This story is dedicated to Markus who suggested the crossover and helped in the story's development. Enjoy!
"I still don't get it, or understand it!," exclaimed a thunderstruck Eema. "We all know about the Longnecks and the Great Valley, through stories passed down from I don't know how many generations. Now, most of us aren't sure the Valley tales really happened. You know, the stuff of legends. Now here you are showing us this, and I'm still not sure how you did it. Who are you Artmo Hox? And why did you come to our valley? To torment us? To tell us tales of creatures who died out long before any of us were even born?"
Eema could say no more; she was that confused and dazed after seeing the recorded images.
Aladar, as leader of the Herd, took it upon himself to carefully ask Artmo Hox exactly why the human happened upon the Nesting Grounds, and why Artmo showed these Jurassic images. It still confounded Aladar that this human and his strange little droid were even in the Herd's presence. Oh, Aladar had interacted with humans before, but that was all part of a very vivid dream – Or wasn't it?
"Umm, Artmo," said Aladar, "This is very confusing for us. You see, we don't encounter humans; in fact, the last time we did was during an odd vision Sarama had about a tragic event that will happen millions of years from now."
Aladar and Sarama went on to tell Artmo Hox about the latter's frightful visions of the fate of a grand ocean liner. The iguanodon explained that through Sarama's visions, the Herd learned of the Titanic disaster and its impact on Eema's future legacy. In fact, the entire Herd began to experience visions and dreams of the great ship.
"Old Gotoma," said Sarama, "the founder of our Nesting Grounds, led us on an unforgettable journey, to give the tragedy some closure, at least for Eema and a handful of ill-fated passengers."
She paused, at last revealing last night's conversation with Gotoma's spirit.
"He said we would interact with humans again, that there would be more arriving. That there was another who visited a valley similar to ours. This is what you show us now, in those pictures from the past. Tell me, Artmo. Tell us. What happened to you and your friend? And, if you know, who are the others due to arrive here?"
Artmo Hox, his brown cloak and long graying hair flowing in the breeze, commanded R4 to call up another Holonet image. This time the Herd saw another, entirely different, scene. Never before had the dinosaurs or lemurs seen anything like it. In that ethereal image they saw a planet without trees or grass; it was totally covered with many strange structures, all tall and shiny. Thousands of other things flew here and there, back and forth, small and gigantic. That was in the background, for dominating the image were several men and women seated around the room. Well, some were recognizable as humans, but a few the dinosaurs could not identify. One was decidedly female, very beautiful, but with blue skin and what looked like long tentacles where her hair should be. The other was of short stature, aged, green, but wizened and kind, all the same.
"That is Master Yoda," explained Artmo. "He is the oldest and wisest of our order. Trained many a Jedi Knight, including myself. The girl is Aalya Secura, a Twi'lek who is very skillful in lightsaber combat. What has become of them I am not sure. You see, I was on reconnaissance in the Outer Worlds, during the Clone Wars...No, I really should tell you a few things about our history: how the Republic became engulfed in a trade dispute which escalated into full-blown war. And how I found my way to this planet."
Master Hox began to tell an astonished Herd about his home galaxy, far away from the dinosaurs' Cretaceous Earth. They learned of the great Jedi Knights, the Force, the Old Republic, and the various people and aliens who set the stage for war. Artmo related to his audience of a handful of notable Jedi: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker. He told them of the numerous battles and skirmishes – galactic dogfights between Republic and Separatist starfighters, ground combat between droid and clone troops. There were the struggles within the Galactic Senate, and Artmo waxed poetic of the great Senators devoted to the Republic, most notably Bail Organa and Padmé Amidala.
Wistfully, Artmo said, "It was Bail Organa who introduced my former padawan Ricar Tasou to Belma Bucpa. I had just returned from a mission in Cloud City, on the planet Bespin, so the reunion with Ricar was that more poignant. When Ricar and Belma met, I felt a strange rumbling in the Force, as if imminent change was afoot, and I could do nothing to stop it. Alas, Ricar allowed himself to fall in love with Belma, thus, after much meditation, reached the difficult to resign from the Jedi Order. You see, Jedi are not allowed to marry, but Ricar's love for Belma was so great that he put aside his own feelings. He left the Order for her and their future children's sake."
Neera and Plio looked each other, not quite comprehending most of Artmo's story. So the former asked, "Artmo, if you don't mind my asking, what is a Jedi? What is this Force? You speak of planets that are far, far away from ours, a Republic, a war. "
Master Hox smiled at the lovely iguanodon lady, replying, "Oh, I should have explained that earlier. As the great Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi puts it, the Force is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together The Force is all around us. It is life itself."
After Hox's explanation, old Yar, who had been quietly meditating. said, "Hey, I think we've been in touch with this Force. We've been seeing and hearing things these past days. Something that has to do with music. We all keep hearing songs and sounds in our sleep, most often during our waking hours. Could this be caused by this Force?"
Artmo Hox was about to reply when Hadron nudged Sarama who in turn looked at Neera then at Eema. Didn't Hox mention another Jedi Knight called Anakin Skywalker? Wasn't there a Herd member from long ago with the same name?
That question also jolted Sarama's memories of those earlier visions, the ones where she saw a young man slaying children. Wasn't he called Anakin? Could this be the same young man Artmo Hox talks about so reverently? How can it be? The Anakin she saw in those dreams surely cannot be the same – He had changed so much since his days as a celebrated Jedi. And didn't Sarama hear Anakin Skywalker's mate say, "You're breaking my heart,"?
So many questions needed quick answers, but the first...
"Eema," asked Hadron, "wasn't there an Anakin who used to be with the Herd?"
The old ceratopsian thought a bit then immediately replied, "Come to think of it...Yeah, that was Bruton's brother."
She turned to Neera, saying, "You remember him, honey. He used to visit you and your brother long ago. I recall, just before the Fireball, Bruton asking his brother to join our journey to the Nesting Grounds, but Anakin turned him down. He said he preferred to remain in his forest home."
Neera replied, "Yes, I remember Anakin, but I hadn't seen him since we...You know, since we left the forest. That was days before the Fireball. Afterwards, when Kron said we had to keep moving, I asked Bruton about his brother, if he thought Anakin had somehow survived. Bruton said he felt his brother still lived but had his doubts. Of course, so many died in that awful firestorm. After all this time, and how destructive the Fireball was, I doubt Anakin's forest is still there."
"Or," rejoined Eema, "Anakin. And if he's still alive, he doesn't know what happened to his brother."
Eema, of course, referred to Bruton's last stand against two rampaging carnotaurs, both of which nearly ended Aladar's life. Bruton, in a bold and daring move, shoved his entire weight against the cavern pillars, bringing down tons of stones. One carnotaur died instantly; so did Bruton.
Artmo Hox listened to the Herd's tales of the brave Bruton and instantly got a flash. This creature who shares the same name as the Jedi Anakin Skywalker has to be alive. The Force speaks to me, tells me Anakin is alive and well, and he is very close to this place. Now, is this Anakin they speak of the same in temperament and demeanor as the celebrated Skywalker? His brother died a hero, much like Ricar Tasou, a being of boundless selflessness, always putting the welfare of others before himself. But no, Anakin Skywalker, according to Masters Yoda and Windu, still harbors much anger and fear. Obi-Wan told me so much about his former padawan. This strange rumbling in the Force suggests things are not all well in my galaxy, and things will become quite unsettled here as well.
Aladar picked up on Artmo's feelings, asking, "You seem deep in thought. I know this is so overwhelming for all of us. I mean, you're the first human we've encountered in so long–"
"No, Aladar," said Sarama, now remembering another such encounter with a human, but she kept it to herself until now.
"For I've met another human, someone who has a great impact on our future." She turned to her mate, saying, "Hadron, I met him a few nights ago, before my session with Gotoma's spirit. He said we will experience something so much greater than ourselves, something that will forever change how we look at the world."
The Herd looked Sarama with shocked expressions. Why would she withhold such information especially now, in the presence of Artmo Hox? She obviously knows more than she's letting on but is reluctant to share.
The cranky old Mac huffed, stamped his feet, and said, "I knew it! She brought this Artmo here, to interfere with our way of life. If my hunch is right, there will be more of these humans swarming all over our valley. Who knows what havoc they will wreck."
Plio, taken aback by Mac's cruel and unfounded accusations as the rest of the Herd, said scoldingly, "Mac! How dare you accuse Sarama of doing such a thing. Artmo means us no harm. I say we hear him out, let him explain more how he arrived here. I find his stories fascinating."
Baylene, who remained silent most of the time, finally said, "I particularly enjoy seeing those images of the Great Valley."
She craned her neck down as to meet Artmo at eye level. Then again, by virtue of her enormous bulk, she so easily dwarfed everyone. The elderly brachiosaur politely asked Artmo, "Would you mind asking your friend to show us those images again? I'm especially interested in seeing the younglings. You see, there is one I find oddly familiar."
Artmo Hox obliged the brachiosaur and ordered R4-A9 to call up the holonet again. In that recorded image, Baylene saw the young dinosaurs at play. Oh yes, there was the young sauropod with his friends, the one who had only recently reunited with his adopted brother. Now, thought Baylene, what did they call him? The ancient stories handed down from generation to generation had become just that – stories and legends of a bygone era. Baylene, and Eema to be sure, regarded such tales as fanciful exaggerations based on actual living creatures. Perhaps all they heard about the famous Longneck family had to had happened. Perhaps it isn't all the stuff of legends after all. For here it is, albeit in recorded form (and the Herd still had no idea how this feat was accomplished), as fresh and vibrant as in life.
Baylene studied this little one, watching intently as he interacted with his friends. That's when it hit her: She actually knew this boy, although he was fully grown when she met him.
"I was just a youngling myself, not much older than the boy here," she said wistfully. "He had come to our valley with his own mate and younglings in tow. Of course, his was a migrating herd, not given to settling in one place like our family. Mother greeted him, and I was so in awe of him. Odd that they called him 'Shorty' during his boyhood."
She laughed, adding, "Imagine, a dinosaur of that size named Shorty."
"Wow," said an enraptured Suri, "did you really know him, Baylene? What about his friends? You know, the Longneck and Threehorn?"
Baylene shook her head. "No, Suri, I didn't meet them. According to him, all his childhood friends simply grew up, found their mates, started families, then merely went their separate ways. Their valley had changed so. He said all the adults had long died out, including his adopted father...At any rate, he stopped with us for a few days then moved on. I hadn't seen him since. Of course, with myself being the last of my kind, I assume he and his entire family died as well. Perhaps from that same sickness that took my mate and siblings."
She tried not to cry; just seeing those younglings was painful enough. Too many memories of a world which died a long time ago, and there was nothing to bring it back.
Aladar himself studied the Great Valley scene, and he wanted to know more about Artmo Hox and Ricar Tasou. Still watching the holonet, he asked, "Artmo, please tell us more about your friend. How did he end up there? How did you end up here? Surely you guys didn't find your way here on purpose. I presume it had to be an accident. You know, something that you didn't expect."
Just as Artmo prepared to resume his story, he felt it again. Instantly he stood up and said, "There is a strange disturbance in the Force, as if a great event is about to occur. An event that will pave the way for peace in the galaxy, and restore balance in the Force. There is something afoot here as well. I can't quite explain. But it will have both joyous and dire consequences for nearly everyone here."
There was an immediate murmuring among the Herd, questions of what their unusual human guest meant. Sarama and Plio looked at each other, each missing key family members.
The former asked, "Plio, where is Suri?"
"I don't know," replied the now worried lemur. "She was here a moment ago. Where is Ola?"
The hadrosaur said, "I don't know." She glanced here and there, bellowing for the wayward children. No response.
"Hadron," she said frantically, "what Artmo said, about a disturbance. What if Suri and Ola wandered too far? What if–"
As if called to action by an unspoken command, R4-A9 wheeled toward the cave. The little droid beeped and whistled, swivelling his head all about as if searching for the children.
With a sigh, Eema said, "It's okay, girls. I think they went to the cave. They'll be fine."
The Herd echoed that collective sigh – with the exception of Yar. He only muttered under his breath, "No, all is not fine. Artmo's right. There is something big heading our way."
Overhead, the pternadon Delsie, in a frenzy, called down to the Herd, "Hello! We have company coming! Two or three days away! I think it's Kamura. She's coming home at last!"
Eema and Sarama blinked in tandem. Can it be? Why would Kamura wait all these years to return to the Herd? Does she know? About Aladar?
"You're right, Yar," Eema whispered to her friend, "All will not be fine. Poor Kamura. Poor Aladar. What will they feel for each other when they finally meet?"
Copyright @2006 by P.R. Parker. All Rights Reserved.