With a heart-leap of hope and joy, Anakin saw Obi-Wan winging over the Blood Carver. The boy's Master extended the beam on his lightsaber as he dropped with both feet on the assailant's wings and snapped them like straws.
Two swipes of the humming blade and the outer tips of the Blood Carver's wings fell away.
The Blood Carver gave a muffled cry and flipped on his back. The fuel in his wingtip tanks caught fire and spun him in a brilliant pinwheel, elevating him almost twenty meters before sputtering out.
He fell without a sound and slipped into the lake a dozen meters away, raising a small, gleaming plume of oily silicone. Ghosts of burning methane swirled briefly above him.
Obi-Wan recovered and raised his wings just in time to end up buried to his waist in the froth. The look on his face as he collapsed the lightsaber was pure Obi-Wan: patience and faint exasperation, as if Anakin had just failed a spelling test.
Anakin reached out to help his Master stay upright. "Keep your wings up, keep them high!" he shouted.
"Why?" Obi-Wan said, "I cannot vault the two of us out of this mess."
"I still have fuel!"
"And I have almost none. These are terrible devices, very difficult to control."
"We can combine our fuel!" Anakin said, his upper face and eyes bright in the murk.
The froth rippled alarmingly. At the edge of their insubstantial island of foam, a gleaming silver-gray tube as wide as four arm spans arched above the silicone slurry. Its skin was crusted with stuck-on bits of garbage, and its side was studded with a lateral line of small black eyes trimmed in brilliant blue.
The eyes poked out on small stalks and examined them curiously. The worm seemed to ponder whether they were worth eating.
Even now, Anakin observed the prize scales glittering along the worm's length. The best I've ever seen--as big as my hand!
Obi-Wan was sinking rapidly. He blinked at the haze of silicone mist and noxious gases wafting over them.
Anakin reached down with all the delicacy and balance he could muster and unhooked the fuel cylinders from his wings, taking care to disconnect the feed tubes to the outboard jets and pinch off their nozzles.
Obi-Wan concentrated on keeping himself from sinking any deeper into the sticky foam.
Another arch of worm segment, high and wide as a pedestrian walkway, thrust itself with a liquid squeal from the opposite side of the diminishing patch. More eyes looked them over. The arch quivered as if with anticipation.
"I'll never be this stupid again, " Anakin said breathlessly as he attached the tanks to Obi-Wan's wings.
"Tell it to the Council," Obi-Wan said. "I have no doubt that's where we'll both be, if we manage to accomplish six impossible things in the next two minutes."
The two worm segments vibrated in unison and hissed through the silicone like tugged ropes, proving themselves to be one long creature as they rose high overhead. More coils surrounded them: other, bigger worms. Obviously, the Jedi--Master and apprentice--looked tasty, and now a competition was under way. The segments whipped back and forth, striking the edges of the island. The froth flew up in hissing puffs, until there was hardly more remaining than an unwieldy plug.
Anakin gripped Obi-Wan's shoulder with one hand. "Obi-Wan, you are the greatest of all the Jedi," he told him earnestly.
Obi-Wan glared at his Padawan.
"Could you give us just a little boost--," Anakin pleaded.
"You know, up and out?"
Obi-Wan did, and Anakin lit off their jets at the very same instant.
The jolt did not distract him from reaching out with out-stretched fingers, grazing a curve of worm skin, and grabbing a scale. Somehow they lifted to the first shield and slipped into the updraft of a discharged canister. Spinning, knocked almost senseless, they were drawn up through a port.
Excerpted from Star Wars: Episode 1 Rogue Planet by Greg Bear Copyright© 2000 by Greg Bear. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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