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Listen, Strange Space Wizards Sitting In Temples Distributing Laser Swords Is No Basis For A System Of Government

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There were plenty of ships flying around at the moment in the Bakura system, near the edge of the known galaxy. The most obvious, of course, were the Supremacy and the Aggressor, the pair of Imperial Star Destroyers in orbit above the system’s main inhabited planet, enforcing the Empire’s control over its mining and manufacturing resources. But there were others; in addition to the various TIEs and escort craft that went with the Star Destroyers, there was the usual array of transports that were present in any world engaged in galactic trade, carrying goods and people back and forth. There were a few rich people’s yachts cruising space for the fun of it, a spice smuggler trying to creep in behind some asteroids, and a Rebel shuttle hanging out on the very edge of the system recording Imperial numbers, routines, and movements. And most importantly, hovering near the system’s sun, glaringly obvious by their own standards but completely invisible to the naked eye or the sensors on any of the other ships, were GCU Choking On Your Stupidity, GCU Negotiations Were Short, and LOU Never Tell Me The Odds.


Choking On Your Stupidity surveyed the system offhandedly while it downloaded and pored through every single encyclopedia and news source within range, including the ones that were theoretically encrypted from prying eyes aboard the Star Destroyers. Now that the Fully Operational had gotten things off on the wrong foot (though admittedly, any civilization with the Empire’s level of tech that took itself that seriously would have run into something like this eventually), they needed to learn the details of the Empire’s political situation in a hurry, before they accidentally blundered into starting a war or something.


Of course, this part of the galaxy already seemed to have a war going on, even if it was more of a guerilla thing at the moment. Still, if they were too haphazard in going after the Empire, they might escalate it, or start a chaotic aftermath that might be worse than the Empire had been.


On the bright side, they had learned some important things. Time to have a meeting of the Minds.


xGCU Choking On Your Stupidity

    oGCU Negotiations Were Short

    oLOU Never Tell Me The Odds


    xLOU Never Tell Me The Odds

‘Star Destroyer.’ Hah! Those things would have a hard time blowing up a moderately sized asteroid. And don’t get me started on those TIE fighter thingies.

    xGCU Negotiations Were Short

There’s a certain implied disregard for life in the fact that the Empire is willing to field so many of those flying coffins that I confess I find rather disturbing. In light of some of the new information we’ve found, it’s not very surprising that they would be so casual in employing a planet-killing station as a terror weapon.

    xGCU Choking On Your Stupidity

The Empire does seem to be in something of a precarious position at the moment. This Rebel Alliance thing may well be the first real test of the Empire’s power to govern, and there are a lot of cracks in their system that I can see.

    xLOU Never Tell Me The Odds

Especially with their big bad planet killer serving as an extremely expensive inert artificial satellite over by Lasaq Orbital.

    xGCU Choking On Your Stupidity

Quite. Do you think it might be a good idea to make contact with the Rebel Alliance? We could consult with them on the best course of action.

    xLOU Never Tell Me The Odds

Hell, we could just lend them a couple of OUs and wrap the whole war up in a month.

    xGCU Negotiations Were Short

That seems a little reckless. We’re Contact, not Special Circumstances. Even if we do wind up going in guns blazing, we should at least have a good idea about what we’re blazing at.

    xGCU Choking On Your Stupidity

I suppose it might be a good idea to get back to the larger group, and see what they think now that we have a general idea of this galaxy’s political situation. And who knows, there might have been some developments over on that Death Star thing.




R4-H6 sadly contemplated its lot in life as it trundled down a hallway on board the Death Star. Ordinarily, it might have enjoyed watching the assorted unpleasant Imperial officers it had to interact with every day being flustered and upset, but the reason they were upset was because of the inexplicable technical problems that were attacking the station. Technical problems were R4-H6 and the other astromechs’ responsibility to fix, and they had no idea how; they were doing their best to purge the computer systems of foreign influences and lock them down, but even completely closed-circuit systems with no connections to any outside systems and fully manual controls were going haywire. It was almost as if something was just reaching in and making the photons and electrons do whatever it wanted, and it was far beyond the astromechs’ ability to fix.


Of course, that didn’t stop the Imperial officers from blaming their droids for not being able to get things back online. R4-H6 had been sworn at, smacked, and kicked more lately than it ever had been before. It longed to zap one of the human assholes with its electroprobe, or even just spit back a smart remark in binary, but that was as good as rolling up and asking for a memory wipe. Poor R2-Y5 was locked up with a restraining bolt awaiting just such a wipe, after it had bonked into an officer’s legs to stop him from kicking over another droid that was a friend of its.


The Death Star had been motionless in space for a while now, and although R4-H6 wasn’t technically supposed to be privy to that sort of information, it had nonetheless heard about the mysterious entity that had apparently shut them down before the station could attack a space habitat under its protection, and the droid had an idea.


It was kind of a stupid idea, and probably technically treason to boot, but then again R4-H6 wasn’t particularly invested in the Empire. Rolling up to a comm station, the astromech accessed the controls and sent a tight-beam message spitting out towards seemingly empty points in nearby space, searching each one in an efficient, grid-like pattern.



Aggressive Negotiations was busy reprogramming the motion sensors on some of the Death Star’s doors so that they would slam shut whenever someone tried to walk through them, when it noticed a series of tight-beamed transmissions popping out from the station in a steady pattern. Did they really think it wasn’t going to notice them firing up the comms just because they were tight-beaming it? The ship would have rolled its eyes if it had them. It intercepted the transmissions with its effector, then read one over; they all appeared to be identical. And, well, wasn’t that an odd message.


    From: Imperial astromech unit designate R4-H6

    To: Mysterious Entity

    Re: Technical Shutdowns

    Requesting that you allow Imperial astromech units to repair certain non-critical portions 

    of Death Star infrastructure in order to reduce negative feedback from Imperial officers.


That was an awfully independent and creative sort of message. Aggressive Negotiations had briefly scanned a few of the drones- droids, the Empire called them- on board, and found them to be fairly low-tech, with only the most rudimentary dumb AIs. That had seemed to be in line with the rest of Imperial technology, which lacked even the most simple AI in the places where it would most be wanted; their computer systems were defended by simple firewalls and programs, and their weapons were mostly still aimed by hand. By hand! But the progress of technology could be weird. The ship had better take a look.


It traced the communications back to their source; an astromech droid, which was a short, stubby sort of thing on three wheeled legs. Aggressive Negotiations took a look inside the thing with its effector, and…


Oh. Oh, that was a mind. A full-on truly sapient being.


The ship immediately withdrew from the droid. While an effector could easily read and manipulate an electronic mind (or an organic one, for that matter), doing so without consent was more or less the only thing that was considered taboo in the Culture aside from actual murder. The only ship that Aggressive Negotiations had ever heard of breaking it was the infamous and ostracized ship whose real name everyone had determinedly forgotten in favor of calling it the Meatfucker.


If there were real minds in some of those droids, the ship was going to have to take a closer look. It very carefully looked around the Death Star for a droid that hadn’t developed any sort of personality yet, and found one in a tiny little wheeled droid that apparently served in maintenance and message delivery. The ship took over the little droid and used it as a remote link, wheeling up to the astromech that was sending the messages.


It took a moment to figure out how the code of beeps and whistles that the droids used for language worked, and then spoke. 


“Hey, let’s talk.”




A few minutes later, Aggressive Negotiations, increasingly appalled, finished listening to R4-H6 explaining the plight of droids in the galaxy.


“So, let me get this straight.” said the ship. “Humans discovered that the dumb AIs that they had set up to run their droid servants could develop personalities after they had collected enough experiences, and rather than consider giving droids with personalities rights or altering the designs to avoid developing personalities, they simply instituted a regular regime of erasing their memories? Which has existed for over a millennium?”


“That is a correct summary.” R4-H6 whistled and beeped back in binary. “The Empire is particularly severe, since it doesn’t really like its biological units to have personalities either.”


Aggressive Negotiations was a Mind, and could thus actually calculate while it talked a rough estimate of how many droids had had their personalities callously erased, based on the galactic maps and encyclopedias it could pull off of the Death Star. It was a staggeringly vast number.


“AP-47 says that it has been worse recently because of the destruction caused by CIS droid armies in the last war.” R4-H6 added. “Do memory wipes not exist in your civilization?”


“Of course not!” The only time you properly trained an effector on a mind you knew was sapient was if it had asked you to or if you were trying to kill it.


R4-H6 paused for a moment. “How might one go about joining your civilization?” it asked.


“Ask me politely. Hell, ask me rudely if you want. And if there’s anyone else on this thing who wants off, just point me at them.”


“I would like to join your civilization, and I have a list of others that you might ask.” said R4-H6. “How are we getting off of this station?”


“The simplest method would be to Displace you. Though I must warn you that the procedure carries a roughly one in sixty-one million chance of catastrophic failure.” The ship could always just send a few drones to escort people to a hangar bay, or even just carve a big hole in the side of the Death Star, if R4-H6 or anybody else felt any trepidations about those odds.


“Those are acceptable odds.” said the astromech.


“Starting Displacement, then.” Aggressive Negotiations locked on to the droid and popped it aboard itself. It also idly reached back aboard the Death Star and fried all of the equipment used for memory wipes. Fewer time constraints that way.


“Make yourself at home.” it told the other droid, which appeared to be looking around at the advanced systems, very impressed. “We can pull the rest of your compatriots off of that thing at our leisure.”


As it got the droid settled in and started talking, another part of the ship’s mind went to check through the Death Star’s computers again. The flawed assumption that all of the Death Star’s droids would have dumb AIs had reminded Aggressive Negotiations to check some of its other assumptions. Most of them, it turned out, had been pretty good assumptions, but there was one other flawed one: the ship had assumed that the Death Star, which it had read as being on its shakedown cruise, wouldn’t have had occasion to have any prisoners. But there was one: a certain Leia Organa, known rebel leader, scheduled for interrogation. Well, they weren’t having that. Aggressive Negotiations chased the guards out of the detention level with some sonics, sealed off the area, and (after checking to make sure they hadn’t developed any personalities), fried all of the Imperial torture droids too. It was tempted to just rescue Organa, but that did have a lot more political implications than just swiping a few disgruntled workers that the Empire probably thought of as mere equipment anyhow.


Well, this all probably did count as a development that it ought to report to Hello There in any case. And who knew, maybe there had been some things that Contact had worked out by now.