This story is dedicated to Markus who suggested the crossover and helped in the story's development. Enjoy!
Ola, though she knew she shouldn't, interrupted Master Hox, asking, "Is this R2D2 still with Padmé?"
Hox answered, "As far as I know, yes. But I have no idea what has transpired in my home galaxy since coming here. See, we were at war, and I, on a mission, became lost, thus finding the black hole which led me here, to your planet."
"Gee," said Suri, "What do you think you'll find if you ever get to return home? Do you think things have changed much?"
Hox laughed then grew serious. "Suri, one thing a Jedi never dwells on is the unknown. Such thinking sparks fear and apprehension, the first steps to the dark side. To tell the truth, if I do return home, things will have changed, In what capacity I do not know. However, through the Force, I've felt great pain and suffering amongst the galaxy denizens. There was sorrow when I felt a deep disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices cried out in pain. Then sudden silence. As of now, I sense a great turning point, a final blow to the Imperial regime which will restore balance to the Force and usher in a period of hard-won peace."
The kids didn't quite understand all Hox said. Suri, an ever curious child, asked, "You said the Force is life itself, but how do you use it? Is it like the stuff we're hearing and seeing?"
"By what do you mean 'hearing and seeing', Suri?"
"Well, Ola's mom's been hearing music. So have Aladar and Yar. Even Baylene and Eema hear singing and stuff. In my dreams I see myself making music with other humans. Then, in the cave, Ola and I saw things we didn't understand. In there are crystals and pools, and sometimes you can see future stuff in them. I saw a girl playing something, then Ola and I saw humans and someone who looks like R2 going into something."
"Yes," rejoined Ola, "we saw that, and another of the droids that looks like that HK guy, only he looked more friendly. I think they called him Threepio. Then we saw a bunch of humans with little furry people, and a big hairy guy who just grunted and stuff."
Listening to the children's recount of their adventure in the cave, Artmo Hox wondered if these creatures are in tune with the Force. Indeed, Ola's mother, the one called Sarama, has a solid grasp of foreshadowing. She possesses a wisdom nearly identical to that of Master Yoda. As for the others, perhaps the entire Herd is Force-sensitive. If these animals are so gifted, then those his former Apprentice encountered had to be so, too. Incredible how this planet teems with such highly intelligent, sensitive creatures. Yet that will change come several million years, when these animals will be no more. Such a shame since this planet, once humans inhabit it, will be engulfed in wars, pestilence, untold atrocities – All symptoms of the dark side's firm grip. Perhaps all is not lost for these creatures, and Hox sensed the coming of a Great Change, a life-altering experience for the Herd as well as the Valley herd Ricar encountered. What that future held Artmo Hox was not a liberty to reveal. Yes, in his own dreams the night before, Master Hox saw not only ultimate outcomes for himself, but for Ricar's children, and the Herd, especially Aladar.
Now Artmo Hox felt another rumble in the Force, and he sensed imminent danger for himself, Ricar's children, and the Herd. He felt an unwanted presence: One was already here; the other had just penetrated this planet's atmosphere. What chaos to be wrought in this prehistoric paradise had yet to unfold, and Artmo knew the joy to come would be short-lived.
"Hey, Aladar. You busy? We've gotta talk."
Zini and his new ladylove, Luna, decided this morning to get Aladar alone, away from prying eyes and ears. They had to tell him what went down last night, what that HK47 may be up to. They didn't have all the details, but deep down Zini and Luna assumed all was not right with HK.
"Sure, Zini," said Aladar, "What's up? And why did you insist we meet in private?"
The teen lemur glanced around to see if anyone could be eavesdropping, then said, "We overheard that HK guy talk to someone last night. Just like Artmo did with his friend's kids. Only HK talked to someone who's heading here. He gave the guy directions to the Nesting Grounds and everything."
"Yeah," said Luna, "he told his friend to come across the desert to the old lake, then gave directions to the cave."
Aladar thought it over but concluded Zini and Luna must have misunderstood. So he offered a plausible explanation: "Think about it. Didn't Artmo say his friend's kids are coming? So, perhaps there's someone else with them, but they're far behind, so HK gave directions."
"Then why," said Zini, "did HK talk to this guy in secret? Don't you remember when Artmo contacted the kids? He talked to them with all of us present. Even showed us how the thing worked."
Luna rejoined, "But HK hid in the forest, away from everyone. Like he didn't want anyone to hear him. But we did."
"Hear them out, Aladar," said an approaching Sarama. "I overheard HK, too. Call it a hunch, but I'm getting a bad feeling about him. As Zini said, there is something amiss. The other droid, R2, is fine, but HK...Didn't Artmo say HK started out as an assassin droid? That should tell you something."
Through the cave they – Anakin and Kamura, Marbe and Kirel, Xander – followed along the path as described by Master Hox and Aladar. Thank goodness the Tasous used the illuminator sticks or else they would have had to feel their way through. Even more thankful they were that no predators had dared enter the cave or, at worst, tried to penetrate further within.
"How much farther?," asked Xander.
"We should be nearing the exit soon," said Anakin. "According to Aladar, we'll pass a mineral pool, and...Ah! There it is."
The rest of the cave was all dark and gloomy without any interesting features, but this part proved a bright spot – literally. A crack in the ceiling allowed for sunlight to filter through, bathing the area with its brilliance. Here the travellers could see mineral formations and a huge pool filled with water. Colorful stalactites and stalagmites stood at attention, resembling stately columns announcing the halfway point to the Nesting Grounds.
Aiming his illuminator, Kirel marvelled at this spelogical spectacle. He had wished he had the opportunity, if it were possible, to explore such caves in his home galaxy. However, such activities had to be put on hold. Perhaps, if he and Marbe ever return to Coruscant, that is one thing to which he looked forward: deep-space exploration, discovering and cataloguing the numerous physical features of the Core and Outer Worlds.
Marbe paused a moment to look into the pool, enjoying the many colors of the bottom. The water was so clear, so cool, but she dared not take a drink; she had to take caution in event the water was toxic, Into that pool she peered, noticing shapes beginning to appear. In that pool she saw, for a few fleeting seconds, events that would take place in this very spot many generations from now. She saw a young woman confronting an older man, a lightsaber battle soon ensued, and the pair soon found themselves in the desert, fighting to the death. The man tried to escape in his craft, but the woman was quicker, hopping on then continued to battle the man who seemed to have a telling grasp of lightsaber combat, but he was no true Jedi. The image faded from view the moment the man seemed to gain the upper hand; the woman fell, dangling from the ship as it sped several miles above the desert, A faint roar could be heard in the distance...
"All the evil will die in the desert," Marbe heard in her mind. Didn't she hear that same line in her dream last night? In that dream she saw herself writing a letter to a friend, detailing another disturbing dream, one that indicated future events. As a Jedi, Marbe learned to trust her feelings and not fear the future. If these dreams and visions were indeed signs of things to come, Marbe resigned to accept whatever will happen. There was no way to prevent it, even if it meant death and sorrow to many.
However, in this latest vision, Marbe got a jolt of foreshadowing. If this man battling the woman is not Jedi, then how did he learn lightsaber combat techniques? She recalled her father's fateful battle with General Grievous who learned from Count Dooku, a Sith Lord. Of course, Grievous, like this man in the vision, was no Jedi, despite his swaggering and boasting. After all, he was ultimately defeated by Master Kenobi, as this man will be defeated by this woman. Or will he?
He must be a Sith Lord or merely one trained in the dark side of the Force...Who is he? What has he done to wage battle against one who is, in every sense, a Jedi? Why here?
"Marbe, Marbe! Are you all right?"
She was brought back to the present by Kamura's gentle voice. Was she that lost in thought, so deep in her visions that she lost sense of the present reality?
Marbe apologized, "I am sorry, but I got this sensation of something to come. Kamura, do you ever see things? Sense things that may happen in the far future? I just did, and it was so vivid yet so puzzling."
Kamura said, "I've experienced such, but it was so long ago, right before I lost my nest. You've told me of Anakin Skywalker, your celebrated Jedi Knight. May I share with you a dream I had that very evening before the carnotaur attack? It involves Anakin Skywalker, I think, and what I saw in that dream was very disturbing..."
"Ladies," said Xander who came up from behind. "Aladar sent guides. Come on, they'll take us the rest of the way to the Nesting Grounds."
Before them stood two figures: A styracosaur and an elderly lemur, the latter none of the three dinosaurs had ever seen.
The ceratopsian jovially said, "You must be our visitors," and, looking over the Tasous, he added, "And you must be Marbe and Kirel. Master Hox is waiting for you. Oh, I'm Mac and this is Yar. We'll take you the rest of the way, which is not far."
"Thanks, Mac," gratefully said Anakin, eyeing Yar with curious peculiarity. He had never seen creatures so unlike himself, and Yar was an oddity in these parts. Nevertheless, the land changed so much since the Fireball; who knows what sorts now live in the Nesting Grounds.
As the group made their way to the exit, Yar said to Kirel, "Master Hox said he felt your presence all the way from your home planet. He knew you and your sister would come. So, you two had to leave home, eh? So did my family, forced out by the Fireball. Our island which was our home for generations destroyed in the blink of an eye. Your home is still there, isn't it?"
Kirel replied, "Of course it's still there, and we intend to return soon. Marbe and I have felt this deep rumbling in the Force as if a great change is near. I am sure peace will be restored and the Force balanced."
"Changes for you maybe," Marbe said under her breath, "but not for me. You will return to Coruscant; I will remain on this planet, for reasons I do not know."
Was she that bitter?
"Wow! How does he do that?," asked Suri as she and the other children watched Artmo Hox levitate a series of heavy boulders and stack them atop of each other – without hands or brute force. He used his mind, or explained Ola.
She said to Suri, "Even Mama doesn't know how to do that. I wish I could make things float in the air, then I'd get all the fruit and green leaves I want without Papa or Mama's help."
"Same here, Ola," said Eema. "If I could do what Artmo does, I wouldn't have to crack my head upside a tree to make the fruit fall. Sure would save me a headache."
Everyone laughed then continued to watch Artmo perform his Force tricks. What a neat thing to know someone so powerful as Master Hox. The Jedi must that important if they can do things like this, but the Herd knew, through Artmo, a Jedi is much more than that. To be a Jedi is to cast aside all emotion and attachments, all fear and anger, all sense of apprehension and guilt. Such feelings are all paths to the dark side, something the Herd had an inkling of long before Master Hox came to Earth. Perhaps, during their ordeal after the Fireball, the Herd had to deal with their own dark side, and it almost killed them. Perhaps Kron, in his steadfast clinging to the past, wrestled with the darkness within himself, yet he never learned that until it was too late. He never bothered to change with a changing world, even if it meant certain doom. He never yielded in Aladar's wake, an idealistic one who, for the most part, a stranger among them. Aladar's ways and attitudes were so unlike theirs: He possessed no herd mentality, to follow the leader without question, and he regarded the old and infirm of the Herd as natural leaders. These were foreign concepts for Kron and the Herd.
Perhaps, thought Suri in her own childlike way, Kron battled his own dark side. Even her own family, in wake of Lemur Island's destruction, had to deal with the fear of an unknown fate and anger at the Fireball which destroyed their home.
I guess we all go to the dark side every now and then, but we soon return to the light, like Baylene did when she broke through the cave to the Nesting Grounds.
Thinking about Baylene gave Suri an idea. She whispered to Artmo Hox who gladly obliged the lemur sprite.
"One in a while," said Artmo, "even the Jedi like to have a little fun. Now, watch very carefully."
How oddly curious that not a few days ago, on the moon of Endor, another Jedi performed a similar feat. Yet that episode was necessary as the Jedi and his friends were about to become part of their captors' dinner. The protocol droid C3PO, regarded as a god by the Ewoks, sat in a chair, and said chair began to levitate and float in the air. The Ewoks, fearing their "god's" wrath, immediately freed the captives.
Now, levitating a droid is not so much. Making a fifty-ton dinosaur float in the air requires far more concentration. However, if one is especially intuited with the Force, such a task is easily executed.
The elderly brachiosaur, casually watching over the children, felt herself become lighter, almost floating. Did she actually leave the ground? Sure felt like it.
"Oh my goodness!," she said in alarm. "What is happening? Why...How am I able to float?"
What a sight for the Herd. The largest, heaviest amongst them lifted from the ground and floating about as if one took out her innards and replaced them with helium. Her levitating over the Nesting Grounds was that effortless, yet it wasn't she who made it happen.
"That's the Force, Baylene," called up Eema who couldn't keep from laughing at her best friend hovering around like a bird. "Artmo's showing us how the Force can make things move, even you!"
"Put me down, Artmo Hox! This instant!," demanded an astonished Baylene. But the tone of her voice suggested a hidden pleasure, an unspoken, secret delight that she, all fifty tons of her, continued to hover over her peers. She could see her own feet helplessly dangle in mid-air.
Baylene continued to hover about, floating here and there to the delight of the Herd. No one had ever seen such a thing; everyone concluded Artmo Hox to be a most powerful man.
"What is going on here?" That was Mac who appeared in the meadow with Yar and the five travellers.
"It's Master Hox," said Neera, "and he's levitating Baylene. Can you believe it? She's the heaviest of all of the Herd, but Artmo lifted her as she's light as a feather."
Sensing the Tasous' presence, and another rumble in the Force, Artmo Hox gently returned Baylene to the ground. The elderly sauropod gasped for breath, shocked and a bit sad that her brief flight was over.
"My goodness," she said, "I've never felt so free! How do you accomplish such a feat?"
Artmo Hox replied as he walked towards Ricar Tasou's children, "That is the Force, Baylene. You will come to know and use it soon...Very soon."
Copyright @2006 by P.R. Parker. All Rights Reserved.