Tcho manages to keep quiet as he slams into the plush carpet after scraping down the edge of something really sharp. The wind is knocked from him, and his nervousness about this whole enterprise ratchets up. It does not sound like anyone saw him, but with the mirrors, it is hard to know. He climbs to his feet, fishing out a stimshot to promote rapid coagulation and halt the progress of the contusions that are starting to form along his left side. Taking in the scene now from ground level, he sees that this side of the crate is open, and the item he just struck is part of a large drill. One now decorated with his blood.
From further up the room comes the sound of the main door swishing open and then closed. The random muted conversations in the room pause, and then Tcho hears a familiar voice. “There a problem here?” Renault demands gruffly. From the sound of it, he must not have his helmet on right now.
“Yes, sir. There’s tiles coming down, and we got a report that a, uh, report went missing,” a modulated voice replies. That confirms that there are Stormtroopers down here, not just military logistics engineers working on the equipment. “But the report said that the report… I don’t understand,” the trooper admits.
“Idiots!” Renault hisses. “You apes!”
Now Tcho does pull out his scarf, which he uses to wipe his blood off the strangely enormous drill bit. He wants no evidence—no additional evidence beyond the single ceiling tile—left of his being here. Tcho looks over the equipment as he cleans it. On his way to the ballroom, he did take a moment to skim the contents of the datapad he swiped from the moff’s quarters. It had information about a listening device that could operate underwater. Maybe this drilling equipment would be involved in placing something like that. It looks like it is designed to operate underwater. The cab section, though, could only hold one or two people. It certainly is not a troop transport. There are a lot of sensors in there, too, further supporting what the datapad said about a surveillance suite. Given the size of this, there are probably multiple of these in the ballroom.
Wait, those are speakers, Tcho realizes as he absentmindedly stuffs the scarf back in his bag. This is not just for listening. Is this a sonic weapon? Tcho has no personal experience treating Gungans, but their physiology was covered in one of his courses. Something like this could be devastating to such an aquatic people, harming not just them but many other creatures of their biome. Tcho feels around the edges of the speaker screen, looking for a latch so that he can more closely examine the diaphragm inside. The piece comes off with a louder clack than he would like.
“What was that?”
Kriff. Time to hide. Tcho had judged that the drill’s cab could fit a couple people. Now he slips inside it himself, crouching down low in the leg space. Once again, he is back to waiting and observing. He hears the clatter of armor, a Stormtrooper moving somewhere. Then there is a crash and the sounds of items falling to the floor, along with much more measured stomping.
“Out of the way, you ape!” Renault growls impatiently.
Tcho looks up through the windscreen of the drilling vehicle and in the wall mirror, he can see the man himself. He looks as furious as the last time Tcho saw him, and the glowing red cybernetic eye adds to the effect. He is not in the normal uniform though, which means no heavy blaster rifle; Tcho’s luck has not run out completely yet.
Renault looks back and forth angrily. “There was something over here,” he seethes. He spins back around to the Stormtrooper who has since regained their feet. “What are you idiots even doing in this room? What are you doing with that stuff?”
“Sir… Sir, the tile is in the middle of the room.”
Renault lets out an aggravated sigh. “Has anyone looked in the ceiling then?” he demands. The Stormtroopers offer stuttered excuses about needing a ladder. “Then requisition one! Just call the crew and get a ladder. It’s not that hard!”
“Well, but, they called the crew for the moff’s quarters and something went missing then. If we call the crew for a ladder now, something could go missing from here,” one of the Stormtroopers reasons.
“Pretty soon, you’re going to be missing your brain!” Renault threatens, hand tightly gripping the hilt of his ceremonial sword. “Oh, wait, that’s already gone. You!” He points at another Stormtrooper. “Call for a ladder. Just get it at the main door. No crewmembers allowed inside. And everyone, constant vigilance!” His voice drops to a hiss, but Tcho hears what follows. “It’s that damn Rebel!”
“What was that, sir? Did you want to go back to the gala?”
What’s my play here? Wait for the ladder? More eyes on the ceiling means less eyes on the floor. What obstacles are between me and getting out of here? Tcho cannot leave the way he came in, and the main door is too exposed, but a place like this should have a staff entrance. The transparisteel wall out to space definitely does not hold one. The mirrors only give him so much view of the rest of the room, but it is actually the mirror itself that he is interested in. Indeed, he spots that one of the reflective panels is actually a door. It does not look like the Imperials have done anything to secure it, which is good news. Unfortunately, it is not in the mirror that Tcho is directly looking at, but rather clear across the room. At least there is plenty of cover to get over there thanks to all the crates, pieces of equipment, and tables set up for the engineers.
With a loose plan in place, Tcho waits patiently for the ladder to arrive. Once the Stormtroopers are preoccupied with setting that up, he will take advantage of their distraction to relocate to a better position for observing the room. If there is anything portable he can present to PD-101 for evidence, this is his one chance to get it. He has limited physical evidence to go with what he has personally observed, and the latter is colored by his lack of an engineering background. Something more concrete than just an eyewitness account would be great. And if he could snatch the plans for one of these drilling weapons, even better.
For now, though, he waits, slowing his breathing and trying to psych himself up for possibly running from Renault one more time.