmured from the back of the pack. Earlier in the conversation apprehension had gotten the best of the young Padawan. Talk of violence against the Republic had rendered him seemingly mute. But the suggestion from Yerin sparked an idea too bright to hide from. “Given how keen Gaff is to impose on the natives and what the miners say, then there’s a lot of money going somewhere. If we follow the trail, then surely we can bring some sort of evidence to the Republic. Any foul play will enable us to easily rectify the situation and if it’s simply Gaff chasing a promotion, then a case can be made regarding the cost of doing so.”

“Do you really think that the Republic can help?” Simris asked. Doubt colored her voice, but her manner spoke of an optimistic streak long-since buried. “Best news we’ve heard all day if that’s true.”

“If Coppergrin doesn’t have its friends in the Senate meddle with things,” Caix retorted, his eyes flitting across the horizon at the sign of distant movement. “They’ve made many folks rich across many planets. But… I’ll admit that we’ve never had Jedi on our side.”

“It may be rather hopeful to assume that the Republic can help, but… if anyone has the resources to avert any clandestine business—if there is any—it would be the Republic,” Yerin mused. “I think Sunao is on to something. We can look at what evidence there is of where the money is going and see where that leads us. Between yourselves and us Jedi, we may not know much, but we could figure out what’s going on if we keep open minds.”

Delste stretched out her shoulders, quick to drop her harmonious facade as an impatient jittering overtook her, from shifting feet to a wayward glance to the other Padawans. An eager gleam sat in her eyes. “I like this idea,” she hummed, though ever mindful to not let her voice waver with the thought of seeing Gaff taken down a step or two. “I think it has promise. We should start with the sparstite,” she insisted. “Or, at least, I will, if anyone would want to come with me.”

“As long as we do not stir up too much conflict between us,” Varman interjected, his gaze flitting appraisingly to Delste. “It is a good idea, but one that rests on our care not to disturb the gentle peace here.”

Sunao’s brows furrowed as he drew a figure of eight in the dirt with his foot. They were both right, the trail was right there in front of them just waiting to be followed. But, on the other hand, this place was a powder keg, moments away from blowing. The group would have to tread lightly.

“Perhaps we play ball with Gaff then?” he put forth, “Or at least appear to. Then having us around won’t raise too much suspicion while we look for the truth.” The Padawan combed back his hair with a hand, hoping to relieve some of his anxiety. “I’d like to get the full story from the natives on these contracts regardless, it was strange to me that there weren’t existing copies in the Republic outpost. Everything about this feels… wrong.”

Delste’s upper lip twitched at the thought, but she ceased her pacing to give mind to Sunao’s words. “It feels wrong to me as well,” she agreed, letting her feet settle at last. “I would rather we speak with the natives, first,” The Padawan insisted. “It is not urgent to me that we speak with Gaff again. I think that he has made his stance clear.”

“Then let’s head back in the morning,” Varman said after a long moment of deliberation. “And we’ll get to the center of this then.”
Showers and Synthsilks

When the Jedi rendezvoused with each other, they shared the knowledge that their separate exchanges with the camp's people had wrought: both Gaff’s elucidation upon his perspective of the Bunum-Republic conflict and his offer of medical aid in return for their cooperation on one side, Stempara’s clarification on the archaeological situation and Simris’ call for aid on the other. Heralded as esteemed guests of Viceroy Gaff, the Jedi and their two companions were provided an air-conditioned chamber within the sleek government building for their use as well as access to a private washroom, the first they had seen since their shuttle had crashed onto the planet’s surface. The room had been cleared out in a hurry and then hastily supplied with a number of fresh beds (initially one less than was needed until Dr. Lamenk’srey rectified the situation by making it abundantly clear that Firanesh was in fact staying with them) and metal floors scuffed by the edges of shelves and crates since-expelled in favor of their accommodations. The bedsheets were of a synthsilk richer by far than the material the party accompanying Dr. Lamenk’srey had seen upon the miners’ cots, its surface cool and sleek like that provided in higher-level Coruscanti hotels.

The heat of day had dissipated as night further enveloped the camp in darkness, the Jedi’s inner robes still tacky with sweat as they waited to meet yet more strangers in search of aid. Varman shirked from the rich synthsilks and air conditioning the Jedi had been provided, shunning these material comforts and desiring to head back as soon as possible, but both Dr. Lamenk’srey and Firanesh quickly urged him to reconsider. Night was no time for strangers to be going out, Firanesh had pointed out; the skillful feet of native Bunumi might lead them to safety, but one wrong step could easily spell anyone's doom—he regaled them with a story of how one of the earliest explorers post-contact had considered himself to be an expert on the planet’s fauna only to confuse a snarlworm for its tamer cousins and find himself digested in an excruciating bath of acid. When his companions found him, Firanesh said with a wry laugh, his companions could only recognize his body due to the armorweave underwear he had always worn for luck, its material being the only part of his garb or his body that had resisted the harsh acids of the snarlworm’s digestive tract. It was a lesson that Gaff’s people did not soon forget after their arrival either, remarked the Blackspur guard that the Republic's people had positioned outside their room. Three of the mercenaries had went out too far from the edge of the camp on their first night stationed in the jungle; when they were found three days later, their corpses could only be identified by the corroded husks of their armor.

So together the Jedi waited, lingering in the company of their guide and their translator as they considered their options as to how they might proceed once their friends and masters were buried. It was not long before the appointed hour came, the time when Quillow and Yerin led the way out of the building and the Jedi one-by-one abandoned the building under the pretense of becoming more familiar with the wildlife—what wildlife existed after the pesticidal bombardment of the camp, at least. The guard watched the Jedi as they left but did not follow them out, only speaking something into a comlink behind them as the esteemed guests of the viceroy made their way into the cool air of the Bunumi night.
Hey y'all! With the second of our two divided collabs up, I'll have another post guiding us to a short collab between the all of us up by this weekend, focusing on the Jedi after they reconvene and discuss whatever matter it is that Simris wants to talk about. I'm pleased with all the elaboration into your characters that you provided, and I'd like to give a special thanks to @seonhyang for her portrayal of Dr. Stempara—I love how he oozes paternalistic energy in such a natural way, something that plays well off of his more sensitive and sympathetic Jedi interlocutors. Overall, the insight into all your characters' points of view has been lovely, and I'm excited to see where things go!
In Merano's Shadow
written in collaboration with @seonhyang and @an abomunist

Countless miners watched Yerin, Quillow, and Firanesh as they passed, used enough to the sight of an academic like Dr. Lamenk’srey but openly gawking at the rare sight of Jedi and the oddity of a local in their camp. There were hundreds of tents gathered together, the majority of them marked with a stylized logo of the fish that gave Coppergrin Mining its name, but a few of the tents stuck out with their fraying ropes and faded designs, standing at the edge of camp where Dr. Lamenk’srey was heading.

“We’re headed right there; you’ll know it when you see it. Just like archaeologists to not be given fancy tents,” Dr. Lamenk’srey remarked with a wry grin.

As the four passed by, many of the miners leaned out of their tents to steal glances at them, dressed in their plainclothes or with stained Coppergrin jumpsuits rolled down to their waists. Some were cooking at this hour, mixing up their rations with what game they could catch and dark blue buns made from the local rice; other miners lay injured in their tents, minding their own wounds with bandages and juvan salves. On the archaeologists’ side of camp, massive fans meant to ward off the heat did little to cool the muggy air, instead only blowing scents that made evident the Republic’s imposition upon the jungle: woodsmoke, veg-meat, and burnt coffee, along with the reek of powerful pesticides.

Their voices enveloped in the powerful thrum of whirling fan blades, a band of archaeologists from a number of Nabooan universities in cooperation with the Antiquities Institute sat drinking around an open fire, passing around an open bottle of Corellian brandy with a number of emptied bottles cast off around them. Looking to a short dark-haired man shouting some joke about careless graduate students, Dr. Lamenk’srey called out: “Dr. Stempara! We have some… special visitors here if you’re not too preoccupied. With luck, they might help with the dig site situation.”

“Special visitors?” Swiveling his head at the sound of a familiar voice, the man—Dr. Stempara—rose to his feet, brushing his hands off on his trousers with a huff. “How nice to see you, Dr. Lamenk’srey.”

With a sharp smile and a gleam in his eye, he approached the group, looking them up and down. “Some friends you’ve found there,” he said to the Twi’lek. “It’s not every day one sees Jedi at a dig site. Now, to whom do I have the pleasure of acquaintance today?”

“Yerin Kha.” Thankfully, Yerin had made a point to put her boots back on before visiting the camp so as to not meet them like a barefoot beggar. Donning a polite smile, the Togruta offered the archaeologist her hand to shake, taking care to match the firmness of his grip when his hand met hers. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Stempara. And this is my friend….” As her voice trailed off, she nodded to Quillow, leaving the Ithorian space to introduce himself as Dr. Stempara offered him his hand.

“I am called Quillow; this one is pleased to greet the Dr. Stempara—” the Ithorian replied in his strange melodic accent that was now tinged metallic as he spoke through the heavy lump of a translator strapped to his neck-hump, its thin silver implements stretching over both of his mouths on either side of his neck. The Jedi's green hood gracefully—and telekinetically—lowered as Quillow's four lanky fingers and thumb wrapped around the man's wrist and forearm like glossy vines. A squinch of his eyes and a nod of his head completed the friendly introduction, though his mouths and throats burned from the acrid taste of the defoliants. His gaze slowly drifted to Yerin, then to Dr. Lamenk'srey.

“My companion and I were accompanying the wonderful doctor that we might observe the development here. If there are issues, we would hear them,” he continued, turning once more to his Jedi colleague and nodding at her.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” said Dr. Stempara.

“Quillow speaks rightly. Dr. Lamenk’srey mentioned an archaeological dig at the ruins of the Tower of Senlev, so we went to investigate. But before we arrived here, we met with the Onethi, who told us that the Tower is sacred to all the Bunumi,” Yerin said, tilting her head curiously. “Are you not concerned with how the locals may receive your effort to excavate the ruins of the Tower?” The faintest note of worry wavered in her voice, but she did what she could to smooth it flat.

Gently extricating his forearm from the slender fingers that twisted around it, Dr. Stempara nodded to both of the Jedi.

“Both of you may rest assured; I have already been familiarized with the situation, though I believe you may be… misled by the locals’ account, for which I do not blame them,” he said, his voice softened with sympathy. “It is simply a consequence of their lack of history. My team and I see no continuity between the people of Senlev and the Onethi—or any of the other Bunumi tribes, for that matter. The notion that the Bunumi are the heirs of Senlev is a mere legal fiction,” he added, punctuating his words with emphatic gestures. “Misconceptions aside, there is a problem with which you two might be able to help me. Have you any other Jedi friends?”

Quillow raised a finger and tapped at the right side of his neck. “And often are the consequences of anger more grievous than what caused it.”

The Ithorian left it at that, clearing his burning throats, the sound of which was alike to that of a sickly choir. He idly fiddled with the trinkets on his belt as he remembered what the elder had told them earlier— ‘Perhaps it is better for them to forget, then, if Stempara is truthful,’ he pondered. The archaeologist’s question hung in the air a moment as Quillow's thoughts briefly passed over Welck's datapad.

“Yes; three more of our compatriots are now there.” The Ithorian slowly twisted his torso and pointed at the square official's building. “There were more of us, but... we are committed to help where it is required.”

Wincing sympathetically at the sound of Quillow’s cough, Yerin opened her mouth to speak, but Dr. Stempara beat her to it. “Well, your help would be much appreciated!” he said.

“Now, all I need is for you two and your friends to just keep this between us, at least for a while.” As he leaned in toward them, Stempara’s gaze flicked upward to compensate for the disparity between his stature and his guests’, particularly Quillow’s. “You see, Edburn Gaff—Governor Prem’s aide—has… interests that are misaligned with the needs of the Republic and this planet’s locals both.”

“I see,” Taking a breath only to grimace at the stinging in her throat, Yerin tightened the edges of her smile in the hope that it would make her appear more neutral than she felt. Strong sentiments are unbecoming of a Jedi, she reminded herself, for they betray attachment. Yerin’s eyes began to water from the chemicals afloat in the air; she blinked in a vain attempt to see clearly again. Dr. Stempara is lucky to stand with his back to the wind. “How can you know that for certain, Doctor? If their interests are a high priority for you, have you spoken with the Bunumi about what they want?”

“I don’t have to!” With a wave of both his hands, the archaeologist continued, “Well, I don’t know so much of the language, but that’s beside the point. If they’re unsatisfied with the dig now, they’ll be even angrier to hear what Gaff has in store. All that greedy bastard wants here are the artifacts, and artifacts alone. For all I know, he and the Governor might try to sell them to some museum on Coruscant.” He wrinkled his nose, his lip curling with as much disgust as professionalism allowed.

“And that wouldn’t please anyone except Gaff and his superiors,” Yerin mused. “So you would like us to do something about the Governor’s aide? Should we speak with him too?”

“Just don’t let him get away with it. There’s so much more to this planet than just a few shiny artifacts. Indeed, Bunum has the promise to be the beginning of a rich relationship between the Republic and its subjects. The Bunumi in particular have much to offer the rest of the Republic, from what I’ve seen—we’ve got a lot to learn from their lifestyles so in sync with nature. And their primitive towns shall in turn benefit from the technology of the Republic and our scientific advancements. It’s a win-win.”

Quillow fought back the urge to roll his eyes skyward. Primitive. The Republic is nothing more than a common collective of tribes—they may understand technology better and live behind metal walls, but it is very much a tribal affinity that greases its machinations, like one great herdship, he thought, though he held his tongue. Dr. Stempara was correct about one thing, at least—learning from living in sync with nature. Perhaps if he applied the effort even he could realize that we're all already “subjects” under the Force. An understanding the Bunumi are much closer to; the healthiest tree does not eat its own roots. The Ithorian's thoughts trailed off to his home above Ithor. The philosophical sentiment was one of the first that young pupa are taught once their metamorphosis allowed them to understand speech. Of course, the clerics don't use the term ‘Force,’ but Quillow knew now what they truly meant.

The Ithorian glanced at Yerin and tented his fingers. “We will assuredly relay the issue to our other companions when next we meet.”

“Lifestyles … in sync with nature.” Dr. Stempara’s words brought to mind fields of tall red grass that waved in the hot summer wind and summer days beneath the shadows of mountain crags that had not yet been turned into enormous mines, the air clear and clean and sweet with the redolence of fruit. As a little girl on Shili, Yerin had felt the earth’s pulse nearly thrumming beneath her feet. Once, her father and her aunt had brought home an akul they had slain; she had watched them take care to use each part of the beast—teeth for jewelry, hides for shields and sandals, meat to keep for the winter, beads and broth from the bones. When the Republic had come to her village and asked them the price of a slain akul, they had laughed. The labor had begun and ended to sustain their village; the akuls were both slain in small numbers and preserved in greater ones so that the Togruta would continue to thrive in both the present and the future. How could one put a price on the indefinite sustenance of life itself? Transactions have a definite beginning and an end, she noted, but the life of a community is far longer; its needs stretch and grow and change indefinitely and in every direction. The Force runs in everything, too; if one puts a price on the fruits of the land, does one not put a price on the Force?

A hint of unease twisted in Yerin’s stomach as she contemplated Dr. Stempara’s words. The town of the Onethi hardly resembled Coruscant, but the Bunumi were no animals crawling around undisturbed jungle. They, like the Togrutas of Shili, had still shaped the worlds around them: aquaculture fields and houses with durasteel roofs were not born whole out of the wilderness. Shili is part of the Republic, too, but what lessons has the Republic learned from their way of life? What costs might the Bunumi pay that the Togrutas did not?

“Yes, and I am quite certain that the distinctly superior minds of educated and self-aware Republic academics will be more adept at discerning the way the Bunumi function in relation to nature than, ah, I don’t know, the people themselves,” Dr. Lamenk’srey replied dryly. She told a joke to Firanesh in his native tongue that made the Twi’lek laugh, but she gave little explanation to the Basic-speakers gathered there.

“Regardless,” she added with a scrutinizing eye, “I hope that your dig team is still in agreement with my wife and I that there is indeed continuity between the modern Bunumi and those dead peoples buried in their stupas beneath the Tower, despite Coppergrin Mining’s copious funding towards the Antiquities Institute.”

Dr. Lamenk’srey’s joke drew Yerin out of her ruminations. Though she didn’t recognize more than half of the Twi’leki words, she smiled. Yet the twitch of Dr. Stempara’s eye betrayed that he, however, was far less pleased. “We’ll see about that. Though I hate to disappoint you, Dr. Lamenk’srey, my dig team has found nothing that suggests such a continuity.” He looked past her to the Jedi. “Is there anything else you two need?”

Quillow pointedly steered the conversation away from what was causing disagreement, adopting a softer tone of voice: “I certainly would not want to assume, and perhaps you are the wrong person to ask, but might we speak to the miners here, should we wish?”

“I’m afraid I’m not the one in charge of all that,” Dr. Stempara answered, brushing dust off his hands. “But I’m glad to help you. Yara Bolmett is the Coppergrin miners’ foreman and their supervisor here on site; she’d be the one to ask.”

Quillow slowly lurched forward into a slight bow, “I thank you. There is nothing else I would know from you—” the Ithorian turned to his Togruta companion.

“Thank you, Dr. Stempara!” Yerin chimed, inclining her head politely. “Your insights were most helpful.”

Waving the two Jedi off, Dr. Stempara called, “Good luck with the Foreman! She can be a little surly. And don’t forget what I told you two.”

#

Yara Bolmett was a short walk away, sitting beside a miner whose leg had been crushed by the collapse of a mining tunnel and now lay moaning in pain. The foreman was a broad-shouldered woman with steely eyes, and though she dressed alike to the rest of the miners for Coppergrin, her arm was marked by a patch that denoted her position over the others.

“Can I help you?” she asked as soon as the Jedi came near, watching them without the usual awe and respect that followed Jedi as they moved through the galaxy. “If you’re just here on a tour, then I’m afraid this ain’t the most interesting part of camp.”

Quillow spoke first, after giving a quick bow: “This one greets she whom he believes is the foreman Yara Bolmett—I am called Quillow—a Jedi here observing the dealings of the Republic and the Bunumi. I would know if my companions and I may speak to other of your people—” Quillow caught himself almost using the word ‘herd.’ “—that is, the other miners here, about what they’ve seen or experienced, and perhaps offer any aid if need be.” His eyestalks shifted from the foreman to the injured miner.

Shadowing her eyes from the stinging air, Yerin offered the foreman a smile. “We wish to do what we can for you and yours,” she said, her gaze drifting over to the injured miner. She was no medic, but to her the leg looked unsalvageable.

“That ain’t much,” Bolmett replied. “Honest work is hard work in this part of the galaxy. These kinds of wounds are part of the job description.”

She rolled back her left pant-leg to show a gleaming cybernetic foot, the model nearly a century out of date from the looks of it, but functional and well-maintained as were many things in the farthest reaches of the known galaxy.

“Yeah, the work’s tough—but we’re built tougher. This is a good gig for the miners here, and I’m thankful—we’re all thankful—to have well-paying honest work on the right side of the law. The Republic’s cut ain’t much of a price to pay compared to that you’ll pay smuggling arms or dealing smashbulbs on the street—too many folks take on work like that only to get mercilessly gunned down by some Hutt lapdog or a Corellian beat cop. This kind of work lets us get by on our own without bowing down to some gangster overlord. So we’ve been doing good for ourselves. Some folks you talk to might complain, but between you and me, I think they just ain’t cut out for this kind of thing. Go on ahead and ask what other folks think, but… I think some folks wouldn’t know a good deal if it blasted them in the face.”

Yerin answered Bolmett with a single polite nod. A pensive hum escaped her lips as she contemplated the foreman’s words. Though the temple of Senlev is sacred to the Bunumi, it may be that the miners here rely on the Republic’s presence on Bunum for work that keeps them out of violence and destitution. Of course, the question of whether the deal was really as good as Bolmett had said remained; the Togruta knew that it could easily be in the foreman’s interest to overlook the dangers faced by the miners doing grunt work for Coppergrin.

“Thank you, Foreman Bolmett,” she said, scanning the nearby fires for any lone figures whose miens might suggest a willingness to talk. “I am glad to hear that the Republic provides such security here on Bunum to those who would otherwise resort to dangerous and illicit work to survive.”

Quillow blinked flatly. Life on a herdship was peaceful and structured—growing pupae were usually quickly assigned an area of work they showed an aptitude for; a calling, if you will. Coupled with a propensity to wholly exile those who wished not to participate in their society, Ithorians were afforded a peaceful culture, wherein citizens were provided for as much as they aided in providing. Quillow often forgot that other peoples and societies couldn't enforce such drastic measures—his time in training on Coruscant, where the possibility of banishment loomed in many an aspiring Padawan’s mind, only hampered his rapport in this regard further. Bolmett's statements left the Ithorian feeling humbled, and cemented in Quillow's mind the situation here on Bunum would only continue to spiderweb; but Welck was not here to help him parse his thoughts and feelings. A sorrowful chill and ethereal pull of his spirit tugged at him, an empty feeling that he wasn't sure he'd be able to fill. And should he try to fill it? Would the memories be lost, then, consumed by a desire for comfort? Welck and Quillow together sought to shoulder the burden of memory of those perhaps too weak or lacking—was he even fit anymore?

Quillow shook the thoughts away as Yerin answered, reattuning himself to the conversation in front of him, desperate to get his mind on something else. He glanced around at the numerous tents, and once more at the officials' building in the distance. He had a sense their other companions were close to finishing their meeting, had they not already.

“I would thank the Bolmett for being most forthwith, and for her good graces,” he croaked, tenting his fingers and bowing once again.

He glanced at Yerin, and back to the official's building, “Perhaps we might rejoin the others first, as they may wish to speak with some of the miners, as well.”

“Yeah, don’t mention it,” Bolmett said as she turned her attention back to her wounded compatriots, tacitly signalling that she had no more to say to the Jedi.

Some forty meters behind Bolmett, a Duros miner waved a red cloth in the air as though to call the Jedi toward her. In her tent, few beside the two outsiders could see her—it seemed that she was calling for their attention specifically.

The ribbon of red caught the attention of the Ithorian, who tapped Yerin gently on the shoulder and pointed the signal out. Without another word, Quillow lumbered forth, leathery fingers pulling back the flaps of the tent as he entered, though his height and general awkward anatomy left little in the way of comfort or grace; these tents clearly weren't made for someone of his size. He resigned to growing comfortable with a stoop.

“This one greets you and would know what you wish?”

“My name is Gunni Simris and I need your help. Can you and your friends meet me later behind the fans?” the Duros whispered, her red eyes furtively glancing to and fro. “There are too many prying eyes here—but we desperately need any aid you can provide.”

Quillow joined her in taking suspicious glances at her mention, seeing she was suddenly cautious. Nothing caught his eyes, but he admitted he didn’t know what he was looking for in the first place. If this was to be clandestine, they’d better make this meeting quick.

“We could certainly meet you,” Quillow replied with a brisk nod, one foot already out of the door.

“Thank you,” Simris said, swallowing nervously as she considered her next words, settling upon them in a flash of recollection. Though no Jedi herself, she spoke them almost like a prayer: “May the Force be with you.”
The Durasteel Palace
written in collaboration with @Auz and @boomerremover

Despite its utilitarian exterior, the interior of the Republic base of operations was a richly-decorated building consisting of a vast central chamber surrounded by numerous doorways on the first and second story. Its durasteel walls were lined with vibrant ceramics, whole segments of stone walls decorated with bas-relief, and excavated artefacts of jade and silver and gold—and beside each of these treasures stood Blackspur mercenaries in suits of sleek durasteel with blaster rifles at the ready. It smelled sterile like a medbay, and the air was air-conditioned to provide comfort despite the uniforms mandated for Blackspur and Republic personnel alike—the building was more akin to spacecraft than anything else.

As the Jedi entered the building, a cadre of Blackspur snipers drew beads on each Jedi’s chest from a promontory high above them until the secretary, his eyes flitting between the lightsabers each Jedi wore, called the guards to stand down. His fingers began flying across a datapad as he told the wayward Jedi to “Hold just a minute!”

It took but a moment for him to indicate a Blackspur escort to lead the Jedi party up the stairs into the office of the encampment’s leader. This late in the evening, most of the officials were asleep, but they passed through a smattering of people of differing species who spoke in a variety of different languages but all wore the same sharp double-breasted uniforms in dark green that marked allegiance to the Governor of Merano’s branch of the Republic Defense Coalition. Each paid the Jedi looks when they thought the three of them were not looking, but said little as the strangers passed. When at last the Jedi arrived at the office at the back of the building, their escort pulled aside as the doors slid open.

Compared to the rest of the facility, the room was sparse and cold, being a small office with only a desk and adjacent terminal atop a dais, a door to one side, and a large window facing the cool purples of the Bunumi landscape beyond. A lanky man wearing a crisp-pressed Merano uniform and a carefully-maintained moustache rose from his seat at the desk as soon as he heard the sharp hiss of the door opening.

“It’s not very often that we have the distinct pleasure of welcoming Jedi!” he exclaimed in a genteel Coruscanti accent as the Jedi came in, offering a bright and picture-perfect smile to each of the visitors and extending his hand in greeting. “I, dear Masters, am Viceroy Edburn Gaff, the aide to the rightful governor of this territory, Selaré Prem, as well as the official representative of the Merano system on Bunum. If I may be of any use to the Jedi Order, please, but give the word. Now tell me: what may I do for you?”

Sunao slicked back his hair, catching a few of the off-shoots that had been re-ruffled when he had passed an air-conditioning unit. Despite his initial hope, the trip down the corridors of the Republic base had only made him feel worse. He had become acutely aware of his appearance upon their entrance, feeling a tinge of rose colour his cheeks as those around the trio looked on. Quickly removing his tattered robe, the young Padawan had folded it over his arm, furiously tucking in any bits of tunic that’d come loose. Subtly dipping his head towards his armpit, he decided that there wasn’t much he could do about the smell but he at least could fix his hair. Running his fingers through, he had swept it back, giving it some semblance of what it normally looked like.

“Get close.” The words of Master Yen forced their way to the front of Sunao’s mind as he took a step forward. “If you stand too far away, then the person won’t know you mean to shake their hand.” On any other day, the Padawan would’ve followed the unspoken etiquette of the Republic’s political circle robotically. But today was not his day. Stepping again, he fell 3 feet short of the man in front.

“But not too close, it makes you look creepy.”

Falling back half a pace, Sunao meekly took Edburn’s hand. “We… er… crashed and uh…” The Padawan paused, surprised by the croak in his voice. Were these the first words he had spoken since the collision?

“Sorry,” he continued, clearing his throat, “I- my name is Sunao Zimtara, Padawan to Master Yennifer Reyes. We have crash landed on this planet and are in need of aid.”

“I’m terribly sorry to hear that,” Gaff replied, casting a sympathetic gaze upon Varman, Monty, and him. He offered his hand to the other two Jedi in turn before returning to his seat.

“Ask, dear friends, and it will be made available to you. Need you treatment for the wounded? Food and shelter? Passage offworld? We have fine accommodations here in our camp, and I would not regret a single credit spent on ensuring the comfort and security of you dear Jedi in such a savage land as this.”

“You are a most generous host,” Varman cut in with a soft voice, glancing to his companions as he spoke. He spoke haggardly, unsure of the best way to broach the situation and all too aware of his unkempt appearance. “But there was another matter too, sir. We come on the behalf of Onethi village to discuss the mining situation.”

“The mining situation, was it?” the viceroy said, his brows furrowed as he recalled past discussions regarding the topic. “Well. I am sorry for these natives’ concerns, but it is not my fault that they agreed before the eyes of the law to incorporate their society into the Galactic Republic. Whatever they may desire of their own planet, they are beholden to a higher purpose. As our Supreme Chancellor is so fond of saying: We are all the Republic. We aid each other however we may, even when that aid may come at great cost; it is our great honor and our great burden. Surely Jedi understand the necessity of such sacrifice more than most.”

“Of course sacrifice is understood,” Delste said with a practiced tongue, though her brows furrowed and creased in a way that makes the effort of sincere politeness palpable. “And you will excuse me for speaking out of turn, but should sacrifice come at the price of something so culturally important to the native people here? Was this operation aware of exactly the magnitude of disrespect being shown when they began mining? Have you spoken with them at length about this at all?” The more she spoke, the more the Padawan’s temper was brought into the light, despite her refined posture and appearance.

“Have you?” Gaff interjected with a critical eye. “It seems terribly presumptuous of you, young Master, to make such assumptions about such things as disrespect when you yourself have been here for… How long? A day at the very best? The situation, I can assure you, is far more complex than we have time to elucidate today. You are both a newcomer and an outsider to this place; what gives you the right to speak on the behalf of these peoples’ needs and desires?

“Furthermore, we are in the business of saving lives here. Not a month ago did a huntsman die a long death from a wound that would have been healed in an instant on Coruscant. Boundless respect and care may be the lofty goals of a Jedi Knight, but endless pussyfooting shall neither preserve the life of a woman dying from birthing complications, nor heal the child made victim of a pirate’s stray blaster bolt, nor restore the crushed arm of a man caught in the sudden tremor of an earthquake. Bacta, on the other hand, will—once production goes into full swing, of course.

“Whatever their subsequent regrets may be, the introduction of Bunum into the Galactic Republic at large will be a net boon for these people as it has been for everyone else. They will find security, peace, and powers of medicine far beyond the primitive capabilities of a planet such as this. Please, I understand these sympathies of yours, but do not let them cloud your judgement; we will all come out of this situation having benefited from the beauty and knowledge of every corner of the galaxy, Bunum not least of all.”

Delste raised her chin and, with a haughty set of her jaw, stormed up to next to Sunao--going so far as to even take that half-step closer to the Republic official. In a single motion she straightened out her skirt and tunic, then tucked a single stray hair behind her ear, all to turn a pointed finger at the man. "Our ship is burning, sir; we dragged out our dead and injured with no help from the Republic and no help from anyone until the natives of Bunum found us in the jungle and took us in! My Master is sitting in their camp right now; tell me, will the Bacta you have here bring back the leg he lost in that crash? Or should I have to wait for you to finish mining out this whole camp?"

There is no chaos, there is harmony, she could almost hear Master Nikdoris say to her in the ghost of a whisper; in a crashing wave of refusal, she flooded him out of her thoughts.

"These people are not nearly as primitive as you seem to enjoy painting them as; you'll find us least of all to be swayed by your pretty words and lofty vocabulary, all the while obscuring the fact that you're not telling us anything of importance! You're mining on a place of cultural and spiritual importance for these people; that should be enough to give you pause and to communicate with the elders there! Have you done even that? And I would beseech you not to dance around my question!"

“Of course we have spoken with them,” Gaff coolly answered, turning to face the large window to the planet beyond. “We have communicated with the local tribes and sealed their approval with contracts legally-binding in the eyes of the Galactic Republic. We spoke, they answered, and now the deal is done. That contract is as easy to break as it is to renege upon your vows to the Jedi Order and live a life doing nothing in the face of others’ hardship.

“I am saying nothing of their customs; I say only that their technology is primitive which it patently is. Their rifles and cybernetics are thousands of years out of date, they have not even the outmoded advancement of juvan. I speak not out of contempt but out of concern. How many more of the Bunumi must die needlessly in our era of the greatest technological innovation the galaxy has ever seen?”

Sunao reeled in his jaw, taken aback by the vitriol of his companion. He had never seen Jedi with such an instant contempt for the Republic. Not that he fully approved of what the aide had said, nor his tone, but they had at least followed the correct steps. Perhaps there was something else at play or, much like himself, the crash had impacted the others more than just physically. The Padawan’s brows furrowed as his lips pursed. Since the tragedy he had only thought of himself and his master, he couldn’t even recall what the others' names were.

Suddenly, a tinge of bright crimson began to emanate from his human companion, followed by a waft of amber orange. The Padawan stifled a gasp as a wave of relief began to wash over him. “Anger?” He spoke softly, the words hidden under his breath.

“Or compassion?” His eyes shifted to the side as his hand reached for his chin. “Followed by bravado? Or confidence?”[ The colours dissipated as quickly as they had appeared. A cloud of doubt blanketed the young man’s mind.

“Remember, the best-negotiated agreement lets both sides win.”

Words from his master sallied forth once more, prodding Sunao into action. “Of course, Mr. Gaff,” he replied, conviction skirting the edge of his voice, “No one should needlessly die in this day and age. My compatriots and I have just had a horrendous day as you might’ve guessed. Like you said, you and yours have followed the law to the letter and really any further inquiry should be taken up with those who signed said contracts.”

The Padawan paused, nodding to the Jedi before continuing. “In the meantime, we will take any medical supplies and rations you can spare. As soon as the injured are ready for transport, we will bring them to the facilities here.”

As the other Padawan spoke, Delste cooled her tongue and stepped back behind him once more. While Sunao smoothed things over with Gaff, she found herself with her arms crossed over her chest and a firm glare sent in the direction of the Republic official--whether or not he deserved it didn’t cross her mind. Temperance, such a lack of temperance, she swore she could hear Nikdoris chide. Delste shook her head at the scene and turned away to let the others speak, glancing only briefly at Varman as she did so; I’m not looking to be scolded by anyone else.

“Yes,” Varman added, daring now to speak only after the other Jedi had made their opinions plain. He had lingered in the silence of inaction, unsure of how to broach the fragility of diplomacy without shattering it beneath his martial nature. “We would be tremendously grateful for your aid and I can assure you that the Jedi Order shall not soon forget such an act of great kindness.”

Gaff spun about once more, casting an appraising look towards the gathered Jedi. “Of course we shall share with you what supplies we can, my friends. But the Republic will unfortunately be short-handed due to this sudden influx of injured people, and our supplies are also rather low from a recent cave-in that injured nearly forty miners—it will be taxing, of course, but such is, as I said, our great honor and our great burden as fellows of the Republic.

“But now that I think about it, if you help us end this operation sooner… perhaps we may be able to spare parts for your ship or a ship of our own for yourselves. The people of Bunum keep their record of their contract with the Republic in the Tower of Senlev. Retrieve this document for us and Bunumi fears will be quelled, our operation will run smoother, and all parties shall return to the safety of our homes all the sooner. With the assurance of our operation’s success, I would be more than willing to spare more medical attention for your wounded Jedi friends. Well? What say you?”

Varman opened his mouth to speak, but he was unsure of if it was to protest or to agree; he ultimately remained silent, waiting to see what the others might say before he himself would add anything else.

Sunao raised a brow at the request. Strange that they did not have a copy of such an important document but nevertheless it appeared, to the Padawan, to be a reasonable ask. “I’ll be happy to enquire about such things, when we return.” He replied, widening a friendly smile as best he could.

“Then farewell,” Gaff said with a pleased smile as he waved the Jedi out from his office door, “and may the Force be with you.”
The Burned-out Clearing

After consulting with each other for a few minutes more, the Jedi survivors made their way to the Republic encampment, the air still sticky with humidity despite the sun’s fading light. Before they left, Thuda had bid the Twi’lek who had first led them to the Onethi village to be their guide and after a short negotiation he agreed, introducing himself as Firanesh as he grabbed his lever-action blaster rifle and turned to guide his charges towards their destination. Dr. Lamenk’srey joined them as their translator, treading behind them and explaining Firanesh’s actions as they went.

The cuts the Jedi had made as they came to the village, though as precise as they could hope to make them, seemed wild and frantic by comparison to Firanesh’s movements as he cleared the way; instead of slicing through each and every plant in his path, he warded away what vines he could with the barrel of his blaster rifle and hacked only at that which he could not peacefully traverse with a vibro-machete he wore slung under one arm. Once he shot a massive insect with a thousand teeth that came too near—the Bunumi leechfly, Dr. Lamenk’srey said—but otherwise he moved with a practiced elegance achieved only through a lifetime of familiarity with the jungle, preferring to leap or to roll rather than to cut or to shoot, though always taking care to not stain his blue sarong.

Back at the village, Dr. Astulli had disparaged previous scholars who had claimed upon discovering the Bunumi that the peoples of the planet were uniquely one with nature in a fashion that more-developed peoples had forgotten; to the contrary, she pointed out that they were masters of exploiting what abundance there was in the jungle through selective breeding and planting so that a place considered to be harsh and inhospitable by Republic-led expeditions proved sustainable and full of life, a fact bolstered by Firanesh’s treatment of the jungle as they passed under its canopy. Once on their trek, Firanesh sliced open a stranglervine (Dr. Lamenk’srey’s calque of the native word jimavol) to reveal an interior bursting with the same sweetwater that had filled cups by the fireside; when he shot the Bunumi leechfly, he plucked its bioluminescent eggs, thrusting them into a sack and tying the sack to the barrel of his blaster rifle. Where the canopy grew dark, Firanesh raised high the glowing eggs, their bright light piercing through the blackness of the jungle even in lieu of a lightsaber. He was proud to show the Jedi his prowess in shooting and in bushcraft, grinning at them each time he showed them something new.

Eventually the careful cutting and cultivation of Onethi efforts gave way to burned-out trees and scorchmarks as moonlight returned, the trees began to thin, and the path grew easy to tread. Firanesh needed cut no more when he and the Jedi stood at the edge of a vast and empty clearing in the jungle, trees replaced by black soils and the sharp-sour smell of noxious but effective industrial pesticides. He only pointed the way forward before falling behind the Jedi and shrinking back, his Aurebesh-tattooed skin sticking out in this place just as the bare skin of the Jedi had in his own village.

The communications tower rose high as they passed by it into the encampment proper. Within it, there were a number of tents and hastily-erected buildings, the area large enough to provide a medbay, a large Republic base of operations, an area for the tents of dozens of various personnel, and a shiny octagonal building that stood three stories high for the local garrison of mercenaries whose name was blazoned beneath the logo of a gamecock’s bladed foot: ʙʟᴀᴄᴋꜱᴘᴜʀ ꜱᴇᴄᴜʀɪᴛʏ. The camp was full of people at this hour who gawked at the strange company who came, miners and archaeologists peeking out of their tents and turning their heads from the fire as they regarded them, more-disciplined mercenaries who spared them cautious glances, and Republic personnel rushing between the buildings in crisp green uniforms. On the other side of the camp stood a legion of shiny transports, marked alternatively with the rondel of the Galactic Republic or Blackspur's talons.

“I hope he listens to you better than he listens to me,” Dr. Lamenk’srey said, “but if you’re wanting to talk to the man in charge, you’re headed to that square officials’ building over there—Good luck. He’ll give you access to the medbay at least, and that might help. I for one am going to check on the archaeology situation at the moment, but either way, give Blackspur a wide berth. I trust them as far as I can throw them—and as my wife will tell you, that isn’t too far at all.”
Great posts all around! I'll reiterate some of what I've already mentioned on Discord along with a couple additions. Overall, I love the prose and the way that everyone has added on more details to that which I had laid out in the first post!

@an abomunist Once again, I love Quillow's struggles with grief now that he's the one dealing with loss rather than helping others cope with theirs. His lingering attachment to his Master's possessions despite the fact that he bids others to let go of their own is really interesting—I'm curious to see where the shift from taking away to taking with me is going to lead!

@seonhyang Your prose is luscious with sensory detail as always! I especially loved your elaboration upon Master Taspul and the anthropologists—I freely encourage everyone to make additions like that—and I love that it consequently makes Yerin feel more rooted in the Order through her past experience. Her real warm approach to nature and scientific curiosity is wonderful too, bridging some of the gap between science and the Jedi preoccupation with capital-N Nature in a way that feels joyous and lively.

@boomerremover Delste's care for Master Nikdoris is really interesting given her previous antipathy! I'm wondering where that will lead and if it will only last as long as no more words are coming out of his mouth. Even bitter, she's compassionate towards him, and I like that! Her attention to appearance and clothing is really interesting too. I know you had mentioned her being a little image-conscious and I love how that plays with the unfamiliar environment!

@Auz Sunao's early fear is great! I love how he's so soon overcome with grief and shock at the moment while also holding high expectations for himself. His mistrust for space and starships is interesting too as well as the way that his fastidious appearance is so quickly ruined. I'm eager to see the effects of these recent events going forward!

And speaking of going forward, I'll try to get a post out this weekend; afterwards we can split up into a couple short collabs as the Jedi engage with the Republic camp!
@seonhyang I like having headers if only for ease of finding a particular post, but format them how you wish! We could do similar headings or different ones, but I'm not bothered either way. The only thing I'll really say no to is colored dialogue but otherwise, feel free to format however you'd like!
Seeing as the 5th has come and passed, I've chosen the two new members who will be joining our RP:

@boomerremover and @an abomunist, welcome aboard! You will receive invitations to the Discord server shortly; feel free to post your character sheets in the Characters tab now. If you would like to match my formatting (which is nice but by no means required), the color I'm using is color=dcb246. To all the rest of you, thank you for your applications and the effort put into them; I regret not being able to take on more.

Regarding the first IC post itself, don't feel compelled to match the length I have for this starter; a lot of what I have is largely scene-setting with the intent of providing room to write in your characters in the posts to come. While collabs will be generally welcome, I would rather this first post be individual if only to provide more characterization of your characters in the span of time from the crash to the end of Varman's post. Thank you in advance!

It is a golden age in the galaxy. Supreme Chancellor Lina Soh and the
noble Jedi Knights spread a message of unity across an expanding
GALACTIC REPUBLIC. But disaster awaits!

Journeying through the Outer Rim, a group of Jedi were forced out of
hyperspace by unexpected debris and have crash-landed in the
shadow of an ancient ruin on the planet of BUNUM.

Stranded from the Jedi Order in a vast jungle, it will take all the wits
of these stranded Jedi to prevent the situation from developing into
all-out war….

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