Twilight of the Exile
I didn’t know why I bothered to come to this presentation; I guess that it was just a chance to see a prestigious Jedi like Alec and hear what he had to say about recent events. Although the Council had already assured the Order that they aware of the situation, an aura of doubt had been brewing for nearly a decade and it seemed that a watershed event was imminent.
By then, it was not news that another world had been occupied along the Outer Rim by the Mandalorians, but a critical hyperspace route ran through that system. Although hundreds of Republic worlds were within their reach, none of the Core Worlds had been under a direct threat until now. From Coronet came a greater fear of invasion to other Core Worlds, who realize that even they were vulnerable. It was easy to dismiss a threat when you had three or four systems between you and the Mandalorians, but to live next door to one of their worlds was to live in fear.
While it seemed that such a threat would not be allowed, the Republic did not have the means nor the desire to hold the corridor when the Mandalorians chose to take their latest prize. As the Outer Rim came closer and closer to being completely occupied by the Mandalorians, it only seemed a matter of time before we learned if it would stop there. And if the Outer Rim was not enough for them, who would be their next target? Although there were hundreds of more tempting systems within the Republic, it was standard belief that they were safe from invasion. The question was whether the neutrality between the Republic and the Mandalorian Empire would endure if the Outer Rim were completely annexed.
Such a significant threat had brought about two very different ideologies about the prospect of war within the Order. While the Council has had the utter commitment of their followers from the start, Jedi support for neutrality waned more with each conquered world. At the same time, hostilities only seemed to become more and more likely as war became less desirable with each passing day. No one wanted to fight the Mandalorians, but the threat was only getting more severe.
At the same time, an elite few within the Order have decreed that war was already upon the galaxy and took the debate to greater level. Revan in particular emphasized how critical the threat had become in the last decade because of, not in spite of, the Council’s inaction. With his friend, Alak, the pair seemed to polarize the ‘war ideology’ from one of instinctive neutrality to one of extreme commitment to one side or the other. While the wishes of the Council were often regarded as absolute to us Jedi, those two have emboldened a standard under which our teachings were more important than our leaders.
The last thing the Council wanted to hear was that Alek intended to publicly denounce their authority, but allowed him to hold a lecture on the topic of the Mandalorian threat. It was obviously a political event, but as long as he kept to the subject, there was little the Council could do to forbid him from making public presentations. I was interested in knowing whether his intention was to promote the Order or his friend, Revan. I and almost a hundred other Jedi gathered to hear what Alek had to say.
The majority of the audience were older padawans and the more seasoned masters. Not many knights showed up though... the majority who would come to such events were either young and open-minded, or wiser masters who often adopted new ideas from experience. Most who have become knights, but who've never taken an apprentice often don't risk being mislead from what they've been told all their lives.
Alec was among the most physically impressive jedi within the Order. Despite his relatively youthful appearance, he carried himself more proudly than most of the Council. When he walked into the presentation hall, there many ovations given that ranged from applause to simple bows. Several of the more seasoned Masters went up to shake his hand and say a few private words beforehand. The younger padawans seemed to look up to him as a fine example for them to follow. Although I knew he was tall, I never realized how much he dwarfed everyone else in the room.
Once everyone had gotten their fill of Alek’s presence, he moved to the front of the lecture hall and his audience got where they could see him. I always took a front seat to these kind of things because I was too short to see over the heads of others. Although Alek was tall enough that I didn’t have to worry about where I stood, it was just habit that I took my usual place in the front tier.
When everyone fell silent, Alek looked through his audience to see who among the group of about 100 he knew or was acquainted with. Alek and I knew each other by name, but were not acquainted. I’m sure that he’s heard of me, but certainly was one of those who would strongly dislike me. Although his opinion really didn’t matter anyway, I couldn’t understand why I would have been disliked by someone I’ve never even met.
Alek began his speech. “I want to thank you all for coming here today. As you know, the Republic has explicitly requested aid from the Order in regards to the latest Mandalorian incursion along the Outer Rim. War is brewing and it is going to eventually involve the Order, so the question is not ‘if,’ but when the Mandalorians will commit the first overt aggressive act against the Republic. Although the Council still believes that diplomacy can bring about a peaceful solution, we must be ready to oppose them before they invade Republic space.” He crossed his arms and came before one of the few masters among the crowd, Akagi. “Likely most of you believe that we should not instigate a conflict, but wait only until if the Republic is under attack by a foreign power. That is not an option anymore.” He allowed a moment of silence to fill the room.
Akagi asked a question to break that silence. “Then what are you proposing we do? The Mandalorians have firmly kept out of the Republic’s jurisdiction. The Senate has chosen not to get involved, and we cannot make much of an impact without their support. Technically, the Mandalorians have done nothing to violate the peace. Unless they directly interfere with the Republic’s interests, we really have nothing to justify hostilities.”
Alek turned his gaze back to the audience. “The Mandalorians were not foolish enough to attack the Republic directly, so they instead concentrated their attacks to worlds on the Outer Rim. For twelve years, they’ve been conquering one planet after another... stockpiling resources and taking control of strategic hyperspace routs that put them within arm’s reach of over a hundred Republic worlds. Where once there had been dozens of systems that buffered the Republic from the Mandalorians in the Outer Rim, few remain. Cathar and Serocco are the only remaining inhabited planets between them and us. When they are invaded, they will either be slaughtered or enslaved... forced to feed and supply the army that had taken their worlds. Or worse, used as warriors against the Republic.” He paced across the front of the hall as if to display thoughtfulness and intelligence. “My friends, billions have already been slaughtered by the Mandalorians along the Outer Rim while we watched and done nothing. It does not matter whether they were Republic planets or not; they stood no chance against the might of the Mandalorians. We allowed them to fall into Mandalorian control and allowed those who fought to be massacred and for those who surrendered to be enslaved.”
I raised my hand to object to the statement. “The Senate had refused to aid the Outer Rim. Even if we, the Jedi, had chosen to protect those worlds, there was little we could have done against an offensively oriented juggernaut like the Mandalorian Empire. Although brave, a few thousand Jedi would also have died along with those billions and had very little impact on the outcome. We cannot blame ourselves if there was nothing we could have done.”
He crossed his arms and got directly in front of me. “We have that chance now. For the last year, Revan and I have petitioned the Senate to aid these last two worlds against the impending Mandalorian invasion. They are expected to vote on the matter within the next few days.” He smiled and proudly gestured to himself. “We are not even on the Council and we had a significant impact on the Senate. Revan believes that if the Council were to encourage it, the Senate would be persuaded to mobilize the fleet to defend those last two worlds.”
A number of people around seemed very interested in the prospect of saving two civilizations from imminent destruction, but it didn’t seem as simple as Alek made it appear. He spoke of war, but didn’t address certain issues that I had hoped he would during the lecture. The topic was of how to address the Mandalorian threat, but he has only talked about past mistakes without going into much detail of the present or future... of which were much more important to me. I wanted to know more about the impact that war would bring before I started backing one side or the other.
Someone else raised their hand. “They already gave the Senate their recommendation and the Council advised that the Republic that the Jedi would not support a preemptive strike against the Mandalorians. They believe that it is more important to evaluate the threat before committing to a war we might not be able to win.”
He closed his eyes and shook his head. “They’ve had over a decade to evaluate the Mandalorian threat... now is the time that they must act. The Senate has sent an official request for Jedi support in the defense of those systems. If the Mandalorians move to invade, the Republic fleet would be deployed to fight off their assault forces. Such action would constitute a preemptive strike... an act that the Council has always discouraged... and the Senate will not risk alienating the Jedi by committing the first overt aggressive act. The Council must encourage the Senate to take the war to the enemy and not wait for them to bring it over the skies of Coronet, Chin’taka, or Ord Mantell.”
I spoke up again. “The Jedi have always stood by the Republic in the past. If the Senate sees the need to act, they would do so with or without their approval. Why do they need the Council’s blessings?”
“The Republic would be committing the first act of aggression. The Jedi are not obligated to defend against a threat that the Republic chose to engage in the first place.” Alek replied.
“That comes down to another issue... why would the Republic ‘want’ to strike first? They aren’t prepared for war and can’t afford to begin hostilities early.”
“The Council must encourage a preemptive strike to the Senate, or they will not act fast enough to defend both Cathar and Serroco. War is coming whether it is the Republic or the Mandalorians who strike first. We have an opportunity not only to dictate where and when the first battle begins, but engage the Mandalorians when they least expect it. Their fleet is not mobilized to attack the Republic and would be caught off guard when realizing that they were no longer facing helpless worlds, but the entire Republic fleet.” Alek stepped back after a moment of showing encouragement to give a look of grim realization. “In order for the Senate to take action, the Council must encourage them that a preemptive strike to defend Cathar and Serocco is in the best interest of the Republic.”
“Then why are you not speaking to them about this issue? They’ve already made their recommendations and I agree with them.”
He crossed his arms and got in front of me again. “I would not ask you to go against the wishes of our superiors, but I believe they are wrong. I’m only asking you to consider the consequences of their decision and to keep an open mind about the issue at hand. Many of you are here because you are unsure of the Council’s decision... there is no disrespect in telling them that they are making a mistake that will cost billions more their lives or their freedom.”
One of the Padawans, Kalin, politely objected to Alek’s last comment. “With all due respect, I would not consider your opinion to be worth more than the Council’s. You do make a good argument, but I don’t think that it’s our place to question our superiors even if we don’t agree with them. They are to the Order as a master is to an apprentice.”
“That is different. An apprentice should respect her master because she does not have the experience that the master does. Although many who’ve come here today are padawans, themselves, I believe that everyone here is wise enough to trust in their own experiences more than that of the Council’s. We are Jedi who they have trained and who have earned our positions within the Order; not raw recruits without the discipline or the years of training to simply be ordered about. They should remember that they represent the Order, so their decisions must reflect upon us. And right now, most believe that saving Cathar and Serocco is too important to just stand by and do nothing. We must encourage the Council to act now, or they will be lost.”
I objected more harshly than Kalin because he had made absolute assumptions that were not based on fact. “You can’t know that. In fact, most of what you said is based on little more than what you and Revan say is about to happen. What if you’re wrong?”
“Most of what I told you is already known.” He faced the entire crowd again. “Alexandra has brought up a valid point though... we cannot know for certain what is in store for the future. For all we know, Cathar may not be invaded by the Mandalorians. Maybe the Senate would not act quickly enough to dispatch the fleet. Maybe war could be averted if a peaceful solution is found... we cannot know for certain. What we do know is that the Mandalorians have relentlessly invaded every other planet along the Outer Rim and the pattern we’ve seen shows that it is more likely than not that Cathar and Serocco will be massacred without Republic aid. The Council has had over a decade to evaluate the threat, but as they watched, it has only become more severe. All the while, billions perished as one system after another fell into the enemy’s control. There has also been nothing to show that they will stop their campaign at the Outer Rim. Revan and I know more of the Mandalorians than anyone, including the Council... and we are telling you that they won’t cease their conquest until they are confronted directly and defeated.” He gave us a very saddened expression. “There is no other way.”
Silence filled the room, broken by only a few whispers in the background. Kalin raised her hand again. “So what are you asking of us? Are you saying that we should disregard the Council and go to war ourselves?”
He shook his head. “No, of course not. Revan and I have been pushing them to act for a long time, but they are adamant about sending you, their disciples, into harm’s way. I know you are afraid of the prospect of war... I would be lying if I said I relish what is to come, but we must show the Council that we are willing to fight. I urge you not to believe in me, Revan, or even the Council, but to come to your own conclusion of what must be done. If you think that you should trust the Council’s wisdom more than your own, then I support that.” He started making hand gestures to hone his point. “Do not support the Council if you believe they are making a mistake. History has shown that they have made mistakes before and could very well be making another. You do them no good by trusting their wisdom implicitly.” He held his hands up to gesture us to stop before protesting to what he just implied. “Don’t go against their wishes, but instead talk to them... share your concerns. It does not matter whether you convince them or they convince you of the wisest course of action, what is important is that both walk away with a greater understanding of the other. Hopefully, both can come to the same conclusion.” He chuckled. “I wouldn’t mind being wrong about all this, but I only hope that you exercise your own good judgment. Do not follow the Council if you believe they are wrong. It is up to them to convince you, not to assume you’ll follow them blindly. I also want to make it clear that I’m only encouraging you to share your concerns; not to go against their wishes.”
“But you are.” I stepped in front of the group and got in his face. I could not stand how pompous that guy was to encourage violence without even so much as giving proper reasons for it. I knew that Alek couldn’t have been so stupid as to actually believe what he was spouting off about. “You don’t want mutual understanding; you want the Council to believe what you say. You couldn’t convince them, so you want us to do it for you!”
He frowned at me in a very hateful way. I guess that the reason for that was because I would not let his prestige dominate my moral sense. And I felt that someone had to stand up to him and denounce his heart-to-heart talk for the political stunt that it was. After a brief moment of anger, I had expected him to shout back like Master Vrook, but instead remained calm and politely addressed my concern to show everyone that he was in control. “I’m convinced that we’re right. That is reason I don’t accept the Council’s judgment, but they are just as convinced as Revan and I of their own convictions. They’ve taken the opposite side of the same argument and believe that anyone else’s opinion is wrong. If we indeed are the ones mistaken, then surly there would be nothing to support our accusations. Much of what I just told you is fact and I think it makes a very strong case that the Republic’s neutrality has only escalated the threat the Mandalorians pose today. Can you provide an equally potent counter argument against all that I have said? I’d be glad to address any questions you may have.”
“Your entire argument is flawed. The only way in which Cathar and Serocco could be saved is if the Republic is willing to commit a defense force of what equals that of ten systems to each. Even if the Senate were willing to commit so many ships and soldiers to defend those worlds, they would be devoting too many warships from nearby systems that would need them when the Mandalorians invade the Republic.”
He shook his head. “The idea is to take the war to the enemy and engage the Mandalorians at Cathar and Serocco instead of over Republic Worlds. The fleet would be deployed to those systems primarily to engage and destroy the Mandalorian assault forces when and where we choose instead of waiting for them to come. By devoting the Republic fleet to these two systems, we can concentrate our forces can strike a tactical blow upon the Mandalorians before they ever attack the Republic.” He said confidently and smiled almost smugly.
“You have no idea what you are talking about. By sending the bulk of the fleet to those locations, you end up saving those worlds, but leaving over a dozen open when the neutrality is broken.”
“So you believe the best option is to just allow those worlds to be destroyed? Going to war would put everyone in danger, but it is better to strike at the Mandalorians instead of waiting for them to come to us. It has been almost a decade since...”
“We should have engaged the Mandalorians when they first became a threat... that was a mistake. Now, ten years later, the situation has changed. Those worlds were doomed from decisions made ten years ago. Trying to amend a past mistake would mean making new ones. The only reason the Mandalorians never attacked worlds within the Republic was to avoid facing the Republic fleet... aiding those worlds would be a declaration of war on the Mandalorians... a declaration of war now would then leave almost a dozen worlds exposed who’s only defense was Republic neutrality.” I turned my gaze to the crowd. “Don’t you realize what war would mean? If the Senate were to break the neutrality, it would lift the shield that is protecting so many worlds along the Outer Rim. Don’t allow your emotions to be exploited on this issue. It’s easy to think that war is a simple solution, but much more is involved than what has been said here today. I don’t want to see yet another two systems fall to the Mandalorians, but if it would leave five times as many people open to invasion... what of them?”
He brushed off the question. “The Mandalorians have to be stopped. The longer we wait, the more powerful they become. If we do not act now, then when the Mandalorians invade, god help us all. We have followed the Council for ten years and they’ve done nothing... a decision must be made immediately or the Mandalorians will become too powerful to stop.” He faced his audience as if to peal to them. “You know what must be done. I only ask that you have the courage to make the correct decision when the time comes.”
I addressed everyone as though I took the role of speaker from Alek. “War is ahead of us... that I have no doubt. We made a mistake in allowing the worlds along the Outer Rim to be conquered, but we cannot act now to save Cathar or Serocco. They were lost by a decision that had been made a decade ago. By trying to correct an old mistake, we would end up making a new one with more severe consequences than if we did nothing. Instead, we should prepare the Republic Worlds that will be left defenseless when the shroud of neutrality falls. If we act now, we must realize that our actions will change the situation of the Mandalorian threat.” I got in Alec’s face one last time. “Be sure to consider all the consequences before you act. It is better to hesitate than to make a mistake... because once war is unleashed, it cannot be stopped.” I sighed deeply as if realizing how dire the situation was and looked at the faces of the others to see more fear in their eyes than before I got in front of them. That fear was not caused by the Mandalorian threat itself, but by the fear that the Council did not know how to deal with the situation.
After seeing that fear, I knew that I was heard and felt that it was important to walk out of the hall almost as if to show them that I was turning my back on Alek. I would have loved to make him swallow his pride, but it was not my desire to harass Alek as it was to keep the others from being emotionally blackmailed. Without another word, I turned to an exit and carried myself out. All the eyes centered on me and the utter silence left the impression that I made an impact. I wasn’t aware of it at first, but I was later told that about a dozen others walked out right after I did.
Interesting start here D_Y. Sorry, because I cannot give a more detailed review at the moment. I only had a small amount of time to read before I have to go. That being said however, I do remember noticing some thing.
Time to go. I'll give it a more deeper read later on and I'll make sure I give it the full attention it deserves Yuthura. I always like these stories. This one is no different :)
If you've read 'Shrouded in Darkness,' this story will take much after that. The most significant differences would be that there is a definite ending for this and I am trying to write a completely different fiction than SiD which addresses more about war, politics, leadership, and ethics. I intend to have a timeframe that ends shortly after Malachor V.
I also don't intend to demonize Atris, so that will be a huge step for me. If you have any questions or requests, I'm open to them. Thanks for... skimming.
Alek Squinquargesimus is just a terrible name. I've never read the comics, but why such a literally unspeakable name? ;p
Generally, I quite like the idea. The language is quite free of errors. I did find something strange though->
An interesting viewpoint on the war, and I hope to see why Alexandra and Malak/Alek disliked each other from the start;p
I'm still considering what topics I want to address and what direction this fiction will take. As of now, I'm focusing on showing how ALL the characters change throughout the course of the war. I will likely not have many familiar characters, but I will include Bao-Dur and Master Kavar as fairly significant on top of various OC's.
Chapter two is near completion.
Wow, I didn't even know you'd posted another story... That's how busy I've been lately!
Or just how blind I've been. :^:
I think this is brilliant! Definitely has that pre-war atmosphere to it... and it's kind of sad how the exile started out not wanting to go, but somehow, somewhere along the line, she decides to go (according to your story, at least).
Great work, keep it up! :) I look forward to more.
Sorry it took me so long to get to this DY, I've been busy.
Now to the fic...I like how both arguements were presented. Both were well thought out - you really thought about this issue, I can tell! Alek's arguement was good in the way that he was not some "you have to go to war! kill,kill, kill!" kind of guy. He was very persuasive, and gave a ggod arguement...having Alexandra point out the flaws was very good. Malak (or Alek rather :)) just about had me convinced until she stepped in.
I think the great strength of this piece was to show how persuasive Revan and Malak could be...it really shows why so many jedi would follow them. So Alexandra and Alek not getting along? Would not have it any other way. I'm intersted to see how she gets along with Revan.
Good start! And you know the ending? I find that always helps me. Keep it up! :D
Chapter 2: Hidden Intentions
Being a Jedi knight was so much easier than a padawan. Had I been bound to Master Negato, he’d have taken the rep. for what I had done just then. Alek was respected among the order and I shoved his pride down his throat, but I knew he deserved it. No one should be allowed to prey upon compassion in order to convince others to follow them to war.
Although I understood why he gave his lecture, Alek spent more time trying to peal to others than studying the strategy behind his goals. I knew as well as anyone that the Republic was not ready for war and left many planets along the Outer Rim defenseless if the Mandalorians were to invade. I felt that I could not allow the others to believe what they were being told, or it would have created unnecessary discord.
The Outer Rim was doomed from the moment the Republic decided not to oppose the Mandalorians and that mistake could not be corrected now, a decade later. As much as I hated the idea, Cathar and Serocco could be saved if we just gave a damn, but if it meant putting 5 people into the line of fire to protect 1, we would have been just as responsible for those deaths as the Mandalorians. If the other jedi knew that while they were listening, Alek’s lecture wouldn’t have held water.
At the time, it seemed the best thing to do, but shortly after I walked out, I realized that it was not my place to go into his lecture and humiliate him like I did. Although he was wrong, it didn’t mean that someone had to grandstand in order to tell everyone else what they already knew. It really didn’t matter what Alek believed, or anyone else for that matter. I knew everyone was entitled to their opinion, but that wouldn’t have made much difference if the Order was completely against the Council. They were our superiors and it would have been better to hear Master Kavar snap Alek back than a raw knight like me.
I waited outside the lecture hall for the presentation to end. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I figured that I might as well take some time to read the book that Master Kavar recommended for me.
“The Zero-Sum Game” was written by the Echani general, Yuchanis. It was an unlikely subject for such a great military figure to write, but he addressed some of the most critical issues that don’t come from the military before, during, and after the course of a war. The Echani Military is different from the Republic’s because it integrated its efforts with the economic, political, and social goals. In doing this, the Echani’s military had a symbiotic relationship with the general public, but even they ultimately wasted everything they invested in self-defense.
Even at its most efficient, a military was always a bad investment for a capitalist economy. Everything rated military grade is top-of-the-line technology which is bought at a premium price. Another aspect that Yuchanis addressed was how the Echani rarely used the most sophisticated weapons and ships. Instead, they often upgraded older models as much as possible. An older ship could never perform as well with an upgrade as one designed to use it from the start, but it greatly extended the life span of equipment... reducing the impact of war on an economy, or peace on a military.
The Republic attempted to follow the Echani’s example by extending the life of their aging fleet, but have frequently put off even the upgrades! Because the Fleet did its job well enough, citizens preferred having more money in their pockets than renovating the obsolete warships in their skies.
Although the Republic Fleet was a formidable force as it was, the sheer number of warships was not enough to compensate for the effects time has had on the majority of ships over 30 years old, many of which were built for the Great Sith War. If war came today, the Republic would have been cruel to dispatch their soldiers to fight with such obsolete relics of a past war.
I had only gone through about 5 minutes’ worth of words, but knew that I had been staring at the same page for much longer than that. I was concerned about what was ahead for the Republic and I ended up spending more time wondering how the Republic was inevitably going to deal with a looming crisis than how the Echani never got into the same kind of crisis in the first place.
About half an hour after I walked out, I saw Padawan Kalin had left the lecture as well. Likely Alek had gone through all the subjects he wanted to discuss and dismissed his audience. I hoped that he had not yet left because I didn’t want to have to find him again, but couldn’t afford to let him go.
Alek indeed had not left the lecture hall, but he was not alone. Atris had apparently been in the hall and had some follow-up questions. The argument had been in Alek’s favor just by the volume of Atris’ voice. “We must respect the Council’s decision! It does not matter if you are asking them to defy their orders or simply question them... you inspired them to be rebellious and to ignore the chain of command if they believe their cause is righteous.”
I walked in at about the right time to add to what she just said. Although I wanted to defuse a conflict, I wanted to express the reason why I stood up to him. “You preyed upon their compassion, Alek. You made it seem as though we were as responsible as the Mandalorians for all those lives lost on the Outer Rim.”
Atris turned around and smiled at me for coming back to support her cause. “Alex... glad you’re here. You seem to know more about war than me, so maybe you could explain some of the details that I may have overlooked.” She then put her arm over my shoulder to guide me to in front of Alek. “You said that if the Republic were to declare war, it would leave the them vulnerable to attack. How would you go about the situation?”
“I’m not here to debate that issue. I was hoping to speak to Alek alone.”
She looked at both of us for a moment before realizing that I was brushing her off. It wasn’t that I didn’t respect that she was backing my side, but I was not interested in proving my point so much as overcoming the need for conflict altogether. She didn’t seem to understand my intention, but nodded to us both. “Alek, Alex... try to keep this civil.”
“I’m not the one being disrespectful! If anyone needs to be told, it’s her.”
I faced Alek. “I’m not here to escalate things further. I just wanted to clarify an issue so that there would be no hard feelings between us.”
He crossed his arms. “I’m listening.”
Atris took her leave and walked out of the hall without another word or gesture to either of us. When she was out of earshot, I crossed my arms as well. Both of us displayed different messages with the same gesture... his was defensive while mine were to show confidence. Just the subtle difference in the way we use body language often had a powerful impact on the ones we addressed. Alek wanted to show me that I was being a nuisance, but there was a degree of contempt in his eyes. “I make no apologies for what I did earlier, but I do admit that it was not my place to stand up to you like that.”
“If it was not your place...? You insulted me in front of the others. I consider it a personal offense and don’t understand how you could say you want to resolve our differences if you don’t even pretend to show remorse.”
I gave him a sympathetic stare. “It was not my intent to humiliate you in front of people who respect you, but I felt that I had to say what I did.” I paused for a brief moment. “Alek, I’m convinced that you’re trying to do the right thing, but what you did during your lecture... was unacceptable. Preying upon compassion in order to win their support is not what I expected from you.”
“And given what I’ve heard of you, I’m surprised that you would support the High Council on this issue. You said yourself that it was a mistake to ignore the threat, yet you publicly stated that going to war was also a mistake.” He sighed in frustration. “Tell me... what do you believe is the best option to address the Mandalorian threat?”
I nodded and paced around while I explained more of what was wrong rather than how to fix things. “I think that the Republic is not ready for war and should concentrate its efforts on preparing for the conflict in the time that it still has. Once war is unleashed, the Republic would no longer have the liberty to act without having the Mandalorians to worry about. As of now, we have peace and should keep it that way for as long as possible.”
“And while they stood by, the Mandalorians massacred billions and built up the resources they needed to challenge the Republic fleet. Analysts believe the strength of the Mandalorian military equals the Republic’s. They’re also building warships and recruiting new troops faster than us as well. The time to act was long ago, but now is the last best chance the Republic has to stop the Mandalorians.”
“I agree that we should have acted long ago, but that doesn’t mean that we just rush into battle without assessing the situation and making preparations to weather the upcoming war.” I stopped pacing and faced him directly. “Right now, dozens of Republic worlds are in no condition to defend themselves if the Mandalorians were to invade. A preemptive strike would not be wise unless you were to fortify those worlds first.”
“And what of Cathar and Serocco? You think we should allow yet another mass slaughter? Another two systems to fuel their war machine and you think it’s best to leave them to their fate?”
I hesitated a moment before saying what sounded heartless, but pained me to believe. “What of Chin’taka? Ord Mantell? Felucia? Telos? Those are only a few of many systems that would be slaughtered if we followed your plan. If we committed forces to oppose the Mandalorians without fortifying them, they will be the first victims of the oncoming war. As for Cathar and Serocco... the Mandalorians would no longer be interested because they are not valuable enough to invade.”
He stared at me for a moment as though he understood my logic, but was unwilling to accept what my answer meant. “I assure you that Revan would not have made such an obvious error. He has drawn up a battle plan for a major fleet engagement that would take place over Serocco. There is an asteroid field in that system that would give the fleet a tactical advantage over the Mandalorians. If Cathar is the first of the two to be invaded... then we would not deploy the fleet to that system.”
I stepped back almost as if in fear of what I heard. “You are not listening! You are making preparations for a battle that will never occur! Once war is declared, Serocco would not be where the Mandalorian fleet will strike. They would not attack a citadel protecting an insignificant planet. Chin’taka would give them access to a hyperspace route that leads to Sernpidal and from there... Couriscant. Belkadon is rich with Endurium deposits that would give them tapped sources of the alloys they would need for armour. They are much more valuable than any of the worlds along the Outer Rim. If war comes, the Mandalorians will not bother with Serocco; they’ll just ignore it and go for the Republic systems instead. As distasteful as it sounds, the Senate needs to fortify itself before it can even consider a preemptive strike. ‘That’ is what I would do first to address the Mandalorians.”
He crossed his arms and gave an odd little smile. He stood right in front of me, his chin higher than the top of my head forced me to lean my head back while he stared down. “If I may ask, did you come to this conclusion on your own?”
I stared at him, confused. “Yes... why?”
“That was very astute. I had originally believed you were like her.” He gestured to the door to imply he meant Atris. “You have thought this through and taken much more into consideration than most of the others. Revan had come to a similar conclusion as you, but realistically, how likely do you think it would be that the Senate would be able to fortify those worlds along the Outer Rim before the invasion comes?”
I sighed with a degree of sadness. “Those systems are not considered as important as the Core Worlds, so they won’t receive as much for defense as Coronet. The Senate doesn’t believe it to be the wisest expenditure to protect a rock with an elaborate defense network even if it were strategically placed system leading to three Core Worlds. Then you have Couriscant with about 50 warships orbiting overhead.” I pointed upwards. “Those ships are wasted here and should be stationed around the worlds under the greatest threat! But even in this democracy, Core Worlds take priority over everyone else. These people are too selfish and would hoard all these ships and soldiers instead of sending them to the perimeter of the Republic boarder, defending all systems.”
He smiled more sharply. I got a bad feeling about how he started staring at me. “And if the Senate were convinced to mobilize the bulk of the fleet to the Outer Rim for an assault... but realize that the Mandalorians are not at Cathar and Serocco?”
“The Mandalorians would instead be on top of the unguarded Republic systems when hostilities begin. Your plan would allow billions to be slaughtered!”
He closed his eyes and nodded subtly. “And then the Republic fleet would be redeployed to defend those systems when they fall under attack. How long do you think it would take to mobilize the fleet to defend against the Mandalorians if their attack came today?”
I stared at him for a long moment as I came to realize the brilliance of the plan. I started grinning as though it were the first real hope the Republic had to combat the Mandalorians. “So instead of waiting for their attack, you intend to place the fleet closer to where the attacks are expected. And if the ships and crews were being readied for an assault, then they would be in better condition to defend than if they scrambled from Couriscant.” I stepped back and we both exchanged grins. “You not only considered the tactics, but also dealt with the political limitations! This who thing is not a preemptive strike, but a means to position the fleet for an impending attack.”
He closed his eyes and nodded, seemingly more proud of me than himself. “Of course we cannot ever speak of this again, or the whole thing falls apart. This is not meant to be anything other than a preemptive strike to cripple the Mandalorian fleet at Serocco. Anything about expecting their attacks on Republic Worlds would bring down the motion in the Senate.”
“Then why are you telling me all this?”
“Because you already figured out there was more to it than I wanted to tell everyone else who was here. And you already made a mess of things that I couldn’t afford to have you continue to express concern about what I was telling the others. If I had you emphasizing the ‘flaw’ in the battle plan to the others, then it loses all credibility.” He went into deep thought and turned his back to me for a long moment. “Now that you know our true goal, can I assume you will keep that knowledge to yourself? We can’t afford to have it become public.”
“Because it is an underhand tactic that the High Council would never approve of if they knew ‘all’ the details. My intent is to get the Senate to vote for this, but the only way to assure it goes through is if the High Council were to endorse it.”
“And they already said they wouldn’t. They made it explicit that they would not support the Republic if they make the first overt act. They are not exactly the easiest ones to persuade.”
He raised his hands to gesture that I should stop. “Revan and I will deal with them. If enough Jedi support our cause, the Council will recognize the rift that has formed between them and their followers over the Mandalorian threat. Revan and I have brought our recommendations to their attention, but they ‘took our advice under advisement.’ It’s easy to dismiss people like us, but if they hear more and more of their followers saying the same thing...” He had let his attention wander as he said those words, but turned his attention completely on me. “They’ll have no choice but to agree.”
I crossed my arms in dread of the idea that he was going behind the backs of the Council by promoting a lie. The whole thing reeked of half truths and ethical discord. My first duty was to the code of the Jedi, but it was conflicted by my duty to the Council.
Somehow, I knew that what Alek spoke of made sense. As uncomfortable the idea was, I knew that there have been times in history when civilizations were saved by a lie. A quote from Yusani’s book that came to mind just then:
‘Trust is among the most important attributes a commander can have from his troops, but just as important is his ability to lie. Although your troops are obligated to follow, they will often be more committed to fulfill their duty if they trust in you to keep them safe. That often means keeping them informed about the situation, but more often hiding or bending the truth.
‘Rarely should a commander go beyond only telling the truth to a point, because you must actively keep your soldiers’ trust. For them to believe every word that comes out of your mouth, you must NEVER be caught in a lie. This is extremely difficult for even the most seasoned officers because trust is only one attribute of many great leaders. The other is showing yourself as perfect and always in control of the situation... which is far from the truth.
‘These two attributes will often contradict one another, but when in conflict, realize that what may be perceived as a lie could be nothing more than a clever misdirection of your subordinates in order to achieve a greater end. If you know your soldiers cannot handle the truth, then you must decide how best to shield it from them. The further from the truth you are, the more likely you are to lose their confidence.’
Then Yusani told of a war story where he made the most overt lie to his troops by saying, “I will be the first to step onto the battlefield and I will be the last to step off. Whatever danger you face will be no greater than what I would expect from myself.” During the battle, Yusani had expected defeat, but only half of his army was destroyed. His soldiers were so inspired by his bravery that they faced overwhelming odds and went beyond the call of duty. Yusani did walk upon the steppe where the battle was expected before anyone else, but did not ever go into combat like he promised his troops.
He remained at the back of the army coordinating their formations, but occasionally made public appearances in hot zones with a dirty uniform, ungroomed hair, and even covered with dirt to sell the deception. The sight of him in that condition instead of the polished look of a general earned him cheers and praise. He said every time they chanted his name was gut-wrenching because he wanted to earn such praise, but knew that he couldn’t risk his life on the front lines. His tactics were working and he knew that he was more important as a general than a foot soldier.
On the final day of the battle, Yusani realized how close his army was to victory and transferred command to his second so that he could take part in the combat as he promised his men. By the time he had reached the front lines, the enemy’s remaining forces scattered and he arrived only to hear his name chanted again. In the end, he had done exactly what he promised, but never revealed the truth until his last book was published after his death.
I don’t know why, but all those thoughts rushed through my mind in that moment. I had never considered that there was anything ‘I’ alone could do to change the outcome of the upcoming Mandalorian invasion, but I now was facing the reality that the best solution to a conflict was often not plausible enough to put into practice. Alek and Revan’s proposal to reinforce the defenses of otherwise vulnerable worlds intrigued me and I wanted to know more about what they had in mind.
I wasn’t really interested in the deceitful nature of the whole thing, but I felt that I had to know exactly what he and Revan had planned before I decided whether it was better to risk a mistake to instigate action, or if stagnation was the mistake from the beginning. There was also the matter of whether the Council had the situation under control, or if they just didn’t know how to proceed. I feared that they were, indeed pretending to know everything because they’ve not given much to inspire confidence.
Alek was getting impatient at how I just stared blankly without a response. “Alexandra, I’m not asking you to have any part in all this. I just ask that you not oppose what we are trying to accomplish. If the Republic doesn’t mobilize its fleet, then when the Mandalorians attack, there’ll be no opposition for days... even weeks. How many worlds could they pillage and raze within that time? If we are successful, we would have battle-readied warships in position of every planet within two days. You know this is the way to save the most lives, otherwise...” He looked into my eyes almost grimly, but I knew he was really just trying to get emotional leverage over me.
“Don’t try your act on me. I’m not influenced by fake emotional displays.”
He sighed in frustration, stepped back, crossed his arms, and showed nothing in his expression.
I nodded as if to gesture thanks. “And as I said before, it’s not my place. You need not be concerned with me, if you can convince the Council... wait... they’re not stupid. They would never encourage a battle plan they knew was flawed. Master Kavar would surely come to the same conclusion I did. How would you...”
He put his hands on my shoulders to silence me. “You need not concern yourself with...” He stared at me for another brief moment. “How well do you know Master Kavar?”
“No! I will not be a part of that! I will not deceive him for you!”
“I wasn’t going to ask you to do anything. I just wanted to know... I’ve heard you two were close; as close as any master and apprentice could be. It would seem to explain where you got your keen tactical sense.”
“Just ask your question.”
He hesitated for a short moment. “Could Kavar be persuaded to support our battle plan? If he was told the truth... all of the truth?”
I stepped back in shock of the implication. “I... I don’t know.” I chuckled nervously. “You know, I have absolutely no idea because I’ve never so much as even seen your battle plan! In fact, I don’t even know why you’re speaking to me... I’m sorry, but I don’t want any part of this.” I put my hands together and bowed to Alek. “I’m sorry for disrupting you earlier. I won’t do so again.”
He gave me a small smile as if he had just recruited me to his cause. It was very difficult to imagine that he had just turned my beliefs inside out and reduced my confidence of the future even further. The idea that the only way to save the Republic was through deceitful means... the alternative was even more distasteful. I never wanted to be a part of what Alek and Revan were trying to do, but I was.
I like it!
One problem, if my memory serves me correctly. I thought Yusanis fought in the Mandalorian wars. :confused:
I would like to show in the first few chapters that Alexandra is already well-versed in military tactics and that Revan and Malak had used 'Ends justify the means' tactics even before they fought in the war. This will become more significant as Alexandra is pressured to act deceitfully, but fears inaction would be worse than misdirecting people to act for a greater end.
An excellent addition, DY!
I love where you have taken things with this chapter. Alek and Alexandra's coversation was quite intriguing and the battle tactics were well thought out. Reading through your "goals" for the chapter, I think you accomplished them well. Revan and Malak are using their reasoning already, and how jedi like Alex are being roped in without wholeheartedly agreeing. I like the strategy/reasoning theme of this. Very well done! :D
Minor issue with Yusanis, but I actually didn't catch it until Endorenna mentioned it.
Chapter 3: Putting the Genie Back into the Bottle
I was filled with discord and concerned that the war I have been dreading for years could erupt at any moment. Before I had addressed Alek, I was in a mindset that there were at least two or three months before the volcano finally exploded. After that, I was left with great anxiety and feared that those few months of peace would have to be sacrificed because there would be no time to make preparations before the first shot was fired.
I tried to debate the matter in my mind by asking ‘what if’ questions and trying to account for all the factors involved to make a decision. I kept coming to the same end results... the Republic Fleet wouldn’t respond quickly enough to confront a Mandalorian invasion force before dozens of planets are ravaged in the opening days of hostilities. There was no outcome I could think of where the Senate would choose to transfer a significant portion of the fleet to those systems most in need of defense.
No matter how much I tried, there were always going to be too many issues to deal with them all at once. Politics seemed to trump everything because the conflict of interests stopped progress from being made. Instead of trying to unify everyone in the Republic under one standard, many senators have divided the interests even further by making demands that benefit them at the expense of another.
The problem I saw which eclipsed everything was Couriscant. Everyone on this planet lives in peace and luxury while worlds like Chin’taka are in poverty and constant fear of being overrun by the Mandalorians when they invade. Few really compare Couriscant’s importance to that of the impoverished worlds not among the Core Systems, but they are not as interdependent as citizens I was filled with discord and concerned that the war I have been dreading for years could erupt at any moment. Before I had addressed Alek, I was in a mindset that there were at least two or three months before the volcano finally exploded. After that, I was left with great anxiety and feared that those few months of peace would have to be sacrificed because there would be no time to make preparations before the first shot was fired.
I tried to debate the matter in my mind by asking ‘what if’ questions and trying to account for all the factors involved to make a decision. I kept coming to the same end results... the Republic Fleet wouldn’t respond quickly enough to confront a Mandalorian invasion force before dozens of planets are ravaged in the opening days of hostilities. There was no outcome I could think of where the Senate would choose to transfer a significant portion of the fleet to those systems most in need of defense.
No matter how much I tried, there were always going to be too many issues to deal with them all at once. Politics seemed to trump everything because the conflict of interests stopped progress from being made. Instead of trying to unify everyone in the Republic under one standard, many senators have divided the interests even further by making demands that benefit them at the expense of another.
The problem I saw which eclipsed everything was Couriscant. Everyone on this planet lives in peace and luxury while worlds like Chin’taka are in poverty and constant fear of being overrun by the Mandalorians when they invade. Few really compare Couriscant’s importance to that of the impoverished worlds not among the Core Systems, but they are not as interdependent as citizens believe. Couriscant is densely populated, so it would obviously have to import all its food and energy from other systems, but there is almost nothing that it returns to the Republic other than being a hub for transportation and economics. It took advantage of the less fortunate worlds because it was more critical than a boarder world like Chin’taka, so it took priority.
If the citizens on Couriscant were to simply realize that they had life so easy because the worlds that were under threat were being exploited. It sounded harsh, but the Republic was greatly divided between the Core Systems and non-Core Worlds. Despite the democracy and despite being unified under one banner, the Republic was very isolationist with members putting their own interests before that of the state.
The warships orbiting Couriscant were of no use to anyone unless it was expected that all the worlds between them and the Mandalorians would be occupied first. They were so selfish to hoard such assets when they were needed above Ambria, Chin’taka, and Juvex. If war was inevitable, it made more sense to create a fortified perimeter along the Mandalorian boarder so that instead of throwing other worlds under the bus, the fleet would just as effectively stop the threat thousands of lightyears away. It was tactically the best way of protecting the most territory with the fewest warships, but economics and politics again overtook logic.
I knew it wasn’t as simple as all that, but it was just impossibly difficult to manage such an elaborate system as the Republic and keep it functioning, let alone to act in unison for a common interest. The problem was that the interests of Couriscant did not involve addressing a threat that they likely would never have to worry about. If the citizens realized that losing a few hundred planets would mean having to pay more for energy and the goods imported from other worlds, then that would be enough of a reason I would think. Even then, they don’t really consider the consequences of others would directly affect them. The whole issue with the Mandalorian threat was depressing to think about.
Master Kavar was not the one who instructed me, but I felt we were as close as any pair could be. Had he not been a Council member, I would have relished learning the ways of the jedi under his guidance. Although Master Negato was also a great master, he and I never were as close as I felt to Kavar. He and I seemed very alike in the way we thought and acted, but it was in our ability to analyze problems and come up with solutions that we kept conversing back and forth over the years.
Whenever he had the time, we spent time sparing while talking about anything and everything. It was as if we attacked with both weapons and words at the same time. Recently, however, he has not had much time for sparring, but he said I could still come by and talk to him while he went through the endless paperwork that he was buried in.
I was surprised just how much it lifted my spirit to see him in his office with all his attention to the datapadd he was working with. It was as if there was nothing other than what he had in his hands. That was one of the things I admired about him... he knew how to block distractions and only focus on what was important to the situation. Although I would have left him to his work, I really felt I needed advice right then, so I got in his doorway and he addressed me before scarcely looking up from his work. “How is Alexandra today?”
I don’t know why, but the grim expression I wore had vanished and it just seemed comforting to see Kavar, so I smiled... if only to not let my grim feelings be contagious. “Could be better... but then I could worse. So I’m satisfied. What is Master Kavar’s mission today?”
He chuckled, still focused on the datapadd, but pulled his head up for a few seconds to talk to me directly. “I’ve been presented with a battle plan from a Senator in regards to... you know about that proposed Republic fleet deployment to Cathar and Serocco. I heard you stood up to Alek and dissected the flaws without even seeing this.” He gestured to the pad in his hand. “I must say I’m impressed because even when I first saw this, it would have taken me a lot longer to realize that the Mandalorians would not have gone head on into a fleet engagement where all the advantages were on our side.”
I had taken a seat and intended to go into detail about that, but had a chilling realization. “Wait... how did you know about that?”
“I got this from one of the senators. He wanted to get my feedback on the proposed...”
“No, I mean how did you know that I stood up to Alek?”
His eyes wandered briefly as if wondering why I even asked. “Atris told me about it. Although you were right, I wouldn’t have done that...”
I sprung out of the chair and was almost taken by panic. “Atris!” Then I went for the door and quickly turned back to bow to Kavar. “I’m sorry, please excuse me.” Then I turned into the hallway before he could say “Of Course” and turn back to his work.
Atris spread gossip faster than anyone, so I had to intercept her as quickly as possible before she could ruin everything... now I’m acting to help keep Alek and Revan’s deceitful plans secret. The thought made me uncomfortable, but I tried to nurture my moral sense of right and wrong by telling myself that I was just cleaning up a mistake that I made. If I had not been so defiant, I did not have to chase down Atris.
I knew Atris was in the Jedi Archives because that’s where she spent almost all her free time... head buried in books almost as often as she logged onto the network. Despite the fact that she had gone to Master Kavar after the lecture, I guess it was instinct that I assumed she didn’t have elsewhere to go... I was right.
I found her going through one of the shelves of the paper book section, looking for something specific when she caught sight of me. A gave me a dumb grin. “Alexandra... I think this is the first time you’ve ever been in here.” She meant the book section and not the archives altogether.
“I’m not here for an ancient book. How many people have to talked to since the lecture?”
“You told Master Kavar of how I stood up to Alek. Have you said that to anyone else?”
“Because I was wrong. I shouldn’t have gone in front of everyone and publicly humiliate him.”
He crossed her arms in a relaxed and almost jocular way. “I thought it was about time that someone stood up and put him in his place. He was being disrespectful of the Council and you brought up a good point. War is not our way.”
“I embarrassed myself just then and I don’t want that to become any more public than I already made it. Can you please assure me that you won’t speak of it again?”
She looked at me as though I were being coerced or threatened. “What did he say to you? Why are you suddenly saying the opposite of what you meant before?”
“We spoke of military tactics, something that doesn’t interest you, and I was wrong about what I brought up earlier. I just don’t want to leave people with the implication that I knew better than Alek.”
“I think you were right. You said that the Republic wasn’t ready for war and even if they were, it was better that the others not believe war to be the best solution. The Council would never be moved by such rubbish either.”
I put my hands on her shoulders. “Please! Please respect my wishes and don’t speak of what happened again. I was wrong and I had embarrassed myself in front of a lot of people. I don’t want to have that be remembered.”
“So are you on their side now?”
That question had been nagging at me lately, but I knew that I had not chosen a side. I was just keeping both options open. “No. I just regret what I did and don’t want it to be in the minds of everyone else. That is all.”
There was truth in my words to some degree, so there was no deception in my voice or through the force. Atris calmly raised her hands and closed her eyes to gesture a sort of innocent expression. “I won’t breathe another word of it.”
“See that you don’t.” I said commandingly as I turned away and marched out of the archives, leaving Atris behind. I wasn’t trying to be inconsiderate, but I was pressed for time before the genie could not be put back into the bottle.
Chapter 4: Good Intentions
Did anyone even notice Chapter 3 when it was up? I rushed this chapter as well and hope it didn't suffer, but if it had...
I had suddenly been hit by another chilling discovery: Master Kavar had already seen their battle plan and rejected it. If he would not support such a plan, then all of it would have been for nothing. I had to get back and tell Alek that Kavar wasn’t buying the deception. I was sickened to find myself actively working for Revan and Alek against what I believed was right.
At first, I was against it all, then I became neutral on the matter. When I started becoming active, I justified my actions by assuming that I was just cleaning up a mistake. When I started searching for Alek, I just acted as though it were a natural thing to do. At some point, I was walking through a major hall and just stopped and stood there as though my instinct, or maybe the force was keeping me from moving on.
I may simply have been overwhelmed by everything that I’ve learned in only the last hour. In only an hour, I went from believing completely against Alek’s proposal, but now here I was trying to ensure that it happened. That had left me in an uncomfortable situation where my next move was going to be a wrong move. I felt like a pawn on a chessboard!
I often wondered why when the King was in checkmate that it just ended there and the king was never actually captured... he didn’t move at all. He was in check and there was no means of escape, so he just couldn’t move at all. I had never really considered that minor detail about a game of chess, but now I realized that I was in check and there was no escape for me.
I didn’t want to just do nothing because I wanted to see those planets along the Outer Rim get the warships they needed, but I hated how it would be done. I also didn’t want to side with the Council’s side and watch the Mandalorians continue as they have until they finally strike the Republic and know I may have been able to keep that from happening. I couldn’t speak to Master Kavar because he was the one who had to be kept in the dark unless I were convinced that he should have known about the real plan.
Check, but maybe not checkmate. All I had to do was ensure that Alek knew about Kavar and see what he would advise from there. I could make another move out of the line of fire and not do anything unethical or that would force me to choose a side. It would simply be to buy some more time or keep my options open, so I forced myself to start going forward again to find Alek. He was supposed to be training with some padawans in one of the training rooms. Likely their masters just wanted to see their hero in action because they would listen to him if he gave the same advice. Whatever the reasons didn’t matter; I just knew where I had to look.
When I finally found the right training room, he was indeed talking to the students more than showing off his impressive physical abilities. I couldn’t help but imagine him as one of those ‘Don’t do spice!’ kind of spokesmen. His role was that of a guardian, but he does have his moments where his words do more than his lightsaber.
I had walked through the room, avoiding the other padawans who were physically engaged. As I came into his view, Alek kept his eyes on me, but kept addressing the class until I was within earshot. “Are you going to disrupt my classes as well?”
I knew he meant it as a joke, but I needed to get down to the point. “I need to have a word with you.”
“Can it wait? I really would prefer to speak in a more secluded place and at a more reasonable time.”
“I don’t think it can.”
He stared at me and then looked for an open area where there were no people to overhear anything. When he found one, he gestured for me to follow him. “If you’ll just give me a moment, class, I’ll be right back.” Then he moved to the empty corner at a brisk pace.
My legs were a lot shorter than his, so I had to run to keep up him.
When he turned around, he looked a bit excited as though he expected me to give some great news. “What is this about?”
“Kavar didn’t buy your battle plan. He came to the same conclusion I had before you...”
“You told him?! I didn’t mean for you to go and spill everything right after we last spoke! I had meant to know if he would be a reliable last resort, but you reveal the whole...”
I interrupted. “I said nothing! He came to the same conclusion I had when he saw your battle plan was found it was flawed. He’ll never buy the deception and neither will the Council.”
He looked at me, confused. “Wait... how did he come to...?” He turned around to think seriously. Then he quickly pivoted back to me. “He has a battle plan of our fleet deployment to Serocco? Is that what you mean?”
“Yes. I did not actually see it myself, but he said he was evaluating a battle plan for Serocco. Why did you not ask of Cathar as well?”
“A moment, please.” He started pacing around with his arms crossed and his head tilted towards the floor. At some point, he started muttering under his breath and then shook his head in disbelief. “Do you have any idea how got it?”
“I don’t know... wait... he said a senator transmitted it to him and asked for and evaluation.” I answered.
The answer seemed to fill him with anger and it showed in his body language. I was intimidated by the sight and stepped back as if expecting him to lash at me, the messenger. He didn’t. “Thank you for telling me. It was not meant for Kavar’s eyes.” Then he turned around and briskly went to his class without another word.
He got in front of his class. “I’m sorry, but we have to end this early. I have something urgent to attend to. Don’t worry, we’ll finish this later.” Then he turned back to address me. “Where is Kavar now?”
“He’s in his office. I saw him about twenty minutes ago.”
“Twenty minutes?! I’ve got to get to him. Stay here.” Then he rushed out of the training room with me trailing behind.
I was not just following because I was his pawn, but because there was something I had to know. “What’s wrong? If your battle plan wouldn’t get past him in any event, then what good is it to try and convince him without my help?”
“We're not telling him anything. I am going to simply tell him that what he has is not what the Senate would vote on. Kavar was supposed to get another version Revan fabricated specifically for...”
“You’re fabricating evidence! That’s going too far...!”
Alek quickly turned around and put one of his hands over my mouth and the other was pressed against the back of my head, effectively silencing me. It was a shock to suddenly have this huge guy snapping me back by the head and I tried resisting for a brief moment before realizing that he was not trying to hurt me, although the way he gripped me was painful, but that it was the only way to stop me from revealing what we both wanted to keep secret. When I got control of myself again, he slowly pulled his hand away from my mouth and then a few seconds later, withdrew from me completely. He did not seem angry, but was not happy to have me along.
I refused to look him in the eye, but he leaned to be at eye level with me. He spoke sympathetically. “Alexandra... I know that you’re just trying to do the right thing, but in order to get warships to those who need them, we have to deceive the Council and the Senate. If it means betraying the trust of a few... even people that I’ve known my whole life, then it’s a small price to pay for the results it brings.”
“We’re not the one being deceived. We are not the ones paying the price.”
He put his hands on my shoulders to comfort me. “You are not a part of this. You can still walk away if that is what you want, but don’t get involved unless you are willing to do whatever it takes to stop the Mandalorian threat. That is the first priority along with saving as many innocent lives as possible.” He smiled and stepped back to leave. “You’re under a lot of pressure right now. You should take your mind off this whole thing for a while. This kind of decision takes time to make, so if you want to, you know where to find me.” Then he walked off and left me behind again.
I got more uncomfortable with each passing moment because I knew that the road to hell was paved by good intentions. So what could all this deceit possibly pave the road to? How could I let myself be manipulated to actually believe this guy, who I only just met, to go behind the back of a man I’ve respected all my life?
I was afraid of what Alek intended to tell Kavar more than anything at that moment. I felt that if there was some logic left in the galaxy, then I should have trusted the one who’ve earned it more than one who hadn’t. On the other hand, I wanted to believe in what Alek and Revan were trying to do. I thought they were the greatest hope for stopping the Mandalorians because they not only knew of military tactics and the Mandalorians, but (at least Revan) knew how to bring about changes and how to overcome the limiting factors that kept progress from being made.
I would never have considered using a failed preemptive strike to cover for mobilizing the fleet near the Outer Rim, but Revan did. Although I didn’t approve of how they intended to do so, I believed that it was better than allowing an invasion to occur without opposition. The Mandalorians were the most brutal and efficient fighting force I have ever encountered. They were not influenced by the contingencies of war, fear of death, and did not distinguish between military and civilian targets. They would wage the kind of war that the Republic hasn’t seen in hundreds of years. Although the Great Sith War was against a foe greater than them, the Republic had faced Exar Kun at a time when their military was at full strength. The Republic was still licking its wounds from that war and had not focused on maintaining a strong military while its economy continued to struggle.
I found it remarkable that while the Mandalorians had built up their strength, the average citizen was not so concerned in investing in new ship design as in the latest protocol droid specifications. The only source of the latest generation of weapons, shields, and fighters would be the Hutts. Even if the Republic were to go along with this war, they would have to deal with the wretched creatures when they find the casualty rates much too high that they are forced to retire their entire fleet of obsolete vessels and not enough shipyards to churn out their replacements. They’ll end up paying a premium because they thought they were making a good investment when they skimmed off from defense funding.
I stood where I was left for a long moment before I felt a hand on my shoulder. It started me and I brushed it off by reflex as if I were being grabbed, but turned around and came face to face with Padawan Kalin. She flinched at the way I reacted, but assumed the fault was hers or something. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to see if you were okay.”
It took a moment to get my mind back on where I was and who was in front of me. “Oh... no, I should apologize. I didn’t mean to slap you away.”
“It’s alright. I saw what happened back there... did he hurt you?”
“No. I just... I’m alright.”
“What’s going on? What did he do that set you off? Why was he...?”
“It didn’t look like nothing.”
I was getting frustrated with Kalin and tried to get her to walk away. “When I said it’s nothing, what I really meant was that I don’t want to talk about it!”
She was startled by my outburst and slowly drew back. I suppose that when a superior shouts at you in anger, especially a jedi knight, it was only natural that she would be afraid.
When I saw that fear, I realized that I was not in control of my emotions anymore. I suppose that I was under more pressure than I thought, so I took control of myself and focused on the words of wisdom that meant more to me than the Jedi code: Anger is a natural response to the injustices of the galaxy. To not feel anger is to not value justice. To not value justice is to use anger against the innocent.
Such words would not be encouraged by the Jedi, but I have taken to them because they reminded me of how anger, like all emotions, were not inherently good or bad. Like the truth, emotion was ultimately influenced by the individual... and I had let my anger for the injustices of Alek and Revan be redirected at a friend. I put my hands together and bowed my head to Kalin. “I’m sorry. I’m just upset with a problem that I can’t do anything about. I appreciate your concern... I really do, but there is not anything that can be done.”
“It sounds serious.”
I nodded and cracked a nervous smile. “It is.”
She cautiously talked about the subject without addressing it directly. It was odd for a padawan to try and help one more experienced than her. “Well if there’s nothing that can be done, then maybe you should not dread upon it. I assume that you are troubled about Revan’s call for action?”
I stared at her as though to silently tell her to drop the subject.
She didn’t. “Well it may not matter much, but I think you made an impact earlier today. I admit that Alek’s message caught my attention, but when you stood up to him... you gave me back my confidence in the Council’s ruling. They never explained why they wanted us to remain neutral and I couldn’t really understand why.” She chuckled from enlightenment. “The Republic is vulnerable and need as much time as possible to prepare its defenses.”
I shook my head almost erratically. “No it’s not. The Republic is not making preparations for an invasion. Even if they had six months to prepare, the Republic would be just as vulnerable as it is today. I was wrong and shouldn’t have told everyone of an outcome that would never happen. Please don’t make a judgment based on what I said earlier. I’m not saying Alek was right, but I certainly don’t want you making a choice based on that.”
“It’s not just you. I trusted in the Council, but it was difficult to understand why they let so many be massacred on the Outer Rim. It wasn’t them, but the Senate who made the choice. I’m also not fond of the idea of war either, so I would not want to start one.”
I found it odd how positive Kalin seemed at an impending crisis, but for some reason, I felt that I didn’t want to throw her praise away. Despite pushing her in a direction I no longer wanted, it made her world at least a little better than it was before. I would not push her any further in that direction, but I did not want to give her more reason for concern. “I appreciate your kind words. It really lifts my spirit to know I had an impact.”
She chuckled. “I think the greatest moment was when people started leaving before he completed his speech. I keep thinking of how would have reacted.”
“People followed me out?”
“Yeah, about 10 got up shortly after you were gone. A few more after that. I would have as well, but I had a class that he was going to instruct... I just didn’t want to show disrespect.”
I felt terrible for what I did because I could have made things so much easier by doing nothing. Instead, I let my pride bring me to step up to Alek and publicly show I was the dominant one. Of course, I didn’t show that to Kalin. “Good call. It’s best not to give anyone a reason to hold a grudge, even a Jedi.”
“So where are you off to?”
“I... don’t know. I haven’t given it much thought.”
“I was in that class and have an hour to myself.”
I smiled. “An hour without a master watching over you? Then you should take advantage of it.”
She looked irritated. “Yeah. An hour... to spend... with friends.”
“Kalin... the Jedi aren’t normally the kind you can make friends with. It’s not you, although it may seem that way. I know what it’s like to be accepted at a later age, so I know how long it can take to get used to the Order. I would encourage you to meet as many others as possible, but realize that you won’t be making many true friends.”
She sighed in depression. “I don’t understand... Master Vash says that a jedi is never alone, yet I’ve never felt more alone in my life.”
“You have your master. He is always there for you, isn’t he?”
“Not really. But in the times when he is, he doesn’t respect my feelings. He’s never satisfied, makes my life miserable, and one of the meanest old men I’ve ever known.” She sighed in dread. “I thought that Master Zhar was a kind, gentle, and understanding... I felt that I was doing well under him. I was so taken by the idea of being a jedi that I didn’t think about my old life. My father, sister, friends... I missed them, but I never really... longed to be with them again.”
“You’re not alone. I’ll be there if you need a friend to turn to.”
She grinned, but it quickly vanished. “I appreciate your kindness, but I’m not going to be on Couriscant for more than a few weeks. I’m only here because of my master.”
“Who is your master, anyway?”
She looked at me for a long moment before answering. “Master Vrook.”
I inhaled fairly loudly like a reversed sigh. “Vrook? Vrook selected you to apprentice?”
She just nodded weakly.
“That’s no small thing. He is very picky about who he chooses to personally train. You should be flattered.”
“Have you ever trained under him yourself? If you had, you would not say that.”
“I was actually one of his favorite victims. I know all about his impossible standards and lack of respect. I assure you that he would not have chosen just anyone; you must have truly impressed him. He’s just being mean because he’s trying to prepare you for you for what’s out there. As strange as it may seem, he pushes you because he cares.”
She looked close to tears, but not that she had to blink them back. He really must have traumatized her. “I had asked if a padawan could choose their own master, but I was told by Master Vrook wouldn’t allow it. He said that I was behind the other padawans of my age and that he accepted me specifically to accelerate my training. If I didn’t keep up with his demands, he would fail me.”
I looked at her almost in shock. She was admitted into the Order at age 13 and was in training for only two years. Her age shouldn’t have been considered because older students didn’t have the ability to learn new ways of life like those born into the Order. “That’s not fair... you are still pretty new to the Jedi ways and naturally wouldn’t be up to those who’ve had a decade or so more than you. What could Vrook possibly be thinking?”
She turned her head in another direction, knowing it was a rhetorical question. “I don’t know. He said I was way behind everyone else and that I had to devote every moment I had to study. With all the time he spends with the Council, he doesn’t do more than assign tasks and gets frustrated that I demanded his help and waste both our precious time. If he were there to begin with, I wouldn’t have had to forced him to push up a meeting here or being dragged with him into the Council chamber.” She sighed and put her head upon her wrists. “I like having time to myself, but there is nothing worth doing. I can’t navigate through Couriscant. No recreation facilities on Dantooine. No time to squander on holovids when I should be reading through the archives. Always afraid of failing...”
I saw her blinking back tears, trying not to break down. I knew that she would start crying when I extended physical comfort, but I felt that it was better that she be allowed to express her feelings out of Vrook’s gaze. When I rubbed her shoulders, I saw the tears. “It’s not you... it’s Vrook. I don’t think that he is the best choice if he can’t be there when you need his support. You shouldn’t have to be afraid... and he should not have to use fear as motivation. If you’re committed, then that should be enough even for him.”
Kalin closed her eyes, tears streaming down her cheeks and shook her head. “It’s not. He’s a bitter old man making my life a living hell!” She started seriously weeping and grasped onto me like I was her mother or something. I had accepted that she was alone and I was the closest friend she had on Couriscant, so I held onto Kalin and comforted her in the way that Vrook never would. “Why is he so mean to me? What did I do to make him hate me so?”
“He doesn’t hate you, it’s just his nature. I know it doesn’t make it any easier, but you should know that you have nothing to feel ashamed of.”
“But what do I do? I can’t stay with him, but if I leave, I can’t ever come back. I want to keep training, but I don’t know if I can make it with Master Vrook. I don’t want to live in fear of failing and being sent to Telos...”
“Shh...” I didn’t want to have her escalate the fear that was tormenting her every moment of every day for the last two months or so since she had become a padawan. I knew that she had to be away from Vrook. She did not have the open mind that children had and his methods of training were not suited well for older padawans like Kalin. “This is not the best place to be. I’ll take you to my quarters and you won’t have to worry about him finding you at least for a while.”
She had her head pressed against my shoulder and nodded without any eye contact. I had a feeling that I was going to have to stand up to Master Vrook in the next few hours one way or another. Kalin was in a terrible state of panic and I felt obligated to help her find a way past him.
Then I was reminded of Alek and his plan for some reason and thought that I was somehow destined to challenge them because everyone else was either too afraid or loyal to think they could make an impact. Although Kalin was small compared to all that Revan and Alek hoped to achieve, I would have felt terrible to know I left her behind when I could have done something to help. What’s a few hours of unpleasantness if it could make a lifetime’s difference to her?
Read chapter two. Ah, this feels familiar - I'm behind on reading, because you're just so quick at writing the chapters! Keep it up. :)
I'm sure you've read all of the 'mistakes' above, so I won't go into it. Instead, I want to say how you've really managed to get the atmosphere of a pre-war feel to the story. You really emphasise the indecisiveness, confusion and depression of the looming threat of the Mandalorians, and this made the chapters (1 and 2) that much more interesting.
Got to say, I love your take on how the Exile thought about the war. I bet if any old person would have done this story, they would have made the Exile a part of Revan & Malak's plan from the start... or at least one of the people who was solely for their cause.
Appreciate the compliment. I'm really doing this because it covers issues that SiD does not. I have a direct confrontation between her and Vrook when it comes to leadership. Unlike where I have demonized the Council, this time they'll just be indifferent to Revan/Malak/and the Exile.
I also intend to show how through the war, she sees those around suffer the trauma of war. Bao-Dur will become a prominent character when he is introduced, so that may be good news for some.
There are minor spelling errors, such as Yuchanis instead of Yusanis, Couriscant instead of Coruscant, not to mention the grammatical errors, but I think a quick readthrough would be sufficient for you to pick them up. The idea of how they consciously used body language to convey their meanings was interesting, but if both of them were playing at the same game, such nonverbal cues would be less effective. Ah, you did address that. The bit about Revan and Malak trying to prepare for the war by whatever means is nice, but Alex's conflict could use some polishing. Imho, the story would do better if the narrative had a greater sense of urgency to it. And try not to use the phrase "preying on compassion" too many times ;)
Btw, the first few paragraphs of Chapter 3 are duplicated;p Why do you say that Coruscant will likely never have to worry about the threat? You implied that Chin'taka was near a crucial route which could lead them straight to Coruscant. It is being short-sighted to ignore the Mandalorians, but yes, they would inevitably cause concern.
Try using dejarik instead, just for that Star Wars feel;)
I liked how you alluded to her being the only one who would stand up to Master Vrook, or to Revan. It's a great flourish, but some minor polishing to smoothen it out would add a lot more impact.
I'm still not quite sure of why Alex wanted to inform Malak though--could you clarify? Besides that, good work! The machine of war begins sputtering to life :X
Spelling is a concern, yes, but only when it comes to names. I think Coronet and Coruscant are close to the same, so it would matter there.
I have a few repetitions because that's the way people speak from time to time. I will have a few deliberate grammar errors in verbal text to make it more 'realistic.' Such as "Everyone tells (themselves) that." "I'm trying to save the (lives) of every hostage in that room!"
Alexandra is only telling Alek because she wants to keep her options open. She thinks he and Revan are doing the right thing, but is only trying to keep their plan from being ruined. Beyond that, she has no loyalties to either side.
Thanks for reading.
Mm, that's true (regarding the chess and reusing phrases). You might want to note that not all the errors are in dialogue--sometimes, it's easier to pick up errors if you reread after taking a break. I don't know about you, but I find that I tend to get to a point where I see what I planned to write and not what is actually there, and thus miss out on mistakes :( You're welcome!
This post is also in regards to the next stage of the story. Vrook and Alexandra will clash swords over Kalin and I want to know if readers would prefer I keep strictly to the war aspects, or if you would like personal problems that don't really progress the story.
I will take this into consideration for readers, so make your thoughts known if you want it kept strictly to business.
I, for one, would like to see personal problems included! :)
Chapter 5: A Tormented Padawan
It was pretty much common knowledge not to disrupt the training of another’s padawan, but I guess that I wasn’t very prudent that day. After taking Kalin back to my quarters, we had a long discussion that involved many topics ranging from our old lives to the insults we’ve received from Master Vrook over the years. Although I’ve been around much longer, she was the obvious winner. With everyone else saying that she needed to respect her master, Kalin needed to know that she did not stand out from the others.
We exchanged a number of stories that came mainly from Dantooine. Both of us trained there at the same time... or rather I was there when she first arrived and we became acquaintances. Every now and again, I checked on her to see how she was adapting to her new life after so many years of an old one she was trying to forget. She had a strong sense of morals and ethics, which was what got her through the age of acceptance restriction, but went through a rough transition filled with emotional turmoil. Despite her conflicts, the more time she spent with the jedi, the more accepting she became of the new life.
When I had came to Coruscant two months ago, Kalin had just been promoted to padawan, but had not yet been assigned to a master. I was not concerned as she seemed to adapt well under the conditions she was accepted into the Order. It was nice to see a familiar face when she arrived a few days ago, but unpleasant to find that initiate who had trouble adapting to her new conditions two years ago.
She eventually had to return to her quarters, or Vrook would reprimand her again. I wanted to keep her away from a neglectful master, but knew that I could not do anything other than extend a hand of friendship. I needed to speak to Kavar about how to handle Vrook because I was no master and couldn't know for sure that I was doing the best thing for Kalin.
I had gone by Kavar’s office half an hour before the Council’s session the next day, but before we could even exchange pleasantries, Vrook got in Kavar’s doorway. “You! In my office... now!”
Kavar looked annoyed at Vrook as if it were only a minor complaint. “What is this about now, Lamar? I have a serious issue I need to address with Alexandra.”
“As do I! It is a private matter, but I want her now. You can take her back after I’ve dealt with the matter.” Vrook exclaimed, getting more quiet as he spoke. I've noticed that when Vrook was angry, he would shout, but when he got more quiet... that meant his anger had escalated to a more extreme level. I was used to being yelled at, but when he spoke softly, that meant he had a good reason for his rage.
Kavar looked at me, apologetically and then nodded to Vrook.
I heard Vrook step out of the doorway and I stood up and walked to where I was ordered. I couldn't help but imagine this like an execution or something as Vrook followed me into the office and sealed the door behind him. I was not as afraid as most would be, but only because I knew Vrook was like thunder; loud and harmless. Although he was going to be more angry at me than he’s ever been, I knew that anything regarding Kalin could not be pinned on me. I also knew that Vrook would not strike me, so I had nothing to be afraid of. My concern was Kalin's best interests, as was his. At least we shared that much in common.
When Vrook marched in front of me, I was expecting shouting right after the door was sealed, but the sound of silence was more intimidating than his deafening roar. He turned to make eye contact with me, but I just kept my eyes fixed forward and not into his. He stared at me as if almost afraid to ask and started off in a normal voice, but with utter disgust in his tone. “What the hell is wrong with you? When you create mischief, you don’t just do it by yourself. You cause collateral damage to everyone involved with you.”
I remained silent.
“Do you know why you are here... or are you so ignorant that you don’t even know what you did?”
I sighed and then stared him in the eye. “What happened between you and Kalin?”
He frowned for a few seconds before bursting out. “You brought her into emotional turmoil! Last night, she was being openly resistant and hostile towards me during our session.” He paced in front of me and stood to the corner of my left eye. “When I tried to enforce the matter, she attacked me.” The tone of his voice was not so much of anger at me as it was of sadness for Kalin. The only thing more intimidating would have been a wail of anger for a loss, but he put his feelings aside in order to save his apprentice.
That was a side of Vrook that I have only heard of, but never actually seen until that moment. Despite his temper, Vrook was a true Jedi who cared for Kalin. However, I could not ignore the fact that I influenced her enough to become violent.
I turned my head to face him in utter surprise. “What?”
He nodded. “With her lightsaber. Had I not sensed it, she would have killed me.”
“Is she alright?”
He let out a scoffed chuckle. “I didn’t have to touch her to defend myself.” He saw I was genuinely concerned. “She’s locked in her quarters. When I spoke to her, your name came out and I knew you were the one responsible.”
“You think she attacked you... on account of me?”
“She was perfectly fine before that, but after interacting with you, she become so enraged that she was willing to kill.” He looked at me as if so concerned for Kalin that he did not express anger, but asked in desperation. “What did you do to her?”
I felt the urge to throw this in his face, but my concern was more for Kalin than turning the blame on Vrook. “I spoke to her. I comforted her, let her cry on my shoulder, and listened...”
“Shut up! This is not a joke... Kalin’s future is in jeopardy and I want to know what you did that caused her to ignore everything she’s worked for in the last few years.”
I found an interesting way to get leverage over Vrook. “How many years do you mean?”
“How many years has Kalin been with the Order?”
“That’s irrelevant! She is older than most padawans, which was why I selected her. The...”
I interrupted. “She was thirteen when she was accepted for training. And she’s only been in the Order for two years.” I got right in front of Vrook. “Thirteen years is a long time to forget your entire life before being accepted by the Jedi. She wasn’t prepared for the demands...”
He interrupted me. “Don’t talk to me about training Jedi! When you have taught your own padawan, then you can do so, but you know nothing of it!”
“And you know nothing of Kalin! Do you know why she attacked you? She has been living in a prison of fear ever since you took her for your own.”
He looked shocked at the false accusation. “Fear? Of me?”
“I was going to say of failure, but yes, also of you.”
He looked at me as if I were mad and desperate to shift blame to anyone else. Then he paced across the room and turned back to me. “I could vouch that she had reason to hate me, but to be afraid of me?”
“Of failing you! She was afraid that if she didn’t meet your standards... which were already impossible... that you would fail her and throw her out of the Order.”
“That was an open threat. Fear is a powerful motivator and it had worked very well for her. She had improved her skills much faster than when Master Zhar had been teaching her the basics. I gave her a reason to devote herself to her studies and that is exactly what she did.”
I shouted from across the room. “You drove enough fear into her that she was too scared to show weakness to you! Kalin was so fearful of you that she wanted to be as far away from you as possible when she most needed your. That’s exactly the opposite of what a padawan is supposed to do. The only reason she kept to you was because she didn’t want to fail.” I tilted my head to one side as if to show perplexity. “Don’t tell me you didn’t notice.”
“Training for the Jedi, like the military, is a soul-crushing experience. I was breaking her into the true life of a Jedi... one of sacrifice.”
I shook my head. “Do you know what I did? I reached out to her and showed kindness and friendship... something she’s been without for a long time. When I heard she was your apprentice, I admit that I said a few things to show her that she was not alone.”
“She obviously went to you because you told her what she wanted to hear. What you said was a pathetic means of appealing to her in order to turn her against my authority.”
“Lie! I even tried to comfort her by saying it was an honor to be selected by one as picky as you. I said that you were cruel and demanding because you cared so much for her. It gave no comfort to her.” I sighed and turned myself away as I spilled some insulting remarks. “When I saw how scared she was of being overwhelmed by you, I said that she was just the victim of an impossible situation and that it was all because of you... she broke down weeping.”
“You fool! You had no idea...!”
He was losing perspective, so I interrupted. “She was in panic! That same fear that drove her to reach perfection... left her feeling powerless to do anything... and she panicked.”
“I don’t believe you. If she was afraid to such an extent, I would have noticed.” He said in a dismissive tone.
“Which brings up another point I want to emphasize, but later. As you said, fear is a powerful motivator. Kalin was too afraid to show weakness or flaw to you. I just happened to be the only one she knew on Couriscant who she felt she could trust. I think that this isn’t the first time it’s happened, but I don’t know how long she had been restraining her true feelings.”
He stared at me as though I had created a perfect argument that could not be disputed. I didn’t know if it was embarrassment or anger at how I knew better than him on the issue of his apprentice. Then I saw something click in his head and he found a flaw in my logic. “That doesn’t explain why she attacked me. If she was afraid, then she wouldn’t have been resistant...”
“Panic... she’s been on the verge of panic for a long time, but ever since she spoke with me, she’s passed that point. The only way to stop it is to give her cause for calm... something to take away her fear.” I got close to Vrook to make a plea to him. “You need to let her go and she needs to know that she’s still welcome within the Order.”
“What? This incident has shown that she is unstable and could pose a threat to the others. That and falling to the...”
“The darkside has nothing to do with it! She is probably huddled in her quarters, terrified of what is going to happen next. If she is freed from you and knows that she isn’t going to be expelled, she can get through this. Kalin has to know she is safe... even if I have to lie to her.”
He looked at me as if insulted. “You?”
“Because she has no one else. She has already taken to me and I certainly wouldn’t want you to go anywhere near her.”
He crossed his arms and stared into my eyes to read the sincerity within my soul. For a long moment, I expected to hear his objection... it never came. “I seem to have no other option. Come with me.” He went for the door.
“No, you should stay here. Kalin needs to believe she’s safe and I’m the most likely one to convince her of that.” I added to the statement my uncertainty. “I hope.”
He nodded reluctantly. “I do want someone watching you, though.” He went through the door and got in Master Kavar’s doorway. “I’ve a favor to ask. My padawan, Kalin, is... having difficulties. Ms. Tydings thinks she knows how to help, but insists that she speaks to Kalin without my presence. Could you go with her and ensure that things don’t get worse.”
Kavar looked at me as if to get affirmation that I needed him with me. I didn’t have to make any gesture because he was coming along one way or another. “Yes, of course.”
When Kavar and I arrived at Kalin’s quarters, he unlocked the door and stood ready as though to expect a violent little girl waiting to escape. The room was dimly lit, but I could see her through the darkness. I withdrew my lightsabers and handed tham to Kavar. That was to further assure Kalin that there was no need to fear me. After a nod from Kavar, I stepped in and heard the door seal behind me.
Kalin’s room was a mess. It was as though she had gone into a fit of rage and destroyed everything she could. I walked around the debris and towards the frightened teenager who’s head was buried in her hands. She breathed erratically like she were still crying. I slowly approached and sat down next to her. I had hoped she would say something, but I knew I had to start the dialog with something to assure that everything was going to be alright. “Master Vrook will not instruct you anymore.”
Her crying escalated and I realized how I made it sound that he rejected her. “I don’t want to go to Telos.”
“I just want to go home. Home... on Alderan.”
I put my arm across her back and on her opposite shoulder. “You’ve not been rejected. I convinced Master Vrook that he had been putting too much pressure upon you and that it was in your best interest to...”
“No. I want to go home. I miss my family, my friends. I just want to be where things make sense again.”
I was saddened to hear her say that the last two years no longer mattered. I understood why she missed having someone to count on. I knew that she had just been through a lot in the last few weeks with Vrook. “Kalin, right now, you’re confused and scared. After two months of living in constant fear, you don’t want to live that way again... you won’t. What went on between you and Master Vrook... wasn’t supposed to happen. A padawan is meant to trust her master and be able to turn to him without fear or judgment.”
She pulled her head up and faced me directly. “I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s just not as great a life as I expected and I know that even if it’s not Master Vrook, another master would push me and expect more than I can give.”
I pulled Kalin closer to me with the arm around her shoulder, I embraced her with that arm. “If that is your choice, you are free to leave whenever you want to. However, I don’t think that’s really what you want.’
“Please don’t do cryptic talk.”
I smiled at her. “It’s not cryptic, I really don’t think you want to leave the Jedi, just Master Vrook. You were so afraid of being rejected that you worked as hard as you possibly could and hid your true feelings so well that even Vrook didn’t know how greatly he intimidated you. He had never intended to fail you, but use the fear of failure as a form of motivation. It was that fear that showed me just how important becoming a Jedi is to you.”
Kalin leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes as if exhausted. “What about my actions? Attacking someone in anger, especially a master is unforgivable.”
“I think that Vrook holds me more accountable for that than you, so you shouldn’t have to worry about receiving forgiveness.” I paused for a moment for a reply, but didn’t get one. “When Vrook confronted me, I thought that he was going to shout at me in extreme rage. He was genuinely so concerned for you that he kept in control to learn ‘what I had done to you.’ He may not have shown it, but your well-being matters to him.”
“I’m sorry, Alexandra. I didn’t want to get you in trouble... I just...”
“I’ve clashed blades with Vrook before, so it's nothing new to me. And I think things worked out for the best, although he could have come to the realization sooner. If he thinks it’s in your best interests, he’ll step aside and let you find another master.”
“Oh goody.” She said with little enthusiasm.
“Someone who you can turn to... someone who doesn’t intimidate you.” I stood up and turned back to face her. “Master Kavar is outside and I think you should talk to him. Would it be alright if he came in?”
She looked away and nodded.
“We’re friends. You can trust him.” I nodded and went to and knocked on the door. After the lock was unlatched, it slid open and Kavar gave me a look of uncertainty. I smiled and nodded to show things were under control. When he smiled back, I got closer and spoke softly, but not to whisper. “Are you two acquainted?”
“We’ve met, but I don’t know much about Kalin or what’s troubling her.” He replied just soft enough so she couldn’t hear.
“I think she’ll be alright, but is going to need a new master.”
“That’s not your decision to make. Master Vrook has to make that call.”
“Well she can’t remain with him. I think that he will agree with that, but if not, I’ll need your support to convince him.”
He stepped back, objectively. “I don’t even know what has happened. I can’t just...”
“Trust me. She needs to be relieved of all her responsibilities and allowed the freedom to do what she needs to heal. She has to be allowed to choose if and when Vrook can come here.”
“Hold on. You can’t just make all these decisions for... Master Vrook has to be a part of this, but we have a session in less than ten minutes. Vrook could be allowed an absence, but I have to be there for this debate. I need to leave you now and you need to get Vrook involved. Otherwise, you must wait for a later time to deal with the matter.” He reached into his pockets and handed back my lightsabers. “You should use a comlink to contact him and let him know the situation. I’m not the one to deal with this.” He bowed. "Alexandra, Kalin." Then he left the room, but didn’t reset the lock.
I looked at Kalin for a moment before I went to the desk to use the comlink, which was damaged, but still worked. “I’m just updating Master Vrook. He won’t come if you don’t want him to.”
I nodded and called Vrook, but got no visual feedback. “Master Vrook.” I heard.
“This is Alexandra. I’ve spoken to Kalin and I think she’ll be alright.”
“I want to talk to her.”
I turned to face her and she just stared, but didn’t give a response of any kind. “She’s just staring at me. What should I tell her?”
“I want to hear it from her directly.”
I looked back to Kalin, but again got no response. “One moment.”
“I don’t have a moment to spare. The Council is in session in a matter of minutes.”
“Master Kavar is on his way. He’ll let them know that you might be late.” I went over to Kalin and kneeled in front of her to get at eye level. “He just wants to know that you’re alright. I think you should...”
She shouted to ensure he could hear. “What does it matter to him anyway! He never seemed to give a damn about me before!”
“Kalin!” I held her shoulders and tried to calm that rage within her. “Please try to be pleasant about this. He is concerned and wants to know that you are alright.”
“Why does he suddenly have an interest about my feelings? Why can’t he just go to his meeting like he always does!”
“Please!” I held my hand in front of her mouth, but not to do what Alek did to me before. I just wanted her to remain as calm as she was before. I got near her ear and spoke softly, but not a whisper. “You’ve taken this for two months. I just ask that you put up with it for a little while longer and then you’ll be free of it forever. You have every right to be angry, but it will only hurt you unless you show him that you’re at peace.” She was facing away, but slowly got back in eye contact with me. “Just for a little while longer.”
She started blinking back tears and inhaled deeply before nodding and standing to reach the desk. She then spoke into the comlink, “Alexandra had nothing to do with this. Please don’t blame her.” Then she terminated the signal.
“Kalin?!” I pulled her away from the desk and attempted to reestablish the comlink with Vrook, but Kalin had forced me to go through the entire procedure again, which took almost a minute. “Why are you doing this?”
“I just tried to kill him. Do you think this is easy for me?”
I sighed and then turned my attention to her. “You’ll have to speak to him again at some point. If you’re worried about what he’ll say, remember that I’m the one he blamed... not you.” When I got the comm. system connected, I got no reply on the other end. Vrook must have left his office.
I just stepped away and looked at the tormented teenager as if to figure out what to do with her. If I left her behind, I had to lock her in again because Vrook had to approve her release. That wasn’t what I wanted to do because she was feeling restrained and leaving her alone with no escape would only have made things worse. And I didn’t want to remain there with her, so I just invited her to come with me. I had obligations to deal with and could tolerate watching her for a little while longer.
Wow! I like the new story D_Y! Very interersting, and I don't know how I could have missed it....anyways I have read up and I still have to say that I love your writing. Your description is exellent. Dilogue is fantastic. I think that you capture the quintessence of characters conflict with each other(s). That is just my opinion though.
I like how you captured Vrook's military like thinking. Taking charge, not allowing any ignorance. Very nice job with that. I definately look forward to more!
Poor Kalin...I almost killed Vrook when I first met him in TSL, but at least I didn't have to put up with him for very long!
Yes, poor Kalin. But as Rev said, I like Vrook's military thinking. This story never stops amazing me with how well thought out and detailed all of the military issues and stratagizing are thought out. I like Alex's thoughts as well.
Sorry this took me so long to get to this. :)
All in all, it was an interesting chapter. One thing though: why did the Order take Kalin on at age of 13? Even if they did so, wouldn't it be reasonable to put her through the same training that younglings receive before assigning her to a master, especially one as demanding as Vrook? Kalin's desire to go home was expressed nicely, and she sounds like an emo teenager all right :xp: I'd like to see the end of this particular mini story arc before I comment further, so keep writing!
Chapter 6: A Thankless Deed
I had arranged to meet Atris after I spoke with Kavar. Although I didn’t get to him, my timetable had not really changed. Kalin was just going to have to put up with us for a while or return to her quarters. I just hoped that she liked sparing.
“You’re late.” Atris said, putting away the book she was reading.
“Why do you read those ancient books? A datapadd is much more convenient.”
She pulled out the book and waved it in front of me. “Doesn’t seem a bit hollow to you? There’s nothing to me like the texture of the paper and the creases of the spine to show how common or rare the knowledge is. This book is decades old, but has barely been looked at. I am learning things that few others know. You can’t get this from the network.”
Kalin saw the book had no title. “What are you reading?”
Atris turned her attention to Kalin. “It’s a journal written by Master Devon.” She looked to me. “Who’s this? ‘You taking on a Padawan already?”
I looked at her as if insulted, but only because of how ridiculous the assumption was. I looked at Kalin and then back to Atris. “No... This is Kalin. We knew each other from Dantooine.”
Atris bowed her head. “It’s nice to meet you, Kalin. Who ‘is’ your master? Why aren’t you with him?”
I answered. “An apprentice is not conjoined to her master Atris. Kalin’s under my supervision, though.”
She made a sound of annoyance. “Is she any good at sparing, or are you just baby-sitting?”
Kalin frowned, but kept her peace.
“Kalin’s with me as a friend. Treat her with proper respect.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Very well. Are we going to dual, or what?”
I turned my head. “Would Kalin like to take part in this, or just watch?”
She likely was not fond of going up against a full Jedi Knight, let alone two. “You’d... welcome me? I’m not that great with a lightsaber.”
I smiled at her. “It’s the only way to get better.”
Atris interrupted. “Wait. I wanted to spar with you, not to do a training session. If you two want to spar with each other, do it another time because I don’t want to go up against an amateur.”
That made Kalin frown again, but I got between them. “What if you two went up against me? It would be a good chance for both of you to use teamwork against me.”
“Not interested. She wouldn’t stand a chance against you and I don’t want to have to protect her.”
“Atris, this would be every bit as good for you as it would for us. The difference between guardians and the other Jedi is that they aren’t trained for self defense and attacking, but also for defending others. You are every bit as capable as a guardian when going against an opponent, but when you have to protect others or fulfill a specified goal, it becomes much more difficult.”
She sighed and stared at Kalin as if trying to study her capabilities before even seeing her perform. Then she reluctantly went along with it. “Very well.”
Kalin raised her hands and stepped back. “Never mind. I don’t want to be a burden. You just do what you want and I’ll just watch.”
Atris didn’t face her. “No, I’ll have you. Just don’t get in the way.”
“She’s not helpless, Atris. You should coordinate your efforts with Kalin and you’ll be able to do much more than if you just go about like a drunken gizka.”
She sighed deeply and looked as though I were forcing Kalin upon her. Although I was, it was for her best interests. Atris was good enough with a lightsaber, but she should have been prepared to throw herself in front of innocents to defend them when negotiations got violent. She was effective at self defense, but Jedi were often not the ones being targeted.
We all got training sabers, which were special lightsabers equipped with a blade that used minimal energy for generating a solid beam and only caused first-degree burns to skin. The greatest risk of injury came from being physically hit by the solid beam while the burns were only superficial.
Kalin naturally had a single hilt while Atris has chosen to follow the tradition of Councilors and took a single hilt as well. I had chosen to use twin lightsabers because they simply were the most flexible of all the lightsaber styles I knew of.
A single hilt often were meant to be used with two hands, so it was not realistic to use a hilt that was more than 15 centimeters long. I opted for two hilts (both of which were just long enough to fit both hands) because it also allowed for me to throw one and animate it with the Force without leaving myself open to blaster fire.
The saberstaff was a very difficult weapon to handle because it was almost as dangerous for the wielder as for an opponent. The hilt itself was also much more difficult to choose because you needed it to be small enough to conceal, but the shorter it was, the less leverage you could get. Theoretically, you could get it down to 15 cm and all you had was your wrist for leverage, but I found 35 cm was the ideal size. Still, I hated that opposite blade.
Another style was the standard/shoto combination. I found it awkward to use two different weapons, so I just opted for perfect balance in weight and blade length. There was little reason to just have a short blade when a longer one made no difference. It would have for a sword, but not a blade of energy.
Shien style was just a standard saber opposite of the way the hilt would normally be held. I found that on occasion, I could use this for my left hand to get the leverage I needed to block while my right gave me the flexibility of a standard saber. Often, I just don’t bother with it at all because of the limitations that came with it.
When the three of us were ready, we had to actually test the lightsabers to ensure beyond a doubt that they were safe. They were true lightsabers designed not to exceed a specified power limit, but there have been concerns that lethal sabers could be disguised as training variants. In order to ensure there could not be any mistakes or sabotage, both opponents must see the other’s saber pass a scanner without an alarm blaring. If the saber was safe, it was allowed through. If not... I never tried it.
Of course, there were no problems, but the last thing I wanted was a training accident. On the floor were several circles clearly marked that defined the boundaries for duels to take place. Most were about 15 meters wide, but there were much larger areas for multiple participants to fight in teams or pairs. I chose one of the larger circles and got to one edge, but when I turned around, I saw Atris talking to Kalin about how to team up against me.
That made me feel a little better to see Atris actually taking my advice and not just going through the motions. She was a solitary creature, much like Vrook, but if I were to encourage her to work with others, she might become a ‘team player’ among the Jedi... she needed to if she hoped to get on the Council.
When the two had come to a proposed attack plan, I was looking forward to how things came out. “Alright... no Force abilities. Just skill against skill alone. Is that alright with you?”
Atris shook her head. “Limited Force abilities... we would like to apply the Force with lightsabers alone. Nothing beyond that.”
“Alright. Whenever you’re ready.”
For the next hour, we sparred under various conditions and I even had Kalin with me going against Atris a few times. I was surprised how good the padawan of two years was with a lightsaber, but she was clearly no match for either me or Atris. At first, she seemed to enjoy the matches, but I noticed she was becoming increasingly aggressive and reckless.
I knew that our sparing was much like the situation with Vrook, so I called the match in a bit early. Atris was a bit disappointed, but she accepted my wishes and even offered to keep practicing against Kalin, but the whole point was to get her out of another ‘no-win’ situation. I said Kalin was still under my supervision and that ended it w/out making my intentions too apparent.
When Atris was gone, Kalin looked very agitated and I was careful not to set her off. “You’re very good with a lightsaber.”
“Well it’s not like I was of any help to either one of you. Atris would have done just as well not having to come to my rescue each time.”
“It was a team effort, Kalin. And this was just practice.”
“I could never hit either of you! Even when I was on your side, I didn’t hit Atris unless you opened her up for me. I was terrible!”
I put my hands on her shoulders, but she brushed them away. “I’ve been doing this for over a decade. I’ve been trained to do this. You have only been using a lightsaber for how long?”
She sighed in discomfort. “A year and a half.”
“Do you think that I was any better then than you are now? Do you know what I did to change that?”
“What?” She said, expecting a short and easy answer.
I had only the same kind she heard dozens of times before. It was not the answer that was difficult, but the demands that were required in which were difficult to accept. “I spared with Master Kavar. He is a far greater swordsman than I am now, but I kept practicing with him time and time again... knowing that I was going to lose.”
“I know... I’ve heard it a thousand times... you improve by pushing yourself. That’s what Master Vrook always said.” She complained.
“That’s part of it, yes. However, it can become very disheartening to lose and to fail time and time again. It it important that when something like this happens, you recognize it was because the challenge was too great. I saw how frustrated you became near the end of the matches and I didn’t want you to believe you were being judged in any way. I just hoped that it could take your mind off things for a while.”
She sighed and paused for a moment before responding. “Your friend didn’t seem to want me with her. At first, I was flattered that you would invite me to dual at your level, but I thought I could have at least held my own against a Jedi knight. I thought I might have been able to defeat you or Atris at least once.”
I smiled and shook my head. “I was much like that when I spared with Master Kavar. I did get a lucky hit now and again, but the majority of times, I didn’t even touch him. I accepted that he was a master and that even as I lost, I became a little better with each match. Eventually, I tried using two lightsabers and I realized that I was beating him one out of five times... as opposed to one in a hundred or so.” I placed my hands on her shoulders. “You will find that over the course of our lives, we will fail many more times than we succeed. The only time when you should be ashamed is if you could have done something to prevent it.”
She looked up to me as though I were the master she should have had. Although I have been supporting her for only the course of two days, I think that I came to understand her better than her current master ever has. “Master Vrook never made that distinction.”
“Well I’m not trying to attack Master Vrook. He is a great instructor, but there are certain students and masters who don’t work well with each other.”
She leaned her head forward as if ashamed. “So does that mean I was not up to my master’s expectations? I thought that was what he wanted in his padawans... he said that any other instructor would demand just as much from me.”
I nodded. “Learning to use the Force always demands extreme effort and self-discipline. That won’t change, but it doesn’t mean hard work translates directly to what you learn. It’s just as important to know how best to manage your time as it is to exert yourself.”
She sighed as if she’s heard that lecture before and was bored with having it repeated. After a moment, she shrugged her shoulders. “Alexandra, I appreciate what you’re doing, but I really don’t want you to get in trouble because of me.”
“It’s alright. We all need help now and again. I would just ask that when you see another in your position, remember today and be willing to help them and we all benefit.”
“Master Vrook says that all the time, but he never explains how that is so. How do you benefit from any of this... why do you go out of your way to help me? Aren’t you going to be put in a bad position? Master Vrook isn’t exactly the forgiving type.”
I knew she was right. Even though I did a good deed, Master Vrook likely have reprimanded me because I interfered with him and his padawan. Despite the end result being better for Kalin, I was going to be disciplined because of my part in all this. That was not exactly very encouraging, but I could at least sleep better knowing I did the right thing... even if no one else believed the same thing.
“Yes, I will likely be punished for this. However, I can live with a week of extra duties. At least I could do it knowing it spared you of whatever pressure was put on you by Master Vrook. I knew what I was getting myself into from the moment I heard you were his apprentice, but don’t worry about me. Master Vrook was once where I am, but through acts such as mine, he eventually became a Council member... that’s not something you can just be given... it must be earned. I was once where you are and I know someday, you’ll be looking over a young padawan who needs a little encouragement, knowing that you’re doing the right thing.”
She smiled very warmly at me. “Thanks, Alexandra. I’ll do that for you.”
I shook my head again. “Don’t do it for me, but for yourself. We, the Jedi, are interdependent, so by helping one, we become a better society. The more you believe that, the faster you will progress as a Force user. Dealing with conflicts are the way we grow and influence the Galaxy, so remember that conflict and chaos are a natural way of life. We follow the code by finding where there is conflict and bringing balance to the Force.”
She smiled nervously. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t understand. Can you explain it again?”
I pat her on the shoulder. “I’m afraid it’s not something that can be explained. You’ll understand once you’ve lived by it.”
Chapter 7: The Value of Knowledge
This is the start of a new storyline. From here is when Alexandra realizes she has to choose a side.
There was an old saying that no good deed went unpunished. Obviously, that was not true, but there were times when it made sense. This was one of those times.
Master Vrook turned out to be more stubborn than I ever imagined. I was under the belief that his arrogance had a limit that did not directly infringe upon his responsibilities as a Jedi. When I told Vrook that it was in Kalin’s best interest to be released from him, he asked me a question that I could not possibly answer in my favor. “How many years have you been teaching? What makes you think you would know better than me about my own Padawan?”
I could not deny that he had decades’ worth of experience, but that in itself didn’t constitute proof that he knew what was best for Kalin. Master Vrook had a military mind when it came to his students. Although a number of his students had ended up on Telos, those who become Jedi under him were among the best within the Order. His teachings were very much like those within the Mandalorian culture where the adversity their warriors faced only made them stronger. Those that didn’t make it ultimately died or were dishonored. Kalin was one of those who would have broken under the pressure she was under.
Why then would I have wanted to have her within the Order, in addition to having others depend on her? I wondered that as well, but ultimately felt that Kalin had the potential to be a Jedi... maybe not a great Jedi, but at least an average student of the Force. Just because someone couldn’t make the cut with Master Vrook didn’t mean s/he should have broken down and been rejected like a Mandalorian recruit.
Master Vrook didn’t see it that way. He believed that there were always going to be more than enough Force-sensitives in the Galaxy, but only so many qualified to teach and so many who could be taught at a time. Therefore, if Kalin didn’t make the cut, it was important to reject her and allow only the best of the best to train. Otherwise, the Jedi would only weaken themselves by accepting imperfection within its recruits and discouraging the talent and dedication of those who devoted themselves more greatly than Kalin.
Despite my best efforts, Vrook was unwilling to accept my recommendations and ‘would not give up on her’ his exact words were. When I refused to back down, he came up with a cruel compromise that forced me to prove what I told him. “If you think you know better, then prove me wrong. Why don’t you take over and show me exactly how I should train her?”
“You want [i]me[i/] to train her?”
“You know nothing about training a padawan. Maybe once you’ve tried, you would gain an appreciation for the difficulties that come with it. And it would only make sense since you’re criticizing me... show me what you would do instead.” He said, leaned back in his chair, arms crossed, and a smug smile on his face.
I exhaled deeply. “I think you’re just looking for an excuse to get out of your responsibility to her.”
He frowned. “You are the one who interfered with me and my padawan! You’re fortunate that I don’t put sanctions upon you. Since you wanted to get involved... now you are.”
I shook my head. “I wanted what was in her best interests. I wasn’t trying to proclaim that I was a better instructor than you, but there are better instructors for her than either of us.”
“You are the only one who has made that claim, but I’m not just dismissing you out of hand. If you want to avoid sanctions, then you will accept responsibility for Kalin and show me my mistakes by instructing her better than I had.”
“What? For how long?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. “If you make a decent effort, I’d give you a week. If you can’t handle the responsibility or you have a negative influence on her, I’m taking her back and you will suffer the consequences of your actions.”
“And if I do a decent job with her?”
“Then I’ll leave her in your... capable hands. After that, you can either continue instructing her, or give the responsibility to whom you believe would be best. However, it will require her to show a vast improvement that she had not under my instruction. That means you’ll have do more than simply watch her. I want to see for myself the validity of your claim, otherwise, whatever happens to her will be on your head.”
I remembered that conversation like it was a month ago. In reality, it was only three days since I took over for Vrook. Kalin was asleep after a long day, but I was unable to sleep. She was much more difficult to work with than I originally thought. Master Vrook’s technique was actually exactly what had to be done to motivate her to do what she didn’t want to.
I originally believed that he was just being hard on her, but I had come to the realization that she was more lazy than I would have expected. When I gave her the freedom to that Master Vrook had denied, she didn’t read the scientific journal articles and only skimmed through the book I had given her. When I confronted her to ask questions from the book, she gave me only a very limited level of detail as if to make it seem she read the book, but couldn’t answer some very basic questions about the history or why historic figures did what they had to. It was very discouraging that she would do that to me.
After that long third day, I felt I needed some advice more than ever from Master Kavar. He was working late, so I knew I could say a few things before the night was out.
“Alexandra, how’s your new padawan progressing?”
“Master Vrook told you about me and Kalin?”
“I think everyone is aware of it.”
I released a devastated sigh and fell into the chair opposite Kavar. “I wouldn’t have imagined he’d want something like this to become so public. He wanted me to humiliate myself in front of everyone. He knew I was going to fail.” I threw my head back and stared at the ceiling.
“She’s lazy.” I scoffed. “It’s as simple as that, yet it makes all the difference.”
“That doesn’t sound like one of Vrook’s padawans to me.”
I sighed and looked into his eyes. “Well she does have the capabilities, but I can’t pressure her like Master Vrook. I told her that he had been demanding too much, so I can’t do what he had; otherwise, she’ll act towards me in the same way that she acted towards Vrook.” I stood up and looked in another direction. “But at the same time, she needs to show improvement. If I’m too gentle, she’ll become content and remain exactly where she is.”
“I can understand that. It’s difficult to watch someone you care about struggle, especially when you’re the one subjecting them to the adversity.” He put down the data pad he was no longer focused on. “You should ask yourself something: would it be better for her to struggle here and now, or to do so when her life depends on doing the right thing at the right time?”
I turned around and stared into his eyes. “I know what you’re saying, but she has already been through a lot and needs time to recuperate from the soul-crushing experience of Master Vrook’s training. I can’t push her while she’s in such a fragile state.”
“Would an enemy be so accommodating?” He paused. “If Kalin cannot hold up under the pressures that come from training, then would you be doing her a favor by making things easier for her?”
“The most difficult path is not always the best. I just wanted to give her a chance to become a Jedi. She would not make it under Vrook’s standards, but I’m sure she could at least pass the minimal requirements. She probably won’t be a model Jedi, but she shouldn’t just be cast aside if we could do something to change that.”
He stood up and put his hands on my shoulders. “Alexandra, I know that you only mean her well, but Kalin has to be able to stand up and excel on her own if she is to become a Jedi. That is our nature... to do what is difficult or what no one else wants to do. Is that seriously what you would expect of the girl?”
I stepped back and sat down to think. “I guess that I was just trying to help her ease into the life of a Jedi. She was much older than I was when she was accepted, so naturally her transition would have been more difficult. She was homeless, so there was not much of life worth going back to. She feared being sent to Telos, so it seemed the best life for her was this one.”
“This is not like any other life she could just choose. To be a Jedi, she must make the sacrifices that are necessary. If it means that much to her, she’ll work for it. If not, you can’t force her to do anymore than she is willing.” He sat down and gave me a sympathetic stare. “Tell her what she must do, but remind her of the consequences if she doesn’t listen to you. If she wants to be a Jedi, then it is up to you to treat her as such. If you have to be hard on her, it is because she wants something greater. That’s why you’re hard on her; because the greatest rewards have to be earned... otherwise they lose their value. How special would you feel if just anyone could become a Jedi?”
I lowered my head and bit my bottom lip. I feared that Kalin was not up to the challenge ahead. Although she had the ability, if she didn’t want it enough, there was no way for her to become a Jedi. We put ourselves through more adversity than we predict in order to deal with the unexpected demands placed upon us. I knew that I was going to have to become as harsh and demanding as the very one I told her she never had to deal with again.
I looked up to Master Kavar. “I shouldn’t have interfered, should I?”
Kavar looked at me sympathetically again. “Your heart was in the right place, but this is one of life’s lessons that can only be learned through experience. Don’t feel responsible if Kalin doesn’t make it. Even if your actions inevitably result in her expulsion, your part was only the shriek that caused the cataclysmic avalanche.”
I stood up and turned to the door. “Well an avalanche only happens when snow has collected on the side of a mountain and hasn’t been allowed to fall for a long period of time. The less frequent the event, the greater the disaster. After it happens, it’s easier to keep from happening again...” I paced around the office, but Kavar didn’t ask what I had in mind. “It just means allowing her to blow up now and again in the right places.”
“Thanks, Master Kavar. I think I know what I have to do.”
“Don’t do anything that could escalate this further!” He shouted before I was out.
“What if I took a page out of Vrook’s book? I’ll just do what he would and if he complains, I’ll at least prove him wrong.”
I poked my head back through his door. “I’m just kidding.”
The next day, I awoke Kalin early in the morning. Although I said she had the morning at her leisure, I felt it was more important to get her up to speed sooner than later. She wasn’t very fond of being dragged out of bed and getting dressed, but she did so without question. When she answered the door, fully dressed and ready to leave, I invited her to come to the archives with me.
“Kalin, you said you had difficulty reading that book I gave you, so it would only make sense that you should get a broader understanding of Mandalorian history. If you understand more about the part the Mandalorians played in the war with Exar Kunn, then you would get a better understanding about them today.” I said as we walked down the hallway.
“Alexandra, I tried, but that book was the most boring thing I’ve read since... well there are a lot of things Master Vrook gave me. Why can’t I just choose what I want to read? There’s an almost infinite number of topics out there. What if I read about...”
I interrupted her. “I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but the Mandalorians have been the hottest topic in the archives for at least the last decade. It’s important that we keep up with current events. Although it’s good that you have an interest in Twi’lek history, Echani religion, or Bothan culture... they are not the subject at hand.”
“Alexandra... please. I don’t want to learn about the Mandalorians.” She pleaded.
I turned around. “Why is that? Is it because they’re difficult to understand?”
She nodded her head. “That and most of what we know is speculation. They never explain anything directly. Why should we put so much faith in something that might not even be accurate?”
“Maybe, but for now, it’s the best we have. Maybe by reading of them, you may even be able to figure out the answers for yourself.” I started walking again.
“I don’t want to understand why they are so brutal. All I’ve come to know is that they are unthinking animals with no respect for anything other than to fight... and to conquer. What good would it do to understand why they are so violent?”
“There is a perfect example right there. Animals don’t build great empires. There is a reason why they are the way they are. Just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean there is no logic or reason behind their acts.”
“Right. They massacre a planet and steal their resources. Anyone who doesn’t die either runs away or is enslaved. Are you saying it’s difficult to understand why they do that? What good would it do to know about their culture, philosophy, or any of that?”
After we got to an elevator, we waited for the next car to stop for us. “You’d be surprised how complicated they really are. They have a sense of honor that does not come from an animal instinct. What we take for granted are often just as strange to them as they are to us. It doesn’t mean they are wrong or that we are right just because we don’t believe the same thing. What separates us from them is that we look at both sides before we back one.” When the door opened, I stepped on board with Kalin behind me. There was another who moved to the back when we stopped.
“That’s why we should not get involved with the war? That we could just as easily find a way to use their beliefs against them?”
“That is a sensitive topic. I don’t want you to discuss in publicly.”
She sighed in frustration and crossed her arms to show her dislike for what I was trying to do. If she did something out of line, then I would have reminded her of the greater goal that she was working for. At least for the time, I did not have to say what she already knew. Something so obvious should have been instinct to her already, so I didn’t have to repeat it.
I took Kalin through the main hall of the archives and into the back, where the paper books could be found. I felt that it made me feel ‘wiser’ to read from manuscripts instead of from the main computer terminals. The Galaxy was so sophisticated that we often forget the subtleties of simply flipping a page to look upon words that were made up of pen strokes and pigments. I had learned how to write my own books in that fashion, but found I didn’t have the time to actually write when I could just do it verbally and translate my words into writing many times faster.
I was trying to find a way to get Kalin more interested in the learning process so that she would have been more enthused to study with me or by herself, so that was why I ignored the terminal and looked for knowledge the old fashioned way. Kalin wasn’t very fond of following me into the back chamber, but didn’t complain. I could almost sense her patience evaporating with every act I took. It was one thing for me to ask something as a friend, but as a master... I felt my authority had become much more provisional.
Although I was only expecting to have her for a week, Kalin was left in the dark about what was going on. From her perspective, I had assumed Vrook’s role and would be with her until her trials had been completed. It was an additional burden that I did not enjoy, but she had to believe this was a long-term thing. Otherwise, she would behave differently.
When I turned a corner and found the isle that held manuscripts on the Mandalorians, I was quite surprised to see Alek leafing through old documents. He didn’t seem the kind who preferred books over more modern mediums to get knowledge. Although some Jedi liked the traditional books made of paper, others would only search for info using digital means due to its efficiency. Alek seemed one of those who only followed tradition for as long as it didn’t interfere with his ability to get the job done.
“Alek... what are you doing here?”
He glanced at me a fraction of a second before turning his gaze back on one of the books. “I had been offered to take piloting lessons from a friend. I decided to take him up on that offer and came here.”
I stared at him for a moment, not understanding what he said.
He gave me a stern expression. “I’m looking for a document! Why else would I be here?”
“Alright, alright! It was just a question.” I paused for a moment before pulling out a book from near his position. “What exactly are you looking for anyway? I thought you would have just preferred to use the net. Why come here?”
He turned his attention to me. “Because most of these documents are not available anywhere else. If they are lost, the knowledge they contain is lost forever.”
“Why don’t they back the books with a digital medium? It certainly would take less space and time to just photograph the books. And it would make finding the knowledge easier from anywhere.” I said.
“Well that’s one of the reasons they don’t do that. They fear that by putting everything on the net, then everything could potentially fall into the wrong hands. All you need is one Jedi’s access code and everything in the electronic archives is for the taking.” He explained.
“Well that would make sense to keep sensitive knowledge from being easy to find. Anything electronic could be accessed no matter how difficult the encryption is. Infiltrating the Temple would be next to impossible, let alone finding the right book.”
“Anyone who believes knowledge can be dangerous is simply foolish! Knowledge is power. It is only dangerous if half the truth is known. At that point, the only rational thing to do is obtain the whole truth; not try to cover up what has already been revealed.” He declared.
“There are times when secrets must be kept, or would you disagree?” I said, referring to his little secret that I had kept.
“That’s not what I was referring to. Secrets are not in themselves bad; it’s keeping them when things become problematic. However, that’s not all of it.” He went through the pile of books he had collected and leafed through the one he was looking for. “The Council makes an issue about knowledge like it’s a precious thing...” He turned his gaze to Kalin. “..they’re right little one. What they aren’t right about is that knowledge becomes less important as more people know about it.” He handed me the book and gestured me to look through it.
I flipped through a few pages and saw that it was a journal from a jedi master. The paper looked ancient and I was tried to be careful, but the book had already started falling apart. I came across some pages written with ink that had significantly faded. There were only a few good words among entire pages that looked like they used to be filled with writing, but were almost completely unreadable. I showed Kalin and then looked at Alek to get an explanation.
“That was written by Master Togo almost three hundred years ago. In it was a detailed record of events that lead the Mandalorians to attack a small civilization. Despite being at a severe disadvantage, the Mandalorians withdrew their forces after winning a pyric victory.” He gestured to the book. “The knowledge within this journal might have helped the Council in the war of Exar Kunn, but because they didn’t back it with a digital copy...” He turned his attention back to Kalin. “Roughly forty pages’ worth of entries have been lost into the mists of oblivion. Master Togo’s knowledge during a critical series of events... gone.”
She took the book from me. “Why are these pages gone? The first several entries look fine, but suddenly everything has just... vanished.”
He shook his head. “No, he just used an ink that couldn’t endure centuries. The first few pages were from a standard pigment. The ink he used on the planet had a radioactive half life of a few years. Because they didn’t scan this into the computer, everything that he had written... all the knowledge that he poured onto these pages... is gone forever. How valuable is it now?”
She flipped to one of the first few pages and read through the first entry. Once she was finished skimming through, she delicately closed the book and handed it back to Alek. “Aren’t teachings meant to be handed off from one generation to the next? Would Master Togo have shared his experiences with his padawans?”
He took the book and gently set it down. “That maybe so, but as it’s passed from one master to the next, it is forgotten, misunderstood, and loses its original value. I’m afraid that the only way to ensure your legacy survives is to spread your wisdom to as many who are willing to listen. It’s difficult to culminate a library’s worth of knowledge, but it’s easy to lose it all if it is razed to the ground. The way to keep that from happening is to allow access to any who seek to know.”
Kalin’s eyes lit up at hearing such words of wisdom. I admit that I was almost enamored, myself. There was, however, something else that I was more interested in. “You see, Kalin? Master Vrook is not the only one who buries himself in the library. Even ones as prestigious as Alek and Revan didn’t get where they are without keeping themselves open to new ideas. Even an expert on the Mandalorians, like Alek, continues expanding his knowledge on that very subject.”
He shook his head. “Not really. I already know what I’m looking for, but Revan just needs some references. You’d find that your word mean very little without something solid to back your cause.”
I stepped forward and was perplexed by something. “If you’re looking for sources, then why are you looking for them here? There are countless others on the network that would work just as well. That and they would be much easier to...” I paused as I figured out what he was really looking for. “You are using sources that only Jedi can access and many of which no one would actually cross reference! That’s what you’re doing. You’re not interested in any of the content here, only their names and that they’ve written about the Mandalorians.”
He gave me an almost humiliated frown, but turned his attention to Kalin. “Please leave us, little one. I have... matters to discuss with Alexandra... alone.”
I turned to Kalin and whispered to her, “I’ll be with you in a few minutes. You can log into one of the terminals. I’ll get back to you.”
She looked at both of us, anticipating something significant was about to be revealed, but knew Alek wasn’t going to tell her anything about it. After a sigh, she bowed to us and left us alone in the chamber.
Alek came and just stared as if to study me. “Did you figure that out just now?”
“So it [i]is[i/] true! You [i]are[i/] still trying to deceive people with another elaborate web of lies. As you said earlier, the problem is half the truth... a lie consisting of half the truth is among the darkest.”
“Then should I assume you intend to stand with the Council and not Revan?” He asked.
“I want no part in what you two are planning. I can’t abide by all this deception. It’s one thing to convince people to act, but it’s quite another to mislead them into believing something that is not true.”
Alek leaned back against one of the bookcases. “Alexandra, our battle is not just against the Mandalorians, but against the inefficiencies of democracy. When you’re trying to satisfy everyone, trillions of people, you end up with our own people fighting each other instead of the true enemy. While the Senators bicker amongst themselves, the Republic remains stagnant. The Mandalorians, on the other hand, are able to move in unison and they are marching towards the Republic.” He got closer to me. “The Republic needs to realize the threat and the Order is their only hope. We are the natural leaders of the Republic and we must be the first to oppose the Mandalorians, otherwise, they will continue to bicker over pointless matters while an enemy stands in their doorway.”
“You’re not setting a good example by deceiving and misleading the people we’re trying to protect. All that we can do is try to change people’s minds about what to do. If we are right about the Mandalorian threat having to be addressed, then surly we could make a convincing argument. If you have to lie in order to do that, then how can you be so sure of the accusations?”
He shook his head. “Alexandra, most people are not as rational as you, me, or Revan. For every intellectual, there are a hundred fools who believe what they want to instead of what is actually there. We live in an age where knowledge and information is easy to find, but just as easily is misinformation being fed to populace. If you tell people what they want to hear, then it doesn’t matter whether it is backed by fact. We are fighting an uphill battle because we are trying to convince trillions of people to accept a harsh truth. Another enemy we face are those who feed lies into the system. Those who stand to benefit from deceit are not bound by the ethics or values that we hold dear. Far too often do the words of a politician outweigh the value of an expert’s on critical matters.”
“What matters would these be?”
“Most people take their Senator’s words at face value, but they often overlook sound advice from people who have dedicated themselves to their field. The current issue on war should not be decided by the senate, but by seasoned generals who have seen war and have proven their abilities. Anyone trained in the art of manipulation can negate the value of experts... it’s tarnishing the Republic. That’s what we have to fight before we can fight a war!”
“If you hate lies and deception so much, then why do you use the same tactics?” I asked.
“Because it’s the only way to convince people to act. We tried using ‘conventional’ tactics to the best of our abilities, but we had very little impact because no one believed us. Our convictions were correct, but it was an inconvenient truth that they didn’t want to believe. Sometimes you have to make your message sound extreme, or no one will listen.” He said matter-of-factly.
I leaned back against a book case and sighed deeply. “There is logic to what you say, but the Council are not so easy to deceive. You made it sound like you wanted to convince them to act. Do you really think you can do that?”
“If enough Jedi within the Order support our goal, the Council would have no choice but to agree. Their power comes from their followers... they would not risk losing it.”
I sighed weakly. “It sounds to me that your real target is the Council.”
He paced down the isle for a moment before turning back to face me. “Our interest is in the well-being of the Republic, but right now, the Republic is under threat. The best interests of the Republic demand immediate action be taken before the Mandalorians invade. The longer we wait, the less time we will have to make preparations for war.” He got much closer to me and put his face centimeters away from mine. “The thought of deceiving or even defying the Council is as disturbing to me as it is to you, but not as disturbing as the thought of a Mandalorian fleet invading Republic space without opposition. They are the greatest threat we’ve faced in since the war of Exar Kunn, but the Republic had been ready when hostilities broke out. We are vulnerable now, but still have time... time to build up our defenses if we act quickly.”
I turned my back to him so that I could be allowed to think as if I were alone. There was something about his reasoning that I didn’t like, but at the same time was exactly what I wanted to hear. He was right about what would happen if the Mandalorians attacked the Republic before they mobilized the fleet to repel the invasion. Although old and obsolete, the Republic ships were at least a means to to resist the threat long enough for new warships to take their place.
I also knew exactly what he meant by the inefficiencies of a democracy. The more you try to satisfy the needs or everyone, the more difficult it becomes to make progress. That’s one reason why totalitarianism and fascism have often done well for civilizations in desperate times. With fewer leaders comes less bickering amongst themselves, but it restricts individual liberties that much more.
It offends me that certain citizens within the Republic demand more from their government, but are not willing to make the sacrifices that are required. They want more warships and troops protecting their planet, but also demand lower taxes. Where does the funding come from to fuel those ships? How do you provide for those soldiers? Then when they have to cut services in order to pay for that military, the very people who wanted it are the first to complain that there aren’t enough police or qualified teachers.
It’s people like that who make me lose confidence in our democracy. If people don’t know what’s best for them, they should not get in the way of those who try to provide for the needs of as many citizens as possible. What Alek said made sense and I felt that I could no longer just sit back and wait for the inevitable to come. As much as I valued the ideals of democracy, I knew that it wasn’t going to save the Republic.
After a seemingly eternal moment, I made a choice that would forever change my life. “What would it take to save the Republic?”
Good story. I quite enjoy Malak being intelligent and well spoken for once!
Chapter 8: Judgement
It's been a long while, but here is chapter 8
Although Revan and Alek were not members of the Jedi High Council, their names carried almost as much recognition as Master Vandar’s or Kavar’s. It seemed odd that two rogue Jedi would gain so much prestige, but soon came to realize that Revan was a natural leader, not a follower. I found it odd that the best leaders made poor subordinates... I mean why a subordinate follow you if you don’t do the same? Every Republic General and Admiral has had to take orders at one point or another.
When I first heard that Revan and Alek had stepped up and demanded that the Council take action against the Mandalorian threat, I just thought they were grandstanding. Before, they just disregarded the Council’s wisdom; this was the first time they directly challenged their authority. At first, I didn’t understand why they tolerated such insubordination, but was quick to realize that they had much support from other Jedi who didn’t agree with the Council.
I never wanted to admit it, but my faith in the Council had diminished with each new world along the Outer Rim that had fallen into Mandalorian hands. I thought I was the only one who disagreed with them because everyone else around me trusted in the Council’s wisdom implicitly. I guess I just assumed I had to be the one who was wrong because everyone else came to a different conclusion. It was a classic example of ‘group think.’
Group think happened when an individual followed the majority of a group instead of deviating from them. It made sense that when an individual deviated from a group, she would think it was more likely that they knew better. Some people willingly went against their better judgment because they didn’t want to stand alone. I didn’t realize it myself, but I had fallen victim to this very phenomenon.
I thought that if I stood alone and everyone else was against me, it would have been rather arrogant of me to believe my voice was more important than a thousand. However, if I had reason to believe I was right, then it was more important to follow my intuition. If I were indeed wrong, then surely the others could convince me otherwise.
I intended to take a stand on an issue that I was convinced had to be addressed. War with the Mandalorians was imminent and the Republic had to be ready. Although war was not the Jedi way, it often was inevitable and natural.
Like a forest fire, war was destructive, leaving ruin in its wake, but their prevention often only escalated the damage. On my world, we valued nature and thought that we were serving and protecting it by preventing fire from destroying our forests. We didn’t realize it at the time, but fire was in itself a part of nature that we were disrupting. In preventing such fires, we only delayed the inevitable inferno that consumed our largest forest in a single catastrophic event.
Although it was not our intent, in preventing purging fires from happening as nature intended, we allowed for an already unstable system to grow even more wild than it was ever intended. There came a point when a forest fire escalated beyond anything we could stop. Nature never intended for a gigantic inferno to spread like a wind of death across the ancient forest.
Even decades later, most of the land where lush trees once grew remained barren. Had we left nature alone, it would have continued indefinitely. For some reason, I thought much about that event as I considered the Republic’s future.
Like my people, the Republic had been trying to avoid a conflict for two decades, but only delayed the inevitable. I did not want to see the Mandalorians spread across the Republic like another raging inferno through an ancient forest. As I considered the options in front of me, I didn’t know whether to step back and let nature take its course, or if it had already been disturbed and needed to be healed.
I gave Kalin the rest of the day to herself, despite knowing she would squander it. Although I knew she needed my encouragement, I felt that I needed Master Kavar’s council more. Before the next Council session, I went to his office to receive any words of wisdom he could give me.
He could tell that I was troubled. “I take it that this isn’t a social visit.”
“I was hoping to get some advice. Right now, I’ve got a crisis and now I must make a choice... all of them bad.”
I stared at him for a long moment. “I can’t tell you directly, but I would like to get a sense of what you would do in my situation... how you would make a choice.”
He looked at me, puzzled. “If you can’t talk about it, then I don’t know how much help I can be.”
“If you’d just listen, that would be enough for me. I guess that I would like to get a sense of what I should do.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve got some time. You have my undivided attention.”
Usually, Kavar had some form of paperwork and would do while talking to me, so that was a pleasant change from the usual. “Right now, I see a crisis ahead of me and I’m unsure what I should do. I’m not involved... yet, but I know that I will eventually be. There is something I can do to influence the outcome, but it would involve taking measures I don’t think I’m prepared for. If I knew it would work, then I would act without giving it a second thought.”
“But if things don’t go as anticipated...”
I nodded. “It might make things even worse.” I got up and paced around a few times while I kept explaining. “I have another option, but I don’t agree with it. It seems to be the safest thing to do, but I think it’s a mistake.”
“Are you talking about yourself, or do you mean making the right choice for someone else? Is this a life-or-death situation, or what?”
I stopped pacing and just stood there with a dumb look on my face. “I really don’t know everything, but there are indisputable certainties that I can’t just ignore. The ‘right’ choice is the one I like least. The most favorable option is not one I think you or the Council would approve of, but I can’t see any other option that would yield a better alternative.”
He stood up from his chair, got behind and pulled me around to face him. “Alexandra, what is troubling you? Please tell me.”
I stared into his eyes for a long time before I answered. “Master... in all honesty, does the Council have a plan to address the Mandalorian threat?”
He leaned back and realized why I was asking. “Alexandra... don’t tell me that you seriously believe what they told you.”
“Please answer the question. Do you have a plan?” I demanded.
He nodded. “We believe there is more going on than just the Mandalorians. There is another threat that has not revealed itself to us. We are not simply doing nothing... we are biding our time until we can get some clue about this unknown threat.”
“I know that already, but what about the current threat? Do you have a plan to address the Mandalorians?”
“Yes... but my hands are tied on the issue. Despite my recommendations, the majority of the Council continue to support our neutrality. The Jedi do not support war and would never agree to a military buildup preceding hostilities.”
“But if we do nothing, many Republic worlds would be left completely defenseless to a Mandalorian invasion. We can’t let that happen.” I declared.
“We are in no position to influence the outcome. I represent only 1/12 of the Council. All I can do is voice my opinion to the Council; they rejected it. Case closed.” He said sternly.
“It is not closed. We must go through with it!”
He stared at me for a long while, almost disappointed. “You sound like you’ve already made a decision.”
“I haven’t... not yet.” I stepped back and tried to come up with the right words, but they didn’t come.
Master Kavar came up behind me and gently pulled me around to face him. “Alexandra, you should not burden yourself with issues that you cannot influence. What happens between the Council, the Senate, and the Mandalorians... it is not for you to be concerned about. You should be concentrating on your own life because one day, you’ll be the one making the tough decisions. And when that happens, you’ll understand the weight that comes with such responsibility.”
“Master, do you seriously believe that the Republic will act in time before the Mandalorians strike? Even a week of preparation could save millions of lives. If the Mandalorians attack the Republic without opposition, the death toll will be enormous.” He tried to interrupt me, but I kept speaking. “I know the Jedi code, but you know just as well as I do that billions will die if we do nothing.”
“Alexandra...” He held onto my shoulders. “You’re so young. And when you’re young, you think that answers are simple to find. Well you’re wrong.” He reached to my belt and took one of my lightsabers and waved it in front of me. “If you think that this is the only answer you’ll find, then I’ve set a poor example for the rest of the Order. Tell me... what is this?”
I felt like a child being scolded, but didn’t react. “A lightsaber?”
I paused a moment. “A weapon?”
“Exactly. And what purpose do weapons ever serve?”
I just stared, waiting for his answer.
“They cause death and destruction, that is all they can ever bring about. Master Vrook calls it a tool, but he fails to recognize that the symbol of the Jedi is an instrument of death. Do you think that just because I use one of these that I like it?” He placed the lightsaber back into its sheath.
I felt like I had just said something very disrespectful, but I had something to say in response to that question. “Well I have a question for you as well: Do you think everyone is rational? Do you think that you can come to a reasonable settlement so that we can all hold hands in peace? Do you think that you could convince the Hutts to give up their criminal activities? Ask Twi’lek males to treat their women with proper respect? Convince Master Vrook that he made a mistake?”
He turned away, not amused by the joke.
I got in front of him. “Master, not everything can be resolved peacefully. Not everyone is content to just live in harmony. Some want nothing more than to dominate, to conquer, or to destroy everyone else. Violence is all the Mandalorians know and as long as they go unopposed, they’ll just massacre everything in their path.” I gripped his shoulders. “If we don’t stop them, no one else will.”
He stared at me for a long while as if to study the resolve within me, the desperation I felt, the fear that was driving me to act. He sighed deeply. “Alexandra, if you want my advice, then here it is: don’t focus your attention on events that you have no control over. There are no Mandalorians in your circle.”
-------(Nine years ago)------
“This is called a training circle; a master’s wheel. This circle will be your world, your whole life. While you train, there is nothing outside it.” Kavar said as he paced along outside the boarder of the circle on the floor.
I stared at the circle, not knowing what to think. “Okay...”
He stepped into the circle and noticed my confusion. “Who were you just talking to? I was not a part of your world until I entered the circle. I did not exist and you heard nothing until just now. Do you understand?”
I just stared with a blank look on my face.
He chuckled at my expense. “Right now, you’re probably thinking ‘Why is he making me do this stupid exercise.’ Aren’t you?”
“I... don’t know what you expect me to do. What’s going on?” I asked.
He nodded and gestured to the edges of the circle. “I told you that this circle represents everything you are. Until I say otherwise, there is nothing outside of it.”
He crossed his arms confidently. “Clearly, you don’t believe what I just told you. You still believe that you are in a city, which is on a planet which is orbiting a star that makes up a galaxy.”
“Would you please just tell me what’s going on?” I demanded.
“What’s going on is that you are training to become a Jedi. For that to happen, you must clear your mind and thoughts of everything other than your training. That’s all that exists within your circle. Everything else is only a distraction.” He gestured to everything around us. “These buildings that cover the surface of the planet... how do they matter to you? The billions of people you do not know... why do you have them in the back of your mind?”
I hesitated to answer. “They don’t exist?”
He shook his head almost trying not laugh. “Alright... for a moment, there is no circle. There is an entire galaxy out there and you are but a small thread of its elaborate tapestry.” He stepped back and activated a holo generator that displayed a view of the night’s sky on the dome ceiling. The room went dark and it almost looked like I was staring through an open roof at a starry night.
He gestured to the walls. “Let’s start right here. Right now, Master Vash is in the Council chamber waiting for Master Zez Kae El, but he is late and rushing to meet her.” He got behind me and directed my attention to another blank wall and pointed like there was something to look at. “Now let’s look at the life of one person on this world. Beyond that wall is a professor of Geography taking public transportation because his speeder broke down yesterday.”
I smiled in amazement. “You can see all that?!”
His smile turned to one of pride. “Let’s stay focused here.” He pointed upward. “There are many wonders in the galaxy that would marvel you. Around many of those stars are civilizations, some simple... some you’ll never understand. Entire worlds filled with people like you or me. Trillions of lives as significant as yours. Do you have an idea just how massive the galaxy really is?”
I smiled, almost dazzled. “How small we are.”
“Yes.” He got in front of me. “Now let’s turn our focus to just one of these worlds...” On the ceiling, one of the stars were highlighted and then the display zoomed in to one of its planets. “This is Dianeb. There are many civilizations inhabiting this world, but one in particular, the Kazden are falling victim to genocide by a more powerful empire.”
“Yes. Millions have already perished and many more will be lost before the end.”
I didn’t know how to react. I really wasn’t shocked or anything, but I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t care. Although I knew it was millions who were being murdered, it was not something I would lose any sleep over. “Is there anything that can be done to save them?”
“This is not the act of any single person, but of entire nations. These two peoples have been in conflict for hundreds of years. Even if we were to provide aid, neither side would be content to simply coexist. If they were willing to work for a peaceful solution, we might be able to help, but the only resolution for either side would involve destroying or conquering the other.”
I looked down, very saddened. “Is there no other way?”
“There is no simple solution. It would require each side to abandon generations of hate and mistrust.” He deactivated the holo image and the room went dark for a moment before the lights were back on. Kavar got into the training circle again. “There is a moral to this story; this all began with a single act that occurred almost 600 years ago. A great Kazden king had been assassinated and they believed the Tupilov were the ones responsible.”
“But they weren’t?” I said almost factually.
He shook his head. “But they weren’t aware of it at the time and when the king’s son inherited the throne, he immediately declared war on the Tupilov. A few years later, it was made known that it was he who killed his own father. By the time the truth was discovered, war had already caused much destruction on both sides. That being known, the Kazden withdrew their forces and even provided the Tupilov with the resources they needed for their reconstruction. In addition, they handed over the one responsible for trial.”
“What went wrong?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Nothing. The Kazden went to great lengths to heal the wound that their leader had caused, but the Tupilov were still enraged that they had been attacked in the first place. Despite what they received from the Kazden, their anger did not die there. The Kazden believed the Tupilov were ungrateful for the retribution they were provided. It kept escalating as each side committed acts of violence in response to the other. The millions of deaths that have been caused since then were a result of a war that took place 600 years ago.”
I nodded in compliance, but didn’t know where he was going with this. The last thing I wanted to do was appear clueless in front of a master so early in my training. It was better to pretend like I understood than to not react one way or another. People liked being acknowledged, so I just went with the flow. The only problem there was when I had to demonstrate what I understood. He asked, “So Alexandra, what is the moral of this story?”
I was tripped up by that, but tried to come up with an answer. “People fight for the wrong reasons?”
“That’s part of it, but there’s an even broader issue I want you to consider. When the Tupilov were attacked, they became so obsessed with revenge that they retaliated and started a trend of anger and hate where every ill turn deserved another and another. For 600 years, their hostilities escalated and each retaliation caused another act of aggression. It creates a cycle of anger and hate that is self-perpetuated. The only way to disrupt that cycle is through peace.” Master Kavar got on a knee to be at eye level with me. “That is what it means to be a Jedi. It is up to us to disrupt that cycle, or it will continue indefinitely.”
I don’t know why, but I remembered that session with Master Kavar vividly. Although he was never my dedicated master, he had taught me on many occasions. Ever since he became a member of the High Council, he found it difficult to find time for teaching one-on-one. He did teach, but only for the most advanced lightsaber techniques. The more basic forms for sentinels and councilors were handled by other masters who weren’t as... talented as Kavar. Few other than guardians learn Sai cha, Velocities, or Lus-ma. I think that was one of the reasons I wanted to be a guardian, but abandoned it when I learned it wasn’t a prerequisite. In the end I never did take any of those classes, Master Kavar taught them to me directly.
Although he was never my Master, he sort of took me under his wing. Whenever he had time to spare, he and I often sparred, discussed history, and other things. At first, I was always the one listening as he lectured to me, but after a while, I began adding and discussing the subjects with him. As the years went by, I began thinking of him less as ‘master’ and more as a friend. I had wondered if and why that made any difference, but when he spoke to me like that, I understood what had changed.
Those words were like a slap in my face. It was almost as though he still thought of me as that child instead of an adult. “I think I am quite capable of choosing who I allow into my circle.”
“Well when I hear you speak like that, I don’t think I could call myself your friend if I remained silent.”
“I don’t think you could call yourself a friend to the Order when you remain silent in the Council chamber. Don’t tell me that you don’t have reservations for the Council’s choice.”
“This is not the time to start grandstanding. Either we all walk together, or together we must stay where we are. The last thing we need is a rogue Jedi further segregating the Order.”
I had to come up with something that would have demonstrated that I was right. “Do you remember that Gran who was on trial for mass-murder a few months ago?”
“How could I forget? It was deadlocked by his accusation of the captain. Why do you ask?”
I was about to bring up a very unusual situation when 300 people were killed when a hatch failed to seal properly. An entire compartment had been losing pressure long before the ship was in space. The Gran had noticed when the ship was only 5000 meters in altitude, but didn’t alert his captain because of a cultural conflict. Gran have a system where subordinates do not question their superiors, assuming they must have been the ones making the mistake. That could have been avoided had the captain taken the time to know the cultural differences of Gran from humans.
He claimed that he was waiting for his commanding officer to conclude a personal conversation with the first officer before he could bring anything to the captain’s attention. In his culture, it was standard for officers to take priority in accordance to rank. It was not recklessness, negligence, or a deliberate act, but a cultural discrepancy. I’ve often wondered what the verdict would have been, but one of the family of a victim had murdered the Gran before the trial began.
“You remember what he did and why he did it?”
He nodded. “He should have known enough to realize that if people’s lives were at risk, they take priority over anything else.”
I shook my head. “It was a cultural conflict that caused that accident. That Gran did not trust himself enough to believe anything was wrong. He assumed that if that compartment was losing pressure, the captain or first officer would have been aware of it. He trusted in them more than he did his own good judgment... and 300 people died because of it.”
He sighed as if tired of hearing me trying to persuade him to go against the Council’s judgment. “This isn’t like that at all. The Council members had proven themselves trustworthy many times and they haven’t let us down yet.”
I displayed a distressed expression. “There’s a first time for everything.”
He sighed again and turned away to leave. The Council had a session in a few minutes, so he was likely going there, but for the purpose of ending the conversation.
“Master, what does the Council intend to do? I think we all at least deserve an explanation.”
He turned back to face me before he was out the door. “I’m sworn to secrecy. I will not tell you any more than they have, so don’t ask again.”
“Revan has a solution for the Mandalorian threat. What does the Council have in mind?” I said sardonically.
He gave me a look that I’ve never seen before. It was almost like every gesture that could express anger was being displayed at once... everything except shouting. When I said that name, I didn’t know whether his rage was directed at me, or at Revan. Either way, I was afraid. For one so controlled as Kavar to be filled with such rage, I was afraid for my life when he closed the door. I actually had my left hand over one of the lightsabers.
It hadn’t felt that much fear since the time when I was on a ship and heard deafening emergency sirens suddenly go silent. It meant that whatever warning they were alerting us to had already happened. Kavar’s silence was much like that. When he finally spoke, his voice was so soft, yet it frightened me more than if he were shouting. “Don’t... say that. Don’t you say that.”
“Master, I’ve spoken to many others and only a quarter of all the Jedi support the Council’s decision. Half said they would follow the will of the Council. What they really meant was that they were either too reluctant to say it, or they would follow the Council... whatever they decide.”
His anger was turning to concern. “Stay out of this. For the love of god, don’t get involved.”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry Master. The Council has been given all the time they could afford. Action must be taken... now.”
“How can you [i]possibly[i/] think you can trust Revan more than the Council? How can you support someone who doesn’t obey orders?!” He shouted.
I kept a normal voice. “I’m trusting my own good judgment. In this case, I have more reason to believe Revan has a solution than the Council on this issue.” I held onto his shoulders. “Master, what do [i]you[i/] think should be done?”
He brushed me off and went for the door without looking back. I don’t know why, but when he just walked off like that, it was like he was too disgusted with that he couldn’t even look at me. I hated the feeling, but I needed to show him the reality of the situation. He was so afraid of making a mistake that he wouldn’t stand up to the Council. He should have known that it was better to make a mistake than to take no action. I only hoped that he would see that before it was too late.
Another great chaper Darth_Yuthura. i liked the way you left the chapter off. it really adds some suspense to the story
Alright, I'm in something of a deadlock right now. I would really like some advice from loyal readers. Right now, I have a number of potential outcomes that may come from this. I was thinking that either Revan and Malak would have something even more devious in mind than they admitted to Alexandra, or the Council will not go on with their plan... leading to them abandoning the Jedi(and their plan worked perfectly). This story is going to be more likely to have the Dark Revan as opposed to the Heroic Revan Kreia made him out to be.
For not spoiling anything else, I do have an idea behind the deception idea, but I could see either scenario work out. If there are any suggestions or ideas, I'm open to them because I really need to know where I should lead this from here. Thanks.
Hmmm...I will have to brainstorm my mind for ideas though.
Happy writing DY!
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