Sunday, January 28, 2007

Day Eleven

Mood swings.

What had caused fifty pounds of leftover seafood to go spoiled because someone didn't feel like packaging it?

Mood swings.

What was responsible for the new dent in Toob's headplate after one of his examination needles pushed into someone's arm a little too far?

Mood swings.

What was behind the ten new craters and mile long scorch trails through this planet's primordial jungle because someone was feeling too stubborn to stop and make incremental repairs to the flight pod?

Mood swings.

What caused a reasonable sane woman to break down into an hour long sobbing fit because someone's rumpled flight jacket reminded her of her sister?

Mood swings.

What was going to drive the creation of the first tree-based hyperspace engine because someone would go to any lengths to get some bloody CHOCOLATE?!?!?

Mood swings.

Trill laid back on a warm rock, pitching smaller stones into the nearby lake. "Toob?"

The medical droid came closer, still trying to stay out of arm's reach in case his Mistress' current goal was to give him a matching fold in his cranial case.

"Am I really this pathetic? I mean, have I always been this out of control? If Mill were here, she'd never let me hear the end of it."

"Perhaps, Mistress, your behavior is indicative of how your hormonal balance is altered by the state of pregnancy. My files indicate that the effect varies between races and even within the same species."

She sighed, not really looking at the robot, and tossed what appeared to be her last rock into the water. It didn't skip, it didn't hop, it didn't even really arch. It just went in with an explosion of droplets all around it - a resounding SPLUSH. Even that did not bring a smile to her face. Nothing did these days. Nothing except the thought of going home... wherever home was these days.

"You think I should try the chemical therapy you suggested a while ago? You don't think it would hurt the infant?" Her voice was calm, almost detached.

Toob came a little closer, concern overriding self-preservation. "Yes, Mistress. I believe it would be best for your state of mind and ability to function under this world's adverse conditions if we attempt the treatment."

She immediately turned on Toob, glaring angrily. "Oh! So you think I'm out of control?! You think you need to drug me?! Is that it? I don't think so, metal head!" Her hand whipped out, throwing a rock she'd been concealing in her grasp. It ricocheted off his head with a loud CLANG! and shattered into pieces.

A second later, her face fell into surprise and regret. "Oh Toob! I'm sorry! I'm so....!" She turned and ran back to the pod, bawling and stammering incoherent words in a few different languages.

The medical droid watched her go, sensors still reeling from the impact. Once they settled out, he issued a soft, metallic sigh and trundled slowly after her.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Day Ten

Blasters were nice, but right now Trill was far happier that she had a knife. As long as she could cut faster than she was running out of air, all would be well. Otherwise...

She knew better than to waste time asking herself how she got into these situations. She knew how she'd gotten into this; she'd relaxed long enough to try and take a bath. The pond had looked tame enough and Toob said its chemical balance was acceptable. So, given it had been nearly two weeks since she'd been anything approaching clean, it was definitely bath time. Just her, a scrub pad from the first aid kit, and some soap mixture Toob created in his dispenser.

Yep, just her, those things, and a fish-thing big enough to swallow a landspeeder.

Five minutes into her soak, the sun seemed to pass behind a cloud. The shadow on the water was immense, so she'd looked up to see how bad the weather was about to be. The forecast wasn't hopeful.

Partly obscured, with a 100% chance of gigantic fish in the late afternoon.


Now she was in the belly of the beast, literally. Her blaster was on the shore, since its makeshift construction barely worked when it was dry; waterproofing had not been an option. Still, common sense had dictated taking a knife with her, something she was really, really grateful for now. An airtight vibration cutter with a long blade served the purpose well.

Right now, its purpose was to get her through the stomach of this damned pond whale before her lungs gave out. It was going to be a close race.

Hack. Her hands were moving feverishly, with her right one slashing and her left pulling apart the fresh incision and dragging her a few inches closer to freedom.

Slash. The oils and ichors of the fish's digestive tract coated her as the stomach membrane finally gave way. Now she was in its guts, with thick, rope-like cords of dense flesh between her and escape. Lovely.

Hack. Each strand she cut through sprayed half-digested pond rot all over her. Bugs, mud, and unidentifiable slime coated Trill from head to toe. Even holding her breath, she could smell the foul reek inside this beast. Smell it, and desperately wish she couldn't.

Slash. The blade was gumming up, cutting intermittently as its edge ground to a halt. Now she had to saw with the weapon; its vibro motor was shot. Even though it was a sealed system, the gore caking along the blade had proven too much for the poor thing. All she could do now was try to force it through the fish's rigid hide, every muscle screaming from the effort.

Hack. As her oxygen started to run very, very thin, Trill became desperate enough to try something she normally avoided like a Kessel Spicelung Plague. She stole a few precious seconds and reached out to the Force. Darrus had taught her that the power of the Universe flowed through all living things. Right now, "living" was the important part, since she wouldn't qualify for that status in another few seconds.

He'd also taught her that what she was about to try should never be used on a living creature, as that kind of aggression was a path to the Dark Side.

Well... tough.

In her last moment of urgent focus, Trillinae released all her power forward in as forceful a wave as she could. All she wanted was out.

Out, out, out, out, out, OUT!


On shore, all Toob could see was a massive fish, writhing in pain and rolling over onto its wide, pale underside. The body of the beast distended violently as its mouth gaped. Then, its stomach bubbled for a moment...

...and exploded. A geyser of chunky seafood burst forth, coating the medical droid, several feet of bank all around it, and extending out in a cone more than a hundred meters long. In the middle of the meat storm, Toob's mistress hurtled through the air and landed in the branches of a wide jungle tree.

She hit the foliage, smacked off the trunk, and groaned, "Ow. Ow. Ow. Ouch. Ow," breaking the tree's limbs all the way to the hard ground below.

Hastening over to her nearly unconscious form, Toob scanned Trill and saw that while she was badly bruised, she was not directly or direly injured. Crouching as far as its legs would allow, Toob reached to help his mistress to her feet. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Yeah," muttered Trill painfully. "Mix up a fish fry."

Then, after catching her breath, "It's my turn."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Day Nine

Trillinae had earned herself a new Tarasin name.

She was now, "The Death of Trees".

Cussing, she climbed out of the pod and took another pass at pulling broken limbs and leaves off its front end. With the air intake jammed up like this, she couldn't fly very far or get much lift what what little engine power she had in this rust bucket.

Of course, thrust wasn't really the problem. The pod steered like a Corellian corpa, offered almost no visibility and had no working navigation systems, and its landing gear consisted of picking somewhere soft to touch down and praying the damned thing didn't roll too much. She had screaming headache, the pod was looking worse than normal, and she was leaving a trail of deforestation behind her.

Between the shattered tree trunks and the spreading fires, she wasn't accomplishing much beyond adding to her kill totals. At this rate, she'd run out of room on the outside of her makeshift craft for all the deciduous stamps. Not that green paint would last very long with the way she was rampaging through the forest.

It was actually sort of amusing. Even abandoned and alone, she was managing to have a real "impact" on this alien world. It was a lame joke to be sure, but it counted as high comedy right now. Toob didn't have a locatable sense of humor, so she had to depend on herself for amusement.

Still chuckling, she fixed the flaps around the pod's engines again and climbed inside. Each flight, and flight was a generous term for the pathetic hops this little ball of metal and spit kept making, lasted about two minutes and took nearly half an hour to repair. Going at full speed like this, Trill estimated she would reach somewhere useful in say... her baby's 5th birthday. This was beyond pathetic.

At this point, she'd gladly fly a Tug rather than sit behind the control stick of this bowling ball with ailerons. The thought of taking off again was almost enough to make her nauseous. Just the idea of powering the pod up again felt... so....

Before she knew it, Trill was running to the pod's door and emptying a half day's raptor rations into the scorched crater outside. Down on her knees, gasping for breath, she came to the instant conclusion that dinosaur tasted far better the first time one ate it. Ewwww.

A metal hand settled on her shoulder as she heaved again. And again. "What... what's wrong with me, Toob?" she managed to gurgle out between attempts to spit up her own toes.

"Congratulations, Mistress. You are experiencing motion sickness."

There were no words to describe the hate in her eyes as she looked savagely back at her medical droid. "Congratulations?!?" She spit a mouthful of something foul and reached for the canteen Toob offered. "This is NOT a good thing."

"But it is, Mistress. Without proper diagnostic materials, my ability to monitor your pregnancy is limited. Your nausea is a sign that everything is proceeding properly. If you had miscarried or if there were hormonal imbalances, you would not likely be so afflicted."

She narrowed her eyes. It was against her hedonistic nature to believe that anything so nasty could be a good thing, but the droid made sense. Still, maybe the universe could bless her just a little bit less violently in the future? Please?

"Okay, Toob. I'll buy that. Damn tummy grub. Sooner it's out, the better." She groused all the way back to the pilot's chair. "Strap in; we are gonna try that again. And if my parasite wants to survive the next few months, it damn well better let me keep something down. Bloody useless lump of goo."

She said it, but she didn't mean it. Once Trill was sure Toob couldn't see her, she put her hands over her stomach and closed her eyes. Under her breath, she murmured a prayer to whatever out there might hear her.

Trill's life was damn hard right now, but it wasn't just hers any more. No matter what happened, she had to survive. Nothing else mattered. Nothing at all...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Day Eight

"You are in excellent condition, all things considered, Mistress."

Trill relaxed after hearing Toob's diagnosis. She'd been getting short of breath and slight pains in her limbs for the last few days. On an alien world, illness was a chief concern even for someone struggling to find enough food to eat or shelter. It didn't do any good to be warm and fed if a bizarre virus ravaged your body while you were comfortable.

"So there's nothing wrong?"

The droid shook its chrome head slightly and raised a hypodermic attachment. "Negative, Mistress. You have borderline malnutrition, your blood work shows multiple deficiencies, and your pregnancy is putting your immune system under serious stress. You are in excellent shape considering your circumstances, but you are far from being in optimal health."

As Toob spoke, he injected Trill with something orange. She looked down at the syringe, could not immediately identify the substance, and tapped him on the thick plate over his forehead.

"What was that little cocktail?"

"Not an incorrect analogy. It is indeed a mixture of different components, including a vitamin and mineral supplement, a broad spectrum antibiotic, a pair of high-scale antivirals, and a..."

Trill chuckled and tapped him again. "It's all right, Toob. I don't need an ingredients list. As long as they'll help, you can do whatever you need." The droid nodded and walked back to the supply cabinet to replenish his chemical stocks. Trillinae watched him for a moment, a sudden concern creeping in. "Hey, Toob?"

"Yes, Mistress?"

She glanced at the meager-looking pantry. "How are we doing on medical supplies?"

Toob sounded almost apologetic as he replied, "Not very well, I am afraid. I can maintain your health barring injury until after delivery with what I have, but these materials will not allow me to properly care for you and an infant for very long. I estimate less than a year of useful supplies remain, and that is with me fabricating what I can from the local flora."

She sighed; it was better than she'd feared but still dire. If they didn't gain either escape from this world or some mobility around it soon, there's be nothing for them here once the baby came. She could hunt now, but for how much longer? Who was going to defend them when she was unable to fend for herself?

"We have to get to a more defensible position." All her training with Darrus hadn't gone to waste. While he was studying tactical readouts and learning soldiering from his troopers, she'd been listening closely. She might not have been some great General, but she knew a bad location when she saw one. Right now, she could see one all around her. "If we stay here, the babe and I won't last very long."

"I regretfully concur."

"Don't worry, Toob. You're a great help. You've got nothing to be sorry for." She stood up and headed back over to the tool storage. She'd cannibalized some of them for the makeshift blaster rifle over her shoulder, but there was still a lot left. "Toob, you have any mechanical training?"

"Negative, Mistress. I mentioned before that my specialty is human and near-human physiology. I am not a repair droid, unless bandaging a wound could be considered an organic repair."

She chuckled again. "I suppose it can, Toob, but you're right. That doesn't help much." Picking up a spanner she'd already learned could fit the retaining bolts on the outside of the pod. "Think you could act as an extra set of hands, though?"

"I will gladly assist in any operation you wish to perform, even if the subject is not one I would normally consider a patient."

She smiled and handed him the spanner, hefting the rest of the tool caddy. "Good! Because we need this pod up and functional again." They headed outside, going down the ramp and around to the landing thrusters.

"If you will pardon the question, Mistress; why do you wish to repair the pod? It is not likely we will ever need to escape from another vessel with it."

That caught Trill off-guard, though after a moment she understood why Toob couldn't imagine what she was trying to do here. Droids, for all their heuristic processing power, still had trouble with nonlinear thought. To the medical bot, an escape pod was just an escape pod. It had one purpose and since its job was done, the pod held no meaning to Toob any longer.

To Trill, this hunk of metal was a lot more than just the way she survived crashing here. With a little work and a lot of luck, it could be something much greater than an escape pod. "I don't just want to repair this thing, Toob. I want to fly it out of here. A pod has engines, maneuvering jets, and directional fins. I think we can turn it into a shuttle of sorts."

That thought obviously took a while for Toob to process. As he stood there, lights blinking, she used him to hold an access panel open. The wiring inside was scrambled, but she was pretty sure it could be fixed.

"Mistress? The pod's integrity is jeopardized. We cannot take it into space and even if we could, it has nothing approaching sub-light speed."

Trill grinned. The droid might be a medical genius, but it wasn't much of a creative thinker.
"Silly, I don't want to take it out of the atmosphere. I'm going to slave its landing jets into a lower-burn, high thrust engine. It's got plenty of power; I think we can use it to fly around on this rock ball."

Now Toob looked to be getting her plan. "I see. If we can travel from place to place without being on foot, we can avoid many hazards and possibly locate better resources?"

She beamed. "Exactly! We can also find a safe place to hole up when it's time to deliver. That way, we can be safe and I don't offer some big lizard dinner and an appetizer."

"A macabre piece of humor, Mistress, but not wholly inaccurate."

"Glad you approve. Now hand me the torque adjuster."

Toob walked over to the tool kit, reached in, and sifted through the various pieces of metal and electronics inside. After a few minutes, he turned his impassive blue-light eyes to Trill and asked, "Pardon the question, but what is a torque adjuster?"

She thumped her head against the side of the pod and sighed again.

"This is going to take a while..."

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Day Seven

"Ghgestfhathel juktavashi olgatanek!"

Trill tilted her head and looked at Toob. "Excuse me?"

The lights in her medical droid's severed head flickered twice, eventually coming fully on and remaining steady for more than a minute. Its vocabulator unit, a microphone-like mask she'd only just attached to its face, crackled slightly. A spark flew out of the side as smoke wafted up from its grill slits.

"Vish vish nanna kovortani. Ulak! Aganwei."

Trill shook her head. "Something's not right here. Maybe I wired the thing in upside down?" She was honestly lost; robotics was so very not her field. Trying to put a droid together out of more parts than a razor cat had teeth was a challenge for a real techie. For someone like her, she might as well have been shoot gnats out of the air with a carbine. This was just never going to work. Why did she always have to be so useless? Yelling in frustration, she slammed Toob's head against the floor of the pod.

A burst of static came out of its mask. "Ah, that is much better, Mistress. My language recognition circuit was loose. That seems to have tightened it." His eyes flickered again.

Trill laughed and hugged the med-bot's head. Finally, someone to talk too! "Toob, you're alive! Well, sort of!"

More static. "Well, Mistress, yes in a manner of speaking. I do seem to be functional again. I appear to have... Where is my body?"

Trill sighed and turned his head so that he could see the nearby crash couch and the tangled mass of limbs and torso resting there. "I am working of that, Toob. You see..."

"I do indeed see! And vision is my only useful function right now! My body is in a terrible state of disrepair. What happened to me?!"

With a low sigh, she put Toob's head down next to her and breathed in deep. All in one long run-on sentence, she explained everything from the crash to the raptor attack and then some. She didn't stop talking until the air was completely gone from her lungs. She'd been alone for days now; rambling was a welcome relief from the silence.

"I think I made all that out, Mistress. Might I offer a suggestion?"

"Anything! I am at wit's end trying to figure all this out."

Toob's eyes dimmed for a moment, a sign that he was accessing his memory banks. Since most of them were in his torso and as such unreachable, he had to be searching the hard storage in his cranial computer. Trill didn't know robotics worth a mynock's toss but she did know computers. He was as functional in that department as she could make him.

"If you will follow my suggestions, I can use my diagnostic program to guide you in my reconstruction."

She looked thrilled. "Really? You can do that? I was worried your monitoring routines were in your chest. I couldn't really tell what you had up here." As she spoke, she tapped his head with a spanner.

The eyes flickered wildly and for a moment, Trillinae was worried she'd knocked something loose again. Then, "There is not much in my head storage, but my main programs are all intact and my system checks are online. I believe that we can work together to repair me, Mistress."

"Fantastic, Toob! Let's get started." Trill picked him up, carried him over to the mass of wires and pistons that had, until she'd gotten to them with a soldering laser and a socket wrench, been his arms and legs. Now they were like something from a Jawa's nightmare. Toob's tact protocols, which were fortunately active, kept him from commenting.

Trill, oblivious to her droid's holding his none-existent tongue, settled down to work. "You know what? I think I am getting better at this. Here's a part I can fix!"