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The Language of Flavor

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It really escaped K2SO how organic sentients could get so impartial to specific foods.

Understandably, food was required for organic sentients to live and function optimally. As such, it was important to ensure each member had the proper amounts of food to carry out a single mission before the ship leaves base.

(Not droids like himself, of course- he doesn’t even need food to survive.)

More surprising than than their constant need for food, however, was how humans found ways to survive even when faced with a lack of it. With the way the Empire treated its own prisoners, you’d think that after running diagnostics on their health, they’d be long since dead.

(Mostly because they’re so squishy and have an uncanny ability to be killed by the simplest things.)

And so here was Jyn Erso: living, breathing, thriving…

...And gazing lovingly at a small basket of bright red berries cupped in her hands.

She continued to hold the basket as though it were a one-of-a-kind prize, and she certainly looked as though she would drool the same way.

(Which was strange, considering her last meal was only two standard hours prior.)

“I haven’t had these in so long,” she said wistfully. “These are my absolute favorite.”

“Why do humans even have emotional attachments to food?” K2 asked. “The Alliance provides you with exactly the right sustenance you need to live, plus more for optimal performance in your missions. You don’t need these...” He gestured to the fruits as his voice trailed, unable to name the berries after a quick scan.

“Frag berries, but I grew up calling ‘em ‘One-Fivers’. They’re a type of berry that sprouts out five berries in one main stem. The flavor is just...” she said, her voice trailing off as her eyes stayed fixated on the berries like rubies.

“All it takes is one bite...” she continued, not bothering with coherent sentences as she gingerly plucked a berry out of its stem and raised it above her head to admire it from all angles. “...and you’re hooked.” She lowered the berry into her mouth and took a long, slow bite, sucking inwards to get every drop of juice.

K2 tilted his head, focusing on the facial expressions the young rebel was making. He’d seen that look before: in children who were given a hug by their loved ones, or someone who’d been given a present for their birthday, or even in Cassian, when his operating system had resumed after apparently having his memories re-installed within the chassis of a newly-stolen KX-series droid as the crew left Scarif.

Still, Jyn’s reaction was bizarre, especially from someone such as herself. So long as the food in question got the job done, who cares what it tasted like? Humans’ fixation on flavor was stupid.

(So, naturally, he had to know more.)

“What does it taste like?” he asked suddenly, his face hovering keenly over the remaining berries.

She looked as though she had to suppress a squeal as she swallowed her bite of the fruit. “Mostly sweet. A little tart. Fresh and bright. It’s the best.”

“Tart. As in, sour?”

Jyn nodded. “There’s a bit of an acidic bite to it, and it stops it from being too sickly sweet.”

K2 tried to imagine this, but the idea just alluded him entirely. So instead, he decided to think about things associated with Jyn’s description and tried to conjure an image based on that.

Sweet, but “not too sickly sweet”.

Sugar , he concluded. Bodhi likes to put several spoonfuls in his caf every morning. (And evening, now that he thought about it.)

Fresh and bright.

Grass , he concluded again- after all, what is fresher than nature itself? He thought of the bright colors of the foliage in the more lush regions of the galaxy he’d been able to visit on assignment.

The bit about the berries being “tart” was a tough one, though. Did he hear her correctly? Acidic? Really?

“Humans are so strange,” K2 finally said. “You have an affinity for these berries because it’s like you’re eating something that tastes like sugar mixed with grass and battery acid. Given your species’ additional penchant for war, I’d say you’re all trapped in a rather psychotic loop of sado-masochism.”

Jyn had only three words to respond with: “... what the kriff ?!”

“You said it was sweet. Sugar is sweet. ‘Fresh and bright’, you said. So, grass. The first thing I thought of when you said ‘acidic’ was battery acid.”

“But-”

“Surely my assessment is correct, yes?” he asked with a bit of pride as he stood more upright with arms akimbo. With a bit of guidance and description, he understood flavor just fine! Jyn Erso, among other humans, just had a strange affinity for corrosive “flavors” for some reason.

(It seemed like a classic case of “one species’ weakness is another species’ preference”, surely.)

“Kay, battery acid isn’t the only thing that’s…’tart’,” she said with air quotes. “Not all acids are that corrosive.”

“Well, Cassian once told me he was allergic to pinaps,” K2 quipped. “Supposedly his tongue doesn’t react well to an enzyme that’s typically used for meat tenderization, and it swells up to stop him from eating any more. I’d say his body is far smarter than yours, to have a defense system such as that.”

Jyn rolled her eyes. “I’m not slowly killing myself by eating these berries.” She looked at the berries again, as though she wanted to eat the whole basketful in one sitting, but she fought the urge and got up to place it gently within a side compartment of the ship.

(Out of sight, out of mind, apparently. Humans can be so simple-minded at times.)

“No, but you have a strange attachment to this specific berry. You wolf down every single one of your meals-”

“Watch it,” she chided, shooting him a look as she sat back down in the pilot’s seat in front of him.

“-but you ate these berries at a much slower pace. Clearly, you like the flavor of it. So now I have to know: What does it taste like?”

Jyn thrummed her fingers on the armrest of her seat, thinking. While K2 knew Jyn was trying to think up an explanation that would be easy for him to understand, his circuits became a bit twitchy at the prolonged silence, and he was about to speak up again, when-

“Bright red,” she concluded, and she looked at him expectantly. “It tastes like a sharp burst of bright red. But in a way that’s comforting, rather than aggressive. It doesn’t make you want to stop moving, nor does it make you want to shed blood. It’s a happy, bright red. That’s what it tastes like.”

He considered her words.

“Do they taste similar to Ceraz berries?” he asked.

Jyn frowned, realizing where his logic had taken him. “No- they’re both red in color, but they’re actually quite different in flavor.”

“But you say it tastes like a sharp burst of bright red,” he countered. “Though, your decision to use the words ‘sharp’ and ‘burst’ is making me wonder if this berry is the reason why you have an affinity for keeping a collection of blades on your person.”

She pursed her lips and bit back a chuckle at his observational prowess. “Yeah, that explanation was bantha shit after all.” She lowered her head, the gears in her head churning a bit more laboriously this time to come up with another description.

K2 turned to look at the berries sitting on the shelf, still trying to grasp at something, anything , that could form a reasonable explanation as to what they tasted like that made them so great.

She sighed and threw her arms up in defeat. “I guess I can’t explain the flavor after all.” She shook her head in resignation. “Sorry. It’s so hard to describe flavor to someone who doesn’t even have a set of taste buds. Describing flavor though…” She shrugged slightly. “...It’s like I’m speaking to you in a language that you can’t ever learn or fully understand. But it is my favorite fruit. The flavor’s just... what it is . No other berry comes close to being as delicious as a one-fiver. It doesn’t taste the same. It doesn’t feel the same.”

K2’s head tilted. “What does it feel like, then?”

“Like comfort,” she said, and her fingers trailed up to the kyber crystal around her neck. She grasped the crystal and absentmindedly squeezed it, a default security blanket to latch on to, and her eyes spoke of a distant memory, the stars reflecting in her glazed-over eyes. “Every now and then, when we could afford it, or when it was a special occasion, Mama would take me to the local market to buy frag berries.”

He watched Jyn close her eyes and breathe in slowly, deeply, as she accessed a memory she wanted to savor for as long as possible. He saw her eyes dart back and forth under her lids- scanning- as though she were mentally rebuilding the scene down to the most minute detail.

(Cassian would sometimes look like that, whenever he asked him about his own parents.)

“They weren’t local to Lah’mu, so they were expensive, but oh man, whenever Mama brought some home...”

When she went long enough without finishing her sentence, he decided to run a brief diagnostic on her: Heart rate elevated, disproportionate to breathing pace. Breaths are being conducted strictly via nose rather than mouth. Grip strength increased at armrest, but is not necessary to keep body upright in seat. Pectoral muscles contracting, but has very little visible effect on posture.

Conclusion: Jyn Erso is holding back emotional pain.

“I just…” Jyn’s voice trailed, and her hands stuck out in front of her, gesturing in swirls as though she were trying to distract herself from the recollection of her childhood. “It’s a flavor I miss. It’s a flavor that takes me back. It’s-”

“Clearly something associated with memory,” K2 cut in.

Jyn’s eyes snapped to his, surprised. “What?”

“It’s not the flavor you like- it’s the memory associated with it.”

She lowered her eyes and mulled over his conclusion. “Yeah…” she said softly. “I suppose you’re right.”

Jyn didn’t say much else for the remainder of the flight, and although K2 was uncomfortable with such a silence during long flights like these, he decided it was probably for the best not to say anything, not even a rib at his own expense, until they returned to Echo Base.

(It isn’t as fun when both sides aren’t up to play-fighting, anyway.)

 

It hadn’t been more than a few standard days since they returned from their assignment when she came running up to him, her eyes bright and a grin playing across her face.

“I got the solution,” she said, and it was her turn this time to stand with pride, arms akimbo.

His optics flickered in a flustered blink. “To?”

Her grin only widened. “Showing you the flavor of one-fivers!” She held up a datapad in one hand, and a bundle of cables in the other. Her shoulders shrugged upwards in suggested, and her head tilted: “How ‘bout it?”

He pondered his options. He wasn’t sure if he was up for seeing Jyn upset over a failed experiment; if Jyn was unhappy, then so was Cassian. It wasn’t fun to see the people he cared about looking upset.

(Then again, he still did want to know what frag berries tasted like.)

 

It didn’t take long for her to install new software into his system back at her quarters, judging by how brief his nap was. When he awoke, Jyn was already eagerly unplugging cables from his chassis.

“Okay,” she started, setting the cables down and holding out an item to him, covered with a small cloth. “Ready?”

K2 tilted his head. “Ready for what?”

“To taste frag berries.”

He looked at her, then back down at her hand. “Sure, but I still don’t see how you’ve found a solution to this. I don’t even have any taste recep-”

Jyn didn’t wait for him to finish his sentence as she pulled the cloth away.

[Analyzing item…]

[Item Analysis complete: Frag berries]

[AUTO-RUN: JE_is_number1.prg]

run> JE_is_number1.prg

[Accessing internal memory...]

[Internal memory accessed]

cd Main Memory

cd Archive

cd Pleasant Memories

run> CASSIAN_01_voice_mod.mem

run> JYN_01_scarif_vault_blaster.mem

An overwhelming wave of happiness rushed through his circuits.

K2 was beside himself. He and Jyn didn’t see eye-to-eye all the time, but he finally understood why Jyn felt such an attachment to these berries, why she thought they tasted so good, why it felt like comfort to her. How could he have overlooked the possibility that humans had a reactionary program in their own systems, albeit one that existed organically?

From a mere glance, he finally got a taste of those frag berries, and-

They taste like a burst of bright memories.

[Memory access complete]

[Program complete]

[Initiating Self-Diagnostic]

[Self-Diagnostic complete: 0 errors found]

taskkill /im JE_is_number1.prg /t

[Program terminated]

Conclusion: Frag berries are the best berries.

His optics refocused as he was brought back to reality and he slowly turned his attention to Jyn, who stared back at him, eyes wide with intense curiosity.

“...I’m astounded ,” was all he could manage to say.

Jyn smiled. “I realized later that I needed to just...speak another language for you to understand what I mean,” she explained, patting the datapad on her desk. “So when Cassian mentioned that you archive memories you find pleasant, I got straight to work.”

He looked back at the berries again, remembering the joy he felt when Cassian asked him to choose his own voice module, as well as his surprised elation when Jyn- an outsider, daughter to the mastermind of the Death Star, a constant pain in his circuits- gave him a blaster to use on Scarif, handed to him without regard to the Rebellion’s Droid Protection Policy banning armed weapons for droids.

(He quickly filed this interaction in his “Pleasant Memories” archives.)

K2’s speakers warbled at the huffing sound he made.

“Your behavior, Jyn Erso, is continually unexpected.”

 

On K2’s next long-term assignment, he made absolutely sure to bring enough food for him and Cassian.

“Um, Kay?” Cassian asked from the pilot seat next to his.

“Yes, Cassian?”

“Why did you bring these berries if you weren’t going to let me eat them?”

“They’re mine,” K2 responded simply.

“If you say so, but...You can’t even eat them.”

“I’m eating them right now,” he said with an air of mysticism and a happy sigh.

“But they’re moldy,” Cassian countered, wrinkling his nose.

It was true- K2 was indeed staring right at the small basket of berries, which he’d placed on the dashboard in front of him once the duo reached hyperspace. But they’d been on assignment for over a week now, and the frag berries had long since lost their illustrious red color. The skin was wrinkled, the leaves and stems curled up into themselves in a dead, brown state, and green and white fuzz had begun to fester on its surface.

It didn’t matter that Jyn had failed to account for the longevity of an organic food item into the software’s programming, however- they were delicious to him no matter what.

“Kay, please, for the love of stars,” Cassian pleaded, “throw the frag berries away.”

K2 nodded absentmindedly. “When we touch base,” he said. “Just a few more hours, please.”

He knew, based on the prolonged silence between them, that Cassian was staring at him with a mountain of questions about his reactions, but he appreciated Cassian deciding instead to lean back on the seat and sigh in an amused sort of way.

“Alright. Just a few more hours then,” he relented, and pulled out his datapad to catch up on his holonovel.

Droids regularly outlive and outperform humans on so many counts he could make a holonovel outlining them all, but he couldn’t have asked for better friends, even if Jyn and Cassian were squishy, temperamental, organic sentients.

(They can be trying at times, but they mean well.)