STAR WARS: KOTOR: ZERO-SUM GAME
Chapter Two: There is no Ignorance; There is Knowledge
Instead of holding our upcoming lecture outside in the Jedi Temple courtyard, as our Masters sometimes did when the weather was beautiful, I discovered that the session with K-4JO was to be held in one of the dim, drab auditoriums that were used for smaller audiences. If it would not have been for Valen's company during the hour-long presentation, I probably would have spent the entire time meditating in preparation for Master Kiral's class. I was well-prepared, but sparring took all of my energy, both mental and physical. Even though we Padawans were supposed to listen attentively in all of our courses and lectures, the ones led by archivist droids were ones that we often tuned out. Our bodies may have been present, but not our brains!
"It's too bad Padawan Salras isn't here," my best friend mentioned as we took our seats. "She would have been a welcome addition to this otherwise-dull presentation. Of course, something other than humor is on my mind right now..." For the briefest of moments, he squeezed my hand. Catching my breath for a moment, I squeezed back in the fraction of a second before he let it drop. Had anyone noticed? I didn't think so, because people were still coming into the auditorium, laughing and talking. What had we been doing? The exact same, until Valen saw his opportunity! We then both sat down. Taking a gigantic risk, we let our fingers intertwine as the lights dimmed...
With mincing, shuffling steps, the spindly form of K-4JO entered from a side door at the front of the auditorium and took his place at the holopodium. For those in the back who wouldn't be able to see very well, the archivist droid projected a three-dimensional image of himself onto several consoles. However, this proved to be entirely unnecessary. There were only twenty of us Padawans in the auditorium, and in the first and second rows, we could see quite clearly! K-4JO did not seem to notice this, however. As he cleared his metallic "throat", Valen and I started chuckling. Nerf-herder!
"Good afternoon, Padawans," announced the silver droid, checking one of the spotlights in the ceiling to verify that he was being properly illuminated. "Master Kiral has instructed me to deliver a lecture on the recent history of our Republic, including the conflict with Darth Malak and the Sith Triumvirate's defeat. However," K-4JO continued with an audible metallic whirr-rr-rrr
in the interior of his cranium, "I...I would much rather show you the latest new dance craze, popularized in several cantinas here on Coruscant. Here--I even uploaded the tune into my database. Let's go!"
Without another word, he launched into a set of choreographed moves that made all twenty of us erupt into glorious laughter! We watched the hapless droid bend his arms into all sorts of impossible angles, kick his cylindrical legs higher than his head (having no idea he could do that), whirl his cranium around a total of fifteen times, and finally collapse in a smoldering heap!
We gaped for ten full seconds, and then someone mumbled, "What in space? Who did that?!?" Whoever the culprit was, he or she would be counted a hero for saving us from a boring lecture--and breaking an annoying "tin can"!
My friend cleared his throat and beamed: "There is no ignorance; there is knowledge." Winking, he stood up and bowed. I was absolutely dumbfounded!
"Valen!" My cheeks flushed. As glad as I was that we wouldn't have to endure K-4JO and his pontificating, I was also mortified at the amount of trouble he'd run into if any of the Masters found out about his little prank. "I can't believe it was you. When did you find time to sabotage that droid, anyway?" Was I mad at him, or delighted? This may sound strange, but I was flooded by both emotions simultaneously. What an impossible conundrum!
"Right after lunch," he replied, "when I was supposed to be heading for the refreshers to take care of 'business'. However, I had no such need. Instead, I took an abrupt right turn into a nearby hallway, where K-4JO was wandering around looking for the Jedi Archives. He was clearly lost, and I told the doddering droid that I'd lead him there. It was an easy task to shut him down, upload the files and the modified 'lecture program', and then set our metal friend on a path for this auditorium. Being a future Jedi Sentinel has its perks, you know." Hacking into droids' encrypted systems was one of their specialties. I'd learned such a thing from Master Kiral.
"All hail Padawan Tveri!", someone else cried, and then we all cheered!
"Shh-shh-shh," came a female Padawan's abrupt hiss. "Someone's coming!"
We sat stock-still, not daring to breathe. Indeed, there were loud footsteps in the corridor. As quietly as he could muster, Valen sat back down again.
"What's going on in here?" asked a sharp voice. "Would someone care to enlighten me?" We froze. It was Master Kiral herself! "I should hope that the Padawans who were intended to be in my class aren't wasting precious time."
"Oh, no, no," I stammered, standing up and giving Valen's Master a quick salute. "We were just about to hear a fascinating lecture from K-4JO on our rebuilt Order and Republic, just like the lunchtime announcement said, but it seems as if he--it--whatever--had a sudden breakdown." I lowered my eyes. That wasn't exactly a lie, but it wasn't exactly the truth, either...
"Very well," Master Kiral replied, smiling. "I have just enough time to hear you give a quick presentation on that subject, Padawan Vala." As she took a seat in the auditorium next to one of the other Jedi hopefuls, my knees buckled. I was a fantastic public speaker, but on the spot? Immediately? There was no way I'd be able to regain my composure and give as much information as I was sure Master Kiral wanted to hear. However, if I told the truth--or tried to hide it some more--she would sense it, and Valen would be doomed!
I cleared my throat. "All right," I began. "The recent history of our Republic..."