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..."