SW: TOR: SUSPICIONS/THE PERFECT GAME
Part Six of an Old Republic Tale by MsFicwriter
(Author's Note: I couldn't decide which title applied more...)
JEDI TEMPLE, TYTHON, FIVE DAYS AFTER THE DUEL
It's strange how such a paltry thing as my "sparring match" against Tamara could have such painful repercussions! She was still avoiding me, although more because of fear than resentment. I took extra pains to stay out of her way, too, for a slightly different reason. I wasn't afraid that Tamara would try to bully or demean me anymore, yet it was hard to try and look into her anxious eyes. The once-bold and almost haughty young girl had become withdrawn, shrunken back into an inner shell. She dared not say a word to anyone, much less me. I wondered how Master Karos was treating Tamara now, though I didn't ask either my fellow student or her teacher. We Jedi tried to help one another and cooperate whenever we could. This was a critical part of our teachings. However, when it came to the relationships between other Masters and Padawans, there was an unspoken rule that we were to keep our opinions to ourselves. Thus, I tried to ignore my unease.
Trust your feelings, but do not surrender to them,
Master Yun had warned me. Remember our Code: There is no emotion; there is peace.
What helped to distract me--although not entirely--was the prospect of another expedition into the treacherous crystal cavern I'd explored five days ago. Upon further analysis, the samples of Force-sensitive gems that the Jedi Temple's specimen-collecting droids had brought back were proven to be filled with the colorless yet poisonous vapor. Even though Master Yun and I had both suspected this, it was good to know that we now had hard proof of what we feared. Yun then suggested that the Jedi send a full squad to investigate, instead of a lone Padawan (and her unlikely Trandoshan companion). This team would venture into the cave for only as long as it took to find the tunnel that led to its greatest depths, so as not to disturb the kognath too much.
be involved, anyway? When I asked Master Yun, he smiled.
"Certainly you and I, Padawan," he replied with a wink. "Also, one of our foremost experts on kognath, Warden Elindra, who serves the Jedi even though she is not sensitive to the Force. We need two more people along, however, as we might run into more than we can handle. Who knows what's down there in the crystal cave, where the gas is probably coming from? As a precaution, we'll wear breath masks, although--what if it penetrates them?"
"Then we'll heal ourselves if we can." I raised an eyebrow. "Master? What about taking Qyzen Fess along? He certainly proved helpful last time."
"No. He tried to slaughter the kognath in reverence to his deity, not help them or spare their lives. I know you've been visiting him in medbay quite often, but he's not coming. We don't want to cause any more damage in that cave than we absolutely have to. Jedi respect all creatures." Yun squared his shoulders. "Plus, his forearm's not fully healed. It would be unwise to invite him."
"Of course." Concealing my disappointment, I continued, "And Tamara?"
His eyes flashed. "Under no circumstances should she come."
"Why not?" My heart lurched. "I mean no disrespect, Master, but I believe that Tamara's been yearning for a way to redeem herself in the Order's eyes. This could be her chance. If she assists us in locating the source of this poison gas, and anything or anyone else that's dangerous in the cave, then perhaps that would restore her good standing--or a better one--with us."
"Or she could become infected." A brief pause. "More infected, I mean."
"You're hesitating." I stepped forward. "You want to help her, don't you?"
"Yes, but she's not my Padawan. Tamara is being taught by Master Karos, and whatever she says goes in Tamara's case. I cannot interfere here, or at least I shouldn't. Also, since her student has been directly affected by the harmful power of these crystals, Master Karos says she wants to choose the other members of our expedition team." Again, he paused. "Problematic."
"She's...letting her frustration cloud her judgment. After all, she's not the most skilled at selecting the right people for the right missions. However, I see her point, and so I'm letting her have her way. Who knows? Maybe one of the two Jedi she assigns to this expedition will find the root cause of these crystals' corruption. I hope it's not a Sith in hiding..." He trailed off.
I sighed. "Me, too. However, certain caves can be natural repositories of the Light or Dark Side, especially if they contain Force-sensitive rock formations."
"True." Master Yun folded his hands in front of him. "Maybe that's the case." After thinking for a few more minutes, he turned to me and said, "One moment. I'll be back after talking to Master Karos to see whom she's picked. You're dismissed, but be ready if I ask for you later." I nodded firmly. My next stop would be everyone's least-favorite room in the entire Temple, one that smelled of kolto and disinfectant. I had to tell Qyzen what we'd discussed.
"That's no ssurprise,"
I heard him hiss when I told him what Master Yun had said about his not coming on the expedition. "I am not completely well, although I would have liked to see what other dangers--and what other kognath--that cavern held. However, something else surprises me..."
"What is it?" I had the feeling that I wasn't going to like what I heard.
Qyzen stood up from the firm cot on which he'd been sitting. "Walk with me."
Hesitantly, I followed him into the rolling meadows outside the Temple. I was startled when he led me to the fountain near which I'd first met him, in the Groves of Reflection. He bade me sit down with a wave of his scaly right hand, and I did so. He curled into a cross-legged position across from me.
"Jedi are supposed to be honest, yes?"
he asked. "Fully truthful?"
"As truthful as they can be," I responded, though I felt a twinge of fear.
"Then why do they keep so many sssecrets?"
I blinked. "Do you speak of Jedi Archives? They contain all the knowledge of our Order, and some teachings are not meant to be revealed except to some. Like the Masters, who are wise and mature enough to understand them."
"That is not what I mean. In the medbay, as I rest and recover, I've heard whispers. The ones who tend to me wish I would leave, though they do not openly tell me. They simply do what they've been trained to do and move on, never greeting me or trying to engage in conversation. I know they are busy, but it makes me feel like I'm not worth their time." He sighed. "I complain. I should not, but I cannot help but share my feelings. They are suspicious of me, and rightly so. However, is not a wounded enemy still wounded?"
My heart clenched a little. "I'm sure they don't consider you a threat."
"Indeed they do. If not, then why would they treat me in such a purposefully indifferent manner? It's almost like they're callous. However, there is something far more damaging I've heard, as the Temple medics and their droids think I am not paying attention. The Jedi are rather intent on expelling one of your kind, or at least putting them on trial. Do you know of this?"
My jaw dropped. "What?!"
"A certain student tried to kill another one. That's what the whispers ssay."
"In a sparring match?" Qyzen nodded. "With real lightsabers?" Another nod. "This can't be happening. It's not my fault--not her fault. Not Tamara's..."
"Is she your friend?"
"No," I blurted out. "A wounded enemy." Now, why had I--? "I've got to go."
Qyzen hissed, raising his head in warning. "Don't mention this. Escort me back to medbay, for my forearm pains me greatly. As for your fellow Jedi? It's the perfect game: exhorting their followers to tell no lies, and hold no sssecrets that hurt, while they themselves do. They are certainly good at it. However, what happens when they lose, as they have now? Do they simply forget it, and 'move on', as their falsehoods are unwittingly woven into great webs? Or do they reflect, and reveal their motives at last? I cannot tell. I do not sense the Force, as you or they do."
"I..." I fell silent in shock. It's the perfect game...
For what purpose was it played?