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...

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Day.... Whatever

Toob walked slowly up the hill where his mistress was sitting, surrounded by strange things.

Little piles of herbs, a small hill of yellow-white powder, metal implements and broken egg shells from half a dozen different birds - these all laid scattered around her as she sat in front of the pod's spare climate furnace. Beside that, a mound of blackened... something was piles almost as high as the steel fusion incinerator itself. She was staring at its front panel expectantly, as if something was going to happen.

"Pardon me, mistress, but what are you doing?"

Trill glanced up at the medical droid, her face covered in smudges of various colors and her hands just as messy. There were bowls in her lap and other containers near her feet. "Oh, hi Toob. I'm baking a cake."

The droid stood there, its processors trying to cope with the logic fallacies of baking acake on an alien world with no proper ingredients or utensils.

"In a fusion reactor?"


"With ground up random plants?"


"And dinosaur eggs?"

She smiled. "Right again."

Toob walked away slowly, leaving the mad woman to her delusions. If the big pile of burned matter beside the incinerator was what he thought it was, she had been at this for some time with no success. By the time he got to the bottom of the hill, a question forced itself to be asked.

"Mistress, why are you baking a cake?"

Trill called out over her shoulder, "Because it's our one month anniversary on this rock... I think." She kept staring at the fusion cell's main window, watching the makeshift cake pan inside for signs of scorching.

Toob could at least process that answer. Organics tended to commemorate odd holidays by eating unusual things. It wasn't a practice he understood but his digestive database contained the knowledge that around chosen dates of the galactic year, certain intestinal and stomach ailments became more prevalent. Humans ate too much animal flesh, Twi'leks ingested enough ryll to kill a gundark and Wookiees swallowed rocks. None of it made any sense but at least there was a precedent for the odd behavior.

"So you are celebrating the dodecatennial date of our forced captivity?"

She nodded. "So far, all correct."

He started walking away farther. Trill's increasingly strange actions were beginning to worry him in more than just a clinical sense. Before he could completely vacate the area, he found himself compelled to ask just one more thing.


"Yes, Toob?"

"After you manage to construct and bake a suitable confection, what do you intend to do?"

Trill laughed deeply and waved in his direction. "Silly 'bot... What else? I have to make icing!"

The medical droid started walking faster. There was a curved panel of the pod nearby and he suddenly felt a sincere need to hammer it flat with his cranial casing...