Join Date: Nov 2008
THE OLD REPUBLIC: QUEEN OF HEARTS - Chapter 3
Once again, Cain was brooding at his desk. The Jedi were supposed to uphold justice and peace, yet there was none of either to be seen here. That woman, Sith or not, had sought sanctuary and instead, a neural disruptor had been clamped around her neck, and Cain was fairly sure that she had been left in solitary confinement. Half-sedated by a fancy collar and left in a cell; a pretty poor excuse for sanctuary. Was that what she had really wanted, though? It seemed like undeniable truth when she herself said it, but now that she was gone, Cain had his doubts.
Admittedly small doubts, but ones that were certainly persistent. Cain's initial suspicion was that the Sith had some form of assault planned, but there would be no logic to this - she was not only weaker in the Force than any Jedi he had known, but she came utterly alone, and she must have expected the Jedi to be untrustworthy and dogmatic in their approach when offering the 'redemption' she claimed to be seeking. So, unless she was carrying several thermal detonators on her person, then there was little chance of her devastating the Temple. She even gave up her weapon and revealed her allegiance upon entry, which was hardly a sound tactical move if she was planning an assault.
Thus, Cain could not see any validity to his small suspicions, and therefore believed that there were none to be had. There was a woman being kept prisoner for unjustifiable reasons, and it was his duty to demand this situation be resolved...with permission, of course. Cain was hasty but not idiotic, he was not about to gallantly storm the cells and break this Sith out, for that way ended in being stabbed or thrown in solitary confinement himself. No, Cain was going to very politely request her release, and that required a visit to Master Nahila.
Cain did not dislike Nahila on a personal level, but there was certainly a strong amount of resentment that he directed towards her. She represented many of the reasons that Cain worked a desk instead of cutting through swaths of enemies on unknown battlefields. Therefore it was not Nahila that Cain felt contempt towards but rather what she seemed to stand for so rigidly, and this was only reinforced by her treatment of the female Sith he had come to admire.
A few minutes later Cain found himself brooding at someone else's desk, the main counter in the entrance to the administrative wing of the temple.
"What? No, no I don't have an appointment - why do I even need one? She's a Jedi Master, not a politician, can you please inform Master Nahila that I need to see her?"
A look crossed the young Jedi's face that suggested he was about to recite a line he must say at least a dozen times a day. "I will but without an appointment you aren't likely to get in to see her, she is currently conferring with a Senator."
"So I have to wait for her to recover from a senator-induced coma as well? Could you possibly make me an appointment? For tomorrow?"
"Hmm...Yes, I do believe there's a five minute gap tomorrow morning, is that acceptable?"
"No, acceptable would have been me seeing her within the next hour, but tomorrow morning is at least an outcome that doesn't involve me drawing my lightsaber. I'll be back tomorrow morning."
The walk down to the holding cells was a silent one, which was fine with Ketan. The lightsaber felt heavy in his robes, a reminder of the past. Beside him, Corev had a slight smile on his face. What about, he didn't really know. He could see no reason to smile, he never had good news in this place and he wasn't going to bet it would change. After a brief word to the Jedi guard, they passed through the doorway into the chill confines of the high security section.
The halls were spotless but still held an eerie weight to them, as if the air stood still, waiting for events to unfold. The pair walked towards the cell area and had another short conversation with the Jedi guard. He felt a bit off. Something was different. He reached out through the Force but found nothing.
He continued down to his charge's holding cell. The bright field made a shimmering haze over the woman but that did little to change her beauty. He almost allowed himself to wander in that thought for a second. Almost. No words said and this was already more than he needed now.
"Sith. You have stated that you wish to return to the Light side of the Force. What can you say to make me believe that your word is truth?"
"Nothing." A simple statement.
He blinked. "You must have thought through your actions before coming here. Don't you have any idea how to prove this to us?"
"No, I don't. Do you?" Again, clear, direct words that gave him nothing. This was almost getting annoying.
"You honestly thought it would be a good idea to walk into the temple with no proof of your motives?" He couldn't quite keep the edge out of his voice.
"What proof could I bring?" was her calm retort.
"True." He had nothing with which to counter her answers. He paused for a moment. "You could inform us on how you achieved your position?"
"How I achieved my position? My biography?" she asked.
Corev quietly stepped into the conversation "Not an entire biography, merely how you inspired such devotion in your followers."
The Sith laughed softly. "Merely? And what if I don't know?" She had to be lying or at least toying with them. They were getting nowhere.
"That would be quite a thing not to know." Corev's voice was as relaxed and neutral as hers.
She looked at him with interest. "I see you are a soldier, and officer, yes? Tell me, do you know why it is your soldiers follow you?"
"My soldiers follow me because they are told to. For the ones who follow me because it is their choice, probably because they feel I deserve their loyalty."
"Ah, well, I suppose the ones that follow me do so because they feel I deserve their loyalty." She was messing with them.
"That is an awful lot of Sith following you because they think you deserve their loyalty. What did you do to inspire their loyalty? I fight well and give commands, what have you done?"
"I command well and give them fights,” the Sith replied.
Corev studied her for a moment, one eyebrow raised. “According to the records you haven't fought many battles. It takes more then just a couple for that to happen." He'd caught her in...something. Not a lie, really. And error perhaps? A chip in the mirror that was her conversation.
She was leading them in circles, Ketan was sure of it. He would have to be a bit more direct. "What is it that makes you want to go to the Light? You have followers and wealth it seems. What to you seek to achieve?" Ketan was looking for any lead at this point, some return on the value of the time he was wasting.
"I find that I do not agree with the Sith philosophy. It is ultimately self-defeating. They cannot work together and so, though they may conquer the galaxy, they will never rule it." Well, he'd gotten three whole sentences out of her that time.
"Wouldn't the logical conclusion be to create your own philosophy?" Hopefully, this would provoke some further useful response.
"I never had a philosophy to begin with." The woman sidestepped his question again. This was so frustrating. How could she be truthful in her desire to turn to the Light side when she deflected every reasonable question?
An irritatite edge, a pleading note crept into his voice. "Help me help you. Give me something to work with longer than these five-word statements. What made you join the Sith?"
She gave him a sad smile. "Because the Sith have shown me the only kindness I have ever known.”
The statement startled him with the realization that this, at least, was the truth. What could one say after hearing something like that?
Ketan walked out back into the lobby leaving Corev to his own volition. He needed a plan to deal with this situation. He sat down in one of the chairs. They were really here for show. No one ever actually waited on their type of prisoners. He needed to get her out of her element, surprise her so he could get something to work with, but they did not know her powers or reasons. But anything he did would have some risk, big or small. He allowed himself to fall back into the past that always waited at the back of his mind. Learn from it, as he said he had. He had an idea, a risky one, but as he said, there was always some chance. He grew adamant in his idea.
He was going to have a new Padawan, and that new Padawan would be her, whether she liked it or not.
Corev sat against the wall with his eyes closed. He did that a lot, meditating when he was alone to center himself. This time he needed it.
After leaving Nahila's office, Ketan and Corev had walked down to see the Sith who was now in their care. They spoke little during the walk down and Corev was fine with that. He still had a slight smile on his face as he followed behind Ketan. Nahila at her best, the way she maneuvered every conversation towards her own purposes – he couldn't help but admire her skill and enjoy her performance.
They arrived at the section of the temple where the woman was held, and checked in with the guard, and found her in a cell behind the glowing barrier. She had changed somehow. She was still beautiful but less compelling than she had been when he first saw her. She no longer felt weird to him, her odd vibration in the Force had faded. He found the source of that when he looked at her neck. The collar. Nahila was taking no chances. Very wise.
For most of the ensuing conversation, Corev leaned against a wall across from her cell, listening to the Jedi Master and the Sith have their "conversation". Her answer to Ketan's first question surprised them both. She was calm and collected, more like a Jedi then a Sith, but the way in which she answered her questions could be Sith or a Jedi, depending on her intentions.
Ketan had kept his cool and kept asking questions, trying to get something out of her but she managed to avoid giving away her intentions. What shocked Corev the most was that she insisted that she didn't know why she had so many followers or why they were so loyal to her. She said it was just like soldiers following him in the Republic, but he knew that wasn't true. Having fought no battles against other Sith or even Jedi, it wasn't possible for her to gain the loyalty of so many people in that fashion, even ordinary people, and the Sith were not known for their loyalty. She was weak in the Force, passive in manner, even slow and deliberate in her movements. It was hard to imagine the Sith tolerating her, much less following her.
Then she had added one more mystery. "The Sith have shown me the only kindness I have ever known." What could have possibly happened to her to make that true, Corev couldn't imagine, but he didn't doubt the truth of what she said. He didn't doubt that at all.
"You have five minutes."
"Nahila, now...please. " Cain asked, as nicely as he could, of the Jedi/Receptionist/Fool. He had slowly watched the hours pass until the morning, and the young Jedi working the front desk seemed to somehow become more anally retentive each time Cain spoke to him.
"Yes, she is expecting you, but as I said, you have five minutes...Master Nahila is exceptionally busy as her position demands, and you must not exceed these allocated minutes."
"You know, I'm sure you wouldn't be working this desk if you weren't so...absolutely and utterly damn annoying!" Cain finished, before striding off, with sufficient drama, towards Nahila's office.
Cain took being expected to mean already invited, and felt no need to knock or request entry. On a roll when it came to the melodrama, Cain entered Nahila's office with poorly concealed self-satisfaction, and spoke more to the room he was invading rather than the person he had yet to spot.
"Master, I request that the female prisoner be released...Master Nahila?"
The room appeared to be empty, meaning that Cain's entrance was not only spoilt but wasted, which was then coupled with embarrassment as Nahila's voice traveled towards the back of his head - Cain had not only foregone formality but faced the wrong direction as he did so.
"It is common courtesy to knock before you enter, Jedi Cain."
Cain's cheeks reddened ever so slightly as he turned to Master Nahila, who was just closing the refresher door behind her. He decided to ingore his evident mistake (or rather, mistakes) and repeated himself.
"Master Nahila, I would liked to request that Erzabet be released."
Nahila raised an eyebrow, whether in intrigue or amusement Cain could not tell, before she replied,
"And why would you like to have her released?"
Clearing his throat, Cain began, "A woman seeking sanctuary entered those doors. Sith or not, she identified herself, knowing the prejudice she would face, and gave up her only weapon without hesitation."
He concentrated for a moment. If he could not eloquently make this point, then he was wasting his time. "She requests the chance for redemption, and instead a neural disruptor is clamped around her neck, and she is left in a cell - a deceptively comfortable cell, but still a prison. She has no weapons, no apparent means of communication with any Sith force waiting to strike, and the neural disruptor, even on a low setting, will be inhibiting any use of the Force she could muster. There is no possible way she could be planning an assault. She is here of her own free will, why steal this privilege she entered with?"
"Privilege? I'm not sure what you are getting at there, but the best-laid trap is the one that appears to carry no risk. Perhaps she is what you say. But perhaps she is a very, very clever trap. The fact that she has amassed such a following despite her apparent weakness gives us ample reason to believe that she is not merely what she seems. And her followers in the Sith are still waiting for her to return to them. If they believe she's coming back, I'm inclined to agree with them."
A notable amount of contempt began to enter Cain's voice as he replied, "I am referring, Master, to the privilege of free choice - her free choice to enter here, her choice to surrender, her choice to seek redemption. What choice does she have now? The only thing she didn't give up at the door was taken from her with that neural disruptor - she came in here of her own volition, and now that free will has been removed. What possible trap could she be? Unless the Republic has noticed a Sith fleet orbiting the planet, then I fail to see the threat she poses. Following or not, she chose to come here, and if she were to flee back to the Sith, then I would not blame her, with the treatment she has received from those that represent the 'Light' side of the Force. This is not precautionary, Master Nahila, it is cruelty."
Cain involuntarily winced as Nahila sighed in a way that seemed both irritated yet kind, although to Cain it showed how little an effect his words were having. "Again, it is in the nature of a trap to appear as something other than a trap. Surely, if she comes to us with as much goodwill as you believe, she will sympathize with our need for a bit of caution. And really, Cain, how is it that this woman has so captured your...imagination? After such a brief encounter? How did you come to such an understanding of her feelings and motives in such as short time? Finally, consider this: her confinement is as much for her safety as it is for ours."
This was growing futile. Cain was getting ready to give up, and, for the sake of the courtesy he failed to show on the way in, Cain responded only to avoid being rude.
"What trap a weaponless, powerless, debilitated woman could utilize is beyond me, and I doubt she really sympathizes with any kind of person that clamps neural disruptors around the necks of harmless individuals. I do not claim to know her feelings - for all I know she is in fact plotting to bring down this temple - but if she is she must be incredibly stupid, as how she plans an assault on a Jedi Temple with no weapons, no fleet, and no power is beyond me. Unless you know something I do not, then there is no way you can believe her to be capable of destroying this place, either. She is confined not because of any threat, because she is no threat to this Temple unless she has 20 thermal detonators stashed somewhere, or upon entry you failed to have her searched for any means of communication with the Sith. The truth is you would rather she suffer the neural disruptor than any Master be inconvenienced with redeeming something as 'disgusting' as a Sith."
Cain certainly expected, may have even hoped that Nahila would snap at him, but if anything, her tone became even more gentle and understanding. Condescendingly so.
"As you said, for all you know, she is plotting to bring down the temple, and a great deal more besides. If she is, rather than being very stupid, she may in fact be exceedingly smart, and very skilled. It is possible, you know, to conceal one's Force sensitivity, and she may have come armed with something much more powerful than detonators. She may have come armed with ideas. The Jedi are fractured. We are at war with each other. Someone skillful in spreading dissent could be much more dangerous to us now than any orbiting fleet. And the truth is, a Master has been 'inconvenienced' with redeeming her. His name is Master Ketan, and if you are so concerned with her acceptance and well-being, I suggest you talk to him."
"Fine, from one Master to another, then. I'm tired of waiting, however. By the time I get to someone who will listen to me, she'll have conveniently 'disappeared'."
"Your five minutes are up, Jedi."
"...I hate this place."
The Escapist QoH Crew:
mshcherbatskaya (Erzabet and Nahila) – story creator and executive director in charge of making people re-write their stuff because she's the boss and she can
Tsurugi (Corev) – assistant director in charge of making us realize that this thing is getting really long and also kind of awesome
Qayin (Cain) – assistant director in charge of Emo
Flanked (Ketan) – assistant director in charge of flaking out on his writing responsibilities