This story is dedicated to Markus who suggested the crossover and helped in the story's development. Enjoy!
"What is it?," asked Neera.
"I don't know," said Aladar. "It's doesn't look like a predator, but it could be dangerous. Here, let me get a closer look."
As Aladar stealthy approached the thing, Plio called out, "Aladar, be careful. We don't know what it's capable of."
The thing rolled back as Aladar approached. It beeped and whistled as its head spun around as if trying to communicate with the iguanodon.
"Hey there," said Aladar, wondering if this strange little object could talk. "We won't hurt you. What are you? And what is your name?"
The thing stopped, wheeling its domed head, then whistled as if answering its questioner. It looked around again, taking in each and every creature there. One animal received the longest gaze: Sarama. As if it knew the hadrosaur, the little object rolled to her, beeping and wheeling its head. That was when it came to Sarama that she had seen this in her dreams.
"I saw this," she told Baylene and Hadron, "or something similar, in my visions. But it was blue and white, and the lady called it 'R2D2'. It was not dangerous, on the contrary. He was quite helpful, always getting his masters out of this and that jam."
Baylene, watching Aladar trying to communicate with the curious little object, admitted, "Sarama, during my last dream, I, too, saw a similar object, only it was accompanied by another. This second thing stood on two legs and looked almost like those humans I saw in my last vision. You know, the one my long dead mate showed me, where I beheld my remains on display for all the world to see. But this man was all covered in metal. He spoke with an accent, like me. He and this little 'R2D2' were on a journey through vast wastelands, almost identical to those we passed through whilst in Kron's company."
Now Sarama became worried, and a bit intrigued. Turning to Neera, she asked, "If this thing is a sort of human helper, could it be possible that a human is nearby? I wonder..."
She cast her eyes to the cave, saying, "Whoever it is, he or she must still be in the cave and hasn't discovered his helper missing."
Neera glanced at the cave's entrance then at Aladar who still conversed with the droid. She didn't have an answer to Sarama's question, but perhaps that reply had already been spoken once someone finally emerged from the cave.
A voice called out, "R4A9! R4! Where are you?"
In an instant, R4 wheeled around then rolled towards his master. It beeped and whizzed while his master still called out, "R4! No, stay there! I'm coming."
Out of the cave he came, sprinting across the meadow where R4 had stopped. The Herd's attention quickly shifted from the droid to the commanding form of this human. Oh, the Herd had seen humans before, even interacted with them. But this was only in a dreamlike trance, or so they assumed and believed it to be. That was some time ago, when Sarama had her visions of a grand ship sinking in the ice-cold Atlantic, carrying Eema's remains to the bottom of the sea. Thanks to a timely intervention from old Gotoma, the Herd had a rare and unforgettable encounter with that ship and the 1500 souls that went down with her. Now, some time later, here is another human, only this time he was in company by a peculiar little thing they couldn't explain.
He approached the dinosaurs and lemurs then the droid. He didn't know if these creatures could communicate; he just assumed they were just like all other animals. Yet, he felt it – The Force running through each and every creature. Could it be, just as his friend and former Apprentice Ricar Tasou discovered, that these creatures, while not identical in appearance, shared the same Force-sensitive gifts? His curiosity got the better of him, so he tentatively strolled up to Aladar and Yar. He introduced himself then explained about the droid.
"My name is Artmo Hox, and I crash-landed on your planet some days ago. That is my astromech droid, R4A9. I guess he became alarmed when your little one ventured inside the cave. He is completely harmless, I can assure, but he will defend himself if he's ever cornered. Right now, my guess is he is trying to make friends with you."
The Herd still eyed Artmo suspiciously, with only the crusty old styracosaur Mac, saying, "I don't care if it is harmless. And you, sir may not be all you claim."
Mac turned to Aladar, adding, "It could be a trap. Perhaps this human and his companion have led a pack of raptors, or more dreadfully, carnotaurs to our valley. I say we rout this invader back from whence he came."
Aladar, being more open-minded about such things, replied, "No, Mac, I don't think Artmo means us harm, and neither does this R4 thing. Maybe he's stranded here and needs a place to stay."
The leader of the Herd looked at Artmo Hox with kindly eyes and said with a smile, "You are welcome to stay with us, Artmo. We have plenty of room, much food and water. Here, let me introduce you to our Herd..."
Right in the middle of introductions, Artmo looked at his hosts with amazement. So, he thought, they have the power of speech, and not animal speech...Pure human speech, just as those creatures Ricar met. I wonder if they know, or knew, the animals that live in that other valley, the one Ricar visited two times.
After exchanging greetings and getting to know his new friends better, Artmo said, "How good of you to share your space with me, a stranded Jedi Knight who only tried to escape a tight situation. You see, I was on reconnaissance from the Outer Rim during the Clone Wars. A Trade Federation destroyer pursued me relentlessly. All I could remember was what my former Apprentice, Ricar Tasou, told me of a fantastic planet far removed from our home galaxy. He made two trips here, to a valley similar to this. The creatures he met were astounding, so in tune with the Force, especially a child named...I don't quite recall the child's name, but he was so bright and gifted."
He continued his story to his enraptured audience, "At any rate, I remembered Ricar's instructions on how to reach the time slip. I simply put my starfighter into hyperspace, cruised through the slip, then found my way to your planet. Alas, when I arrived, after I fought off many dreadful predators, I found shelter in this cave. For many days I navigated through it, hoping to find another exit. It was hoped a more fertile land lay on the other side. I was right. At first all I did was observe you from afar, and I was disappointed this herd didn't match Ricar's descriptions. Oh, the valley appeared similar, but I surmised there were many green spots all over the planet. R4 still holds Ricar's Holocron detailing every moment he spent here, among those animals."
Then, smiling, he added, "Oh, R4's head appears different because his original head was blown off during a space battle. Unfortunately, Industrial Automation ran short of replacement R4 parts, so my droid was refitted with an R2 head. Actually, and he agrees, the new head is an improvement."
Aladar laughed, watching the little droid with wonderment. He asked Artmo, "Your story is fascinating, but you mentioned a friend coming here twice." He looked at Eema and Baylene, asking, "Did you two ever meet a man named Ricar?"
Both Herd grande dames shook their heads, with Baylene replying, "I don't quite recall ever meeting a human before, that is not in the flesh, and not before coming to this valley." Eema shrugged and said, "Don't look at me. The name doesn't jolt my memory." To this Artmo said to R4, "Show them the Holocron of the valley, or Ricar's last visit."
Little R4 began the search for the Holocron, and within seconds, shadowy yet realistic images began to form. The Herd saw the captured images of those creatures who actually died out eons ago. How did Artmo's friend manage to come here, to this planet, to a time period millions of years old? This Ricar must be that old, but it's impossible to fathom...
They watched the image of Ricar interacting with these animals, creatures who also had the power of speech. It was Baylene who watched the most intently. She whispered to Eema, "I think I know – No – heard of them. The Old One especially...And isn't that..."
A startled Eema pronounced out loud, "Hey, isn't that the Longneck family? We thought they were just old wives' tales, but they're real!"
She asked Artmo flat out, "All right, and don't leave one detail out. What is this really all about?"
The Endurance had already sped past the red planet at tremendous speed. The skiff now neared an object that looked very much like a planet, only from this distance, the shape and colors were yet visible. All that could be seen with unaided eyes was a bright blue spot twinkling from the light of the sun. Marbe and Kirel could see this planet with its lone moon orbiting about.
"I believe this is it, Marbe," said Kirel. "Let me scan for atmosphere, any cities, a settlement, landforms, anything that will tell us this place is livable."
Marbe looked intently at the blue spot that grew larger as the skiff drew closer. Neither she nor Kirel had seen or heard of this planet, not even this entire galaxy. Yet, letting the Force guide them, deep down they knew this was the place. Once they approached the planet and penetrated its atmosphere, it was hoped there would be a settlement in which to land. They would need food, fresh water, and other supplies, perhaps extra fuel and spare parts for the ship. They would also need to make contact with someone on the surface. A trustworthy sort who could acclimate them to life and ways on this planet. For all they knew, the place either could be far advanced or hopelessly backward.
"I'm having a bad feeling about this," said Kirel. "As you said, Marbe, this planet could have nothing by way of modern technology. Look at some of the outer, farther removed, worlds in our own galaxy. A handful of those planets' and moons' inhabitants still use spears and knifes for combat. No blasters, no lightsabers, no starfighters. What does that tell you about how they match up against the Imperial war machine?"
Marbe thought about it, letting her mind wander to the moon of Endor, a place her father visited once or twice during his early day in the Order. Those inhabitants, the Ewoks, didn't have – still don't have – modern technology. No means of defending themselves against Imperial firepower. Yet, according to her father's stories, the Ewoks are resourceful, if a bit primitive by the rest of the galaxy's standards. Perhaps, and if ever the Rebel Alliance every merges with Ewoks, the Empire is in for a shocking surprise. "So much for their 'easy' mark," she muttered to herself.
"What'ya say, Marbe?"
"Oh, just thinking out loud."
The planet grew ever so much larger, its spherical shape becoming more defined. Landforms would not be visible until the Endurance drew closer, and that would be some hours. In the meantime, Marbe read off what came off the scanner. If there was life down there, if the atmosphere was breathable, if there was potable water, the Tasous resigned themselves to settle there. For all practical purposes there may not be any cities, just scanty settlements dotting the surface. What flora and fauna will they find? If there are human inhabitants, what languages do they speak? How do they get around? By speeder or beast of burden? It seemed everything from food to plants to cultures would be far different than whatever the Tasous had encountered or at least learned about in their short lives.
"All right," said Marbe, "the planet has a breathable atmosphere, must like our home worlds. Much water down there, nearly three-fifths is water."
"Salt or fresh,?" asked Kirel.
"Mostly salt water – oceans and such. The scanner's picking up much fresh water, but those sources seem few and far between."
"What about towns, settlements?"
Again, Marbe scanned for largely populated areas. She shook her head, saying, "Nothing, Kirel. Not even a campsite."
"But," said Kirel, "from this distance it's hard to tell, even with long-range scanners. Maybe it missed something. Hey, we're getting closer. I can make out shapes of landforms. They look kind of squished together."
Indeed, that planet's shape and landforms did become more visible. It was blue (obviously from its atmosphere) and swirled with many clouds, almost reminiscent of Alderaan.
"From here it is lovely," said Kirel. "But I bet it's not so lovely once we get down there."
"This is one time," his sister rejoined, "I would be inclined to agree with you. For all the anticipation of settling on this strange little world, it's like you said: I'm getting a bad feeling about this."
Kirel sighed, transmitting messages to whoever down on the surface for landing instructions. Odd enough, no response came back.
"Maybe you were right," he said to his sister. "Maybe this planet is like that moon of Endor. All pretty forest and stuff but the inhabitants are really primitive. Maybe they don't have scanners, holonets, transmitters..."
Marbe Tasou sat in her chair, intently studying the planet as it came closer into view. Whatever or whoever they'll encounter on the surface, it had to be better than what they left behind. Perhaps the people have a republican form of government, but what if they don't? Perhaps these people are more the artistic types, indulge in music and drama, not having time or energy to make war. Or, just as her earlier suspicions, they were hopelessly backwards.
As the skiff cruised just short of the planet's atmosphere, both Kirel and Marbe felt a strange rumbling in the Force, as if a great weight had been lifted. If only they had witnessed a triumph on faraway Tatooine, where Princess Leia once and for all put an end to Jabba's brutal reign with a powerful yank of the very chain that imprisoned her.
Marbe smiled slightly, saying to her brother, "You know, Kirel, I have a not so bad feeling about this."
Kirel returned the smile. "Me, too, Marbe. I think we'll have a blast on...Whatever this planet is called."
"We'll learn soon enough, little brother."
"Hey!," Kirel said with mock indignation. "We're twins, you know."
"Yeah, but you were born last," she said with a sly grin. Both kids laughed as their skiff neared the planet's atmosphere. Here goes nothing...
Copyright @2006 by P.R. Parker. All Rights Reserved.