The Second Clone Wars: Chapter Two - The Marshal Commander
Summary: After freeing the three commanders, Luke struggles with the politics of war.
Word Count: 3.8k
Warnings: Blood Canon Typical
A/N: Thanks for all the support on chapter one! It means so much to me to have you guys like my AU so much. If you haven’t read chapter one, you can find it here!
The silence was deafening.
The blonde clone stares at Luke, eyes wide and murky. He swallows hard, as if pushing away nausea.
The Marshal Commander looks more confused than surprised, but he doesn’t seem quite awake yet. Blood drips from his nose and a cloudy mist settles over his gaze.
The scarred clone clicks his blaster.
“You’re lying.” He says slowly, and Luke can feel conflict swirl in him like a storm on the sea. “This is some Separatist trick, he’s been sent here to kill us.”
“No, I promise I’m here to help you. I’m telling the truth, I promise.” Luke says, once again showing his empty hands.
“Ask R2. You know him.”
The blonde one's gaze shifts slowly to the droid. His expression is carefully neutral, but Luke can see the dread that lingers in his eyes.
R2 warbles softly, regretfully.
“25 years…” He breathes and Luke can feel the way his gut twists and his mind breaks as if it was his own.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Luke murmurs, unable to find any other words.
“He could have reprogrammed the droid.” The scarred one says again, but his voice falters slightly.
“Wolffe.” The Marshal Commander finally speaks, slow and slightly slurred. “You know he didn’t.”
The scarred one, Wolffe, steps back, hands falling to his sides. Luke can feel that storm in the clone's chest again. The waves rolling and sinking. Like thunder cracking, his sense is unbalanced, broken.
“25…” Wolffe trails off.
Cody shakes his head softly, almost amused in a sad way. He seems the most well adjusted, despite the blood and haze, his sense was clearer.
“I’m so sorry.” Luke says again, realizing how helpless he sounds. “But I need to get you to a medical station, I promise I’ll tell you more later, just please.”
The Mashal Commander nobs, and points his head at the blonde clone.
“He’s right, we’re in no shape to argue.”
“Uh,” Luke glances up at the stasis chamber, trying to remember each of their numbers. “CT-2224-“
“His name is Cody.” The blonde one says, his voice slightly sharp. “And I’m Rex.”
“Oh!” Luke feels warmth crawl up his face. “Right! Cody. Let’s see if we can get you up and to the medical bay.”
Luke reaches down, but Cody stops him short, placing a bloodied hand on Luke’s jacket staining the white lining that lays flat on his chest.
“I can manage.” It’s not quite polite, and not quite rude, but Luke takes the hint. They don’t trust him. That was to be expected.
“Of course. I’m better as a light anyway.” Luke says, and with practiced ease, he ignites his saber and fills the room with a green glow.
And everyone’s senses freeze.
For the first time, Luke feels an uncertainty wash over Wolffe as if he is devoured by feelings of nausea and unease.
Luke turns, and finds them all staring at him.
“You’re a Jedi?” Rex breathes. Something about his tone is akin to astonishment, but the other two do not seem impressed. Cody seems indifferent, but Wolffe seems….frightened.
“If you’re a Jedi, where are the other Jedi? Where’s your master or padawan? I thought you all traveled in groups or something.” Wolffe says, and Luke can feel walls go up in his mind. His eyes get clearer, and his jaw sets.
Frozen, Luke hopes his stupid surprise doesn’t show on his face.
What was a padawan? And what in the universe was he going to tell them about the other Jedi?
“Just me and R2 today. Sorry.” Luke says before he even thinks it through. Not quite answering anything, and hoping the half apology dulls it.
Through the Force he can feel their unease grow. His response didn’t give any answers, but they were in no condition to argue.
But as Luke turns, he can feel Rex’s eyes watch him closer. He can feel Cody deep in thought, and faintly, Luke hears Wolffe turn off the safety on his blaster.
They pass through the cargo hold slowly, painfully.
They pass through the rows and rows, and Luke can feel their dread as they try to tear their eyes away from the pods.
Luke knew most of the clones were dead. Their life support and systems had probably failed years ago as the ship slowly lost power. The lights on their pods were mercifully off, making it impossible to see the body inside.
But Luke catches the way their eyes shift and linger. They don’t need the lights.
They had seen the dead before.
For a few moments, they walk in uncomfortable silence, until Luke hears Wolffe stop near the entrance.
He’s staring at a pod, CT-55/11-9009. Wolffe brushes away some of the dust thoughtfully, his sense uncharacteristically kind.
“As soon as I get all of you in better shape, we can start waking everyone else up-“ Luke starts, and stops short as he realizes all the lights are off.
“Don’t bother.” Wolffe says, voice void of any emotion. “He’s dead.”
They don’t speak again until they reach the medical bay.
It’s dusty and cold, but R2 sets to work, humming to himself and connecting to various computers and poking things with his arm extensions. He beeps loudly, signaling Luke.
“Why don’t you find a place to sit down, I’m going to help R2 find supplies.” Luke says, and Rex just nobs quietly.
The medical bay was a complete waste. If something wasn’t expired, it was empty. If something wasn’t empty, it wouldn’t turn on.
Luke curses under his breath, feeling the frustration beginning to wear on him.
He could still feel them, the clones in the cargo bay. He could still hear their silent grief. He had thought it would dull, but it only seemed to get louder as time passed. Every second he could feel their sense, their exhaustion, their loneliness. And Luke felt like he was drowning.
Rubbing a hand across his face, Luke turns and sees Rex and Wolffe helping Cody on a medical bed. They seemed strange. Three identical yet vastly different standing in a dull green glow.
They only had black skin suits on, an under armor of some kind, with a military style belt hooked at their waist.
Wolffe was the only one who had a holster on his belt.
It seemed the belts had basic medical supplies, as Rex had tissues and was wiping the dark blood from Cody’s hands, his brow furrowed.
They acted like him and Leia, Luke thought. The way their brows furrowed and how they whispered. The way they cared for each other, but seemed to be arguing at the same time.
They were conversing amongst themselves in a language Luke couldn’t identify. The words rolled together softly, but there was a depth there, like the warmth of a campfire in the middle of a desert night.
Luke Skywalker hadn’t always been a Jedi Knight. Once, Luke had been a lonely orphaned farm boy, who talked too much and spoke too loud.
And Luke knew when someone was talking about him behind his back.
They whispered, and if it wasn’t for his Jedi senses, the conversation wouldn’t have even found his ears.
“There’s nothing left in the emergency power.” Luke says suddenly, getting up and interrupting their conversation.
Wolffe shoots him a sharp look, but Rex only looks at Cody, his eyes sad.
Cody’s eyes are dull. He hadn’t stopped coughing blood, and his nose dripped endlessly. Luke grimaces.
“I need to check for internal issues on all of you, and I can’t do that without this scanner.” In all honesty, Luke didn’t even know what he was looking for, but R2 seemed to know what he was talking about. “I need to find another power source. Just strong enough to turn this on.”
“Extra power cells were stored in maintenance.” Rex offers, but R2 whistles disapprovingly and then beeps wildly.
“R2 says those will be long dead, he wants to plug himself into the machine- wait what!” Luke spins on his heels and faces the droid. “R2 I’m not going to let you do that. You’ll drain all your power, and I can’t refuel you. You could damage your memory, or worse.”
R2 beeps again, stubbornly.
“No. R2 we’ll think of something else.”
Suddenly, the green glow of the room hits him.
“My lightsaber!” Luke says, “I’ll see if I can rewrite the power distribution and get the crystal to power the machine.”
Luke summons the blade to him with the Force, and the room grows dark as it powers down.
“Will that work?” Rex says, and Luke feels his unease.
“I guess we’ll find out.”
The Force shifts about the room as Luke pulls apart the saber piece by piece. Eyes closed, he sees the pieces move in his mind. Delicately, he removes wires and gears and finally the crystal.
It glows softly green and hums in the now dark room. Luke tries to keep his mind on the present, willing the Force to guide him. This was a long shot at best, an impossibility most likely. But Luke calls.
Please make this work.
And suddenly he hears a loud chime, and the hum of a machine starting up.
Opening his eyes, Luke sees the scanner in front of him come to life, whirling away through the dust and age.
“By the Force…” Luke says and then, through the silence, Luke’s holo chimes loudly.
He scrambles for the holo in his pocket before glancing towards the clones.
“I have to answer this. R2 can help you with scans.”
They seem unsure, but Luke ignores the sense and moves to a dark corner in the room.
“Luke!” Leia’s image materializes before him, filling his face with dull blue glow. “You scared me to death! Why did you turn off your tracker?”
Both hands were on her hips, and her brown eyes were stern and cold. Luke smiles despite himself. He felt like he was being scolded by Beru again.
It was so good to see her.
Despite that, he pauses.
What would he say? What could he say?
Luke spares a glance towards the Commanders. Cody is inside the machine, and Rex and Wolffe are conversing again.
What could he say?
“Oh I just had some power troubles, R2 and I haven’t fixed it yet.” Luke says. It was close enough to the truth. They really hadn’t fixed his ship yet.
He wasn’t even quite sure why he was lying, why he was hiding. But that feeling in his sense, that loneliness, that fear, that emptiness, it told him to lie.
“Han got back over an hour ago, we expected you back by now.” She’s not satisfied with his excuse, and Luke knows it.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.” He tries, offering a loose smile. “R2 and I just got sidetracked.”
“What’s wrong?” Leia says suddenly, her shoulders drooping slightly, “Are you okay?”
Luke wants to say something. Wants to ask for her advice, her Council￼￼.
Counselor￼ Leia Organa-Solo. Politician and member of the New Republic.
And suddenly Luke knows why he must lie. He spares another look at the Clones.
Frozen by the Republic, and lost in space. Left behind and forgotten. Frozen in grief and loneliness and emptiness.
Frozen by the Republic.
“Who said anything was wrong?” Luke says.
“Luke, I’m your big sister. I always know if something is wrong.” Leia replies, a snarky smile on her face, but sadness in her eyes.
She wanted to help him.
But she would have to tell the others, and Luke wasn’t entirely sure they could be trusted. Most of them had been alive during the Clone Wars. Most of them probably voted to freeze them in the first place.
Luke’s stomach turns.
“We don’t know who’s older. I might be your big brother.” He says instead, pushing down the sickening feeling.
“You’re avoiding me.” Leia presses, hands on her hips again. “What’s wrong?”
“Ask me again sometime.” Luke smiles, but Leia gets the message.
Big news. Not the time.
Her eyes widen slightly and she stiffens. She remembered the last time he said that. Her sense is suddenly unsteady, and Luke can see her hands twist and turn in her sleeves, even as her face struggles to stay calm. Her eyes flicker for a moment, before settling on his face again.
“Be safe Skyguy. Don’t blow yourself up before my baby shower. It’ll ruin the whole party.” She smiles slyly, but Luke can see the conflict behind her gaze.
“I promise. I love you.” Luke says, and he hopes she knows he means it. Even as he lies.
“Love you too.” And she means it too.
With a flicker, Leia’s image fades, leaving the room dark and more empty than it had seemed before.
Luke swallows harshly. He felt sick.
What was he going to do now? After they got healed, he had wanted to start waking everyone else up, but now-
Now Luke wasn’t sure waking up was the best option.
He couldn’t leave them frozen, but if he woke them up, eventually the New Republic would find out, and eventually the debate would go to the senate and who knows what they would say.
They seemed so tired. The Clones seemed so tired of war. Their sense was hollow, and weak. How could he wake them up and possibly make them fight again?
R2 runs into his leg, interrupting his thoughts.
The Clones were almost done.
Cody is sitting up now, cleaning blood from his blacks and watching as Wolffe lay motionless under the scanner.
“Hello Commander.” Luke says, and immediately regrets it. He sounds ridiculous, attempting military formality, but Cody just laughs softly.
“Hello kid.” His voice is stronger now, no hiss with each breath.
“I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.”
“Yeah, the machine still had some batca shots left. Expired or not, they seemed to do the trick.” Cody was much friendlier than the others, Luke muses, and hopes that maybe Cody would take the led and trust him. Then they could all-
Well Luke wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to do.
“I’m glad.” Luke says, before falling into a relaxed silence. They both watch as the machine hums and glows softly, repairing this, mending that. And before Luke feels like any time has passed, the machine ends, and Wolffe sits up straight.
Rolling his shoulder, he says something to Rex in their language again, and Rex pulls more bandages out of his belt. R2 follows suit and shines his flashlight to assist.
“I’m going to find some food,” Luke says, going over to grab his lightsaber. ”Maybe the mess hall has some ration bars leftover, I’ll be right back.”
Luke absentmindedly summons his saber back to its original state, and ignites the blade. Once again the green-white glow illuminates his face.
“How about I take you down there? Let R2 stay with the boys and I’ll show you around.” Cody says, getting up to join him. “If you don’t mind.”
“Oh, sure.” Luke replies, thankful to have the company. “I'd appreciate your help.”
The walk to the mess hall was comfortable. Cody was personable, and polite enough. Luke could relax slightly, it seemed someone “in charge” was finally available.
The mess hall was massive, with endless tables and flickering lights, it seemed to be half working. Although most of the food was long expired, and the refrigerators reeked and oozed. But the cabinets held endless ration bars, and although they were a little dry, Cody said they were edible.
“Why don’t you sit? Let Wolffe and Rex finish up.” Cody says, gesturing to a table, “I could use a change of scenery anyway.”
“Oh, alright.” Luke tries to hide his relief at not going back to the medical bay, but knows he fails miserably.
“Luke Skywalker huh?” Cody says, as he sits, looking at Luke with a strange glint in his eye.
“So I’m told.” Luke smiles, and Cody laughs.
“Oh no, I’m barely a Knight.” Luke laughs and Cody smiles. “I’d rather talk about you if you’re willing. I have so many questions about the War and-“
“How about this,” Cody says, cutting off Luke’s rambling “You get to ask me a question, and then I get to ask you a question.”
“Can I go first?” Luke says a little too quickly. But Cody just laughs.
“Yeah sure you can go first.”
“What’s a Marshal Commander?”
“You’re really not a military kid huh?” Cody raises an eyebrow, and Luke shrugs.
“Not really. I leave most of that to Leia.”
“Marshal Commanders are in charge of corps level formations, or system armies if you’re unlucky.” Cody grins, and Luke smiles back.
“What’s a system army?”
“My turn.” Cody corrects.
“So Anakin is your father?” Cody says, and Luke tries not to freeze. Of course Cody knew Anakin, they both served in the Clone Wars. Besides, how many Skywalkers could one clone know?
“Yes. But I didn’t really know him if that’s what you’re asking. We only met a few times, and we didn’t get to talk much.”
“My turn.” Luke smiles.
“What’s a System Army?”
“A way of dividing the Republic’s military. There were 10 system armies in the Republic. I’m Marshal Commander of the Third Systems Army. Or I guess I was.”
“Is that who’s on this ship? Your men?” Luke asks, hoping Cody will let a half question slide.
“Good catch. Each Army was frozen and transported together.” Cody pauses, picking at the ration bar in his hand. “Around 400,000 clones in each ship.”
“That means,” Luke stops himself and does a quick calculation in his head, “That means there were four million clones all together. By the Force….”
“At the end of the war.” Cody stops again. “There were more of us before.”
“My turn.” Cody says, and his face sets in a thin line. The sense shifts in the room, as if they were only playing games before. Luke can feel a chill through the Force, and his blood runs cold. “Why won’t you call for backup?”
Luke freezes, his heart beating wildly in his ears. Gone was all pretense and jokes, Cody’s face seemed frightening now. With hard set lines and deep eyes that fell forever, Luke can’t speak.
He had walked right into a trap.
“I’m not stupid, and neither are you.” Cody smiles, but it’s not friendly anymore, “You’ve got a nice routine going on. Big sad eyes and deflecting everything. Asking easy questions and giving easy answers.”
“I don’t-“ Luke tries to interrupt, but Cody ignores him, and keeps talking.
“But you're in way over your head.” Cody leans on the table, staring at Luke with a gaze that pierces his heart. “You’re no General. You’re not a soldier or a leader. You’re just a kid.”
Cody grabs Luke’s lightsaber on the table, and spins it mindlessly in his hand, with the skill of a Jedi Master. With the knowledge of someone who has held a thousand sabers, with the indifference of someone who has faced a thousand terrible weapons.
Luke wants to retrieve it, but something in his heart says Cody can use it better than he can.
“Now I’ve known many Generals. Your sister? The one you were whispering with on the holo? That’s a General. It’s written on her face. She would know what to do right now. She’s seen battle and she’s made hard choices, and yet, you said nothing to her. You kept your mouth shut and lied to your own flesh and blood.”
Luke feels his stomach twist. He hated lying to Leia, and Cody had seen that and pulled the thread until everything had come undone.
“My brothers are dead in the cargo bay. My flesh and blood. And the longer we sit around doing nothing, more of them die. More lights go out and more of my brothers rot.” Cody has a deadly cold to his voice, like a dead star. Even as he speaks of death and destruction, his face is still.
“So I’ll ask you one last time.” Cody pauses, and sets the saber on the table in front of him. Just out of Luke’s reach, and just close enough to wield. “Why won’t you call for backup?”
Luke casts his gaze down to the ration bar in his hands, unable to look Cody in the face anymore.
A kid, in way over his head.
“What if the galaxy hasn’t changed?” Luke whispers finally, his voice soft and cracked. “What if, what if politicians are still selfish?”
He looks up at Cody again, his heart pulling and twisting in his chest. He can’t stop the wave that tries to drown him. In the back of his mind he can still hear them, every clone in the cargo hold, trapped in grief and fear. Begging to be free. He feels it like it was his own, and now it crashes over him like a wave.
“What if they want to freeze you again? What if the council tells me to put you back in stasis? What if they still don’t care about you?” Luke’s voice cracks again, and he can feel the tears stuck in his throat. “What would I do then? What could I do then? How could I let that happen to you?”
Luke breathes heavily, staring at Cody now, his mind is too fogged to reach out with the Force. His chest pulls and pushes and the weight of it all makes it feel like an effort.
“What am I supposed to do?” Luke asks finally, feeling wet tears track down his face. “Tell me, please just tell me what to do because I don’t know Cody, I don’t know how to save you.”
Cody is quiet for a long time. The dim glow of Luke’s saber shines on his face, creating deep shadows and twisted expressions.
“Back in the days of the Republic. I served with many Jedi.” Cody starts at last, “and they let me freeze Luke.”
Luke can feel his heart stop, and his hands shake. The wave is back, the grief. The loneliness. The emptiness. But Cody’s face is still plain, if he felt grief, it was buried.
“The senate didn’t need us anymore, and the Jedi let us go. Because that’s what they do. No attachment. Be ready to let go when the time comes” Cody stares at Luke’s saber. “I’m not saying I blame them. Politics are politics.”
“Rex thought Ahsoka would come back for us. He told me Ahsoka would help us.” Cody says, gaze distant. “She was like a sister to him and Wolffe.”
Luke feels the tide of the waves pull back, before the weight of it all crushes him again as Cody says,
“So tell me Luke Skywalker, if we were lost for 25 years, why are you the only Jedi who came looking for us?”
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Imperial Tech 7
I listened to this while writing.
CN smut, masturbation, mentions of apparent suicide, dead body, blood, deadly injuries, soldier life in a fascist state, general disregard for human dignity, getting carried, soldier life in a fascist state, constant surveillance.
How clear can I be that there is nothing good about fascism and living in fascistic totalitarian societies?
Imperial!Tech X gn reader called ONCE
Summary: They need to get rid of a body. ONCE is really tired and generally done with the Empire. Tech takes a shower, is a crazy pilot and has an epiphany.
>>NEW ORDERS - OLD PROBLEMS<<
The tiled floor of the refresher room was impeccably clean. Tech locked the door behind him. It was in the middle of the night and unlikely that he would get disturbed in the large communal washing room. But he felt vulnerable without his glasses and wearing those while getting himself clean felt inefficient. He stacked his armour piece by piece on the floor, got out of his blacks and finally placed his glasses on top before stepping under the hot water.
Only then he allowed himself to think.
->sex repulsed reader skip until the next mark <-
ONCE’s sweet taste was still on his tongue. He hummed contently thinking back at their soft muffled moans under his hands, trying to be as silent as possible. Their strong body working under his ministration. Their hazy gaze at him after the orgasm rocked through their body.
Tech knew it had been the right thing not to risk it all and give in to Y/N’s wanting eyes but instead sneaking them back into the bunk room. It just was too dangerous.
But he had wanted it so much like nothing else before.
Tech turned the water as hot as possible to burn away the feeling of longing.
It didn’t help. His wayward mind spiralled back to Y/N. His Y/N.
He felt himself getting hard.
The refresher room was a pleasant, blurred canvas for his fantasies without his glasses. He imagined his Y/N to be here with him. Their patient, strong-willed eyes full of delight.
He gripped his hard member thinking about leaning Y/N against the tilted wall and kneeling at their feet to lick at their core and suck at their clit. It had made them give out these surprised gasps and trembles. After working them open and having them shaking he would lift Y/N up, pressing both their bodies against each other and finally doing what he wanted to do so badly. He imagined their surprised look when he would lower them on his member and press them against the wall.
His strokes became harder and faster.
Oh how he would work to rock them both into oblivion, their breasts wiggling with every push of him into their body. Oh their hands on him, gripping at his shoulders and scratching his skin. Oh their lips kissing and biting and moaning - loud this time.
Oh how Y/N would moan his name.
Hot semen spilled over his hand.
->sex repulsed reader continue reading <-
Tech leaned against the wall, alone.
The hot water ran out and Tech stood under the cold water like an unhappy Wookie in the rain.
He finished washing himself, pushing away his sentimentality. This was the first time he felt like this. Every time he had felt for someone else except his brothers the feeling was fleeting. But Y/N was different.
Yes, it was very much physical attraction. But he wanted more. He wanted all the little laughs and shared memories and caf while working together on the ship at night and playing games while shooting down enemies and reading reports before falling asleep together and patching little injuries and all of the ordinary couple things. Tech could only imagine how nice that would feel. He knew very little outside of the army life but he knew he wanted Y/N with him.
Being alone, despite knowing now that Y/N felt like him, was sobering.
And he was getting cold. Quickly he dried himself, got his glasses and packed his stuff. He needed rest. And then he needed the Empire to do his bidding for once.
ES-03 body was shattered. What’s left of his face down on the dusty yard ground.
“Looks nasty.”, ES-02 commented, “Kriffen Disgusting. Remind me not to jump of a balcony when I get too tired from you all.”
“Will do.” ES-04 replied while covering the body with a blanket. “So, another one?”
“Apparently.” Commander Tech stated while looking down on the ever-present holopad. “Admiral Rapart considers our squad too unstable for now. We will have to make do with a missing member on our next missions.”
ES-02 chuckled. “The Admiral thinks our squad’s third position is cursed.”
“Don’t be ridicules. There is no such thing as a curse, ES-02.” Tech replied sourly.
He just waved. “The elite squad is tasked to search and capture the former members of clone force 99. So, say your goodbyes or prayers to our lost member and then back your stuff. We are leaving for Kamino in 2 hours standard.”
“Sir, yes sir.” Like one well trained body the Elite squad saluted their commander.
ONCE looked down at ES-03’s body or what was left of him. He died because Tech murdered him. ONCE was not sure how they felt about that. ES-03 had been a danger and if Tech had not … disposed? Was that the right way to put it? Well, if ES-03 had not died last night, ONCE would likely be in custody and on their way to be tortured to death or dead already.
Better him than ONCE but still, the uncomfortable feeling of being responsible for his death stayed.
“Was ES-03 religious?”, ONCE enquired.
“The only thing he was devoted to, was his career. Don’t think we can do much here for him anymore.” ES-04 replied.
They stood in awkward silence, unsure of how to proceed.
“Jap, that’s it then.”ES-02 finally broke the quiet helplessness, saving them all - without cursing this time. It was nearly reverent.
“I will pack ES-03’s stuff. Can you two arrange for his body to be sent to his family?” ONCE asked.
ES-04 just raised his eyebrow. “You think the Empire bothers with sending back bodies?”
“We can’t leave him here on the floor.”
“True. I will try to arrange something.”
ONCE nodded and left for the barracks to pack both ES-03 and their personal stuff.
Inside the stuffed room, they moved mechanically. Clothing of a dead man, clothing of a dead-inside ONCE. Armour of a dead man, getting armour on themselves. Personal items. Personal items.
ES-03’s minimal pack mirrored ONCE small collection of possessions.
A practical, neat pile of stuff.
If ONCE died, would that all be that they left behind too?
Was that all the Empire granted them? When ONCE signed up, they had expected more.
With practised hands they packed up their pile, put it two army issued duffel bags and left the room with their luggage without looking back.
There was a soft knock on the door.
“Come in.” Tech called and looked up from his work.
It was ONCE. He felt his mind slow.
“What can I do for you, ES-01?”
They looked uncomfortable.
“Commander, I packed ES-03’s belongings for transport to his family.”
Surprise crossed Tech face. “I am sorry. The Empires procedure with dead soldiers is to cremate on the site what cannot be reused. There will be no transport. I already notified central command on Coruscant. They will inform the family. That is all.”
ONCE face shadowed with regret.
“That’s it then?”
ONCE put down both bags with as much frustration, resignation and finality as one could put in such a move.
Tech’s mind wandered, unsure of what to do while fully aware of the omniscient surveillance of every imperial soldier.
He cleared his throat.
“ONCE, would you like to stay here and just rest a bit? You look like you need it if you don’t mind me saying that.” He was not sure what kind of answer he wished for, having ONCE close or seeing them so distraught in plain sight.
Instead of an answer, ONCE collapsed themselves into sitting position at the next free wall and closed their eyes. Tech smiled with content, happy of the outcome. After what he estimated only a few hours of sleep, ONCE tendencies to regret and overthink emotional implications, the general stress of being in service to the Empire without the advantage of training and genetic modification every clone had, ONCE likely was exhausted.
He reached for his belt pocket and grabbed one of his emergency blankets, tucked the already half asleep ONCE under it and returned to his tasks.
His mind kickstarted again.
What were the most important things he had to consider now?
Keeping ONCE save. Getting the chip out. Finding his brothers.
And then what?
ONCE was as save as anyone could be on an imperial military base.
Moving the squad to Kamino gave him access to all medical equipment he needed to get the chip out and research it.
His brothers sooner or later would turn up, Tech was sure he could detect their movements if he stayed alert enough and checked the galaxy wide GAR comm chatter and holo news. Echo and Crosshair might be able to pull of laying low long enough. But Wrecker sure would not. And Hunter, with his need to be the hero, would not either.
Tech smiled and looked back at the passed out ONCE.
ONCE woke up to the sound of a ship leaving atmosphere. The popping of sound itself catching up to the gravity fighting engines was a hellish noise to wake up to.
“What is happening?!”, ONCE shouted, against all training into the comms.
“Stop adding to the noise! It’s the kriffing ship. The commander wanted to leave as soon as possible so all we got was this trash pile.” ES-02 replied. “Would love to come over for a prayer circle but I do not dare to get out of my seat.”
“And I thought you are the brave one.” ES-04 commented. “The commander carried you here. Said you passed out after all the stress, that’s why you wake up only now.”
“Oh.” ONCE made a mental note to tell Tech he did not need to show off his clone strength by carrying them around all the time.
“So, what are we flying?” ONCE asked after another most dramatic set of popping sounds and screeching protesting metal.
“WE fly into our doom with this. The commander called this bantha shit a Theta class T-2c shuttle, and I kriffing hate it.”
“Looked pretty damaged from the outside too. As if it had been flying through heat a lot.”
ONCE grimaced. Tech apparently really wanted to leave Ryloth and had taken whatever was available.
With a final pop the shuttle made it out of Ryloth’s gravity well.
ES-02 swore a few times. ES-04 just nodded in agreement.
ONCE looked around but found nothing of interest so they got up, took of their helmet and went to the cockpit.
Tech was alone, concentrated on flying and did not turn to check who had entered.
“ONCE.” He just stated as if greeting them.
“How did you know?”
“The other two would not come here without a reason. They do not particularly like me, and it is not in their typical social demeanour to … kiss the ass of superiors.”
ONCE chuckled at Tech’s choice of words and took the seat at the co-pilot panel.
“Thanks for not waking me up, Tech. But I have legs and I am fine with using them.”
He turned his head. “I tried waking you. But I must admit that I wasn’t trying hard. I will do so next time.”
“You think I will pass out from sleep deprivation soon again?”
“Unlikely. We are heading for Kamino as our new home base for the next weeks. It will suffice for our purposes. But I estimate 75% of your foreseeable awake time will be in training sessions or staring at monitors to help finding the former clone force 99.”
“That nearly sounds tame. Except for Kamino itself of course. The Kaminoans have scary eyes.”
“Not only that.”
Something in Techs voice was cold and made ONCE shiver. They knew little about the life’s of the clones before the war. They could only imagine the terror to be created and trained as a product.
“One day, if you want, you can tell me about that.” ONCE said.
They sat in silence. Tech working on the controls and ONCE checking the co-pilot monitors for irregularities or comm messages.
Outside, the maddening blue swirls of hyperspace rushed past them with incomprehensible speed. Inside, there was peace.
Tech ordered a shift change after a few hours of comfortable chatter and even more comfortable silence.
ONCE was happy to leave the co-pilot seat and stretch in what felt like ages while ES-02 and ES-04 took over. It was strange to keep calling them by their numbers and not their names. But ONCE felt little inclination to ask. It felt too personal to know their names when they could day as quickly as the other previous members had.
Back in the passenger lounge Tech started working on some odd-looking device.
“What is it?”
He looked up and considered his words. “This is a very important tool that I have neglected for a while. You will see its purpose soon enough. I am counting on your help when it is done.”
Unsatisfied ONCE just got into their seat and watched Tech working.
His hands were skilful as ever. It was as if he never needed to think before acting. With fast precise movements he worked his long fingers as if he had done so a thousand times. And yet the thing he was working on looked nothing like ONCE had ever seen before. It looked heavy yet small. But that was hard to tell in Tech’s hands with the little scars on it.
ONCE shivered, remembering what these hands could do.
“Are you cold?” Tech asked and adjusted his glasses. “I am reading that your limbs are colder than the core of your body. Would you like me to adjust the ships climate control for you?”
“It’s ok. I can manage.”
He just starred at ONCE. “I know you can. Does not mean you need to. Here take my gloves. I am not wearing them anyway right now. And over there is your bag in case you need another pair of socks.”
“That is very considered.”
ONCE opened their mouth and closed it again, aware of the helmets and the listening devices.
Tech tilted his head in expectation.
“Oh it’s nothing. Just feeling a bit …ah… public. You know what I mean.”
“I see. I will put it on my list of urgent tasks. Unfortunately, every solution in that regard can only be temporarily.”
“You really are a genius, capable to find solution to every problem, Tech. For this problem however there is only one solution.”
“You think so?”
“I am certain.”
Tech’s mind raced. He wanted to move to ONCE, whisper how close to danger their words were and shield them from any possible harm in his arms.
But he could not.
And then it was like a blaster cartridge that had been stuck finally clicking into place. ONCE was right. Every security for ONCE was only going to be temporary. The only real safety they could ever have, was outside of the Empire. Tech felt dumb. For once in his short life, he had been outsmarted. His brothers had bested him, ONCE had bested him. They all had understood far sooner than he had what was happening around him and what had been done too him. Tech put down the tools and the chip-scanner he was building.
With measured breaths he steadied himself before looking at ONCE, oh so clever ONCE. Tech felt a longing like no other for them, breathing in their subtle pleasant smell and feeling his mind wandering off again.
Instead, he just nodded. “You are right. I can’t believe I have not considered that.”
ONCE smiled at him and he felt happiness washing over him like wave and carrying him away.
“You are a busy man, commander.” ONCE winked. “Also, I am using the only advantage I have against your intellect - my out of military experience.”
“Don’t play yourself down. No need to be humble.”
He liked that. Crosshair would have a good answer on what to do now. But Tech never bothered in diversifying his social abilities. He felt utterly lost on what to do know.
A ping on his comm saved his grace.
“Commander?” ES-04’s voice was modulated through the comm’s. “Good news. They have your former sergeant in captivity. What was that traitors name? Hunter?”
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