“They’re saying something about a hull breach on deck seven, and there’s chatter about…a dismembered protocol droid? Do you know anything about that?” Stretch had put his helmet back on and was relaying information to Cutter.
“No, are they related?”
“I don’t think so. Different decks, at any rate.”
Inquisitor Morek appeared in the door frame, seemingly out of nowhere. She rapped on the wall and declared, “I’m here for the droid.”
Cutter and Stretch turned as one, though Cutter could only say, “Droid…?”
Stretch said, “Sorry, Inquisitor. R-zero isn’t here. He’s—“
“What do you mean, not here? Where is he?”
Stretch paused to give Cutter a chance to respond, but the technician only stared pointedly in return. Anyone who knew him would recognize the look of “Hell no, I’m not going to suggest to her that it’s her fault the droid ran off. Did I mention astromechs can be supremely dangerous?”
Eventually, Stretch said, “He’s taken off somewhere. We, uh…had some problems with him.”
“Problems? Don’t be vague, trooper.”
“Well, he was resistant to having a fresh restraining bolt installed. We don’t know where he is, though I’m sure he’s on board. It’s not like he could steal a ship or anything.” Stretch looked to Cutter for confirmation, who only gave a non-committal shrug. “I can put out a call for him, though the hull breach is going to take priority over—“
“Yes, on deck seven.”
Cutter stepped over to the console and pulled up a ship schematic. A flashing red X appeared on the port side. Inquisitor Morek pushed him aside and examined the schematic more closely, taking in the nearby corridors and turbo lifts, and the things they connect to. “You have got to be kidding me,” she said.
The Inquisitor straightened up and faced the clones. “Cutter, is it? I assume you have an ion blaster around here, as well as restraining bolts. Find them. One of you call in a support squad. Both of you come with me.”
“All right, we’ll treat the blast doors like an airlock. We don’t know what’s on the other side, so be ready for anything.” Everyone on the squad nodded, checking their weapons.
“Wait!” said Cutter. “I can’t go in there. I don’t have any breathing gear.”
“Fine,” said the squad leader. “Give me your weapon.” He indicated the two clones. “You both stay here, we’ll take care of this. Are you ready, Inquisitor?”
Morek nodded. “Remember, the droid is the priority, and I need him in one piece. Ion blaster only. If we find the prisoners with him, do what you must.”
They arranged themselves so that Morek and the stormtroopers were on one side of the blast doors, with Cutter and Stretch on the other. Stretch opened a hidden panel, pulled a lever, and the doors slammed closed between them.
Stretch said, “You really think R-zero is behind this?”
“Maybe. People dismiss astromechs because they look like trash cans and talk in burps and whistles, but they’re crafty, and have more tools and gizmos inside them than you can imagine.”
“But…why? What reason would he have to try and stage a rescue?”
“Search me. I did a little digging after he zapped me, though. You know he used to belong to the Jedi?”
“He did?” Stretch looked away, considering. “You ever work with them, during the Clone Wars?”
“No. They were on board for missions every once in a while, but I never had to deal with them. They didn’t typically have much use for my services. Seems like they either had no use for droids at all, or they were inclined to tinker with them on their own. You?”
“Once, early in the war.” He looked Cutter in the eye. “You know, they say the Inquisitors are former Jedi.”
“Really?” The surprise in Cutter’s voice was palpable. ”I thought the whole order turned treason. Some of them stayed loyal?”
“That’s what they say.” Stretch pulled off his helmet, switching off the comm inside. “Listen, I meant what I said earlier about leaving the Navy. This thing we’re doing here, taking civilian prisoners on a whim, executing some at random, using others as fodder for whatever that thing is Morek is doing in the hangar? You should have seen the city on Ryndellia. We destroyed it, and for what? It’s not right. I don’t know when, but I’m getting out.”