This story is dedicated to Markus who suggested the crossover and helped in the story's development. Enjoy!
The trio hadn't descended the bluff halfway when Xander noticed curious-looking footprints in the mud. At least they looked like prints made by two animals of sorts, one set made by a bipedal creature. And the other set? This stumped Xander who could only conclude that the animal who made these tracks must have dragged its tail.
"Do you see those?," he said to his companions. "I can conclude one stands on its two legs, but the other...Looks like one long...You know, I can't make it out."
Anakin was worried that whatever made those tracks might be a predator lurking near the other side of the lake. Like Xander, he couldn't readily identify the tracks, yet one cannot be too cautious. Odd that they hadn't seen any predators during the entire trek across the desert. No carnotaurs, no raptors. However, the trio, just short of the lake, did come across a pack of dead raptors. Now these creatures weren't slain by a carnotaur or any other large predator. By the mangled, scorched appearance of the bodies, the travellers could only assume another, far more dangerous predator did this. But what manner of animal kills with fire? What did it matter now? The raptors were dead thus no longer a threat to the plant-eaters.
The group continued their journey towards the lake, and they didn't get far when another puzzle met them. Yes, there was water, but one patch looked as if it had been dug, and not by a huge sauropod like Baylene. The waterhole was as wide as the Nesting Grounds lake, and just as deep.
"This hole looks like it's been cut," said Xander who immediately plunged in to quench his thirst. "But with what?", he asked after he raised his head. He scanned the entire perimeter of the lake, but he detected nothing. Not one predator or other creature. With a shrug, Xander concluded whoever or whatever made those odd tracks had moved on, perhaps are by now deep in the canyon, perhaps nearing the Nesting Grounds...
Then it came to him; he asked Anakin, "Do you think whoever came through here earlier could find their way to the Nesting Grounds? What if they're predators or other dangerous animals? The Herd could be in jeopardy."
Anakin, just before plunging into the watering hole himself, replied, "Who knows? Perhaps they're not heading to the Grounds but elsewhere. Xander, you're letting your fear take over common sense. However, if it'll make you feel better, after we've had water and rest, we'll scout around the perimeter. Those creatures may be long gone by now, but it doesn't hurt to double-check."
Kamura, too wrapped in satisfying her own thirst, paid her mate and travelling companion no mind. She had too much on her mind as is, worrying about what she'll find once she reaches the Nesting Grounds. What has changed? Who among the Herd is still there? Obviously, according to those flyers encountered on the way, Kron was dead, killed by a carnotaur. What became of Neera or Bruton, or that old styracosaur Eema? From those scanty reports, Neera had met a young iguanodon who took on the role as Herd Leader. No word on Eema or Bruton, or any other member of the Herd. Most importantly, for Kamura, how would the Herd accept and regard her now? After all these years of roaming, shunning the very friends who consoled and comforted her after losing all her eggs, Kamura often entertained the notion that the Herd had forgotten her. Perhaps they think she's dead.
"I might as well be dead," she muttered to herself as she lay in the cool, soft mud. Ah, this feels so good, so cool and refreshing. They say lake mud is good for the skin; it helps rid oneself of parasites and skin disorders so common after a trek across the arid lands.
She almost drifted off to sleep, almost forgetting her troubles, when she felt an unusual tremor. Through the ground, she felt it again, a steady humming unlike anything. She had the talent of sensing and identifying impact tremors made by approaching animals, so she assumed this tremor must be signs of an approaching herd. But what manner of dinosaur, plant-eaters or predators, made a sound like this?
Kamura lay still, concentrating on the vibrations. What was this, she asked herself. Should I alert Anakin and Xander?
She glanced at her mate who had already found a cool spot near a fallen tree trunk and fell fast asleep. Xander was still drinking.
The vibrations grew more pronounced. She tried to identify the animals making these sounds. Most times she could tell if was predators or huge sauropods just from the vibrations their feet made. This was something different entirely. Sounds almost like a low humming, not even striking the ground. Even flyers do not make noise like this.
Not wanting to wake up Anakin or bother Xander, Kamura followed those vibrations to their source. Certainly, especially with those sounds becoming more marked, more distinctive.
"That is definitely a deep hum, a buzz, like the great flying insects we see in the Nesting Grounds," she said as she climbed to the top of the bluff.
Kamura, peering through the glare of the afternoon sun, at last could make out shapes of two objects. They seemed, from her perspective, to travel very fast, but what animal travels at that tremendous speed? Still watching the approaching objects, Kamura had no idea what to expect. If these were indeed animals of some sort, were they friendly? Would they mean harm? Could they be...
"Didn't that hadrosaur," she muttered, "say something about strange visitors? But that was so long ago, when both she and I had those odd dreams, and I lost my eggs to a rampaging carnotaur."
Thinking of Sarama's words, Kamura began to believe she and her companions just may encounter those strangers. Shaking her head, she said, "No, it can't be. I never wholly believed in Sarama's – or her grandmother's – rumblings about the future. Strangers among us, changing our way of life and how we see the world. It's all too much, too far-fetched."
The shapes drew closer, the dull hum more precise. Kamura could make out two things, objects she could not identify. As they came closer, she could tell the objects each carried a creature, something Kamura had never before seen, except in her dreams.
Closer still they came, almost to the bottom of the bluff. They stopped momentarily, just like that. It was obvious to Kamura that whoever these creatures are they had to have spotted her at the bluff's summit. Do they mean harm? She couldn't tell, but as Anakin said one cannot be too cautious in this post-Fireball world. The objects took flight again. Yes, flight. Not exactly travelling on the ground but slightly hovering over it, and moving at great speed. Up the bluff they came, and a spooked Kamura began to bellow loudly to her companions. If these creatures are not friendly, we'll be ready for them.
He sped through the void with ease. No one spotted him as his craft penetrated the great black hole. Perhaps, he thought, this leads to nowhere, and that Worge lied to me. If this is indeed a time slip, then all the better. If not, I'll backtrack my way back on course, back to Tatooine where Worge will pay with his life.
Len Targ, satisfied that he would not have to turn back, sighed with relief once his ship emerged from the void. Now, with the correct coordinates sent by the droid HK-47, and travelling at lightspeed, reaching the planet in question should take not more than eight hours. After emerging from the time slip, Len watched as his ship cruised past a series of lifeless planets. As those travelers who much earlier passed this way, Len wondered what star system has no planets which support life. Those gas giants, with their many moons, reminded him of Bespin and Endor, yet those inhabitants managed to make a sustainable life. That one planet, with the rings, had one such moon, the only one with an atmosphere, but said air was full of noxious gases.
"Come on," he muttered, "that planet has to be somewhere near. All these gas giants are not worth spit!"
As he passed the last red-spotted giant, Len had to be extra cautious as he entered the asteroid belt. A crackerjack pilot, he had no problem navigating through the belt, but there was always that slim chance of collision.
Ah! Once out of the belt, it's on to the more terrestrial planets. Now, according to my contact, I should pass a red planet – alas, that is not inhabitable – once out of the asteroid belt. The next planet will be the one, the very place were two fugitives are hiding. Well, they won't be hiding for long, for I'll find them, kill them, then bring back their heads to the Emperor.
Oh yes, the droid HK-47...Bring him back as well, but not to Coruscant. Orders from Emperor Palpatine himself: "Take HK-47 to Tatooine. Leave him with the Hutts, as they have ways of dealing with droids who've outlived their usefulness..."
Copyright @2006 by P.R. Parker. All Rights Reserved.