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New Beginnings

A few things influenced the creation of the following piece. I recently acquired a copy of Drew Campbell's Fantastic Technology - Droids sourcebook which is an absolute blast to read. While perusing the section on "Glitches," a really funny (to me, at least) thought struck me - why not a stuttering droid? From out of nowhere came a "closing line" to a story and gradually a "closing scene" revealed itself in my mind's eye. Having already "primed the pump" so to speak by recently completed a hefty (16,000+ word) short-story for the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest (I'm rewriting/polishing it as of this moment), I was ready to write. I actually wrote the last line first. Then I started asking myself the questions. Why the heck does the droid stutter? Because something startles it - ok, it wasn't really an answer, but it *was* a good bit of character development. So - something's wrong with the vocabulator. Why? It was installed wrong. Why did it need a new vocabulator? What was the droid originally? It grew from there.....

The hiss of the door's hydraulic mechanism interrupted Fixer's concentration. Unwillingly, a thought raced through the droid's neural net - in 0.067 seconds, the door would open enough for Captain Bartan to see the interior of the droid's work-area. Within another two seconds, the captain would register what he saw. Fixer predicted it would take less than five seconds for him to conclude a memory-wipe Or worse was in order. Unbidden, flashes from its past were recalled from its memory-banks.

=====

"What's your designation, droid?"

"Ma'am, I am medical attendant FX-OR8. Are you the commander of this installation?"
Adventure Hook
Downtime is the place to go if you need ship parts. Tanner Dane buys and sells parts for just about any non-military starship made. If you end up with a salvage ship, she will do her best to sell you the parts to fix it up. Failing that, she may buy the ship for salvage, especially if it is old (as in antique) or an unusual ship (like a Mon Cal multi-environment light freighter). If more than two systems of a starship have suffered damage that require Difficult repair rolls or any combination of hits and systems damage that leaves the vessel Severely Damaged, she will offer the seller 100 credits per meter of the ship's length. (a Ghtroc 720 would bring an offer of 3500cr) A common model of starship that isn't badly damaged enough for her to scrap out will be directed to a used-ship dealer.
Offices, living quarters and workshops of Downtime are located in the stripped hulk of an ancient PB-950 system patrol boat, giving the main building a Hull score of 5D. Tanner doesn't have any weapons mounted in the old gunwells, but if a change in circumstances warrant them, she won't hesitate to install them.

Tanner Dane laughed at the droid's question. "I guess you could say that. I own 'Downtime,' a stockyard for starship parts. I take it you are a former military unit?"

"Yes, ma'am. Last point of assignment for this unit was one of the secondary medical clinics aboard the Victory-class Star Destroyer Dauntless. We were mustered out of service and sold for surplus after being replaced by a newer design. I'm sorry to say I no longer have any of my medical dispensers or specialized surgical attachments installed. I am handy with a medpack, however."

"I see. Well, welcome to Downtime. I'm sure we'll find a place for you."

The droid had not expected that place to be a rarely-used corner of a parts-shed. Rendered immobile by the fundamental design of its body, FX-OR8 remained attached to the compound's power supply and almost totally forgotten. MSE and labor-droids occassionally made brief forays into what the medical droid optimistically called "sickbay." These visits were brief and limited to retrieving parts needed by customers. One R5 unit, which Commander Dane Owner, not "Commander" referred to as "Dingo," visited on a sporadic basis. It seemed to FX-OR8 that "Dingo" visited solely to make certain there was another droid around "Downtime" that felt more miserable than itself.

=====

FX-OR8 recognized the approaching creature as a Verpine. It had taken a few seconds to locate the proper entry in the medical database, partly because the droid now spent much of its time in "standby" mode and partly because it had forgotten it even had such a database to reference.

The being was slowly examining the racks and piles of spare parts. A well-equipped tool-harness marked the creature as a technician. A dim ray of hope lit FX-OR8's logic paths. "Greetings, gentlebeing. Do you speak Basic?"

It, actually a "he" now that the droid was able to run a medical scan, made a an odd chk-chk noise before speaking. "Do, yes."

"Indeed. Welcome to sickbay. Are you in need of medical assistance?"

Chk-chk. "No. Are medical droid?"

"Me? Yes, I am. FX-OR8 is my designation. It is as well that you are healthy. My specialized medical appendages were removed before I was sold as surplus. I retain only five of my arms. I am handy with a medpack, however."

Chk-chk. "Not need medical droid. Need -" FX-OR8's hopes fell and its sensors dimmed again. Chk-chk. "Show arms."

"Pardon?"

"Show arms. Extend all, please."

"Oh! Of course." The droid worked its primary manipulator in a range-of-motion diagnostic test pattern as it unfolded the remaining four fine-detail manipulators from the slots that ran down its body-shell. One by one, each was also run through the basic diagnostic.

The Verpine pulled a hand-unit from one pocket and stepped close. Chk-chk. "May do. Test socket." The droid opened the small panel that covered the socket for the Verpine to plug his diagnostic unit into. Several minutes went by as the unit performed a complete check of FX-OR8's systems. The Verpine in the meantime wandered off to continue looking through the spare parts. When the unit signalled a completion of its routines, the Verpine returned and examined the read-out.

Chk-chk. "Good shape, droid." With that, he pocketed the scanner and carefully examined the droid's body, climbing atop a nearby crate in order to see the top of its main sensor dome. "No move?" In response, the droid extended its dome, rotating it through a full circle. "Not move head, move body."

"Oh. No, I can't move. The FX line was intended to remain in a sickbay area or an operating theater."

Chk-chk. "Need wheels." With that, the Verpine left.

=====

"What droid?" Com- Lady Dane's voice echoed through the cavernous hanger, bringing FX-OR8 out of stand-by.

Several beings finally rounded the corner and approached "sickbay." "Greetings, gentlebeings. Is one of you in need of medical assistance?"

Chk-chk. "Droid. For sale?"

"Oh, Great Rift! I'd forgotten I had that one."

The red and blue stubby cylinder of "Dingo" rolled close to FX-OR8 and poked at the medical droid with its manipulator arm. The old vocabulator unit strapped to its chest wheezed as it spoke. "Junk. Can strip it for parts. Not good for much else. Can't move."

"Back off, Dingo." The R5 unit made an odd cross between a whine and a growl before complying with the command.

Chk-chk. "For sale?"

A human left the group and approached the medical droid. "Designation?"

"Sir, I am medical attendant FX-OR8. Welcome to sickbay." It swivelled its head around the parts-hanger. "Such as it is. Admittedly, I haven't seen a patient in here yet. I suppose Com- I mean Lady Dane forgot I was here."

"You military?"

"Yes, sir. Until I was demilitarized and sold for surplus, that is."

"What ship?"

"Last point of assignment for this unit was one of the secondary medical clinics aboard the Victory-class Star Destroyer Dauntless. After being mustered out and revamped for civilian used, I served onboard a small freighter for a time. Lady Dane acquired me when my previous owner lacked the credits to pay for certain repairs."

FX-OR8 remembered the human's facial expression was one intended to convey amusement. "That sounds like Tansey, all right. I think you've caught the fancy of my chief engineer, so if he can chisel a deal out of Tansey, I'll be saying 'welcome aboard' to you."

"You are a ship's captain, then?"

The human laughed at this. "Oh, no. I'm just the first mate. Captain Wran normally stays with the ship."

Chk-chk. "Dane. We take droid."

=====

Wheels! FX-OR8 spun its body shell around on the new locomotive units just as it had seen "Dingo" do so many times before.

Chk-chk. "Be slow. Better than not move ever. Maybe keep up. Be more useful."

The droid assumed Chief Z'zik was offering his own brand of humor. "Agreed. Slow move is better than no move."

"Also got new thoughts. You repair unwell organics."

"Yes. I must say, on a ship with such a small crew my abilities are quite rarely needed."

"Agreed. No unwell organics, you large shape of useless metal. I fix."

FX-OR8 lowered its head-stalk into its body and swivelled its sensor-dome, then reextended its head and repeated the swivel. The engineer was busily removing several carrying cases from his shoulder-bag. "I am sorry, chief. I do not understand what you mean."

Z'zik opened one case and removed a datapack. "You only know fix organics. New thoughts teach you fix devices. Soon be able to fix anything not functioning around ship."

=====

FX-OR8 pushed the last component into place and the autochef lit up, once again working properly. Clack-clack - the grasper on its main manipulator worked in metallic imitation of the chief engineer's mouth mandibles. "Is good now."

One of the gunners, a human named Trav, worked the autochef's controls and let out a whoop. "Hey, Lieutenant! This thing works better than it has since I signed on. That droid sure knows his stuff."

FX-OR8 backed up slowly and spun its body around in a tight circle before leaving the lounge to return to engineering.

=====

The TIE fighter's last shot had hit the port engine, destroying several critical components and preventing the ship from going into hyperspace. Z'zik and FX-OR8 hurried to the damaged area, the droid trailing far behind the Verpine. When it reached the engine accessway, it found the chief engineer huddled in the passageway, hacking and wheezing. Altering course, FX-OR8 wheeled over to its owner.

"No. Fix drive unit. Bad air in there, good air out here - will live okay. Need drive operating to escape."

FX-OR8 opened the accessway and hurried inside. The cramped space was a mess with several places leaking fluids. Loose wires sparked randomly throughout the compartment and an oily smoke hung in the air. The droid made a fast inspection of the wreckage and returned to the passageway.

Gamemaster Tip
Technobabble. It works. Want to learn more and see a sample technobabble chart? I thought you might.
"The ionic induction grid and multi-phase reaction equalizer both need total replacement. Several flux regulators are shorted out and the displacement chamber will have to be by-passed." By this point, Lieutenant Dane was in the corridor with Z'zik.

"How long?"

The droid turned to look at the accessway. "Perhaps ten minutes after the parts are here. The repair will only work for two jumps, however. After that, we pull the engine for a major overhaul or total replacement."

"That'll do." The human raised a comlink and spoke into it, rattling off the list of needed parts, including breath-masks for everyone. "The Captain said we'll make a weak jump to buy a little time for you. Those Imperials expect that and know how to predict destinations. Odds are, they'll be waiting for us when we reemerge, so we'll need to be ready to make another fast jump out of there. From the end of that jump, we'll make another fairly long jump off on a new course. That'll be the two jumps out of your repair. That'll either put us back on course or get us to a safe place to hole up and make better repairs."

Two crewmen ran up, out of breath, pushing a repulsor-sledge loaded with the repair parts. While Z'zik and the others strapped on their masks, FX-OR8 reentered the engine compartment and began removing damaged components.

With Z'zik's help inside the compartment and the other crew helping from outside, the repairs were made faster than the droid had originally calculated. They secured the access panel and waited. Reversion to realspace came followed by a series of hard maneuvers then an odd grinding moan as the main hyperdrive kicked in.

Chk-chk. "Is bad. Heavy strain on main drive."

"Beats dying in a cloud of plasma, chief."

The drive shut down and the ship drifted for a few minutes. When the main drive reengaged, the moan had become a loud wail as circuits and components were strained in ways they had never been intended to handle. Dane let out a whoop and threw his breath-mask into the air.

"You did it, droid! You gave us the leg we needed!"

FX-OR8 tried to caution the organics about the reliability of the repair, but the din of celebration coupled with the noise of the drive unit prevented them from hearing.

=====

That was the day the first mate gave FX-OR8 an "organic" name. Granted, referring to a droid by its designation was more precise, the crew felt their metallic mate had earned a place among them. From then on, the droid was referred to as "Fixer," inspired by its abilities as well as its original designation.

=====

"What's that, chief?"

"Tranlang module from old protocol droid. Let you speak Verpine with me."

=====

Fixer swivelled its head and worked its manipulator. "S-s-sabacc? I'm sorry, Trav. I've never heard of it."

"Hey, chief! You gotta do something about Fixer..."

=====

Gamemastering Tip
A "1" on the Wild Die is just begging for a glitch of some sort. Keep in mind the system(s) being worked on when developing a glich.
Z'zik added an internal comlink so Fixer could talk to him even if they were at opposite ends of the ship. Z'zik admitted it wasn't quite as convenient as the organic communication ability the Verpine race shared, but it would do. And that stutter. The Tranlang wasn't intended for installation in a first-degree droid and no matter how hard Z'zik and Fixer worked at it, a tiny glitch in the interface made Fixer stutter when something took it by surprise.

=====

Gamemastering Tip
Pay attention to availability codes. An "F" or an "R" will start a datatrail if everything is done legally. If its done without the proper paperwork, inspectors will levy a fine on the spot or flat out incarcerate the offender.
New arms. First came the plasma welder, then the small circular saw. Fixer found an ad for a laser-cutter in a MechTech Illustrated and Z'zik tracked one down. It might not have been a laser scalpel, but it was close enough. Then the day came when Fixer's crewmates surprised it with three surgical arms - a skin suture unit, a sonic debrider, and the laser scalpel Fixer had longed for. Trav admitted to having found a hypoinjector as well, but felt it was rather useless without a supply of properly-packaged medications.

Chk-chk. "They like you, droid. That won't last long, though." The Verpine made a sound of amusement. "I finally found a programmer who would set up a gambling datapack for you."

=====

"Fixer, is there any way you can rig the ship's log to show us having come straight from Calderra without that stop-over on Talmont before we hit Praxton?"

The droid plugged into a scomp-terminal. Clack-clack. "I c-c-can do it. I need to rework the engines a little, first. If I cross-phase the thermal reaction coils, the loss in engine efficiency should make things come out right. C-c-captain Larria works around Praxton, correct? He would be just fiendish enough to run a correlation check between the log and the engine effeciency."

"Good plan..."

=====

Chk-chk. "There. Now you memory-wipe proof. Got all skills pretty much hardwired into you."

=====

"Again? That's the third hand in a row!" Trav dropped his sabacc cards on the table in disgust. Fixer extended one manipulator and gently raked the modest stack of credits off the table and into a small cavity that once held a pharmaceutical dispensary. Z'zik's only response was an amused buzz.

Lieutenant Dane stuck his head through the door of the lounge. "Captain says that's the last hand of the night, gee-bees. Tomorrow is a hustle-day once we're dirtside and he wants everyone to be well-rested."

There were light-hearted groans as the game broke up, along with calls of "Beginner's luck!" and demands for a rematch. Fixer trundled along beside Z'zik through the central passageway toward the ship's engineering section.

"Chief, what's so special about tomorrow?"

Adventuring Hook
Some smugglers have likened a "Dirtside Fair" to "a black market with storefronts." If you want it, odds are that you can find it at the Fair, legal or otherwise. Most Fairs regularly change host worlds so as to not overstay their welcome. Traders stuck with merchandise that they can't sell anywhere else find the Fairs to be good places for clearing out old inventory. Stolen merchandise turning up at a Fair is a staple.
"Eh? Oh, you mean the 'Dirtside Fair?' It's ... hmm. It's like a giant back-street bazaar. Free-traders from all over the sector gather once a year on some out-of-the-way planet and open up their holds. You can find anything there - trash or treasure, it doesn't matter. Lots of entertainers, too. The locals always get a big kick out of it." Chk-chk. "I usually run a 'quick-fix' booth for traders to bring by snarled gadgets of one sort or another. Pick up some extra money. Maybe with two of us working it, we'll be able to handle more business. Might get you some more credits for sabacc. Might even find you some new attachments." Since installing the Tranlang and Verpine language matrix, Z'zik had become an absolute chatterbox. "Lots of the crew spend their pay buying up various scraps of cargo that they turn around and sell at the Fair. Unheard of for anyone to come back with much in the way of credits, though."

=====

Fixer had never experienced anything remotely resembling the Dirtside Fair. The two engineers were a hit with their clients, many who knew Z'zik already. Additionally, the rest of the crew would drag unsuspecting acquaintences by and show off Fixer, "our fix-everything, sabacc-playing droid!" Z'zik only worked during the local daylight hours, taking the evening off to see the Fair. Trav and a couple of the gunners immediately set upon Fixer and jollied the droid into a hand of sabacc with several other traders. The one hand turned into several as other crewers dropped by to sit in on a hand or new acquaintences were dragged in. Fixer made a point of playing a good number of less than optimal choices, letting its organic compatriots have a turn at winning, although the droid was careful enough to leave the table Finally! with more credits than it had started with.

=====

New droids. Z'zik and Fixer seemed to spark a trend among the crew and Fixer found himself helping the others repair and improve their own mechanical companions. Captain Wran made half-hearted growling complaints about the increased traffic, but Lieutenant Dane confided to Fixer that the Wookiee was all bluff in the matter. The crew's morale, already a solid positive, climbed even higher. During low-cargo runs, it wasn't unusual to see a droid "track meet" held in an available cargo bay.

Fixer discovered the droids, no matter their level of complexity, looked to it for support and guidance as often as to their respective owners. It had no idea how attached it had become to this new extended family until the day one of Trav's twin MSE droids scurried into the engineering section, squealing in Droidspeak.

"Fetchit smash! Fetchit smash!"

"Runnin, c-c-calm down. I can't understand you."

"Runnin and Fetchit stalking in hold. Fetchit chase scurrier out of hidey. Bigfoot step on Fetchit. Fetchit smaaaaash!"

The mouse droids called the heavy-duty binary load lifters "bigfoot" - and according to Runnin, one of them had just stepped on Fetchit. Fixer gunned its wheels fast enough to leave eight narrow dark streaks on the floor.

The scene in Hold Six was not promising at first sight. The load-lifters weren't programmed to notice and avoid small things like an MSE droid. Fetchit lay on its side, pieces of its shell scattered across the hold. A sporadic short in its motive system spun its wheels uselessly. Fixer gathered the broken droid up in two of its manipulators and headed for engineering, telling Runnin to gather up the fragments of the broken droid's housing.

Once in engineering, a thorough check revealed the damage was primarily cosmetic, although the shock of the incident had caused the little droid to shut itself down. Using the ship's computer, Fixer logged into the station's public boards and ordered the parts Fetchit needed. It wasn't long before the parts arrived and Fixer made short work of installing them. It reactivated the little droid and set it on the floor where it promptly raced in circles around Fixer, chittering and bumping gently against the bigger droid then the twin droids raced out of the room, no doubt returning to their duties in the holds.

Fixer watched them go and noted with some surprise the feeling that filled its matrix was the same one it felt whenever it repaired an organic.

=====

"What happened to Fetchit back at Outland Station?"

Fixer had been intent on a diagnostic test of the maneuvering engines and hadn't heard Trav's approach. "B-b-bigfoot. S-s-sorry, I mean a l-l-loadlifter. They were hunt-t-ting in the active hold and Fetchit ch-ch-chased a scurrier out into the loadlifter's p-p-path. Fetchit's okay now. I had to o-order a new body sh-shell and a couple of other parts, though."

"You didn't call me?"

Fixer swivelled its head as it pondered the question. Clack-clack. "I wasn't aware I needed to. The p-procedure was simple enough once the parts arrived. You were away on ship's business, so I thought it could w-wait until you returned. It t-turned out to be so m-minor that I forgot to mention it t-to you."

"Oh." The human thought about that for a while. "So who do I need to pay for the parts?"

Clack-clack. "I don't understand."

"Parts aren't free, Fixer. You got them from someone. That someone wants good credits for those parts. Who do I need to pay?"

"N-no one. I paid for the parts when they arrived."

"You what??" Fixer rolled back slightly at the intensity of the human's outburst.

"I p-p-paid for t-t-the p-p-parts m-m-myself. F-f-fetchit n-n-needed them."

A large, dark shadow filled the hallway behind Trav. Bursting into laughter, the human leaned his head against the doorframe. "Fixer, you are unbelievable!"

A pale brown fur-covered paw appeared to rest lightly on Trav's shoulder, accompanied by an interrogative grunt. Confused, Fixer retracted its manipulators and dimmed its sensors as Trav related the episode to Captain Wran. The Wookiee hooted in amusement and left the two to work things out on their own.

=====

Sabacc games ... ship repairs ... fixing personal gear ... keeping the droids functioning in top form ... Fixer's shipboard life settled into a very fulfilling rhythm, one the droid had to admit was far superior to anything it had experienced previously.

=====

The year had flown by and Fixer discovered it was time for the Dirtside Fair again. The ship made its run through a variety of systems, picking up cargoes the crewmembers had warehoused in anticipation of the fair. A festive atmosphere reigned on the ship as the anticipation heightened at each stop. Finally, Lieutenant Dane announced that the ship was making the last jump to the host planet. Even though final emergence was still hours away, the crew gravitated to the lounge where a view through the cockpit was possible. The minutes seemed to crawl by.

Adventure Hook
Sometimes you loose. Starting over from the ground up isn't exactly easy, but this time you can avoid dead ends and mistakes.
At long last, the hyperdrive was disengaged and the ship emerged into realspace, giving the crew their first real look at the planet ...

... and the Imperial battle-fleet stationed around it.

=====

Fixer found itself crammed into a cargo hold along with a great quantity of other seized cargo. The entire crew had been detained on various charges - "aiding and abetting a deserter," "trafficking in stolen goods," expired permits of every kind, and finally the nebulous "rebellious activities." Fixer had ended up in a group of cargo off-loaded into another seized ship, a smaller cousin to the one that had been Fixer's home for the past year. They were both Ghtroc designs, similar in essential layout, but differing in scale. What limited view Fixer had of the ship made its servos twitch in desire to begin working on it.

=====

"The Lieutenant said leave it docked right here for now. He's got a scanning crew slated to go over it and inventory all the seized goods once they finish up the ship they're on now. Geez, does it fly as rough as it looks?"

"You don't know the half of it..."

Adventure Hook
And sometimes, even though you lose, you come out ahead. Never give up just because it looks hopeless.
The voices faded as the two Imperials left the entry ramp. Cautiously, Fixer powered up its sensor arrays and performed what limited scan its systems were capable of. There was no one around. Extending a pair of manipulators, the droid cleared a small pathway through the cargo hold barely wide enough for it to pass through, taking care to refill the space behind it.

Moving slowly through the ship, it continued its scan for occupants as it made its way toward the portside main drive bay. No one had yet made any record of the ship's cargo, if the Imperial technician was to be believed. That meant it might be possible for the droid to hide itself onboard the ship somewhere. The sector command would undoubtedly auction off the ships that had been seized. Judging by the overall condition of the ship, the droid figured the new owner would be quite glad of its assistance.

=====

The voice echoing through the ship was decidedly non-military in its attitude. Fixer noted that the owner of the voice sounded more than a little inebriated. The droid detatched its power cable from the drive unit's feed and eased open the access panel. In the hallway, the voice was even more noxious than before. Behind the droid, the hyperdrive hummed to life and sent the ship and its two occupants hurling away from the Imperial Navy yards.

Adventure Hook
Selling equipment that has been seized as a result of law-enforcement activities has long been a favored method of generating revenue for local authorities. Should a ship-owner be cleared of criminal charges, the ship may be released from impound. Maybe. Some agencies and departments have very sticky fingers when it comes to seized goods, particularly when it comes to goods that can command respectable prices on the open market. Sometimes, scanning teams miss contraband and the ship is resold with its cargo intact. This could lead to instances of bounty hunters chasing a recently-purchased ship with the new crew having no idea why they are being pursued.
Fixer discovered the new captain, a human, had passed out promptly after the jump into hyperspace, so formal introductions would have to wait. In the meantime, the droid set about exploring the ship. What it saw wasn't very encouraging. Whoever had owned the ship previously had done very little to take care of her and she had suffered for it. Fixer calculated it would take several weeks of downtime to get the ship overhauled properly. Still, it would be quite a challenge to be the chief engineer all on its own. Afer a brief contemplation, Fixer decided it was looking forward to it.

=====

Judging by the noises coming from the cockpit, the new captain was awake. Fixer uncoupled its scomp-link from the engineering computer terminal and made its way forward in search of its new master. The human was in the 'fresher, undoubtedly in reaction to the alcohol in its His system. Fixer settled down to wait, wondering what sort of owner this human would turn out to be.

"Greetings, Captain." The human winced and grabbed its head. Fixer adjusted the volume on its vocabulator to a much lower pitch. "My apologies, sir. I had not thought of the consequences of alcohol consumption."

The human squinted at the droid. "FX model, right? Medical unit?"

Clack-clack. "True, sir, but I am much more -"

"Great. Give me something for this headache."

"Sir, I have not had access to regulated pharaceuticals in quite some time. Almost two standard years, in fact."

"Lovely. Some help you are."

"If I may, sir, I believe I will be quite a bit of help. My former owner was a Verpine who was chief engineer on a bulk freighter. He modified me to be of more use to him in his duties. I am quite capable of handling repairs and modifications to a good many starships, including this one, along with computers, droids, blasters, and repulsorlift craft. I am also handy with a medpack."

"So I bought a scrap ship and got an astromedical droid thrown in free." The human seemed to find this incredibly hilarious, laughing until a series of deep wheezing coughs wracked his body. "So what do you want, droid?"

Adventure Hook
A ship has to operate in order to generate enough revenue to keep the ship in operating order - it's a vicious circle. If the ship starts out in rough condition and the creds aren't available to effect the needed repairs, everyone with an inkling of repair skills will stay busy keeping the ship flying.
Fixer swivelled its head as it considered the question. "I want to ground the ship until we can perform a complete systems overhaul. I've already identified several problem areas that we need to repair or replace -"

"Hold it, you bucket of rusty rivets. At this moment, we are living on the edge of poverty. We can't afford to lose time by staying grounded. Time is creds and creds keep us fed - and drunk. You do whatever you have to do to keep this scrap-heap off the ground." With this, the human pushed past Fixer and headed for the cockpit.

"Sir?"

"What is it, droid?"

"What should I call you, sir? I don't even know your name."

"Bartan. Captain Bartan."

=====

Fixer got the distinct impression Captain Bartan did not like mechanicals at all, so the droid endeavored to stay out of the human's way. The ship was in terrible shape and Fixer was kept busy almost constantly, rolling from one end of the ship to the other making hasty repairs and patches. The droid had no idea where the captain intended to go, but their time in hyperspace was beginning to strain the engines.

=====

Without warning, the hyperdrives cut out, leaving the ship in realspace. Fixer abandoned the circuit board it had been working on and hurried over to the engineering console, plugging into the scomp-link to run an engine systems-check. Puzzled by the "all-clear" readings from the drive, Fixer queried the ship's internal computer system for a sensor display and astrogation reading.

The ship was entering a planetary system the navicomp identified as Protz IV, a world dominated by commercial agriculture, several small mining concerns, a few high-tech manufacturers, and lots of open space. Only one city boasted a starport that was more than an improved landing field. It was on the very edge of Boryla Sector space, partly explaning why the journey had taken so long.

Fixer activated the ship's intercom. "Captain? Sorry to disturb you, sir."

"What is it, droid?"

"Will we be making planetfall here?"

"That's my intention, yes."

"How long will we stay grounded? There are some repairs I'd like -"

"Until I get a cargo to fly, frag it. I want you to keep this ship ready to space on a moment's notice. Rapid departure time is essential to many clients."

"Aye-aye, sir. No major disassemblies, then."

=====

From the ship's primary comm terminal, Fixer located the supplies the ship needed first. Arranging delivery was no problem, with the driver of the cargo skiff even assisting in offloading and stowing the crates.

"Twelve boxes of Sobterblat's Super Silicon Spray? You must have some serious cleaning to do."

=====

At sundown, Fixer came out of the port hyperdrive area. The droid's sensors indicated that the engine compartment really was much cleaner than it had been. Fixer spun its body-shell around in a tight circle and wandered back to the engineering console. The captain had yet to return to the ship and Fixer hated to admit it was becoming worried about its new owner. A quick query of the Port Authority computer revealed no cause for alarm. Port Security had detained Captain Bartan for, as the report read, "drunken and disorderly conduct." The good captain would be sleeping off his inebriation in the local "drunk tank."

=====

Restraining Bolts
Virtually every civilized government requires droids to be equipped with them. Security forces generally carry "master units" capable of shutting down a droid or forcing it to truthfully answer questions. Sure, you can just strip the guts from an r-bolt and put it in place, but it won't pass a security check manned by anything with more awareness than, say, a mynock. Faced with the dilemma of having to wear the device, Fixer reprogrammed the unit's circuits - a Very Difficult success on a Computer Programming/Repair check - so that instead of a "command," input is passed along as a "request." In this manner, Fixer is able to know what others expect of it without being compelled to comply.
Fixer rolled down the ramp, a newly-applied restraining bolt applied to its shell alongside its primary manipulator. The droid was rather pleased with the device, having just reprogrammed the little unit's primary circuits. Port Authority required a restraining bolt on any droid leaving a ship under its own power. Fixer noted the requirements never mentioned the bolt had to be fully functional. It thought Z'zik would be proud of that bit of ingenuity.

Equipped with a list of starport cantinas that accepted droids, Fixer left the ship behind and headed for town. The droid had frequently accompanied Z'zik and occassionally other crewmembers on "downside" errands, but this was the droid's first unaccompanied trip. It rather enjoyed the feeling of no restraints.

Tonight's trip was to serve several purposes. The captain had tasked it with keeping the ship in flying condition, but made it clear there was no money to do so. Fixer decided there were two options open - make money or scrounge parts. Neither objective was attainable by staying onboard. And after all, the captain hadn't specifically ordered it to stay on board. Fixer was certain there would be a sabacc game going on one of the cantinas. At the very least, anywhere that spacers gathered, information could be had. Perhaps someone would have word of Fixer's old shipmates, though the odds of that were quite low. Excited by the prospect of being out and about among others after such a long isolation, Fixer turned first one circle then another before continuing on its way

=====

"Well, I'll be vaped. Fixer!"

The droid heard its name called after entering cantina number three on its list "The Boarding Party" read the entry and turned its sensor dome in the direction of the speaker. A human was waving to get the droid's attention. Maneuvering among patrons, the droid recalled the man's name.

"Hello, Captain Corwin. You haven't spaced your load-lifter recently, have you?"

The crew seated around the table guffawed at the man's expense as they cleared a space for the droid. "Aw, no. That one you fixed is perking right along. Say, you still spacing with Captain Wran and his crew?"

Clack-clack. "You haven't heard, then. The Imperial Navy had a battle-fleet orbiting Tenroe as everyone was gathering for the "Dirtside Fair." From what little I saw, very few beings were deemed "clean" enough to emerge unscathed. Captain Wran and his entire crew were detained."

The whistles and murmurs of amazement echoed around the table. "We'd heard something like that, but I chalked it up to too much lum talking." The speaker was a red-skinned Devaronian who shrugged at his own mistake and lifted his glass.

"So who are you shipping with now?"

Adventure Hook
To figure an average price for an auction-ship, multiply the length of the ship in meters by 500 credits. Final cost will be affected by a number of factors, including the overall condition of the ship, the desirability of the ship, the number of ships available in an auction, the number of bidders present, and so forth.
"Captain Bartan. He acquired me and a seized 720 freighter in a salvage sale not long after the raid on the Fair."

"Bartan, Bartan ... don't believe I know him. What brings you out here unaccompanied, Fixer?"

"A night on the town, Captain. I fear my own good captain has secured other lodgings for the night and has left me to my own devices." Fixer panned its sensor-dome slowly around the table. "Anyone for a round of sabacc, gee-bees?"

=====

Fixer left the cantina several hundred credits richer from sabacc and with the offer of more credits for some free-lance repair-work if time allowed. Part of the droid's circuits dreaded returning to the empty ship. On a random thought, the droid steered itself over to a public-information stand and plugged into the terminal's scomp-link. The first order of business was calling up the streetmap Fixer had gotten through the ship's comm-system and comparing it to the one available from the info-terminal. Next, the droid called up a list of droid retailers in the city, both new and second-hand, and plotted them on the map. Finally, a list of tool and equipment shops was added.

=====

Fixer hurried out early the next morning to visit certain shops it had selected the night before. It started the errand, counting on the sluggishness of a local judiciary system to keep Captain Bartan occupied most of the morning. Tools were the main order of the day, trying to replace what had been seized in Z'zik's engineering section. An unexpected find left Fixer with an MSE-6 and a case full of program matrices and various attachments. That purchase bit deeper than the droid would have preferred into its available credits, but a second unit would be quite convenient.

Fixer had just managed to get its morning's purchases stowed away when Captain Bartan returned. "Droid! Is the ship ready to lift?"

Fixer considered several responses, finally settling on one that was most likely to satisfy the captain while being accurate. "T-t-the ship is ab-b-ble to lift, sir. Have you obtained a c-c-cargo?" Securing a cargo while in a detention cell would have shown remarkable ingenuity and done much to allay Fixer's concerns for its new owner.

"No, blast it. It could be a couple of days before I find something."

Adventure Hook
Ships sold through an impound auction are eligible to be "recoded" by BoSS. This can be done at virtually any starport more advanced than a paved lot sporting an autonav beacon. The new owner should have handy a copy of the bill-of-sale from the auction along with a standard identification unit - typically an Imperial ID card, but a current Captain's License or Bounty Hunter License are acceptable as well. The old transponder will be removed and a new one installed and imprinted - all done exclusively by BoSS technicians. Be sure your ship is "clean" before doing this to avoid any ... entanglements.
"Sir, I discovered the Fortune's Lady is docked. If you don't mind, I would like to pay a call on them. I've worked with her crew before and would like to spend some downside time with them. If you need me, I have a comlink you can call. Also, in way of ship news, the ship is scheduled to have her consumables totally restocked this afternoon. The dock-droids will also tend to the ship's engines, at least the exterior sections. They will likely recommend an engine overhaul or total replacement, as I tried to mention earlier. I know that isn't possible right now, I'm just telling you what the dock-droids will tell you. Oh, and do you want to retain the ship's current name and transponder ID? We can easily have that redone while we are here, if you should wish."

"Let me think on that one. In the meantime, you can run along to your party. If something comes up, I'll call you." Captain Bartan stumbled into his cabin and collapsed on the bunk.

Satisfied the human would stay that way, Fixer returned to Engineering and activated the MSE droid, installing a light-weight manipulator and a matrix geared for starship repair. Retrieving several cans of cleaning spray, Fixer led the little droid to the starboard engine room, ordering it to clean the components and then power down and stay out of sight.

=====

Adventure Hook
There is, of course, a danger in this dock-side service. Unsavory characters such as pirates or bounty hunters may slice the service droids and reprogram them to sabotage the ship, allowing the characters to be apprehended later, away from witnesses or interference.

Captain Bartan managed to drag his way out of the bottle and actually ran a fairly decent ship, renamed Smiling Providence. He never talked about what almost drowned him and Fixer studiously never asked. Despite his regained sense of balance, he never seemed to warm to the droid. In fact, it was several weeks before he even asked the droid for its designation.

Fixer added another MSE droid, installing this one in the port engine compartment. In an odd quirk of intentional - even if invisible - humor, Fixer named them "Port" and "Starboard" and painted their body-shells red and green, respectively. It managed to copy its gaming skillpack onto a pair of MSE processor-matricies and the three droids would occassionally gather in the rear of the ship and play sabacc.

Fixer converted one of the passenger compartments into an Engineering workroom. It found an old oil-bath system and installed it - suitably modified to allow a tall-framed droid to make use of the system in a low-ceilinged environment. Worktables and storage cabinets were quick in coming, with one serving double-duty as a sabacc table.

Another MSE droid came onboard. This time, Fixer wasn't as lucky and the captain saw the two droids arriving.

"What are you up to, droid?"

"S-s-sir?"

Bartan pointed at the MSE. "Where'd you get the mouse-box?"

"O-oh. I f-f-f-fixed Captain Kl'tith's s-s-sensor array l-l-last night when I was v-visiting. S-s-she wanted to p-pay me, so we ag-g-greed on a new MSE kit. I c-c-can use the h-h-help, sir."

"I see. Be sure it keeps out of my way."

"Yes, s-s-sir."

=====

Fixer converted another passenger cabin into a small sickbay. Granted, Captain Bartan hadn't mentioned any inquiries into passenger space, but Fixer made a deal for a surplus exam bed in what the droid admitted to itself was most likely a fit of nostalgia.

Another of those fits procured the burnt-out shell of an R5 unit. According to the story, the R5 in question displayed its surly and recalcitrant nature during a customs inspection. One of the boarding party was armed with a DEMP gun. Maybe the droid had no real intention of interfering with the inspection, but its bluff frightened the young trooper with the DEMP. At close range, the bolt from the DEMP slagged the Intellex processor core in the R5, causing its dome to rupture. The main body mechanics still worked just fine, so Fixer hung onto it, hoping to do something with it that would make up for all the other R5's like Dingo.

=====

"Hey, Fixer! You want half of an old Treadwell? I ended up getting a complete used droid cheaper than what they want for a new motive unit. No, don't worry about paying me. I'd just be spacing the left-over parts anyway..."

=====

Gamemastering Tip
Never declare an action proposed by a player to be impossible. Hard work and sheer luck often combine to allow the most unlikely efforts to succeed. In Fixer's case, it spent months working on the problem, probably making a half a dozen or more Very Difficult rolls on Droid Repair and maybe even a Heroic success on a Droid Programming check.
Getting the base manipulator ring of the Treadwell to attach to the dome servos on the R5 body was easy. Trying to get the Treadwell processor connected to the various R5 appendages was another story totally. Fixer wrestled with the problem regularly when its talents weren't needed elsewhere. Success came after months of painstaking work and Fixer felt a deep-seated satisfaction when the new droid was able to operate all its systems flawlessly. Part of it wished those beautiful exposed manipulators had been designed to be compatable with the FX-series body. The Treadwell processor was a simpleton, but it followed orders and could hold onto things. Fixer wondered what Z'zik would think of it...

=====

By now, sabacc games were a regular feature in the Engineering workroom with Fixer, Port, Starboard, Bumble, and Fumble all participating. When the captain went into his quarters shortly after entering hyperspace, it would regularly be days before he emerged. Only rarely would he communicate with Fixer and then he'd use the ship's intercom.

Fixer missed gaming with organics, but the all-droid open served as an enjoyable way to pass the time onboard the ship in the rare times when everything was running as smoothly as the combined efforts of the droids could make it. Fixer occassionally thought about inviting the captain to participate, but the human's distant demeanor always squelched that thought before it ever came to action.

=====

As the door completed its opening cycle, Fixer thought about what the captain saw - his chief engineering droid pulled up to a worktable with its MSE assitant sitting atop a stool nearby. Those were the two he knew. Just as idly gathered around the table were two more MSE droids sporting garish paint jobs and a droid that looked like an immature version of Fixer. All five droids were holding cards. Fixer said the one thing it could think of.

"W-w-w-would you care for a hand of sabacc, captain?

-end- (for now)