Kor and Prauf enjoyed nearly a week of uninterrupted peace before another call for help came in. During that time they discussed the echoing empty space in the abandoned Temple. After seeing the shelter Prauf grew for his pet panther, Kor thought they should destroy the Temple and grow a replacement that was more in tune with their new outlook.
Morg Shippa, the ancient Jedi Master who’d made the training bands and book, had been adamant about his rejection of the Jedi joining the Old Republic. He’d also opposed the use of half-and-half lightsabers. After finally making and using true lightsabers, Kor found himself in agreement with the old Master. But he wanted to take it even further and use as little modern technology as possible. Although they still needed starships to get around, Force technology seemed sufficient for most of their other needs.
Prauf was phlegmatic about it. “I don’t care about the Temple,” he said when Kor broached the subject. “As long as I’ve got a roof over my head, I’m fine.”
Kor smiled. “Great. Then let’s strip all the Force tech out of it and knock it down.”
They doffed their Jedi robes, threw on some work clothes, and dove into it. It took them three days to track down and remove all the Force tech in the building, starting with the doorbot they’d encountered when they first discovered the vine-covered Temple. The elevators, the kyber crystal growing tanks, and Morg’s ancient computer were the only devices they found, but they required a delicate touch rather than the brute force methods they’d used in the shipyards on Bracca. Once removed, they stored them in a temporary shelter Kor grew to house them.
Finished with that, they unlimbered their lightsabers and tore into the Temple itself, cutting it to pieces with childish relish. Between their lightsabers and their use of the Force, they reduced it to a pile of rubble in less than two days, composed of pieces no bigger than Kor’s fist. Working together, they scooped out a hole in the ground, filled it with the debris, and covered it over again. At their command, grass and scrubs quickly sprouted and grew until the place looked as if it had never been disturbed.
The day after they finished, Kor woke up in his cabin on the Whimsy to find Prauf talking to his father in the cockpit. “I’m not really sure that’s the kind of thing we can help with,” he told Jhemon, as Kor came in.
“What’s going on?”
Jhemon’s face lit up when he saw Kor. “A call came in from Remduba II. There are two warring factions, the Rovers and the Settlers, that have been at each other’s throats for centuries. Now, a man, Rusko Nord, from one faction has fallen in love with a woman, Shandra Tavers, from the other faction and it’s turning into an all-out war. If the two of you don’t stop it, they’ll kill each other.”
Kor was uneasy. “Uh, if they’ve been fighting for centuries, what good can we do? And why do they want our help?”
Jhemon shook his head. “I don’t know. But Kendas Zligend, the leader of Nord’s faction, the Rovers, seems genuine in his desire to make peace. He said the Settlers won’t listen to him, but they might listen to an outsider.” Jhemon saw their hesitation. “There are hundreds of stories about the old Jedi going on mercy missions and using diplomacy to make peace. If you want to be accepted as the rightful heir of the Jedi, you need to try.”
Prauf looked thoughtful. “Well, I did say I didn’t want us to be mercenaries. Diplomacy is about as far from that as you can get.” He shrugged massive shoulders. “I say we give it a try.”
Kor knew when he was beaten. “Alright. Send us everything you’ve got on the situation on Remduba and the two factions – what’d you call them? The Rovers and Settlers?” Jhemon nodded. “Send us everything and we’ll see what we can do.”
When the information arrived, it didn’t look hopeful. The split between the two factions was along the oldest lines in history; herders and farmers. The herders, the Rovers, needed vast tracts of untrammeled land to feed their herds while the farmers, the Settlers, needed plowed fields for their crops. Most of the planet was rocky and mountainous, unsuitable for either herds or crops. What little land was left, was the subject of a centuries-long dispute between the two groups.
Prauf changed his tune as soon as he realized the nature of the problem. “They’re mutually incompatible,” he said in a tone of finality. “They both want the same land at the same time for completely different uses. They can’t possibly agree.”
Kor was inclined to go along with him. “Well, we didn’t promise to succeed. We just promised to try. Let’s go there, talk to everyone, and do the best we can. If they won’t make peace, then that’s their fault, not ours. Maybe we can at least get the man and woman to leave the planet and go somewhere else.”
“That’s just going back to the status quo,” Prauf objected.
Kor lifted his hands helplessly. “It’s better than an all-out war.”
Prauf snorted. “Whatever.”
They got underway and the next day popped out of hyperspace over Remduba II. Kor opened a comm channel to the planet. “This is the Jedi ship, Whimsy, calling for Kendas Zligend.”
Moments later the comms came to life. A man with a craggy, weathered face stared at them. “Whimsy, this is Kendas Zligend. Thank you for coming. Follow this beacon down to our encampment. There is plenty of space outside it for you to land.”
Kor nodded at Kendas. “We’ll see you in a few minutes. Whimsy, out.” He glanced out the window as he turned the ship to follow the signal. “Not much life in the mountains but plenty in the lowlands.”
“Figures,” Prauf said, reaching out with his senses. “Lots of anger down there.”
“Yeah, I feel it too,” Kor agreed. “Well, we knew this wasn’t going to be easy.”
“Or even possible,” Prauf muttered as they entered the atmosphere and started down.
Kor brought the Whimsy low over the encampment Kendas had mentioned. It mainly consisted of hovercraft with built-in living quarters on them. In the center was a huge hovercraft with a massive slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant on it. Around the hovercraft, was a vast herd of cattle slowly milling about as they ate and foraged. Individual herders, mounted on speeders, sat watching the herd, now and then moving to intercept a stray who wandered too far from the rest. Fighters circled the air above the herd, obviously stationed there to intercept any enemy craft that might attack.
Tiny figures on the ground waved brightly lit wands at them, indicating where they should land. Kor nosed the ship down, following their directions until they settled gently to the ground. He shut down the engines.
“Well, let’s go see them.”
They opened the door and strode down the ramp. Kendas, a slender man of medium height, was waiting for them, along with several men, all carrying heavy blasters. Nice little war zone, ain’t it?, Prauf said in Kor’s head.
Kor introduced them to Kendas. He nodded then introduced a younger version of himself. A pretty young woman clutched the young man’s hand. “This is my grandson, Rusko Nord, and his wife, Shandra Tavers.”
Prauf and Kor traded glances. Uh oh.
Kor hesitated. “We weren’t told they were already married.”
“Eloped is more like it.” Kendas gave Rusko a stern look. “Against my wishes, I might add.” The young man looked properly abashed but he didn’t let go of Shandra’s hand. If anything, he clung to it more tightly.
Prauf was scowling at the young couple. “So, instead of waiting for your clans to settle their differences before you got married, you cemented them by jumping the gun. How are we supposed to negotiate for peace now?”
“They’ve been fighting for centuries!” Shandra burst out. “We could grow old and die waiting for them to come to terms!”
“We love each other,” Rusko added hotly. “Our love can overcome anything!”
Prauf threw up his hands in despair. “Yeah, anything except getting killed in a war. Which you started!” He spun on his heel and stalked away, robes billowing behind him.
Kor wished he could do the same. Instead, he spent the rest of the day talking to Kendas and his advisors about possible solutions to their seemingly intractable problems. Every answer he proposed had already been tried. No matter what he offered, there was something wrong with it, it wasn’t fair to one side or the other or had been tried and failed. By the time they stopped for dinner, he was starting to believe there wasn’t any solution to their problem.
He found Prauf sitting on an outcropping of rock watching the cattle. The big man looked up as he sat down. “Any luck?”
Kor shook his head. “I think you were right, they’ll never agree on anything. Coming here was a waste of time.”
Prauf nodded. “Too bad. I’ve been watching these cattle. They’re genetically modified to live on anything. It would have been great if we could have solved their problem and gotten a few of them to take home with us. We could have had our own little cattle ranch; lots of beef, plenty of milk, the whole deal.” He sighed. “So much for that.”
Kor frowned. “They can eat anything?”
“What about that scrub stuff up in the mountains?”
Prauf shook his head. “I know where you’re going and it won’t work. Sure, they can eat it, but not enough of it grows up there. They’d starve.”
Well, I guess if they could live on it, the Rovers would have had them up in the mountains centuries ago.
“There you go,” Prauf agreed out loud.
Kor cocked his head toward the south where most of the Settlers lived. “Do you think it would do any good for us to talk to the other side?”
Prauf let out a short bark of harsh laughter. “Hardly. But we probably ought to, just to show we’re being fair.”
Kor stood up and brushed off his trousers. “I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Let’s get it over with.”
Prauf followed him back to the Whimsy. After explaining to Kendas where they were headed, they took off.
Prauf began scanning frequencies until he managed to contact one of the Settlers. After a few minutes, a big man, going soft around the middle, came on the screen and introduced himself as Zhathe Tavers, Shandra’s father. “You’re the Jedi?” he asked.
Kor and Prauf nodded together. “We’ve talked to Kendas and we’d like a chance to talk to you too.”
“I doubt you had much luck with that kidnapper,” Zhathe snarled.
Kor was puzzled. “Kidnapper?”
“He kidnapped my daughter!” he shouted.
“She claims she eloped with Rusko.”
“Eloped?” Zhathe’s eyes bulged out. “That’s impossible! Shandra would never do a thing like that!”
I hate you.
Aloud, Kor told Zhathe, “We’re almost to your location. We’ll land and talk things over. Maybe we can find some kind of answer.”
“Land anywhere you like, but come morning we’re going to invade those Rovers for the last time and wipe them off the face of the planet.” The screen went blank.
“That went well,” Prauf said sarcastically.
Kor ignored him, mainly because he couldn’t dispute it. The two sides had more than enough differences to last for centuries. Rusko and Shandra’s marriage had merely been the final straw.
He stared moodily at the vast farm they were passing over.
Combines were cutting huge swathes of grain as they moved slowly across the fields. In their wake, they left a smooth surface of stubble about half as high as his knees. The angled row of combines swept through the grain at a steady pace, fields of gently waving grain ahead of them, endless fields of stubble behind them.
He stopped the Whimsy in midair, hovering over the stubble left behind by the combines. “Can the cattle eat that?” He pointed below them.
Prauf made a face. “Sure, I guess. So what?” His expression suddenly changed. “Wait. What?” They stared at each other in wild surmise. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
I think so. “Zhathe, this is the Whimsy. What do you do with the stubble after the combines have harvested the grain?” He started the landing cycle while they were waiting for his answer.
They were nearly on the ground before he answered. The screen lit up. “We burn it then let the field sit for a year to replenish itself. Why?”
Kor and Prauf grinned. “I think we just found the answer to your problems with the Rovers.”
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