Conviction: Chapter 16

Star Wars: Conviction

As R0-N1 led the Ryndellians through the bowels of The Conviction, he kept his audio sensors trained on any activity in the main corridors next to them. The noise of ship systems in the corridor made it hard to hear, but at least the same things muddying R0-N1’s audio receptors would also help mask their own movements. With any luck they would emerge far from anyone waiting for them, or better yet get there first. There was some chance any pursuit would be focused on the detention block and hull breach behind them, after all. He increased his speed hoping that everyone behind him could keep up. For the most part they were doing okay, but there was some heavy breathing from Auntie and the priestess.

When they arrived outside the hangar, R0-N1 stopped by the door release, and performed the same look, a door pantomime as he had earlier. Zhanna made her way forward, worked the mechanism and popped it open. Sticking her head out, she said with some surprise, “I think we’re clear.”

R0-N1 exited next, and immediately shot off towards the shuttle he had found earlier. He trusted that someone in the group would track where he went, and they would take the hint that time was short. In the meantime, he could begin the pre-flight sequence to get the shuttle ready to go.

About half the Ryndellians had boarded when R0-N1 received a warning from the ship’s computer. The hull breach had caused the overhead doors to automatically seal shut, effectively blocking their escape. They couldn’t go anywhere until those were open again. R0-N1 sent a short message to the ship’s console, disengaged and worked his way past everyone entering the ship.

When he got to the rear of the shuttle, R0-N1 barreled down the ramp, nearly knocking over Zhanna and Auntie, who were the last to arrive. Zhanna turned to watch him go, and shouted after him, “Hey, where are you going?” The droid ignored her, focused on his task. Someone on the ship would see his explanation. More concerning was the warning she shouted just as he veered away. “We have company!” she shouted.

Inquisitor Morek had caught up with them. She emerged from the corridor into the hangar, swept her gaze across it, and began making her way to the shuttle, lightsaber in hand. She walked with calm purpose, only the red glow inside her helmet betraying the anger she felt.

About twenty meters into the hangar, Morek caught sight of R0-N1 making his way to the nearest access port. She immediately changed direction and sped up to a run, igniting her lightsaber as she went. The blade glowed only slightly more fiercely than the eyes behind her mask.

R0-N1 spotted her approach, and called out, Now.

Suddenly, the floor was filled with MSE droids, who had been hiding behind landing struts and equipment all over the hangar. They shot forward towards Inquisitor Morek, swarming around her. She reached out a hand and Force-pushed several of them, sending the little droids skittering across the floor, not breaking her stride.

However, the Inquisitor was so focused on the droids in front of her that she missed an even greater number coming up from behind. A few of these had paired up and were keeping pace, close on her heels. As Morek strode forward, one of the droids shot forward and rammed into her heel before it could hit the deck. He shoved her front foot forward, while her back foot collided clumsily against the floor. Morek toppled sideways, threw out her hands to break her fall, but was only partially successful. She landed hard on her prosthetic arm, which twisted and bent from the impact. The lightsaber it had been holding switched off and clattered to the floor.

With Morek sprawled on the floor, the droids clustered around her prosthesis and began to grasp at it, attempting to tear it completely away, even while others tried to pin her legs. However, Morek was not as easy to wrangle as the protocol droid had been earlier. Morek kicked and batted at the little droids, sending them bouncing along the floor, sometimes several meters away. When one had the temerity to grab at her neck, the Inquisitor howled in rage and a shockwave of Force energy sent them flying in all directions, some landing dozens of meters away.

As the MSE droids collected themselves and began to regroup, Morek got to her feet. She went to retrieve her lightsaber, only to realize that her prosthetic arm was now twisted and useless. She ripped it from her arm and threw it at the nearest MSE droid racing towards her, then reached out with her remaining hand for the lightsaber, which sailed up into her grasp. More cautious of the MSE droids, she began moving slowly towards R0-N1 again, cutting any droid that got too close to her in half.

As the Inquisitor worked her way forward, a squad of stormtroopers arrived at the hangar. They took stock of the situation and quickly spread themselves out, squatted down and began shooting at MSE droids left and right. In response, the droids began zigzagging to dodge the blaster fire.

While this was going on, R0-N1 had managed to unseal the overhead hangar doors, which began to slowly open. He turned to make his way back to the shuttle, only to find that he had no viable route to get there. Not only was Inquisitor Morek between him and the vehicle, there were half a dozen stormtroopers firing at will. For the moment they were all focused on the MSE droids, but as soon as he started moving they were sure to come under a hail of blaster fire.

R0-N1 considered his options. The odds were stacked against him, but there was still some chance the Ryndellians could get away. He was surprised the ship hadn’t started moving yet, as the way should be clear soon enough. They better take off soon, before Morek turns her attention to them, he thought. Maybe they just need a little more time. If I can’t get away, maybe I can at least give them that.

Before R0-N1 could formulate a new plan, though, he spotted a single stormtrooper…waving at him? No, not waving. He was saluting something, though R0-N1 couldn’t tell what. The trooper turned to a control panel next to him and tapped a few keys. Suddenly, a terrific wind began rushing through the hangar. The stormtroopers were all knocked off their feet, and even Inquisitor Morek was staggered. All the blast doors around the edges of the hangar began to slam shut, hiding the mystery trooper from view. Did he just disable the atmospheric containment?

Morek looked around, appeared to fixate on R0-N1, and sent her lightsaber hurtling towards him, the blade slashing bright red arcs as it spun across the hangar. The saber’s trajectory started wobbly, but straightened out as it went. R0-N1 quickly adjusted his stance, dropping his torso so that it was low and parallel to the ground. The spinning blade whooshed over him and buried itself deep in a computer console, just above the socket R0-N1 had just been plugged in to. I hope that wasn’t anything important.

Sparks popped from the damaged console, splashing over R0-N1’s body. One fell in the unrepaired hole Inquisitor Morek had carved into his body, causing him to involuntarily blurt out, “sp-spicy Kowakian muh-muh-monkey lizard!” R0-N1 straightened up and backed away from the wall, shaking his torso to shrug off the unpleasant sensation.

Safe from the sparking console, R0-N1 turned back to deal with Inquisitor Morek. She was crouched on the floor, her one hand planted firmly on the deck. She wobbled slightly in the face of the gale force wind. R0-N1 started after her, when without warning his gyroscopes went haywire, and he lost all traction. Gravity. That panel was connected to the artificial gravity. Before he could drift too far from the deck, he magnetized his feet, giving him a solid grip on the deck again. The Inquisitor had no such option. Between the howling wind of escaping atmosphere and now the lack of gravity, it was everything she could do to keep from drifting up off the floor entirely.

Now’s my chance. Ignoring Inquisitor Morek, R0-N1 darted off to the shuttle, weaving around obstacles as he went. Except when he got back, the ramp had been raised and the hatch sealed. Given the blaster fire and loss of atmosphere, this wasn’t a complete surprise, though it was inconvenient. While R0-N1 could try politely knocking, he judged that the Ryndellians were unlikely to open the hatch for him and risk the shuttle atmosphere evacuating or being greeted by an angry squad of troopers. It’s never easy.

R0-N1 backed up into position, pressed pair of channels against the floor, pushing until his servos whined in protest. When the force against the deck was great enough, he demagnetized his feet, sending himself sailing towards the shuttle. While in the air, he twisted around, magnetized his feet again and clamped onto the shuttle’s port wing like an overgrown barnacle. He whistled in triumph.

A blaster bolt ricocheting off the shuttle’s wing next to him cut short his celebration. Looking for the source of the shot, R0-N1 saw that Morek had somehow gotten hold of one of the trooper’s rifles and was taking shots at him. Unlike the saber, however, she was not able to straighten out her aim mid-flight and her shots missed the mark. Still, it wouldn’t do to stick around.

R0-N1 made his way to the nose of the ship as more shots bounced off the shuttle’s hull. He looked into the cockpit window and tapped on the transparisteel before projecting a message on it that read simply, “GO GO GO.” The occupants of the cockpit all jumped back in fright. When they had collected themselves, they shook their heads and held their hands out, palms up. None of them had any idea how to fly the ship. Why would they? They had spent their entire lives living in a cave.

If R0-N1 had hands or something resembling a face, he would have slapped one into the other. A little help would be nice, he thought, even as another blaster shot left a scorch mark on the hull. He put the shuttle’s wing between himself and Morek’s weapon, then proceeded to try and walk the Ryndellians through the shuttle launch sequence as best he could. Not being equipped for instruction, this amounted to projecting crude facsimiles of the shuttle controls on the window, combined with overly detailed schematics.

This process was interrupted when the priestess suddenly appeared in the cockpit. She tapped on the glass with her finger and then pointed at the Parantua Stone, clearly frantic. R0-N1 stared at her in disbelief, unable to determine what it was she wanted. Surely, she didn’t want to take it with them? There was no way the stone could fit on the shuttle, even if they had a way to get it over here. He ignored her and continued with the launch sequence as blaster fire bounced off the wing beside him.

They were almost through the pre-flight sequence when the shuttle threw up a warning light. Another proximity warning? R0-N1 looked up, but the proximity doors were wide open. He twisted his body around and saw that someone had moved the TIE fighters in the rack back down, blocking the ship again. R0-N1 blurted out a choice curse at whatever crew member decided to be efficient today. Then it dawned on him, override switch. He guided the occupants to it, and the red warning light turned amber. They were now clear to go, and the auto-pilot should at least get them out of the hangar.

The shuttle had just started to rise from the deck when out of nowhere, Inquisitor Morek appeared. She seemed to fly from the floor, and she grabbed onto one of R0-N1’s legs with her good arm. Bringing her feet up against the ship, she pulled on R0-N1 with a combination of the Force and her own physical strength. One of R0-N1’s feet slipped a centimeter, then another. R0-N1 estimated a fifty-fifty chance that they would get out of the hangar before she managed to dislodge him.

R0-N1 spread his feet out on the hull and increased his grip to maximum. He then aimed the bottom of his channels at Inquisitor Morek’s head and pistoned them into her helmet with as much force as he could produce. The first drive rocked her head back, but she kept her grip. In fact, the blow seemed to give her strength, and R0-N1’s feet slipped again. He pulled the channel back and drove it into her a second time. The impact left a small crater in her face plate, with thin cracks spidering out of it. Her suit’s atmosphere began to give, she flailed at the damage with her amputated arm, and she fell back to the deck just as the ship escaped the hangar.

Inside the cockpit, the Ryndellians cheered for R0-N1. That’s great, he thought. Now if you could let me in? He projected a schematic of the ship on the cockpit window, highlighting the rear cargo bay. It took longer than he would have liked, but after some back and forth they seemed to get it. Brel waved at him from behind the pilot’s seat and ran towards the back of the ship.

Still held to the ship via his magnetic grip, R0-N1 worked his way to the back as well. He rolled along the hull, in the shadow of the shuttle’s massive dorsal fin. They should be able to engage the airlock, open the door, and let him in. He could then make sure a proper hyperspace route was plotted, and…well, he didn’t know what would happen next. But if today had taught him anything, it was to deal with one thing at a time.

Just as R0-N1 emerged on the other side of the fin, a bright green bolt of energy shot past him, and he ducked back out of sight. Turbolasers. A second shot splashed against the shields, rocking the ship. Not good. Whoever was at the shuttle’s controls must have had the same thought, because the ship began to roll and weave. This would be fine, except that the pilot had no idea what they were doing. The craft rolled back and forth, but with no substantial change to their trajectory. They would weave away from the turbolaser’s sights, only to sail right back into them. The ship bucked again as it was hit with another laser blast. R0-N1 estimated the shields would be at sixty percent now, and dropping fast. Another few shots and they would be done for.

R0-N1 retreated to the front of the fuselage. He waited there as the ship spun around, and when it was almost lined up with the main battery firing at them, he raced down the length of the ship, releasing his magnetic grip just before running out of room. He shot off the aft end, like a chunky speeder bike jumping a cliff. The launch wasn’t perfect, and he found himself slowly tumbling end over end towards The Conviction. As he grew closer, he tried to align his feet with the outer hull, but he clipped an exhaust port and clanged against it on his side instead. Threatening to bounce away from the ship into space, R0-N1 finally got his feet pointed the right way and poured everything he had into his magnetic couplings. It was enough to keep him from flying away, and he slowly descended, landing with a clang on the hull.

Once secure, R0-N1 darted across the ship’s surface and found an external control system for the turbolaser tormenting the shuttle. He jacked into the port, pivoted the laser battery away from the retreating shuttle, and disabled the safeties. He then turned the weapon on The Conviction itself and began to fire, raking the surface of the warship up and down its flank. Because the weapon was inside the ship’s shields outer protective layer, there was nothing between the hull and the powerful laser blasts, which tore into the hull like a vibroknife into a puffer pig, causing large chunks of it to fly away. This was followed by a series of explosions that quickly cascaded throughout the ship, not only along the hull, but inside as well.

R0-N1 stopped firing. As the ship tore apart beneath him, he thought, I have a bad feeling about this. A chunk of shrapnel buried itself in his torso, and everything went black.

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