Join Date: May 2008
Current Game: KOTOR III
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.