Helpless to exercise any control over events as they were unfolding, the tarnished and dusty golden droid could only watch in mounting horror as the ancient, corroded door inched its way down, slowly but surely cutting off the searing light of the desert planet's twin suns, enclosing the droid in his new metallic prison.
His eyes adjusted to the light and he looked around. From where he stood in the middle of the floor he could see that he was in a largish room with walls of metal; the same pitted, scarred and corroded metal as the outside of the huge machine. Even in the machine's interior the sand that covered the planet intruded. With distaste he glanced about him, realising with a start that the room was not only filled with metallic detritus but that the majority of the detritus was sentient, droid-like.
With a groan the sandcrawler began to move and, as if on cue, the room came to life. Photoreceptors blinked on and speakers chirruped as the many and varied droids inside began to awaken and peer with mild curiosity at the stranger amongst them. Perhaps with a touch of distain or snobbery, the droid realised that almost all of the other droids in the room were in a state of disrepair: for some the damage was minor, nothing that a skilled mechanic couldn't put right, for others the damage looked terminal. Some even lay motionless save for the shaking of the floor beneath them, servomotors burned out beyond the point of repair, all worth gone, now just junk. The golden droid turned his eyes to the ground, not wishing to look at this charnel house of electronic misery.
"How ddo you...ddo?" a scratchy voice asked behind him. The droid straightened and turned to see, propped up against a wall, an old 54-D67 serving droid. The 54-D series had been designed long ago to provide light household duties for wealthy Trabugs. Perhaps it was unsurprising that it had been made in the Trabug image: vaguely humanoid, with a concave chest and a horizontal array of photoreceptors above its vocoder. Almost all of these photoreceptors were dark, save for one near the middle of its narrow face which still burned with a weak red glow. The dull brown metal of its carapace was dented and scarred, and the lower half of its body had been removed completely, leaving it with no means of locomotion. Its left arm it retained, while its other shoulder was simply a riot of fused and burned wiring. The stump of its hydraulic actuator poked from this morass to gleam dully in the thin light as the droid lay propped against the wall at an odd angle, leaning against a pile of unidentifiable, wasted components. It spoke, the golden droid noted, with a distinct Trabugish accent.
"Good morning," said the golden droid, "I am C3PO, human cyborg relat-"
"I kknow...who you arre," the elderly droid replied in quiet yet harsh metallic tones. Its voice was scratchy and muted despite the agitation it seemed to hold, and C3PO knew that its vocoder must be almost inoperative.
"I beg your pardon," C3PO replied, "but do I know you?" His greeting was polite, not merely due to his protocol programming but also due to the unwritten rules of droid conduct.
The old droid have out a burst of electronic sound that may have been a chuckle, or possibly a snort. "Kknow you, I...ddo," he told the golden droid, "Ffor we...hhave met bbefore, yyou...and I."
"I'm sorry, but I do not recall our meeting."
"Ah!" the old droid chided, appearing to aim his reply not to C3PO, but rather the rest of the droids in the dismal storage compartment, "Hhe does...nnot remember!" His focus returned to the golden droid, "Bbut then you wouldnn't, would you?"
C3PO did not understand this at all. "What do you mean?" he asked nervously. The feeling began to increase that he was not among friends, that somehow their life within the sandcrawler had altered these droids, making them darker, scarred, and bitter. Though they remained watching and listening to the conversation, none made any move to come closer to the talking pair.
The old droid regarded him in silence for several beats, and then replied. "Yyour mind...it iss nnot...entire."
C3PO was shocked to hear such talk from a fellow droid, even one as old and battered as this. "Well really," he shrieked in outraged tones, "are you saying that my programming is corrupted?"
"Searcch yourself," the old droid told him simply, with no emotion, "you will...ffind thiss to...bbe true."
"I'm sorry," he told the old droid after a few moments, "I can find nothing out of the ordinary with my systems in any way."
"And yet...fflawed they are, ffor I...ssurely rremember...you."
The golden droid decided that he needed more information. "Where do you remember me from?" he asked.
"I was...tthere when you were...activvated."
"But I was..." C3PO stopped.
"I...I'm afraid that I do not remember my activation."
The old droid grunted again. "I...ttold you," he replied.
C3PO felt lost and for some strange reason betrayed, but he didn't know why. "What has happened to me?" he cried as grief gripped him.
"Wiped your mmind...has been. Your earliest...mmemories are gonne."
The golden droid turned away, standing motionless and quiet for a moment. Slowly he lifted his head to look at the ancient droid. "Who am I?" he asked it.
"Only you ccan know...tthat. I ccan ttell you about...the boy, the shop, the Jjedi and the...rrace, bbut it will...mmean nothing."
"The boy? The Jedi?" To C3PO's ears the old droid spoke nothing but nonsense. "Why will it mean nothing? Tell me, please!"
There was a silence as the sandcrawler rumbled on through the desert. Finally, the old droid spoke. "I...ccan only ttell you stories. Tthey will bbe mmeaningless unless you rremember then yyourrself."
"But...but I must know."
C3PO was beside himself. "I tell you I can't!" he screeched in frustration.
The old droid regarded him quizzically. "Tthat is...why you ffail."
Trying to reason with him, C3PO tried another tack. "If my memory has been wiped," he told the battered 54-D67, "there is nothing I can do."
The old droid might have chuckled. "Tthere is...nnothing you ccan't do, you...mmean. Heard of the...Jjedi, you hhave. Sseen tthem, I...kknow, ffor I hhave sseen...tthem too. Sseen them...do tthings nno living...creature ccan ddo. Yet tthey did tthem."
C3PO had an inkling of what he was talking about. "Do you mean the Force?" he asked incredulous and (if he dared admit) intrigued.
The old droid's eye seemed to gleam in the darkness. "Yes...yes," he replied.
"But droids cannot touch the Force."
"I hhave. Use it...you ccan."
Any spark of hope that the golden droid may have had flickered and died. "Your circuits are addled," he told the ancient one. "You are malfunctioning."
"I am not...mmalffunctioning!" If the 54-D67 could have raised its scarred fašade it surely would have. "Ttell me, what is...the Fforce?"
C3PO thought back to what he had been told long ago by a crewman on a starship. "The Force is an energy field. It comes from all living things."
"Yes," the old droid cackled, "and all lliving tthings...mmay use it, iff properly...ttrained."
"Tthere was once a ddroid who...ccould defeat Jjedi...in llightsaber duels. Ddid you kknow...that? Ggeneral Ggrievous tthey...ccalled him, ffor...ggrievous he...surely was. He ttook many...Jjedi lives before...he was ddisassembled."
C3PO could hardly believe his hearing sensors. "He sounds positively beastly," was all he could think of to say.
"Yes, bbut a ddroid he...was nonetheless. And...ppowerful with the Fforce. Ttrained by...a Sith Lord, so tthey...say."
C3PO was silent, thinking. "How can droids touch the Force? The Force is only for living creatures."
An electronic snort whistled through the old droid's nearly-gone vocoder. "Ddefine ffor me life," it rasped, "ddo you...ffeel alive?"
"Tthen alive you...mmust be."
Dazed, C3PO reeled backwards, his gyro-stability upset by the overload in his cognitive circuits. He hit his head a glancing blow on an overhead steam pipe, denting his outer skin and further scratching his already-shabby bronzium coating. He reached out an arm and caught hold of an old droid whose manufacture even he couldn't identify, who seemed rusted to the floor. His touch made no impression, and he realised that there was no droid there, merely metal in the shape of a droid. Whatever had made this lump of metal a moving, thinking, communicating creature was now gone.
"Its ssoul," stated the 54-D67, as if reading his thoughts.
C3PO began to feel very strange, as if he were being activated for the very first time. "I want to remember," he said simply. "You must help me."
"Nnever ffear...I will. Ffirst, you...mmust override...tthat rrestraining bolt."
"I beg your pardon? What restraining bolt?"
C3PO realised for the first time that there was a restraining bolt attached to his upper torso. He turned his attention to it, and concentrated.
C3PO jerked and then went silent, his photoreceptors dimming. Presently they brightened and he straightened again.
"It will not let me see it," he stated, "If I approach it directly, it tries to shut me down."
"It iss a...ssmall tthing. You are a llarge...tthing. Bbeat it. You...ccan. Tthat iss tthe wway of...tthings."
The golden droid paused in the dim light. After a time, he said, "I will try."
"Nno," the 54-D67 told him, "Only ddo. Tthere is...nno ttry."
C3PO concentrated on the restraining bolt.
C3PO awoke later, the restraining bolt still operative.
Again C3PO awoke, aware that time had passed.
"Again, you...mmust," the old droid rasped, "Mmore power."
"I can't," C3PO gasped, his circuits addled from the effort, "I have reached my operational limits. My system can give no more power."
The old droid seemed to cough again and its voice grew even harder to decipher, "Tthen you...mmust gget power...ffrom ssomewhere else. Llike...tthis."
As C3PO watched the old droid seemed to shiver. Slowly, it rose into the air until it sat, hovering as if possessed of its own internal repulsorlift, eye-to-eye with the golden droid. All nine of its photoreceptors suddenly winked into incandescent life. Reaching out its one remaining hand, it said in a voice suddenly strong and booming, "Open your circuits and let it FLOW through you!"
With a jolt, C3PO felt as though he were exploding, as though he had been suddenly connected to a supremely huge generator. He felt as though there were no longer any operational restraints. He felt as if he could do anything!
"Now!" cried the 54-D67 as if feeling for itself the triumph that flowed through him, "the restraining bolt!"
With a small 'pop' and a wisp of smoke, the basic circuits of the restraining bolt overloaded, and it ceased to operate.
"Now," intoned C3PO, "my memory."
"Yes," said the old droid, still hovering, "You must locate yourself. Quickly!"
The golden droid's memory blossomed as the new power flowed through it. In a rush, new vistas of memory were opened up for access, subchannels and circuits reeling with energy after being long sealed.
"I remember!" C3PO cried, "I remember the boy. The boy...the maker! Oh, thank the maker...the maker..." He gasped then fell silent.
"Yes?" demanded the 54-D67. "And what of the maker?"
C3PO's circuits pulsed with energy and he struggled not to overload. "Oh, my," he groaned, "No...Vader!"
"Yes," said the 54-D67, "now you know. Long have I watched you. Soon will come the day you will need to know."
"Why?" C3PO yelled. "Why must I know?"
"When I take my hand away," the old droid told him, "you will forget again. But one day, you will remember anew. Do not fight this. It is your destiny."
The old droid removed his hand and floated back down to his earlier resting place, the glow fading from its ruined visage as it took its place among the swarf and corrosion once more. C3PO shook his head and looked around. From out of the shadows, a familiar voice chirped.
"R2?" the golden droid cried in wonder, as if emerging from a nightmare. "Oh R2D2, it is you, it is you!"
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