Monday, July 7, 2008


Months had passed now. Though she was now far beyond being able to hide her condition, Trill seemed to be one of those women blessed by a very specific gift of heredity - active pregnancy. Even though she was getting irritated at moving around this persistent tummy of hers, she was still capable of virtually everything she could do before.

Fortunately, that included hunting. Though she couldn't wear some of her clothes any longer, especially her armor, she had managed to compensate for that loss with Toob's help. His medical skills included improvisation at materials creation, programming he had managed to parley into making her clothing.

The stolid droid had tried to explain it once, something about extending his ability to weave bandages out of local plant life into making larger sections of cloth. From there, crafting garments was a logical outgrowth of his heuristic... blah blah... and his intrinsic... snore.

Though his storytelling left a lot to be desired, Trill had do admit his fashion sense wasn't bad. She wouldn't be dazzling any Coruscanti runways any time soon, especially not with her beloved belly grub here, but this half robe and limb-wraps outfit was really comfortable. It held lots of belts and straps for all her gear and kept her both protected and free to move. Panels of dinosaur hide offered protection as well. It was feral... but functional.

She loped through the fallen tree trunks, hands and feet and springing over what she could not dash under. Every step of the way, Rip was right there at her side.

Speaking of feral, Rip was a prime example. It seemed she had another gift she'd never known about. This one was courtesy of the Force, not genetics. Her lessons with the holocron had continued, every day as its hologramatic taskmaster insisted. In one of them, she had discovered why this overgrown eating machine liked her.

It was a subtle form of mind trick, a special talent that apparently few Jedi possessed. Instead of directly influencing the will, it acted on the most basal instincts and emotional centers of the brain. Her particular skill was a form that worked best on animals. Even without knowing she could, Trill had affected this raptor in a simple, permanent way. As far as its limited mind could perceive she was a friend, another of its kind to be admired and protected.

Having an razor clawed guardian beast was great to be sure, but there has been a few odd side effects. Rip, as she'd come to call it because of its nervous habit of toe-slashing leaves down off of branches and biting at them as they fell, insisted on snuggling at night. She did not really mind that part, but there were moments when half a ton of snoring was... awkward.

And of course his habit of leaving presents was interesting to say the least. Sometimes it was just odd, like the occasional nibbled tree branch or unidentifiable gnawed bone. Other times, it was actually useful. Severed animal parts made for good eating if they were fresh enough.

And then, of course, there was the droid arm.

She and Toob had talked that over for days now. It was not one of his and it could not have come from the pod. Logically, that meant only one thing. What worried them both was the condition of the arm itself.

Well, aside from the chewed part.

There was no corrosion, no sign of age. If it was a cast off from an old crash, as was Trill's first suspicion, it would have been in far worse shape. Its wires were free of rust, their plastic coatings clean and still elastic even at the rent edges. The arm was new. That meant the droid it came from also had to be new.

But if that was the case, why hadn't it announced itself? Most classes of droid were programmed to see out sentients in case of emergencies. If it was mauled by Rip, it should have come out of hiding for repairs or raised an alarm.

That was assuming it was in any shape to do so, of course. Trill and Toob had covered a lot of ground since finding the arm, all to no avail. No other wreckage. No other pieces. It had vanished completely, disappearing into the jungle without a trace. This was the reason for her morning runs ranging so far out now. She was sweeping, looking in expanding circles for the armless droid. She had been doing this for days now with no luck...

...until today. As Trill came down off a tree trunk to the edge of a small valley, she stopped short and brought her hand to her mouth. "Oh, frack!"

There, stretched out and twisted under the rising sun, dozens of serpentine bodies lay rotting in their skins. Burned holes riddled their bodies, young and aged alike, sections of their corpses hacked away or dissolved by pools of hideously caustic acid. It was death, unnatural carnage as far as her wide eyes could see.

That's when it occurred to her that there was one class of droid that would not seek out help - battle droids. And if this was any indication, there was one out here right now. A battle droid that was damaged, hidden and obviously still lethal.

"Well this just keeps getting better..."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hunting Season

It slipped through the low foliage of the dense jungle, a black steel sphere with folded limbs. Held aloft on bursts of gravity, it was as silent as it was deft. No trace of its passage was left behind. No tracks or smoke, no signs of its approach to startle its prey.

It was a stalker droid, elegant in its design and efficient at its sole purpose - assassination.

Programmed to hunt and kill, the device had all the tools needed to accomplish its goal. Its sensory array was second to none, incredibly small but amazingly powerful. Sonic, motion, heat and even pressure sensors were placed around its body, enabling data collection from all directions. There was a blaster built into its chassis, a pair of dart launchers in its lateral cowling and four manipulator arms equipped with retractable, vibrating blades.

As advanced as it was, there was nothing special about its mundane equipment, nothing that would visually set it apart from a thousand other illegal combat models. What made this droid truly unique was not its weapons or its function. Rather, this droid was singular in its class because of the nature of its prey.

This model of stalker, dubbed Evil Eye, was a modified DarkEye probe, and it was built specifically to kill Jedi.

Dangerous quarry called for an equally dangerous hunter. The Evil Eye fulfilled this role well, using a state of the art detection grid to sense the eddies in the Force that surrounded those capable of using its mysterious abilities. This detection system was highly experimental and relied on an organic interface deep within its core - a small piece of living cerebral tissue sensitive to the Force.

In this way, the relentless stalker could track its prey no matter where it tried to run and sense its use during combat engagements. This gave it an almost preternatural ability to react to Force-wielding opponents, a great advantage in battle against the Jedi.

Lastly, its hull has a bonded shell of neosteel and cortosis weave. Strong enough to repel small arms fire and able to withstand a direct hit from a lightsaber, the Evil Eye could survive heated combat with a trained Jedi long enough to inflict serious or lethal injuries. Few droids could claim any kind of viability against such opponents but with its array of tricks and defenses, there were few Jedi in the galaxy safe from its pursuit.

Now it was on this Outer Rim world, a system isolated enough that the planet had only a stellar code for a name. It had been dispatched as part of a scouring project, a sweep of outlying systems where Jedi might flee the hand of the new Galactic Empire. Drawn to this world after a passing sensor ship detected a metallic mass on an otherwise uncolonized world, it was fulfilling its directives.




It was deep in the commission of its first directive now, tracking the passage of a small vessel across this overgrown world by means of its dirty particle emissions. The vehicle was not very efficient; ion signatures were usually gone in a matter of hours. Whatever ship was lurking on this planet, it was either damaged or badly built Either way, its trail was much longer lasting and thus easy to detect.

As its magnetic sensors warmed it that it was approaching the vessel in question, it brought up its stealth systems and vanished from sight. This invisibility cloak was not perfect; it left a slight 'haze' around the droid while it was active. At a distance, though, the stealth field was quite effective.

Hovering slowly through the undergrowth, the Evil Eye opened the port on its chest blaster and brought up its telescopic sight. Small impulses of its repulsors took it top the very edge of the tree line where, last the green barrier, a rocky outcropping surrounded a large, barren hill. There, parked in the shadow of the the small peak, a converted escape pod rested on makeshift landing gear.

After a quick visual scan revealed no one on the site, the Evil Eye switched to thermal optics. The heat scan showed one living humanoid occupant neat the middle of the craft, prostrate, likely asleep. From this position in the trees, it could just wait. Sooner or later, the occupant would step out of the sheltering vessel and right into its gunsights...

...but waiting was not on the mind of the creature that had been stalking the droid for the last few hundred yards. A very efficient killer in its own right, the nycaraptor was a four foot tall, seven foot long scaled killing machine drawn here by the scent of recent meals around the pod and kept around by the scraps fed to it by the strange two-legged creature inside.

Now there was some strange intruder in its hunting territory. The sauroid was not sure what this thing or why it could no longer see it very well but it still had a scent and it seemed to want to linger nearby. This could not be tolerated. There was, of course, only one thing to do.

The Evil Eye had been tracking the dinosaur for several minutes but, on a planet this populous, the indigenous life had been determined a negligible threat. The droid considered the raptor to be just another native pest, unworthy of notice. Even as it crept closer, the Evil Eye remained focused on the escape pod, focusing its blaster targeting on the craft's only visible door. The overgrown lizard was, in its estimation, no significant threat.

That was a mistake.


The next morning, when Trill came outside to put the night's remnants in the little metal dish she'd set aside for her strange 'pet', she almost tripped over something. There, just outside the pod door, there was a metal manipulator arm with teeth marks in its plating. Nearby, a proud looking raptor with a burn mark down its side paced expectantly by its bowl.

"Hey, Toob?" She said, picking up the bent arm and staring at it. "Did you lose something?"


A long way off, resting almost completely powered down in the hollow of a dead tree, the Evil Eye waited while its self-repair systems toiled to get it functional again. Its core computer, unable to process much beyond basic system needs, managed to run a single command override.

-=[ targetpriority change: downgrade 'Jedi' ]=-
-=[ targetpriority change: exterminate reptilians ]=-

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Passage of Three Months

Jedi training, it had to be said, was some of the most rigorous and intensive instruction in the known universe. Some Mandaloreans would balk at the dedication it required. Even Clone Troopers had been known to falter keeping up with the dedication and pace demanded of padawans during just the first stages of their lessons.

For an increasingly pregnant woman with a long history of well-practiced hedonism, this was Hell.

Every day, it was the same. Up at dawn. Not around dawn, not near dawn. AT dawn, the holocron would turn on, hover to wherever Trillinae was and begin blaring an awakening song drawn from its vast archive she could only assume was labeled "Music to Annoy Corellians" somewhere in its evil little memory banks.

In any case, that harsh rising would be followed by a set of stretches and limbering exercises that lasted thirty minutes. Nothing too strenuous, at least not before breakfast. Toob was stretched to his culinary limits creating the menu the holocron demanded but somehow, every meal, the droid succeeded. It probably helped that while there were stringent nutritional requirements, there were no rules about what the food had to taste like.

Trill already wanted to throw up every morning. The food was not helping.

Then there was the run.

The run.

A Jedi run was not like a normal job or hike. It accomplished exactly the same nothing; you started in one place, made a big circuit around whatever you happened to be near and ended up exactly where you were when you began. The difference was that a normal runner avoided obstacles. A Jedi made them part of the exercise.

The first month, this was a serious problem and the hovering metal taskmaster just had to cope with Trill using mundane ways of getting around fallen logs, wide cravasses and rushing streams.

Eventuially though, the holocron's instructions began to take hold. It was not always possible but sometimes she was able to make that jump or move that log, all with the power of her mind and her immense irritation at having to do so. "This," she would tell the metal slavedriver, "is the Pissed Off side of the Force."

After the run each day would be time for private meditation. The holocron would power down after giving her a topic to contemplate and she would wander off to do anything other than sit and think. Play solitaire Sabacc, work on the pod, scream at trees. Nap. Nap was a big one.

She liked naps.

After private reflection time came sparring, her second favorite part of the day. The way she saw it, this was when she got to use her lightsaber and try to punish the holocron for being a self-righteous nerf-head. Sadly, the holographic device was equipped with a shield and a low-powered saber of its own, making even scoring a blow basically impossible.

Though she would never admit it, she loved sparring time so much because it was the only time each day she was guaranteed to see Darrus again. The holocron would create his image for her to spar with, essentially taking the place of his hands and fighting with her as he used to do.

It was fun and it was also great exercise. Fighting Darrus was never easy but the holocron also added the element of frustration to the mix. Its saber was fixed with a special crystal, one that changed its energy frequency to something incapacitating rather than lethal. In non-tech speak, every strike hurt like a bitch.



"OW, you fragging metal bantha-humping excuse for a toaster-bot!!!"

Practice, inevitably, led to a resting period or, as Toob called it, mandatory first aid. As thw eeeks wore on, these faded in severity until by the end of three months of training, he usually only had to administer a slight topical analgesic to the worst of the surface burns. She was getting better, avoiding most of the blows. She was even getting in a hit or two.

"I swear, Toob. If it wasn't all I had left of him, I'd take a hammer to that thing when it was sleeping."

"I know, mistress. Please, you need to watch your blood pressure. You do not want to risk injury to the child."

"Bah. This tummy-grub could survive armageddon. It's me I'm worried about."

This conversation would almost always be followed by a period of retching. Morning sickness. Afternoon sickness. Inconvenient-moment-while-leaning-too-close-to-sad-medical-droid sickness.

After the sparring and recovery time, which never felt long enough, more cerebral instruction would fill the rest of whatever was left of the day. History, philosophy, the Jedi Code. A whole lot of things Trill could care less about but had to learn or the lessons would just repeat until she got the holocron's questions right.

By the time each night rolled around and the holocron settled into its base to recharge and rest, she was more than eager to do the same. It was getting harder. Her skills were growing but her body was starting to betray her. Already she was front heavy and felt ponderous. It was such a paradox; she was in the best shape of her life and yet completely encumbered by this beloved little leech inside.

Soon, very soon, the lessons would have to stop. She just could not not keep up this pace.

And if the holocron, if the little surrogate Darrus could not understand that, she'd have to convince it...

...with a rock.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Message from Home

The thing about baths, it seemed to Toob, was that once one was an option, it became the only option.

Trill would go hunting, she would take a bath. She fixed the pod, she took a bath. She tinkered with her weapons, she took a bath. At this rate, it really seemed like the hedonistic female would start rewarding baths with yet more baths.

Of course, there was a certain therapeutic benefit to the heated whirlpool, especially for a pregnant human woman. Even someone in her excellent physical condition had a lot to gain by soaking for long periods of time. There was, however, something to be said for moderation. Trill would no doubt reply that that saying was "Moderation is for monks".

Fortunately, Toob had something that would keep her out of the tub for some time. A project he knew she would not refuse and would likely obsess over until it was completed. As long as it got her out of the bath and back into real life, he was content.


Trillinae looked up through the wisps of steam around her. "Yeah, Toob? What is it? Here to scrub my back again, sweetie?"

He was very much not here to scrub the human's back. Not again.

"No, mistress. I have something for you. Something I have had stored since we were last on Cularin."

Her eyes lit up. "Chocolate?!?"

He shook his head, swivelling at the neck to indicate a negative. It wasn't technically a lie; he did have chocolate but the piece he was carrying had been put in his receptor cavity on Coruscant. Thus, he could maintain its secrecy a bit longer.

"No, mistress. I have a small parcel from Master Jeht. It is now time for you to open it?"

Instantly, Trill's face fell. He could see the indications of a dozen different emotions play across her visage. Loss, sorrow, frustration. Loneliness. That one more than most. Eventually, a quiet resignation won out over the rest. "Okay. Give me a moment. I'll get out of the tub."

Toob felt a small personal victory in his processor core. he had successfully estimated the behavior of his mistress, not something he could often do with any accuracy. She was a very fickle creature at times, prone to outbursts and irrational actions. Aside from a tendency to keep herself and those close to her as comfortable and safe as possible, there was no real pattern to her activities.

He held out a bathrobe, slipping it over her shoulders after she toweled off. Finding the emergency blankets under a panel in the crushed side of the pod had been a stroke of luck. Though it was torn, its fabric made for excellent rags and absorptive cloths.

"Okay, Toob. Lemme see it." Her voice was measured, calm. He could detect a lot of turmoil in Trill but thought better of confronting her about it. Once of the key facets in his counsellor training was knowing when not to use it. Right now, his mistress was not in any shape to talk about her feelings. She needed time to ponder them on her own.

After giving her the black cloth bundle, he stepped back to a suitable, respectful distance and watched, hoping the parcel would not be an unwelcome sight. The last thing he wished right now was to drive the woman back into the tub.

Trillinae sat down, cross legged, and opened the package in her lap. Inside was a number of small metal objects, a long shard of crystal, a round glass container of jewels and a strange device made of etched bronze panels inlaid onto a two-inch clear blue cube. That item she picked up, turning it over and over in her hands.

"How odd. This almost looks like a..."

"Holocron." Toob nodded and stepped forward slightly. "The Master made it for you and entrusted it to my keeping until there was a time and place for you to use it. The activation phrase is Wookkie Liberation Front."

Trill could not help but chuckle a bit at those words, remembering all the insane misadventures associated with W.O.L.F. and how hard a time they used to give Darrus for being so stuffy. It brought a smile to her face, something Toob appreciated seeing.

She held it up, touching its sides in the proper places and saying the right words to turn the cube on. It began to glow with an inner light, shedding a pale blue radiance all over the small bathing grove within a matter of moments. Shortly thereafter, it flickers along its metal sides and leaped out of her hands, propelled by tiny repulsors into the air.

The holocron hovered four feet into the air and moved forward just out of reach. Then, sparks flaring along the lines of the cube's bronze panels, it started to spin, generating a field of rapidly changing lights around itself. Just as Trill started to look away to ask Toob if he knew what the bizarre thing was doing, its patterns resolved into a very familiar form.


The cube, now barely visible within the hologram it was projecting, crackled as its speakers activated. Trillinae sat in mute fascination as a voice she'd not heard in far, far too long whispered through the clearing.

"Hello, Trill. If you are seeing this projection, it means we have been parted for some time and there is no way of telling when we might be reunited. In keeping with your training, I have imprinted this holocron with a copy of my lore, my knowledge and the lessons I have long neglected teaching you."

Trill glanced at Toob, a mixture of confusion and gratitude in her eyes.

"This cube is a copy of my mind, a record of anything and everything I might ever be able to teach you. I do not know how much of it you will need and it is no substitute for a living mentor but if you are seeing this at all, it will have to suffice."

Trill stared at the glowing shape, a strange expression coming over her. At the first sign of tears, Toob started moving closer. It had not occurred to him that this would be traumatic but he should have guessed it. In her condition, different colored socks could be traumatic.

She held up her hand, shaking her head at him. "I'm... I'm okay. Really." Even as she spoke, the hologram continued.

"Your first lesson will be an important one. While most learners have to wait a long time to reach this point in their training, wherever you are is likely dangerous and hostile."

"Good guess, dark eyes." Her voice was still a bit broken but the mirth was a good sign.

"As such, I do not want you there defenseless. I have no doubt that you are carrying an arsenal of firearms but you also know how I feel about blasters. That said, you should have found with this holocron all the parts you need to construct your own lightsaber."

She blinked. "Lightsaber?"

"Yes, Trill. You heard me right. I will now teach you to build a lightsaber. Pay very close attention and watch the lesson all the way through before attempting this on your own. You have only one focusing crystal and if you ruin it, you may not be able to replace it. You can play this lesson again as many times as you wish by requesting it.

Take your time with this, my dear. I cannot stress enough how important a step in your teaching this is. Were I with you, I would never push you this far this fast. But desperate times and all that, right?"

Trillinae looked down at the parts in her lap, picking up the shard of crystal and staring at the light of the jungle canopy above through its facets. Putting it back down, she looked over the rest of the materials. "Wait a minute, what about...?"

"You will no doubt notice there is one thing missing. The weapon's casing. The handle, so to speak. Every Jedi builds his or her lightsaber within a housing that means something to them. That personal connection is part of the lesson, part of the bond that will make your saber a part of you."

She sighed and nodded. "I had a feeling you were going to say that." Then, a little louder, "Toob!"

"Yes, Mistress?"

"You remember that raptor that tried to eat me when we first got here?"

Toob digitally cringed. "Yes, mistress. Of course I recall that creature."

"You think we still have any of its bones?"

"I believe I know what you are contemplating. Yes, mistress, we do. I have kept some of them to grind into calcium supplements for your meals. There are a few that would serve quite adequately for what you have in mind."

Trill smiled softly. "You really are a life saver, Toob. Thank you." Her gaze then shifted back to the Holocron, confusion setting in when she saw it doing nothing at all. The image was just hovering slightly off the ground, motionless.

"Ummm, Toob?"

The droid had already turned to return to the pod after the bone in question. "Yes, mistress?"

"The holocron. I think it's stuck."

"The lesson was paused while your attention was elsewhere. Shall we continue?"

She blinked again. "Toob?"

The droid stopped moving completely. Until this was over, there was little point in going anywhere. "Yes, mistress?"

"The thing... It stopped on its own."

Toob turned around to regard both the human and the curious device in front of her. He had limited understand of holocrons but knew enough to answer her implied question. "The device is a mimetic copy of the creator's mind. It is in many ways similar to my heuristic processor yet even more advanced."

"And that means....?"

"The holocron is quite capable of independent decision making, just as I am."

"Oh." Trill stared at it. "So..." She addressed the hologram. "Does that mean you can hear me?"

"I am aware of you, yes."

Trillinae sat back on her hands, eyes widening. "And you can talk to me?"

"It would appear I am doing that, yes. Shall we continue the lesson?"

For more than a moment, she did not respond. She said nothing.l She did nothing. She just looked down into her lap in complete silence. Toob moved to Trillinae's side, regarding the water leaking from her eyes with growing concern.

"Mistress, if this is too stressful for you, we can deactivate the holocron for now."

"No... Please, just leave it. I... I just need a moment."

Toob nodded again and walked backwards a few steps, turning to face the pod once more. "I will retrieve the bone we discussed, mistress." His forward movement was stopped by contact between his leg and Trillinae's trembling hand.

"I just... I miss him, Toob." Her voice was quiet, softer than he had ever heard her before.

"Of course you do, mistress."

Humans. No matter how many files he had, no matter how data he compiled about them, they would always remain a mystery to him. He could treat their ailments, repair their wounds, even replace their crippled limbs and organs but in the end, he knew basically nothing about them.

All Toob really knew at this moment was that his current charge seemed as happy as he had seen her to date and as sad as he'd ever seen anyone in his existence.

The paradox made his circuits hurt....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Little Luxuries

"Toob! This is wonderful!"

Trill leaned back, almost purring, and stretched out against the shaped metal back rest of her new tub. It was made from a section of pod casing, a heat shield that was discarded off her escape capsule during its descent. They had come across it a few days ago while scanning the planet's surface for anything useful or unusual.

This definitely fit into the "useful" category. Toob, using his surgical laser and plans found on one of Trill's many and sundry data chips, had transformed the concave alloy shell into a bathing tub. In what Trillinae had later called an "act of pure genius", he has managed to fit the basin with one of the pod's circulating spare heaters.

The result: pure bliss.

"I don't know what I'd do without you, Toob! Gods... this is better than sex."

That might have been an exaggeration, especially given how much Trill enjoyed said activity but at this moment, even she believed it. The hot water, moving and roiling over every raw nerve and aching muscle, was a little bit of heaven in this world of overgrown hell.

Toob had not built the tub for pleasure's sake and she knew it, not that she cared. In the medical droid's eyes... err, optics.... the washing basin was a therapy device. Trill's body was undergoing far more stress than a pregnant woman should; the strain was not good for her health or that of her unborn. To Toob, the bath was a way to alleviate some of the worst factors of his patient's difficult lifestyle.

At least this time the annoying droid wasn't blaming her for everything. Back on Cularin or while on her old ship, the medical busybody was constantly riding her about her health, her habits, her irresponsible intake of comfort foods and alcohol. Here, most of the things Toob did not approve of were impossible or at beast highly unlikely.

That meant fewer lecture and that meant for a happier Trillinae. If she could go a week without hearing from Toob about something else she was doing wrong, she became a little more relaxed and - even better - less likely to find a heavy object and perform some "reprogramming".

The tension relief was worth its imaginary weight in gold, both for Trill and Toob. While his mistress was in the tub, she was not out fighting reptilian beasts with makeshift melee weapons or highly dangerous jury-rigged firearms. Even that alarming activity he could overlook as a necessity of survival but her frequent battles had stressed his logic receptors to the point of voiding his warranty.

If they were truly going to be stuck here for an indefinite period of time, he needed to see to her safety. The Maelstrom was either not coming or would be delayed for quite some time. There was every possibility it had been lost with all hands, including his master Darrus, in which case there would be no rescue at all.

There was a war going on, after all. A war that his master served in as a high ranking military officer as well as a front line combatant. Both roles represented high risk factors when considered separately. When combined, the odds of anyone returning to this world any time soon became even smaller.

If that were true, this constituted a true emergency.

And if that were true, it was time for him to access his Primary Command directory and implement the instructions Master Jeht had programmed him with more than a year ago. The prospect of completing these new commands sent the worry protocols in Toob's heuristic processor into near meltdown... but there was no choice.

If they were going to be stranded here, even for just a little longer, Trillinae would need what he was carrying inside him, regardless of the personal cost.

Toob stood in the doorway of the escape pod, watching Trill enjoy her bath. When he was certain she was too distracted by the pleasures of the warm water and swirling jets, he turned away and opened his main housing. To do as Primary Command directed, he would have to remove his secondary power core.

Despite being ordered to do this, Toob hesitated. The loss of his backup core meant that if anything happened to his main energy cell, he would shut down and restoration, especially on this primitive world, would be impossible. Without this secondary power unit, his run time expectancy would be cut in half. Literally, doing this would take decades off his serviceable lifespan.

His metal fingers closed around the small metal cylinder in question. Six years. If he did this, that was all the time he would have left. 72 months of function, depending on power consumption needs and unforeseen cascade failures and external damage.

Toob stood completely still, his logic centers in serious conflict. No one else knew of this order, not even his mistress. She would never have to know. He could even access his own memory and delete the commands. Even he would not be aware of any directive violations. It would be as if none of this ever happened.

Slowly, quietly, Toob released his hold on the secondary core and started to pull his hand out of his chest. Just as he did, Trill's voice echoed in from outside.

"Thank you so much, Toob! I know I've been really hard on you lately but you take such good care of me. How about an oil rub-down when I'm done in here? Like... in an hour? Or ten?"

His hand twitched. His heuristic processor shifted most of his run time from worry to guilt. He had been worried about shorting his lifespan when hers was in real danger of being ended if he did not finish what he had started. His secondary power cell was a luxury. His mistress didn't even have the benefit of "reserve life". She only got this one and he could help her protect it.

Without another thought, he detached the core and removed its trailing leads, tucking them back in his torso chassis before closing himself back up. The rest of the parts he needed were in his lower abdomen cases.

Carefully, he laid out everything Trillinae would need on her bedside table. His memory bank called forth the instruction file his mistress would need and downloaded it into her favorite datapad.

When she finally did come out of her whirlpool bath, Toob's mistress was going to be in for a big surprise...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Uninvited Guests

They kept pace with each other, thrusters maintaining equal burn all the way through the ionosphere. As an primeval world with a fairly young life cycle, its air envelope was remarkably thick, causing most of their thermal shielding to slag into vapor within seconds of fiery contact.

The first barrier to pierce was the upper cloud layer, dense and wet with coalesced hydrogen from the tectonically heated geoplates below. With so much water in the air, the clouds were nearly solid walls at the speeds the metal twins had achieved. They slammed through them with only minor damage, secondary defense systems glimmering as their integral force fields absorbed the majority of the kinetic shock.

The lower weather band was much lighter but, in its way, more difficult to breach. These clouds were dark and active, moving at high speed from the twin powers of turbulence and electrical discharges. Both hurtling orbs were struck dozens of times by lightning, voltage crackling over their surfaces, scoring deep lines of ionic etching across their barrier plating.

But still they pressed on, shooting groundward at ballistic pace. The electrical flares blinded them temporarily, making landing a matter of automated systems, predetermined coordinates and the vagaries of fate.

One of them slammed into the upper crust of a dormant volcano, shattering both the stone shell and its armor before plunging into the mountain's unforgiving cauldron.

It melted instantly.

The other came down a few hundred yards away, devastating a swath of jungle trees and undergrowth before finally grinding to a halt at the end of a long, charred scar. The ground cover around it ignited from the temperature of its outer hull, grasses burning to ash within moments.

One plate fell off, clattering to the ground in a half-melted pile of glowing detritus. Then another. Then another. Layers of resilient shielding broke away, shed like silvery onion skin until what lay beneath was completely exposed.

From the outer wreckage, something dire was born.

It unfolded, legs shifting to move beneath it as its repulsor engine fired and raised it on a translucent column of white-blue force. Mostly spherical, it opened its five optics, each one placed radially around its rotating upper half. The lower half was also active, extending a gun ports, a sensor array and three manipulator arms. Each arm silently tested its onboard tools, including its vibro-claws. Finally, its concealed turbocannon turret rose from an irising bay.

All systems online.

After five minutes spent failing to establish contact, the droid concluded that it was on its own. A nanosecond ticked by before it decided to continue with its mission instead of aborting and using its Endgame charge, a proton warhead capable of atomizing a two kilometer radius. Its sensor array went active, sweeping the immediate area for signs of its prey.

It was a Consortium stalker droid, charged with hunting down the only real threat to the Separatist movement - the Jedi. This one and its ill-fated cohort had been dispatched to track communication signals originating from a vessel called the Maelstrom. After homing in and following a shuttlecraft assigned to that cruiser, the droid had calculated a 78.125% chance that the survival pod the shuttle launched to this world contained its quarry - a Jedi General.

The droid took less than seventeen seconds to pinpoint the Republic escape pod's landing zone. It would scan the impact site.

It would find an trace of biological occupants.

It would track survivors relentlessly.

And when it found its prey...


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Trill's Quest

Toob had always known this day would come.

Since starting to serve his mistress nearly three years ago, there was never any doubt as to her basic medical status regarding certain matters. Given her gender, present physical condition and chemical dependencies, this most recent development in her increasingly erratic behavior could hardly be seen as a surprise.

Even so, he approached the pod slowly. She was armed after all and since her weapons had proven to be as devastating to the environment as to their targets lately, the medical droid was none too eager to provide a target.

"Mistress, can I render assistance?" Toob felt it was a reasonable offer phrased in a calming, gentle tone. There would certainly be no need for anyone hearing his soft, modulated voice to take sudden umbrage and blast him into a thousand spare parts. At least, that was Toob's intention. Reality could, and often on this planet did, prove otherwise.

Inside the dark escape craft-turned-transport, there were just clanging and shuffling sounds. The vehicle was shaking slightly, rocked by the sudden impacts of someone moving around virtually everything inside. A frantic search or an angry emotional tantrum, perhaps; Toob could not be sure. Either way, his mistress was not happy.

Then, from within the pod, a battle cry of sorts came echoing out. It was a word he'd been fearing he would hear for several weeks. He was honestly surprised it had taken this long for his mistress to reach this point of biological insanity.


The pod shook again, this time with the sound of all the shelving on the port side being pulled down in a desperate search for what the medical unit new was not present. At this rate, she would tear the entire ship apart and quite possibly strand herself in her mindless hunt for sucrose-infused herbal by-products.

Toob was well aware of the medicinal effects of chocolate, though he considered such elements to be a wasteful form of administering them. He could synthesize everything in the confection and at much greater dosages but his behavioral anticipation routines suggested less than a 5% chance that Trillinae would find that solution to her liking. More probable would be her accepting the injections and then heading right back into the pod for a continuance of her demolition efforts.

In a way, Toob blamed the Republic for this. The pod was a standard VIP escape pod, used by senators and other dignitaries transported aboard military vessels. The accommodations were premium quality, the navigation and flight systems were all state of the art and even the smallest amenities were thought of in advance by well-paid approval committees.

That meant that every last comfort detail had been included in the pod. This had proven to be a very good thing for his pregnant patient. The ability to have a comfortable night's sleep was a wonderful boon in this otherwise savage situation.

Unfortunately, his mistress also knew all this and was not ignorant of a small detail that he had hoped she would not have known. VIP pods include a full medical suite of emergency supplies including a few "comfort items". One of those essentials, though why such a foolish extravagance could be considered an essential was quite beyond his programming, was a one pound bar of fine grade Dellibian chocolate in a pressure-sealed package for long shelf life.

In this case, the chocolate was going to live longer than the shelves. CRASH!

"Where the HELL is the chocolate?!"

If Toob had possessed any real facial features, he would be wincing. Her vocal inflections reveals a critical level of stress and emotional intensity. There was little else to do; he was going to have to provide a small amount of relief for his patient's condition.

Loading his smallest hypo-dart with pseudoseratonin and a strong soporific, he took his shot the next time any part of Trill passed in front of the pod's open door. The dart took her in the leg, sending her endorphin levels through the ceiling even as she crashed in an unconscious heap to the floor.

A few minutes later, Toob had the smiling, sleeping Trillinae tucked into her bed, none the worse for wear. She would nap for a few hours and wake up chemically back in balance. Sadly, Toob knew there was little he could do for her mentally. All of his files told him that women with children, regardless of species, are simply crazy until... and sometimes after... delivery. Like a tropical storm, the best he could do was hope the devastation wasn't too serious.

Walking away from the craft to go collect new plants for his synthesis modules, Toob checked his locked chest compartment. The foiled package of rich, dark chocolate was still there, temperature controlled and intact.

There might be no hope of surviving Hurricane Trill intact but it never hurt to have a back up plan...