Join Date: May 2008
Current Game: KOTOR III
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.