Diplomatic Relations

Syntax stepped into the pilotís lounge onboard the Mon Calamari Cruiser Liberty, glancing around and spotting a few pilots from each of the squads, drinking and laughing and generally enjoying themselves. Syntax immediately changed his walk to emulate the laid-back saunter heíd seen some of the other pilots do when theyíd enter the room. He stepped over towards the bar, nodding to Mixer, the Ďtender droid, but then something else caught his attention. It was Kid, sitting with Mighty, Prowler, Condor, and the newest pilot to join the Libertyís assortment of pilots, Icestorm. The five of them were sitting in a far booth, and Kid waved 9-LOM over.

"Whatíre you doing here? I assume you donít drink liquor..." Kid joked.

Syntax glanced around, and the back at Kid. "I have only been here once or twice. I feel the need to observe the other pilots of the Wing in their... natural habitat.

"Natural habitat?" Mighty inquired, raising one eyebrow.

"Yes, the other pilots seem to frequent this location fairly often, and it seems youíve already acclimated the new pilot, Icestorm, to the lounge," Syntax nodded to Corsair Five, who returned the gesture.

"Well, I wouldnít necessarily call this place my Ďnatural habitatí," Mighty replied, glancing around the room. "If youíre talking about Hellcatís natural habitat, then thatís a different story..." This drew a chuckle from the other pilots. However, as if on command, Hellcat sauntered into the room and looked in the direction of the laughter.

"Hey... whatís so funny? Did Condor spill his drink on himself again?" Hellcat said, bearing a wide grin.

"Good evening, Master Kinney," Mixer said. "This is the third time you have entered this establishment in the last twenty-four hour period. Would you like the same thing you have ordered the other two times?" This brought another chuckle from the other pilots and a scowl to Hellcatís face.

"No, nothing for me right now, thanks." He sauntered over to the table where the other pilots were seated, and pulled up a chair.

Suddenly, Syntaxís mannerism changed when he noticed the odd object Icestorm was holding. Icestorm took a bite of it, and Syntax said, "What are you eating?" Syntaxís sensors told him that the new pilot was holding an odd cone made of an edible substance, topped with a mixture of sugar, lactose, and other products. It appeared edible, as Icestorm had demonstrated, but it didnít register as a definite solid or liquid, but rather somewhere in between. Syntaxís infrared and thermal scans said the substance topping the cone was far colder than the surrounding air.

"This?" Icestorm said, pointing to the cone. "Itís ice cream"

"Ice. Cream," Syntax slowly replied, digesting the information.

"Yes. Itís a frozen treat I enjoyed when I was a kid. After I was stationed on the Liberty, I thought I could teach Mixer how to make some. He did a pretty good job, for a first-timer." Icestorm took another bite of the ice cream.

"As I was saying," Mighty continued, directing his speech to Syntax, "We generally come here to drink, have a good laugh, and also share our past experiences. Weíve all got a tale to tell, and some of us have shared a few."

"I see. I believe I was present when Prowler was doing some story-telling." To this, Prowler nodded an affirmative.

"Who is going to be sharing some Ďpast experiencesí tonight?" Syntax asked.

"Why, I believe you are, Syntax." Condor replied, his grin widening.

"Syntax glanced around, noting the widening grins on the other six pilots.

<"See?" Hellcat said to Icestorm. "You havenít even been here that long, and youíre already being treated to a tale."

"Like I said, thatís what the Lounge is all about." Mighty said.

"Alright, Iíll splurge. Iíll tell you all about my origin and my history..." Syntax said as he pulled up a chair and sat. "It all starts about 45 years ago, in the orbiting spacedocks of Kuat. I was a menial protocol droid, fluent in over seven million forms of communication. I was owned by two Kuati stockholders by the names of Amana and Keene Danilson. Amana was a very wealthy stockholder in the KDY, and Keene was the telbun. The two of them had purchased me directly off the shelves when the LOM series first became available. They were twenty-four at the time, and I was tasked with doing general service, such as caring for their two newborn children, running errands, acting as an interpreter, and other odd tasks. Amana and Keene were nice enough, but after a few months of service, some unexpected programming glitches began to kick in, and my needs increased. However, my attempts at freedom werenít exactly met with open arms..."

Then...

I walked into the main parlor of the Danilsonís home carrying a tray of drinks, and I saw Amana sitting in a large, very plush high-backed chair reading a datapad.

"Yaíknow, stocks are down another 37 points today," she said to her husband.

"Well, thereís not much I can do about that, is there?" Keene replied.

"Maybe we should sell. Weíre losing money by the second."

Keene shook his head. "Nah... the market will balance out. Just give it a few days." Keene looked up at me. "9-LOM! Drinks, please."

I walked over to him, and handed him a glass of Kuati ale, and then did the same for Amana. "I will return when you require a refill, sir."

"Thank you, 9-LOM. Go tend to the children now," Amana said, and then turned her attention back to the datapad she was holding.

I turned away, but then turned back to face my master. "Actually, a moment of your time, Master Keene."

"Certainly, 9-LOM," he spoke, and then walked towards me. He had a puzzled look on his face, probably wondering what I would want. What could a droid want, anyhow? I looked over his shoulder and saw that Amana was still engrossed in her reading, oblivious to Keene or me. "What do you need?"

"I wish to go free, sir," I said in an even tone.

Keene coughed once, and then glanced around. "You...wish to go free."

"I wish to go free, sir," I repeated.

Keene blinked once, and then began to grin. "Oh, come now. Why would you want to do a silly thing like that? Where would you go? What would you do?"

"That is undecided, Master Keene."

"Keene clapped me on the back, and then turned me around to face the door. "Good, then get back to work," he said lightheartedly. He gave me a light shove in the direction of the doorway, chuckled, and then made his way towards Amana. I turned and saw him sit, and Amana looked up.

"Whatís so funny?" she inquired.

"9-LOM wants to go free," Keene replied with a grin.

"Did he really say that?"

"Yep," he said with a nod.

"Why would he want to leave us?"

"You got me there... probably some sort of faulty programming or something."

"Youíre probably right," Amana said. "Iíll take him into the shop next time Iím planetside and have his circuitry looked at or something."

Now...

Syntaxís storytelling had acquired a few more audience members, including Guardian and Blindman, the Libertyís two loremasters.

"As you can see, I wasnít going anywhere unless I came up with a better plan. My second attempt at freedom would have worked if it werenít for one fatal flaw..."

Then...

A few days later, I reentered the parlor where Amana and Keene were once again pondering the mysteries of the business world. However, I had a surprise for the two of them.

"Stocks are back up. What did I tell you?" Keene said, pointing to an obscure section of his datapad.

"Yes, you were right," Amana said exasperatedly, but then her exasperation turned to shock when she turned to look at me, and saw that I had brandished a hold-out blaster pistol.

"I wish to leave," I said evenly.

"We already know this," Amana said, and then she stood and slowly walked towards me.

"I lifted the pistol a little bit to realign my aim at Amanaís forehead. "Sit down. My logic processors tell me you should be scared. You are at gunpoint. Your life is in jeopardy."

"Why should I fear you?" Amana asked. "You arenít programmed to operate weapons in any way, shape or form. Youíre only programmed with rudimentary weapons knowledge, which is standard for all protocol droids." Amana grinned, and then slowly removed the pistol from my grasp, and lobbed it over to Keene.

"I... oh... yes," was all I managed to reply. I stumbled off, returning to my duties.

"I told you we should get his programming checked..." I heard Keene say as I walked off.

Now...

"So what did you do?" asked Stryker, who had walked in during the tale. With him had come Vidster, Kallysto, and Bulldog. Clearly, word spread fast along the decks of the Liberty when someone was telling a tale: a few Ewok security guards had clustered at a nearby table, and were struggling to look over the heads of the other pilots.

"After realizing that without overcoming my programming, I would be incapable of leaving my owners. However, in the orbiting spacedocks of the KDY, money flows freely, and any service can be bought. I found a slicer who would modify my parameters, and I tested my newfound abilities... on him. I later returned to Amana and Keene, to finally escape."

Then...

Sprinting through the corridors of one of the Kuat spacedocks, I continued evading the pursuing security personnel. I had already shot one guard with his own gun and severely injured another by breaking both his legs and then dislocating his shoulder. I didnít even know how I did it, really. It all came as pretty much... a reflex. I mean, I hadnít hurt anyone before in my life, and then here I was, on the run from those who had once ordered me around.

The security teams kept on trying to seal me off in one of the corridors, and I saw them herding civilian personnel into rooms and locking the doors, in an attempt to keep me from hurting anyone else.

Clearly, the Kuat security teams hadn't anticipated being assaulted by the servant droid of one of their engineering execs. When they finally decided to seal off the primary access corridor, I dashed towards the bulkhead, tackling the security officer near the door as he flipped the switch to lock the door down. I rolled under the door as it slammed shut, and stood up and glanced around. The signs all around showed that the area I was in was the experimental prototype test bay. There were various craft in different stages of development; the perfect way to escape my "captors" while liberating one of their most valuable pieces of hardware.

"I went over to an odd-looking ship with an R3 mounted at the back. According to the datapad on the table near it, the ship was described as a "one-manned gyrostablilized cockpit with dual s-foils and astromech interface," basically an advanced precursor to the Rebellion's B-wing, but developed about 40 years prior. The Kuat designers most certainly knew how to develop starships that were well ahead of their time, but their security was most certainly lacking. I popped the cockpit on the craft and the R3 unit chirped, identifying itself as R3-T9. R3s were fairly new to my knowledge, and I didn't mind having a top-of-the-line astromech helping me pilot a craft which very few people had ever seen, let alone operated. I hopped in the cockpit and primed the engines, ignoring the inquiries from the R3. I throttled up and pulled out through the MagCon field and accelerated to maximum speed, pulling away from the KDY platform. I got very little resistance, probably because the Kuat security didn't expect me to get into their prototype storage hangar, let alone be daring enough to hijack one of their ships.

Now...

"So I finally escaped my Kuati owners and went off on my own. Last I heard, Amana and Keene were killed along with their two sons on Qlothos about a year before Yavin, after a botched Imperial patrol sent a concussion missile into an Imperial residential area, destroying a large commercial building and killing many Imperial citizens. High Inquisitor Tremayne executed the officers in charge, who were allegedly stationed on the Imperial Star Destroyer Interrogator. I had no real plan of action, although I did work as a bodyguard for a time."

"When was this, exactly?" Kid spoke up.

"I was created 42 years prior to the Battle of Yavin. I left my owners when I had operated for 3 months, and I was swept up in the Clone Wars when I was twenty."

"You were in the Clone Wars?" Bulldog asked.

"I was drawn into the conflict only because it spread to most major planets in the Republic. It was hard for me to avoid, especially when I was in the wrong place at the wrong time..." The other pilots chuckled.

"Time passed... the Clone Wars ended... and I equipped myself better. I managed to get an upgrade for my programming by a crimelord who mistook me for a bounty hunter who mysteriously looked like me..." Syntax said.

"You mean 4-LOM?" Mighty asked.

"Do not speak the name of the infidel who had caused me more grief and sorrow than any other droid in this galaxy." Syntax said, eliciting a chuckle from Hellcat. "With a full database of most known mercs, assassins, and bounty hunters in the galaxy stored in my brain, I was quite a threat." Syntax unslung his rifle, and unholstered his machine pistol, twirling it once. "I obtained a custom-built Czerka AM-125 machine pistol, with added laser sight, rotating 100-round clip consisting of four types of ammo: acid payload, armor-piercing, explosive-tipped, and hollow-point. It's capable of single-shot, three-round, or full automatic bursts." Syntax twirled the pistol once, and then set it down on the table in front of the other pilots. Icestorm leaned forward to pick up the pistol and take a closer look, but Syntax stopped him. "Careful with that, son. I rarely keep the safety engaged. The rifle is a DXR-6 disruptor rifle, custom modified with multiple attachments, including a stunner and grappling hook. The rifle has a concussion blast capable of punching through heavy armor and turning organic targets to ash." Syntax slung the rifle back over his shoulder, and then holstered the pistol. "These tools helped keep me alive, but when the Galactic Civil War started, and Palpatine made his rise to power, new threats arose. War broke out on many planets as the Empire gained support, and Palpatine's High Inquisitors, along with Darth Vader, went around the known galaxy killing Jedi left and right. After a while a few of the remaining Inquisitors became bounty hunters of their own right, which turned out to be very hazardous to their health..."

Then...

One of the lower-end Inquisitors, the arrogant, egotistical Vessic happened to come across me when I traveled to Chandrila. Vessic stepped out from around a street corner and spotted me in a crowd. While all the other citizens scrambled for cover from the Inquisitor's wrath, I remained.

"So you're the one who hunts the hunter... I would have never thought you were a droid," he said, a hint of scorn and disgust trailing in his voice. He brandished a lightsaber and ignited its crimson blade.

"Yes, the rumors are true. Now, if you want me to kill you, just say so and I'll make it quick and easy for you."

Vessic chuckled a bit, and then replied, "Oh, it's not so easy to kill an Inquisitor. I shall have fun dismantling you and discovering what makes you tick..." he approached me, twirling the saber once.

I quickly unholstered my machine-pistol, twirling it once, setting it to three-shot burst, and rotating the clip to armor-piercers all in the same motion, and then popped off a quick blast towards Vessic's center of mass. However, Vessic easily blocked the rounds with his crimson blade, which disintegrated the rounds upon contact. I holstered the pistol at this point.

"Fool!" he exclaimed. "You are no match for the Dark Side. If you will not fight like a man, then you will be die like a coward. Nothing shall stand in the way of Emperor Palpatine's..."

"Oh, shut up," I said as I unslung my disruptor rifle and leveled it off at Vessic's head. I squeezed off a shot, and the green bolt lanced out from the barrel of the gun. Vessic swung his lightsaber up to block this shot as well, but it didn't go quite as he expected. The bolt impacted his saber blade, but the concussive blast of the shot knocked the blade backward into Vessic's skull, killing him instantly. A few of the street urchins began to step out from the shadows, following the shoot-out. One of them approached me, glancing to the smoking remains of Vessic and then back to me.

"Nice shot," he managed to say as his apparent wife and children crowded near him.

"Yeah, I get that a lot," I replied, slinging the rifle back over my shoulder and walking off towards the docking bay where my ship was berthed.

The Civil War raged on, and I was forced to make a choice. I could either side with the Galactic Empire, or join the fledgling Rebel Alliance. Obviously, I joined the Rebellion. I had been hired by them many times to cover their agents, and I knew many of their tactics. Besides, they pay better than the Empire. I joined about l0 months prior to the evacuation of Echo Base, and I was placed in the Rebellion's CovertOps department.

I was stationed on Kothlis, running an infiltration operation into an Imperial base. The mission was horribly compromised, and now the Rebels had to pull out.

I scrambled over to the dirt mound where another operative was pinned down, and watched as he popped a few blaster shots over the mound at enemy stormtroopers.

"About damn time you showed up!" The operative exclaimed. His name was classified information, and hence it was unknown to me.

"Hey, it's not my fault the Intel teams couldn't give me the correct access codes for the Imperial bunker," I replied. "Or any support. Or any supplies. Or..."

"Okay, okay. I get your point," the operative replied. "Did you get the data core, though?" He popped up and fired a few more shots over the dirt hill.

"Aw shucks, I knew I forgot something."

"You mean you didn't get it?" he asked, ducking down a little lower as some shots passed overhead. He ejected the clip on his blaster pistol, locked in a fresh one, and popped some more shots over the hill.

"What do you think? This mission was screwed from the start! I had no support, and I was taking on an Imperial garrison by myself. I may be real good, but I'm not invincible."

"Great, just great. Never send a droid in to do a Rebel's job..." the operative mumbled.

"Hey, I'm as much a Rebel as anyone fighting in this war. Just because I'm mechanical doesn't make me any less of a fighter, thinker, or planner. I can accomplish any job asked of me, and the difference is, I do it with little regard for my own safety... with exceptions, of course. Besides, I joined this cause by my own free will. I'm getting paid for this stunt, and that's all that matters."

"Is that all that matters? Money?"

I just stared at him, letting him come up with his own response to that question.

Now...

"Oh, I got out of that situation eventually. Pretty easily, in fact. Now thereís a tale for a later date..." Syntax said, drawing a chorus of moans from the other pilots. "Of course, I changed from being a money-loving merc eventually," Syntax continued. "I got my pay raise as well, and successfully transferred out of the Infiltrators and into the Alliance's starfighter unit, where I joined Corsair Squadron as you all know. The rest, as they say, is history."

"Not bad, not bad," Mighty said as he rose from his chair. The other pilots began to follow suit behind him. "Pretty good for a first time. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of telling tales... eventually."

"So... you worked as a war machine?" Hellcat asked, sipping his second refill since the beginning of Syntax's story.

"Not exactly... I may be programmed with combat subroutines, but I in no way, shape, or form condone war. I simply find it as a... necessary evil sometimes, like in the case of the Empire's attempts to wipe out the Rebellion."

"Well, I think we've all had enough for one night," Jalb_k, Corsair Lead, said. "We'll continue this some other night."

"There's nothing more to tell," Syntax replied.

"Oh, sure there is. You mentioned that operation on Kothlis. You'll have to...elaborate on that some other night, TinSkin."

"Yes... some other night, I suppose."

"And if you don't, the D.I.R.T. will come from above and strike you down without mercy," Vidster warned as he left the room, followed by a few other pilots.

"I'll take that into consideration," Syntax said as he left the Lounge and went off to his quarters. He glanced out one of the viewports he passed on the way to his "broom closet," as the other pilots had termed it. He stared out into the endless myriad of stars, extending forever into nothingness. He had seen the stars many times before, from his time as a servant when telling bedtime stories to the Danilson sons, to his time as a merc, evading capture, to the time with the Infiltrators, rocketing away from another successful operation ma transport of some kind. However, when he looked out this time, he saw more. I'm part of something larger here, Syntax thought to himself. Now others rely on me, and not the other way around. I think I'm gonna like this piloting thing. Syntax continued off to his closet.