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Beyond - Legends Greater Than the Sum of his Parts (repost) - Ghent, Mara

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by divapilot, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Title: Greater Than the Sum of His Parts
    Author: Divapilot
    Characters: Ghent, Mara, Talon Karrde, Ocs
    Summary: In a chaotic universe, Ghent finds comfort in the predictability of numbers.
    Genre: drama
    Author’s Note: This is a repost from 2006. It has been slightly edited because I write more betterer now than I did ten years ago. It was originally written for the Ghent Challenge: How does Zakarisz Ghent stay so scrawny despite a Slicer's lifestyle? Tell us how!



    “Zakarisz!”

    Twelve-year-old Zakarisz Ghent’s head snapped up from his desk. He gulped.

    The schoolmaster loomed above the boy. “You find my lessons so dull that you can’t keep awake?” he growled, his feathery white eyebrows meshing together.

    “Forgive me, sir. It won’t happen again.” Zak heard the stifled giggling of the other students in the classroom.

    The schoolmaster’s long, pale finger pressed against the page of the book the class was reading. “This is a great work by a master writer,” he intoned. “I do not understand how you fail to appreciate this poetry. Can you not hear the rhythms? Can you not see the imagery? How does this escape you, boy?”

    Zak pulled a stray strand of blue hair away from his cheek, where it had pressed in during his brief nap. “I- I just don’t see the patterns, sir.”

    The schoolmaster regarded the boy as if he were an interesting, but ultimately unattractive, insect. He stepped back and raised his voice to address the rest of the class. “He doesn’t see the patterns. Perhaps someone can help him. Paresha?”

    Zak slid a glance at the girl two rows over. Paresha was tall, with beautiful curls. She already had her first facial tattoo. She kept her work in neat, orderly rows; sharp right angles and parallel lines of desk materials.

    Paresha cleared her voice. “The poetry of Trebor Tsorf is famous for its complex rhymes. This particular piece shows how Trebor uses random lines and unusual words to point out how seemingly unconnected events in our lives can come together to make something that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

    Zak rolled his eyes. That came straight from The Guide to Great Poets of Baroli. Big deal. Anyone could memorize.

    “Very well said, Paresha. Perhaps others in the class could be so eloquent if they chose to pay attention, too.” The schoolmaster strode back to his podium, his purple professor’s stole billowing behind him.

    As the aged teacher’s back was turned, Zak stuck his tongue out at Paresha, who sneered back at him. The schoolmaster spun around to address the classroom, and forty faces looked back at him, hands properly folded and the correct page visible on each desk.

    He tried hard to learn the lesson, but the words seemed to blur. Zak’s head hurt trying to force them into patterns. How could poetry ever work? Where was the logic to it? Words were messy. Nothing aligned.

    Mercifully, moments later the chime sounded to announce the end of the school day and the beginning of midday meal. The students rose from their desks, bowed respectfully to the schoolmaster, then filed out of the room.

    Cheerful groups of students gathered in the dining park, some huddled in small groups under trees, others loudly laughing at tables. Paresha and her friends chirped like birds as they shared fruit and giggles at their favorite table.

    Zak Ghent looked over the scene in front of him. In total, there were nine sets of students. Nine was a good number, a square. Nine could be a very friendly number.

    One of the sets appeared to consist of two subsets. That was the table where the athletic boys sat, separated by their respective sports but unified by their love of games. That table would not do. He would not be accepted by the athletes, and he would become a subset of one.

    Under the shading arch of the old tree sat six students. If he were to join, then there would be seven people and seven was a prime number. Prime numbers were tricky things. They wouldn’t divide evenly, so one part would always be more powerful than another. That table would not do, either.

    Paresha’s group, sitting prettily and waving to the athletic boys, was out of the question. He didn’t know much, but Zak knew enough not to try to sit with the girls.

    He frowned. Not again. There was no appropriate place for him to sit and eat.

    Zak turned and put his lunch into the recycler. He’d rather be hungry than try to insert himself into a set where he wasn’t wanted. As the food slid into the open container, he bit his lower lip and stole a glance at Paresha. She was leaning over and whispering into her friend’s ear while watching the handsome athlete leaning back against the tree. Paresha would never notice an empty set like him.

    Her name had seven letters. It was a prime name. Primes were tricky and not to be trusted, he reminded himself.

    Even his own name was a tricky prime. His last name alone was five letters long, which, although a prime number, still wasn’t such a bad number since it was the next consecutive integer from four, his favorite. But add the two names together and you had thirteen, an absolutely ugly prime. Even his name was absolutely ugly.

    He turned and sat near the door, by himself. To distract himself from the laughter of the other students, he pulled out a datacard with an interesting puzzle – a code that his father had been working on for an associate. Zak had found it among his father’s mathematical work, and the puzzle quickly intrigued him. He could feel that he was close to cracking it. The code kept him busy as the others walked around him, ignoring the odd boy with his pet numbers.

    ***

    “Good job, Ghent,” said the tall, bearded man behind the teenaged slicer. “Looks like we’re going to make this shipment after all.” Talon Karrde crossed his arms as a thin smile traced his lips.

    “Thanks,” Ghent replied. He sipped his caf and returned to the numbers.

    “How much time did we lose recalculating the hyperdrive computers?” Talon asked.

    Ghent shrugged. “I dunno. An hour? Two? I lose track of time when I’m working.”

    “We lost three and a half hours, Talon,” a female voice behind them announced curtly.

    He knew who it was. Although officially Talon was the Wild Karrde’s captain, for the three years that Ghent had been on board, she had practically run the ship alongside Talon. Ghent waited for the controlled explosion that was Mara Jade to enter the room.

    “We’re going to miss the rendezvous. What good is having a working hyperdrive if you can’t make your meetings anyway?” Mara scowled.

    Talon raised an eyebrow. “One thing at a time. We’ll try to contact them and explain the situation, then reschedule.”

    She dropped into the vacant chair beside Ghent, one arm hanging over the arm of the chair. Ghent snuck a look at her legs, lithe and athletic, as she stretched comfortably. She was pretty.

    “And if they won’t go for it?” she shot back. “They might think it’s a trap. We’re so far off the schedule now that they might think we’re some patrol interceptor ship flying under a decoy. We have no way to assure them that it’s really us.”

    Talon stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Maybe there is, Mara.”

    He turned to Ghent. “Do you know of any way to create a new signal we could use? Something unique to our ship, so that our clients would know for certain that it was us and not a customs patrol?”

    Ghent looked up, excitement shining in his eyes. His numbers had a new function to perform. “Sure. I can come up with something.” The clients were Corellians, and Corellians appreciated the beauty of numbers.

    Later, well into the evening, Ghent wandered into the galley in search of another cup of caf. Absorbed in his thoughts and the datapad he was reading, he failed to realize he wasn’t alone until the silence was broken.

    “How’s it coming, kid?” called a female voice.

    Ghent looked up suddenly and gulped. He squinted into the dimly lit room, looking for the owner of the voice. Someone in the corner waved.

    “Over here,” Mara said. “Come sit and tell me what’s up.”

    Ghent made his way to the small table. “We’re on night lighting already?”

    Mara nodded. “You’ve been working straight for four hours, you know.” She sipped her beverage and picked at the fruit sticks on her tray. Ghent noticed that there were fourteen of them.

    “Did you want some?” Mara asked. “I’m not going to eat them all. Help yourself.”

    Ghent hesitated. His stomach rumbled.

    Mara took two of the fruit sticks from the tray, then slid the tray toward Ghent. “Here. I don’t want anymore. Finish them up.” He looked at them longingly. Mara sat back in her chair, nursing the beverage. “How is the identification protocol coming?”

    “Well, I have some ideas.” Ghent began to move the twelve remaining fruit sticks around on the tray.

    “Tell me. I’m curious. How can you come up with an ID that can’t be faked?”

    Ghent placed four fruit sticks, evenly distributed, along the top of the tray. “Well, I was thinking, what does our ship have that no other ship has, and can be verified through an third-party source?” He lined four more fruit sticks below the four on the top, making a second row. “That made me think about what records are available on, you know, an unclassified basis.”

    Mara watched this alignment with mild curiosity, but didn’t comment. “There are visitation records. Those are public records. There are employment records, repair records, payroll records –” she listed.

    “Repair records.” Ghent aligned the last four fruit sticks on the tray. Now it was a perfect three-by-four array. He looked up at her, unsure of her reaction.

    Mara looked him in the eyes. “Repairs? How could that be helpful?”

    “Whenever we go in for port repairs, it’s customary to scan the major engine parts. That way there’s always a baseline in case something needs a total overhaul.” Ghent pushed one of the fruit sticks slightly to align it perfectly. Now he could count it out. Three groups of the perfect number, four. Four groups of the first non-identity prime, three. Three by four is twelve. Twelve times eleven is one hundred thirty two. Eleven times ten is one hundred ten.

    Mara nodded for him to continue. “And these baselines are always accessible, so anyone who wanted to could read them,” he said.

    Nine times eight is seventy-two. Eight times seven is fifty-six. He continued. “So, I figured if I could record the ambient noise of our engines, specifically the quad turbines, that would be a noise unique to our ship.” Six times five is thirty.

    Mara tilted her head. “Why is it unique? Aren’t all turbines the same?” she asked.

    “No. Ours has some dents and nicks that are the result of wear and tear that we put these specific turbines through. Other ships show different wear,” Ghent explained. Three times two is six. Two times one is two. One is the identity. End of sequence. He smiled. It was permissible to eat. He picked up the fruit stick on the upper right and began to eat it.

    “Look, Mara,” he said through his stuffed mouth. He pulled out the datapad and scrolled to a picture and enlarged it. “See that?” He gestured to a dent on one of the blades of the third turbine. “That’s a unique identifier. No other ship has that particular dent on that exact spot.” He tilted the picture. “That’s a good size dent. Must have taken a pretty heavy tool to make that.” He reached for the next fruit stick in the top row.

    “Spanner,” Mara said brusquely.

    Ghent paused in mid-bite. “Huh?”

    “It was a spanner. I threw a spanner at it last year when the blade wouldn’t go in properly.”

    “Oh. Okay,” Ghent shrugged. He attacked the next fruit stick hungrily. “Anyway, I just recorded the turbine acoustic signature, and then there you go. Convert it to digital, then translate that to an EM pulse, and you’ve got your unique, verifiable signature. All they have to do is reconstruct our acoustic signature and compare it with the repair records to realize only this ship could make this particular noise.”

    Mara smiled. “You amaze me, Ghent.”

    “I do?”

    She smiled at him in return. “Yes, you do.” She grew quiet after a few minutes of watching him devour the fruit sticks. “Ghent, can I ask you a question?”

    “Sure.” He was almost finished with the lower row of the array.

    “Do you always have rituals with your food?” she asked softly.

    Ghent tapped his fingers nervously. She had noticed. He cursed himself – he should have known not to eat in front of someone else. Especially Mara Jade, with her doubly four-lettered perfect name. She had a strange way of reading people.

    She spoke quietly. “When I first came here, Ghent, I never ate with anyone. I think, in reality, I was afraid that someone might want to talk to me. What if they talked to me and found out how different I was? It was easier to avoid eating with people, and that way no one would be able to tell me how I didn’t belong.”

    Ghent placed his hands on either side of the tray and stared at the food. It was an imperfect array. There were two fruit sticks left, but they felt too strange to eat now. Now he would have to cross fruit sticks off his list of acceptable food.

    “I’ve noticed that you pretend to eat when you’re with others. You’re very good at hiding the food under the tray, or pushing it around. But you don’t really eat much, do you? Because that would mean being around people and having to talk to them.” She looked at him with those green eyes that seemed to bore right into him.

    “If you turn the food into a code, then you can deal with it. If you turn people into puzzles, then you can handle them,” she said.

    She sat so close to him that he could hear her breathe. “I won’t tell anyone. If this works for you, fine. But if it stops working – if the list of foods you don’t allow yourself to eat gets to be longer than the list of foods you can eat – then I want you to get some help for this. I’m worried about you. You get so lost in your codes that you forget that life is on this side of the datascreen, not the digital side.”

    Mara stood up. “You’re brilliant. I wish I could see those patterns of yours.” She smiled at him kindly. “We’re your friends, Ghent. No one will judge you or reject you. Don’t forget that you’re never alone here.”

    She took her beverage and began to walk away. Ghent watched her and whispered “thanks” as she made her way across the empty galley, unsure if she heard him or not.

    ***

    The NRI’s cryptology department was darkened and quiet, as most of the employees had gone home for the evening. Only the chief’s office remained lit. In it, a man in his thirties, with shoulder length blue hair messily tossed back, continued working with his data.

    The numbers kept coming. They marched across the datapad, tight regiments of integers, snapping to attention in their orderly columns.

    He peered at their beauty, the patterns echoing in his brain. There was the familiar binary pairing, so much like a comforting embrace, that always ran faithfully in the array. There, suddenly, like a starburst, was a sequence of primes. He smiled at them, at their loyalty.

    The numbers kept coming. Ghent tagged certain sets excitedly. The hunt was on now, and he was closing in. Just as he had expected, a wobble had occurred, and now the pattern was falling into place, like a plane of shattered transparisteel reassembling in reverse and in slow motion.

    He ticked off another data set with the stylus. The code was just out of his reach, but he would get it within the hour.

    Numbers felt so comfortable, so good. They had a texture and a taste of their own, the silky smoothness of the evens, the spiky bitterness of the primes, the perfectly nested roundness of the exponents. He loved the cool metallic slide of a parabolic arc, the salty sharpness of a linear equation.

    He stared unblinkingly at their beauty. It took him a few minutes to register that he was not alone in his office.

    Startled, he turned around. A familiar face smiled back at him, green eyes sparkling and a reddish gold braid hanging loosely across her shoulder. Small lines were creeping across the face now, but she was still beautiful. The woman with the perfect double-four name: Mara Jade. Only now she was Mara Jade Skywalker, but that was okay since “Skywalker” was nine letters long and nine was his favorite square number. It was a friendly number. Like Mara.

    She held up two small boxes. “Thought you might be hungry. I commed earlier to check up on the encrypt, and your assistant said you were working late, so I invited myself over.”

    “Thanks! I’m starving.” He pushed a chair over for her and cleared a space on his work table for the take-out.

    “I hope you like Corellian shard steaks,” she said, opening the box. A spicy aroma drifted up with the steam. She handed him a pair of traditional eating sticks.

    “Love them.” Ghent opened his box and looked inside. Nine strips of shard steak, four red fruit sticks, and four pairs of various crunch snacks.

    He smiled at his friend. “My favorite,” he said appreciatively. She smiled back and they began to eat together, laughing in easy conversation.

    (End)
     
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  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful! The smug Paresha with her memorized discourse on the poetry :rolleyes: And the professor for all his griping at Zak didn't even notice? :p

    Loved the details on the students' midday meal, how Ghent analyzed the cliques and the patterns and then got lost in the codes.

    [face_thinking]

    Middle section: [face_dancing] Loved Talon and Mara in this. Their approbation and especially Mara's compassionate understanding at the close.

    :) She "gets" Ghent's sense of self-isolation completely, I think.

    Last section: :) So happy they are friends. I love how they are easy with one another and that he considers her name to comprise a "perfect" pattern.

    A beautiful repost, divapilot @};-

    Your growth as a writer, as you say, has doubtless grown over the years,but I have not ever felt that it was anything but brill anyhow. [:D] =D=
     
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  3. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Ghent.challenge. WHY WASN'T I AROUND BACK THEN?

    And yes, us slicers can stay fit, scrawny etc...it's only the usual fat programmer with neckbeard stereotype that plagues us all. :D

    The thing with numbers, connected to food, names and random things - somebody would probably call it OCD, but it's most likely nothing other than Ghent's uniqueness and weirdness. And Mara figured out what to do - give him nine of anything and he'll eat it. Nine is the perfect number AND, more importantly, the number of friendship. While it took them a long time to open to each other, Mara and Ghent found that they had a lot in common - both were outsiders, in their own little way.

    As WarmNyota_SweetAyesha implied, a lot has changed about your writing since then, but the basics were there in 2006 already: original ideas, attention to detail and interesting plots. I'm about to write Ghent myself (ironically, there are minor similarities to this set-up) and I doubt that he will be anywhere near yours.
     
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  4. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Oh. My. Freaking. Goodness.

    divapilot This fic is a masterpiece, pure and simple. I'm always amazed at how you manage to build a story around the tiniest of details, but this one takes it one step further with the focus on the number of people in a group or the number of letters in a name to determine how to respond to a situation.

    I am in awe at how you showed Ghent's growth. He was in love with numbers since the very beginning, but he learned how to harness them as a force for good in his life over time instead of letting them control his actions. You managed to convey his unique view of the world in such detail and yet it never becomes tedious; quite the opposite I found myself waiting for the next moment the numbers would make an appearance because what would be dry, unemotional, impassive material takes such tremendous emotional and psychological depth here. The little mirror effect at how Ghent finds joy in the idea that his numbers will be useful when talking to Talon Karrde, as opposed to the joy at seeing Mara in the end, was perfect, as was the fact that he's grown to like prime numbers over time and to think of them as loyal and not only bitter.

    I honest-to-goodness teared up while reading his conversation with Mara – the only person, apparently, who has paid attention to Ghent's rituals and the fact that they're associated with numbers, and most importantly to the fact that he's essentially starving himself because he can't find his place. It was a great definition of what friendship is about, an amazing answer to the prompt, and a neat little explanation of Ghent's IU 'crush' on Mara.

    ^:)^ ^:)^ ^:)^
     
  5. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Thank you! :DThis is an old one, but one I always kind of liked. Ghent is a prodigy among mathematicians, so I tried to explain the cost of such a skill. He can’t easily fit in with others because his mind simply doesn’t work that way. And I think Mara, with her Force powers, sensed that he wanted to have friends but honestly didn’t know how to go about it. She understood what it was like to be the only one of her kind, so she can relate to him. I always liked their friendship.

    Because you were probably still in elementary school while I was old as dirt. [face_laugh] We used to have pretty active threads for all the EU characters.

    They were unique - nobody saw codes and numbers the way Ghent did, and nobody touched the Force like Mara did. [:D]They would have that in common. I kind of gave Ghent a touch of OCD, but more, I think, synesthesia and a sense that he is just never going to fit in. Knowing he is different from everyone else is a mixed blessing - he gets to do what he truly loves (because nobody is as good as he is) but it also marks him as the odd man out. Plus I know that people with eating disorders sometimes have rituals with their food - so I gave him this ritual as a way to try to calm himself down when he was forced into a social setting. He’s so used to being rejected or misunderstood that being accepted as part of Talon’s crew is something he hasn’t really figured out yet. Remember he is still very young here. By the time the third part comes in Ghent is an adult and he has things much more under control.

    Yay! More love for our blue-haired boy. [face_dancing]Thank you very much for your comments!

    Oh my goodness. STAHP. [face_blush] Thank you for your very generous praise!

    You know me and mathematics. :cool:But I wanted to show how Ghent went from this lonely twelve year old who, because he was bored, cracked an unsolvable cypher left on his dad’s desk. His mind works differently from other people’s minds - he literally sees, tastes, and feels the numbers. And yet he knows nobody else can do this and everyone thinks of him as a freak because of it. Only as he gets older do people recognize his gift and then appreciate him.

    Mara has her own issues with not fitting in. She would be able to see Ghent’s awkwardness. I think she and Ghent had a really close friendship. They would have stayed lifelong friends.[:D]
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
  6. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    It was 2006, pretty sure I was at the university and working part-time.

    Послато са SM-J510FN уз помоћ Тапатока
     
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