Bitter Harvest"

by Allronix

KOTOR: Elder Days challenge

Category: V, A, OC

Summary: Jedi are not always welcome with open arms, especially when they seek their new recruits. And while most of a certain Telos family consider the bitter harvest an honor, some see it as atonement, still others will never see it with anything other than hatred.

Telos is one of those spots in the galaxy that no one would really care about. We're out in the back end of the Outer Rim. Sure, there's a lot of factories here, couple of good academies, and all the stuff a good planet should have.

And then there's the export no one's going to talk about. The bitter harvest.

"Don't you be looking like that, Teela. Get a move on and set the table. Use the good china, too." Grandpa Ahren is scolding me to finish my chores. Right now, I want to take the china and break it. Let our "important visitor" eat off the floor. He sure isn't welcome here.

We're an old family. Grandpa likes to boast how we can trace our family tree back to the Founding, just a few years past Exar Kun's War. He likes to tell long stories about what this family's produced. We've got a lot of good pilots, of course. There are plenty of war medals to hang on the wall of the homestead, too. There's probably a vault of them.

"Your little brother's gonna do them right, you know. Just like my own brother," he reminds me.

"Oh, the great uncle we never got to meet?" How can Grandpa look at this and not want to shove one of these skewers through out "visitor's" chest? He always is acting so proud, going on about family honor and such. I don't feel a damn bit proud of my family. Right now, I hate them. I hate this last name of mine, the one that's got us marked for this damn harvest. We've gone from heroes to breeding stock.

"We heard about him. He went down saving a whole ship full of refugees. Changed the course of history. Probably a thousand or more folks on Naboo who owe their lives to him. We did the right thing then as we're doing now, Teela. Don't be looking at me so cross. You don't give our visitor any back talk."

"Back talk" - that all? We get one of these visitors at least once a generation, sometimes as often as every five years.

"I hate this family," I say. "I hate our last name, I hate these visitors, and I sure as hell don't want my little brother to become one of those… monsters. They take and take from us. They can pack up and head to Korriban for all I care. Either that, or shove those sabers up their rears and leave." To emphasize my point, I throw the cutlery in my hand to the floor. The metallic clang seems to be a perfect accompaniment to my grief and rage. I may be twelve, but I'm old enough to be mad and old enough to see when we're all being tricked.

Grandpa is scandalized. "Teela Onasi, what did I hear you just say?"

"You heard me. The Jedi haven't got a right to do this to us. How many more are they going to take from us? Most of us go into security forces or do some kind of service to the Republic. We give and we give…" I'm starting to cry now. I'm a little ashamed, but most of me doesn't care. "But we give enough, grandpa. Why do we have to give up Joran, too? What are we to 'em? Breeding bantha?" I sit down in the chair, crying myself sick.

We have an unwritten rule in Clan Onasi. A baby is born, and we try not to love them too much. We wait and we wait for those letters. After a year passes and we don't get a letter, then we breathe a sign of relief and welcome our new addition. That first year always has us looking out, though. And when the neighbors see that the clan is one baby shy, they ask. When we tell them, the guys who don't get it congratulate us, like it's some kind of big honor.

We have enough honor. The Republic can rot, even. We give everything and we get what in return?

"Teela," Grandpa is sad. "My mother was always a little sad when she talked about my older brother, too. She knew it was for the best, though. Force runs in families, they say. That's why they come knocking on our door, and with all our service to the Republic -"

"I don't want to serve the Republic," I say. "We served them since Founding. We get death and worse in return." I wipe my wet cheeks with the back of my hand. "I hate it all - my name, the Republic, and especially the Jedi."

"You can't mean that."

I look up at Grandpa with as much dead seriousness as a twelve-year-old can manage.

"Oh, maybe you do right now, Teela. All you can see is the small picture of them taking Joran - but he's going to Coruscant. He'll be someone very important - like my brother was. He'll grow up to protect a lot of people."

"But why our family, grandpa? What we do to make the Force so mad at us?"

The roast beast smell from the over is mixing with the fruit pies my uncle cooked. It's making my stomach upset. I don't want food. I just want my little brother.

He seems to consider for a second. "There's a lot of nasty things that could happen to your little brother unless he goes away. We haven't always had good people in this family. There are always a few black nerfs in any family, and some get blacker than others." He shakes his head. "And we manage the blackest of all. In Bane's day, one of our own was on Ruusan - on the wrong side. Left the Order, blasted a couple cities in his way, and the Jedi had to put him down like the rabid creature he was."

"So what? One guy who went nuts. Big deal."

"Not even close. We've had our share of dark harvests from the Jedi, but we got a few Sith in that family closet, too. Just be glad you never had to see one of those. Just like that civil war we had some years back, but all over the galaxy. Onasis tend to favor the Republic, but we have our share of backstabbers. Hell, trace it back to the days near the Founding, and we have a Sith Dark Lady in their ranks!"

"Born to this family?" I asked.

"Worse. Fellow was fool enough to marry her in. Remember that opera I keep telling you about, the one the Arts center puts on every decade? That's no story or legend, Teela. Details are probably embellished from here to Alderaan, but the ending… well, we're here. They lived to an old age, had plenty of kids, and - " He got up and shuffled over to the fallen silverware, picking it up. "Teela, if the Jedi don't take your brother, he might grow up into something very bad."

"And he might grow up just fine," I pointed out. "And just because we have some bad people back in the family tree - why should we be punished?"

Grandpa shakes his head sadly. "One day, Teela, you'll understand. We do a lot of good things, but there's still a lot to atone for. Celebrate Joran as being special. Don't be treating it like he's dying."

I'd only heard the vaguest mention of Sith from the ancient history books I have to read in school. They're like Jedi, but acted like monsters, causing wars and stuff. Somehow, I'm angry enough to think that they might not be so bad at all. Jedi steal baby brothers. How much worse could these dead monsters be?

The relatives pour into the kitchen and dining room. Aunt Phedre chases me out of the chair I'm sitting in - the one at the head of the table, and guides our "special visitor" to it. They're fawning over him, and it makes me sick, and angry. Even Mom, who's holding Joran, is trying to kiss up to him. How can she do this?

Jedi don't look like such a big deal to me. They dress in these robes that are meant to look plain, but they really seem to be putting on airs. It's like when ragged and torn clothing was all the rage. I tried to tear my own clothes only to get Mom mad. It didn't make Saine impressed either. She was able to buy her clothing pre-torn, fashionably looking worn. The Jedi we have is this near-human. He might be Zabrak, judging by the funny set of horns on his head.

It makes me sick watching this. The fine china, the false smiles, the toast they make. I'm just standing in the corner, trying not to get seen and doing a good job if it. It's all about this "Master Jedi" they keep paying attention to, like some king with a court. I stare at him him so hard I can image burning a hole in his chest just from my hate of him. He's not someone to be looked up to. He's just a thief.

He glances my direction. I don't break my stare. Get a good look, "Master Jedi" - some people see you for what you really are.

"Teela," my mother calls. "Take Master Ther's dishes for me, please. I want to make sure Joran's fed before…" Mom can't say it. She looks sad. If she doesn't want this, then why can't she tell this Jedi "no?"

I march up to the table and swipe the dishes, still doing my best to hate him. I want him gone from my house.

"Whoa, little girl," he says. "Watch that anger and hatred of yours."

"I hate you, Jedi. I hate all of you," I say. "You steal other people's baby brothers, too?"

"Youngling," he says in a tone too much like grandpa's. "Your little brother is special. He's got a destiny, and I'm here to help him to it. Most families I run across are like yours. They understand what a great honor this is. Some cases, I have to… persuade them, but this is very important."

"And I'll never see Joran again."

"Well, Jedi can't have attachments, especially to family. That's central to the Order. That's why your brother must be taken so young. That's why they send people like me to facilitate it."

"I hope the Sith come back," I grumble. "I hope someone out there hates you as much as I do."

I walk out of the room and into the kitchen. I can hear Mom trying to make light of it. "She doesn't know what she's saying," "She's just upset, she'll get over it," "She doesn't even know what a Sith is…"

I turn on the water in the sink to wash the dishes the old-fashioned way. I can't stand them talking. I don't want to say good-bye to Joran because someday I'm going to find him and take him away.

And after that, the Jedi won't be taking anyone else's little brother.