The inner door put up no more resistance than the first. With a scream of tormented metal and the snap of bolts, it was bent inward and sent flying into the reactor room. This time, however, the group was not met with armed marines but a number of very surprised crewmen.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Essik managed, raising his voice as the ensemble of Brotherhood members fanned out among the few there, Brimstone and Malisane herding them off to one side. “Run and you will be shot in the face. Resist and you might lose a limb. Are we clear?”
More scared of the Sith than the elderly officer, the crewmen managed a series of nods, before issuing several panicked squeaks of “Yes!” as Malisane raised his lightsaber.
“Excellent, thank you,” Essik said politely, waving Zakai toward the nearest of the controls. “Now please keep quiet, we have work to do.”
The young Twi’lek quickly set to work on the systems, his brow creasing as he examined the array of labels and listings surrounding the reactor’s primary mechanisms. There was the muttering of questions and inner thoughts as he started to test out a number of options, apparently working on hope as much as personal skill.
“One way in, one way out,” someone murmured close by, and Essik half turned to see Shanree Argentin looking back at the door they had fought their way in through. “If they do corner us in here, this could get ugly.”
“All the more reason to keep our friends over there alive,” Essik said, lightly gesturing back toward their captives. “Perhaps if we’re lucky and this truly is a kinder, softer, Empire, then they might think twice before racing in here.”
“I was thinking more about how quickly we could make a backdoor if we need it,” Shanree answered, gesturing with his lightsaber at the hull plating. “They don’t expect that sort of thing. Well, usually, anyway.”
Essik gave a chittering laugh in response. “Then let’s hope they don’t have the same idea.”
“How’s it coming?” Brimstone called out, irritation at having to scare a number of increasingly panicked people into line evident in his voice.
“Just a minute longer. I think.” Zakai was focused in intense concentration, trying to work through the details in front of him. Rhan had joined him now, breaking off from where the group’s droids and the other Jensaarai, Tarvitz, were maintaining overwatch on the reactor room’s entrance. “I’m trying to make sure that this doesn’t go off immediately.”
“Just work as quickly as you can,” Malisane said. His words were accompanied by a loud thud and a yelp, as the Sith pistol-whipped one wide-eyed member who had just attempted to break past the two. “Better to-”
Malisane’s words were cut off by a screech of blaster fire from further up the corridor, most impacting against the surrounding frame. The steady boom of rifle shots answered them as both the KX-series and MagnaGuard accompanying them returned fire.
“We have prisoners, and we’re right next to-!” Tarvitz bellowed, but was cut off as several more marines joined the first. A grenade bounced into the room, only for Tarvitz to snatch it up with the Force and hurl it back at their attackers. The boom was accompanied by several very surprised screams.
“Almost got it!” Zakai yelled over the screech of gunfire. “There, I think that’s it!”
The quiet energized hum of the reactor rose slightly in pitch, gaining a shrill note that set every person’s teeth on edge. Several control readouts blinked red with warning signs and alerts, foretelling of safety failings and rising energy levels within the power system.
“Do you need to do anything else?” Shanree asked, waiting just long enough to see Zakai shaking his head before hacking apart several of the control panels. The smell of burning circuitry joined the ozone tang of blaster bolts. There was no way back now.
“There’s no other way to switch this off, is there?” Brimstone asked their captives. Most were looking on in stunned horror, too shocked to give a proper response. “I’ll take that as a yes. Feel free to run.”
None of them hesitated, fleeing in a sudden rush as they raced for the open door, several screaming in panic as they escaped.
“So, backdoor?” Brimstone continued, as he and Malisane moved to rejoin the others.
“Backdoor,” Shanree agreed, and along with Rhan they began to cut open a chunk of the hull beneath them, opening up to the floor below.