From the archives!
I want to try to make a point of sharing some of my old writing every so often. Maybe I'll turn it into some sort of annual thing, being as it turns out I posted that Mass Effect fanfic almost exactly a year ago. Not only is it kind of fun to go back and read old stories, but it's also useful in terms of seeing how I've improved...or what bad habits I might still be holding onto.
It never ceases to amaze me how popular the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games still are today, even without the influence of SWTOR. Lately I've been seeing a lot of posts about them, so I've been craving to replay them even though they seem downright archaic compared to the rest of the games I've been into lately. Those were the first games I ever played, aside from the occasional Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros at friends' houses. Despite already dabbling in the stories that would become the Ziva Payvan series, a lot of what I wrote back then was KotOR fanfiction. I loved the character development and the idea that you as the player had partial control over the story (obviously I'd never played any form of RPG before). In fact, I'd like to write another blog post sometime soon about the benefits of gaming from an everyday-life perspective as well as a writing perspective.
Unlike newer RPGs like the Mass Effect series and Fallout 4, the KotOR games didn't have a fully-voiced protagonist (I'm wondering if that will change in the reboot, which I had totally forgotten about until this morning!). Despite making things kind of static, that gave me and other writers the freedom to create a distinct voice for our characters. Many of the things I wrote were essentially novelizations of existing scenes in the game(s), and because I'm fanatical, I always tried to follow the in-game dialogue perfectly but then elaborate on character actions and give them some extra monologues. This particular piece I'm sharing today was actually the first time I wrote a scene that wasn't part of the game. I still worked in some in-game dialogue that didn't come until later, but I remember having a lot of fun deviating from the main story and adding something of my own. It's also written from Carth Onasi's perspective, which was a challenge in itself. My Revan -- a Scoundrel and later Jedi Sentinel named Jenzi Borin -- always struck me as being kind of a female version of Han Solo, cocky and abrasive but still skilled enough to make up for it. That of course clashes deliciously with Carth, a disciplined, by-the-book soldier. Honestly, certain elements of my headcanon relationship between them ended up being the basis for #Ariva in my current work. Maybe you'll recognize some parallels.
As always, this is a little rough, but that's the point. I can look back now and see what makes it rough and apply that knowledge to everything I write in the future. The scene is set on Dantooine at the Jedi Enclave as Jenzi, Carth, Bastila, and the rest of the Ebon Hawk's crew prepare to embark on their journey to find the Star Maps.
Fun side fact: ducks exist in Star Wars.
Disclaimer: the information on Wookieepedia conflicts with what's in the game in terms of when exactly Carth's wife died. I went with what the game said when writing this.
"Ever brash, ever disrespectful!" Master Vrook roared. "This is what we have pinned our hopes on?"
Carth Onasi had to suppress a chuckle as the aged Jedi went off on another tirade. Despite all his ranting, Jen remained unfazed, hands on her hips, looking almost amused herself. Carth couldn't even remember what she'd said this time -- only that it had been another of her classic cheeky remarks that did a fantastic job of making the other party look foolish. And then she could stand there with that smug look on her face, listening to Vrook shout and letting it roll off her like water off a duck. Typical smuggler behavior.
"Peace, Vrook," Master Vandar hissed. "We have discussed this. There is no other choice."
That did an adequate job of calming the old man, and after heaving a deep sigh he continued to brief the group on their mission to uncover the Star Forge. Carth was listening for the most part, though he was focused on Jen more than anything else. Jenzi Borin. He'd known there was something different about her since the first time he'd laid eyes on her in the escape pod pay aboard the Endar Spire. She was as confusing as they came, and she stirred up an odd jumble of thoughts and emotions within him. She seemed to know it, too, and had taken delight in teasing and harassing him for the duration of the four months they'd known each other. He'd tried hard -- so very hard -- to maintain composure and chastise her for it, but as time passed he realized the efforts were futile.
He thought back to one of their bantering sessions on Taris and how she'd drilled him mercilessly for information about his past. "All right, all right! You must be the most damn persistent woman I've ever met!" At the time, he'd spoken those words out of anger and frustration, but now the memory coaxed another smile onto his face. He quickly wiped his hand over his mouth and forced a short cough, shifting his feet a bit. Jenzi was a feisty one, and though he hated to admit it, her persistence was paying off. She was softening him up; never in his life had he imagined himself standing in the Jedi Council chambers trying not to laugh as a Padawan showed up one of the Masters. Yes, yes, there was certainly something different about Jen Borin, something that compelled him to loosen up and focus more on the present than his angst-filled past. Maybe it was good for him.
The conversation with the Masters was drawing to a close, and Carth realized he hadn't heard a word for the past two minutes. Not that it mattered much -- none of this Jedi babble made a lick of sense to him anyway. He caught Vandar saying "May the Force be with you" -- the one phrase that at least sounded familiar -- and saw the little creature give a deep bow along with the other three Masters. Jen and Bastila responded with bows of their own and Carth managed a brief dip of his head before the two parties parted company.
Bastila began to walk out of the chamber, shooting Carth a scolding glare as she went. He should have known better than to think his childish behavior had gone unnoticed.
Jenzi approached him, hands still resting on her hips, looking rather bored. Her steely gray eyes, however, possessed that same twinkle that they had on Taris when she'd suggested they go explore the apartment complex. She was ready for another adventure.
"You okay?" she asked.
Carth shrugged. "I could ask you the same thing. This is no small task they've given you. It's not going to be easy."
"Yeah, but since when is anything easy worth doing?"
The corners of Jen's mouth curled upward into a smirk. She had that...that look again. In all the time he'd known her, Carth had yet to figure out exactly what it meant. It appeared most often during their arguments, a playful addendum to one of her audacious comments. But then he'd seen it in battle too, for example, when she readied herself to face someone in the Taris dueling ring. It spoke of confidence and an ability to effortlessly handle the situation, which she had already done so many times along their journey. The fact that her ornery personality could successfully adapt to such different circumstances amazed him. He found it almost...well, attractive was the only word he could think of.
Jen was a striking woman, though Carth still felt rather uncomfortable acknowledging that, what with the recent death of his wife. It had been three years -- closer to four -- since he'd lost Morgana in the attack on Telos, but it felt like yesterday now that he once again found himself dealing with Saul Karath and the Sith. Truth be told, Jen reminded him a great deal of his late wife -- her fearlessness, her stubbornness, his inability to talk her out of something once she'd set her mind to it....
She stood there watching him, perhaps waiting for him to say something. To his surprise -- and relief, he had to admit -- her Jedi training hadn't turned her into total stranger like he'd feared. The woman standing before him was the same one he'd escaped the Endar Spire with, the one who had shattered swoop records to win the Taris season opener, the one who had manned the guns and enabled the Ebon Hawk to escape an onslaught of Sith fighters. It seemed that she had not allowed the Jedi to change her; they had only been able to build on what was already there.
The robes she had chosen were different than others he'd seen. They were simple and comfortable, joined by leather armbands and gauntlets that accentuated her wiry arms. She still wore her same rugged, all-terrain boots, allowing her to remain unique but a Jedi all the same. In fact, the only obvious signs of the latter were the two lightsabers dangling from her belt, one on each hip. One was her own, the one he'd watched her work meticulously on during her training to become a Padawan. The other was the one she'd taken from the body of Sherruk, leader of the Mandalorian raiders, after she'd slain him on the Dantooine plains. The two sabers along with her training and natural abilities made for a lethal combination. If Carth had respected her skill before, he felt like he should be afraid of her now or something.
He wasn't afraid of her, however, though she probably would have liked that. She was still waiting, eyebrows slightly lifted, demanding his cooperation without having to speak a word. The silence -- all two seconds of it -- was beginning to make Carth feel awkward, so he spoke up.
"That's a good point. Are you ready to get out of here?"
"You'd better believe it," Jen replied with a nod. She began to make her way toward the door. "Fourteen weeks is a long time to be cooped up in a place like this."
Carth turned and followed her from the room. He allowed a couple of strides between them, giving himself another opportunity to study her as she walked. She was incredibly strong for being so slender -- that much was evident in the way she could handle herself against the biggest Gamorrean thug or Mandaloran raider. Her Jedi training along with her outstanding physical condition made her a force to be reckoned with. She was well aware of it too, and walked with a certain confidence that would no doubt make someone think twice about approaching her in the wrong way. Strong and confident, but mischievous and intriguing. No, Carth could not think of a single word that could sum up Jen Borin, and if there was one, it didn't exist yet.
If there was one thing that bothered him, however, it was the fact that he still had no idea what was going on. They were going to find the Star forge, that much was clear, but why the Masters had chosen Jen to do it, Carth couldn't understand. Why they'd even selected her for training in the first place was beyond him. What was it Vandar had said? "There is no other choice." What the hell was that supposed to mean? He'd been left out of the loop since they'd arrived on Dantooine. First Bastila had gone off with the Council, deliberating with them for hours behind closed doors. Then Jen had gotten whisked away into the whirlwind, leaving Carth with nothing to do but sit in the ship and play pazaak with Mission and Canderous. At one point, they'd gone days without hearing from either Jen or Bastila. Once Jen's apprenticeship had ended, he'd finally been allowed to accompany her again, but he still felt out of place there among all the Jedi. A blaster among lightsabers. Which of these things is not like the others, which of these things just doesn't belong?
He'd voiced his concerns to Jen, or, more accurately, spent a while complaining to her about how he felt. He wasn't really sure what he expected her to be able to do about it, but out of everyone in their motley little crew he figured she'd be most apt to understand. Rather than tease him or give him advice, however, she'd told -- almost ordered -- him to shrug it off and stay focused. She was right, of course. There were far more important things to do than mope and feel sorry for himself.
They broke out onto the circular walkway in the center of the Enclave and Carth took a moment to gaze up at the fluffy pink clouds that drifted across the evening sky. As much as they needed to get moving, there was something he needed to say and he wanted to say it while they were still alone.
He cleared his throat. "I think I owe you an apology," he said.
Jenzi paused mid-stride and turned to him, head tilted in a quizzical manner. "Why's that?"
He rubbed the back of his neck and glanced down at the ground. "You know how frustrated I've been lately, and it's been wrong of me to take that frustration out on you. I guess I'm just not used to feeling this...helpless. I mean, I can fight, sure, but I'm no Jedi."
Jen held up her hand, stopping him before he could get any further. "We've been over this, Carth."
"No, no." She took a step closer to him and lowered her voice. "You think you're being left out of the loop? How do you think I feel? This isn't exactly what I had in mind when I signed on with the Republic fleet."
Carth kept his mouth shut. She had an excellent point.
Jen shook her head and looked around at the Jedi who wandered to and fro, wrapping up their activities for the day. "Look at me. You know as well as I do that I'm not Jedi material. I don't want Bastila in my head. I don't want Juhani following me around worshiping the ground I walk on. I didn't ask for any of this, okay? But now that I've got it there's nothing I can do about it. I don't know what the Masters think they see in me, but if I can use it to destroy the Sith, then so be it."
Carth dipped his head. "Yes, you're right. I'm sorry."
"Look," Jen said, stepping even closer to ensure that she had his attention. "I'm going to need your help here, all right? You're going to have to forget about the way you feel and so will I. We've got a job to do and a crew to take care of, and complaining isn't going to do anybody any good."
For the first time Carth could remember, she wasn't joking. The deadpan look on her face seemed totally foreign to him, and to be perfectly honest he wasn't sure he liked it. If Jenzi Borin had reason to be serious about something, it meant she was either afraid or angry -- most likely the former, considering she often managed to whip up some clever comment even when she was fuming. Part of him was glad she was finally being put in her place, but at the same time he realized how lost she must feel. Carth had spent much of his time alone since the destruction of Telos, plotting his revenge against Saul, so working with a team again was taking some getting used to. For someone as independent as Jen, however, getting thrown in with a crew of strangers and having the ways of the Jedi crammed down your throat was.... Well, she seemed to be handling it a lot better than he ever would have.
"I guess I've been a royal pain in the backside, haven't I?"
That brought a hint of a smile, and The Look slowly crept back onto Jen's face. "You sure have," she said, unable to keep a straight face.
"Well then, I guess I should at least be a little pleased that I haven't lost my touch," Carth laughed. "So, you'll accept my apology?"
Jen began to nod but then she hesitated, studying him for a moment through slightly narrowed eyes. "I don't know. Maybe I should make you work for it a little."
Much to his chagrin, Carth felt his face flush. "Oh, I'm not sure if I like the sound of that."
"Relax, hotrod." She clapped him on the back and continued along the walkway. "Apology accepted. Now let's get out of here and kick some Sith tail."
He followed her out to the docking bay, all too eager to see a little action himself. Bastila was waiting at the base of the Hawk's boarding ramp, looking on disapprovingly as the two of them made their way toward her. She beckoned to hurry them along and then disappeared into the ship.
Carth turned to Jenzi, who had snickered at the sight of the young Jedi woman. "You know you, uh, you aren't so bad to have around -- you know that?"
She grinned. "I know. I'm very charming, I'm told."
Carth chuckled. "Scoundrel," he muttered.
He paused, frozen in place as the word bounced around inside his head. Maybe that was it. Jenzi Borin: strong and confident, mischievous and intriguing. Scoundrel. He watched as she climbed the ramp, adding a little bounce to her final two steps, and disappeared into the main hold.
Carth smiled. He liked it.
Do you remember the KotOR games? Tell me about your Revan! Have any other games influenced your own writing?