Tam leaned down to regard the droid, smoking and sparking as it was. With a sigh, he began piecing together the frayed wiring and loose circuitry. Spotting a repair patch in the droids supply pouch, he unpacked it and began fixing the droid in earnest. The others went to work searching the hunters for evidence as to why they would attack, though all that was discovered was more evidence of their wilderness survival. By the time that HK was heard to reboot, they had all grown nervous about D’Jrem’s fate. With no sounds of blaster fire, and no sign of his return, the group decided to follow his trail.
“It figures we would use his comlink for Sparkles,” Lil muttered. “Speaking of which, do you have any idea where he is?”
“I do,” the voice of the Gatekeeper replied,” I can detect him directly ahead of your current position, “though I believe all of you will be needed, save the droid.” Lil looked suspiciously at her comlink.
“Why all of us save HK?”
“Someone will need to stay with the stunned hunters, should they awake. As HK is both designed for combat and has not the need to sleep or ability to be distracted, he seems the logical choice. Their chances of overpowering him are low.”
“Uh-huh.” Lil didn’t like it, but for no reason she could put her finger on. “HK, NO KILLING. I want them in the same condition when I return as they are when I leave. Clear?”
“Suggestion: Perhaps we should dismember the organics? It would make it easier for transport and then I could accompany you.” HK’s suggestion was made all the more terrifying thanks to the still-gaping wound in his chest. The repair patch was sufficient to repair the underlying circuitry and clockworks, but there just wasn’t the volume of metal needed to replace the lost plating.
Lil was, as usual, stunned at the droids irrationality. “HK, we can’t rip them to pieces – they’ll die.”
“Amendment: You are correct, Master. I did forget that. Stupid, frail, non-compartmentalized meatbags! I will stay here and maintain their conditions, Master, but please hurry, as the frail organic systems may give out at any moment, and I would certainly not want to unintentionally disobey your mandate.”
Lil shook her head and moved after the others, “Okay HK, I don’t want to be gone any longer than I need to be either. Be careful, I don’t trust any of this.”
The group made their way along the same path that D’Jrem and the hunter took. They moved as quickly as possible, the tracks of their companion and his prey clearly marked through the woods. Rushing around a bend, the sounds of danger met them too late for any of the party to take warning. The sounds of cracking ice and splintering rock heralded a shock beneath them, and soon, each of them fell into a pit in a spray of snow and gravel, darkness overtaking them as they hit rock below.
Lil awoke to the sounds of her comlink politely beeping an incoming message alert. Groaning, she rubbed her head where the sting of pain and a swollen mass told her she had suffered a good bump to the head. She looked around, and, seeing no obvious way out (only some roots far out of her reach), she grasped her comlink and answered, “Hello?”
“Don’t bother trying to climb out,” the voice of the Gatekeeper greeted her from the film of the microphone on the comlink. “The walls are covered in ice, and it’s just above freezing now; they’ll be slick with icemelt. No, I’m afraid you will have to use the Force to have any hope of success here.”
A brief spike of anger swelled through her before she regained control of her emotions and calmly (if cooly) replied. “You planned this, didn’t you, Sparkles?”
“Well, from my perspective this will be a very interesting test. One that is very necessary. You will not be able to defeat Malefax without your skills in the Force being developed. I can aid in you this; the Force can be used to aid in a great many ways. It can guide you to the best route out, it can bolster your muscles to perform superhuman feats, and it can even move objects around you, bringing them to you to free yourself. You must search within yourself to decide how the Force can aid you, I can help you focus this decision into a reality.”
“I thought you didn’t know his name? What else haven’t you told us?” Lil knew she couldn’t trust the Jedi-like computer.
“I didn’t know his name. Since that previous conversation he has declared himself. Thus, I now know his name. As for what I haven’t told you, a great many things.” He paused and shrugged, “I shall continue to not tell you a great many things until such a time as you ask questions involving me relating them or I deem it necessary to inform you of them. That is the nature of knowledge, it isn’t always appropriate or pertain able to a given situation, and therefore must be held for when it inevitably becomes applicable.”
“THIS is why no one ever trusted the Jedi, Sparkles. You always manipulate people to dance to your Will. That’s why the Empire won in the end. They’re very clear on their intentions.” Frustrated, in pain, and getting uncomfortably cold, Lil realized she was arguing with a computer program and shook her head. ‘That’s as useless as trying to argue with HK,’ she thought. “Fine, let’s get this over with.” She reached out her hand to the root, and focused on it.
“Visualize it moving towards you, bring it to you in your minds’ eye,” the Gatekeeper instructed. Lil closed her eyes (it made visualizing so much easier when the reality wasn’t getting in the way) and pictured the root springing from its icy prison and reaching out to her hand. She imagined feeling the knotted wood, the cold soil, covered in permafrost, sliding between her outstretched fingers. To her astonishment, her imagination was so apt that she could smell the musty fragrance of wood wrapped in dirt, and the feeling of a bug skittering across her thumb. Except, she didn’t visualize a bug ….
Opening her eyes, Lil found the root wrapped in her hand, and indeed, a centipede of unnaturally large dimensions crawling up her arm. With a cry of revulsion, she dropped the root and shook her hand as if it were on fire. “SON OF A
--“ she stared at her comlink, sure that the damned hologram had somehow arranged the bug to scare the life out of her.
“You have done well, Lillandria.” The voice acted proud, but lacked any real emotion to the statement.
“Oh shut up,” she replied as she grabbed the root and began climbing. “You got me into this mess on purpose, remember?”
Arriving at the top of the pit, she was greeted to V’brat and D’jrem likewise crawling out of their individuals traps. “He set us up, you know. Sparkles knew the pits were here all along. It was a goddamned test, can you believe that?”
Their conversation was interrupted by the odd sound of running, and before anyone could gather what was occurring, Tomo burst from out of her pit, having planted a foot on each side of the expanse and “run” up the wall. “It was good exercise, and we did learn of new strengths inside us,” she said.
“Still, it was pretty low.” D’jrem reminded her.
Emerging from a bush nearby, revealing a cavern entrance, Tam looked at them through smiling eyes. “It has been a long time since I had to use the Force to sense for tunnels in my surroundings. It was a training exercise at the Temple when I was very young.”
Lil just rolled her eyes, “I can’t believe you all are okay with being manipulated! C’mon, we have to go and get HK.” She stormed off back to the camp ….