They sat at some padded seats at a booth with high backs in the district’s tapcaf. Fane fidgeted. She could sense great apprehension from him. Something about Knarf’s theories unsettled him. If Knarf was correct, then the Sith had somehow infiltrated the Republic senate. What other governments could they infiltrate?
To Shadie’s right sat Knarf and then Fane, across from them sat Mandalore and Talyc, both of whom had taken their helmets off; each of their helmets placed in front of them on the table.
‘So, I’m told Coruscant can no longer be relied on or trusted as it used to be,’ said Mandalore. ‘And that the Sith will attack Mandalore with great weapons capable of causing much destruction.’ Shadie nodded. ‘Do you have any proof of this?’
‘Well, not as of yet, only what Fane has seen in his visions.’
Fane briefly described his vision to Mandalore. Shadie looked about. All these patrons were going about their every day business, without a clue about the war that was coming their way.
A group of aliens walked by their booth. They waved and winked at Talyc, who politely waved back. He leaned in closer to the others a bit.
‘Better this remain secret,’ said Talyc, ‘until the blockade is established. Just so we’re sure not to cause great panic and unrest among the people. Especially if the Republic is unable to repay its dept to us and come to our aid.’
Mandalore leaned back and sighed. ‘I knew I would some day need to re-establish the blockade of our ancestors, but it seems that now is sooner than anticipated. But I have no choice.’
Shadie looked up, suddenly tense and aware. Knarf stirred next to her.
‘Helmets on,’ he said, and the three Mandos donned their helmets.
‘You sensed that?’ asked Shadie, surprised.
‘I sensed you,’ he said to her. Talyc and the Mandalore inclined their heads.
‘Yes, Knarf senses what Shadie senses through sensing her all the time,’ explained Fane. ‘It can be quite unnerving, but practical in most cases.’ He tried to sound casual.
‘Knarf,’ whispered Shadie, ‘concentrate on me, sense me.’
Shadie expanded her senses. There had been a flicker of a presence in the Force, of a dark presence, as though someone hiding in the Force had failed for a brief moment. Again, the presence was there and then gone again. She had sensed excitement. He had found his query. That was perhaps why his hiding had faltered. That must mean he was not a master, but he was no mere acolyte either. Shadie looked about. Most of the tapcaf’s patrons were either human or alien, they sat minding their own business, and otherwise they had helmets on their heads and were more difficult to read.
A group of Mandalorians in silver armour entered the tapcaf, looked at her and saluted her. Yes, a clan whose name she failed to remember, but who had been greatly entertained by her and Fane when demonstrating Jedi acrobatics at a party several months back. She smiled and nodded to the friendly Mandos, appearing as though she sensed nothing. She looked at other Mandalorians. There was a Sith here and he could be anywhere.
Shadie looked at Knarf. He nodded and she knew he had relayed everything he had sensed, that she had sensed, to Talyc and Mandalore through their helmet’s private com channel.
‘Well, that was invigorating,’ said Knarf.
‘What was?’ asked Shadie.
‘Why, sensing you, my love.’ She could hear his smile in his voice, also sensing he wanted to lead the Sith astray as to their knowledge of his presence. If all they did was sit quietly, looking around, the Sith would become suspicious.
‘Tell me,’ began Talyc, turning his head to Fane. ‘This something they do all the time? Is this how he seduces her to get her into bed?’
‘Oh, he doesn’t need to seduce me,’ replied Shadie. She heard Fane stifle a laugh.
‘You know,’ said Talyc, ‘I’ve learnt a few tricks from some of the aliens I’ve brought home. I do admit I’ve tried my hand at some pretty exotic species.’
‘It’s funny,’ began the Mandalore, very casually, ‘my wife always tells me…’
Before she knew exactly what she was sensing, Shadie bolted out of her seat, igniting her lightsaber as a single blade, and held it above the Mandalore’s head, blocking a red blade that was held by a being in bronze armour.
‘Sorry to interrupt, Mandalore, but it seems an attempt on your life needed to be averted.’
Many blasters had been trained on the Sith being, Knarf stood with his vibroblade, as did Talyc, and Fane ignited his aqua coloured lightsaber.
The Sith leapt up into the air, flipping, and landed on a table nearby. He held out a hand and closed his fist with a swift motion, crushing all the blasters and rifles held by patrons. Then he swiped his arm about and they were pushed to the ground.
Shadie ran to him, igniting the other side of her blade, and made a flurry with her staff. Knarf came up behind. The Sith grabbed Knarf in a choke and sent him hurling across the room.
Talyc shouted some sort of war cry in Mando’a and came charging at the bronze armoured being, who only propelled him out of the way with a volley of dark side energy and he landed on top of Knarf.
‘They look cosy,’ said Fane, striking and blocking. ‘More entertainment for us Jedi.’
The Sith was not letting himself be distracted by Fane’s quips. Fane frowned. Shadie sent lightning. The Sith absorbed it and sent it towards Fane. He caught it on his lightsaber with a bit of a struggle.
‘Oh, if that’s how you want to play it,’ said Shadie.
She pulled on the Sith with the Force, as he came to strike her; Fane blocked him. They had practiced this duel move many times. Fane had come to recognise when she would need him to add particular defence moves to accompany her attacks. The Sith was now locked in a parry with Fane. Shadie drained the Sith’s life until he was weak and lost consciousness. Fane held him up by the neck and held his lightsaber at his armour’s throat just in case.
‘He’s strong,’ said Shadie, ‘but inconsistently so. His powers are honed, but unfocused.’
‘Well, you sure can’t blame him. He didn’t have you as a master,’ replied Fane.
‘Hey, the phoney remarks are my job,’ said Knarf, as he and Talyc staggered back to them, rubbing sore muscles.
‘It appears I owe you my life, Master Jedi,’ said Mandalore, as Shadie and Fane powered down their weapons. ‘Thank you.’
Shadie wished she could smile, but a nod was all she could manage.
‘What are you going to do with him?’ asked Talyc.
‘Could we use him as leverage?’ suggested Fane.
‘With hundreds of Sith at Darth Gourd’s disposal, blindly following him?’ said Shadie incredulously. ‘One less will not matter to him.’
‘Regardless, I wish to know who my assailant is,’ said Mandalore.
Fane took off the Sith’s helmet and Shadie sensed shock rise among all those watching, including herself.
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