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Strike up the cantina band.

Challenge: Different Worlds
Rating: Uh, PG, I think.
Length: (so far) Over 3500 words.
Fusion: I think this needs no introduction.

Title: Untitled (so far; suggestions welcome)
Summary: A long time ago, in a galaxy far away...

Notes: Unfinished, since it's kind of an epic thing. Also, it's very raw. Think of it as various scenes slapped together to form a story, each awaiting fleshing out and polishing.

I call this a Loose Thread story. You know how you sometimes find a loose thread in a sweater or something, and you just have to pick at it, and you pick and pick at it until you find that you have somehow unraveled half the sweater... yeah. Not a Replace-The-Characters fusion, this.

-

The sound of blaster fire echoed through the decks of the small freighter. Smoke filled the air, as the air scrubbers methodically failed one after another. Most of the other essential systems, like life support and artificial gravity, were still active, although that was probably only temporary.

The young woman crept through the corridors, careful not to attract any undue attention from the stormtroopers that had boarded the vessel. Imperial stormtroopers tended to shoot first and ask for surrenders later, despite plenty of seminars aimed at addressing that problem. An empire wasn't much of one if there weren't anyone in it.

She wasn't afraid of dying, as such. After all, she was expendable.

The book was not.

Rounding a corner, she found what she was looking for: a pair of droids, still in their wall receptacles. Quickly activating them, she ran her fingers across the consoles, feeding in special instructions while the droids powered up...

The ship rocked, as a turbolaser blast penetrated the shields. The woman cried out in alarm, and her hand accidentally slapped the keys.

The droids awoke.

The shorter one stepped out of the receptacle unsteadily, and looked around in confusion. A female TM model, the woman realized. Perfect; the TMs were well-known for their unflinching loyalty.

"What's happening?" the other droid asked, sounding only mildly puzzled. The woman glanced at it, and shrugged to herself. She didn't really need a YM interpreter model, but at least they were unflappable in times of crisis. There was something in the newsfeeds about manufacturing problems that nagged at her, but the woman pushed that aside for the moment.

"I need the two of you to get away from the ship with these," she said, pressing the book and a holochip into the TM's hands. "The holochip contains a message explaining the book." The droid focused on her, and nodded.

"Understood, Your Highness," she said, inserting the holochip into an input slot.

The ship shuddered under another onslaught, and the lights flickered.

"Hurry," the woman said, pointing. "Get into the lifepod. Go, before they find you!"

"Speaking of lifepods-" the YM droid began, but was cut off when the TM droid politely but firmly steered him into the pod.

"And remember," the woman said, just before the hatch closed, "seek out Kinomoto-"

"There she is!"

The woman whirled, stumbled, and tripped over her own feet, landing heavily onto the floor. The blaster shots which had been aimed at her head missed cleanly.

"Idiots!" the squad leader barked. "Hold your fire! The Emperor will have our heads if we hurt her!"

One of the other stormtroopers grabbed the woman's arm, and roughly jerked her to her feet.

"You're coming with us," he said. "His Lordship is going to want to meet you."

"He is?"

"Silence!"

Bemused, Princess Nadeshiko complied. With any luck, her part in the war was done.

*****

The shooting star was clearly visible in the night sky.

Not many people saw it fall. The desert was an unforgiving place, and most people would rather stay safely indoors, where the environment controls took care of everything, regardless of the skyrocketing or plummeting temperatures outside.

But some did witness its descent, and at least one saw it land.

The hooded figure nodded to itself, pleased. There would be rich pickings tonight.

*****

The Empire had once tried issuing white regulation body armour, but extensive feedback showed that it was not too well received, especially when trying to keep it clean in battlefield conditions. Besides, the latest personal shielding units worked best with a sort of silvery blue base, although efforts had been made to improve its yield with the veteran red armour, elite black, or commander gold.

But one person had opted to keep his white armour, and he was instantly recognizable as he swept through the decks of the crippled rebel freighter. The personal enforcer of the Emperor, cold and distant as the stars, and completely, utterly ruthless.

Nadeshiko looked up in surprise.

"Darth Yue," she said mildly. "I didn't know you were here."

"Your Highness," Yue said, inclining his head. "I believe you know what we are after."

"I'm sorry, but I don't," Nadeshiko said, dimpling.

Yue didn't return her smile. "I am afraid that I must insist. Where is the Book of Clow?"

"I don't have it," Nadeshiko said truthfully.

Yue eyed her for a moment longer, and then turned away. "Return to the flagship," he told the stormtrooper captain. "Take the princess into custody, and place her into the special detention cell. I will be overseeing the interrogation personally."

The captain saluted. "At once, my lord."

"Oh, and tell the admiral to set a course for Seijyuu," Yue added. "I believe an object lesson is in order."

Nadeshiko paled.

*****

The lifepod lay silent and smoking at the end of a deep furrow.

Presently the hatch shuddered and rattled, as though someone were trying to open it with some effort. Finally, the hatch flew out, courtesy of a forcefully applied foot.

The TM droid exited the pod demurely, and set herself down onto the sands. "A desert planet," she commented.

"Speaking of desert planets," the YM droid said, joining her, "did you know that-"

"We are not alone."

The YM droid scanned the darkness. Despite the thin slits for eyes that characterized the model, he had excellent vision.

Besides, the glowing pairs of eyes deep within cowls weren't that hard to see in the dark.

"Jawas," the TM droid said. "I think they are scavengers, attracted to our sudden landrrrrnllbnnn-" Her eyes went dark as she powered down.

Her companion eyed the restraining bolt gun warily. Processors went into momentary overdrive.

His metallic face was incapable of showing emotion, but if his mouth could move, it would have formed a bright, friendly smile.

"Speaking of droids..."

*****

Tattooine, being a desert planet, was not known for its entertainment. Most of its sparse populace, at least the ones who made a living on the planet on a permanent basis, were down-to-earth and practical, whether they be moisture farmers or smugglers.

But youth had a way of coming up with their own entertainments. And so the exciting, thrilling and slightly illegal sport of landspeeder racing had taken root quite firmly among the younger generation here.

Among the racers, one in particular had developed quite a reputation for herself. Not because she won the races often, or because of her technique, although both were commendable enough.

No, it was mostly because of her incredible, ineffable, incessant good cheer.

"Sakura!"

Sakura Kinomoto poked her head out of the door. "Yes, Dad?"

Her father wiped the sweat from his brow, setting down his tools for a moment. "I'm afraid we seem to be out of parts for some of the droids. Could you head to the market?" He handed her a piece of paper. "I've written down a list here."

"Okay!" Sakura bounded away.

"Oh, and one more thing," Fujitaka called to her. "One of the archaeological droids was stolen during the last raid by the Tuskens, so if you happen to encounter a sandcrawler, would you mind seeing what they have in stock?"

*****

As a matter of fact, Sakura did encounter a Jawa sandcrawler on her way back from the market.

Actually, she had to slow down her landspeeder just to get a closer look at it. This could be because for some reason, someone had convinced the Jawas to paint the entire sandcrawler a garish shade of purple.

Things did not improve when the sandcrawler stopped, and the Jawas came out. Each of the little robed figures was wearing some form of metal and wiring on their heads, twisted together to resemble flowers. They also held what looked for all the world like giant lollipops.

Sakura stared. There wasn't much else she could do.

The lead Jawa gabbled at her, waving its lollipop animatedly.

"Er, yes," Sakura managed. "I'm... looking for a droid..."

Eight droids were immediately lined up and presented to her. While Sakura inspected each one down the line, most of the Jawas formed a ring, held hands, and started performing a grotesque parody of a circle dance.

"Fascinating, isn't it?" someone said.

Startled, Sakura looked at the droid which had spoken. Unlike the others, it did not have a restraining bolt attached to it.

"I mentioned how much more profit they would make if they changed a few aspects of their routine," the droid continued, in a conversational manner. "They implemented the suggestions quite quickly."

"Hoe..." Sakura tried to focus on the issue at hand. "You are..."

"I am YM-ZK, diplomatic interpreter droid," the droid said, bowing slightly. "Pleased to make your acquaintance."

"YM-ZK... Yamazaki?"

"That is a close approximation," the droid accepted.

"P-pleased to meet you," Sakura said, bowing nervously. "My name is Sakura. Sakura Kinomoto."

"Kinomoto, you say?" Yamazaki looked thoughtful, as far as his droid face allowed him to look thoughtful. Behind him, the Jawas began a chacha. "What sort of droid are you looking for, Kinomoto?"

"An archaeological droid," Sakura said. "One of ours was stolen by the Tuskens."

"As a matter of fact, I do know a great deal about archaeology," Yamazaki said. "For example, did you know that in the ancient days, the Jedi used to build giant temples in the shape of fans?"

"Hoe? Really?"

"That's right. And when it got too hot, the Jedi would use their powers to turn the temples around, so that there would be a cooling breeze..."

A thought struck Sakura. "Weren't the YM series recalled recently, for being too creative with their interpretations?"

"I'm sure I will be a great help," Yamazaki sidestepped smoothly.

Sakura nodded. "Okay, I'll take you."

"A wise choice," Yamazaki agreed. "Only five hundred credits."

"That little?"

"Well... there is a catch."

"Hoe?"

"I'm part of a team. My partner is that TM unit over there," Yamazaki said, pointing. "She would be another five hundred credits."

Sakura considered this. She would be buying two droids for the price of one, but there was something rather odd about this YM unit...

A waltzing Jawa gabbled at her, and Sakura reached a decision. "I'll take these two droids, then," she told it.

The remaining droids were hauled back into the sandcrawler, and the Jawas followed them in a conga line.

Sakura placed the inactive TM droid in the back seat of the speeder, with Yamazaki's help. "So what's her name?" she asked, taking note of the droid's female features.

"TM-Y0," Yamazaki supplied.

Sakura tried this out. "Tomoyo, is it?"

*****

There were droid workshops.

And then there was this.

Functionality had not been sacrificed, to be sure. Tools still lined the walls, and the necessary equipment were neatly placed in their respective charging stations. All in all, it did not matter much that the place smelled more of freshly pressed laundry rather than motor oil, or that every tool had a cute little wing design on the handle.

"We're here," Sakura sang, as she skipped down the stairs, Tomoyo in tow.

Yamazaki joined her presently. "That was... very possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

"Hoe?"

"Have you ever heard of the story about the landspeeder which spontaneously fissioned due to excessive speeds?" Yamazaki asked innocently.

"I don't think so, no." Sakura ran a hand across the tools on the wall, before selecting something that looked like a combination torture device, nutcracker, and power drill. In pink. "I'll just get that restraining bolt out..."

"Sakura?" Fujitaka poked his head into the workshop. "I see you bought the droids."

"Nn," Sakura confirmed. "This is Yamazaki, and this is Tomoyo. Yamazaki, this is my father."

Yamazaki bowed. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Kinomoto."

Fujitaka eyed Yamazaki for a moment, before smiling in his usual friendly manner. "I'll be looking forward to working together, then." He turned back to Sakura. "Oh yes, I just received an important call. I may be out of contact for some time. Will you be all right alone?"

"I'll be fine, Dad." Sakura gave him a cheery wave. "Have a safe trip!"

After he left, Sakura returned her attention to the TM droid's chest. "Let's see... it looks like a standard Jawa restraining bolt, which means that if I apply pressure here..."

The restraining bolt popped off, and skittered across the floor. Tomoyo's eyes flickered, as she reactivated.

Sakura wiped her forehead with her sleeve. "I suppose I should get started on polishing off those burn marks, especially the one... from... the... bolt." She trailed off.

Tomoyo tightened her grip on Sakura's hands. "Please do," she breathed.

"Hooooeeee..." Sakura managed to disengage herself. "W-what do you mean?"

Tomoyo placed a hand on the mark left by the restraining bolt. "It would be lovely to be polished by you," she said dreamily.

Sakura grew a sizeable sweatdrop. "I-is she always like this?" she asked Yamazaki.

Yamazaki shook his head. "Actually, this is the first I've seen her like this." He turned to Tomoyo. "TM-Y0, this is our new mistress, Sakura Kinomoto. Since our serial numbers are a bit of a mouthful, my name is now Yamazaki, and yours is Tomoyo."

"A wonderful name," Tomoyo gushed, "chosen by a wonderful person!"

"Um, Tomoyo," Sakura said nervously, "do you have some sort of debug feature?"

Tomoyo cocked her head to one side. "Now that you mention it, there seem to be a great deal of corrupt sectors in my processing nodes. I wonder what could be causing it?"

"Maybe a misprogrammed loyalty directive that was shorted out by the restraining bolt, and reinstated with some portions wiped?" Yamazaki suggested.

Sakura blinked. "Really?"

"No, but it would be interesting if it were true, wouldn't it?"

Sakura thought for a while. "Maybe I should ask my brother about this. He can probably fix you, Tomoyo."

Tomoyo looked uncertain. "Y-yes, maybe he could."

"Okay! That's decided, then." Sakura headed to the landspeeder. "We'll ask my brother if he knows anything about fixing droid programming."

"Doesn't he live in the same house?" Tomoyo wondered.

"No, he left some time ago to live alone," Sakura said. "Something about needing some space of his own." She made a face. "I think he's trying to turn into a hermit... hoe?"

"What is it, Sakura?"

Sakura held up the object she found in the landspeeder. "It looks like a book. Is this yours, Tomoyo?"

Yamazaki started to reply, but Tomoyo beat him to it. "No, it's not mine, Sakura," she said calmly.

"Hm... I'm sure I've never seen it before." Sakura turned it over in her hands. "But why does it look so familiar?"

*****

The abandoned lifepod from the courier freighter was once again a minor swarm of activity, this time of a more sinister sort.

"Commander!"

"What is it?"

"Droid hair fiber, sir," the trooper said, holding up several nearly invisible strands.

The commander pondered this. "That explains why there were no life signs. And the sandcrawler waste... yes, it fits." He turned to another trooper. "How goes the search there?"

The trooper saluted. "Squad Bravo found the sandcrawler in question, sir. It... uh... was quite distinctive."

"And?"

"We've narrowed our search possibilities to a few homesteads and camps. We should be able to find the target before local daybreak tomorrow, sir."

"Good. Keep me informed." The commander looked up at the sky, even though there was no way to see the Interdictors from the ground. "I'll be on the flagship."

"Sir yes sir!"

On the flagship, Commander Spinel thought, but far from the admiral. Yes, very far from the admiral.

*****

Sakura hammered on the door. "Big brother? Are you in there?"

The door opened, and Touya Kinomoto glared down at his sister. "I knew it," he muttered. "Only a monster like your could have made such a racket."

"I am not a monster!" Sakura pushed past him, into the artificial cave. "Stop calling me that!"

"That's true," Touya said easily. "I don't think monsters came this small."

"Why you-"

"Who're your new friends?" Touya suddenly asked.

"Hoe?" Sakura faltered, thoughts of vengeance derailed. "Oh, uh, this is Tomoyo. And Yamazaki."

Yamazaki nodded politely, while Tomoyo curtsied. "Pleased to meet you," she said.

"Tomoyo's been acting a bit... strange," Sakura said. "I was thinking, maybe you could..."

Touya shrugged. "I'll try," he said, "but no promises." To Tomoyo, "Come on then. Take a seat here."

Tomoyo complied, with a last wistful look at Sakura, who was inspecting the book she had found. "Do you need me to shut down?"

"No, it's all right." Touya handed a cable to Tomoyo, who plugged it into the back of her head. He stared at the glowing symbols which appeared on a nearby screen. "Right then... how do you feel?"

Tomoyo looked startled. "I'm sorry?"

"How do you feel?" Touya repeated. "I know that TM models are supposed to be loyal to their owners, but the readings I'm getting aren't of loyalty."

Tomoyo glanced back at Sakura. She quickly looked away again, but Touya caught the significance.

"I see," he said, with a sigh. "Do you want me to repair you?"

"If it is possible," Tomoyo said slowly, "I would like to... remain as I am." She bowed in apology. "I'm very sorry about this, Mr. Kinomoto."

"Call me Touya." A rare flicker of a smile. "In the meantime, maybe we can clear out some of the junk data..."

"Hoe?" Sakura flipped the card in her hand. "There's nothing in the book but these cards." She peered at the word written in archaic script. "R... Re... Retu-"

Touya's head snapped up. "Sakura!"

"Hoe!" Sakura dropped the card in surprise. Yamazaki smoothly caught it before it touched the ground.

"Where did you get that book?" Touya demanded.

"I, I just found it," Sakura stammered. "Why? What's the matter?"

"That's-"

"... soon as possible," a voice said. "I repeat, this is a priority one, code alpha seven four message. If you are seeing this recording, then you must be from the Kinomoto family."

Tomoyo was still seated sedately, seemingly unaware or uncaring of the blurred miniature figure in front of her. The quality was horrendous, and static marred the recording tremendously, but the main message was clear enough.

"I have an urgent request to be carried out," the indistinct recording continued. "I-" static, "-ncess of the royal house-" static, "-iya, currently representing the Rebel Alliance. This droid possesses-" yet more static, "-which must be kept from Imperial hands at all costs. Please deliver that book to the planetary head of Tomoeda as soon as possible. Help me, please; you're my only hope."

The figure disappeared.

"Message ends," Tomoyo said.

Sakura shook herself out of her reverie. "Who was that?"

"That was..." Tomoyo paused, and tried again. "The message was from..."

"Tomoyo? Are you okay?"

"Communication block, probably placed for security," Touya muttered. He made a decision. "We're going to Tomoeda, Sakura."

"We are?" Then the statement sank in. "Hooooeeee?!"

"There's no time to waste," Touya said briskly, grabbing travel supplies almost at random. "That voice... no, you're too young to remember. But you have to guard that book well, Sakura. Everything depends on it."

"Wha... wait!" Sakura flailed her arms in an effort to comprehend the situation. "We can't just leave! What about Dad? He said he'll be out of contact for a while, and-"

"I know how to contact Dad," Touya interrupted. "You usually travel light, right? Everything you need is in that speeder of yours?"

"Um... yes."

"Good. Then let's go." Touya stopped. "Oh, I almost forgot."

Sakura stared at the small keylike object that he had given her. "What's this?"

"Something you may need. Very soon."

"Big brother..."

Yamazaki, quite forgotten, placidly took his seat in the landspeeder, as the four of them piled in. "Curiouser and curiouser," he murmured.

"Sakura?" Touya said. "One more thing."

"What is it?"

"I'm driving."

*****

"My Lord?"

Yue inclined his head slightly. "Yes, Captain?"

"We have arrived in the Seijyuu system." The captain licked his lips nervously. "The, uh, prisoner-"

"Send the princess up to the bridge."

"Yes, my Lord."

Nadeshiko had held out admirably under interrogation, even Yue had to admit. She was looking quite out of it, and no wonder, after all the serum that had been administered.

But she had not talked. Yue doubted that she would ever talk, even now, but it was past time for a demonstration of the Empire's might.

"This is your last chance," he said, looking out of the viewport, at the light blue crescent of the planet below. "Tell me where the Book of Clow is, or you will doom every single inhabitant of Seijyuu."

Nadeshiko stared at him helplessly. "I... the book..."

"Where is the book?"

And Nadeshiko wept. But she would not answer.

Yue watched her impassively. "So be it," he said. "Captain, prepare to take the princess back to the detention cells, after the... demonstration."

None of the bridge crew protested. They all knew very well that Darth Yue was fully capable and willing to sacrifice the fleet flagship just to make a point about obedience.

Yue turned back to the viewport. He extended a hand, palm up.

A card materialized above it. Just one card, but greater than all the others put together.

He summoned the power of the card, and said its name:

"Emptiness."

-

As usual, I don't know where this came from, and I don't think I want to know.

Comments

( 14 pudding cups — Feed Kero-chan )
artyartie
Sep. 1st, 2004 11:45 pm (UTC)
I don't know whether to laugh or squee. Or both! This was priceless - I can only imagine who you have cast in the other roles. Personally, I'm seeing Eriol as the Emperor...

...though I'm guessing that Luke/Leia kiss won't be happening, ne?
dkellis
Sep. 1st, 2004 11:59 pm (UTC)
Nah, this is pretty much going to be Sakura/Syaoran, if at all. ^^ (No points for guessing which role I've cast Syaoran in; too obvious.)

I'm planning on casting Eriol as Emperor, but it'll be a long way hence, and things may change...
sibylsofiana
Sep. 2nd, 2004 02:18 am (UTC)
Hoeeee! I like! You cast YM ZK perfectly, hahaha!
cygna_hime
Sep. 2nd, 2004 05:21 am (UTC)
I must now stare in fascination at the way the unraveling still resembles a very nice sweater, although possibly a Tomoyo-style one. *stares* How is everyone so IC? You scare me. Scare.
rainmage
Sep. 2nd, 2004 05:33 am (UTC)
So amusing! [is a Star Wars fan in a closet]
Yamazaki as C3PO = the best casting ever!
dkellis
Sep. 2nd, 2004 05:38 am (UTC)
I'm more or less a fan in a wardrobe. Of the sort that is filled with dusty old coats and made of strange wood and would probably lead to a land of ice and snow and vaguely hidden symbolism at the other end.

I liked the original trilogy, but the prequels I could do without.
rainmage
Sep. 2nd, 2004 06:17 am (UTC)
I can see that. There's only two things I like about the prequels: young!hot!Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda kicking ass. Apart from that, Anakin was such a wanker, Padme is strange, the Darths are creepy and Jar Jar should be killed.

Nothing like the original, of course ^^ If the SW internet fandoms were big in my early teens, I would've been a bigger fan. I remembered feeling guilty just by entering on starwars.com (I still do, really).
dkellis
Sep. 2nd, 2004 10:37 pm (UTC)
Being a guy, young!hot!Kenobi didn't do much for me. The best part of the entire prequel so far was Yoda kicking immense amounts of arse.

The original trilogy (I forget about the remastered version, should get them one of these days) didn't have excessively impressive lightsaber duels. Not that I can blame them, but...
rinoakitty
Sep. 2nd, 2004 06:18 pm (UTC)

I am on the verge of weeping this was so spectacularly cute! I loooove it! My mind is racing: Li-kun in the place of Han Solo, Kero taking the place of Chewy... I can't wait to see more. Darth Yue kind of caught me off gaurd, though, as I somehow pictured Yue with Balthasar's (from Charmed, don't ask) face. Sort of an angel-man/scary looking demon mixture. Quite strange, really, the way my mind works.

I am excessively impressed. I can't wait to see more!
dkellis
Sep. 2nd, 2004 10:34 pm (UTC)
I ran out of ideas for a suitable Sith Lord. Couldn't wrap my mind around Darth Nakuru.

Although imagining Yue with the voice of James Earl Jones was an interesting exercise.
laurus_nobilis
Sep. 3rd, 2004 04:39 pm (UTC)
Cool! Loved it, especially Yamazaki ^_^ And Commander Spinel, of course!

I wasn't expecting Yue there, but it makes sense. I wonder who gets to be Yoda... for some reason Kaho comes to mind.
dkellis
Sep. 3rd, 2004 11:56 pm (UTC)
Everyone like Yamazaki, for some reason. o_O (And to think I was about to go with R1-K4...)

Everyone's also guessing the other castings correctly. I wonder if it's that obvious.
ex_butterfl246
Sep. 12th, 2004 01:42 pm (UTC)
Delayed read, but here
It's not so much that it's obvious (the casting) but that you've set everyone thinking in the same direction. It's funny how now the casting correlation just seems natural. The relationships between characters in both canons have been essentially retained.

I can't imagine that you mind being told again how clever this is, regarding the droids especially. I knew from rinoakitty about Darth Yue before I read this, so it didn't sprout a ? over my head like it did for some. Actually, I think in consideration that it makes quite a bit of sense; he is powerful, restrained, emotionally cold, could be considered cruel and cynical. (And I'm such a dork, I loved that he was interacting with Nadeshiko.)

Hey, did you realize that you had what could be interpreted as a Tomouya moment, there?
"I see," he said, with a sigh. "Do you want me to repair you?"
Well, it's all about interpretation, isn't it?
dkellis
Sep. 13th, 2004 06:12 am (UTC)
Re: Delayed read, but here
I had problems reconciling the essential "everything's going to be all right" nature of CCS, which permeates even PMS!Yue, with the grand space opera scale of SW. I mean, if an entire planet gets blown up (or in this case, vanished by the Void/Emptiness/Mu/whatever), it's hard to be cheerful.

As for Tomouya, that was intentional. It's not going to be a Tomouya fic, but I thought that L-chan might appreciate it.
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