1There was as much science and art in warfare as there was in anything else. Compose a piece of music, paint a picture, sculpt molten glass, plan a battle.

Or a genocide.

The goal of genocide was to completely an utterly destroy a people. Not simply by killing them all, because it was inevitable that some would escape. No, no, you had to demoralize as you destroy, so that any survivors were unable to pick up the pieces once the worst was over. Wide-spread gang-rape was a good way to start. Slavery under unbearable conditions was another, as was mass executions of leaders, celebrities, children...

Cassus Fett is no fool. He knows the logic of genocide like he knows the logic of war-droid deployments and garrison placements. But genocide has always been a wasteful, and worse, dishonorable way to wage war, something to be done only when you were on the retreat from vastly superior forces and the Mandalorians were on the verge of being wiped out themselves. That is how he'd been taught. That is how he believes. Mandalorians, despite the stereotype, didn't destroy and fight simply for fun of it. Conflict made them strong, not simply because by pitting themselves against worthy opponents they would learn, adapt, evolve, but because when they take a planet, they truly make it their own. They work just as hard and long as the people native to the planet they've conquered, adopted orphans into their own families, and before too long it is difficult to tell who was the conquered and who was the conqueror. Clan Fett itself started out like that, a people of farmers who clawed their way into the ranks of the Mandalorian Clans through sheer force of will.

But this new war- this... crusade is different from every battle he's ever planned. Worlds are destroyed without warning or cause- some not even strong enough to fight at all, let alone fight well- their resources and people demolished beyond any hope of use. The entire thing puts into his mind a pack of mercs beating a drugged dancer into unconsciousness; completely and totally lacking in sport or thrill or honor or glory or anything even remotely resembling the Resol'Nare. It doesn't sit well, but his duty is to his Mandalore, his people, and he will see it through no matter what the cost.

Even so, at times he wonders if he isn't contributing to his people's destruction. A slow death by poison, as their honor, their way of life is slowly chipped away by whatever it is that is consuming his people, filling their minds with undisciplined emotions like vengeance and bloodlust. Sometimes he thinks they are becoming like the Sith they fought with not too long ago.

The conflict between his views and his duty is a new one, and something he is ill prepared to deal with. He tries to strike a balance, acting differently in his capacity as Mandalore's tactician then he does when he's with his family. As Cassus Fett, husband and father, he saves what he can, adopting children even as his aging wife protests that she's too old to teach several children at once. He has twenty-three of them now; ten of his own blood, all adults, seven he had adopted back when he was fighting battle just as often as he planned them, also adults, and six not yet thirteen. Mira is the newest addition to his family, a red-headed female constantly getting into fights with her older, stronger, brothers and demanding to be taught how to build grenades, much to his Epha's bemusement.

Then he gets his orders from Mandalore to destroy entire populations, seemingly just for the hell of it, and he carries them out. Even though he knows the standing excuse of trying to provoke their real opponents, the Republic and the Jedi, into fighting them doesn't really work. The Republic has a longer memory for things like how difficult fighting a war could be than his own people, and they won't be willing to fight, let alone itching for it, for another decade at least. Mandalore knows this; he's told his leader several times, although the words don't seem to penetrate his armor.

Another thing that doesn't seem to fit is the way they are ordered to attack worlds. Not only are weak worlds set aflame, but worlds they should take care conquering, like Cathar, and now Iridonia, are utterly destroyed, their people, proud, strong warriors who could have fleshed out the Mandalorian ranks very nicely, scattered to the far ends of the galaxy.

The dots connect themselves, unbidden, in his head. They are fighting a war against a foe with superior firepower, resources, and numbers, if considerably less resolve; the consequences of which will be disastrous, whichever side wins. And as they move to engage, they raze worlds which have historically produced warriors of unusual prowess. If he didn't know any better, he'd say that Mandalore was deliberately trying to rob the galaxy of its strength...

Wasteful. Dishonorable. Cowardly.

He doesn't know if the words refer more to his thought or his orders, but they are never far from his mind in either case. It worries him, that he seemingly has to make a choice between his honor and his duty, his people, or their soul...

"You look like someone's trying to drive a spike through your head," Canderous of Ordo commented as he plunked his tray down across the table from him.

"Thought it'd be nice to get something new in there," Cassus replied.

"What, your brain not good enough?"

"I can probably arrange for you to get one too, if you like."

"Nope. Chances are your daughter's cooking will kill me before it'd have a chance to go in, anyway."

Cassus slowly put the datapad he'd been working on facedown on the table. "Ordo, didn't I tell you not to let Luteola near the mess?"

"I didn't," Canderous protested. "In fact, she's supposed to be out scouting the perimeter right now. But she didn't check her datapad for new orders..."

Cassus sighed. "Not again,"

"Again," Canderous confirmed. "Do you want to talk to her, or should I?"

"She's heard enough from me, and I don't want any rumors that she got off easy because of her Dad's connections. You do it," Cassus ordered, picking up the datapad again with a pointed look. Ordo, as usual, ignored him.

"I suppose she has an excuse. Rumor has it she and Brouter are looking to forge an alliance," he began casually.

"Space off, Ordo. Your son's name is safe. If anything, Luteola will end up with Delia Veng, she's more to her tastes."

Ordo grinned wolfishly, a flicker of relief dancing through his eyes. "Good. It'd be such a shame to loose another Ordo to the Fetts."

"Oh, you're just still sore that I married your cousin," Cassus snapped.

"Damn straight. She could have done so much better..."

"You know, I've killed men for lesser insults," Cassus remarked.

"None of them were people who you owed your life to several times over, vod."

"Doesn't mean you have to flirt with death. Don't you do it enough out there? Or is Eloam not enough of a woman for you?"

"You're in sour mood today," Canderous observed.

"How smart of you to notice."

"You know what you need?" When the older man didn't respond, Canderous answered his own question. "You need to get out there and fight one of those battles you plan. You spend all your time hunched over you datapads and never actually get to experience the thrill and glory of battle yourself. Why don't you take command of one of your ships during the next battle, remind yourself what it means to be a Mandalorian, eh?"

Again, Cassus could feel a choice loom- your friend or the truth?- and again, he pushes it off carefully.

"I probably should, but I'm trying to coordinate a war with three fronts. I'll be lucky if I can find time to remind myself what it means to be asleep."

Not a lie, a half-truth. A balance.

He dreaded the day he can't put off the choice any longer.

And, looking down at the datapad, the battle plans for the bombardment of Iridonia, with it's subtle flaws that will allow a small group of smart individuals to escape if they are able to see the opportunities presented them, he knew he already had. And his loyalty was not to his people.

He hated himself for it.