Tag Archives: Steve Blum

Star Wars Rebels – They Came That Close!

So close… and yet so far…

Have a gander at this scene from “The Occupation,” the next episode of Star Wars Rebels to air this coming Monday.

I was never sure what to make of the Kanan/Hera romance, so this near-kiss was surprisingly sweet. On top of that, glancing through the comments below the clip was almost as much fun. While a couple of remarks really weren’t that funny or likable, seeing the number of people moaning at the person who ruined the moment was.

Of course, yours truly couldn’t let them have all the fun on youtube. That just wouldn’t be sporting. 😉 Enjoy the clip, and remember that you can catch more episodes of Star Wars Rebels‘ final season on Disney XD, readers!

May the Force be with you!

The Mithril Guardian

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Star Wars Rebels’ Trailer 2 for Season Four Is OUT!!

I missed this trailer when it came out, so this post is probably coming out a day late and a dollar short. But better late than never, right?

Okay, first things first. Turns out, that wolf we saw in the first trailer is a Loth-wolf. And it is part of a pack – a big one!

Ruhk, the Noghri bodyguard for Grand Admiral Thrawn, is now a canon character, readers. Thrawn wants him to take out Hera, and despite the Noghri race’s fantastic fighting skills, it looks like Ruhk gets his fanny handed to him in this fight. Don’t mess with Hera!!!

Kanan’s fate is not looking like it will be a good one. I’m still hoping he’ll make it to the end of Star Wars Rebels, and I would be SO HAPPY if he survived to be at the party on Endor. But I am not going to hold my breath that the writers will let him survive.

Ezra I think will live to the time of The Last Jedi, at least. If Disney/Lucasfilm really is planning a sequel/new series, keeping Ezra alive for it would make a lot of sense. Just because Ezra would live to the time of Rey, Finn, and Poe does not mean he would be a Jedi. As it is, we still do not know whether or not Luke and Rey are the only Force sensitives/Jedi in The Last Jedi. They are just the two we know about.

Finally, Mandalore is in serious trouble. The Empire seems to have developed some kind of lightning-type ray gun that can fry a person to ash without destroying the armor they are wearing. I think Sabine will live through the fight, but the odds for her family, Fenn Rau, and Bo-Katan living through it have shrunk dramatically.

But what am I babbling about? You came to see the video, not to read my ramblings about it! Here’s the second trailer for Star Wars Rebels‘ fourth and final season, readers. And, as always…

“May the Force be with you.”

The Mithril Guardian

Tangled Cuts and Happily Ever After

Tangled is one of the best films that Disney has ever made.  But for some odd reason, they have decided to turn it into a television series.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the idea – I thought the movie ended things perfectly and, as a viewer, I was quite willing to leave it there.  But Disney has decided to make it a television series and at this point, there is no use arguing with them about it.

It’s not all bad news, though.  The series comes with some cute perks, especially its Tangled: Short Cuts.  These short episodes fill in time between the series’ events and they have been a hoot so far.  More are sure to come, but here are the ones that I have seen and enjoyed.  As a bonus, the short Tangled Ever After is included at the bottom of the post.

Enjoy!

Prison Bake 

 

Make Me Smile

 

Check Mate

 

Tangled Ever After

Spotlight: Star Wars Rebels – Agent Kallus

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You may or may not have seen my post “Star Wars Rebels’ Zero Hour and Season 3 Review.” It was a long post. In that article, one of the things about Rebels’ season three which I noted was Agent Kallus’ defection to the Rebellion from the Empire. Some people were surprised by his change of heart this season, and I admit to being taken aback that he became the new Fulcrum.

However, I was not in the least bit astonished that he turned Rebel. If you are in the mood to look up my previous posts on Rebels, you will find in one or two of them that I mentioned a belief that Kallus would change sides. I knew right from the start that Kallus had “the heart of a Rebel.”

Of course, this begs the question: How did I know?

A friend asked me that a little while ago. It is a good question, one I cannot answer in a scientific manner. I knew when I saw the first advertisements for Rebels that Kallus would be an Imperial goon; that he would be an antagonist. I knew that his name comes from the word callous, which means “being hardened and thickened…feeling no emotion; feeling or showing no sympathy for others: hard-hearted.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)   But even as I watched Spark of Rebellion, I looked at Kallus and thought, “You’ll be a Rebel someday, pal. Just you wait and see!”

How did I know? There were lots of little giveaways, I think. Not many people would notice them, especially among the show’s target audience. I have been a child before. I know how they see things. I gave up on lots of characters fighting on behalf of evil as a kid, only to be blindsided with shock when they became good guys later on. It is totally understandable that kids would see Kallus as nothing but a hopeless baddy, irredeemable and undesirable. One even gave him the nickname WAFAR: Walking Advertisement for a Razor, in reference to his huge sideburns.

Despite helping to create the moniker and adopting it myself, I did not see Kallus as a hopeless villain, and below are some of the reasons why.

From the get-go, I noticed that Kallus did not mind going into battle at the head of a legion of Stormtroopers. When Vader steps on the scene, he is usually the central point of the conflict. He is neither with the Stormtoopers nor goading them on from behind. If there are Stormtroopers present when Darth Vader enters the scene, they are in the background, firing at the heroes. Vader takes center stage whenever he shows up.

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Kallus was different. He was not in front of the Stormtroopers, like Vader typically is, he was in the front line with them. This is also a departure from the aloof attitude demonstrated by most Imperial officers. They are all safely behind the Stormtroopers when they appear on screen. We have never really seen an Imperial officer, agent, or other bigwig dive into the thick of a fight against the Rebels. The obvious reason for this is that the Imperials are perfectly willing to dish out the pain, but they are not willing to experience it themselves.

Kallus is different. He is willing to fight. He is willing to brawl. Whether he is using a blaster, his Lasat bo-rifle, or his own fists, he enjoys the thrill of combat. He is not afraid of getting hurt, though he is not reckless and does not wish to get himself killed. Nevertheless, from the start it was obvious that he enjoyed a good scrap.

This, I think, was my first hint that Kallus had the makings of a Rebel. Another hint was that he was not prone to preening, as most Imperials in Star Wars are. I do not recall seeing Kallus boast over anything he did while with the Empire, even his successes as an ISB agent. One Star Wars encyclopedia claims that he turned down numerous offers of promotion in order to stay on the front lines. So he did not have an unhealthy, inflated opinion of himself. Hmm, not your typical Imperial reaction to success, eh, readers?

To the observant viewer, this shows that Kallus is not interested in power or advancement in the Imperial bureaucracy. He is interested in his job as an ISB agent because he enjoys it. He wants to be on the front lines, fighting what he thinks is the good fight. His scrupulous attention to his job, his lack of interest in prestige and power, his love of combat because he is at his physical peak, hinted that he had a sense of honor. Though he kicked a Stormtrooper down a Kessel mineshaft and did some other, similarly nasty things, Kallus definitely possessed an aura of real dignity which is lacking in most of Star Wars’ Imperial characters.

Hint number three about Kallus’ eventual change of heart was that he was smart. Most Imperials are so busy trying to “get ahead” in the Imperial power structure that they have lost whatever imagination they had before they became part of the Emperor’s machine. You watch them while they are working on the bridge of a Star Destroyer or some such place, and they are all vying for “their fair share” of the glory. This means that they never look beyond their own nose. Because they are so busy looking out for good ol’ Number One, they do not understand the Rebels.

The Rebels would never leave a man behind if they could find a way to save him. Kallus realized this at the start of the series and, like Grand Admiral Thrawn, he began to profile our heroes. He did not do it through studying art, as Thrawn does, but by assessing their actions in combat.

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There are benefits to both kinds of deduction, obviously. Thrawn’s fascination with art and what it shows about a particular artist’s or species’ mindset is a superpower all by itself. It is what allows him to make such great, overarching plans. If there is one thing Thrawn is proud of it is his intellect, the fact that he is the smartest man (or Chiss) in the room, and so he holds all his subordinates and enemies in contempt. Kallus’ understanding of the Rebels is based more on their performance in combat, and so he never held them in complete contempt.

Kallus is not a genius, like Thrawn, but he is intelligent. He analyzed the Ghost crew’s patterns of attack and would be ready to meet them when they came running to the bait he had set up. His hand-to-hand battles with the Ghost crew, particularly Zeb, taught him their personal strengths and weaknesses.

In a way, this knowledge gave him a more realistic and basic picture of the Rebels than the one Thrawn has drawn up. Thrawn understands how they think; Kallus knows why they think the way they do. Thrawn is detached from his knowledge of the Rebels. With very, very few exceptions, he has not engaged them in personal combat. He has studied their tactics, yes, but he has done so through secondhand reports. Though thorough, these reports do not equate to actual experience.

Kallus has not engaged the Rebels simply with his head but by fighting them physically. He knows, therefore, that they will do the totally unexpected, not because of a picture they painted on a wall or a mask they left lying around. They will do the totally unexpected because they are determined to survive long enough to get a Rebellion against the Empire up and running. If someday they have to die so that a Rebellion can be born, then they will do it. But if they can find a way to survive they will take that chance, however slim or insane it seems to be. That is all there is to it.

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Thrawn thinks he can synthesize thousands of years of art and battle tactics into an efficient metric by which to plan out the perfect battle. To an extent, he is right. But what Kallus knows and what Thrawn has not recognized is that heart beats brains every time. The Ghost crew’s determination to win, to look out for each other, trumped his every plan to bring them to face what he believed was justice. And all of his plans were remarkably neat, for an “average” Imperial. So how can someone so smart get beaten so often by people who, logically, should be easy to defeat?

The writers finally answered Kallus’ question in The Honorable Ones. After bushwhacking the crew in an Imperial factory orbiting Geonosis, Kallus follows Zeb as the Lasat tries to return to the Ghost via an Imperial escape pod. The two end up fighting while the escape pod jettisons, damaging the controls in the process and landing on an ice moon as a result. Zeb is knocked cold by the landing while Kallus breaks his leg.

The episode is actually nothing special, from the point of view of the plot. Two enemies who hate the other end up stranded together and have to work with one another if they hope to survive to rejoin their respective forces. We have seen this device used time and time again. It is not a particularly spectacular plot and, if handled badly, it leaves an awful taste in viewers’ minds.

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But The Honorable Ones pulls it off very well – and not just because of all the “freak-out noises” Kallus makes. Having watched Zeb for so long, we know how he is going to react when he realizes that Kallus cannot fight because of his busted leg. Kallus, however, believes that Zeb will take the first opportunity to kill him. He repeatedly tries to get his hands on a weapon, but Zeb disarms him and does not hurt him, in spite of pointing out how easily he could kill the ISB agent.

Zeb then makes a crack about how Geonosis is supposed to be a desert planet. He knows very well that they are on one of the planet’s moons – a frigidly cold one, at that. But in order to ease the tension of their situation, he makes a joke about it. Kallus misses the joke and takes him seriously. He lectures Zeb as though the Lasat was a child, asking how he could be bested time and again by an ignoramus like him.

Zeb’s curt reply – “Get a sense of humor, Agent!” – must have surprised him. Due to a bad experience with a Lasat mercenary some years before, Kallus held all Lasat in contempt. Because of this past encounter with a member of Zeb’s species, he probably knows more about the Lasat as a race than anyone but Zeb and Thrawn. This hatred of his for the Lasat blinded him to their better qualities.

So Zeb pointing out that he was joking and Kallus not grasping it is one of the things that makes the Imperial agent sit up and pay attention. Zeb is not a genius but neither is he stupid. He was having a bit of fun at their expense, like any soldier who still held hope of rescue would. If Zeb had been a human or a fellow Imperial, Kallus might have understood that his comment was a joke. Instead, his bias blinded him to Zeb’s sense of humor.

Throughout the episode Kallus slowly learns to take off his dark glasses and look at Zeb as he is and not how his hatred has painted him. What he finds is an intelligent, honorable Lasat who is tactically bright. He also realizes that Zeb has something he does not. Several somethings, actually…. He has friends. Friends he believes in and trusts to come for him no matter what. Friends he knows will risk their lives for him because they have done it over and over again. Friends he will in turn risk his life to protect and help.

Kallus has no friends, not because he does not want them, but because they do not want him. With the Imperials, friends are extra baggage. They can get you demoted or put you on the chopping block for their mistakes. The Galactic Empire of Star Wars reminds me a great deal of Lewis’ description of Hell in The Screwtape Letters. Almost everyone in the Empire loves nothing greater or better than himself. They all hate each other to some extent and cannot wait to show up the person sitting next to them so they can climb the ladder to the Empire’s upper echelons.

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And in The Honorable Ones, this is what Kallus finds out. He finds out that he has not been fighting for the right side at all. He has been working for an evil Empire, doing evil deeds in its name.

The way this is shown in the episode is when he apologizes to Zeb for what happened on Lasan. The initial mission statement was not to massacre the Lasat. At least, this was not the mission statement that Kallus and everyone below him saw. The Empire meant it to be a massacre from the beginning, but they knew that not all of their soldiers would gleefully agree to exterminate an entire species. So the Empire had to feed them this idea that they were fighting just one little battle but it spiraled out into an inevitable world-clearing assignment.

Kallus bought the lie hook, line, and sinker because he already hated the Lasat. Though he admired an individual Lasat’s honor and courage by accepting that warrior’s bo-rifle before the latter died, he did in general despise the species. It made him willing to listen to and obey the Empire’s lies even when part of him balked and said, “Maybe this isn’t actually the right thing to do.”

The real clincher comes at the end of the episode, when Kallus watches Zeb’s reunion with the Ghost crew from a distance. The kids rush up to Zeb, shouting with relief, while Hera offers the milder, “You had us worried,” line. Kanan’s brash, “I told you he was all right,” is the more manly way of expressing relief. It is clear that the crew is genuinely happy to see Zeb, that they love him as part of their battle family.

Kallus’ reception aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer is the exact opposite. No one rushes up to see if he is okay or even to take him to sickbay for his broken leg. The one man aboard whom he knows by name, Admiral Konstantine, has his nose in a datapad when Kallus tries to get his attention. Konstantine’s brush-off is totally at odds with the Ghost crew’s joyous discovery of Zeb, alive and well, on that Geonosian moon.

Disappointed and shocked that no one aboard cared whether he lived or died, Kallus limps to his austere quarters and sits down on his bed. The one colorful thing he has is a meteorite Zeb found and gave to him because it generated heat, which Kallus needed more than he did because he could not walk. Somehow, I think Kallus realized then that, if he and Zeb had been friends and he had been lost, the big Lasat would have welcomed him back to the ship heartily.

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Though he always respected the Rebels’ fighting abilities, Kallus finally realizes after this episode that they are in the right and he has been wrong this whole time. It must have hit him hard; finding out that you have been fighting for and doing the work of someone evil is pretty awful. But the interesting thing is that Kallus does not let his feelings overwhelm and destroy him. Instead of staying in bed, wracked with guilt, he follows Zeb’s advice: he starts asking questions, looking into what the Empire is actually doing, not what it says it is doing.

The answers he finds spur him to join the Rebels as a spy, feeding them vital information from the first episode of season three onward. Despite not being a hundred percent successful in helping the Rebellion all the time, Kallus’ information comes in handy more often than not. It is so valuable, in fact, that when the Phoenix cell gets word he might be discovered, they try to get him out of the Empire.

In this way, they recognize Kallus’ true value more than he does. They see Kallus as more than a useful tool that can get them intelligence which could mean the difference between life and death. They see him as he is: a man of inestimable worth in and of himself, a man who does not deserve to be murdered by the Empire. They are willing to sacrifice any future lifesaving intel he could gain to save his life.

But Kallus’ more practical, Imperial-tinted view of his role in the Rebellion means he is not yet ready to break away from the Empire. He stays behind to keep feeding the Rebels information, feeling he can do more good from the inside than from without. A noble idea, certainly, but in the end his decision is almost disastrous. Thrawn uses Kallus’ next transmission to find Phoenix Squadron’s base, methodically destroying the Rebel fleet assembled overhead to put a halt to the TIE Defender factories on Lothal. Kallus’ warning barely alerts the Rebels in time, allowing them to mount a defense against the attack.

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It is, however, a costly defense, with many Rebels lost in the battle, along with most of the supplies they stored in the base which they are just able to abandon. Kallus is forced to watch the people he decided to help get killed before his eyes, held as he is aboard the Chimera’s bridge, powerless to act on their behalf. Though he eventually manages to escape it is clear he is not very happy with the day’s events at the end of Zero Hour, Part 2.

It is not too hard to guess why. Kallus thought he could be of more help to the Rebels from inside the Empire, that he could be useful to them as a spy. Instead he got them discovered, which led to many of their men being killed in action and lost them a well-stocked hidden base. He is lucky that they decided to take him in despite all that, which is why he thanks Kanan for accepting him.

Kanan, through his Force-sensitivity, must sense what Kallus is feeling. He also knows the man will not accept coddling. He cannot. He is a grown, responsible adult, which means he has to deal with his feelings as an adult should.

This does not mean that Kanan cannot tell him how much the risks he took on behalf of the Rebellion, on behalf of the Ghost crew, mean to them. He thanks Kallus for risking so much for them, for doing the right thing.

Kallus’ expression after Kanan leaves is very interesting. In fact, it is comparable to Ezra’s expression after he helps Sabine and Zeb take crates of food to feed hungry Lothal refugees in Spark of Rebellion. After one of the denizens of Tarkintown thanks Ezra for the food, thinking he is part of the Ghost crew, Ezra’s face falls with shame. “But I didn’t do this,” he mutters. “I didn’t do anything.” He was looking out for himself when he got caught up in the Ghost crew’s raid, but the people in Tarkintown did not know that. To them, he is a new member of the crew of benefactors that supplied them with the necessities they could no longer acquire themselves. This leaves Ezra feeling guilty, a guilt which helps spur him to join the Rebellion because it helps bring him out of himself, showing him that there is a larger battle to fight. That he can, in fact, make a difference and help people in a way that matters.

From Kallus’ expression, it is clear he is running up against the same feelings Ezra did. He does not think that he risked much, not the way the rest of the Rebels have been for years. He is a Johnny-come-lately to the Rebellion; it has been building for years, and he never considered it anything less than evil until recently. In fact, he actively worked to destroy it. Kanan, Hera, Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, and even Chopper saw this evil for what it was from the beginning. Kanan has paid for his Rebel service with his eyes, for Pete’s sake, yet he is thanking Kallus for risking his life as a mole in the Empire! They have been fighting it, risking their lives to defeat it, far longer than he has. “But I didn’t do any of this,” he is thinking as Kanan leaves. “I didn’t do anything.”

Kallus is a big boy, and sooner or later he is going to realize that this assessment is not entirely true. Yes, he was not an enemy of the Empire from the beginning. Yes, he fought and killed Rebels before he joined their fight. Yes, he will be making up for lost time now that he has become a Rebel.

But he did risk his life to give the Rebels important, lifesaving information. He did warn them in time, not just in Zero Hour but in Warhead as well. He did throw off Governor Pryce’s command capabilities by upsetting her, reminding her of the consequences of failure in the Empire. He did, at last, escape the Empire’s clutches and join the Rebellion. He is, finally, becoming more of the person he was meant to be.

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That makes him pretty darn important. It makes him worth thanking. It makes him worthy of the Rebels’ respect. And it is going to make him a heck of a Rebel, readers. I cannot wait to see him kick some Imperial backside in season four!

Journeying with Kallus has been almost as much fun as following along with the Ghost crew. I hope he gets to the party on Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi, where our Phoenix Squadron friends can slap him on the back and offer him some of the local cocktail. Maybe, in whatever series follows Rebels, we will get to see more of Kallus. He is an intriguing character I would hate to lose as a viewer. As a writer, I would have to have a pretty good reason to kill him off.

But we will have to wait and see what Dave Filoni and his crew have in store for our heroes. The final season of Star Wars Rebels is going to big and probably painful on a series of levels. As the song says, “We may lose and we may win/But we will never be here again/So open up, I’m climbin’ in.” I’ve followed the Ghost’s hyperspace vectors this far, readers. I cannot turn back now. If you have come this far with us, I know it is the same for you.

So…may the Force be with you, readers and Rebels alike!

Star Wars Rebels Season Four Trailer – The Final Season

Here’s the final trailer for Star Wars Rebels, readers.  Season four will be the series last, and while we may yet see our heroes again in a following series, I admit that I was not expecting Rebels to end right when it seemed to be picking up steam.  But I guess that, after Thrawn’s death, there is really nothing more for Rebels to say and whatever follows will have to answer any lingering questions we still have.

When Rebels was first advertised in 2014, I was not pleased with it.  I thought it would be nothing but a sequel to The Clone Wars television series, which I had never enjoyed.  It was something of a surprise when I found I liked the show, even as others complained it did not do much in its first two seasons.  Hearing that season four was the end, I was shocked and saddened.  I hope the ending is good, that our heroes make it out. I have my fingers crossed that they will, and that we will see them in whatever series follows Rebels.  It’s a faint hope, but so was the Rebellion.  😉

Please enjoy the trailer readers.  And remember –

The Force will be with you, always.

Star Wars Rebels Review: Twin Suns

The Star Wars Rebels episode “Twin Suns” was teased just a wee bit too much as the final confrontation between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Maul.  While they did indeed confront each other and Maul, as expected by most of us, died, their battle was very brief.  If you watch the above Rebels Recon show, they explain why.

I admit that I thought the fight would last longer than it did.  However, I also see the wisdom of the writers in keeping it so short.  Maul and Obi-Wan dueled for years during The Clone Wars series, and so it makes sense that this battle would be quick.  For one thing, Obi-Wan was in better physical condition than Maul was.  At the beginning of the show it seems that Maul’s been wandering around Tatooine searching for Ben Kenobi, and from what I saw of him, he did not have a pack full of water and food on him.  This indicates to me that he’s been wandering around in the desert heat hoping to pick up some sense of Obi-Wan’s location through the Force.  Not a particularly smart move, in my opinion, but despite Maul’s animal cunning I do not think I would ever label him as brilliant.

All this means that Obi-Wan was fresh and able when he faced Maul beside the campfire.  On the other hand, Maul had been weakened by his wanderings through a strange, harsh environment while he was looking for Ben.  So physically, it makes sense that Obi-Wan would be able to best him so swiftly.  Also, he had what Maul lacked –

Hope.

We will go back to that momentarily, but for the moment, I want to discuss Ezra’s part in this episode.  IGN’s Eric Goldman (and doubtless others as well), thinks that having Ezra take center stage for the majority of the episode was a mistake.

I disagree.  The reasons why Ezra was central to “Twin Suns” are manifold:

First, as the writers pointed out, Ezra was the one that got the Rebels involved with Maul.  His determination to find a way to bring down Vader – “to destroy the Sith,” as he put it – left him open to Maul’s manipulation, which Obi-Wan pointed out.  Ezra’s desire to stop the Sith was morphing into an obsession.  If he did not let it go, it would eventually have gotten him and his friends – along with possibly the entire Rebellion – killed.  Someone had to snap him out of his fixation on annihilating the Sith.

That someone turned out to be Obi-Wan.  This makes a lot of sense and leads to the second reason for Bridger being central to the story.  When a person becomes obsessed, even in the less-than-maniacal way that Ezra was, interventions by close friends and family can be less effective than those done by total strangers.  Kanan and Hera stage an intervention of sorts for Ezra at the beginning of “Twin Suns,” but he ignores their reasonable arguments and runs off anyway.

Obi-Wan, a master Jedi he has heard of and admires, points out that he really, really should not have come to Tatooine.  Maul was using him to find the man he hates more than anyone but the Emperor.  Ezra’s determination to find Obi-Wan himself in order to find the “key to destroying the Sith” blinded him to this fact.  Kanan and Hera did not have this blinder over their eyes (pun intended; even though he is physically blind, Kanan smelled a trap), and so they saw the danger in following Maul’s breadcrumbs.

Of course, Obi-Wan also deflects Ezra from discovering the truth about the fact that he is, actually, guarding the key to wiping out the Sith.  This is both to protect Luke, who is not yet ready to fight in the Rebellion, and also to protect Ezra.  Luke still has some growing up to do, and the fact is that the Rebellion is not nearly ready for him yet.  They are still in the building-up phase.  If Luke were to join them now, and the whole thing collapsed under its own weight (or Thrawn’s), then all hope of defeating the Emperor disappears with him and the Rebellion.

We know that this is not going to happen, but Obi-Wan does not know this.  He only knows he has to keep Luke safe.  And, if things were changed here in this interim between Rebels and A New Hope, the TV series would qualify as fan fiction, not a tie-in series.  And that would never do.

As for Ezra, if he were to learn about Luke, he would begin trying to recruit him into the Rebellion.  Obi-Wan cannot let that happen.  He shoos Ezra off so that the boy will not recruit Luke too soon.  This will also, hopefully, keep Ezra safe.  As long as he remains oblivious to the fact that Vader is Anakin Skywalker, when he later meets Luke, he will not be able to reveal anymore about Luke’s heritage than Obi-Wan already told him.  In fact, he will be able to reveal even less.

This appears to be a sort of backhanded indication that neither Ezra nor Kanan has figured out that Vader is Anakin Skywalker.  This is in spite of Ezra being present when Ahsoka let slip her suspicion, to his mind, that her old master had become the Emperor’s apprentice.  Whew!  😉

Also, as the writers pointed out, Ezra naturally feels responsible for leading Maul to Obi-Wan.  He goes to Tatooine to make up for his mistake, but he nearly makes it worse.  This is why he has to be present throughout so much of “Twin Suns.”  Ezra has to let go of his need to kill Vader, or it will destroy him and his friends.

Interestingly enough, Ezra is forced to do this in a desert, a very dry and tough place.  The hermits in ancient times and even during the Middle Ages who lived near or traveled to arid regions would retreat into the desert or some other desolate place to remove all distractions.  Obi-Wan does this when he moves to the cave a few hours travel from Owen Lars’ moisture farm; Yoda does this by retreating to Dagobah – and Luke, it seems, did the same thing before The Force Awakens.

Ezra’s journey is more reminiscent of a spiritual retreat than going into a hermitage, naturally, and it fits the episode nicely.  Lost in the desert – more so perhaps than even Maul is – Ezra must confront not only the former Sith’s evil in a manner similar to the way that Christians must face the temptations of the devil, but also his own obsession with destroying the Sith.  It is a journey of purgation for him, leaving him a stronger, more clear-headed Jedi apprentice by the episode’s end.

Now we will go back to the battle between Obi-Wan and Maul.  It is a brief battle, but a loaded confrontation all the same.  Maul states that he has come to kill Obi-Wan, then suggests that his revenge might be better served by letting him live in the “squalor” of Tatooine’s desert instead.  Obi-Wan calmly points out that Maul’s jab shows how spiritually empty he is.  He has traveled around the galaxy for years seeking to destroy the Sith, to possess power, and to become “great” according to the Dark Side’s standards.

The pursuit has left him an empty shell.  At the beginning of the episode, according to Mr. Goldman, Maul seems dangerously close to slipping into the madness Savage Oppress first found him in during The Clone Wars series.  Having never watched more than a few episodes of that series, I cannot confirm this.  But it makes sense.  Maul has been consumed by his hatred, not fed by it.  It has destroyed him, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Though he expresses contempt for Obi-Wan’s style of life, the former Jedi Master is actually far better off than he is in all the categories which I just mentioned.

This infuriates Maul.  His hatred reacts violently to Obi-Wan’s calm tranquility.  He has no such peace in his own soul, and for that reason he seeks to destroy it in Obi-Wan by digging for the reason that Ben would come to the desolate world of Tatooine.  He gets close, of course – too close to be allowed to live.  Obi-Wan knew that would happen.  Plus, he has already lost two people very dear to him to Maul.  He cannot and he will not lose Luke to the former Sith apprentice.

And before you ask, no, Maul would not kill Luke.  He would do something far worse, and Obi-Wan knows it.  We saw how Maul tempted Ezra to court the Dark Side at the end of Rebels’ season two and several times throughout season three.  If he had killed Obi-Wan, he would have found Luke, and he would have taken him as his apprentice to teach him the ways of the Dark Side.  Thus Maul would have destroyed all hope of building a new Jedi Order and a New Republic in the future.  That is a threat which Obi-Wan must stop.

But even after he permanently neutralizes Maul, Obi-Wan does not gloat over his victory.  Instead, he holds Maul as he dies.  Considering the Zabrak killed his Master and the woman he loved, his showing compassion and pity toward his old enemy shouts volumes.  Obi-Wan did not have to stay with Maul until the end.  He certainly did not have to tell him Luke was actually the Chosen One foretold in the prophecy (apparently).  But he did it anyway.  Not because Maul deserved it, exactly, but because he felt compassion and pity for this creature that had been destroyed so thoroughly; first by the Emperor, then by his own hatred.

For his part, Maul seems to have some regrets about his life.  But if he had the chance to live it over again, I think the only thing he would do differently was avoid getting cut in half, if he could.  Maul is totally committed to the Dark Side.  He is ruined.  Asajj Ventress may yet have been redeemed by her love for Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, but the fact is that Maul has had no such opportunities to reform.  He has hated for so long, too, that it is doubtful he would have accepted such prospects for redemption, even if they had been handed to him on a silver platter.

So he dies reiterating the Dark Side’s will to vengeance.  What is interesting is his use of the word “us” when he says this.  It is possible he means the entire race of Dathomir and, most specifically, his mother and brother.

But personally, I think he may have meant himself and Obi-Wan.  After all, Obi-Wan would not have cut Maul in half if he had not killed Qui-Gon Jinn.  Maul would not have done that if his mother had not handed him over to the Emperor to be trained as a Sith instead of a regular Dark Side wielder.  If he had not been cut in half, Maul would not have gone on to wreak such sorrow on the galaxy in general and Obi-Wan Kenobi in particular.  It sounded to me as though this was the implication behind Maul’s line that Luke “will avenge…us…”  I might be blowing smoke, of course, but there is always the possibility that I could be correct.

Now, Mr. Goldman points out that the manner of Obi-Wan’s kill strike does not show the appropriate level of contact for such a maneuver.  While he is equally quick to mention that Rebels is not as flexible as The Clone Wars when it comes to realistic death scenes, the fact is that this is a kid’s show.  It would not do to show Obi-Wan cutting Maul in half vertically instead of horizontally.  Doing that also would have spoiled the ending we all enjoyed so much.

That being said, the implication that Obi-Wan gutted Maul is quite clear.  And remember, readers, that he is half-droid.  There is not much to gut; slicing through what is left of his torso and the droid part of his body would certainly finish Maul for good.  I, for one, am quite satisfied that the Rebels writers went this route.  It is not a graphic death scene, but it still fulfills the Internet meme showing Obi-Wan moaning, “I should have cut him in half the other way!”

The last thing to address is the fact that Ezra doesn’t tell the Ghost crew or the rest of Phoenix Squadron that Obi-Wan Kenobi is alive.  At least, he does not do so on camera.  It is possible that he will tell Kanan and the others in a more private setting.  It is just as possible that he will not, though I think that Kanan will want to know whether or not Ezra killed Maul.  Ezra will have to tell him no, because even if he fibs – or were to attempt to fib – Kanan should be able to sense that he is fudging the truth.  Or he will at least be able to sense that Ezra is not telling him everything.

Mr. Goldman points out in his article that we never see Obi-Wan telling Ezra to keep the fact that he is alive a secret.  For starters, I think Ezra would be smart enough to realize that, if Obi-Wan wanted to avoid a fight with Maul, he does not want anyone to know he is alive.  It is also possible that Obi-Wan saw Ezra and Chopper off of Tatooine.  He is (presumably) riding the same Dewback he lent them when he approaches the Lars’ farm the next evening, after all.  I do not think the animal would just wander back to Obi-Wan after Ezra and Chopper had dismounted and climbed aboard Maul’s ship to take off.  He had to get it back.

If that is the case, then Obi-Wan might have taken the opportunity to tell Ezra, “I’m here because I don’t want to be found.  Best not to mention me to anyone when you get back.”  We do not know if this is what happened, but it seems to be a logical assumption.  The fact that Obi-Wan’s mount at the end of the episode is the same one he loaned to Ezra and Chopper before the fight strongly implies this theory.

Another thing to love about this episode is all the little tweaks and nods to A New Hope buried in it.  Ezra and Chopper setting out together is quite the nod to Threepio and Artoo’s journey across Tatooine before they get picked up by Jawas.  The attack by the Sand People is somewhat spooky for me, since I recently acquired and began playing Knights of the Old Republic.  I did not quite have flashbacks of all the times the Sand People killed me and my team, but I have begun to find their honking cries rather annoying.  Their Gaffi sticks are equally irritating.  But I did not celebrate when Maul killed them all, as you might have expected.  He set them up to die.  It is not something to cheer over.

Obi-Wan’s fatherly (or is that grandfatherly?), kindness and admonishments to Ezra reflect how his teaching tactics have changed since he lost Anakin to the Emperor.  He is now well prepared to take on the fatherly role of mentor when he leads Luke to make the fateful trip to Alderaan.  This could be seen as a dry run for his mentoring of Luke two years hence.

His subtle deflection of Ezra from the truth is also reminiscent of how Luke later confronts him about the fact that he hid Vader’s true identity from him, although he did not quite lie about it.  Both times Obi-Wan stretches the truth to protect the young fellas, and I doubt that Ezra would – or will – be any happier than Luke when he finally learns that Obi-Wan fibbed to protect the two of them from Maul, Vader, and the Empire at large in this episode.

The kicker, though, is when Obi-Wan stops within hearing of Beru Lars’ call to Luke to come in for supper.  As she does this we get to see his shadow as he races indoors in answer to her summons.  This scene is magnificent, and if I am not mistaken, they took the voice of the actress who played Beru Lars in A New Hope and used it for this episode.  She called Luke in exactly the same way before she reminded him to find a droid that spoke – I believe it was Bocce.  And when I say she called him the same way, I mean exactly the same way.  They clipped out her call from A New Hope and put it in the ending for “Twin Suns,” if I am not mistaken.  As a final note, Stephen Stanton’s imitation of Alec Guinness could not be better.  I am amazed and impressed.  Well done, Master Stanton.  (Author bows respectfully.)

Well, readers, this is my take on the third last episode of season three of Star Wars Rebels.  It was a good episode and I enjoyed it.  Marvelously animated and masterfully told, “Twin Suns” is an episode we are all going to want to show our children at some point in the future.

Remember, readers:  the Force will be with you.  Always.

References:

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/18/star-wars-rebels-twin-suns-review

Fan Fiction Story for Transformers: Robots in Disguise

Merry Christmas, everyone! Waaaay back in January 2016, a friend requested that I write a fan fiction story for Transformers: Robots in Disguise.  At the time I was not prepared to write such a story, though I did promise to do it at some point.  I had meant to do it that month, but the project never got past the promise stage.

I remembered that promise to my friend a little while ago, and I knew it was well past time to deliver.  And so, without further ado, here is the story I promised my friend all those months back.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as my compadre does!

Let’s rev up and snowball out!

The Mithril Guardian

Image result for transformers robots in disguise

Snowball Fight!

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.

It started harmlessly enough, from what Drift said later.  Russell, Slipstream, and Jetstorm had been showing the newly returned Weaponizer Mini-Cons how to build a snowman.  Thankfully, they had received Optimus’ warning in time and returned to Earth safely to rejoin Bumblebee and his team – just in time for the first snow of the season.

With Sideswipe and Drift sparring nearby, and Denny out with Bumblebee to pick up more energon, Drift had been content to let his students have some fun.  He had not put it in those words, but Optimus was fairly sure that was what he meant.

Things had become more raucous when Grimlock, his arms behind his back, had told Russell that he had forgotten something to show the Mini-Cons.  Russell looked up at him in utter bewilderment.  “What’s that, Grim?” he had asked.

Grinning widely, Grimlock had brought both arms forward and thrown two giant snowballs at Sideswipe and Drift.

Neither of the combatants had noticed the projectiles coming until they were hit.  There had been enough force in Grimlock’s throw to send the two flying sideways.  And from there, things had spiraled completely out of control.

At least, that was the way Bumblebee seemed to see it.

“Guys, I thought we agreed – ”  He had to stop talking as a snowball flew at his head.   Optimus reached up and plucked it from the air before it could hit him.  Bee ducked reflexively anyway.

Flicking a glance at Optimus, he muttered, “Thanks,” before turning again to try and interrupt the snowball battle.

Optimus hid a smile as he let his arm fall to his side, keeping a careful hold on the snowball.  Ever since he had briefed his former scout on the preliminaries of the situation on Cybertron, Bee had been on edge.  It was only natural that Bumblebee wanted his team to be prepared for the coming threats.

But according to Sideswipe, since their discussion Bumblebee had kept his team on a strict regimen of training exercises and patrols.  While Sideswipe was doubtless exaggerating the severity of Bee’s change in attitude, even Optimus could tell that the young commander had his servos in a knot lately.  He barely allowed himself or the team time to really relax.

Optimus felt something small and light settle on his left shoulder.  He knew it was Aerobolt before he turned to look at him.

The leader of the Weaponizer Mini-Cons turned to him, cocking his head like a true Earth bird.  “I do not understand this form of training,” he said.  “It seems to serve no real purpose.  Sideswipe and Drift could train by throwing objects of various weights at an inanimate target just as well as they throw these balls of snow at each other.  Grimlock could do the same.”

Optimus turned at a human shout from the battlefield.  He was just in time to see Russell pelting Grimlock’s leg with snowballs.

The big Dinobot raised his arms over his head in the manner of surrender and shouted, “Ah!!  No, noooo!!  Stop!  Arrgh!”  With a theatrical groan, he toppled onto his side.  “Ahhh!!!  I’m dead!”  Grimlock shut his eyes and went limp, letting his jaw hang open for extra effect.  Russell laughed so hard at the sight that he sat down in the snow.

Grimlock opened one eye and smiled.  Opening the other, he sat up.  “Was it that good?”

“Yes!” Russell gasped.  “You’re a great actor, Grim!”

“Hmm,” the Dinobot replied.  “I guess I am.”  Taking a handful of snow, he sprinkled it over Russell’s head.  The boy stood up and, quieting his laughter, stuck out his tongue in an attempt to catch the flakes.

Meanwhile, Sideswipe had decided to dump a large container of snow over Drift’s head.  “Something in your eyes, Drift?” he asked, laughing as the former bounty hunter scraped the snow from his face.  “Guess you’ll be having a – ”

His gloating cost him, leaving him totally unprepared for Drift’s lunge.  Grabbing his arm, Drift pulled it behind the younger ‘Bot’s back and thrust his head into a nearby snowdrift.  “I believe that your Christmas will be whiter, Sideswipe.”  The former bounty hunter smiled wickedly as Sideswipe’s free arm flailed, his voice muffled by the snow.

Standing up, Grimlock whipped snow up into the air with his tail, dowsing Russell with it.  Using his arms to keep the snow from his eyes, Russell did not notice his father sneaking up behind him.  Denny darted forward and grabbed hold of his son’s midsection.  Lifting him high over his head, Denny spun the boy around fast enough to startle a shout from him.  The two toppled into the snow, where they started wrestling and laughing.  Above them, Grimlock smiled.

“This is not a form of training,” Optimus explained to Aerobolt slowly.  “It is a form of human entertainment called a snowball fight.”

Aerobolt cocked his head.  His whole posture radiated confusion.  “Humans find it entertaining to be attacked with hard balls of snow?” he asked.

“The humans I have had contact with prefer to keep the snowballs soft enough that they do no permanent harm.”  Sideswipe had gotten free of Drift at last.  The two were rolling around in the snow now, just like Denny and Russell.

Slipstream and Jetstorm began throwing snowballs at Grimlock.  Optimus noticed for the first time that the rest of the Weaponizers were watching the fight from some distance away.  Tricerashot watched the fun, a scowl on his face.  But he was usually scowling.  The other Mini-Cons looked as confused as Aerobolt.  Only Sawtooth was watching the scene with bright eyes.  He was quivering with suppressed emotion – excitement, if Optimus had to guess.

“Humans find the winters dull without some form of entertainment, much as Sideswipe finds a daily routine stifling.”  Optimus hoped the comparison would suffice.  It was difficult enough to explain human behavior, especially when he still did not understand some of it himself.  “If the routine or the weather does not provide a change, they will find a way to make the change themselves.”

Aerobolt nodded, understanding dawning in his eyes.  “Ah.  With a lack of useful occupations, such as farming, humans are left only with caring for their basic needs during Earth’s winter.  I can see how that could be considered…drudgery.”

“Indeed.”  Optimus nodded to indicate the happy chaos before them.  “It seems Bumblebee’s team has come to the same conclusion regarding their newest routine.”  Bumblebee himself had given up trying to be heard over the shouting and laughter.  He turned to leave, only to be confronted by Strongarm, who had just returned from her patrol.  The two began talking quietly, but Optimus noticed how the young cadet’s eyes strayed to the fight every few seconds.  She wanted to join in the fun.

It surprised him when the Mini-Con gave an almost imperceptible sigh.  “I had not thought to see him so tense.”

He was referring to Bumblebee.  “I believe it is the situation on Cybertron which worries him most.  He, Strongarm, and Sideswipe left without official permission, and he already knows that the High Council is unhappy with that.”  Optimus paused.  “My subsequent return and involvement with him and the others here has angered them further.”

“You have not stated just why they are displeased with him.”  Aerobolt eyed him closely.  “If it were simply because he traveled to Earth without official authorization, then that should be easily rectified.”

“That is indeed a part of it.”  Optimus did not want to tell anyone just what the situation on Cybertron was until the others had arrived.  The situation may have changed since he returned to Earth.

But Aerobolt deserved to know at least the preliminaries, if not the details, before that happened.  They were partners, after all, and to hide anything from the Mini-Con could destroy the trust necessary to form the Power Surge Link they had forged in their last battle with Starscream.  They might need that bond in the future, if things did not change – and that was extremely unlikely.  “I cannot say more here,” he told him at last.  “And some of the details are still unclear.  I will tell you what I know so far later on, but there are many things which may change when our reinforcements arrive.”

“You speak as one expecting a battle,” Aerobolt said, his wings fluttering in a wary manner.  “We did not wish to become involved in a war.”

“Nor did I wish to involve you, since you have suffered so much during the previous war,” Optimus agreed, stifling a sigh.  “If you were discovered on your own, however…”  He let the sentence hang in the air.  The Mini-Cons believed they could take care of themselves, and against opponents such as the Decepticon Scavengers, he did not doubt that they could.

But if what he suspected was true, they would not be able to stand against what was coming alone.  Neither would he, Bumblebee, or his team.

Aerobolt was watching him.  “Is it Megatron?” he asked evenly, his tone very quiet.  That was not easy to manage, considering what the Decepticon leader had put him and the others through.

Optimus sighed.  “Perhaps.  We have no way of knowing for certain at the moment.  As I said, what I know now may change when the others arrive.”

Slowly, Aerobolt nodded.  “Yet what you know has obviously made Bumblebee anxious,” he observed.  “I do not think mere political machinations would upset him so.”

“Unless the intrigues were more than simple games,” Optimus told him calmly, adding a little edge to his tone.  If it really was as bad as Jazz had said, they were facing a great crisis, possibly another war.  It was not a thought Optimus relished.

The Mini-Con caught the edge in his tone and looked at him sharply.  Optimus stared back.  Finally, Aerobolt nodded.  “Indeed.  I see now the reason for Bumblebee’s distress.”

Optimus could not stop his instinctive glance in Bumblebee’s direction.  The younger ‘Bot was deep in conversation with Strongarm.  He felt his spark ache with empathy as he watched his former Scout.  He had been in Bumblebee’s place many times in the past.

Not long ago, he reflected, Bee would have joined in the snowball fight wholeheartedly.  But watching him now, Optimus was reminded of the more embittered or uptight ‘Bots whom he had commanded during the Great War.  With so many lost lives and lost battles, it was inevitable that some would come to see any form of amusement as a frivolous waste of time.

He was fairly sure that Bumblebee had not fallen that far in such a short amount of time.  The younger Autobot’s personality was too buoyant for that.  Even the loss of his voice box had not marred his spirit permanently.

It was a commander’s duty, Optimus reflected, to stay apart from the games his subordinates enjoyed on most occasions.  Arcee had once told Jack, Miko, and Rafael that “Primes don’t party.”  In part, it was because it was not expected of them.  A Prime was to comport himself at all times with as much dignity as possible, according to the records Optimus had read in his youth.  Besides, he had found that he enjoyed watching those under his command while they “partied” more than if he had joined in their games.

He looked at Bumblebee again and caught him glancing toward the fight as Drift kicked Sideswipe off of him and into a snow bank, sending a plume of powder into the sky.  Primes may indeed have to excuse themselves from such high-spirited play, but Bumblebee was not a Prime.

Optimus found himself fingering the snowball he had caught before it could hit Bumblebee.  An idea began to form in his mind.

Just then, Grimlock gave a mighty roar and dove at Slipstream and Jetstorm.  The maneuver lacked his usual speed and force, giving the two Mini-Cons time to move aside.  They did, and Grimlock’s head disappeared into the snowdrift behind them.  Denny and Russell, having their own snowball fight some little distance away, stopped at the sight.

Grimlock brought his head up and out of the snow bank.   He moved so quickly that he showered Denny and Russell with a light film of snow, making them shout and laugh.  Slipstream and Jetstorm avoided the cloud of powder, flipping out of range to land one atop the other next to Grimlock’s leg.  It protected them from the backwash of snow.

What they did not realize was that Grimlock’s charge had been a feint to allow him a chance to fill his mouth with snow.  Bringing his head up, Grimlock twisted his neck so that his closed jaws hung over the two.  Then he opened his mouth and allowed the snow to cascade onto them.  The two shouted in surprise.

Their dual shout, though, was drowned out by Strongarm’s sudden shriek.  Optimus looked over and smiled as he watched Sawtooth pick up a snowball with his tail.  He had a pile of them near that appendage.  With everyone concentrating on the others, he had been free to slip away and make his own snowballs.  He flipped this new snowball at Strongarm, who managed to block this projectile.

Sawtooth paused as a thought seemed to strike him.  “Did I hit too hard?” he asked, concerned.

“No,” Strongarm replied.  “You just hit me when I wasn’t expecting it.”

“Oh.  My apologies.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she said, waving one hand.  Reaching out with her other hand at the same time, she clutched some snow from one of the racks holding Denny’s car collection and threw it at him.

Sawtooth never saw it coming.  It hit him in the chest and sent him skidding backward along the ground.  He shook his head, then turned to stare at her.  A slow smile spread across his face.

Strongarm smiled back.  In an instant, the two were going at it nuts and bolts, throwing, diving, and catching snowballs.  They looked less like warriors and more like human children.

Optimus glanced at Aerobolt to see his reaction.  The Mini-Con shrugged his wings, looking caught between anger and confusion.  He thought, however, that he detected a gleam of delight in the other’s eye.  “I had not thought Sawtooth would be interested in such a game.”

“It is in times such as this that commanders learn the most about their subordinates,” Optimus replied softly.  “I have found it informative and pleasant, watching my Autobots at their pastimes.”

“Have you?” asked Aerobolt.  “It does not strike you as…undignified?”

Optimus smiled.  “Dignity at times may be put aside by most.  In times such as this, it relieves the stress that would otherwise threaten to divide a strong unit.  Also, it has sometimes provided an Autobot with the perspective necessary to win a battle.”

“Hmmm,” Aerobolt murmured thoughtfully.

Strongarm and Sawtooth’s snowball fight seemed to give Grimlock an idea.  Leaning down, he picked up some snow and began packing it into a ball.  Slipstream and Jetstorm, excavating themselves from the snow he had dumped on them, looked up at him.

“Do-de-do,” Grimlock hummed.  “Da-da-da.”  He looked down at the two, then over at the Weaponizers, who were watching Sawtooth and Strongarm in confusion.

The Mini-Cons understood him.  Reaching down, they began packing their own snowballs.  “Hey, Tricerashot!” Grimlock called.

“What?” the Dino Mini-Con growled.  His growl morphed into a gasp as he saw the snowball arcing through the air toward him.  Before he had time to move, it hit him in the head.  “Arrgh!” he shouted.

The other Weaponizers started and stared at him in shock.  Slipstream and Jetstorm’s battle cries therefore caught them unawares.  Before any of the other Mini-Cons had time to move, Drift’s students began bombarding them heavily with snowballs. They turned the remains of the pile Grimlock had dropped on them into a fort to defend against returning snowballs.

Denny and Russell shared a look.  Then they ran over to join Slipstream and Jetstorm.  In a few seconds, both sets of Mini-Cons and the humans were trading snowballs at a furious rate.

But Tricerashot, having cleared his eyes of the snow, had a bigger target in mind.  As Grimlock watched his handy work in action, the Dino Mini rolled a large ball of snow with his horns.  Carefully picking it up on his snout, he lobbed it a Grimlock’s shin.

The Dinobot grunted with the impact, then turned to look at Tricerashot.  “Fair is fair!” he called smugly.  “You wanted a snowball fight – well, you’ve got one!”

Grinning widely, Grimlock picked up some more snow and packed it into a ball.  Tricerashot rolled another ball, picked it up on his horns, and threw it at Grimlock…

…Just as the bigger ‘Bot lobbed his own snowball at the Mini.

The results were comical.  Tricerashot’s projectile hit Grimlock in his snout, obscuring his vision, while the Dinobot’s snowball covered Tricerashot completely.  It took them a few minutes to burrow out of the snow.  They looked at each other and started laughing.

Aerobolt cocked his head.  Optimus caught the smile which flitted across his face.  “I’d no idea Tricerashot could laugh,” he muttered.

Optimus smiled a little himself.  “As I said, a commander often learns more about his subordinates at play than in battle.”  He looked back at the battlefield and saw a snowball coming toward him.  Shifting to the left, he let it pass.  “Well aimed, Sideswipe,” he complemented.

“Daw – you weren’t supposed to move!” the younger ‘Bot lamented.  He grunted as Drift hit him in the back with a larger snowball.  “Hey, Bee!  Give a ‘Bot a hand?!”

“We’re supposed to be studying battle tactics, not playing,” Bumblebee retorted.

“Come on.  Snowball fights are all about battle tactics!”  To prove his point, Sideswipe feinted left.  Drift blocked his real punch from his right, but Sideswipe used his still-moving left hand to snatch a handful of snow and shove it onto the samurai’s head.  Sputtering, Drift backed up, allowing Sideswipe to knock him over with a well-placed kick.  “See?” he said.

Drift’s response was to kick his legs out from under him from his position on the ground, and Sideswipe landed with a loud “Ooomf!” in the torn-up snow.  Strongarm and Sawtooth laughed as he scrambled to his feet and lunged at the other Autobot.

But Drift was ready for him.  Throwing loose powder in Sideswipe’s eyes, he ducked behind him and kicked him into a snow pile.  “He is indeed correct, Bumblebee.  I am now engaged in lecturing Sideswipe to avoid gloating over his opponents before they are unconscious.”

“I’ll show you unconscious!” Sideswipe growled playfully as he pulled himself free of the snow, one hand clutched tightly on a white something.  Pivoting on his right foot, he threw a malformed snowball into Drift’s chest.  There was enough force behind the throw to send the other ‘Bot skidding backward.

Bumblebee sighed as the two continued to spar.  “He has a point, Bumblebee,” Optimus remonstrated gently.  “The surrounding territory can be an advantage in a battle, and it is unlikely our opponents will have had experience with snow or snowball fights.”

The former Scout closed the distance between them.  “Optimus, if you’re right, snowballs aren’t going to help us.”  He glanced at the laughing, happy scene, and Optimus recognized the fear in his eyes.  Bumblebee was wondering if he would lose any of his teammates in the coming conflict.

He had faced that same fear and lived through it many times over the years himself.  Often the Autobots he had watched having fun moments before lay dead within the opening phase of a battle.  Some of them had been friends of his and others had been friends of Bumblebee’s.  Neither of them wanted to see his team suffer the same fate as so many units of Autobots had in the War.

Optimus hoped fervently that they could in fact survive this situation without casualties or another war.  He had seen enough death and destruction over the eons; he did not wish to see more.  And these young Autobots, who did not know what it was to truly lose a compatriot, would hopefully never have to learn the grief that came with the loss.  Sideswipe’s near-miss in the battle against Starscream was the closest they had come to true injury and death.  He desperately wanted that to be as close as they came to actually losing someone.

Shaking the phantoms of fear away, Optimus turned his head slightly to avoid another snowball.  This one had been a stray; Sideswipe had his hands full with Drift and was in no position to think of throwing snowballs at anyone but him.  “Excessive stress from too much training is not helpful either, Bumblebee,” Optimus chided gently.  “I learned that in the War.”

The other sighed.  “You’re right, of course.  It’s just…”

“It is never easy waiting for a battle.”  Optimus put his free hand on Bumblebee’s shoulder.  The younger ‘Bot looked up at him, and for a moment, Optimus saw the eager, trusting young Scout he had commanded for so long staring back at him.  Bumblebee had grown and strengthened during his absence.  But a part of him was still that hopeful, never-give-up young ‘Bot who had dared to face down Megatron at the price of his voice box.

But the rest was the grown Autobot who had saved Optimus’ life by running Megatron through with the Star Saber, whose sense of righteousness and commitment to what was good and true in the universe mirrored his own.  Optimus knew he could have asked for no better successor than Bumblebee.  Nor could he ask for a better subordinate.  “You, Bulkhead, and the others needed rest and relaxation during the War from time to time as well.  Do not begrudge your own team the freedom to enjoy themselves while they can.”

Bumblebee’s eyes turned to regard the fight still raging in the midst of the scrap yard.  He sighed, and as his shoulders slumped Optimus felt the tension leave him.  “You’re right.”  He shook his head.  “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Smiling slightly, Optimus hefted the snowball he had caught earlier and held it out to Bumblebee.  “Perhaps it is best to think only of the present moment.  I believe this belongs to Sideswipe, does it not?”

The younger ‘Bot looked at the snowball for a long minute.  Slowly, a smile spread across his face and he took it from Optimus’ grasp.  “I do believe it does.”  Switching the projectile to his other hand, Bumblebee cocked his arm and threw the snowball.

It splattered on Sideswipe’s head, startling a yell from him.  Shooting Optimus a playful grin, Bumblebee transformed, raced forward a short distance, and then swung to a stop.  The maneuver threw snow over Grimlock, the Weaponizers, Denny, Russell, Slipstream, and Jetstorm.  Strongarm and Sawtooth both ended up with a face full of snow courtesy of the slide as well.  Sideswipe was too busy brushing snow from the top of his head to notice some had landed on his feet.  Drift was far enough away that the snow Bumblebee kicked up did not touch him.

“You guys gonna sit there all day?” Bumblebee asked.  “Or are we going to go show Fixit how to have a snowball fight?”

The others shared a look.  Grimlock grinned, to be answered by similar smiles from Strongarm and Sideswipe.  Drift did not grin, but Optimus could see the corners of his mouth turning up in a smile.

“Then let’s rev up and roll out!” Bumblebee shouted, peeling out of the yard.  Grimlock chased after him as Strongarm and Sideswipe transformed to follow, Strongarm pausing only long enough for Sawtooth to climb onto her roof.  Drift transformed and drove over to Denny and Russell, who hopped in as soon as his door was open.  Slipstream and Jetstorm jumped onto his roof and he raced toward the Command Center.

The Weaponizers shared a look.  As one, they turned to Aerobolt.

Flicking a glance at Optimus, he nodded once to them.  The band took off after the other Autobots.  All of them were smiling, even Tricerashot.

As the roars and shouts began in the Command Center, Optimus’ partner turned to look at him.  “Shall we watch the festivities?” he asked.

“I believe we shall,” Optimus answered.  Transforming to vehicle mode, he let Aerobolt fly ahead of him.  Smiling privately to himself, Optimus drove toward the Command Center.  The threats they faced were as dangerous as any they had known in the Great War.  But this was a new era, with new soldiers who had already proved that they were worthy warriors and true friends.  Though the road ahead would be dangerous and dark, with Autobots such as these at his side, Optimus knew in his spark that they would succeed.

But for now, they were going to have a little fun.

THE END