Note: My thank you goes out to Inachis and Hawklan for their work on this chapter.
(The planet Toola)
The wind was whipping more snow down on them as Willow sat shivering on a cold snow covered rock, meditating. She was dressed in so many layers of cloth she looked like Miss Michelin. It was hard to see the girl inside the layers of fabric.
Beside her the big Whiphid master K’Kruhk was sitting almost nude with only a pair of soft pants and a t-shirt under a light jacket and his straw hat, which he always had on him. It was marked by fire, by lightsaber cuts and by blaster bolts.
Like all Whiphid males K’Kruck looked like the love child between a walrus and a bear. He had two large tusks and a mouth larger then Willow’s head. He was way over 2 meters tall and furry, which kept him comfortably warm in the cold temperature Willow was now freezing in.
“Focus Willow… use the force and find the heat around you, pull it inside your body,” K’Kruck said softly.
Willow nodded. “I... I did it. I’m not freezing as much anymore,” she said happily.
“Good, now take off you thermal pants and your jacket,” K’Kruck said. He knew Willow had four pairs of pants on her. And who knew how many shirts, jackets and other things she had managed to pull over her head.
“What??? But, but I’m going to freeze,” Willow stuttered.
“With the force as you ally, you will not,” K’Kruck simply said.
Trembling, not from fear but out of cold, Willow nodded, trying desperately to find that warm feeling again. This was all Xander’s fault.
She had heard that K’Kruck was a real softy with beginners and he was. Then he realized that Xander had taken the time to give her some lessons and now he was showing her that to trained students, he wasn’t anything else but a slave driver.
K’Kruck should have been her teacher, they even had a chance to spend some time together before he had had to leave in the small one man ship he was using. Xander had promised to ferry her over to him. Then they ended up on a long trip. Now she was suffering endless torture and death by freezing.
“Feel the force, feel the warmth,” she said again and again. Finally she felt warm and around her the snow felt a bit soft.
K’Kruck smiled. She had done it. She had actually managed to gather so much heat she was no longer freezing. Now it was time to make her master this ability. “Now take off more. In this warmth you don’t need to be overdressed. I’m sure you could meditate in your underwear.” He smiled as Willow looked like she wanted to cry.
Nearby Buffy was involved in something much more physical. She was running, not for her life, but to improve herself. Her guardian powers, like the slayer powers of before, could be improved with physical exercise, and she had far more environmental tolerance than a normal human.
Riley hadn’t been able to keep up with her as she rushed over the frozen tundra of Toola. By all things, she should have been frozen to the bone. Yet she had never felt so alive and so energized as she did now.
The cold temperature seemed to speak to her. It was like she had come home. As she ran back to the home of K’Kruck she could see Willow in white underwear with a pink heart, sitting and shivering in the cold on a snowy rock, a snowy rock with melted water on it.
“Hi Willow. Hi K’Kruck,” she said happily as she walked by.
K’Kruck smiled a smile big enough for two children to sit inside. “Buffy… Did you have a joy filled morning run?”
“You bet I had,” Buffy said with perky voice. “I never knew snow could be so wonderful. I feel cold, yet more alive than I have ever been. Right Willow, isn’t it nice?” she said with a big smile.
Willow looked more like a tortured puppy as she nodded. “I… I may not like it as much,” she said, shivering with the cold.
Buffy frowned. “K’Kruck, are you sure she can handle that?” she asked.
K’Kruck nodded. “Willow… do it again… slowly collect the heat and warm yourself.”
Willow focused to find a source of warmth and heat. Then she pulled and it was warm again, but the wind kept stealing her heat.
Buffy shrugged as she walked inside the house only to be surprised by an angry jell.
“What the fuck is with this piece of crap?” Riley said.
Buffy blinked and walked in to see Riley screaming at the oven. “Um what is it?”
“Oh. hi… I was trying to make hot soup and the moment the water started to boil it froze,” he said, holding the kettle upside down. “Frozen solid. On a hot oven, it’s like this piece of crap oven is stealing back the heat.” He was totally baffled. The oven itself wasn’t even warm anymore.
Outside Willow basked in the warmed she had found and stolen.
(The Enterprise and crew)
The ship floated over the planet with R3 and R6 in the cockpit. R8, Anakin’s droid, was handling the ring transporter. Unlike Xander and Jaina, Anakin hadn’t had a friendly relationship with his droid. They worked together. On the other hand, his was an R8, the first astromech with verbal speaking abilities from the start. It wasn’t an easy droid to work with.
“I’m ready to transport you. Are you ready? All body parts in safe position?” the droid said. “Transport.”
With a swoosh the six rings suddenly surrounded them with a glowing light. For a moment they felt like falling before the rings lifted up and they where no longer on the Enterprise and were instead on the planet.
Noh Noss started to test if all of his body parts had followed. “That was so strange,” he said, eyes wild in shock.
“The ring transporter puts you inside a folded space and then that folded bubble is transmitted along an electronic signal that works like a carrier wave to the area you’re transported to and there the bubble collapses. The rings are what keep the bubble solid during the journey and they are pulled back at the moment of arrival. During the move you are actually less than a molecule thick,” Xander said while he checked his droid horse, before slowly activating it.
“Is that true?” Noh Noss asked.
Xander shrugged. “It’s one of many theories. The grey said something incredibly complex that I didn’t understand. Then I told them to explain it to me like I was an idiot. I still couldn’t understand it completely. I guess that is the closest I got to understanding it.”
“The other explanation we got from standard books translated from Goa’uld is that it breaks up the body into atoms, translates those into energy and then transports that energy by a radio wave before reassembling the body,” Jaina added.
“Hi there Thunder. How was the journey?” Xander asked his robot steed.
Thunder stood up, his body trembling as he checked his interior systems. “My generator is still not running warm, so my systems are at 85 %, but ready to go.”
“Should we wait until it’s at a hundred?” Xander asked Thunder.
The horse shook its head. “No, the generator will warm up by itself, currently it is at 87 % and rising.”
Noh Noss swallowed. “If Jaina is correct, then we died and this is just a cloned body.”
Jaina nodded. “Yeah, it feels wrong. I think the explanation Xander offered is the correct one.” She flipped the last button and watched as her robot horse stood up. “Grey Wind, any problems?” she asked. This robot type had an extremely simple personality matrix. Unable to evolve too much it did have an adaptive matrix that helped it adapt into a personality form the owner liked. Combine that with a simple AI and it was more like a metallic pet that could talk than a friend and a real help all around like an astromech.
Grey Wind looked around and then replied, “Generator still warming up. In five minutes all systems will be at 100 %. Unlike Thunder, I suggest we wait.”
Jaina nodded, being careful was good.
Thunder and Xander glared at the grey green robot steed. They wanted to go now, damn it.
“Who should I ride with?” Noh Noss asked.
Xander looked at Jaina who whispered in the ear of her horse. It seemed to nod.
“You ride on Grey Wind. I ride with Xander,” Jaina said and only moments later they rode away.
After an hour long ride they stopped and rested for a bit. It would take them only another fifteen minutes and they would be at the old hangar. The empty city was already towering up in front of them. A ghost town with the smell of dried and stinking blood thick in the air, which confirmed the presence of vampires.
They would need the whole navy to seal of this planet and a whole army to remove the vampires.
“What is that feeling?” Noh Noss asked. The feeling was disgusting, yet he couldn’t exactly say where it came from.
“Vampires. Xander and I are cloaking us from them and the reason you aren’t sensing where they are isn’t because we’re cloaked,” Jaina replied while looking disgusted and it wasn’t the food she was eating. “It’s just the way they can hide,” she said, looking out.
“Let`s go,” Xander said.
They got up and rode on. Soon they were riding cloaked in front of the big hangar. And once again Xander was correct. A second line of defense had been placed around it. Lumiya didn’t want anybody near the machine and he could see her escape ship from here.
He was pondering what to do for a moment and then said, “Jaina, take my thermal detonator and sneak inside her ship and place it there. When you’re done, use the force to tell me. Then we boys are going to create a distraction. We ride in and kill as many of the guards as possible.” Seeing the look in their eyes he continued. “We ride up and we switch places with each other. While they’re hunting the two of you, I sneak inside. The moment you can, you cloak again and get back here.”
Jaina nodded and said, “And that would give you a chance at getting Lumiya alone inside that hangar.”
Xander looked at her, but didn’t say a word. They could all feel the predator growling inside of him. “The last time she attacked I only had one foot I could stand on. Now I have two and it’s time to show the bitch who the big dog in town is.”
“This isn’t a good idea. It’s a bad idea. It’s the mother of all bad ideas,” Jaina said. “She always has another Darksider beside her. You could end up fighting two or more of them,” she protested.
Noh Noss agreed. “I agree with Jaina, Master Xander.” He thought about it for a moment and then continued. “Should it not be better if we just sneak inside and surprise her?” he asked.
Xander felt betrayed until he remembered something. “Yeah, sneak inside you say. Let`s ride closely by each other under Cloak. That way we have our trusted horses hidden inside the base.”
“For quick escape,” Jaina declared.
Xander could only agree. “Yes, but you still have to sneak a thermal detonator inside her ship, while Noh Noss and I find the bitch. You’re our secret weapon.”
Jaina growled in irritation and then considered the facts. She was the best at that. Noh Noss wouldn’t be able to use Force cloak and Xander? He needed this. The hunter inside of him wouldn’t let this go. She knew that.
“Alright, let`s sneak inside on our horses, hide them beside those two buildings and near that dumpster,” Xander said.
The three jumped up and started to ride inside. This time Jaina was riding Grey Wind and Noh Noss was with Xander.
Noh Noss wondered how they would enter through the gate.
“Thunder, I want you to do something. We’re going back four hundred meters. Then you run as fast as you can to this point and then jump and try to land behind that gate,” Xander said, pointing at the gate another forty meter away.
“Yes, I can do that. But it will be tight,” Thunder replied. Using his anti-g engine he could boost his jump to an incredible length. Still over fifty meter was almost too much.
“I’m going to give you extra flight speed and length. It’s up to you to help us land softly,” Xander said.
Sure he could levitate the horse inside, but that would be hard work and he didn’t want to be weakened in any way before the big fight.
Jaina listened to his idea and nodded. “That will work,” she said and they stormed away.
Noh Noss swallowed as he hugged Xander as hard as he could to make sure he wouldn’t lose his grip and fall of the steed.
The horse exploded into motion and raced up to full 200 km/h speed in record time. Then it jumped, Xander focused and pushed, the horse flew higher and higher and finally over the gate.
Thunder pushed the anti-G engine to full power to soften the impact as they landed on the concrete ground. “That was impressive,” it said. If he was impressed with Xander or himself or just that they did it together was left unsaid.
A short moment later Jaina was flying in and landed beside them.
Grey Wind had far less problems landing with only the light Jaina riding.
After a quick ride they stopped behind the dumpsters. “Alright Thunder, if we call, get ready and remember all these guys are like the Queen of Crown back home. And worse, unlike queeny, these guys are competent.”
The two robot horses folded their legs together and activated the passive stealth system, making them look almost like a part of the wall, a system that only worked if they were perfectly still.
Xander was thinking of updating it.
Jaina was thinking of updating the brain of the horse or giving it a micro body to run inside. After all, the memory and all important parts on the AI robot steed were easy to remove as the shell could get damaged. Once it was removed, you could install it in another shell body.
Noh Noss was wondering what was inside that dumpster. Peeking inside he saw funny looking things like parts of a droid, perhaps… yes… an air speeder engine, how absolutely fascinating. He could do lot of fun stuff with this. And there… that was a RRPXN-211 field dampener from a hyper radio. Nice.
“Um… You can shop later,” Xander said, seeing how his fellow Jedi was digging through the dumpster.
Noh Noss blushed. “Sorry… I have an old habit of building and repairing old and broken equipment. I even competed once with a team on the Grand Junkyard challenge, my team ended up at place nineteen. Just know that there was over ninety teams enter at the final of the Grand Junkyard challenge. It’s kind of a national sport.”
“Interesting and impressive,” Xander said. “But what happens during the challenge?”
“Oh... You get a broken something and have to fix it using no standard equipment. We all had to repair a Starlight space ship as the last challenge. It had a broken ion engine, broken computer and broken landing studs,” Noh Noss explained. He looked longingly at the old broken stuff that just needed a loving hand and it would work again, wonderfully at that.
Jaina and Xander looked at each other with that ‘sounds fun’ kind of look in their eyes. As one they said, “You got to teach us about jury rigging.”
Noh Noss smiled a smile big enough to put a foot inside. “Of course, I’m trained in the art of jury rigging.” It would be fun to train them, even if they lacked microscopic vision. There were glasses that had micro vision. So they could learn the fun art of Jury-Jukaki.
With one last look at the fun dumpster they walked away.
Jaina went to the escape ship and Xander and Noh Noss to the hangar. “You get to tango with any minions she has. I’m going to ask the Lady for a light dance,” Xander said petting his light sabers.