"Get them off my tail, Anakin!" the golden-brown bearded fighter pilot ordered into a headset as he sailed through a field of cluttered ship debris from fallen pilots on the enemy's side and theirs just above the atmosphere of a large, green and brown planet. A volley of red laser bolts sailed past him, causing the red, podular droid resting on the wing of his red and gray, experienced battleship to beep frantically into the headset. "I know, R4, but it seems like Anakin's a little busy at the moment-" The ship jolted forward and veered right, with a blue screen on his intricate control panel now flashing red. "I'm hit, think you can fix it, R4?"
R4 gave him a reassuring beep and within seconds the screen turned from red to orange.
"This'll hold me until we board that Dreadnought," the pilot said, shooting straight up until he looped around his three assailants. Their ships were of a strange make: a round cockpit in the middle of three arcing wings in a triangular formation with a long needle at the front with two red laser ports below glowing, red headlights. The pilot chuckled, squeezing the triggers as hard as he could. "I've got you now," he said, blasting right through all three of them in a haze of blue plasma turrets. He sailed through the fire, spinning and diving through wrecked hulls of fallen enemies and comrades as he appeared through the thick of black ships piloted by pale, skeletal droids with long, yellow heads with cheap antennae stuck up on one side of their heads. The pilot knew what they looked like after seeing their frail, thin frames floating through the void of space. "There she is," the pilot said. R4 turned its golf ball sized camera toward the mile-long , diamond-shaped goliath slowly chewing up and spitting out anything in its path with lasers of all colors blasting out from all directions. R4 beeped curiously and turned its eye to its pilot. "Yes, I know, it has one of the best security systems in the entire galaxy, meant to keep us Jedi out," he chuckled, "but Anakin and I know our way in; if Anakin ever answers his communicator then we can figure out why Separatists have just suddenly sprang up this far in the outer rim."
"You called, Master?" a younger, more laid-back voice said over the communicator.
The pilot looked up, watching a yellow version of his ship, a pill-shaped pod in the center of two thick wings fastened sturdy and straight on the sides propelled by blue combustion emanating from ports on each wing, fly overhead. "I did, but I think I'm starting to catch up to you."
Anakin chuckled, apparently getting shot at as the duo danced toward an even more dangerous ship was every day for them. "That's your senility talking, old man."
"I'd say my memory is crystal clear of me having to fire buzz droids off your wing while flying to Sankar Torr," he said.
"Obi Wan, tsk tsk," Anakin said, "I thought being petty wasn't the Jedi Way."
"But listening to and respecting your master is the Jedi Way, padawan," Obi Wan teased.
"Hey! I have a padawan of my own now, grandpa, and she's worse than I ever was!"
"Okay, now you're simply lying," Obi Wan said, firing at a small gray line in between a wide hangar and a force field emitter, "but I will need some help over here."
Anakin's ship veered left, dodging a volley of blasts from enemy ships. "Give me a minute."
Obi Wan barely barrel-rolled away from multiple blasts that would have killed his engine and whipped around, firing head on at two incoming ships. He shot straight through the flames and continued assaulting the field emitter until it started to spark. "Alright, Anakin, we have T-minus twelve seconds until the field shuts down for an automatic reset, get ready to race for it."
The red and yellow ships completed a full loop and charged for the field as the barrier flickered, but they weren't the ones to reach the entrance first. "Master?" Anakin said. Both pilots looked up, seeing a yellow ship with wide, pointed wings and a chrome javelin on the cockpit sail overhead and slide into the hangar of the ship with them just as the barrier closed again.
"A Ravager M-Ship? In this sector?" Obi Wan said, landing roughly through a crowd of the droids that piloted the ships running around with black blasters. The two pilots' cockpits opened and they leaped into action. Anakin was roughly his height, maybe a little taller, with medium length wavy brown hair, heroically blue eyes, fair skin, and a long, faded vertical scar dangerously close to his right eye. They both wore long but light robes and brown boots over fit physiques to physically leap that high, although Anakin's attire was black and dark brown while Obi Wan sported a beige attire under a warm brown cloak. They stood back to back, pulling out two intricately designed gray metal rods with red buttons covered by a slip on the center and a hole in the end of each rod. They hit their buttons and out sprang buzzing, shining blue katana-length blades with a white hot core under the blue glow.
One of the droids pointed its blaster at the duo. "It's the Jedi! Blast them!"
"I was going to offer to talk," Obi Wan said, his appearance older but more approachable than his apprentice's. He had shorter, light brown hair and thick facial hair that fit a more learned persona, fair skin, and mature yet playful green eyes.
"Oh, don't worry Master," Anakin chuckled, bouncing red laser blasts off his blade back at the horde of droids like he was playing baseball, "we have one of the Neimodians himself on this ship-possibly the Viceroy-so I'm sure there will be plenty of time for you to live up to your name."
"I cannot even begin to wonder what put the Separatists in such a fuss that they would suddenly blockade over Rodin, especially since Geonosis is theirs again," Obi Wan said, "certainly they found something on Rodin that would attract the likes of space pirates-"
"Whom of which will get to Gunray first if we don't finish up here quickly," Anakin cut in, "I'll tell Snips to stay on standby if the scrap metal gets reinforcements."
"Hey!" one of the larger, tankier droids in navy blue said, looking just like a torso and limbs with a red eye on one side of its chest. "My mother got turned into scrap metal!"
"So sorry for your loss, battle droid," Obi Wan said, opening his hand and seemingly pushing the air, instead flattening a third of the approaching droids into the wall on the end of the hangar bay. He looked at the Ravager clumsily sliding through a line of droids until it tapped the wall and a bottom hatch opened. "Hold on…" he muttered, blocking blasts with his saber on instinct as he watched by far the strangest collection of individuals he'd ever seen race through the hangar and into the bottom deck half a mile away. One of them he saw clearly was a man of average height wearing black clothing and a red jacket with an empty necklace around his neck. "I don't think those are space pirates, Anakin."
Anakin darted forward, rolling between a droid's legs and zipping through seven others. He whipped around and swung his free arm around as if he was throwing something. The pieces of the eight dead droids at his hand were whipped into their allies. "You're telling me someone stole a space pirate ship and came all the way here knowingly through our territory?"
"It hasn't been the weirdest thing to happen today," Obi Wan said, "but we're about to find out." He deflected a whip from the last droid's gun and easily sunk his blade through its chest, dropping him instantly.
Anakin looked toward his ship, smiling at the blue and white droid shaped just like R4 that popped out from its section on the wing. The pill-shaped, short robot leaning back on two legs that extended from just below its head and a center wheel under its body looked left and right before rolling forward, beeping affirmatively to the two Jedi. "R2, I need you to keep this field up, no ship's allowed in or out until we have the Viceroy and whatever he was after, got it?"
R2 beeped in understanding and quickly rolled toward a panel just next to the barrier itself.
"Now let's go, Anakin," Obi Wan said, racing for the doors end of the hangar. Obi Wan darted forward and pulled Anakin from the set of thick steel sliding doors just before they crushed him shut.
Anakin felt a chill run down his spine and he thrust his blade into the door, turning the steels around it red hot. "R2, was that you?"
R2 beeped negatively from across the hangar.
"It could have been one of the monitor droids," Obi Wan said, "they know we're here."
"Or maybe the Ravager pilot can't fly for Bantha Fodder and that would have tipped the Viceroy off to get out of here?"
Obi Wan sunk his blade into the door, helping his padawan make a hole in the door large enough for them to jump through. "Equally probable," he said, running through long, square and wide hallways. They were gray, cold, and lifeless, which made sense considering the bulk of the inhabitants on the ship.
Anakin reached into his robe pockets, pulling out a hand held, flat mic on a round disc. "Ahsoka, I need you to cover that force field, we have R2 on it but I'm afraid there's more in this fight than just the Republic and the Separatists."
The Jedi noticed that the halls grew narrower the longer they ran, wading through droids with their sabers like water in the sea. "You're talking about that Ravager?" a higher pitched, younger voice asked over his communicator. "I don't see any other pirates around, but I guess that's what we need to be afraid of."
"Exactly, padawan, also, keep an eye on the Viceroy's ship, this ship is on lockdown until we finally capture him, but if he tries to escape be ready to pursue," Anakin said, grimacing as they stopped dead at the beginning of one long hallway leading straight to the control room. It had already been blown wide open with a different kind of chaos ensuing from the small rectangular cut of the action they could see. Guarding the entrance was four copper-colored droids that sat bent in a wide stance on three legs with a wide curve that went up their back and over their beetle-like heads. They had a spindly, wiry body but with two cannon arms that sat locked and loaded. To make matters worse, each droid was covered by its own self-projecting blue energy field. "Droidekas," he spat, keeping his saber at the ready as the four droids tucked their legs and arms into their torso and fell forward, rolling toward them and closing the sixty foot gap in under a second. The Jedi flipped over the droids and turned to face them as they returned to their standing form, letting out a torrent of laser fire greater than any of the other droids on the ship.
"Let's not repeat what happened on Sankarr Torr, shall we?" Obi Wan said, jumping to the side and running on the wall. He pushed his hand out again, sending the droids spinning in their shields. "Now, Anakin!"
Anakin whipped his lightsaber, controlling its flight path with his hand through the air to cut each droid down to size as soon as their fields went down through all of the confusion. "You really don't want to get stuck like that again, do you?" he chuckled, seeing his master catch his lightsaber and throw it back to him.
Obi Wan scowled. "What happened there wasn't funny, Anakin."
"It was pretty funny," Anakin said. The two Jedi lunged through the control room doorway, seeing it disheveled and in total disarray. The master cockpit was at one end of the dark, red room taken up by mostly one long black conference table, with most of its guests unconscious lying face first in their plates. On the other end was a large, flat projector showing a rotating blue hologram of a regal, old man with short hair and a beard wearing a long, gold-linked brown cape with a message over his head reading "leave a message."
"Do you see the Viceroy?" Obi Wan asked, fretfully scanning his eyes across the room and finding everyone but.
"No," Anakin said, "but the only way anyone would have escaped would have been through us."
"Stay by the door," Obi Wan said, hearing more droids run toward the control room as he darted to the cockpit. Everything had been pressed, flipped, changed, an altered, except for a tiny green button with a yellow piece of paper stuck to it reading "play" in marker. As his finger traced the word, his heart jumped with a quiet but not quiet enough sneeze. He slowly looked up, seeing the five "pirates" webbed in the ceiling. "Hello there," he said playfully, brandishing his saber as they all dropped around him. Obi Wan glanced at Anakin, hearing him outside hacking and slashing droids. Anakin slowly backed into the room, deflecting laser blasts left and right and held his hand out, pushing the horde back for a brief moment.
"General Kenobi!" the only female among their group exclaimed.
"Damn it, Star-Lord!" the short raccoon wearing an orange and blue mechanic-like jumpsuit cursed at the fair-skinned human in rugged black clothes and a red leather jacket with a red and black metal facemask. He was a bit shorter than the Jedi, but him running through his short, wavy hair and brandishing a laser pistol reminded the Jedi of the threat. "Now we gotta resort to plan B!"
"I do not wish to fight you," Obi Wan said, "and judging by the fact that you haven't taken a shot at me yet, neither do you."
Star-Lord kept his aim on the Jedi's chest. An amber-orange jewel resided in the once empty golden necklace he wore. "There are too many droids, Rocket, please tell me you came up with a plan for that too!"
Rocket scoffed. "And here I thought we were just starting to get to know each other, Star-Lord! You know what to do, Groot!"
"I am Groot," the strangest one of their group said. He was a humanoid, walking, talking tree with a spiky head of wood for a scalp and two large, shiny black eyes. He was significantly taller than the rest and spindly with wooden conglomerates for feet and hands that simply grew more twigs or branches when necessary. He aimed his hand at the cockpit and his wooden finger traveled to the cockpit to push the "play" button.
The entire ship lurched to one side from a barrage of fire from incoming support, but it was the burst of distorted music over a driving drum beat that rocked the Viceroy's ship. The gunfire driving Anakin back came to a standstill and the Jedi were assaulted with such a great ringing in their ears that the five "pirates" went to run past the disoriented general. "Walk this Way, Aerosmith, this i our 'plan B?' So you have been listening?" Star-Lord laughed over the booming guitar riff that came out of every speaker on the entire craft.
"You know how we like to listen to music while we work," Rocket chuckled, sliding under Obi Wan's legs and following his partners to the doorway the other Jedi blocked.
Anakin blocked a strong kick from the tall, green-skinned alien brunette woman with long hair who recognized the other Jedi with piercing yellow eyes. She wore a similar leather attire like Star-Lord, but she opted for a black tank top instead of a bulky, red leather jacket. It didn't help move past the Jedi, however. She threw a combo of punches that Anakin dodged, catching the last one in his hand. She winced in pain and pulled back, feeling it as if she just punched steel. Anakin switched hands with his lightsaber and pushed his free hand forward, blowing her and the raccoon behind her back into the wall. "You won't get away!" Anakin said, instead running into a vision-shaking gut punch from the gray, tattooed, musclebound man towering above all except Groot.
Anakin growled in anger and pulled the heavy hitter toward him, kicking him in the shin and using the intangible wall to send him reeling through the table. "Gamora!" he shouted to the woman trying to land a single strike on Obi Wan while he harmlessly deflected blue blasts from Star-Lord's pistol and Rocket and Groot hurriedly modified a smaller pistol in the corner. "What magic is this man using, and why I cannot see it?"
"It's called the Force, Drax," Gamora said, catching a chop to the face and kicking Obi Wan in the ribs. The force of the kick sent Obi Wan flipping onto the table. He whipped a chair into her and the gunmen but Star-Lord was quick on the draw, blasting it into a million pieces. "It already makes these dangerous Jedi even more formidable, but particularly these two have a reputation."
Obi Wan chuckled, spinning toward them and bouncing off Star-Lord's chest with a kick. He kicked Gamora in the side of the head and pulled Groot away from the Racoon using the Force to send him sliding across the table. "Anakin, did you hear that? We have a fan!"
Anakin winced with every punch that barely missed his head and instead left deep dents in the wall. "I'm preoccupied at the moment, master!"
"Aren't you always?" Obi Wan said, flicking his hand to the side and whipping Rocket around.
"Don't get too cocky, asshole!" Rocket spat, firing a purple sparkling bolt at the Jedi.
Obi Wan flipped over it and let it hit the ceiling, but the resulting shockwave that flattened everyone to the wall gave the intruders enough time to escape. The floored Jedi quickly jumped to their feet, with Anakin outstretching his hand and slipping the amber jeweled necklace from around Star-Lord's neck as he rushed to his feet and darted out of the room under the floor-rumbling rock. The master smiled at his student. "You saw the change in the stone's ownership as well?"
"Gut feeling," Anakin said, running in front of his master after the marauders, "while big and grey was busy trying to crush my head I noticed he'd broken through a hidden, laser proof glass case, now the only issue is getting them to tell us about it!" He brought his communicator to his face. "Ahsoka, I-"
"Walk this way! Talk this way!" the communicator sang, causing the device to smoke, sputter, then pop.
Obi Wan took the necklace and darted past the pirates, dangling it at them with a wide smirk on his face. Star-Lord gasped and felt around his neck while Drax huffed heavily with a sprint that quickly closed the gap between him and Obi Wan. "I'm starting to think this ship wasn't housing the Viceroy," he said, feeling an overwhelming power when he even glanced into the center of the jewel.
"And I'm starting to think that the longer you hold that jewel, the less number of hands I will let you keep!" Rocket shouted, charging up another purple blast as the Jedi led them toward the hangars through a frenzied squad of droids with music from another world blasting through their communication devices.
"I am Groot!" Groot screamed, wrapping wooden tendrils around the two Jedi and hoisting them in the air as they burst into the hangar bay. They were greeted by a third Jedi wielding two lightsabers and her force of forty men in white medium armor with blue paint on their shoulder pads and the Galactic Republic's crest on the side of their white helmets with thin black visors. Their helmets covered the whole head, with the visor showing just enough for eight laser rifles each to be pointed at the five marauders' heads.
Drax charged in blind rage, with the Jedi merely pursing her pouty lips and pushing him back with the Force. "I hate that you can do these things!" Drax snapped.
"R2, get the music," the third Jedi ordered, with the bot wailing out the guitar solo from its speakers replying the best it could. She was younger than both of them, slim but athletic, with bright orange skin and a pair of small blue and white striped horns atop her head montral with three headtails, two down her shoulders and one down her back. She glared at the pirates with big, blue eyes that were innocent but her expression was such that no one would test her by stepping forward. She wore nothing that would indicate her rank, merely wearing white pants under a brown knee-high skirt, brown boots, and a brown tube top with leathery wristguards, but the warriors behind her moved and said nothing. She calmly walked up to Groot, staring into his eyes as he silently threatened to whip the two suffocating Jedi to the other side of the hangar.
"He'll do it, Jedi!" Gamora shouted. "Please let us take what we came here for, and no one will get hurt; we are not your enemy!"
She turned off her green and yellow twin laser blades and put her hand up toward Groot's head. Groot, naturally, ducked back to dodge it. She waved her hand slowly and calmly, bringing peace to the man made of bark. "You will let my masters down."
Groot stared blankly into the Jedi's eyes. "I… am… Groot…" he said as if he were entranced, dropping the Jedi hard on the ground. Anakin clutched his side in pain, shutting off his blade as well as he and Obi Wan rolled onto their backs to catch their breath.
"Thanks, Snips," Anakin groaned, rolling to his feet and shaking the wood chips off his robes.
"Did you find the Viceroy?" Ahsoka asked.
Obi Wan held the glowing stone in his hand, its power radiating from it making Ahsoka's eyes widen in awe. "He was never here."
"What is that? Some form of kyber crystal?" Ahsoka asked.
"That's why they're here," Anakin said, stepping back as Obi Wan walked up to the racoon. He put his hand up to Rocket's head in the same fashion Ahsoka did to Groot and nearly lost a finger.
"Don't try any of that magic mind melting crap on me, buddy!" Rocket spat.
"Feisty, aren't we?" Obi Wan said.
"Fuck you," Rocket exclaimed, aiming his blaster at the back of the Jedi's head and getting ten pointed at him in response.
Obi Wan walked over to Star-Lord instead, feeling the anxiety exuding from the man as he waved his hand over his face. "You will tell me who you are, why you're here, and what you planned on doing with this gem," he said with a confident smile.
Star-Lord turned to Gamora who worriedly stared at him, quickly shaking her head "no."
Star-Lord covered his mouth, but his words still were loud and clear, albeit fast. "My name is Peter Quill, I am the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy and we're stationed on a planet on the outer rim called Earth, I'm here with my team to retrieve the Infinity Stone and return it to Earth to keep it out of the wrong hands because they can take over the universe if all six are used for evil and I won't let any bad guys take the stones and if you are the bad guys then oh god I am sorry and why won't I shut up-"
Obi Wan waved his hand again, sending Peter into a deep sleep. "I think we have what we need. We must bring this news to the Council at once, before the Senate catches wind of what conspired here. We will need to bring you all in so we can decide the best course of action. This vessel you broke into guards Sith Lords and Confederacy kingpins, you know."
"You do not know the power with which you are tampering with," Gamora warned, watching several troopers carry Peter off to the large, cargo-styled cruiser in front of their Ravager. "For the safety of your Galactic Republic, please just let us go."
Ahsoka gave a quick hand signal to her soldiers and the other four were shuffled into the cargo ship. "You say you're the Guardians of the Galaxy," she said, "but as far as I'm concerned, that's our job."
"So what, are we your prisoners now or something?" Rocket asked, purposely jabbing the nearest trooper in the leg with his elbow.
"Actually, the opposite," Obi Wan said, "technically the only crime you've committed today was attacking a Jedi, but Anakin and I have seen worse. You'll be treated as guests."
"That is a fate worse than death!" Drax proclaimed, making Rocket put his head in his hands in embarrassment.
"I am Groot?" Groot asked curiously.
Obi Wan closed the side door to the cargo ship, joining R2 and Anakin on the walk back to their ships. R2 hopped into Anakin's ship while the padawan let out a sigh of relief. "For a minute there, I thought it was going to get pretty ugly. Ahsoka's been listening to her master."
The master clapped his student on the back, the duo entering their ships with their headsets on. "Don't get too comfortable, Anakin," he said, "the closer you two get, the more she acts like you every day."
"Imitation is the best form of flattery," Anakin chuckled.
"I too remembered when you tried to grow facial hair, just before the Clone War started," Obi Wan teased, laughing with his student and friend as they shot out into space behind Ahsoka and the self proclaimed "Guardians of the Galaxy." Still, within their laughter, an uneasy calm fell upon the wise master, silencing him quickly as he pulled out the stone again, inspecting its perfection and sickening power again before stowing it away in his pocket. He felt disturbed, moved, but most importantly unbalanced, as a feeling indescribable by him swept through the cockpit was moved by the same Force that guided his ship and blade.
The silence from his master's ship worried the padawan, but a similar unease greeted him the moment they left the battlefield. "You feel it too, Master?"
Obi Wan couldn't quite place it, but there was one thing he could say to address it. "I have a bad feeling about this."
THOUGHTS ON THE GUARDIANS? WHAT WOULD THE VICEROY NEED WITH AN INFINITY STONE?