R2-D2 had a secret love.
She would never admit to loving him in return - too occupied with her work, she scarcely acknowledged his existence. Yet he knew, despite her speedy insults and her seeming aloofness, that she must be concealing some affection for him.
Perhaps it was the fact that she consistently went out of her way to be rude to him that provided the final proof she must like him... or even love him. Many treated him like any ordinary astromech - but she?
R2 sighed contentedly. Most humans mistook his sighs for disgusted invectives, but she knew better; she was his equal, his soul mate! Her vocabulary of expletives matched his own, if not surpassed it - for she certainly never ran out of ways to affront his character.
Every aspect of her was perfect: her sleek metal casing, as cold and flawless as her work attitude; her smooth curves and black-domed top; her top-of-the-line power supply and long-lasting emergency battery; her large, straightforward buttons. She was a young thing, barely off the market - but he, with his shrewdness and wisdom, recognized her good design and knew she was created to last. In no way was she like the new models, flashy and fickle and ultimately destined to break. She had a classic beauty, reflected in her primly modern appearance.
Her full serial number was TCDEN0084988, one of the Loronar Corporation?s finest trash compactors. But R2, claiming a deep attachment that only existed in his theoretical dreams, called her TC8 - his TC8.
He rolled out of the living area, pausing on the threshold of the kitchen. Master Luke was running around their apartment in a hurried fashion, rearranging and cleaning and worrying because the redhead was coming for a business dinner. He snickered to himself; the redhead always seemed to send Master Luke into a subtly tense state, even now when she had stopped issuing death threats each time they met.
And there TC8 was, positioned next to the refrigeration unit, ignoring him while she flattened a pile of garbage into a thin, orderly handful. Master Luke shoved another stack of empty food boxes through her opening shaft. She gurgled irritably, her gears struggling to apply more pressure to compress the load.
R2 beeped sympathetically. Master Luke did have the tendency to become rather distracted when faced with stressful situations. Not that he would ever space out and forget to save the galaxy for the millionth time - oh, no. But when preoccupied with trivial matters, Master Luke was known to turn a blind eye towards the plight of the mechanical. More than once, he?d absentmindedly given the Golden One several consecutive oil baths because a smashball tournament on the holo had run into overtime.
The oven timer began to buzz. Master Luke ran a hand through his hair, eyes half shut, then grabbed some more boxes. Alarmed, R2 watched as he shoved them through TC8?s slot while simultaneously trying to turn off the oven. She let out a strangled cry, emitting sounds that suggested a system overload was imminent. Master Luke - slapping the oven controls and searching for a heat-resistant mitt - seemed oblivious to her distress.
R2 rolled closer, blue eye studying the situation. Master Luke was pulling a casserole out of the oven, mumbling about whether Kuati wine would be appropriate for the occasion. His love was now screaming in earnest, her circuits grinding painfully under the strain of her load.
Something had to be done. R2 wasn?t about to see TC8 - so beautiful and pleasantly minimalistic - break down because of Master Luke?s stupidity, and be replaced by a lower-class flunky! He moved forward, extended his electric arc welder, and shocked Master Luke on the lower calf.
He brought out his clamper-arm, trying to pull some of the items from TC8?s opening shaft. Master Luke set the casserole down on a countertop and began to push the boxes back through her slot.
?What are you doing? Artoo! Stop! Mara?s going to be here soon, and I need to clean up the kitchen.?
R2 shocked him several more times, sending Master Luke stumbling into the living area. He resumed his mission to save TC8.
?What has gotten into you??
Yanking three of the boxes out, R2 replied with a simple explanation. Master Luke wrinkled his brow in confusion. Unlike R2, who had studiously mastered his master's tongue, Master Luke had never taken the excruciating pains to learn Droidspeak.
?If you don?t stop, I?ll get the restraining bolt. I don?t want to, but you?ve obviously got a programming glitch that needs to be fixed.?
R2 tooted menacingly, letting off a few warning sparks.
Master Luke left the room. R2 beeped smugly, trying to gain more leverage on the load. He had triumphed - his soul mate was safe! He let out a few encouraging clicks, and she responded with a quiet, emotion-filled beep that set his circuits whirring blissfully.
Then Master Luke reentered the room, a small circle of plastic in his hand. R2 screamed in alarm, tugging a few more boxes out; gurgling his apologies, he re-aimed the arc welder towards Master Luke?s torso and rolled closer, letting off a series of unbroken blasts. Master Luke yelped and jumped backwards, searching for a weapon of some sort. He grabbed a platter and held it against his chest like a shield.
?Stop it, Artoo! This is for your own good!?
R2 responded with a raspberry, and Master Luke?s eyes hardened.
?If you don?t cooperate, I?ll call Chewie for help.?
He squealed, and continued the zapping campaign.
The scene soon disintegrated into chaos - Master Luke started to cheat, using the Force to absorb the hits; R2 stepped up his attack by raising the voltage of his shocks. TC8 moaned in the background, her problem clearly forgotten.
The doorbell ran a few times, ignored amidst the exhilaration of combat. Then R2 heard the door creak open, and the redhead appeared by the dining table, her lips quirked in a wry smile.
?Trying to impress me with your fierce fighting skills, Skywalker??
Master Luke made another failed attempt to attach the restraining bolt, shaking the platter in frustration. ?Why would I do that? Artoo went crazy and started zapping me in the kitchen. I?m trying to shut him down so I can send him off to the techs for repair, but he won?t cooperate.?
The redhead glanced around the room intently. Her narrowed green eyes came to rest on TC8, still pounding away laboriously at the load. She sighed.
?Skywalker, how much junk did you jam in that trash compactor?? She hit the cancel button and began to remove boxes. ?Your droid?s smarter than you are - you could have broken that thing.?
Master Luke looked down sheepishly, replacing the platter on the counter. ?Oh.?
?That?s right.? The redhead piled the trash on the floor besides TC8, and R2 retracted his arc welder and clamper-arm reluctantly. ?You should pay attention to the little things in life more often. Did you find any time to cook dinner while battling with an astromech unit??
Master Luke grabbed the casserole. He and the redhead moved into the living area, their conversation fading into an unintelligible buzz. R2 moved towards TC8, listening to her grateful beeps with pride.
Had you not intervened against your programming, my gears would have stalled and the Master would have disposed of me. Thank you.
He twisted his dome around shyly. It was my duty. I could not let that happen to you because... because... you are a very efficient trash compactor.
TC8 tooted nervously, her buttons flashing. And you are a very brave astromech. Now I understand why the Master... loves you. As do I.
Original cover by LianaMara using original illustrations by [b]GoblinQueen. HTML formatting copyright 2007 TheForce.Net LLC.