R0-N1 followed a pair of MSE droids into the cargo bay. His back left wheels had gone wonky from his earlier exertions, and he had to keep correcting course as he drifted to the side. It didn’t help that he still had a half-meter long piece of shrapnel jammed in his side that was interfering with his motivator. He froze when Cutter called him out. What are they doing here? asked R0-N1.
They followed us.
Should we keep them?
They tried to attack Inquisitor Morek.
She tied them up.
R0-N1 interrupted the flow of responses. What do you mean, they tried to attack her? They didn’t come with her?
She heard them coming.
Still lying on the ground, Morek groaned and rolled her head to the side. Her eyelids fluttered briefly before closing again. Cutter looked at her in alarm. “Listen, can you let us loose? If she wakes up, it’s not going to be good for any of us.”
R0-N1 turned to look at the clone trooper. He burbled a question.
Cutter sighed with impatience. “Roni, I have no idea what you’re saying. Can you just untie us before she comes to? She’s making me kind of nervous.”
They were interrupted by a pair of MSE droids racing around the cargo bay, chasing each other at top speed. They circled the entire bay screaming, “Whee!” On the second go-round, the lead droid slammed into the top of Morek’s head. Before he could get out of the way, the second droid bashed into him from behind, sending him into her skull again. R0-N1 was pretty sure he heard it fracture.
Stretch winced before remarking, “I think you can relax for a while. These droids would have given the old B-1 clankers a run for their money back in the day.”
Cutter still seemed to be trying to comprehend what he was witnessing. “They’re…not supposed to act like that. Roni, did you have anything to do with this? Did you reprogram them?”
If R0-N1 had shoulders, he would have shrugged. The truth is, he had mostly adjusted their behavioral parameters. They were more able to think for themselves, and less likely to prioritize biologic needs over their own. The rest was up to them. Rather than respond, he repeated his earlier question, nudging forward with a shock probe for emphasis. You’re not going to try to slap a restraining bolt on me again, are you?
Cutter tried to scrabble away, not wanting to be knocked unconscious for the third time today. “Whoa, hey! Put that thing away, okay! What did I do?”
Stretch spoke up, adopting a soothing tone. “R-Zero, if you can just let us loose, I think we can all help each other here. We need to get rid of the Inquisitor here before she wakes up, and ideally before your friends turn her brains to paste. How about you let us get her into an escape pod, okay?” He jerked his head in the direction of The Conviction. “We can let them worry about her, and we can get away…somewhere.” He paused to consider. “I haven’t worked the next part out yet, but…Cutter and me, we’re done with the Empire. Right, Cutter?”
Cutter stared into the middle distance for a long moment before focusing on the blank face of a MSE droid in front of him. He nodded. “Yeah, that’s right. We’re done.”
R0-N1 hesitated, but only briefly. They did need the clones’ help, and based on the evidence he had available to him, they did appear to be on a trajectory similar to his own. He stowed the shock probe and popped out a different arm bearing a small circular saw. Still not entirely trusting Cutter, he advanced on Stretch and began to cut the cords that restrained him. As he did, the blade’s RPM slowed almost to a stop.
Once freed, Stretch patted R0-N1 in appreciation. He said, “Thanks, R-zero. Why don’t you go find a place to charge. We’ll take it from here.”
R0-N1 allowed himself to become fully charged before powering himself back on again. By the time his sensors were all back online, the ship was in hyperspace, deep in the Parmic Sector. One or more of the MSE droids must have been plugged into the ship’s computer, and they were having an argument with Cutter.
“Have you all blown a circuit? We can’t go back.”
You owe us.
“Yeah, I get that. Do you not understand that Stretch and I are fugitives now? I’m telling you, it’s not worth the risk.”
We shouldn’t have to die for you. We can save them.
R0-N1 had heard enough. He disengaged from ship systems and tried to roll forward, only to find that his feet had been clamped to the floor again. He began to violently shake his body, screaming in betrayal.
Cutter ran in from somewhere else on the ship, carrying tools and a handful of parts. R0-N1 popped out the shock probe, fully charged and ready to attack. It sparked blue with menace. What are you doing to me? he accused.
Cutter raised his hands to placate the angry droid. “Hey, take it easy, Roni. I’m just trying to fix your leg. I didn’t want you wandering off on three legs and falling over, so I secured you to the floor.”
Where’s my leg? demanded the droid.
Cutter frowned, and took a hesitant step closer, peering at the console next to R0-N1, while careful to keep the droid in his sight. After reading a translation, he said, “Your leg is right next to you. It was banged up pretty bad, but I think I can rig something up until we get to Spice Terminus and we get you a more permanent fix. Okay?”
A handful of MSE droids corroborated what he was saying.
He’s been scrounging.
You were kind of a mess.
I offered a wheel.
He’s okay. For a human.
R0-N1 accepted this and withdrew the probe, allowing Cutter to approach. Cutter let out the breath he had been holding and sagged in relief. He retrieved the leg and began tinkering with it. “Now, this is only temporary until we can fabricate something to match your specs.” He waved a wrench around, indicating the ship they were on. “This place is kind of lacking in supplies, so we’re definitely in chewing gum and baling wire territory. Just don’t push it, or it’s liable to snap off entirely, okay?”
R0-N1 chirped his acknowledgement.
Stretch poked his head around the door. “I thought I heard you,” he said. “How’s R-zero doing?”
Cutter responded with a lopsided grin. “I think we have finally come to some understanding.” He snapped his finger, suddenly remembering. To R0-N1, he said, “And I promise, no restraining bolt. On my honor.”
R0-N1 let that go without a response. One way or another, he had no intention of allowing a restraining bolt to be put on him, so that wasn’t even a question. He was glad to hear the clone was in agreement, though.
Stretch laughed, and smacked his hand against the door frame, leaning against it casually. “Glad to hear you’ve sorted that all out. We should get to the Terminus within a few hours, so be sure everyone is ready. We’ll have to ditch this ship, but with any luck that will get us enough credits to get something clean, with leftover seed money. Be sure to collect anything useful we want to keep, otherwise I figure we’ll just sell it all as-is. That sound good?”
Cutter nodded. “Works for me. I should be done with R0-N1 here shortly, and then he can help. What kind of ship do you think we’ll be able to get?”
“I don’t know, maybe a small freighter? Honestly, I just want something spaceworthy, without a transponder that anyone is looking for. Anything more than that will be gravy.”
R0-N1 listened to this and burbled a question. Cutter read the translation on the console, then read it again, his skin turning pale. He stared at R0-N1, saying, “You can’t be serious.”
“What did he say?” asked Stretch.
Not removing his eyes from the droid, Cutter said, “He wants to know how soon we can contact someone from the Jedi Order. He said he has names and last known locations.”
“Oh.” Stretch dropped his arm from the door frame, standing in the middle of it. He stared first at Cutter, then at R0-N1. “Oh.”