Landing on Geonosis
"Kan Enik, you must keep going."
"You can. I know what you are. I know you can do it."
"Kan, help me!" Jordin was screaming, but he couldn't see her. He didn't know where she was. He couldn't move.
"Am I dead?"
"Come, my WICKED men, let us destroy the GOODS!"
Voices sounded all around him. "Yah! The Croakers! The Croakers! GOODS!"
The voices faded away, yet the echoing still rang in his ears.
The Croakers. GOODS. The Croakers. Croakers, croakers…
Kan stifled a snore as he tried to open his eyes and sit up. His legs felt like water, the result of crouching motionless in one place for so long. Jordin was peeking from behind the door, trying to see what was going on inside the cockpit.
They had been in hyper-space for hours ––– maybe days ––– now, and Kan had spent the long dull hours sleeping. By eavesdropping on their Jedi pilots, the Padawans had figured out that their destination, Geonosis, was an obscure planet in the Outer Rim inhabited by large, insect-like creatures.
Suddenly, their craft lurched as it came out of hyper-space and into real-space.
"We're here, everybody," Adriaan called out.
"Excellent," Master Tachi answered. "Master Nu told me that the security checkpoints here are slack. Since there are countless asteroid impacts on the planet each day, the Geonosians tend to take ships for space debris, if the pilot pulls the landing off correctly."
"Should be easy," Coleman said.
"A baby could do it," Adriaan agreed.
Kan stuck his head out curiously. Adriaan was still seated at the controls, yet her posture was as energetic and unweary as before. Okiwa, Trebor and Tachi were all sitting hunched over datafiles. Jade Yil and Tira-Auris were snoring away in their chairs. Kan's gaze swept over to the nav screen and his eyes widened with wonder.
A planet shimmered on the screen, a large, blood-red globe cloaked in a dull haze as the wind swept the dust across its surface. Around it was a dark belt of asteroids, a lethal obstacle that many space pilots would choose to avoid. It looked forbidding, but it had a fierce, wild beauty to it, attracting and repelling him at once. It took his breath away just looking at it.
"Isn't it pretty?" Jordin whispered.
Kan nodded, speechless.
"Looks aren't everything," Jade Yil said, as if answering Kan's thoughts. He heard her rustling in her chair as she sat up, yawning. "My Apprentice looks like that, except she's prettier. But Jordin will be the death of me, with that mouth of hers."
Jordin winced at her Master's words. Kan could tell that Jade's speech had hurt Jordin, who had always had a high opinion of her Master. True, Jordin could be annoying, but underneath she was really just a young girl who adored her Master and wanted to please her. Kan gazed at her with sympathy. He would feel terrible if Ruru said nasty things about him behind his back.
A mask seemed to slide over her face, and her brow smoothed out. Her teeth clamped together grimly. Kan watched her, half-fascinated. She wasn't going to give in to petty emotions like disappointment and anger just because of what someone said about her. Kan admired her determination. It was hard, he knew, to remain indifferent to mean comments.
"We're in the atmosphere," Adriaan called. "Master Windu has sent us the coordinates of our landing spot."
"I'm not getting any readings on hostile craft of any kind," Master Trebor said. "The whole planet looks like a graveyard."
"That's good," Adriaan said. "It means we haven't been spotted."
"Or they have spotted us and are going into hiding," Master Tachi pointed out. "The natives aren't warriors, but they manufacture weaponry. Their society depends on war, pretty much. Geonosis isn't well-known; no one has had any reason to deal with the Geonosians. I've heard that they're all pretty greedy." She grimaced.
Adriaan jabbed a finger at the navscreen, indicating long, needle-like formations protruding from the harsh landscape like hard, jagged teeth. "Do you see those tower-like structures? That's probably where they're all skulking, if Siri is correct. The planet is most likely crawling with wild creatures. The whole place looks pretty harsh. My guess is that the Geos like to keep indoors."
The comm system crackled. "Master ell Talaan, do you copy?"
Adriaan pressed the button for the speaker. "Proceeding. No sign of hostile presence. What's wrong?"
"Change in coordinates. New RV 5000, 2810, 0010…"
Adriaan expertly guided the ship toward one of the enormous towers, skimming the rocky surface gracefully. Suddenly she cut the power and wrenched the controls to the right, and their craft dropped like a stone, making Kan's stomach lurch. It descended swiftly, landing perfectly on the stony landscape and kicking up a slight puff of dust, creating a slightly dramatic effect as it contacted with the ground.
"We're here," Adriaan said.
Kan watched as the Jedi strapped on their utility belts, swiftly checking comlinks, lightsabers, and other survival equipment, making sure everything worked soundly. Siri Tachi glanced out the cockpit window as she tightened the straps on her boots. "Master Windu has landed," she said. "We'd better hurry. He doesn't like to waste time."
"We're ready," Coleman Trebor said.
One by one, the Jedi filed out of the ship. Kan waited for a few agonizing moments, which seemed more like hours, before he summoned enough courage to stand up and cautiously look out the window. Below him, he saw Adriaan striding toward a dark, commanding figure. Mace Windu nodded in greeting, his arms calmly folded across his chest, his gaze traveling over his surroundings. Behind Adriaan, the other Jedi hurried forward to greet the great Master.
He sighed with relief and rolled out of the utility closet, wincing as circulation returned to his numb limbs. Jordin clumsily followed, getting her legs tangled beneath her as she tumbled out. She sprawled awkwardly on the floor and groaned. "I'm never hiding again. Never, never, never."
Kan's stomach growled loudly. He realized now that he hadn't eaten for a very long time.
"And I'm practically dead from starvation," Jordin complained. "I wonder if I will die soon. What is it like to die? I wonder why no one has even the least idea of what it is like to die. I wonder if it hurts, or if you can see anything. I wonder if –––"
"Be quiet, GOODS," a familiar, much-dreaded voice said. A closet door burst open and Aedan sprang out, looking fully rested but dirtier than ever. He stood in the middle of the floor, grinning devilishly. "I am so WICKEDLY happy to see that there are other WICKEDS in the galaxy besides WICKED ME," he said. "It takes WICKEDNESS, guts, and WICKEDNESS to do what we, the WICKEDS, just did. I salute you. WICKED!"
"I am not wicked, I am a very good apprentice," Jordin said. "And you will obey me, since I am the most mature of the group here." She glared at Kan.
Kan held his breath, expecting a temper tantrum from Aedan at any moment, followed by a great battle of the wills between the two most stubborn students in the Jedi Temple. It didn't pay to say that you were "good" in front of Aedan.
But to his surprise, Aedan's smile didn't waver. "Of course, it is inevitable that you were born GOOD," he said. "All girls were born GOOD, so I have never invited them to my club or expected them to follow my own WICKED rules. They are at the very top of my GOOD list. I am only offended by GOOD boys."
Jordin stamped her foot. "That's not fair!" she exploded. "Just because I'm a girl, I'm automatically 'good'? This is ridiculous! I shall never speak to you again." As if to demonstrate this, she clamped her mouth shut and folded her arms across her chest defiantly.
"How WICKED of you to remain silent," Aedan said. "GOOD prattling hurts me like a GOOD."
"GOODS! Ewww!" Several small compartments suddenly opened,releasing six grimy yet energetic boys.
"WICKED-O, my cheerio!" Terry said.
"Yo-yo, my WICKED!" Na'thin yelled.
"Bantha-brains, wake-up!" Kien chimed in. "What are you, GOOD?"
"Oh, uh, yah," Jahn Pal said. "Good-bye! Pretty girl WICKED!"
"No!" Aedan said. "She GOOD!"
"Boys are GOOD," Sai'wer murmured sleepily. "Aedan the GOODEST."
"Idiots! Numbskulls! GOODS!" Aedan screamed. "How dare you call me GOOD! MY NAME IS TRULY WICKED! I HAVE NO OTHER NAME! W-W-I-I-C-C-K-K-E-E-D-D!!"
"You should kick them out," Minir said. "Disgraceful. They'll make us GOOD."
"We'll never turn GOOD!" Aedan shrieked. "We always be WICKED!" he turned to Jahn Pal and Sai'wer. "Have you figured out the unknown solution to the WICKEDEST equation in the galaxy yet?"
"Oh, yes," Jahn Pal said. "We have figured out the unknown solution to one plus one."
"What?" Kan asked sarcastically.
"QUIET!" Aedan thundered. "Let the WICKEDS speak!"
"After many days of complex mathematical figuring," Sai'wer said. "By pure genius, we discovered the answer to the diabolical equation that has boggled the minds of even the most nerdy of scientists for centuries."
Everyone stared in silence.
"The answer is seven," the cousins said proudly.
"Unbelievably WICKED!" Aedan shouted.
"WICKED," the others echoed.
"The answer isn't seven," Jordin pointed out. "It's two."
Aedan puffed his chest out proudly. "Girls have no sense of how to do math properly and WICKEDLY," he said pompously. " It is WICKEDLY clear ––– the answer is seven."
"WICKED," the others agreed.
Jordin opened her mouth to retort, but Aedan cut her off. "And now, my WICKEDS," he said, "the mission."
"Rescue your GOOD brother and make him WICKED again," Terry said.
"WICKED!" Aedan said.
"But you're just kids," Kan argued. "Two hundred of the best Jedi are out here. They'll rescue him without a problem."
"But they aren't WICKED," Na'thin said. "They are huge. We are little. The GOODS can't see us."
"He has a point," Jordin told to Kan. "We can't just sit here. It won't hurt to help."
Kan hesitated. He was the oldest here, so he felt he had a responsibility to them all. They were flunking the Jedi's orders just by being here, so it wouldn't really matter if they finished what they had begun, would it?
These kids will go on even if I don't. They need me to watch over them.
He took a deep breath. "I'm in," he said.