This story is dedicated to Markus who suggested the crossover and helped in the story's development. Enjoy!
"Your thoughts betray you, Mac," said Artmo Hox to the cranky styracosaurus. "You still don't believe I'm from another world, or that my former padawan and apprentice visited your ancestors not once, but twice. As I speak, Mac, Ricar's children are here, for I can feel it..."
"Yeah, yeah," said Mac in a huff, his eyes rolling contemptuously. With a scoffing snort, he then said, "So, my thoughts betray me. Go on, Artmo, tell me what's on my mind?"
Under the shade of towering trees, the styracosaurus and Jedi Master sat. Artmo's droid, R4A9, was presently by the lake, taking in the sights and sounds of the Nesting Grounds. The little astromech didn't mind the many dinosaur children gathering around him, and he thrilled the youngsters by playing over and over that Holonet of the Great Valley gang.
"Mac," calmly said Artmo, while cutting a ripe peach, "you, truly, do not want to cause trouble."
Mac looked at him, repeating the line, "I do not want to cause trouble." The old dinosaur blinked, wondering why he just echoed Artmo's words. Shaking his head, he just sat there staring at the Jedi.
Artmo smiled, adding, "Once we're better acquainted, you and I will become great friends. Now, you don't want to disappoint Aladar and your Herd by acting out your frustrations."
Mac, again, echoed the words, "Yes, we'll become great friends. I don't want to disappoint Aladar and the Herd, and I have been acting out my frustrations."
Again, the Jedi smiled. He then said, "Mac, you're lonely, aren't you? How long has she been gone?"
Now Mac was outdone; no one had ever brought up the subject of his long dead mate. Just the mention of her name brought tears to his eyes. However, and Artmo's question caught him off-guard, Mac took a deep breath and began his tale of love and loss.
"Madora was my life. We'd been together for so many years that I've lost count. We lost nearly all our children and grandchildren in the Fireball, so it was just Madora and myself. My daughter Madga was expecting another brace of hatchlings, her sixth! So many children, and the older ones, all grown, were expecting their hatchlings. Well, after the Fireball, only our youngest daughter Suzy survived. She's over there with Eema."
Mac nodded towards the thicket where Eema and Suzy merrily stuffed themselves with many green leaves. He continued his story.
"Anyway, Madora felt it was time to continue on with life, so we made the annual march to the Nesting Grounds. Alas, so much had changed since the Fireball. Our annual migration was usually a leisurely affair, strolling through grasslands, bathing in rivers, nibbling on green food. Of course, we had to be ever wary of predators, like the raptors and the dreaded carnotaurs. This time, however, our migratory journey was met with endless wastelands. The once fertile plains and forests had been ruined by the firestorm. The Herd's leader, Kron, pushed us mercilessly, never stopping to rest except at night, and those were so few. He kept pushing and pushing us to the breaking point. Madora, I could tell, despite her hearty constitution, began to weaken from lack of proper food and water. Her grief for our dead children was great, and I believe her heart was not into it, what with the constant walking and looking over our shoulders for predators."
Artmo Hox, still listening to Mac's story, asked, "And, in the end, what happened to Madora?"
The dinosaur replied with tear-choked voice, "It was the march across the desert. The heat and sun were unbearable. We were tired and sore-stumped, in much need of rest and water, but Kron kept urging us onwards, even at night. Yes, we didn't even stop for a good night's sleep. We were just one day of the lake when Madora dropped dead. I wanted to stop and grieve over my departed wife, but I couldn't. Kron insisted we stop for nothing and no one. So I left her body there for the raptors to feast upon. How much I wished to knock Kron senseless for being so cold. As I marched on with the others, I looked back to see Aladar pausing over Madora's body. He was at the rear of the Herd, with Eema and Baylene. Aladar told me, that evening after the mad rush for water at the lake, he wanted to do something for Madora, but it was too late. Kron always got his way, and Aladar, at the time, was so powerless to stand up to the villain."
Artmo Hox, after Mac bared his soul and pain, said, "As a Jedi I've formed no attachments – no wife or children. I even detached myself from my own parents; after all, I was barely toddling when I began my training."
He paused, then added, "On the other hand, my own Jedi Apprentice, Ricar Tasou, voluntarily left the order to marry. A dangerous thing, to fall in love, for it leads to emotional attachments. Such things lead to fear of loss and separation, which in turn manifests into anger and hate, suffering. All paths to the Dark Side."
Artmo, looking Mac square in the eye, then said, "You've come close to the Dark Side, Mac. All that pent-up anger and fear, fear of going through life without your mate, anger that she died, that her death was indirectly caused by another. Do you still bear Kron any ill will?"
Mac shook his head, replying, "Not any more. All those days following Madora's death, I came to hate Kron for his insistent, insane ways. He kept at us, telling us to be strong and push on. He often said those who are not strong enough are not worthy to live. Once we reached the canyon, where we usually accessed the valley, then discovered the passage blocked, I knew Kron had gone mad. He insisted we climb it, but it was so high, virtually impassable. There was a sheer drop on the other side, as Aladar said, but Kron wasn't swayed. That bastard forced the little ones up the rocks, and the others blindly followed. I remained back in the Herd, finally deciding to turn back and strike out on my own. If a carnotaur got me, so be it. At least I'd be with Madora for all eternity."
He sighed, adding, "At least I have Suzy and her little ones. She's tried to keep me going, convincing me to let go of the past. Madora's gone, and there's nothing I can do to bring her back. I think I can accept that, but it's the pain of knowing how she died that still angers me. Then again, so many of us lost homes and family in the Fireball, and we've lost more during the trek here."
Artmo Hox smiled, saying, "My friend, let me give a piece of advice Master Yoda told me years ago: Miss her not, mourn her not. You have happy memories of Madora, so do not suffer her lost. She is now one with the Force, and there shall be no tears. Ah, I see Aladar and Neera heading this way. Why don't we–"
As if stunned from within, Artmo instantly stood up, his eyes wide with amazement. He seemed to stare out in space, thoroughly entranced. Mac noted the Jedi's sudden change of composure and asked, "What is wrong, Hox? You seem as if you've seen a ghost."
Artmo said, "I sense another deep rumble in the Force, as if the moment of truth is at hand. I heard a swell of voices, felt a surge of energy as if a momentous event is unfolding. Not just here, but in my home galaxy. I sense the arrival of Ricar's children, and there are others with them, one of which is close to a member of the Herd. Mac, let us go to the cave. I sense an approaching danger that may impede a joyful reunion – And, perhaps, the outcome for us all."
In the canyon, just short of the cave, HK-47 and R2A9 made their way through narrow passages. As they are droids and have no need to sleep or eat, they made excellent time after leaving the old lake. HK received a communique from Kirel: He and Marbe just made contact with their first organic beings, a trio of dinosaurs who are en route to the Nesting Grounds. The Tasous, after assured the animals mean no harm, communicated they are now in the dinosaurs' company. Kirel instructed HK to press on, but keep on the lookout for predators, mainly carnotaurs. Marbe had spotted footprints which the iguanodon Anakin identified as carnotaurs. There were two, maybe three, such predators, so be prepared to blast them if necessary. Also, if the droids should reach the Grounds first, locate Master Hox then relay that information. Hox would know the droids on sight, and he would assure the valley animals R2 and HK mean no harm.
"I don't know, shortie," said HK. "Master Kirel said to watch for predators, but what do they look like? All I see are the tracks...and they were right. Two, no, three, of those carnotaurs came by here. See? Those beasts' tracks lead straight to that cave. Come on, let's check it out."
The droids followed the tracks to the cave's mouth, stopping short of entering. R2A9 beeped and whistled paid her partner no mind as she rolled right inside the cave.
"Where are you going?," asked HK. "Here, do you sense something? A lifeform? If it's dangerous I'll dispatch it just like those little chompers back in the desert."
R2 just rolled onwards, with HK following close behind. Ah, from the tracks, it appeared the predators had been here, but they left some days ago.
"These tracks aren't that fresh," said the protocol droid. "My calculations suggest those carnotaurs left more than three days ago. They've probably moved on; there was nothing here for them to eat."
R2 paid her companion no mind as she continued forth, sensing a presence deep within the cave. She beeped and whistled, totally oblivious to overhanging stalactites and mineral pools. With a light emanating from her domed head, R2 undauntedly journeyed deeper into the cave, sensing an approach.
"R2!," called out HK, "Wait up! Where are you going?"
The little droid still paid no attention to HK, thoroughly disliking the protocol droid's constant put-downs and imperious attitude. As if by instinct, she continued down narrow, darkened paths, beeping madly as if on the verge of discovering something wonderful. Hark! Did she sense the sounds of footsteps, perhaps heard a voice or two?
HK-47, now becoming quite upset, called out again, "Shortie! Where are you going? This is no time for games. Come back here!"
R2A9 stopped then wheeled her head around so her one red "eye" faced HK. She let off a series of loud beeps and shrills, so loud that the vibrations sent a shower of tiny pebbles over HK. She was that mad at him.
HK said, "What is this? You were ordered to penetrate this cave? By whom? I don't recall Master Kirel ever giving such an order."
R2 turned around then continued her journey, going deeper and deeper, not once stopping. There it was again, the sound of footsteps and voices. One was decidedly human, the other R2 couldn't quite make out. All she knew was to follow those orders to the letter and not let HK persuade her otherwise.
They came upon a rock formation, obviously made by intelligent beings from the appearance of the carefully arranged stones. Could this be a trail marker? A tomb? At once, HK drew his blaster. So, the little astromech was right; there was something in this cave.
"Hello!," he called out, "Can anyone hear me? Who are you?"
The footsteps and voices drew closer as the droids passed the rock formation then detected what looked like light coming from the other end.
"That must be from where they're coming, whatever they are," said HK, his weapon still drawn and ready.
"Whatever is on the other side must be intelligent, or vicious. Perhaps both. Whatever it is, I'm ready for 'em."
He stood still, hoping for the creature to show its face. How long has it been since HK's blasted a foe to oblivion? Just a couple days ago, but so what? He lived for the thrill of hunting down his quarry then giving them a good blasting.
"Come on!," HK taunted out loud, "Show yourself, you coward!"
The droid's taunt was quickly answered with, "Unless you want a restraining bolt locked in your neck, HK-47, I suggest you put away your weapon."
Little R2A9 beeped merrily then wheeled around and gave HK what sounded like a raspberry, as if saying, "I told you so!"
Artmo Hox, his lightsaber drawn, approached the droids, saying to R2 first, "Thank you, my friend. Your obedience will be greatly rewarded." He turned to HK, adding, "As for you, HK, all I ask it this: Where are Marbe and Kirel?"
HK-47, completely outdone by the Jedi, merely replied, "They're a day behind us, sir."
Artmo smiled, saying, "Oh, I forgot to introduce my friend, Mac. He is one of the Herd who live in this place. If you and R2 will follow me, I shall introduce you...Oh, let me send Marbe and Kirel a message. They will need exact coordinates to the Nesting Grounds."
After Master Hox sent the message, he ushered HK and R2 through the passage into the sun-bathed valley. All the while he sensed all was not right with HK, knowing the droid's past history. Impending danger, indeed, for Artmo sensed the approach of another who would dare wreck havoc over the dinosaurs' paradise, and dash to pieces so many dreams of those yet to be born.
Copyright @2006 by P.R. Parker. All Rights Reserved.