Fallout: A Vignette Series
Border Wulf

Rating: PG

Author’s Note: This is my response to a challenge that required us to incorporate a piece of verse in a story.

I was given:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick;
Jack jump over the candlestick.

It took me a while to come up with a story using this piece of verse, but recently I remembered an article I had read a year or so ago about the border dogs. At the time of reading I had wanted to write something about them, and the challenge proved to be the vehicle I could use to do this. The term wulf was used in The Crystal Star. The evil guy, Hethrir, owned one.

The story features an OC and young Jacen, plus of course a wulf.

I'd noticed the boy, several times, watching me with his inquisitive eyes as he walked, with his family, past the old kavvai wood bench where I used to sit in the late afternoon feeding the stray wulves. I assumed he was a visitor, his garments suggesting a background that, although not overtly wealthy, was what you might call "comfortably off". And that in itself made me curious for Zhar was not the kind of place families would usually include in their holiday itinerary. I have lived here all my life, and I don't think it would be unpatriotic to say that Zhar is a very basic world without great sights to see or great historical events to draw in those with an interest in such things. In fact, I could completely understand it if the rest of the galaxy had never heard of us, except maybe as a convenient stopping point for travellers needing last minute supplies or repairs done before the long haul to Corellia.

It occurred to me that maybe that explained the presence of the boy and his family here. Perhaps they had been on their way home and their ship had developed a problem necessitating a stopover. I had noticed that the tall, tawny-haired man, who had been with them the first time they strolled past, had been absent on subsequent occasions, as were sometimes the youngest boy and the girl. The mother, at least I assumed she was their mother judging by the comfortable proximity between them as they walked, was always with them, and would usually be talking with them as they strolled along.

Except for one day, when to my surprise the boy came alone. I noticed his stocky figure hovering uncertainly at the point where the path from the market branched into two, one way leading past my bench and down to the river, the other leading back to the town and the space port. I was curious, as curious about him as he obviously was about me, so I smiled at him and nodded my head, hoping he might read the gesture as an unspoken agreement to what I assumed was his wish to join me.

I was right. The boy smiled back and walked over, stopping a few metres away as if to give my motley group of wolves the chance to inspect him. I guessed him to be on the verge of adolescence — still fairly compact but with the beginnings of that gangly appearance, mainly evidenced in the out of proportion size of his feet and ears. But it was his expression that struck me — serious and in a strange way almost wordly-wise, which surprised me for one so young.

"Hello," he said eventually.

"Good afternoon," I replied, and patted the bench beside me. "You can sit down. I don't bite and neither do the wulves."

I heard a small snort of amusement, and saw him nod. "I kind of guessed that. I just wasn't sure if they would mind me being here."

"Oh they'll sense you mean them no harm. They're clever like that. That's how they survive."

"I guess." He settled beside me.

"So what's your name, young man? And why do you like wulves?" I could have asked him where he was from, but I prefer to let people choose how much they tell me about themselves. It comes from years of working with people from backgrounds that they probably wished to forget, people who were no doubt sick of being judged by their social status and the events of their past. Let them start with a clean slate — that was my philosophy.

"I'm Jacen," he replied simply, "and I like all animals." He paused as one of the more confident females reached her dappled paws forward so she could slide down into a position close enough to sniff his shoes. I wondered idly what the scent of different worlds smelt like.

"That's good," I said. "I'm always glad to meet another animal-lover. My name is Dorinda, but you can call me Dorrie, and that she-wulf sniffing your shoes is called Wyn."

Wyn, on hearing her name sat up again, and began panting.

"She looks like she's smiling," Jacen said, amused.

"She probably is," I chuckled. "She understands a lot more than she lets on. She knows now, for instance, that I trust you because I have told you her name."

Wyn yawned loudly and leaned her muzzle forward to bunt the boy's hand.

He laughed. "I think she can smell what's in my pocket. I brought some leftover pastries from lunch." He pulled out a plastine-wrapped parcel and handed it to me, but I pushed it back into his hand.

"You can feed them," I said.

He looked a little uncertain. "I don't know that there's enough to go around. I thought you could add this in to whatever you have for them."

"I've already fed them," I explained. "They understand that this is extra, and I think you'll find them to be both appreciative and good-mannered. Offer some to Wyn."

Jacen twisted a small piece off one of pastry strips and held it out to her. She took it gently and promptly trotted away to the back of the group, and her place was immediately filled by another of the females, this time one who had a young whelp in tow. The process was repeated until the last piece of food had been distributed, and I saw Jacen regarding the animals that had missed out a little sorrowfully.

"Don't worry," I said. "You won't realise this, but this group has a well-developed hierarchy. As long as all have eaten, the group will allow the females, especially those with cubs, to eat any surplus. They are pack animals, and they do what they can to ensure the survival of the pack."

He was silent for a moment, apparently pondering my words. "Interesting," he murmured eventually. His eyes drifted over the group, observing some of the mothers attempting to give their cubs a post-prandial wash, the cubs being far more interested in rolling around grunting and squirming in play-fights. Several of the older males sat like unblinking statues, watching him back — the habit of years of survival within a human community where they had learned to be ever on guard.

"Where do they all come from?" he asked eventually, turning his brown eyes towards me quizzically. "You don't get to see wulf packs in a city very often."

"I guess you don't. In fact I know on many worlds wulves have never been domesticated like they have been here, so I suppose you would have to be travelling in the wilds to see any at all. But on Zhar we've used them for centuries as working animals, and so our wulves have developed a dependency on humans. Not always a good thing as you can see when humans fail to be good masters. These poor beasts have been taken as pets and then abandoned for various reasons, and so now they are forced to rely on the whim of people like you and me to survive."

Jacen's expression was pensive, and again he was silent for a while, turning his attention back to the pack. "Could they not build a park for them or something? It's not their fault they're ownerless after all."

"They could, but the people who run cities never seem to want to spend money on things like that. I'm afraid we live in a very unfair galaxy, Jacen."

"It shouldn't be that way," he said vehemently, and for a mere second I saw the childish earnestness pierced by a glimmer like starlight on the cold, hard rock of a mountain peak. It was so fleeting that, despite my surprise, I convinced myself it was my imagination, or simply an example of that somewhat dramatic extremism to which children are often prone.

"No, it shouldn't, but in the meantime, people like you and I must do what we can to help those who can't help themselves — be they sentient or not."

He nodded — still pensive. "Do you come here every day?"

"Yes, I always come here after work. I've trained my workmates to bring me all their scraps so the wulves get quite a varied diet."

He laughed. "What about days you don't work?"

"I have my neighbours trained to do the same," I grinned. "And on those days I get to spend more time with my friends here. And sometimes we go for a wander around the park. I have no children of my own, you see, so I guess I treat these fellows as my children to an extent, along with my clients of course. Family is not necessarily anything to do with blood, you know."

He looked dubious — understandably so as I could see his family was very loving and close-knit. He would have had no notion of some of the scenarios I had to deal with every day.

"I work with people who have problems in their lives," I explained. "Families without fathers, mothers; people who do things they live to regret and who often can't help themselves."

"Oh." He still looked a little confused. "You mean you're a lawyer?"

I had to laugh — but not unkindly. His naivety was refreshing.

"I'm a welfare worker. So I don't get to see many families like yours." I smiled. "Your mother is very beautiful, and I can see that she loves you and your brother and sister. You're very lucky, Jacen. Always remember that."

"How do you know that? You're not ... are you able to use the Force?"

Now that I did not expect. I can't remember exactly whether I laughed or just sat there with my mouth open. And then it hit me — or at least, I was reasonably sure.

"No, I'm just a very good observer — goes with my job. I've noticed you all as you've been walking past here. But your question is interesting, and it makes me think maybe you know about the Force?"

His eyes were pure earnestness as he nodded. "Yes, I'm going to be a Jedi knight one day, like my uncle."

"Ah. Well — this is an exciting day for me then, because I have never met a potential Jedi before. I can still remember the time when there were no Jedi — or at least if they were around they weren't letting on in case they were killed. Those were very bad times. You're very lucky not to have to hide your abilities. I hope you'll always use them well."

"My uncle makes sure we get trained properly," he replied. "And when I'm a bit older I'll go to the Jedi Academy with my sister."

Something about his words struck a note that I was sure was familiar, but I couldn't for the moment place it in the correct context — an annoyingly increasing occurrence that I attributed to age. "I'm glad to hear that. Having special skills is good although it also means you have to be very careful using them. But I'm sure you don't want to hear me lecturing you," I smiled. "You want to enjoy these lovely beasts."

He smiled, and I remember thinking what an honourable lad he was as he shook his head vigorously.

"I do like meeting the wolves, but I didn't mind you saying that stuff," he assured me. "And I think you're a really nice person to do the job you do — helping people who need it."

"Oh, I don't think that makes me any nicer than anyone else," I said firmly. "I do it because I have a debt to pay."

"A debt?" His brown eyes suddenly alert studied me curiously.

I nodded. "A debt. A debt to an old friend. An old wulf actually."

I knew that would interest him. His eyebrows shot up and I could see him puzzling over my statement.

"It's a fairly long story," I pointed out. "But if you have time, I could tell it to you."

"Yes, please," he said avidly.

"You won't get into trouble for being late back?"

"Mum knows where I am," he said with a shrug.

"Okay. I haven't told anyone about old Jack for years, so you'll have to forgive me if I go on a bit. But I'll try to keep to the facts for you." I smiled.

"I first met Jack when he was a young cub — one of a litter of handsome grey and fawn brindled wulves bred by one of my father's friends, and given to him to train as a heading animal. We owned a big nerf run, you see, way out on the borderland between the Kapple Plains and the Blueback Mountains, and a good heading wulf is worth his weight in credits as he can do the work of three men on thaks when it comes to leading and controlling the herds. It was rough country but the soil was good and we had plenty of irrigation from the mountain streams that ran down into our property."

"My brothers and I were allowed to play with the training pack. We used to have a lot of fun building obstacle courses for them because wulves are very canny beasts as well as being athletic, and so we would spend hours running competitions to see whose wulf would win. Not that we owned any of them personally, but we pretended we did. And Jack was always mine. I don't know whether it was because we were both the youngest, and therefore had to put up with the most teasing, or whether we just suited each other's personality, but Jack and I were always a team."

"And we were a winning team, too. No matter how difficult or high or complicated we built our courses, he was usually the one to figure it out. He was amazingly agile and wiry, and could leap like ... well, like a Jedi I guess."

Jacen laughed, completely entranced by my storytelling. I have to admit that it warmed my heart to be able to tell Jack's story to someone who I was sure would understand it.

"He was such a good jumper that sometimes we'd build a kind of circus ring and get him to perform tricks, leaping through hoops and running up cobbled-together seesaws and slides. One good thing about having brothers was their ability to build things, and there was plenty of material around that we could use. My father was quite happy as long as we kept ourselves busy, and he probably felt that us playing with the wulves was kind of useful as extra training for them in obedience and fitness."

"Now I don't know if you've ever seen the famous Mantrusian Circus, but if you have you'll have seen the amazing spectacles they create with their troop of native wulves that can jump over and through fire. We saw a holovid of a performance by the circus one day, and we were so excited by it that, of course, we had to try and do something of the same ilk. So my brothers got to work building a ring with the closest we could get to the Mantrusians' fiery display — which in our case was a series of candle lanterns that we borrowed from the cellar, the lanterns being used when the generator cut out, which it did from time to time. They stacked them up successively higher and higher interspersed with some of the usual equipment to make the most challenging course we'd ever created. When it was finished we were quite proud of ourselves as we felt it looked almost as good as the real thing. Then while I went and got Jack, my brothers lit the candles, removing the lantern covers and setting the inlets on full so that the flames shot up to their maximum height."

"When Jack and I arrived back, I have to say the sight of those flames gave me a scary feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I wondered if we were being a bit silly expecting poor Jack to perform like the circus wulves who had obviously been trained by experts. But Jack plopped himself down on his haunches and sat panting quietly as he always did before he ran one of our courses — as if he was revving up his engine, all the time studying the angles and calculating the heights with his sun-yellow eyes. And then he was off, leaping and twisting, sliding and balancing — and without really thinking about it we all began cheering him on: ‘Go, Jack, go, Jack,' and ‘Jump for your life, Jack.' And then as Jack began his approach to the final tier of lanterns, set so that he had a minimal run between each with the third perched on top of a barrel, my oldest brother, who fancied himself as a bit of a poet, leapt up on one of the benches and shouted: ‘Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick!' We all took up the chant, drawing some extra onlookers from the nerf rousers who were just cleaning up for the day."

"Did he make it?" cried Jacen, his eyes sparkling as he relived the moment with me.

"Oh yes," I replied. "With inches to spare. We checked his beautiful brindled fur later for singe marks, but there were none. I wondered for a time afterwards if by some odd chance he had Mantrusian wulf in his bloodlines somewhere. It certainly wasn't impossible, but whether he did or not, he was fated to live the life of a working wulf, and that's exactly what he did."

"As he grew and took on the duties of a fulltime worker, I still managed to spend time with him every day, and I would always save a treat for him from dinner and take it down to the den so I could wish him goodnight. My brothers lost interest in their childhood wulf friends as they got older — but not me. Whether it was because I had no sisters or indeed any close friends to bond with, due to the fact we lived so far away from everyone else, I don't know, but Jack was always my special friend. And whereas the other wulves soon lost their desire for human contact, Jack was ever friendly and glad to see me. In that sense he was unique, and I truly believe to this day that he was special, and that he had been sent into my life for a purpose."

"But as you know time moves on and all beings in this galaxy must grow old, and gradually this is what happened to Jack. He became slower, and his keen eyesight began to fail and my father deemed one day that he was to become a border wulf." I turned to my avid little listener to throw him a questioning look and noticed he was frowning slightly as if sensing the story was about to take a sad turn. "Have you heard that expression before, Jacen?"

He shook his head slowly.

"The border wulves are wulves that are no longer capable of heading the nerf herds, but are still healthy enough to fulfil a role. So they are taken out to the border fences of a nerf run, provided with a shelter and water and food, although of course they are not fed very often, and are left there to guard that section of the run. It's not something I agree with at all, nor did I then, but I could do nothing about it as we were brought up never to go against our father's decisions. But I resolved to go out to see Jack whenever I could, and indeed I usually managed to get out to his section of fence every three days. I would organise my studies, because we were home-educated, so that I could leave at lunchtime and be back by bed-time. I'd load my thak up with food and treats, and take out a fresh blanket so Jack would have clean bedding."

"It seems so cruel to send them out on their own like that," Jacen said sadly, "when the poor animals have worked hard and done a good job."

"It seems that way, yes, but I guess from a run-holder's point of view a wulf that can't work isn't much use. And I think they would feel they were being kind to them giving them, in a sense, a chance to still earn their living. It's a tough and fairly spartan life out on the runs — and it tends to instil a perspective in people that seems unnecessarily harsh."

"So you made sure Jack didn't get too lonely?" he prompted, obviously wanting me to get back to the story.

"I did. Whenever I went out there we'd go for a walk down to the stream, and I'd wash out his food bowl and refill his water trough, and if it was a warm day we'd wander upstream to a pool where both he and Doby, my thak, could refresh themselves with a swim. Doby was entering his senior years as well, and although still strong and fit, he did find the summer heat a little taxing. It was one such summer day that something happened that was to change many things."

"As we were heading to the stream, I noticed a metallic glint that seemed to be coming from up the hill that rose above the pool, and that formed part of the chain of foothills that nestled at the feet of the mighty Blueback Mountains. Now I had heard my father talking with his lead hand one evening about problems they were having with the new owners of the neighbouring run over water, because we had the advantage of owning the land that was the watershed for most of the streams. Obviously the new people didn't feel this was fair, although it was, of course, pure serendipity as far as we were concerned. The streams had always run into our land, and our land had been in the family for four generations, and it was not as if the new people were unaware of this when they bought the run. However, there had been rumblings, and apparently they had hired surveyors to double-check the fences just in case they would be able to make a case for misappropriation of land, which does sometimes happen when a landowner has been in possession for as long as we had. Sometimes it is true that fences fall down and are rebuilt in the wrong place, so their actions in this case were perfectly legitimate."

"But sadly for them, there were no anomalies, and so instead of giving up they had decided to fight dirty, which had entailed, on more than one occasion, them cutting our fences in several places so that their nerfs could graze on our land. So far Jack's section of fence had remained intact, but it occurred to me that it might now be under threat if my feeling was right that the glint I was seeing belonged to one of their vehicles."

"But it also occurred to me that there might be some quite innocent explanation, such as some of our own men working up there. So I decided to take a look rather than leap to conclusions. I tied Doby to one of the blue-leaved kavvai trees by the pool and set off with Jack in tow, taking care to remain as unobtrusive as possible, just in case."

"We found the source of the metallic glint parked on a rocky outcrop. It was, as I had suspected, a landspeeder — but not one of ours. I could tell that by its shoddy condition. It was a mystery to me as to what had drawn whomever the vehicle belonged to to that spot. It was neither on our land nor that of the neighbours, so there were no fences to cut or nerfs to steal off with. But being young, and a little too adventurous for my own good, I decided to investigate, mainly to at least establish who owned the speeder so that I could let my father know."

"I was about to set off up the hill when I heard the distinct murmur of voices and other noises that I couldn't identify coming from the other side of the boulders. I crept between two big rocks and then levered myself up so I could peep over, and then I saw them — two men working over by a stream that cascaded at that point from the depths of the hillside into a channel it had carved over centuries into the grey rock. Curious to see what they were doing, I crept closer, cautioning Jack to stay put in case he decided to rush out at them."

"Were they trying to block the stream?" Jacen asked, his voice tense.

"No, although that would have been my guess as well. What they were doing was trying to reroute it — and they were going to do it by blasting the boulders away from the cliff side of the channel that the stream had gouged so that it would waterfall down instead to forge a new route on to their land. And what was more they were about to light the fuse!"

"I knew I had to act, although my stomach had tied itself into knots, and when I called out I could hear my voice sounded like it was being forced through a sieve. I rushed forward waving my arms in an attempt to look scary and determined. Although it was obvious they weren't frightened of me, they did stop what they were doing, and so I used the chance to try and reason with them, because I knew any kind of threat I came out with would just be laughed at. After all what harm could a sixteen-year-old unarmed girl do to two big men?"

"They listened for about half a minute, probably more surprised by my efforts than actually affected by my arguments, and then I noticed the eyes of the younger one on me — with a very unpleasant hungry look in them that made me step hurriedly back. Seeing my reaction, he stepped toward me, and although I turned to run, he grabbed me from behind and lifted me up so my feet lost their contact with the ground. I flailed helplessly, only too aware of his intentions, and gave vent to my fear with a loud scream."

"And suddenly there was a flurry of grey and fawn, and a deep-throated howl echoed around the boulders, and old Jack appeared stalking forward low to the ground, his fangs bared and the froth of saliva smattering his muzzle. My assailant clung on to me for dear life in an effort to use me as a shield, obviously assuming that the wulf bearing down on us was feral — and possibly rabid. He wouldn't have guessed that Jack was trying to protect me, which he demonstrated by thrusting me forwards so that I would be attacked first. No sooner was I out of his grasp than I lunged to the side leaving Jack a clear path, and he launched himself through the air like a projectile hitting the man with such force that he lurched backwards against a big boulder and slid senseless to the ground."

"With that threat neutralised Jack turned to the other man, holding his position, but emitting a warning rumble that seemed to come from somewhere deep within his chest. I could see his old eyes blinking as he tried to adjust his focus so he could gauge distance — his brain still ticking over as clearly as when he was a young cub running one of our obstacle courses. The man glared at both of us, obviously aware now that Jack was with me, knowing that it would only take one command and he would be experiencing those slavering wulf jaws at close hand. But either he was fearless, or he decided that he had nothing to lose, and in a flash he had ignited the wick of his lighter with one hand and was pulling out a blaster with the other. In the corner of my eye I saw Jack crouching like a coiled spring, and I began to shout to him to stay, but before the sound had forced its way past the terrified stricture in my throat to form into something coherent, Jack was running, gathering momentum as if each gallop was shedding a year of his age. I ran as well, hoping that the approach of two potential targets would confuse the man, especially as I could see he was already wavering between lighting the fuse or aiming his blaster."

"And then Jack sprang, rising so effortlessly it would have been beautiful if we hadn't been looking death in the face. And from somewhere in the past a refrain rose unbidden to my lips: "Jack be nimble; Jack be quick. Jack jump over the candlestick!" A mantra — a wish — a need. A desperate need to see him soar over the burning torch the man was wielding in front of him like a sconce in an effort to fight him off."

"Jump, Jack — jump for your life! I remember the sight of his lean wulf body like a torpedo curving with breath-taking precision to sail over the flame and slam into the man's head. I remember the look on the man's face — disbelief, confusion and then horror as he was thrown backwards with Jack's jaws embedded in his throat. I remember the crimson bolt like a blade piercing the air, piercing Jack, marking its entry and exit with a puff of smoke as the fawn fur around the wounds scorched to black."

I turned to Jacen unable for the moment to carry on, and saw sympathy and sorrow glistening in his warm brown eyes, whether in response to Jack's sacrifice or to the tears pouring down my own cheeks I was unsure. Nor did it matter. It did my heart good just to know he was affected, and that maybe Jack's story would have meaning for him, as it had for me.

"I raced over to Jack, hoping against hope that somehow the laser blast had missed his vital organs and that I would be able to take him back and nurse him back to health, convincing myself with reasoning born of despair that this would free him from the lonely job of being a border wulf. But, of course, my hopes were to no avail. I detached his jaws from the neck of my would-be killer and held him so that I could gaze into his dear old yellow eyes again — and he gazed back. And I tell you, Jacen, there was a universe in that gaze — friendship, devotion, loyalty and wisdom. It was a universe full of beauty — and it was one that I realised in a moment of sudden and life-altering insight that I had had a small role in creating. And all because of love, love in the deepest, most unselfish meaning of the word."

"I had often sat with Jack and watched the sun set, watched the colours of the sky above the horizon morph from pale blue through pinks and oranges to indigo twilight. And that evening I watched the saddest and yet also most breath-taking sunset of my life as my old wulf took his last breath and set out on that great journey into eternity. His eyes — beautiful sun-yellow eyes — never left mine. They just slowly faded like the dying sunlight, the pupils growing larger until eventually all that was left was an aura of gold like the corona of a star. And as I sat holding his body and stroking his old grey muzzle, I knew that Jack would always be with me in the lessons his life had taught me, and that it was time for me to start passing this on to others. This was my debt to him for teaching me what it meant to love selflessly and to be loyal and true, no matter the cost."

"And that is why I do what I do. I try to give people, and animals," I waved at the pack sitting there in the late afternoon sun and smiled, despite the tears still on my cheeks, "a chance to be cherished and accepted for who they are. It's nothing grand, and it requires few resources — all it takes is a willingness to love and to look for the special gifts everyone has hidden somewhere within them. And the strange thing is, the return is far greater than the input, and I begin to see why Jack went so peacefully ... and this, I believe, is a lesson for us all."

We sat in silence for several moments, until Jacen nodded his head slowly and said, "Thanks for telling me about old Jack. I think my uncle would like to hear your story as well. Is it all right if I tell it to him?"

I can't tell you how happy that made me. "Of course you can," I replied. "In fact I would be honoured — and I think Jack would be pleased, too."

We sat for a while longer chatting idly, mainly about animals but also about what it was like to travel to other worlds, which was something I had never done but was very curious about. Even us oldies can learn from children sometimes.

And then he took his leave. I half-expected him to turn up the next day, but he didn't, and after a few more days without a visit I assumed his family had moved on, presumable resuming their journey to wherever it was they were heading. It was several weeks later that I happened to be having lunch with an old client, who had made some changes in her life and was now working and living comfortably in a house on the other side of town, when an item came up on the holonews that almost made me drop my cup. I realised the woman I was looking at was the boy's mother — and then it clicked as to why I had thought there was something familiar in the details Jacen had told me about his family. Of course, his mother was Leia Organa-Solo — or as I will always think of her: Princess Leia of Alderaan, and his uncle was none other than the famous Jedi — Luke Skywalker. I was very excited to know that I had met a member of this amazing family, and even more so to realise that Jack's story was now in the heart of somebody who could make a difference to more people than I could ever hope to work with.

The years went by and I retired, and as a retirement gift I was given a holoviewer, so was therefore able to keep up with the news and follow Jacen's progress. I was so proud when I heard how he had saved his mother from the terrible Yuuzhan Vong war leader — Tsavong Lah, and again when he was instrumental in the final victory over the invaders on Coruscant.

But gradually the news reports became a little perplexing, and I began to hear rumours about Jacen that troubled me. The stories being told about him didn't match with the earnest lad I had met that day in the park at all.

And then one day I saw him. He was speaking about some security issue — I have no memory of what it was because I was in shock at the time. Was this the boy who had sat with me feeding the wulves? Who had laughed and cried with me as I told him about old Jack? I admit to having to walk right up close to the viewer just to make sure that this young man wearing the impassive mask was indeed the same person. Where were his warm brown eyes with their inquisitive intelligence; where was the humility and respect in his voice?

Who was this cold-hearted, pitiless automaton?

I don't know how long I stood staring at the holoviewer except to say that it had already timed out when I recovered my senses, but I can still remember the dark void that had opened inside me and that was in the process of swallowing my heart. And all I could feel was icy cold, and the feeling that hope was about to be extinguished.

And I cried for all of us ...but most of all for my lovely, loving Jack whose legacy Jacen had betrayed.

News in Brief

Kapple City security officers have named the elderly woman found dead in a south city park two days ago. She was Dorrinda Ellah, a former welfare officer with the South Kapple Community Welfare Service. Officers report no suspicious circumstances.

Locals were alerted to the presence of Miss Ellah's body by the howls of the wulf pack she is reported to have fed regularly in the park. One observer noted that the wulves appeared to be guarding her body.

She was taken to Kapple Central Medical Centre and family have been located and notified.

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