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Book 2 - Chapter 9
Treetop Lodge


Their plans for the new building, now named Treetop Lodge, called for wide spacious hallways that curved gracefully around and into the peak of the ridge. Large rooms with warm hardwood floors, picture windows, and wide balconies were situated along the outer walls of the Lodge, leaving the interior available for training rooms, dining facilities, meeting rooms, and other areas.

One of the power plants they’d salvaged from a landing craft in the wreck of the Claw on Aubreta, was modified with Force-tech and installed deep in the hill to generate power for the Lodge, landing bays, and outside platforms. They installed lights in all the colors of the rainbow along the outside, creating a fairyland appearance when seen at night.

They incorporated moss, which they persuaded to grow in different colors and patterns, as carpet throughout the Lodge. The many windows in the Lodge were also alive, wood that had been treated and trained according to Morg’s detailed instructions to become transparent as glass. The fact it was self-cleaning, feeding on the debris that landed on it, was an added bonus. Leaves and vines along the ceilings, carefully configured to grow only so large and no more, provided acoustical dampening to prevent echoes. Hidden lights that could only be activated by using the Force, provided warm indirect lighting. Floating bioluminescent globes provided additional light in the larger rooms and reception areas. Flowers grew in wild profusion in living planters stationed up and down the halls, along many walls, and as dividers in large areas.

The main meeting room, in the center of the Lodge, was a circular auditorium with stadium seating. The central stage was the lowest part of the room, ensuring that all who attended had a good view of it and whoever was on it.

Prauf counted the seats and let out a whistle. “How many Jedi are we planning on having?”

“I don’t know,” Kor told him, “but it’s best to plan ahead.”

Hollow reeds pumped water from the underground river to all the living quarters, kitchens, and cleaning rooms. Other reeds took away the waste, both feeding on it and depositing the remainder far downstream.

They used kyber crystals to transport electricity from one place to another as needed, taking advantage of the crystal’s instantaneous communication with each other through hyperspace to avoid having to install miles of electrical wiring.

At the base of the north end of the ridge, below the Lodge, they cleared a huge pasture and used the last of the stone blocks to construct a high fence around it, too high even for Midnight to leap or climb over. They put their cattle in the giant enclosure, thus permanently removing temptation from the big cat.

Finally, the top of the Lodge was flattened into a grassy tree-covered park complete with walking trails, shaded benches, picnic tables, fountains, and brilliant flower gardens.

Having taken care of the overall design, they turned their attention to the details.

Each of the living quarters was a self-contained housing unit. Some were houses that could hold a family of 10, while others were single-occupancy apartments. None of them were cramped or tight.

Kor’s quarters were one of the single apartments. He had a spacious kitchen, living room, large bedroom, study, library, laundry, pantry, bathroom with a walk-in shower and double sinks, a wide balcony along the west wall accessible through sliding glass doors, and an exercise room. It was on the top floor on the south side of the Lodge so he could have a view of incoming ships. A complete video suite was installed in the living room so he could watch the news as well as send and receive messages. They’d had Prauf’s father, Jhemon, sell some of their silo full of wheat so they could buy modern, up-to-date video equipment for all the living quarters and meeting rooms, as well the control rooms in the landing bays.

Prauf’s quarters were down in the bedrock of the hill. They were much the same as Kor’s but without the windows or balconies. He’d installed special guest quarters for his father and any family members who might come to visit.

The tanks for growing kyber crystals were also deep underground. Their data processing center was down there as well. They installed a vault to hold precious items and a long-term storage facility for things they might not need very often but still wanted access to.

It took them nearly a month to finish the construction but when it was completed, the rustic Lodge had a warm, homey feel to it, comfortable and inviting. It was the polar opposite of the pictures of the cold, sterile Temple on Coruscant. Even the destroyed Temple here on Zosma hadn’t felt as cozy and intimate as the Lodge.

The huge slab of granite with their three rules engraved on it was stark and imposing when they deposited it in the main lobby, but it’s very severity only served to emphasize the warmhearted atmosphere of the rest of the Lodge.

Kor stepped back with Prauf to admire their handiwork. “You know, I think we’ve got something here.” Their work had only been interrupted twice, both times for relatively easy missions for which they’d refused any payment. As a result, they’d been able to focus almost exclusively on crafting the Lodge.

“Yeah. I wish my Father could see this,” Prauf said wistfully. “I think he’d be proud.”

Kor smiled. “Why not bring him here, then?”

“What? If anyone found out he knew where this place is they’d torture it out of him,” Prauf objected.

“So don’t tell him, lunkhead.”

Prauf slapped the back of his head. “I hate you.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Kor brushed his hair back into place. “Seriously though, go get him and some of your family and bring them here on the Whimsy. That way they won’t know where Zosma is but we’ll get some outside opinions and perspectives on this place.”

Prauf looked at him. “Really?”

Kor spread his hands. “Hey, what’d you make all those special guest quarters underground for, if not for your family?” He pursed his lips in thought. “He might be able to help us create a new video to help change our image in the galaxy too, you know, be our cameraman and such.”

Prauf laughed. “Him? A cameraman? Good luck with that. But I like the idea though. Maybe I’ll bring Aquila; she seems taken with you.”

Kor rolled his eyes. Prauf’s cousin (second, third, or whatever) practically threw herself at him whenever they visited Aubreta. She was pretty but too forward for his taste. “Bring Melron. I’m sure the spaceport can spare him for a few days.”

“It’ll be a surprise,” Prauf chuckled.

He was true to his word. When the Whimsy returned from Aubreta, it turned out he’d brought Jhemon, Melron, and Aquila. Kor took one look at her and said in mind talk, I hate you. Prauf laughed, prompting a puzzled look from his three guests.

Aquila came bounding over to grab Kor in a bear hug. “This place is gorgeous from the air! It looks like a fairyland!” The Whimsy had arrived at night so they got the full impact of the nighttime lighting.

“Oof,” Kor grunted as she squeezed his ribs. He freed himself as delicately as possible. “That’s the look we were going for.” I’m going to get you for this, he sent to Prauf.

The big alien just grinned wolfishly and turned away. “Come on, Father. The Lodge is this way.” He led them out of the landing bay to the corridor that connected the bays.

Jhemon stared at the long corridor. “Don’t you have any carts or other transportation? That’s a long way to walk.”

Kor and Prauf stared at each other in dismay. “Uh . . .” Kor pulled out a datapad and made a note to himself. Well, you did say we needed a fresh perspective. He made a rude noise at Prauf’s mental comment then put the datapad away. “Here, everyone get on this.” He directed them to a flat, unused slab of stone that was about 10 by 10.

Aquila gave him a teasing look. “Want us all close together, do you?”

He rolled his eyes as he stepped on it with the rest. He waved a hand and the slab lifted gently into the air. He and Prauf still couldn’t fly yet, but they could pick up other objects and ride them, so it was nearly the same as flying.

“Oooh!” Aquila squealed in delight. “I love it!”

Melron’s eyes widened but aside from that, he contented himself by looking around. He glanced over his shoulder. The corridor away from the Lodge was far longer than what was in front of them. “How many landing bays are there?”

“Ten,” Prauf told him. “Five on each side of the ridge, all connected by this central corridor.” He waved a hand at it.

“You could march an army through this corridor,” Jhemon commented in wonder. “How many people are you expecting to have here?”

Prauf shrugged. “We don’t know but we thought it was better to include extra space and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

There were more exclamations of wonder from them when they reached the Lodge itself. Aquila was wide-eyed over the view from the balconies while Jhemon couldn’t stop exclaiming over the underground guest quarters that were, according to him, fit for a king.

Melron was awed by the place too. “It’s huge but it feels warm and cozy at the same time. How’d you do that?”

“Part of the charm is the feel of it through the Force. Even non-Force users can sense the living warmth of the trees and plants in here,” Kor told him.

“Incredible.”

They spent the next few hours showing them around. They were relaxing in the main lobby, staring out at the night sky and the lights around the Lodge when Melron spoke up. “Prauf mentioned you wanted to make a new video?”

It was getting late but because of the time difference between Aubreta and Zosma, Prauf’s family felt as if it was the middle of the day. Kor nodded and gave them a recap of the discussion he and Prauf had about the public’s perception of the Jedi, both past and present. “Watching your reaction to this place convinces me it would make the perfect backdrop for another video, this time showcasing our work up to this point and highlighting how we’re different than the old Jedi.”

“It certainly presents a different image than the Temple on Coruscant did,” Jhemon admitted.

“It also lends credence to your claims not to be affiliated with any one government,” Aquila added. It was a thoughtful comment, so unlike her that Kor stared in wonder at her. She saw him and smiled. “I have several degrees in political science and sociology.”

He gave his head a brief shake, determined not to let outward impressions control his perception of people anymore. He had the Force at his disposal to read people’s emotions and truthfulness; it was time he began using it on a full-time basis. “How does it bolster our claims not to be working with any government?”

She laughed. “Look at this place! It looks as permanent as anything I’ve ever seen and it’s definitely not on any known planet. Besides that, it’s got a look and feel that’s unique. Anyone seeing it would know right away you’re not allied with anyone.” She looked around. “You should include some aerial shots of this place, day and night. It’s so beautiful, that alone will change people’s minds about you.” She hesitated. “Well, not all of them of course, but enough to make a difference.”

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