[FIN] Misplaced Trust
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Friendship is a precarious thing. It can be a glorious, miraculous, amazingly wonderful thing, yes - but also dangerous beyond imagining. Even the best of friends can be torn apart by a single idea or event - and trust cannot be given lightly, or you will find yourself with a new friend: betrayal.
Trust is the most important aspect of a friendship. If one does not trust a friend, then they are not truly a friend. We must be constantly cautious about whom we give our trust to - but not the extent of paranoia or mistrust. These things will destroy a friendship just as fast as betrayal - indeed, they are a form of betrayal in and of themselves.
This story is meant not only to fill in a gap in the Knights of the Old Republic story, but also to show how easily a friendship can be destroyed. But the way of thinking the main character adopts in his future - paranoia and outright mistrust - is a firm example of what we must strive to avoid. Even if we experience similar betrayals in our lives, we must not fall victim to his way of thinking, or we will find it very difficult to gain the trust of others ourselves.
The rocket soared over the heads of the gathered crowd below, the children laughing and running around the legs of the adults, completely oblivious to the shower of sparks unleashed as the fireworks began. Soldiers were discharging blank shots into the crowd in celebration of the victory.
"It's been a long time since we've had something to celebrate," said Lieutenant Commander Carth Onasi, looking out at the crowd below from the twentieth floor apartment he had been given the use of until a ship arrived to take him home.
Saul Karath raised his glass of ale, and Carth gently touched his own glass to it. "Almost six years," agreed Saul. "Six long... painful years."
"Would have been longer, if it weren't for Revan," said Carth, stepping into the apartment from the balcony. "If it weren't for him and his Jedi, we would have lost a lot more people, a lot faster."
"Tell me about it..." said Saul, coming in behind Carth. "Those Jedi pulled my six out of trouble more times than I'd care to admit while sober."
Carth smiled and poured himself another ale, emptying the bottle. "Well, at this rate, that won't be a problem."
Saul laughed as Carth turned back to the window to watch the celebrations below. "I can't wait to get back to Telos," said Carth quietly. "I haven't seen them in... my God. It’s been six months now. Time flies when you're... well... you know."
Saul nodded grimly. "The War may be over, but the Mandalorian threat will live on in the hearts and minds of the People. They won't forget the terrors of this war for generations to come."
"I don't know about that," said Carth, frowning. "I think the People are stronger than you're giving them credit for. Sure, we may still be licking our wounds for a few years - both economically and psychologically - but I think in a few years, things will be back to normal."
"Oh, come on, Carth," spat Saul, turning around to face the room. "The Mandalorians lost this war by default. They still have higher morale, stronger soldiers, and more experienced commanders. If they had the resources - the ships - to fight on, they'd continue this war until the Republic collapsed. And it very nearly did."
Carth arched an eyebrow. "You're not giving us - or yourself - the credit you deserve. The Mandalorians surrendered. Unconditionally. The Republic-"
"The Republic is dying, Carth," said Saul quietly. "It's been dying since before the Mandalorians. Before Exar Kun. For decades, we’ve been fighting one long war... a war to stay afloat while the galaxy collapses in on us."
"Now, that's the ale talking," said Carth darkly. "The Republic may be damaged, but it's far from dying. Now that the Mandalorians are gone, the galaxy will be at peace for centuries to come."
"Oh, if only that were true..."
"And what makes you think it's not?"
Saul was quiet for a moment. He turned back to the window and stared out at the people below. "You see them, Carth? All of them laughing, and dancing, and singing... they think they've won. They think that the Republic can protect them from anything. They're wrong. The Republic has no fight left in it, my friend."
Carth shook his head. Saul turned back from the window, and headed towards the bar. He pulled out a fresh bottle of alcohol and filled his glass with it.
"What is that?" asked Carth, wrinkling his nose as a pungent odour floated towards him from the glass.
Saul looked at the bottle, extending it to arms length, the better to see it in his half drunken state. "Well, it's uhm..." he said, turning it around in his hand. "It's, uh... it's green."
He downed the liquid, and placed his glass on the bar. "Tell me Carth..." he said slowly, staring at his empty glass. "Are you happy?"
Carth chuckled. "Of course. Aren't we all?"
Saul laughed softly. "Not quite. I know I have no reason to be unhappy, but... there's something... wrong. With the Jedi, mainly. We almost lost this war because they refused to come to our aid."
"Yes..." said Saul, smiling darkly. "I have nothing against him and his people." He turned to face Carth. "But they're not Jedi. They're so much better than Jedi. They're heros. Saviours. We owe them our lives, Carth."
"What do you mean, 'maybe'?" spat Saul, advancing. "If it weren't for Revan, we would have lost this war months ago! We'd be sitting in Mandalorian slave camps, and Dustil would be in basic combat training, learning to speak Mandalorian!"
"Dammit, Saul! I'm not denying what Revan and Malak did for us! But we don't owe them anything! They did what they felt... no, what they knew was right! We don't owe them anything except respect and thanks!"
"They saved your son from a life of war and slavery!"
"No! We did!"
Saul spun around and threw his glass at the wall. He leaned against the bar, his breathing heavy. When he turned to face Carth, his eyes were sunken, and there were bags under them. It suddenly struck Carth that Saul wasn't a young man. He always knew that Saul was getting up in years, but he had never though of him as an old man. Indeed, he had always looked up to Saul - strived to be just like him.
"I am no longer a young man, Carth," said Saul, as if he were reading Carth's mind - it wasn't the first time Saul had seemed to be somewhat Force sensitive. "I can't fight for the Republic anymore. But I'm doomed to do so again, and again. The Republic will never be at peace, Carth. It's hold on the galaxy is weakening. The Mandalorians were proof of that. It can't stand much longer."
Carth turned away from him. The sun had completely set now, but the crowd below illuminated the landscape with glowstaffs and flashing propaganda signs, with messages on them such as Democracy Forever and Mandalorians are Scum - cheap, corny signs, most likely churned out by the relentless Czerka corporation, taking advantage of the war to make a little extra money. Fireworks still lit up the sky at random - the official display had ended, and now it was up to the crowd to keep the party going. They seemed to be doing a good job of it, too.
"Carth, you're more than my subordinate officer. You're my friend. In fact... I've... sometimes thought of you as... something of a son, on occasion. Pity, I... never had time for a family."
"Pity," said Carth shortly.
"I'm sorry, Carth, I just... I feel like I need to explain myself to you - justify myself, somehow."
"What are you talking about?" asked Carth, spinning to face his mentor.
Saul hesitated. "Revan has come to me... he's promoted me. He's made me Captain of the Leviathan."
"Why would he promote you? He's-"
"He's asked the Senate for a prolonged period of command," explained Saul. "He's asked for permission to take his fleet into unknown space to find the remnants of the Mandalorian fleet."
"Why are you telling me this?" asked Carth, after a moment's silence.
Saul hesitated again. "I want to save you, Carth."
"Save me? What in the name of-"
"Carth, please. Come with me. I want you as my first officer on the Leviathan."
"Saul, I... I can't. First off... I'm not in Revan's fleet. I'm not under his command - or your's. I'm in Hicks' fleet. Second, I can't leave Republic space to chase the Mandalorians! My wife and son have been waiting to see me for six months! I can't just..."
He trailed off into silence, turning back to the window. There was something odd about Saul's request - like there was something he wasn't being told. He didn't like it. "I can't, Saul. I'm sorry."
Saul sighed. "I understand."
They sat in silence for a long time. The crowd below was beginning to thin - it was getting close to dawn, according to the chronometer on the far wall.
"It's getting late," said Saul, standing. "I should return to the Leviathan. She's joining the rest of Revan's fleet in six hours. I want to get her prepped."
Carth stood as well. "Alright. I'm sorry, Saul."
Saul smiled sadly. "So am I."
He turned to the door. "Carth?"
He turned back to the room. "Tell Dustil that uncle Karath says hello."
Carth smiled. "I will."
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