They ran through the greenery, the two Jedi in front with Rafe and Danny behind them. Danny was bringing up the rear, cursing softly under his breath when any especially large branch whipped him in the face.
They skid into a clearing where two beta-class, two-seater starfighters were standing snuggly side by side. Danny and Rafe gapped at them. This wasn't anything like what they were use to seeing.
"You guys take the left one," Anakin called as he and Obi-Wan raced toward one of the fighters. "We need to get off-planet!"
"Yea, yea, follow our lead."
Anakin and Obi-Wan jumped into one of the fighters as Rafe and Danny fumbled around, trying to get the cockpit open. Anakin turned to Obi-Wan as the other pair finally slid into the fighter. "Are you sure it's a good idea to taken them with us, Master?"
"No. But we can't leave them to the separatists, can we?"
Anakin shrugged. "I guess, I just hope they know what they're doing." He flicked several switches to speed up the pre-flight check.
"What are all these things?" Danny wondered, looking around at the extensive control panels.
Rafe settled into the pilot's seat as Danny strapped in as the co-pilot. "Not sure, but I don't think we have a long time to find out." Rafe scanned the control panel for a few moments and after several false starts found the ignition. The engines of the fighter roared to life and a blinking light appeared on the viewing panel. The blinking lettering that scrolled across the screen read:
Pre-flight check activated.
"Well, that's a start," Danny remarked, trying to decipher the short-hand labeling next to some of the controls.
"You guys, we're gonna have to get out of here. Now," Anakin's voce came over the comm. system.
"Danny, take that would you," Rafe threw over his shoulder as he watched the green lights that started appearing across the dashboard.
Danny surprised himself by quickly figuring out the comm. system. "Ah, we're a little busy with the, ah…" he glanced at the screen, "pre-flight check."
"We can't wait! Override it."
Danny looked out the side view port. A band of strange looking machines had burst into the clearing. They were holding large guns in their clawed…hands? Was that the word? Behind them were several hovering…cars was the best Danny could describe them as. "Ah, Rafe, we need to go. Like now!"
"Alright, alright!" Rafe grabbed the joystick control. The fighter swerved, but finally, after several attempts, lifted high in the air.
The fighter beside them was doing the same thing, but their ascendancy looked much smoother.
"We need to hurry," Anakin's voice came over the comm. "We want to get out before they inform the fleet in orbit."
They lifted higher and higher, far beyond the clouds. Rafe was looking bewildered at the lack of extreme turbulence. "I think they want us to go higher…" Danny pointed out.
"You're crazy! We'll lose flying capability if we go that high."
"Rafe, I think they know what they're doing."
Rafe shook his head but followed behind the other fighter. Turbulence picked up as they started going through the atmosphere.
"Pick up speed! Turboblasters!" Anakin's communication was laden with static.
If the situation wouldn't have been so tense, Danny would have laughed at the squeakiness of Rafe's voice.
Danny scanned the dashboard. "These." He pressed the activation button for boosters and they shot up through the atmosphere and away from the planet's gravitational well. The large expanse of space opened up in front of them in all its grandeur. Rafe and Danny stared open mouthed at the stretching blackness speckled with bright white dots – far off stars.
"I think we're in space…" Danny said quietly, awe-struck. "Outer space."
Rafe nodded numbly. "It's like we're in some kind of…fantasy novel."
The comm crackled. "You guys alright?"
"Yea, we're fine," Danny reported. "Aren't we suppose to be?" he asked after a pause.
"Technically, yes. Didn't you guys say you were pilots?"
"We are…fighter pilots."
"You're kidding me right? You look like you haven't flown once in your life."
"Well, not these kind of things we haven't," Danny replied with a frown.
"What kind of fighters do you guys fly?"
"…Jet fighters." Danny was starting to grow a little uncomfortable.
"Here, how do you use this thing?" Rafe butted in. Danny showed him the transmission button. "Hey, listen, I don't know who ya think you are but you're giving my buddy a hard time and that's not goin' over very well with me. So, unless you wanna get your ass kicked, I suggest you stop."
Danny looked at Rafe with a surprised expression. "I didn't know you were going to do that…"
The comm crackled again and now another voice, cultures and tinted with what sounded like an English accent to Danny, came over the channel. "I apologize for my partner's rudeness. We will have to have a bit of a talk with the two of you when we get to base if you don't mind. As for now, do you see those two hyperspace rings?"
Danny and Rafe looked out of the viewport and scanned the immediate area. Two large rings hung in the emptiness of space some distance off. "We see them," Danny reported.
"Do you think you will be able to attach your ship to one of them?"
"Ah…" Danny looked over at Rafe who shrugged unhelpfully. "We can try."
"Alright, then we will fly to the rings, attach on, and then we will give you—" the rest of the instructions were cut off by the blaring of an alarm that resounded deafeningly in the confined space of the cockpit. A red light next to the radar screen began to flash.
Danny fumbled around, trying to silence the alarm as Rafe studied the radar screen. "I think we're in some serious trouble here," he concluded finally, Danny looked over at the radar screen to watch an alarmingly large blob approaching their location.
The communicator crackled. "Listen, that is the separatist fleet. They're coming our way and fast, meaning they know where we are. We want you two to make for the hyperspace rings. Then plug the coordinates we are sending you into the navicomputer. We will engage their fighters to give you cover. We will comm you as soon as we can. Alright?"
"Copy that," Rafe agreed before Danny could say anything and their fighter shot off toward the hyperspace rings.
Danny watched through the side viewport as the large, lumbering – spaceship was it? – came into view and, stopping at a safe distance, released a swarm of small, strange looking, but obviously agile and effective, fighters onto the lone "enemy" fighter. Rafe had dropped their speed and was now leveling himself out with the large ring. "Rafe," Danny started uncertainly. "Shouldn't we…shouldn't we try to help?"
"You heard them. They want us out of here," Rafe replied distractedly. "Besides, with our knowledge of these things, we'll probably be hurting more than helping." Rafe adjusted the fighter's directory one final time and flew into the hyperspace ring. The craft shuddered as the ring locked itself onto the fighter automatically.
Danny watched uncomfortably as the yellowish fighter of their new acquaintances took on heave fire from their "enemies." They were doing well so far, but who knew how long they could keep that kind of pace up. Besides, something was telling him that they should help. "Rafe, we need to help them. They're terribly outnumbered. It's not right to leave them."
"Danny, whatever war they're fighting – it's their war. Not ours. Here, give me the coordinates they sent us." Rafe indicated a screen on which flashing red lettering was demanding the input of coordinates.
Danny bit his lip but stood his ground. "No."
"We're not leaving them."
"Danny," Rafe sounded exasperated. "Even if we wanted to help—"
"We do...I do."
"—We don't even know what weapons we have and how to use them."
"Of course we do." Danny pointed to the side at the weapons control panel. "We've got ion canons," – whatever those are – "torpedoes, and—"
Rafe held out a hand to silence him. "Aright. But do you know how to use them?"
Danny looked over the panel. "It doesn't look much different from a jet fighter weapons array control panel. I should figure it out. Come on, Rafe." Danny gave his friend a pleading look.
Rafe looked at Danny and then out of the viewport. He watched as the yellowish fighter sustained several nasty hits from the swarm of "enemy" fighters. Turning back to the controls, Rafe wrenched the fighter out of the grasp of the hyperspace ring. "Alright, Danny. Lets kick some serious alien butt."
Danny grinned and turned his attention to the weapons display panel as Rafe turned the fighter around toward the ongoing dogfight. "Alien butt? I thought you didn't believe in aliens, Rafe."
"I'm pretending this is a dream."