Welcome to my summer project! As you no doubt instantly surmised from the story summary, I'm one of those Grievous fans who thought that this marvellous character was dealt a pretty raw deal in ROTS and deserved just a wee bit better. What follows then is my own idea of how things could have unfolded…think of it as an EU Episode 2 ½ which leads into a somewhat AU ROTS, with the emphasis throughout focused on the baddies: Grievous, Dooku, and the rest of the naughty Separatist gang. Also contains some original characters and a touch of Dragonball Z and I'll leave it for the next chapter intro to identify just what that last is in order to preserve any potential surprise. There will be some action 'n' adventuring once things get rolling…mostly, though, it'll be about how the characters think, feel, and interact, especially Grievous, so if that kind of stuff bores you to tears, better skip this one. If you do like this tale, please feel free to suggest scenes or ideas or situations that you'd like to see explored in later chapters. At this moment, I know how Grievous's story begins (obviously) and exactly how it ends, but there's an awful lot in between that's still up for grabs!
Disclaimer: All things Star Wars and Dragonballish are owned by their respective copyright holders. I'm just having a good time playing in these universes for fun and nonprofit.THE ESSENCES OF LIFE
Chapter 1 - Plot Convenience Playhouse Presents:
It began with an old male's insomnia and a streak of light in the night. The elderly Markusian had never seen anything like it. The fireball emerged from the overcast and speared its way through the dark like any common meteor at first. Then its passage slowed, levelled, and it dipped lightly beneath the nearby hilled horizon. The Markusian listened for the rending thunder of a crash. It never came.
He thought of soldiers, weapons, invasions, and got up as fast as his old bones would allow and went to wake his son.
For Lissa Veleroko, it began as an unwelcome pounding that woke her far too early in the morning. She dragged herself out of bed, fumbled on a robe, stumbled her way through the dark to her front door, and opened it to a gaggle of her Markusian neighbours, all of whom were jigging up and down in a state of high excitement and frantically trying to talk all at once.
"Whoa! Stop. Slowly," she soothed, pressing her palms downward in a visual plea for calm. The burry warbles and trills of Markusian speech simply didn't lend themselves to human replication , but she'd learned to understand a fair amount of the aliens' language as long as they spoke slowly and distinctly, as though to a somewhat dimwitted child. They tried again, still talking too fast, more agitated than she'd ever seen them.
"A ship?" Lissa puzzled out at last. "A spaceship? Landing here?"
She pantomimed a swooping aircraft with one hand and the lot broke instantly into excited yelps of affirmation. "Ree ree ree!" they cried, their word for 'yes'. Lissa regarded the lumpy little creatures blearily, frowning and pulling absently at a lock of her long, sleep-tousled hair. It seemed extremely unlikely to her that any sort of spacecraft had landed nearby. Marku supported no native technology whatsoever and lay far off the usual trade and travel routes—its isolation was one of the things Lissa valued most highly. Yet there was no denying that only an extraordinary event could have coaxed these Markusians onto her porch in the middle of the night.
In the end, she decided to bring along two of her personal droids, an astromech unit, and a modified loader droid that could best double as ambulance transport in case anyone in the still hypothetical ship was injured. Two of the Markusians, the bravest ones, stayed on to lead the way. They amused Lissa with the distance they kept between themselves and her party as they marched along and the fearful glances they frequently shot back at the devil machines accompanying her.
Despite her guides' obvious fright and insistence, Lissa was nonetheless staggered when they topped one last rise and beheld what indeed looked like the gleam of dull metal at the periphery of the light thrown by the Markusians' torches. The instant the aliens spotted it, they ground to a halt and began to slowly back-pedal. Lissa pushed past them, ordering the loader droid to flash up a powerful floodlight as she hurried forward.
A starfighter! And it looked intact, the gouged spray of soil beneath its landing gear suggesting a landing that had been hard but by no means uncontrolled. Lissa examined the craft as best she could under the limited illumination. The design was utterly unfamiliar to her, the char streaks and dings and curls of smoke still drifting from the engines all too familiar. Room for one pilot. If such existed.
The two personal droids came up to her as Lissa tried to peer through the fighter's viewports. "Can't see a thing," she muttered. "Transparisteel, I think. Expensive stuff."
"Shall I try a high-intensity light, ma'am?" the larger of the personal droids offered. It was an odd-looking machine, configured somewhat like a grasshopper with delusions of becoming a centaur. The smaller droid, bucket-sized, hovering in mid-air at eye level, also had an insect mien about it. It appeared to be based on a child's drawing of a fat brown cartoon cricket.
"You'd have to risk blinding someone to get a light through these viewports, Trigger," Lissa said to helpful larger droid. "Try a thermal scan instead."
He aimed his long wedge of a head at the cockpit area of the starfighter and obliged. Lissa studied the image he transmitted to her scanner padd. The smaller droid, whose name was Gregory, dipped down and looked over the woman's shoulder. There was a body in the ship all right, with bright heat blooms still showing in the skull and chest. The extremities had already gone cold.
"That means he's dead," said Gregory, sagely.
"Thanks," said Lissa, sourly.
The two Markusian guides had long since disappeared. Just as well, Lissa thought. The little technophobes didn't need to see her pull the dead pilot out and bury him, proof in their minds of the dangers of tampering in all things unnatural. She sighed. It was just a recovery operation now. She called to the astromech droid and put him to work at popping the cockpit hatch.
They found the pilot slumped forward in his—or her?—seat, the front of the elaborate helmet almost touching the instrument panel. He was also wearing the strangest arrangement of flight armour that Lissa had ever seen, one that seemed to wholly cover the big body. No harness or restraining device. Had he lived long enough to strip it off or did the armoured suit itself somehow anchor him? The light was so poor that Lissa could barely see a thing within the cockpit. She leaned in and felt downward, reaching past the pilot's sides.
What in the world—! The woman pushed herself back up, astonished. A droid? She told Trigger to rear up and shine a light, grasped the broad armour-plated shoulders and tried to pull the pilot upright. He seemed abnormally heavy—Trigger had to help her. And when the head itself finally came up and lolled to one side…
A long, sweeping, bleached-white mask covering an inhumanly narrow face that wasn't wholly there. Lissa stared fascinated at the bonelike apparition. Her hands traced over the vocabulator embedded in the mask's lower end, felt over the flat bordering sensor plates and the mechanisms supporting the head. The workmanship was sophisticated, extraordinary. Even Gregory, who'd touched down and was now teetering on the cockpit's edge, seemed impressed.
"What type of droid is that?" he asked.
Lissa was smiling. "Oh, this is no droid," she replied softly. "Look."
She indicated the two apertures moulded into the faceplate like the ocular sockets of a skull. There were eyes in there, lidded and sunken, the skin about them pebbled and reddish, unmistakably organic. Lissa gently pried the closed lids of one of the eyes apart and revealed a large yellow iris bisected by a startling black slash.
"There's a person in there!" Gregory cried.
"Part of one." She let the long face go and began consulting her padd instead, using it to scan over the armoured body. "This explains your thermal readings," she explained to Trigger with rising excitement. "It's a cyborg. Alien, obviously. Extremely advanced. Damn, I wish I knew who built him!"
"You don't recognise the configuration?" Trigger asked.
"Not yet I don't. But I will! Just as soon as we get him back to the house. There aren't too many people who can create something like this. We'll have to get some DNA off him, too, identify his species. Someone's got to be looking for this fellow. And this starfighter, it's no cheap trinket either."
Gregory, who'd been staring hard at the particulars of the alien pilot's body himself, crossed his short little arms over the front of his plump body, or tried to, self-importantly. "I know what he is," he announced. "He's a Kalee."
"Kalee? And how would you know that?"
"Database search: alien species, sentient. Humanoid formed, sized. Red skin, scaly or pebbled. Eyes, yellow or gold iris, minimal white, vertical slit pupil. Cross-index with: military insignia, ritual markings. Paired lines hooked on one end. It's the only entry that fits."
"Ooo-kay," Lissa remarked, pleasantly surprised by the usually indolent droid's initiative. "So what are they like? Short-form, please."
"Male-dominated, clan-organized, warrior society. Strongly spiritual. Status is dominance-ordered."
"Sounds charming. A warrior, eh? Well, that makes sense. He looks like he would've been a fighter."
Said Trigger, "Ma'am, about the thermal scan, if he is a cyborg, wouldn't that render the readings misleading?"
Lissa, her scientific reverie broken, blinked hard, then blanched. Trigger was absolutely right. It was entirely possible that the pilot's organic portions were alive and she should have been giving the poor man emergency medical care instead of rhapsodizing about his droid components. As if to draw attention to her thoughtless oversight, the erstwhile corpse chose that moment to himself weigh in by suddenly emitting the distinct sound of a breath being raggedly drawn, followed by a rasping cough.
Gregory yelped and tumbled backward off the cockpit edge, somersaulting into flight mode. Lissa almost lost her grip and fell off herself. The only individual who kept his composure was trusty Trigger. He simply focused the light beam shining out of the end of his long triangular head onto the cyborg's face and watched carefully for further signs of revival.
Nothing. And it was lucky for all concerned that the alien cyborg did not revive at that point or else that would have been the end of them and of our story. All that did happen was that the sound of laborious breathing continued for a moment, then rapidly eased into silence.
Lissa felt just terrible. She reset her scanner padd and quickly found a heartbeat, biochemically generated body heat, blood pressure, and all the other basics and rhythms of living flesh encased within the metal chest. He'd been sitting there the whole time, needing help and not receiving it. Abashed, assisted by Trigger and Gregory, she soon had the unconscious pilot out of his ship and draped over the lifting prongs of the loader droid and on his way to her house, where he'd hopefully get a lot better care than he'd gotten so far.