The Jedi, Mandalorians, and Usharr hurried into the briefing room where Mandalore stood waiting. Several clan leaders and other members of clans sat in the large room, the pirates among them. Zaereg waved a hand as he looked up at them.
Talyc marched right up to Mandalore, his breath sounding heavy. Shadie had a stern look and Usharr was whispering with Fane. Knarf looked around, he saw Wapita farther away in the room.
‘Mandalore,’ said Talyc, ‘Dargoza is dead.’
‘So I have been told.’ Mandalore looked at Talyc carefully, taking a step towards him. ‘Wapita told me to ask you what happened. I hear there was a duel. Did you kill Dargoza, Talyc?’
‘No. Jassahmi killed Dargoza.’ Mandalore’s eyes narrowed. Talyc continued. ‘Relsor is on Mandalore. And he’s not alone.’
Mandalore seemed to take this in, then nodded slowly. Knarf eased his way next to his friend.
‘Talyc has been very brave, Mandalore,’ he said. ‘That fight could have gone many ways of wrong.’
‘Thank you,’ said Mandalore. ‘I need a moment.’
‘You okay?’ Knarf asked Talyc, sensing unease.
‘Not now, Knarf!’ snapped Talyc.
‘Easy there, my friend. It’s okay, we’re safe now.’
‘No, we’re not,’ said Talyc. ‘No one is safe. And it’s all down to you lot.’ He motioned the other Jedi. ‘Had your master not come to us, had Kelbourn not agreed, had Mandalore not agreed, had we not taken you on and hired you and become your friends, Mandalore would be safe right now.’
Knarf took a step towards Talyc. ‘Look, this isn’t the time to play the blaming game, Talyc,’ he said. ‘No one in this galaxy is safe, regardless of where any of us would be. Don’t go blaming me, or my Lady, or Fane, for any of this.’
‘You know what, whatever. I’ve had more than I can handle right now.’ Talyc walked away.
Knarf shook his head in disbelief. ‘What is wrong with Talyc, all of a sudden?’
‘It’s the dark side,’ said Usharr. Knarf turned to face the old man. ‘Your friend is being influenced by the dark side. I could sense it on our way, seeping into him more and more. And now it finally manifests itself.’ Usharr shook his head. ‘He does not possess the Force to counter it or utilise it in the manner you or I could, Sith or Jedi.’
‘But he was all loved up with Fane just minutes ago!’ Knarf gestured the way they had come.
‘The adrenaline that still courses through his body and the fear can be manipulated and transformed into anger and despair,’ said Usharr.
‘So you reckon Relsor is attacking Talyc’s emotions because he can’t affect us?’
‘Perhaps.’ Usharr shrugged. Knarf looked at Fane, who was standing next to Talyc, trying to reassure him. They were holding hands, though Talyc looked miles away and Fane looked like Knarf felt times ten.
‘This is not good.’ Knarf looked at Shadie. She took his hand and squeezed gently. He turned his attention back to Mandalore.
‘We must prevent Relsor’s powers from overwhelming us,’ said Mandalore. ‘If he is planetside, then we have bigger problems than superlasers. Now that the blockade matter is taken care of, any ideas on how to weed out our enemy?’
‘He has clearly attacked our planet,’ said Emerick. ‘Do we not have allies who can aid us? Call the Fat Momma back down here or something, call on favours in other systems.’
‘Chancellor Emain is due to return my call shortly,’ said Mandalore. ‘He will aid us, I know it. Jedi Fane, you have a connection with our enemy, can you sense his location?’
Fane shook his head. ‘He’s hiding in the Force.’
‘That is not good,’ Knarf said again.
‘Then there’s only one other thing we can do,’ said Shadie. ‘Call Tython.’
Mandalore nodded. He punched in a few keys and waited. Nothing happened. ‘Blast it!’
‘Perce!’ Knarf said emphatically. He took a calming breath. ‘Allow me.’ He got straight to slicing. When he was done, he punched in the keys again. ‘It should work now.’
‘Wrong again!’ the holoimage of Perce appeared on the viewscreen. ‘All communications on Mandalore have been looped and sliced in all sorts of wonderful ways. I doubt you’ll be able to slice it this time, Knarf.’
Relsor came into view. ‘Mandalore will burn.’ The Chiss smiled. ‘No one can stop me now.’ The screen went dark and silence befell the entire room.
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