Stitch-No, probably not. The entire culture of the GFFA is based on droid labor. And yeah, there won't be much action, if any here.
And yeah, there's a difference there.
Here we go!
*****Chapter Four: Preparations
The transporter pad glowed briefly as the column of energy hovering above it faded, leaving behind a short humanoid with a bulbous head, wide black eyes and a tiny mouth almost shrouded in wrinkles. The Bith patted himself down over his black suit and if, possible, would've blinked. "It worked?" he asked.
The security officer clamped his lips together. He reached into a small bag slung over his shoulder and pulled out a PADD. "Baraf Deppi of Cybot Galactica?" At the Bith's absentminded nod, he continued. "Here is a map of Starbase Babylon and your schedule," he said, voice slightly muffled.
Baraf stepped down. "Direct conversion from matter to energy, sent along a carrier wave and reassembled on the quantum level." He shook his head and his long fingers twitched. "Of course, not even that could be relevant. I still might not be 'me'." He looked himself over. "Am I just a duplicate, or-"
"Please report to Advocate Ven at the time listed. If there are species-specific accommodations you need that we don't know about, please let any Starfleet officer know!" The officer suddenly half-shouted. His arm waved frantically at the door.
The Bith's pale skin colored slightly. "You've heard what I've had to say before," Baraf remarked.
A sigh escaped the officer's lips. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he said, head drooping slightly. "It's just... millions of beings transport every day on Earth alone. It's a proven technology over two centuries old. Almost every nation in this half of the Milky Way has it. We make fun of Delta Quadrant powers that don't
Baraf's head bobbed. "I see. Well, thank you." And with that, he turned and walked out.
The officer rolled his eyes before looking over his shoulder at the Coridan transporter operator. "How many more?"
The Coridan adjusted his face mask and tapped at the transporter controls. "Not many. The next one is all set." He slid his fingers across the touch-sensitive controls. "Energizing."
A young man appeared on the transporter pad, pale with blue hair and a line of tattoos across his forehead. He brushed a lock of unkempt hair from his eyes with one hand and cinched up on his backpack straps with the other. "Nice place," he mumbled, stepping off the platform. He looked up at the security officer and shook his head. "Stang, all guards look alike!"
The officer's eyes widened slightly. He reached into his shoulder bag and pulled out a PADD. "Zakarisz Ghent?" he asked, checking the face on the PADD against the scruffy young man before him.
Ghent smiled and nodded. "Yeah." he stepped around the security officer and approached the Coridan behind the transporter console. "Might wanna tweak the pattern buffers a bit. Transport wasn't as smooth as normal."
The Coridan blinked behind the polarized goggles over his eyes. "How do you know of such things?"
Ghent shrugged. "My 'other' boss Talon's got transporter installed in every one of his ships." He let out a slow whistle. "Chin nearly had a heart attack when we first beamed a cargo container aboard the Wild Karrde
, not to mention a living being." He abruptly turned and walked to the door, tossing a wave behind his shoulder before the door opened, allowing him to exit.
The exterior was an ancient class-F shuttle, retired in 2270 and not seen outside of a museum or third-rate cargo hauler since. A pearl-white hull, somewhat blocky with a rounded bow. Two comparatively small nacelles were bolted to the ventral surface, while recessed impulse engines were in the rear.
The interior, however bore a different story, as its performance as it flew to Starbase Babylon at warp eight. It dropped out of warp near Babylon, impulse engines lighting up. The eight-meter long shuttle approached the long midsection, right below the 'mushroom cap' docking bay. The shuttle's thrusters fired, slowing the shuttle and adjusting the angle of approach even as a tiny hatch slid open near the base of the 'cap', right below where two workbees placed a large duranium panel for fusion welding to adjoining panels. The shuttle landed in the one-ship docking bay, passing through an atmospheric containment field and touching down with precision.
Admiral Desoto stood off to the side, waiting for the shuttle to power down before approaching. He adjusted the collar of his dress uniform and tugged down on the hem of the jacket while the shuttle's hatch slid open.
A humanoid male stepped out, looking just past middle age but still in prime physical shape. He had close-cut brown hair, a clean-shaven face and gray, lifeless eyes. A gray jumpsuit covered him, with the only ornamentation a necklace around his neck and a large pendant with a black 'one' on it.
Desoto stepped forward and extended his hand. "On behalf of the United Federation of Planets, I'd like to welcome you to Starbase Babylon, Norman."
Norman of the Planet Mudd turned his head and extended his hand, shaking Desoto's. "It is a pleasure to meet you," he said in clipped, formal tones. "This legal matter is quite interesting, and I hope to provide some insight into it.
Desoto stepped to the side and the two exited the docking bay. "We've got androids and exocomps, programmers and hackers. All because of two droids that simply wish to live without the fear of mind wipes." He shook his head. "Sorry, sorry. I'm not supposed to 'influence' the witnesses and experts called in on this."
Norman shook his head. "It is all right, Admiral. I am driven by pure logic, and it is near impossible for me to be swayed by emotion." The pair approached a turbolift alcove and boarded the car. "I am quite intrigued by these droids, though. The Federation has done without such complex machines, instead using remote-controlled drones or robots with artificial intelligence far too simple for any sapience to develop. Yet in the other quantum reality, such droids are a fact of life."
Desoto shook his head as the car stopped and they exited. "We've got your quarters all set up," he stated as they walked down, passing officers, technicians and civilians. "Are you sure you want it so bare-boned? Not even a couch or bed?"
Norman nodded as they stopped in front of a door. "All that is required is a computer terminal with subspace access so I may keep track of things on Mudd. I have Stella 129 and Stella 871 keeping tabs on the populace, but I am still primary coordinator for the population."
The admiral hesitated before nodding. "Of course, of course." He pressed a few buttons on the control panel and the door slid open. "Will there be anything else?"
"Thank you, no," Norman replied before entering his quarters. The door slid shut right after him, snapping closed.
The admiral shook his head and turned, walking off. "No wonder Kirk was able to mess with him so easily. He's colder than Rura Penthe!"
Picard scrolled through screens of text about droids, ownership titles, warranties and instruction manuals concerning droids. He rubbed his eyes as the black text began to blur. He looked up across his desk at the other occupant of his ready room. "Anything, Number One?"
Data's golden eyes glanced up from the PADDs he held, one in each hand. "Negative, Captain. Although there have been seven distinct attempts by droids to rebel, each one was put down rather quickly. Each one was also a military action, therefore fanning anti-droids sentiment in the general populace." He frowned slightly. "One wonders what the result would be if they sought protection through legal channels, and not through the barrel of a blaster."
Picard shook his head. "Maddox's attempt to 'acquire' you for his research might have done quite a bit of good in the long run, then. It gives us precedent to help Bollux and Blue Max." He glanced down at the PADD and pressed his finger to the touch-sensitive screen. He slid it up, scrolling through to another screen. "A droid can be 'freed' by its owner, but there's no legal protection to it. Someone-anyone-can just take it off the street, mind wipe it and use it. Just like that."
Data shifted in his seat. "Such a potential fate is... unsettling." He looked down at the two PADDS he held, his thumb touching the screen and scrolling 'up' through pages and pages of text and images. "Droids cannot own property, nor can they vote. Such laws are universal throughout Known Space."
A chuckle came from the captain. "Although to be fair, Mister Data, would you have a stenographer droid own anything when it can't even stop at the edge of a desk when following a voice?"
Any reply was cut off by the triple-beep of the comm. "Commander Data, this is Starbase Babylon. The ship you've requested information on has just landed in docking bay 11."
Data placed the PADDs on Picard's desk and rose, tapping his combadge. "Thank you. I shall beam over in five minutes." He bobbed his head to Picard. "Captain," he said before turning and heading out.
Han ducked his head around the Falcon's
entry hatch, looking around the small bay. The far wall was lined with tool lockers and hatches, while a fuel pump was fastened to the deck plating near the aft starboard portion of his ship. Two Starfleet technicians stood near the hatch, both clad in rust-colored environment suits. One held a PADD while the other hefted a toolbox. "Hi, there," he said, waving. He walked down the ramp and smirked, waving back at the Falcon
. "Take a good look, fellows. One of the fastest ships in either reality. Made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs."
The technician with the PADD wrinkled his forehead. "But parsec is a unit of measurement. How does that make sense for you to go shorter than the distance required?"
There was silence for a moment before Han's face turned red. He held out his hand and took the offered PADD from the technician. He read through the information about refueling costs and the general rules about Babylon before placing his thumb on a small scanner below the screen. He handed it back and glanced over his shoulder. "It's all right Go-Threepio. Come on out and meet the nice people."
Threepio emerged from the Falcon
and walked down, his plating gleaming. He raised an arm and waved it awkwardly at the technicians. "Oh, it's so nice to meet you! I am See-Threepio, human/cyborg relations."
The technician with the toolbox grasped Threepio's hand. "Nice to meet you, too," she mumbled. She looked to Han. "Commander Data from the Enterprise
is coming to meet with you. He should be here momentarily." Her head turned as a set of doors slid open and Data walked into the bay. "Speak of the Ardra." She nodded to Data before she and the other technician left the bay, leaving Data alone with Han and Threepio.
Data's golden eyes narrowed slightly. He extended a hand to Han and half-smiled. "Thank you for coming," he said. "Bollux and Blue Max have extensive recollections of their time with you."
Han glanced down at Data's outstretched hand. He looked back up, barely avoiding his eyes. He looked down once more and accepted the handshake. "Those two saved my life a few times out in the Corporate Sector." He leaned forward. "Bollux even managed to beat a Mark X Executioner droid at Star's End." He leaned back and glanced at the door Data had entered from. "So, any chance I can see him?"
Data nodded as the three emerged from a turbolift, stepping into a security arch. The various scanners mounted in the frame swept over him. Han stepped through next, shuddering slightly. Threepio followed and Data led them around the outer ring to a hatch leading to a long corridor. They stopped in front of the lone occupied cell-cell 1178. A MACO soldier there pressed a few buttons and the force field lowered.
"For his protection," Data finally explained. "Admiral Desoto believed Captain Ladecs or others might attempt to kidnap him for purposes of a mind wipe. Considering what I have learned of laws concerning droids, that is not out of the realm of possibility."
Han grimaced as he entered the cell. Bollux now sat at a desk with a computer monitor. His chest panel was open and Blue Max's optic stalk peeked out. Bollux's head tilted back and his optics brightened slightly. "Captain Solo!" he exclaimed. He pushed his chair back and stood up, walking around to his old master. "It is good to see you again!"
Han swallowed. He felt sweat form on his brow and he wiped it. "Good to see you, too. So, what have you been up to?"
Bollux's optics brightened, then dimmed. "Blue Max and I assisted Professor Skynx with his dig at Dellalt. We unearthed many antiques concerning Xim and his reign pre-Old Republic. Sadly, he underwent metamorphosis into a chroma-wing in 10 ABY."
Han nodded. He turned and grabbed a chair, sliding it over to the desk and sitting down. He looked up and around at Bollux and Data, still standing. "Sorry," he mumbled, scratching the back of his head. "Legs were getting tired."He thrust his arm at the chair Bollux was sitting in. "No need to stand on my account!" he said, forcing a smile.
Bollux stepped back and sat down in his chair, facing Han across the desk. Data glanced around, quickly locating one more chair. He grabbed it and placed it next to Han. Threepio stood off to the side, arms brought up and head cocked to the side.
A burst of static came through Bollux's vocabulator. "After Professor Skynx's metamorphosis, Blue Max and I were sold off by the new head of the Dellalt Project. Our new owners attempted sell us for scrap, but Blue Max hacked her system and enabled us to be sold to someone actually looking for a labor droid."
Bollux's chest panel opened fully, revealing the small boxy droid in the compartment. Blue Max's optic stalk extended and brightened. "That was a good owner," he chirped. "He even wanted to free us!"
Data's brow furrowed. "From what I have learned, a manumitted droid has little to no protection against someone simply taking it and reprogramming the droid."
"Which is why we declined the offer," Bollux replied, nodding slightly at the pale-skinned android. "We worked for an asteroid prospecting company after for three years, finally ending up in Captain Ladecs' ownership nine months ago when the company was bought wholesale by Baobab. She is a good captain, and Bery is an enjoyable and jocular fellow."
Han tensed slightly. He glanced down at the table and clasped his hands together, thumbs twirling about each other. "Then why this?" he finally asked. "What made you two consider such a... a radical step?"
Blue Max's optic stalk twisted around, peering up at Han's face. "What do you mean? We simply want to live in a society where artificial lifeforms aren't feared." The stalk swiveled over and peered at Data. "Look at him! He's first officer of Starfleet's flagship. He could choose not
to undergo a procedure billions of droids are forced through every day. He's a citizen, recognized by who he is and not what he is." The stalk swiveled around to stare at Han, the photoreceptor on the end brightening. "Why wouldn't we want that?"
Han bit his lip and looked away. His cheeks turned a bright red and he shot out of his chair. He spun around, pausing as he saw Threepio standing off to the side. He walked over to the golden-plated protocol droid. "What do you want?" he finally asked.
Threepio's arms jerked up slightly. "Sir?" he replied, photoreceptors brightening. His head canted slightly to the right and he waved. "What is Captain Solo talking about?"
Han grabbed Threepio's upper arms and shook his entire frame. "Threepio, it's not some dumb rambling or me being my usual charming self." He leaned forward, staring Threepio right in the optics. "What do you
want? Do you want anything? Deep in your programming, your self... is there anything you want?"
Threepio's optics fluttered in intensity. His head tilted downward, then shot up. "What I truly wish is for you to stop calling me goldenrod!" He stepped back, shaking Han's fingers loose from his plating. "Honestly, Captain Solo! I am simply trying to do my best! There is no need for petty insults thrown my way simply because I abhor violence!" His hand waved back and forth and his head wobbled slightly.
Han blinked and his jaw opened a few times before he spoke. "So you... you want respect?"
Threepio's optics blinked on and off. "I suppose." His head canted forward. "Yes, yes. I wish for a bit of respect."
Data turned around from watching Han and looked to Bollux. "Bollux, Blue Max, what do you
Bollux's hand clenched and the internal servos groaned. "I wish to come out of my recharge cycle in a home of my own, to go to work and earn money for myself. I want never again to fear of having my memory stolen from me or wonder if anyone I pass will simply take me to be mind wiped. I want to buy things with my money, not things I need but things I earn."
There was silence in the brig for a moment before Han walked back to his chair and slumped down into it. He rubbed his hand over his face and half-smiled. "And honest day's wage for an honest day's work," he finally said. The smuggler crossed his arms and shook his head. "So... humanoid."
Blue Max's eyestalk waggled a bit. "Is that a compliment or an insult, Captain?"
"Merely stating a fact, as my future daughter-in-law would say," Han quipped. He looked to Data. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "When you first saw me and Threepio back on the Enterprise
, what did you think?"
Data's eyes darted back and forth for a moment. "There was concern about the threatment of Threepio, yes. I find your prejudice to droids to be odd and paradoxical, especially in comparison to other nonhuman life."
Han shrugged and held up his right hand, waving it about. "Data, the vast
majority of beings in my galaxy don't see droids as alive." He turned and locked eye to optic with Bollux. "You're built in a factory by mass production, programmed with skills and some rather basic AI and then sold in stores or over the holonet. There's probably a thousand models of the BLX line out in the Corellia System alone. Most droids couldn't carry a conversation like this." He leaned forward. "I'm sorry, but I won't apologize for not seeing you as alive."
Bollux's optics blinked. "That is all right, Captain Solo. I accept that. I accept that, yes almost all droids are
simple tools built for convenience." His right hand clenched and suddenly slammed into the table, sending Han jumping slightly. "But Blue Max and I are not like them, Captain. We will seize our chance at equality."
"And what about Known Space?" Han replied. "You won't be the last, Bollux. Others will follow. Our entire way of life is based around droid labor. The upheaval caused would be... " He trailed off and threw his hands up into the air. "Well, more than even I
"Not all droids would be freed," Data said, his eyes narrowing slightly. "All are aware of the software limitations inherent in the majority of droids. But why deny Bollux and Blue Max their rights?"
Han opened his mouth, then closed it. "There's... no reason, I guess," he finally said, shrugging his shoulders. He glanced to a bulkhead. "Gods, this is quite probably the biggest blindside since finding out Leia's true parentage."
Data's eyebrows furrowed. "Han?"
Han waved him off. "Never mind. Long story. I'll tell you over an ale." He paused and his mouth turned downward. "If you get drunk, that is." He suddenly shot to his feet and flashed a half-smile at Bollux and Blue Max. "I'll see you at the hearing," he said before spinning on his heel. He looked to Threepio. "Take your time getting back to the Falcon
. See some sights. Have... fun." And with that, he walked out.
Everyone started slightly as he exited the brig. Bollux's head shook slightly. "I fear his view of the galaxy has been... altered somewhat."
Blue Max's eyestalk waggled back and forth slightly. "Understatement of the millennium, Bollux! Just hope he doesn't toss himself into a plasma conduit or something."
Threepio's body jerked slightly. "Oh, my! I hope Captain Solo doesn't do anything rash." He turned around and began walking off. "Captain Solo? Captain Solo! It's not worth it. Mistress Leia would be quite perturbed if you committed suicide! Wait for me!"
Data rose from his own chair and crossed the distance to Threepio in an eyeblink. He grabbed the protocol droid's arm, halting his progress. "Threepio, Han is not going to commit suicide," he said gently. "He simply needs time to think."
Threepio's head canted down, then back up. "Oh, I suppose so. Captain Solo can be quite intelligent. For a human, that is." He shuffled in place slightly. "Oh, my."
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