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Old 07-19-2008, 08:44 PM   #1
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Vybory ("Choices")

(Author's Note: For those of you who have continued reading my "Vremya" series, this is the 12th part, and thank you for reviewing and enjoying it thus far. Things are about to get...long, and I hope you 'choose' to read it all!)

"Well," murmured Basta, squaring up her shoulders and brushing back a tendril of gray hair, "the sooner we start searching for Revan and any visible proof or artifacts of the True Sith, the better. We're not doing ourselves any good simply standing around here." The rest of us agreed, and so we moved out. Rodion, being the most physically powerful, took the lead, and I followed behind him. Basta and Jolee brought up the rear, and as for T3-M4, he was guarding the Ebon Hawk. On a remote planet like this one, it didn't pay to lose our ship, whether to storms, thieves, or predators looking for food.

"So, Tysyacha, where are we heading, exactly?" asked my partner. "I don't want this to be a case of 'the blind leading the blind.'" Funny--it felt like I'd been asked that question a thousand times before, and upon each occasion, I hadn't been able to come up with a satisfactory answer. Now, however, I'd stun everyone because "Rev", the Jedi Shadow Operative that we'd just met, had given me an idea. The Ancient Temple would be a good place to start.

"Let's track the Shadow," I said, "and follow him into the Temple of the Rakata. We won't exactly follow him, because I don't want him to think that we're encroaching upon his mission. We'll do our own exploring, and whatever we find, we'll keep for ourselves unless you want to share it with the Jedi."

"That's a plan," Jolee remarked at the end of our marching queue. "I don't exactly know if it would be wise to reveal what we find to the Shadow, but then again, he could help us. I'll leave that up to you to decide, Captain." Thus, we went on our way, careful to follow several paces behind the man in black. I wondered if he could sense us, even being as far away as we were. However, he never turned around, so I couldn't very well figure out an answer to that question. He just kept walking forward slowly, like a patrol droid or an assassin. What was Rev expecting to discover in these ruins?

For that matter, what were we expecting to discover?

The Ancient Temple of the Rakata was not a place that would be featured in any Lehonian tourist guides. After several years of wind, weather, and sand polishing and eroding its walls, it was nothing more than a decaying set of ruins. However, that did not deter us, and we slipped inside without much difficulty. Whatever security barriers and hidden traps there had been to protect this Temple and its secrets were long since deactivated or tripped. As we took a preliminary look about the interior, we didn't see much of anything besides rubble, a few broken droids, and crumbling pieces of wall.

"Are we wasting our time?" asked Jolee. "It wouldn't surprise me if we were."

"Shhhh!" I reprimanded, suddenly trembling all over. "Quiet! The Jedi Shadow might hear us." Taking more cautious steps, we started to survey the intact rooms on the inside of the Temple. We found some old Dark Jedi and Sith Robes, severely eaten by moths, and a few defunct shields and weapon parts. So far, we were coming up empty-handed. Was "Rev"?

"Let's go," mumbled Jolee, more covertly this time. "This is rather pointless."

Hisssss. I heard (and felt) a soft vibration from a red, pyramidal object that I always carried with me in the folds of my Zeishon Sha Initiate Robe nowadays. A certain holocron was demanding my attention, so I'd pay it...

"Kreia?" I whispered, barely loudly enough for my own ears to hear. "What is it?" I felt hot drops of sweat beginning to slide their way down my armpits.

Don't let that fool fool you, replied the holocron. There's something here, something that the Jedi Shadow is desperate to find. Not only to reveal the location of Darth Revan or the True Sith, mind you, but the location of the secret upon which the course of galactic history turns. He is looking for evidence of a great weapon, one more powerful than the Star Forge could ever be. That Dark Side artifact sought to control the galaxy via means of metal and machinery, completely ignoring the greatest weapon of all. You must find it before he does, and before someone else does as well...

I didn't understand, but I trusted Kreia, even though she had betrayed me before. She was one with the Force now, or at least one with this holocron, and I knew that she wanted to help me. It was her only way back, her only hope of eternal peace and rest. For now, I suspected, she was in a sort of purgatory, a lifeless existence with only the fragments of her mind and voice to guide both of us. I hastily slipped the holocron back into my robe pocket.

"Let's split up," Basta suggested suddenly, "since this will be a much briefer expedition than if we stay and search every room, storage locker, and pile of debris together. Rodion--you and Tysyacha continue searching while heading up toward the Temple Summit. Jolee, since both you and I have been to that place before, we know there's nothing...worthwhile up there. We'll extend our search down here, and even through the catacombs on the lowest level. We don't want to miss anything, and what's seeing a few skeletons compared to what we could, and must, find if there's anything to find?" We nodded.

Even though we followed Basta's instructions and redirected our search toward the upper floors of the Temple and the Summit, we still didn't find anything of real worth. Sure, there were obsolete weapons, non-functioning Rakata computer terminals, and even lightsaber crystals lying around, but so far we found nothing that seemed like what Kreia had been talking about. What was so special about this place, if anything at all? Had it only been a wild whim of mine to think of even exploring it? Yet, if Kreia was right...

"Tysyacha?" asked Rodion, almost making me jump out of my skin. "Sorry--I didn't mean to scare you! Do you know where the Jedi Shadow might be? Have you sensed him--through the Force, at any time lately?" I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders. "Hmm. Also, what was Basta talking about when she said that she and Jolee had both been up to the Temple Summit before?" I shook my head again, because Basta hadn't told me much of anything about how (or if) she knew Jolee Bindo, or if they had a history. We both pressed on, straining our eyes to see anything remotely Sith-like.

No luck. We reached the summit of the Ancient Temple, relieved and glad to feel a fresh, cool breeze caress our faces. Our glee was short-lived, however.
"Hello," said a soft voice. "I've been waiting to talk to both of you up here."

"Basta?" I couldn't believe it. "Why aren't you with Jolee, and where is he?"

"He's still scrounging through the catacombs like I told him to, saying that I needed to use the primitive facilities here in this Temple for toileting. That, however, was one of the 'expedient fibs' I so recently told you about."

"It's time you told us everything," replied Rodion, his voice hard and icy.

"Very well." Basta closed her eyes. "Before I was a drunkard, I was a Jedi, as you well know, having even fought the Sith at the former Darth Revan's side. During my travels with him and several others, I learned just how depraved and selfish every sentient creature is. Even droids, if they are not properly repaired and memory-wiped, can exhibit remarkably cruel and ruthless behavior in order to try and preserve themselves. We are an incorrigible and near-irredeemable lot, violent and predatory, caring only about our individual survival as opposed to that of the group, or the galaxy. I am here to change that, and if you are wise, you will both help me."

"How?" I was confused. "Why are you doing this, Basta? I don't understand."

"Long ago, there was a race of beings--the Rakata, as a matter of fact, who ruled over an Infinite Empire. Both have since died out and become extinct, but many of their artifacts and the things that they built still exist. There is one particular object, a prototype of the earliest holocron, which I currently carry in my possession. I found it in the Temple here, in the catacombs before Jolee could, and instantly knew what it was. I didn't complete several thousands of hours of research in the Jedi Archives for nothing. This holocron prototype facilitates full obedience through mental conditioning, eventually programming the minds of slaves--or free men--to do their masters' bidding."

"Mind control," Rodion scowled. "You're no better than the Sith. Why should we assist you, and what do you hope to accomplish through this scheme?"

"I will teach us all to be selfless, compassionate and pure, forsaking all our desires for those of our fellow man. I will make sure we have no urging to kill, to make war, to use the bodies of sentients for our own depraved pleasure. With this device at my disposal, I shall be a beacon of light in this galaxy full of darkness. There is no 'middle ground' here; you're either with me or against me. As for why you should help me, the answer is simple: you are murderers, both of you. If you refuse this offer, I shall turn you in to Jolee and the Jedi authorities whom he serves. You'll serve at least eight years at hard labor. If you accept, however, you will get to see the dawn of a new era, a new age!"

Rodion gently turned me to face him. "We confess, and serve our time."

"No." I shook my head. "We pretend to go along with this plan, which will surely fail because it's senseless, and then we beat Basta at her own game."

"What if it succeeds? Basta is no fool. She knows the power of the artifact, and it would be better if we surrendered to Jolee and the justice of civil law."

"Would you rather spend eight to twenty years breaking rocks or scrubbing the steps of a galactic prison, or continue to find ways to defeat Basta and the True Sith, if they indeed exist?" I smiled haughtily. "Let reason prevail."

"At least the steps--and my conscience--would be washed clean." Rodion's dark eyes were bottomless pits of sorrow. "Come, Tysyacha. Even if we did conquer over Basta and her plans for mind control and galactic domination, for that's what they are even if she cares not to call them that, could you live with the guilt that you're hiding in your heart? You'd be a hypocrite."

"There are worse things to be called than a hypocrite," I told him, "and one of them is a coward. You know that, as a Mandalorian! How can we stand by and do nothing--have ourselves shipped off to some penal colony over a crime that we both honestly believed was committed in self-defense--when Basta is plotting everyone's eventual demise? The death of their freedom and free will? We should forget about confessing and adhere to our original plan."

"You're going to have to make a choice," said Basta, "and I haven't got all day. I can hear Jolee coming--he's wondering where in the world I've gone. I can also hear the Shadow rummaging around like a gizka with its head cut off in the chambers down below. Both of you had better make a final decision."

"Kill her!" I cried. "Rodion, you rush her now, and I'll follow with my lightsaber."

"Murder again?!" He couldn't believe it. "Two wrongs will never make a right. Besides, what would we tell Jolee and the Shadow if he finds us? Basta's not attacking right now--and neither had the Jedi spies been in the Exchange. If we strike first, we lose, and we can't do that while the stakes are this high."

I whirled at Basta. "What about Revan?" I hissed. "About the True Sith?!"

"Rev is Revan, you fools!" growled the former middle-aged barfly. "He just doesn't want to inform us of that fact. As for the True Sith, they are all of us, for the Dark Side lies within all of us. Join me, or join the exiles sent to penal colonies all over the galaxy. Choose, or I'll have to choose for you."

"We yield!" I cried. "At least for now. Know that eventually, we'll beat you."

Basta embraced us both, rather warmly for being so wicked. "No, you won't."

Suddenly, Jolee sprinted up the steps of the Temple Summit. "There you are!" he cried. "What the hell is going on, Basta? Are you done using the facilities?"

"That I am," she answered, her voice back to its normal, slightly arrogant tone. "I'm sorry for wandering off, but they were rather hard to locate. As for the rest of this temple, there's nothing here. The Captain's idea was a bad one. Let's find the Shadow and leave this place--I sense a storm coming."

Jolee snorted. "All right, if that's what you want. What about the Shadow?"

"Let's take him with us," she suggested, smiling. "He might well prove useful."

I wanted to scream out, "Basta is a traitor! She wants to use a Rakatan artifact to control people's minds and thus control the whole galaxy! Fight her! Fight her now! According to Basta, we are all the True Sith!"

Yet I didn't, speaking of cowardice, and we all did what we said we would do. We found Rev, the Jedi Shadow Operative, who had also found nothing (of course), and he agreed to join us on our mission to find Revan and the True Sith. None of the others knew what had just happened upon the Temple Summit, or the dark bargain to which Rodion and I had desperately agreed...
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Old 07-20-2008, 01:26 AM   #2
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Wow. I feel important.

Nice addition Tysyacha! It is a very entertaining, suspenseful story, and I look forward to more.

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