STAR WARS: KOTOR: ZERO-SUM GAME
Ten years after the JEDI EXILE defeated DARTH TRAYA upon Malachor V, no trace of the former Sith Triumvirate remains. The Republic has finally succeeded in reclaiming most of its losses after the war with DARTH MALAK. The JEDI ORDER has also rebuilt, with its main temple residing on Coruscant and the Exile's newly-trained "Lost Jedi" teaching hopeful recruits in an enclave on Dantooine. At long last, all seems well.
Chapter One: There is No Emotion; There is Peace
However, this is hardly the case. For where there is harmony, chaos always looms around the corner. Within the cloistered confines of the Jedi Temple, the Padawans of two long-standing Masters can no longer deny their feelings for one another. To make matters worse, their Masters, KIRAL and DOKAN, once good friends, are becoming bitter rivals. Who should be chosen as the rebuilt Order's first Grand Master? Both are excellent choices, and as is the way of the Force, the fate of one will influence the fate of the other.
In this zero-sum game, one person's gain is another's loss, and unfortunately, this will hold true for Masters and Padawans alike...
Could they see? Did they know?
Jedi are supposed to be able to read minds, but were our fellow classmates skilled enough in the use of the Force to be able to do so? I closed my eyes and silently prayed that this was not the case. Otherwise, a certain fellow Padawan and I might both be expelled from the Jedi Order! Valen and I were certainly running the risk of it. We had been friends ever since we were Younglings--or, at least, what one could call "friends" in the context of this life, and this Temple. One of the teachings of the Jedi is that they are not to form close attachments to other people or things. Doing so might cause one to value those people or things above one's responsibility to the galaxy. For generations, we Jedi had been keepers of the peace and guardians of justice. Attachments, our Masters taught, would only get in the way of our sacred duty. Beyond that, not much was said. It was simply a truth by which we Padawans had to live, accepted solely on faith.
The trouble was, I was having difficulty believing this, especially right now. In the abstract, the "big picture", there were the hundreds and thousands of star systems that we would swear to defend once we became Jedi Knights. In the concrete, however--meaning right next to me in the training room
--sat Valen Tveri, to whom my heart belonged. Which was more real? I am sorry to say that the vast expanses of the galaxy started to fade in my mind as I studied his intense stare and the firmly-set line of his jaw. Was it only a physical attraction? I didn't think so. As I said, Valen and I were close friends, and we'd gotten each other out of more scrapes than either one of us could count! However, lately I was beginning to feel something else when I thought of him. A deep sense of caring, yes, but it was more than that...
"Padawan Vala?" Master Dokan's voice suddenly jolted me back to reality.
"Yes, Master Dokan?" I could feel my classmates' stares boring down on me.
"Were you paying attention just now?"
"Of course, Master." My heart was fluttering in my chest. I'd just fibbed!
"Then would you mind answering my question? Of what was I speaking?"
Quickly, I retraced the most recent topics in my memory. We'd all been discussing the Jedi Code, and if I recalled correctly, we hadn't gotten very far. In fact, the class had only started fifteen minutes ago, so I took a guess:
"The first tenet of the Jedi Code is this: There is no emotion; there is peace."
I folded my hands in my lap and took a deep breath.
Master Dokan smiled, pleased. "Precisely. Would you mind telling us what that means? Or, rather, what it means to you as a Padawan?" He stepped back toward the holoprojector, as if I were going to stand in front of the class.
I didn't. I simply sat where I was, although speaking a bit louder. "I...I guess it means, at least to me, that if I get into a really complicated situation where I'm feeling a lot of emotions, I should slow down and take time to think about it rationally. Then I'll feel peace instead, where before I felt such turmoil." I blushed. That was such a stupid answer! What would Master Dokan think? He was one of the most learned scholars at the Temple.
He nodded thoughtfully. "Quite insightful, Padawan. I must admit you think fast on your feet, even when you're sitting down." I heard snickers nearby.
"Wait a minute," said another of my fellow classmates, standing up. "Aren't the Jedi supposed to purge themselves of all emotion? Aren't they supposed to feel only
harmony, and only
peace? If you detach yourself from passion, then you won't have to worry about taking time to analyze a situation. You'll simply see the big picture, and on that basis, you'll almost automatically know what to do." Sitting down, she added, "Of course, I'm not to that point yet, but someday I will be. Someday all of us will be, Master."
Master Dokan didn't say whether he agreed or disagreed with her. Instead he commented, "That is the common and traditional view of what this tenet teaches, although there are other interpretations. Padawan Tveri? What say you?" I gave a start as I realized he'd called upon the object of my attention.
Unlike me, who had been staring at him, Valen's
attention had been focused upon our instructor from the start. "The way I myself see it," he replied, "perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between. I've personally discovered that through meditation, I can distance myself from a chaotic situation and see the 'big picture', as Padawan Salras mentioned. However, no one is completely free of emotion, or can be. Look at you, Master. You're not a droid!" Several of the students laughed, including myself. "Would we be Jedi if we didn't feel the emotion of caring about the galaxy, and about justice?" I nodded. He made a good point. "None of us can do our duty with complete dispassion. However, that does mean we have a responsibility to do what Padawan Vala suggested: slow down and take time to think things through before we act." Was it my imagination, or did he wink at me?
"Padawan Tveri," replied Master Dokan, "I think you've discovered something."
Padawan Salras whispered, "Teacher's pet gizka!"
to someone nearby.
I shook my head. She was wrong. I was Master Dokan's Padawan, not Valen!
Clearly, there were more emotions flying around in her head than peaceful thoughts. Come to think of it, that was the case with me as well! Catching myself just in time, I let my shoulders sag as I exhaled slowly. Relax...!