, 09:26 PM
The Gateless Gate
The Sith lowered his hood. His sparse, whitish-blond hair lay plastered to his skull. For a moment he examined the intricately-carved basalt slab before closing his red-rimmed eyes in thought.
Behind him, Simplicio sat on a stone and, for want of anything better to do, began to recite from memory:
"Peace is a lie. There is only passion. Through passion, I gain strength. Through strength, I gain power. Through power, I gain victory. Through victory, my chains are broken. The Force shall free me."
The Sith opened his eyes.
"Do not recite gibberish in my presence. If you cannot keep your mind focused, perhaps you could at least recite some entertaining limericks or sing an off-color song."
Simplicio was horrified.
"But, Master?! It is The Code!" And for lack of a better way of explaining himself he began to repeat the words so deeply etched in his memory. "Peace is a lie. There is only passion--"
The Sith turned to face the boy, effectively silencing the child.
"No, Simplicio. There is only recitation. Through your recitation, I gain annoyance. Through my annoyance, you lose everything."
Simplicio winced. What his master said was true. Simplicio had barely survived his time on Korriban. Though not the weakest amongst his cohorts, neither was he the apex predator he needed to be. He had feared that no one would take him for an apprentice -- he would have nightmares that all his peers would be paired with the best and bravest of Sith Warriors and he would be left standing alone, until some drooling idiot would hobble into the room saying, I overslept, at which point he would be referred to the only apprentice left in stock.
It had not been like that, which was at once pleasing but at the same time clear proof that Simplicio did not posess the gift of prophecy. In fact, his master had been shown a wary deference by the Sith of the Academy and he chose Simplicio out of the crowd after only a moment's consideration.
Leaving the school with his bundle on his back, Simplicio had been overcome with a sudden and near-suicidal need to be acknowledged for the first time in his life as having some worth. He asked, "Master, why did you choose me?"
The Sith was silent for a few seconds, and then, smiling, answered, "Perversity."
Simplicio interpreted that as any young man might and afterwards slept with his lightsaber in his hand.
But no attack ever came, and over time Simplicio began to grow accustomed to his master's strange ways.
Now the boy watched as his master sat down in the dust and began rummaging through his pack. Simplicio waited until he felt the atmosphere seemed defused before asking, "Master, do you not believe in The Code?"
The Sith paused in his search and thought for a few seconds.
"I believe in the existence of The Code, but I do not believe in its utility."
"I do not understand, Master."
The Sith nodded and began the process of messily discarding an item at a time from his pack as he continued searching its contents.
"Clearly there is a thing called 'The Code', otherwise it would be difficult to get all you mewling children to recite it -- though I suppose it could be a coincidence, like the joke about having a million furbkeys spontaneously compose the works of Elchor the Gradual. The Code exists. The Code is also a load of -- Aha!!!"
The Sith pulled an item from the bag and held it toward Simplicio in victory. It seemed to be a wrapped pickle.
The boy tried to look suitably grave and awed.
"Now we can have lunch… As I was saying, The Code is meaningless. It is just a jumble of words that seem to say something but actually don't. 'Peace is a lie'? Well, everything is a lie, just as anything can be made true if you have the power to make it so."
Simplicio puzzled over this for a short time but gave up.
"But, Master, is it not…" he caught himself before he said true, a word whose meaning was obviously subject for debate, "isn't it correct that we gain strength through passion? And through strength I gain power?"
"You could say that, but you could also say, just as correctly, 'through power I gain strength' or 'through power I gain passion'… which will become more apparent to you when you've matured a bit. Passion and power are certainly connected but not in the sort of cause-and-effect chain that The Code presents. But most importantly, Simplicio, the Force will never free you. It is only we that may free ourselves."
Simplicio sat back, confused, and tried to sort through his feelings. This process began to make him angry, which, though supposed to give him strength, instead made him tired. He gave up.
"Master, will I not gain victory through power?"
"It is possible to gain victory through power. It is also possible to be destroyed by wielding it. The certain thing about power is that every attempt to harness it will create an equal resistance to it. To use power is to wrestle your own twin."
The Sith took out a small knife and began to unwrap the pickle.
"But can I not just use more power to overcome the resistance? Oh, but then it would resist all the more! But if I was strong enough I'm sure I could handle it."
"Let us see." The Sith put the pickle on a flat stone and handed the boy the knife.
"This pickle is the resistance to your application of power -- which in this instance we will call 'oppression'. What I want you to do is to use your strength and cut the pickle with the knife until it is no longer a pickle."
Simplicio could see where this was heading but he dutifully began to cut the pickle into pieces. When he had bisected his trisections, he paused and looked up at his master.
"It is still a pickle, Master."
The Sith viewed the fragmented gherkin critically.
"Yes, it is still quite a pickle, or, depending on viewpoint, it is now several pickles. Clearly the mere application of force will not remove its pickle-ness."
"How, then, shall I overcome resistance?"
"There are two easy ways. The first…"
The Sith took a particularly knobby section of pickle and sniffed it. He grimaced and tossed it over his shoulder.
"That is not a pickle. That is 'trash'."
"The resistance is transformed?"
"To a degree. It can be tricky. You need to make sure that it is transformed in everyone's eyes. Look."
The Sith pointed to a large sandroach that was crawling energetically over the discarded food.
"To us it is trash, but to him it is still a pickle. That will not do."
"And the other way, Master?"
The Sith smiled and popped a piece of the pickle into his mouth.
"You consume it. It becomes part of you and adds to your strength."
While Simplicio thought about this, his master consumed several more little resistances. The boy, as was appropriate, waited until the Sith had finished eating and had left the food behind before he ate any himself.
The Sith had returned to staring at the basalt slab.
"The Code may have its place, but too many Sith recite it like it was a magical formula or a prayer. Only the weak pray, Simplicio."
Simplicio watched as his master ran his pale fingers over the archaic symbols carved into the slab.
"It is very beautiful, but it defies me. I wish to enter this tomb and I cannot see how to open this door." The Sith reached out with the Force again but saw no effect.
Simplicio, still thoughtful, muttered, "A door that will not open is a wall."
The Sith turned to him.
"What?" he asked icily.
The boy blanched. He looked at the ground.
"It was nothing, Master!"
"Repeat what you said."
What had seemed glib and clever a moment ago now seemed fraught with danger. Simplicio took a deep breath.
"A door that will not open is a wall."
The Sith stared at the boy for a minute and then turned back to the wall of rock that housed the tomb. He ran his hand over the ornately-carved basalt once more.
"It will not open because it does not open because it is not a door. It is a false door meant to waste our time, so if the wall looks like a door, then the door must look like…" He strode up and down the rock face until, stopping, he spread his fingers wide and a completely unexceptional outcropping began to shudder and then recessed into the mountain, leaving an opening to a dark corridor.
A low moan issued from the mouth of the tomb and Simplicio shivered in spite of the desert heat.
The Sith turned to him and smiled.
"You first, my clever student."