Chapter 14

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Shortly after ending the holocall with Ben, Aviri left her quarters, took an elevator, and found a cab. As she stepped inside, the taxi’s droid driver asked, “What is your destination, madam?”

Madam? How rude. She knew droids took specific physiological queues to make such assignments of age and the terms associated with them. When had she gotten so old? She hadn’t even reached her middle age by Ishtoni standards.

“The Minuchu administrative building, near Aareeyah square, please.”

“Location accepted. Remember to put on your seat belt. Do not stick any appendage: arm, tentacle, or otherwise outside the vehicle. Do not open--”

Aviri ignored the rest of the droid’s annoying security reminders. Why don’t the taxi companies have some waiver form we can sign, so we can skip hearing this babbling nonsense every time?

Her annoyance waned as the humidity in the room decreased and the seat adjusted to favor her Ishtoni physiology. She approved the taxi to pull funds from her account, and denied the option to use the priority upper lane in hovercraft airspace. The cab soon sped along the lower, and then mid-lane of traffic.

She checked her cye notifications. An upcoming meeting with Municipate Adjooto, and Krul's next trial was soon. She glanced out the window, knowing that she should be prepping to drill Adjooto on his upcoming speech. But she couldn't motivate herself, or keep her mind off of Ben Kenobi.

The ads of holonetwork providers, sporting events, and lottos, which ran on the vidfilm that wrapped the walls of urban buildings weren't engaging. Only the notice for a new museum exhibit of Mchi's shadow sculptures caught her eye, but it only lasted a moment. How could you do this to your friend, Aviri? 

She rubbed her temples to calm her frustration, and tried to divert her attention to the pedestrians below. They were mostly Rodian, but one could spot the occasional sakiyan, neck-tentacled twi’lek, human... and was that a kowakian monkey-lizard? She hadn’t seen one of those in quite some time. Horrible, annoying little creatures, especially when they laughed.

I'm sorry, Ben.

Giving in, she let her mind wrestle with her conscience. She should have expected General Trajan to marshall Ben's help in the operation. He was competent, had substantial military training, and was located close to Rodia. I would have chosen him if he were available too. She had just hoped her friend wouldn't become involved; she didn't want him to get hurt, either by Krul or by the blow backs of politics.

And yet the gift she'd had that Senator’s aide, Ryadnae, give to Trajan before the Jedi council meeting had disclosed Ben's key role in Trajan's plan. Using an underling was one of Aviri’s routine precautions. Jedi could sense others’ deception, but they couldn’t do so when the person doing the deceiving was unaware of it themselves. Having Ryadnae pass on the band, under the pretense of it being a gift from the Calrissians, had worked perfectly.

Trajan hadn’t resisted showing off the expensive trinket before Master K’nok. In the meantime she had intercepted many of the General’s personal communications.

Another precaution she had taken was utilizing holocommunication, which protected her from force readings. All this aside, she still hated deceiving her friend. Hearing from Ben, listening to his doubts, and recognizing the sincerity of his questions made her ill. She might have convinceed him that inaction on Rodia was the right decision. Maybe he'd have called off the operation with Trajan, or at least refused to particpate himself.

Instead, she had fed him information that strengthened his resolve. Of course, the information she gave him was true, but she could have given more weight to the other side of the equation. Yet Trajan’s operation had to move forward for her plans to succeed.

Now that her plans were coming to fruition, Ben’s call reminded her that she was going to hurt real people, not just the numerical figures representing people in statistical models. Could she go through with what she had set out to do?

She thought so. She had to. The galaxy depended on her. As much as the Jedi touted being peacemakers, there was a problem with that position. Peace wasn't always a good thing; sometimes, its price was too steep.

"Galactic peace" was something only an unthinking beauty pageant contestant said she wanted most. Peace was only valuable as it delivered a good quality of life, one with considerable freedom, equality, justice, escape from onerous debts, and a fair distribution of wealth, opportunities, and rights.

For “peace” was what the Sith wanted too, on their terms. And the Republic had established its own "peace" in its territories as well. "Peace" meant keeping the status quo. It was the platform by which the empowered subdued the oppressed.

Should the Jedi be guardians of corrupt, or simply apathetic institutions in their quest to maintain peace, or was there a time for war, for revolution? Was there a time to stop pretending that the hamstrung legislature and courts would institute desperately needed changes, when they only made minor concessions to prevent widespread rebellion?

Aviri decided months ago that there was such a time for dissent: now. Some orders weren't worth having, and momentary chaos was tolerable if something superior could form out of its bubbling brew. She despised herself for using Krul and his band of thugs, for helping fund and further his plans. She couldn't convince herself as Krul had that all humans were guilty and deserving of his murderous judgment.

Most people were innocent; that was funny thing about struggles. Nearly always they were fought between forces made up of individuals with little to do or contribute to the matter at hand. The random affiliations of life--the socioeconomic currents that people were born into--made enemies of those who should have been dear friends.

But just because people were mostly innocent, and innocents would die, didn't mean nothing should be done. Aviri wasn't naive enough to think that the galaxy would just sort itself out on its own. History scoffed at such dreamers. It took beings with vision, who could make the sacrifices necessary to seize the fire and kindle change. Even if in doing so they lost their souls.

Was she slipping to the dark side? Right now she honestly didn't even know what that meant.

"Trust the force. Follow its promptings. Listen to your feelings." These were trite statements Jedi masters told academy initiates, but she didn't repeat them to her students.

Her experience was otherwise. Her feelings were often muddled, and "the force" was mute to her in bestowing inspiration. Sure, it might warn of imminent threats on her life, bestow the random flash of an idea, but it didn't inform her choices. She asked for direction, but she didn't receive it.

And so she moved ahead by the light of her own wisdom. She'd worry about finding a way to live with herself after she'd seen the course through.

Her cab slowed to a halt and she realized she was at her destination. All too soon. The metallic purple steps leading up the Minuchu administrative building were before her.

“Are you ready, Madam?” asked the taxi droid.

She’d better be.

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