R0-N1 zipped out of the hangar, calling out to the MSE droids. I need you one more time. Clear a path to the detention block. Consulting a schematic he had downloaded earlier, R0-N1 directed the droids to take up positions and do “whatever it takes” to keep the path clear. Orders sent, he then hid in the alcove just outside the hangar again, waiting for confirmation, and to give the priestess time to get to the detention block with her escort. Most of the MSE droids were already near their desired positions, so it wouldn’t take long.
Once everyone was ready, R0-N1 took off again. Trusting that the path was clear, he abandoned any pretense of moving at a normal pace. Instead, he raced down the corridors, skidding around corners and waiting impatiently for the turbolift to arrive. He didn’t slow down until he was just outside the detention block.
When R0-N1 entered the detention block control room, he did his best to act like he belonged there. There were three stormtroopers taking up guard positions, and a pair of officers in the center of the room surrounded by a large console. One was thumbing through a manual of some kind, looking bored. The other, tall and imposing, stood at the console running a status check. R0-N1 chirped a friendly greeting, brazenly making his way to the console.
Two of the stormtroopers immediately raised their blasters, while the trooper at the console challenged him. “What do you think you’re doing? Are you authorized to be here?” R0-N1 replied that of course he was authorized, but the officer looked at him blankly. “Did you just insult my mother?”
R0-N1 recoiled at the idea and started to reply, but was saved by the other officer. “Hey, I heard about this droid. Inquisitor Morek brought him in to get into Alqassar. He’s got a speech impediment or something.”
“Fine, but what is he doing here?”
The officer flicked to the next page in whatever he was reading. “I don’t know. Nobody ever tells me anything.”
R0-N1 burbled something he hoped would be considered a positive response, and slowly made his way to a data port in the base of the console. Aware that there were still multiple blasters pointed at him, he tentatively exposed his data arm.
“All right, droid. Go ahead and plug in. No funny business, though. Just tell us what you’re here for.”
Permission given, R0-N1 plugged in and transmitted a message through the console. The officer read it aloud, “The prisoners are to be released into my care.” As he continued, he slowed and ended the next sentence as if it were a question. ”You may all…return to your quarters?” The officer drew his sidearm and challenged R0-N1. “Who sent you here?”
That always worked for Zagiri, groused R0-N1. On to Plan B.
Working quickly, he shut the officers out of the console and took over control of the automatic security system. Within seconds, the room was filled with a hail of blaster fire. All three troopers and both officers collapsed to the floor with blaster wounds in their heads and chests, and the security cameras were blown to pieces as well. A few seconds later, and it was all over.
Next, R0-N1 turned to the detention cells, bypassing standard security protocols and unlocking all of them. The prisoners slowly emerged from their cells and cautiously worked their way to the control room.
The first to enter was an Aqualish male named Wurlo. He looked over the death and destruction R0-N1 had caused and turned pale. “What…what happened?” he asked.
R0-N1 whistled a reply and extended his central column so that he could be seen above the edge of the console, waggling it up and down to catch everyone’s attention.
Wurlo spotted him and asked, “Did you do this?” Slowing down, he followed up with, “Didn’t I see you on the surface?”
By now a larger group had caught up with Wurlo, and they were all investigating different parts of the room expressing disbelief at what they were seeing. The priestess was the last to arrive, her arm draped around a tall human female, who was helping her along. She seemed to be physically fine, but was moving with a lethargy that betrayed the emotional trauma she was going through.
R0-N1 chirped again and fed some text into the console. I’m here to rescue you. We have to go right away. Someone disguise themselves in the armor and uniforms of these men. I can take you to a shuttle. But we have to hurry. Message entered, he disconnected from the port and tapped at the console where the text was displayed.
Wurlo stepped forward to the console and read the message silently.
“What’s it say?” asked an older Nikto woman.
“He says…he’s here to rescue us? And that we should disguise ourselves in the armor and uniforms.” Wurlo looked at the bodies skeptically. “I don’t know, Auntie. Do you think we can trust him?”
The Nikto called Auntie screwed up her mouth as she considered the question. “I’m not sure we have a lot of choice.”
Wurlo sighed. “All right, then. I guess I can try one of the suits of armor.” He pointed at the taller officer, whose body was slumped against the console. “Zhanna, do you think you can fit in that uniform?”
“Isn’t that an officer? I don’t know…”
The priestess separated herself from the taller woman. “I’m sure it will be fine. Just act like you’re in charge.”
The group sorted themselves out, with Zhanna taking one uniform and a shorter male taking the other. The stormtrooper uniforms were divvied up among Wurlo and two other human males. The fits weren’t great, but with any luck they would be passable. Zhanna tugged on her sleeves and pant legs, encouraging them to grow just a little bit longer. They presented themselves before Auntie. “What do you think?” asked Wurlo.
Auntie frowned. “Can’t you do something about those scorch marks?” She stepped forward and tried to buff Wurlo’s armor with her sleeve, only succeeding in smudging it further. “Hm, I guess not. Well, I suppose these are soldiers, after all. Surely their armor must get dinged and damaged from time to time.”
Zhanna looked down at Wurlo’s empty hands. “Shouldn’t you be carrying a blaster?”
Wurlo lifted his helmet, perching it on top of his head. “I would really rather not.”
“Pretty sure it goes with the package.”
A small boy raised his hand enthusiastically, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “I’ll do it!” he said.
Zhanna looked down at the boy, simultaneously amused and stern. “Nice try, Brel. No, you will not. This is something Wurlo will have to do.” She picked the stray blaster up off the floor and handed it to him.
The Aqualish continued to plead his case. “Zhanna, you know I don’t like violence. And what if it should go off? I don’t have any idea how to handle it safely.”
“Just keep your finger off the trigger. It will be fine.”
Growing impatient with everyone’s dithering, R0-N1 squawked at them and made what he hoped would be interpreted as a pointed move towards the exit.
Zhanna gave R0-N1 an annoyed look, then took the blaster back from its reluctant owner. She looked it over briefly, flipped the safety on and ejected the plasma cartridge from it, which clattered to the floor. Handing it back to Wurlo, she said, “There. Now it can’t be fired. Does that work for you?”
Wurlo nodded reluctantly. “I suppose,” he said. “So, what’s the plan?”
Zhanna looked back at R0-N1. “We follow the droid and hope he’s really on our side.”
R0-N1 rolled forward and scooped up the plasma cartridge into the channel that normally held his micro-stun grenades. He was pretty sure they were going to want a functioning blaster before this was all over. He then returned to the exit and paused to be sure everyone was with him. Satisfied that they were as properly arranged as they were likely to get, they left as a group.