The meeting took the most part of the morning and the beginning of the afternoon to strategise a plan. Present were Mandalore, Kelbourn, Talyc, Knarf, Shadie, Brenum, Trylia, Master Salah, and the whole of the Jedi Council, with of course Master Herl’unik, the Grand Master.
Then the Mandalorians, along with Knarf, were dismissed, and the Jedi stayed a bit longer. Surprisingly, there was less talk of the risks involved or of Kromus, but more of his holocron. There was the possibility that it could be with him if he still needed it to feed him power, otherwise they would need to find out where he’d hidden it. If they did not, he could be brought back another time and Shadie would be forced to kill him yet a third time. There was much talk of what to do in the event Shadie would die, and if — it was implied by some of the masters present — she turned to the dark side. They also discussed the consequences of such things on the galaxy and the Republic. Much was at stake.
When the meeting was over, Shadie found Knarf in one of the corridors not far from the Council Chamber, sitting on a bench, looking down at his helmet, which he held in his hands. He looked grim.
‘Knarf,’ said Shadie as she approached, ‘what’s wrong?’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘I have a decision to make.’ He stood and paced a bit, then faced her. ‘I’ve been asked by the Mandalore himself to join the battle with the Mandalorians. I’d have my own starfighter, and then we would board some of the Sith ships.’
‘Oh.’ Shadie took it in. ‘What about you staying by my side?’
Knarf looked away. ‘That’s what I’m not sure about anymore.’
‘I don’t understand. Are you afraid you might die?’
‘Look, you will defeat Kromus, and then what? Be a Jedi? And me, I can go back to slicing and programming, or I can join the Mandalorians…’
‘We can be together,’ said Shadie, ‘because we want to be, and we’ll figure out the rest together.’
‘That’s just it, Shadie. I’m not sure what I want. I know I care about you and I want to be with you. I know I don’t want to lose you, nor to death, nor to the dark side. I know that you make me happy…’
‘Then where’s the problem? What’s holding you back?’ Shadie could feel her heart thumping; she could feel fear, sadness, and anger within her. ‘Knarf, I care about you more than you may ever know. You make me happy and I want to be with you.’
‘But it’s not as simple as that, is it?’ Knarf looked pained to be voicing these thoughts. Shadie shook her head. His words made her feel disposable, and she knew he was sensing that from her somehow, she knew he was sad and hurt to see her sad and hurt.
‘Why does it have to be complicated?’ she said softly. ‘What are you afraid of?’
He shrugged. ‘I’m not sure. What are you afraid of?’
Shadie swallowed hard. Knarf could tell fear was dominating her being at that moment; just by the way he looked at her, she knew he sensed it.
‘I… I can’t say,’ she said at last.
There was a long awkward silence filled with sadness, as Knarf started to turn and go, and Shadie did nothing to hide her tears. She felt disposable. She’d never felt that before, and she couldn’t explain why the situation was making her feel this way, but she let her emotions through so that Knarf could feel it too. Perhaps through the Force, he would understand what words could not express.
‘Oh, Shadie,’ said Knarf tenderly. He turned back to her and put a hand on her face and wiped a tear. He looked sad, confused. ‘I’m sorry. I’m hurting you right now, aren’t I? I don’t want to lose you, I’m just scared. And it’s hurting me. But I don’t know if I can do this, fight by your side. Watch you almost die again, or almost turn to the dark side. I’m not sure if I’m more afraid of losing you or of dying. I don’t even know if I should be fighting in this war at all. Look at me, a Mandalorian warrior, but I’m just a slicer.’ He paused, his deep brown eyes staring at her in a piercing gaze. ‘I need time to figure it out.’
Shadie looked at him straight in the eyes.
‘I love you,’ she said at last. ‘And I fear that you don’t feel the same.’
Knarf swallowed, as though taking her words in.
Before he could reply, a dark figure jumped down from the ceiling airshaft, causing both of them to bounce back in a stagger. The hooded being ignited a crimson blade and struck Knarf at the mid. Knarf fell back, recovering with a barrel roll. He looked at the Sith assassin as he remained in a crouched position.
‘Mandalorian beskar’gam, you Sith poodoo. You’re not going to kill me that easily.’