Friday, November 20, 2009
The Santuary Moon generally and inaccurately called Endor is actually the fourth moon of the gas giant planet of Endor. It is a forest moon, and the only inhabitable celestial object in or around Endor, hence it often being referred to as Endor. It is also the home to the University of Endor and their 9-Time Champion Cross Country team The Goraxes.
Destiny is a funny thing. Just a short time ago, I was on a harsh desert planet called Tatooine. I am not a fan of the desert. I am more of a tree person to be honest. Forests are filled with life and hold a unique beauty not found anywhere else. As such, it would suffice to say that I am a fan of The Sanctuary Moon or Forest Moon of Endor. You can imagine my surprise and pleasure when I returned from Tatooine to be tasked to explore The Sanctuary Moon. To top it off, I had a message when I returned from Professor Cal Rissian of the University of Endor. He was asking if I would be willing to give a lecture to his Metaphysics class. The school of course, would be picking up my travel expenses. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity.
My hyperspace flight was less than eventful, which is always a good thing. However when we got into orbit, we were notified that we were going to be delayed in a holding pattern due to the construction of a nearby space station. I don't like delays and to add to it, the Goraxes rival cross country team, the Dewbacks were also arriving for a cross country meet. Eventually they put us on the shuttlecraft and sent us down to the moon's surface. In this photo you can actually see the mammoth space station and the two shuttles that were in front of us heading to the landing platform.
When I deboarded I felt an overwhelming sense of awe as a I gazed out at the massive forest spread before me. It was magnificent! The stunning beauty of the forest had me giddy with anticipation. I would have expected it to be a much more tranquil place as well, but with the cross country meet, the moon was bustling. It was such a huge event that the Holonet crews erected a massive antenna to make sure that the meet would be broadcast around the galaxy. Here is a picture of it from my landing platform.
I went into the terminal and picked up my rental walker which would take me to the University. I was shocked at the size of the cannons on the front of it. The Hertz representative explained that it was just in case of a Gorax attack. They are such huge and powerful beasts that one needs tremendous firepower just to deter it from attacking. I got a local to take a picture of me climbing into the walker.
Professor Rissian met me upon arrive to the campus. He and I have been friends for many years. He was the one who suggested I attend the Cheddar Monk Academy. He is a brilliant Metaphysicist and a wonderful mentor. He is also living proof that you cannot judge someone by their appearance. After all, who would think of a wookiee as a Metaphysics professor at a major univeristy? Here we are together.
Me and Professor Cal Rissian
After meeting up we proceeded to his class. He knew how eager I was to explore the moon, so he scheduled my lecture soon after my arrival. The lecture went quite well. I explained how Metaphysics and the Cheddar are linked and gave a demonstration of how it works by levitating a ball for them. It was a wonderful experience and helped me better appreciate the effort the Cheddar Masters put into the teachings they give.
Once the lecture was done Professor Rissian introduced me to the stars of U of E cross country team. I even got a picture with them and their two droid trainers. I am a huge fan, so this was quite the moment for me. Here they are starting at the back, from left to right: (Team Captain) Scruffy "The Scoundrel" Nerfherder, Leia "Princess" Skytalker, Luke "Who's Your Daddy" Skytalker, Me (Darth Mandinga), Tre "Chatty" Seepeo (Athlete/Cyborg relations), Ardee "Shock Treatment" Tooee (Medical Examiner), Chewy "Walking Carpet" Bacca (Physical Fitness Coordinator).
University of Endor Cross Country Stars
The team talked me into staying for the cross country meet and the after party. Of course it didn't take much talking to convince me. They even took me out to a couple parts of the course (they wouldn't let me see the whole thing). I got a couple of pictures and was stunned at the difficulty of the terrain they would be running on.
It was a long race and it was wrought with danger. It isn't uncommon for the runners to get predatory animals chasing them as they race. That being the case there is always a group of armed hunters at the finish line to take anything down that may have followed the athlete in. Here you can see Scruffy taking the win and the hunters poised to bring down any predatory creatures.
After the meet was over, I headed out for a little exploration. I got a couple of pictures of two of the most rare animals on the moon, the boar wolf and the blurrg.
As it was starting to get dark I ran into a couple of Ewoks, one of them a chieftan by the look of things. I asked where he thought I could get the most stunning picture on the planet. He pointed the way to what would be the most startingly beautiful vista I have ever seen in my life. It was a vantage point from atop a mountain overlooking a valley with a river. In the sky loomed the planet of Endor. It's beautiful swirling clouds of gas illuminated the valley with an ominous glow. I must have stood there for an hour before heading back to the campus for the afterparty.
When I got back to the arboreal campus, the party was in full swing. Ewoks from various villages had arrived to partake in the fun. It didn't take long for things to get a little crazy at the party. There was some crazy dancing going on around the bonfire and I joined in. One of the Metaphysics students suggested I use my laser sword as a glow stick while I was dancing. Probably not the best idea and it was fortunate that only a couple of Ewoks ended up with singed fur by the end of the night.
After Party - Laser Sword Show
The next morning the campus was silent. I awoke early to make sure I caught my flight out. I would have liked to have stayed, but the university only agreed to have me on for the day. I will certainly have to go back again, preferrably when there are fewer people around. I would very much like to enjoy the tranquility of the planet.
On another note, never let an Ewok use your camera. They don't really have a sense of tact or timing it would seem. I asked the little guy to get one last shot of myself and the Gorax stars prior to heading down to the landing platform. I guess I should have been more specific about when to take the picture. Scruffy, suffering from a hangover, ended up hunkered over a log hurling his guts up when we were going to get together for the picture. It caused a chain reaction that got Leia and Chewy doing the same. I was using the Cheddar to keep myself from being spewed on and that Ewok decided to take the picture at that moment.
I said my goodbyes and boarded the shuttle back to the orbital transport. Again, the hyperspace trip back was uneventful and pleasant. I really enjoyed my short stay on the Sanctuary Moon and am determined to return there someday soon to further my exploration.
Monday, November 9, 2009
If there is a bright center to the Galaxy, this is the farthest planet from it. It's a desert planet on the outer rim in a binary star system and it is the subject of my first Cheddar Academy Exploration Challenge. Details on the Challenge and other Padawans that have completed the Challenge can be found at the URL below.
As a Cheddar Padawan, I don't have access to some of the more advanced things such as starships. Instead in order to travel I have to procure flights in whatever means I can. In this case I hitched a ride on a large freighter which was headed for a moon near the planet. They weren't willing to drop me off on Tatooine directly, so when I was overhead I simply jumped in an escape pod and launched myself to the planet surface. Here is a view of the belly of the freighter as I jettisoned into space.
When I landed (euphamism for slammed into the sand) on Tatooine and emerged from the escape pod, I was greeted by a fellow Cheddar Monk, Ken Obi. He had followed his Cheddar Senses to my landing zone knowing I would need some assistance in finding a settlement. I was very pleased that he was there. The landscape is quite barren and harsh and for a Cheddar Padawan with a busy mind, the thought of finding civilization was daunting and quite frankly, somewhat frightening. Ken Obi and I walked through the desert landscape for what seemed like countless hours until we came across a large tracked vehicle. Master Obi gave me a demonstration of how the Cheddar could be used to influence the weak of mind by convincing the vehicle owner to take us to Mos Espa, one of the local settlements. Here is a picture of him wielding his powers of persuasion.
It didn't take long for me to realize that the barren landscape of the planet and its lack of Cheddar noise afforded me a quiet mind for the first time. I discovered that I could feel the power of the Cheddar coursing through me like raging river. I was somewhat nervous that my mind's serenity would pass when we approached civilization. To my great pleasure, I discovered that once my mind had been quieted it was easy to keep it that way even in the bustling city of Mos Espa. The first thing I did was duck down a side street and have Master Obi take a picture of me levitating a ball. Such a simple thing should have been easy, but with a noisy mind, I would quickly lose control. Here though, I managed to keep the ball in a near perfect stasis with almost no effort at all.
From there I went to check into the local hotel. The proprietor of J'abbas Palace, Shimmy was a kind, modest woman. She gave me some information about the area and even gave me a room upgrade to a suite. She apparently has a great deal of respect for Cheddar Monks.
J'abbas Palace Exterior
J'abbas Palace Courtyard
Master Obi had to leave to attend to more pressing matters offworld, so I settled myself in. After some time of meditating on the future, completing my manipulation challenges and drawing up plans for my laser sword, I decided to head out on the town (a mistake I would later regret). I headed over to a seedy little cantina called the Wretched Hive. I should have known by the name what I would be in for, but something seemed to be calling to me.
The Wretched Hive
When I entered the cantina, I immediately felt an uneasy tension coming from many of the patrons. A few even fled out the back door at the mere sight of me. Others just watched me with a sense of caution. It was as if most of the cantina recognized me. While I am used to having people find my face familiar (happens when you are the progeny of a clone), I have never had this much uneasiness at my presence. Suddenly, out of the dark recesses of the cantina, a Twi'lek by the name of Bob For Tuna approached me. He was insisting on calling me Bubba, but I had no idea to whom he was referring. I, after all, had never met Bob, nor been to Tatooine in the past, however I clearly had to look like this Bubba character. My only guess is that Bubba caused trouble in this cantina in the past.
I explained to Mr. Tuna that I wasn't Bubba and that due to the fact that my father was a former Clone Trooper that it was easily understood how I could be mistaken for someone else, especially if he too was a descendent of a clone. When he declared his belief that I was not Bubba, the tension in the room lifted like a fog when the noonday sun strikes. Mr. Tuna introduced me to a few of the patrons of the cantina; IGA D'ate, Hans Olo and Wom Prat. All but Mr. Tuna refused pictures, but they were willing to sit down to a plate of sly noodles with me.
Bob For Tuna
After we finished eating, I took that picture of Mr. Tuna. It was then that I was attacked. When I came back to, I was laying on a dusty street, everything on my person stolen to include my holo camera. My hand-me-down laser sword, which was checked in on the freighter had not yet been delivered to my room and I had no way (or so I thought) of dealing with those ruffians and getting my gear back. Instead, I headed back to my hotel room for the night. My sleep was restless and my dreams, more like visions really, were of mine and my father's past. I got a glimpse into some of the darkness I felt inside of me, but was unsure how to interpret it. That, however is a story for a different time.
I awoke to a knock on my door. It was the delivery of my luggage, along with a fine for illegally jettisoning an escape pod (I will have to try the Cheddar Mind Trick to fix that one). I grabbed my laser sword and headed out to retrieve my goods. My night's sleep seemed to unlock a different, but immense power. I could tap into the thoughts, very clearly, of all of the life on the planet. It didn't take long to locate Mr. Tuna and his friends. They were out in the desert taking pictures with my holo cam and laughing at how easily they duped me. Anger welled up inside of me as I marched out into the June wastelands.
When I found Bob and his friends using my holo cam to take pictures of the binary sunset I erupted into anger. I felt electricity coursing through me as I stepped directly in front of the camera lense taking them all by surprise. The two pictures below were the final two that Bob and his friends will ever take, and also the last two that could be taken from my holo cam as it was destroyed by the power of the Dark Cheddar Lightning. I was surprised that I could even salvage the images that had been captured to that point.
Dark Cheddar Lightning
After I had successfully recovered my goods, without the use of my laser sword, I headed back to town. My holo cam was, for all intents and purposes, rendered useless. I went to the hotel lobby and purchased a disposable holo cam. The photographic effect of these cheap cameras is terrible, making the images look little better than 3D Cartoons. But at least I could photograph the rest of my exploration. I decided to head back to the escape pod which landed me on Tatooine and await the inevitable rescue its beacon would bring. I took the long way and got some interesting photos along the way. Please enjoy them as you will. Oh, and for those concerned. Much meditation and consultation with the Cheddar Masters has helped me free myself from my past and from the Dark Cheddar that plagued me.
Tracked Sand Vehicle
Pit of Despair
Coming Soon - Endor's Sanctuary Moon