Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Somewhere else. Probably.
Current Game: World of Warcraft
[FIC] The Droid and the Lightsaber
They're coming fast and furious now.
The Droid and the Lightsaber
Mistakes Almost Never Happen
On board the pleasure yacht Opal Rising, the party was beginning to wind down. Marbled colours swirled endlessly in the clouds beneath the massive liner as aliens from a dozen different worlds were starting to trickle away from the sides of the observation deck and back towards the aft debarkation points. The stubby grey cleaning droids were already starting to appear out of their recessed cubbyholes and weave through the intoxicated crowd still lurching around the polished faux-marble floor of the deck, vacuuming up the confetti, streamers, and cigarra stubs littering the promenade. The sickly sweet smell of spice wafted through the air, but all in all, it had been a much tamer affair than expected, especially for a Hutt's birthday party. In the ten years the Opal Rising had operated on Bespin, it had seen all manner of drunken, drugged debauchery and mayhem, and the rental company people had even added extra plating to all the serving droids' outer hulls in anticipation of Gragesh the Hutt's entourage. They were a notoriously rowdy bunch, and on a fully automated pleasure yacht there was no telling what they might get up to, especially as Gragesh had the spending power to simply buy the whole ship if it was trashed by his sycophantic minions. Officially the Opal Rising was registered as a sightseeing vessel, but far more often than not, the only sights the renters were interested in were the liquor cabinets or an inexpensive prostitute's undergarments on the floor. That was the benefit of renting an automated ship with no human crew--you could just book some time, sail out into Bespin's jovian grandiosity and do whatever depraved partying you wanted. When you docked, the droid crew could all get memory wipes. Of course, anything illegal was supposed to be automatically transmitted to the Cloud City Security force, but anything short of outright murder was usually swept under the rug with a wink, a nod and a sum of credits discretely deposited in the right account. The Opal Rising was still periodically used by groups of bona-fide sightseers, but hedonistic, floating orgies were its runaway favourite use by the local population. It was an arrangement that had become one of the owners' best and most reliable credit sources.
At the end of the observation deck, the serving and protocol droid C3PD shuffled back and forth between the partygoers, still proffering his platter of sweetmeat appetizers to the glazed-eyed alien mob still present, pausing only occasionally to politely request that one or another of the gently swaying creatures not drool onto his chassis. The illicit chemical stewing of the assembled gathering had begun almost as soon as the Opal Rising had left port, which he supposed was why the party had been as unusually subdued as it was. Even for a Hutt, it was hard to cause much trouble when you couldn't squirm more than a few feet without collapsing in a heap. C3PD had almost stopped internally translating the speech floating around, as by this point in a cruise featuring so much spice and drink, the murmured conversations on the observation deck were inevitably variations of "Oh wow...the colours...the colours...!" in however many alien languages the clients spoke. He shuffled back towards the entry to the ballroom when suddenly...
Circuits popped and relays blew as C3PD absorbed the blow on his head. He twitched in electronic shock and confusion, then wheeled around in indignation. No one was anywhere near him. Hmm. How strange. He looked down at the deck, scanning his immediate area for the offending object that had just created a most unbecoming dent in his silver skull plating. Just then, he saw something that took him completely by surprise. His photoreceptors zoomed in on the object at his feet. Now THAT was certainly unusual. Internal processors queried databases, compared them with the image in his photoreceptors, checked and double-checked against the databases, and confirmed its inexplicable existence. No doubt about it.
A human hand was lying on the deck at his feet.
Several things immediately struck him as being extremely bizarre about this. He was quite accustomed to seeing human hands, but generally on the ends of human arms, not lying on the floor by themselves like that. And despite his meagre knowledge of human anatomy, he was fairly certain that their hands weren't detachable. Over the ten years C3PD had served on the Opal Rising, he'd run into countless partygoers and clients who thought that pelting him with everything from food to Holowakian monkey-lizard dung was the absolute height of uproariously good humour, but despite his frequent memory wipes he was almost positive he hadn't had a human hand lobbed at him before. Even that one unpleasant experience where the maintenance crew had to spend an hour belt-sanding dried Correllian fever-honey snacks off his rear end following the Ugnaught Janitorial Guild's annual Cloud City Day piss-up had had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any severed body parts. He turned around and carefully surveyed each of the various beings still on the observation deck. No, all of them still had the typical number of hands for their respective species. He had seen once on the surveillance network that a human actually had lost a hand while on board, but this had occurred on the human's drunken rampage through the kitchens, and this event was accompanied by much yelling, screaming and spurting blood. There was no such uproar now, and in fact no one seemed to have taken the slightest notice of the sudden arrival of an ownerless human hand in their midst. He craned his head upwards, and noticed that the ship had now drifted almost directly underneath Cloud City. This was generally considered a no-go area for ships due to the automated refuse system dumping its rubbish on a routine basis, but the on-board navigation system was supposed to be alerted before any such dumps were made. Mistakes almost never happened.
As he returned his gaze to the bafflingly unexplained appendage, it suddenly occurred to C3PD that loud clanking noises definitely weren't sounds that he was used to human hands making, particularly when they made contact with his head. He'd heard a wide variety of noises made by hands over the years--slapping, slamming, thumping and clicking were all commonplace enough, but clanking was definitely a new one. Even that obscene noise that the cyborg Administrator's Aide was prone to make at parties when he inserted one of his hands into his armpit was utterly unlike clanking. That's when he spotted the other unexplained object that was to cause him even more bemusement than the orphaned hand.
Lying squarely in the centre of his appetizer platter was an odd metal cylinder studded with switches. It looked as though a human hand could hold it easily enough, but as to what it actually was or what it could be for, C3PD hadn't the foggiest clue. He quickly compared it against his internal database of the Opal Rising's inventory of kitchen utensils and maintenance tools, but this turned up no matches. He queried the ship's master computer, but curiously, he received no reply at all. The entire droid complement on board the ship were slaved to the master computer, which then directed their activities and monitored both them and the passengers in attendance. This absence of any communication should have worried the protocol droid, but for some reason he couldn't explain, it didn't. What he could not know was that the metal cylinder had struck his head with just enough force to destroy the internal comm array and cause severe damage to his logic centre. What he also could not know was that this damage would only take a few precious hours of run-time to reduce him to a shambling lunatic unless his entire head was replaced, and the reason why he could not know any of this was that his internal diagnostic centre had unfortunately been installed directly underneath the comm array in his head, and was now totally severed from the power generator. As the power trickled off, it considered informing the rest of his brain that he was going to go insane and die in the very near future if he didn't receive an emergency head replacement, which would destroy his identity as C3PD and therefore, he was effectively dead either way. But then it shrugged electronically to itself and decided that the droid probably wouldn't want to know something like that anyway. C3 models weren't known for handling stressful situations well, and it seemed unkind to let its host spend his final hours in arm-flapping panic. Its consciousness winked out of existence and left C3PD to his own devices, its final thought being disappointment that it wouldn't be around for the fun part.
As C3PD walked back through the ballroom towards the lost and found bins, he became aware that his gait stuttered on every fourth step he took. Lights were starting to flick on and off in his peripheral vision, but when he turned his head, he found no light sources that could be flicking on and off. He shuffled past a Gran who was in the process of trying to seduce a marble sculpture of the vessel's previous (human) Captain, and stepping over the Rodian who had spent much of the voyage lying on the polished bloodwood floor of the ballroom intently studying his thumb, he began to remember that he was supposed to be doing something important. What was it...? Something about herding the passengers to the...kitchen? No, that didn't sound right. The...staterooms? No, that wasn't it either. Oh...the ship was due to dock soon. He was supposed to move the passengers to the debarkation points! That was it! Debarkation points! He was supposed to be taking passengers away from the kitchen and staterooms! But the ship had always told him when he was supposed to do that before. He hadn't received a single transmission from the ship since the mysterious hand and shiny metal thing had descended into his world. Perhaps he had done something to make it angry with him. He looked at the metal cylinder on his serving platter, still nestled snugly among the canapés and condiments. Then he looked at the mysterious hand he was now carrying. It suddenly dawned on him that because the ship wasn't telling him to do anything, he might not actually have to do anything. He momentarily asked himself whether he wanted to take his findings to the lost and found bins, and was pleasantly surprised to discover he didn't particularly want to. He dropped the hand onto the floor for the cleaning bots to worry about, and he picked the metal cylinder off the platter, which he then let go crashing to the floor to join the hand. He decided that a human hand wasn't much use to him, but this shiny metal cylinder did who-knows-what so it was worth holding onto, and besides, it was pretty. Nothing had ever really struck C3PD as being pretty before, and he began to suspect that this was also something which should be worrying him a great deal more than it was. This day was getting odder all the time. Maybe a nice soak in a lubrication bath in the maintenance bays would help him put events in proper perspective. He began to shuffle towards the lower decks, and waited in vain for the master computer transmissions which would never again grace his shiny metal skull.
In the two hours C3PD spent marinating and powered down in his oil bath, Cloud City had undergone an abrupt change in management. The Empire had moved in, and the previous administration had moved out, taking most of the independent merchants and workers with it. The Opal Rising had had its hyperdrive removed when its owners had decided to rent it out for jaunts through Bespin's upper atmosphere, so it had been abandoned as they and their rental company people pulled up stakes and headed for the proverbial hills. Most of the droids including the master computer housing had been scooped up into the waiting transports, but the smaller and less autonomous droids had been left behind, along with C3PD. The cleaning bots still hummed away, dutifully polishing, sweeping, and dumping their collected rubbish into Cloud City's refuse system. A few of the bulkier units in the bowels of the ship and the kitchen had also not been collected with the rest of their electronic comrades, and they too worked away at their appointed tasks and silently wondered why the master computer wasn't issuing directions anymore.
As the oil bath mechanism finally got fed up with the silver protocol droid that didn't seem to want to leave, it stopped recirculating the lubricant and began to raise its occupant out onto the deck plates. C3PD powered back on and instantly realized something definitely out of the ordinary was going on. It sounded to him like small insects were buzzing in his audio receptors, and he hadn't remembered the walls of the maintenance bay rippling before he'd got into the oil bath. He raised his metal arms into his field of vision, and noticed that there was a pronounced tremor in his right arm. The damage to his logic centre had now reached most of his ancillary systems through the corrupted process of powering back on, but with no damage control diagnostics and no connection to the master computer (by now light-years away), he remained blissfully unaware as to the true extent of the grievous damage done to him. It now seemed much more difficult to maintain his balance, and C3PD tried a few exploratory steps towards the curiously rippling metal wall. Electronic hooting and beeping sounded behind him, and with great effort he turned to face the source of the noise. One of the cleaning droids had rolled into the bay and was holding C3PD's new shiny metal thing in its manipulator arm. The arm retracted slightly, bringing the unknown object barely millimetres away from the photoreceptor cluster in its torso.
"Beep-tweet tweet deedle?"
C3PD paused to consider this. "I don't know what is it...is it...it is." Vocabulator malfunctions, too? This was an unsettling trend...
"I don't kn-know. The master com-computer isn't speaking to me either." The cleaning droid whizzed its photoreceptor cluster around to focus on C3PD. "Squirp, boop tweet tweet."
"Now that you men-mention it, I am feeling str-strange. But do you kn-know what that does?" The cleaning bot returned its gaze to the shiny metal cylinder clutched in its manipulator. It turned the strange object over and around, when it noticed that one of its ends had an opening, whereas the other end was sealed. It peered closely into the opening, when by total fluke, it discovered that one of the little studs on the cylinder actually moved. Its fine manipulator wiggled this stud and...
PSSSSHHHHHhhhmmmmmmmmm.....a beam of bright blue light sprang from the end of the cylinder, neatly spearing the curious droid directly through the centre of its conical body. C3PD sprang back in alarm as the cleaning bot trembled and smoked. It finally emitted one last pathetic squeak, then fell silent. C3PD stared in awe and marvelled at the sight. Forgetting all about his malfunctioning vocabluator, he shuffled slowly over to the cleaning bot and stretched out his hand. He seized the now very much more interesting metal cylinder and lifted it directly upwards, slicing the bot's upper body cleanly in half as he did so. He turned one way and then another, and was delighted to discover that this pretty blue beam hummed as he waved it. He carefully examined the area where the now extremely dead cleaning bot's fine manipulator had been feeling around at, and PSShhhht. The blue beam vanished. Dismayed, he pushed the knob again, and the blue beam returned. So THAT was how it worked! Beam comes out, beam goes back in. How delightful! Immensely pleased with himself, he made the beam go in and out until he was satisfied that was the way it worked. He wouldn't have normally expected this process to occupy fifteen solid minutes, but then today was turning out to be full of surprises. Looking back down at the wrecked cleaning bot, he noticed that the edges of the cuts made by the blue beam were still radiating heat, which reflected in his photoreceptors with the prettiest ultraviolet hue. Could other things be made to look so beautiful? C3PD decided to try the wall, which had cooperatively stopped rippling. He turned the blue beam back on, and pushed the tip into the nearest bulkhead. The material instantly hissed and flared with gorgeous colours, and circles of energy expanded through the wall around the blue beam, getting larger and larger...when abruptly an alarm claxon sounded in the room, and the fire-suppression system sprang into action. C3PD and the bulkhead were doused with fire-retardant foam, and he turned the blue beam off in disappointment. He began to clatter his way towards the corridor leading back to the passenger areas in search of more fun things to do with his new toy, leaving a foamy trail behind him.
In the rest of Cloud City, the pandemonium was slowly starting to ebb. The vast majority of those who had wanted to get away from the Empire had already done so, and in any event, the Empire wasn't going to throw away a perfectly good tibanna gas mine if it didn't have to. After the rebels escaped, the ground troopers had encountered surprisingly little resistance from the remaining population, and so scavengers had emerged and begun to pick their way through the abandoned ships and cargo bays looking for anything useful or valuable. One such scavenger had been rooting through a stack of crates near the civilian cruiser terminals, when as he rounded a corner, he spied a large civilian liner tethered to the very edge of the docking platforms. The fact that it hadn't been berthed, braced and properly shut down shone like a beacon to the grubby, overweight humanoid as he knew that must mean whoever left it did so in the frantic hurry to bail out before the Imps took over, and chances of rich pickings inside were very good indeed. He rubbed his hands together and grinned as he ran down the boarding ramp, visions of rich-people trinkets floating in his greasy head.
In the now-deserted passenger decks, C3PD was growing ever more deranged. He had added curtains, chandeliers, sculptures, tables and chairs to the list of things his blue beam creator could cut up and set fire to, and the fire-suppression system had stubbornly dumped ever-increasing amounts of extinguisher foam onto him as he went on his tottering way. The other droids left on board were steering well clear of him by this stage. Now resembling a walking pile of insulation, he went crashing through a glass door into one of the recreation areas. His gaze took in an unlocked liquor cabinet, and he forgot all about being a droid and decided he wanted a drink. He shambled over to the open bar, and remembered that as he had never ingested food or drink before, he didn't know what he would like. Oh well, today was definitely the day for trying new things. He reached out to the row of bottles and after smashing half a dozen or so with his twitching arm, he finally succeeded in snaring an open bottle of Aldustran wine in his hand. He held the bottle to where his mouth would have been if he had actually had a mouth, leaned back, and the rich, red liquid gushed into his vocabulator opening and slopped down the front of his foam-covered body, eventually pooling at his feet. Just about then, he remembered that he was a droid as his vocabulator started to fizz and crackle. Circuits burned out, electric synapses fried, and when he tried to speak, he found that he could no longer control his speech. "BZZZZGOWERACCKTHCCCCCCTHCRAAAAAWW!" he shouted at the empty room. He dropped the bottle onto the floor and inwardly wondered why his damage control centre hadn't picked up on anything amiss when he screamed loud gibberish instead of speaking normally. This usually troubling stream of thought was cut off by the sudden appearance of a bearded, filthy humanoid dressed in rags beside the ruined entrance. Overjoyed at the arrival of someone new he could show his blue beam thing to, he raised his arms, and began walking as best he could in the direction of his new friend.
This had been a very eventful day for Vynn Challust. It had seen the back of the oily Lando Calrissian, left no end of great scavenging and looting to do, and delivered a whole new crop of famously corrupt military types to steal from. He had lived the hard, uncompromisingly callous life of a thief and junk dealer for several decades, and as a general rule, not much could rattle him. Even the arrival of Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and the Empire all in one day had barely caused him to raise an eyebrow. The sight of a droid covered in white foam, drooling red liquid and lurching towards him brandishing a lightsaber on the other hand...
C3PD staggered through the wreckage in the bar to meet this new person in his life, overcome with happiness. He flicked on his trusty blue beam thingy, and tried to cobble together a friendly greeting. "YAAHHHGOBODODOZZXXXSHSCREEEAGGGG!!!" was the best he could manage. The look of utter bewilderment on the face of his newfound companion told him his friendly greeting hadn't gone as planned. Indeed, this grubby fellow had dropped the gold and silver-plated items cradled in his arms, taken out some kind of long, bladed pole and was now frantically waving it in front of him. The blade of this then met with C3PD's blue beam, which cleaved it effortlessly in half. The humanoid goggled at the end of his stunted pole, took one more horrified look at the droid, and turned and tore back out of the Opal Rising as fast as he could. C3PD watched him go in disappointment. Crestfallen, he turned off his whatever-it-was cutting thing and began to shamble in the direction of the bridge. Maybe from there he could see where his friend had got to.
In the comm tower, Captain Lysiano's day was getting downright weird. The occupation of Cloud City was proceeding smoothly enough, but the report coming to him from the dockworker crew in the civilian cruiser bay wasn't making even the first bit of sense. Brows furrowed, sideways glances were exchanged among the staff, and the Captain squinted in disbelief at the face in the viewscreen. "Let me get this straight. A scavenger was chased out of the Opal Rising by a Jedi droid who spat blood and screamed a tusken raider war cry at him. This is what you're telling me, right?"
"Yessir. Uh, that's what he says, sir. None of the other workers or scavengers will go near the ship now, and he keeps demanding that we send the stormtroopers in, sir. He says that's the only way he'll agree to come down off the arm of the loading crane."
The Captain rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation. Whatever was really going on down there, he had more important things to worry about. Let a squad or two of troopers deal with the practical jokes.
"Right. Stand by for trooper support. Comms out." He flicked off the channel in disgust and returned to the tactical display.
Up on the bridge of the Opal Rising, C3PD was feeling depressed. As fun as the day had been, several factors were now conspiring to give him the impression that something was indeed very wrong with him, despite the total lack of damage indicators from his diagnostic module. The fact he had needed seven tries to enter the elevator was one. His newfound love of pyromania was another. Close on the heels of that one was the fact that he had poured a bottle of wine into his vocabulator. He began to suspect that his prized metal cylinder wasn't such a wonderful thing to be carrying around with him. Sure, it made a pretty blue column of light, interesting noises and seemed to have almost no end of fun uses, but the repeated dousings from the fire control system were beginning to get tiresome. Besides, everyone he had shown it to had either died or ran away. He decided to turn it on just one more time...ZAP!!! An angry red blaster bolt sailed through the window and charred the wall behind him. Another quickly followed, and C3PD clattered to the floor as the bridge was engulfed with blaster fire. He lifted the blue beam and waved it around above his head in front of the window, and to his astonishment, one of the bolts actually hit the beam and ricocheted off in a different direction. The blaster fire ceased. An angry but somewhat unsure voice came over a loudspeaker, "Jedi! We know you're in there! Put your weapon down and come out of the ship!"
Jedi?! Weapon?! Well, there had obviously been some mistake. C3PD definitely needed to set these good folks straight. In a Herculean effort, he heaved himself into a sitting position, found the microphone and keyed on the Public Address system, destroying what he sincerely hoped were only redundant backup controls in the process. "VERRRRRRGEEEERGFROUUUUUNDZZZZZBAHHHFFTTTT!! TRRRAEEEERRRFFFFFRIIIIIIINDNGGGGGGGEEPP!!! GLAAAAFFFF!!!" blared from the PA system on the Opal Rising. The stormtrooper squads lining the docking pier looked nervously back and forth between themselves and sidled backwards a few inches, suddenly wary. What in Sith’s name was on that ship...?!
C3PD took the lack of blaster bolts as an encouraging sign, and tried to haul himself up onto the control panel. Unfortunately for him, the very same things that had initially attracted the scavenger to the liner in the first place were about to prove his final undoing. Droids, passengers, the master computer housing, and valuable bits of decor and cargo had been torn from the ship and tossed into waiting escape craft with furious abandon, and the craft had not been properly berthed and shut down. Indeed, since it had been grappled to port, the bulbous liner had simply been hovering beside Cloud City with its engines idling in station-keeping mode. As fate would have it, when C3PD tried to lever himself into a standing position, his hand hit (among other, less catastrophically life-threatening things) the manual override cut-off switch for the atmospheric fuel supply, and the engines abruptly flamed out. The Opal Rising began to drop into Bespin, its thousands of tons of bulk tearing away great chunks of the docking pier as it began its long plummet into the planet's gaseous depths. C3PD now found himself pinned to the ceiling as the ship started its long journey to Bespin's core. He wouldn't have minded it so much if there weren't all this crushing involved. From his cramped vantage point, he could see the swirling Bespin clouds enveloping the ship as it tore ever downwards, and as his logic centre finally packed it in, his final thought was that he was sorry he'd never taken the time to look at the pretty clouds before.
10 Years Later
"So this is where it went down, huh?" Lando Calrissian sat at the controls of the Lady Luck and pondered the readings on the long range sensors. He turned around and fixed his eyes on his passenger, and silently hoped the smell wouldn't linger after a good steam-cleaning. "Are you sure this was the heading?"
"Yessir, Mr. Calrissian, sir. I was on a loading crane. I saw it go down. Right this way, ten years ago. Took two squads of stormtroopers with it when it knocked out pier 27a, sir." Vynn Challust did his level best not to choke on the word 'sir'. He had never liked Lando Calrissian, either. But then money was money, and he was being extremely well paid for only one afternoon's work that didn't seem to involve doing any actual work, so he just went with the flow.
"And tell me again just what it was that commandeered my ship?" Vynn Challust squirmed at the words "my ship". His eyes bulged from the memory.
"It was some kind of crazy Jedi droid! It was conjuring blood out of its mouth, and it came charging at me with a lightsaber! I was just inside the entrance when it came down the corridor! I...I was just making sure that no one was trying to steal anything, because I knew you were one of the owners...and..." Lando cut him off with a wave of his hand and rolled his eyes. Yeah, right. He turned back to the scanner and told the New Republic pilot to descend further into the gas giant's atmosphere. At the limit of the Lady Luck's hull tolerance, he was forced to admit defeat and allow the pilot to take the ship back up. Well, that was just great. Bespin’s atmosphere would’ve crushed the ship flat. Millions of credits down the drain. He may have joined the Rebellion and New Republic, risked his neck for them and led their troops into battle, but he had always been a businessman at heart, and he had never met a credit he didn't like. Ten years after he was forced to give up Cloud City, and he still couldn't find the Opal Rising, one of the lost crown jewels of his collection.
"Uh, pilot? We shouldn't be hanging around directly underneath Cloud City like this. What if the garbage system dumps while we're down here?"
"Oh, don't worry sir. The automatic refuse system automatically alerts any craft before a dump is made. Mistakes almost never happen."
Be considerate to others or I will bite your torso and give you a disease!
Last edited by Mace MacLeod; 07-27-2007 at 08:20 AM.
Reason: Tightened up some grammar, corrected a few mistakes