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. --------------------------------------------------------------------- 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.