There were too many prisoners to fit in a single turbo lift, so they had to go in multiple separate cars. Having managed to communicate which level they should go to after multiple rounds of pantomime, R0-N1 hung back with the last group, which included Althea and her new escort now that Zhanna was busy. When he exited the turbolift and joined the rest of the group, he found Zhanna engaged in a heated discussion with a small group of stormtroopers.
Hugging the wall, R0-N1 slowly scooted away from the turbo lift doors to get a better vantage point. One of the troopers was holding the burnt out husk of a MSE droid. It was still smoking slightly from the hole a blaster had cut into its shell. Zhanna had her head held high and was giving the stormtrooper her best haughty glare, hands clasped firmly behind her back. The troopers wouldn’t be able to see them, but R0-N1 noted they were trembling.
Zhanna declared, “I told you, we are escorting the prisoners to the other side of the ship.”
“To where on the other side? And on whose orders?” demanded the stormtrooper.
“That’s strictly need to know. Now will you let us go?” Zhanna made an attempt to move forward, but the trooper blocked her, pressing his blaster sideways against her chest.
“With all due respect, sir, that’s not good enough. I’m going to need to call this in.” He nodded to the dead MSE droid. “There’s been a lot of screwy things going on lately, and I’m not taking any chances.” He touched a contact on his helmet and spoke to some unseen superior. “Captain, have you heard anything about the Ryndellian prisoners being taken out of detention?”
R0-N1 decided he had seen enough. Moving to one side, he dropped the plasma cartridge he was carrying to the floor and nudged it slightly to the left. Carefully positioning himself, he magnetized his feet to the floor and extended one of his channels downward onto the cartridge, crushing a corner of it against the floor until the casing cracked with an audible pop.
As a jet of gas began to hiss out of the broken cartridge, R0-N1 let out a sharp warning whistle. Maybe half of the prisoners looked at him curiously, while the rest remained fixated on Zhanna and the stormtroopers. R0-N1 extended his shock probe into the stream and sparked it, while simultaneously releasing his grip on the cartridge. The gas turned into a jet of flame and the cartridge careened across the floor.
R0-N1 screamed, RUN! and took off in the opposite direction, mere seconds before the cartridge hit the opposite wall and exploded in a bright orange fireball. The blast spun him around like a top, and it took R0-N1 a moment for his gyros to settle back down. When they did, he circled back to the prisoners. They were similarly discombobulated, and were picking themselves up off the ground.
Zhanna was pinned under the stormtrooper who had been challenging her. As she came to, she shoved the body off her and rubbed the back of her head where it had slammed into the deck. She could already feel it starting to swell. “What the hell was that?” she muttered, louder than necessary.
The priestess nodded at R0-N1. “It was him. I don’t think he liked where your conversation was going.”
Zhanna glared at the droid. “A little warning next time?”
R0-N1 protested that he had given them as much as he could, and it wasn’t his fault no one could understand him. It was almost enough to make him wish for a protocol droid counterpart. Almost.
Either way, he must have gotten his point across a little, because Zhanna threw up her hands in mock surrender. “Fine, fine. Whatever. Just…what do we do now?”
Before anyone else could respond, Brel asked, “Guys, do you hear that?” He was staring at the hold in the wall the plasma cartridge had created.
Zhanna stuck her finger in her ear and waggled it around. “It’s probably just your ears ringing. Frankly, I’m surprised we’re not all deaf.”
“No, that’s not it. I think there’s something in there.” Brel pointed at the hole. “Don’t you hear it?”
“No, I can barely hear– wait.” Zhanna stared at the hole, then turned her head sideways to listen. Eyes widening with alarm, she backed up and waved for Brel to come with her. “Uh, maybe you better step away from there.”
By this point everyone could hear it. A high-pitched squeal was coming from beyond the wall, getting louder by the moment even as its pitch dropped. This was accompanied by the sound of several loud pinging cracks and pops, then a sudden loud “BANG” as the corridor was filled with a terrific wind. The dead MSE droid skittered across the floor and disappeared into the hole, as everyone else was knocked everyone off balance again, if not entirely to the floor.
Warning sirens went off, and they were bathed in red light, as blast doors slammed down from the ceiling all around them. The wind stopped as soon as they hit the floor.
Wurlo was among the first to recover, somewhat protected by his stolen stormtrooper armor. He stood, looked from one set of blast doors to the other, then at R0-N1. “Well, now what?” he asked.