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[小说] 【中英对译】《达斯·贝恩:毁灭之路》(更新第16章)











发表于 2013-3-30 16:37 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
本帖最后由 光剑 于 2013-8-25 22:38 编辑

Star Wars     星球大战

Darth Bane    达斯·贝恩

book 1        第一作

Path of Destruction   毁灭之路

by Drew Karpyshyn  作者:德鲁·卡宾森


In the last days of the Old Republic, the Sith-followers of the Force's dark side and ancient enemies of the Jedi order-numbered only two: one Master and one apprentice. Yet it was not always so. A thousand years before the Republic's collapse and Emperor Palpatine's rise to power, the Sith were legion . . .
在共和国即将覆灭的最后的那些日子,原力黑暗面的追随者以及绝地教团(the Jedi order)古老的敌人——西斯只剩下两人:一个师傅和一个徒弟。但这种情况并非一直如此。在共和国的覆灭,即皇帝帕尔帕庭(Emperor Palpatine)掌权之前的一千年,西斯曾经一度重返银河……

Lord Kaan, Sith Master and founder of the Brotherhood of Darkness, strode through the gore of the battlefield, a tall shadow in the night's gloom. Thousands of Republic troops and nearly a hundred Jedi had given their lives trying to defend this world against his army-and they had lost. He relished their suffering and despair; even now he could sense it rising up like the stench from the broken corpses scattered about the valley.
在夜幕下,一个高大的黑影,西斯大师,黑暗兄弟会(the Brotherhood of Darkness)之创始者,卡恩尊主(Lord Kaan),大步跨过血流成河的战场。数以千计共和国士兵和将近一百位绝地为了抵抗他的军队和保护这个世界而牺牲,但他们依然失败了。他品尝着他们的痛苦与绝望;即使是现在,他还能感受到在山谷中凌乱散布的残缺不全的尸体上散发出的恶臭的腐败气息。

In the distance a storm was brewing. As each flash of lightning illuminated the sky, Korriban's great Sith temple was momentarily visible in the distance, a stark silhouette towering over the barren horizon.
遥远的天边有一个风暴正在酝酿中。每当有一道明亮的闪电撕裂天际,这片荒芜之地的远处就突兀地冒出了一个僵硬的轮廓,那是科里班伟大西斯圣殿(Korriban's great Sith temple)在闪电下的一瞬辉耀。

A pair of figures waited in the center of the slaughter, one human and the other Twi'lek. He recognized them despite the darkness: Qordis and Kopecz, two of the most powerful Sith Lords. Once they had been bitter rivals, but now they served together in Kaan's Brotherhood. He approached them quickly, smiling.

Qordis, tall and so lean as to appear almost skeletal, smiled back. "This is a great victory, Lord Kaan. It has been far too long since the Sith have had an academy on Korriban."

"I sense you are eager to begin training the new apprentices here," Kaan replied. "I expect you will provide me with many more powerful-and loyal-Sith adepts and Masters in the coming years."
“我可以感觉到你非常渴望在这里开始训练新的学徒,”卡恩回答道。“期望你在未来的几年可以为我训练多几个更有力量而且更忠诚的西斯高手(Sith adepts)和西斯大师。”

"Provide you?" Kopecz asked pointedly. "Don't you mean provide us? Are we not all part of the Brotherhood of Darkness?"

His question was met with an easy laugh. "Of course, Kopecz. A mere slip of the tongue?'

"Kopecz refuses to celebrate in our triumph," Qordis noted. "He has been like this all night."

Kaan clasped a hand on the hefty Twi'lek's shoulder. "This is a great victory for us," he said. "Korriban is more than just another world: it is a symbol. The birthplace of the Sith. This victory sends a message to the Republic and the Jedi. Now they will truly know and fear the Brotherhood."

Kopecz shrugged free of Kaan's hand and turned away with a flick of the tips of the long lekku wound around his neck. "Celebrate if you wish,"he called over his shoulder as he walked away."But the real war has only just begun."
科佩茨耸了一下肩就从卡恩勾肩搭背的动作里脱离出来并转身,他缠在脖子上的修长肉辫(列库 lekku)也随之落下并摇晃着。“那就庆祝吧,如果你真的渴望这么做的话。”他离去的时候回头说。“但是真正的战争才刚刚开始。”











 楼主| 发表于 2013-3-30 16:41 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 光剑 于 2013-8-26 19:55 编辑











发表于 2013-3-30 17:18 | 显示全部楼层
不过,我建议你自己先校对一下,比如第一句就有问题,“last days”是复数,怎么变成“最后一天”了?

“over one's shoulder”通常是“回头(说话)”的意思。

Death  to  Sith,  Freedom  to  People!










 楼主| 发表于 2013-3-30 18:06 | 显示全部楼层
回复 3# 南方战士











发表于 2013-3-30 18:15 | 显示全部楼层
回复 4# 光剑


Sith adept,西斯高手










 楼主| 发表于 2013-4-3 23:03 | 显示全部楼层

RE: 【中英对译】《达斯·贝恩:毁灭之路》(更新至第一章)

本帖最后由 光剑 于 2013-4-4 16:21 编辑


Three Years Later

Chapter 1

Dessel was lost in the suffering of his job, barely even aware of his surroundings. His arms ached from the endless pounding of the hydraulic jack. Small bits of rock skipped off the cavern wall as he bored through, ricocheting off his protective goggles and stinging his exposed face and hands. Clouds of atomized dust filled the air, obscuring his vision, and the screeching whine of the jack filled the cavern, drowning out all other sounds as it burrowed centimeter by agonizing centimeter into the thick vein of cortosis woven into the rock before him.
工作所带来的折磨几乎使德赛尔(Dessel)迷失了自我,在最糟糕的时候他甚至几乎无法感知到自己身体周围的一切。液压冲击钻(the hydraulic jack)工作时永不休止的撞击,给他的手臂带来了极大的痛楚。在他进行乏味的工作时,许多破碎的小岩石块从洞穴壁上脱落,一部分被他的护目镜弹开,但是他脸部和手掌感到疼痛,因为其余的石块砸中了这些裸露的部位。空气里满是被扬起的尘埃,他的视线被严重的阻碍,冲击钻工作时发出的巨大而刺耳的轰鸣声充满了整个洞穴并掩盖了其余的一切声音,在他得到密布在岩石中科托西斯金属(cortosis woven)前,他将不得不在这样恶劣的环境下继续着这乏味的工作。

Impervious to both heat and energy, cortosis was prized in the construction of armor and shielding by both commercial and military interests, especially with the galaxy at war. Highly resistant to blaster bolts, cortosis alloys supposedly could withstand even the blade of a lightsaber. Unfortunately, the very properties that made it so valuable also made it extremely difficult to mine. Plasma torches were virtually useless; it would take days to burn away even a small section of cortosis-laced rock. The only effective way to mine it was through the brute force of hydraulic jacks pounding relentlessly away at a vein, chipping the cortosis free bit by bit.
由于表现出了对高温和能量束极为优异的抗性,科托西斯金属被认为是用作锻造盔甲和护盾中最有价值的材料,因此具有极高的商业价值和军事效益,特别是银河系正值战争时期,科托西斯金属的优异性质使其更为人所青睐。除了实战时面对爆能光束(blaster bolts)表现极高的防护性能,理论上推测掺入科托西斯金属的合金甚至能抵挡光剑(lightsaber)劈砍。不幸的是,科托西斯金属这极为优异的性质使它变得十分昂贵而且极度难以开采。等离子体发生器(Plasma torches)对它几乎是无效的,它需要数天时间才能烧毁与科托西斯金属交织在一起的岩石。唯一能称得上是有效率的开采方式是利用液压冲击钻的超级冲击力去撞击那些不平凡的岩石,令科托西斯金属碎屑一点一点地脱落。

Cortosis was one of the hardest materials in the galaxy. The force of the pounding quickly wore down the head of a jack, blunting it until it became almost useless. The dust clogged the hydraulic pistons, making them jam. Mining cortosis was hard on the equipment . . . and even harder on the miners.

Des had been hammering away for nearly six standard hours. The jack weighed more than thirty kilos, and the strain of keeping it raised and pressed against the rock face was taking its toll. His arms were trembling from the exertion. His lungs were gasping for air and choking on the clouds of fine mineral dust thrown up from the jack's head. Even his teeth hurt: the rattling vibration felt as if it were shaking them loose from his gums.

But the miners on Apatros were paid based on how much cortosis they brought back. If he quit now, another miner would jump in and start working the vein, taking a share of the profits. Des didn't like to share.

The whine of the jack's motor took on a higher pitch, becoming a keening wail Des was all too familiar with. At twenty thousand rpm, the motor sucked in dust like a thirsty bantha sucking up water after a long desert crossing. The only way to combat it was by regular cleaning and servicing, and the Outer Rim Oreworks Company preferred to buy cheap equipment and replace it, rather than sinking credits into maintenance. Des knew exactly what was going to happen next-and a second later, it did. The motor blew.
冲击钻的电机发出的声音越发高亢了,对于这种如同哀鸣的噪音,德赛尔是再熟悉不过了。在每分钟高达两万次的转速下电机吸入尘埃的情形就像是一头刚刚进行了一次长途沙漠旅行的极度饥渴的班萨兽(bantha)疯狂往胃里灌水那样……唯一消除这样的情况的方法是对冲击钻进行定期清洗和维护,但是外环矿石开采公司(the Outer Rim Oreworks Company)选择買一些廉价的零件更换上去,因为这比定期维护要省事和省钱。德赛尔非常清楚地知道有些事情马上就要发生了,而它确确实实的发生了。电机烧毁了

The hydraulics seized with a horrible crunch, and a cloud of black smoke spit out the rear of the jack. Cursing ORO and its corporate policies, Des released his cramped finger from the trigger and tossed the spent piece of equipment to the floor.

"Move aside, kid," a voice said.

Gerd, one of the other miners, stepped up and tried to shoulder Des out of the way so he could work the vein with his own jack. Gerd had been working the mines for nearly twenty standard years, and it had turned his body into a mass of hard, knotted muscle. But Des had been working the mines for ten years himself, ever since he was a teenager, and he was just as solid as the older man-and a little bigger. He didn't budge.

"I'm not done here," he said. "Jack died, that's all. Hand me yours and I'll keep at it for a while."

"You know the rules, kid. You stop working and someone else is allowed to move in."

Technically, Gerd was right. But nobody ever jumped another miner's claim over an equipment malfunction. Not unless he was trying to pick a fight.

Des took a quick look around. The chamber was empty except for the two of them, standing less than half a meter apart. Not a surprise; Des usually chose caverns far off the main tunnel network. It had to be more than mere coincidence that Gerd was here.

Des had known Gerd for as long as he could remember. The middle-aged man had been friends with Hurst, Des's father. Back when Des first started working the mines at thirteen, he had taken a lot of abuse from the bigger miners. His father had been the worst tormentor, but Gerd had been one of the main instigators, dishing out more than his fair share of teasing, insults, and the occasional cuff on the ear.

Their harassments had ended shortly after Des's father died of a massive heart attack. It wasn't because the miners felt sorry for the orphaned young man, though. By the time Hurst died, the tall, skinny teenager they loved to bully had become a mountain of muscle with heavy hands and a fierce temper. Mining was a tough job; it was the closest thing to hard labor outside a Republic prison colony. Whoever worked the mines on Apatros got big-and Des just happened to become the biggest of them all. Half a dozen black eyes, countless bloody noses, and one broken jaw in the space of a month was all it took for Hurst's old friends to decide they'd be happier if they left Des alone.

Yet it was almost as if they blamed him for Hurst's death, and every few months one of them tried again. Gerd had always been smart enough to keep his distance-until now.

"I don't see any of your friends here with you, old man," Des said. "So back off my claim, and nobody gets hurt."

Gerd spat on the ground at Des's feet. "You don't even know what day it is, do you, boy? Kriffing disgrace is what you are!"

They were standing close enough to each other that Des could smell the sour Corellian whiskey on Gerd's breath. The man was drunk. Drunk enough to come looking for a fight, but still sober enough to hold his own.
这两个人站得太近了以至于德赛尔那从戈德的呼吸中闻到发酸的科瑞利安威士忌(the sour Corellian whiskey)的味道。这个男人喝了酒。明显是喝多了之后来寻衅挑事,但还好他能使自己保持理智。

"Five years ago today," Gerd said, shaking his head sadly. "Five years ago today your own father died, and you don't even remember!"

Des rarely even thought about his father anymore. He hadn't been sorry to see him go. His earliest memories were of his father smacking him. He didn't even remember the reason; Hurst rarely needed one.

"Can't say I miss Hurst the same way you do, Gerd."

"Hurst?" Gerd snorted. "He raised you by himself after your mama died, and you don't even have the respect to call him Dad? You ungrateful son-of-a-Kath-hound!"

Des glared down menacingly at Gerd, but the shorter man was too full of drink and self-righteous indignation to be intimidated.

"Should've expected this from a mudcrutch whelp like you:" Gerd continued. "Hurst always said you were no good. He knew there was something wrong with you ... Bane."
“他对你应该是如同对玛卡拉齿幼兽(mudcrutch whelp)那样期待,”戈德继续说。“虽然赫斯特总是说你不好。他知道你有些不对劲……贝恩。”

Des narrowed his eyes, but didn't rise to the bait. Hurst had called him by that name when he was drunk. Bane. He had blamed his son for his wife's death. Blamed him for being stuck on Apatros. He considered his only child to be the bane of his existence, a fact he'd tended to spit out at Des in his drunken rages.

Bane. It represented everything spiteful, petty, and mean about his father. It struck at the innermost fears of every child: fear of disappointment, fear of abandonment, fear of violence. As a kid, that name had hurt more than all the smacks from his father's heavy fists. But Des wasn't a kid anymore. Over time he'd learned to ignore it, along with all the rest of the hateful bile that spilled from his father's mouth.

"I don't have time for this," he muttered. "I've got work to do."

With one hand he grabbed the hydraulic jack from Gerd's grasp. He put the other hand on Gerd's shoulder and shoved him away. Stumbling back, the inebriated man caught his heel on a rock and fell roughly to the ground.

He stood up with a snarl, his hands balling into fists. "Guess your daddy's been gone too long, boy. You need someone to beat the sense back into you!"

Gerd was drunk, but he was no fool, Des realized. Des was bigger, stronger, younger ... but he'd spent the last six hours working a hydraulic jack. He was covered in grime and the sweat was dripping off his face. His shirt was drenched. Gerd's uniform, on the other hand, was still relatively clean: no dust, no sweat stains. He must have been planning this all day, taking it easy and sitting back while Des wore himself out.

But Des wasn't about to back down from a fight. Throwing Gerd's jack to the ground, he dropped into a crouch, feet wide and arms held out in front of him.

Gerd charged forward, swinging his right fist in a vicious uppercut. Des reached out and caught the punch with the open palm of his left hand, absorbing the force of the blow. His right hand snapped forward and grabbed the underside of Gerd's right wrist; as he pulled the older man forward, Des ducked down and turned, driving his shoulder into Gerd's chest. Using his opponent's own momentum against him, Des straightened up and yanked hard on Gerd's wrist, flipping him up and over so that he crashed to the ground on his back.

The fight should have ended right then; Des had a split second where he could have dropped his knee onto his opponent, driving the breath from his lungs and pinning him to the ground while he pounded Gerd with his fists. But it didn't happen. His back, exhausted from hours of hefting the thirty-kilo jack, spasmed.

The pain was agonizing; instinctively Des straightened up, clutching at the knotted lumbar muscles. It gave Gerd a chance to roll out of the way and get back to his feet.

Somehow Des managed to drop into his fighting crouch again. His back howled in protest, and he grimaced as red-hot daggers of pain shot through his body. Gerd saw the grimace and laughed.

"Cramping up there, boy? You should know better than to try and fight after a six-hour shift in the mines."

Gerd charged forward again. This time his hands weren't fists, but claws grasping and grabbing at anything they could find, trying to nullify the younger man's height and reach by getting in close. Des tried to scramble out of the way, but his legs were too stiff and sore to get him clear. One hand grabbed his shirt, the other got hold of his belt as Gerd pulled both of them to the ground.

They grappled together, wrestling on the hard, uneven stone of the cavern floor. Gerd had his face buried against Dessel's chest to protect it, keeping Des from landing a solid elbow or head-butt. He still had a grip on Des's belt, but now his other hand was free and punching blindly up to where he guessed Des's face would be. Des was forced to wrap his arms in and around Gerd's own, interlocking them so neither man could throw a punch.

With their limbs pinned, strategy and technique meant little. The fight had become a test of strength and endurance, with the two combatants slowly wearing each other down. Dessel tried to roll Gerd over onto his back, but his weary body betrayed him. His limbs were heavy and soft; he couldn't get the leverage he needed. Instead it was Gerd who was able to twist and turn, wrenching one of his hands free while still keeping his face pressed tight against Des's chest so it wouldn't be exposed.

Des wasn't so lucky ... his face was open and vulnerable. Gerd struck a blow with his free hand, but he didn't hit with a closed fist. Instead lie drove his thumb hard into Des's cheek, only a few centimeters from his real target. He struck again with the thumb, looking to gouge out one of his opponent's eyes and leave him blind and writhing in pain.

It took Des a second to realize what was happening; his tired mind had become as slow and clumsy as his body. He turned his face away just as the second blow landed, the thumb jamming painfully into the cartilage of his upper ear.

Dark rage exploded inside Des: a burst of fiery passion that burned away the exhaustion and fatigue. Suddenly his mind was clear, and his body felt strong and rejuvenated. He knew what he was going to do next. More importantly, he knew with absolute certainty what Gerd would do next, too.

He couldn't explain how he knew; sometimes he could just anticipate an opponent's next move. Instinct, some might have said. Des felt it was something more. It was too detailed-too specific-to be simple instinct. It was more like a vision, a brief glimpse into the future. And whenever it happened, Des always knew what to do, as if something was guiding and directing his actions.

When the next blow came, Des was more than ready for it. He could picture it perfectly in his mind. He knew exactly when it was coming and precisely where it would strike. This time he turned his head in the opposite direction, exposing his face to the incoming blow-and opening his mouth. He bit down hard, his timing perfect, and his teeth sank deep into the dirty flesh of Gerd's probing thumb.

Gerd screamed as Des clamped his jaw shut, severing the tendons and striking bone. He wondered if he could bite clean through and then-as if the very thought made it happen-he severed Gerd's thumb.

The screams became shrieks as Gerd released his grasp and rolled away, clasping his maimed hand with his whole one. Crimson blood welled up through the fingers trying to stanch the flow from his stump.

Standing up slowly, Des spat the thumb out onto the ground. The taste of blood was hot in his mouth. His body felt strong and reenergized, as if some great power surged through his veins. All the fight had been taken out of his opponent; Des could do anything he wanted to Gerd now.

The older man rolled back and forth on the floor, his hand clutched to his chest. He was moaning and sobbing, begging for mercy, pleading for help.

Des shook his head in disgust; Gerd had brought this on himself. It had started as a simple fistfight. The loser would have ended up with a black eye and some bruises, but nothing more. Then the older man had taken things to another level by trying to blind him, and he'd responded in kind. Des had learned long ago not to escalate a fight unless he was willing to pay the price of losing. Now Gerd had learned that lesson, too.

Des had a temper, but he wasn't the kind to keep beating on a helpless opponent. Without looking back at his defeated foe, he left the cavern and headed back up the tunnel to tell one of the foremen what had happened so someone could come tend to Gerd's injury.

He wasn't worried about the consequences. The medics could reattach Gerd's thumb, so at worst Des would be fined a day or two's wages. The corporation didn't really care what its employees did, as long as they kept coming back to mine the cortosis. Fights were common among the miners, and ORO almost always turned a blind eye, though this particular fight had been more vicious than most-savage and short, with a brutal end.

Just like life on Apatros.








发表于 2013-4-4 05:59 | 显示全部楼层










 楼主| 发表于 2013-4-4 09:30 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 光剑 于 2013-4-4 09:43 编辑

回复 7# Ada












 楼主| 发表于 2013-4-5 21:14 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 光剑 于 2013-5-12 13:48 编辑

Chapter 2

Sitting in the back of the land cruiser used to transport miners between Apatros's only colony and the mines, Des felt exhausted. All he wanted was to get back to his bunk in the barracks and sleep. The adrenaline had drained out of him, leaving him hyperaware of the stiffness and soreness of his body. He slumped down in his seat and gazed around the interior of the cruiser.

Normally, there would have been twenty other miners crammed into the speeder with him, but this one was empty except for him and the pilot. After the fight with Gerd, the foreman had suspended Des without pay, effective immediately, and had ordered the transport to take him back to the colony.

"This kind of thing is getting old, Des," the foreman had said with a frown. "We've got to make an example of you this time. You can't work the mines until Gerd is healed up and back on the job."

What he really meant was, You can't earn any credits until Gerd comes back. He'd still be charged room and board, of course. Every day that he sat around doing nothing would go onto his tab, adding to the debt he was working so desperately to pay off.

Des figured it would be four or five days until Gerd was able to handle a hydraulic jack again. The on-site medic had reattached the severed thumb using a vibroscalpel and synthflesh. A few days of kolto injections and some cheap meds to dull the pain, and Gerd would be back at it. Bacta therapy could have him back in a day; but bacta was expensive, and ORO wouldn't spring for it unless Gerd had miner's insurance ... which Des highly doubted.
德赛尔预计着戈德需要四到五天才能重新拿起液压冲击钻。医师会在现场用震动解剖刀和人造肉体组织为戈德将断指重新接上。连续几天注射科尔托液(kolto injections)以及服用一些廉价的藥物可以缓解一下痛苦,之后戈德就会康复了。巴克治疗(Bacta therapy)可以使戈德在一天之内恢复过来,但是巴克太昂贵了,ORO绝不会动用它除非戈德拥有矿工保险……德赛尔一直对矿工保险的存在表示高度怀疑。

Most miners never bothered with the company-sponsored insurance program. It was expensive, for one thing. What with room, board, and the fees covering the cost of transport to and from the mines, most thought they gave ORO more than enough of their hard-earned pay without adding insurance premiums onto the stack.

It wasn't just the cost, though. It was almost as if the men and women who worked the cortosis mines were in denial, refusing to admit the potential dangers and hazards they encountered every day. Getting insurance would force them to take a look at the cold, hard facts.

Few miners ever reached their golden years. The tunnels claimed many, burying bodies in cave-ins or incinerating them when somebody tapped into a pocket of explosive gases trapped in the rock. Even those who made it out of the mines tended not to survive long into their retirement. The mines took their toll. Sixty-year-old men were left with bodies that looked and felt like they were ninety, broken shells worn down by decades of hard physical labor and exposure to airborne contaminants that slipped through the substandard ORO filters.

When Des's father died-with no insurance, of course-all Des got out of it was the privilege of taking on his father's accumulated debt. Hurst had spent more time drinking and gambling than mining. To pay for his monthly room and board he'd often had to borrow credits from ORO at an interest rate that would be criminal anywhere but in the Outer Rim. The debt kept piling up, month to month and year to year, but Hurst didn't seem to care. He was a single parent with a son he resented, trapped in a brutal job he despised; he had given up any hope of escaping Apatros long before the heart attack claimed him.

The Hutt spawn probably would have been glad to know his son had gotten stuck with his bill.
那个赫特人首领(The Hutt spawn)可能会很高兴于得知赫斯特的儿子将会承担他的债务。

The transport sped above the barren rocks of the small planet's flatlands with no sound but the endless drone of the engines. The featureless wastes flew by in a blur, until the view out the window was nothing but a curtain of shapeless gray. The effect was hypnotic: Des could feel his tired mind and body eager to drift into deep and dreamless sleep.

This was how they got you. Work you to exhaustion, dull your senses, numb your will into submission . . . until you accepted your lot and wasted your entire life in the grit and grime of the cortosis mines. All in the relentless service of the Outer Rim Oreworks Company. It was a surprisingly effective trap; it worked on men like Gerd and Hurst. But it wasn't going to work on Des.

Even with his father's crushing debt, Des knew he'd pay ORO off someday and leave this life behind. He was destined for something greater than this small, insignificant existence. He knew this with absolute certainty, and it was this knowledge that gave him the strength to carry on in the face of the relentless, sometimes hopeless grind. It gave him the strength to fight, even when part of him felt like giving up.

He was suspended, unable to work the mines, but there were other ways to earn credits. With a great effort he forced himself to stand up. The floor swayed under his feet as the speeder made constant adjustments to maintain its programmed cruising altitude of half a meter above ground level. He took a second to get used to the rolling rhythm of the transport, then half walked, half staggered up the aisle between the seats to the pilot at the front. He didn't recognize the man, but they all tended to look the same anyway: grim, unsmiling features, dull eyes, and always wearing an expression as if they were on the verge of a blinding headache.

"Hey" Des said, trying to sound nonchalant, "any ships come in to the spaceport today?"

There was no reason for the pilot to keep his attention fixed on the path ahead. The forty-minute trip between the mines and the colony was a straight line across an empty plain; some of the pilots even stole naps along the route. Yet this one refused to turn and look at Des as he answered.

"Cargo ship touched down a few hours ago," he said in a bored voice. "Military. Republic cargo ship."

Des smiled. "They staying for a while?"

The pilot didn't answer; he only snorted and shook his head at the stupidity of the question. Des nodded and stumbled back toward his seat at the rear of the transport. He knew the answer, too.

Cortosis was used in the hulls of everything from fighters to capital ships, as well as being woven into the body armor of the troops. And as the war against the Sith dragged on, the Republic's need for cortosis kept increasing. Every few weeks a Republic freighter would touch down on Apatros. The next day it would leave again, its cargo bays filled with the valuable mineral. Until then the crew-officers and enlisted soldiers alike-would have nothing to do but wait. From past experience, Des knew that whenever Republic soldiers had a few hours to kill they liked to play cards. And wherever people played cards, there was money to be made.

Lowering himself back onto his seat at the rear of the speeder, Des decided that maybe he wasn't quite ready to hit his bunk after all.

By the time the transport stopped on the edges of the colony, Des's body was tingling with anticipation. He hopped out and sauntered toward his barracks at a leisurely pace, fighting his own eagerness and the urge to run. Even now, he imagined, the Republic soldiers and their credits would be sitting at the gaming tables in the colony's only cantina.

Still, there was no point in rushing over there. It was late afternoon, the sun just beginning its descent beyond the horizon to the north. By now most of the miners from the night shift would be awake. Many of them would already be at the cantina, whiling away the time until they had to make the journey out to the mines to start their shift. For the next two hours Des knew he'd be lucky to find a place to sit down in the cantina, never mind finding an empty seat at a pazaak or sabacc table. Meanwhile, it would be another few hours before the men working the day shift climbed onto the waiting transports to head back to their homes; he'd get to the cantina long before any of them.
依然没看见有人往酒吧冲去。现在只是下午的晚些时候,太阳刚刚开始朝遥远北方的地平线落下。到如今绝大数夜班工人都将要起床了。可能他们之中的绝大多数人已经进入酒吧了,过一会儿之后他们不得不开始赶往矿井并开始工作。德赛尔知道接下来的两个小时中如果想要在酒吧中找到一个空座位得要十分幸运才行,永远别指望能在帕扎克牌或萨巴克牌的賭桌(pazaak or sabacc table)旁边找到一个空座位。在这期间,再过几个小时会有一些在白天工作的矿工登上正等着送他们回家的运输载具,但德赛尔将会比他们之中任何一个人都要先进入酒吧。

Back at his barracks, he stripped off his grime-stained coveralls and climbed into the deserted communal showers, scouring the sweat and fine rock dust from his body. Then he changed into some clean clothes and sauntered out into the street, making his way slowly toward the cantina on the far side of town.

The cantina didn't have a name; it didn't need one. Nobody ever had any trouble finding it. Apatros was a small world, barely more than a moon with an atmosphere and some indigenous plant life. There were precious few places to go: the mines, the colony, or the barren wastes in between. The mines were a massive complex encompassing the caves and tunnels dug by ORO, as well as the refining and processing branches of ORO's operations.

The spaceports were located there, too. Freighters left daily with shipments of cortosis bound for some wealthier world closer to Coruscant and the Galactic Core, and incoming vessels bringing equipment and supplies to keep the mines running arrived every other day. Employees who weren't strong enough to mine cortosis worked in the refining plants or the spaceport. The pay wasn't as good, but they tended to live longer.
太空港也位于那儿。货运飞船每天都携带大量的科托西斯金属离开,飞往位于科洛桑(Coruscant)和银河中心(the Galactic Core)附近的一些富有的世界,而且每隔一天就带回矿工需要的工作设备和补给,以保证矿山能源源不断地产出。那些不够强壮而无法去开采科托西斯金属的雇员被指派到矿石精炼工厂或是太空港工作。在这些地方工作的人收入不高,但是他们都能活得更久。

But no matter where people worked, they all came home to the same place at the end of their shifts. The colony was nothing more than a ramshackle town of temporary barracks thrown together by ORO to house the few hundred workers expected to keep the mines running. Like the world itself, the colony was officially known as Apatros. To those who lived there, it was more commonly referred to as "the muck-huts." Every building was the same shade of dingy gray durasteel, the exterior weathered and worn. The insides of the buildings were virtually identical, temporary workers' barracks that had become all too permanent. Each structure housed four small private rooms meant for two people, but often holding three or more. Sometimes entire families shared one of those rooms, unless they could find the credits for the outrageous rents ORO charged for more space. Each room had bunks built into the walls and a single door that opened onto a narrow hall; a communal bathroom and shower were located at the end. The doors tended to squeak on ill-fitting hinges that were never tended to; the roofs were a patchwork of quick fixes to seal up the leaks that inevitably sprang whenever it rained. Broken windows were taped against the wind and cold, but never replaced. A thin layer of dust accumulated over everything, but few of the residents ever bothered to sweep out their domiciles.
但不过人们在哪儿工作,在他们结束当天的工作之后都会回到同一个地方。殖民营地不会比一个破旧的城镇要好到哪里去,这儿是由临时的营房急匆匆拼凑出来的,是ORO用来安置几百名矿工的地方,希望能借此使矿山保持运作。就像这个世界本身一样,这片殖民营地的官方名称也是“阿帕特罗斯”。不过对于那些住在这儿的人来说,他们更倾向于称呼这儿为“淤泥小屋的地盘(the muck-huts)”。每座建筑物外面的颜色都跟深灰色的耐钢(durasteel)一样,建筑的外表已经都能观察到风化的迹象和磨损的痕迹了。建筑的内部实际上跟外表是一样的,原本临时建造的工人宿舍都被“永久化”了。每座建筑物里都分出了4个独立的、可以容纳两个人的小房间,但通常小房间里都会住上三个人甚至更多。有时候会是一整个家庭分享这小小的单间,除非他们能挣到足够多的信用点去支付ORO贵得吓人的租金以租住更大的空间。每个房间都有镶嵌在墙上的床铺和一个通往狭窄的大厅的门;一个公共的浴室——同时也是盥洗室位于小房间最后面。门安装了一个不合适的铰链,一推就会发出吱吱乱响,那个铰链从来都不曾适合过那门;屋顶是用简单的材料东拼西凑成的,然后用快速修理胶(quick fixes)封上了漏洞,这么做的话在下雨天会是不可避免漏水下来。破旧的窗户寒风刮烂了,但从来没有人去维修它。一层薄薄的灰尘慢慢积累起来终极淹没一切,只有少数的居住者会为打扫他们的住处而烦恼。

The entire colony was less than a kilometer on each square side, making it possible to walk from any given building to any of the other identical structures in less than twenty standard minutes. Despite the unrelenting similarity of the architecture, navigating the colony was easy. The barracks had been placed in straight rows and columns, forming a grid of utilitarian streets between the uniformly spaced domiciles. The streets couldn't exactly be called clean, though they were hardly festering with garbage. ORO cleared trash and refuse just often enough to keep conditions sanitary, since an outbreak of diseases bred by filth would adversely affect the mine's production. However, the company didn't seem to mind the cluttered junk that inevitably accumulated throughout the town. Broken-down generators, rusted-out machinery, corroded scraps of metal, and discarded, worn-out tools crowded the narrow streets between the barracks.

There were only two structures in the colony that were in any way distinguished from the rest. One was the ORO market, the only store on-world. It had once been a barracks, but the bunks had been replaced with shelves, and the communal shower area was now a secure storage room. A small black-and-white sign had been fastened to the wall outside, listing the hours of operation. There were no displays to lure shoppers in, and no advertising. The market stocked only the most basic items, all at scandelous markups. Credit was gladly advanced against future wages at ORO's typically high interest rate, guaranteeing that buyers would spend even more hours in the mine working off their purchases.

The other dissimilar building was the cantina itself, a magnificent triumph of beauty and design when compared with the dismal homogeny of the rest of the colony. The cantina was built a few hundred meters beyond the edge of the town, set well apart from the gray grid of barracks. It stood only three stories high, but because every other structure was limited to a single floor it dominated the landscape. Not that it needed to be that tall. Inside the cantina everything was located on the ground floor; the upper stories were merely a facade constructed for show by Groshik, the Neimoidian owner and bartender. Above the first-floor ceiling, the second and third floors didn't really exist-there were only the rising walls and a dome made of tinted violet glass, illuminated from within. Matching violet lights covered the pale blue exterior walls. On almost any world the effect would have been ostentatious and tacky, but amid the gray of Apatros it was doubly so. Groshik often proclaimed that he had intentionally made his cantina as garish as possible, simply to offend the ORO powers-that-be. The sentiment made him popular with the miners, but Des doubted if ORO really cared one way or the other. Groshik could paint his cantina any color he wanted, as long as he gave the corporation its cut of the profits each week.

The twenty-standard-hour day of Apatros was split evenly between the two shifts of miners. Des and the rest of the early crew worked from 08:00 to 18:00; his counterparts worked from 18:00 to 08:00. Groshik, in an effort to maximize profits, opened each afternoon at 13:00 and didn't close for ten straight hours. This allowed him to serve the night-crew workers before they started and catch the day crew when that shift was over. He'd close at 03:00, clean for two hours, sleep for six, then get up at 11:00 and start the process all over again. His routine was well known to all the miners; the Neimoidian was as regular as the rising and setting of Apatros's pale orange sun.

As Des crossed the distance between the edge of the colony proper and the cantina's welcoming door, he could already hear the sounds coming from inside: loud music, laughter, chatter, clinking glasses. It was almost 16:00 now. The day shift had two hours to go before quitting time, but the cantina was still packed with night-shift workers looking to have a drink or something to eat before they boarded the shuttles that would take them to the mines.

Des didn't recognize any faces: the day and night crews rarely crossed paths. The patrons were mostly humans, with a few Twi'leks, Sullustans, and Cereans filling out the crowd. Des was surprised to notice a Rodian, too. Apparently the night crew were more tolerant of other species than the day shift. There were no waitresses, servers, or dancers; the only employee in the cantina was Groshik himself. Anyone who wanted a drink had to come up to the large bar built into the back wall and order it.

Des pushed his way through the crowd. Groshik saw him coming and momentarily dipped out of sight behind the bar, reappearing with a mug of Gizer ale just as Des reached the counter.
德赛尔在嘈杂的人群从开出了一条路。格罗希特一看见他走过来就从立刻吧台落了下去,在德赛尔到达吧台时他有带着一杯吉泽尔麦芽酒(Gizer ale)出现。

"You're here early today," Groshik said as he set the drink down with a heavy thud. His low, gravelly voice was difficult to hear above the din of the crowd. His words always had a guttural quality, as if he were speaking from the very back of his throat.

The Neimoidian liked him, though Des wasn't sure why. Maybe it was because he'd watched Des grow up from a young kid to a man; maybe he just felt sorry Des had been stuck with such a rankweed for a father. Whatever the reason, there was a standing arrangement between the two: Des never had to pay for a drink if it was poured without being asked for. Des gratefully accepted the gift and downed it in one long draft, then slammed the empty mug back down onto the table.

"Ran into a bit of trouble with Gerd," he replied, wiping his mouth. "I bit his thumb off, so they let me go home early."

Groshik tilted his head to one side and fixed his enormous red eyes on Des. The sour expression on his amphibian-like face didn't change, but his body shook ever so slightly. Des knew him well enough to realize the Neimoidian was laughing.

"Seems like a fair trade," Groshik croaked, refilling the mug.

Des didn't guzzle the second drink as he had the first. Groshik rarely gave him more than one on the house, and he didn't want to abuse the bartender's generosity.

He turned his attention to the crowd. The Republic visitors were easy to spot. Four humans-two men, two women-and a male Ithorian in crisp navy uniforms. It wasn't just their clothes that made them stand out, though. They all stood straight and tall, whereas most of the miners tended to hunch forward, as if carrying a great weight on their backs.

On one side of the main room, a smaller section was roped off from the rest of the cantina. It was the only part of the place Groshik had nothing to do with. The ORO Company allowed gambling on Apatros, but only if it was in charge of the tables. Officially this was to keep anyone from cheating, but everyone knew ORO's real concern was keeping the wagers in check. It didn't want one of its employees to win big and pay off all his or her debts in one lucky night. By keeping the maximum limits low, ORO made sure it was more profitable to work the mines than the tables.

In the gaming section were four more naval soldiers wearing the uniform of the Republic fleet, along with a dozen or so miners. A Twi'lek woman with the rank of petty officer on her lapel was playing pazaak. A young ensign was sitting at the sabacc table, talking loudly to everyone around him, though nobody seemed to be listening to him. Two more officers-both human, one male, one female-also sat at the sabacc table. The woman was a lieutenant; the man bore the insignia of a full commander. Des assumed they were the senior officers in charge of the mission to receive the cortosis shipment.

"I see you've noticed our recruiters," Groshik muttered.

The war against the Sith-officially nothing more than a series of protracted military engagements, even though the whole galaxy knew it was a war-required a steady stream of young and eager cadets for the front lines. And for some reason the Republic always expected the citizens on the Outer Rim worlds to jump at the chance to join them. Whenever a Republic military crew passed through Apatros, the officers tried to round up new recruits. They'd buy a round of drinks, then use it as an excuse to start up a conversation, usually about the glorious and heroic life of being a soldier. Sometimes they'd play up the brutality of the Sith. Other times they'd spin promises of a better life in the Republic military-all the while pretending to be friendly and sympathetic to the locals, hoping a few would join their cause.

Des suspected they received some kind of bonus for any new recruit they conned into signing up. Unfortunately for them, they weren't going to find too many takers on Apatros. The Republic wasn't too popular on the Rim; people here, including Des, knew the Core Worlds exploited small, remote planets like Apatros for their own gain. The Sith found a lot of anti-Republic sympathizers out here on the fringes of civilized space; that was one of the reasons their numbers kept growing as the war dragged on.
德赛尔怀疑如果他们能成功招募到新兵并让其签约的话,这些军官们会得到各种不同的奖励。对于他们而言真是“不幸”,因为他们不会在阿帕特罗斯招募到那怕几个新兵。共和国在外环世界是不受欢迎的;这儿的人们,包括德赛尔,知道那些核心世界(the Core Worlds)只会利用弱小,比如像阿帕特罗斯这样的偏远星球来使自己获益。西斯们能在这些远离“文明世界”的空间找到很多对共和国反感的人;这就是为什么随着战争的发展西斯的追随者反而越来越多的原因之一。

Despite their dissatisfaction with the Core Worlds, people still might have signed up with the recruiters if the Republic wasn't so concerned with following the absolute letter of the law. Anyone hoping to escape Apatros and the clutches of the mining corporation was in for a rude shock: debts to ORO still had to be paid, even by recruits protecting the galaxy against the rising Sith threat. If someone owed money to a legitimate corporation, the Republic fleet would garnish his or her wages until those debts were paid. Not too many miners were excited about the prospect of joining a war only to have the privilege of not getting paid.

Some of the miners resented the senior officers and their constant push to lure naive young men and women into joining their cause. It didn't bother Des, though. He'd listen to them prattle on all night, as long as they kept playing cards. He figured it was a small price to pay for getting his hands on their credits.

His eagerness must have shown, at least to Groshik. "Any chance you heard a Republic crew was stopping by and then picked a fight with Gerd just so you could get here early?"

Des shook his head. "No. Just a happy coincidence, is all. What angle are they working this time? Glory of the Republic?"

"Trying to warn us about the horrors of the Brotherhood of Darkness" was the carefully neutral reply. "Not going over too well."

The cantina owner kept his real opinions to himself when it came to matters of politics. His customers were free to talk about any subject they wanted, but no matter how heated their arguments became, he always refused to take sides.

"Bad for business," he had explained once. "Agree with someone and they'll be your friend for the rest of the night. Cross them and they might hate you for weeks." Neimoidians were known for their shrewd business sense, and Groshik was no exception.

A miner pushed his way up to the bar and demanded a drink. When Groshik went to fill the order, Des turned to study the gaming area. There weren't any free seats at the sabacc table, so for the time being he was forced into the role of spectator. For well over an hour he studied the plays and the wagers of the newcomers, paying particular attention to the senior officers. They tended to be better players than the enlisted troops, probably because they had more credits to lose.

(关于萨巴克纸牌游戏的介绍 http://www.starwars-tw.com/expand/sabacc.htm

The game on Apatros followed a modified version of the Bespin Standard rules. The basics of the game were simple: make a hand as close to twenty-three as possible without going over. Each round, a player had to either bet to stay in the hand, or fold. Any player who chose to stay in could draw a new card, discard a card, or place a card into the interference field to lock in its value. At the end of any round a player could come up, revealing his or her hand and forcing all other players to show their cards, as well. Best hand at the table won the hand pot. Any score over twenty-three, or below negative twenty-three, was a bomb-out that required the player to pay a penalty. And if a player had a hand that totaled exactly twenty-three-a pure sabacc-he or she won the sabacc pot as a bonus. But what with random shifts that could unexpectedly change the value of cards from round to round, and other players coming up early, a pure sabacc was a lot harder to achieve than it sounded.
在阿帕特罗斯的賭博游戏是基于贝斯平(Bespin)的标准规则的改进版本。游戏的基本规则是很简单的:组合卡牌使其尽可能地靠近数字23但不超出。每局开始時,玩家可決定要不要继续跟牌,要跟的话必须下注,否则就会视作放弃当前牌局。任何一个决定了跟牌的玩家都可以继续选择抽牌、弃牌或者把牌送入阻绝力场(interference field)以防止卡牌点数变化。在每轮游戏结束之前,任一玩家都可以叫牌,展示自己的点数并强迫其他玩家也展示他们的卡牌。賭桌上点数最佳的玩家可以赢得牌局罐(hand pot)里的筹码。任何点数超过了23的或者低于-23之下的玩家都算出局,输了的人就要支付罚金。但如果有一个玩家的点数恰好是23的话,被称为“萨巴克大顺(pure sabacc)”,他或她将赢得萨巴克罐(sabacc pot)里所有的信用点作为奖励。但是由于在每轮的换牌阶段,卡牌的点数会被随机改变,常常会带来意想不到的改变(总点数在变化),也有可能是有的玩家“提前”叫牌……总之,要整出一次萨巴克大顺并不像听上去那么简单。

Sabacc was more than a game of luck. It was about strategy and style, knowing when to bluff and when to back down, knowing how to adapt to the ever-changing cards. Some players were too cautious, never betting more than the minimum raise even when they had a good hand. Others were too aggressive, trying to bully the rest of the table with outrageous bets even when they had nothing. A player's natural tendencies showed through if you knew what to look for.

The ensign, for example, was clearly new to the game. He kept staying in with weak hands instead of folding his cards. He was a chaser, not satisfied with cards good enough to collect the hand pot. He was always looking for the perfect hand, hoping to win big and collect the sabacc pot that kept on growing until it was won. As a result, he kept getting caught with bomb-out hands and having to pay a penalty. It didn't seem to slow his betting, though. He was one of those players with more credits than sense, which suited Des just fine.

To be an expert sabacc player, you had to know how to control the table. It didn't take Des many hands to realize the Republic commander was doing just that. He knew how to bet big and make other players fold winning hands. He knew when to bet small to lure others into playing hands they should have folded. He didn't worry much about his own cards; he knew that the secret to sabacc was figuring out what everyone else was holding ... and then letting them think they knew what cards he was holding. It was only when all the hands were revealed and he was raking in the chips that his opponents would realize how wrong they'd been.

He was good, Des had to admit. Better than most of the Republic players who passed through. Despite his pleasant appearance, he was ruthless in scooping up pot after pot. But Des had a good feeling; sometimes he just knew he couldn't lose. He was going to win tonight . . . and win big.

There was a groan from one of the miners at the table. "Another round and that sabacc pot was mine!" he said, shaking his head. "You're lucky you came up when you did," he added, speaking to the commander.

Des knew it wasn't luck. The miner had been so excited, he was twitching in his seat. Anyone with half a brain could see he was working toward a powerful hand. The commander had seen it and made his move, cutting the hand short and chopping the other gambler's hopes off at the knees.

"That's it," the miner said, pushing away from the table. "I'm tapped out."

"Looks like now's your chance," Groshik whispered under his breath as he swept past to pour another drink. "Good luck."

I don't need luck tonight, Des thought. He crossed the floor of the cantina and stepped over the nanosilk rope into the ORO-controlled gaming room.
我今晚不需要运气,德赛尔想。他穿过酒吧跨过nanosilk rope 进入了由ORO控制的賭博室。










 楼主| 发表于 2013-4-5 21:16 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 光剑 于 2013-5-12 13:49 编辑

Chapter 3

Des approached the sabacc table and nodded to the Beta-4 CardShark dealing out the hands. ORO preferred automated droids to organic dealers: no salary to pay, and there was no chance a wily gambler could convince a droid to cheat.
德赛尔向萨巴克賭桌走去并跟4.0测试版本的洗牌机器人牌鲨(the Beta-4 CardShark)点头示意要购買筹码。相对于有机生命,ORO总是优先选择自动机器人来洗牌:不用向它们支付工资,而且不可能有任何賭徒能串通机器人协作他出千。

"I'm in," he declared, taking the empty seat.

The ensign was sitting directly across from him. He let out a long, loud whistle. "Blast, you're a big boy," he shouted boisterously. "How tall are you-one ninety? One ninety-five?"

"Two meters even," Des replied without looking at him. He swiped his ORO account card through the reader built into the table and punched in his security code. The buy-in for the table was added to the total already owing on his ORO account, and the CardShark obediently pushed a stack of chips across the table toward him.

"Good luck, sir," it said.

The ensign continued to size Des up, taking another long drink from his mug. Then he brayed out a laugh. "Wow, they grow you fellas big out here on the Rim. You sure you ain't really a Wookiee somebody shaved for a joke?"

A few of the other players laughed, but quickly stopped when they saw Des clench his jaw. The man smelled of Corellian ale. Same as Gerd had when he'd picked a fight with Des just a few hours earlier. Des's muscles tightened, and he leaned forward in his chair. The smaller man let out a short, nervous breath.
另外一些賭徒随之大笑起来,但是在他们看见德赛尔咬紧下巴之后马上就很识趣地安静了下来。这些男人身上散发出一阵科瑞利安酒(Corellian ale)的味道。就跟那个几小时前才和德赛尔打了一架的戈德的身上的味道一样。德赛尔的肌肉绷得更紧了,并把身体靠到了椅背上。其中个别身材矮小的男人紧张而急促地换了一口气。

"Come on now, son," the commander said to Des in a calming voice, stepping in to control the situation the same way he'd been controlling the table all game long. He had an air of quiet authority, a patriarch presiding over a family squabble at the dinner table. "It's just a joke. Can't you take a joke?"

Turning to face the only player at the table good enough to give him a real challenge, Des flashed a grin and let the tension slip from his coiled muscles. "Sure, I can take a joke. But I'd rather take your credits."

There was a brief pause, and then it was as if everyone had sighed in relief. The officer chuckled and returned the smile. "Fair enough. Let's play some cards."

Des started slow, playing conservatively and folding often. The limits on the table were low; the maximum value of any given hand was capped at one hundred credits. Between the five-credit ante and the two-credit "administration fee" ORO charged players each time they started a new round, the hand pots would barely cover the cost of sitting down at the table, even for a solid player. The trick was to win just enough hand pots to be able to stick around long enough for a chance at the sabacc pot that continued to build with each hand.

When he first started playing, one of the soldiers tried to make small talk. "I notice most of the human miners here shave their heads," he said, nodding out at the crowd. "Why is that?"

"We don't shave. Our hair falls out," Des replied. "Comes from working too many shifts in the mines."

"Working the mines? I don't get it."

"The filters don't remove all the impurities from the air. You work ten-hour shifts day in and day out, and the contaminants build up in your system," He spoke in a flat, neutral voice. There was no bitterness; for him and the rest of the miners it was just a fact of life. "It has side effects. We get sick a lot; our hair falls out. We're supposed to take a few days off now and again, but ever since ORO signed those Republic military contracts the mines never shut down. Basically, we're being slowly poisoned to make sure your cargo hold's full when you leave."

That was enough to kill any other attempts at conversation, and they continued the hands in relative silence. After half an hour Des was about even for the night, but he was just getting warmed up. He pushed in his ante and the ORO cut, as did the other seven players at the table. The dealer flipped two cards out to each of them, and another hand began. The first two players peeked at their cards and folded. The Republic ensign glanced at his cards and threw in enough chips to stay in the hand. Des wasn't surprised-he hardly ever folded his cards, even when he had nothing.

The ensign quickly pushed one of his cards into the interference field. Each turn, a player could move one of the electronic chip-cards into the interference field, locking in its value to protect it from changing if there was a shift at the end of the round.

Des shook his head. Locking in cards was a fool's play. You couldn't discard a locked-in card; Des usually preferred to keep all his options open. The ensign, however, was thinking in the short term, not planning ahead. That probably explained why he was down several hundred credits on the night.

Glancing at his own hand, Des chose to stay in. All the rest of the players dropped, leaving just the two of them.

The CardShark dealt out another round of cards. Des glanced down and saw he had drawn Endurance, a face card with a value of negative eight. He was sitting at a total of six, an incredibly weak hand.

The smart move was to fold; unless there was a shift, he was dead. But Des knew there was going to be a shift. He knew it as surely as he had known where and when Gerd's thumb was going to be when he bit down on it. These brief glimpses into the future didn't happen often, but when they did he knew enough to listen to them. He pushed in his credits. The ensign matched the bet.

The droid scooped the chips to the center of the table, and the marker in front of him began to pulse with rapidly changing colors. Blue meant no shift; all the cards would stay the same. Red meant a shift: an impulse would be sent out from the marker, and one electronic card from each player would randomly reset and change its value. The marker flickered back and forth between red and blue, gaining speed until it was pulsing so quickly the colors blurred into a single violet hue. Then the flashing began to slow down and it became possible to tell the individual colors apart again: blue, red, blue, red, blue ... It stopped on red.
机器人把被散乱扔在賭桌中央的筹码收集起来,然后那个在机器人面前的随机乱数器开始工作了,颜色在不停地变换着。蓝色意味着不变,所有的卡牌都保持原样。红色则会导致剧变:转盘会发出一股脉冲信号,这会使每个玩家的一张电子卡牌被随机重置,它原先代表的价值也会改变。指示灯的颜色在蓝红之间来回闪烁第四回了,闪烁速度越来越快,最终颜色会变化的频率太快了以至于看起来想单调且模糊的紫罗兰色。然后闪烁的频率会渐渐慢下来,渐渐地肉眼就可以分辨出单个颜色了:蓝,红,蓝,红,蓝…… 最终指示灯显示为红色。

"Blast!" the ensign swore. "It always shifts when I have a good hand!"

Des knew that wasn't true. The chances of shifting were fifty-fifty: completely random. There was no way to predict whether a shift was coming ... unless you had a gift like Des occasionally did.

The cards flickered as they reset, and Des scooped up his hand one more time. Endurance was gone, replaced by a seven. He was sitting at twenty-one. Not a sabacc, but a solid hand. Before the next round could begin, Des flipped his cards over, exposing his hand to the table. "Coming up on twenty-one," he said.

The ensign threw his cards to the table in disgust. "Blasted bomb-out."

Des collected the small stack of chips that were the hand pot, while the other man grudgingly paid his penalty into the sabacc pot. Des guessed it was closing in on five hundred credits by now.

One of the miners at the table stood up. "Come on, we got to go," he said. "Last speeder leaves in twenty minutes."

With grumbles and complaints, the other miners got up from their seats and trudged off to start their shift. The ensign watched them go, then turned curiously to Des.

"You ain't going with them, big fella? I thought you were complaining about never getting a day off earlier."

"I work the day shift," Des said shortly. "Those guys are the night shift."

"Where's the rest of your crew?" the lieutenant asked. Des clearly recognized her interest as an attempt to keep the ensign from saying something to further antagonize the big miner. "The crowd's become awfully thin." She waved her hand around at the cantina, now virtually empty except for the Republic naval soldiers. Seeing the open seats at the sabacc table, a few of them were wandering over to join their comrades in the game.

"They'll be along soon enough," Des said. "I just ended my shift a bit early today."

"Really?" Her tone implied that she knew of only one reason a miner's shift might end early.

"Lieutenant," one of the newly arrived soldiers said politely as they reached the table. "Commander," he added, addressing the other officer. "Mind if we join in, sir?"

The commander looked over at Des. "I don't want this young man to think the Republic is ganging up on him. If we take all the seats, where are his friends going to sit when they show up? He says they'll be along any minute."

"They're not here now," Des said. "And they're not my friends. You might as well sit down." He didn't add that most of the day-shift miners probably wouldn't play, anyway. When Des showed up at the table they tended to call it a night; he won too often for their liking.

The empty seats were quickly filled up.

"So how are the cards treating you, Ensign?" a young woman asked the man Des had bested in the last hand. She sat down beside him and placed a full mug of Corellian ale on the table in front of him.

"Not so good," he admitted, flashing a grin and exchanging his empty mug for the full one. "I might have to owe you for this drink. I can't seem to catch a break tonight." He nodded his head in Des's direction. "Watch out for this one. He's as good as the commander. Either that, or he cheats."

He smiled quickly to show it was just another of his mildly offensive jokes. Des ignored him; it wasn't the first time he'd been called a cheat. He was aware that his precognition gave him an advantage over the other players. Maybe it was an unfair advantage, but he didn't consider it cheating. It wasn't as if he knew what was going to happen on every hand; he couldn't control it. He was just smart enough to make the most of it when it happened.

The CardShark began passing out chips to the newcomers, wishing each of them a perfunctory "Good luck" as it did so.

"So it seems you don't really get on well with the other miners," the lieutenant said, keying on Des's earlier comments. "Have you ever thought about changing careers?"

Des groaned inwardly. By the time he had joined the table the officers had given up their recruiting spiel and stuck mostly to playing cards. Now he'd given her an opening to bring it up again.

"I'm not interested in becoming a soldier," he said, anteing up for the next hand.

"Don't be so hasty," she said, her voice slipping into a soothing, gentle patter. "Being a soldier for the Republic has its rewards. I suspect it's better than working the mines, at least."

"There's a whole galaxy out there, son," the commander added. "Worlds a lot more attractive than this one, if you don't mind me saying."

Don't I know it, Des thought. Out loud he said, "I don't plan to spend my whole life here. But when I do get off this rock, I don't want to spend my days dodging Sith blasters on the front lines."

"'We won't be fighting the Sith for much longer, son. We've got them on the run now." The commander spoke with such calm assurance, Des was half tempted to believe him.

"That's not how I hear it," Des said. "Rumor is the Brotherhood of Darkness has been winning more than its share of the battles. I heard it's got more than a dozen regions under its control now."

"That was before General Hoth," one of the other soldiers chimed in.
“那只是在霍斯将军(General Hoth)掌权之前的情况。”其中一个士兵插嘴说。

Des had heard of Hoth on the HoloNet; he was a bona-fide hero of the Republic. Victorious in half a dozen major confrontations, he was a brilliant strategist who knew how to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Not surprising, given his background.
德赛尔曾经在全息网(the HoloNet)上得知了霍斯,他是一个真正的共和国英雄。在六场主要战役中凯旋而归,他那天才的军事才能是众所周知的,他能在极端的劣势下反败为胜。不过如果结合他的背景看的话,这并不会令人十分惊讶。

"Hoth?" he asked innocently, glancing down at his cards. Garbage. He folded his hand. "Isn't he a Jedi?"

"He is," the commander replied, peeking at his own cards. He pushed in a small wager. "A Jedi Master, to be more accurate. And a fine soldier, too. You couldn't ask for a better man to lead the Republic war effort."
“他是一名绝地,”少校回答说,并看了一眼他的手牌。他随手投入了很少的筹码。“更准确地说,他是一位绝地大师(Jedi Master),同时也是一个优秀的士兵。你再也找不比他更优秀的人去领导共和国获得胜利了。”

"The Sith are more than just soldiers, you know," the drunken ensign said earnestly, his voice even louder than before. "Some of them can use the Force, just like the Jedi! You can't beat them with blasters alone."

Des had heard plenty of wild tales of Jedi performing extraordinary feats through the mystical power of the Force, but he figured they were legends and myth. Or at least exaggerations. He knew there were powers that transcended the physical world: his own premonitions were evidence of that. But the stories of what the Jedi could do were just too impossible to believe. If the Force was really such a powerful weapon, why was this war taking so long?
德赛尔听说过大量关于绝地的来路不明的故事,具体是说绝地那非凡的技能和强大的执行能力来自一种被称作原力(the Force)的神秘力量,但是他认为这只是虚构的传说或者神话,至少肯定被夸大了。他知道有凌驾于物理世界之上的力量存在着:他自己那预知能力便是明证。但是关于绝地强大到无所不能的故事实在是难以让人信服。如果原力真的是如此强大,那么为何这场战争还持续了这么久?

"The idea of answering to a Jedi Master doesn't really appeal to met." he said. "I've heard some strange things about what they believe in: no passion, no emotion. Sounds like they want to turn us all into droids."

Another round of cards was dealt out to the remaining players.

"The Jedi are guided by wisdom," the commander explained. "They don't let things like desire or anger cloud their judgment."

"Anger has its uses," Des pointed out. "It's gotten me out of some nasty spots."

"I think the trick is not to get into those spots in the first place," the lieutenant countered in her gentle voice.

The hand ended a few turns later. The young woman who had bought the ensign his drink came up on twenty-not a great hand, but not a bad one, either. She looked over at the commander as he flipped up his cards, and smiled when he had only nineteen. Her smile faded when the drunken ensign showed his twenty-one. When he scooped up the pot, she cut his laugh short with a friendly elbow to his ribs.

Everyone anted and the dealer flicked out another pair of cards to each player.

"The Jedi are the defenders of the Republic," the lieutenant went on earnestly. "Their ways can seem strange to ordinary citizens, but they're on our side. All they want is peace."

"Really?" Des said, glancing at his cards and pushing in his chips. "I thought they wanted to wipe out the Sith."

"The Sith are an illegal organization," the lieutenant explained. She folded her cards after a moment of careful deliberation. "The Senate passed a bill outlawing them nearly three thousand years ago, shortly after Revan and Malak brought destruction to the entire galaxy."

"I always heard Revan saved the Republic," he said.

The commander jumped back into the conversation. "Revan's story is complicated," he said. "But the fact remains, the Sith and their teachings were banned by the Senate. Their very existence is a violation of Republic law-and with good reason. The Jedi understand the threat the Sith represent. That's why they've joined the fleet. For the good of the galaxy, the Sith must be wiped out once and for all."

The drunken ensign won the hand again, his second in a row. Sometimes it was better to be lucky than good.

"So the Republic says the Sith must be wiped out," Des said as he anted up for the next hand. "If the Sith were the ones in charge, I bet they'd say the same thing about the Jedi."

"You wouldn't say that if you knew what the Sith were really like," one of the other soldiers said. "I've fought against them: they're bloodthirsty killers!"

Des laughed. "Yeah, how dare they try to kill you in the middle of a war? Don't they know you're busy trying to kill them? How rude!"

"You bloody Kath-mutt!" the soldier snapped, rising up from his seat.

"Sit down, deckman!" the commander barked. The soldier did as he was told, but Des could feel the tension in the air. Everyone else at the table-with the possible exception of the two officers-was glaring at him.

Good. The last thing on their minds now was cards. Angry people didn't make good sabacc players.

The commander sensed things were bad, too. He did his best to defuse the situation.

"The Sith follow the teachings of the dark side, son," he said to Des. "If you saw the kinds of things they've done during this war . . . and not just to other soldiers. They don't care if innocent civilians suffer."

Only half listening, Des glanced at his cards and placed a wager.

"I'm not stupid, Commander," he said then. "Whether the Republic officially acknowledges it or not, you're at war with the Brotherhood of Darkness. And bad things happen during a war, on both sides. So don't try to convince me the Sith are monsters. They're people, just like you and me."

Of all the players at the table, only the commander folded his cards. Des knew that at least a few of the soldiers were playing bad hands simply for the chance to take him down.

The commander sighed. "You're right, to a point. The ordinary troopers-who serve in the army because they don't know what the Sith Masters and the Brotherhood of Darkness are really like-are just people. But you have to look at the ideals behind this war. You have to understand what each side really stands for."

"Enlighten me, Commander." Des put just a hint of condescension in his voice and casually tossed in some more chips, knowing it would rile up the table even more. He was glad to see that nobody folded; he was playing them like a Bith musician trilling out a tune on a sabriquet.
“请启发我,少校。”德赛尔在他的语气中表达出了一丝的谦逊,然后拿起一些筹码往賭桌上乱扔,他知道这么做只会使这桌子周围的人更加愤怒。他很高兴的看见没有人弃牌:他在像比思音乐人(Bith musician)用sabriquet进行曲子的三重奏那样愚弄他们。

"The Jedi seek to preserve peace," the commander reiterated. "They serve the cause of justice. Whenever possible, they use their power to aid those in need. They seek to serve, not to rule. They believe that all beings, regardless of species or gender, are created equal. Surely you can understand that."

It was more a statement than a question, but Des answered anyway. "But all beings aren't really equal, are they? I mean, some are smarter, or stronger ... or better at cards."

He drew a small smile from the commander with the last comment, though everyone else at the table scowled.

"True enough, son. But isn't it the duty of the strong to help the weak?"

Des shrugged. He didn't believe much in equality. Working to make everybody equal didn't leave much chance for anyone to achieve greatness. "So what about the Brotherhood of Darkness?" he asked. "What do they believe in?"

"They follow the teachings of the dark side. The only thing they seek is power; they believe the natural order of the galaxy is for the weak to serve the strong."

"Sounds pretty good if you're one of the strong." Des flipped his cards up, then scooped up the pot, relishing the grumbling and curses muttered under the breath of the losers.

Des flashed a nasty grin around the table. "For the sake of the Republic, I hope you guys are better soldiers than you are sabacc players."

"You mudcrutch, rankweed coward!" the ensign shouted, jumping up and spilling his drink onto the floor. "If it wasn't for us, the Sith would be all over this pit of a world!"

Another miner would have taken a swing at Des, but the ensign-even more than slightly drunk-had enough military discipline to keep his fists at his sides. A stern glare from the commander made him sit down and mumble an apology. Des was impressed. And a little disappointed.

"We all know why the Republic cares about Apatros," he said, stacking his chips and trying to appear nonchalant. In fact, he was scanning the table to see if anyone else was getting ready to make a move on him.

"You use cortosis in the hulls of your ships, you use it in your weapons casings, you even use it in your body armor. Without us, you wouldn't stand a chance in this war. So don't pretend you're doing any favors here: you need us as much as we need you."

Nobody had anted yet; all eyes were drawn to the drama unfolding among the players. The CardShark hesitated, its limited programming uncertain how to handle the situation. Des knew Groshik was watching from the far side of the cantina, his hand near the stun blaster he kept stashed behind the bar. He doubted the Neimoidian would need it, though.

"True enough," the commander conceded, pushing his ante in. The others, including Des, followed suit. "But at least we pay you for the cortosis we use. The Sith would just take it from you."

"No," Des corrected, studying his cards, "you pay ORO for the cortosis. Those credits don't make it all the way down to a guy like me." He folded his hand but didn't stop talking. "See, that's the problem with the Republic. In the Core everything's great: people are healthy, wealthy, and happy. But out here on the Rim things aren't so easy.

"I've been working the mines almost as long as I can remember, in one way or another, and I still owe ORO enough credits to fill a freighter hull. But I don't see any Jedi coming to save me from that little bit of injustice."

Nobody had an answer for him this time, not even the commander. Des decided they'd talked enough politics; he wanted to focus on winning the two thousand credits that had built up in the sabacc pot. He went in for the kill.

"Don't try to sell me on your Jedi and your Republic, because that's exactly what it is: your Republic. You say the Sith only respect strength? Well, that's pretty much the way things are out here on the Rim, too. You look out for yourself, because nobody else will. That's why the Sith keep finding new recruits willing to join them out here. People with nothing feel like they've got nothing to lose. And if the Republic doesn't figure that out pretty soon, the Brotherhood of Darkness is going to win this war no matter how many Jedi you have leading your army."

"Maybe we should just stick to cards;" the lieutenant suggested after a long, uncomfortable silence.

"That works for me," Des said. "No hard feelings?"

"No hard feelings," the commander said, forcing a smile.

A few of the other soldiers murmured assent, but Des knew the hard feelings were still there. He'd done everything he could to make sure they ran deep.










 楼主| 发表于 2013-4-20 20:17 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 光剑 于 2013-5-12 13:50 编辑

Chapter 4

The hours ticked by. Other miners began to arrive, the day shift coming in to replace the night crew that had left. The CardShark kept dealing, and the players kept betting. Des's stack of chips was growing steadily larger, and the sabacc pot kept on growing: three thousand credits, four thousand, five . . . None of the players seemed to be having fun anymore; Des figured his scorching rant had burned off all the pleasure from the game.
时间一个小时接着一个小时过去了。其他的矿工也陆续来到了酒吧,原本由夜班矿工组成的嘈杂人群完全被日班矿工取代了。不变的是牌鲨依然在卖力地洗牌,賭徒们也一直在賭。德赛尔那堆起来的賭注以肉眼可见的速度增长着,以及賭资收集盆里面的筹码数量也在不断增长:3000个信用点,4000个,5000个…… 但是似乎没有任何一个賭徒在賭博中收获快乐:德赛尔刚刚那激动的心情澎湃的演讲把原本游戏中无处不在的欢乐全都消灭了。

Des didn't care. He didn't play sabacc for fun. It was a job, same as working the mines. A way to earn credits and pay off ORO so he could leave Apatros behind forever.

Two of the soldiers pushed away from the table, their credits cleaned out. Their seats were soon filled by miners from the day shift. The lure of the massive sabacc pot was enough to draw them in, despite their reluctance to go up against Des.

Another hour passed and the senior officers-the lieutenant and the commander-finally packed it in. They, too, were replaced by miners with visions of hitting one good hand and cashing in the unclaimed sabacc pot. The Republic soldiers who stuck around, like the ensign who had first challenged Des, must have had deep, deep pockets.

With the constant influx of new players and new money, Des was forced to change his strategy. He was up several hundred credits; he had enough of a cushion built up that he could afford to lose a few hands if he had to. Now his only concern was protecting the sabacc pot. If he didn't have a hand he thought he could win with, he'd come up in the first few turns. He wasn't going to give anyone else a chance to build up a hand of twenty-three. He stopped folding, even when he had weak cards. Sitting out a hand gave the other players too much of a chance to win.

Some lucky shifts and some poor choices by his opponents made sure his strategy worked, though not without a cost. His efforts to protect the sabacc pot began to eat into his profits. His stack of winnings shrank quickly, but it would all be worth it if he won the sabacc pot.

Through hand after agonizing hand players continued to come and go. One by one the soldiers gave up their seats, forced out when they ran out of chips and couldn't afford more. Of the original group, only Des and the ensign remained. The ensign's pile was growing. A few of the soldiers stayed to watch, rooting for their man to beat the miner with the big mouth.

Other spectators came and went. Some were just waiting for a player to drop so they could swoop in and take the seat. Others were drawn by the intensity of the table and the size of the pots. After another hour the sabacc pot hit ten thousand chips, the maximum limit. Any credits paid into the sabacc pot now were wasted: they went straight into the ORO accounts. But nobody complained. Not with the chance to win a small fortune on the table.

Des glanced up at the chrono on the wall. The cantina would be closing in less than an hour. When he'd first sat down at the table, he'd felt certain he was going to win big. For a while he had been ahead. But the last few hours had drained his chips. Working to protect the sabacc pot was crippling him: he'd gone through all his profits and had to re-buy-in twice. He'd fallen into the classic gambler's trap, becoming so obsessed with winning the big pot that he'd lost sight of how much he was losing. He'd let the game get personal.

His shirt was hot and sticky with sweat. His legs were numb from sitting so long, and his back was aching from hunching forward expectantly to study his cards.

He was down almost a thousand credits on the night, but none of the other players had been able to cash in on his misfortune. With the Sabacc pot capped all the antes and penalties went straight to ORO. He'd have to work a month of grueling shifts in the mines if he ever wanted to see any of those credits again. But it was too late to turn back now. His only consolation was that the Republic ensign was down at least twice as much as he was. Yet each time the man ran out of chips, he'd just reach into his pocket and pull out another stack of credits, as if he had unlimited funds. Or as if he just didn't care.

The CardShark fired out another hand. As he peeked at his cards, Des began to feel the first real hints of self-doubt. What if his feeling was wrong this time? What if this wasn't his night to win? He couldn't remember a moment in the past when his gift had betrayed him, but that didn't mean it couldn't happen.

He pushed his chips in with a weak hand, defying every instinct that told him to fold. He'd have to come up at the start of the next turn, no matter how weak his cards were. Any longer and someone else might steal the sabacc pot he was working so hard to collect.

The marker flickered and the cards shifted. Des didn't bother to look; he simply flipped over his cards and muttered, "Coming up."

When he saw his hand he felt like he'd been slapped. He was sitting at negative twenty-three exactly, a bomb-out. The penalty cleaned out his stack of chips.

"Whoa, big fella," the ensign mocked drunkenly, "you must be lumsoaked to come up on that. What the brix were you thinking?"

"Maybe he doesn't understand the difference between plus twenty-three and minus twenty-three," said one of the soldiers watching the match, grinning like a manka cat.
“也许是他不知道点数要在23点到-23点的区间才有能赢。”其中一个围观的士兵说,像蛮卡猫(manka cat)那样呲牙咧嘴地笑着。

Des tried to ignore them as he paid the penalty. He felt empty. Hollow.

"You don't talk so much when you're losing, huh?" the ensign sneered.

Hate. Des didn't feel anything else at first. Pure, white-hot hatred consumed every thought, every motion, and every ounce of reason in his brain. Suddenly he didn't care about the pot, didn't care about how many credits he had already lost. All he wanted was to wipe the smug expression from the ensign's face. And there was only one way he could do it.

He shot a savage glare in the ensign's direction, but the man was too drunk to be intimidated. Without taking his eyes off his enemy, Des swiped his ORO account card into the reader and rang up another buy-in, ignoring the logical part of his mind that tried to talk him out of it.

The CardShark, its circuits and wires oblivious to what was really going on, pushed a stack of chips toward him and uttered its typically cheery, "Good luck."

Des opened with the Ace and two of sabers. He was at seventeen, a dangerous hand. Lots of potential to go too high on his next card and bomb out. He hesitated, knowing that the smart move was to fold.

"Having second thoughts?" the ensign chided.

Acting on an impulse he couldn't even explain, Des moved his two into the interference field, then pushed his chips into the pot. He was letting his emotions guide him, but he no longer cared. And when the next card came up as a three, he knew what he had to do. He shoved his three into the interference field beside the two that was already there. Then he bet the maximum wager and waited for the switch.

There were actually two ways to win the sabacc pot. One was to get a hand that totaled twenty-three exactly, a pure sabacc. But there was an even better hand: the idiot's array. In modified Bespin rules, if you had a hand of two and three in the same suit and drew the face card known as the Idiot, which had no value at all, you had an idiot's array ... 23 in the literal sense. It was the rarest hand possible, and it was worth more than even a pure sabacc.
实际上是有两种方式去赢得萨巴克罐的。其中一种是拿到一组牌并且总的点数恰好是23时,赢得“萨巴克大顺”。但是这儿有一种更胜一筹的方式:愚者组合(the idiot's array)。在改进版的贝斯平规则中,如果你在同一轮中有“2”和“3”,并且得到了名为“愚者”的牌,这张牌的价值为0,你就拥有了傻子组合……在字面意义上的“23”。它是最强的组合,甚至比萨巴克大顺还要更强。

Des was two-thirds of the way there. All he needed now was a switch to take his ten and replace it with the Idiot. Of course, that meant there had to be a switch. And even then he'd have to draw the Idiot off it ... and there were only two Idiots in the entire seventy-six-card deck. It was a ridiculously long shot.

The marker came up red; the cards shifted. Des didn't even have to look at his hand: he knew.

He stared right into the ensign's eyes. "Coming up."

The ensign looked down at his own hand to see what the switch had given him and began to laugh so hard he could barely show his hand. He had the two of flasks, the three of flasks ... and the Idiot!

There were gasps of surprise and murmurs of disbelief from the crowd. "How do you like that one, boys?" he cackled. "Idiot's array on the switch!"

He stood up, reaching out for the stack of chips on the small pedestal that sat in the center of the table representing the sabacc pot.

Des whipped his hand out and snagged the young man's wrist in a grip as cold and hard as durasteel, then flipped over his own cards. The entire cantina became silent as a tomb; the ensign's laughter died in his throat. A second later he pulled his hand free and sat back down, dumbfounded. From the far edge of the table somebody let out a long, low whistle of amazement. The rest of the crowd burst into noise.

"... never in my life ..."

"... can't believe ..."

". . statistically impossible ..."

"Two idiot's arrays in the same hand?"

The CardShark summarized the result in the purest analytical fashion. "We have two players with hands of equal value. The hand will be determined by a sudden demise."
牌鲨概括着结果说:“我们的两个玩家同时得到了价值完全一样的卡牌组合。这个牌局将进行爆死判决(sudden demise)。”那语气纯粹是在分析。

The ensign didn't react with the same kind of calm. "You stupid mud-crutch!" he spat out, his voice strangled with rage. "Now nobody's going to get that sabacc pot!" His eyes bulged out wildly; a vein was pulsing on his forehead. One of his fellow soldiers had placed a hand on his shoulder, as if afraid his friend might leap across the table to try to choke the life out of the miner on the other side.

The ensign was right: neither of them would be collecting the sabacc pot on this hand. In a sudden demise each player was dealt one more card, and the value of the hands was recalculated. If you had the better hand, you'd win ... but you wouldn't get the sabacc pot unless you scored twenty-three exactly. That, however, seemed impossible: there were no more Idiots to deal out to preserve an idiot's array, and no single card had a value higher than the Ace's fifteen.

Not that Des cared. It was enough to have destroyed his opponent's will; to have crushed his hopes and robbed him of his victory. He could feel the ensign's hate, and he responded to it. It was like a living being . an entity he could draw strength from, fueling his own raging inferno. But Des didn't put his emotions out on display for the rest of the crowd to see. The hate burning in him was his own private store, a power raging inside him so fierce he felt it could crack the world if he let it escape.

The dealer flicked out two cards faceup for everyone to see. They were both nines. Before anyone even had time to react the droid had recalculated the hand, determined that the two players were still tied, and fired out another card to each of them. The ensign took an eight, but Des got another nine. Idiot, two, three, nine, nine ... twenty-three!

He reached out slowly and tapped his cards, whispering a single word to his opponent: "Sabacc."

The soldier went ballistic. He leapt up, grabbed the underside of the table with both hands, and gave a mighty heave. Only the weight of the table and the built-in stabilizers kept it from flipping over, though it rocked and slammed back into the ground with a deafening crash. All the drinks on it spilled over; ale and lum washed across the electronic cards, causing them to spark and short out.

"Sir, please don't touch the table," the CardShark implored in a pitiful voice.

"Shut up, you hunk of rusted scrap metal!" The ensign grabbed one of the overturned mugs from the table and hurled it at the droid. It connected with a ringing thud. The droid stumbled back and fell over.

The ensign thrust a finger at Des. "You cheated! Nobody gets sabacc on a sudden demise! Not unless he cheats!"

Des didn't say anything; he didn't even stand up. But his muscles were braced in case the soldier made a move.

The ensign turned back to the droid as it rose shakily to its feet. "You're in on it!" He threw another mug at it, connecting again and dropping the droid a second time. Two of the other soldiers tried to restrain him, but he shook free of their grip. He spun around, waving his arms at the crowd. "You're all in on it! Dirty, Sith-loving scum! You hate the Republic! You hate us. We know you do. We know!"

The miners pushed in closer, grumbling angrily. The ensign's insults weren't far off the mark; there were a lot of bad feelings toward the Republic on Apatros. And if he didn't watch his mouth, somebody was going to show him just how strong those feelings were.

"We give our lives to protect you, but you don't give a wobber! Any chance to humiliate us, you take it!"

His friends had grabbed him again, trying to wrestle him out the door. But there was no way they could get through the crowd now. From the looks on their faces, the soldiers were terrified. With good reason, Des thought. None of them was armed; their blasters were back on their ship. Now they were trapped in the center of a hostile crush of heavily muscled miners who'd been drinking all night. And their friend wouldn't shut up.

"You should get down on your knees and thank us each and every time we land on this ball of bantha sweat you call a planet! But you're too stupid to know how lucky you are to have us on your side! You're nothing but a bunch of filthy, illiterate-"

A lum bottle hurled anonymously from the crowd struck him hard in the side of his head, cutting his words short. He dropped to the floor, dragging his friends down with him. Des stood motionless as a mass of angry miners surged.

The sound of a blaster caused everyone to freeze. Groshik had climbed up onto the top of the bar, his stunner already charging up to fire again. But everybody knew the next shot wouldn't be aimed at the ceiling.

"We're closed," he croaked as loud as his raspy voice could manage. "Everybody get out of my cantina!"

The miners began to back off, and the soldiers stood up warily. The ensign swayed, the cut on his forehead bleeding into his eye.

"You three first," the Neimoidian said to the ensign and the soldiers who supported him. He waved the barrel of his weapon menacingly around the room. "Clear a path. Get them out of here."

Everyone but the soldiers remained frozen. This wasn't the first time Groshik had whipped out the stunner. The BlasTech CS-33 Firespray stun rifle was one of the finest nonlethal crowd-control devices on the market, capable of incapacitating multiple targets with a single shot. More than a few of the miners had felt the brutal force of its wide-beam blast rendering them unconscious. From personal experience Des could attest to the fact that it wasn't a pain anyone was likely to forget.

Once the Republic crew vanished into the night, the rest of the crowd began to move slowly toward the door. Des fell into step with the masses, but as he passed the bar Groshik pointed the blaster right at him.

"Not you. You stay put."

Des didn't move a millimeter until all the others were gone. He wasn't scared; he didn't think Groshik would really fire. Still, he saw no advantage in giving him a reason to.

Only after the last patron had left and closed the door did Groshik lower his arm. He clambered down awkwardly from the bar and set the rifle on the table, then turned to Des.

"I figured it was safer to keep you here with me for a bit," he explained. "Those soldiers were pretty mad. They might be waiting for you on the walk home."

Des smiled. "I didn't figure you were mad at me," he said.

Groshik snorted. "Oh, I'm mad at you. That's why you're going to help me clean up this mess."

Des sighed and shook his head in mock exasperation. "You saw what happened, Groshik. I was just an innocent bystander."

Groshik wasn't in any mood to hear it. "Just start picking up the chairs," he muttered.

With the help of the CardShark-at least it was good for something besides dealing, Des thought-they finished cleaning up in just over an hour. When they were done the droid waddled out on shaky legs, heading toward the maintenance facilities for repairs. Before it left, Des made sure his sabacc winnings had been credited to his account.

Now that it was just the two of them, Groshik motioned Des over to the bar, grabbed a couple of glasses, and took a bottle down from the shelf.

"Cortyg brandy," he said, pouring them each half a glass. "Direct from Kashyyyk. Not the hard stuff the Wookiees drink, though. Milder. Smoother. More tame."
“科泰格白兰地(Cortyg brandy),”他说,然后各倒了半杯。“直接从卡希克(Kashyyyk)运来的。但这不是那种伍基人的烈酒,它相对而言更温和,口味更平淡。”

Des took a sip and nearly choked as the fiery liquid burned its way down his throat. "This is tame? I'd hate to see what the Wookiees drink!"

Groshik shrugged. "What do you expect? They're Wookiees."

With his second sip, Des was more careful. He let it roll across his tongue, savoring the rich flavor. "This is good, Groshik. And expensive, I bet. What's the occasion?"

"You had quite a day. I thought you could use it."

Des drained his glass. Groshik filled him up halfway, then corked the bottle and set it back on the shelf.

"I'm worried about you," the Neimoidian rasped. "Worried about what happened in the fight with Gerd."

"He didn't give me much choice."

The Neimodian nodded. "I know, I know. Still . . . you bit off his thumb. And tonight you nearly started a riot in my bar."

"Hey, I just wanted to play cards," Des protested. "It's not my fault things got out of hand."

"Maybe, maybe not. I saw you tonight. You were goading that soldier, playing him like you play everyone who sits down against you. You push them, twist them, make them dance like puppets on a string. But this time you never let up. Even when you had the advantage, you kept pushing. You wanted him to go off like that."

"Are you saying I planned this whole thing?" Des laughed. "Come on, Groshik. It was the cards that set him off. You know I wasn't cheating-it's just not possible. How could I control what cards were dealt?"

"It was more than the cards, Des," Groshik said, his gravelly voice dropping so low that Des had to lean in close to hear. "You were angry, Des. More angry than I've ever seen you before. I could feel it from all the way across the room, like something in the air. We could all feel it.

"The crowd turned ugly in a hurry, Des. It was like they were feeding off your rage and your hate. You were projecting waves of emotion, a storm of anger and fury. Everyone else just kind of got swept up in it: the crowd, that soldier . . . everybody. Even me. It was all I could do to aim that first shot from my blaster at the ceiling. Every instinct in my body was telling me to fire it into the crowd. I wanted to take them all down and leave them writhing in pain."

Des couldn't believe his ears. "Listen to what you're saying, Groshik. It's crazy. You know I wouldn't do that. I couldn't do that. Nobody could."

Groshik reached up a long , thin hand and patted Des on the shoulder. "I know you'd never do it on purpose, Des. And I know how crazy it sounds. But there was something different about you tonight. You gave in to your emotions, and it unleashed something . . . strange. Something dangerous."

Groshik tossed his head back and drained the last of his cortyg, shuddering as it went down. "Just watch yourself, Des. Please. I've got a bad feeling."

"Be careful, Groshik," Des replied with another laugh. "Neimoidians aren't known for relying on their feelings. It's not good for business." Groshik studied him carefully for a moment, then nodded wearily. "True. Maybe I'm just tired. I should get some sleep. And so should you."
“应该小心的是你,格罗希特。”德赛尔回以另一个大笑。“内莫伊迪亚人可不是以他们的感觉闻名遐迩的。这对做生意不好。”  格罗希特很认真地研究德赛尔的表情好一会儿,然后很疲倦地点了点头。“确实,可能我只是太累了。我需要一些休息才是,你也是。”

They shook hands, and Des left the cantina.










 楼主| 发表于 2013-5-12 13:52 | 显示全部楼层










 楼主| 发表于 2013-5-19 15:39 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 5

The streets of Apatros were dark. ORO charged such high rates for power that everyone turned off all their lights when they went to bed, and tonight the moon was only the barest sliver in the sky. There wasn't even the cantina's glow to guide him: Groshik had shut off the lights on its walls and dome until he opened the next day. Des stayed in the middle of the street, trying to avoid barking his shins on the debris hidden in the darker shadows along the edges.

Yet somehow, despite the near-absolute darkness, he saw them coming.

It was a split second before it happened, a sense that danger was coming ... and where it was coming from. Three silhouettes leapt at him, two coming head-on and another attacking from behind. He ducked forward just in time, feeling the metal pipe that would have cracked his skull and knocked him cold swiping through the air a hairbreadth above him. He popped back up as it passed and lashed out with a fist, driving into the featureless head of the nearest figure. He was rewarded with the sick crunch of cartilage and bone.

He ducked again, this time to the side, and the pipe that would have brained him square between the eyes thumped down hard across his left shoulder. He staggered to the side, driven by the force of the blow. But in the darkness it took a moment for his opponents to locate him, and by then he had regained his balance.

Through the gloom he could just make out the vague outlines of his attackers. The one he'd punched was slowly standing up; the other two stood wary and ready. He didn't have to see their faces to know who they were: the ensign and the two soldiers who'd half carried the man from the cantina. Des could smell the reek of Corellian ale wafting up at him, confirming their identities. They must have waited outside the cantina and followed him until they thought they could get the jump on him. That was good: it meant they hadn't gone back to their ship to get their blasters.

They came at him again, rushing him all at once. They had the numbers and months of military hand-to-hand combat training on their side; Des had strength, size, and years of bare-knuckle brawling on his. But in the darkness, none of that really mattered.

Des met their charge head-on, and all four combatants tumbled to the ground. Punches and kicks landed without any thought given to target or strategy: the blind fighting the blind. Each blow he landed brought a satisfying grunt or groan from his opponents, but his enjoyment was limited by the pummeling his own body was enduring.

It didn't matter if his eyes were open or closed, he couldn't see a thing. He reacted on instinct; aches and pains were washed away in the darkness by the adrenaline pumping through his veins.

And then suddenly he saw something. Someone had drawn a vibroblade. It was still black as the heart of the mines during a cave-in, yet Des could see the blade clearly, as if it glowed with an inner fire. It stabbed toward him and he grabbed the wrist of the wielder, twisting it back and driving it toward the dark mass from which it had appeared. There was a sharp cry and then a choking gurgle, and suddenly the burning blade in his vision winked out, the threat extinguished.

The mass of bodies entwined with his quickly untangled, two of them scampering clear. The third was motionless. A second later he heard the click of a luma switching on, and he was momentarily blinded by its beam of light. Eyes squeezed shut, he heard a gasp.

"He's dead!" one of the soldiers exclaimed. "You killed him!"

Shading his eyes against the illumination, Des glanced down to see exactly what he'd expected: the ensign lying on his back, the vibroblade plunged deep into his chest.

The luma flicked off, and Des braced himself for another assault. Instead he heard the sounds of footsteps fleeing in the night, heading toward the docking pads.

Des looked down at the body, planning to grab the glowing blade and use its light to guide him through the darkness. But the blade wasn't glowing now. In fact, he realized, it had never really glowed at all. It couldn't have: vibroblades weren't energy weapons. Their blades were simple metal.

There were more pressing concerns than how he had seen the vibroblade in the darkness, however. As soon as they reached their ship, the soldiers would report to their commander, who would report the incident to the ORO authorities. ORO would turn the planet upside down looking for him. Des didn't like his chances. It would be the word of a miner-one with a history of brawls and violence, at that-against two Republic naval soldiers. No one would believe it had been an act of self-defense.

And had it been, really? He had seen the blade coming. Could he have disarmed his opponent without killing him? Des shook his head. He didn't have time for guilt or regrets. Not now. He had to find somewhere safe to hide out.

He couldn't go back to his barracks: that was the first place they'd look. He'd never reach the mines on foot before daybreak, and there was nowhere on the open wastes he could hide once the sun came up. There was only one option, one hope. Eventually they'd go looking for him there, too. But he had nowhere else to go.

Groshik must have still been awake, because he answered the door only seconds after Des began pounding on it. The Neimoidian took one look at the blood on the young man's hands and shirt and grabbed him by the sleeve.

"Get in here!" he croaked, yanking Des through the door and slamming it shut behind him. "Are you hurt?"

Des shook his head. "I don't think so. The blood isn't mine."

Taking a step back, the Neimoidian looked him up and down. "There's a lot of it. Too much. Smells human."

When Des didn't reply, Groshik ventured a guess. "Gerd's?"

Another shake of the head. "The ensign," Des said.

Groshik dropped his head and swore under his breath. "Who knows? Are the authorities after you?"

"Not yet. Soon." Then, as if trying to justify his actions, he added, "There were three of them, Groshik. Only one's dead."

His old friend nodded sympathetically. "I'm sure he had it coming. Just like Gerd. But that doesn't change the facts. A Republic soldier is dead ... and you're the one who's going to take the blame."

The cantina owner led Des over to the bar and brought down the bottle of cortyg brandy. Without saying a word, he poured them each a drink. This time he didn't stop at half glasses.

"I'm sorry I came here," Des said, desperate to break the uncomfortable silence. "I didn't mean to get you mixed up in this."

"Getting mixed up in things doesn't bother me," Groshik reassured him with a comforting pat on his arm. "I'm just trying to figure a way to get us out of this now. Let me think."

They downed their glasses. It was all Des could do to keep from panicking; with each passing second he expected a dozen men in ORO body armor to crash down the cantina's door. After what seemed like hours, but was probably only a minute or two, Groshik began to talk. He spoke softly, and Des wasn't sure if the Neimoidian was addressing him or merely talking out loud to help himself think.

"You can't stay here. ORO can't afford to lose their Republic contracts. They'll turn the whole colony upside down to find you. We have to get you offworld." He paused. "But by morning, your picture will be on every vidscreen in Republic space. Changing your looks won't help much. Even with a wig or facial prosthetics you tend to stand out in a crowd. So that means we have to get you out of Republic space. And that means , . ." Groshik trailed off.

Des waited expectantly.

"Those things you said tonight," Groshik ventured, "about the Sith and the Republic. Did you mean it? Did you really mean it?"

"I don't know. I guess so."

There was another long pause, as if the bartender was gathering himself. "How would you feel about joining the Sith?" he suddenly blurted out.

Des was caught completely off guard. "What?"

"I know . . . people. I can get you offworld. Tonight. But these people aren't looking for passengers: the Sith need soldiers. They're always recruiting, just like those Republic officers tonight."

Des shook his head. "I don't believe this. You work for the Sith? You always said never to take sides!"

"I don't work for the Sith," Groshik snapped. "I just know people who do. I know people who work for the Republic, too. But they're not going to be much help in this situation. So I need to know, Des. Is this something you want?"

"I don't have a lot of other options," Des mumbled in reply.

"Maybe, maybe not. If you stay here, the ORO authorities are sure to find you. This wasn't a cold-blooded murder. The judiciary probably won't let you get off by pleading self-defense, but they'll have to admit there were extenuating circumstances. You'll serve time on one of the penal colonies-five, maybe six years-and then you're a free man."

"Or I join the Sith."

Groshik nodded. "Or you join the Sith. But if I'm going to help you do this, I want to be sure you know what you're getting into."

Des thought about it, but not for long. "I've spent my entire life trying to get off this hunk of rock," he said slowly. "If I go to a prison world, I'm trading one barren, blasted planet for another. No different than staying right here.

"If I join the Sith, at least I'm out from under ORO's thumb. And you heard what that Republic commander said about them. The Sith respect strength. I think I'll be able to hold my own."

"I don't doubt that," Groshik conceded. "But don't dismiss everything else that commander said. He was right about the Brotherhood of Darkness. They can be ruthless and cruel. They bring out the worst in some people. I don't want you to fall into that trap."

"First you tell me to join the Sith," Des said, "now you're warning me against joining them. What's going on?"

The Neimoidian gave a long, gurgling sigh. "You're right, Des. The decision is made. Grim fate and ill fortune have conspired against you. It's not like sabacc; you can't fold a bad hand. In life you just play the cards you're dealt." He turned away, heading for the small stairs at the back of the cantina. "Come on. In a few hours, after they've searched the housing units in the colony, they'll start searching the starport for you. We have to hurry if we want to get you safely hidden away on one of the freight cruisers before then."

Des reached out across the bar and grabbed Groshik's shoulder. Groshik turned to face him, and Des clasped the Neimoidian's long, slender forearm.

"Thank you, old friend. I won't forget this."

"I know you won't, Des." Though the words were kind, there was an unmistakable sorrow in the gravelly voice.

Des released his grip, feeling awkward, ashamed, scared, grateful, and excited all at the same time. He felt like he needed to say something else, so he added, "I'll make this up to you somehow. The next time we meet-"

"Your life here is over, Des," Groshik said, cutting him off. "There won't be a next time. Not for us."

The Neimoidian shook his head. "I don't know what's ahead of you, but I get the feeling it isn't going to be easy. Don't count on others for help. In the end each of us is in this alone. The survivors are those who know how to look out for themselves."

With that he turned away, his feet shuffling briskly across the cantina's floor as he headed to the back exit. Des hesitated a moment, Groshik's words burning into his mind, then rushed off to follow.

Huddled in the hold of the ship, Des tried to get comfortable. He'd been crammed into the small smuggler's hatch for nearly an hour. It was a tight fit for a man of his size.

Twenty minutes earlier he had heard an ORO patrol come to inspect the ship. They had made a cursory search; not finding the fugitive they were seeking, they had left. A few seconds later the captain, a Rodian pilot, had rapped hard on the panel keeping Des hidden.

"You stay until engines go," he had called in passable galactic Basic. "We take off, you come out. Not before."

Des hadn't recognized him when he'd climbed aboard; he had looked like any other Rodian he'd ever seen. Just another independent freighter captain picking up a load of cortosis, hoping to sell it on some other world for enough profit to keep his ship flying another few months.

If ORO had offered a reward for Des's capture, the captain probably would have sold him out. That meant the ORO managers hadn't put a price on his head. They were more worried about paying out a bounty than letting a fugitive escape Republic justice. It wasn't important that they found him, as long as they could show the Republic they had tried. Groshik must have realized all this when he made the arrangements to smuggle Des aboard.

The high-pitched whine of the engines powering up caused Des to brace himself against the walls of his close quarters. A few seconds later the whine became a deafening roar, and the ship lurched beneath him. The repulsors fired, counterbalancing the vessel, and Des felt the press of the g's as the ship took to the sky.

He kicked at the panel once, knocking it free, and untangled himself from the hidey-hole. The captain and crew weren't around; they would all be at their stations for liftoff.

Des didn't know their destination. All he knew was that at the end of the trip a human woman was waiting to sign him up for the Sith army. As before, the thought filled him with a mix of emotions. Fear and excitement dominated all the others.

There was a slight jostling of the ship as it broke atmosphere and began to speed away from the tiny mining world. A few seconds later Des felt an unfamiliar but unmistakable surge as they jumped to hyperspace.

A sudden sense of liberation filled his spirit. He was free. For the first time in his life, he was beyond the grasping reach of ORO and its cortosis mines. Groshik had said that grim fate and ill fortune were conspiring against him, but Des wasn't so sure now. Things hadn't worked out quite the way he'd planned-he was a fugitive with the blood of a Republic soldier on his hands-but he had finally escaped Apatros.

Maybe the cards he'd been dealt weren't so bad, after all. In the end he'd gotten the one thing he wanted most. And when you came right down to it, wasn't that the only thing that really mattered?最后,他分到的牌也许还不算太差。毕竟他得到了最想要的东西。当你为它而来的时候,那不就是唯一真正要关心的东西吗?










 楼主| 发表于 2013-6-2 16:40 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 6

Phaseera's yellow sun was directly overhead, beaming down across the lush valley and over the jungle camp where Des and his fellow Sith troopers waited. Beneath the shelter of a cydera tree, Des ran a quick system check on his TC-22 blaster rifle to pass the time. The power pack was fully charged, good for fifty shots. His backup power pack checked out, too. The aim was off just slightly, a common problem with all TC models. They had good range and power, but over time their scopes could lose precise calibration. A quick adjustment brought it back into line.
彼埃塞尔(Phaseera)澄黄色的太阳正不偏不倚地高悬在众人的头顶上,刺眼的光芒洒遍了植被茂密的山谷,德赛尔和陪伴他在一起等待的西斯士兵所在丛林营地也都覆盖了一层泛黄的光影。在卡德尔树(cydera tree)的阴影下,德赛尔正在用一套快速检查枪械的程序来检校他的TC-22爆能突击步枪,不过他这么做只是为了消磨时间罢了。步枪的能量模块(power pack)已经完全充满了,至少能进行50次射击。他的备用能量模块也检查过了,同样是准备就绪。瞄准模块有些移位,不过这个是TC系列步枪的通病了。它们有着非常棒的射程,也能发射强大爆能束,但是随着时间的推移瞄准模块的可校准性会越来越差,最终会无法正确地锁定目标。此时德赛尔决定给它做一个简单的校准。

His hands moved with a quick confidence born of a thousand repetitions. Over the past twelve months he'd gone through the routine so many times he barely even had to think about it anymore. A pre-battle weapons check wasn't standard practice in the Sith militia, but it was a habit he'd gotten into-one that had saved his life on several occasions. The Sith army was growing so fast that supply couldn't keep up with demand. The best equipment was reserved for veterans and officers, while new recruits were forced to make do with whatever was available.

Now that he was a sergeant he could have requested a better model, but the TC-22 was the first weapon he'd learned to fire and he'd become pretty good with it. Des figured a little routine maintenance was a better option than learning to master the subtle nuances of another weapon.

His blaster pistol, however, was top of the line. Not all Sith troopers were given pistols: for most soldiers a medium-range, semi-repeating rifle was weapon enough. They'd probably be dead long before they ever got close enough to their enemy to use a pistol. But in the past year Des had proven a dozen times over that he was more than just turret fodder. Soldiers good enough to survive the initial rush and get in tight to the enemy ranks needed a weapon more suited to close-quarters fighting.

For Des that weapon was the GSI-21D: the finest disruptor pistol manufactured by Galactic Solutions Industries. Optimum range was only twenty meters, but within that distance it was capable of disintegrating armor, flesh, and droid plating with equal efficiency. The 21D was illegal in most Republic-controlled sectors of the galaxy, a testament to its awesome destructive potential. The disruptor's power pack carried only enough charge for a dozen shots, but when he was eye-to-eye with an opponent it rarely took more than one.
德赛尔的武器是GSI-21D,这是由银河对策工业(Galactic Solutions Industries)所制造的最好的撕裂者系列手枪(disruptor pistol)。它的最佳射程仅为2米,但是若在其射程内,无论是盔甲、有机体、机器人的装甲,还是别的跟机械装甲具有相同防御力的东西,都会被非常有效率地撕裂。型号为21D的撕裂者手枪在被共和国所控制的绝大数领域都被认为是非法的,有一份可靠的证明说它确实存在着非常的大安全隐患。撕裂者系列手枪的能量模块即使是充满了,最多也就进行12次射击,但若是在两个人近得足以四眼相对时开枪的话,那样造成的伤亡可就不止一个人了……

He slid the pistol into the holster clipped to his belt; checked the vibroblade in his boot, and turned his attention to his troops. All around him the men and women of his unit were following his lead, making similar inspections of their own equipment as they waited for the orders. He couldn't help but smile; he'd trained them well.

He'd joined the Sith armies as a way to escape both prison and Apatros itself. But it hadn't taken him long to actually grow fond of the soldier's life. There was a camaraderie among the men and women who fought at his side, a bond that quickly extended to include Des himself. He'd never felt any connection to the miners on Apatros and indeed had always considered himself something of a loner. But in the military he'd found his true place. He belonged here with the troops. His troops.

Senior Trooper Adanar noticed his gaze and responded by thumping a closed fist lightly against his chest twice, just over his heart. It was a gesture known only to members of the unit: a private sign for loyalty and fidelity, a symbol of the bond they all shared.

Des returned the gesture. He and Adanar had been in the same unit since day one of their military careers. The recruiter had signed them up together and assigned them both to the Gloom Walkers, Lieutenant Ulabore's unit.
德赛尔回应以同样的问候动作。他和阿达纳拉是在同一天开始他们的军事生涯的。征兵人员恰好就把他们俩同时签入了西斯军队,并且把他们都编入了暗黑步行者连(the Gloom Walkers),尤博德中尉(Lieutenant Ulabore)的班。

Adanar picked up his rifle and sauntered over to where his friend was sitting. "You figure we're going to need that disruptor pistol of yours anytime soon, Sarge?"
阿达纳拉拿起他的步枪并且在他的朋友所坐的周围漫步并说:“你认为我们很快就像你那样需要撕裂者手枪了,萨戈(Sarge)?”【译者按:Sarge 应该是星战世界的某种语气助词】

"No harm in being prepared," Des replied, whipping out the disruptor and giving it a spinning flourish before returning it to its holster.

"I wish they'd give us the go-ahead already," Adanar grumbled. "We've been in position for two days now. How long are they going to wait?"

Des shrugged. "We can't go until they're ready to move in with the main force. We go too early and the plan falls apart."

The Gloom Walkers had earned quite a reputation over the past year. They'd been in scores of battles on half a dozen worlds, and they'd tasted far more than their share of victories. They'd gone from being one of a thousand expendable front-line units to elite troops reserved for critical missions. Right now they were the key to capturing the manufacturing world of Phaseera-if someone would just give them the order to go. Until then they were stuck in this jungle camp an hour's march away from their objective. They'd been here only a couple of days, but it was already beginning to take its toll.

Adanar began to pace. Des sat calmly in the shade, watching him march back and forth.

"Don't wear yourself out," he said after a minute. "We're not going anywhere until nightfall at the earliest. You might as well get comfortable."

Adanar stopped pacing, but he didn't sit down. "Lieutenant says this is going to be easy as a spicerun," he said, trying to keep his voice casual. "You figure he's right?"

Lieutenant Ulabore had received many accolades for the success of his troops, but everyone in the unit knew who was really in charge when the blaster bolts started flying.

That fact had become painfully clear nearly a year before back on Kashyyyk, where Des and Adanar had seen their first action. The Brotherhood of Darkness had tried to secure a foothold in the Mid Rim by invading the system, sending in wave after wave of troops to capture the resource-rich homeworld of the Wookiees. But the planet was a Republic stronghold and they weren't about to retreat, no matter how badly outnumbered.

When the Sith fleet first landed, their enemies simply vanished into the forest. The invasion turned into a war of attrition, a long, drawn-out campaign fought among the branches of the wroshyr trees high above the planet's surface. The Sith troopers weren't used to fighting in the treetops, and the thick foliage and kshyy vines of the forest canopy provided perfect cover for the Republic soldiers and their Wookiee guides to launch ambushes and guerrilla raids. Thousands upon thousands of the invaders were wiped out, most dying without even seeing the opponent who had fired the fatal shot ... but the Sith Masters just kept sending more troops in.
当西斯舰队登陆卡希克星之后,他们的敌人很快就消失在森林之中了。入侵行动就这样变成了一场消耗战,一场在的罗西尔树(wroshyr tree)的树枝上进行的冗长的战役。西斯士兵们并没有接受过在树顶城市作战的训练,共和国士兵和他们的伍基向导打伏击战和游击战时却因此有了独特的优势,那些粗大的植物枝干和像藤蔓一样爬满卡希克的树冠给他们提供了完美的掩护。成千上万的入侵者的生命瞬间就被抹杀了,大多数死者甚至没有能看见他们的敌人,不知道敌人在哪里给自己送来了致命一击……但是西斯大师们对此充耳不闻,只是在不断地往星球上输送更多的士兵。

The Gloom Walkers were part of the second wave of reinforcements. During their first battle they were separated from the main lines, cut off from the rest of the army. Alone and surrounded by enemies, Lieutenant Ulabore panicked. Without direct orders, he had no idea what to do to keep his unit alive. Fortunately, Des was there to step in and save their hides.

For starters, he could sense the enemy even when he couldn't see them. Somehow he just knew where they were. He couldn't explain it, but he'd stopped trying to explain his unique talents long ago. Now he just tried to use them to his best advantage. With Des as their guide, the Gloom Walkers were able to avoid the traps and ambushes as they slowly worked their way back to rejoin the main force. It took three days and nights, countless brief but deadly battles, and a seemingly endless march through enemy territory, but they made it. Through all the fighting, the unit lost only a handful of soldiers, and the troops who made it back knew they owed their lives to Des.

The story of the Gloom Walkers became a rallying point for the rest of the Sith army, raising morale that had become dangerously low. If a single unit could survive for three days on its own, they reasoned, then surely a thousand units could win the war. In the end it took almost two thousand units, but Kashyyyk finally fell.

As leader of the heroic Gloom Walkers, Lieutenant Ulabore was given a special commendation. He never bothered to mention that Des was really the one responsible. Still, he'd been smart enough to promote Des to sergeant. And he knew enough to stay out of the way when things got hot.

"So?" Adanar repeated. "What's the word, Des? When they finally give us the go, is this mission going to be a spicerun?"

"The lieutenant's just saying what he thinks we all want to hear."

"I know that, Des. That's why I'm talking to you. I want to know what we're really in for."

Des thought about it for a few moments. They were holed up in the jungle on the edge of a narrow valley-the only route into Phaseera's capital city, where the Republic army had set up its base camp. On a nearby hill overlooking the valley was a Republic outpost. If the Sith tried to move troops through the valley, even at night, the outpost was sure to spot them. They'd signal ahead to the base camp so their defenses would be up and fully operational long before the enemy ever reached them.

The Gloom Walkers' mission was simple: eliminate the outpost so the rest of the army could launch a surprise attack on the Republic base camp. They had interference boxes-short-range jamming equipment they could use to keep the outpost from transmitting a signal to warn the main camp-but they'd have to hit them fast. The outpost reported each day at dawn, and if the Gloom Walkers struck too soon, the Republic would realize something was wrong when the daily report didn't come in.

The timing was critical. They'd have to take them out just before the main force entered the area. That would leave a few hours to cross the valley and catch the base camp unprepared. It was doable, but only if everything was coordinated perfectly. The Gloom Walkers were in place, but the main force wasn't ready to make its move yet ... and so they waited.

"I'm worried," Des finally conceded. "Taking that outpost won't be easy. Once we get the go-ahead there's no margin for error. We have to be perfect. If they've got any surprises waiting for us, we could be in trouble."

Adanar spit on the ground. "I knew it! You've got a bad feeling, don't you? This is Hsskhor all over again!"

Hsskhor had been a disaster. After Kashyyyk fell, the surviving Republic soldiers fled to the neighboring world of Trandosha. Twenty units of Sith troopers, including the Gloom Walkers, were sent in pursuit. They caught up to the Republic survivors on the desert plains outside the city of Hsskhor.

A day of savage fighting left many dead on both sides, but no definitive victor. Des had been uneasy throughout the battle, though at the time he hadn't been able to say why. His unease had grown as night fell and both sides retreated to opposite ends of the battlefield to regroup. The Trandoshans had struck a few hours later.

The pitch-black night wasn't a problem for the reptilian Trandoshans: they could see into the infrared spectrum. They seemed to come out of nowhere, materializing from the darkness like a nightmare given substance.

Unlike the Wookiees, the Trandoshans weren't allied with either side in the galactic civil war. The bounty hunters and mercenaries of Hsskhor cut a swath of destruction through the ranks of Republic and Sith alike, not caring whom they fought just as long as they came away with trophies from their kills.
与伍基人不同的是,川多刹人没有跟这场银河内战中参战的任何一方结盟【原著上写的就是the galactic civil war,但是贝恩所在的时期应该是新西斯战争末期】。赫斯克霍尔的赏金猎人和雇佣兵给共和国的军队造成了巨大的损失,西斯受到的“待遇”并不比共和国差到哪里去。他们根本不管自己是在跟谁作战,对于他们而言,能从死者身上收获战利品就是一切。

Details of the massacre were never officially released. Des had been at the very center of the carnage, and even he could barely piece together what had happened. The attack caught the Gloom Walkers, like every other unit, completely off guard. By the time the sun rose nearly half the Sith troops had been cut down. Des lost a lot of friends in the slaughter ... friends he might have saved if he had paid more attention to the dark premonition he'd felt when he first set foot on that forsaken desert world. And he vowed he'd never let the Gloom Walkers get caught in a slaughter like that again.

In the end Hsskhor paid a heavy price for the ambush. Reinforcements were sent in from Kashyyyk to overwhelm both the Republic forces and the Trandoshans. It took less than a week for the Sith to claim victory, and the once proud city was sacked and razed to the ground. Many of the Trandoshans simply gave up the fight to defend their homes and offered their services to their conquerors. They were bounty hunters and mercenaries by trade, and hunters by nature. They didn't care whom they were working for, as long as there was a chance to do some more killing. Needless to say, the Sith had welcomed them with open arms.

"This isn't going to be a repeat of Hsskhor," Des assured his nervous companion. It was true he had an uneasy feeling once again. But this time it was different. Something big was going to happen, but Des couldn't say for sure whether it would be good or bad.

"Come on, Des," Adanar pressed. "Go talk to Ulabore. He listens to you sometimes."

"And tell him what?"

Adanar threw his hands up in exasperation. "I don't know! Tell him about your bad feeling. Make him get on the comm to HQ and tell them to pull us back. Or convince them to send us in! Just don't leave us sitting out here like a bunch of dead womp rats rotting in the sun!"
阿达纳拉很暴躁地乱挥双手。“我不知道!去跟他讲你那不祥的预感。让他跟联系总部并且要求让我们撤回。或者干脆让他们下一个前进的命令!只是不要让我们呆在这里晒太阳就行,我不要像只死掉的沃姆鼠(womp rat)那样在烈日暴晒之下腐烂掉!”

Before Des could answer, one of the junior troopers, a young woman named Lucia, ran up and snapped off a crisp salute. "Sergeant! Lieutenant Ulabore wants you to assemble the troops by his tent. He'll address them in thirty minutes," she said, her voice earnest and excited.

Des flashed a smile at his friend. "I think we've finally got our orders."

The soldiers stood at attention as the lieutenant and Des reviewed the troops. As it always did, the inspection consisted of Ulabore moving up and down the ranks, nodding and giving half-muttered approvals. It was mostly for show, a chance for Ulabore to feel as if he had something to do with the success of a mission.

Once they were done, the lieutenant marched to the front of the column and turned to face the troops. Des stood alone in front of the unit, his back to them so he could be face-to-face with his superior officer.

"Everyone here is familiar with our mission objective," Ulabore began, his voice unusually high-pitched and loud. Des guessed he was trying to sound authoritative, but it came across as shrill.

"I'll leave the specifics of the mission to the sergeant here," he continued. "Our task is not an easy one, but the days of the Gloom Walkers getting easy jobs are long gone.

"I don't have much else to say; I know you're all as eager as I am to end this pointless waiting. That's why I'm happy to inform you that we've been given the order to move out. We hit the Republic outpost in one hour!"

Horrified gasps and loud whispers of disbelief rose up from the ranks. Ulabore stepped back as if he'd been slapped. He'd obviously been expecting cheers and exultation, and was rattled by the sudden anger and lack of discipline.

"Gloom Walkers, hold!" Des barked. He stepped up to the lieutenant and lowered his voice. "Sir, are you certain those were the orders? Move in one hour? Are you certain they didn't mean one hour after nightfall?"

"Are you questioning me, Sergeant?" Ulabore snapped, making no attempt to keep his own voice down.

"No, sir. It's just that if we leave in one hour it'll still be light out. They'll see us coming."

"By the time they see us we'll already be close enough to jam their transmitters," the lieutenant countered. "They won't be able to signal back to the base camp."

"It's not that, sir. It's the gunships. They've got three repulsorcraft equipped with heavy-repeating flash cannons. If we try to take the outpost during the day, those things will mow us down from the sky."
“先生,主要问题不是这个。那炮艇才是问题所在。他们有三艘装配了速射重型循环火力机关枪(heavy-repeating flash cannons)的反重力炮艇(repulsorcraft equipped)。如果我们试图在白天去攻占前哨的话,那些炮艇就会在天上将我们逐个猎杀!”

"It's a suicide mission!" someone shouted out from the ranks.

Ulabore's eyes became narrow slits, and his face turned red. "The main army is moving out at dusk, Sergeant," he said through tightly clenched teeth. "They want to cross the valley in darkness and hit the Republic base camp at first light."

"Then there's no reason for us to move so soon," Des replied, struggling to remain calm. "If they start at dusk, it's going to take at least three hours before they reach the valley from their current position. That gives us plenty of time to take the outpost down before they get here, even if we wait until after dark:'

"It's obvious you don't understand what's really going on, Sergeant." Ulabore spoke as if arguing with a stubborn child. "The main force isn't going to start moving until after we report our mission is complete. That's why we have to move now."

It made sense: the generals wouldn't want to risk the main force until they knew for certain the valley was secure. But sending them in during the light of day guaranteed that the Gloom Walkers' casualty rate would increase fivefold.

"You have to comm back to HQ and explain the situation to them," Des said. "We can't take on those gunships in the air. We have to wait till they ground them for the night. You have to make them understand what we're up against."

The lieutenant acted as if he hadn't even heard him. "The generals give the orders to me, and I give them to you," he snapped. "Not the other way around! The army is moving out at dusk, and that's not going to change to fit your schedule, Sergeant!"

"They won't have to change their plans," Des insisted. "If we leave as soon as it gets dark, we'll still have that outpost down by the time they reach the valley. But sending us in now is just-"

"Enough!" the lieutenant snapped. "Quit braying like a bantha cut off from its herd! You have your orders, now follow them! Or do you want to see what happens to soldiers who defy their superior officers?"

Suddenly it was clear to Des what was really going on. Ulabore knew the order was a mistake, but he was too scared to do anything about it. The order must have come directly from one of the Dark Lords. Ulabore would rather lead his troops into a slaughter than face the wrath of a Sith Master. But Des wasn't about to let him drive the Gloom Walkers to their doom. This wasn't going to become a repeat of Hsskhor. He hesitated for only a second before slamming his fist into his lieutenant's chin, knocking him cold.

There was stunned silence from the rest of the troops as Ulabore slumped to the ground. Des quickly took away the fallen officer's weapons, then turned and pointed at a pair of the newest recruits.

"You two, keep an eye on the lieutenant. Make sure he's comfortable if he wakes up, but don't let him anywhere near the comm."

To the communications officer he said, "Just before dusk send a message back to HQ telling them our mission is complete so they can start moving the main force into the valley. That will give us two hours to achieve our objective before they get here."

Turning to address the rest of the troops, he paused to let the gravity of his next words sink in. "What I've done here is mutiny," he said slowly. "There's a chance anyone who follows me from here on in will face a court-martial when this is over. If any of you feel you can't follow my orders after what I've done here today, speak up now and I'll surrender command to Senior Trooper Adanar for the rest of the mission."

He gazed out across the soldiers. For a second nobody spoke; then as one they all raised their fists and gave two light raps on their chest, just above the heart.

Overwhelmed with pride, Des had to swallow hard before he could give his final order to the troops . . . his troops. "Gloom Walkers, dismissed!"

The ranks dispersed in groups of twos and threes, the soldiers whispering quietly to one another. Adanar broke away from the rest and came up to Des.

"Ulabore's not going to forget this," he said quietly. "What are you going to do about him?"

"After we take that outpost they'll want to pin a medal on our commanding officer," Des replied. "I'm betting he'd rather shut up and accept it than let anyone know what really happened."

Adanar grunted. "Guess you got it all worked out."

"Not quite," Des admitted. "I'm still not sure how we're going to take down that outpost."










 楼主| 发表于 2013-6-16 21:49 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 7

The outpost was located in a clearing on the top of a plateau overlooking the valley. Under the cover of night, the Gloom Walkers had moved silently through the jungle until they had it surrounded. Des had broken the unit up into four squads, each approaching from a different side. Each squad carried an interference box with it.

They had set up and activated the i-boxes once they'd closed to within half a kilometer of the base, jamming all transmissions within their perimeter. The squads had continued on to the edges of the clearing then stopped, waiting for Des to give them the signal to move in. With no communication among the squads-the i-boxes jammed their own equipment as well-the most reliable signal was the sound of blasterfire.

As he stared across the clearing at the three repulsorcraft sitting on the landing pad atop the outpost's roof, Des felt a familiar feeling in the pit of his stomach. All soldiers felt the same thing going into battle, whether they admitted it or not: fear. Fear of failure, fear of dying, fear of watching their friends die, fear of being wounded and living out the rest of their days crippled or maimed. The fear was always there, and it would devour you if you let it.

Des knew how to turn that fear to his own advantage. Take what makes you weak and turn it into something that makes you strong. Transform the fear into anger and hate: hatred of the enemy; hatred of the Republic and the Jedi. The hate gave him strength, and the strength brought him victory.

For Des the transformation came easily once the fighting started. Thanks to his abusive father, he'd been turning fear into anger and hate ever since he was a child. Maybe that was why he was such a good soldier. Maybe that was why the others looked to him for leadership.

They were waiting on his signal even now, waiting for him to take the first shot. As soon as he did, they'd charge the outpost. The Gloom Walkers were outnumbered nearly two to one; they'd need the advantage of surprise to even out the odds. But those gunships were a problem Des hadn't anticipated.

The clearing was surrounded by bright lights that illuminated everything within a hundred meters of the outpost itself. And even though the repulsorcraft were grounded, there was a soldier stationed in the open flatbed at the rear of each vehicle, operating the turrets. The armored walls of the flatbed rose to waist height to give the gunner some cover, and the turret itself was heavily shielded to protect it from enemy fire.
开阔地被一圈白光所覆盖,那是前哨所发出的亮光,在一百米的范围内所有的东西都被会照亮。即使是反重力炮舰着陆了,在每台飞行器后面空地依然各有一名士兵值守,操纵着它们的炮台。停机坪上也有达到腰部高度的装甲壁(armored walls)来保护炮手,而其炮艇本身也有重型装甲以防护敌人的炮火。

From the landing pad on the roof, the gunners had a clear view of the surrounding area. If he fired that first shot, the other units would charge out into the clearing and right into a storm of heavy-repeating blasterfire. They'd be torn apart like zucca tossed into a rancor pit.

"What's the matter, Sarge?" one of the soldiers in his squad asked. It was Lucia, the junior trooper who'd delivered Ulabore's orders to him earlier. "What are we waiting for?"

It was too late to call off the mission. The main army was already on the move; by the time Des got back to camp to warn them, they'd be halfway through the valley.

He glanced down at the young recruit and noticed the scope on her weapon. Lucia was carrying a TC-17 long-range blaster rifle. Her knuckles were white from gripping her weapon too tightly in fear and anticipation. She'd seen only minor combat duty before being assigned to the Gloom Walkers, but Des knew she was one of the best shots in the unit. The TC-17 was only good for a dozen shots before the power cell had to be switched out, but it had a range well over three hundred meters.

Each of the four squads had a sniper assigned to it. When the fighting began, their job was to watch the perimeter of the battle and make sure none of the Republic soldiers escaped to warn their main camp.

"See those soldiers standing in the rear of the gunships? The ones working the flash cannons?" he asked her.

She nodded.

"If we don't get rid of them somehow, they're going to turn our squads into turret fodder about ten seconds after this battle begins."

She nodded again, her eyes wide and scared. Des tried to keep his voice even and professional to calm her down.

"I want you to think about this very carefully now, trooper. How fast do you think you could take them out from here?"

She hesitated. "I ... I don't even know if I could, Sarge. Not all of them. Not from this angle. I could get a line on the first one, but as soon as he goes down, I doubt the others will stand still long enough for me to take aim. They'll probably duck down in the flatbed for cover. And even if I take the gunners out, there's half a dozen more soldiers on that roof who would jump in to take their places. I can't drop nine targets that fast by myself, Sarge. Nobody can."

Des bit his lip and tried to figure out an answer to the problem. There were only three gunships. If he could somehow get a message to the sniper in each squad and have them fire at exactly the same time, they might be able to take out the unsuspecting gunners ... though they'd still have to stop the other six soldiers from replacing them.

He cut off his own line of thought with a silent curse. It would never work. Because of the i-boxes there was no way to get a message to the other squads in time.

Taking the sniper rifle from Lucia's hands, he brought the weapon up and set his eye to the scope to get a better look at the situation. He scanned the roof quickly from side to side, noting the position of every Republic soldier. With the magnification of the scope he could make out their features clear enough to see their lips moving as they spoke.

The situation was practically hopeless. The outpost was the key to taking Phaseera, and the turrets on the roof were the key to taking the outpost. But Des was out of options and almost out of time.

He felt the fear stronger than ever and took a deep breath to focus hismind. Adrenaline began to pump through his veins as he redirected the fear to give him strength and power. He lined the blaster's scope up on one of the gunners, and a red veil fell across his vision. And then he fired.

He acted on instinct, moving too quickly to let his conscious thoughts get in the way. He didn't even see the first soldier drop; the scope was already moving to his next target. The second gunner had just enough time to open his eyes wide in surprise before Des fired and moved on to the third. But she'd seen the first gunner go down and had already dropped down behind the armored walls of the gunship's flatbed for cover.

Des resisted the impulse to fire wildly and moved the scope in a tight circle, looking in vain for a clean shot. The sound of blasterfire exploded in the night, along with shouts and pounding feet as the Gloom Walkers burst from their cover and rushed the outpost. They'd followed their orders to the letter, charging out at the sound of the first shot. Des knew he had only a few seconds before the turrets opened up on them and turned the clearing into a killing field, but he couldn't see the shot to take out the third gunner.

He whipped the rifle around in desperation, looking for a new target on the roof. He set his sights on a soldier crouched down low beside a small canister. The soldier wasn't moving, and he'd covered his face with his hands as if shielding his vision. The blast from Des's weapon hit him square in the chest just as the device at the soldier's feet detonated.

"Flash canister!" Lucia screamed, but her warning came too late. The view through the scope vanished in a brilliant white flare, temporarily blinding Des.

But with his vision gone, he could suddenly see everything clearly. He knew the position of every soldier even as they all scrambled for cover; he could track exactly where they were and where they were going.

The soldier in the third turret was training the cannons on the incoming wave of troopers. In the excitement she'd popped her head up just slightly above the walls of the flatbed, leaving the smallest of targets exposed. Des took her with a single shot, the bolt going in cleanly through one ear hole on her helmet and out the other.

It was as if time had slowed down. Moving with a calm and deadly precision, he trained his rifle on the next target, taking her through the heart; barely a moment later he got the soldier beside her right between his cold blue eyes. Des took one man in the back as he ran for the nearest gunship. Another was halfway up one of the flatbed's ladders when a bolt sliced through his thigh, knocking him off balance. He fell from the ladder, and Des put another shot through his chest before he hit the ground.

It had taken less than three seconds to wipe out eight of the nine soldiers. The last one made a run for the edge, hoping to escape by diving off the roof on the far side of the building. Des let him run. He could feel the terror coming in waves off his doomed prey; he savored it for as long as he could. The soldier leapt from the rooftop and seemed to hang in midair for a second; Des fired his last three shots into his body, draining the weapon's power cell.

He handed the weapon back to Lucia, blinking rapidly at the tears welling up as his eyes tried to soothe their damaged retinas. The effects of the flash canister were only temporary; his vision was already beginning to return. And the miraculous second sight he'd experienced was slipping away.

Rubbing his eyes, he knew now was not the time to think about what had just happened. He'd eliminated the gunners, but his troops were still outnumbered. They needed him down in the hot zone, not here on the edges of the battle.

"Keep an eye on that roof," he ordered Lucia. "If any of those Republic mudcrutches appear on top, take them out before they get to the gunships."

She didn't reply; her mouth was hanging open in amazement at what she'd just witnessed.

Des grabbed her by the shoulder and gave her a rough shake. "Snap out of it, trooper! You've got a job to do!"

She shook her head to gather her senses and nodded, then loaded another energy cell into her weapon. Satisfied, Des pulled out the 21D and charged across the clearing, eager to join in the battle.

Three hours later it was all over. The mission had been a complete success: the outpost was theirs, and the Republic had no idea that thousands of Sith troopers were marching through the valley to attack them at first light. The battle itself had been short but bloody: forty-six Republic soldiers dead, and nine of Des's own. Every time a Gloom Walker went down, part of Des felt he'd failed somehow, but given the nature of their mission, keeping the casualties under double digits was more than he could have reasonably hoped for.

Once their objective was secured he'd left Adanar and a small contingent to hold the outpost. With Des in the lead, the rest of the unit marched back to its base camp.

Along the way he tried to ignore the hushed whispers and furtive looks the rest of the company was giving him. Lucia had spread the word of his amazing shooting, and it was the talk of the unit. None of them was brave enough to say anything to his face, but he could hear snippets of conversation from the ranks behind him.

Honestly, he couldn't blame them. Looking back, even he wasn't sure what had happened. Des was a good marksman, but he was no sniper. Yet somehow he'd managed to pull off a dozen impossible shots with a weapon he'd never fired before ... most of them after being blinded by a flash canister. It was beyond unbelievable. It was as if, when he'd lost his vision, some mysterious power had taken over and guided his actions. It was exhilarating, but at the same time it was terrifying. Where had this power come from? And why couldn't he control it?

He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that at first he didn't even notice the strangers waiting at their base camp. It was only after they stepped up and slapped the stun cuffs on his wrists that he realized what was going on.

"Welcome back, Sergeant." Ulabore's voice was filled with bile.

Des glanced around. A dozen enforcers-the military security of the Sith army-were standing with weapons drawn. Ulabore stood behind them, a deep bruise on his face where Des had struck him. In the background Des could see the two junior recruits he'd left in charge of Ulabore. They were staring down at the ground, embarrassed and ashamed.

"Did you really think those raw recruits would keep their commanding officer trussed up like some kind of prisoner?" Ulabore taunted him from behind the protective wall of armed guards. "Did you really believe they would follow you in your madness?"

"That madness saved our lives!" Lucia shouted. Des held up his shackled hands to silence her: this situation could get out of hand far too easily.

When nothing else happened, the lieutenant seemed to gain some courage. He stepped out from behind the protective wall of enforcers and over to Des.

"I warned you about disobeying orders," he sneered. "Now you get to see firsthand how the Brotherhood of Darkness deals with mutinous soldiers!"

A few of the Gloom Walkers began to reach slowly for their weapons, but Des shook his head and they froze. The enforcers already had their blasters drawn and weren't afraid to use them. The troopers wouldn't manage to get off even a single shot.

"What's the matter, Sergeant?" Ulabore pressed, drawing closer to his defeated enemy. Too close. "Nothing to say?"

Des knew he could kill the lieutenant with one quick move. The enforcers would take him out, but at least Ulabore would go with him. Every fiber of his being wanted to lash out and end both their lives in an orgy of blood and blasterfire. But he managed to fight the impulse. There was no point in throwing his life away. A court-martial would likely end in a death sentence, but at least if he went to trial he'd have a chance.

Ulabore stepped up and slapped him once across the face, then spit on his boots and stepped back. "Take him away," he said to the enforcers, turning his back on Des.

As Des was taken away he couldn't help but see the look in the eyes of Lucia and the troopers whose lives he'd saved only hours ago. He had a feeling the next time the unit went into combat, Ulabore would suffer an unfortunate-and fatal-accident.

That realization brought the hint of a smile to his lips.

The enforcers marched him through the jungle for hours, weapons drawn and trained on him the entire time. They only lowered them when they reached the sentries on the perimeter of the main Sith camp.

"Prisoner for a court-martial," one of the enforcers said flatly. "Go tell Lord Kopecz." One of the sentries saluted and ran off.

They marched Des through the camp toward the brig. He saw recognition in the eyes of many of the soldiers. With his height and bald head he was an imposing figure, and many of the troops had heard of his exploits. Seeing a formerly ideal soldier being brought before a court-martial was sure to leave an impression.

They reached the camp's makeshift prison, a small containment field over a three-by-three-by-three-meter pit that served as a holding area for captured spies and POWs. The enforcers had relieved him of his weapons when they first took him into custody; now they did a more thorough search and stripped him of all other personal effects. Then they shut down the containment field and roughly tossed him in, not even bothering to release his cuffs. He landed awkwardly on the hard ground at the bottom of the hole. As he struggled to his feet he heard an unmistakable hum as the field was activated once again, sealing him in.

The pit was empty, other than Des himself. The Sith didn't tend to keep prisoners around for long. He began to wonder if he'd made a serious mistake. He'd hoped his past service might buy him some leniency at his trial, but now he realized his reputation might actually work against him. The Sith Masters weren't known for their tolerance or their mercy. He'd defied a direct order: there was a good chance they'd decide to make a harsh example of him.

He couldn't say how long they'd left him at the bottom of the pit. After a while he fell asleep, exhausted by the battle and the forced march. He slipped in and out of consciousness; at one point it was light outside his prison and he knew day must have come. The next time he came to it was dark again.

They hadn't fed him yet; his stomach was growling in protest as it gnawed away at itself. His throat was parched and dry; his tongue felt as if it had swollen up large enough to choke him. Despite this, there was a slowly increasing pressure on his bladder, but he didn't want to relieve himself. The pit stank enough already.

Maybe they were just going to leave him here to die a slow and lonely death. Given the rumors he'd heard of Sith torture, he almost hoped that was the case. But he hadn't given up. Not yet.

When he heard the sound of approaching footsteps he scrambled to his feet and stood straight and tall, even though his hands were still cuffed in front of him. Through the containment field he could just make out the blurred forms of several guards standing on the edge of the pit, along with another figure wearing a heavy, dark cloak.

"Take him to my ship," the cloaked figure said in a deep, rasping voice. "I will deal with this one on Korriban."










 楼主| 发表于 2013-6-16 21:51 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 8

Des never got a clear look at the man who'd ordered his transfer. By the time they'd gotten him out of the pit, the cloaked figure had vanished. They gave him food and water, then let him clean and refresh himself. Though he was freed from the cuffs, he was still under heavy guard as he boarded a small transport ship heading for Korriban.

Nobody spoke to him on the trip, and Des didn't know what was going on. At least he wasn't cuffed anymore. He chose to take that as a good sign.

They arrived in the middle of the day. He had expected them to touch down at Dreshdae, the only city on the dark and forbidding world. Instead the ship landed at a starport built atop an ancient temple overlooking a desolate valley. A chill wind blew across the landing pad as he disembarked, but it didn't bother Des. After the stale air of the pit, any breeze felt good. He felt a shiver go down his spine as his foot touched Korriban's surface. He'd heard that this had once been a place of great power, though now only the merest shadows remained. There was an undercurrent of malice here; he'd felt it as soon as the transport had entered the bleak planet's atmosphere.

From this vantage point he could make out other temples scattered across the world's desert surface. Even at this distance he could perceive the eroded rock and crumbling stone of the once grand entrances. Beyond the valley, the city of Dreshdae was a mere speck on the horizon.

He was met on the landing pad by a hooded figure. He could tell right away this wasn't the same one who had come to him in the pit. This person had neither the size nor the impressive bearing of his liberator; even through the containment field Des had been able to sense his commanding presence.

This figure, which Des now thought to be female, motioned for him to follow. Silently she led him down a flight of stone steps and into the temple itself. They crossed a landing and descended another set of stairs, then repeated the pattern, working their way level by level down from the temple's apex to the ground below. There were doors and passages leading off from each landing, and Des could hear snippets of sound and conversation echoing from them, though he could never quite tell what was being said.

She didn't speak, and Des knew better than to break the silence himself. Technically, he was still a prisoner. For all he knew, she was leading him to his court-martial. He wasn't about to make things worse by asking foolish questions.

When they reached the bottom of the building, she led him to a stone archway with yet another flight of stairs. These were different, however: they were narrow and dark, and wound their way down until they vanished from sight deep in the bowels of the ground. Without a word his guide handed him a torch she had taken from a bracket on the wall and then stepped aside.

Wondering what was going on, Des made his way carefully down the steep staircase. He couldn't say how much deeper he went; it was difficult to maintain any perspective in the narrow confines of the stairwell. After several minutes he reached the bottom, only to find a long hallway stretching out before him. At the end of the hallway he encountered a single room.

The room was dark and filled with shadow. Only a few torches sputtered on the stone wall, their dying flames barely able to pierce the gloom.

Des paused at the threshold, letting his eyes adjust. He could just make out a dim figure inside. It beckoned to him.

"Come forward."

He felt a chill, though the room was far from cold. The air itself was electric, filled with a power he could actually feel. He was surprised that he didn't feel afraid. He recognized what he felt as the chill of anticipation.

As Des moved deeper into the room the features of the shrouded figure became clear, revealing himself to be a Twi'lek. Even under the loose-fitting robe he wore, Des could see he was thick and heavyset. He stood nearly two meters tall, easily the largest Twi'lek Des had ever met ..

. though not quite as large as Des himself.

His lekku wound down his broad chest and wrapped back up around his muscular neck and shoulders; his eyes glowed orange beneath his brow, mirroring the flickering torches. He smiled, revealing the sharp, pointed teeth common to his species.

"I am Lord Kopecz of the Sith," he said. At that moment, Des knew without a doubt this was the cloaked one who had come to him in the pit, and he gave a slight bow of his head in acknowledgment.

"I am to be your inquisitor," Lord Kopecz explained, his voice showing no emotion. "I alone will determine your fate. Rest assured my judgment will be final."

Des nodded again.

The Twi'lek fixed his burning orange eyes on Des. "You are no friend of the Jedi or their Republic."

It wasn't a question, but Des felt compelled to answer anyway. "What have they ever done for me?"

"Exactly," Kopecz said with a cruel smile. "I understand you have fought many battles against the Republic forces. Your fellow troopers speak highly of you. The Sith have need of men like you if we are to win this war." He paused. "You were a model soldier ... until you disobeyed a direct order."

"The order was a mistake," Des said. His throat had grown so dry and tight that he had trouble getting the words out.

"Why did you refuse to attack the outpost during the day? Are you a coward?"

"A coward wouldn't have completed the mission," Des replied sharply, stung by the accusation.

Kopecz tilted his head to the side and waited.

"Attacking in the daylight was a tactical mistake," Des continued, trying to press his point. "Ulabore should have relayed that information back to command, but he was too scared. Ulabore was the coward, not me. He would rather risk death at the hands of the Republic than face the Brotherhood of Darkness. I prefer not to throw my life away needlessly."

"I can see that from your service record," Kopecz said. "Kashyyyk, Trandosha, Phaseera ... if these reports are accurate, you have performed incredible feats during your time with the Gloom Walkers. Feats some would claim to be impossible."

Des bristled at the implication. "The reports are accurate," he replied.

"I have no doubt that they are." Kopecz either hadn't noticed or didn't care about the tone of Des's reply. "Do you know why I brought you to Korriban?"

Des was beginning to realize that this wasn't really a court-martial after all. It was some kind of test, though for what he still wasn't sure. "I feel I've been chosen for something."

Kopecz gave him another sinister smile. "Good. Your mind works quickly. What do you know of the Force?"

"Not much," Des admitted with a shrug. "It's something the Jedi believe in: some great power that's supposed to be just floating out there in the universe somewhere."

"And what do you know of the Jedi?"

"I know they believe themselves to be guardians of the Republic," Des replied, making no attempt to hide his contempt. "I know they wield great influence in the Senate. I know many believe they have mystical powers."

"And the Brotherhood of Darkness?"

Des considered his words more carefully this time. "You are the leaders of our army and the sworn enemy of the Jedi. Many believe that you, like them, have unnatural abilities!'

"But you do not?"

Des hesitated, struggling to come up with the answer he thought Kopecz wanted to hear. In the end he couldn't figure out what his inquisitor was looking for, so he simply told the truth. "I believe most of the stories are greatly exaggerated."

Kopecz nodded. "A common enough belief. Those who do not understand the ways of the Force regard such tales as myth or legend. But the Force is real, and those who wield it have power you can't even imagine.

"You have seen many battles but you have not experienced the real war. While troops vie for control of worlds and moons, the Jedi and Sith Masters seek to destroy each other. We are being driven toward an inevitable and final confrontation. The faction that survives, Sith or Jedi, will determine the fate of the galaxy for the next thousand years.

"True victory in this war will not come through armies, but through the Brotherhood of Darkness. Our greatest weapon is the Force, and those individuals who have the power to command it. Individuals like you.

He paused to let his words sink in before continuing. "You are special, Des. You have many remarkable talents. These talents are manifestations of the Force, and they have served you well as a soldier. But you have only scratched the surface of your gift. The Force is real; it exists all around us. You can feel the power of it in this room. Can you sense it?"

Des hesitated only a moment before nodding. "I feel it. Hot. Like a fire waiting to explode."

"The power of the dark side. The heat of passion and emotion. I can feel it in you, as well. Burning beneath the surface. Burning like your anger. It makes you strong."

Kopecz closed his eyes and tilted his head back, as if basking in the heat. The tips of his head-tails twitched ever so slightly. The only sound was the faint crackle of flame from the torches. A bead of sweat rolled down the crown of Des's bare scalp and along the back of his neck. He didn't wipe it away, though he did shift his feet uncomfortably as it trickled its way between his shoulder blades. The slight movement seemed to snap the Twi'lek out of his trance.

He didn't speak again for several seconds, but he studied Des intently with his piercing gaze. "You have touched the Force in the past, but your abilities are an insignificant speck beside the power of a true Sith Master," he finally said. "There is great potential in you. If you stay here on Korriban, we can teach you to unleash it."

Des was speechless.

"You would no longer be a trooper on the front lines," Kopecz continued. "If you accept my offer, that part of your life is over. You will be trained in the ways of the dark side. You will become one of the Brotherhood of Darkness. And you will not return to the Gloom Walkers."

Des felt his heart pounding, his head swimming. As long as he could remember, he'd known he was special because of his unique talents. And now he was being told that his abilities were nothing compared with what he could really accomplish.

Still, part of him balked at the idea of leaving his unit without even having a chance to say good-bye. He considered Adanar, Lucia, and the others as more than just fellow soldiers; they were his friends. Could he really abandon them like this, even for the chance to join the Sith Masters?

He recalled one of the last things Groshik had ever said to him: Don't count on others for help. In the end each of us is in this alone. The survivors are those who know how to look out for themselves.

Everything he'd had, he'd given to his unit. He'd saved their lives too many times to count. And in the end, when the enforcers had come to take him away, they'd been powerless to save him. They would have tried if he'd let them, but they would have failed. Des realized the truth: his unit-his friends-could do nothing for him now.

He could rely only on himself, like always. He'd be a fool to turn this opportunity down.

"I am honored, Master Kopecz, and I gratefully accept your offer."

"The way of the Sith is not for the weak," the big Twi'lek warned. "Those who falter will be ... left behind." There was something ominous in his tone.

"I won't be left behind," Des replied, unfazed.

"That remains to be seen," Kopecz noted. Then he added, "This is a new beginning for you, Des. A new life. Many of the students who come here take a new name for themselves. They leave their old life behind."

Des had no desire to hang on to any part of his old life. An abusive father, the brutality of working the mines on Apatros; he had been seeking a new life for as long as he could remember. The Gloom Walkers had offered an escape, but it had been a temporary one. Now he had a chance to leave his past behind forever. All he had to do was embrace the Brotherhood of Darkness and its teachings. And yet, for reasons he couldn't explain, he felt the cold grip of fear closing in on him. The fear made him hesitate.

"Do you wish to choose a new name for yourself, Des?" Kopecz asked, possibly sensing his reluctance. "Do you wish to be reborn?" Des nodded.

Kopecz smiled once more. "And by what name shall we call you now?"

The fear would not stop him; he would seize the fear, transform it, and make it his own. He would take what had once made him weak and use it to make himself strong.

"My name is Bane. Bane of the Sith."

Lord Qordis, exalted Master of the Sith Academy on Korriban, scratched gently at his chin with long, talon-like fingers.

"This student you have brought me-this Bane-has never been trained in the ways of the Force?"       

Kopecz shook his head and twitched his lekku ever so slightly in annoyance. "As I told you before, Qordis, he grew up on Apatros, a world controlled by the ORO Company."

"Yet you managed to find this young man and bring him here to the Academy. It seems almost too convenient."

The heavyset Twi'lek snarled. "This is not a plot against you, Qordis. That is no longer our way. We are a Brotherhood now, remember? You are too suspicious."

Qordis laughed. "Not suspicious; cautious. It has helped me to maintain my position here among so many powerful and ambitious young Sith."

"He is as powerful as any of them," Kopecz insisted.

"But he is also older. We prefer to find our students when they are younger and more ... malleable."

"Now you sound like a Jedi," Kopecz sneered. "They seek younger and younger pupils, hoping to find them pure and innocent. In time they will refuse any who are not infants. We must be quick to pluck those they leave behind. Besides," he continued, "Bane is too strong to simply pass over, even for the Jedi. We are lucky we found him before they did."

"Yes, lucky," Qordis echoed, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "His arrival here seems to be an incredible turn of many fortuitous events. Quite lucky indeed."

"Some might see it that way," Kopecz admitted. "Others might see it as something more. Destiny, perhaps."

There was silence while Qordis considered his longtime rival's words. "The other acolytes have been training for many years. He will be far behind," he said at last.

"He will catch up, if given the chance," Kopecz insisted.

"And I wonder ... will the others give him that chance? Not if they are smart. I'm afraid we may simply be throwing away one of Lord Kaan's best troopers."

"We both know the Jedi won't be defeated by soldiers," Kopecz snapped. "I'd gladly trade a thousand of our best troopers for even one Sith Master."

Qordis seemed taken aback by his passionate reaction. "He is that strong, is he? This Bane?"

Kopecz nodded. "I think he might be the one we've been searching for. He could be the Sith'ari."
科佩茨点了点头。“我觉得他就是我们一直以来都在寻找的那个人。他能成为西斯尊主( Sith'ari 西斯语 就是西斯尊主的意思。)”

"Before he can claim that title," Qordis said with a cunning smile, "he'll have to survive his training."








发表于 2013-8-3 10:15 | 显示全部楼层








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 楼主| 发表于 2013-8-3 21:38 | 显示全部楼层
回复 21# tomcat_z











 楼主| 发表于 2013-8-3 21:39 | 显示全部楼层

Chapter 9

Peace is a lie. There is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory my chains are broken.

Kopecz was gone, rejoining Kaan's army and the war being waged against the Jedi and the Republic. Bane had remained behind at the Sith Academy on Korriban to learn the ways of the Sith. His first lesson began the next morning, at the feet of Lord Qordis himself.

"The tenets of the Sith are more than just words to be memorized," the Master of the Academy explained to his newest apprentice. "Learn them, understand them. They will lead you to the true power of the Force: the power of the dark side."

Qordis was taller than Kopecz. Taller even than Bane. He was very thin and clad in a black, loose-fitting robe, with the hood drawn back to fall across his shoulders. He might have been human, but something about his appearance seemed off. His skin was an unnatural, chalky hue, made even more obvious by the glittering gems encrusting the many rings on his long fingers. His eyes were dark and sunken. His teeth were sharp and pointed, and his fingernails were curved and wicked talons.

Bane knelt before him, similarly clad in a dark robe with the hood drawn back. Earlier this morning he had heard the Code of the Sith for the first time, and the words were still fresh and mysterious. They swirled through the undercurrents of his mind, occasionally bubbling up into his conscious thoughts as he tried to absorb the deeper meaning behind them. Peace is a lie. There is only passion. He knew the first tenet to be true, at least. His entire life was proof of that.

"Kopecz tells me you come to us as a raw apprentice," Qordis noted. "He says you have never been trained in the ways of the Force."

"I'm a quick learner," Bane assured him.

"Yes . . . and strong in the power of the dark side. But the same can be said of all who come here."

Not sure how to respond, Bane decided the wisest course of action was to stay silent.

"What do you know of this Academy?" Qordis finally asked.

"The students here are taught to use the Force. They are taught the secrets of the dark side by you and the other Sith Lords." After a brief hesitation he added, "And I know there are many other academies like this one."

"No," Qordis corrected. "Not like this one. It is true we have other training facilities spread across our ever-growing empire, places where individuals with promise are taught to control and use their power. But each facility is unique, and where individual students are sent depends on how much potential we see in them.

"Those with a noticeable but limited ability are sent to Honoghr, Gentes, or Gamorr to become Sith Warriors or Marauders. There they are taught to channel their emotions into mindless rage and battle fury. The power of the dark side transforms them into ravaging beasts of death and destruction to be unleashed against our enemies."
“那些原力天赋表现得很明显但是潜力有限的人会被送往霍诺格(Honoghr),尊塔斯(Gentes)或者加莫(Gamorr),他们会被训练成西斯战士(Sith Warriors)或者西斯掠夺者(Sith Marauders)。他们在那里要学习的是将他们的情绪引导成失控的狂怒,将那狂怒应用到战斗中。原力的黑暗面会将他们转变成只会带来死亡与毁灭的野兽,而我们将会引导他们的失控并将其向我们的敌人释放。”

Through passion I gain strength, Bane thought. But when he spoke he said, "Brute strength alone is not enough to bring down the Republic."

"True," Qordis agreed. From the tone of his voice Bane knew he had said what his Master wanted to hear.

"Those with greater ability are sent to worlds that have allied with our cause to destroy the Republic: Ryloth, Umbara, Nar Shadaa. These students become creatures of shadow, learning to use the dark side for secrecy, deception, and manipulation. Those who survive the training became unstoppable assassins, capable of drawing on the dark side to kill their targets without ever moving a muscle."
“那些能力更为强大的人则会被送到与我们缔结有毁灭共和国的盟约的世界:赖洛思(Ryloth),昂巴拉(Umbara),纳沙达(Nar Shadaa)。那些学生将会被训练成暗影刺客,学习使用黑暗原力去保密、欺骗和刺杀。那些在训练中活了下来的人都会成为无法抵挡的刺客,利用黑暗面的他们有能力在他们的目标反应过来前就干掉他们。”

"Yet even they are no match for the Jedi," Bane added, thinking he understood the direction the lesson was taking.

"Precisely," his Master agreed. "The academies on Dathomir and Iridonia are most similar to the one here. There apprentices study under Sith Masters. Those who succeed in their training become the adepts and acolytes who swell the ranks of our armies. They are the counterparts to the Jedi Knights who stand in the way of our ultimate conquest.
“正是如此,”他的师父再次表示赞同。“在达索米亚(Dathomir)和伊瑞都尼亚(Iridonia)上的学院就跟这一座很像了。这些地方的学生们将在西斯尊主的直接指导下学习。能成功熬过他们的训练的人就会成为西斯高手(Sith adept)和西斯门徒(Sith acolyte),这些人将会扩充我们的军队。他们就相当于那些阻碍我们走向最终胜利的绝地武士。”

"But even as the Jedi Knights must answer to the Jedi Masters, so must the adepts and acolytes answer to the Sith Lords. And those with the potential to become Sith Lords-and only those with such potential-are trained here on Korriban."

Bane felt a shiver of excitement. Through strength I gain power.

"Korriban was the ancestral home of the Sith," Qordis explained. "This planet is a place of great power; the dark side lives and breathes in the very core of this world."

He paused and slowly extended his skeletal hand, palm upward. It almost seemed as if he was cradling something unseen-something precious and invaluable-in his claw-like fingers.

"This temple we stand in was built many thousands of years ago to collect and focus that power. Here you can feel the dark side at its strongest?' He closed his fist so tightly that his long fingernails cut into his palm, drawing blood. "You have been chosen because you have great potential," he whispered. "Great things are expected of the apprentices here on Korriban. The training is difficult, but the rewards are great for those who succeed."

Through power I gain victory.

Qordis reached out and placed his wounded palm on the crown of Bane's bare scalp, anointing him with the blood of a Sith Lord. Bane had seen plenty of blood as a soldier, yet for some reason this ceremonial act of self-mutilation revolted him more than any battlefield gore. It was all he could do not to pull away.

"You have the potential to become one of us-one of the Brotherhood of Darkness. Together we can cast off the shackles of the Republic."

Through victory my chains are broken.

"But even those with potential can fail," Qordis finished. "I trust you will not disappoint us."

Bane had no intention of doing that.

The next few weeks passed quickly as Bane threw himself into his studies. To his surprise, he discovered that his inexperience with the Force was the exception rather than the rule. Many of the students had trained for months or years before they had been accepted at the Academy on Korriban.

At first Bane found this troubling. He had just started his training and he was already behind. In such a competitive, ruthless environment he would be an easy target for every other student. But as he mulled it over, he began to realize he might not be as vulnerable as he'd thought.

He alone, of all the apprentices at the Academy, had been able to manifest the power of the dark side without any training at all. He'd used it so often he'd come to take it for granted. It had given him advantages over his opponents in cards and brawling. In war it had warned him of danger and brought him victory in otherwise impossible circumstances.

And he'd done it all on instinct, with no training, without even any conscious idea of what he was doing. Now, for the first time, he was being taught to truly use his abilities. He didn't have to worry about any of the other students ... if anything, they should be worrying about him. When he completed his training, none of the others would be his equal.

Most of his learning came at the feet of Qordis and the other Masters: Kas'im, Orilltha, Shenayag, Hezzoran, and Borthis. There were group training sessions at the Academy, but they were few and far between. The weak and the slow could not be allowed to hold back the strong and ambitious. Students learned at their own pace, driven by their desire and hunger for power. There were, however, nearly six students for every Master, and the apprentices had to prove their worth before one of the instructors would spend valuable time teaching them the secrets of the Sith.

Though he was a neophyte, Bane found it easy to garner the attention of the Sith Lords, particularly Qordis. He knew the extra attention would inevitably breed animosity in the other students, but he forced himself not to think about that. In time the additional instruction he got from the Masters would allow him to catch up to and pass the other apprentices, and once he did he wouldn't need to worry about their petty jealousies. Until then he was careful to stay out of the way and not draw attention to himself.

When he wasn't learning from the Masters, he was in the library studying the ancient records. As the Jedi kept their archives at their Temple on Coruscant, so the Sith had begun to collect and store information in the archives of Korriban's temple. However, unlike the Jedi library-where most of the data was stored in electronic, hologrammic, and Holocron formats-the Sith collection was limited to scrolls, tomes, and manuals. In the three thousand standard years since Darth Revan had nearly destroyed the Republic, the Jedi had waged a tireless war to eradicate the teaching tools of the dark side. All known Sith Holocrons had been either destroyed or spirited away to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant for safekeeping. There were many rumors of undiscovered Sith Holocrons-either hidden away on remote worlds, or covetously hoarded by one of the dark Masters eager to keep its secret knowledge for himself. But all efforts by the Brotherhood to find these lost treasures had proved futile, forcing them to rely on the primitive technologies of parchment and flimsiplast.
在他不跟随大师学习的空余时间,他会去图书馆研习古代的西斯知识。就像绝地将他们的记录保存在位于科洛桑的绝地神庙那样,西斯也开始搜集各种信息并将它们存储在科里班神殿的档案室中。然而,西斯跟绝地不同的是,绝地图书馆收录绝大多数资料是以电子文档、全息数据盘和全息记录仪的形式储存的;西斯知识的收藏形式则局限于卷轴、手抄本和手册。在达斯·瑞文(Darth Revan)几乎毁灭了共和国的叛变事件之后,绝地开始致力于根除黑暗面的教授工具,他们就这样不知疲倦地干了3000个标准年。于是乎,所有已知的西斯全息记录仪(Sith Holocrons)不是被破坏了,就是被转移到了位于科洛桑的绝地神庙加以封存。不过世上还是流传着许多关于未被发现的西斯全息仪的流言,一些说它们被埋藏偏远的世界,另一些则说它们被某些渴望将那些神秘的知识据为己有的黑暗面大师贪婪地收藏了。但是黑暗兄弟会为寻回这些失落的宝物所作出的所有努力均被证明了是徒劳的,这就迫使了他们不得不去依赖像羊皮纸(parchment)和纸塑(flimsiplast)这样原始的科技所记录的知识。

And because the collection was constantly being added to, the indexes and references were hopelessly out of date. Searching the archives was often an exercise in futility or frustration, and most of the students felt their time was better spent trying to learn from or impress the Masters.

Perhaps it was because he was older than most of the others, or maybe because his years of mining had taught him patience-whatever the explanation, Bane spent several hours each day studying the ancient records. He found them fascinating. Many of the scrolls were historical records recounting ancient battles or glorifying the deeds of ancient Sith Lords. By itself the information had little practical use, but he could see each individual work for what it actually represented: a tiny piece of a much larger puzzle, a clue to a much greater understanding.

The archives supplemented what he learned from the Masters. It gave context to abstract lessons. Bane felt that, in time, the ancient knowledge would be the key to unlocking his full potential. And so his understanding of the Force slowly took shape.

Mystical and unexplainable, the Force was also natural and essential: a fundamental energy binding the universe and connecting all living things within it. This energy, this power, could be harnessed. It could be manipulated and controlled. And through the teachings of the dark side, Bane was learning to seize hold of it. He practiced his meditations and exercises daily, often under the watchful eye of Qordis. After only a few weeks he learned to move small objects simply by thinking about it-something he would have thought impossible only a short time before.

Yet now he understood that this was only the beginning. He was starting to grasp a great truth on a deep, fundamental level: that the strength to survive must come from within. Others will always fail you. Friends, family, fellow soldiers ... in the end, each person must stand alone. When in need, look to the self.

The dark side nurtured the power of the individual. The teachings of the Sith Masters would make him strong. In pleasing them, he could unlock his full potential and one day sit among them.

When the first wave of the attack came, the Republic fleet orbiting the skies of Ruusan was caught completely unprepared. A small and politically insignificant planet, the heavily forested world had been used as a base to stage devastating hit-and-run attacks against the Sith forces stationed in the nearby Kashyyyk system. Now the enemy had turned that same strategy against them.

The Sith struck without warning, materializing en masse from hyperspace: an almost suicidal maneuver for such a massive fleet. Before an alarm could even be sounded, the Republic ships found themselves being bombarded by three Dreadnaught cruisers, two corsair battleships, dozens of interceptors, and a score of Buzzard fighters. And at the head of the attack was the flagship of the Brotherhood of Darkness, the Sith Destroyer Nightfall.

In his meditation sphere aboard Nightfall, Lord Kaan was directing the assault. From inside the chamber he could communicate with any of the other ships, issuing his orders with the knowledge they would be instantly and completely obeyed. The chamber was alive with light and sound: glowing monitors and flashing screens beeped incessantly to alert him to the constantly changing updates on the status of the battle.

The Dark Lord, however, never even glanced at the screens. His perception extended far beyond the meditation sphere, far beyond the data spit out by the electronic readouts. He knew the location of each vessel engaged in the conflict: his own and those of the enemy. He could sense every volley fired, every evasive turn and roll, every move and countermove made by every ship. Often he could sense them even before they happened.

His brow was knotted in intense concentration; his breath came in long, ragged gasps. Beads of perspiration rolled down his trembling body. The strain was enormous, yet with the aid of the meditation sphere he maintained his mental focus, drawing on the dark side of the Force to influence the outcome of the conflict despite his physical exhaustion.

The art of battle meditation-a weapon passed down from the ancient Sith sorcerers-threw the enemy ranks into chaos, feeding their fear and hopelessness, crushing their hearts and spirits with bleak despair. Every false move by the opponent was magnified, every hesitation was transformed into a cascade of errors and mistakes that overwhelmed even the most disciplined troops. The battle had only just begun, and it was already all but over.
战斗冥想-它是古代西斯巫师(the ancient Sith sorcerers)传承下来的一件伟大的武器-使敌人的队伍陷入混乱,给他们灌输恐惧与绝望,征服他们的心并注入绝望。敌人每一步错误的行动都会被无限夸大,每一次犹豫都会被转变成一连串的错误,即使是最训练有素的士兵也会受到打击。战斗才刚刚开始,但是却让敌人感觉他们已经失败了。

The Republic fleet was in complete disarray. Two of its four Hammerhead-class capital ships had lost primary shields in the first strafing run of the Buzzards. Now the Sith Dreadnaughts were moving in, targeting the suddenly vulnerable Hammerheads with their devastating forward-mounted laser cannons. On the verge of being crippled and left utterly helpless, they were just now managing to scramble their own fighters to ward off the rapidly closing enemy cruisers.
共和国的舰队完全陷入了混乱。四艘之中的两艘锤头级主力舰(Hammerhead-class capital ships)已经在秃鹰战斗机的第一轮轰炸下失去了表层护盾。西斯无畏级战舰也加入了战斗,将安装在舰艏的带有毁灭性力量的激光炮瞄准了脆弱的锤头级。在舰只极度破损并且完全绝望的情况下,他们都拼命去抢着登上各自的战斗机以图远离带来毁灭的敌对巡洋舰。

The other two capital ships were being ravaged by Rage and Fury, the Sith battleships. The ponderous Republic Hammerheads relied on support ships to establish a defensive line to hold off enemy attackers while they positioned themselves to bring their heavy guns to bear. Without these defensive lines they were all but helpless against the much quicker and more nimble corsairs. Rage and Fury cut in along a vector that minimized the number of cannons the Hammerheads could target them with, then swept across their bows, firing all guns. When the Hammerheads tried to change direction to bring more guns to bear, the corsairs would pivot and double back for another pass along a different vector, inflicting even more damage. The savage maneuver was known as slashing the deck, and without the support of fighters or battleships of their own, the capital ships couldn't withstand it for long.

Aid from the Republic battleships, however, was not likely to come. The one on point patrol was already a charred and lifeless hull, obliterated in the first seconds of the attack by a direct hit from Nightfall's guns before it could raise its shields. The other two were being swarmed by interceptors and pounded by Nightfall's broadside laser artillery, and didn't figure to last much longer than the first.

Kaan could feel it: panic had set in among the Republic troops and commanders. His attack was pure offense; his strategy maximized damage but left his own ships exposed and vulnerable to a well-organized counterattack. But no such response was forthcoming. The Republic captains were unable to coordinate their efforts, unable to establish their lines of defense. They couldn't even organize a proper retreat . . . escape was impossible. Victory was his!

And then suddenly Fury was gone, snuffed out by an explosion that ripped the corsair apart. It had happened so quickly that Kaan-even with the precognitive awareness of his battle meditation-hadn't sensed it coming. The two Hammerheads had turned at tangential angles, both somehow locking in on Fury's path simultaneously. One had opened up with its forward cannons to take down Fury's shields, while the other had unleashed a barrage of laserfire at the exact same spot, causing a massive detonation that destroyed the battleship in the blink of an eye. It was a brilliant maneuver: two different ships perfectly coordinating their efforts while under relentless assault to wipe out a common foe. It was also impossible.

Kaan ordered Rage into evasive action; the corsair peeled off its attack run just as the Hammerheads opened fire, narrowly avoiding the fate of its sister ship. The Dreadnaughts closing in on the crippled Hammerheads were also forced to break off their attack run as four full squads of Republic fighters burst forth from the cargo bays of their supposedly defenseless prey. Even under ideal conditions it would have been hard to scramble the fighters so quickly; in this situation it was unthinkable. Yet Kaan could feel them: nearly fifty Aurek fighters flying in tight formation, pressing the attack on the Dreadnaughts while all four Hammerheads pulled back. They were establishing a defensive line!
卡恩命令“肆虐”号进行规避机动;在锤头级开火时,海盗级刚好逃离其射击位,差点就重蹈了姐妹舰的覆辙。在无畏级靠近几乎瘫痪的锤头级时,突然有四支共和国的战斗机小队出现,迫使无畏级中断了攻击,预计它们是从西斯那无助的猎物的货舱起飞的。即使是在极其理想的情况下,都很难说飞行员能如此迅速地登上战斗机;在这被打得焦头烂额的情况做到了,更是不可思议。不过卡恩能感知到它们:将近五十架奥里克型战斗机(Aurek fighter)以密集编队飞行,阻挠着无畏级的攻击;与此同时,所有的四艘锤头级都退回了后方。他们竟然建立起了一条防线!

Drawing on the power of the dark side, Lord Kaan pushed out with his will to touch the minds of the enemy. They were grim, but not desperate. Some were afraid, but none panicked. All he felt was discipline, purpose, and resolve. And then he felt something else. Another presence in the battle.

It was subtle, but he was certain it hadn't been there at all in the first few minutes of the attack. Someone was using the Force to bolster the morale of the Republic troops. Someone was using the light side to counter the effects of Kaan's battle meditation and turn the tide. Only a Jedi Master would have the strength to oppose the will of a Sith Lord.

Kopecz felt it, too. Strapped into the seat of his interceptor, he was spinning and swerving through the Hammerhead's barrage of antifighter turret blasts when the presence of the Jedi Master crashed over him like a wave. It caught him off guard, causing him to lose his focus for a split second. For any other pilot, that would have been enough to end his life, but Kopecz was no ordinary pilot.

Reacting with a quickness born of instinct, honed by training, and bolstered by the power of the dark side, he slammed the throttle back and pushed hard on the stick. The interceptor lurched down and forward into a sharp dive, narrowly ducking beneath three successive blasts of the Hammerhead's ion cannons. Pulling out of the dive, he banked into a wide roll and circled back toward the largest of the four Republic cruisers. The Jedi was there. He could sense him: the Force was emanating from the ship like a beacon. Now Kopecz was going to kill him.

Back on Nightfall, Kaan was also locked in mortal combat with the Jedi Master, though theirs was a battle waged through the ships and pilots of their respective fleets. The Republic had more ships with greater firepower; Kaan had been relying on the element of surprise, and his battle meditation to give the Sith the advantage. Now, however, both of those advantages had been nullified. Despite his strength, the Dark Lord was no expert in the rare art of battle meditation. It was one of many talents, and he had worked to develop them all equally. The opposing Jedi, however, had likely been trained from birth for just such a confrontation. The tide of the battle was slowly turning, and the Dark Lord was becoming desperate.

He gathered his will and lashed out with a sudden surge of dark side power, a desperate gambit to swing the engagement back under his control. Spurred on by adrenaline, bloodlust, and the irresistible compulsion of their leader, a pair of buzzard pilots tried to ram their ships into the nearest Aurek squadron, determined to break their formation with a suicide attack. But the Republic pilots didn't panic or break ranks trying to avoid his reckless charge. Instead they met the assault head-on, firing their weapons and vaporizing the enemy before any harm could be done.

On the other side of the battle, Kopecz's interceptor knifed through the defensive perimeter established around the capital ship and its precious Jedi cargo, too quick and nimble for either the Aurek fighters or the turrets to get a lock. Penetrating the Republic lines, Kopecz flew his ship into the heart of the main hangar; the blast doors closed a fraction of a second too late. He opened fire as his ship spun and skidded across the docking bay's floor, wiping out most of the soldiers unfortunate enough to be caught inside.

As the ship slowed to a halt, he popped open the hatch and flipped out of his seat. Nimbly landing on his feet, he drew and ignited his lightsaber in one smooth motion. The first sweeping arc of the crimson blade caught the blasterfire of the two troopers who had survived the initial assault, deflecting it harmlessly away. Another flip closed the six-meter distance between the Twi'lek and his attackers; another arc of the blade ended their lives.

Kopecz paused to assess the situation. Mangled bodies and shattered machinery were all that remained of the crew and equipment that maintained the Republic fighters. Smiling, he crossed over to the hatch leading into the interior of the capital ship.

He strode quickly and confidently through the halls, guided by the power emanating from the Jedi Master like a tuk'ata drawn by the scent of a squellbug. A security team intercepted him in one of the hallways. The red badges on their sleeves marked them as an elite squad of specially trained soldiers: the best bodyguards the Republic military had to offer. Kopecz knew they must have been good . . . one actually managed to fire her weapon twice before the entire unit fell to his lightsaber.

He entered a large chamber with a single door at the back. His prey was beyond that door, but in the center of the room a pair of Selkath -- amphibious beings from the world of Manaan-barred his way with lightsabers drawn. These were mere Padawans, however, servants of the Jedi Master. Kopecz didn't even bother engaging them in lightsaber combat: it would have been beneath him. Instead he thrust a meaty fist forward and used the Force to hurl them across the room. The first Padawan was stunned by the impact. By the time he struggled uncertainly to his feet, his companion was already dead, the life choked out of her by the power of the dark side.

The surviving Padawan retreated as Kopecz slowly advanced; the Sith Lord crossed the room with measured strides as he gathered his power. He unleashed it in a storm of electricity, bolts of blue-violet lightning ripping through the flesh of his unfortunate victim. The Selkath's body danced in convulsions of agony until his smoking corpse finally collapsed to the floor.

Reaching the door at the rear of the room, Kopecz opened it and stepped into the small meditation chamber beyond. An elderly Cerean female, clad in the simple brown robes of a Jedi Master, was seated cross-legged on the floor. Her creased and wrinkled face was bathed in sweat from the strain of using her battle meditation against Kaan and the Sith.

Exhausted, drained, she was no match for the Sith Lord who loomed above her. Yet she made no move to flee or even defend herself. With certain death only seconds away, she kept her mind and power focused entirely on the fleet battle.

Kopecz couldn't help but admire her courage even as he methodically cut her down. Her calm acceptance robbed his victory of any joy. "Peace is a lie he muttered to himself as he stalked back through the halls toward the docking bay and his waiting ship, anxious to leave before Nightfall or one of the other ships blew the Hammerhead to bits.

The death of the Jedi Master turned the tide once more. Resistance crumbled; the battle became a Sith rout, and then a slaughter. No longer protected by the power of the light side of the Force, the Republic soldiers were completely demoralized by the terror and despair Kaan spawned in their minds. Those who were strong-willed gave up all hope save that of escaping the battle alive. The weak-willed were left so despondent, they could only hope for a quick and merciful death. The former didn't get what they wanted, but the latter did.

Strapped into the hatch of his interceptor, Lord Kopecz launched his craft from the hangar mere seconds before the capital ship was destroyed in a glorious and cataclysmic explosion.

The Sith losses that day were heavier than expected, but their victory was absolute. Not a single Republic ship, pilot, or soldier escaped the First Battle of Ruusan alive.










 楼主| 发表于 2013-8-12 13:41 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 10

Bane's power was growing. In only a few months of training he had learned much about the Force and the power of the dark side. Physically, he felt stronger than ever before. In morning training runs he could sprint at nearly full speed for five kilometers before he even began breathing heavily. His reflexes were quicker, his mind and senses were sharper than he possibly could have imagined.

When necessary he could channel the Force through his body, giving him bursts of energy that allowed him to do seemingly impossible feats: perform full flips from a standing position; survive falls from incredible heights uninjured; leap vertically ten meters or more.

He was completely aware of his surroundings at all times, sensing the presence of others. Sometimes he could even get a feel of their intentions, vague impressions of their very thoughts. He was able to levitate larger objects now, and for longer periods. With each lesson his power grew. It became easier and easier to command the Force and bend it to his will. And with each week, Bane realized he had surpassed another of the apprentices who had once been ahead of him.

Less and less of his time was spent in the archives studying the ancient scrolls. His initial fascination with them had faded, swept away by the intensity of Academy life. Absorbing the knowledge of Masters long dead was a cold and sterile pleasure. Historical records were no competition for the feeling of exhilaration and power he felt when actually using the Force. Bane was part of the Academy and the Brotherhood of the Darkness. He was part of the now, not the ancient past.

He began to spend more time mingling with the other students. Already he could sense that some of them were jealous, though none dared to act against him. Competition among the students was encouraged, and the Masters allowed the rivalry to drift into the animosity and hatred that fueled the dark side. But there were harsh penalties for any apprentice caught interfering with or disrupting the training of another student.

Of course, all the apprentices understood that the punishment was actually for the crime of being careless enough to get caught. Treachery was tacitly accepted, as long as it was done with enough cunning to avoid the notice of the instructors. Bane's phenomenal progress protected him from the machinations of his fellow students; no one could move against him without drawing the attention of Qordis or the other Sith Lords.

Unfortunately, the extra attention made it difficult for Bane himself to use treachery, manipulation, or similar techniques to attain greater status within the Academy.

There was, however, one sanctioned way students could bring a rival down: lightsaber combat. The chosen weapon of both the Jedi and the Sith, the lightsaber was more than just a blade of energy capable of cutting through almost every material in the known galaxy. The lightsaber was an extension of the user and his or her command of the Force. Only those with strict mental discipline and total physical mastery could use the weapon effectively ... or so Bane and the others had been taught.

Few of the students actually possessed lightsabers yet; they still had to prove themselves worthy in the eyes of Qordis and the others. Yet that didn't keep Lord Kas'im, the Twi'lek Blademaster, from instructing them in the styles and techniques they would use once they had finally earned their weapons. Each morning the apprentices would gather on the wide, open roof of the temple to practice their drills and routines under his watchful eye, struggling to learn the exotic maneuvers that would bring them victory on the battlefield.

Perspiration was already running down the crown of Bane's head and into his eyes as he put his body through its paces. He blinked away the stinging sweat and redoubled his exertions, carving the air before him again and again and again with his training saber. All around him other apprentices were doing the same; each was struggling to conquer his or her own physical limitations and become more than just a warrior with a weapon. The goal was to become an extension of the dark side itself.

Bane had begun by learning the basic techniques common to all seven traditional lightsaber forms. His first weeks had been spent in endless repetitions of defensive postures, overhand strikes, parries, and counter-strikes. By observing the natural tendencies of his students as they learned the basics, Lord Kas'im determined which form would best match their style. For Bane he chose Djem So, Form V. The fifth form emphasized strength and power, allowing Bane to use his size and muscles to his best advantage. Only after he was able to perform each of the moves of Djem So to the satisfaction of Kas'im was he allowed to begin the real training.
贝恩从学习基本技巧开始,它适用于七种传统的光剑战型。他的第一个星期就是在无穷无尽的练习中过去的,防御姿势、反手打击、闪避、反击。通过观察他的学生们在练习基础技巧时所自然表现出来的倾向,卡伊斯姆尊主会决定他们分别最适合学习哪种战型。他为贝恩选择了第五型,德杰姆·索(Djem So)。第五型着重于使用者的力量,允许贝恩有效地利用他的体型和肌肉,这将是他最大的优势。只有在他能熟练地掌握德杰姆·索型的每一个动作并且使得卡伊斯姆满意之后,他的真正训练才刚刚开始。

Now, along with the other students at the Academy, he spent the better part of an hour each morning practicing his techniques with his training saber under the Blademaster's watchful eye. Made of durasteel with blunted edges, the training sabers were crafted specifically so that their balance and heft mimicked the energy beams projected by real light-sabers. A solid blow could inflict serious damage, but since a lightsaber did not work that way, each training blade was also covered with millions of toxin-filled barbs too small to see, fashioned from the microscopic ridge spines of the deadly pelko bug-a rare insect found only deep beneath the desert sands of the Valley of the Dark Lords on Korriban itself. With a direct hit, the minuscule barbs could pierce the weave of any fabric; the pelko venom would cause the flesh immediately to burn and blister. Temporary paralysis set in instantly at the point of infection, leaving any limb struck all but useless. This provided an excellent way to mimic the effects of losing a hand, arm, or leg to a lightsaber blade.
现在,他跟学院里的其他学生一起,把每个早上最好的那一个小时用于磨练他的技巧,训练光剑被不断的挥舞,剑圣一如既往地密切关注他们。训练光剑那毫不锋利的钝剑刃是用耐钢制成的;制造训练光剑的工艺非常奇特,使得它能极为优秀地模拟真正光剑的各项指标,比如重量和平衡性。尽管训练光剑的工作原理不同于真正的光剑,但若真正挨上一下劈砍还是会造成不容小觑的伤害;每把训练光剑的剑刃表面都覆盖着无数的肉眼不可见的微小毒刺,里面的毒素是从致命的皮尔戈臭虫(pelko bug)上提取出来的——那是一种罕见的昆虫,只存在于科里班的黑暗尊主山谷(the Valley of the Dark Lords)的荒漠深处。被训练光剑砍中时,那些微小的毒刺会刺穿任何布制品;皮尔戈毒液瞬间会使肌肉受到烧伤并且起水泡。被击中的部位立即就会被短暂地麻痹,不会对肢体造成实质伤害但会使其失去效用。这就极好地模拟了真正的光剑砍断了手掌、手臂或者大腿所造成的效果。

The morning was filled with the grunts of the apprentices and the swish-swish-swish as their blades sliced the air. In some ways it reminded Bane of his military training: a group of soldiers united in the repetition of drills until the moves became instinctive.

But there was no sense of camaraderie at the Academy. The apprentices were rivals, plain and simple. In many ways it wasn't that different from his days on Apatros. Now, however, the isolation was worth it. Here they were teaching him the secrets of the dark side.

"Wrong!" Kas'im suddenly barked. He had been walking up and down the ranks of apprentices as they trained, but had now stopped right beside Bane. "Strike with malice and precision!" He reached out and seized Bane's wrist, turning it roughly and changing the angle of the training blade. "You're coming in too high!" he snapped. "There is no room for error!"

He stayed at Bane's side for several seconds, watching to ensure the lesson had been properly learned. After several hard thrusts by Bane with the altered grip, the Blademaster nodded in approval and continued his rounds.

Bane repeated the single move over and over, careful to maintain the height and angle of the blade exactly as Kas'im had shown him, teaching his muscles through countless repetitions until they could replicate it flawlessly each and every time. Only then would he move on to incorporating it into more complicated maneuvers.

Soon he was breathing heavily from his exertions. Physically Kas'im's training sessions couldn't measure up to hammering a cortosis vein with a hydraulic jack for hours at a time. But they were far more exhausting in other ways. They demanded intense mental focus, an attention to detail that went far beyond what was visible to the naked eye. True mastery of the blade required a combination of both body and mind.

When two Masters engaged in lightsaber combat, the action happened too quickly for the eye to see or the mind to react. Everything had to be done on instinct; the body had to be trained to move and respond without conscious thought. To accomplish this, Kas'im made his students practice sequences, carefully choreographed series of multiple strikes and parries drawn from their chosen style. The sequences were designed by the Blademaster himself so that each maneuver flowed smoothly into the next, maximizing attack efficiency while minimizing defensive exposure.

Using a sequence in combat allowed the students to free their minds from thought as their bodies automatically continued through the moves. Using sequences was more efficient and much quicker than considering and initiating each strike or block on its own, providing an enormous advantage over an opponent unfamiliar with the technique.

However, ingraining a new sequence so it could be properly executed was a long and laborious process. For many it would take two to three weeks of training and drills-longer if the sequence was derived from a style the student was still struggling to master. And even the tiniest mistake in the smallest of moves could render the entire sequence worthless.

Kas'im had spotted a potentially fatal flaw in Bane's technique. Now Bane was determined to fix it, even if it meant hours of practice on his own time. Bane was relentless in his pursuit of perfection-not just in his combat training, but in all his studies. He was a man on a mission.

"Enough," Kas'im's voice called out. At that single command all the students stopped what they were doing and turned their attention to the Blademaster. He was standing at the head of the assemblage, facing them.

"You may rest for ten minutes," he told them. "Then the challenges will begin."

Bane, along with most of the others, lowered himself into a meditative position, legs crossed and folded beneath him. Laying his training saber on the ground beside him, he closed his eyes and slipped into a light trance, drawing on the dark side to rejuvenate his aching muscles and refresh his tired mind.

He let the power flow through him, let his mind drift. As it often did, it drifted back to the first time he'd touched the dark side. Not the fumbling brushes he'd had back on Apatros or during his days as a soldier, but a true recognition of the Force.

It had been his third day here at the Academy. He'd been applying the meditation techniques he'd learned the day before when suddenly he felt it. It was like the bursting of a dam, a raging river flooding through him, sweeping away all his failings: his weakness, his fear, his self-doubt. In that instant he'd understood why he was here. At that moment his transformation from Des to Bane, from mere mortal to one of the Sith, had truly begun.

Through power, I gain victory.

Through victory my chains are broken.

Bane knew all about chains. Some were obvious: an abusive, uncaring father; grueling shifts in the mines; debts owed to a faceless, ruthless corporation. Others were more subtle: the Republic and its idealistic promises of a better life that never materialized; the Jedi and their vow to rid the galaxy of injustice. Even his friends in the Gloom Walkers had been a kind of chain. He'd cared for them, been responsible for them. Yet in the end, what use had they been when he'd needed them most?

He understood now that personal attachments could only hold him back. Friends were a burden. He had to rely on himself. He had to develop his own potential. His own power. In the end, that was what it really came down to. Power. And, above all else, the dark side promised power.

He heard the sounds of movement around him; the soft shuffle of robes as the other apprentices rose from their meditations and made their way toward the challenge ring. He grabbed his training saber with one hand and sprang to his feet to join them.

At the end of each session the class would gather in a wide, irregular circle at the top of the temple. Any student could step into the circle and issue a challenge to another. Kas'im would observe the duels closely, and once it was over he would analyze the action for the class. Those who won would be praised for their performance, and their status in the informal hierarchy of the Academy would rise. Those who lost would be chastised for their failings, as well as suffering a blow to their prestige.

When Bane had first begun his training, many of the students had eagerly called him out. They knew he was a neophyte in the Force and they were eager to take down the heavily muscled giant in front of their classmates. At first he had declined the challenges. He knew they were the quickest way to gain prestige at the Academy, but he wasn't foolish enough to be drawn into a battle he was guaranteed to lose.

In the past months, however, he had worked hard to learn his style and refine his technique. He learned new sequences quickly, and when Kas'im himself had commented on his progress, Bane had felt confident enough to begin accepting the challenges. He wasn't victorious every time, but he was winning far more duels than he was losing, slowly climbing his way to the top of the ladder. Today he felt ready to take another step.

The apprentices were standing three rows deep, forming a ring of bodies around a clearing in the center roughly ten meters in diameter. Kas'im stepped into the middle. He didn't speak, but merely tilted his head-a sign that it was time for the challenges to begin. Bane stepped into the center before anyone else could make a move.

"I challenge Fohargh," he announced in ringing tones.

"I accept" came the reply from somewhere in the crowd on the opposite side. The apprentices parted to let the one challenged pass. Kas'im gave a slight bow to each combatant and stepped to the clearing's edge to give them room.

Fohargh was a Makurth. In many ways he reminded Bane of the Trandoshans he had fought in his days with the Gloom Walkers. Both species were bipedal saurians-lizardlike humanoids covered in leathery green scales-but the Makurths had four curved horns growing from the top of their heads.

Early in Bane's training, he had fought Fohargh-and he had lost. Badly.

The Makurth was nocturnal by nature. Like the miners of the night shift on Apatros, however, he had grown accustomed to an unnatural schedule in order to train with the rest of the apprentices at the Academy. During their first duel Bane had underestimated Fohargh, expecting him to be sluggish and slow during the daylight hours. He wouldn't make that mistake twice.

As Kas'im and the apprentices watched in silence, the two combatants circled each other in the ring, training sabers held out before them in standard ready stances. The Makurth's breath came in grunts and growls from his flaring nostrils as he tried to intimidate his human opponent. From time to time he'd give a short bellow and shake his four-horned lizard's head while flashing his savage teeth. The last time he'd faced the green-scaled, snorting demon of an apprentice, Bane had been intimidated by Fohargh's act. Now he simply ignored the posturing.

Bane lunged out with a simple overhand strike, but Fohargh responded with a quick parry to deflect the blow to the side. Instead of the crackle and hum of blades of pure energy crossing, there was a loud clang as the weapons clashed. Immediately the combatants spun away from each other and resumed their ready positions.

Bane rushed forward, his blade ascending diagonally from right to left in a long, swift arc. Fohargh managed to redirect the impact with his own weapon, but lost his balance and stumbled back. Bane tried to press his advantage, his training saber arcing up from left to right. His opponent spun out of harm's way, backpedaling quickly to create space. Bane broke off the half-completed sequence and settled back into the ready position.

Back on Apatros his latent abilities in the Force had allowed him to anticipate and react to the moves of his foe. Here, however, every opponent enjoyed the same advantage. As a result, victory required a combination of the Force and physical skill.

Bane had worked on acquiring that physical skill over the past months. As this ability grew, he was able to devote less and less of his mental energy to the physical actions of thrust, parry, and counterthrust. This allowed him to keep his mind focused so he could use the Force to anticipate his opponent's moves, while at the same time obscuring and confusing his enemy's own precognitive senses.

The last time he and Fohargh had fought, Bane had still been a novice. He had only learned a handful of sequences. Now he knew almost a hundred, and he was able to transition smoothly from the end of one sequence into the beginning of another, opening up a wider range of attack-and-defense combinations. And more options made it more difficult for a foe to use the Force to anticipate his actions.

Fohargh, despite his terrifying appearance, was smaller and lighter than his human opponent. Physically outmatched by the brute force of Bane's Form V, he was forced to rely on the defensive style of Form III to keep his larger opponent's overpowering attacks at bay.

Spinning his training saber in a quick flourish, Bane leapt high in the air and came crashing down from above. Fohargh parried the attack but was knocked to the ground. He rolled onto his back and barely managed to get his saber up in time to block Bane's next slashing attack. A chorus of metal on metal rang out as Bane's blows descended like rain. The Makurth kept him from landing a direct hit with a masterful defensive flurry, then swept Bane off his feet with a leg-whip, leaving them both supine.

They flipped to their feet simultaneously, mirror images, and their sabers met with another resounding crash before they disengaged once again. There were some whispers and mutters from the assembled crowd, but Bane did his best to tune them out. They had thought the battle was over ... as had Bane himself. He was disappointed that he hadn't been able to finish off his fallen opponent, but he knew victory was near. Fohargh's survival had extracted a heavy toll: he was breathing in ragged gasps now, his shoulders slumping.

Bane rushed Fohargh again. This time, however, the Makurth didn't back away. He stepped forward with a quick thrust, switching from Form III to the more precise and aggressive Form II. Bane was caught off guard by the unexpected maneuver and was a microsecond slow in recognizing the change. His parry attempt knocked the tip of the blade away from his chest, only to have it slice across his right shoulder.

The crowd gasped, Fohargh howled in victory, and Bane screamed in pain as the saber slipped to the ground from his suddenly nerveless fingers. Mindlessly, Bane used his other hand to shove his opponent in the chest. Fohargh reeled backward, and Bane rolled away to safety.

Scrambling to his feet, Bane extended his left hand to the training saber lying on the ground three meters away. It sprang up and into his palm, and he once again assumed the ready position, his right arm dangling uselessly at his side. Some Sith learned to fight with either hand, but Bane hadn't yet reached that advanced stage. The weapon felt awkward and clumsy as he held it. Left-handed, he was no match for Fohargh. The fight was over.

His opponent sensed it, as well. "Defeat is bitter, human," he growled in Basic, his voice deep and menacing. "I have bested you; you have lost."

He wasn't asking Bane to yield; surrender was never an option. He was simply taunting him, publicly humiliating him in front of the other students.

"You trained for weeks to challenge me," Fohargh continued, drawing out his mockery. "You failed. Victory is mine again."

"Then come finish me!" Bane snapped back. There wasn't much else he could say. Everything his enemy said in his heavily accented Basic was true, and the words cut far deeper than the blunted training saber's edge possibly could.

"This ends when I choose," the Makurth replied, refusing to be baited.

The eyes of the other apprentices burned into Bane; he could feel them drinking in his suffering as they stared at him. They resented him, resented the extra attention he had been receiving from the Masters. Now they reveled in his failure.

"You are weak," Fohargh explained, casually twirling his own saber in a complex and intricate pattern. "You are predictable."

Stop it! Bane wanted to scream. End this! Finish me! But despite the emotion building up inside him, he refused to give his opponent the satisfaction of saying another word. Instead he let the all-but-useless saber fall once more to the ground. In the background he could see the Blademaster watching intently, curious to see how the confrontation would reach its inevitable end.

"The Masters cosset you. They give you extra time and attention. More than the others. More than me."

Bane barely even heard the words anymore. His heart was pounding so loud he could hear the blood coursing through his veins. Literally quaking with impotent rage, he lowered his head and dropped to one knee, exposing his bare neck.

"Despite this, you are still my inferior ... Bane of the Sith."

Bane. Something in the way Fohargh said it caused Bane to glance up. It was the same way his father used to say the word.

"That name is mine," Bane whispered, his voice low and threatening. "Nobody uses it against me."

Fohargh either didn't hear him or didn't care. He took a leisurely step forward. "Bane. Worthless. An insignificant nothing. The Masters wasted their time on you. Time better spent on other students. You are well named, for you truly are this Academy's bane!"

"No!" Bane screamed, thrusting his good hand out palm-forward even as Fohargh leapt in to finish him off. Dark side energy erupted from his open palm to catch his opponent in midair, hurling him back to the edge of the crowd where he landed at Kas'im's feet.

The Master watched with an intrigued but wary expression. Bane slowly clenched his fist and rose to his feet. On the ground before him, Fohargh was writhing in agony, clutching at his throat and gasping for breath.

Unlike the Makurth, Bane had nothing to say to his helpless opponent. He squeezed his fist harder, feeling the Force rushing through him like a divine wind as he crushed the life out of his foe. Fohargh's heels pounded out a staccato rhythm on the temple's stone roof as his body convulsed. He began to gurgle, and pink froth welled up from between his lips.

"Enough, Bane," Kas'im said in a cold, even voice. Though he stood only centimeters away from the death throes of his student, his eyes were fixed on the one still standing.

A final surge of power roared up in the core of Bane's being and exploded out into the world. In response, Fohargh's body went stiff and his eyes rolled back in his head. Bane released his hold on the Force and his fallen enemy, and the Makurth's body went limp as the last vestiges of life ebbed away.

"Now it's enough," Bane said, turning his back on the corpse and walking toward the stairs that led back inside the temple. The circle of students quickly opened a path for him to pass. He didn't need to look back to know that Kas'im was watching him with great interest.

Bane felt the presence of someone following him down the stairs from the temple roof long before he heard the footsteps. He didn't change his pace, but he did stop at the first landing and turn to face whoever it was. He half expected to see Lord Kas'im, but instead of the Blademaster he found himself staring into the orange eyes of Sirak, another apprentice at the Academy. Or rather, the top apprentice at the Academy.

Sirak was a Zabrak, one of three apprenticing here on Korriban. Zabrak tended to be ambitious, driven, and arrogant-perhaps it was these traits that made the Force-sensitives of the race so strong in the ways of the dark side-and Sirak was the perfect embodiment of those characteristics. He was far and away the strongest of the three. Wherever Sirak went, the other two usually followed, trailing at his heel like obedient servants. They made a colorful trio: red-skinned Llokay and Yevra, and pale yellow Sirak. But right now the other two were conspicuously absent.

There were rumors that Sirak had begun studying the ways of the dark side under Lord Qordis nearly twenty years ago, long before the Academy at Korriban had been resurrected. Bane didn't know if the rumors were true, and he hadn't thought it wise to ask about it. The Iridonian Zabrak was both powerful and dangerous. So far Bane had done his best to avoid drawing the attention of the Academy's most advanced student. Apparently, that strategy was no longer an option.

The rush of adrenaline he'd felt as he'd ended Fohargh's life was fading, along with the confidence and sense of invincibility that had led to his dramatic exit. Bane wasn't exactly afraid as the Zabrak approached him, but he was wary.

In the dim torchlight of the temple, Sirak's pale yellow skin had taken on a sickly, waxen hue. Unbidden, it brought back memories of Bane's first year working the mines on Apatros. A crew of five-three men and two women-had been trapped in a cave-in. They had survived the collapsing tunnel by escaping into a reinforced safety chamber dug out of the rock, but noxious fumes released in the collapse had seeped into their haven and killed them all before rescue teams could dig them out. The complexion of their bloated corpses was the exact same color as Sirak's: the color of a slow, agonizing death.

Bane shook his head, pushing the memory away. That life belonged to Des, and Des was gone. "What do you want?" he asked, trying to keep his voice calm.

"You know why I am here" was the icy response. "Fohargh."

"Was he a friend of yours?" Bane was genuinely confused. With the exception of his fellow Zabrak, Sirak rarely mingled with the other students. In fact, many of the accusations Fohargh had leveled at Bane-such as preferential treatment from the Masters-could easily be applied to Sirak, as well.

"The Makurth was neither friend nor enemy" was the haughty reply. "He was beneath my notice, as were you. Until now."

Bane's only reply was a steady, unblinking stare. The flickering torchlight reflecting off the Zabrak's pupils made it seem as if hungry flames licked away at the inside of his skull.

"You are an intriguing opponent," Sirak whispered, taking a step closer. "Formidable . . . at least compared with the other so-called apprentices here. I am watching you now. I am waiting."

He reached out slowly and pressed his finger into Bane's chest. Bane had to fight the urge to take a step back.

"I do not issue challenges," the Zabrak continued. "I have no need to test myself against a lesser opponent." Flashing a cruel smile, he lowered his finger and took a step back. "However, when you fool yourself into believing you are ready, you will inevitably challenge me. I shall be looking forward to it."

With that he brushed past Bane on the narrow landing, bumping him slightly with his shoulder as if unaware of him, then continuing on down the stairs to the level below.

The message of that slight bump was not lost on Bane. He knew Sirak was trying to intimidate him . . . and to goad him into a confrontation Bane wasn't ready for. He wasn't about to fall for the trap. Instead he stood motionless at the top of the landing, refusing to turn and watch Sirak depart. Only when he heard the sounds of the rest of the class descending from the roof did he move again, spinning on his heel and continuing down the stairs to the lower levels and the privacy of his own room.










 楼主| 发表于 2013-8-13 23:32 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 11

The next morning Bane was not with the other students on the temple roof as they sparred. Lord Qordis wanted to speak with him. Privately.

He strode through the virtually empty halls of the Academy toward the meeting, his outward appearance calm and confident. Inside he was anything but.

All night, as he lay surrounded by the silence and darkness of his room, the duel had played itself over and over in his head. Free from the emotion of the battle, he knew he had gone too far. He had proven his dominance over Fohargh by pinning him with the Force; he had achieved dun moch. The Makurth would never dare to challenge him again. Yet for some reason Bane hadn't been able to stop there. He hadn't wanted to stop.

At the time he had felt no guilt over his actions. No remorse. Yet once his blood cooled, part of him couldn't help but feel he had done something wrong. Had Fohargh really deserved to die?

But another part of him refused to accept the guilt. He'd had no love for the Makurth. No feelings at all. Fohargh had been nothing but an obstacle to Bane's progress. An obstacle that had been removed.

He had given himself over to the dark side completely in that moment. It had been more than simple rage or bloodlust. It went deeper, to the very core of his being. He'd lost all reason and control . . . but it had felt right.

Bane had spent a long and sleepless night trying to reconcile the two emotions: triumph and remorse. But when the summons came that morning his inner conflict had been swept away by more immediate concerns.

Fohargh's death would have repercussions. Combat was supposed to test the apprentices, harden their mettle through struggle and pain. It wasn't meant to kill. Each and every disciple at the Academy, from Sirak down to the least and lowest of the students, had the ability to become a Master. Each possessed an extremely rare gift in the dark side-a gift that was meant to be used against the Jedi, not against one another.

In killing Fohargh, Bane had thinned the ranks of potential Sith Masters. He had dealt a serious blow to the war effort. Each apprentice at the Academy was valued more highly than an entire division of Sith troopers. He had destroyed an invaluable tool. For that, Bane suspected, he would be punished severely.

As he marched toward the meeting that could decide his fate he tried to push both fear and guilt from his mind. Nothing he did now could bring Fohargh back. The Makurth was gone, but Bane was still here. And he was a survivor. He had to be strong. He had to find some way to justify his actions to Lord Qordis.

He was already putting together his arguments. Fohargh had been weak. Bane hadn't just killed him: he'd exposed him. Qordis and the other Masters encouraged rivalry and dissension among their charges. They understood the value of challenge and competition. Those who showed promise-the individuals who elevated themselves above the others-were rewarded. They received one-on-one instruction with the Masters to reach their full potential. Those who could not keep up were left behind. That was the way of the dark side.

Fohargh's death was no more than a natural extension of the dark side philosophy. His death was the ultimate failure-his own failure. Why should Bane be blamed for another's weakness?

His pace quickened and he clenched his teeth in angry frustration. No wonder his emotions were so conflicted. The teachings of the Academy were self-contradictory. The dark side allowed for no mercy, no forgiveness. Yet the apprentices were expected to pull back once they had bested their opponents in the dueling ring. It was unnatural.

He had reached the threshold of Qordis's door. He hesitated, briefly wavering between fear of what his punishment would be and anger at the impossible situation he and all the other apprentices were put in every day.

Anger, he finally decided, would serve him best.

He knocked sharply at the door, then opened it when the command to enter came from within. Qordis was kneeling in the center of the chamber, deep in meditation. Bane had been in this room before, but he couldn't help but marvel at the extravagance. The walls were adorned with expensive tapestries and hangings. Golden braziers and censers burning heavy incense were scattered haphazardly about to provide a dim glow in the hazy air. In one corner was a large, luxuriant bed. In another was an intricately carved table of obsidian, a small chest atop it.

The lid of the chest was open, revealing the jewelry inside: necklaces and chains of precious metals, rings of gold and platinum encrusted with ostentatious gemstones. Qordis took great pains to surround himself with material goods and the trappings of wealth, and he took greater pains to make sure others noticed his opulence. On some level, Bane suspected, the Sith Lord derived pleasure-and power-from the covetous desire and greed his possessions inspired in others.

The trinkets held little interest for Bane, however. He was more impressed with the manuscripts and tomes that lined the bookshelves along the wall, each a magnificent volume clad in leather embossed with gold leaf. Many of the volumes were thousands of years old, and he knew they contained the secrets of the ancient Sith.

At last Lord Qordis rose to his feet, standing tall and straight so he could look down on his student with his gray, sunken eyes.

"Kas'im told me what happened yesterday morning," he said. "He tells me you are responsible for Fohargh's death." The tone of his voice gave Bane no clues as to his emotional state.

"I am not responsible for his death," Bane answered calmly. He was angry, but he wasn't stupid. He chose his next words very carefully; he wanted to convince Lord Qordis, not enrage him. "Fohargh was the one who let his guard down. He left himself vulnerable in the ring. It would have shown weakness not to take advantage of it."

His statement wasn't entirely factual, but it was close enough to the truth. One of the first lessons Kas'im taught students was how to build a protective shield around themselves in combat to prevent an enemy from using the Force against them. A Force-talented opponent could yank away your lightsaber, knock you off balance, or even extinguish your lightsaber's blade without the touch of a hand or weapon. A Force-shield was the most basic-and most necessary-protection there was.

It had become instinctive for all the apprentices, almost second nature. As soon as the blade was drawn, the protective veil went up. Guarding against the Force powers of the enemy and obscuring your own intentions required as much concentration and energy as augmenting your physical prowess or anticipating the moves of your foe. It was that unseen part of combat, the invisible battle of wills, not the obvious interaction of bodies and blades, that more often than not decided the fate of a duel.

"Kas'im says Fohargh did not lower his guard," Qordis countered. "He says you simply ripped through it. His defenses could not stand before your power."

"Master, are you saying I should hold back if my opponent is weak?" It was a loaded question, of course. One Qordis didn't even bother to answer.

"It is one thing to defeat an opponent in the ring. But even once he was down, you continued to attack him. He was beaten long before you killed him. What you did was no different from striking with the blade against a fallen and unconscious foe . . . something that is not permitted in the training ring."

The words struck too close to home, dredging up the guilt Bane had tried to bury even as he had made his way to this meeting. Qordis was silent, waiting for Bane's reaction. Bane had to make some type of reply. But the only answer he could come up with was a question he had wrestled with in the twilight hours before dawn. "Kas'im knew what was happening. He could see what I was doing. Why didn't he stop me?"

"Why not, indeed?" Qordis replied smoothly. "Lord Kas'im wanted to see what would happen. He wanted to see how you would act in that situation. He wanted to see if you would be merciful . . . or if you would be strong."

And suddenly Bane realized he hadn't been called into the Master's room to be punished. "I ... I don't understand. I thought it was forbidden to murder another apprentice."

Qordis nodded. "We cannot have the students attacking each other in the halls; we want your hatred to be directed against the Jedi, not one another." The words echoed the argument Bane had been having with himself only minutes earlier. But what came next was something he hadn't anticipated.

"Despite this, Fohargh's death may turn out to be a minor loss if it helps you to achieve your full potential. Exceptions can be made for those who are strong in the dark side."

"Like Sirak?" Bane asked, the words out of his mouth before he even realized what he was saying.

Fortunately, the question seemed to amuse Lord Qordis rather than offend him. "Sirak understands the power of the dark side," he said with a smile. "Passion fuels the dark side."

"Peace is a lie, there is only passion." Bane muttered out of habit. "Through passion, I gain strength."

"Exactly." Qordis seemed pleased, though with himself or his student it was hard to tell. "Through strength, I gain power; through power, I gain victory?'

"Through victory my chains are broken," Bane dutifully recited.

"Understand this-truly understand it-and your potential is limitless!"

Qordis gave a dismissive wave of his hand, then settled back onto his meditation mat as Bane turned to go. At the door of the room, though, the young man paused and turned back.

"What is the Sith'ari?" he blurted out.

Qordis tilted his head to the side. "Where did you hear that word?" His voice was grave.

"I ... I've heard some of the other students use it. About Sirak. They say he could be the Sith'ari."

"Some of the old texts speak of the Sith'ari," Qordis answered slowly, gesturing with a ring-laden claw at the books scattered about the room. "They say the Sith will one day be led by a perfect being, one who embodies the dark side and all we stand for."

"Sirak is this perfect being?"

Qordis shrugged. "Sirak is the strongest student at the Academy. For now. Perhaps in time he will surpass Kas'im and me and all the other Sith Lords. Perhaps not." He paused. "Many of the Masters do not believe in the legend of the Sith'ari," he continued after a moment. "Lord Kaan discounts it, for one. It goes against the philosophy underlying the Brotherhood of Darkness."

"What about you, Master? Do you believe in the legend?"

Bane waited while Qordis considered his reply. It felt like forever.

"These are dangerous questions to ask," the Dark Lord finally said. "But if the Sith'ari is more than a legend, he will not simply be born as the exemplar of all our teachings. He-or she-must be forged in the crucibles of trial and battle to attain such perfection. Some might argue such training is the purpose of this Academy. But I would counter by insisting that we train our apprentices to join the ranks of the Sith Lords so they may stand alongside Kaan and the rest of the Brotherhood."

Realizing that was as good an answer as he was going to get, Bane nodded and left. He had been absolved of his crime, given a pardon because of his power and potential. He should have been exultant, triumphant. But for some reason all he could think about as he headed up to the roof to join the other students was the sticky gurgles of Fohargh's dying breaths.

That night, in the privacy of his room, Bane struggled to make sense of what had happened. He sought the deeper wisdom behind the Master's words. Qordis had said that his emotions-his anger-had let him summon up the strength to defeat Fohargh. He said passion fueled the dark side. Bane had felt this enough times to know it was true.

But he couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to it than that. He didn't consider himself a cruel person. He didn't believe he was ruthless or sadistic. Yet how else to explain what he had done to the helpless Makurth? It had been murder, or execution ... and Bane was having trouble accepting it.

He had a lot of blood on his hands: he'd killed hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Republic soldiers. But that had been war. And the ensign he'd killed on Apatros had been a case of self-defense. Those were all cases of kill or be killed, and he had no regrets about what he'd done. Unlike yesterday.

No matter how he tried, he couldn't find a way to justify what had happened in the ring. Fohargh had taunted him, feeding his rage and lethal fury. Yet he couldn't even use the excuse that he'd been swept up in the heat of the moment. Not if he was being honest with himself. He'd felt his emotions raging through him as he'd drawn on the dark side, but the act itself had been cold and deliberate. Calculating, even.

Lying in his bed, Bane couldn't help but wonder if the relationship between passion and the dark side was more complex than Qordis had made it seem. He closed his eyes, thinking back on what had happened. He took slow, deep breaths, trying to stay calm and detached so he could analyze what had gone wrong.

He had been humiliated and embarrassed, and he'd responded with anger. His anger had let him summon the dark side to lash out at his enemy. He could remember a feeling of elation, of triumph, when Fohargh went sprawling through the air. But there was something else, too. Even in victory, his hatred had kept growing, rising up like the flames of a fire that could be quenched only with blood.

Passion fueled the dark side, but what if the dark side also fueled passion? Emotion brought power, but that power increased the intensity of those emotions . . . which in turn led to an increase in the power. In the right circumstances, it would create a cycle that would end only when a person reached the limits of his or her ability to command the Force-or when the target of his or her anger and hatred was destroyed.

Despite the heat in his room, a cold shiver ran down Bane's spine. How was it possible to contain or control a power that fed on itself? The more he, as an apprentice, learned to draw on the Force, the more his emotions would control him. The stronger a person became, the less rational he would be. It was inevitable.

No, Bane thought. He was missing something. He had to be. If this were true, the Masters would be teaching the students techniques to avoid this situation. They would be learning to distance themselves from their own emotions, even as they used them to draw upon the dark side. But there was nothing of this in their training, so Bane's analysis had to be wrong. It had to be!

Somewhat reassured, Bane let his thoughts drift into the comfort of sleep.

"You make me sick," his father spat. "Look how much you eat! You're worse than a kriffing zucca pig!"
“你害我病了,”他的父亲唧唧歪歪道。“你看你吃了多少!你比一只kriffing zucca pig还糟糕!”

Des tried to ignore him. He hunkered down in his seat at the dinner table and concentrated on the food on his plate, shoveling slow forkfuls into his mouth.

"Did you hear me, boy?" his father snapped. "You think that food in front of you is free? I gotta pay for that food, you know! I worked every day this week and I still owe more now than I did at the beginning of the blasted month!"

Hurst was drunk, as usual. His eyes were glassy, and he still reeked of the mines; he hadn't even bothered to shower before hitting the bottle he kept tucked away beneath the covers of his cot.

"You want me to start working double shifts to support you, boy?" he shouted.

Without looking up from his plate Des muttered, "I work just as many shifts as you do."

"What?" Hurst said, his voice dropping down to a menacing whisper. "What did you just say?"

Instead of biting his lip, Des looked up from his plate and right into his father's red, bleary eyes. "I said I work as many shifts as you do. And I'm only eighteen."

Hurst pushed his chair away from the table and rose. "Eighteen, and still too dumb to know when to keep your mouth shut." He shook his head from side to side in exaggerated disappointment. "Bloody bane of my existence is what you are."

Throwing his fork down on his plate, Des pushed his own chair back from the table and stood up to his full height. He was taller than his father now, and his frame was beginning to fill out with muscles earned in the tunnels.

"Are you going to beat me now?" he snarled at his father. "Going to teach me a lesson?"

Hurst's jaw dropped open. "What the brix is wrong with you, boy?"

"I'm sick of this," Des snapped. "You blame all your problems on me, but you're the one who's drinking away all our credits. Maybe if you sobered up we could get off this stinking world!"

"You smart-mouthed, mudcrutch whelp!" Hurst roared, flipping the table so it crashed against the wall. He leapt across the now empty space between them and grabbed Des by his wrists in a grip as unbreakable as a pair of durasteel binders. The young man tried to wrench free, but his father outweighed him by twenty-some kilos, almost half of which was muscle.

Knowing it was hopeless, Des stopped struggling after a few seconds. But he wasn't going to cower and cry. Not this time. "If you're going to beat me tonight," he said, "remember that it might be the last time, old man. You better make it a good one."

Hurst did. He lit into his son with the savage fury of a bitter, hopeless man. He broke his nose; he blackened both his eyes. He knocked out two of his teeth, split his lip, and cracked his ribs. But throughout it all Des never said a word, and he didn't shed a single tear.

That night, as Des lay in his bed too bruised and swollen to sleep, a single thought kept running through his mind, drowning out the loud drunken snores of Hurst passed out in the corner.

I hope you die. I hope you die. I hope you die.

He'd never hated his father as much as he did at that moment. He envisioned a giant hand squeezing his father's cruel heart.

I hope you die. I hope you die. I hope you die.

The words rolled over and over, an endless mantra, as if he could make them come true through sheer force of will.

I hope you die. I hope you die. I hope you die.

The tears he'd held back during the brutal thrashing finally came, hot drops streaming down his purple, swollen face.

I hope you die. I hope you die. I hope you -

Bane woke with a start, his heart pounding and his body bathed in terror sweat as he thrashed against the covers tangled around his legs. For a brief second he thought he was back on Apatros in the cramped room filled with Hurst and the overwhelming stench of booze. Then he realized where he was, and the nightmare began to fade. A horrible realization swept in to take its place.

Hurst had died that night. The authorities had ruled it a natural death. A heart attack, brought on by a combination of too much alcohol, a life working the mines, and the overexertion of nearly beating his own son to death with his bare hands. They never suspected the real cause. Neither had Bane. Not until now.

Trembling slightly; he rolled over, exhausted but knowing sleep wouldn't come again this night.

Fohargh wasn't the first person he had murdered with the Force. He probably wouldn't be the last. Bane was smart enough to understand that.

He shook his head to clear away the memory of Hurst's death. The man had deserved neither pity nor mercy. The weak would always be crushed by the strong. If Bane wanted to survive, he had to become one of the strong. That was why he was here at the Academy. That was his mission. That was the way of the dark side.

But the realization did nothing to quell the queasy feeling in his stomach, and when he closed his eyes he could still see father's face.








发表于 2013-8-16 19:51 | 显示全部楼层










 楼主| 发表于 2013-8-17 20:05 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 光剑 于 2013-8-17 20:52 编辑

Chapter 12

"No!" Kas'im barked, disdainfully slapping Bane's training saber aside with his own weapon. "Wrong! You're too slow on the first transition. You're leaving your left side wide open for a quick counter."

The Blademaster was teaching him a new sequence; he'd been teaching it to him for more than a week. But for some reason Bane couldn't seem to grasp the intricacies of the movements. His blade felt clumsy and awkward in his hand.

He stepped back and resumed the ready position. Kas'im studied him briefly, then dropped into a defensive stance in front of him. Bane took a deep breath to focus his mind before letting his body trigger the sequence once again.

His muscles moved instinctively, exploding into action. There was a hiss as the downstroke of his blade carved through the air in the first move, a blur of motion ... but far too slow. Kas'im responded by slipping to the side and bringing his own double-bladed weapon around in a long, swift arc that struck Bane hard in the ribs.

The breath whooshed out of him and he felt the searing pain of the pelko barbs, followed by the all-too-familiar numbness spreading up through the left side of his torso. He staggered back, helpless, as Kas'im watched silently. Bane struggled to stay upright and failed, collapsing awkwardly to the floor. The Blademaster shook his head in disappointment.

Bane dragged himself to his feet, trying not to let his frustration show. It had been nearly three weeks since he had beaten Fohargh in the ring, and since that time he had been training with Kas'im in individual sessions to improve his lightsaber combat. But for some reason he wasn't making any progress.

"I'm sorry, Master. I will go practice the drills again," he said through gritted teeth.

"Drills?" the Twi'lek repeated, his voice cruel and mocking. "What good will that do?"

"I ... I must learn the sequence better. To become faster."

Kas'im spat on the ground. "If you truly believe that, then you're a fool." Bane didn't know how to respond, so he kept silent.

The Blademaster stepped forward and gave him a sharp cuff on his ear. It was meant not to hurt, but to humiliate. "Fohargh was better trained than you," he snapped. "He knew more sequences, he knew more forms. But they couldn't save him.

"The sequences are just tools. They help you free your mind so you can draw upon the Force. That is where you will find the key to victory. Not in the muscles of your arms or the quickness of your blade. You must call upon the dark side to destroy your enemies!"

Clenching his jaw from the burning pain now spreading through the entire left side of his body, Bane could only nod.

"You're holding back," the Master went on. "You aren't using the Force. Without it, your moves are slow and predictable."

"I ... I'll try harder, Master."

"Try?" Kas'im turned away in disgust. "You've lost your will to fight. This lesson is over."

Realizing he had been dismissed, Bane slowly made his way to the stairs leading down from the temple roof. As he reached them, Kas'im called out one last piece of advice.

"Return when you are ready to embrace the dark side instead of pulling away from it."

Bane didn't turn to look back: the pain and numbness of his left side made that impossible. But as he hobbled down the stairs, Lord Kas'im's words echoed in his ears with the ring of truth.

This wasn't the first training session he had failed in. And his failures weren't limited to Kas'im and the lightsaber. Bane had gained in both reputation and prestige when he defeated Fohargh; several of the Masters had shown a sudden willingness to give him individual, one-on-one training. Yet despite the extra attention, Bane's skills hadn't progressed at all. If anything, he'd actually taken several steps back.

He made his way through the halls to his room, then lay down gingerly on his bed. There wasn't anything he could do while he was temporarily crippled by the pelko venom except rest and meditate.

It was obvious something was wrong, but he couldn't say exactly what. He no longer felt sharp. He no longer felt alive. When he had first become conscious of the Force flowing through him, his senses had become hyperaware: the world had seemed more vibrant and more real. Now everything was muted and distant. He walked through the halls of the Academy as if he was in some kind of trance.

He wasn't sleeping well; he kept having nightmares. Sometimes he dreamed of his father and the night he died. Other times he dreamed of his fight with Fohargh. Sometimes the dreams blended together, merging into one terrible vision: the Makurth beating him in the apartment on Apatros, his father lying dead in the dueling ring atop the temple on Korriban. And each time Bane would wake choking back a scream, shivering even though his body was bathed in sweat.

But it was more than just lack of sleep that left him in a dazed stupor. The passion that had driven him was gone. The raging fire inside him had vanished, replaced by a cold emptiness. And without his passion, he was unable to summon the power of the dark side. It was becoming harder and harder to command the Force.

The changes were subtle, barely noticeable at first. But over time small changes built up. Now moving even small objects left him exhausted. He was slow and clumsy with the training saber. He could no longer anticipate what his opponents would do; he could only react after the fact.

He couldn't deny it any longer: he was regressing. Apprentices he had surpassed long ago had caught up to him again. He could tell he was falling behind just by watching the other students during their studies ... which meant they could probably tell, too.

He thought back on what the Twi'lek Master had told him. You've lost your will to fight.

Kas'im was right. Bane had felt it slipping away since his first dream of his father. Unfortunately, he had no idea how to reclaim the anger and competitive fire that had fueled his meteoric rise through the hierarchy of Sith apprentices.

Return when you are ready to embrace the dark side instead of pulling away from it.

Something was holding him back. Some part of him recoiled from what he had become. He would meditate for hours each day, concentrating his mind in search of the swirling, pulsing fury of the dark side locked away within him. Yet he searched in vain. A cold veil had fallen across the core of his being, and try as he might he couldn't tear it aside to seize the power that lay beneath.

And he was running out of time. So far nobody had dared to challenge him in the dueling ring-not since Fohargh's death. The Makurth's gruesome end still inspired enough fear in the other students for them to steer clear of him. But Bane knew they wouldn't keep their distance much longer. His confidence and abilities were waning, and his failures were becoming more public. Soon it would be as obvious to the other students as it was to him.

In those first days after Fohargh's death his only true rival had been Sirak. Now every apprentice on Korriban was a potential threat. The hopelessness of the situation tore away at his guts. It made him want to scream and claw at the stone walls in impotent rage. Yet for all his frustrations, he was unable to summon the passion that fed the dark side.

Soon a challenger would step forward in the dueling ring, eager to take him down. And there was nothing he could do to stop that moment from coming.

Lord Kaan paced restlessly on the bridge of Nightfall as it orbited the industrial world of Brentaal IV. The Sith fleet occupied the Bormea sector, the region of space where the Perlemian Trade Route and the Hydian Way intersected. The Brotherhood of Darkness now controlled two of the most important hyperspace lanes serving the Core Worlds; Republic resistance to the ever-advancing Sith fleet was crumbling.
卡恩尊主正在黄昏号上不安地踱步,此时黄昏号在工业世界布伦塔尔四号行星(industrial world of Brentaal IV)的上空环绕。西斯舰队占领了博尔米亚星区(Bormea sector),这片空域被佩勒米亚贸易航路(Perlemian Trade Route)和海迪亚航路(Hydian Way)分割。黑暗兄弟会现在控制了通往核心世界最重要的两条超空间航线;共和国对不断前进的西斯舰队的抵抗已经支离破碎。

And yet despite this most recent victory, Kaan felt something wasn't right. If anything, their conquest of the Bormea sector had been too easy. The worlds of Corulag, Chandrila, and Brentaal had all fallen in rapid succession, their defenders offering only token resistance before retreating in the face of the invading horde.

In fact, he had sensed only a handful of Jedi among the Republic forces opposing them. This was not the first time the Jedi had been virtually absent from key battles: during encounters at Bespin, Sullust, and Taanab, Kaan had expected to be confronted by a fleet led by Jedi Master Hoth, the only Republic commander who seemed capable of winning victories against the Sith. But General Hoth-despite the reputation he had earned in the early stages of the war-was never there.

At first Kaan suspected it was a trap, some elaborate scheme arranged by the wily Hoth to ensnare and destroy his sworn enemy. But if it was a trap, it had never been sprung. The Sith were pressing in from all sides; they were almost sitting on the doorstep of Coruscant itself. And the Jedi had all but vanished, seemingly having deserted the Republic in its time of greatest need.

He should have been ecstatic. Without the Jedi, the war was as good as over. The Republic would fall in a matter of months, and the Sith would rule. But where had the Jedi gone? Kaan didn't like it. The strange message Kopecz had sent just a few hours earlier had only added to his unease. The Twi'lek was coming to meet Nightfall with urgent news about Ruusan, news he wouldn't transmit across regular channels. News so important he felt he had to deliver it in person.

"An interceptor has just docked in Nightfall's landing bay, Lord Kaan," one of the bridge crew reported.

Despite his anxiousness to hear Kopecz's news, Lord Kaan resisted the urge to go down to the landing bay to meet him. He felt something had gone very, very wrong, and it was important to maintain an appearance of calm assurance before his troops. Yet patience was not a virtue many of the Sith Lords possessed, and he couldn't keep himself from pacing as he waited for the Twi'lek to make his way to the bridge and deliver his ominous report.

After what seemed like hours but was no more than a few minutes, Kopecz finally arrived. His expression did nothing to alleviate Kaan's growing apprehension as he crossed the bridge and gave a perfunctory bow.

"I must speak with you in private, Lord Kaan."

"You may speak here," Kaan assured him. "What we say will not leave this ship." The bridge crew of Nightfall had been handpicked by Kaan himself. All had sworn an oath to serve with absolute loyalty; they knew the harsh consequences should they break that oath.

Kopecz glanced suspiciously around the bridge, but the crew were all focused on their stations. None of them seemed even to notice him. "We've lost Ruusan," he said, whispering despite Kaan's assurances. "The base set up on the surface, the orbiting fleet ... all of it wiped out!"

For a moment Kaan didn't speak. When he did his voice had dropped to the same level as Kopecz's. "How did this happen? We have spies throughout the Republic military. All their fleets have fallen back to the Core. All of them! They couldn't possibly have mustered enough strength to take back Ruusan. Not without us knowing!"

"It wasn't the Republic," Kopecz replied. "It was the Jedi. Hundreds of them. Thousands. Jedi Masters, Jedi Knights, Jedi Padawans: an entire army of Jedi."

Kopecz cursed loudly. None of the crew so much as glanced in his direction, a testament to their training and their fear of their commander.

"Lord Hoth realized that the strength of the Jedi order was spread too thin trying to defend the Republic," Kopecz continued. "He's gathered them all into a single host with only one goal: destroy the users of the dark side. They don't care about our soldiers and fleets anymore. All they want to do is wipe us out: the apprentices, the acolytes, the Sith Masters ... and especially the Dark Lords. Lord Hoth himself is leading them," the Twi'lek added, though Kaan had already guessed this for himself. "They call themselves the Army of Light."
“霍斯尊主意识到绝地武士团为了守护共和国的疆土,力量已经被极大地分散了,显得势单力薄,”科佩茨继续说。“于是他把他们全都聚集进一个系统,只有一个目标:毁灭黑暗面的使用者。他们不再关心我们的士兵和舰队了。他们想做的一切就是清扫我们:西斯学徒、西斯门徒、西斯大师……尤其是黑暗尊主们。霍斯尊主亲自领导他们。”提列克人补充说,尽管卡恩已经自己猜出来了。“他们自称为光明军(the Army of Light)。”

Kopecz paused to let the news sink in. Kaan took several deep breaths, silently reciting the Code of the Sith to bring his whirling thoughts back into focus.

And then he laughed. "An Army of Light to oppose the Brotherhood of Darkness."

Kopecz stared at him with a bewildered expression.

"Hoth knows the Jedi aren't capable of defeating our vast armies," Kaan explained. "Not anymore. The Republic is doomed. So now he concentrates exclusively on us: the leaders of those armies. Cut off the head and the body will die."

"We should send our fleet to Ruusan," Kopecz suggested. "All of them. Crush the Jedi in one fell swoop and wipe them from the galaxy forever."

Kaan shook his head. "That's exactly what Hoth wants us to do. Divert our armies from the Republic, draw them away from Coruscant. Give up all the ground we have gained in a foolish and pointless attack on the Jedi."


"You say he has an army of Jedi: thousands of them. What chance does a fleet of mere soldiers have against such an enemy? Ships and weapons are no match for the power of the Force. Hoth knows this."

Finally Kopecz nodded in understanding. "You always said this war would not be decided by military might."

"Precisely. In the end the Republic is merely an afterthought. Only through the complete annihilation of the Jedi order can we achieve true victory. And Hoth has been kind enough to gather them all in one place for us."

"But the Brotherhood is no match for the massed strength of the entire Jedi order," Kopecz protested. "There are too many of them and not enough of us."

"Our numbers are greater than you think," Kaan said. "We have academies scattered throughout the galaxy. We can swell our numbers with Marauders from Honoghr and Gentes. We can gather all the assassins trained at Umbara. We will command the students at Dathomir, Iridonia, and all the rest of the academies to join the ranks of the Brotherhood of Darkness. We will assemble our own army of Sith-one capable of destroying Hoth and his Army of Light!"

"And what of the Academy on Korriban?" Kopecz asked.

"They will join the Brotherhood, but only after they have completed their training under Qordis."

"We could use them against the Jedi," Kopecz pressed. "Korriban is home to the strongest of our apprentices."

"That is precisely why it is too dangerous to bring them into this conflict," Kaan explained. "With strength come ambition and rivalry. In the heat of battle their emotions will take over their minds; they will turn against each other. They will divide our ranks with infighting while the Jedi remain united." He paused. "It has happened to the Sith too many times in the past; I will not allow it to happen again. They will stay with Qordis and complete their training. He will teach them discipline and loyalty to the Brotherhood. Only then will they join us on the field of battle."

"Is that what you believe," Kopecz asked, "or what Qordis has been telling you?"

"Don't let your mistrust of Qordis blind you to what we are trying to accomplish," Kaan chided. "His pupils are the future of the Brotherhood. The future of the Sith. I will not expose them to this war until they are ready." His tone clearly brooked no further argument. "The apprentices at Korriban will join the Brotherhood in due time. But that time is not now."

"Well, it better be soon," Kopecz muttered, only partially mollified. "I don't think we can beat Hoth without them."

Kaan reached out and grasped the Twi'lek's meaty shoulder in a firm grip. "Never fear, my friend," he said with a smile. "The Jedi will be no match for us. We will slaughter them at Ruusan and wipe them from the face of the galaxy. The apprentices may be the future of the Brotherhood, but the present belongs to us!"

Much to Kaan's relief, Kopecz returned his smile. The leader of the Brotherhood would have been less pleased if he had known that much of the Twi'lek's satisfaction came from the knowledge that Qordis would miss out on the glory of the coming victory.

Lord Kas'im entered the opulently decorated chamber and gave a nod in the direction of his fellow Master. "You wanted to see me?"

"News from the front," Qordis said, rising slowly from his meditation mat. "The Jedi have massed together under a single banner on Ruusan. General Hoth is leading them. Lord Kaan has gathered his own army. Even now they are headed there to engage the Jedi."

"Are we going to join them?" Kas'im asked, his voice eager, his lekku twitching at the thought of pitting his skills against the greatest warriors of the Jedi order.

Qordis shook his head. "Not us. None of the Masters. And none of the students, unless you feel one of the apprentices is ready."

"No," Kas'im replied after a moment's consideration. "Sirak, perhaps. He is strong enough. But his pride is too great, and he still has much to learn."

"What about Bane? He showed great promise in disposing of Fohargh."

Kas'im shrugged. "That was a month ago. Since then he has made almost no progress. Something is holding him back. Fear, I think."

"Fear? Of the other students? Of Sirak?"

"No. Nothing like that. He's finally seen what he is truly capable of; he's seen the full power of the dark side. I think he's afraid to face it."

"Then he is of no further use to us," Qordis stated flatly. "Focus on the other students. Don't waste your time on him."

The Blademaster was momentarily taken aback. He was surprised that Qordis would be so quick to give up on a student with such undeniable potential.

"I think he just needs more time," he suggested. "Most of our apprentices have been studying the ways of the Sith for many years. Ever since they were children. Bane didn't begin his training with us until he was a full-grown adult."

"I'm well aware of the circumstances surrounding his arrival at this Academy!" Qordis snapped, and Kas'im suddenly realized what was really going on. Bane had been brought to Korriban by Lord Kopecz, and there was precious little love lost between Kopecz and the leader of the Academy. Bane's failure would ultimately become a poor reflection on Qordis's most bitter rival.

"The next time Bane approaches you, turn him away," the Dark Lord told him, his tone leaving no doubt that his words were a command and not a request. "Make sure all the Masters understand that he is no longer worthy of our teachings."

Kas'im nodded his understanding. He would do as ordered. It wasn't fair to Bane, of course. But nobody ever claimed the Sith were fair.










 楼主| 发表于 2013-8-19 20:51 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 13

Bane knew he had to do something. His situation was becoming desperate. He was still floundering, unable to call upon the power he had used to destroy Fohargh. But now his weakness had become public.

Yesterday during the evening training session he had approached Kas'im to arrange a time for more one-on-one practice, hoping to break free of the lethargy that gripped him. But the Blademaster had refused him, shaking his head and turning his attention to one of the other students. The message was clear to everyone: Bane was vulnerable.

As the students gathered in a circle on the top of the temple after the morning drills, Bane knew what had to be done. His reputation had protected him from the challenges of the other students. Now that reputation was gone. But he couldn't sit back passively, waiting for one of the other students to challenge him and take him down. He had to seize the initiative; he had to go on the attack. Today he had to be the first one to step into the ring.

Of course, if he challenged one of the lesser students, everyone would see it as confirmation of the weakness he was trying to hide. There was only one way he could redeem himself in the eyes of the school and the Masters; there was only one opponent he could call out.

Several of the apprentices were still milling about, trying to find a place where they would be able to clearly observe the morning's action. It was customary to wait until everyone was in place before issuing a challenge, but Bane knew that the longer he waited, the harder his task would be. He stepped boldly into the center of the circle, drawing curious stares from the other students. Kas'im fixed him with a disapproving gaze, but he tried to put it out of his mind.

"I have a challenge," he proclaimed. "I call out Sirak."

There was an excited buzz among the students, but Bane could barely hear it above the pounding of his own heart. Sirak rarely fought in actual combat; Bane had never even seen him in action. But he'd heard other students talk of Sirak's prowess in the dueling ring, telling wild tales of his unbeatable skills. Ever since the Zabrak had approached him on the stairs, Bane had watched his opponent during training sessions in preparation for this confrontation. And from what he'd seen, the seemingly exaggerated accounts of his prowess were all too accurate.

Unlike most of the students, Sirak preferred the double-bladed training saber to the more traditional single blade. Apart from Kas'im himself, Sirak was the only one Bane had ever seen wield the exotic weapon with any signs of skill. His technique seemed almost perfect to Bane's inexpert eye. He always seemed in complete control; he was always on the attack. Even in simple drills his superiority over his opponents was obvious. Where most students took two to three weeks to learn a new sequence, Sirak was able to master one in a matter of days. And now Bane was about to face him in the dueling ring.

The Zabrak stepped out from the crowd, moving slowly but gracefully as he responded to the challenge. Even walking to the center of the ring he exuded an air of menace. He casually flourished his weapon as he approached, the twin durasteel blades carving long, languid arcs through the air.

Bane watched him come, feeling his heart and breathing quicken as his body released adrenaline into his system, instinctively readying itself for the coming battle. In contrast with his physical body, however, Bane felt no significant change in his emotional state. He had expected to feel a surge of fear and anger as Sirak approached, emotions he could feed off to rip through the lifeless veil and unleash the dark side. But the lethargic stupor still enveloped him like a dull, gray shroud.

"I wish you had challenged me earlier," Sirak whispered, his voice just loud enough for Bane to hear. "In the first week after Fohargh's death many thought you were my equal. I would have gained great prestige in defeating you. That is no longer the case."

Sirak had stopped his advance and was standing several meters away. His double-bladed training saber still danced slowly through the air. It moved as if it were alive, a creature anticipating the hunt, too excited to remain motionless.

"There will be little glory in defeating you now," he repeated. "But I will take great pleasure in your suffering."

Behind Sirak, Bane saw Llokay and Yevra, the other Zabrak apprentices, push their way to the front of the crowd to get a better view of their champion. The brother wore a cruel grin; the sister, an expression of hungry anticipation. Bane did his best to tune out the eagerness on their red faces, letting them blend into the unimportant background scenery of the spectators.

All his concentration was focused on the fluid movements of the unfamiliar weapon in Sirak's hands. He had tried to memorize the sequences Sirak worked on during the drills. Now he was looking for clues that would tip his opponent's hand-that might reveal which sequence he planned to use to begin the battle. If Bane guessed right, he could counterattack and possibly end the battle in the first pass. It was his best chance at victory, but without being able to draw on the Force, his odds of correctly guessing which sequence his foe would choose were very, very slim.

Sirak raised the double-bladed saber up above his head, spinning it so fast it was nothing but a blur, then lunged forward. One end came down in a savage overhead strike that Bane easily parried. But the move was only a feint, setting up a slashing attack at the waist from the opposite blade. Recognizing the maneuver at the last second, Bane could do nothing more than throw himself into a backward roll, narrowly escaping injury.

His foe was on him even before he got to his feet, the twin blades slicing down in an alternating rhythm of attacks: left-right-left-right. Bane blocked, rolled, twisted, and blocked again, turning back the flurry. He tried a leg-sweep, but Sirak anticipated the move and nimbly leapt clear, giving Bane just enough time to scramble to his feet.

The next round of attacks kept Bane in full retreat, but he was able to prevent Sirak from gaining an advantage by giving ground and reverting to basic defensive sequences. He was still desperately trying to gain some advantage by watching his opponent's moves. At one moment Sirak seemed to be using the jabs and thrusts of Vaapad, the most aggressive and direct of the seven traditional forms. But in the middle of a sequence he would suddenly shift to the power attacks of Djem So, generating such force that even a blocked strike caused Bane to stagger back. A quick turn or rotation of the weapon and one of the twin blades was suddenly swinging in again at an awkward angle, causing Bane to reel off balance as he knocked it aside.

There was a brief lull in the action as the two combatants paused to reevaluate their strategies, each breathing heavily. Sirak twirled his weapon in a quick, complex sequence that brought the saber under his right arm, around behind his back, over his left shoulder, and around to the front. Then he smiled and did it in reverse.

Bane watched the extravagant flourish with a sinking feeling. Sirak had been toying with him in the first few passes, dragging the fight out so his victory would seem more impressive. Now he was showing his true skill, using sequences that blended several forms at once, switching rapidly among different styles in complex patterns Bane had never seen before.

It was just one more sign of the Zabrak's superiority. If Bane tried to combine different styles into a single sequence, he'd probably gouge out an eye or smack himself in the back of the head. It was clear he was overmatched; his only hope was that his enemy would get careless and make a mistake.

Sirak moved in again, his training saber moving so quickly that Bane could hear the sizzle as it split the air. Bane leapt forward to meet the challenge, trying to call up the power of the dark side to anticipate and block the dual blades moving too fast for his eyes to see. He felt the Force flowing through him, but it seemed distant and hollow: the veil was still there. He was able to keep the paralyzing edges of Sirak's saber at bay, but it required him to concentrate all his attention on controlling his own blade . . . leaving him vulnerable to the real purpose of the attack being unleashed against him.

Bane's skull exploded as Sirak's forehead slammed into his face. Pain turned his vision into a field of silver stars. The cartilage of his nose gave way with a sickening crunch, a geyser of blood gushing forth. Blind and dazed, he was able to parry the next strike only by instinct guided by the faintest whisper of the Force. But Sirak spun as his saber was turned away and delivered a back roundhouse kick that shattered Bane's kneecap.

Screaming, Bane collapsed, his free hand slamming into the ground as he braced his fall. Sirak crushed the fingers under his boot, grinding them into the unyielding stone of the temple roof. A knee came up, fracturing his cheek and jawbone with a thunderous crack.

With a last, desperate burst Bane tried to hurl his opponent backward with the dark side. Sirak brushed the impact aside, easily deflecting it with the Force-shield he had wrapped himself in at the start of the duel. Then he moved in close to finish the job with his blades. The first blow hit with the impact of a landspeeder slamming into an irax, breaking Bane's right wrist. The training saber dropped from his suddenly nerveless grasp. The next strike took him higher up on the same arm, dislocating his elbow.

A simple kick to the face sent jagged bits of tooth shooting out of his mouth and bolts of pain shooting through his broken jaw. He slumped forward, barely conscious, as Sirak stepped back and lowered his saber, reaching out with a free hand to grab Bane around the throat with the crushing grip of the Force. He raised his arm, lifting the muscular Bane as if he were a child, then hurled him across the ring.

Bane felt another bone snap as he crashed to the ground, but his body had passed into a state of shock and there was no longer any pain. He lay motionless in a crumpled, twisted heap. Blood from his nose and mouth clogged his throat. A coughing fit racked his body, and he heard rather than felt the grinding of his broken ribs.

Everything began to go dim. He caught a glimpse of a pair of blood-flecked boots striding toward him, and then Bane surrendered himself to the merciful darkness.

Kopecz shook his head as he studied the battle plan Kaan had laid out on a makeshift table in the middle of his tent. The holomap of Ruusan's terrain showed the positions of the Sith forces as glowing red triangles floating above the map. The Jedi positions were represented by green squares. Despite this high-tech advancement, the rest of the map was a simple two-dimensional representation of the surrounding area's topography. It did nothing to convey the grim devastation that had left Ruusan a virtual wasteland, ravaged by war.

Three great fleet battles had taken place high above the world in the past year, scattering debris from the losing side across the sparsely populated world each time. Scorched and twisted hulls that had once been ships had crashed into the lush forests, igniting wildfires that had reduced much of the small world's surface to ash and barren soil.

Ruusan, despite its meager size, had become a world of major importance to both the Republic and the Sith. Strategically located on the edges of the Inner Rim, it also stood at what most considered the border between the Republic's dangerous frontier and its safe and secure Core. Ruusan was a symbol. Conquering it represented the inevitable advance of the Sith and their conquest of the Republic; liberating it would be emblematic of the Jedi's ability to drive the invaders away and protect the Republic's citizens. The result was an endless cycle of battles, with neither side willing to admit defeat.

The First Battle of Ruusan had seen the invading Sith fleet rout the Republic forces using the elements of surprise and the strength of Kaan's battle meditation. The second battle saw the Republic try to reclaim control of Ruusan and fail, driven back by the enemy's superior numbers and firepower.

The third battle in the skies above Ruusan marked the emergence of the Army of Light. Instead of Republic cruisers and fighters, the Sith found themselves facing a fleet made up primarily of one-and two-crew fighters piloted exclusively by Jedi. The common soldiers who had joined Kaan's army were no match for the Force, and Ruusan was saved ... for a time.

The Sith had responded to the Army of Light by amassing the full numbers of the Brotherhood of Darkness into a single army, then unleashing it on Ruusan. The war that had ravaged the world from on high moved down to the surface, with far more devastating consequences. Compared with space fleet battles, ground combat was brutal, bloody, and visceral.

Kopecz slammed his fist down on the table. "It's hopeless, Kaan."

The other Dark Lords gathered in the tent murmured in agreement.

"The Jedi positions are too well defended; they have all the advantages," Kopecz went on angrily. "High ground, entrenched fortifications, superior numbers. We can't win this battle!"

"Look again," Kaan replied. "The Jedi have spread themselves too thin."

The big Twi'lek studied the map in more detail and realized Kaan was right. The Jedi perimeter extended too far out from their base camp. It took him barely a moment to realize why.

The clash between armies of Jedi and Sith, led by Jedi Masters and Dark Lords, had shaken the foundations of the world. The power of the Force raged unchecked across the battlefields like the thunder of an exploding star. Towns, villages, and individual homes caught up in the storm had been wiped out, leaving only death and destruction behind. Civilians caught up in the wake of war had been forced to flee, becoming refugees of an epic battle between the champions of light and dark.

Seeing their suffering, the Jedi had sought to console, comfort, and protect the innocent citizens of Ruusan. They planned their strategies around defending civilian settlements and homesteads, even at the expense of resources and tactical advantage. The Sith, of course, made no such concessions.

"The Jedi's compassion is a weakness," Kaan continued. "One we can exploit. If we concentrate our full numbers on a single point, we can breach their lines. Then the advantage will be ours."

The assembled generals and strategists of the Brotherhood of Darkness nodded in agreement. Several raised their voices in roars of triumph and congratulations. Only Kopecz refused to join in the celebrations.

"The Army of Light still outnumbers us two to one," the heavyset Twi'lek reminded them. "Their lines may be overextended in some places, but we don't know where they are vulnerable. They know our scouts are watching; they hide their numbers just as we hide ours. If we attack a location where their numbers are strong, we'll be slaughtered!"

The rest of the generals stilled their voices, no longer swept up in their leader's enthusiasm now that the glaring flaw in his plan had been exposed. Again, there were rumbles of disagreement and displeasure. Kopecz ignored the reaction of the other Dark Lords. For all their power, for all their ambition, they were like so many banthas, blindly following the rest of the herd. In theory everyone in the Brotherhood of Darkness was equal, but in practice Kaan ruled the others.

Kopecz understood this, and he was willing to follow him. The Sith needed a strong and charismatic leader, a man of vision, to quell the infighting that had plagued their ranks. Kaan was just such a leader, and he was normally a brilliant military tactician. But this plan was madness. Suicide. Unlike the rest of the rabble, Kopecz wasn't about to follow their leader into certain death.

"You underestimate me, Kopecz," Kaan reassured him, his voice calm and confident, as if he had anticipated this question all along and had an answer prepared. Perhaps he did. "We won't strike until we know exactly where they are most vulnerable," the Dark Lord explained. "By the time we attack, we'll know the precise number and composition of every unit and patrol along their perimeter."

"How?" Kopecz demanded. "Even our Umbaran shadow spies can't provide us with that kind of detail. Not quickly enough to use it in planning our attack. We have no way of getting the information we'd need."

Kaan laughed. "Of course we do. One of the Jedi will give it to us."

The flaps covering the entrance of the long tent serving as the Sith war room parted as if on cue, and a young human woman clad in the robes of the Jedi order stepped through. She was of average height, but that was the only thing about her that could ever be called average. She had thick, raven hair that tumbled down past her shoulders. Her face and figure were perfect examples of the human female form; her tricopper-hued skin was set off by green eyes smoldering with a heat that was both a warning and an invitation. She moved with the lithe grace of a Twi'lek dancer as she walked the length of the assembled Dark Lords, a coy smile on her lips as she pretended not to hear their whispers of surprise.

Kopecz had seen many striking females in his time. Several of the female Dark Lords gathered in the tent were gorgeous, renowned as much for their incredible beauty as their devastating power. But as the young Jedi drew closer, he found he was unable to take his eyes off her. There was something magnetic about her, something that transcended mere physical attractiveness.

She carried her head high, her proud features issuing an unspoken challenge as she approached. And Kopecz saw something else: naked ambition, raw and hungry.

At his side Kaan whispered, "Remarkable, isn't she?"

She reached the front of the tent and dipped smoothly to one knee, bowing her head ever so slightly in deference to Lord Kaan.

"Welcome, Githany," he said, motioning for her to rise. "We've been waiting for you."

"It's my pleasure, Lord Kaan," she purred. Kopecz felt his knees go momentarily weak at her sensual voice, then snapped to rigid attention. He was too old and too wise to let himself be blinded by this woman's charms. He cared only about what she could offer them against the Jedi.

"You have information for us?" he asked abruptly.

She tilted her head to one side and gave him a curious glance, trying to find the reason for his cold reception. After a moment's pause she answered, "I can tell you exactly where to strike at their lines, and when. Lord Hoth put a Jedi named Kiel Charny in charge of coordinating their defenses. I got the information directly from him."
她将她的头歪向一边,好奇地瞟了他一眼,试图找出被他冷眼相待的原因。过来一会儿后她回答说:“我可以确切地告诉你们何时何地对他们的防线发起攻击。霍斯尊主让一个名为基尔·沙尔尼(Kiel Charny)的绝地负责协调他们的防御。我在他那里得到了准确的信息。”

"Why would this Charny share that kind of information with you?" Kopecz asked suspiciously.

She gave him a sly grin. "Kiel and I were . . . close. We shared many things. He had no idea I would come to you with the information."

Kopecz narrowed his eyes. "I thought the Jedi disapproved of that sort of thing."

Her smile became a sneer. "The Jedi disapprove of a lot of things. That's why I've come to you."

Kaan stepped forward before he could ask any more questions, placing a familiar hand on her hip and turning her away from Kopecz.

"We don't have time for this, Githany," he said. "You must give us your report and return to the Jedi camp before anyone notices you're missing."

She flashed a dazzling smile at Kaan and nodded. "Of course. We have to hurry."

He gently ushered her over to the holomap, and a knot of strategists closed in, shielding her from view as she gave them the details of the Jedi guard. A few seconds later Kaan emerged from the crowd and walked back over to stand beside Kopecz.

"Ambition, betrayal-the dark side is strong in her," the Twi'lek whispered. "I'm surprised the Jedi ever took her in."

"They probably believed they could turn her to the light," Kaan replied, speaking just as softly. "But Githany was born to the dark side. Like me. Like you. It was inevitable she would join the Sith someday."

"The timing is fortunate," Kopecz noted. "Maybe a little too fortunate. It may be a trap. Are you sure we can trust her? I think she's dangerous."

Kaan dismissed the warning with a soft laugh. "So are you, Lord Kopecz. That's what makes you so useful to the Brotherhood."

Bane was floating, weightless, surrounded by darkness and silence. It seemed he was adrift in the black void of death itself.

Then consciousness began to return. His body, jerked from blissful unawareness, thrashed in the dark green fluid of the bacta tank, creating a stream of bubbles that rose silently to the surface. His heart began to pound; he could hear the blood rushing through his veins.

His eyes popped open in time to see a med droid come over to adjust some of the settings on his tank. Within seconds his heart rate slowed and the involuntary thrashing of his bruised and broken limbs settled. But though his body was calmed by the tranquilizer, Bane's mind was now fully alert and aware.

Memories of motion and pain flickered across his mind. The sights, sounds, and smells of combat. He remembered the approach of bloodstained boots: his blood. Kas'im must have stepped in after he'd blacked out and kept Sirak from killing him. They must have brought him here to heal.

At first he was surprised that they would bother to help him recover. Then he realized that he, like all the students at the Academy, was too valuable to the Brotherhood to simply throw away. So he would survive .. . but his life was essentially over.

Since coming to the Academy he had worked toward one clear goal. All his studying, all his training had been for one single purpose: to understand and command the power of the dark side of the Force. The dark side would bring him power. Glory. Strength. Freedom.

Now he would be a pariah at the Academy. He would be allowed to listen in on the group lessons, to practice his skills in Kas'im's training sessions, but that would be all. Any hope he might have had of getting one-on-one training with any of the Masters had been crushed in his humiliating defeat. And without that specializing guidance, his potential would wither and die.

In theory all in the Brotherhood were equal, but Bane was smart enough to see the real truth. In practice the Sith needed leaders, Masters like Kaan, or Lord Qordis here at the Academy. The strong always stepped forward; the weak had no choice but to follow.

Now Bane was doomed to be one of the followers. A life of subservience and obedience.

Through victory my chains are broken. But Bane had not found victory, and he understood all too well the chains of servitude that would bind him forevermore. He was destroyed.

Part of him wished Sirak had just finished the job.








发表于 2013-8-21 21:11 | 显示全部楼层
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 楼主| 发表于 2013-8-22 22:47 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 14

There was an air of unusual celebration in the halls of the Sith Academy. The Brotherhood of Darkness had scored a resounding victory over the Jedi on Ruusan, and the jubilation of the feast Qordis had thrown to mark the victory lingered in the air. During training sessions, drills, and lessons, students could be heard whispering excitedly as details of the battle were shared. The Jedi on Ruusan had been completely wiped out, some said. Others insisted Lord Hoth himself had fallen. There were rumors that the Jedi Temple on Coruscant was defenseless, and it was only a matter of days before it was ransacked by the Dark Lords of the Sith.

The Masters knew that much of what was being said was exaggerated or inaccurate. The Jedi on Ruusan had been routed, but a great many had managed to escape the battle. Lord Hoth was not dead; most likely he was rallying the Jedi for the inevitable counterattack. And the Jedi Temple on Coruscant was still well beyond the reach of Kaan and the Brotherhood of Darkness. On the orders of Qordis, however, the instructors allowed the enthusiasm of their apprentices to go unchecked for the sake of improving morale.

The exultant mood at the Academy had little effect on Bane, however. It had taken three weeks of regular sessions in the bacta tank before he'd fully recovered from the horrific beating Sirak had given him. Most of the time a loss in the dueling ring required only a day or two in the tanks before the student was ready to resume training. Of course, most of the students didn't lose as badly as Bane had.

Hurst had been free with his fists, and Bane had suffered more than a few severe thrashings growing up. The punishments of his youth had taught him how to deal with physical pain, but the trauma inflicted by Sirak was far worse than anything he'd endured at his father's hands.

Bane shuffled slowly down the halls of the Academy, though his measured pace was one of choice rather than necessity. The lingering discomfort he felt was insignificant. Thanks to the bacta tanks his broken bones had mended and his bruises had vanished completely. The emotional damage, however, was more difficult to reverse.

A pair of laughing apprentices approached, regaling each other with supposedly factual accounts of the Sith victory on Ruusan. Their conversation stopped as they neared the solitary figure. Bane ducked his head to avoid meeting their eyes as they passed. One whispered something unintelligible, but the contempt in her tone was unmistakable.

Bane didn't react. He was dealing with the emotional pain in the only way he knew how. The same way he'd dealt with it as a child. He withdrew into himself, tried to make himself invisible to avoid the scorn and derision of others.

His defeat-so public and so complete-had destroyed his already suspect reputation with both the students and the Masters. Even before the duel many had sensed that his power had left him. Now their suspicions had been confirmed. Bane had become an outcast at the Academy, shunned by the other students and disregarded by the Masters.

Even Sirak ignored him. He had beaten his rival into submission; Bane was no longer worthy of his notice. The Zabrak's attention, like the attention of nearly all the apprentices, had turned to the young human female who had come to join them shortly after the battle on Ruusan.

Her name was Githany. Bane had heard that she had once been a Jedi Padawan but had rejected the light in favor of the dark side ... a common enough story at the Academy. Githany, however, was anything but common. She had played an integral role in the Sith victory on Ruusan, and had arrived at Korriban with the fanfare of a conquering hero.

Bane hadn't been strong enough to attend the victory feast where Qordis had introduced the new arrival to the rest of the students, but he had seen her several times at the Academy since then. She was stunningly beautiful; it was obvious that many of the male students lusted after her. It was just as obvious that several of the female students were jealous of her, though they kept their resentment well hidden for their own sake.

Githany was as arrogant and cruel as she was physically becoming, and the Force was exceptionally strong in her. In only a few weeks she'd already developed a reputation for crushing those who got in her way. It was no surprise she had quickly became a favorite of Qordis and the other Dark Lords.

None of this really mattered to Bane, however. He trudged on through the halls, head down, making his way to the library located in the depths of the Academy. Studying the archives had seemed the best way to supplement the teachings of the Masters in the early stages of his development. Now the cold, quiet room far beneath the Temple's main floors offered him his only place of refuge.

Not surprisingly, the massive room was empty save for the rows of shelves stacked with manuscripts haphazardly arranged and then forgotten. Few students bothered to come here. Why waste time contemplating the wisdom of the ancients when you could study at the feet of an actual Dark Lord? Even Bane came here only as a last resort; the Masters wouldn't waste their time on him anymore.

But as he perused the ancient texts, a part of him he'd thought dead began to reawaken. The inner fire-the burning rage that had always been his secret reserve-was gone. Still, even if only faintly, the dark side called to him, and Bane realized that he wasn't ready to give up on himself. And so he gave himself up to studying.

It wasn't permissible for students to remove records from the archive room, so Bane did all his reading there. Yesterday he had finally completed a rather long and detailed treatise by an ancient Sith Lord named Naga Sadow on the uses of alchemy and poisons. Even in that he had found small kernels of deeper wisdom he had claimed for his own. Bit by bit his knowledge was growing.

He walked slowly up and down the rows, glancing at titles and authors, hoping to find something useful. He was so intent on his search that he failed to notice the dark, hooded figure that entered the archives and stood silently in the doorway, watching him.

Githany didn't say a word as the tall, broad-shouldered man wandered through the archives. He was physically imposing; even under his loose-fitting robes his muscles were obvious. Concentrating as she had been taught by the Jedi Masters before she'd betrayed them, she was able to feel the power of the dark side in him; he was remarkably strong in the Force. Yet he didn't carry himself like a man who was strong or powerful. Even here, away from the eyes of anyone else, he walked stooped over, his shoulders hunched.

This was what Sirak could do to a rival, she realized. This was what he could do to her if she went up against him and lost. Githany had every intention of challenging the Academy's acknowledged top student . . . but only once she was certain she could beat him in the dueling ring.

She had sought out Bane hoping to learn from his mistakes. Seeing him now, weak and broken, she realized she might be able to get more from him than just information. Normally she would be wary of allying herself with another student, particularly one as strong as Bane. Githany preferred to work alone; she knew all too well how devastating the consequences of unexpected betrayal could be.

But the man she saw was vulnerable, exposed. He was alone and desperate; he was in no position to betray anyone. She could control him, using him as necessary and disposing of him when she was done.

He took a book down from one of the shelves and walked slowly over to the tables. She waited until he had settled himself in and begun his reading. She took a deep breath and cast back her hood, letting her long tresses cascade down her shoulders. Then she put on her most seductive smile and moved in.

Bane carefully opened the pages of the ancient volume he had taken down from the archive shelves. It was titled The Rakata and the Unknown World, and according to the date was nearly three thousand standard years old. But it wasn't the title or subject matter that had grabbed him. It was the author: Darth Revan. Revan's story was well known to Sith and Jedi alike. What intrigued Bane was the use of the Darth title.
贝恩小心地翻开他从书架上拿下古代书卷的书页。它的标题是拉卡塔人(The Rakata)与未知世界,根据著作日期看来,它已经有将近三千标准年的历史了。但是抓住他的心不是它的标题或主题。而是它的作者:达斯·瑞文【DK你有完没完啊!】。瑞文的故事在西斯和绝地中都是非常闻名的。引起了贝恩的兴趣的是他使用了“达斯”这个头衔。

None of the modern Sith used the Darth name, preferring the designation Dark Lord. Bane had always found this puzzling, but he had never asked the Masters about it. Perhaps in this volume by one of the last great Sith to use the designation he could find out why the tradition had fallen into disuse.

He had barely begun to read the first page when he heard someone approaching. He glanced up to see the Academy's newest apprentice--Githany-striding toward him. She was smiling, making her already remarkable features even more attractive. In the past Bane had only seen her from a distance; up close she literally took his breath away. As she swept into the seat beside him, the faintest whiff of perfume tickled his nose, causing his already racing heart to quicken its beat.

"Bane," she whispered, speaking softly even though there was no one else in the archives to be disturbed by their conversation. "I've been looking for you."

Her statement caught him by surprise. "Looking for me? Why?"

She placed a hand on his forearm. "I need you. I need your help against Sirak."

Her closeness, the brief contact with his arm, and her alluring fragrance sent his head spinning. It took him several moments to figure out what she meant, but once he did her sudden interest in him became obvious. News of his humiliation at the Zabrak's hands had reached her ears. She had come to see him in person, hoping she might learn something that would keep her from falling victim to a similar failure.

"I can't help you with Sirak," he said, turning away from her and burying his face in his book.

The hand on his forearm gently squeezed, and he looked up again. She had leaned in closer, and he found himself staring right into her emerald eyes.

"Please, Bane. Just listen to what I have to say."

He nodded, not sure if he'd even be able to speak while she was pressed so close against him. He closed the book and turned slightly in his chair to better face her. Githany gave a grateful sigh and leaned back slightly. He felt a small flicker of disappointment as her hand slipped from his arm.

"I know what happened to you in the dueling ring," she began. "I know everyone believes Sirak destroyed you; that somehow the defeat robbed you of your power. I can see you believe it, too."

Her face had taken on an expression of sorrow. Not pity, thankfully. Bane didn't want that from anyone-especially not her. But she showed genuine regret as she spoke.

When he didn't reply she took a deep breath and continued. "They're wrong, Bane. You can't just lose your ability to command the Force. None of us can. The Force is part of us; it's part of our being.

"I heard accounts of what you did to that Makurth. That showed what you were capable of. It revealed your true potential; it proved you were blessed with a mighty gift." She paused. Her gaze was intense. "You may believe you've squandered that gift, or lost it. But I know better. I can sense the power inside you. I can feel it. It's still there."

Bane shook his head. "The power may be there, but my ability to control it is gone. I'm not what I used to be."

"That's not possible," she said, her voice gentle. "How can you believe that?"

Though he knew the answer, he hesitated before replying. It was a question he had asked himself countless times while floating in the weightless fluid of the bacta tank. After his defeat he'd had plenty of opportunity to struggle with his failure, and he'd eventually come to realize what had gone wrong ... though not how to fix it.

He wasn't sure he wanted to share his personal revelation with a virtual stranger. But who else was he going to tell? Not the other students; certainly not the Masters. And even though he hardly knew Githany, she had reached out to him. She was the only one to do so.

Exposing personal weakness was something only a fool or an idiot would risk here at the Academy. Yet the hard truth was that Bane had nothing left to lose.

"All my life I've been driven by my anger," he explained. He spoke slowly, staring down at the surface of the table, unable to look her in the eye. "My anger made me strong. It was my connection to the Force and the dark side. When Fohargh died-when I killed him-I realized I was responsible for my father's death. I killed him through the power of the dark side."

"And you felt guilty?" she asked, once again placing a soft hand on his arm.

"No. Maybe. I don't know." Her hand was warm; he could feel the heat radiating through the fabric of his sleeve to his skin underneath. "All I know is that the realization changed me. The anger that drove me was gone. All that was left behind was ... well ... nothing."

"Give me your hand." Her voice was stern, and Bane hesitated only an instant before reaching out. She clasped his palm with both her hands. "Close your eyes," she ordered, even as she shut her own.

In the darkness he became acutely aware of how tightly she had clenched his hand: squeezing the flesh so hard he could feel the beating of her heart through her palms. It was quick and urgent, and his already racing heart accelerated in response.

He felt a tingling in his fingers, something beyond mere physical contact. She was reaching out with the Force.

"Come with me, Bane," she whispered.

Suddenly he felt as if he were falling. No, not falling: diving. Swooping down into a great abyss, the black emptiness inside his very being. The chill darkness numbed his body; he lost all sensation in his extremities. He could no longer feel Githany's hands wrapped about his own. He didn't even know if she was still sitting beside him. He was alone in the freezing void.

"The dark side is emotion, Bane." Her words came to him from a long way off, faint but unmistakable. "Anger, hate, love, lust. These are what make us strong. Peace is a lie. There is only passion." Her words were louder now, loud enough to drown out the drumming of his heart. "Your passion is still there, Bane. Seek it out. Reclaim it."

As if in response to her words his emotions began to well up inside him. He felt anger. Fury. Pure, pulsing hatred: hatred of the other students for ostracizing him, hatred of the Masters for abandoning him. Most of all he hated Sirak. And with the hate came the hunger for revenge.

Then he felt something else. A spark; a flicker of light and heat in the cold darkness. His mind lunged out and grasped the flame, and for one brief instant he felt the glorious power of the Force burning through him once more. Then Githany let go of his hand and it was gone-snuffed out as if he had merely imagined it. But he hadn't. It was real. He'd actually felt it.

He opened his eyes warily, like a man waking from a dream he was afraid to forget. From the expression on Githany's face, he knew she must have felt something, too.

"How did you do that?" he asked, trying and failing to keep the desperation out of his voice.

"Master Handa taught me when I was studying under him in the Jedi order," she admitted. "I lost touch with the Force once, just as you have. I was still a young girl when it happened. My mind simply couldn't cope with something so vast and infinite. It created a wall to protect itself?'
“寒达大师(Master Handa)教会了我这个,那时我还在绝地武士团中,在他的指导下学习。”她承认道。“我一度失去了与原力的接触,就像你这样。在它发生的时候我仍是一个小女孩。我的意识还太简单,没法对付像这样广阔而无垠的东西。它创造了一堵墙来保护自己?”

Bane nodded, remaining fervently silent so she could continue.

"Your anger is still there. As is the Force. Now you must break through the walls you've built around it. You have to go back to the beginning and learn how to connect with the Force once more."

"How do I do that?"

"Training?" Githany answered, as if it was obvious. "How else does one learn to use the Force?"

The faint hope her revelation had kindled inside him died.

"The Masters won't train me anymore," he mumbled. "Qordis has forbidden it."

"I will train you:' Githany said coyly. "I can share with you everything I learned from the Jedi about the Force. And whatever I learn about the dark side from the Masters I can teach to you, as well."

Bane hesitated. Githany was no Master, yet she had trained as a Jedi for many years. She probably knew much about the Force that would be new to him. At the very least he'd learn more with her help than without it. And yet something bothered him about her offer.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked.

She gave him a sly smile. "Still don't trust me? Good. You shouldn't. I'm only in this for myself. I can't defeat Sirak on my own. He's too strong?'

"They say he's the Sith'ari," Bane muttered.

"I don't believe in prophecies," she countered. "But he has powerful allies. And the other Zabrak apprentices here are completely loyal to him. If I'm ever going to challenge him, I need somebody on my side. Somebody strong in the Force. Somebody like you."

Her reasons made sense, but there was still something bothering him. "Lord Qordis and the other Masters wouldn't approve of this," he warned her. "You're taking an awful risk."

"Risks are the only way to claim the rewards," she replied. "Besides, I don't care what the Masters think. In the end those who survive are the ones who look after themselves."

It took Bane a second to realize why her words sounded so familiar. Then he remembered the last thing Groshik had said to him before he left Apatros. In the end each of us is in this alone. The survivors are those who know how to look out for themselves.

"You help me regain the Force, and I'll help you against Sirak," he said, extending his arm. She clasped it in her own, then stood up to leave. Bane held his grip, forcing her to sit back down. There was a dangerous glint in her eye, but he didn't let go.

"Why did you leave the Jedi?" he asked.

Her expression softened, and she shook her head. She extended her free hand and placed it gently on his cheek. "I don't think I'm quite ready to share that with you."

He nodded. He didn't need to push her now, and he knew he hadn't earned the right yet.

The hand on his cheek fell away, and he let go of her arm. She gave him one last appraising glance, then rose and walked away with brisk, purposeful strides. She never glanced back, but Bane was content to follow her swaying hips until she was out of sight.

Githany knew he was watching her make her exit. Men always watched her; she was used to it.

All in all she felt the meeting had gone well. For a split second at the end-when he'd refused to let go of her arm-she had wondered if she'd underestimated him. His defiance had caught her off guard; she'd expected someone weak and subservient. But once she'd looked into his eyes she'd realized he was clinging to her out of desperation and fear. One single meeting and he already couldn't bear to let her go.

Even though she'd been with the Sith only a short time, the ways of the dark side came naturally to her. She felt no pity or sorrow for him; his vulnerability only made him easier to control. And unlike the Jedi, the Brotherhood of Darkness rewarded ambition. Each rival she brought low proved her worth and elevated her status within the Sith.

Bane would make the perfect tool to bring her rivals down, she thought. He was incredibly strong in the Force. Even stronger than she'd first realized. She'd been amazed at the power she'd felt inside him. And now he was completely wrapped around her finger. She just had to make sure he stayed that way.

She'd bring him along slowly, always keeping him just behind her own abilities. It was a dangerous game, but one she knew she could play well. Knowledge was power, and she alone controlled what knowledge he would gain. She'd teach him. String him along, twist him to her will, then use him to crush Sirak. And then, if she felt Bane was growing too powerful, she'd destroy him, too.

Night had fallen over Korriban; sputtering torches cast eerie shadows in the halls of the Academy. Bane made his way through those halls wrapped in a black cloak, little more than a shadow himself.

It was forbidden for apprentices to leave their rooms after curfew-one of the steps Qordis had taken to reduce the "unexplained" deaths that seemed to be all too common in academies populated by rival students of the dark side. Bane knew that if he was caught, the punishment would be severe. But this was the only time he could act without fear of being seen by the other students.

He wound his way through the dormitory floor that housed the students until he reached the stairway leading to the upper levels and the Masters' quarters. He glanced quickly from side to side, peering into the flickering shadows cast on the stone walls. He paused, listening for the sound of anyone who might catch him in the halls. He had memorized the routes of the night sentries who patrolled the corridors after dark; he knew it would be almost an hour before they returned to this floor of the temple. But there were many other underlings-kitchen staff, cleaning staff, groundskeepers-who served the needs of the Academy and might be wandering about.

Hearing only silence, he proceeded up the stairs. He made his way quickly past the personal quarters of Qordis, somewhat relieved to see that even the Sith Master felt the need to close and lock his door at night. He continued on past another half a dozen doors, pausing only when he reached the entrance to the Blademaster's room.

He knocked once softly, careful not to wake the others. Before he could knock a second time, the door swung open to reveal the Twi'lek. For a split second Bane thought he must have been standing on the other side waiting for him. But that was impossible, of course. More likely the Blademaster's highly tuned reflexes had reacted to the first knock so quickly that he had already crossed the room and opened the door by the time the second rap came.

He was clad in a pair of pants, but his torso was bare, showing his scarred and tattooed chest. His confused expression confirmed Bane's assumption that the Blademaster hadn't known he was coming, and the speed with which he reached out to grab Bane and haul him inside the room confirmed his suspicions about his extraordinary reflexes.

Before Bane even realized what was happening, the door was closed and locked behind him, sealing the two of them together in the small, dark room. His host lit a small glow rod on a stand by the bed and turned to glare at his uninvited guest.

"What are you doing here?" he hissed, keeping his voice low.

Bane hesitated, uncertain how much to tell him. He had been thinking about Githany's offer, and what she had said to him. He had decided she was right: he had to look out for himself if he was to survive. That meant he had to be the one to bring Sirak down, not her.

"I want you to train me again:" Bane whispered. "I want you to teach me all you know about the art of lightsaber combat."

Kas'im shook his head in response, but Bane thought he sensed a brief hesitation before he did so.

"Qordis will never allow it. He has made it very clear that none of the Masters is to waste any more time on you."

"I didn't think you answered to Qordis," Bane countered. "Aren't all the Masters equal in the Brotherhood of Darkness?"

It was a blatant appeal to the Blademaster's pride, and the Twi'lek easily recognized it for what it was. He smiled, amused at Bane's boldness. "True enough," he admitted. "But here on Korriban the other Lords defer to Qordis. It avoids ... complications."

"Qordis doesn't have to know," Bane pointed out, taking heart in the fact that Kas'im hadn't flat-out refused him yet. "Train me in secret. We can meet at night on the temple roof."

"Why should I do this?" the Twi'lek asked, crossing his muscular arms. "You ask for the teachings of a Sith Lord, but what are you offering me in return?"

"You know my potential," Bane pressed. "Qordis has cast me aside. If I succeed now, he cannot take the credit. If I become an expert warrior for the Brotherhood, Lord Kaan will know you were the one who trained me. And if I fail, no one will ever suspect your part in this. You have nothing to lose."

"Nothing but my time," the other replied, scratching his chin. "You've lost your will to fight. You proved that against Sirak." His lekku were quivering ever so slightly, and Bane took it as a sign that, despite his words, he was seriously considering the offer.

Again, Bane hesitated. How much did he dare to reveal? He still planned to let Githany teach him about the Force and the ways of the dark side. But he had realized that if she was his only teacher, he would forever be beneath her in power. If he wanted to be the one to take out Sirak, he'd need Kas'im to help him . . . and he'd need to keep her from finding out.

"My will to fight is back," he finally said, deciding not to reveal Githany's involvement in his sudden resurrection. "I'm ready to embrace the power of the dark side."

Kas'im nodded. "Why are you doing this?"

Bane knew this was the final test. Kas'im was a Dark Lord of the Sith. His talent and skill were reserved for those who would one day rise up and join the Masters in the Brotherhood of Darkness. He wanted more than proof that Bane was truly ready for this. He wanted proof that Bane was worthy.

"I want revenge," Bane replied after careful consideration. "I want to destroy Sirak. I want to crush him like an insect beneath the heel of my boot."

The Blademaster smiled in grim satisfaction at his answer. "We will begin tomorrow."










 楼主| 发表于 2013-8-22 22:48 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 15

Bane made his way down the hall with careful, measured steps. But though his pace was somber and subdued, his mood was one of elated triumph. In the weeks since his fateful meeting with Githany his situation had turned around completely.

As promised, she was teaching him. The first few sessions had gone slowly as she'd helped him work through his mind's fear of its own potential. Bit by bit the black veil had been torn away. Piece by piece she was helping him reclaim what he had lost, until once again he felt the power of the dark side coursing through his veins.

Since then the training had gone much more quickly. His hunger for revenge drove his studies. It fueled his ability to use the Force. It enabled him to understand the lessons that the Masters had taught Githany and she had then passed on to him. Despite being ignored by the instructors, he was once again learning everything the other apprentices were being taught-and learning it rapidly.

As another student passed Bane bowed his head, keeping up the pretense of subservience. It was important that none of the others suspected anything had changed. He kept his training with Githany hidden from everyone, even Kas'im ... just as the Blademaster's training was kept secret from her.

Kas'im knew he was growing more formidable with the blade, but didn't know he was making similar strides in other areas. Githany could see his progress in unleashing his true potential with the Force, but wasn't aware he was also mastering the intricacies of lightsaber combat. As a result, they were both likely to underestimate the full scope of his abilities. Bane liked the subtle edge that gave him.

His days were now filled with study and training. In the darkest hours before morning's first light he would meet Kas'im to practice drills and techniques. He would meet with Githany in the archives in the midday, where she could share instruction with him without fear of interruption or discovery. And whenever he wasn't training with Kas'im or studying with Githany, he read the ancient texts.

Another apprentice approached and Bane moved to the side, projecting an image of weakness and fear to hide his remarkable metamorphosis. He waited until the other apprentice's footsteps faded away before heading down the stairs toward the tomes in the temple's lowest levels.

Qordis or one of the other Masters might have been able to pierce the false front he projected and sense his true power, were they not blinded by their own arrogance. They had dismissed him as a failure; now he was beneath their notice. Fortunately, this anonymity suited Bane just fine.

He hardly slept at all anymore. It seemed his body no longer needed sleep; it fed on his growing command of the dark side. An hour or two of meditation each day was enough to keep his body energized and his mind invigorated. He consumed knowledge with the appetite of a starving rancor, devouring everything he got from his secret mentors and always hungering for more. The Blademaster was amazed at his progress, and even Githany-despite her years of study with the Jedi-was hard-pressed to keep ahead of him. Everything he learned from them he supplemented with the wisdom of the ancients. On his first arrival he had sensed the value of the archives, only to turn his back on them as he had been drawn into the daily routine and intense lessons of the Academy. Now he understood that his initial instincts had been right after all: the knowledge contained in the yellowed parchments and leather-bound manuscripts was timeless. The Force was eternal, and though the Masters at the Academy now walked a different path than their Sith forebears had, they all sought answers in the dark side.

He smiled at the irony of this life. He was the outcast, the student Qordis had wanted left behind. Yet with Githany, Kas'im, and his own study of the archives, he was receiving far more education than any other apprentice on Korriban.

The truth would be revealed soon enough. When the time was right, Sirak would discover that he had underestimated Bane. They all would.

"Excellent!" Kas'im said as Bane blocked the Dark Lord's flurry and countered with one of his own. He didn't actually score a direct hit, but he did force the Blademaster to take a full step back under the fury of his assault.

Suddenly the Twi'lek leapt high in the air, spinning and twisting so he could lash down at Bane as he flipped over the top of him. Bane was ready, switching from offense to defense so smoothly it all seemed to be a single action. He parried both blades of Kas'im's weapon even as he ducked out of the way and rolled clear to safety.

He spun to face his foe, only to see that Kas'im had lowered his weapon, signifying the end of the lesson.

"Very good, Bane," the Twi'lek said, giving him a slight bow. "I thought you might be caught off guard by that move, but you were able to anticipate and defend it with near-perfect form."

Bane basked in his Master's praise, but he was sorry to know the session was over. He was breathing hard, his muscles glistening with sweat and twitching with adrenaline, yet he felt as if he could have continued fighting for hours. Sparring and drills had become much more than mere physical exertion for him now. Each movement, every strike and thrust, had become an extension of the Force acting through the corporeal shell of his flesh-and-bone body.

He longed to engage another opponent in the dueling ring. He hungered for the challenge of testing himself against the other apprentices. But it wasn't time. Not yet. He still wasn't good enough to defeat Sirak, and until he could take the Zabrak down he had to keep his rapidly developing talent hidden.

Kas'im tossed him a towel. Bane was pleased to see that the Twi'lek was sweating, too-though nowhere near as profusely as he was.

"Do you have anything you want me to work on for tomorrow?" Bane asked eagerly. "A new sequence? A new form? Anything?"

"You've moved far beyond sequences and forms," the Master told him. "In that last pass you broke off your attack in the middle of one sequence and came at me from a completely different and unexpected angle."

"I did?" Bane was surprised. "I ... I didn't really mean to."

"That's what made it such a potentially devastating move," Kas'im explained. "You're letting the Force guide your blade now. You act without thought or reason. You're driven by passion: fury, anger . . . even hate. Your saber has become an extension of the dark side."

Bane couldn't help smiling, but then his brow furrowed in consternation. "I still couldn't get past your defenses," he said, trying to re-create the battle in his mind. No matter what he had tried to do, it seemed one side of the Twi'lek's twin-bladed weapon was always there to parry his attack. A seed of doubt crept into his mind as he recalled that Sirak used a similar style of weapon. "Does the double-bladed lightsaber give you an advantage?" he asked.

"It does, but not in the way you believe," Kas'im replied.

Bane was silent, waiting patiently for further explanation. After a few seconds his Master obliged him.

"As you already know, the Force is the real key to victory in any confrontation. However, the equation is not so simple. Someone well trained in lightsaber combat can defeat an opponent who is stronger in the Force. The Force allows you to anticipate your opponent's moves and counter them with your own. But the more options your foe has available, the more difficult it is to predict which will be chosen."

Bane thought he understood. "So the double-bladed weapon gives you more options?"

"No," Kas'im replied. "But you think it does, so the effect is the same."

For several seconds Bane thought about the Blademaster's strange words, trying to decipher them. In the end he had to admit defeat. "I still don't understand, Master."

"You know the single-bladed lightsaber well; you use it yourself and you've seen most of the other apprentices use it, as well. My double-bladed weapon seems strange to you. Unfamiliar. You don't fully understand what it can and cannot do." From the lack of impatience or exasperation in the Twilek's tone, Bane could tell this was something he hadn't been expected to grasp on his own.

"In combat, your mind tries to keep track of each blade separately, effectively doubling the number of possibilities. But the two blades are connected: by knowing the location of one, you are automatically aware of the location of the other. In actual practice, the double-bladed lightsaber is more limited than the traditional lightsaber. It can do more damage, but it is less precise. It requires longer, sweeping movements that don't transition well into a quick stab or thrust. Because the weapon is difficult to master, however, few among the Jedi-or even the Sith-understand it. They don't know how to attack or defend effectively against it. That gives those of us who use it an advantage over most of our opponents."

"Like Githany's whip!" Bane exclaimed. Githany eschewed traditional weaponry in favor of the very rare energy whip: just one of the many traits that made her stand out from the other apprentices. It operated on the same basic principles as a lightsaber, but instead of a steady beam, the energy of the crystals was projected in a flexible ribbon that would twist, turn, and snap in response to both Githany's physical motions and her use of the Force.
“就像简缇妮的鞭子!”贝恩大声说出。简缇妮避开了传统的武器,而喜欢用一种很罕见的能量鞭(energy whip):这又是一个让她与其他学徒格格不入的特征。它的基本原理与光剑一样,但取代了一根稳定的能量束的是,水晶投射出来的能量会形成柔软的带状物,通过简缇妮的身体动作和她使用的原力能使它扭曲、转向和挥打。【看上去像一件神器...】

"Exactly. The energy whip is far less efficient than any of the lightsaber blades. However, nobody ever practices against the whip. Githany knows that her enemies' confusion at being confronted with the whip gives her an edge."

"By telling me this secret, you've given up your advantage," Bane noted, smiling as he pointed to Kas'im's double saber.

"Only to a very small degree," the Twi'lek said. "You now understand why an exotic weapon or unfamiliar style will be more difficult to defend against, but until you become an expert in a particular style, in the heat of combat your mind will still struggle to grasp its limitations."

Bane kept pressing, eager to turn this new insight into something practical he could use. "So by studying different styles, I could negate that advantage?"

"In theory. But time spent studying other styles is time away from mastering your own form. Your best progress will come from focusing more on yourself and less on your opponent."

"Then why even bother telling me all this?" Bane blurted out, frustrated.

"Knowledge is power, Bane. My purpose is to give you that knowledge. It is up to you to figure out how best to use it."

With those words the Blademaster left him, heading down the temple stairs to steal a few hours of sleep before the morning sun rose. Bane remained behind, wrestling with the lesson until it was time to meet Githany in the archives.

The smell of burning ozone wafted through the archives, filling Githany's nostrils as she watched Bane practicing his latest exercise. The room crackled and hissed as he channeled the energy of the Force and flung it about the room in great arcing bolts of blue-violet lightning.

Githany stood with Bane at the center of a maelstrom. A fierce wind swirled around them, tearing at her hair and the folds of her robe. It rocked and shook the bookshelves, knocking manuscripts to the floor and rifling their pages. The air itself was charged with electricity, causing her skin to itch.

In the midst of it all, Bane laughed, then raised his arms in triumph and launched another blast to ricochet off the far wall. Each time the lightning flared, the intensity of the flash burned Githany's retinas, causing her to shield her eyes. She noticed that Bane didn't look away: his eyes were wide and wild with the rush of power.

The thunder was almost deafening, and the storm was still building. If Bane wasn't careful, the echoes would reach the levels above the archives, revealing their secret training ground to the rest of the Academy.

Moving carefully, Githany reached out and touched his arm. He snapped his head around to face her, and the madness in his eyes almost made her recoil. Instead she smiled.

"Very good, Bane!" she shouted, trying to make her voice heard above the din. "That's enough for today!"

She held her breath in anticipation until he nodded and lowered his arms. Instantly she felt the power of the storm abating. Within a few seconds it was gone; only the mess it had made remained.

"I've-I've never felt anything like that before," Bane gasped, his face still showing his exhilaration.

Githany nodded. "It's a remarkable sensation," she agreed. "But you must be careful not to lose yourself in it." She was parroting the words of Master Qordis, who had taught her how to summon Force lightning only a few days earlier. However, she had never conjured anything even approaching the majesty of what Bane had just unleashed.

"You must maintain control, or you could find yourself swept up in the storm along with your enemies," she told him, trying to mimic the calm, slightly condescending tone the Masters used with their apprentices. She couldn't let him know that he had already surpassed her in this new talent. She couldn't let him know that she had felt the cold grip of fear clutching at her during his performance.

He looked around at the toppled shelves, taking in the books and scrolls strewn about the room. "We'd better clean this up before somebody sees it and wonders what happened in here."

She nodded again, and the two of them set to restoring the archives to their previous state. As they worked, Githany couldn't help but wonder if she had made a mistake in allying herself with Bane.

Only the top apprentices had been present when Qordis had taught them to use the dark side to corrupt the Force into a deadly storm. None of them-not even Sirak-had been able to create much more than a few jolts of energy that first day. Yet only an hour after being taught the technique by Githany, Bane had summoned enough energy to rip apart an entire room.

This wasn't the first time Bane had taken a lesson she had taught him and exceeded her achievements on his first attempt. He was far stronger in the Force than she had realized, and he seemed to be growing more so each day. She worried that she might lose her control over him.

She was careful, of course. She wasn't foolish enough to tell him everything she learned from the Sith Masters. Yet that didn't seem to be giving her an advantage over her pupil anymore. Sometimes she wondered if all his study of the ancient texts was actually giving him an advantage over her. Learning at the feet of a true Master should be more beneficial than reading theoretical works written thousands of years earlier ... unless the current-day Sith were somehow flawed.

Unfortunately, she didn't know how she could test her theory. If she suddenly started spending hours each day in the archives, Bane would wonder what she was up to. He might decide that her teachings weren't as valuable as what he could learn on his own. He might decide she was expendable. And if it came down to a confrontation, she was no longer sure she could defeat him.

But Githany prided herself on her adaptability. Her initial plan of keeping him as a subservient apprentice was no longer viable. She still wanted Bane on her side, though; he could prove to be a powerful ally-beginning with his killing Sirak.

They worked in silence for the next hour, gathering up the books and straightening the shelves. By the time the room was restored to some semblance of order, Githany's back ached from the constant bending, lifting, and reaching. She collapsed into one of the chairs, giving Bane a tired smile.

"I'm exhausted," she said with an exaggerated sigh.

He made his way over and stepped behind her, placing his large hands on her shoulders, just at the base of her long neck. He began to massage the muscles, his caress surprisingly gentle for a man so large.

"Mmm . . . that feels nice," she admitted. "Where did you learn to do this?"

"Working the cortosis mines teaches you a lot about aches and pains," he replied, working his thumbs deep into her shoulder blades. She gasped and arched her back, then went slowly limp as her muscles melted beneath his touch.

He rarely spoke of his past life, though over their time together she had pieced most of it together. In contrast, she had always been much more guarded with what she revealed about herself.

"You asked me once why I left the Jedi," she mumbled, feeling herself drifting away on the rhythmic pressure of his fingers on her neck. "I never told you, did I?"

"We all have things in our past we would rather not revise.” he replied without stopping. "I knew you would tell me when you were ready." She closed her eyes and let her head fall back as he continued to knead her shoulders.

"My Master was a Cathar," she said softly. "Master Handa. I studied under him for almost as long as I can remember; my parents gave me over to the order when I was just a toddler."

"I've heard the Jedi care little for the bonds that hold families together."

"They only care about the Force," she admitted after a moment's consideration. "Worldly attachments-friends, family, lovers-cloud the mind with emotion and passion."

Bane chuckled, a deep, low sound she felt thrumming through the tips of his fingers. "Passion leads to the dark side. Or so I've heard."

"It wasn't a joke to the Jedi. Especially not to Master Handa. The Cathar are known as a hot-blooded species. He was always warning me and Kiel about the dangers of giving in to our emotions."


"Kiel Charny. Another of Handa's Padawans. We often trained together; he was only a year older than me."

"Another Cathar?" Bane asked.

"No, Kiel was human. Over the years we became close. Very close."

The slight increase in the pressure of his touch told her that Bane had taken in the full meaning of her words. She pretended not to notice. "Kiel and I were lovers," she continued. "The Jedi are forbidden from forming such attachments. The Masters fear it will cloud the mind with dangerous emotions."

"Were you really attracted to him, or just to the idea of disobeying your Master?"

She thought about it for a long time. "A bit of both, perhaps," she said finally. "He was handsome enough. Strong in the Force. There was an undeniable attraction."

Bane only grunted in response. His hands had stopped massaging, and were now resting on her neck.

"Once we became lovers it didn't take long for Master Handa to find out. Despite all his preaching about controlling emotion, I could tell he was furious. He commanded us to set our feelings aside and forbade us from continuing our relationship."

Bane snorted his contempt. "Did he really think it would be that simple?"

"The Jedi see emotion as part of our bestial nature. They believe we must transcend our baser instincts. But I know passion is what makes us strong. The Jedi only fear it because it makes their Padawans unpredictable and difficult to control.

"Master Handa's reaction made me realize the truth. Everything the Jedi believed about the Force was a perversion of reality, a lie. I finally understood I would never reach my full potential under Master Handa. That was the moment I turned my back on the order and began planning my defection to the Sith."

"What about Kiel Charny?" He was rubbing her shoulders once again, but his hands were a little rougher now.

"I asked him to come with me," she confessed. "I told him we had a choice to make: the Jedi, or each other. He chose the Jedi."

The tension in Bane's hands eased ever so slightly. "Is he dead?"

She laughed. "Did I kill him, do you mean? No, he was still alive the last I heard. He may have died battling the Sith on Ruusan since then, but I didn't feel the urge to kill him myself."

"Then I guess your feelings for him weren't as strong as you thought."

Githany stiffened. It might have been a joke, but she knew there was truth in Bane's words. Kiel had been convenient. Though there was a physical attraction, he had become more than a friend mostly because of her situation: studying day and night with him under Master Handa; the pressure of living up to the unrealistic ideals of a Jedi; the stress of being trapped in the seemingly endless war on Ruusan.

Bane ringed her neck with his hands, his touch firm but not tight. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, causing her to shiver at the warmth and closeness of his breath. "When you finally betray me, I hope you care enough to try to kill me yourself."

She jumped up from the chair, slapping his hands away and spinning to face him. For a split second she saw a self-satisfied expression on his face. Then it was gone, replaced by a look of apologetic concern.

"I'm sorry, Githany. It was just a joke. I didn't mean to upset you."

"I opened up a painful part of my past, Bane," she said warily. "It's not something I want to make light of."

"You're right," he said. "I ... I'll go."

She studied him as he turned and made his way out of the archives. He seemed genuinely sorry for what he'd said, as if he regretted hurting her. The perfect situation to give her the emotional leverage she had been looking for ... if only she hadn't seen that flicker of something else.

Once he was gone she shook her head, trying to make sense of the situation. Bane looked like a great, hulking brute of a man, but there was wisdom and cunning beneath his heavy brow and bald skull.

She thought back on the last twenty minutes, trying to determine when she had lost control of the situation. There had been sparks between them, just as she had intended. Bane had done nothing to hide his desire for her; she'd sensed the heat as he caressed her neck. Still, something had gone wrong with her carefully planned seduction.

Was it possible she actually felt something for him?

Githany unconsciously bit her lower lip. Bane was powerful, intelligent, and bold. She needed him if she was going to eliminate Sirak. But he had a knack for surprising her. He kept challenging and defying her expectations.

She had to admit she found him intriguing in spite of this. Or perhaps because of it. Bane was everything Kiel hadn't been: ambitious, impulsive, unpredictable. Despite her best intentions, some small part of her was drawn to him. And that, more than anything else, made him a very dangerous ally.








发表于 2013-8-24 13:09 | 显示全部楼层










 楼主| 发表于 2013-8-24 13:14 | 显示全部楼层
回复 29# tomcat_z

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