It is a peaceful time in the galaxy. Luke Skywalker's Jedi academy has begun to return to the Republic security on the energetic planes, and a truce remains between the formerly warring governments. The fanfiction community is waiting for an epic combination of sweet action, a little suspension of probability, and basically anything except prequel romance.
Of more immediate concern to the plot, a lone X-Wing cruised the space above a certain cloud-shrouded planet...
The winds were challenging around the rims of sinkholes, even for the bulk of a few-ton starship that did not have to ride the wind's currents. I reached over my head to flip the switch that would clip the ship's four wings together into two, watching the screens laid over with topographical and meteorological holographic maps. Utapau was a unique planet, and in ways its scrub-and-desert surface reminded me of Tatooine. Here and there though were the potential of the sinkholes and their water, people, life. It was an expansive, random landscape.
I finally set my ship down on one of the deep-hole landing disks that sprouted like fungi from the high shale walls. More docks, metal and rock houses and entranceways, reaching rib-bone structures and white windsculpted windmills, a surprising variety of clinging architecture, punctuated the sheer vertical perspective back to the desert.
I gave Leia's message to the tall, deep-eyed Ancient ambassador, with the certainty that she would have come herself had a quick session of the Senate not been called by popular appeal, to deal with the continuing atmospheric disturbances form the taking of Coruscant. The Utapauan said in his slow voice that there was no such necessity; no Jedi had set foot on their planet in decades and it was an honor. I thought they, with their long lives, might know something of Jedi history and strived for it, but another Utapauan came up and spoke beside the first's ear-whorls. The air smelled like distant salt, and moisture mixed with metal.
"Perhaps you might know something of this, young Master Jedi." The Utapauan looked at me out of that lined, wise-predatory face.
I walked between the two to a wide ring of stables for creatures like iridescent krayt dragons, that looked at us intelligently as we passed. There was an apathy to them, a fierce warmth in emotion unusual in an animal.
The Ancients told me of a monster, a mechanical or cybernetic creature that climbed walls like a spider, raided electrical batteries coupled to the wind generators, and menaced people moving about in the times when shadow fell down the sinkhole's sides. With discretion and hint they asked if I would search for this thing, because they felt it would see a Jedi as a challenge. They told me that the varactyls had the power and the speed of a swoop bike with more maneuverability, if I wanted to search that way. I said I would, because I wanted to see what a ten-meter long biological swoop bike felt like and because there was an underlay in the ambassador's voice of a Force-deep fear.
I was introduced to a dragonmount named Thrym, who sniffed me loudly and let me run my fingers through the short feathers by her eyes. The creatures were more expressive, more malleable, than their krayt looks made me expect. They reclined in straw and ate foliage, or stood on hind legs and exposed their leathery stomachs to the sun, whooping to each other through short, ribbed beaks. Each had four muscled, splayed legs and a tail as long as its body, decorated and armed with feathery spines, and five clawed toes designed for scaling rock. I had seen on the way in roads more like turbolift shafts, up and down the sinkholes with the deep blue glint of ocean far below. I mounted a saddle like an eopie's but with a higher back, and the dragonmount took a few restrained steps forward with a similar movement of the reins. Thrym looked back and down at me, her head almost a meter above mine, seeming to say 'let us recognize each other's intelligence', and gave me permission in a way to meld with her in the Force. So then when I turned with the slightest shifting of my knees, she coupled the movement.
The Utapauan ambassador looked up at me. "Good luck, Master Jedi."
"Thank you ambassador." That was my formal answer, the one that relaxed him because it was so similar to his own. I could have said, "I'm just following the flow of the Force; no luck required."
We shot out into the sunlight, following the Force and the rumors of this creature's retreating into caverns that intersected the manmade ones. Would there be tracks, mind-remnant? Was there a mind to discover? Thrym blurred over metal and dirt walkways, her splayed, wide feet smoothing leaps and steeps, winding roads designed for the limber lizards. The distinct rhythm of her body was a sinuous, wriggling lizard-stride that took some getting used to until you stopped rattling and moved with the saddle. I crouched over her broad, pounding shoulders. The speed was like a starship's, thrilling danger through my body and certainty in my mind.
With a fluid thud, on a twofold hunch, Thrym jumped up to a perch on a disk-shaped silver dock. For a moment we paused; her long tail swept the air above the far, irregular ocean, and when I stood up in the saddle she honked, a reverberation that split the ears and echoed. There were four low cavern openings ahead, and openness with sunglare to either side. I leaned forward to look into the caverns--devoid of presence but not of consequence--and a droid walked out, something with an armored humanoid body, red eyes and a tall grill vocabulator, over which was draped a dirty gray cloak and head covering.
"Status detailing." It said. "Internal mechanics sixty-three percent. External mechanics and reflex eighty percent minus quasiperipheral damage. Internal cybernetics twenty-two percent. Vitality interface sixteen percent." Then it fell, hit the rock wall and collapsed. Now I thought I could see burn wounds on the pile of metal, broken support ends. It was unlikely that this was the monster the Utapauans had been looking for, and I was certain the stats report had not been of itself, but was for its own derelict benefit.
I urged Thrym forward a few steps, almost covering the distance to the dark cave mouths. Something else was in there, in flickers and bursts of mobile anger, and it had been in there for a while, and now it was coming out.
The creature skittered out of the cavern looking like a humanoid spider, four metal arms scrunched up around its skinny body in angular menace, long legs clamping curved toes onto the metal ground. Then awkwardly it raised its arms further and clicked and manipulated them into just two. The bottom sets of fingers and most of the hands were missing. It straightened up, almost regal and with a hint of grace. Obviously some kind of 'droid, but nothing normal...like a slimmed-down version of Darth Vader technology built in alien proportions. I could sense...vestiges of intelligence, like the man this creature had once been had been driven mad by transformation. He had insane white scar-eyes, in a long armorplast face with finlike sensors down the sides. The top of the head and a cracked scar down the left side was blackened, burnt as was most of the minimalist body. Sparks of red and green fluid could be seen beneath the curved chest abdominal plates, as if the thing--it was hard to think of the creature as a man when looking at its separate parts--had entrails fused with metal. It stank of heat. The arms and legs were in better shape than the torso but for the hands, with strong durasteel bare bones of bleached white or dull silver. I knew that it, he, was not conscious of the Force as I was, but had tremendous skill with the lightsaber. He held two of them, one in each mandible-hand.
He walked toward me, clanging. His vestigial intelligence swirled. There didn't seem enough to reason with, and I was prepared to fight because the Force told me that was what I was here for--the cyborg's story did not began but ended with death.
I wore my lightsaber under a semi-formal black cloak. The rest of my clothing was dictated by the length of time I had to spend in transit--the plan black I wore around the praxeum could remain functional while integrating with what I needed for my martial-tech X-Wing.
The creature stalked forward with tainted yellow eyes narrowed and pulling at leathery burnt skin. I had no idea what had happened to him. More malevolent pacing, then he leapt straight up and back and clung to the wall of the cliff over the caves, now climbing like a mechanical insect. Thrym swept after him, fluid coil and leap, and for a second she and I poised horizontal on the rock face with her long neck curving dizzily down on the cyborg and me trying not to gasp at the incredible abrupt shift of angle. I held on with my knees and pressed against the back of the dragonmount saddle. She had moved almost as quick as I thought, bringing my opinion of her to invaluable.
Then the cyborg dropped straight down back to the dock, and we dropped after. Thrym landed on her two hind legs and stood there, raked the wind with her front claws, whooped at our enemy because now he held a lit lightsaber in both hands. I had stood during the fall and now perched on the dragonmount's shoulders. I patted her neck once and jumped down to the dock. The cyborg tried to talk as Thrym moved to her slightly less intimidating normal height and slunk behind me, cutting off the caves.
"You...hhhsssaaaa..." He rasped. I sensed a great history, great anger and danger and dark revenge. He came forward and found easier, more immediate words. Aimed a vaping fast kick at me with durasteel claws, but the Force bade me step back just enough. He roared, "Jedi, you are doomed!"
The lightsabers, green and blue whirled and came at me fast once from each side. I saw the fist few clearly, caught them with the blade I called to my hand--clash, clash--the hum filled up my world. The way he fought made me twist around to catch blurs of light. Pure immediate velocity threatened to overwhelm human senses and abilities. I parried the green blade and blocked the blue one with it.
The cyborg seized my wrists in the claws of his right foot. metal edges pressed into my skin and the three lightsabers locked together, stacked. Something creaked in my right hand. Instincts to throw any humanoid being off balance was only straining my muscles against duranium strength. The cyborg had all the leverage, all the control, but I rode the Force and clenched my teeth, let me look defeated. I was shoved to my knees to avoid the lightsabers. In some combination of a step and a skittering crawl the cyborg dragged me toward the edge of the dock, laughed deeply, now coughed. A whip of wind met us at the edge. The Force gently pried open the cyborg's clawed grip and I somersaulted with my hands a pivot point, wrenched my lightsaber from the tangle and scouring orange-hot burn across his faceplate. He turned around slowly, then he set and sliced his weapons together in a horizontal split or flourish or slash, again as I walked backwards. Crackle and energy-scream. Thrym hooted behind me.
He came forward again using a more regulated, expected style. I caught a low four strike, then a high blow from the second blade while mine still crackled along his first. Fighting was getting easier, more fun, more assured. The Force would tell me of my death as it was planned. Once the Force had been invisible to me, and then power like driving a speeder for the first time; uncontrolled and rife with emotion.
We battled across the desk in measured steps. I had him to the edge now, the lightsabers striking in angry fast flashes. Once he managed to kick me, and I stepped back many paces pushing pain to the Force, and ducked then jumped lightning attacks. Matched again, we traded slashes. I knew there was another structure below this one. I went for the cyborg's chest plates, blurring through his double web of defense/attack. He growled and flipped down the metal edge and out of sight. One breath, then Thrym was beside me; I climbed back into the saddle and she guided me to the cave-filled wall were we ran and skidded down the rockface and leapt to the next lowest level under the dock.
The sloped dirt hill or platform was a swimming hole--a word I had picked up from Corran Horn who had apparently found one at the praxeum--for Utai who scattered as the dragonmount feet slapped the ground, if they had not already fled. The sound of lightsabers' humming and singing echoed and filled up this place with an intense beat. The cyborg stood apparently resting at the edge of a deep blue natural pool, in the shadow of carved columns edging the sinkhole. He had his feet spread wide, 'saber blades balanced with their tips in the ground, and coughed then gathered his breath in a deep gasp.
Angrily, maddened, unthinking, he launched into a jog toward Thrym, head lowered, glaring. She charged into him with the side of her back, whooping and prancing sideways when lightsaber edges found the thick horn on her beak. He couldn't hold on long, not in that time, and plunged into the water. He pulled himself out almost immediately with long mechanical forearms just as I swung down from Thrym's back and stood in the shadow of her neck, my lightsaber still active. I brought it back to two hands and he came forward again. The Force rose up and he was flung back into the pool, farther now, hissing as he grabbed at the slippery rock edges and hauled his sinking body back on the side nearer the cliff. I jumped the pool. He tried to knock the lightsaber out of my hand with his right hand, the green lightsaber having apparently been lost to the depths, and I twisted it around coming in again toward his body. He blocked me high with the blue saber and loomed over me, shivering. Took my feet out from under me quick, so that I hit the ground hard on my hip and rolled left, toward the cliff, and got to my feet as he slashed through the column right before me, reaching up nine feet or so and then dropping the lightsaber to his upraised foot and slicing another cut in the base. It toppled in slow motion.
I flung a hand out, stopped it with the Force, and then regained my stance, stepped out a pace, and stabbed the cyborg through the middle as he twisted around, the foot the lightsaber held creaking and refusing to adjust position again. He caught the remains of the column as he sunk down, as I retracted my lightsaber. He looked up at me now. Made a noise like sadness. Finally, the scarred eyes closed and he fell sideways on the ground, mind taken away, and Thrym softly hooted.
I told the Utapauan that his people's monster had been some sort of droid-alien blend, something old and degraded and probably insane by the time I found it, many years after it had faced its destiny. The ambassador looked at me with some surprise, and blinked slowly. "There are a great many coincidences in this galaxy..." He sad, and asked me to show him the cyborg's body. I did. He nodded gravely and asked me if...then stopped. He bowed, spreading his hands. I nodded and fiercely smiled, feeling too beat-up to bow.
The name was whispered enough on my way out to let me understand; one General Grievous, past unknown, with a penchant for killing Jedi, defeated again by one. I could only imagine what they meant by 'again'. Who had burnt the cyborg's body enough that his accomplice or whatever that humanoid droid had been had had to be fixing him up since the Clone Wars?
Thrym said goodbye by grabbing a enormous clump of greenery out of my arms and chewing it inelegantly with the sides of her beak. What spilled I picked up again before the two dragonmounts on either side tried to reach below their ropes and near my feet to snag it. I wondered if a varactyl would have proper housing in one of the hangers on Yavin IV, but figured not.
Utapau diminished slowly. Leia would want the story of why I had fought; so would, probably the media. All the more reason to not stay on Coruscant long, though my dear sister wanted me to say hello to her --and undoubtedly a few-odd senators she needed leverage with--personally. R2-D2 whistled "C-3PO will be happy to hear of our adventures." I laughed, and figured I should never be surprised at the amazing ability of droids to project sarcasm.