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Old 08-29-2008, 08:55 PM   #1
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Dorozhka Obraztsa ("The Way of the Paragon")

(Author's Note: I accidentally mistranslated "way" in the title of my previous installment; this title has the Russian word I intended to use. If you haven't guessed, this is Part 16 of my "Vremya" series. Bon appetit!)

Rodion and I were at a crossroads: certainly not the first one in our relatively brief relationship, but very possibly the last. As he held me in his arms for what seemed the thousandth time, he whispered: "Tysyacha, I shall confess."

"You can't! Not when we must save the galaxy from both Bastila and the True Sith, if they exist! Rodya--how can you go to hard labor when both of us know the lives of billions are at stake? We can't just abandon them now because of some senseless mistake we made back at the very beginning of our journey. We didn't know those spies were spies, or Jedi spies at that! We only believed they were members of the Exchange, and hostile as well!" I started to feel a burning sensation in both of my cheeks. Was it fear, anger, shame, guilt, or a combination of all four? I couldn't tell. What I did know was that I would soon dissolve again. If I had the Rakatan artifact that Bastila carried in my own possession, I'd be sorely tempted to use it on him!

"The guilt--it's killing you, isn't it? I'd rather bear the chains of a convict than the fetters that squeeze the soul. I may not sound like a Mandalorian right now, but even we take full responsibility for when we kill without honor. I don't expect you to come with me or admit to what happened on Eriadu, and I won't mention your name when I tell Jolee. I shall only implicate myself. There is a choice that we both must make, and I've made mine. Will you stand with me, even if it means kneeling down before a judge for our crimes?"

"Wait," I said. "There may be a way we won't have to confess. We simply snatch the artifact away from Bastila and destroy it on the sly. Without that degenerate device for mind control, that slobbering drunkard is nothing! She won't hold any power over us, not anymore, and it will make no difference whether we murdered or not. Her plan will have failed, thanks to us!"

"Do you really think that will work?" asked Rodion, a strange and distant look in his eyes that were the color of volcanic glass. "I feel that something's not right when I look at her, and even though I don't use the Force or find myself sensitive to it, there's just something in my gut that turns them all to water." I nodded, and we slowly exited the starboard dormitory to find the former Jedi in question. Bastila was in the main hold, meditating upon her schemes, and when we broke the weighty silence she turned to stare coldly at us.

"What is it, murderers?" she sneered. "You both waste precious time."

"We challenge you to a duel," I spat, "and if we win against you, that dark Rakatan artifact is ours. You will no more control the sentients of this galaxy than you'll control the stars or planets. Defend yourself, Sith, or die trying!"

Bastila laughed, and my blood ran cold because it lacked any real mirth. It was full of triumph, hatred and deceit, making betrayal seem like a virtue. "I am afraid that I will do just that--die--if you fight me in a duel. You'll have to kill me to claim the artifact that I carry, because during one of my deepest meditations, I sliced open the flesh of my chest and buried the key to the galaxy's salvation within it. It's right next to my heart, if you wish to know. A medical droid, which I found in one of the storage compartments in medbay, helped me with the more complicated aspects of the surgery and sutured me.

"So, go ahead. Kill me. You won't even have to duel me for the pleasure! As for being Sith, they slay for the sake of darkness, while I serve the light. How will you explain it to Jolee, either a body lying cold on the floor of this ship or a sudden opening of the airlock in order to let the vacuum of space claim me? Mandalore is sleeping, and the old fool detective is practicing his meditations. Now's your chance. If you're smart, you'll take it; not that I expect you to. There is always the question of how many evil men that good ones must kill in order to achieve victory. In your case, the answer is one--or should I say, three?" That was enough. I lunged at Bastila in all-consuming fury, but my dear Rodion held me back. Only he was that strong, that fierce and steadfast.

"I'm confessing," said Rodion, "I won't be your pawn anymore. I shall stand!"

"You fool! Don't you know that you, Revan, and the Exile are the only other three who can possibly save this galaxy? Mandalore is old and weak, with the corroding implants in his mind propping up his shell of a body! As for Jolee, he's so blind he can't even see what is plain to anyone who wields the Force. If he were a proper Jedi, even a proper Jedi detective, he would have sniffed you both out like a kath hound the moment he met you! Now that I have all three of you in my service, there shall be no more Sith. No more war. No more death. No more chaos, selfishness, or hate. All shall be washed clean."

Bastila smiled again. "Kill me, Exile."

"I won't!" I cried. "Three wrongs don't make a right, much less two!"

"Ah! So you've finally decided to follow the way of the paragon? If you were a true bastion of light, you'd confess and go to your sentence with head held high. As it stands, you won't, so what sort of creature are you? Revan is in my power, but I'll leave it up to you to decide what you'll do. That way the blood of two Jedi spies, and the guilt for their deaths, will be on your hands, not mine. I shall not force you or Rodion to make a choice, for I require some paragons of my own. I need examples of sentients who follow me of their own...free...will." With dawning horror, I recoiled from Bastila and her words.

"Two days," said the man I'd almost spurned. "Then I confess to Jolee."

I stood next to Bastila, feeling the floor give way beneath my weary legs.

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Old 08-30-2008, 04:51 PM   #2
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Nice! Bastila is evil, and I hope that Tysyacha prevails. Great read Tysy, and I eagerly await more!

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