Beyond Good and Evil
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06.05.2013 , 02:03 AM |
Hekastos allotrioi barbaros esti
-Anonymous (tr. “keravnos”)
Vette had gone ahead on a shuttle to a local consulate to drop Nomen Karr off with the Republic. The Imperial soldiers had left, undoubtedly to report to Lord Baras about Karr’s defeat and my defection.
So it was just me and Alypia that trudged through the swamp back towards Jiguuna.
We walked in a sort of half-awkward silence for a few minutes. I mean, what sort of things do you even talk about after you’ve just made one of the biggest decisions in your whole life?
Not that I was rethinking things, or anything. That feeling of clarity that I’d had back when I first sent that message to her ship was there again. I felt no doubts in my mind whatsoever about joining a Sith apprentice on a quixotic mission to save the people of the Empire from their leaders and themselves.
That didn’t mean I was so blind to the problems that I couldn’t joke to myself about them, though.
My new Master broke the silence first. “So, uh, should we be heading to wherever Karr’s ship was parked?” We had both decided that giving Master Karr a hyperspace-capable armed space vessel in his current mental state was, to put it lightly, a bad idea. “Do you have stuff we should be collecting?”
“Um,” I said inarticulately. “I, uh, Jedi, we…they…crap. I guess it’s that I’m used to traveling light, Master. A few changes of clothes. Not really any personal effects. The whole monastic asceticism thing.”
Yeah. And I gave
a hard time about talking to me back in the cave.
Thankfully, she ignored my awkwardness altogether. “Okay, first rule. It’s going to get really weird if you call me Master all the time, especially since I’m still technically just Baras’ apprentice. If it’s just you and me, call me Aly. Or something that doesn’t involve an honorific. Please.”
“Oh. I’m sorry, Ma-uh, Aly.” I suddenly developed a considerable interest in the mud we were slogging through.
She laughed. “Don’t worry about it.”
“So, um, is Vette your only crew member?”
“No, actually. There’s a military man on board, too, Captain Quinn. He owed Baras a favor and I called it in when we were on Balmorra. He decided that he’d be doing a lot more for the Empire with me than anywhere else and, through copious amounts of bootlicking, managed to get himself assigned to my crew after I finished up there.”
“Oh.” That gave me pause. “A soldier? What’s he like?”
She shrugged. “He’s all right. It’s nice to have somebody to talk history and strategy with. Good medic. Excellent at filling out paperwork. He’s very good at handling all of the boring stuff about having one’s own ship and a tenuous connection to the Imperial military hierarchy.”
“So can we be as open around him as we are with Vette?”
“Nope. He’s pretty loyal to the Sith in general, and he…can be pretty okay with, say, committing war crimes in the name of military efficiency. ‘The ends justify the means’, and all that.”
“Oh.” I bit my lip. “
“Not usually,” she answered. “But a lot of people, both in the Empire and the Republic, like to think that they can be.”
Both of us stopped talking after awhile. I was still turning everything over in my head. There was a question I knew I had to ask. I also knew that I didn’t
to, and that Aly probably didn’t want to answer.
Eventually, obligation overrode everything else.
“Aly, I…when I saw your mind, went back through your life. You…um, some really bad things happened to you.” She’d stopped walking, and turned toward me, but I couldn’t meet her eyes. “I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on, just bits and pieces. But the feelings came through. That you were in so much pain, felt so helpless…”
She didn’t say a word.
Haltingly, I started again. “I mean, you’re my Master now. It can be one of the closest bonds somebody forms in their entire life. I just…I don’t want it to be the bormu in the room. I want to help. Even if you don’t think you need it.”
Aly finally spoke. “I know. I…” she trailed off. “I thought I had a better handle on it than I guess I did. I’m not ready to talk about it, not right now. But definitely in the next few days. I promise.”
I suddenly wanted to become very, very small. “I’m sorry, Aly.”
She forced a smile onto her face. “It’s not your fault. You’re right to be concerned. And look: I don’t see this as a traditional sort of Master and apprentice thing. We’re both going to learn a lot from each other. That means we’re both going to help each other. Your heart’s in the right place.”
“I think you’re going to be teaching me much more than the other way around,” I sighed.
This time her smile was real. “A great philosopher once said, ‘Is it what the teacher teaches, or what the student learns?’ She guided a man through hell, but in the end, she learned as much from him as he did from her. I don’t think I’ll ever be as great a teacher as she was, but I
I’ll be just as much a student of yours as she was a student of his.”
“Who was she? Jedi or Sith?”
Aly laughed. “Ah, ‘yes’, and ‘no’.”
“That…doesn’t make any sense.”
She kept smiling. “She liked to say that everything she said was a lie. Not because she said it with intent to deceive, although she
do that a lot. But because whatever she said was just words: they didn’t fully encompass the
of something or someone, and never really could. She was Jedi, and she was Sith; she was both, and she was neither. She was herself.”
We started walking, but the conversation died down once again. Aly’d given me a lot to chew on.
After a few minutes, we finally reached something approaching a main road, within sight of Jiguuna’s town walls. The sounds of blaster fire and explosives, the unmistakable scent of ozone…this place was a war zone. Master Karr and I had landed far from Jiguuna for good reason. But other than “avoid this place”, I didn’t really know what was going on there.
Aly gave me a running commentary as we passed through cordons of motley guns-for-hire and Hutt enforcers. “This whole mess started out as a war between the local Hutt, Nem’ro, and his rival Fa’athra. Then it turned into a witch-hunt by Nem’ro and his goons to find ostensible traitors in their ranks. Now it’s a full-blown civil war.”
“Is there any way to stop it?” I murmured.
She slowed down. “The Empire wouldn’t much like if we intervened and started pissing people off. Nem’ro’s an Imp client and supplier now. It’d be an embarrassing way to blow our cover and it probably wouldn’t solve anything.”
I frowned. “It still doesn’t totally sit right with me.”
“That’s good to hear. Means you’re not a sociopath.”
“You’re not making me feel any better, Aly.”
She sighed. “Yeah, it’s cold comfort, I know. But there are always limitations. We can’t save everybody. Like as not, this would just end up a purposeless slaughter. That’d be even worse, right? ‘First, do no harm’, and all that.”
I didn’t respond, so she tried to elaborate. “We’re never going to be able to solve all the galaxy’s problems, and it’s going to be really difficult to solve much of
while we’re in the Empire. We need to be smart about the things we do try to solve, and do it
. And, look, I don’t want to come across like your old Master. If somebody actually comes to us for help, we
do what we can for them.”
That made me smile. “Even if it’s a trap?”
if it’s a trap,” Aly chuckled.
After that, the talk turned to idle curiosities and chitchat. The sorts of food we liked, the pastimes we enjoyed. I hadn’t had many of the latter ever since joining the Jedi Order. I asked how my parents were doing, and what the deal was with them; apparently they were living not too far from Kaas City, enjoying a sedentary retirement as part of Baras’ retinue.
We met Vette at the Jiguuna spaceport, and settled in for the shuttle ride up to Aly’s ship. She gave me the rundown: she’d have to call Baras first to report mission success – “honestly, he acts like an overbearing mother” – and show me off. She didn’t expect me to have to talk much, but just get through the whole thing acting the part of the obedient apprentice. Then I could get settled in and move on with my life.
The only images I’d ever seen of Darth Baras dated back to the Treaty of Coruscant. He’d been a middle-aged, fit human male with thinning hair back then. When Aly made her holocall, though, the man who answered her looked like he’d, um,
the last few decades. And in the process, he’d made a lot of ice cream wholesalers very, very happy. His face was covered by a mask, although whether it was intended as a way to keep his visage fearsome or to keep himself from sneaking snacks constantly remained unclear. Maybe it was both.
“Apprentice, my soldiers informed me that you subdued Master Karr, but I’ve heard no further update. What has transpired? Where is Karr?” he boomed.
Aly did a credible imitation of a self-satisfied Sith smirk. “I left him there, a broken and empty shell.”
“I see,” muttered Baras dejectedly. “I had hoped to get my hands on him, but I suppose my imagination will have to suffice.” He seemed to brighten up. “Through the Force, I could feel some of his pain. It was a spectacular sensation.”
I felt a little sick, not just at how evil that was, but how
it was. With Sith like Baras around, it was easy to see where the holodramas got their cartoonishly cruel villains from. And
Sith were like Baras that way. I hadn’t really thought about how I’d need to blend in with that kind of person when I’d agreed to become Aly’s apprentice.
It definitely wasn’t going to be easy.
Baras turned toward me. “I see you have a new passenger. Jaesa Willsaam, I presume.”
I inclined my head respectfully, not trusting myself to speak.
The smirk hadn’t left Aly’s face. “What was your first clue?”
“I sense her devotion to you, apprentice. How ever did you manage that?” he said, his voice tinged with something approaching awe.
Devotion? I, um. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. Not that he was
“When will you realize that there is nothing I cannot accomplish?”
Baras turned back to Aly. “I’ll admit, this was more than I was expecting. There’s no denying you’re a master of the dark arts now.”
He gathered himself up – no small feat for an aging fat man – and projected his voice. “Only the most accomplished among us are named Lords of the Sith. You have
than earned the distinction. I hereby confer the title of Sith Lady upon you.”
Aly executed a half-bow. “You honor me.”
“Through your exemplary service,
,” he said grandly. He briefly tilted his head toward Vette, then back. “I award a considerable stipend to those who attain such a rank in my service. Enjoy it. Celebrate as you see fit, then return to me here on Dromund Kaas.
“I have great plans for us.”
He cut the line, and I let my breath out. I’d barely done anything, and I still felt as though I’d dodged a blaster bolt. Baras hadn’t really even noticed me.
too paranoid to be a spy.
Vette turned to Aly. “Wow, a Sith Lady. I’m impressed.”
A striking dark-haired man – Captain Quinn, I guess – spoke up stuffily from behind her. “Congratulations, my lady.”
Aly smiled. “You’ve both been a great help.”
Quinn straightened. “Service is its own reward.” He…well, his appearance conformed to most of the standby Imperial stereotypes: the pasty skin, immaculate uniform and hair, strong brow and jawline, and all that. But he had this weird beauty mark, or whatever you call an oddly placed mole on a guy, that distracted all attention from the rest of his face. And his voice made him sound like he constantly had a head cold.
“Yeah, what he said,” yawned Vette. She leaned against the acceleration couch and folded her arms. “I already got Jaesa’s quarters ready. I can go ahead and show her around.”
Aly raised an eyebrow-ridge. “Nice of you to assume some initiative.”
Vette grinned. “I’m here to help.” She stood up and beckoned. “Come on, Jaesa, let’s get set up.”
I turned back to my Master, took a deep breath. “Whenever you need me, my lady…whatever you order, I’ll be ready.”
She smiled broadly. “Don’t worry about it. Make yourself at home.”
I followed Vette out of the main hold, and listened attentively as she gave me an abbreviated tour of the ship before bringing me over to my room. She chattered on as though she wasn’t really expecting me to say anything back, and I obliged. I was still pretty new to everything, didn’t know much about her at all, didn’t know what to chat about…
“…oh, and we’re definitely going to have to go shopping for some clothes for you,” she said, peering critically at my Jedi robes. “You don’t exactly look the part of an evil Sith apprentice. We’ll need something dark, maybe with a hood, probably form-hugging and showing lots of skin because most Sith are
She picked up on my expression of vague revulsion and giggled. “Hey, when on Korriban, do as the crazy lightning-throwers do, right?”
I forced out a laugh. “Sorry, it’s just…it’s a big change.”
“Yeah, but this one’s for the better,” she chirped. “You dumped the crazy hypocritical moral crusader and teamed up with our weird little family! That’s not so bad, right?”
“Not compared to some of the things you two have been through,” I said heavily, slumping down on my new bed. “I mean, you were a slave, and Aly…I’ve only got the tiniest idea about what she’s been through, but I can tell that even her
have scars. And now I’m getting mopey about this?” I waved my hand around the room.
Vette sat down next to me. “Hey, hey, you don’t need to go all self-loathing here.” She didn’t need to be Force-sensitive to tell that that didn’t help much. “What’s bothering you, anyway? Is it that you don’t feel like you’re up to it?”
I nodded. “I want to be, but I just don’t know…”
“Aly thinks you are. She wanted to have you on the team a long time ago.”
“I know, but I don’t feel like…”
She crossed her arms, faux-seriously. “Are you calling my big sister a liar?” I couldn’t help but laugh.
Vette continued, “Look, I don’t have your crazy powers, but I saw what you guys were saying to each other on that slimy mudball. Aly thinks you’re the real deal, and she isn’t wrong about anything. Ever.”
“But what happens if I don’t live up to that?”
She shook her head. “You’re not going to change the way Aly thinks about you. She’s just going to trip over herself helping you however she can. You just gotta be who you are, and don’t worry about everything else. It’s a silly cliché, but it’s
I guess I still looked like I was chewing it over, because she put her fingers near the corners of my mouth and pushed them upwards. “You know, ‘turn the frown upside down’, right?” She moved her fingers away, but I kept smiling.
“Besides,” she whispered conspiratorially, “you know what she’s been thinking about all this time? ‘Oh no, what if I suck at teaching, Jaesa’s going to hate me, so much pressure pressure pressure AAAAGH!’” She threw her hands up. “You guys just need to get over yourselves and just get down to the whole master-apprentice thing.”
Now I was laughing, too. “Okay, okay. I get it. You cheered me up. Anything else I need to know?”
Vette cocked her head. “Meh, not really. It’s not worth it to be nice to the droid, he never gets any less neurotic. Captain Boring is really easy to make fun of but Aly doesn’t like it if you poke him too much about serious stuff. Try asking him about ‘Broysc’, it’s hilarious to watch him squirm. Oh, and since you’re officially Sith now, I think you can do anything you like on Imperial worlds and they can’t get mad at you, so go wild!” She briefly mulled this last one over. “Uh, not that you’re the kind of person that goes wild or anything?”
I shrugged apologetically. “Not really.”
She jumped to her feet. “Oh well, maybe later. Hopefully Aly rubs off on you.” She giggled. “Get it?”
I just looked at her blankly.
going to be fun. Bye, Jaesa!” With that, she skipped off down the corridor.
For a few moments, I just sat there, looking around the room. Then I sighed, and headed for the refresher to get ready for bed.
what she meant.
(n., Greek) - "mirth, merriment"