The room behind the smelting workshop was not necessarily the darkest room in Jabba`s Palace, but

it was definitely a contender. C3PO, however picky he was, did not need the perfect hiding place, for now… He quickly ran in the dusty, stuffy space behind the workshop, looking nervously (about as nervous as a droid can look) behind him. It had been just a couple of hours since his master, Luke Skywalker, had barely evaded being ingurgitated by a Rancor. Ever since then, the Palace had been in an uproar. Jabba, infuriated, sent C3PO away to wait with the other droids until he further needed him. Of course that meant that C3PO would have to deal with… - Where are you going, you blasted mechanical postule… Her… EV9D9. And her trusty cybernetic sidekick. 8D8. They appeared in the middle of the doorway, looking fairly menacing (to C3Po anyway), half-hidden in shadows. From behind them, screams and shrieks could be heard, droids being tortured by various automatic dreadful mechanical devices. - Get back here. Evie shrieked. - I`m quite comfortable where I am, thank you, C3Po said trying to keep his vocal circuits from stuttering. - Oh… comfortable. You want comfort do you, Evie said mockingly. 8D8, please, show our beloved guest what services we can provide to make him more… comfortable. 8D8 slowly raised his left arm. The five fingers each sank into his mechanical palm and were replaced with five instruments that looked like they could cause a droid excruciating pain. Everything from a screwdrivers to a neutronic-disfunctioner. C3PO shuddered. - Take your pick, Goldy, Evie sneered.

C3PO was now cornered, and could not make his escape. He nodded his head left to right in a frantic way, signaling his displeasure at the variety of torture tools being offered. - Pick. Evie demanded forcefully, or will use them all on your behind. C3PO definitely did not like the sound of that. He was very much fond of his behind. In fact, next to his head, it was one of his favorite body parts. - Oh dear… was all that he could mutter, as the sharp, menacing, sharp, pointy, and did I mention sharp instruments where drawing nearer and nearer to his cheek. - Hey, iron maiden. Why don`t you leave him alone? It was a human voice that had said those words, a female human voice, but to C3PO it was the sweetest sounds he had ever heard. There standing in the doorway, framed by a soft light and with her hand on her hip, was a young human female. Her stance was one of power and yet calm. She advanced slowly towards Evie who had swung around to see who had dared to interrupt her fun. Organic or otherwise, they would pay. - This does not concern you, human. She spat the last word as if the ultimate insult. - Whenever somebody is bullied into a corner, it does concern me. I`m weird like that. C3PO was still cowering in a corner but he felt brave enough to stand up. He could see the female more clearly now. She was barely 1,65 m tall and she had to crane her neck upwards to look the 1,90 m droid in the eyes. She had long red-gold hair and was wearing a simple robe. In fact, it looked like she was in the middle of going off to bed before stepping in. Quite unwise, C3PO thought, to challenge a droid like Evie unarmed. Now normally droids had standard programs to prevent them from harming humans, but with a droid like Evie, sadomasochistic and all around psychotic… who knows what damage she could do. C3PO resigned himself to doing the brave thing. Even if it would mean he

was to suffer greatly… horribly… incredibly, he could never forgive himself for allowing a sentient being to come to harm because of him. He had to step up and bring it, as his master Luke Skywalker would say. - M-m-m-miss. It`s alright. We`re just having an argument. It`s nothing, he finally managed to get out. He prayed that she would go and at least alert somebody of what was going on. Hopefully Jabba would send word to stop Evie before his behind suffered irreparable damage. The female looked the terrified droid up and down, perhaps pondering his words. She wasn`t buying it. - Yes, human. Why don`t you scamper off and convince some poor humanoid to stuff his life savings in your underwear. Isn`t that what you were hired to do? Evie said and felt quite proud of herself. She had been meaning to say that to one of Jabba`s dancers ever since she joined his little operation. Stupid female dancers… What she wouldn`t give to have just five minutes with all of them in one of her chambers. The female however did not look intimidated, nor did she look angry. She just continued to look up, smirking at Evie. The smirk slowly turned into a genuine smile and just when Evie was planning on asking what she has to smile about, she felt something akin to numbness in her neck. Evie placed her metallic hands on her neck and both were quickly covered in a fluid. The female had ripped one of her lubricant conduits. Evie started panicking and strange mechanical coughs filled the room. When had the female done this. Evie`s sensors didn`t even detect the movement. None of the droids in the room did. 8D8 quickly rushed by his master`s side and carried her out of the room, on the way to the workshop.

C3PO felt relieved beyond measure, and leaned back, hiting the wall with his back. He wiped some virtual sweat off his shiny forehead. - Thank you, miss, he finally remembered to say. - Don`t mention, the female casually retorted and came next to him. Oh, look what they did to you. She turned his head and saw that he had been scratched across the cheek. - What.? C3PO jerked and brought his hand to his face. Oh, nooo, he lamented. What if it gets infected.? The female giggled. Some droids were taking the whole “human personality profile” a bit too far. - I can fix that. Come on, she said and extended her hand. - Oh no miss, thank you. I already owe you my unending gratitude for saving me (all of me) from my persecutors, but… - Yes, I saved you and now you`re my responsibility. Come on. We can`t have you go out with your face messed up. Jabba doesn`t like his goods damaged. Again she stood with her extended hand. C3PO looked at it for a while and then relunctantly took it. - Thank you, miss… uh… - I`m Ma… the female stopped herself and then after a split second pause she said. Arica. My name is Arica. - Please to meet you Miss Arica, I am C3PO, human-cyborg relations, at your service.

*** - Ouch…

- Oh don`t be like that, you wuss. It doesn`t hurt. - It irritates my circuits. Mara rolled her eyes as she applied the coagulant on C3PO`s face. The pasty substance would fill the indentation in his cheek. Getting to that point however proved troublesome, since the droid had a nasty habit of fidgeting. - I`m sorry, said C3PO sensing that his benefactor was growing irritated. R2D2, my counterpart, usually applies droid first aid. I am not used to fleshy appendices. - Well I`m not used to fidgety droids so I guess we`re even. Mara finished the procedure and then gently tapped the surface where she had applied the paste to see if it was drying and if it was even. - Now we have to let it dry and you should be good as new. C3PO looked on the floor and grabbed a shiny metal tray. He looked at his reflexion and yelped. - Oh. There`s a spot on my face now. You should`ve left the scratch. I would`ve looked more intimidating. Mara laughed a good low laugh and said: - C3PO, plasma canons for hands and laser beams coming out of your eyes and you still wouldn`t look intimidating. - Well, not to you maybe, the droid grumbled and dropped the tray back on the ground. - What did you say, Mara asked squinting her eyes, looking like she took offence to what he had said. - Oh, nothing, nothing. Just clearing my voice circuits. - Ah, she said nodding her head. He was a fun one, that`s for sure.

- If you don`t mind me saying miss, you are quite handy with a wrench. How did that came to be exactly? - Oh, I know protocol droids through and through. I grew up surrounded by them. In fact, some times I felt they were my only friends. Mara stared at some blank spot on the wall, lost in her private memory. A girl running around in a big empty palace. The only other people, if you can call them that, that would wander in those secluded areas were the droids. For some reason they took a liking to the little red head girl who was always training for something, always sweaty, always exhausted. They would talk to her and sometimes even, listen to her, better than any sentient organic being had listened to her before than and even better than anybody has ever listened since then. - My goodness, C3PO exclaimed and snapped her out of her reverie. You grew up surrounded by protocol droids? Than your family must`ve been very wealthy indeed. How did you come into master Jabba`s employement? Fun, but not quite as dense as you would think, Mara thought to herself. - Oh. My father made them, she quickly made up. He designed behavioral programs. We weren`t rich but there was always a protocol droid around. - What is your father`s name. Maybe I know of him, C3PO pressed on. - Oh, I don`t think you do. He operated out of a backwater planet. He wasn`t very well known, she quickly added trying to bury the subject. He… he died. - Oh. I`m so sorry, C3PO said sincerely and then felt a bit awkward for pressing the matter. I didn`t mean to… - It`s alright. Happened a long time ago. What about you?

- Me? - Yes. What is your story? She asked though she knew most of it. Her mark, Luke Skywalker had offered the droid to Jabba the Hutt. What an idiot, she thought. Ok, maybe he was a little full of himself, but C3PO seemed really smart for an average droid. Not that it mattered much since Skywalker was going to be dead soon anyway, but it certainly made her task of pulling that trigger a lot easier knowing that the so called Jedi was a jerk that would place his droid in danger for no good reason. Easier and pleasurable even. - Well, C3PO started, in short, I am a present to his greatness, Jabba the Hutt, offered by my former master, Luke Skywalker. - How does that make you feel? - Feel? - Yes. You were abandoned, don`t you feel angry. At your former master? Could she maybe use C3PO against Skywalker, Mara pondered. - Oh no. I mean, if I wanted to impress a crime lord with a valuable, precious gift, I would offer myself too. Obviously. Ok, he was very full of himself, Mara corrected her earlier statement. - Oh, obviously, she quickly added in a mock-tone. But, you know, as you can see, this is not the safest environment for a droid. He knowingly placed you in danger. - Oh, me and my counterpart R2D2 have been in far worse situations than this. Though granted, I`m not particularly fond of dangerous situations, not like my friend anyway, but I`ve come to expect it, being mr. Skywalker`s droid and all. - Really?

- Yes. I even have a catchphrase for whenever we`re about to be destroyed. Want to hear it? - Fire away. - Ahem, C3PO coughed and seemed like he was trying to find the right frequency for his shrill of terror. “Oh no. We`re doomed.” he finally let out in the most terrified voice he could modulate. - Wow, Mara said between laughs. Ominous indeed. - Thank you. Some times I follow it up with “for sure”, just to surprise people. - That is catchy, the woman said and continued laughing. - I`m sure I`ll get to utter it again soon… Mara thought she sensed a shadow of sadness in his voice. - What do you mean? You`re safe now. C3PO paused and locked his photoreceptors on a straight trajectory with the female`s green eyes. He looked to the left and to the right and then leaned in. Mara mimicked his movement and then leaned in herself. - Can you keep a secret? C3PO said in the lowest tone possible for him. - Yes… - I think my former master is planning to escape. Mara was shocked. No, really. She was shocked. - I am shocked, she simply said. - I know. I think… maybe it is all part of a plan. Coming here, surrendering me and R2D2. Mara nodded… continuing to be shocked.

- Wow… she stared in fake awe. What could that plan be? - I don`t know C3PO said and lowered his voice even more. But when the escape happens, and I`m willing to be my last oil bath on it, I am coming back for you miss Arica. Ok, now she really was surprised. Her first instinct was to burst out laughing but thankfully she swallowed her mad fits and continued to look very serious-like at her new friend. It then dawned on her that in the morning she was going to kill his master, and suddenly the whole situation felt very very wrong. This droid was actually thinking… he could save her. Her. - Thank you C3PO, she said slightly embarrassed by his offer, but I`ll be fine. You should look out for yourself. - No, Miss Arica. I am determined to repay my debt to you. I will tell my master about you. We will come to save you from a life of crime and depravation. I`m sure you`ll like my master. - I`m sure I will, she said massaging her neck. - He`s very, how do the human females say, dashing. “Soon he`ll be, how do the droids say, permanently offline” she thought but obviously kept that to herself. She stifled a yawn. - Oh, you are tired. I am sorry. - No, it`s ok. I enjoyed talking to you C3PO, she said getting up. And don`t worry about me. There`s nothing wrong with being a dancer. Just like there`s nothing wrong with being a protocol droid.

- I don`t mean to be presumptuous miss Arica, but I don`t think this (he gestured around) is a healthy environment for a young lady. - The whole galaxy is not a healthy environment right now. - My master is part of the rebellion. They will fix everything, in due time. Not if MY master has anything to say about it, Mara thought but again, kept it to herself. Still, his confidence was rather, infectious she thought. - You`re a great guy C3PO. Your former master was an idiot. - You`ll see. He will save us all tomorrow. - Yeah. I`ll believe it when I see it, she added and then turned to leave. Goodnight C3PO - Good night miss Arica and… thank you. - If Evie gives you any more grief, you come to me. - Oh, I won`t be here for long. She won`t have the chance to torment me again. She smiled one last time before exiting the room. “Stubborn idiot. Who does that remind me of?” she asked herself jokingly and then left for her room.