It had been three months after the battle at Stiix, and Lloyd felt it hadn't been long enough for… all the fuss. It was true that they needed money, and Dareth helped them out by getting the sponsorship with Borg Industries, but whenever Lloyd was left alone with his thoughts, that voice whispered in his head again. It wasn't real, Lloyd told himself. Morro was gone. It wasn't real.
Midway through the meeting, Lloyd felt a panic attack creeping up on him. He shoved it down, keeping a smile plastered on his face as Cyrus Borg explained what he wanted from the sponsorship. "Think of it more as a partnership," he was saying. "To work efficiently, we need to be a team, both of us participating as one instead of one side overpowering the other."
"I have to go to the bathroom," Lloyd said loudly.
Everyone looked at him. His face flushed. Lloyd stood up quickly. "Sorry," he added, and moved to leave.
"Hey," Kai said. "Buddy, you alright?"
"Yeah," Lloyd said. "Yeah. I'm fine." Ugh, no way Kai would believe him. "I'll tell you later," he said. "I really do have to go to the bathroom, though. Which way is it?"
"You'll have to take the elevator," Zane said. "The closest is one floor down and to the left."
"Thanks," said Lloyd, and he speedwalked to the elevator.
He managed to wait for the elevator doors to close before he started hyperventilating. Lloyd jabbed the floor button and collapsed against the wall, trembling. His heart pounded. He had to run, he had to fight, he was in danger and something was coming and he was trapped–
He stumbled out the elevator and picked a door at random. He shut it behind him and sat down hard on the ground, hugging his knees and sobbing. It wasn't real, he told himself. Just his own brain playing tricks on him. Just him. Just Lloyd. No one else.
Something beeped across from him.
Lloyd didn't look up at first. Some computer's notification sound, he thought–the tower was full of computers. Another beep sounded, this one closer, and Lloyd snapped his head up to meet the green eyes of a nindroid.
"Oh," he said, and went back to hyperventilating.
The nindroid tilted their head, a ninja hood obscuring most of their features. It took Lloyd a moment, but they weren't crouching down to be on his level, they were just that short. They reached a hand out. Lloyd flinched.
"Sorry," he said when they retracted their arm. "I just…"
He sobbed again and wiped his eyes. More tears quietly filled them. Through his blurry vision, he saw the nindroid sign something, but Lloyd didn't know enough sign language to recognize more than a few basic phrases. He shook his head. "I'll be okay," he croaked. "I just need to sit for a while, okay? I'll go back when I'm… better."
The nindroid nodded and moved to his side. Slowly, every movement taken with clear warning, they sat down next to him. They were almost a head shorter than Lloyd, and Lloyd wasn't that tall, either.
Lloyd swallowed hard and wiped his nose. "You look like you've seen this before," he said. "Um, do you mind if I talk? I think I need to talk."
They beeped, which Lloyd took as affirmation. "Okay," he said. "Have you seen this before? I know you work with Dr. Borg, but I dunno if there are other humans around… how many people in the tower–"
The nindroid held up one finger. "One at a time," Lloyd said. "Got it. Um, you've seen panic attacks before, right?"
They nodded. Lloyd sighed, putting one hand over his chest and feeling his heartbeat return to a normal pace. "Okay," he said. "I guess I don't need to know who, that'd be invasive." A thought occurred to him. "Are you going to tell anyone else about this?"
They shrugged and tilted their head. "What do I want?" Lloyd said. "Um… please don't tell anyone. I'll tell Kai later, but…"
He trailed off. His hands still shook. Lloyd took a deep breath. "It's embarrassing," he admitted. "I should be over this by now, right? It's been three months, and–and we need money, and Dareth 'n Borg are helping us, so why…"
More tears ran down his cheeks. Lloyd looked down at his knees. "It just sucks," he said. "I wish I didn't feel like this."
The nindroid beeped. When Lloyd looked at them, they nodded. Again, they reached their hand out. Lloyd didn't flinch this time. "It's fine," he said, and took their hand to guide to his knee. It was surprisingly warm for a nindroid, but maybe Zane was just cold.
The nindroid put just enough pressure on him to ground him. Lloyd sighed. "Thanks," he said. "What's your name, anyway?"
They beeped and started fingerspelling something. Lloyd interrupted them. "I don't know that much sign language, sorry. Can you write it?"
They paused. Their eyes flashed. Across the room, a printer whirred to life. The nindroid tapped Lloyd's knee once before getting up to get the printout and bring it back.
"Mindroid?" Lloyd read, squinting at the paper. "That's it? I mean, it's fine if you like it, but isn't it weird to be named after your height?"
Mindroid shrugged and sat down again. "Fair enough," said Lloyd. "You don't have to feel bad about it or anything. It's your name."
He had mostly calmed down, he realized. He sniffed and wiped his nose. "I should go back soon," he said. "Um, thanks, Mindroid. It's nice not to be alone."
Mindroid nodded. They stood up and reached their hand to Lloyd. He smiled and took it, letting them help him to his feet. They might be short, but Mindroid was sturdy, and could easily support his weight.
The two of them went back to the elevator together. Mindroid waved at him as the doors closed. Lloyd managed to wave back before they lost sight of each other.
When he went back to Dr. Borg's office, Kai immediately got up to meet him. "Hey, Lloyd, buddy, you alright?"
"Yeah," Lloyd said. "I'm fine, I…"
He paused. "You what?" Kai asked, worry evident in his voice.
Lloyd groaned and pressed his face into Kai's chest. "I forgot to use the bathroom," he muttered. "And I actually had to go for once."
Kai sighed. "Hey," he said, tilting Lloyd's head back so he could see Kai smiling at him. "We're just about done here. You didn't miss anything super important, and I can fill you in on the only kind of important stuff in the car."
"Cool," said Lloyd. "Do you think we'll come back anytime soon?"
"Dunno. Why do you ask?"
He shrugged. "Ran into one of the nindroids. They seemed pretty nice. I kinda want to see them again, later."
"Of course!" said Borg, startling Lloyd and Kai both. "You don't have to come over for strictly business–it would be fine to come over if you can, ah, make time out of your busy schedule!"
Lloyd smiled. "Yeah," he said. "That'd be nice."