(Mood Music: "Heavy Fuel" by Dire Straits http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVT8t0oHdWY)
"Of course you were no Jedi. No Jedi would wish to behave as you do."
Again, Atris was right, but her words contained just enough of a half-truth to make them wrong. Of course no Jedi would wish to let the rush of hot-blooded vitality that comes with cutting down their enemies consume them. Of course no Jedi would wish to become a slave to bloodlust and violence, which is exactly what I became during the Mandalorian Wars. Of course no Jedi would willingly extinguish millions of lives in the blink of an eye.
But would a Jedi, knowing billions were already dying, refuse to try to save them?
Vreya had been more than wise in convincing me to face my fears directly:
"Something's not right. We need to seek Lord Revan once again, because if we don't, then more than just the two of us are going to wind up dead. He has a plan. If we remain content to be kept in the dark, we're finished."
If it happens twice, most dismiss it as coincidence. Be mindful.
"Are you questioning my decisions, General? Lieutenant General?"
"With all due respect, sir, we are. Vreya and I need to know our next move, because it seems to me that you're not telling us everything about our squadron's covert operation here on Dxun. What, exactly, do we hope to accomplish by turning the entire planet into an irradiated wasteland? Not only is it counterproductive, but counter-intuitive as well. If we destroy Dxun, the whole galaxy will know about it, and then we'll
be seen as the enemy, not the Mandalorians. If we're going to win this war, we need our honor."
"Honor isn't what will win this war, General. Neither will scruples, ethics, or so-called 'morals'. The Mandalorians claim that they fight for honor, the glory of battle, when all they're really after is another set of skulls and lightsabers to add to their collection. They'll stop at nothing to defeat us, and I'll have you remember that. Dxun is nothing but a planet-wide mass of jungle, and the only things you'll be killing are predators. Move out, or I strip you of rank."
We moved out, and I felt the most incredible sense of deja-vu. When had I heard that all I'd be killing were predators--or, more namely, monsters?
If it happens twice, it's a chance to correct a mistake--or compound it.
Vreya and I, along with an official strike team of two more Jedi, headed out into the dense canopy of lush foliage, searching for a lookout tower that would serve as our base of operations--and hiding place--for the detonation. Master demolitionists under Lord Revan's command had entombed a nuclear warhead inside the remains of a downed space vessel, with enough power to destroy all plant and animal life on Dxun for at least the next hundred years. Our hideout, which seemed to be a defunct communications tower, had been specially constructed of a nigh-indestructible alloy: lead, beskar,
and transparisteel. No amount of radiation would penetrate its walls or windows.
"Are you ready?" asked Vreya. She cradled the detonator in her palm gently.
I shook my head. "Not yet. We must wait for Lord Revan's signal."
"You have not changed. Acting instead of thinking..."
Impulsively, I flipped my comm to the dial I knew would bring my Master's voice into life within the confines of the tower. Perhaps some vestige of the communications frequencies were still active, because we heard him speak:
"...yes, I realize that not even the Mandalorians would be so foolish as to destroy their own base camp, not to mention the vast majority of the planet! However, we'll tell the Republic that they themselves had built the warhead, intending to detonate it on a world far more strategic to the outcome of this conflict, but something went awry and they had a little...accident. We'll say it was a double victory, for not only did we defeat our enemies, but our enemies committed mass suicide due to their own carelessness! Morale is failing right now, because the Mandalorians are stronger than any of us had originally believed them to be. We need this, Demolitionist. Don't falter..."
I turned to Vreya.
"We can't do this," I said. "War is war, but this isn't war. This is murder."
"I agree," she said, "but if we disobey our Master, we could die afterward."
"I made a mistake," I told her, trying to hold back tears that were surfacing.
"Believing that Lord Revan was different from, and better than, our foes."
Vreya put her hand on mine, and I switched off the detonator with a click.
We returned to him, and all he said was, Betray me again at your peril.
Apprentice, you could die, and yet still live, if it happens twice.