Warrior Born, Part I Rating: PG

I wonder if I'll ever get used to darkspace.

Instinctively, I think that the heavens should be a place of light and wonder — strange and dangerous, perhaps, but rich with light and mystery, dramatically beautiful. But perhaps I'm just getting nostalgic as I approach my mid-twenties. In both my childhoods, space was bright and boundless, a wider world to which a boy's attention — his thoughts and hopes — were instinctively, inevitably drawn.

Kunra Jamaane grew up on a wind-swept island of a world, wrapped around by a sea of stars — dazzling diamond dance of constellations drawn around the crystal axis of the pole on the slow Galactic tide, the moons riding serene across the horizon like a fleet of full-bellied galleons. A heaven like that promised unimaginable riches for the warrior strong enough to reach up and capture it.

For Anakin Solo, born and brought up in deep space, the starry sky was — paradoxically — a much less immediate part of growing up than for any earth-bound child. Behind the defences of a series of remote military redoubts, it was the hard vacuum of the void itself that was my constant companion, just beyond the armoured bulwark of the bulkhead. For me, space wasn't a darkness lit by points of light and hope, but a rich, tangible reality, alive with icy brightness in the Force — woven from wavelengths of solar radiation and starlight, punctuated by the spiraling orbits of defensive satellites, and interrupted by the abrupt surprises of supply-ships vaulting in and out of hyperspace.

But I suppose Mom or Winter must have lulled me to sleep in front of an open viewport every night, tickled my chin so that I would look out in uncomprehending wonder at the view. One of my earliest memories is sitting up in the Falcon's cockpit on someone's knee, staring out in awe at the bright rage of hyperspace. I suppose that for a boy like me, for whom space itself had been an invisible friend since birth, seeing the reality was even more of a revelation.

At least, that's how I rationalize it, knowing that Anakin's childhood actually happened, and Kunra never existed outside my own imagination. The part of me that's still programmed to believe the opposite would prefer to think that Aunt Mara took me up to the flight deck of a Jeedai attack ship after my kidnapping from Jamaane'tar, to distract me from my fear and seduce me with the thrill and brilliance of the hyperspace sky.


I'm not sure why I feel such nostalgia for a past that never happened. Perhaps that's a part of my botched brain-twisting that actually worked. Perhaps it's simply a reflex of the same strange sense of pleasure that makes me smile and shiver when I relive the days of unspeakable torture aboard the Baanu Rass, when the Shapers built Kunra Jamaane around the living tissue they'd excised from my dead body.

Whatever. I just don't much like darkspace.

Now, as Ambassador Kunra of the Yuuzhan Vong Provisional Government, I stand aloof in the command room of the Paskla-class cruiser Liberation Song, staring out at the infinite inky blackness that surrounds us, fathomless and awful. There is no sense of movement in darkspace, no sense of purchase or purpose in that vast void — only a disorientation and despair that chills me deep down in the marrow of my bones. Trapped inside the fragile fabergé bauble of the Liberation's hull, I stare out into an emptiness without end.

I can't help wondering why, when my fellow Extolled Ones chose to accept the gift of an infidel-built consular ship for our nascent diplomatic corps, they insisted on retrofitting it with a techno-organic Yuuzhan Vong lightspeed drive.

But then, most of them were born and raised on worldships in the Void, the endless night between the galaxies; and to most of them, for all that they are learning how to use machines with an almost indecent zeal, this is still the way that lightspeed travel should be. To most of them, my abhorrence of the emptiness that surrounds us would probably seem like a flaw. If they saw it, it might cause them to reevaluate their image of me as a fearless warrior, one of the greatest living heroes of our race.

I suppose my deep-rooted distaste for the darkness betrays who I really am.

I frown at that. Who am I, really?

I think of myself as Yuuzhan Vong these days. The memory of my Jamaane'tar childhood seems no less real than the truth, and Anakin Solo is eight years dead. But then again, I'm starting to realise that part of the reason Kunra's story is so seductively plausible is that it was written to give expression to my desires and fears. Kunra is simply Anakin Solo translated into Yuuzhan Vong.

Not that that means that most people would see much of their idea of Anakin Solo in me.

I'm Darth Vader's grandson who got himself killed on that dumb suicide-mission in the middle of the war. I'm a living weapon shaped by the Yuuzhan Vong — with some dangerous glitches. I'm a killer, a heretic, a traitor.

And that's just to scratch the surface.

These days, I'm a politician.

Mom is very proud of me — but more of that later.

I'm ... me, I guess. Whatever that means.

But still, I guess it means I don't like darkspace.

To Part II

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