Onboard a shuttlecraft lifting off into the Coruscant sky, Senator Palpatine turned to address the gathered passengers. A hovering cameradroid automatically switched on, filming the kindly Senator from a flattering angle.
"I would like to welcome all of you on this most memorable occasion," he began. "I don't believe that we all know each other, so I propose a round of introductions. I am Senator Palpatine, of course, and I am acting as a special consultant to InGen Corporation."
Qui-Gon, sitting to the senator's left, looked slightly queasy as the shuttlecraft hit a rough patch in the atmosphere. "I am Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi Master. InGen Corporation has asked the Jedi for an independent review of their project."
Obi-Wan waved jauntily to the group. "Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padawan to Master Qui-Gon."
Maul, skulking in the last seat in the back, growled only "Maul." After a piercing glare from the Senator, he sighed and added, "I am Senator Palpatine's ward, and I am here to kill--er, assist him."
Palpatine smiled and turned to the passengers on his right. "And you, lovely ladies?"
A white-haired woman dressed in Jedi robes nodded. "I am Master Kan-en Fodder," she stated calmly, exuding a level of serenity not often seen among the Jedi.
A younger woman sporting the universally unfortunate Padawan's haircut sat next to her. "And I am her Padawan, KeRed Shyrt. My Master and I are acting as chaperones for these two young people, who won their school's 'Win an Educational Adventure with Senator Palpatine' contest." She pointed to the two young children strapped into the seats next to her.
An eight-year-old girl in pigtails and overalls looked up from the notebook she was sketching in. "My name's Gretel Solo," she chirped. "I won the elementary-division contest by building a one-twentieth scale model droid of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It could walk around and roar and everything. It even ate my brother's action figures!" The little girl seemed very pleased with this idea.
The younger boy sitting next to her was too preoccupied looking out of the shuttle window to notice that it was his turn. Gretel poked him with an elbow. "Ow! Quit it!" he yelped.
"Tell them who you are, stupid," Gretel hissed.
The boy stuck out his tongue. "I'm not stupid, you're stupid. I'm Han. Gretel-stupid-head's my sister. I know all about dinosaurs. I drew a picture of a Tyranorex and won the contest. It had purple feathers and a beak, and they used to live in caves and eat strawberries and go swimming and... hey, are we going to land on that moon?"
All eyes turned to the small, greenish moon that the shuttlecraft was nearing. "That's no moon," Palpatine announced. "That's an amusement park!"
"Cool!" both children cried, pushing each other out of the way to get to the windows.
"Now, now, there's plenty of room for you both." KeRed Shyrt moved in to separate the bickering siblings.
The shuttlecraft descended quickly, bouncing a bit as it re-entered the atmosphere. Qui-Gon looked queasy again.
"What're those things?" Han asked, pointing out the window.
"Those?" KeRed Shyrt replied. "Those are trees, Hansel."
"Trees? Like in the arboretum?"
"Yes. But here they just grow naturally."
"You mean, they just grow wherever they want to? All over the place?" Han, born and raised on Coruscant, was clearly boggled by the idea of uncontrolled plant life.
Gretel also stared at the unfamiliar greenery surrounding them. "Weird," she whispered, shivering.
Shortly, the shuttlecraft touched down on a landing pad. The door opened, and a warm, humid breeze entered the cabin.
Palpatine smiled at the assembled crowd. "My friends, welcome to Jurassic Park."
"What is this place?" asked Obi-Wan.
"Tut-tut! All will be explained shortly. Ah, our rides are here!"
As the passengers disembarked, a pair of hovervehicles painted in bright "Jurassic Park" logos pulled up. Everyone boarded quickly, and soon the hovervehicles were flying across the tropical landscape.
Hansel decided to provide everyone with the benefit of his extensive knowledge of dinosaurs. "Didya know that there are these little dinosaurs called compys and you can hypnotize them and their poop is blue and they run backwards they make finger paintings in the mud and--ow!" he protested as Gretel poked him in the arm again.
"Look!" Gretel pointed ahead.
The hovervehicles slowed to a crawl at the crest of a hill. In the broad valley below, a herd of enormous, long-necked dinosaurs slowly crossed the land, heading toward a lake where another herd had already gathered.
"Are they real?" Han asked.
"Yes!" Palpatine answered smugly. "Real, living dinosaurs."
"They look kind of like apatosaurs," Gretel observed. "But... not exactly."
"They're... they're amazing!" Obi-Wan was stunned. "Except that... well, I mean, in all the museums and paleontology books, they've never... they never showed them with...."
Maul got to the point. "Why have they all got big floppy ears?"
Master Kan-en Fodder held up her hand. "Quiet! You can hear them calling to one another."
The group fell silent and listened to the long, low calls that rumbled across the valley.
"Meeeeeeeeesaaaaaaaaaaaa," intoned the members of the advancing herd, their long ears bobbing as they moved.
"Yooooouuuuuuuuuuusaaaaaaaaa," replied the herd already at the lake.
Qui-Gon got out of the hovervehicle for a better look, but then something else caught his eye. There, growing on a damp and shaded patch of ground, was the largest hallucinogenic mushroom he'd ever seen in his life! His hand hovered over the enticing fungus. Oh, I probably shouldn't... but then again, maybe it will settle this queasy stomach of mine. Medicinal purposes and all that. Quickly he broke off the mushroom at its stem and tucked it into a large pocket in his robes.
Palpatine raised his hands and smiled. "This, friends and constituents, is the culmination of years of completely legal and legitimate research into cloning technology. Scientists working for InGen Corporation found ancient Coruscantian biterbugs trapped in the fossilized sap of the now-extinct dooku tree. These biterbugs had fed on dinosaurs, and the scientists were able to extract nearly-complete dinosaur DNA samples from the blood in their tiny little stomachs."
"Nearly complete samples?" Obi-Wan asked. "How did you succeed in cloning dinosaurs without complete DNA samples?"
"The scientists filled in the gaps using DNA from the most genetically compatible species alive today, namely Gungans. They have assured us that the resulting animals are 98% accurate and that the Gungan influence is negligible."
A floppy-eared pteranodon soared overhead. "Oookeeedaaay, oookeeedaaay," it cawed.
KeRed Shyrt watched the flying creature dive and snatch some tasty creature hiding poorly in the grass. "And you say this will be an amusement park when it's finished?"
Palpatine nodded. "InGen has established a high-security system to keep the visitors safe. Even the carnivorous species such as the tyrannosaurus rex and velociraptors are enclosed in electrified pens, making them safe to observe. InGen security has assured us that nothing could possibly go wrong."
"This is so wizard cool!" Gretel exclaimed. "I want to see a real t-rex!"
Hansel was excited as well. "Can I have a baby puhteranathing for my own? I would teach it to fly me around and chase people I don't like and poop on Wookiees and do my homework and..."
"Yes, well," Palpatine interrupted desperately, "let's move on to the visitor's center and perhaps we will find a nice toy dinosaur for you to play with, yes?"
"...and did you know that they hate pasta and wear mohawks and..."
At last the group arrived at the visitor's center. To the Jedis' surprise, Mace Windu stood in the doorway, waving.
"Dude--er, Master Windu!" Qui-Gon called out. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm covering computer duties for my sister's husband's cousin's domestic partner. I kind of owe her a favor after our last poker night. The cards hated me. Anyway, the entire park staff has gone down to Coruscant to celebrate Clone Appreciation Day, but don't worry. This moon's systems are so wired together, you can run the whole show from the control room."
Mace led the group inside, giving a brief tour of the premises. Palpatine pretended to be fascinated by a museum display on the life cycle of the Coruscantian biterbug, waiting until the crowd had passed into the next room.
Maul dropped back and joined his master. "What are you up to now?"
Palpatine shrugged. "I'm developing cloning technology at InGen's expense and planning to skim scads of money off of park entrance fees at the same time. I thought that would be obvious."
"And what heinous assignment do you have for me?"
"You and I are going to accompany those little brats on a tour of the park. They'll have the time of their lives and tell all their friends about this place later. Then, while we're at dinner, I want you to break into the labs and steal samples of the new dinosaur models in development. I've got a side deal with the Kaminoans that should pay off handsomely."
Shortly, Maul and Palpatine caught up to the rest of the group, whose tour had ended in the central control room. "Who here would like to go out into the park?" the senator announced.
"Me! Me!" chorused the kids, who were now draped in "Jurassic Park" t-shirts and other memorabilia.
"KeRed, I would like for you to chaperone the children," Kan-en Fodder told her young apprentice. "I wish to observe the park's operations from here." KeRed Shyrt nodded.
"I will stay as well," Qui-Gon said. "We'll let the apprentices take the tour."
"Fine by me," Obi-Wan agreed. "Let's go!"
As the departing tour party headed back outside, Qui-Gon slipped unnoticed into the bathroom. Then, from the pocket in his robes he withdrew the giant mushroom. Man, I never knew 'shrooms ever grew this big! I'll save most of it for later, but I'll just try one bite right now while the others are on tour. What could it hurt?
For the park tour, the group used self-guided skimmers operated from the central control room. Each skimmer was equipped with a screen on which a virtual tour guide appeared. "Welcome to Jurassic Park!" the perky voice announced. "Please keep all arms, tentacles, antennae, and other appendages inside the skimmer during our tour!"
Palpatine, KeRed Shyrt, Hansel, and Gretel ended up riding in the same skimmer after Gretel insisted that the contest prize was an educational adventure with Palpatine. Palpatine's cameradroid flew alongside, getting the best view of the kindly senator in action. Maul and Obi-Wan rode in the second vehicle, surreptitiously groping each other below dashboard level.
The skimmers autopiloted on a course that meandered through the park, pausing at various displays along the way. The virtual tour guide provided an informative and educational explanation of each exhibit, much of which was drowned out by Hansel's constant recitation of dinosaur "facts." "Hey, that's a tricertop! Did you know they use their horns to roast marshmallows? Ooo, that's a dipodookus, they're really good at soccer! And the anklesaurs are called that because they wear ribbons on their ankles!"
"Oh, shut up, Hansel!" Gretel eventually snapped. "You're getting it all wrong!"
"Now, now," KeRed Shyrt rebuked them.
Palpatine gritted his teeth. Oh, yes, do shut up NOW.
"Next stop: tyrannosaurus rex," announced the virtual guide.
"Yippee!" Hansel squealed.
"Tour guide?" Gretel asked, grimacing. "Do t-rexes eat little boys? I sure hope so..."
"What's with you, Qui-Gon?" Mace asked as Qui-Gon staggered back into the control center. "You don't look so good."
"Nothin' wrong, man... these jurassic 'shrooms, they're amazin'..." Glassy-eyed, Qui-Gon dropped into one of the empty computer chairs.
"'Shrooms?!" Mace jumped up and searched Qui-Gon's pockets, turning up the remains of the enormous mushroom. "Aw, man, tell me you didn't?"
"They were right there, man, all huge and growing and everything, and I just knew they were going to be the best..."
Mace shook his head. "We can't take you anywhere, can we? You want to know what makes them grow so big, huh, Qui-Gon? Dinosaur shit, that's what! This fungus is 100% dino poodoo!"
"Don' pick on the dinosaurs, man... 's not right, lockin' them up in cages an' stuff..."
Master Kan-en Fodder looked up from her monitor screen. "They are hardly locked up in cages, Master Jinn. These creatures have an entire moon to roam across. The fences provide protection without restricting movement significantly."
"'S not right... animals gotta be free..."
"Oh, good grief. Force knows what this stuff is doing to his system," Mace sighed. He handed the remains of the mushroom to Master Fodder. "Do you think you could analyze this and see what the computer thinks it is? I'll check the medical supply closet to see what we have on hand to sober him up." Fodder nodded and began to check the project's fungus files.
"...gotta be free..." Qui-Gon seemed to be getting more anxious.
"Chill, dude," Mace called from the hallway. "We'll take care of you, and all your animal friends too."
"NOOOOOOOO! Gotta free the animals!!" With a burst of Jedi speed, Qui-Gon leapt from his chair, then raised it over his head and brought it crashing down on the central computer console. Master Fodder tackled him like a linebacker, but it was too late. Sparks flew from the computer, and the lights began to dim ominously.
"Shit!" Mace ran back into the room. "What have you done now?"
"The female tyrannosaurus rex was actually larger than the male of the speciesssszzzzzttttt!!" The virtual tour guide voice suddenly shorted out, and the skimmers stopped dead in their tracks.
"What's wrong?" asked Han.
"Oh, nothing to worry about, I'm sure," KeRed Shyrt said reassuringly.
Palpatine nodded. "Of course. We'll resume the tour shortly." Or I will take it out of someone's hide.
Obi-Wan smacked the dashboard with the heel of his hand, then pried the cover off easily. "I wonder if I can hotwire this thing?"
"What was that?" Gretel stood in her seat to take a look around. KeRed Shyrt tugged on her pants leg to make her sit down.
"Ummm, I think that's coming from over there," Gretel said, pointing. "Inside the t-rex paddock."
Boooooom. A tree crashed in the distance.
"I want to go home," Han pouted.
Boooooom. A tree crashed in the not-very-distant-at-all range.
KeRed Shyrt looked at the fence enclosing the t-rex paddock. "Is that electrified fence still working?"
"Nope!" Gretel yelled.
The trees at the edge of the road were brutally ripped aside, and the huge head of a tyrannosaurus rex appeared, its long ears knocking aside the branches. "Nooooooossaaaaaaaaahhh!" it bellowed, eyeing the four tasty morsels conveniently gathered in the nearest skimmer.
Hansel screamed. Gretel screamed and dove behind Hansel so he'd get eaten first. Palpatine didn't think he could get away with feeding the kids to the t-rex in order to save his own hide, so he settled for tucking himself under the dashboard. KeRed Shyrt jumped onto the hood of the skimmer and waved her mind- whammying hand with all her might. "We are not the meals you're looking for!" she announced. "Go home and rethink your life!"
Obi-Wan desperately twisted wires together. The skimmer didn't start, but the virtual tour guide did appear briefly, its expression morose. "Brain the size of a planet, and they have me leading safari tours," it moaned. Obi-Wan yanked another wire and the guide disappeared.
Maul just sat and waited for the imminent carnage to begin, enjoying the rush of fear flowing from the other skimmer. I wonder if I could manage to smuggle one of these down to Coruscant? I'd love to turn one loose in the Senate. Oh yeah...
The t-rex climbed onto the road in front of the skimmers and sniffed for its prey. KeRed shouted over her shoulder, "My whammy's not doing any good! Its brain is too small!"
With a roar, Obi-Wan's skimmer finally came to life. "Over here!" he yelled, waving to the party in the other vehicle. "Get in!"
Palpatine immediately leapt out, then remembered that the cameradroid was still watching. Quickly he grabbed Hansel and Gretel and sprinted (daintily) for the operational vehicle. The t-rex moved to follow, but KeRed Force-threw a broken branch at its head to distract it. Irritated, the dinosaur decided that one meal in its mouth was as good as three in the bush, and promptly ate KeRed Shyrt.
"KeRed!" Obi-Wan jumped out ran toward the t-rex. "Spit her out!" he demanded, whammying fruitlessly.
The dinosaur burped, then turned its gaze on Obi-Wan, giving him a look that said, I just tried Jedi for the first time, and darn was it tasty!
Palpatine, Gretel and Hansel piled into the idling skimmer. "Maul!" Palpatine commanded. "Do something about that creature!"
Oh, well, there are other ways to have fun. Maul hauled himself out of the skimmer and watched as Obi-Wan tumbled to avoid the carnivore's bite. The t-rex suddenly swung its tail, knocking KeRed's skimmer to smithereens. The wreckage flew towards Obi-Wan, who flattened himself to the ground and was buried in skimmer bits. "Nooooosssaaaaahhhhhhh!" the t-rex crowed, a tatter of KeRed's tunic fluttering from the corner of its mouth.
Palpatine took the wheel of the working skimmer and threw it into gear.
"Why are we running away?" Gretel asked angrily.
"We're not running away!" Palpatine protested. "I'm rescuing you!" With that he gunned the skimmer, zooming back along the path. The t-rex roared and snapped at the retreating vehicle, inadvertently catching the senator's cameradroid, which transmitted dramatic footage of a first-person-point-of-view voyage down a dinosaur's throat before being crushed. Its dying squeal distracted the carnivore just enough that the skimmer made its escape.
"Ohhhhh..." Obi-Wan pushed aside the wreckage piled on top of him and started to pull himself upright. The t-rex swung its head in his direction. Obi-Wan sensed the danger and froze.
"Hey, peabrain!" Maul ignited his lightsaber and waved it, distracting the dinosaur. "Yeah, I'm talking to you, dimwit! Nobody eats Obi-Wan but me!"
"Nooooooossaaaaaaaaahhh," growled the t-rex.
"Maul, be careful!" Obi-Wan hissed.
"Watch this!" Maul tumbled and flipped, landing on the t-rex's neck before the creature had time to react. Quickly Maul grabbed the ends of the beast's drooping ears and pulled them back, using them as reins. "Yaaaaahhhh! Giddyup!"
"You're fucking insane!"
Enraged, the dinosaur bucked, trying to throw Maul off its back. Maul twisted an ear viciously, and the t- rex began to sprint off through the trees.
Obi-Wan kicked himself free. "Maul! Maul!" he shouted at the dinosaur's retreating form. It disappeared into the darkness. "Shit!"
He started after Maul, then stopped himself. Maul's just crazy enough to survive this on his own. My da and those kids are more likely to need me than he is. Obi-Wan looked mournfully at the wreckage of the remaining skimmer, then began to run.
Maul tried to direct the t-rex to chase the escaping skimmer in the hopes that he could convince it to eat Palpatine. However, his wild ride didn't last long. The t-rex expended its energy trying to imitate a bucking bronco, then collapsed in an exhausted heap, gasping. "You've got about as much stamina as Ki Adi Mundi after he runs out of Viagra," Maul muttered, jumping to the ground.
A ripple in the Force warned him of impending danger. Maul crouched and turned, coming face-to-snout with the beast creeping up on him. Maul recognized it from the tour guide's description: a velociraptor! The creature hissed, but did not attack. Maul realized that there were two other velociraptors coming in, hidden to either side. "Clever girl," he whispered. Now, these were his kind of dinosaurs! No lumbering giants here -- these creatures were fast, vicious, and intelligent. He felt a feral kinship with them.
They'd have been even more impressive if it weren't for the floppy ears.
The skimmer came to a stop halfway up the steps of the visitor's center. Palpatine flung himself out of the vehicle and dashed inside, leaving Hansel and Gretel to fend for themselves.
"Hmph," Han grumbled. "I'm gonna tell Mommy on him."
"For once I agree with you," Gretel replied. "Come on, let's go inside. If you get eaten, he's not here to be blamed for it."
In the control room, Qui-Gon lay on the floor, hogtied with electrical cords. "Oooh... I don't feel so good..."
"Don't look at me for sympathy!" Mace growled, frantically tapping at the computer keyboard. "Damn!"
Master Kan-en Fodder's pale face betrayed her shock at the sudden loss of her padawan, but still she focused on the immediate crisis. "What can I do to assist you, Master Windu?"
"The backup console is operational, but the only way I'm going to be able to clear this mess is to reboot the system. When I do that, the circuit breaker will probably trip. Someone has to go out to the power shed and reset the fuses. Can you do that?"
"Certainly." Kan-en Fodder started toward the door, only to be met by Palpatine, with the two children following behind. "Senator Palpatine! You've returned safely! The Force was surely with you."
"I am so sorry for the loss of your young apprentice," Palpatine said, going into full Solemn Condolence Mode. "She gave her life so that these two young citizens might survive."
"You--" Gretel began.
"And I'm sure the poor things are exhausted and terrified," Palpatine interjected, "so I'm just going to sit them down way at the far end of the control room, where they will sit quietly and not interfere." He glared at them for emphasis. Gretel hmphed at him and marched in to look at the ruined control room console instead. Hansel crossed his arms and stood stubbornly in place.
"Where are Obi-Wan and your ward?" asked Master Fodder.
"They bravely covered our retreat. I am sure they can handle themselves out in that wild jungle much better than I ever could."
The brush surrounding the visitor's center compound rustled. Maul and the group of velociraptors slunk out of the shadows.
Maul pointed to the side door of the visitor's center. "This, my brethren--er, sistren, I mean--is a door. It operates thusly." He hooked his fingers around the handle and pulled, opening the door. The lead velociraptor snorted in understanding.
"Excellent. Now, remember the old man I told you about. I have been fattening him up for months now. He will be succulent and juicy."
Maul led the way into the darkened building, two of the velociraptors behind him. The third was about to follow when Master Kan-en Fodder exited the main door and headed for the power shed. Deciding that one human alone would be more vulnerable, and offered the bonus of not having to be shared with the others, the last 'raptor changed course.
Hansel looked over at Qui-Gon. "Huh?"
"C'mere, kid," Qui-Gon wheedled, giving the boy his best innocent look. "Could you untie me?"
Hansel looked skeptical. "Why are you tied up anyway?"
"Ummm... It's just a sort of game that adults like to play with each other sometimes. You'll understand when you're older. Please?"
"I am in position," Master Fodder reported over the radio.
"Very good," replied Mace. "Hold on to your butts! System reboot in five, four, three, two, one..."
Mace entered the reboot command on the computer. The monitors faded and the overhead lights dimmed. For a moment, there was only silence. Then, the people in the room could hear a scraping, and a growling, and a hushed "Weeeeeeessaaaaaaaaa" from down the hallway.
"The dinosaurs are in the building!" Gretel yelled.
"Master Fodder! Reset the fuses!" ordered Mace.
"Resetting fuses now."
Power flooded through the building, lighting the darkened hallways and revealing the shapes of two velociraptors in the outer hallway. "Weeeeeessssaaaaaaa!"
Mace swiftly tapped on the keyboard. "Park management system restarted!"
"NoooOOOOOoooooo!" A manic Qui-Gon threw himself on Mace's back. "Don't lock the animals up again!"
"Shit!" Mace stopped, dropped, and rolled, trying knock Qui-Gon off.
Gretel ran to the working console screen. "I know what this is!" With a few taps she brought up the interior security systems and activated them. The door locks slammed home just as the lead velociraptor reached for the door handle.
Why is that dinosaur looking at me and drooling? wondered Palpatine. He activated the comlink switch. "Master Fodder, if you are available, we could use your assistance in the..." A sudden disturbance in the Force washed over him, as if a single voice had cried out and then been silenced. The only sound heard over the comlink was a satisfied crunching. "Oh, dear..."
Gretel continued to explore the computer system. "Hey, I can summon the shuttlecraft remotely to come pick us up!"
Palpatine nodded. "Do it." Gretel grabbed a joystick and began guiding the shuttle toward the visitor's center.
Suddenly, a grate in the ceiling was kicked out, and Obi-Wan's face appeared. "Anyone down there need a little help?"
Mace finally succeeded in restraining Qui-Gon by sitting on him. "Your master's on a Jurassic 'shroom kick. Can you do anything with him?"
"Sure." Obi-Wan dropped to the floor, then pulled a small vial out of his belt pouch. "I finally got Yaddle to develop all-purpose detox recipe after that little 'incident' with the Delvian priestesses a couple of months ago. I'm still not sure what it was he sampled there -- he kept muttering something about pollen." Obi- Wan pried Qui-Gon's mouth open, poured the liquid in, held his mouth closed, and stroked his throat until the man swallowed. "There we go. Give it a couple of minutes and he'll come back from whatever trip he's on." Obi-Wan looked around. "Where's Maul?"
Palpatine shrugged. "I thought he was with you."
"Ha!" Gretel was triumphant. "The shuttle's landed outside."
"But what about the dinosaurs?" Han asked, pointing to the two rather pissed-off velociraptors, who were still lurking in the hallway.
Obi-Wan looked up at the hole he'd left in the ceiling. "I have an idea."
Maul! Where the hell are you? Obi-Wan's mental voice echoed in Maul's mind. You'd better not have gone feral again, because I didn't bring the damn kilt this time!
Maul's reply was tinged with amusement. You liked it after I went feral on Hoth, as I recall.
He could sense Obi-Wan's relief. Yes, I did, but I don't think now's the best time for recalling fond memories. We're all crawling through the ventilation system, heading for the front courtyard. That little girl, Gretel, summoned the shuttlecraft for us. We're getting the hell out of here.
Smart kid. I'll be there in a moment. Maul tucked the last of the stolen dinosaur samples from the lab into a small padded case, tucked it under his shirt, Force-pushed the grate covering the ventilation shaft out of the way, and jumped in.
Soon, the refugees were reunited, gathering in the lobby of the visitor's center. The detox formula had finally kicked in, and Qui-Gon stood sheepishly towards the back of the group, carrying Hansel.
There was just one problem: a trio of velociraptors stood between them and the shuttle. "Well, fuck," muttered Mace.
"Do you think the two of us can hold them off?" Obi-Wan asked.
Mace held up one hand. "Wait, something's happening... Look!"
Off to the side, the blue Force-ghosts of the dearly departed KeRed Shyrt and Master Kan-en-Fodder materialized. They began jumping and waving their arms. The lead velociraptor turned to look at them.
"Aaaaaaiigh!" wailed Han. "I see dead people!"
"Oh, nonono!" Qui-Gon said franticly, waving his whammying hand. "There's nothing to worry about! Don't mind those Jedi, it's just a hokey old religion..."
"...hokey old religion..." Han repeated obediently.
The velociraptors began to stalk the ghostly Jedi, who headed into the forest in an effort to distract them from the survivors. The 'raptor who had already eaten Master Fodder once today looked especially puzzled as she followed the image of her most recent meal.
"Run! Now!" commanded Mace.
The group began a desperate dash across open ground towards the shuttle, with Mace in the lead and Obi- Wan bringing up the rear. Gretel whipped out a small remote control unit she had cobbled together and signaled the shuttlecraft to open its main hatch for them. Quickly they threw themselves inside.
"Noooooosssaaaaaaaaa!" Without warning, the t-rex burst through the trees, bellowing in anger and snapping vengefully at Maul.
"Back off, sister! He's mine!" Obi-Wan shouted as the hatch door swung closed behind him.
"Weeeessaaaaaaa!" The velociraptors returned, challenging the t-rex for dining rights.
"No Gungan influence, my ass!" yelled Mace as he hit the afterburners on the shuttlecraft. Quickly the ship lifted off, leaving the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park to fend for themselves.
Maul looked out the window at the diminishing sight of "his" pack of velociraptors. Remember what I have taught you, sisters. Farewell!
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan settled the children into their seats, while Maul slunk towards a seat as far away from them as possible. To his dismay, Palpatine sat next to him, leaned in and hissed, "Hand them over."
"You don't do 'innocent' well at all, my apprentice. The genetic samples you stole from the lab. Hand them over."
Maul grimaced and pulled out the padded case. "So much for my side deal with the Kaminoans."
"You? Deal? Ha!" Palpatine cackled. "Leave the wheeling and dealing to experts, my apprentice. You are entirely too predictable." Whistling, he tucked the case inside his own robes and headed back towards the cockpit, only to be stopped in his tracks by a pair of children with stubborn looks on their faces.
"We're going to tell our parents on you," Hansel announced.
"And all our friends," Gretel added.
"And our teachers."
"And our neighbors."
"I get the idea," Palpatine said dryly. "Would I be correct in assuming that you could be convinced to forget certain details of today's adventures?"
Gretel and Hansel looked at each other, then at Palpatine, and nodded. "Let's talk," Gretel replied. They might be engaged in the ongoing battle of brother and sister, but first and foremost Hansel and Gretel were Solos. Everything was for sale.
While Palpatine conducted his negotiations, Obi-Wan came over and sat down next to a scowling Maul. "Did you mean it?" he asked.
Maul looked puzzled. "Mean what?"
"What you said to the t-rex. No one gets to eat me but you? Because I've got some chocolate sauce in the fridge at home..."
Epilogue: Two Months Later
A small probe droid broke through the cloud cover over Jurassic Park, then swooped low to begin its scan. It noted the size of the apatosaur herd at the lake, buzzed the still-ticked-off t-rex, and dodged an aerial attack from a pterosaur. Eventually it made its way toward the dilapidated visitor's center and ducked inside.
The building's power supply was still operating. The probe droid followed the sounds of activity coming from the control room and extended a camera arm to peer through the window.
A velociraptor sat at a computer console, surfing the net and downloading nude pictures of nubile young komodo dragons. Another 'raptor sat in front of a PlayStation, banging furiously on a control pad customized to its claws. A third was tearing into a cardboard box that had been delivered to "Fodder, Kan- En, c/o Jurassic Park Visitor's Center, Outer Orbit, Coruscant." Master Fodder's well-worn credit card sat in a place of honor on the shelf. The floor was littered with pizza boxes.
"Maul!" Palpatine's outraged shout nearly shattered his eardrums. "What the hell did those dinosaurs learn from you?!"
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