Saga MMM Challenge- "Speak to Me/Breathe" - 4-LOM reflects on things

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by TrakNar, Nov 5, 2012.

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  1. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Title: "Speak to Me/Breathe"
    Author: Trak Nar
    Genre: Slice-of-life mush
    Characters: 4-LOM, Zuckuss, Toryn Farr (mentioned only)
    Summary: 4-LOM reflects on the actions that led to their joining the Rebel Alliance and his partnership with Zuckuss.
    Timeframe: Just after the events in Of Possible Futures

    Author's note: I still can't think of a title, other than "Reflections," but that's too clichéd for my taste. Got a title.

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    The evening had passed as 4-LOM accessed his internal chronometer. He was seated at Zuckuss's bedside, reading to the Gand. Toryn Farr had told him repeatedly that 4-LOM should talk to him, as Zuckuss would benefit from hearing his voice. Though, the droid still questioned that logic; Zuckuss was asleep. He had been kept under heavy sedation since the surgery that restored his damaged lungs; he was not aware of anything. How would speaking to him help? He could not respond in kind and he would heal at the same rate regardless.

    Though, 4-LOM had to acknowledge that Zuckuss's pulse would quicken and his blood pressure would increase slightly whenever the droid would announce his presence. Toryn told him that Zuckuss was responding to him. Was he? Were these elevations in his vital signs Zuckuss's way of a reply? It was not a dramatic increase in activity, as the rates were still within acceptable range for a body at rest, but it was enough of an increase to cause the monitoring devices to sound a short alarm. A small, yet sudden jump in heartrate.

    4-LOM studied his sleeping partner. Eyes closed, his respiration precise and measured, Zuckuss slept soundly. At some point, his head had tilted towards 4-LOM's direction, but the droid had not registered the movement. Standing, 4-LOM carefully readjusted the positions of Zuckuss's arms and legs, so as to prevent any formation of pressure sores and to improve circulation by muscle stimulation. Adjusting the bedclothes and making sure that no tubes were kinked, 4-LOM sat down again. He moved his gaze to the book on the table. He could read some more. He was nearly half-way through the book. He idly wondered if Zuckuss would remember being read to after he woke up...

    "Zuckuss," 4-LOM turned his head unit to face the Gand, "if you can hear me, I'm working on being better able to communicate with you. It is difficult, you see, as for the time being, you cannot respond in kind, so accurate communication cannot take place. However, I am working to improve that." He practiced talking to himself, usually when he was alone. He would begin by asking questions, and then calculating what he assumed would be Zuckuss's most appropriate response, and then progress from there. He logged the one-sided conversation and then studied it further to learn from it and improve the program. "I've completed a basic program, and I keep looking for ways to improve upon it. What do you think?"

    4-LOM paused for a moment as he calculated several possible responses and then picked the most appropriate. "It may come in handy, yes. For you see, I would be better able to gauge the reactions of others. Perhaps implement it toward intuition. Is that part of how you do it? Gauge the responses of others before they even act?"

    Again, he paused to formulate what Zuckuss would possibly say. "Well, if not, it would certainly be a beneficial skill, and it may prove useful for my goal. I do not have intuition like you, I need to learn it, and I need to do so using different methods. However, I am getting closer."

    4-LOM allowed the subject to dangle as he watched Zuckuss sleep. It was a sound sleep, a comfortable sleep. Zuckuss did not wheeze or cough, his breathing was quiet, save for the hiss of ammonia through the tube of the face mask. There was no rattle in his chest, nor did his breathing sound labored. Just a rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, no struggling whatsoever. It was a nice change from before, when Zuckuss was in the ravages of injury and illness.

    Without so much as a conscious decision, 4-LOM reached up and carefully took Zuckuss's hand in his. He readjusted his body so as to better face the Gand, and he lowered the volume of his vocabulator. "On our way to Darlyn Boda, when you had that attack... I had never seen you cough up so much blood... nor was it that dramatic. And your condition declined from there..." He paused, taking a moment to better formulate his words. "I had to help you... somehow. That was why I brought you the Ankarres Sapphire." He paused again as his voice dropped. "Nothing the other droids were doing was working. The sapphire was my last option... It had to help. I had calculated the odds for your survival... and they were low. I feared that I would lose you."

    He let the words hang in the air for a moment. They had been business partners for years. 4-LOM had originally teamed with Zuckuss at the behest of Jabba the Hutt. Then, came his goal of learning intuition so as to better himself as a hunter. Over the years, though, throughout their many assignments, 4-LOM had come to look upon Zuckuss as his ward. Unbeknownst to him, in order to complete assignments and maintain autonomy in certain jurisdictions, the droid had gone as far as to name Zuckuss as his owner. And when Zuckuss was injured, 4-LOM became even more protective of the Gand. He had to admit to himself, as he studied his reactions and fears for Zuckuss's safety... 4-LOM cared about him. And he was not about to let Zuckuss go.

    One of the monitors emitted a beep, which brought 4-LOM out of his reflection. His gaze moved to the monitor and he assessed the readout. He looked to Zuckuss in order to determine why his heartrate was slightly elevated.

    The Gand's eyes open a sliver, Zuckuss returned 4-LOM's gaze. Slowly and softly, he squeezed the droid's hand. He held his gaze for a moment longer, a hint of a weak, tired smile behind his mask, before he closed his eyes and fell back into a deep sleep.

    4-LOM nodded and gripped Zuckuss's hand. He didn't need to calculate anything. He understood the response perfectly.
    Last edited by TrakNar, Nov 6, 2012
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  2. Alexis_Wingstar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2006
    star 4
    Cool response. :)

    You could name the story "Elevated Intuition"
  3. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Hm... that title is tempting...

    Goodwood suggested a title, though. Even though it's a title of a Pink Floyd song. Hey, it works, as it is in the same vein of titles that I like; be they puns, plays on phrases, etc.
    Last edited by TrakNar, Nov 6, 2012
  4. Alexis_Wingstar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2006
    star 4
    Yes, it is a good title, and nothing wrong with Pink Floyd.
  5. jedi_of_ennth Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2005
    star 4
    Very well-written vignette. I love that you've explored the dynamic between these characters, as that's rarely if ever done with Zuckuss and 4-LOM. You did a really good job with 4-LOM's thoughts, too, capturing his precision and slow realization of caring without being overly sentimental.
  6. Luminous beings are we... Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2013
    star 1
    This is such a hale vignette; I keep coming back to it.

    My knowledge of Zuckuss and 4-LOM is, I confess, a bare scrap. The first read through this story might've been tricky for me. Yet, your balance of the current scene with character background is such that not once did I feel lost, or smacked upside the head with exposition. I feel as though I'm finding something. And it's worth keeping.

    To boot: the copy is judiciously (deliciously) clean. Proper spellings. Sound punctuation.

    Sigh of bliss. Save Bookmark.

    I applaud you, @TrakNar. I hope I may learn from you.
    TrakNar likes this.
  7. serendipityaey Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2004
    star 4
    Very nice vignette, great writing
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  8. Findswoman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 27, 2014
    star 4
    Been meaning to comment in this for a while (which I hope is still ok even though it was first posted a while ago now). @TrakNar, lovely, poignant vignette about these two old friends—it takes me back to the poignant moments of "Of Possible Futures." I too like the way you trace the evolution of 4-LOM's responses to Zuckuss's condition, from the droid-like calculation at the beginning to something much warmer at the end. Just the right level of "mush" (I see this was a MMM contribution)! :)

    One question—and this is admittedly a minor detail, but still something I've long wondered about: what form does a a "smile" take in a species that presumably has blocky, chitinous, insectoid mandibles (e.g., like those in that Japanese Ooryl drawing)? I know M. Shayne Bell uses the word too, but I'm curious on your take as both a Gand specialist and someone with real-life knowledge of insects.

    Again, wonderful work—bravissima!
    Last edited by Findswoman, Apr 14, 2014
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  9. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    In terms of the story, it was more of an implied expression, something that 4-LOM recognized. Like when your cat gives you that contented half-lidded gaze; not a true smile but an implied one. In terms of mechanics... I'm thinking just a widening of the mandibles with a lowering of the labium ("floor" or "chin") to approximate a humanoid smile (quite possible, due to various images of "smiling" mantises I've seen). In terms of a true Gand smile... I haven't thought about that yet, as I was concentrating more on how to emote to humans in an understandable manner for the sake of doing business with them.
    Last edited by TrakNar, Apr 14, 2014
  10. Findswoman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 27, 2014
    star 4
    Different expressions and gestures for interspecies vs. intraspecies interactions? Sounds like an interesting idea, and I seem to have remember seeing a bit of this with Ooryl—at one point in I, Jedi he shrugs, but "it wasn't a motion natural to him and his exoskeleton clicked in protest." (p. 17), and just before that he opens his mouthparts to apes Corran's smile (p. 16). There's a bunch of interesting expressive things done with mouthparts in the various books by Stackpole, as I recall.

    Of course, this also raises the question of whether humans working in an environment where they're the minority species would be expected to alter their own expressions and gestures to be understood by those species. Obviously a human working among Bothans has no fur that can ripple in patterns related to emotions, nor would a human working for Rodians be able to secrete the strongly scented pheromones with which the Rodians sometimes express themselves—or would they have to find some way of approximating that, just as Ooryl tries to approximate Corran's smile? Should other species always be expected to conform to the gestural norms of the majority species, or not? But perhaps that's a better discussion for the infamous "Diversity" thread. ;)

    As to Gand facial expressions: at one point a friend and I made a little catalogue of various mandibular motions and sounds and the emotions they might represent. IIRC, we had clicks expressing happiness or pleasure, functioning sometimes as laughter; clacks, sadness or resignation; grinding, anger or frustration; and mandibles popping fully open in surprise. We also gave them three nested pairs of mandibles (inner, middle, and outer—I may have the diagram somewhere), though I'm not sure we got as far as coming up with which pairs made exactly which sounds. Eventually, though...

    Incidentally, the way you have Zuckuss's eyes "open a sliver" toward the end definitely seems very reminiscent of a cat's "contented, half-lidded gaze"—intentionally, or otherwise? :)
  11. AzureAngel2 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    He´s back, the man behind the mask

    *is weirdly reminded of an old Alice Cooper song

    Always loved your Zuckuss approach! ^:)^
    Findswoman likes this.
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