I’m not sure why I thought I’d be able to.
I just keep replaying it over and over in my mind.
All the conversations; all the different important moments; all the “shatterpoints.”
When I tended to Alema in the Promised Land… when I went to Master Drea two nights ago… when I gave my testimony before the Council yesterday… when I spoke with Alema last night and this morning…
Where was the exact moment when I failed her? Was it early on – should I have been more honest with her about how I felt, instead of trying to be the ‘good and proper Jedi?’ Was it with Master Drea – was I not convincing enough with him – or, more importantly, with the Council during the hearing? Was it just me in general? I mean, I’ll never be as good with my words as Q’aleane, especially at times like this when it counts!
Why did I ever think I’d be able to fix this for her?!
< deep breaths >
I’m… I’m just so overwhelmed right now. It’s too much. My head is spinning, and I have this churning nausea deep in my guts… it seems like ever since I became a Knight, this feeling keeps coming back to me. First the archway on Wayland, then my weakness against Grale on Nar Shaddaa, and now this…
I keep failing – as a Jedi, as a friend, as a mentor…
< sigh >
I know, I know, this attitude doesn’t do anyone any good, but I can’t help it. I just don’t understand. How could the Council do this to Alema – how could they make her choose like that? There are never any answers, only more questions!
But maybe… well… no, you know what, I’m just going to go. Q’aleane won’t miss the Master Holocron, at least for a little while.
And I need some help. I need some answers.
< The Master Holocron activates; the image of Bastila Shan flickers into existence, casting pale blue light across the otherwise pitch-black room. Kneeling on the floor in front of the Holocron, wearing her night-clothes and without her visor, is Q’ayla Ren. When she speaks, her voice sounds hoarse and tired, with a hint of tears. >
Forgive me, Master… it’s just, I need your help.
< Bastila’s aspect subtly alters from the appearance of youth to a somewhat more mature woman, perhaps in her 30s. She looks down at Q’ayla, clasping her hands before her, her face impassive. >
There is nothing to forgive, Jedi Ren. I am here to offer any aid I can. What troubles you?
It’s Alema. She… she’s gone. It’s all over, and she’s no longer a Jedi.
I take it the Council did not rule in her favor. I am sorry to hear that. But surely you must have expected this to be the more likely outcome?
I guess that’s true… part of me did think that it wouldn’t go well. But I tried so hard, Master. I tried to make them see. I spoke with her master the night before we gave our testimony, and even then I went beyond relaying the factual evidence involved. I tried to walk the line between respecting their wisdom and imploring them for mercy. But all I felt… well, all I was able to feel, was either cold indifference or quiet suspicion. I failed. I failed Alema, and I may have failed the Order itself…
You take too heavy a burden onto yourself, young Jedi. Doubtless there will be moments when the fate of the galaxy truly does rest on your shoulders, but this was not one of them. The fate of the Order does not rest on the career of a single Padawan. It is a shame that her potential is lost to them because the Jedi are too hidebound, but she is not dead. She may yet do great things for the galaxy, even now.
Just remember that even with the Force as our ally, we cannot alter the course of the stars. The Council had doubtless made up their mind before you ever walked in the room.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to say that the Jedi Order is doomed now that Alema is gone. But this attitude – I mean, ‘A Jedi shall not know love’ – it’s becoming more prevalent within the Order, and this morning’s ruling… it just seemed like a tipping of the scales, if you get my meaning… I’m sorry, I may not be making the most sense, but I couldn’t sleep. The image of that girl, standing in our quarters with nothing but the clothes on her back… her lightsaber missing… I keep replaying the moment in my head again and again… even if it was ultimately her choice, it just doesn’t feel right to me.
It wasn’t. But don’t give yourself over to despair. Take this as a lesson, instead. This is why we are embarked on our task. Certainly the great conflicts that arise again and again between Jedi and Sith are a thing to stop as well, but it is the thousand little injustices that their extremism causes in between that must also be brought to an end.
And though it might not seem like it quite yet, this could be an opportunity. Remember Alema when the time comes for you to begin an Order of your own.
< sniffles a bit > Heh… now you sound like my sister…
…She seems more committed to what Vergere has suggested than I think I ever will.
And she actually suggested the very same thing about Alema.
But I just can’t see it, Bastila. I’ve lived almost my entire life as a Jedi. There’s nothing I want more than to bring peace and justice to the galaxy, even in my own small way. It’s the Jedi way, after all. Even though I may have added a few dreams over the years, like being a Battlemaster, I’ve always just wanted to help people. Vergere talks about destroying the Jedi and the Sith – but like with Alema this morning, it just doesn’t feel right to me. I can see why the Sith should be destroyed – how many times has their own ambition almost led to galactic domination? But the Jedi? Sure, the Jedi make mistakes – I … I truly believe I witnessed one these past days… but if there’s any organization in the galaxy that can understand the Force – can listen to the wisdom of Ashla – it’s the Jedi. Yet I fear that my sister is slipping away from the Order. Whatever happened to her on Zonama Sekot has changed her… and after today… I’ve had my run-ins with the Jedi Code, but after this… I think it’s the first time I’ve ever really considered the Jedi to be in the wrong. I don’t know what it all means. I just don’t.
I understand what you’re going through. Perhaps better than most. You sound like me when I first met Revan. You’re right, the Jedi aren’t evil. But they are wrong more often than they can admit, and that leads to plenty of its own sort of suffering. What you’re experiencing now, for example.
Perhaps you attach too much significance to Vergere’s phrasing. By her own acknowledgement, she cannot see the path forward clearly. That is why she’s set you this first task, of gathering others like myself into this device. It is her hope that together we can help you find a way where she alone cannot. Do not be so quick to assume that the only way to free the galaxy of the binary conflict of the Jedi and Sith is to visit destruction upon them both. Even the Sith have certain redeeming qualities that are worth preserving, if possible.
Like what? I haven’t known many Sith in my lifetime, but on a whole I find them to be utterly selfish, obsessive, manipulative, and cruel. Their passions fuel them, and their call for ‘order’ in the galaxy means only domination.
Is one not a companion of yours? Have you not put great effort into not only aiding him, but protecting him from the Jedi? Why, if you do not see something of value in him?
You mean Irsin? I mean… well… uhh… I mean yeah, I guess he is a Sith, isn’t he? Heh… it’s funny, I haven’t really thought of him in that way for a while now. It seems like after all we’ve been through these few short months… well, he just doesn’t seem like a Sith anymore. And with Irsin, it isn’t only about ‘value’ – I want to help him. He’s been through so many terrible experiences in his life… now he can’t trust anyone. He’s terrified of betrayal, which always seems to find him. I don’t know really much of anything about Irsin, but what I do know suggests that he isn’t very Sith-like, so maybe that’s why I don’t lump him in with Sith like Vorman Grale or Korvus Doone.
How do you think most of them become what they are? A person born evil is a truly uncommon thing. The Sith have been twisted by their excess, but they none of them began that way. They use their ideals to justify actions that by any reasonable standard are terrible. It’s more obvious with their Order, but in the end it isn’t so different from what happens to the Jedi.
You mean like with Alema? But see, that’s what I don’t get… I’ve never understood that… arrgh! I’ve been asking this question for years, and I still don’t have an answer… but Bastila, if there’s ever been a Jedi that can answer it, it’s you.
Please, tell me: why do the Jedi fear love? Or hate love? Why do the Jedi – in most eras of history – why do they turn away from the love between people? If Ashla and Bogan… err… if the Force is made up of light and dark, why do the Jedi strive to purge the darkness, but deny the light as well? Where does that leave us? How can we bring compassion and healing to the galaxy if we can’t ever truly understand something like the love between two people?
You have asked I not speak of information gathered from your personal journals except with you. I detect that we are alone. Can you confirm that?
< chuckles > Well, yes, I suppose so. I mean, if Q’aleane wants to listen in on this, I can’t really stop her. But no, there isn’t anyone here except for me – I brought the Master Holocron into my quarters here on the ship for that very reason.
Acknowledged. You related a mission into your holocron from your time as a Padawan, when your Master, sister, and yourself were on the trail of a terrorist. In trying to escape, your quarry caused an explosion which you believed killed both of your companions. In response, you slew your quarry in anger.
It is for this that the Jedi fear love—fear all strong emotion. Because it can drive us to commit terrible acts, even with the best of intentions. The Jedi’s mistake lies not in fearing these reactions, but in seeking to prevent the feelings that give rise to them. It is only through accepting our feelings that we can hope to control them. It is that wisdom that the Sith, at their best, have mastered while it forever eludes the Jedi. They understand that our emotions, all of our emotions, are a necessary part of what makes us sentient beings, and it is better to use them than to deny them. The way the Sith fail is in reveling in those feelings. But, in the end, it is emotion that destroys them both.
So then… what am I?
All I’ve ever wanted is to be a Jedi. Yet for years I’ve expended a great deal of effort in creating a ‘Jedi persona’ for myself, because I’ve had so much difficulty controlling… suppressing… mastering… my emotions – whatever you want to call it. I’m actually pretty good at it now, though you wouldn’t know it from how I look and sound right now < laughs hoarsely >. This. This right here? This is the ‘real’ Q’ayla Ren. Well, this and a heck of a lot of lightsaber skill… But when we were on Wayland, and I experienced the gate… < sigh > … simulation… I failed as a Jedi. In fact, I performed so well as a Sith that the gate remained open after I passed through. I thought I had gotten over this… but the question remains: what am I?
Is this what Vergere – and now you too – is this what you’re trying to tell me? Why I can talk to you now instead of hearing garbled holocron data? Because I’m not a Jedi? Because I’ve failed to live up to my vows and my promises and my Order?
Because I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to fail Master Tahl, or Q’aleane, or my parents, or the Council.
Yet I can’t deny what I’ve been feeling these past hours… and days. I don’t know what loving someone feels like – certainly not like you do, Bastila – but I do know that what I think love is isn’t something to be feared… and it’s certainly not something you force a sixteen year-old girl to choose over her career and lifestyle.
So where does that leave me?
What are you? You are perhaps the most perfect example of why there needs to be a middle path. You are driven by a need to serve your fellow sentients, to aid and protect them, just as a Jedi does. But you are driven there by emotions the Jedi would have you deny, and the Sith have no time for. You exemplify the need for a new way, perhaps better than either of your companions, even if they accept the role more readily than you do.
You can deny that fact if you wish. You could spend your life trying to live up to the Jedi ideal, and never quite manage it. If you are fortunate, you will go through life doubting yourself and fearing your own nature. If you are unfortunate, you will find yourself being a poster child for why the Jedi fear emotions, and they will draw you into darkness.
I have followed both paths, Q’ayla. Neither can give you what you seek.
So what would you have me do? Just leave!? Do you know how difficult that would be – to lose one’s hopes, and desires, and dreams?
…But then, of course you know.
< sigh >
Of course you know. You and Revan know, because even though you remained ‘Jedi’, you both walked away from the Order in your own way. I just don’t know if I have it in me to do the same. You had love, and you had Revan.
There’s more than one way to break with the Order. It need not be in a public fashion. I only say that, to achieve any sort of peace of mind, you need to decide, for yourself, what path you intend to take. The agony you’re experiencing now is because you are stretched between conflicting courses. You cannot continue to be a part of this simply because your sister is—you must choose it for yourself. You hate that the Jedi forced Alema to choose between them and her love, but part of the reason that choice bothered you so much is you have a similar one before you.
You’re… right. I think there’s a part of me that’s always known that the time might come when just being Q’ayla in ‘Jedi-mode’ wouldn’t be enough. I’ve tried so hard over the years to be the Jedi I always imagined myself as, but maybe the Force… no; maybe Ashla needed me to see this… I still wish Alema hadn’t had to suffer for it, though… and I hope the credits I gave her will keep her and Rom safe and away from the Undercity… but maybe I needed to see how the Jedi would react. Even so… how can I make this decision now? Is the rising tide of dissatisfaction with Jedi love really enough to wash me away from my life? … Maybe… maybe not. I just… don’t know.
You have time to think it over, of course. I don’t intend to suggest you must decide at once. I merely thought you needed to see the situation from a new point of view. I understand the tension you feel, and it is no choice to be made lightly. You just need to know what you’re deciding before you can.
I understand… at least, I think I do. It’s just so much to take in; all of this. This isn’t exactly how I expected to spend my time as a Jedi Knight. Yet…
Even with this quest hanging over me, the fact that I have had a chance to speak with you, or even Vergere… the fact that I know there are others out there who have struggled the way I do… the fact that… I got to meet Irsin. Even if it’s been unexpected, I can’t say that it’s been unwanted – at least not all of it.
And you’re right – you and Q’aleane – who’s to say that if we do end up creating some new Order, that we couldn’t seek out Alema and give her the life that the Jedi took from her?
A life with the opportunity for service, and justice, and… love.
< sigh > Heh… you know, if I let myself go and forget the fact that I’m meeting with the Council tomorrow… all of this doesn’t sound half bad?
I am sorry this is so difficult for you, Q’ayla. My own experience, while harrowing in its own way, at least saved me from needing to deal with stuffy old men while I was wrestling with myself. I do not envy you.
Well, considering the shock we gave the Council when we presented your original holocron in the course of our testimony? I don’t envy myself either.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up either grounded here doing clerical work in the Archives for a month or being shadowed by our master again for the foreseeable future. Which makes pursuing the grey holocrons that much more difficult… and it means that Irsin can’t be by m— our side during a time when he needs us the most. I’m sure he’s still dwelling on what happened on Nar Shaddaa, and the more time we spend apart, the less chance I think that we’ll have any lasting effect on him.
I think you’re allowing your negativity about other matters to cloud your perspective. Why would the Council punish you? You have brought them a priceless artifact of an ancient Jedi renowned in the annals of the Order’s history, if you’ll permit the immodesty. You needn’t even conceal any of the essential facts of how you came by it.
Well, okay, two things: first, you are a Jedi renowned in the annals of the Order’s history… which technically makes this whole conversation really quite embarrassing for me < laughs >. And second, I don’t think it’s so much that we found your holocron, or even how we found it… it’s the fact that we didn’t immediately give it to the Council, and then waited until we were testifying in an important and likely polarizing situation before we handed it over – as part of our testimony proper. I’m not sure if every member of the Council was as suspicious as Master Onasi – the Battlemaster of all people – but I definitely felt a worrying amount of focus on the holocron and our having had possession of it during the deliberations.
That is explained easily enough, I should think. It isn’t as if you waited a great deal of time before handing it over, and there’s no crime in having a different opinion than the Council on a polarizing matter. You confronted them in a manner that perhaps made them somewhat uncomfortable, but for all their faults, Jedi Masters do not rise to the status of Council members if they cannot endure a bit of cheek from new-made Knights from time to time.
Well, for all of our sakes, I hope you’re right. I mean, I’m sure Q’aleane can say all the right things, but I really want some time away from Taris – and the Council, and the watchful gaze of Master Tahl – once we get our next assignment. I think after all of this, I just need some time to think… and some time to just be myself for a while with Q’aleane and Irsin.
You know, without all the Rakghoul disease. < laughs >
Well, listen — I look terrible, and I sound like I’ve been doing death sticks… I need some water. And, more importantly, I need some sleep, while there’s still night out there. I want to thank you, Bastila, for staying up with me tonight. You’ve given me a lot to think about, and you’re right – I need to start thinking about how all of this will effect me – the real me – and not just my sister. I don’t think I’ll be making any decisions about this yet, but I know that the time is coming, and I need to prepare myself.
I… I can’t do anything more for Alema – yet – but hopefully as I learn more from you, and Vergere, and whoever else joins our little ‘cult’, I’ll be in a better position to help the next time something like this happens.
Stay in touch with the girl, too, if you can. That way if she runs into difficulties, you’ll have a chance to do something about it. I hope my words have been of some small help to you, Q’ayla. As I’ve said, I understand how you feel right now, probably better than I do either of your companions. Sleep well, and may the Force be with you, always.
May the Force be with you, Bastila.
And maybe next time, you can give me some advice on helping Irsin out of his shell…
< sigh >
I’ll do what I can, of course, but I understand Irsin’s mind far less well than I do yours, I’m afraid. My own circumstances give me little insight into his perspective.
Heh. Well, then welcome to the club, Master.
< Q’ayla rises from her knees and deactivates the Master Holocron. >
< Q’ayla’s voice becomes louder and softer as she moves about her quarters, washing up and preparing for the day.>
Alright, the Master Holocron is back on the bridge – hopefully Q’aleane didn’t notice that it went “missing” last night…
I should probably get back to the Academy and clean up our suite too… I think I may have broken the door to my room yesterday after Alema left… then after lunch we’re meeting with the Council – hopefully to get our new assignment, and not to be chastised for Bastila’s holocron.
But while I’m getting ready, I did want to mention something other than the whole Alema situation that happened a few days ago, while we were still in the Promised Land.
I told Irsin about Ansion. I had been meaning to ask him whether or not he ran into the two escaped bounty hunters on Taris during the Senator Thek investigation. Luckily – thankfully – he did not, but he did confirm that the Chiss was… in fact… Trasa.
Trasa was on Taris.
Now, I don’t know if she was looking for me, or if she just so happened to take a job involving Jedi for fun and credits. Nevertheless… I was more than a little unnerved, and I’m sure Irsin felt it when he told me. That’s when I decided to tell him about my mission and the… torture. I tried to not go into too much detail, but I think I expressed enough for him to be grateful that he didn’t cross her path. Even stranger, though – he said that he heard the Twi’lek accompanying Trasa was heavily augmented with cybernetics, and that his name was Desvin… did he really survive what happened on Ansion? I was hoping that my rescue would have been the end of it – now? I’m not so sure. I have a nagging feeling that I will in fact meet Trasa again some day… what will happen then Ashla only knows. But I was so relieved that Irsin didn’t run into them – not that Irsin can’t take care of himself! Actually, in the two times we’ve sparred so far, he bested me once! He’s pretty good… no, he’s really good… I’ll have to up my training regimen to keep that from happening again! But still, a good digger and a good duelist… heh, you keep surprising me, Irsin.
Anyways… I’d better get going if I want to meet Q’aleane for some breakfast – before it’s lunch time!