Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Ticking Clock

"Is he dead?"

Darrus didn't mean to sound so cold; his tone was stilted and quiet all the same. Since he'd woken up, it had been hard for him to articulate anything emotional. He suspected something was interfering with his ability to feel - probably the same something still stretching its microfilaments through his brain.

"No. He's comatose but he's not dead." Maya's voice was just as flat. She was slightly more emotional in her words than him; Darrus suspected that was her natural empathy at odds with her own Mandalorean implant. It would also explain why she woke up with a migraine and he did not.

"Can you do anything for him?"

Maya nodded, already cradling the bounty hunter's head in her lap and injecting his arm with a spray hypodermic. "His device seems to have malfunctioned slightly. One of its cerebral probes has gone off course and burrowed into his hypothalamus. The hormonal imbalance has..."

Darrus shook his head. "No time. Can you help him?"

Maya nodded again. "Yes. I've got him stable and once his vitals went back up, the probe corrected itself. I think it's working now. He'll sleep for a while but he'll live."

Darrus took a moment to look over the war droid standing in front of him. "And these... They are somehow bonded to us now. Any way to reverse it?"

His partner frowned. "I do not think so. The implant had anchored into our skulls and its leads are..."

He interrupted again absently, his hands checking the plating of his droid for some way to extend its boarding rungs. Instantly, a dozen half-moons of dark steel slide out of its side, a ladder ascending to its armored saddle. "I can feel the leads; they are still active."

"Yes they are. I am fairly sure they will stop once they completely weave their way into our nervous systems. I don't think they will hurt us, though."

Darrus had to agree. His 'conversation' with Vykara had not ended poorly. As long as she was in control of this massive steel beast, he doubted it would ever be a threat to him. His real concern was what would happen if she couldn't control the robot. As scared as she felt in his dreamscape, he had his doubts about her ability to remain calm and focused during battle.

Still, Vykara had been a Jedi padawan. He would have to trust in her training. He might even be able to draw on her experiences as a Jedi to help her deal with what had happened. He could only barely imagine what pain she'd already gone through. And being completely divorced from life, entombed in a metal shell? Such a horror was inconceivable. For her to have been sane enough to even reach out to him like she did? That spoke of serious inner strength.

"Darrus?"

Jeht blinked. He'd been standing against the war droid, eyes closed, for... well, he didn't actually know how long. "I'm sorry. I was lost in thought."

Maya smiled and squeezed his arm gently. "It's all right. It's been happening to me too."

"Must be a side effect of the implant."

Maya walked over to her own droid, its ladder extending as she approached. "Let's hope it's a temporary one. A flashback in the middle of a fight could be..."

He finished her sentence, "...fatal. Yes."

Both of them slid into the saddle cockpits of their droids, both surprised by how comfortable the padding and contours of the machine felt. It was practically molded to them - a perfect fit. Controls lit up unbidden, a low, crackling thrum of ionic engine power building in the hearts of their combat robots.

Darrus put his helmet back on, becoming Wraith again as it settled in and locked shut.

"We have less than an hour left. If we stand any chance of stopping Planetfall..."

Maya pulled on her own helmet and nodded, acting as his Echo as she completed his thought. "...we have to move quickly."

Wraith tilted his head, thinking something without saying it. *Are you reading my mind?*

Her answer came swiftly, an audible voice that seemed to reverberate through the front of his skull. *Only when you send like that. Are you hearing this?*

He just nodded silently and reached out to the droid's controls. Without actually touching them, several buttons started to glow. The machine was controlled through willpower, something Darrus had heard of but never actually seen in action. Some Jedi had lightsabers that activated by thought but to the best of his knowledge, that was as complex as the technology had ever gotten.

Apparently, he was wrong. The robot, which he instinctively know to be a 'Basilisk', was completely under his mental control, able to react to his thoughts like an extension of his own body. At the same time, it had a will of its own and could act independently if it wished to.

In many ways, it was like the Force itself. Controlled yet separate, willing to serve yet possessing its own desires and identity. There was a duality to this droid, a fact that led Darrus to wonder off-handed if the Basilisk had a dark side as well.

*Darrus?* Maya's mental voice brought him back to the present.

*I did it again, didn't I?*

He could feel her soft amusement as she sent, *Yeah, a little. Not long though.*

He sighed inwardly and thought about lifting off. Instantly, thrusters pivoted beneath him and lifted the droid into the air. It was an interesting feeling; he was both riding a flying vehicle and also sensing the air rushing past him as if he was the vehicle itself. This was going to take a lot of getting used to.

*We don't have any more time to waste. The Ithorians have forty two minutes before the Scarlet Wake's bomb tears out their ship's hull. We...*

There was even more amusement as Maya finished his sentence, this time doing it intentionally. *...have to find it and dismantle it before that happens.*

Darrus glowered, his face hidden by his helmet but the emotion not at all lost on her. *You are really enjoying this, aren't you?*

Maya did not hesitate at all before answering, even as their droids' cockpits unfolded behind them and rose up to cover them before they left the atmosphere.

*Oh yes!*

6 comments:

Erisraven said...

THe Basilisk droids are fascinating technology, but what a horrible price in life to create one. Let's hope our heroes can keep themselves sane and suss things out before it's too late.

Tarek said...

The "living organism" component doesn't seem to be part of the original Basilisk design, though, looking at KotOR and KotOR 2.

I think it's a "Palpatine Special" kind of modification.

And what did I say about Narr and malfunctions? I'm really not surprised that something went wrong.

Zay Berkana Eve said...

Jeht is in terrible danger.

A mind-reading woman partner is always trouble ;)

Streaka said...

I know the droids are controlling their emotions...but they also have to controlling the THIS S*:***T is WRONG circuits!!!!

Tarek said...

Hmm... there's something else odd here.

Why exactly did "Red 2" send Wraith and Echo to this depot? I'm fairly sure that he didn't send them there to disarm a Red Wake bomb, so why did he give them these droids?

What was their mission supposed to be?

Tarek said...

Oh, I just realized...

Yes, Jeht and Maya are both in terrible danger. I just hope that they figure it out before the bomb, or bombs, go boom.