This story is dedicated to Markus who suggested the crossover and helped in the story's development. Enjoy!
Unfortunately, for the raptors, those two droids were no afternoon snack. Indeed, the droids were curiosities which fascinated and tested the raptors' hunt-and-attack abilities.
Surrounding the droids, the raptors prowled about their intended prey then instantly pounced. How disconcerting for the predators to discover what was to be their lunch were not the usual flesh and blood plant-eaters. One unlucky raptor nearly broke his teeth as he attempted to tear off HK's leg. In defense, R2-T7 shot forth electrical charges sending the attacking animals into a screaming frenzy. HK-47, not one to compromise or "talk it over" with any attacker, be they human or otherwise, whipped out the blaster and fired away, killing all the raptors. Not much left but a pile of smoking, lifeless raptor bodies.
"Well, short stuff, looks like we press on. Why don't you go ahead, scan for lifeforms within that lakebed. Perhaps, where there is water under all that dried up mud, there may be life."
The astromech, while smarting from HK's taunting remarks about her diminutive size, rolled on towards the lake, a vast area which, according to HK, would take some time to cross. The canyon lay just on the other side, and what was beyond that was still unknown. On this mission to this very strange planet, there was something else that concerned R2-T7: the discovery of a crashed starfighter. Neither R2 nor HK could figure how the craft found its way here. From its appearance, the fighter was an older model, from the Clone Wars. Could a Republic fighter pilot Jedi Knight have found the mysterious black hole, or time slip, as the Tasous later did? Neither droid stopped to examine the craft, preferring to let their human companions find it, perhaps gather pertinent information about its owner.
Indeed, thought HK, if a Jedi, escaping Emperor Palpatine's purge, found his or her way to the time slip...
"Could that be," he thought to himself, "Master Hox? He was reported missing during the wars, and Master Ricar Tasou set out to look for him. Alas, Master Tasou was captured and killed by General Grievous. So, Hox could still be here..."
Wasting no time, and taking advantage of R2's absence, HK-47 took out his communicator and transmitted this message:
If you've found the slip, you should be in this star system by now. Not only are the Tasous here, but Master Artmo Hox as well. Please await for exact coordinates to the planet and precise landing instructions...
"Look, Marbe, animal tracks. Whatever made these obviously followed our droids. I see R2's tracks along with HK's."
Kirel Tasou, having dismounted his speeder bike, examined the three-toed footprints and wondered what sort of creatures he and his sister may yet encounter. So far, since landing the skiff a few miles back, both Jedi saw nothing during their trek across the desert. No animals, no humans, not even another droid.
"This place can't be that lifeless," said Marbe who also examined the footprints. "Whatever made these prints are not that far ahead. See, there are three sets of tracks, and they were made by same type of animal. As I can tell by the state of the tracks, the creatures must have passed this way not less than an hour or so."
Kirel, on a whim, transmitted a message to HK-47, asking for the droids' whereabouts and locale coordinates. At once, HK replied that he and R2 just crossed the desert, arriving at what looks like a lakebed. There was water, but not much on the surface. R2 had already scanned the entire perimeter for water, ultimately drilling a well deep and wide enough for bathing and drinking.
"All right," Kirel said, "so we'll have fresh water stores. Nothing about food or shelter. I tell you, Marbe, I'm getting a bad feeling about this. We've encountered not one lifeform, yet these tracks suggest–"
"That," countered Marbe, "there is life on this planet, but what kind? I'm like you: I'm getting a bad feeling about this, too. Come on, we better get moving. This desert heat is getting to me."
Kirel had to laugh, saying, "Yeah, just looking at all this sand reminds me too much of Tatooine. Remember Dad's stories of that place? About all the dastardly types that inhabit it. You know, the Hutts, Jawas, Tusken Raiders..."
"But," said Marbe, returning the humor, "I don't think we'll meet anything like that. Come on, let's get to that lake."
On their speeder bikes, Marbe and Kirel made haste across the desert, following the animal tracks as guide. Kirel believed that if they used the tracks to guide their journey, they were bound to encounter something or someone. The question was whether the natives were friendly or meant harm.
The young Jedi made excellent time as they sped across what seemed endless wastelands. Not much to see except sand and more sand, except one or two animal carcasses, creatures who most likely succumbed to the harsh elements and lack of water.
The Tasous approached the edge of the desert, spotting something highly unusual. From their position, they couldn't quite make out the object's shape or size. They merely assumed it had to be a shack belonging to a hermit. Even from this distance, the kids could tell the object was no ordinary dwelling. Stopping momentarily, Marbe and Kirel, each using electrobinoculars, scanned the area in hopes of identifying the object.
"Doesn't look like a house or shack," said Marbe. Scrutinizing the object more carefully, Kirel came to the realization that this was no dwelling – it was a crashed star ship.
"Perhaps," he said, putting down his binoculars, "that may be Master Hox's starfighter. Didn't Mom say that Dad went to look for his Jedi mentor, during the wars?"
Marbe nodded, replying, "If what Dad said in that Holocron is true, then Artmo Hox must be on this planet, that is if he's still alive. Come on, let's check it out."
They arrived at the crashed ship, an old starfighter not used since the Clone Wars. Despite the crashed landing, the fighter was still in remarkable condition. Obviously, with the right parts, the craft could be restored to full usage. Perhaps, thought Kirel, Artmo, abandoned the craft to search for repair parts. Maybe, one this planet, said parts can't be had, so Artmo is, in effect, marooned.
"As are we," muttered Marbe as she examined the ship's interior.
Actually, the only thing wrong with the craft was a blown engine and damage to the blaster cannon. Otherwise it was in good condition. Inside, the cockpit was unscathed. Everything, as if Artmo planned to return, was still intact.
"I suppose," said Kirel, "he took just what he could carry. You know, going about on foot, carrying too much in this desert would weigh him down. Just a few provisions – food, water, and his droid. See, the space where his astromech would be is empty. So the droid must be with him."
Noticing something familiar, Marbe pulled what looked like a Holocron from the cockpit. Now that is puzzling. Why would Artmo leave this behind? Wouldn't he need it? Isn't there pertinent information he could use while exploring this planet?
"I don't get it," she said while activating the device. "He surely wouldn't leave it on purpose."
"Or," said Kirel with some conviction when it dawned upon him that their arrival had to be anticipated, "he intended for this to be found. Don't you see, Marbe? I'm sensing this whole journey had been planned from the beginning, way before we were born. Dad most likely foresaw his ultimate fate, as did Mom. He voluntarily returned to the Jedi Order during the wars, so he could search for his Jedi master on his own. Dad felt it was his duty, and his devotion to Master Hox...Well, we all stand up for each other, Marbe. Jedi do that. We stick together, for the common good. They were looking out for us long ago, and they're still looking out for us now."
Marbe looked at her brother with renewed respect. She loved Kirel, and it never surprised her when he waxed philosophic.
"Here," she said, returning her attention to the Holocron, "Let me get this activated. There, it's on. Now, let's see what's on here."
Kirel watched with bated breath as the images flickered into view. Odd that the Holocron didn't need a pass code to activate it. At any rate, Kirel wondered what exactly he and his sister will see. In a way, he almost wanted not to view it. Well, as soon as the image came into plain view, Kirel had wished he and Marbe passed up the crashed ship and kept moving.
"It's...It's Dad," he whispered in disbelief.
Both Marbe and Kirel stood transfixed as they watched their father, a prisoner on Grievous' ship, relay his final message to Master Hox.
The last time the young Jedi saw their father alive was so long ago, when they had just passed their fifth birthday. That was, for their mother, a bittersweet farewell when Ricar departed to search for his much loved Jedi master. So devoted to the Order was Ricar, and he knew, from the final words he transmitted to Artmo Hox, his time was at hand. He never allowed himself to display fear or hate, not even a glimmer of concern for his own well being. He knew death was soon, and he welcomed the moment he would become one with the Force.
Ricar, in that transmission, appeared strong and vital, not at all like a captive of the Separatists facing certain execution. Ricar knew his Jedi skills, up against those of Grievous, would be put to the test. However, this was just a brief preface the heart of his message. Ricar Tasou, in full awareness that time was of the essence, made his transmission brief but as detailed as possible. Obviously, from what Kirel and Marbe could gather, Ricar had been in contact with Hox several times before capture. This he related to Hox:
Master Hox, by the time you receive this I will be dead. Do not grieve for me, for I will be one with the Force. Your journey through the time slip, and what your last message reveals, suggests the destination is, for the most part, the same planet, yet the animals are different. I conclude you may have landed on the same planet but in a different time period altogether, perhaps millions of years beyond that of my sojourn to the valley. From your reports, these Nesting Grounds creatures do know of the Great Valley and its residents, though eons separate them. At any rate, my children, when they come of age, will come to know these marvelous creatures. In my two brief visits, I've come to the conclusion that these animals possess a tremendous Force potential; one or two young ones in particular, are so in tune with the Force. They possess the power of speech, and so many can foretell the future, as you've noticed in the one called Sarama. That one, Gotoma, the one who founded their Nesting Grounds, would have been, if he resided in our galaxy, a great Jedi, perhaps rivalling Master Yoda himself.
There was only one human I met, a man called Charlie. He, while not what I would call Force-sensitive, does possess magnificent powers. He told me, on my second and last visit to the Valley, my children would make that journey to the planet, and both would make their marks on so many lives. Marbe is destined to remain there, to establish a great lineage of Jedi on Earth. Kirel will return to our galaxy, becoming one of the greatest Jedi ever lived. Both will have their brushes with the dark side, but they will overcome any and all machinations.
I've sent a similar message to my wife, to Belma. She is to follow my instructions to the letter. Make sure my children train in the ways of the Force, and, when the time comes, help them escape what I am sure will be a great Jedi purge. I can feel this, and I've seen it, Artmo. There is one within our midst who is on the brink of falling to the dark side, not turning back to the light for many years. His slide into the darkness will cause much suffering and death. He will be feared, but he will be redeemed at much cost to himself.
My time is nearly at hand. General Grievous has challenged me to a lightsaber duel, of which I am sure to be defeated, but I am not fearful of death. My destiny is nearly complete. It is my children who must carry on. See to it that each follows his and her own path. My lightsaber will pass on to my wife, once Grievous is defeated. Oh yes, I felt that as well. He may think he is a great warrior, all knowledgable of Jedi ways, but he is not a Jedi. Only a true Jedi will defeat him, as a true Jedi will turn the traitor among us from darkness to light.
The image faded from view as Marbe and Kirel stood dumbstruck after hearing their father's last words. To be sure, Ricar Tasou did face his impending death with courage and fortitude, as befitting a Jedi. Naturally, the emotions threatened to burst through the surface, causing Marbe to fight back tears and Kirel endeavoring not to break down in an outright crying jag. Both had been close to their parents, but as they remembered in their training, did not allow attachments to cloud their minds. As Yoda would say, "Mourn them not. Miss them not."
What confounded the kids was Ricar's statement about their respective futures. Marbe would remain behind on Earth while Kirel would return to his home galaxy. Both would fulfill their individual destinies, and both would fall prey to the dark side of the Force but successfully fight off the temptation.
While each ruminated over their father's revelations, at least the Tasous finally knew this planet had a name: Earth.
"And we're," said Marbe with some finality, "actually in its past. I wonder what would have happened if Dad hadn't gone through that time slip but came here anyway."
"Yeah," rejoined Kirel, "and I wonder where in history is Earth while our own galaxy is struggling to bring back peace and justice...And balance to the Force."
So if they are really in Earth's past, what made the kids arrive at that conclusion? The answers lay with the figure approaching them. Odd that neither Marbe nor Kirel hadn't seen this man before. Yet, since he was on foot, it was obvious he had been some distance behind them, but even that made no sense. If he is travelling on foot, and if he was some distance behind, how did he manage to catch up with the Tasous so fast?
As he drew nearer, within arm's length, he called out to them, "You must be Marbe and Kirel Tasou. Please, do not be afraid, for I come in peace and am not armed. My name is Charlie Lavigne, and I am aware you've found your father's final message to Artmo Hox. What Ricar says is true, and I shall reveal more, so please hear me out. Master Hox is here, on this planet, albeit some distance away. What is more important is you will soon encounter three of those fabulous creatures your father speaks of so highly. Now, I shall tell you the true reasons why I'm here...and why you're here..."
Copyright @2006 by P.R. Parker. All Rights Reserved.