The night was somewhat cloudy, a faint glimmer of silver moon sliced through the night mist and sent glowing ripples over the small waves that lapped against the sides of the ship.
The two young officers that stood on the deck knew that they shouldn’t be there really. They had a tough mission ahead of them the next day and by all rights they should be in bed – asleep. But restlessness, due to a barely contained nervousness, kept them up and out.
“Rafe?” the brunette questioned softly, still looking out to sea.
“Do you…do you believe in aliens?”
Rafe turned to look at his friend with astonished eyes. “Do I believe in what?”
Rafe looked at the other, trying to decide if it was a trick question. Finally he shook his head with a small, bemused laugh. “No, Danny, I don’t believe in aliens.” A pause. “Why?”
“N-no reason just…” iJust trying to break the tension. “…just a stray thought.”
Rafe studied Danny curiously. “You’ve often had your mind on strange things…but…aliens?”
Danny bristled somewhat. “Well…with all those stars out there…all those planets… No one knows how large the universe is. How can we be sure there aren’t others like us out there…”
Rafe floundered for a moment, not sure as to what he should say. Danny had a thing for speaking his mind, especially on certain things, but Rafe had a harder time with words. Danny spoke from the heart, not choosing his words, simply letting his heart speak for him. Therefore, if Danny believed in aliens he would go off saying so if need be. “So…you believe in aliens?”
“I…I can’t say I believe in them per se, but I don’t deny that they exist.”
“You’re no good at breaking the ice, Danny. What’s really up with you?”
The brunette looked away, not able to face his friend. There was something too piercing in Rafe's gaze.
The words swirled around in Danny’s mind. He wanted to say them so badly. Sure, Rafe and he had spoken about this before flying out on this mission. They broached the topic and settled it – formally. But there was still that tenseness in the air. A terrible feeling that they just weren’t what they once were. And it hurt – physically hurt.
But no. There was no use opening the subject now. No use. The topic was supposed to be settled and no good could possible come from re-opening it. They had reached a truce, after all, as fragile as it might be.
“It’s nothin’, Rafe.”
A disbelieving look.
“Really. I’m just somewhat…edgy. This is far beyond anything we’ve ever done.”
Rafe smiled a little. “True. But just…don’t freeze up on me and everythin’ will go fine, ok?”
“Yea, I guess.” A shrug and a small smile.
Rafe placed a hand on the other man’s shoulder. “We should get some rest.”
Danny nodded and returned the friendly gesture. “Right.”
Hands still on each other’s shoulders, the two walked back down below deck and to what little sleep they would get that night.
Surrounded…on all sides! Damn it!
Rafe pushed himself as flat as he could against the carcass of his airplane as he held his gun at the ready. Their operation in Tokyo had been completed successfully, however, then things went downhill. They were supposed to go to China where they should have been safe. Unfortunately, their guide plane had been shot down and they were forced to fly around blindly, searching for land and with little fuel for the tanks. His and Danny’s planes had made it for sure; Rafe wasn’t sure if there was anyone else who had survived the skirmish in Tokyo and had simply detached from them. Not that this whole thing was anywhere near over. They had been forced to crash land. Rafe’s plane had been in the lead and so they had landed first. Some part of the plane had begun to burn and as they had tried to get away from the wreckage and assess any losses, they had been ambushed by the Japanese that this part of China seemed to be occupied by.
“We need to get to the hills and find the Chinese!” Rafe called frantically over the gunfire.
“They’ve got us boxed in!” came the answer from somewhere on his right.
Damn, I know that. He fired several shots. Another thought surfaced. Where’s Danny?
As if on cue there was a roar of plane engines and the clear-cut sound of the firing of large guns. The Japanese seemed to fall away as the plane – Danny’s plane – crash landed near by and a part of it also began to burn.
Heart beating wildly, Rafe scrambled to his feat and dashed to the other plane. The other boys were right behind him. “Danny! Danny!” he called frantically, the smoke stinging his eyes and making it hard to see.
“Rafe?” A week, disoriented call, but the blonde fallowed it faithfully. He reached Danny within seconds and fell to his knees at his friend’s side.
“Danny! You saved us all back there!” Rafe exclaimed, smiling a little.
“Rafe…” Danny was gasping for air.
Rafe took the young man into his arms, cradling him the best he could. “ I’ve got ya, Danny. You’re gonna be ok. I’ve got ya.”
“There’s something in my neck.” Danny was fumbling, trying to claw out the small object stuck in his neck. Rafe pushed his hand away gently.
“I know. I see it. Hold on, I’ll get it out.”
The fire crackled bitterly behind them, sending up clouds of smoke. Danny coughed, chocking somewhat as Rafe struggled with the peace of what looked like metal. “Shhh…almost got it.” With a final yank the object was out and Rafe tossed it carelessly behind him and into the fire as Danny slumped against him, breathing raggedly and only half conscious.
Danny half closed his eyes as he sank against Rafe and watched the small metal rod that Rafe had pried out of him spin three times in the air before plummeting into the hungry flames of the fire.
There was a deafening bang, like a massive explosion. A bright white flash followed.
And then the world went black.
The world swam back into focus slowly. The bright colors swirled around in front of his eyes and slowly began to make shapes and vague outlines. A glaring bright light shone suddenly through the pinkish blue-green haze.
“Agh,” Danny protested incoherently as he tried to swing his arm over his eyes but failed as it appeared to be a lot heavier then he was use to. “Gah…Rafe?” Danny pushed himself up into a somewhat sitting position, feeling sharp waves of pain slicing through his body. The shapeless swirls in front of his eyes were now transforming into a jungle landscape with tall trees, thick bushes, and lush patches of grass. What the…? “Rafe!”
“Stop shouting, Danny. I’m here.”
Danny looked to his left to see Rafe sitting next to him, rubbing the back of his head.
“I wasn’t shoutin'…” Danny muttered. The two looked around for a few moments before Danny asked the question they both had in mind. “So…where the hell are we?”
“Hopefully in China.”
“That at the moment is questionable.”
“How’d we get here?”
“Why must I know the answers to everythin’?”
Danny shrugged, seeing that Rafe was beginning to bristle. “Well I though I had passed out…last night…where are the planes?”
Rafe, who was rubbing the back of his neck, stopped the motion and looked over at Danny with concerned eyes. “Sorry, I forgot. How are you feeling?”
The brunette lifted a hand gingerly to his neck and then ran it over his torso. “I feel like an elephant has run me over, but I think I’ll live.”
Rafe grinned. “Good to hear. Come on, let’s find out where we are.” The blonde got to his feet and offered Danny a hand, dragging him up as well.
Danny winced, stumbled, and followed slowly after Rafe through the dense foliage.
“Do you think they’re still following us?” Anakin Skywalker asked mildly, fidgeting with the broken tracker in his hand as he followed behind his former master through the foliage of the planet-wide jungle.
“I’m sure they are,” Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi answered matter-of-factly. “Don’t you just love this planet, Anakin?”
“Yea, especially the mosquitoes,” Anakin muttered glumly. “And don’t forget the swamps too, those are a real joy.”
Obi-Wan shook his head bemusedly, “Really, Anakin, haven’t you taken a look around.”
“Sorry, too busy trying to avoid being ether shot by droids or eaten alive by insects.”
Obi-Wan didn’t answer him for a while. It was true that they hadn’t had much of a chance to sight see during this mission. Although, at another time, Obi-Wan was sure it might have been a nice stay. But then, Anakin was no Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon was the one who loved insects, furry little creatures, and trees that were too tall for everyone’s good. “Anakin, is the locator broken too.”
“No, I got that fixed about an hour ago, Master. Weren’t you listening?”
“I was a little busy at the moment.”
“Doing what? Meditating?”
Obi-Wan was about to reply but stopped abruptly. Anakin, who’s full attention was on the tracker, walked right into him. “Obi-Wan, what—“
“Wait…can’t you feel it?” Obi-Wan asked in a whisper.
/Feel what?/ Anakin sent through the bond.
/Reach out through the Force… on our right./
Anakin reached through the Force as he and Obi-Wan snuck behind a bush. There were, indeed, two presences coming toward them from their right. They came into sight rather quickly – two men walking side by side. Their clothes were dirty and of some sort of military model. Anakin figured they were somewhere around his age. At their waists hung some sort of weapons – they looked like primitive blasters to the young Jedi.
/Can you hear what they’re saying?/ Obi-Wan asked through the bond.
/Not quite yet, but they’re obviously speaking in Basic./
“I don’t understand it…the last thing I remember is passin’ out. Or at least I think I passed out. Rafe, where are the other guys? Most importantly, where are our planes?” the brunette was saying with frustration.
“Danny, I already told you all that I remember. I’m as confused as you are. Besides, our planes would be no use to us even if we found them. Crash and burn equals not flyable.”
“Brilliant, Rafe. I would of never guessed that,” Danny muttered sarcastically.
“This doesn’t look like China to me, anyways,” Rafe said, shaking his head a little.
“Nor Japan,” Danny added, looking self satisfied.
/Do you think they’re seps?/
/I don’t know, Anakin. They look – sound – lost if you ask me./
/Blood and mud on their military uniforms. They have weapons. They’re looking for something that can fly called planes… Come on, Master. Who else that has seen battle would be on Gavis IV. They’re obviously not our men./
/Anakin, nothing brash,/ Obi-Wan counseled his former padawan as the two young men came almost level with them.
Anakin stepped out of their small hideout and Obi-Wan followed suit. “Hold it!” Anakin called.
The two young men – Danny and Rafe – stopped dead as the two Jedi materialized before them out of seemingly nowhere.
“Wow…” Danny hissed under his breath. “What in the world…?”
“Who are you?” Anakin questioned briskly.
“Pilots!” Danny blurted. And received an elbow in the side for his trouble.
Anakin’s eyes narrowed. “Are you separatists?”
Rafe gave him a questioning look. “One, what’re separatists? Two, who’re you?”
“’Cause you’re certainly not Chinese,” Danny put in. Rafe turned to glare at him.
“So you are on the side of the Republic?” Obi-Wan asked more mildly.
“Depends on what republic you’re talkin' about,” Danny said carefully.
“The Galactic Republic, of course!” Anakin exclaimed, now somewhat confused.
“Yea, we’re all for world peace,” Danny replied, earning him another look from Rafe.
“You two aren’t Nazis are ya?” Rafe asked slowly, his hand coming to rest of the top of his gun.
“What the kriff is a Nazi?” Anakin asked, turning to look at Obi-Wan questioningly.
Obi-Wan only shrugged. “Maybe he means Katzi.”
“Aren’t those extinct? Besides, Katzis are short and hairy.” A pause. “But then, on second thought,” Anakin made a show of eyeing Obi-Wan’s beard and grinned lopsidedly. ” You could, actually, pass of as one.”
“Oh, very funny, Anakin. I’d thought after all these years you’d get the fact that I am not going to shave my beard. No matter what you say.”
“Fine. Be that way.”
“Look, maybe you guys can help us,” Rafe started saying as Danny looked over the Jedi’s clothing with mounting interest and puzzlement. He was cut off, however, by a sharp beeping sound coming from Anakin’s proximity sensor.
“Master, we’ve got company,” Anakin hissed, glancing down at the sensor’s readings.
“Are we close to the fighters?” Obi-Wan asked, noticing the way Danny and Rafe perked up at the word “fighters.”
“Yea, about a quarter mile away. I say we bale.”
Obi-Wan nodded then looked from Rafe and Danny to Anakin then back. “Pilots you say?”
The boys nodded eagerly.
“You should come with us.”