Beyond Good and Evil
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06.03.2013 , 09:41 PM |
Twilight of the Idols
Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker
, Spruche und Pfeile 8
When I left the ship, I was running mostly on instinct. But as I raced towards the bog where my Master had gone, I started to reflect on what it was that I was doing. What it was that I was walking into.
Stretching out with the Force, I could sense that there was no Sith Lord out there…not one that I didn’t recognize, anyway. Baras’ apprentice was out there for sure: I remembered the way her presence in the Force felt, from Master Yonlach’s vision. But I didn’t notice anybody else. Baras himself must’ve stayed home, letting his apprentice handle the duel instead.
I was going to get that meeting after all.
And I had felt Master Karr dying. But he never actually let go, and I couldn’t figure out why. It felt like he was in intense pain, but still alive. Was he being tortured? Was it emotional pain? Self-inflicted? I had no way to know.
After I got off the speeder from the place we’d hid the ship and started picking my way though the Hutta swamps, I slowed down. I could sense that my Master was in no immediate danger. Everybody – everything – was waiting for me, ready to go. I could be a few minutes late. I already was.
The meeting site was literally a hole in the wall, a cave that had been strengthened with foundations and supports and filled with many of the comforts of home. Even had a few Imperial soldiers outside guarding the entrance. They recognized me on sight and waved me in.
I’d never, ever seen real combat before, and I’d grown up under the Treaty of Coruscant. Imperial soldiers weren’t really the Face of Evil to me like they were to older people who’d seen the first war. But even I thought that being cordially greeted by men in black armor was incredibly weird.
The Sith woman and Vette stood together inside the cave, chatting idly. Vette was facing the door, and she was the first to notice me. “Hey, lookie lookie. Jaesa showed up.”
“Guess we’d better make room for our guest of honor.”
Yep. Still weird.
The Sith turned around to face me. It was strange to think that I’d never actually seen her in real life before, but I was already so familiar with her…
You know, except for minor details like “her name” and “her personality”.
I had a hard time forcing air through my lips. “All right, Sith. I’m here. You drew me out. Just…release Master Karr.” Come to think of it…“Uh, where
Vette pointed to the corner of the room, where a shriveled, wriggling figure sat, tied to a chair, guarded by an Imperial soldier. Was that?...no. Not possible. That horrible little creature, with a decaying face and glowing red eyes…
was my Master?
I couldn’t tear my gaze away from him…it…whatever it was.
The Sith looked as though she were about to smile sheepishly. But she composed herself, pursed her lips, keeping her face as neutral as she could. “Hi,” she said quietly. “I’m Alypia.”
Vette rolled her eyes. “Smooooth.” She earned herself an evil eye for her trouble. “Hey, I know it’s all red skin one way or the other, but you’re
blushing right now,” she laughed.
I…what. They were acting like teenagers. Vette probably
a teenager. This whole thing, which had been shaping up to be one of the defining moments of my life, was being treated about as seriously as a mynock. And meanwhile, the creature that used to be my Master looked like it was rapidly becoming a vessel of the dark side.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Then Master Karr spoke. Actually, it was more like a growl. I could barely recognize his voice; even his vocal cords seemed as though they’d been…twisted. “Jaesa,
! I told you to
you defy me?”
His Imperial guard raised his rifle, as if to whack him in the head with its stock, but the Sith – but
– raised her hand, even as she continued to face me.
how long I’ve been waiting for you to show up,” she said.
Master Karr continued his rant. “My sacrifice for
! Stupid child! For all your power, you have understood
I couldn’t stop myself. “What did you
to him, Sith? There’s no way this has been inside him all along. It can’t be. You can’t hide that sort of thing.” I turned towards her, pointing an accusing finger, less for emphasis and more for me to concentrate on something so I wouldn’t fall over from shock. “Somehow
turned him mad!”
Alypia shook her head sadly. “He’s exposed what was lurking inside himself. I didn’t want this fight. But he wouldn’t stop. He did terrible things to himself to try to kill me. They didn’t work the way he wanted.”
I tried to laugh bitterly. It came out like more of a whimper. “Is
what you call what you’re doing? Exposing what was inside?”
She shrugged. “Uh, yeah.” With a wave of her hand, she dismissed the guard. Now it was me and her, and Vette, and the…thing that had once been my Master.
I looked at him for awhile, the wheels turning in my head. His vendetta, the fear and desperation he’d shown as things had started to crumble around him…I’d had the pieces in front of me all along. Over the last few months, there’d been plenty of reason to suspect that my Master wasn’t exactly a model Jedi. I hadn’t expected anything
I’d thought that maybe he could teach me that clarity I’d been searching for. Now I knew he was even more lost than I was. So I let go. There was no more “Master Nomen Karr and his Padawan, Jaesa Willsaam”.
It was just me and what was left of my life.
what could I do?
“You spared Master Yonlach on Tatooine and my parents on Alderaan. And just now, I felt Master Karr slipping towards death, but I guess you…you saved him,” I said to Alypia, then made a face. “His body, anyway.” I started talking out the line of reasoning I’d been feeling my way along for months. “These…these things aren’t the sort of thing Sith do. Is it real? Or has it all been a trick to get me to lower my guard?”
Alypia smiled lopsidedly. “I’m not what you’ve been led to believe, Jaesa.”
The creature of rage and hate that used to be my Master bellowed, “Use your power, Jaesa! Look into the Sith’s heart, and you will see!”
She spread her hands expansively. “Go ahead, look as long as you like.” Vette snickered, but Alypia ignored her. “I have nothing to hide.”
Nobody’d willingly submitted to my creepy mind-violation since Master Yonlach, but she was acting honest, open, and willing, just like she’d acted toward Yonlach and Ulldin. That didn’t make me feel as good about it as I’d thought it would.
I sat down, closed my eyes, and placed my fingers in one of the mudras that young trainees learn on Tython. I breathed slowly, surely, rhythmically, slowing my whole body down to conjure up the images in my head.
I felt my mind’s perceptions expand outward. I could feel the shameful thing that called itself Nomen Karr. I could feel Vette. The soldiers outside. The creatures in the swamp, the plants, algae, down to the smallest bacterium.
And then I felt her mind, and there was nothing else.
When I finally opened my eyes, I felt like days had passed. Years. I just went through the most intense experiences in a woman’s entire life in what in reality must’ve been only a few seconds. It was exhausting. And it was terrifying.
It wasn’t that I was terrified of having invaded somebody else’s mind. But I hadn’t been ready to feel what she felt. To see disjointed images, fragmented memories, the
of the things that she’d done to other people…
And, worst of all, the things that other people had done to
I slumped against the wall. I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. “How…” I whispered. “How can you stand it?”
She knelt. “What do you mean?”
. Who you are. The life you’ve had to lead. There’s mercy there. Kindness. Even compassion. How can you be the way you are, especially as a Sith? How did it not drive you insane?”
Her expression softened. “Oh. ‘The horror! The horror!’”
My head bobbed.
Alypia looked away. “It…” She sighed. “It’s not easy. And you know I haven’t exactly stayed on the straight and narrow for my whole life. But, you know, I’ve got a mission. A goal. Thinking about that, just inching toward daylight one step at a time…sometimes it helps me ignore the worst stuff.”
Nomen Karr snarled. “Don’t listen, Jaesa! It’s all a trick. The Sith has disguised herself and me to cause you to doubt your power!”
After what I just felt and saw, that had to be the weakest attempt at getting me to do something…well, ever. It was hard for me not to just feel
by what he said.
Instead, I just ignored him, and wiped my eyes with my sleeve.
“The masks we wear…”
Vette spoke up again. “Huh?”
“Alypia. She’s Sith. She
looks the part
of an agent of evil. But it’s just a mask,” I elaborated. I turned back to my Master. “And Master Karr also wears a mask. His deception is a much…uglier one.”
Alypia looked at him too. “Maybe it’s not so much his fault?” She caught the look of skepticism on my face, and continued. “I mean, a lot of the things he did
his fault. But from what I heard, some pretty bad stuff happened to him a long time ago to cause all this. Maybe because of that, his connection to the Force is flawed.”
I could tell she was just trying to make me feel better about what happened, and shook my head. “People can talk all they want about my power, but
were the one who showed
Master Karr’s true nature. Thank you.”
She looked a little surprised at first. Then she shrugged, stood up, and offered me a hand. “I…sure. You’re welcome.” I took it, and she hauled me to my feet.
“So,” I started. Seeing – well,
, really – the peaks and valleys of Alypia’s life had told me a lot about why she was here, but not enough. And I also wanted to hear it straight from her anyway. “I…I kind of know why you wanted to talk to me, but not really.”
Alypia laughed. “For a long time, I wasn’t too clear on what I wanted to do, myself.”
She looked at Vette. “You remember when Darth Sweet Tooth was torturing that poor SIS guy to death?”
The Twi’lek blanched. “Yeah, I’d rather not relive that particular part of my life.”
“Sorry.” Alypia turned back toward me. “Not too long after I first became his apprentice, Darth Baras told me he’d had a vision, that there was something haunting his dreams, ‘a grave and mysterious threat that could bring down his entire power base’. This Grik Sorosan guy, an SIS agent who was investigating your findings on Nar Shaddaa, told him under interrogation who that threat was: you.”
She briefly looked down at the floor. “I…I got Baras the ancient Sith tools he needed to rip your identity from Sorosan’s mind. I tried to do it to make it go easily for him, so he’d die without having even more of Baras’ torture inflicted on him. It didn’t work out like that.”
After a pause, she started again. “Before he died, Sorosan told Baras the vaguest details about your history. He knew you were Nomen Karr’s Padawan, and a bare-bones outline of your past: Balmorra, Nar Shaddaa, Tatooine, Alderaan. He said that you seemed to know any being’s true nature. That you could sense, ah, ‘hidden darkness and untapped purity’.
“I’m not too proud to admit that the first thing I thought was that you’d discover
and the game would be up. A Sith who isn’t completely evil? They’d kill me. It wouldn’t be quick or easy. I wanted to get you as far away from me as possible.
“And then Baras started musing out loud, about the threat you would be to his spy network. The threat you would be to his very source of power. I knew he was going to send me after you. Try to get me to kill you.
“I figured that maybe I could work something out with you and the Jedi. Lay off the heat on Baras, maybe. Fake your death for awhile. Something else. I didn’t know. I still don’t, really. I just needed to stall for time and come up with a plan.
“You have no idea how infuriating it was to get attacked by the people you’re trying to get help from.
“Now it seems like that’s all OBE. Your Master has a date with a psychiatrist. Baras knows that I managed to confront him. I don’t know if he knows you’re here, but the soldiers will tell him soon enough. You’re on Nal Hutta alone, and your ship, the one that the double act used, is probably halfway to Tython right now. We’re kind of low on options.”
I’d seen into her mind. I knew what she wanted to ask, and I also knew that she thought it was such a pie-in-the-sky best case scenario that I’d never agree to it.
But crazy as it seemed, I was already feeling a connection to her. Touching her past, feeling the horror of what she’d been through, seeing that she’d been completely honest over the last few months – unlike anybody else – and knowing that she wanted
…if she couldn’t or wouldn’t ask, then I would.
I took a deep breath. “What about the one you suggested to Baras?”
She had a hard time meeting my eyes. “Are you…?”
“Wait,” said Vette. “Are you asking my boss to make you her evil Sith apprentice?”
“Hey,” objected Alypia, “I’m not
evil.” She was trying to act casual, but I could feel the tension roiling inside her.
“What about you, though?” I asked. “Why wouldn’t
want to defect to the
Alypia turned back toward me. “I have…a lot of reasons to hate the Sith. I guess you understand that now. But it’s not just about them.”
Her eyes defocused, as though she were looking at something impossibly far away. “There are billions, trillions of beings who live in the Sith Empire. Normal people. Slaves. People who are going along to get along.
“You know: the ones who
the evil jerkwads trying to rule the galaxy.
“If the Republic defeats the Empire, it’s not gonna go quietly. There’s too many crazy, fratricidal, even suicidal Sith to let that happen. The last couple of Empires went out with a bang. Primus Goluud. Ossus. Dantooine. Katarr. This one is bigger. More powerful. More psychopaths with their fingers on the metaphorical button. And that’s not even considering what happens if the Empire
“I can’t change that from without. If I joined the Jedi, not only would I, you know, have to deal with
a Jedi, all the rules and orders and such, but I’d be an outsider. An enemy. Period. I want to be
the system and change it that way. Try to stop things before they get completely out of hand.
“But most importantly, I want to protect those billions and billions of normal people. They’ve got the Sith on one side and the Republic on the other. Nobody seems to care if they live or die. For the Republic, they’re legitimate military targets; for the Sith, they’re just tools, slaves, to be run through the meat grinder at their convenience. They need somebody looking out for them.
“And, well, considering the kind of person Nomen Karr over there is…I’d be honored if you would come help
Vette just gaped. “There’s
you didn’t practice that speech.”
I tried to laugh. “I just went through her entire life and didn’t see it anywhere. Totally off the cuff. On my honor as a Jedi.”
Nomen Karr glared at me. “I’ll see to it that the Jedi disavow you. You will be labeled an enemy of the Order, Jaesa.”
And there it was. Decision time. The woman who’d been honest with me, who’d been repeatedly attacked for nothing more than the color of her skin, who wanted to give me a chance to actually go out and help people in need…or the man who’d convinced me to lie for him, who pursued a private vendetta instead of being a proper mentor to his Padawan, and who was less concerned with helping people than with destroying his enemies.
Finally, I had a handle on why I’d felt compelled to send Alypia that message, why I’d felt so confident about coming to Nal Hutta before languishing in that ship.
was what the Force was pushing me toward. There was the
I’d been looking for. I hadn’t had to go out and find clarity: it had found me. All I had to do was trust in the Force.
I took the plunge.
“Then I’ll finally know where I stand with you,” I said, putting on a much braver face than I actually felt. “You took me as far as you could. I hope you don’t feel bitter about it.”
Alypia gestured to Vette to have him leave. “Maybe the Jedi Council can help him out there. Or a good pshrink. He’s
“I wish him the best.”
He started to hobble out, with Vette leading him away. “No…
…this can’t be…my fate. Who are
to preside over me? You are…nothing…I am Nomen Karr!”
I felt a little sick inside, watching him go. He had represented my last link to the Jedi Order. The heroes of the vids when I was growing up, the beings who to me had seemed like a collection of the galaxy’s greatest heroes.
Until the last few months.
Master Karr had looked the part of the great and noble hero on the outside. But that was just a shell, and inside there was nothing. A dark void. He was hit once, and he shattered.
Alypia had taken a lot worse than that and was still standing.
In the end, it was no contest at all.
I turned back to Alypia. “I’m ready to learn your ways, my lady. And I look forward to aiding you in any way I am able.”
(n., Greek) - "mirth, merriment"
Beyond Good and Evil