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Return of the Aurors
Chapter 6: Separated
By Anne B. Walsh
"So things are going smoothly," General Dadine said to Mon Letha as they watched the Rebel fleet prepare to set out.
"Yes, everything’s going smoothly." Mon Letha nodded to a pilot as he hurried past. "Perhaps a bit too smoothly."
General Dadine turned as she half-caught movement behind her. "General Calrissian, a moment of your time?"
"Of course, General Dadine." Luna approached the two women, her cloak flowing behind her.
"Any... word of our travelers?" Dadine moved her hands alongside her eyes.
"They’re still all right," Luna answered, her eyes shifting until she seemed to stare through the hull of the ship. "Would you care to see for yourself?"
"Can you do that?" Mon Letha asked.
"I can. So could the General, if she wants to."
"That’s true, what am I thinking of?" Dadine smacked herself on her forehead. "Getting too into my role."
"It’s seductive," Mon Letha said musingly, "this feeling that the ending is known and everything will be all right. That your course is charted and safe." She smiled. "It could get suffocating very easily, but it makes a nice change."
"And things will change," Luna said. "A lot of things will change."
"Is that your common sense talking, or something else?" General Dadine asked.
"A little of both. Shall I let you see them now?"
"Wait another moment," Mon Letha said, picking up a datapad from the console next to her. "I’ll link it through to Commander Nigilles, so he can watch as well."
"And Admiral Lupar is on his way." Dadine grinned as the Mon Calamari made his way across the flight deck, the pilots saluting as he passed. "I think I’ll start calling him that at home."
"And see how long you live?" inquired Mon Letha dryly as Luna hid a smile.
"Something like that. General Calrissian, if you would do the honors?"
Luna faced the bulkhead beside her, which was simple unornamented metal. Raising her hands with palms outwards and fingers extended, she slid them apart. A section of the bulkhead turned first transparent, to show the lines of hyperspace outside, then green with the trees of the forest moon of Hogwor, with the Imperial shuttle the strike team had flown sitting abandoned in the woods.
The vantage point changed to show a long line of camouflage-dressed Rebels moving quietly through the woods. The watchers leaned forward as one as the leaders of the line came into view.
"Oh, I told you it was dangerous out here," said Threelo worriedly, peering forward at the hill where Hairywolf and Princess Neenie had just dropped to their knees, signaling everyone else to do the same.
Emtoo beeped quietly and rolled back and forth on her wheels.
"Can you really?" Threelo looked at his little counterpart with fascination. "I never knew that... how, exactly?"
Emtoo’s dome popped open, and out shot a small projector, the same one she’d used to display Princess Neenie’s repeated plea for helpâ€”
Would have used, Neville reminded himself. We never did A New Hope. And this isn’t real. We’re playing parts.
But as he turned his attention to the image Emtoo was projecting of Ron Solo and Master Drake joining Princess Neenie and Hairywolf at the top of the hill, the personality of the fussy android N-3LO wrapped around him again without his noticing.
"Shall we try and go around?" Neenie asked doubtfully, staring down at the two Imperial stormtroopers in their white armor.
"It’ll take time," said Ron. "This whole party’ll be for nothing if they see us." His tone made it clear he didn’t see why they couldn’t use more direct methods.
Neenie waved to the strike team to tell them to stay put, then started down the hill cautiously, Hairy, Ron, and Drake behind her.
"Hairy and I’ll take care of this," Ron said when they reached the edge of the clearing where the stormtroopers were talking. "You stay here."
"Quietly," Drake cautioned, catching Ron’s sleeve as he went past. "There might be more of them out there."
Ron grinned. "Hey...it’s me."
Drake and Neenie split an exasperated look between them and touched wrists. My point exactly, said two voices at once.
They watched Ron sneak up on one of the troopersâ€”Hairy, a forest creature by nature, had vanished in the trees, with only the occasional gleam of sunlight on fur to betray his locationâ€”another two seconds and they’d be in the clearâ€”
A sharp snap as a twig broke under Ron’s boot. The first trooper whirled, combat reflexes shoving Ron into a tree. "Go for help!" he shouted to his friend. "Go!"
The second trooper snatched up one of the broomsticks leaning against a nearby tree and shot off through the forest. Hairy stood up and picked him off with a bolt from his bowcaster. Ron and the first trooper, meanwhile, seemed to have forgotten about their weapons, as they were busily punching at each other.
"Great," Drake said, standing up. "Come on."
Neenie, blaster in her hand, followed him towards the fight, then stopped and turned. "Over there!" she shouted. "Two more of them!"
The scouts, good Imperial troopers, straddled their brooms and kicked off rather than stopping to help their friend.
"I see themâ€”" Drake turned to see Neenie running for the other broomstick. "Wait, Neenie!"
Neenie whirled the broom like a staff, leapt aboard it, and pushed off. Drake caught hold of the twigs and pulled himself on just in time. Ron flipped his opponent into a tree and looked up to see his friends disappearing in the distance. "Hey, wait!" he yelled after them.
Ron glowered. "Shut up, furball."
Neenie wove the broom in and out of the trees with more dexterity than she ever showedâ€”
Not now, Drake’s mental voice snapped at her. Move closer!
Back seat flyer, Neenie groused, leaning farther forward. We’re double-loaded here, you know.
All right, let’s fix that. Get along the one that just scraped his twigs on the tree.
Neenie swooped the broom to one side and brought it up alongside one of the troopers. Before he could react, Drake was on the broom with himâ€”
And then the trooper wasn’t on the broom anymore.
"There," Drake shouted, swinging his leg over the handle. "Happy?"
"Very. Let’s get him."
They both leaned forward and shot off after the remaining scout.
Commander Sirius Nigilles frowned at the tiny moving images on the screen of his datapad. "Why are they riding broomsticks?" he wondered aloud.
"Administrative decision," said Mon Letha’s voice from the audio hookup. "I wasn’t involved."
"I wasn’t asking you."
"I don’t know either," said General Dadine. "You’ll have to ask them, when they get back."
"If they get back." The commander swore as the two tiny Rebels shot past two more Imperial scouts, likewise mounted on broomsticks. "That’s not good..."
Drake’s broom shuddered. He glanced over his shoulder and cursed under his breathâ€”more scouts behind them, one of which had just shot him in the twigs. "Keep on that one!" he shouted. "I’ll take these two!"
Neenie gave him a curt nod.
Drake hauled back on his broom’s handle. Neenie, then his pursuers, whizzed past him like blaster bolts. Pulling his own blaster from his pocketâ€”not strictly regulation for the role, but necessaryâ€”he threw himself forward on the handle and opened fire on the two scouts ahead.
This is probably not Auror-like of me, but... die! Die! Die!
He grinned as the twigs of one broom ahead caught fire and the broomstick swerved into a tree.
One down, one to go.
Neenie whipped her broom in and out of the trees.
Can’t beat him on speed alone... what if I surprise him?
She climbed steeply, looping up and around, her blaster ready in her hand. Almost there... wait for it... now! Opening fire, she scored a glancing hit on the handle of the trooper’s broom, making it glow orange. Another one like that and I’ve got him...
The trooper pulled a blaster of his own and fired back. Neenie dodged the first shot, but the second caught her twigs on fire. She dived and leaped clear of the broom just as it smashed against a tree and burst into flames.
That could have gone better.
The trooper, still flying at full speed, laughed aloud. Then he turned to see a very large tree directly in his path.
His fiery crash was larger than Neenie’s had been.
Though it could have gone worse as well.
Neenie flopped down in the grass with a sigh.
Being lost and alone on an enemy moon is hardly good, though.
A vague thought or memory niggled at her, seeming to say that if she wanted companionship, all she had to do was wait...
She snorted. So now I think I can see the future. What’s next? I learn to use the Force like Drake? Not likely.
Drake sideswiped the last remaining trooper, who slammed him back.
You want to fight dirty? I’ll show you fighting dirty!
Drake went to haul his broom upwards for a diving attackâ€”
Forceballsâ€”our twigs! They’re jammed together!
He yanked at his broom’s handle, but its twigs remained firmly entwined with the trooper’s.
And here comes a BIG FREAKING TREEâ€”
Drake dived off to one side, turned his fall into a shoulder roll, and came up with his lightsaber in his hands. Picking off blaster bolts, he stared down the trooper, who had decided to challenge him head-on. That’s right, bring it here...
At the last possible second, Drake jumped, assisting his legs with the Force. He cleared the trooper easily, turned as he came downâ€”
And slashed off the entire twig end of the broom.
The broom’s handle did two barrel rolls before screwing itself into a nearby snag. The trooper flew a little farther without it before slamming his head against a stump and collapsing limply to the ground.
Drake sagged. Phew.
Don’t think I want to do that again.
Hairy claw-combed some of his fur, growling anxiously to himself. Ron paced back and forth, trying not to feel the eyes of the strike team on him. Drake and Neenie were celebritiesâ€”the last, or first, of the Auror Knights and the princess from the ruined world of Maraudaarâ€”no one would ever forgive him if they got hurt or captured or killed on a mission he was leading, and never mind that he’d never forgive himself...
Emtoo, her scanner out, beeped in excitement. "General Solo, somebody’s coming!" Threelo translated.
Ron had his blaster out before the first word had left Threelo’s metal lips. Hairy’s bowcaster and the weapons of the rest of the team were up and poised not a second later.
The person who stepped out of the bushes noticed the twenty-odd blasters pointed at him, but shrugged as if he were too tired to care.
"Drake!" Ron said thankfully.
Pulling off his helmet, Drake sank to a convenient rock and leaned back against a tree trunk, eyes closed.
Ron looked the way his friend had come, but no more sounds were audible. "Where’s Neenie?" he demanded.
Drake’s eyes shot open. "What, she didn’t come back?"
"I thought she was with you!"
"We got separated." Drake heaved himself back to his feet. "We’d better go look for her."
Ron nodded, then turned to Colonel Boot, his second-in-command on the strike team. "Take the squad ahead. We’ll meet at the shield generator at 0300."
"Come on, Emtoo, we’ll need your scanners," said Drake, patting the little droid’s head.
"Don’t worry, Master Drake, we know what to do," said Threelo importantly. "And you thought it was pretty here," he said in an undertone to Emtoo. "Ugh!"
The two groups moved off in different directions.
Neenie awakened. Something was poking her. Words half-formed in her mind... Drake, cut it out... Hairy, don’t...
But Drake was too old to play silly games like poking her while she slept, and besides, he still thought of her as a princess somewhere deep inside. He’d never do that. And Hairyâ€”if Hairy poked her, she’d probably have a broken rib...
Something’s not right here.
The poking resumed, and her thoughts vanished as she opened her eyes.
A small, reddish-brown-furred creature with a spear jumped back, holding it out defensively in front ofâ€”
Why do I want to say herself?
Slowly, the point of the spear came around, until it was resting against Neenie’s skin. "Cut it out!" she said angrily, pushing the spear away and standing up. The creature scuttled back again, staring at her.
Ewok, Neenie remembered from the briefing. One of the many indigenous species of Hogwor, one of the reasons it was declared a Sanctuary in the first place. Sentient, but primitive. "I’m not gonna hurt you," she said gently.
"Chikka wabo ee gooah," said the Ewok, sounding unconvinced.
Neenie shrugged and sat down on a fallen log, wincing as she discovered a new bruise with every movement. "Well, looks like I’m stuck here," she said, looking around at the wreckage of broomsticks around her. "Trouble is, I don’t know where here is." She glanced over at the Ewok, still watching her warily. "Well, maybe you can help me." She patted the log beside her. "Come on, sit down."
The Ewok growled, holding up her spear.
"I promise I won’t hurt you," Neenie said impatiently. "Now come here. Look." She placed a hand against her chest. "Neenie. I’m Neenie. Now you say it. Neenie." She drew out the sounds. "Neee-neee."
"Neeee?" said the Ewok questioningly.
"Yes. Neenie. Now you." Neenie repeated her motion. "Neenie." She extended her hand slowly toward the Ewok, keeping her palm open and unthreatening. "You?"
The Ewok advanced towards Neenie’s open hand, reached out her own, and touched it lightly with just the tips of her furred fingers. "Chinna," she said, bringing her hand back against her own chest, then stretching it out again. "Neee-nee."
"Yes. That’s right." Neenie reached into her pocket and pulled out a ration bar. "You want something to eat?"
I know this isn't a scene break in the movie, but it's where this scene wanted to break. More liberties, as requested, and more stuff to come...
Oh, and a poll on the Yahoo group! Investigate!
(Nontritetrum = non-tri-tetrum. From the Greek for nine-three-four. 9 3/4. Feel free to groan at me.)