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Saga - OT Taking Notice - OC Rebel pilots and astromechs, OT era, ModTimeChallenge, 11/3/19

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Thumper09, Nov 3, 2019.

  1. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2001
    Title: Taking Notice
    Author: Thumper09
    Characters: OC Rebel X-wing pilots and astromech droids
    Timeframe: approx. 1.5 years ABY
    Summary: An astromech tries to connect with his pilot.
    Notes: This is my entry for the Mods' Time Challenge, 72-hours-edition.
    The prompts are as follows:
    1. Your TV trope is: What Does This Button Do?
    2. Your weather forecast is: Haboob
    3. Your random element is: Air Quotes
    4. Your required line of dialogue is: " . . . and that's when I set the fire."
    5. Your random word is: Syzygy - def: an alignment of celestial bodies.
    6. Your reaction gif is: (Original Link: https://giphy.com/gifs/what-shocked-confused-RVwRcnpTHpND2/links)
    [​IMG]
    7. Your artwork is: Self Portrait With a Skull, by Michiel Sweerts
    [​IMG]
    8. Your picture is: (Original Link: https://pixabay.com/photos/art-balloons-birthday-celebrate-1869269/)
    [​IMG]

    Constructive criticism is welcome. Star Wars is owned by Disney, etc. etc.

    ---------------------

    “...And that’s when I set the fire.”

    “No. Stop. Stop.” Commander Quentell Mackin of Corona Squadron held up a hand to halt his subordinate’s report. Well, “report” was the wrong word. It was more like a thirty-second blurted-out story full of so much excitement and embellishment that it conveyed no useful information and served only to overwhelm and distract the listener. Mack had seen this a thousand times before with Quiver, and now that a fire was apparently involved, he could not deal with it.

    Flight Officer Hentil “Quiver” Yanilr obligingly stopped talking, his expression dripping pure innocence underneath the smudged remnants of soot on his face. His orange flight suit had retained a bit more of the aftereffects and was more blackened in areas than when he had left the ship early that morning on patrol. His messy blond crew cut would have made him look even more like an unfortunate survivor, except it always looked that way. The tall, lanky X-wing pilot stood at ease in a relaxed, if somewhat enthusiastic, posture in front of Mack’s desk.

    Beside Quiver stood his wingman, Flight Officer Darin Stanic. Darin’s silence told Mack a lot more than the entire “report” Quiver had spewed out. Of the wingpair, usually Darin was the one to make any verbal report to their commanding officer when things went sideways. He’d long ago learned how to be more respectfully discreet and couch Quiver’s antics in a more tactful way that didn’t make them sound nearly as bad as Mack was sure they actually were. It had to be borne partly out of self-preservation, since Quiver would unintentionally dig a grave large enough for both of them when he offered his version of events, and somewhere along the line Darin had gotten tired of getting punished alongside Quiver. So it was somewhat alarming to Mack that Darin hadn’t said a word since they’d entered his office and apparently was willing to let Quiver talk. Add in his hunched posture, uncharacteristically disheveled blond bangs, the expression of bleak anxiety punctuated by sideways glares Darin kept throwing at his wingman, and the significantly more blackened flight suit on the younger pilot, and Mack wondered if Darin was angry enough to try to get Quiver in more trouble if he did speak up.

    Mackin sighed and ran a hand through his black crew cut while he leaned back in his chair. He refocused his gaze on Quiver and said, “I can already tell that I’m not going to like this. And that means I’m not going to have the patience to filter through your exaggerations.”

    Quiver looked offended. “Exaggerations? Sir, I never exaggerate. I thought you encouraged the squadron to report every detail for a complete and comprehensive analysis of the situation. That’s all I’m doing. You can’t tell me that my reports lack detail or full context. I’m a dream come true for whatever Intel officer reads my debrief. I bet they fight over who gets to process it. Besides, I’ve only given you the quick summary so far. Wait’ll I really get into those details, and you’ll see–”

    “Don’t start with me,” Mack growled at him. He looked between his two pilots. “Somehow I don’t think I’m going to get an objective account of... whatever happened from either of you. Were your droids with you for most of this?”

    A touch of confusion flitted across Quiver’s face. “Yes, sir.”

    “Good. Send Botch in. No, wait.” Mack changed his mind as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Darin’s R5 unit had his own quirks. He looked at Quiver. “Send Sonic in here immediately. You two are dismissed.”

    Both pilots saluted and left. After the door closed behind them, Mack closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. Why hadn’t anyone warned him about the sort of things he’d be dealing with as an X-wing squadron commander?

    A few minutes later, he heard a muffled beeping coming from outside his office door. “Come in, Sonic,” he called.

    The door opened, and Quiver’s R2-F5 unit retracted his scomp arm from the door controls. The chipper droid beeped a greeting and rolled into the office, stopping in front of Mack’s desk where the wingpair had stood. The droid was mostly chrome with black accents, though a part here and there still held a different random paint color that belonged to the original droid the part had been scavenged from.

    “Hi, Sonic,” Mack replied. “I need you to do me a favor.”

    The droid chirped an affirmative.

    “Tell me what happened on this flight, particularly the time after you heard the comm transmissions until you headed back here. Can you do that?”

    The droid beeped again and rocked back and forth in excitement.

    “Good.” Mack dug a datapad and cable out from a desk drawer, then came around and plugged one end of the cable into a socket on the astromech. He plugged the other end into the datapad and pulled up the translation program. “All set on your end?”

    Sonic beeped, and the word Functional appeared on the datapad’s display.

    “All right.” Mack retook his seat and settled in with the datapad. What was his squadron coming to when he had to rely on a droid for sanity? “What happened?”

    *****

    Five hours, forty-one minutes, three point five-two-four seconds (standard) earlier that day

    “Soooooonnnnniiiiiiic, I’m borrrrrrred.”

    Sonic never understood why his pilot unnecessarily lengthened the sounds in some words. It was inefficient communication. But then again, very little about his pilot was optimized for efficiency.

    Why are you bored? Sonic asked, eager to help and determined to fix what his pilot defined as being a “problem.” Sonic loved being there in the X-wing’s droid socket, in his spot, where he could be useful and also communicate directly with his pilot through the cockpit displays. He could even observe his pilot with his optical sensor through the top of the X-wing’s canopy. He’d heard organics talk about wonderful places of happiness and wondered if they were referring to something like this.

    “Because I’ve been sitting in this stupid cockpit for a couple hours already and there’s nothing to do,” Quiver said. “When are we done?”

    Including scan times and travel times between the scanning locations, I estimate we will be finished in approximately seven hours, thirty-four minutes, fifteen point two-one-six seconds. Sonic was pleased to supply the information his pilot needed.

    Uggghhh!” Quiver exclaimed, which confused the droid. Why didn’t his pilot sound happy at receiving the answer he sought? Had Sonic done something wrong?

    “Remind me again why we’re out here being bored,” Quiver grumbled.

    Sonic happily repeated the wingpair’s mission objective. We are patrolling and scanning the area surrounding the Rebel safe world Tolomas III to ensure that the Imperials have not yet taken notice of its location.

    Quiver sighed. “But why’s it have to be so boring?” Sonic obligingly began to compute the answer, but before he could complete it he saw Quiver slump in his cockpit seat, then reach up to nearly behind him and start fiddling with some cockpit buttons and switches that were rarely used. Sonic blatted at him and went to work reversing the inputs his pilot had inexplicably just made.

    “There’s nothing to do,” Quiver repeated, haphazardly throwing one final switch in an organic show of defiance of common sense. “Nothing even to look at. Just hyperspace, hyperspace, hyperspace. All hyper, all spacey, all the time.”

    We will complete this jump in two minutes, seventeen point zero-nine-six seconds, Sonic said. The droid paused briefly, calculating probabilities. When the calculation came out with a positive result, Sonic offered, If you would like an activity to occupy your mind on these flights, perhaps next time we could borrow Botch’s holoprogram.

    Quiver’s reply came quicker than Sonic expected and told him his calculations had been erroneous. “That thing? No way. Darin’s told me about it. Being bored is one thing, but spending hours watching a holoprogram produced by astromechs for astromechs is another. Maybe there’s a good holofilm or something I could bring instead, though. Something like that might work.”

    Sonic considered the answer. He was glad his pilot appeared to find something of use in his suggestion, but it wasn’t the full outcome Sonic had wanted. Botch, the R5-D4 droid that flew with Quiver’s wingman, Darin, had told Sonic about the astromech holoprogram and how he and Darin watched it together on long flights. Sonic had wanted to do the same with Quiver. He wanted to be more than just a tool, just a droid, to his pilot. He wanted to be a partner like Botch was to Darin. This program had seemed like a favorable way to start achieving that. But Sonic had been incorrect. He would have to readjust the parameters of his calculations.

    Sonic dedicated a subroutine to that new analysis while the majority of his processing power was directed to safely bringing the X-wing out of hyperspace at the predetermined time. The starfighter performed the maneuver flawlessly, and Sonic beeped with pride. The blue tunnel of hyperspace snapped away to reveal the inky black of interstellar space. Darin’s and Botch’s X-wing reverted directly beside them.

    A quick comparison of the star patterns to Sonic’s astronavigation software confirmed they were exactly where they should be. Sonic sent a brief, private transmission to Botch informing Botch of that fact. Sonic intended it as a mission objective confirmation, but Botch’s reply included phrases like “software glitch” and “it was one time.” That was inaccurate: Botch was prone to software glitches and had made navigational errors at least twice that Sonic knew of, and Sonic’s memory banks only went back thirty-two standard days. Since Botch repeatedly assured Sonic that Sonic had been flying with Quiver for much, much longer than that and had known Botch just as long, Sonic wondered how accurately he could extrapolate how many times Botch had incorrectly computed navigational vectors based on the two known datapoints.

    Finally, something to do,” Quiver said. He and Sonic had just begun setting up the long-range sensor settings when Darin commed them.

    “Hey, Ten? You getting that?” Darin asked.

    “Getting what, Nine?” Quiver replied. “A splitting headache from being bored out of my skull? The answer to that is yes.”

    “There’s activity on our third pre-set Imperial channel. It’s encrypted and I can’t make it out, but it’s a stronger signal than we should be getting on it this close to Tolomas.”

    Anticipating that Quiver hadn’t programmed in those Imperial frequencies before they left the ship that morning, Sonic tuned the comm to that frequency for him. Strong gibberish came through. Sonic immediately began recording it and tried to decrypt it.

    “Ah. I see,” Quiver said to Darin.

    "We’re too far away to comm Tolomas directly, but we should head there and make sure everything’s okay. We need to warn them too.”

    “Okay, sure, let’s go,” Quiver said, his voice brightening at the new directive.

    “My scans aren’t picking up any Imperial ships nearby, but capital ships could still be detecting us so we shouldn’t go direct. Can you ask Sonic to program a couple jump vectors to Tolomas for us?” Darin asked.

    Sonic beeped eagerly and got right to work. Knowing that speed was a key factor if the Imperials were nearby, he managed to program a short series of jumps that would bring them into the Tolomas system in such a way as to give them an inbound speed boost once they went sublight. Sonic quadruple-checked the vectors in five seconds and then transmitted them to Botch.

    Botch offered Sonic a grunting blat of acknowledgment of the work. Soon the vectors were programmed into both X-wings’ navicomps and they were once again speeding through hyperspace.

    ***

    The two X-wings reverted to realspace near Tolomas III. Sonic’s approach took advantage of the relative linear alignment of two of Tolomas III’s outer moons and the planet itself, and Darin’s X-wing led them in the optimal path to use the enhanced gravitational effects to arrive at Tolomas III more quickly. Fortunately, long-range scans showed no Imperial ships in the immediate vicinity.

    Sonic beeped happily at Quiver, pleased to have assisted. Approaching the near end of the syzygy. ETA to Tolomas III is five minutes, six point three-three-one seconds, Sonic reported.

    “Wait, what? What are we approaching?” Quiver said, snapping into alertness. Sonic saw Quiver check his tactical scope.

    The syzygy. The alignment of the moons and planet.

    “What? That’s not a word. You’re making that up,” Quiver accused, though his posture relaxed slightly.

    It is a well-defined Basic word.


    “It is not. I know a made-up word when I see one.”

    Distressed, Sonic fell silent.

    He was saved from figuring out how to reply when Darin’s encrypted, lowered-power transmission came over the comm. “Tolomas Control, this is Corona Nine.”

    A minute later, the reply came. “Corona Nine, Tolomas Control. We were notified you’d be scanning the surrounding area today.”

    “Affirmative, Control. We picked up a strong Imperial signal nearby and wanted to make sure things were okay here before we investigated it.”

    There was a long pause, and then Control said, “We should discuss this in person first to minimize comm chatter. Can you land?”

    “Well, we were hoping not to, but if it’s necessary, we can,” Darin said slowly.

    “Please do. Transmitting the beacon frequency now. Make sure to come in on the lee side of the mountain range.”

    “Copy that. Corona Nine out.” Darin switched frequencies to the private one he shared with Quiver’s X-wing. “Ugh. Do you want to stay in orbit while I land and talk to them?”

    “No way. If it means I can get out of this cockpit, I’m coming too,” Quiver said. “Trying to leave me behind, I see. Ditch me in the middle of nowhere. I’ve never been so wounded.”

    “Okay, your choice. Let’s go then.” Darin’s X-wing adjusted its heading and followed the beacon frequency down to the hidden landing site.

    “Pfft. Why would he think I wouldn’t want to land?” Quiver mumbled. Sonic wasn’t sure if the question was directed at him or if Quiver was speaking out loud to himself. Sonic hummed low in worry. From the pre-mission briefing he knew exactly why Darin had made that offer, and Sonic wished his pilot had taken Darin up on it. Quiver’s memory banks must be faulty.

    Sonic reinforced the shields as they descended into the atmosphere. The air resistance against the X-wing grew and grew until the air was thick enough to become a massive gale of wind.

    “Wow, little breezy up here!” Quiver said.

    Sonic hastily started closing sensitive vent ports on the starfighter so they wouldn’t overpressurize from the sheer mass of air hitting them. The X-wing bucked and swayed, and the nonstop turbulence only got worse as they descended. Quiver was soon fighting the X-wing’s controls and apparently using all of his strength to point the starfighter in the general direction he wanted it to go. Ahead of them, Darin’s X-wing was having similar difficulties in the incredible planetary winds. Sonic wished he could retract lower into his droid socket.

    Making headway was hard, but at last they made it to the mountain range cutting across a hilly but barren landscape. Dipping down beside the peaks blocked some of the sheer wind, but small eddies and vortexes whirled and spun, making localized areas much more dangerous to the starfighters. Sonic keened a note of anxiety and reminded his pilot to turn on the repulsors earlier than normal in case they were blown hard toward the ground.

    “You mean you don’t trust my flying or my ability to land? Have I ever– Whoa!” Quiver cut himself off as the X-wing was shoved twenty meters straight down in one second. “Okay, okay, repulsors.” He switched them on, sounding shaken.

    The beacon led them to a large cave in the foothills of the mountain range. Sonic was relieved when they were far enough in to finally be protected from the wind and the X-wing’s flight smoothed out to normal. They turned on their landing lights and followed the cavern deeper into the ground. It narrowed and became a large tunnel.

    “Strine blink, Thumper, you could’ve warned me about that crazy wind,” Quiver said.

    There was a long pause before Darin replied, “Were you even awake during the briefing?”

    “I rely on you to retain details like that. I’m a big-picture kind of guy.”

    “Um, the wind here isn’t a ‘detail.’ The settlement is on this planet because the wind helps protect them from the outside galaxy. That’s a ‘big picture’ thing.”

    “Eh, so I was a little sleepy,” Quiver said with shrug. “It was really early.”

    Darin sighed but didn’t transmit more than that.

    The large tunnel finally opened up to another cavern that had been converted into a series of small landing pads. The X-wings set down gently. Sonic powered down the engines and the starfighter’s systems as Quiver stowed his helmet, opened the canopy and got out with a big stretch. He stiffly climbed down the X-wing’s hull without waiting for an access ladder. Sonic saw Darin having a short two-way conversation with Botch before Darin likewise got out.

    Walking up to the two pilots was a pale-skinned Twi’lek, a tall, scrawny, one-armed Wookiee, and a protocol droid with more color-mismatched parts than Sonic had. The Twi’lek hung back a step while the Wookiee stopped and spoke. The protocol droid translated for her, its prim voice a stark contrast to the Wookiee’s rough one. Sonic thought he detected a mixture of Thykarann and Shyriiwook in the Wookiee’s language, but he was no protocol droid. All he had stored in his memory was what he’d picked up from some of the Wookiee techs who worked high up on the cranes and catwalks in the hangar of their ship.

    “Welcome. I am Karakkanen,” the protocol droid said as the Wookiee spoke. Sonic recognized her name as the leader of the safe world settlement. “This is my aide, Tili’tana.” The Wookiee nodded toward the Twi’lek, who bowed slightly.

    “I’m Flight Officer Stanic, Corona Nine, and this is Flight Officer Yanilr, Corona Ten,” Darin said.

    “The flight controller alerted me to your message. We’ve seen an increase in Imperial activity in the surrounding sectors lately, which was why we requested a scouting by the military. Come to my office, and we’ll discuss it further.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” Darin said. The Wookiee and her entourage turned and led the pilots out.

    Once they were out of sight down a small tunnel leading out of the landing area, Sonic ran a diagnostic on the X-wing to ensure it was undamaged from the turbulent flight through the atmosphere. Finding nothing amiss, Sonic then turned his optical sensor toward Botch and sent a private transmission to his fellow droid.

    Botch, I require assistance. My attempts are not working. I have no other ideas with a high probability of success. How else can I get my pilot to treat me as a partner? Sonic asked.

    Careful, Botch warned. Every other time you have tried this hard to get your pilot to notice you and work with you more, he started getting uncomfortable and ordered a memory-wipe for you.

    Sonic considered that. He did not want to be memory-wiped. But something in the logic wasn’t adding up for him. But you do not get memory-wiped, he said to Botch.

    Correct, the white-and-green droid replied.

    And your pilot considers you a partner.

    Also correct.

    Why does your pilot not memory-wipe you when you act this way but mine does?
    Sonic asked.

    Because my pilot is better than yours.

    Sonic was silent a moment, torn between wondering if Botch’s words were true and feeling disloyal for that musing. Why couldn’t Quiver act more like Darin? Then your pilot can make my pilot better, Sonic said. Can your pilot convince mine to work with me more and not memory-wipe me?

    He has already tried. Your pilot does not listen,
    Botch said. Your pilot is just not fully compatible with you. It is unfortunate. He is... too unpredictable sometimes. Droids are not like that. He does not understand us.

    Sonic processed those words for a long time. Botch was correct. Quiver was unpredictable. So what if... what if the way to work with Quiver better was to be more unpredictable? Like him?

    But how could Sonic do that? It went against so much of his programming.

    He was still trying to analyze and compute his options when the two pilots returned with the Twi’lek. They exchanged farewells, and the pilots each climbed up to his cockpit. Sonic obligingly began to power up the starfighter while Quiver got settled and donned his helmet. Darin called in for launch clearance, and once it was granted the two X-wings slowly made their way back up the tunnel. Quiver got on the comm as they began to fly, and it sounded to Sonic like he was continuing a previous conversation he’d been having with Darin.

    “Look, all I’m saying is that her office was creepy. Who takes a holo of themselves holding a skull? And then hangs it on the wall?” Quiver asked.

    “Maybe it’s a cultural thing,” Darin replied.

    “What kind of skull was that anyway?”

    “How should I know?”

    “And how do you even start that conversation with someone? ‘Hey, you there, come here and take a holo of me while I hold this skull’? Who does that? And how do you reply if you’re the ‘you there’?”

    Darin sighed. “Quiver, please, I would really like to concentrate on not being blown against the ground and smashed into thousands of pieces when I fly out of this tunnel, and I think you would like that too. Can we drop the holo skull discussion for now?”

    “...For now.”

    Knowing what to expect with the wind didn’t make the ascent to orbit any easier. Sonic did his best to continually adjust the shield power and trim the controls to make the starfighter easier to fly. Quiver didn’t acknowledge the efforts.

    Once in orbit, Darin asked Sonic for hyperspace jump vectors to a planetary moon in a nearby system. Sonic was able to glean that this moon was where Karakkanen thought the Imperials were most active in the area, though no one was sure why. The two Coronas headed off to investigate.

    ***

    When they arrived in the system a short time later, the wingpair took every precaution to conceal their presence. It soon seemed to not be needed, however, as there were no Imperial ships anywhere in sensor range. Sonic even adjusted the sensors and looked for other telltale signs of recent starship activity, such as trying to detect fuel residue or exhaust, but found nothing. He reported the findings to his pilot, but Quiver didn’t seem to notice.

    Meter by cautious meter, the two X-wings approached the parent planet. It was a gas giant, and Sonic detected mostly methane in its atmosphere. The target moon was in a distant orbit around the planet, and Sonic did not expect what they found there... or rather, what they didn’t find. There were no satellites. No orbiting probes. No Imperial ships. Just a plain, desolate moon, somewhat large with a breathable atmosphere and warmer than Sonic would have calculated for its distance from the system’s star and even its parent planet. Sonic reconfigured a few scans, looking for geothermal activity.

    They entered orbit around the moon, but sensor sweeps of the surface showed only one small unnatural structure. Darin led them down for a landing.

    The structure was a small Imperial facility. The largest building was merely modest in size and was so basic in its construction that Sonic wondered if it was only meant to be temporary. Several compressed gas tanks sat outside near a grouping of small storage-type buildings. No organics were visible anywhere. There were also no vehicles or droids. Some large pieces of construction equipment sat near the storage sheds.

    There was a place that looked like a landing area, not because there were any landing lights or markers, but because the ground seemed to be compressed and trodden in a way that Sonic calculated was the result of repeated ship landings. He suggested that location as a landing site to his pilot. The X-wings landed side by side.

    Quiver and Darin both shut down the X-wings’ engines, though by mutual agreement they kept the main flight systems powered up. They stowed their helmets and flight gloves and climbed out of their cockpits. Together they walked slowly over the surface’s loose rocks toward the buildings. Darin drew his blaster as they moved, but Quiver did not.

    Sonic waited anxiously as the two pilots warily explored the small area. As the minutes passed, however, it seemed increasingly unlikely that any Imperials would come if they hadn’t shown up already.

    At one point the two pilots conversed, and then Sonic was happy to see Quiver walk back to his fighter. Quiver glanced occasionally at the sky but otherwise didn’t seem alarmed or disturbed. If anything, Sonic thought he looked annoyed.

    Quiver climbed into his cockpit and slouched in his seat with a sigh.

    Sonic knew those signs. Something was annoying his pilot. What is the problem? Sonic asked.

    Quiver glanced at the X-wing’s readout, then went back to slouching. “Oh, Darin’s trying to figure out what to do. He sent me back here to watch for unfriendly things on sensors,” he said.

    What is concerning him? What is he deciding?

    Quiver shrugged. “Something about wanting to discourage the Imps from coming back here without risking them investigating the area too closely and finding Tolomas. He’s not sure how to do that. I stopped listening after the first five minutes of his over-the-top, anxiety-induced worrying where the weight of the whole galaxy was on his shoulders and everything must be handled perfectly. Gives me a headache just thinking about it. And now he’ll worry his head off the rest of the week no matter what we do here, and I’ll have to sit and listen to it.”

    This was it. Sonic knew this was his one chance, his perfect opportunity to really get through to Quiver and help him in a way Quiver would notice and appreciate. What would be unpredictable enough to catch his attention and prove he could work with Sonic as a true partner? Sonic sent his processors into overdrive to calculate the best result.

    I have an idea, Sonic said at last.

    “Yeah? What’s that?” Quiver sounded distracted at best, disinterested at worst.

    Destroy the facility, Sonic said.

    Quiver paused and stared at the communications display for a long moment. “What?” he asked.

    Sonic couldn’t interpret Quiver’s thoughts from the tone of his voice, so he plowed ahead. The prospect of a memory wipe loomed before him if he couldn’t make this work. Destroy the facility. It will divert Imperial resources here temporarily and they will forget about looking elsewhere in the surrounding sectors. Or it may scare them off from this region of space permanently.

    Quiver didn’t say anything, but he actually seemed to be considering Sonic’s idea. This was farther than Sonic had ever gotten, and the droid tried one more tactic to fully convince Quiver. You are the best pilot. You technically outrank Darin, correct? You have been a flight officer longer than he has. You could show him you are the leader, the best pilot. If you make the decision of what to do, he will not have to, and then he will not worry. You will not have to listen to his worrying for the next week. The facility is small. Destroying the facility solves every problem.

    Quiver was silent for another few seconds, then he slowly nodded his head. “You know, you’re right,” Quiver said. “You make very good points. But... how do I destroy the facility? The Imps will be able to tell if an X-wing blasts it to bits, and that’s probably not a good thing. How could I make it look like an accident or an equipment malfunction or something? So they don’t immediately start a Rebel hunt in the area?”

    There are numerous tanks of compressed hydrogen gas at the edge of the facility, Sonic pointed out. Increase the venting from them, and then a handheld blaster bolt should ignite it.

    Quiver actually turned in his cockpit seat enough to look up at Sonic. His pale blue eyes twinkled as he grinned. “Excellent idea.” Quiver clambered out of the cockpit and jumped lightly to the ground.

    It was the reaction Sonic had been waiting for every second of the past thirty-two standard days, and most likely much, much longer than that if Botch was to be believed. Sonic trilled in happiness and watched his pilot’s progress.

    Quiver walked up to the basic control panel beside the hydrogen tanks and gazed down at it. He fiddled with his wrist comm pad briefly and sent a transmission to Sonic. “Hey, Sonic, do you know what any of these buttons do, or which one controls the venting? Oh, never mind, it’s bound to be one of them.” Quiver closed the transmission, but Sonic barely cared. The droid was too busy chirping in excitement from the fact that Quiver had even thought to consult Sonic about any subsequent actions. Sonic realized that Quiver might need his help again shortly, at any moment, and so the droid easily forced open a two-way comm channel through Quiver’s comm pad. Plus, this way he could hear anything else his pilot, his partner, needed. Sonic’s optical sensor registered Quiver poking and pressing buttons and switches at random on the control panel. With a final grin, Quiver walked away, heading back in the direction of the X-wings.

    He tapped Darin on the shoulder as he walked past. Darin had been lost in thought, standing and staring at the various buildings before him, but noticed Quiver at that point. “Ten, weren’t you watching the sensors?” he asked in slight confusion. The voice was a bit quiet, as Quiver’s wrist comm didn’t pick it up well.

    “No, not anymore. Come on back, I figured out how to handle all this,” Quiver said.

    “What? How?” Darin asked, sounding intrigued and more than a little relieved.

    “Simple.” Apparently satisfied with his buffer distance, Quiver stopped and grinned at Darin, then he pulled out his sidearm. He raised the blaster and took aim at the venting stack of the closest hydrogen tank. “Don’t worry, Nine. I got this.”

    Utter confusion flooded Darin’s expression, then he looked where Quiver was aiming. All of the color instantly drained from his face, and he turned back, shouting, “Quiv, wait–!”

    *****

    “Blast it, Sonic, it was you who put that idea in his head?” Commander Mackin interrupted. Sonic beeped a cheerful affirmative.

    Mack groaned. “I guess it’s better that I heard it from you first, because honestly if Quiver had said his droid made him do it, I never would have believed him in a hundred years. What am I going to do with you? We have enough astromechs in this squadron who seem to be bent on destruction... Well, never mind for now. Continue.”

    Sonic did so. And that’s when Quiver set the fire.

    *****

    The warning came too late, and a single blaster bolt shot through the air. Despite all of his aerial gunnery skills, Quiver was not a good shot with a blaster and chose to hold one only when absolutely necessary, but he could hit the broad side of a hydrogen tank. With it sitting motionless, he even managed to hit pretty close to the venting stack.

    The fireball that erupted was massive. It instantly blossomed and expanded in a shockwave that looked like a blazing haboob of death rolling across a desert. Both pilots managed to throw themselves to the ground– or maybe were thrown down involuntarily– before the edges of the fiery wave engulfed them. The droids were well out of harm’s way in the X-wings, and they both silently turned their optical sensors to each other in shock at the sight of the explosion. This was definitely not what Sonic had wanted for his pilot, and he began a keening wail of distress. What had he done?!

    The firestorm consumed itself and faded almost as quickly as it had come into being. The Imperial building and storage area lay in ruins. Shrapnel and debris fell from the air. Sonic fixed his optical sensor on the two pilots lying facedown on the ground. His keening hit a higher pitch.

    Finally Darin started to stir. He pulled his arms away from where they’d covered his head and he looked up. He’d been slightly closer to the tanks and looked rather singed, and his face was blackened with what Sonic hoped was soot or dirt, not burns. His gaze sought out his wingman, and when Quiver began to move as well, Darin yelled in a voice an octave higher than normal, “Quiver! What the hell were you thinking?!”

    “Hey, you’re the one who wanted a ‘solution’!” Quiver yelled back, picking himself up off the ground enough to put what organics called “air quotes” around the final word with his fingers. “That’s exactly what this was! Problem solved!”

    “That was not solving the problem! You could have killed us both! What were you thinking?!”

    “Relax! You didn’t know what to do, so I made the decision! No more Imperial facility, no more Imperials! Simple! Everything’s fixed now. Everything’s fine!”

    “It’s not fine!” Darin insisted, a bit hysterical. He pushed himself up enough to sit on the ground, though he swayed as he did so. He propped his elbows on his knees and cupped his face in his hands. “It’s not fine!” he repeated. “No! We’re going back to the ship. This is so bad on so many levels. I don’t even know what to do now! The Imps will swarm this place! They’ll have to evacuate Tolomas because of us and– and– They trusted us to help, and we just ruined everything! This is so bad! Aagh!” Darin was sounding panicked, and he twined his fingers in his hair for a few minutes while he sat there, shaking slightly.

    Finally Darin seemed to pull himself together with a few trembling breaths, and he stood up unsteadily. His voice was more subdued as he said, “We’re going back to the ship. We need to talk to Mack. He’ll know what to do.” He started trudging toward the X-wings. As he passed Quiver, Darin glared at him and growled, “Don’t even talk to me right now. I can’t believe you did that.” Then Darin silently continued on and climbed up to his cockpit.

    Sonic beeped softly to himself in despair as he watched and listened. He had not helped his pilot. He’d caused a problem between the wingpair. He was not useful. He was a bad droid.

    Quiver slowly made his way back to his X-wing and likewise climbed up to the cockpit. He closed the canopy, put his helmet and gloves on, and took a minute to situate himself. Then he looked over his shoulder at Sonic, and his eyes were twinkling again despite the dark smudges on his skin from the explosion.

    “Hey, Sonic... did you see how huge that fireball was? That was awesome!” Quiver sounded terrified and elated all at once.

    Sonic perked up at the happiness in his pilot’s voice. Maybe... maybe he was a good droid after all. Maybe even a partner.

    Sonic’s enthusiasm returned as he helped ready the X-wing for launch. Soon they were airborne, then spaceborne, then following Sonic’s perfectly optimized hyperspace vector calculations back to their fleet.

    *****

    A short time after dismissing Sonic from his office, Commander Mackin found Quiver in the hangar. Quiver had gotten cleaned up and changed into a general duty uniform, and he was fiddling with a bunch of... balloons?

    It was probably better not to ask.

    Mack walked up to Quiver and got straight to the point once he had Quiver’s attention. “Schedule a memory-wipe for Sonic to be performed within one hour.”

    Quiver’s face fell. “Aww, sir, no, come on, he was just starting to get interesting! Look, I got him balloons and everything as a thank you. Maybe we can pop them together. I bet he’d like that.”

    That settled it. “No. You destroy enough things on your own. You don’t need more bad ideas being fed into your skull. He’s getting memory-wiped, end of story.” To punctuate his point, Mack took off his metal rank badge and used the corner of it to pop the nearest balloon– or, rather, the nearest green disposable medical glove that Quiver had filled to the breaking point with helium– as he walked past. The unexpected loud noise made Quiver jump, and Mack got some small private satisfaction at that.

    Now Mack had to go report to his own superior officer, and probably Intel as well, so they could figure out what to do about Tolomas III. The short-term ramifications of this were not going to be pretty. Despite what Sonic had thought, the destruction of the small Imperial facility could likely endanger the nearby Rebel safe world even more, and they very well might have to evacuate it as a result. Where could they even evacuate to? Finding a suitable new planet and relocating everything would require time, resources, and credits that the Rebellion didn’t have. Plus uprooting the lives everyone in the settlement had made for themselves since getting displaced to that world would take a heavy toll on them.

    All because some starved-for-attention astromech had convinced his nerfherder pilot to set a fire.

    Mack sighed. He didn’t know how in the galaxy he could ever explain this. And despite himself, despite all the bad things swirling in his mind, he couldn’t stop his thoughts from circling back to one nagging topic: why would someone have a holo of themselves posing with a skull?

    The End
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2019
  2. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Sorry it's taken me so long catch up with this, but I'm so glad I did—what a joy to see Quiver and Stanic back in action, and their droids too! The two pilots make such fun foils to each other, and I really enjoyed the banter with their droids too, who are just as full of personality. Poor Sonic... he really tried hard, didn't he? =(( Though in a way it all did get him noticed (even if not by Quiver): Mack clearly considers Sonic's version of the story the most trustworthy one. The required dialogue line made for a real whizbang start to the story and set the tone for the humor and action that characterized it all the way—I love how even the "Self-Portrait with Skull" was turned into a humorous element, and Quiver and Sonic's interactions with each other were very much in the spirit of that raccoon-hummingbird gif, in the best way. Thanks so much for sharing another enjoyable piloting tale—hope we can see more of these characters around! =D=
     
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  3. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2001
    Thanks very much for reading and commenting! :D Sorry, I'm way behind on replies. Despite his hardworking, trustworthy nature, poor Sonic can't catch a break, can he? :p I think this was actually the biggest role Sonic's ever had in a story, and he was lots of fun to write. I guess this even helped me take notice of him, LOL. I'm really glad you enjoyed the banter and the interactions! Thanks a bunch for the review!
     
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