Join Date: May 2008
Current Game: KOTOR III
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?”