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...