The airwaves are alive. Frantic, fearful voices crackle through the static.
“This is pad two! I spot fifty rebels heading west on pad two!”
“This is pad five! We’re being overrun! Help us!”
“Pad twelve, ten, pad eight, please confirm! Confirm and report!”
MA-756 touches her helmet and blocks out the transmission. The information is irrelevant. She has her orders. The panicked voices aren’t going to help her now.
Her boots beat a swift tattoo on the polished floor as she runs down the corridor towards the data vault reception area. She signals to her squad as they approach the target. MA-738 and MA-749 adopt an arrowhead formation with MA-756 at their centre. Together, they are an elite force, a blaster bolt aimed at the heart of the Empire’s enemies.
As they run around the corner, MA-756 sees the droid.
It’s hard to take down Imperial droids. The Empire designed them that way. MA-756 has some ideas about that, just like she has ideas about the Empire issuing Imperial soldiers armour that doesn’t defend against blaster fire.
Well, shit, she thinks.
The droid glares at her through flickering optics. Melting metal glows around the blaster scars carved deep into its armour. MA-756 can see the grey plastic bulkhead through the holes punched through the droid’s casing. She is surprised it still functions.
The droid stands behind the central console, smoking gently. The console is designed for humans and barely reaches to its narrow waist. The droid’s left hand is connected to the console. Its right hand holds a blaster.
MA-756 frowns beneath her helmet. Imperial droids are faithful servants. She suspects the Empire would replace them all with droids if it could. So clean and clinical. Droids don’t fight. They are not programmed to fight.
This droid does.
Dead or unconscious stormtroopers are scattered across the floor. MA-756 wastes a moment wondering why the Empire didn’t send in other droids to deal with the problem. But that’s the Empire for you. They repeat the same mistakes and expect a different outcome.
The droid peers at her. Droids don’t have expressions, but MA-756 senses great hostility. The droid raises its gun.
Shit, she thinks again.
The droid fires. This is against its programming. MA-756 drops to her knees to present a smaller target and returns fire. The droid shoots back. Its aim would be better if it weren’t speaking into the console, but then MA-756 would be dead.
“Climb!” it commands. “Climb!”
MA-756 wonders who the droid is speaking to. She fires again. Her blaster bolt hits the droid in the shoulder and slams it against the data vault’s closed door. The droid staggers. The door is unmarked. The vault is made from industrial steel and has more in common than a safe than with any other kind of archive.
“You can still send the plans to the fleet!” the droid says to thin air. “If you open the shield gate you can broadcast from the tower!” It pauses as MA-756 gets another good shot in. “Locking the vault door now. Goodbye.”
MA-756 doesn’t know what the droid is doing, but she has her orders. She has no intention of letting the droid’s mission succeed. She orders her squad to fire when the droid is distracted. Blaster bolts strike the droid’s torso, shoulders, legs. It hunches over. Sparks shower from its casing. An acrid burning smell fills the air as it raises its arm to fire back.
MA-756 ducks. The droid cuts off the transmission. The data vault locks slide into position as the droid fries the console.
MA-756’s cry of frustration is muffled by her helmet. She reaches the droid just in time to see its optics flicker and fade.
The droid’s data, it turns out, is irretrievable.