Vong War Annals – “An Outcast’s funeral” 3.17.2009

       When he had first received the news, Kyle Katarn had admittedly felt less than he would have expected a person to feel in a similar situation.  Though he had certainly known his half brother and even spent a few years training with him closely along with Mara Jade Skywalker, their relationship was more like casual friends at best.  During the trip back to Sulon, however, it had set in.  Not so much the loss at first as the isolation…Kyle truly was the last of the Katarn bloodline, save for what little was in Kiiara’s veins.
    His partner in life, Jan Ors, stood beside him now.  Sulon’s thick and humid air could prove most uncomfortable when the sun was high above; as the sun grew low in the sky as it was now though it cooled down significantly and at times could make even a Mon Calamarian perfectly happy.  Jan looked at Kyle, her trademark pilot’s goggles actually off now and wearing the cleanest set of coveralls she had handy.  Kyle smiled at her, her smile returned.  After getting the news and sharing he had jokingly asked her “now will you marry me?”  For a second he almost thought she’d give in that time.     
    “After the war, Jedi,” she’d said softly.  She had even offered to dress up nice, though Kyle had insisted Jinx wouldn’t want anyone fancied up.  Luke Skywalker had offered to join Kyle when he left the Jedi Praxeum, to which Kyle declined kindly.  Though Luke was the reason the Jedi were coming back out of the woodwork across the galaxy, he had nothing to do with Jinx and what little Kyle could anticipate of Jinx’s desires he knew having strangers present would have been in the “hell no” list.  “Here they come,” Jan said, nodding to the south as an old freighter streaked down from the sky above with a white trail behind it of burning atmosphere.  The trail dissipated and only an occasional flicker of light served as their signal of where the ship is.  “Everyone here?” She asked.
    Kyle looked over his shoulder past the remains of the homestead that had once belong to Morgan Katarn–he and Jinx’s father–and looked over the small gathering.  Jinx’s daughter stood out from the group, the same simple wrappings on her head he had first seen her with hiding the…unique…lekku she had underneath.  Kyle felt guilty that he pitied her, being a half breed child of a human and Twi’lek meant she would never give birth to her own children  which was accompanied by the likely stares and rude comments she got from human and Twi’lek alike.  There were a few Mandalorians that had accompanied Kiiara as well, apparently comrades of Jinx’s Mandalorian comrade.  Lastly, a few town folk that had known his father had insisted on coming along.
    “Not much of a crowd,” Jan sighed.  “I seem to remember him having more friends than that.”
    Kyle nodded.  “He used to,” he replied after a long pause.  “Heh, used to be that kind of guy you were just drawn to, y’know?  Infectious attitude, fierce warrior…had a bad habit of getting himself hurt.”
    Jan nearly asked about Janet Skyy, then held her breath and backed down.  Probably a bad idea.
    The old freighter touched down in the field that doubled as a landing pad these days.  Kyle’s father would likely have had a stroke if he saw what had happened to their land over the years, though Kyle made it a habit to visit every now and then and make sure the droid caretakers were well maintained.  A mass cargo elevator dropped down from the belly of the freighter, a lone figure standing there beside a cargo hauler that looked like it was barely staying afloat on faulty repulsors.
    Kyle looked back at the faceless Mandalorians, fully dressed in their armor as if ready for a fight, and one of them nodded and walked up to join him.  His armor was painted a golden color, flat with scratches and patches of oil stains all over…obviously a warrior for decades.  He was shocked when the man took his helmet off to see a boy that could barely be considered a man, face hardened and eyes determined.  “Good of you to come,” Kyle said softly as they marched to the freighter.
    “Kal’or and Jinx were vode,” the young man said plainly.  Kyle almost felt like he had been an idiot to thank the man, wondering if he had offended him.  “Kiiara is my vod now, she’ll be well taken care of with us.”  Kyle didn’t dare open his mouth again.
    Seeing Janet was something of a mixed bag of emotions for Kyle.  On the one hand, he wanted to kill her and her twisted, evil son…Jinx deserved retribution and the swiftest way of fulfilling that was to end Les Wyler’s life and his mother for making the wrong decision.  On the other hand, however, Kyle understood all too well the dark side of the Force and where it had taken him.  Had it not been for Mara Jade Skywalker, he would have been lost forever and he could never forget the pain it had caused those he cared about when he fell.  He could only imagine the degree of that torment that had to be plaguing Janet, given her relationship to both parties involved and Jinx’s death.
    Instead, he restrained himself as best he could and gave her a long, cold stare.  Their eyes locked, it looked as though she would break down into tears any moment and yet all at the same time she was using every ounce of military discipline not to give him the satisfaction.  He nodded once, solemnly, and she did the same with half closed eyes of relief.  “Where’s your son?” Kyle asked plainly.
    Janet took a moment to think the question over, likely trying to search Kyle out for signs of ill intent.  “You said we had to stay here at the ship…I asked him to stay in the cockpit.”
    “I’d like to speak with him after this, please.”
    Again Janet evaluated his request, looking down at the dirt and kicking at a rock that wasn’t really there.  “Yeah, alright,” she finally replied.
    The Mandalorian had already taken control of the cargo hauler, and for the first time Kyle took notice of the bodies on board.  Jinx and Kal’or ay side by side on it with their hands on their chests, fingers interwoven and a white sheet under them.  He wasn’t particularly certain where Janet had managed to scrounge them up, but Jinx was dressed in fine traditional Jedi robes colored different shades of gray.  Kal’or’s armor looked shiny, not touched up with paint just cleaned and possibly polished on top of that.  He wondered if she had made Les do that…he would have.
    Kyle nodded to her again, not wanting to make contact with Jinx’s face and suddenly fighting back the urge to cry building up in his sinuses.  “Let’s go,” he said to the Mandalorian and the pair walked back to the homestead.
    An hour later, the attendees of the funeral were gathered around a large wooden bed with small torches burning all around them.  The sun was just barely gone now, still casting it’s warm light across the western hemisphere above them in contrast to the blue night creeping in from the eastern sky.  They had a late addition to the group, a New Republic naval officer that went by the name Teke Daggerscout.  Kyle vaguely remember his brother mentioning the name once or twice twelve or so years ago.
    The Mandalorians had removed all of the armor from Kal’or, passing it along in a fairly non-ceremonial manner to Kiiara.  She took it graciously, looking at the armor for a long time as if she was deciding whether she could measure up to it or not.  While Kyle was technically her uncle, he’d only met her once before–a year or so ago–and doubted she’d keep in touch.  To his surprise, she had come to stand by him as the actual ceremony was about to begin.  He felt her little hand slide into his, and he looked down with a warm smile to her wondering if he somehow reminded her of her father she’d known for so little a time.
    It was never fair, was it?
    Jinx and Kal’or’s bodies lay on top of the pyre they had built now, Kal’or in simple under garments now and Jinx looking somehow at peace with himself.  Kyle had half expected to see a look of hurt or rage burned permanently onto him, instead it was just a serene look as if he had somehow understood everything that happened to him in those last moments.  Kyle liked that idea, and made a decision to believe that from that moment on.
    One of the locals walked up to Kyle, grabbing hold of a torch along the way.  An older man named Sahr, used to come around when Kyle was a kid on the farm smoking exotic tobaccos in his pipe and telling grand stories of far off wars he’d served in.  The old man had actually been the reason Kyle had first thought about military service, which led to him enlisting in the Imperial Academy just after his mother had been killed.  Ironically Sahr had been telling at least half the truth having served on Republic ships in the Clone Wars, and he had attended one too many funerals for Jedi Generals as he told the story now.
    “Here ya go, boy,” Sahr said to Kyle as he handed him the torch.  Heavy wrinkles lined all of the man’s features, dark veins popping out on the back of his hands and yet his eyes as full of life as they had been long ago.  He pat his shoulder softly.  “You take your time.”
    Kyle smiled at him, glanced once at Jan to his right and then down to Kiiara at his left.  Kiiara left go of his hand and stared with eyes of steel at the pyre in front of them.  He took a few steps up to the fallen pair before him, looking off past the pyre at the freighter a hundred meters or so away from the ceremony.  Kyle could barely make out the silhouettes of two people on the upper hull, sitting and watching from afar.  For a moment he second guessed his decision to not bring them there, then shaking his head more in thought more than reality and looked down and lit the pyre.
    The flames grew quickly, Sahr had put some kind of accelerant on the wood to help the fire start quickly.  They dashed around the deathbed’s perimeter as if designed to do so, then reaching up into the sky with fury.  Everyone seemed to take a small step back out of precaution.  Small embers flew upwards in the super heated air, dancing with themselves before softly fading into nothing.
    “Strange, seeing him go like this,” said a voice behind Kyle.  He turned to see Teke there, stepping up a bit closer to Kyle. 
    “Why is that?”
    Teke’s uniform was pressed and fitted well, his skin the kind of leathery look that spoke of all the years of fighting he had seen with wrinkles on his eyes that also sang of many laughs. “Guess when you’ve served for someone for as long as I did with Jinx, you get to thinking what their funeral’s gonna look like.  I suppose that sounds a bit morbid, but it happens more often than not.”
    Kyle wanted to say he understood that and probably could have when he was an Imperial so long ago, but as a lone agent for the Republic and now a Jedi Master teaching other Jedi he couldn’t truly say he did.  The theory behind it was sound, it was probably almost a courtesy to know your comrade’s death wishes given the hazards of the job they all faced.
    “I always pictured a grand military burial for him,” Teke said with a soft chuckle.  “Definitely figured him to go before me, damn fool was always jumping on in there before he knew what was happening and getting himself hurt.”
    Kyle smiled, recalling what Jinx had been like when they’d trained together.  “I don’t doubt that,” he replied with a whisper.  He looked back at the flames for a long while, the bodies starting to look less and less like real people and almost like ghosts now as the heat distorted the light within itself.  “Hey,” he said, hesitating.  “Why…why didn’t anyone else come to this?”
    “Not sure I follow,” Teke replied.
    “I mean…it seemed like he had the respect from a lot of you guys in the service.  Where is everyone?”
    “Oh,” Teke said.  He took a moment as though he was choosing words, which Kyle could certainly relate to on this day of all days.  “Jinx made himself out to become an outcast of sorts, Kyle,” he said.  “The stronger his connection to the Force became, he seemed to withdraw more and more.  Next thing any of us knew he was going away for months, even years at a time without a word.”
    That was the first time Kyle had ever heard about that, and much as he wanted to try and understand this part of his brother–he couldn’t.  Jinx had somehow always had time to drop him a message every couple of months, even if it was something simple like “hey, how are you?”  Kyle always had Jan there for him to bail him out or keep him company, even when he hadn’t deserved her.  The pair was nearly inseparable, and had been so for so long that it was hard to picture being that secluded from everyone.  “No one was with him?”
    “No,” Teke replied.  “I peeked in from him time to time through personnel records back on Coruscant, but it was rare I ever saw him after transferring out of the Rebel Squadrons.”
    Kyle nodded.  “Well…for what it’s worth, I’m sure your being here would have meant a lot to him.”
    The rest of the ceremony went on in silence, until only heavy black smoke was left and people slowly drifted off to their awaiting speeders or transports.  Sullust rose high above them and cast it’s own warm, washed out light across the land.  Kyle stayed out there until all of them had left and he’d asked Jan to head inside without him.  “Watch after Kiiara for a bit for me, please,” he’d asked her.  When he was left all alone and knew no on was watching, he finally let himself cry for the brother he’d never truly known.

- Jinx

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