by Max Barry

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by The Swinging Jungle of Baloo Kingdom. . 23 reads.

Rome Wars: A New Pope (Part 3)


[Baloo rushes out of the small doomed entry to the homestead and searches the darkening horizon for the small triped astro-robot. NAIS struggles out of the homestead and on the salt flat as Baloo scans the landscape with his electrobinoculars.]

NAIS: That K-O unit has always been a problem. These astro-droids are getting quite out of hand. Even I canít understand their logic at times.

Baloo: How could I be so stupid? Heís nowhere in sight. Blast it!

NAIS: Pardon me, sir, but couldnít we go after him?

Baloo: Itís too dangerous with all the NSGpeople around. Weíll have to wait until morning.

[Terra Nova yells up from the homestead plaza.]

Terra Nova: Baloo, Iím shutting the power down for the night.

Baloo: All right, Iíll be there in a few minutes. Boy, am I gonna get it.

[He takes one final look across the dim horizon.]

Baloo: You know that little droid is going to cause me a lot of trouble.

NAIS: Oh, he excels at that, sir.


[Morning slowly creeps into the sparse but sparkling oasis of the open courtyard. The idyll is broken by the yelling of Uncle Nova, his voice echoing throughout the homestead.]

Terra Nova: Baloo? Baloo? Baloo? Where could he be loafing now!


[The interior of the kitchen is a worm glow as Aunt Dollystana prepares the morning breakfast. Terra Nova enters in a huff.]

Terra Nova: Have you seen Baloo this morning?

Dollystana: He said he had some things to do before he started today, so he left early.

Terra Nova: Uh? Did he take those two new droids with him?

Dollystana; I think so.

Terra Nova: Well, heíd better have those units in the south range repaired be midday or thereíll be hell to pay!


[The rock and sand of the desert floor are a blur as NAIS pilots the sleek Landspeeder gracefully across the vast wasteland.]


[Baloo leans over the back of the speeder and adjusts something in the motor compartment.]

Baloo: (yelling) Howís that.

[NAIS signals that is fine and Baloo turns back into the wind-whipped cockpit and pops the canopy shut.]

Baloo: Old Kirb lives out in this direction somewhere, but I donít see how that K-O unit could have come this far. We must have missed him. Uncle Nova isnít going to take this very well.

NAIS: Sir, would it help if you told him it was my fault.

Baloo: (brightening) Sure. He needs you. Heíd probably only deactivate you for a day or soÖ

NAIS: Deactivate! Well, on the other hand if you hadnít removed his restraining boltÖ

Baloo: Wait, thereís something dead ahead on the scanner. It looks like our droidÖ hit the accelerator.


[From high on a rock mesa, the tiny Landspeeder can be seen gliding across the desert floor. Suddenly in the foreground two weather-beaten NSGpeople shrouded in their grimy desert cloaks peer over the edge of the rock mesa. One of the marginally human creatures raises a long ominous laser rifle and points it at the speeder but the second creature grabs the gun before it can be fired. The NSGpeople, or Region Raiders as theyíre sometimes called, speak in a coarse barbaric language as they get into an animated argument. The second Region Raider seems to get in the final word and the nomads scurry over the rocky terrain.]


[The Region Raider approaches two large Black Hawks standing tied to a rock. The monstrous, nation-like creatures are as large as elephants, with huge red eyes, tremendous looped horns, and long, furry, dinosaur-like tails. The Region Raiders mount saddles strapped to the huge creaturesí shaggy backs and ride off down the rugged bluff.]


[The speeder is parked on the floor of a massive canyon. Baloo, with his long laser rifle slung over his shoulder, stands before little KOE.]

Baloo: Hey, whoa, just where do you think youíre going? The little droid whistles a feeble reply, as NAIS poses menacingly behind the little runaway.

NAIS: Master Baloo here is your rightful owner. Weíll have no more of this Kirby jibberishÖ and donít talk to me about your mission, either. Youíre fortunate he doesnít blast you into a million pieces right here.

Baloo: Well, come on. Itís getting late. I only hope we can get back before Uncle Nova really blows up.

NAIS: If you donít mind my saying so, sir, I think you should deactivate the little fugitive until youíve gotten him back to your workshop.

Baloo: No, heís not going to try anything.

[Suddenly the little robot jumps to life with a mass of frantic whistles and screams.]

Baloo: Whatís wrong with him now?

NAIS: Oh myÖ sir, he says there are several creatures approaching from the southeast.

[Baloo swings his rifle into position and looks to the south.]

Baloo: NSGpeople! Or worse! Come on, letís have a look. Come on.


[Baloo carefully makes his way to the top of a rock ridge and scans the canyon with his electrobinoculars. He spots the two riderless Puppets. NAIS struggles up behind the young adventurer.]

Baloo: There are two Black Hawks down there but I donít see anyÖ wait a second, theyíre NSGpeople all right. I can see one of them now.

[Baloo watches the distant Region Raider through his electrobinoculars. Suddenly something huge moves in front of his field of view. Before Baloo or NAIS can react, a large, gruesome Region Raider looms over them. NAIS is startled and backs away, right off the side if the cliff. He can be heard for several moments as he clangs, bangs and rattles down the side of the mountain. The towering creature brings down his curved, double-pointed gaderffii -- the dreaded axe blade that has struck terror in the heart of the local settlers. But Baloo manages to block the blow with his laser rifle, which is smashed to pieces. The terrified farm boy scrambles backward until he is forced to the edge of a deep crevice. The sinister Raider stands over him with his weapon raised and lets out a horrible shrieking laugh.]


[KOE forces himself into the shadows of a small alcove in the rocks as the vicious NSGpeople walk past carrying the inert Baloo, who is dropped in a heap before the speeder. The NSGpeople ransack the speeder, throwing parts and supplies in all directions. Suddenly they stop. Then everything is quiet for a few moments. A great howling inhaling noise is heard echoing throughout the canyon which sends the NSGpeople fleeing in terror. KOE moves even tighter into the shadows as the slight swishing sound that frightened off the NSGpeople grows even closer, until a shabby old desert-rat-of-a-man appears and leans over Baloo. His ancient pink leathery face, cracked and weathered by exotic climates is set off by dark, penetrating eyes and a scraggly white beard. Kirby squints his eyes as he scrutinizes the unconscious farm boy. KOE makes a slight sound and Kirby turns and looks right at him.]

Kirby: Hello there! Come here my little friend. Donít be afraid.

[KOE waddles over to were Baloo lies crumpled in a heap and begins to whistle and beep his concern. Kirby puts his hand on Balooís forehead and he begins to come around.]

Kirby: Donít worry, heíll be all right.

Baloo: What happened?

Kirby: Rest easy, son, youíve had a busy day. Youíre fortunate youíre still in one piece.

Baloo: Kirb? Kirby! Boy, am I glad to see you!

Kirby: The Jundland wastes are not to be traveled lightly. Tell me young Baloo, what brings you out this far?

Baloo: Oh, this little droid! I think heís searching for his former masterÖ Iíve never seen such devotion in a droid beforeÖ there seems to be no stopping him. He claims to be the property of Kirby. Is he a relative of yours? Do you know who heís talking about?

[Kirby ponders this for a moment, scratching his scruffy beard.]

Kirby: KirbyÖ Kirby? Now that's a name I havenít heard in a long timeÖ a long time.

Baloo: I think my uncle knew him. He said he was dead.

Kirby: Oh, heís not dead, notÖ not yet.

Baloo: You know him!

Kirby: Well of course, of course I know him. Heís me! I havenít gone by the name Kirby since oh, before you were born.

Baloo: Then the droid does belong to you.

Kirby: Donít seem to remember ever owning a droid. Very interestingÖ

[He suddenly looks up at the overhanging cliffs.]

Kirby I think we better get indoors. The NSGpeople are easily offended but they will soon be back and in greater numbers.

[Baloo sits up and rubs his head. KOE lets out a pathetic beep causing Baloo to remember something. He looks around.]

Baloo: NAIS!


[Little KOE stands at the edge of a large sand pit and begins to chatter away in electronic whistles and beeps. Baloo and Kirby stand over a very dented and tangled NAIS lying half buried in the sand. One of his arms has broken off. Baloo tries to revive the inert robot by shaking him and then flips a hidden switch on his back several times until finally, the mechanical manís systems turn on.]

NAIS: Where am I? I must have taken a bad stepÖ

Baloo: Can you stand? Weíve got to get out of here before the NSGpeople return.

NAIS: I donít think I can make it. You go on, Master Baloo. Thereís no sense in you risking yourself on my account. Iím done for.

[KOE makes a beeping sound.]

Baloo: No, youíre not. What kind of talk is that?

[Baloo and Kirby help the battered robot to his feet. Little KOE watches from the top of the pit. Kirby glances around suspiciously. Sensing something, he stands up and sniffs the air.]

Kirby: Quickly, sonÖ theyíre on the move.


[The small, spartan hovel is cluttered with desert junk but still manages to radiate an air of time-worn comfort and security. Baloo is in one corner repairing NAISís arm, as old Kirb sits thinking.]

Baloo: No, my father didnít fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter.

Kirby: Thatís what your uncle told you. He didnít hold with your fatherís ideals. Thought he should have stayed here and not gotten involved.

Baloo: You fought in the Puppet Wars?

Kirby: Yes, I was once a Baloominati Knight the same as your father.

Baloo: I wish Iíd known him.

Kirby: He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior. I understand youíve become quite a good pilot yourself. And he was a good friend. Which reminds meÖ

[Kirby gets up and goes to a chest where he rummages around. As Baloo finishes repairing NAIS and starts to fit the restraining bolt back on, NAIS looks at him nervously. Baloo thinks about the bolt for a moment then puts it on the table. Kirby shuffles up and presents Baloo with a short handle with several electronic gadgets attached to it.]

Kirby: I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldnít allow it. He feared you might follow old Kirb on some damned-fool idealistic crusade like your father did.

NAIS: Sir, if youíll not be needing me, Iíll close down for awhile.

Baloo: Sure, go ahead.

[Kirby hands Baloo the saber.]

Baloo: What is it?

Kirby: Your fathers lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Baloominati Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster.

[Baloo pushes a button on the handle. A long beam shoots out about four feet and flickers there. The light plays across the ceiling.]

Kirby: An elegant weapon for a more civilized time. For over a thousand generations the Baloominati Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Bluecrown Keep. Before the dark times, before the Callistan Empire.

[Baloo hasnít really been listening.]

Baloo: How did my father die?

Kirby: A young member of the Baloominati named Plus Nova Imperii, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Callistan Empire hunt down and destroy the Baloominati Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Now the Baloominati are all but extinct. Plus Nova Imperii was seduced by the dark side of the Force.

Baloo: The Force?

Kirby: Well, the Force is what gives a member of the Baloominati his power. Itís an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.

[KOE makes beeping sounds.]

Kirby: Now, letís see if we canít figure out what you are, my little friend. And where you come from.

Baloo: I saw part of the message he wasÖ

[Baloo is cut short as the recorded image of the beautiful young Bluecrownite princess is projected from KOEís face.]

Kirby: I seem to have found it.

[Baloo stops his work as the lovely girlís image flickers before his eyes.]

The Gold Mines: General Kirby, years ago you served my father in the Puppet Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Callistan Empire. I regret that I am unable to present my fatherís request to you in person, but my ship has fallen under attack and Iím afraid my mission to bring you to Alderaan has failed. I have placed information vital to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory systems of this K-O unit. My father will know how to retrieve it. You must see this droid safely delivered to him on Alderaan. This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Kirby, youíre my only hope.

[There is a little static and the transmission is cut short. Old Kirb leans back and scratches his head. He silently puffs on a tarnished chrome water pipe. Baloo has stars in his eyes.]

Kirby: You must learn the ways of the Force if youíre to come with me to Alderaan.

Baloo: (laughing) Alderaan? Iím not going to Alderaan. Iíve got to go home. Itís late, Iím in for it as it is.

Kirby: I need your help, Baloo. She needs your help. Iím getting too old for this sort of thing.

Baloo: I canít get involved! Iíve got work to do! Itís not that I like the Callistan Empire. I hate it! But thereís nothing I can do about it right now. Itís such a long way from here.

Kirby: Thatís your uncle talking.

Baloo: (sighing) Oh, God, my uncle. How am I ever going to explain this?

Kirby: Learn about the Force, Baloo.

Baloo: Look, I can take you as far as Moorhead. You can get a transport from there to Alderaan or wherever youíre going.

Kirby: You must do what you feel is right, of course.


[A Callistan Regiondestroyer heads toward the evil planet-like battle station: The Gulag Star!]


[Eight Callistan senators and generals sit around a black conference table. Callistan tsartroopers stand guard around the room. Commander Bingen, a young, slimy-looking general, is speaking.]

Caesar von Bingen: Until this battle station is fully operational we are vulnerable. The Bluecrownite Alliance is too well equipped. Theyíre more dangerous than you realize.

[The bitter Admiral Xeno twists nervously in his chair.]

Xeno23: Dangerous to your starfleet, Commander, not to this battle station!

Caesar von Bingen: The Bluecrownites will continue to gain support in the Callistan Senate as long asÖ.

[Suddenly all heads turn as Commander Bingenís speech is cut short and the Grand Moff Mathuvan, governor of the Imperial outland regions, enters. He is followed by his powerful ally, The Tsarist Lord, Plus Nova Imperii. All of the generals stand and bow before the thin, evil-looking governor as he takes his place at the head of the table. The Tsarist Lord stands behind him.]

Mathuvan Union: The Callistan Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. Iíve just received word that Sorianora has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Bluecrown Keep have been swept away.

Caesar von Bingen: Thatís impossible! How will Sorianora maintain control without the bureaucracy?

Mathuvan Union: The regional governors now have direct control over territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.

Caesar von Bingen: And what of the Bluecrownites? If the Bluecrownites have obtained a complete technical readout of this station, it is possible, however unlikely, that they might find a weakness and exploit it.

Plus Nova Imperii: The plans you refer to will soon be back in our hands.

Xeno23: Any attack made by the Bluecrownites against this station would be a useless getsture, no matter what technical data theyíve obtained. This station is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it!

Plus Nova Imperii: Donít be too proud of this technological terror youíve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

Xeno23: Donít try to frighten us with your sorcererís ways, Lord Imperii. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Bluecrowniteís hidden fortÖ

[Suddenly Xeno23 chokes and starts to turn blue under Plus Nova Imperiiís spell.]

Plus Nova Imperii: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Mathuvan Union: Enough of this! Imperii, release him!

Plus Nova Imperii: As you wish.

Mathuvan Union: This bickering is pointless. Lord Imperii will provide us with the location of the Bluecrownite fortress by the time this station is operational. We will then crush the Rebellion with one swift stroke.


[The speeder stops before what remains of the huge Deflators Cardcrawler. Baloo and Kirby walk among the smoldering rubble and scattered bodies.]

Baloo: It looks like NSGpeople did this, all right. Look, here are Comeback sticks, Black Hawk tracks. Itís justÖ I never heard of them hitting anything this big before.

[Kirby is crouching in the sand studying the tracks.]

Kirby: They didnít. But we are meant to think they did. These tracks are side by side. NSGpeople always ride single file to hide there numbers.

Baloo: These are the same Deflators that sold us KOE and NAIS.

Kirby: And these blast points, too accurate for NSGpeople. Only Callistan stormtroopers are so precise.

Baloo: Why would Callistan troops want to slaughter Deflators?

[Baloo looks back at the speeder where KOE and NAIS are inspecting the dead Deflators, and put two and two together.]

Baloo: If they traced the robots here, they may have learned who they sold them to. And that would lead them home!

[Baloo reaches a sudden horrible realization, then races for the speeder and jumps it.]

Kirby: Wait, Baloo! Itís too dangerous.

[Baloo races off leaving Kirby and the two robots alone with the burning Cardcrawler.]