[FIN]Beneath the Surface
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"I hope I'm not interrupting, Saul," said a quiet voice.
"Revan!" Karath sputtered, bolting up from his desk. "Don't shock me like that!"
"My apologies. But I did not wish to be seen," he said, stepping out from behind an open door. "There are many things to discuss, and few with whom I wish to discuss them."
"What do you - " started Karath.
"Not now, Saul. First we must insure we are not overheard," he whispered, while shutting the door to the admiral's office. He reached into the folds of his robes and produced a small black device, half-circular in its shape. He touched several buttons, and then gently pressed the flat side against the wall. A lens flicked open and several red lights flashed softly, before entering a quiet humming as if to say all was well.
"Good, we won't be overheard," said Revan, pulling up a chair for himself in front of Saul's desk. "Now let's move on to important business. Your paperwork can wait," he declared, sweeping it off the desk with a flick of his arm.
Saul raised an eyebrow at the sudden mess he'd have to sort out, but made no comment. "You're being awfully secretive about this," he frowned. Why doesn't Revan trust my men?
"I am afraid I can make no allowances," said Revan, shaking his masked head. "I cannot be too careful about this."
Saul paused a moment. “What is this about?"
"Let me ask you," Revan said, while slowly reaching into his hood as he removed his mask. Saul stifled a gasp; it was traditional for Deralians to keep their faces covered at all times, revealing them only during the most personal of moments. Supposedly, they claimed, one could never know an individual by their appearance. A physical thing like that could only help distort the truth of what a person was really like. It was only by removing such facades entirely that you could truly hope to understand someone. Thus only those who knew someone well enough to discount their physical nature entirely were worthy of seeing it.
Normally Saul would have been honored at such a gesture; but in this case the hairs on the back of his neck could not help but stand up.
He was surprised at Revan's face. It was very lean, with unnaturally pale skin tightly stretched across high cheekbones, giving him a skull-like countenance. A stubbly beard was visible on his chin, while a scar that looked a week or so old jutted down from under his right eye. A grisly trophy of his victory over Mandalore the Ultimate in single combat, no doubt. It was definitely more pleasing to look at than the eyes above it; both were colored a sickly yellow with flecks of crimson at the edges, with whites turned a light grey.
"Saul," Revan asked, "do you trust me?"
The answer was as obvious as two plus two to Karath. "With my life!"
Revan arched an eyebrow and frowned. "Why?"
"I've always thought one of the most important things in a commander is how well he looks after his men. How honorable he is, and how well he inspires loyalty. True loyalty, not something bought with credits. You got us through the wars, Supreme Commander – I can recall a dozen battles where I'd have been dead if it weren't for you. You are an honorable man. I'd give my life for yours without a second thought."
Revan's smile sent chills down Saul's back, making the Deralian philosophy on appearances seem all the more true to him. Revan's face is truly nothing like the rest of him. "Good. Would you be willing to help me with something, then?"
"I am interested in..." Revan paused, drumming his fingers on the table as he searched for the proper word. "Shall we say, reforms."
Revan nodded. "Indeed. The Republic is in dire need of them." His gaze as he stared at Karath was solemn. "A very dire need."
"I won't say the Senate is entirely uncorrupt, but the system itself is - "
Revan waved his hand, cutting the admiral off. His tone was cold and harsh, dripping with a disdain he had not even used when speaking of the Mandalorians. "Unsound. Ineffective. Outdated. It's more than just corrupt."
"What do you mean?”
"It doesn't work and has shown it can't,” Revan scowled. “It can't stand on its own two feet. Just look at how the Mandalorian Wars went before I showed up. It was pathetic."
Saul nodded sadly. "We were losing. Very badly. The only question was when the Mandalorians would conquer us, not if."
"Well said, Saul. If I hadn't rallied the Jedi to help you, the almighty Republic would have fallen. Don't deny that. What kind of a nation do you serve when it has proven it is not strong enough to defend itself? How do you know the only reason the Republic has lasted so long is simply due to an absence of enemies than its own strength?"
"The Mandalorians were a fearsome people," Saul protested. "We were unprepared for a war on such a scale."
Revan shook his head. "The Republic knew for twenty years that the Mandalorians were conquering planets in the Outer Rim -”
“But the magnitude of it! We were estimating maybe a few sectors worth of trouble at the most, certainly not one of the largest wars of this millennium!”
“Don't interrupt me, Saul,” Revan hissed. “They knew that the Mandalorians enslaved more than just 'a few' sectors. Enough to make them half the size of the Republic, more like! And twice as armed! It was only a matter of time before they chose to attack us - the Republic was the strongest foe they could test themselves against, after all. And instead the Senators chose to stuff their own faces and let the galaxy burn!" he snarled.
"But the resources, Revan..." Saul sighed. "We were still recovering from the war with Exar Kun. We simply couldn't spend vast sums of credits on a fleet that could stay in the drydocks for decades. That would've cost trillions, and completely broken our economy. You can't mobilize for a galactic-scale war only decades after fighting another one."
Revan scoffed. "Apparently we weren't short enough on credits for Senator Braxis to build a fleet of space yachts out of pure gold. We weren't short enough for Senator Mal'sro to convert twelve fortress worlds in the Outer Rim to his private resort worlds. We had enough credits for Senator Tuznor to build dozens of miles-long palaces. There was enough to go around for Senator Nako to buy himself an army's worth of Twi'lek slave girls. The defense budget would've been more than adequate to build a great fleet for the Navy if the Senators hadn't embezzled it. And don't deny it either, Saul. You were on the committee that tried to throw them out of office on those charges."
"The Senate has honest elements too - "
Revan rolled his eyes. "Not honest or powerful enough to stop the corrupt elements. If there are any honest Senators, that they were unable to do anything is only further testament to the sad state the Republic is in."
"I've not been arguing that the Senate is a shining light of honesty and democracy," Saul sighed. "But what can you do about it? It would be preferable if the Republic was in a different state, it already - "
"Institute reforms," Revan smiled. "Radical ones by today's standards."
"But..." Saul couldn't help but feel wary. "The Senate is quite happy where it is. They wouldn't pass. What will ensure they are instituted?"
"Approximately one third of the Republic's armed forces."
This.. Saul thought to himself, his eyes widening in shock, this is treason of the highest order. The Senate would have our heads. "So you're essentially proposing a coup?"
Could we succeed? Saul thought to himself. With Revan as their leader they might have a chance... He'd made short work of the Mandalorians that had nearly destroyed the Republic. They'd failed there, and he had succeeded - perhaps he could succeed again where they were still failing? Revan was no mere general, after all - he was a leader the likes of which Saul had never before seen, with a charisma equaled only by his military genius. Would a galaxy under such a ruler be a bad thing?
Of course not, Saul thought. There might be bloodshed at first, but Revan could do so much good in the long term.
If I accpet I'll be betraying the oath I swore, to defend the Republic with my life. Yet why would I throw it away for this man without a second thought, and scoff if asked to do so for the Republic?
"Remember why you took that oath, Saul," Revan said, as if reading his thoughts.
Saul hesitated. I wanted to make a difference, he thought. I wanted to help create order and peace.
But... he swore an oath because he believed in what the Republic stood for, not the Republic itself. What if something else could better uphold those ideals? What if, worse, the Republic was now a threat to them? And if the Republic no longer upheld the principles that were the very reason he'd sworn to serve it for, why was he still doing it?
How obvious. I never believed in the Republic, he thought. Only what it stood for. Isn't that why we believe in things in the first place? Because of what they stand for?
That's what's beneath the surface of all loyalties. No one is loyal to anything, only the principles they stand for.
Saul stared at Revan. Surfaces could be deceptive, indeed. The Republic looked glorious on the outside, and was riddled with corruption if you ever took a closer look. This man's face looked liked something out of a horror holovid, yet he had done so much despite his surface appearances.
Perhaps I've never taken a close enough look at things... But now's the time.
He took a deep breath. "Count me in."
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