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Van Hale was born in Yawata Crossing on the planet Sphinx in the Manticore System as the son of Patrick Henry Van Hale, an escaped Mesan pleasure slave, and Lydia Van Hale, a niece of the Manticoran captain whose ship had freed Patrick. He was the oldest of at least six children, and was adopted by a treecat he named Genghis.
Judson wanted to become an officer of the Sphinx Forestry Service, just as his parents were, and had just completed his graduate forestry classes and his internship in the SFS when the liberation of Torch became public. Judson decided to put himself and Genghis in the service of the Kingdom of Torch, and was assigned to Immigration Services on arrival. However, his actual assignment was to keep an eye on anyone getting close to Queen Berry.