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Beyond - Legends Poetry Challenge: Beauty Enough (Karrde, Celina Marniss)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by aleja2, Apr 20, 2015.

  1. aleja2

    aleja2 Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Aug 4, 2005
    A/N: I received the wonderful "Spring" as my inspiration, and I immediately thought of Timothy Zahn's short story "First Contact," published in Star Wars Adventure Journal 5. For those unfamiliar with the story, it's told from Talon Karrde's point of view and features his, well, first contact with Celina Marniss - who is better known by her real name. Not that her real name is any big secret, of course. But I thought this poem would definitely be something Celina could identify with at this point in her life.

    The italicized portion at the end of the story comes directly from "First Contact."

    Thanks to Findswoman for the fantastic challenge!

    Spring
    by Edna St. Vincent Millay

    To what purpose, April, do you return again?
    Beauty is not enough.
    You can no longer quiet me with the redness
    Of little leaves opening stickily.
    I know what I know.
    The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
    The spikes of the crocus.
    The smell of the earth is good.
    It is apparent that there is no death.
    But what does that signify?
    Not only under ground are the brains of men
    Eaten by maggots,
    Life in itself
    Is nothing,
    An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
    It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
    April
    Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.


    Head down, her thoughts tightly focused on the day ahead of her, Celina Marniss almost missed it at first. A red-violet bud, silk-textured petals tightly closed, had pushed its way through the packed dirt that formed the path between the dilapidated shack that served as her living quarters and the decrepit shack that served as the Tropis-on-Varonat Port Facilities’ mechanic workshop. The flower shone in the hot, dusty sunlight, luminescent against the dull ochre soil and pale yellow trees of the encroaching jungle. Perfectly formed, it promised a spectacular blossom when open, ruffled and showy, no doubt heady with a sweet, sophisticated scent.

    Celina stared at it. A flower this vivid was meant to be decorating a luxurious palace or set among a pampered female’s styled curls. It didn’t belong here, in this pathetic excuse for a settlement.

    She shifted her heavy tool bag higher on her shoulder. Today promised to be busy. Gamgalon was prepping for another one of his safaris, fleecing beings with more credits than intelligence and ethics into thinking they were hunting the fearsome lizard-slugs known as Morodins. But the Morodins, while capable of using their great size and sharp teeth to kill in self-defense, were trapped in a maze and thus offered no real sport at all.

    Once upon a time, before she was Celina, when flowers like this one surrounded her as a matter of course, she would have stopped Gamgalon. Stopped the killing of primitive sentients sold to safari patrons as mindless beasts. Stopped the highly illegal weapons trade that operated under the cover of the safaris, and the promise of even more killing on a massive scale. Stopped them because she served justice and meted retribution in her Master's name, keeping the galaxy spinning as order and right dictated.

    But that was before. Now she filled her time with inconveniences and petty tasks. The busywork kept her mind focused on resenting Gamgalon and his goons in the present, leaving her unable to mourn the past or fear the future. And so what if she stopped the safaris? Or the weapons trade? Another operator, perhaps one even more corrupt than Gamgalon and his Krish buddies, would just start the business up again. All she would get in return for her trouble would be the necessity to flee and find another fringe world, another menial job, while hoping news of her activity didn’t cause Isard to put yet another sadistic mercenary on her tail.

    Celina stepped on the bud and all it promised to be, grinding the plant under her boot.

    The next morning, she stumbled out of her shack, blurry of vision and ill of temper. She’d burned the caf, one of the few joys left in her life, and a headache was poised for assault at her temples. She snorted when she spotted the torn and shredded bud, still wearing the imprint of her boot from the day before. Serves the plant right for flaunting itself. Doesn’t it know who I am? Then she snorted again. The people she wanted to know her identity were long dead, while she wasted her abilities on this backwater planet to avoid those who knew what she was.

    Later, as the first stars were establishing their presence overhead, she headed back to her living quarters. The headache was a dull throb, nothing a pint of Gravdinian ale followed by what little sleep she could snatch wouldn’t cure. Through weary eyes, she caught a glimpse of something glowing on the path ahead and she slowed her steps. The trampled bud was still there, its vibrancy dulled by death and kicked over sand. But next to it: two buds, bigger and brighter than the one she had killed.

    She stomped on both of them.

    ***

    “Hey, Marniss!” Gamgalon called. The hard morning sunlight bounced off his tiny, pointed teeth, bared in something approximating a grin. Celina sighed and stopped to greet him. Krishs never smiled unless they wanted something they knew the other party didn’t want to give them.

    “Yeah?” Her tone was as flat as her gaze.

    “What do you know about the Sif-Uwani?”

    Celina narrowed her gaze. She made the mistake, once, of letting Gamgalon know she was well-versed in the histories and cultures of various star systems. Ever since, he liked to play Question Three with her when a new client from an unfamiliar world showed up. “Why? If their credits are good, isn’t that all you need to know?”

    Gamgalon looked nonplussed, and then decided to laugh. He threw his head back in a loud guffaw. “Such the kidder you are, Marniss! That’s why I like you. Well, that and your other assets.” His gaze lingered a little too long on her chest and he licked his fleshy lips with a pointed tongue. Celina fought the urge to put her fist through his bony-ridged nose. “But this ain’t a safari sucker. Distress call. Needs a hyperdrive mechanic.”

    “Really?” Despite her best efforts, Celina was intrigued. Varonat was far off the main hyperspace routes, hence her reason for choosing the planet in the first place. She couldn’t imagine why anyone would have a legal reason to travel in this particular sector. Especially not a Sif-Uwani.

    “Yeah, so be ready. Of course, I don’t tell you to keep your eyes and ears open for me, am I right?” He smiled again. It was more repulsive than before.

    “Of course,” she answered, suppressing her eye roll. “I’ll ready my tools.”

    “So, you were going to tell me about the Sif-Uwani?” he pressed on.

    “Let’s see.” Celina pretended to search her memory. She knew, but wasn’t going to tell him, that Sif-Uwana was a Colony world, situated between the Core and the Inner Rim. He would only wonder, as she did, what the ship was doing near Varonat. She pulled out a few facts that would satisfy him: “Wealthy world. Controlled by the Empire. The Sif-Uwani are known for their casual approach to money, especially when it comes to spending it.”

    Gargalon’s smile grew wider. “That’s a good girl. I’ll let you know when you can start work on their ship.”

    “Sure.” She watched him leave. She could follow him to the main house where he kept the communications array, she thought. She could break into his messages. Maybe the Sif-Uwani ship was some sort of ruse. Maybe she could put a stop to any trouble before it began…

    She sighed. It would be just so much futile bother. Better to go to her workshop and get started on the day’s work. Those tasks were also meaningless, but at least she was paid to do them.

    Halfway to the workshop, she stopped. Not only were the red-violet buds back, now they were attached to a small vine that wound around the edges of the path, the leaves glossy and deeply verdant. One bud had opened. The flower was prettier than she anticipated, the outer petals tinged with deepest purple and fading to delicate pink at the center. “Stang,” she swore at the plant. “What will it take to make you go away?” The red-violet bud closest to her only glowed in response, its long cylindrical shape waving gently back and forth in the morning breeze like a…

    No. She wasn’t going there. Not even in her thoughts--

    Like a lightsaber.

    “Stang!” she swore again. She did an about face. If she hurried, she could pretend she was visiting the main house for the morning meal. She rarely did so, preferring to eat her breakfast minus the leers and clumsy jokes about her gender. But she could stand fifteen minutes of boorish behavior if it meant access to Gamgalon’s comms and discovering more about the supposedly distressed ship.

    ***

    “I have you now,” Celina said to the comm screen. She shook her head, an amused chuckle escaping. Who did he think he was kidding?

    The ship went by the designation “Uwana Buyer.” It was registered to one Syndic Hart. The captain of the ship was listed as Seoul. Celina would bet her last credit and then some these names had been made up in the recent past. And while she could think of several parties who would have an interest in Gamgalon’s operations plus the resources to pull off a masquerade on this level, only one had an affinity for bad puns and silly wordplay.

    She shut down the comm and erased all traces of her search. It didn’t take long. Gamgalon’s systems were amusingly crude compared to others she had hacked, and hacking wasn’t her strongest skill by far.

    So the great Talon Karrde was coming to Varonat. Interesting. Karrde didn’t have a reputation for the more unsavory criminal activities, such as private safaris or illegal weapons trading. If such a thing as gentleman smuggler were possible, Karrde would fit the description. On the other hand, as she well knew, those who claimed the high road in public often had the dirtiest hands in private. She herself--

    No. Not going there. Can’t go there.

    You will kill—

    Celina bolted from the main house. She didn’t care who saw her running to the shop. Let them think she was eager to get to work. And she was. Anything to keep her hands busy. Anything to keep her mind occupied and her thoughts still.

    She stepped over the vine.

    ***

    Seventy-two hours later, Celina ran the diagnostics test on the hyperdrive. Syndic Hart/Talon Karrde hadn’t been lying about one thing: his engine was in bad shape. It didn’t take her long to fix the flux connectors, but she had to recalibrate them before she could tell what else was wrong. Still, she should have the repairs done well before the promised deadline.

    Not that finishing on time would be an issue. Karrde and his companion left on safari, guided by one of Gamgalon’s goons, almost as soon as they had arrived. They would be gone another three, four days. But to what purpose, she wondered. Karrde did not seem like the outdoors type.

    She shook her head, hard. Karrde and his agenda weren't her concern. Kill Gamgalon and take over his operations, join him, cut him out of the business, whatever. It was all the same to her. No matter what happened, the galaxy would still spin. Beings would die, and their skeletons crumble into nothingness. Nothing she could do about any of it, except keep her nose clean and as far away from Isard’s notice as possible. She almost didn’t survive her last battle with Isard’s light-whip wielding pet. She did lose the last physical remnant of her old life.

    She wouldn’t be caught again.

    The test dinged its readiness, and Celina checked the printout. No other issues were detected. The engine was good to go. She shut the hyperdrive access panel and palmed the door release to the ship’s living area and thus the exit ramp. Once in the lounge, she paused to take a look around.

    Karrde had good taste. She approved of the décor, expensive but understated. She ran her hand over the couch’s Corellian leather, the upholstery smooth and cool to the touch. Her own yacht had a similar couch. Between missions, she liked to sit there catching up on reports and--

    --Well.

    Oddly, the memory didn’t hurt as much as usual. And there were differences in the two ships. “Uwana Buyer” was newer, its appointments promising the latest in comfort just as the hyperdrive engine she fixed promised the fastest in speed. She poked her head into the ship’s flight deck, admiring the sleek instruments and displays. Running the calculations in her head, she estimated the cost to build and maintain the yacht and raised an eyebrow when she was done. Karrde obviously did quite well for himself. Yet the ship wasn’t ostentatious or worse, tacky, unlike the toys she’d seen criminal syndicates such as the Black Nebula wave around. No, “Uwana Buyer” was sleekly practical in all ways, as brutally formidable as it was beautiful.

    It was a ship she could see herself flying, if not outright owning.

    She scoffed at herself. As if she needed a yacht, hidden as she was on an insignificant planet, fixing stolen spaceships and worse for a pittance.

    Celina walked down the exit ramp and back to her shack, confident the hyperdrive engine would run better than ever before. She’d almost forgotten what it felt like, to be proud of a job well done. On a whim, she bent down and plucked two of the open flowers from the vine. “You’re not a native, are you,” she remarked under her breath to the flower. “Or you’d know there is no point to your existence.”

    A shout reached her ears and she looked up, dropping the flowers so she could shield her eyes from the setting sun. Gamgalon was hurrying toward his private airspeeder, his movements stiff with rage. He pushed the humanoid fueling it out of the way and jumped in. The repulsors roared and the vehicle shot off, heading in the direction of the Morodin reserve.

    She narrowed her gaze. Gamgalon rarely went into the jungle, preferring to stay behind in the air-cooled building to count his credits. Something was wrong. And that something was undoubtedly named Talon Karrde.

    She shrugged. Hopefully she would still get paid for the repairs, even if Karrde never made it back to the spaceport. She took a step toward her shack, her gaze still fixed on the airspeeder’s trajectory. Her foot caught, tangled in something. Whirling her arms, she caught herself before she fell.

    That blasted flowering vine almost tripped her. She bent down to yank it out of the ground. “Enough!” she snarled. She pulled with all her strength, crushing new leaves and soft buds in her fists. They released a fragrance, sweet but underlined by a spicy sharp note, the scent of symphony halls and dance recitals and learned people debating philosophy.

    The scent of lost things, and she pulled harder.

    The scent of possibilities, a voice whispered in the back of her mind. The scent of a new life, if she could cease pretending she wasn’t who she was meant to be.

    Celina sat back on her heels. She patted the plant back into the orange-tinted soil. “You’re not a native,” she repeated. “And neither am I.” She stood up, brushing the dirt from her hands onto her shapeless coveralls, and sighed. “Shavit.”

    She ran-walked to her living quarters. Moving with ruthless efficiency, she selected various personal items and shoved them into her tool bag. At the last minute, a vague prodding at the back of her mind caused her to check the contents of three audio recorders, and she threw them in as well. Shouldering the bag, she strode out of the shack. She didn’t bother to lock it. She was never coming back.

    Liberating an airspeeder was the work of less than a minute. Some skills never left you, she thought with a smirk, and she engaged the repulsors before anyone on the ground thought to look in her direction. It wasn’t hard to follow Gamgalon. Her instincts – or something she didn’t want to acknowledge just yet – nudged her on the right path. She put the speeder down some kilometers from the safari base camp, not wanting to alert the Krish and his friends to her presence.

    The sound of a blaster, its distinctive “pew-pew” echoing off the broad trunks and flat leaves of the surrounding trees, caused her to stop in her tracks. Then she ran, fast as she could, toward the sound. Please don’t let me be too late. She hadn’t asked for much in the last two years, but she was begging now. Although it would be just like the universe, since she finally decided to blow the dust of Varonat off her boots, to snatch away her ride off planet at the last minute. She slowed down only when she could hear Gamgalon’s angry, sneering voice barking commands.

    Her heartbeat pounding painfully in her ears, she parted the vegetation and peered at the scene before her. A male human body lay on the jungle floor – no. It wasn’t Karrde. It was his associate. She exhaled. But Karrde wasn’t out of danger yet. Gamgalon held a blaster to the smuggler’s head, while his favorite goon Falmal held Karrde’s arms. They started to march Karrde toward where Celina had earlier spotted Gamgalon’s airspeeder, no doubt to hoping to force Karrde into revealing whatever he knew. Perhaps even hoping to force him to give up control of his organization. And then killing him, of course.

    She let go of the branches and they fell back into place with a soft swish. Well, that was that. It had been a nice thought, to leave this gods forsaken jungle and forge a new life. A life in which a pretty, heavily perfumed flower wouldn’t move her to rage, but could be enjoyed for the simple pleasure it gave.

    But no. She had been right the first time. The blossom was merely a reminder life was ephemeral and would soon wither, rotting away for indiscriminate worms to feast on. And so she would remain here, aware of the blood she had spilled, aware of the blood still to come--

    You will kill---

    Her hands shaking, she opened the bag she carried. She took out three recorders. Scarcely aware of what she was doing, letting instinct – or something else – guide her movements once more, she placed the electronics at various points in the jungle brush. Then she found a vantage point that gave her a clear line of sight to Gamgalon’s group and their prisoner, and pushed "play" on the remote control.

    Ferocious Morodin roars filled the night. One came from behind Gamgalon, one from each side of his path. The Krishs stopped, their prisoner halting as well. Celina bided her time. She watched as the Krishs’ eyes went wide with fear, their movements jerky with apprehension. She saw her opening and--

    --down went Falmal. She allowed herself the smallest of smiles. It was not her best knife throw, but she was out of practice. She’d get better. Her hold out blaster aim was true. Gamgalon’s back erupted with sharp bursts of flame. He fell, jungle avians chattering and rising into the air at the thud.

    Celina noted Karrde did not seem all that concerned by the quick deaths of his captors. But when she revealed herself, she caught the jolt of surprise before he smoothed his features into his usual calm mask. They still had to make it back to the spaceport, however, and so she appreciated he held his questions until they were safely aboard the “Uwana Buyer” and free of Varonat’s atmosphere. After she filled him in on how she deduced his identity, Karrde asked her what she wanted in return for saving his life. Always a transaction with him, she thought with a slight smirk, and filed that information away.

    ***
    “I want a job,” she said.

    Karrde frowned. It hadn’t been the response he’d expected. “What kind of job?”

    “Any kind,” she said. “I can pilot, fight, play come-upflector —”

    “Hyperdrive mechanic?”

    “That, too,” Celina said. “Anything you’ve got, I can learn it.” She took a deep breath, let it out. “I just want to get back into mainstream society again.”

    Karrde cocked an eyebrow. “You have a strange view of smuggling if you consider it mainstream society.”

    “Trust me,” she said grimly. “Compared with some of what I’ve done, it is.”

    “I don’t doubt it,” Karrde said, studying her face. A very striking face, with a striking body to go with it. Decorative and competent both; his favorite combination. “All right,” he said. “You’ve got yourself a deal. Welcome aboard.”

    “Thank you,” she said. “You won’t regret hiring me.”

    “I’m sure I won’t.” He smiled slightly. “And since we’re now officially working together —” he held out his hand. “You can call me Talon Karrde.”

    She smiled tightly as she took his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Talon Karrde,” she said. “You can call me Mara Jade.”

     
  2. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    What a neat take on this poem! I like the concept of the hard-boiled independent agent coming face-to-face with, and responding to, the beauties of nature in the course of "just another job"—how it reminds her of all the far-off things from her old life—and how she aaaaalmost but not quite lets her encounter with it change her, yet still manages to take some lesson from it. All written with great panache. :cool: Thanks so, so much for taking part in this! =D=
     
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  3. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Really well done!

    Ths captures both the literal and the metaphorical sense of the poem. I liked the symbolism of the beautiful, stubborn flower that refused to die, no matter how ugly its surroundings.
     
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  4. Annia Piet

    Annia Piet Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Feb 7, 2015
    Oh I love this! First Contact is probably my favourite SW short story, so seeing it from Mara's perspective is a real treat. You capture her character and mindset in this era really well, and I love the use of the flower - as though the light side of the Force is Just Not Going To Let Her Go. All very well done! :)
     
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  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= Fantastic poem and use of it! Woot! Thanks for this early glimpse of Mara. You have her rough edges and tenacity excellently. She is redefining herself, even now. [face_love]
    [face_dancing]
     
  6. aleja2

    aleja2 Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    Aug 4, 2005

    Thank you so much for such a fabulous challenge! I really loved being part of it. Thanks for organizing (and choosing terrific inspirational poems)!


    Thank you! When I read the poem, an image of Mara vs. the flower - the silly, inconsequential flower that refused to acknowledge life's futility, much to Mara's annoyance - just wouldn't go away.

    It's probably mine, too. And I always wondered why Mara chose to rescue Karrde and reclaim her real name - why then, why not some other time (other than we know she eventually has to end up working for him)? So this is my attempt at an answer :) Thanks so much for reading!

    Thank you! I tried hard to find another subject for the prompt - I thought about writing Padme as the birth of her twins drew close, or Leia after Alderaan - but Mara just wouldn't go away. She is indeed tenacious! :)
     
  7. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Ooh, what a neat little story! I'm a big big fan of Zahn's Mara and it was fantastic to re-read First Contact from her perspective. You did an amazing job at building the progression with the flowers -- how they start from being an unpleasant reminder of what Mara doesn't have, to a challenge that reminds her of what she used to have, to a mirror of herself and finally to an active prompt to seek what she could have.

    =D=

    (And, um, I know that I'm terribly late in reading and reviewing this. Blame DRL :p )
     
  8. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    This was brutal at some points, but given at what stage Mara Jade was in at this point in time, even her, err, violence against flowers makes sense. I am glad that, in the end, she learned that isolation was only making her problem worse and that she needs to open up, bit by bit, step by step, in order to silence that voice in her head.
     
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  9. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Love to see Mara. And what a beautiful story involving the flower and Mara and her violence against it and her thoughts about the safari
     
    Findswoman likes this.
  10. Irish_Jedi_Jade

    Irish_Jedi_Jade Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 19, 2007
    this was incredible!!!!! really beautiful look at her life before we all knew her. The flower was a beautiful piece of context to show her life and where she wanted to go, where she was and what she could become. Bravo!!!!!
     
    Findswoman likes this.