1: I don't own Star Wars. That'd be George Lucas. The ability to write and publish this tale on this site is purely due to Lucas' kindness, indifference, gratitude over the size of the community, or the lovely little US act called Fair Use. Take your pick.
2: Thanks to my beta reader, who helped me figure out what the hell I was trying to do with this story.
3: Timeline: This takes place prior to Revan and Malak's visit to Taris, prior to their entrance into the Mandalorian War. This also takes place in the same universe as my "Redemption" and "That Old Familiar Feeling" stories, although there is no overlap. Yet. Probably never will be, but ya never know...
It was the explosions that convinced me. Couldn't go five seconds on the nets without seeing them. The latest news feed from the Mandalorian wars had brought along the glorious video; high definition, surround sound, color corrected death being broadcast all across the galaxy. Only thing missing was feeling the shockwave from when the power plant that had supplied a city of billions went critical from the orbital laser show.
The Mandalorians had invaded the Republic. They kept invading. The Grand Ole Republic Fleet looked like they were going through the dance of inevitability. Four different Fleet Admirals pulling four different ways on the reigns, and battles that they could've won, should've won, would've won had the fleet hierarchy any kind of sense, turned into miserable defeats, and that old joke about military intelligence just doesn't seem so funny anymore.
"Are you ready to leave yet, Kyle?"
I looked up from the vid screen to see my truest friend, the one person it seemed I could truly count on to protect me from any evils. The moral compass that kept me from doing anything too un-Jedi-like. Good old Dwayne Torzen. Just like of him to 'forget' my name.
"No. Not Kyle. You know that."
"Yes, Kyle. Kyle is the name your parents gave you. Kyle is the name that all of your friends know you by. You are Kyle Nolan, son of Richard and Katherine Nolan, not some fake name you pulled out of a hat!"
"Why are you so afraid of this? It's for our family and our friends that we must do this! You've seen what the Mandalorians have done! They strike at any weakness, no matter how small, no matter who dies in the process." I motion towards the screen, showing an entire city district aflame. "They just destroyed an entire populated city, along with any useful infrastructure, just to eliminate a small guerilla resistance movement! They're so far past overkill they don't even know what it looked like when they passed it! They wouldn't blink an eye at using anyone we know and love against us! You know that!"
And now I'm yelling. The anger that I've fought so hard for so long to control has come to the surface again.
"You're yelling again."
"I know." He's always been my conscience, quick to tell me whenever I'm about to lose control.
"Anger leads to the Dark Side."
"If we are to fight the Mandalorians, we must be wary of the Dark Side."
"I know, old friend. Three times over, I know."
"We have to remain calm if we're to convince the Republic we're heroes and better than what they have. Which brings me to my other point. How will the Republic know our abilities if we come to them with fake names? They won't know what we've done as Jedi, and they'll just throw us onto the cannon-fodder lines for the entire war."
"Then we'd have to make a name for ourselves, right? And what better place to do it than a pit of corruption, crime and cruelty like Taris? Yes, it may take some time, but the way the war's been going these days the Grand Ole Republic will probably be ready for a change. Besides, there's another reason for the name changes."
"Oh really?" my friend asks, with a small smirk. He knows what's coming. Ever since I met him we've been trading barbs about our respective names, him always bringing up the half-million other human males with the exact same name, and me…
"Yep. Who's going to respect a great, powerful general of the Armed Forces of the Republic named Dwayne? It'd be like a Sith Lord calling himself 'Darth Fluffy'!"
"Darth Fluffy would be a powerful opponent," Dwayne deadpans.
"Oh, absolutely!" I say, with the sarcastic look of shock. "I mean, he'd kill you by flinging the soft pillows at you with the force!"
"Torturing you with the comfy chair."
"Unleashing his army of gizka on Coruscant."
"Not the gizka!"
And the dead-pans falter and we lose ourselves in the joke, the laughter washing away the war, the death, the pain that we feel, every moment of every day. The horror of a long, devastating war against an enemy that has yet to be beaten, and knowing that we are unable to do anything about it. Yet.
I turn away from Dway – no, not Dwayne. If the charade is to work, I can't think of him as Dwayne. He is Malak. Not Dwayne, Malak.
I turn away from Malak and gaze back into the screen, calling up the Republic troop movements overlaid upon Republic Intelligence's report of the Mandalorian fleet locations.
"Can the Republic lose the war?" he asks, likely noting a trace of obsession. A valid question, and one that has been debated often since the war's start.
"No, Malak. Well, I suppose it's theoretically possible, but so are a lot of things. I mean, it's possible for you to beat me at Pazaak, but not at all likely."
"The Mandalorians are out-numbered 10-1. For all of the incompetence shown by the Republic Fleet Admirals so far, there are some good points. The underlings in the fleet have managed to make the Mandies earn every battle. Sure, we've lost a lot more ships than the Mandalorians, but numerically our advantage is growing.
"Also, the reluctance of the Fleet to commit a large fleet outside of the core does have one benefit: The core is unassailable. It would take the entire Mandalorian Armada to break through the lines there, and after such a battle their forces would be left in tatters, and our reinforcements would wipe them out.
"And, it should be noted, that the majority of the Republic shipyards are also in the core. Meanwhile, the Mandalorian nomadic culture hasn't exactly helped them foster a good collection of shipyards, and they tend to, well, destroy a lot of the infrastructure on the planets they take."
"Done yet?" he says, humor creeping back into his voice.
"Almost. This is a classic pattern in history. Invading force catches everyone by surprise in the opening volley. They go on to win 5, 10, 20 battles before they lose one, making everyone on the defender's side be afraid for their life and liberty and what-not, and then the invaders lose one and another and another and before you know it the powerful, unstoppable villains are reeling so hard everyone can see it and the invaders so quickly become the invaded, its like night and day."
"Inhale, Kyle, inhale." His grin grows wider at the good news, and probably my own exuberance as well.
His smile falters. "Right. Revan. Continue."
"The Mandalorian's first mistake was invading the Republic in the first place. Their second mistake was failing to stop the destruction of valuable infrastructure, either by Republic troops or their own. And their third was assuming that the Republic would just fold like a house of cards. The Republic is a big place, and sooner or later they're going to get overextended, and some clever captain will sweep in and deal the first in a long line of crushing defeats. You don't win wars with the army you have, you win wars with the army that you can make. That answer your question?"
"Most of them. So why?"
"Why go to war? Why leave the Jedi? Why take these… names and abandon who we were?"
"Because if we don't do this a lot of good people are going to die. Because the Council is so focused on the future they can't see the suffering in the here-and-now. Because maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong and the Admiralty will lose a war we could so easily win. Because, for Force's sake, it's the right thing to do!" Calm down, Revan. Don't yell, it's a valid question.
"Right thing to do. You know, there's this old saying about 'good intentions'…"
"I've heard it. It has some merit, but overly simplistic. Your point?"
"If we fall the whole galaxy could suffer. I'm good, Kyle, but you're better. You are a better strategist than Master Kavar, you're almost as good as Vrook and Vandar with the force, and you haven't yet reached your full potential with either the force or the blades. I've heard the masters talk about you, Kyle. They're… afraid."
"As well they should be…" I say, grinning the most exaggerated evil grin I can manage.
"Kyle!" Is he afraid? Malak, afraid?
"I know! I was joking, okay?"
"I'm not," he says, voice hard, but with a trace of something else. Fear, definitely fear. "These names, they feel like the first steps on a very long, dark path. If we take them, what's to stop us from falling?"
"Each other, old friend. You've kept me straight for as long as I can remember, and I'll do my best to do the same for you. War is hell, but we can stay strong."
"I hope your right... Revan," he says, sounding almost defeated. And did he shudder when he said my name?
"Have I ever been wrong?"
"You don't want me to answer that, do you?"
"Nope. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?"
Malak groans and starts to walk away, "Great. You just had to doom us all, didn't you?"
"Hey, everyone knows taunting Murphy doesn't count when it's intentional!" I say, laughing inside over the prospect of names turning us to the Dark Side. Its not like they mean anything. Just a name, nothing more...