Shadows In The Black
Clan Nox had long been a political power and produced many respected research scientists, but no one in the family had quite been prepared for the arrival of Del’nor in the year 61 BBY.
While the Drall are known throughout the galaxy for their intelligence, his curiosity and abilities were exceptional from a young age. His family was pleased with his interest in the library and how engrossed he was during the daily Ta’sharr (family story-telling sessions), but there were a few odder quirks.
All children like to find out how things work, but while most confine their destructive habits to toys and the odd small item that finds its way into their hands, Del’nor was more inquisitive. He was only four the first time he dismantled a landspeeder engine, and there were always tools going missing around the home that would inevitably be found in his possession as he attempted to examine anything within reach.
He was also prone to questioning every piece of information he was given. While he did listen to the Ta’sharr, he would ask his parents, siblings, and anyone who would listen about details that didn’t completely fit in the narrative, and he’d be the first to find logical inconsistencies.
This questioning nature also meant Del’nor was less prone than most to partake in the gossip so common in Drall society. Gossip’s basis in hearsay was uninteresting to the fact-finder in Del’nor, so even when he did participate, he’d do everything in his power to determine the truth of the matters in question. This led to run-ins with cheating and innocent spouses, unemployed neighbours, and pimply teens, among many others.
Del’nor’s troubles in society soon led his parents and the family Duchess to arrange for him to be sent away for schooling, out of the local spotlight, when he was six years old.
It was hoped Del’nor had some aptitude for the Force so he could be sent to the Jedi Academy on Coruscant, but failing that, he was to be sent to an expensive private academy on nearby Corellia that was part of the Republic Futures Program. It was hoped the teachers would help temper his curiousity or at least keep his mind and hands busy.
Things did not go well.
Del’nor was one of a bare handful of Drall attending the prestigious school, but he was never able to fit in with the others of his kind. This led him to lead an isolated and bullied existence as his own precocious nature led him to constantly, and unwittingly, annoy his classmates and teachers by always having answers and asking questions that went beyond their abilities.
It didn’t help that he was often in advanced placement classes where he would be inquiring after matters more complex than his teachers could answer, let alone have his – often older – classmates consider to ask.
For the better part of two years, Del’nor spent most of his time alone. He was always weak and sickly, and this was made worse by the taunts and abuse of his peers. Most of the instructors either didn’t notice or care that the small Drall with the unending string of advanced inquiries wasn’t treated well.
He went home during school breaks and maintained close relations with his family, but the child was uncomfortable and unpopular at school and in his own neighbourhood. It began to seem he might not make it to 10 as his emotional development couldn’t keep pace with his intellect.
Things changed with the arrival of a new Gotal science professor, Noric Ranth.
Ranth was a popular teacher; he was entertaining, knowledgeable, well-spoken, and able to adjust his class’s difficulty for each of his students. He was soon able to delay Del’nor’s more tangential questions to times outside of class. He also taught Del’nor’s other instructors to defer the boy’s questions to Ranth, thus easing their burdens as well.
The empathetic Ranth recognized the spark of genius in the now eight-year-old Del’nor, and he took it upon himself to encourage the boy, even in topics well outside his own field.
Del’nor spent many hours questioning Ranth on all range of subjects, and the teacher was willing to research answers on any topic for the boy, who began to learn the value of patience. Ranth also began to mold the child’s social skills, teaching him about the importance of listening, watching, and planning ahead.
With a mentor for support and no longer a challenging burden for the other teachers, Del’nor’s star began to rise. As his more obnoxious, off-topic tendencies were brought under control, his on-topic assessments and comments became welcome. He also began to offer tutorials and support for his classmates, many of whom began to hope he would be their partner for group and paired assignments.
Del’nor’s confidence began to grow as the other students began asking for his help with difficult topics. He joined clubs, made friends, and even managed to work his way back into the good graces of his neighbours whenever he was back on Drall.
The young Drall flourished under Ranth’s guidance through the rest of his education on Corellia since Ranth’s skill both as an instructor and as a coworker meant his contract was never in doubt.
The pair kept in contact after Del’nor’s graduation, and Del’nor made his first trip outside the Corellian System 10 years later in 33 BBY to visit the sick and ailing elderly Ranth on Bothawui. Ranth had been invited to teach there a few years after Del’nor left Corellia, and the now aged Gotal passed away with his favorite student by his side.
As in life, Ranth was an inspiration to his student in death. Del’nor had made all possible haste from Drall to Bothawui, but the trip was still long and tedious. Despite leaving shortly after hearing of Ranth’s frail condition, Del’nor had scant days with his mentor before the old man died, in large part due to the lengthy nature of galactic travel.
Del’nor’s inquisitive mind began to question whether there was a faster way to traverse the cosmos, and on his return journey to Drall, he first began to consider the Ultimate Device.
At the time, Del’nor was employed as a research scientist at a satellite Santhe/Sienar Technologies laboratory, who had hired him directly out of University in 39 BBY after he finished with some of the top grades in the galaxy.
He had been hand-picked for the role, and he took to a real lab environment effortlessly. Still, he rarely attended company social gatherings, and unless absolutely necessary, he avoided interacting with any of the upper management or bureaucrats from the company.
On one early occasion, some board members held a dinner in Del’nor’s honour following a particularly successful engine test, but he couldn’t be bothered to show up. While that event might have gotten him fired, it instead brought him to the attention of Raith Sienar, the company’s head and a recognized starship engineer.
Sienar appreciated Del’nor’s mind, drive, and honesty, recognizing in the little Drall a kindred design spirit. Del’nor was always among the first people Sienar went to with his own designs, and when an idea wasn’t quite coalescing, he would discuss the finer points with the brilliant Drall engineer.
Shortly after Del’nor’s returning from Bothawui, Sienar personally offered him a role at the top-secret Sienar Advanced Projects Laboratory on Corulag. Having exhausted his local options for building his Device, Del’nor accepted the position as a way of getting access to more advanced technology and other great minds with whom he could collaborate.
He first went to Coralug at 28, in 32 BBY, and he worked for Sienar there for 15 years, all through the invasion of Naboo, the Clone Wars, and the rise of the Galactic Empire. While he recognized the military applications of his work, Del’nor was almost entirely apathetic about events in the galaxy at large, instead focusing on his Ultimate Device whenever he had a moment.
Once there, Del’nor threw himself into his work. Uncredited, he was instrumental in the theories and design work that went into the first Hypermatter reactors, helped fine-tune the earliest versions of the Twin Ion Engines that would soon become ubiquitous, and provided some theoretical insights that aided the re-implementation of cloaking devices.
All the while, he avoided the spotlight and was always happy to pass on the credit for projects to his coworkers or the more ambitious members of his research teams. Only Sienar recognized how much the facility owed to Del’nor, and he ensured the Drall was compensated financially for his contributions.
While each success was praiseworthy, even the technology Del’nor most directly helped design felt like failures to the driven Drall. No matter what task he was assigned, his mind was always drawn back to his Ultimate Device, which he could never determine would be a navigational computer system, a hyperdrive engine, or something else entirely.
His obsession grew over the years, and on two occasions, he burned out his laboratory as he attempted to implement some of his ideas without the necessary safeguards.
Del’nor would spend his full workday at the lab, coming in before breakfast and working late into the night, sometimes even sleeping on his laboratory floor as he lost track of time and literally passed out from exhaustion.
While he had a vague idea of what he wanted to build, Del’nor could never fully articulate the idea to Sienar or any of the other – in his mind, lesser – engineers at the facility, and Del’nor began to consider moving on to see what else he could learn.
Meanwhile, Sienar was now firmly in the pocket of the Humanocentric new Emperor Palpatine, who placed the engineer in charge of designing and building the newly formed Galactic Empire’s TIE fleet. Despite that connection, he had worked with Del’nor for too long to suddenly discount his achievements..
Knowing the order to remove all non-humans from important positions would be coming soon, Sienar regretfully used one of Del’nor’s now fairly common lab accidents as an excuse to fire the Drall in 17 BBY.
Rather than being devastated, Del’nor felt liberated. With almost 20 years of savings from being a well-paid scientist, he was now free to explore every nook and cranny of the galaxy for anything that could help him build his Device.
Had he simply returned to Drall, Del’nor could have lived the rest of his life comfortably, but his considerable savings went quickly as he soon found himself having to pay for lab space, galactic transportation, housing, and other necessities.
Within five years, the once feted scientist was nearly destitute in the Outer Rim. Where once he had the most advanced laboratory facilities in the galaxy at his disposal, he was now forced to scrounge for his supplies.
He began taking on mechanic and slicing jobs, and he found his skills in demand among the colonists, fringers, and less savoury types among whom he now found himself.
Despite his drop in status, reputation, and circumstances, Del’nor was never overly upset about where he found himself. He was able to travel freely and signed on as crew for both short and long intergalactic trips as he sought to spark what he felt were the final details missing from his plans for the Ultimate Device.
After spending the last of his Sienar savings in about 12 BBY, Del’nor wandered for years, gradually growing skinnier and more frail. Where once he had the most advanced safety features surrounding his work, he had to work in makeshift labs, leading to his more ragged and burned appearance.
Now in his early 60s, Del’nor has used most of his available funds and he finds himself looking for a side job again to help pay for some food and his next laboratory.
As with all wanderers, he knows the kind of people who hire his kind of people will probably be found drinking somewhere.