Knarf stood by the Holonet console, a monitor showed him the frequencies and fluctuations of the signal, another screen showed him the code. The Clan Kandera T4 droid unit watched nearby as he tried to slice into the frequency. Everyone had somehow known Darth Perce was behind the jamming, and Knarf had been able to confirm those deductions. While he’d been Relsor’s faux apprentice, Knarf had been able to learn how Perce was an expert slicer and behind most of Darth Gourd’s plan executions. The only question that remained unanswered was which of the two between Knarf and Perce was the better slicer? Which of the two would prove to have the upper hand and be victorious? Knarf had been tasked to slice through the Sith’s reprogramming and jamming of the Holonet. It had been hours and he had taken no breaks, and had gotten nowhere.
‘Can you pass me my datapad, T4?’ The droid twiddled and rolled up to him, bringing him the requested datapad. ‘Thanks.’ He wiped his forehead. He sighed. Anger swelled inside him. ‘Argh!’
He pounded his fist on the console, his datapad went flying backwards behind him and T4 was pushed back, knocking against the sidewall of the room with a shrill. Knarf heard footsteps and turned to see his Jedi friend. Brenum caught the datapad with one swift motion, using the Force to bring it to his hands.
‘Whoa! Good thing I was here to catch this thing. Those Sith really did teach you to externalise your anger, didn’t they?’ His tone was one of jest.
Knarf leaned against the console and let himself slide down and sat on the ground. ‘Whatever Darth Perce did to this thing, he looped it, and created looping decoys. I can’t figure it out. I just don’t know what to do anymore.’
Brenum walked to him and sat down next to him, leaning on the console as well. ‘Have you eaten anything today, Knarf?’
‘No, there’s no time.’
‘Well, maybe a break will do you some good.’ T4 twiddled a response.
‘Hey,’ said Knarf, ‘remember who put you back together and repaired your systems.’ T4 beeped a quip in reply. ‘I guess you’re right, T4.’
‘And what about me? Am I right?’ asked Brneum.
Knarf sighed. ‘You’re not with Trylia?’ he asked.
‘She’s with Shadie.’
Knarf put his head in his hands. ‘What if Shadie would have seen me like this, what would she have thought?’
‘You know,’ said Brenum, putting a hand on Knarf’s shoulder, ‘every Jedi faces their inner darkness at some point. Not all of us get to choose how or when. Not all of us get to decide how it shows up or have the chance to be consciously aware and in control of that darkness. You chose to face yours at a necessary moment, in such a calculated manner. You were in control, and it never took over you. That’s a huge accomplishment; many Jedi will envy you for succeeding the feat.’
Knarf lifted his head from his hands. ‘I had to watch out for what I said, how I felt. I made sure that Darth Gourd and Relsor would detect only my darkest emotions. I was careful of every single word I said, so that they would detect no lie. I used my anger towards how what I was doing might hurt Shadie to hide how I was doing this for our love. I had to hide my love for her from them, and replace it with something greater, something darker. I made sure to put at the forefront of my thoughts and emotions all the darkness I could muster without losing my mind. Being on my guard like that, it was draining.’ Knarf sighed. ‘I didn’t want to be a Jedi. I just wanted to be able to protect and provide for my Lady. That meant learning some powers. But now I’m not able to control them.’
‘It’s normal, Knarf,’ said Brenum. ‘You’ll learn to control them in time. You need a break from using them and to retreat for a bit. Which is why the guys and I have decided to take you out for a drink at the tavern.’
‘But I need to slice the Holonet,’ Knarf protested.
‘You need a break, get your mind off things. Fane’s already joined Talyc. Kelbourn’s joining us too. Come, it’ll be fun.’
Knarf thought for a moment and realised he couldn’t. He couldn’t focus his mind on anything, he couldn’t think straight.
‘Fine,’ he said, ‘but just one drink.’
‘It’s a deal.’
Brenum stood up and extended his hand to Knarf. Knarf took it and stood. Brenum gave Knarf’s datapad back to the droid, who chirped in reply.
* * *
The tavern was busy; it was full of patrons. It was dimly lit and in the centre there was a large sparring area. Many Mandalorians were fighting, brawling, jumping over each other, in a drunken wrestling match.
The group of Mandos and Jedi sat down at a table. Talyc signalled the red Twi’lek waitress. She approached and they ordered some drinks. Before she left, she winked at Fane.
‘Someone’s got their eye on you,’ said Kelbourn.
Talyc looked from Fane to the waitress, and to Fane again. He inclined his head, smirking. Kelbourn kept his gaze on Fane, keeping his chin low, as though expecting him to do something.
‘Uhm, not sure Twi’lek dancers are my type,’ Fane finally said.
Talyc and Kelbourn laughed out loud.
‘She’s no dancer!’ exclaimed Talyc. ‘Lashika might be dressed like one, but don’t be fooled.’
‘She could take you down in one go,’ said Kelbourn, ‘even if you have the Force and she doesn’t.’
‘Fane,’ said Brenum, ‘are you shy to be with a woman?’
Fane blushed. ‘Me, no, never. I just… Jedi duties…’
‘Sure, we’ll go with that.’ Knarf chuckled.
‘Well, Brenum,’ said Fane, ‘I’m sure you’re not too shy to be with a particular Togruta woman, are you?’
‘Ohhh!’ came the shouts from the other men. Brenum scowled at Fane.
Knarf’s mind kept darting back to the stupid Holonet slicing problem he had encountered. He tried to clear his mind.
Lashika arrived with their drinks. She smiled, her pale red lekku swaying gently.
‘My friend, here,’ said Brenum, motioning Fane, ‘would like to spar with you.’
‘What are the stakes?’ she asked.
‘He wins: you go on a date with him. You win: he goes on a date with you.’
‘Brenum!’ exclaimed Fane.
‘Fair enough,’ replied Lashika, setting her tray down on the table.
She walked to the centre of the sparring area and shouted something in Mando’a. Everyone else moved aside. She took a fighting stance, her arms up, hands formed into fists.
Fane unclipped his lightsaber from his belt, set it down on the table, and went to the fighting ring and began to spar with the Twi’lek.
It didn’t take long, even if he was using the Force, before Lashika had Fane pinned down on his back.
Knarf couldn’t help but laugh. ‘She owned you, Fane!’ he said. ‘And you’re a Jedi!’
Fane sheepishly sat back down at their table. ‘There goes my pride,’ he said.
The tavern suddenly went silent when a Trandoshan and his clan walked in.
‘Great!’ Talyc said sarcastically.
‘Who’s he?’ asked Knarf.
‘That’s the leader of one of the rival clans, Dargoza,’ said Talyc. ‘He thinks he owns the place.’
‘And every time he comes here,’ said Kelbourn, ‘he chooses one person to spar with him, so that he can prove he’s better than anyone else.’
‘So, why do they spar him, why can’t they just refuse?’ asked Brenum.
‘You don’t understand,’ said Talyc, ‘you don’t refuse. If you turn him down, it’s a disgrace, a coward’s move, and you can suffer the consequences from your own clan for bearing the grunt of such a refusal.’
‘So why did we come here, then?’ asked Fane. ‘Seems…’ He paused. Then quickly: ‘He’s looking our way.’
The Trandoshan looked right at their table and pointed a baton at Knarf.
‘Looks like he’s chosen you, Knarf,’ said Kelbourn. ‘Good luck.’
‘You fight to disarm,’ said Talyc.
Dargoza walked up to Knarf and made his intention clear, speaking in his lizard-like language.
Knarf stood, taking his vibroblade and followed the Trandoshan to the centre of the sparring ring. Everyone fell even more silent as they watched, intent on seeing who would win. Dargoza waved his baton about menacingly and began circling the area. Knarf followed suit.
‘Scorekeeper will favour me for defeating you!’ he said.
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