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Saga Eye of the Storm: Wild Card, TCW-era, OCs, Jedi/clone pairing, romance, adventure. Complete 6/09/14

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by laloga, Mar 24, 2014.

  1. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Title: Eye of the Storm: Wild Card (first in a trilogy)
    Author: laloga
    Characters: OCs: (Kalinda Halcyon - Jedi Knight, Captain Stonewall & Shadow Squad - clone troopers), Luminara Unduli, Gree, Asajj Ventress
    Genre: Drama, Adventure, Romance
    Era: TCW
    Rating: T
    Summary: When a prominent Kaminoan scientist aligns with the Separatists, a Jedi and her squad of clone troopers must team up with Luminara Unduli to bring him to justice. Naturally, things go awry. Adventurous, angsty and a wee bit scary. OC/OC & hints of Luminara/Gree.

    A/N: This story is a quite a bit darker than my other fics, so consider this a caveat. Also, please keep in mind that this is the first installment of a three part series, so not every question that arises will be resolved at the end of the last chapter. But take heart, it will be worth the ride!

    As always, I appreciate any and all feedback, even just a word or two. Additionally, I'm not George Lucas and my wallet is not affected (positively) by this venture, though my sanity could probably be called into question.

    Thanks for reading!

    FYI: Wild Card takes place five months after the events of my fic, Untouchable, and 28 months after the start of the Clone Wars.

    Eye of the Storm
    Part One: Wild Card
    "The storms are raging on the rolling sea,
    And on the highway of regret.
    The winds of change are blowing wild and free.
    You ain't seen nothing like me yet...."
    ~Bob Dylan
    Chapter One: Modifications

    Most beings in the galaxy did not concern themselves with perfection, certainly not with the same exacting specifications that Kaminoans went about the matter. The concept was vague at best and fanatical at worst; ultimately it was easier not to bother about it. After all, one could get by with fine or adequate, though they might find themselves wondering what if at a later point in the future.

    The denizens of Kamino were not dreamers. They saw little point in idle speculation unless it lead to one result: perfection. But this was not a perspective borne without hardship, as their planet was proof enough that nothing worth having comes without a price; when the seas rose and slathered the tips of their mountains with salty water the Kaminoans had little choice but to adapt and grow. To cull the weak and revere the strong.

    It was the way of their world.

    Most Kaminoans realized that they were judged harshly by the rest of the galaxy, a matter that they took in long, slender strides as the inevitable result of lesser beings looking up to their superiors without a true comprehension of what made one “better” than the other. It wasn't their fault, the Kaminoans realized. They cannot help their ineptitude.

    But still, it was wiser to isolate themselves in their flattened, disk-like cities, beneath shining white lights and surrounded by the quiet hum of generators than attempt to convince the lesser beings whose way was best. Adapt and cull, after all. It was a mantra that had carried the graceful species throughout eons of turmoil and change and it had served them well.

    Creon Dai sat at his workstation in one of the labs of Tipoca City, staring at a blank screen. Normally he enjoyed the sight; it represented pure possibility unfettered by the mundane question of why. The word itself would have made him laugh if he weren't so tired of it and the limitations on his work and thereby his life that it had set.

    Lama Su had said that very word to him earlier today.

    Why do you continue to make these....alterations to the Republic's clones?” The Prime Minister's voice was calm and monotone, as it always was, but Creon thought that he'd detected a note of irritation where one should not have been. Lama Su was as self-contained as Tipoca City and no amount of raging wind or water would ever break his veneer of controlled composure.

    In that moment, Creon wanted very much to snap his neck. “They are Human,” he'd said, his eyes narrowing in frustration even as he spread his own arms wide to indicate what he felt that he could not truly express with clumsy words. “Humans are, by their nature, imperfect and weak. I could change all of that, particularly with the nanogene droids. Just think of the possibilities: enhanced vision with ocular replacements; superior strength and resilience with skeletal and musculature reinforcements; even an elevated capacity for memory recall as well as computer interface with augmented neural implants...” He stopped speaking, his head tilting in frustration as Lama Su continued to regard him with maddening calm.

    There was silence in the room while the Prime Minister blinked at him. Finally, as Creon was about to say something else, Lama Su sighed and shook his head. “Creon, my old friend,” he'd said, rising from his seat. “I fear I have granted you too much leeway in your.....experiments. I cannot continue to show you the favor that I have in the past.”

    But I know that with just a few more tests-”

    Lama Su straightened his spine. “Your failures outnumber your successes. The fatality rate is far too high.” He directed his gray gaze onto Creon, who felt something small and hard snap within his mind. “I cannot allow you to continue your 'special projects.' You must rejoin the other geneticists and make use of your considerable skills in a more lucrative area.”

    So it is about the pursuit of credits?” Creon's voice was hard. “I thought we strove for perfection.”

    We do not strive for what we have already achieved,” Lama Su replied as he'd turned away, his hand lifted in a dismissive gesture. “It was good to talk again, my friend.”

    Creon made a motion to leave, then paused, his head tilting to one side even as anger coursed through his veins. “You do not appreciate me, my friend,” he said, mimicking the Prime Minister's tone. “Perhaps I should find another who will.”

    Lama Su spared him a glance. “And I suppose this time, you mean it?” He had nodded once as Creon's expression flickered to further ire, then turned away without another word.

    At first Creon had returned to his office and began to tidy up his journals and his research documents; the schematics and hypotheses that made up his days and nights. He read through the most recent reports of his endeavors and his eyes narrowed. Lama Su, in all his arrogance, was correct about one thing: the fatality rate of the clones was too high. Not that it mattered if some of them perished, but it was an inconvenience to have to start over with a new batch and try to discern how his modifications could improve them without killing the creatures. Death ruled out every potential.

    His narrow chest rose and fell in a deep sigh of long-withheld agitation as he flicked his comm channel to the secure frequency that had been sent to him some weeks ago. A faint smile played on the slit of his mouth as he entered the transmission code that would change everything. Once it had been done, he leaned back in his chair and swept his eyes across the clutter of his desk, the bits and pieces of machinery and wires that had – until now – been his main focus.

    When he spoke, it was only to himself. “Indeed, my friend. This time, I do mean it.”


    Captain Stonewall was nothing if not determined, though often he felt that it was a small thing in the wake of tenacity of the Jedi Knight who stood before him, arms crossed in front of her chest as they faced each other in the common area of the small Republic transport, the Wayfarer.

    Kalinda Halcyon shook her head. “Stone, no. I'm not doing it.”

    The clone captain sighed and ran a hand through the fine fuzz of his hair. “Kali, you know how much I've been looking forward to this. It's not so much to ask.” He gave her a knowing look.
    It's just....” The Jedi frowned at the object in his hands before looking back up to him. “I like your hair the way it is. Why do you want to dye it?”

    It's the bolo-ball finals,” he replied. “I want to show my support for Eltair-”

    From his place at the helm, the bald clone Crest gave a snort of derision. “You mean the team that's going to lose? Captain, why are you even bothering? We all know it's going to be Dremm all the way...right Trax?” He grinned beside him at a clone with a jagged scar that ran across his face.

    As much as I hate to agree with him, Crest is right,” Traxis replied, his eyes on the swirl of hyperspace before them. “Eltair's going down. Hard. Dremm's got this one pegged.”

    I'm with Captain Stonewall,” Milo – the youngest of the group – said. He was seated at the small table in the ship's midsection that served as the squad's dining room and conference area, a small set of drums in his lap. “Eltair has such a great line-up this year....they can't lose.”

    Stonewall looked back at the dark-haired Jedi and raised his brow. Again, she shook her head and he gave a sigh of frustration; suddenly, his eyes lit up and he grinned at her. “You owe me one, remember? After that little incident on Dantooine?” At this, she frowned, though her expression turned thoughtful. Sensing he had an advantage, Stone pressed on. “Besides, it's only temporary....and you like purple.”

    Not on your head,” she replied, though she held out her hand and grimaced as he placed the box of dye in her palm. “Fine. I do owe you.” She gave him a wry look. “Now we're even, okay? Think you guys can keep it together for a few minutes?” This last part was spoken to the other clones, who each looked up and met her eyes. It heartened Stonewall to see how she regarded the others with such fondness even through her gentle teasing.

    Sure thing, boss,” Crest replied with a grin. He glanced at Milo, who'd been working out a new rhythm on the instrument. “You going to follow the Cap's lead?”

    Er....” The younger clone's eyes flicked to Stone, then to the small box in Kali's hand.

    The Jedi shook her head. “Stick with your practicing. If you want your hair dyed, Milo, you'll do it yourself or get one of the others to help you.” She gave Stone a mock glare, which he returned with a smile. “I don't do this for just anyone.” The affection in her tone still made his heart skip a beat, even though they'd been working together for well over a year. I don't know what I did right to get so lucky, he thought as he watched a grin creep over her face, despite her efforts. But I'm pretty damn thankful for it...whatever it was.

    He looked at Traxis. “How much longer until we reach Semele?”

    The scarred clone glanced at the navacomputer and shook his head. “Provided the dampers hold, not for another few hours, at least. Plenty of time to make yourself look ridiculous.”

    Always good to hear,” Stone replied, arching an eyebrow at Kalinda, who cast her eyes to the ceiling. “Shall we?” He indicated the small 'fresher and she shook her head.

    Not if you want to pass out from the fumes. Let's just use the sink in the galley.” He followed her to the area, a towel slung over his shoulders. Several minutes later he was seated in front of the small sink, wrinkling his nose at the sharp scent of the dye as she opened the bottle. Seeing his expression she leaned next to him. “It's not too late to change your mind, Stone. I won't think less of you for it.”

    It's not that bad.”

    Her breath was warm against his ear. “Then you should shut your eyes.” There was a crinkling sound as she slipped on the plastic gloves that had been included with the dye and then the smell increased exponentially as he felt a cold, wet substance being slathered onto his head.

    Crest made a gagging sound. “Ugh, will someone please open a window? That's the most disgusting smelling stuff I've ever come across, and I've bunked with Trax after a week of no showers...ow!”

    Traxis' tone was mild. “You deserved that.”

    Be thankful that I sprang for the kind that doesn't have you bleach the hair first,” Stonewall replied.

    I'm touched, really,” Crest muttered. “Didn't know you cared about us so much, Cap.”

    Beside him, Stone heard Kali's voice. “It will be good to get off this ship, even for a few hours. I think everyone's going a little stir-crazy after the last few months, don't you?” The squad, normally given missions relating to intelligence-gathering, had lately been relegated to a position of observation of certain Separatist bases, which meant that they had spent more time aboard the small ship than anywhere else.

    It hasn't been as exciting as we're used to,” he agreed. Gradually, he'd become adjusted to the cool dye, though his shoulders tensed as a drop of liquid made its way down the side of his face; moments later he felt the towel brush it away. “At least we've all gotten more proficient with our instruments. But I'm looking forward to Semele. Thank you,” he added, peeking at her through his lids.

    Her voice held a smile. “For what? Letting you guys go watch the finals while I meet with our contact? It's not like I have a deep-seated interest in bolo-ball. Besides, you've more than earned a break, and I know that you guys rarely have a chance to relax like civilians.” There was silence for a few minutes before she spoke again. “I still can't believe you wanted to do this. You never cease to surprise me.”

    Solidarity,” he replied in a serious tone. “Means a lot to us clones.”

    Maybe next year you can get a tattoo.”

    I'll keep that in mind.”

    Kali laughed; moments later there was an abrupt cool sensation as the brush was lifted from his skull and he felt the movement of the towel as she used it to wipe the edges of his hairline. “Now it has to set. You're going to look ridiculous, you know.” His eyes opened as he watched her dispose of the remainder of the dye along with the gloves, which were coated with a sticky, purple liquid.

    Thanks for indulging me, anyway.”

    Anytime.” Her hand crept to his; he gave it a squeeze as their eyes met and he heard her voice quite clearly in his head as though she were speaking in his ear. I don't always understand you, Stone, but I love you anyway.

    The knowledge filled him with delight, as it always did. He replied in kind, savoring the thrum of Force-energy that pulsed between them at the press of their skin.When he had first begun working with the dark-haired Jedi – was it really more than a year ago? – the very last thing that Stonewall would have expected was that she would ever feel the same attraction to him that he had felt for her from the start, but somehow, by some miracle of fate or the universe, she had. She loves me, as I love her. The thought was still strange and wonderful enough to made him grin like a fool.

    A gentle brush of air against his head made him look up to see Kali's other hand lifted, a look of mild concentration on her face as she stared at the space above him. “What are you doing?”

    She didn't glance down. “Trying to get rid of that lovely smell. Why don't you give me a hand?”

    I'm not sure I can....” He frowned.

    Of course you can,” she replied, her voice pitched so that only he could hear. “You're one of the most focused people I've ever met and you're able to do other things, too. Just do as we've been practicing.”

    Nodding, he focused on the noxious air and took a deep breath as he lifted the tips of the fingers on his right hand and reached within his mind to touch the Force. It was unmistakable and again he felt nothing so much as wonder at the realization. I still don't quite understand how it happened, though she seems to think it has something to do with how the Force 'works.' The idea that a clone could develop a sensitivity to the Force was unheard of until now. It had begun in earnest about five months ago with a mission to the planet of Aruna, when Kali had discovered that her ability to use the Force was linked with love; when she finally realized just how deeply she had come to care for the clone captain the Force had nearly consumed her, though she was able to lend him some of the energy. Apparently it had stuck.

    Love changed everything for us. He took a deep breath and ignored the biting scent of the dye as he concentrated on the task at hand. I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised. After all, I helped her over a year ago on Basrah, as well as Japarran....and we've been able to 'talk' through the Force for a long time as well. Perhaps it's just the natural progression of things. Perhaps it's just what happens when a Jedi falls in love with you.

    Gradually, the scent began to dissipate. From the helm, he heard Crest's voice. “Jedi are pretty handy to have around, aren't they?”

    Kalinda smiled. “Sometimes.” She glanced down at Stone, a question in her thoughts, but he shook his head.

    It's too much. I'm too different as it is without...this. As much as he disliked keeping things from his brothers, Stone knew that the fact that he was able to access the mysterious Force would be too strange for the others to take in at the moment.

    Kali's dark eyes met his and she frowned. “It wouldn't be the worst thing in the galaxy, you know.” Her voice was so quiet, he knew that only he could hear.

    No. I'm still getting used to it myself. I don't want them to know right now. Maybe one day, but not now. It was one of their few points of contention. He shook his head again as he shared the thought with the Jedi.

    You're getting better at using it, Stone. You know that you can't keep this from them forever.”

    Kali...” He held her gaze and tried to impart his feelings on the matter as clearly as he could. Finally she sighed – though he knew that the discussion was not over – and glanced at the chrono on his wrist.

    Time to rinse.”


    As Stone bent over the small sink, Kali ran her fingers through his hair, ensuring that the last of the dye was gone before he moved. It was a simple, strangely mundane act and she felt a sudden pang, a longing for something that she could not quite place a name to. As he straightened and began rubbing his hair dry, she smiled at him and felt the familiar glow when he returned the look. I never knew life could be like this, she thought even as she grimaced at the sight of his hair when he lowered the towel. I feel almost like a normal person. Whatever that means.

    Milo was the first of his brothers to see the change and Kali had to hide her grin at his look of shock. “Wow.”

    At this, Crest and Traxis twisted in their seats to gape at the clone captain. The scarred clone said nothing as he gave a snort of laughter, though Crest merely shook his head. “You should follow my lead and just go bald,” he remarked with a chuckle. “Twenty creds says he won't leave the ship looking like that.”

    Traxis grinned. “You're on.”

    Stone glanced at Kalinda. “How does it look?”

    She gave him the most innocent smile she could manage, given the circumstances. “It looks exactly how I thought it would.” He hurried to the mirror in the 'fresher and she felt his sigh of resignation through the Force, which made it even more difficult not to laugh openly. “I'm sure we can get some brown dye on Semele to cover it up,” she called, winking at Milo who was staring at the drums in his lap with the unmistakable expression of someone biting his tongue to keep from laughing.

    Stone came out of the 'fresher, his back straight and his expression solemn, looking every inch the ideal clone trooper despite the bright purple hair. “It's perfect,” he said to her. “And Eltair's going to absolutely kill Dremm, Crest.” He glanced around the common area before looking back to the rear of the ship, where the crew quarters were located. “Is Weave still back there?”

    You know how he gets,” Kalinda replied. “He's engrossed in his latest mystery project.” She met Stone's eyes and they shared a look before she nodded to the helm. “I'll check on him. Will you make sure that we arrive in one piece?”

    Crest twisted in his seat again to regard the Jedi, indignation coloring his reply. “That was one time, boss! And we didn't even know, too much.”

    Once was enough,” Stone replied as he moved to the helm. “Just take it easy this time. I know we're all anxious to get off this ship, but there's really no rush. And I want you to keep an eye on the alluvials. Last thing we need is another issue with this transport.”

    The bald clone gave a dramatic sigh. “I can't believe I have to take orders from a guy with purple hair.”

    Kali laughed as she slipped to the rear of the ship and approached the room that Weave shared with Milo. She could sense that his concentration was considerable, so she had to ring the chime a few times to get his attention. “Weave? How's it going?”

    There was the scuffling of footsteps before the door slid open just enough to reveal the squad's medic. “General? Everything okay?”

    I just wanted to make sure you were still alive back here,” she replied. “We haven't seen much of you lately.” She peered around him to the small room, noting how he shifted as if to block her view. “How's the mystery project going?”

    Er...not bad,” he said, smoothing a hand over the twin strips of hair on his skull. “I'm a little caught up right now, but everything's okay. No need to worry.” He moved to shut the door, but she stopped him by putting her hand on the door's edge, examining him as she did so.

    Are you sure?” While Kali didn't advocate using her Force-abilities to peer into the minds of others, she could tell that something was bothering Stone's brother, though she couldn't place her finger on what.

    There was silence for a moment while he met her eyes before he glanced at the front of the ship. “What's that awful smell?”

    It was clearly a diversion, but she saw no reason to push the matter. He's so private and quiet sometimes...maybe I'm just imagining things. “You missed the excitement,” she replied with a grin. “Stone has purple hair now, to support Eltair. I know,” she added at his look of bewilderment. “I didn't see it coming either. But at least it breaks up the monotony.” Weave nodded, though she could see that his mind was elsewhere, so she cleared her throat. “You know, when we get to Semele, I would like to bring someone along with me to meet our contact, just in case. I'd hate to tear one of them away from the game....”

    Here he looked up at her. “Really? That would be nice. I don't really care about bolli-ball or whatever it is. Thanks, General.”

    At this she sighed and rubbed at her forehead. “Kalinda,” she replied to his perplexed expression. “I swear, I'm going to get the lot of you to drop that epithet if it's the last thing I ever do. Please...just Kalinda. Or 'boss,' if you want to be like Crest.”

    I very much don't.” He frowned. “I'll try...Kalinda.” He said her name slowly, deliberately, and she could tell he wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of calling a Jedi by their given name.

    I appreciate it, Weave.”

    Though he looked as if he wanted to say something else he nodded and shut the door without another word.
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  2. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Two: Beneath the Surface

    To the untrained eye, Jedi Master Luminara Unduli was daydreaming.

    Standing aboard the bridge of the Tranquility, she faced the ship's progression through hyperspace with her hands clasped, her slender shoulders relaxed, and her eyes slightly out of focus. Despite the movement of the ship her body held still, so much so that as he approached her it was almost impossible to tell if she was breathing; however, Commander Gree knew her well enough to realize that she was deep in concentration. It was a skill he both envied and admired.

    He had long ago perfected the art of walking without making a sound, but even so the Mirialan woman turned to him and met his gaze with disconcertingly sharp eyes. “Commander.” It was a greeting and a question.

    Feet halting to stand exactly one meter away from her, his hand lifted in a salute before he spoke. “General Unduli. We've received word that Ventress' ship was sighted near Sullust not two hours ago. I've already informed the helm.”

    Excellent work, Commander,” she replied. The hint of warmth in her voice was indicative of praise more than any words that she could have spoken. “I only hope that we are able to capture her once and for all. Already we've spent far too much time in this pursuit.”

    At this they shared a look; it was not so long ago that Dooku's agent had thrown this very ship into turmoil and the memory of the incident was enough to make Gree wince – behind his bucket, of course. A small part of his mind wondered if the general shared his embarrassment over the failure, but he cast the thought aside, as he knew that Jedi did not bother themselves with such petty concerns. He cleared his throat. “I think we have a good shot this time, sir.”

    Her mouth curved. “And why is that, Commander?”

    Though not unexpected, the question gave him pause. “We've faced her before,” he said at last. “We know her movements and her patterns. We're prepared.”

    The Jedi Master nodded, her gaze thoughtful. “That is all true, but do not let those facts cloud your judgment. She is still wild and unpredictable.” As if sensing his disappointment she gave him a look that he thought was kind. “I do have faith in your abilities, Commander.”

    As I do in yours, sir.” The words fell out of his mouth before he could stop them, and for a moment he considered apologizing for the informality as he felt a flash of embarrassment streak through him. I should just keep my mouth shut. It'll sound even more odd if I say anything else. However, after a moment he spoke again. “I won't fail you, General.”

    Until she answered, he'd thought that she had not heard his words, as she turned and faced the viewscreen once more. But when she did reply, her voice was quiet. “I know.” Her headdress swayed as she gave him a sideways glance and her voice was clear once more. “Live and learn, Gree. It's the only way to survive.”

    After a moment's hesitation, the commander moved beside her and they watched the receding stars together.


    The storm obscured the fact that it was the deepest part of night on Kamino, and Creon felt a twinge of gratitude for the extra shadows as he walked along one of the rotunda platforms. The charcoal cloak that fell to his ankles gave him the sense that he was blending into the roiling clouds themselves as he made his way to the hangar bay where he was to start his new life. Anticipation coiled within him, serpentine and waiting to strike, though he kept the feeling at bay for now; he was accustomed to holding his thoughts in check. Soon I won't have to. Soon my life will be my own and I will be beholden to no other than my work.

    Any footfalls would have been silent on their own, but the rush of water against wind combined with the shuddering of pressures in the sky muted the sound of the clones until he was nearly on top of them. It was a small group of twelve units, armored but unarmed. Creon reckoned that they were on patrol, practicing for their futures on the battlefield. The moment he came into view they halted and raised their hands in silent salute, for everyone who lived on Kamino knew that it was useless to try and speak if the elements were raging.

    Weak eyes, he thought as his gaze swept across them like a tide. Insufficient durability. They could be so much more than merely Human. Why the Republic saw fit to clone such an insignificant species is beyond me. Still, though, they were useful in their own ways. The ones in his labs had been resilient – to a point – but Creon knew potential when he saw it. The one thing that Humans can claim is that they are adaptable. I know that I can use that to my favor...if I only have the opportunity. No, I will not be sorry to leave this place.

    He passed the units in a few strides and reached the hangar several minutes later. There were a gleaming array of Kaminoan ships, any one of which he could have taken, but he was not here to do such a menial job. His hands folded beneath his robe; Creon stood still even as the storm seethed around him, snapping like some wild creature at the dark and silent city.

    Minutes passed.

    Few Kaminoans fidgeted, but Creon was one of them at the moment. Save for one or two units on maintenance duty, there was no one about for a long while and he began to wonder if he'd made an error. No, he thought, watching as the hangar was brought into stark relief for an instant when a bolt of lightning struck between nearby clouds. It is the right course. I refuse to have my hands bound by the edicts of Lama Su and the Republic any longer, I must follow my true calling. My work shall not be reined in ever again. A clap of thunder made the platform below his feet vibrate and he watched as the clones across the hangar hurried away from the entrance that opened to the stormfront.

    Finally a soft sound alerted him to a new presence and his eyes dropped down as another robed figure came into view; he let out a breath that he had been unaware he was holding as the figure indicated that he should follow. Not as sound could be heard above the storm, even as the strange ship lifted from its hiding place – some hidden alcove that had been overlooked – and rose through the biting wind to break the atmosphere.


    If he had been more sentimental, Weave might have thought that Semele was a pretty world. Like Coruscant, it consisted mainly of a planet-wide city, though there were several vast stretches of untouched natural land that its inhabitants had gone to great lengths to preserve, more out of a desire for their own recreational amusements than to keep a part of their planet's history alive. For the most part the planet seemed to sparkle in the viewport as their transport approached the capitol city of Bez; Weave sent a transmission to the hangar where they were to set the ship down and sighed as his brothers erupted into laughter behind him.

    I don't get it. He glanced back to see Crest, Traxis and Milo seated around the small table in the ship's galley, watching a replay of the most recent bolo-ball game. It's just a bunch of guys running around after a ball, knocking the sense out of each other. What purpose does it serve?

    Beside him, Captain Stonewall raised his brow. “You sure I can't get you to root for Eltair? It would tip the scale in our favor.” The glow of the console made his brother's hair a bright indigo and Weave couldn't help his frown.

    What is it about this game that turns rational men into complete fools? “I don't really see the point of the whole thing, Captain.” The words came out sharper than he'd meant and he took a moment to settle his thoughts before speaking again. “Besides, even if I decided to chose a team, I'm not sure I could show such a display of....commitment that you have.”

    If Stonewall noticed his annoyance, he ignored it. “Commitment. That's a very diplomatic way to say what you're really thinking. It's okay,” he added with a chuckle. “Kali thinks the same thing.”

    At this, Weave glanced at the controls. “They gave us clearance to land.” He began to make the necessary adjustments to the helm and the ship moved towards the appropriate point on the planet's surface. He cast a surreptitious look at Stonewall, whose attention was focused on the dark-haired woman emerging from the 'fresher. I can't blame him, I guess.

    With this thought, Weave gave a small shake of his head. Stop, he told himself. Stop right now. It's stupid and pointless to waste energy thinking what you're thinking....there's no use wishing that things were different. He cleared his throat. “I've got this,” he said to the captain. “The Wayfarer doesn't really need two to land, if you have something else you need to take care of.” Weave could see the debate in his brother's eyes, the pull in two different directions between duty and desire.

    But the general – Kalinda – rendered the decision moot as she approached them at the helm. “We're landing already?” She stood besides the captain and put a hand on his shoulder almost absently.

    Weave didn't want to look at them so he nodded to the planet below. “We got lucky, I think. We should be landing in Bez within twenty minutes.”

    Good. That'll give me more than enough time to meet with my contact.” She cast Stonewall a glance and Weave tried to ignore the pang of longing he felt at their shared gaze. “You're really going out like that?”

    He grinned up at her. “I can't let all of your hard work go to waste, now can I?”

    I'm glad I have at least one other person who's not in a flurry over this game, right Weave?”

    The medic swallowed. “Me too, Gen...Kalinda.” As if on impulse he glanced at Stonewall but the other man only had eyes for the Jedi. Everything else falls away from him when he sees her. I wonder what it would feel like to have someone in your life like that? I wonder if the Kaminoans even thought a clone could fall in love? The questions had no ready answers, so Weave gave a quiet sigh, looked back at the helm and began to guide the ship through the atmosphere.


    Semele's capitol city, Bez, was in a fervor over the bolo-ball finals. The moment that Kalinda and the members of Shadow Squad left the hangar they were assaulted by a riot of purple and green – the colors for Eltair and Dremm, respectively – found everywhere from flags and pennants hung in windows and doorways, to the clothing of almost every individual that they passed. Anticipation was thick in the air as citizens and tourists alike were focused single-mindedly on the upcoming event.

    This is going to be amazing,” Crest said, craning his neck to watch a screen facing outside in a nearby caf, showing some kind of pre-game discussion. “Dremm's victory...and we'll see it live.” Naturally, this sparked a debate between him, Traxis and Milo, and for several moments their voices mingled with the hum of the crowd. Though it was nearly impossible for a group of five identical men to remain inconspicuous, they had elected to wear an assortment of civilian garb they'd collected over the past year to help them stand out a little less; it looked to be working, though it could have been the fact that the passers-by had other things on their minds then the bickering clones.

    As she listened, Kali smiled to herself. They're just like any other men right now. It was the right decision to let the guys blow off some steam. The streets were too crowded to move a speeder through, so they were walking to their destination: one of the larger cantinas that had massive viewscreens which were showing the match. Kali glanced at her chrono. Good. Even with the crowds we should be right on schedule.

    I'm not sure how long the meeting will last,” she said to Stone as they stood outside the cantina. “If the game is still going on, we'll just meet you on the ship once it's over.”

    He nodded, then smiled down at her as a group of young Duros males passed by, covered head to toe in purple paint and little else, swaying as they sang what sounded like a fighting song. “Suddenly the hair doesn't seem so bad, does it?”

    She laughed and kissed his cheek. “Have fun.” Looking to the others she raised a brow. “I don't need to remind you to keep your heads clear, do I? We're technically in the middle of a mission.”

    Crest gave her a salute while Traxis and Milo nodded. “We'll be the very picture of dignity and professionalism,” the bald clone replied. “Though I can't promise that the shiny won't cry when Eltair gets their shebs kicked.”

    Let's get a move on,” Stone said, shooting Kali a last look as he urged the others through the cantina doors.

    She watched them go for a moment then turned to Weave, who had remained by her side. “I lied, you know.”

    He looked startled. “What?”

    We have longer than I said,” she replied. “I just wanted to get something to eat first, but I knew that they'd be too anxious to get going to that precious game. Hungry?” He nodded and they began to make their way through the crowded streets until they reached an open air stall from which delicious smells were emanating. Kali ran her eyes over the menu before looking at Weave. “Know what you want?”

    Er....” he studied the menu and she was reminded of the first time she'd taken Stone to a restaurant on Coruscant.

    He had no clue what to order. I don't think he'd ever even been inside a caf either. She could sense Weave's uncertainty so she shook her head. “I can order for you, if you want.” The words were in Mando'a, though they were disjointed and halting, as she'd only recently begun trying to learn the language in earnest. However, her pidgin version was enough to draw a smile from the clone as he nodded.

    When they were called forward, Kali stepped up to the window and placed their order, noting how the server's eyes slid over Weave with suspicion, though the Lorrdian man said nothing; several minutes later they were handed trays of steaming local food which they carried to an open-air seating area along the sidewalk. There happened to be a table free, so they sat across from one another and began to eat. She could feel anxiety radiating from him, a realization that gave her pause. I never sensed anything like this from him before. But it doesn't feel anything like Stone's initial attraction to me; that was so focused and intense. This is broader and m ore elusive. He's discontent about....something.

    Rather than question him, she decided to leave the matter alone for now. “Good, isn't it?” She smiled as he nodded, though he was still silent.

    However, after a few minutes he seemed to relax, meeting her eyes. “Your contact is the Jedi Master Djinn Altis, isn't it? I've never heard of him before he called you the other day.”

    He's not a typical Jedi,” she said after a moment, choosing her words with care. “Many years ago he chose to diverge from the rest of the Order to teach in his own fashion. Most Jedi consider him and his ideas to be strange, at the very least.”

    Weave was listening to her intently. “Why?”

    Because I ask too many questions.” They both turned to see the source of the voice: an older Human male, wearing a hood and cloak as she was. His white beard was neatly trimmed and his eyes were clear as he regarded Kali, who had risen to her feet at the sound of the other Jedi's voice. “Kalinda Halcyon, as I live and breathe....It's been a long time, hasn't it, child?”

    Hello, Master Altis,” she replied giving him a slight bow which he brushed off with a wave of his hand, clasping her hands in his own and smiling at her. “We had a little extra time, so we thought we'd get some dinner.” She gestured to their table. “Are you hungry? We have enough to feed an army here.”

    He slid down beside her and gave Weave a friendly smile. “Perhaps in a moment. Who is this lad?”

    At these words, Weave sat up and gave a crisp salute as Kali introduced him. “This is Weave, one of the members of the squad I've been working with this past year.” She grinned. “I'd introduce you to the others, but they're currently engrossed in the bolo-ball finals, along with everyone else on this planet, it seems.”

    Master Altis reached forward to shake Weave's hand, causing the clone to hesitate for a fraction of a second before he returned the gesture; after this, the elder Jedi turned to Kali, his hands folded on the table before him. “A good place to have our clandestine meeting, then. I don't think that anyone will pay us any mind.” He paused to regard her and Kali felt her spine straightening almost reflexively under his steady gaze. “You look very well,” he said at last. “Happy.”

    It's been an eventful year,” she replied. “You look the same. I think the last time I saw you was....Bespin? Was it really almost ten years ago?”

    He nodded. “My students are flourishing there. You should come by again, if you have a chance.”

    Perhaps.” She cleared her throat and looked at her hands. “What news do you have for me, Master?”

    Ah, of course.” He inhaled and reached for one of the rolls that she'd offered, though he only toyed with it. After a moment he looked at her. “Thank you for meeting with me so quickly. It is a troubling matter and I'm not sure how the Council will react. Several weeks ago a group of young clones was....taken.”

    At this, Weave looked up from his plate, his eyes focused on the Jedi Master. “Taken? From where?”

    Altis sighed, suddenly looking much older than he was. “Their transport was en route from Kamino, heading through the Pelgrin System and never made contact with its destination. It would have been thought to be a Separatist attack but for the fact that no wreckage was found even after extensive scans. No debris, no trace of them.” He looked from Weave to Kali and his face was grim. “A Clone Youth Brigade squad: eight boys in total, along with their guardian.”

    Kali felt a knot of grief within her chest. “Why are you uncertain about the Council's reaction? Surely they'll want to investigate the matter?”

    Here the older Jedi paused, his eyes resting on Weave for several moments before he spoke. “The Kaminoans have reported that the area is known for being fraught with unstable nebulae; they do not seem to think that there were any survivors. In spite of this, I hope that the Council will investigate, Kalinda. I really do. However,” he looked back at the dark-haired woman. “Something tells me that they will have more pressing issues to concern themselves with. It isn't that they don't care,” he added as she opened her mouth to reply. “But I have a feeling I know what their reaction will be and you may not like it.”

    The table was silent for several minutes, even as the buzz of conversation and excitement rippled around them. There was another cantina nearby that was showing the finals and Kali could hear shouting and raucous laughter emanating from the establishment. She reached through the Force to Stone and gave a small sigh of relief when she sensed his happiness and excitement at the game. Eltair was winning, though it was close. When she looked back at Master Altis, he was regarding her with the air of one who missed nothing.

    I have a friend on the Council I can speak with,” she replied at last, thinking of Obi-Wan. “If nothing else, perhaps the guys and I can find them.”

    Altis nodded again, though his tone was skeptical. “I certainly hope so, Kali.” After another pause he smiled at her once more. “I have heard much talk of your exploits,” he said. “You've created quite a stir.”

    She felt a flash of apprehension pierce her at these words, though she suppressed it. “In what regard? I haven't exactly been in the middle of any battles.”

    Word gets around,” he replied with a chuckle. “You've had quite a few successful missions and you've made considerable use of your talents in ways other than swinging a lightsaber around. In that regard, you remind me so much of Jonas. He was a good friend, if a bit on the stubborn side. He always made his own way.”

    At the mention of her first master – her father – Kali felt a thrill of old sorrow and her eyes lowered. “I'd forgotten that you knew one another.” She noticed Weave's eyes flick to her; though he'd been silent she knew that he was listening to every word.

    Master Altis folded his hands in his lap, seeming to choose his next words with care. “We had many discussions,” he said at last, meeting her gaze. “He was always concerned for your well-being. I think he would be pleased to see what you've made of your life.”

    She frowned. Weave doesn't know about Jonas being my father. Not that it matters, but I'd rather keep some things to myself. I guess I'm not so different from Stone in that way. “He taught me as best he could.” She looked back at Altis and took a deep breath. “You seem well enough, Master. I know that the Council is appreciative of you and your students' humanitarian efforts in the wars.” It was not-so-subtle of an attempt to steer the conversation away from other subjects and he acquiesced.

    We all do what we are able, though I wonder if it will be enough.” He leaned back and studied the passers-by, giving Kali a moment to study the man that her father had spoken of upon occasion.

    According to the Council, he's something of an embarrassment; just a hairsbreadth short of a heretic, if it weren't for his countless acts of compassion and goodwill. She cleared her throat. “I heard about Athar. It was fortunate that the situation was resolved as well as it was, though I know that Anakin said it was your first 'taste' of the wars. But then, he's on the front lines all the time, so he's a bit biased.”

    He nodded, his hand creeping to his beard in a motion that reminded her of Obi-Wan. “It was....enlightening, to say the least.” He glanced at Weave. “It was the first opportunity that I had to work with your brothers. Needless to say, I was quite impressed, for many reasons.”

    Kali watched as Weave nodded, though he said nothing. Again, she could feel....something from him, some flicker of anxiety, though it was nameless and without a solid form. Finally he looked up and gave a small smile to the Jedi. “Thank you, sir.”


    Weave listened to the two Jedi with unconcealed interest. He noted that the general – Kalinda, he told himself – seemed to be troubled at the news of the young clones' disappearance and wondered what the Jedi Council would make of the matter. On Kamino it was not unusual for entire groups of clones to disappear, though he'd never heard of such a thing happening mid-transport. The thought of Kamino made him shudder. They called it “reconditioning,” but it was culling the herd, pure and simple. A trace of old fear squirmed in his brain, but he pushed it aside as he focused on the Jedi.

    Once the talk turned to Kalinda's old Master, he found that his curiosity level increased exponentially and he realized that he knew very little of the dark-haired Jedi's life prior to the time when he'd met her. Though we've been in countless scrapes together, I don't really know her, do I? She's been alive a lot longer than any of us, after all. Sometimes he wondered if that knowledge bothered Stone, though by his brother's continued involvement with the Jedi, he doubted it. And who can blame him? To have someone who cares for you like that, regardless of anything else...could I ever be that lucky?

    He frowned to himself. I should just be thankful for what I do have. It's pointless to wonder if things could be different.

    There was a pause in the conversation and he heard the question before he knew he was asking it. “General Altis...what makes your students different from the other Jedi?” Both Jedi looked at one another and he felt a bit embarrassed for the sudden outburst. “Forgive me, sir,” he added. “Sometimes I'm too curious.”

    There's no such thing,” the elder Jedi said with a smile. “Simply put, I'm rather...unorthodox when it comes to the 'normal' rules of how a Jedi's life is supposed to go. My students are allowed to form romantic bonds – even get married, if they wish – and I have several Padawans at the moment as opposed to just one.”

    Kalinda shifted in her seat; Weave noted that she looked uncomfortable with the talk even though she tried to keep her expression neutral as Altis continued. “I even have a few non-Force users at the academy...all who wish to learn and do a bit of good in this galaxy are welcome.”

    Weave nodded, absorbing the information and Kalinda's reaction, though he said nothing further. As if sensing his fellow Jedi's emotions, Altis changed the subject and the Jedi began to discuss other, more innocuous matters. It was while the Jedi were speaking of people he'd never met and places he'd never been that the transmission came through. Kalinda cast an apologetic look at Master Altis and lifted her comm, activating it to voice-only. “Master Windu?”

    The voice of the Jedi Master sounded small amidst the jeers and shouts of the crowds as one of the teams scored another goal or point or whatever the correct term was. Weave leaned forward to listen. “Kalinda...we've just received word from Kamino. It's urgent that you head there immediately.”

    The dark-haired Jedi frowned. “What happened?”

    Creon Dai, a prominent Kaminoan scientist has gone missing,” Windu replied. “It is imperative that you find out his location. If he's been taken by the Separatists, it could be catastrophic for the army. His knowledge of clone genetics....” The Jedi trailed off, leaving the thought unsaid and Weave felt a chill pass through him. After a pause, he spoke again. “Shaak Ti has been temporarily called away, so I need you and your squad to investigate the matter at once.”

    At the mention of what was essentially his home planet, Weave tried not to wince as he again felt a thrill of fear pass through him; this time it was harder to push away. No. No...I don't want to go back.

    Kalinda's reply was swift. “Of course, Master. We'll head out at once.” She paused, her eyes flicking to Altis, who was listening to the exchange with interest. “I have some news for you as well.” She relayed what the other Jedi had told her regarding the missing clone cadets. “We'll look into it as soon as possible.”

    There was a pause before Windu answered. “Understood. However, Creon Dai must be your priority at the moment...if his knowledge is disseminated throughout the Separatists, it could mean ruin for all clones. Contact the Council once you have any information.” With this the Jedi signed off and Weave watched as Kalinda took a deep breath, her eyes still on her comm. Finally she looked back up at the Jedi Master and something passed between them, some shared knowledge that Weave was not privy to; but still, it was better to wonder at their reaction than dwell on his own misgivings, no matter how hard pressed he was to do so.

    After a moment she rose, Weave and Master Altis following suit. “Thank you for your information, Master. I hope we're able to do something about it.” She extended her hand to the other Jedi, who shook his head and embraced the dark-haired woman.

    I would like to speak with you again, Kalinda,” he said, the words so quiet that Weave almost missed them. “About many things.” His voice was kind and careful, though his gaze was sharp.

    She drew back and studied him a moment before indicating to Weave that it was time to go. “Perhaps, but right now we have a job to do. Good luck out there. May the Force be with you.”

    Master Djin Altis nodded. After he shook Weave's hand again, his own hands folded before him as he met her gaze and Weave's as well. “And you, child. Always.”


    A/N: The mention of Athar was a reference to the Karen Traviss' novel, No Prisoners.
  3. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Three: Within Reach

    Dremm scored another point and the resulting noise was deafening, especially with Crest beside him, whooping almost into Stonewall's ear. “That's how it's done!” The bald clone pounded his fist on the table with delight as approximately half of the crowd added to the cheers, while the other half grumbled and cast dark looks at those who were celebrating.

    Stonewall exchanged a glance with Milo, who shook his head. “Lucky break,” the younger clone said. “Eltair will come back; there's plenty of time left.”

    You keep telling yourself that,” Traxis replied from his other side.

    The clones had managed to find seats at the long bar, though they were only drinking kolla, a sweet, carbonated beverage with no alcohol. However, the long counter offered an unencumbered view of the largest screen, which was currently showing a replay of the last few minutes of the game while the players took a time-out. Crest's enthusiasm grew as he watched the replay; at the moment of the score he lifted his glass and let out another shout of encouragement, not noticing as some of the liquid sloshed onto the shoulder of a nearby Whiphid, who was decked out in Eltair's colors.

    Watch it,” he growled, jerking back from Crest as if he'd been stung.

    The bald clone lifted his hand in apology. “Sorry about that.” He shifted away from the offended being, whose eyes narrowed as he studied the four men. Despite the noise of the cantina, Stonewall could hear the scrape of his stool as he got to his feet, still scowling at the clones.

    You''re those Republic clones,” he said; his tone had shifted and deepened along with his expression. “Shouldn't you be in a battle somewhere, droid-bait? What're you doing here?”

    At this, they all tensed, but Stonewall reacted first. With as much subtlety as he could manage, he sent a tendril of calming Force-energy to the Whiphid, hoping to smooth out some of the anger that he felt emanating from the other being. “He apologized.” The clone captain kept his voice quiet and calm. “He meant no harm. Don't trouble yourself about it.” Though it was protocol, he couldn't bring himself to tack on the rudimentary 'sir' to his words.

    After a moment the Whiphid muttered a curse of some kind and turned his attention away from the clones, and Stonewall gave a sigh of relief. Crest shot him an odd look, but before he could comment the captain's comlink lit up. His first thought was of Kali. “What's wrong?” He rose from his seat and began to make his way through the press of people towards an alcove where he could hear her better.

    Though her tone was calm, he could tell that she was distressed. “I'm sorry, Stone, but we have to leave. Mace just seems that we're to head for Kamino immediately.”

    We'll meet you outside,” he replied, glancing up at the others who had watched his progress. He tilted his head to indicate that they should follow; within seconds the four clones were slipping out of the cantina and into the night. Moments later he felt the brush of her mind against his, though it was less a desire for communication and more of a need for reassurance. I'm here, Kali, he thought. What's wrong?

    She did not reply. Several minutes later he watched as the Jedi and Weave appeared out of the crowd, their expressions grim, and the entire squad began to make its way back to the hangar. No one spoke until Weave and Milo were prepping the ship and they were waiting for clearance to take off, when Kali swallowed and looked at them. “I'm sorry to pull you guys away, but it's urgent: one of the Kaminoan scientists has disappeared and the Council is concerned that the Separatists have taken him.”

    That's not good. Stonewall frowned. “I assume we're to track him down?”

    Setting the coordinates for Kamino as we speak,” Milo said as he leaned over the navacomputer. “But it'll take us about a day to reach it from here.”

    Kali nodded and her gaze fell on Stonewall once more, giving him the impression that there was more to her agitation than the current mission. He glanced at Crest and Traxis. “I want everyone alert tomorrow. Let's get some shut-eye.”

    We're fine...” Crest replied with a grin. “It's Eltair who was in trouble.” He waggled his brows at Stone, who felt a flash of irritation, though he tamped it down even as he gave Crest a stern look. The bald clone cleared his throat. “Right. Hitting the sack. We'll get on it.”

    Stone followed Kali to their shared quarters in the rear of the ship. The moment the door closed behind them he looked at her. “What else happened?”

    When she told him about the missing clone cadets he nodded, but she seemed surprised at his reaction. “You don't seem very concerned.”

    It's troubling, but not unheard of,” he replied, taking a seat on their bed as he began pulling off his boots. “The Kaminoans make no secret of disposing of units that they find unsatisfactory, though it's unusual that they would go about it like that.”

    Kalinda stared at him as though he'd sprouted another head. “Units? Stone, they're children.”

    He took a deep breath and reached for her hand, pulling her down beside him. “To you they are, but to the Kaminoans they're....well, not. This isn't news to you, surely. We've all talked about our experiences on Kamino.” Here it occurred to him that she would probably have a difficult time on his home planet, given her reaction to something that had been considered a normal event while he grew up. I need to help her, he realized. Show her that it wasn't as bad as she's imagining. It may not work, but I have to try. The press of their skin was familiar; he gave her hand a gentle squeeze while trying to send her a trickle of calming energy. “They're brothers, Kali....I am concerned about them. ”

    I know. It's just unsettling.” She laid her head against his shoulder and he put his arm around her. “You're right...I have heard you guys talk about growing up there, I was just caught off guard, I suppose.” She gave a quiet sigh and he felt her anxiety fading as he held her, sending her a little bit of his own strength to fortify her. After a few moments she looked up at him and he was relieved to see that she seemed more at ease. “How was Eltair faring when you left?”

    He exhaled and shook his head. “Not so good, I'm afraid. But there was a bit of time left, so who knows?” His hand brushed the soft skin of her cheek. “It doesn't matter so much right now, at any rate. But I'm keeping the hair,” he added as she rolled her eyes. “At least until I know the outcome.”


    The vessel was too small to accommodate his height, but it was a small matter compared to the knowledge that he was free at last. Creon Dai was hunched over in the rear of the ship, engrossed in the holo-image before him. Count Dooku's voice was sibilant and slightly dark as he spoke. “I trust that your extraction from Tipoca City went smoothly?”

    It was difficult, given the cramped room, but Creon nodded. “Your agent was adequate, Count. Where is the base where my labs are being set up? I am anxious to get to work on your new soldiers.”

    Dooku chuckled. “Such dedication. Perdax is not far from here; you should arrive there within several hours. The units that you requested have been brought already.”

    Yes...I have had an idea on that score,” Creon replied, his gaze growing distant in thought. “I think I may have a way to prevent the older clones from perishing so quickly; the nanogene droids that I've been working on should – in theory – allow them to withstand the modification process, as well as make them easier to reprogram once the are altered. Is there any way that you could have some adult clones brought to me as well?” The one thing that his homeworld had over his new arrangements was the seemingly endless supply of subjects.

    There was a pause while the Count seemed to consider his words. Finally he nodded. “It can be arranged. Ventress,” he said, glancing at the pale Human woman who slipped free from the helm to approach him. “I trust you can dredge up some clones for our guest?”

    Of course, Master. There is a Republic ship that has been attempting to follow me; it will be a simple matter to do as you request.” Creon had hardly spared his rescuer a second glance until now; she was slender but muscular, indicative of one who had spent her entire life in motion. There was a certain ferocity to her movements – though it was contained – that reminded him of a predator, and her eyes were the pale color of a cloud. He noticed the cylinder-shaped objects at her belt and realized with a start that she was a Force-user. I have only encountered one before, the self-righteous Togrutan woman on Kamino, but even she had an impressive bearing.

    As if sensing his thoughts the Human woman's eyes flicked to him, but she said nothing as the Count continued to speak. “One of our warships is in the vicinity of the planet Caradoc, a known hiding place for Separatist defectors. You will rendezvous with it and launch an assault on one of the settlements there; that should be enough to draw the Republic's attention and provide us with ample clones. Once Creon has collected enough, you are to disengage and return our new ally to his awaiting lab.”

    Ventress bowed low. “As you wish, Master.”

    The transmission ended and Creon studied the Human female even as she ignored him and swept back to the helm to plot their course. He noted the precise, controlled flow to her movements, so unlike any Human he'd ever seen, and found his curiosity growing. Interesting. I have heard that the Force makes one more resilient...perhaps I can incorporate that somehow.

    Again the pale woman seemed to heed his thoughts as she turned and gave him a look that sent a shiver down his spine, though he could not ever recall being intimidated by one of her species before. Perhaps it is the influence of the mysterious “Force” that has affected me so. I must look into that further. However, she said nothing for several long moments. When she spoke, the sound reminded him of the lathering waves as they sidled up to the supports of Tipoca City.

    There is nothing that you could add that the Force does not already provide.”

    Despite his misgivings, Creon smiled at her. “That you know of, perhaps. But my gaze extends far beyond yours, my dear girl.”


    Try again, Stone.”


    She met his almost-golden eyes. “I know you can do it. Try again.” He took a deep breath and nodded, focusing his attention on the object between them. They were seated on the bed in their quarters, facing one another, and it was very, very late. However, Kali was determined. She watched Stone's expression change as he slipped into a more meditative state in his attempt to lift her lightsaber using the Force. Sweat was beading at his forehead and slowly, so slowly it may not have been happening at all, the hilt of the saber began to shudder as it crept into the air.

    Gradually the movement smoothed even as it quickened and she could see that it was growing easier for him, though he was concentrating with the same intensity that he went about most tasks. She kept her body still so as not to disturb him and watched as the object lifted about a meter into the air, before he let out a breath and it lowered back to the bed. His eyes opened just as it touched the blanket.

    You did it,” she replied, smiling at his startled expression. “I told you that you were getting better.”

    He picked up the hilt and studied it for a moment before looking at her. “It hasn't gone away; in fact, I'm noticing that it's growing easier to use. I wish we knew why.”

    I don't think that anyone is certain exactly how the Force works. I can tell you that I never thought it was the kind of thing that could be passed on by just loving someone.” She slid closer to him, kissing his cheek as she leaned into his chest.

    Maybe it's just you,” he replied, smiling. “After all, you shared it with're special.”

    She shook her head and peered up at him. “If by 'special' you mean abnormal, then you might be right, though I'm pretty sure that most other Jedi wouldn't share that opinion of our 'training' sessions.”

    His reply was postponed as she leaned up to kiss him. After a moment he chuckled and pulled back to regard her. “You are pretty unorthodox, aren't you?”

    That's what I hear.” Even now, she could not remember a time in her life that compared to this. Master Altis was right about that. I am happy. She met Stone's gaze and felt her pulse quicken when he kissed her, as his hands found their way to the small of her back even as he lowered her to the bed.

    One of the best things about being a Jedi is something that would shock non-Force users if they knew. She felt a tremor within her as Stone sent a tendril of Force energy through her body, which she returned in kind, smiling as he shivered; it was one of the more pleasant aspects of their training sessions that he had taken to with great enthusiasm. After a moment she felt another, stronger trail of energy reach from him to her, filling her with a renewed sense of delight even as she felt her entire body ache with longing. “You've gotten pretty good at this part, too,” she whispered as she looked up at him.

    He smiled again before he kissed her. “Practice makes perfect, I suppose.”

    Forgotten, the saber clattered to the floor.

    Though it was not his turn to stay at the helm, Weave found that he desired nothing more than a distraction from his own thoughts. Why is it so hard for me to see them together? It's not new....for kriff's sake, they've been like this for over a year now. What is wrong with me? He frowned at the console as though it held the answer to his questions; the soft glow of the navacomputer met his gaze and revealed nothing. He sighed.

    Up for some company?” Without waiting for an answer Crest slid into the co-pilot's seat and kicked his feet on a nearby instrument panel. “Relax, it's nothing critical,” he said to Weave's look of annoyance. They were quiet for a moment before Crest chuckled to himself. “I should have known better than to bet against the captain. Lost twenty creds to Trax when he left the ship with that hair.”

    Mmm....he's good on his word, I guess.”

    You okay? You seem a little distracted.” Crest's tone was casual and it caught Weave off guard for a moment until he remembered his brother's propensity for conversation. “Not that I'm, you know, worried or anything,” the bald clone continued. “It's just a feeling I have.”

    You sound like Kalinda.” The words left his mouth before he could stop them and Crest's eyebrow lifted.

    I can't do it,” he replied. “Call her by her name. It's still strange....that's why I like 'boss.'” He glanced at Weave. “But she's more than that, I guess. More than just 'General.' But not 'Kalinda.' At least to me. At least for now.”

    Good for you.” His voice was sharp, but Crest brushed it off.

    Just saying, vod. No need to snap at me.” He glanced at Weave. “You didn't answer my question.”

    Weave cast a glare at his brother. “I'm not under your command, you know. And get your feet off of the console before you make something go haywire. The Wayfarer's been acting up lately.”

    Crest moved his feet to the floor, though he kept his gaze on his brother. “Are you okay?”

    This was skating close to being very awkward so Weave made a show of checking the navacomputer again to avoid having to answer until he collected his thoughts. Crest could be incredibly patient and stubborn when he wanted to be, so he waited. Finally Weave gave a sigh and smoothed his hands over his skull. “I don't know,” he said with a frown.

    Are you jealous?”

    At this, Weave made a noise of incredulity. “No, Crest, I don't think of that.” He sighed and his frown deepened. “I don't know what I am. All I know is that I really hate not knowing.”

    The bald clone's eyes were on the stars. “You should know that jealousy isn't going to do anything but hurt you, and the rest of us too, in the end. She and him...they're real. Never thought I'd see anything like it, but there it is.”

    I know. I'm glad for them both, Crest, not jealous.” I just wish I knew what was bothering me so much. “I guess...I want more.” The word sounded bitter and out of place in the quiet of the ship and he ran his eyes over the console to bring about a sense of normalcy. “More than I should. More than I was meant to.” He shook his head. “I know it's stupid.”

    But his brother lifted his hand. “It's not. I understand what you mean. It's like....the idea that any of us could have what they have – could love and be loved – it's a nice thought, but it doesn't feel like a reality at the moment.” Here he gave a sigh and his gaze grew distant, as if his mind was on another world entirely. When he looked back at Weave his voice was unusually serious. “She's changed him, to be sure. But she's also changed the rest of us.”

    Weave frowned. “For the better?” Even as he said it he knew that Crest wouldn't have an answer.

    Indeed, the bald clone shrugged. “Hopefully. Though if falling in love with a Jedi means getting a sudden urge to dye your hair purple, I'll pass.”

    Good thing you're bald.”

    For all of her composure, Luminara was no stranger to doubt or uncertainty, though she made every effort to ensure that her actions were untainted by the negative thoughts that would lead to ruin. So much was dependent on her decisions; doubt was a luxury she could ill afford. However, as she stood with Commander Gree on the bridge of the Tranquility, she was having second thoughts about their mission.

    Asajj Ventress was a more formidable opponent than I anticipated. She very nearly destroyed this ship and all of my crew even as she escaped with Nute Gunray. If not for young Ahsoka's actions, I doubt that I would have survived. The thoughts were troubling, though she was able to set the corresponding worry aside as she examined her last encounter with the dark-side user from an objective viewpoint. I underestimated her, but I also overestimated my own skills. I can not make the same mistske again.

    She extended her awareness to Gree. He was – as usual – calm and confident, though it was not with the arrogance of youth and inexperience but rather the knowledge of a man who was doing precisely what he was meant to be doing. Luminara was aware that he regarded her as something of a marvel, as most clones seemed to look at the Jedi, but there was something else about him that gave her pause. Some emotion that went beyond respect and awe. She inhaled deeply and noted the shift in his attention to her for all that he remained still.

    After a moment he spoke. “Did I tell you that I've finished my project, sir?”

    Did you? I know that the device has given you no small amount of trouble.”

    He nodded, and she sensed excitement from him. “I haven't had a chance to test it properly, but I did manage to slice it into the ship's systems to better tie our comlinks into the main communication array. It should make things more streamlined for you – us – if we can't be on the bridge.” Here he paused and she could feel a trickle of agitation. “Of course, I did discover that it works both ways...not that we'd want to, but with the device I made one could distort our communications intentionally – visually or otherwise.”

    It was one of his passions, which he was capable of discussing at length, but she found that it was a welcome diversion from her own ruminations, so she asked him another question. Soon they were in deep discussion over the matter, when her comm chirruped. After she activated the comlink the familiar image of Obi-Wan appeared at her wrist. “General Kenobi.”

    General Unduli. I trust that all is well?”

    As well as it can be, I suppose.” She raised her brow at him. “We've received word that Ventress is on the move again; we're on a course to intercept.”

    Hand at its customary place at his beard, Obi-Wan nodded. “Your commander sent word. However, I wanted to keep you in the loop, as there have been some new developments in your sector. It seems as though a Kaminoan scientist has gone missing and we have reason to suspect that the Separatists are involved.”

    Gree tensed beside her, though Luminara kept her features impassive. “Do you want me to look into the matter?”

    Kalinda Halcyon is taking care of it,” he replied. “But it seems too much of a coincidence that Ventress is nearby as well; it may come to the two of you having to coordinate.”

    Kalinda. She gave a quiet sigh. “I see. Thank you for the information, Obi-Wan. Has she indicated that she needs my assistance?”

    Obi-Wan shook his head. “She and her squad are on their way to Kamino now to look into the matter; it may be a case of simple defection, or something else. In any case, I wanted to keep you informed.”

    Thank you, Obi-Wan,” she said again. “Is there anything else?” There was not, so she signed off after giving him the customary words of parting.

    Gree's curiosity was almost tangible and Luminara decided to indulge him. “Are you familiar with the Jedi Knight, Kalinda Halcyon, Commander?”

    Not personally, though I've heard about her and her squad.” Something in his voice hinted that there was more to this than he'd said. “They've been assigned to special ops, correct?”

    Luminara nodded. “Kalinda is....unorthodox in many of her methods. Her talents are suited more to intelligence-gathering rather than remaining on the front lines of battle.” She paused, remembering the dark-haired young woman from their days at the Jedi Temple. We've never seen eye-to-eye; in a way it's astonishing that two people raised in the same environment turned out so differently.

    The light from the overhead lighting glinted off of Gree's armor as he turned to her. “Unorthodox in what way, sir?”

    At this, Luminara paused. “In the past, she tended to operate a bit more informally than most other Jedi. I have not had the opportunity to work with her since well before the wars, but the last time I did so, it became apparent that we have very disparate ways of handling any given situation.” She smiled to herself at Gree's confusion. “She's capable, just different.”

    Gree was quiet for a minute as he took in her words and she was struck, as she always was, at his thoughtfulness. Finally he nodded, though she could sense his hesitation. “There've been...rumblings,” he said at last. “About General Halcyon and her squad.”


    Embarrassment trailed from him and he shifted in place, clearly wishing he had not said anything at all. “I realize that it's just idle gossip, but from what you're saying, General, it might not be.”

    Rumor travels quicker than anything else,” she said. “I wouldn't put too much stock into it, Commander.” Though it would not be the first time her actions have caused a stir.

    He nodded and straightened his spine. “Yes, General.”
  4. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Four: Out of Place

    Kamino was the last planet in the galaxy where Weave wanted to return.

    Naturally, it was storming; even so, it was a simple matter to set down the Wayfarer on one of the undamaged docking bays in spite of the ripping, clawing wind that seemed like it wanted nothing more than to tear the durasteel hull apart piece by piece. The entire group was silent while he finished the landing sequence, watching the rain sluicing down the front of the viewport even as it beat against the sides of Tipoca City. Milo activated the hatch just as the sound of distant thunder snagged at the air; Weave and his brothers wore their buckets and the Jedi's face was a mask of calm as they made their way down the slanted ramp. He noted how Kalinda and the captain kept close to one another without touching; they were always together – even when they were apart – in a strange way that he didn't quite understand.

    The Kaminoans had provided a sheltering awning that protected visitors from the worst of the elements, but Weave still felt the slanting rain patter the shell of his armor as he and the others followed the Jedi away from the ship and towards the city itself. Though much of the damage from the recent battle had been repaired, there was still evidence that the war had found its way to the Kaminoans' doorstep: charred patches of durasteel that had not yet been cleaned; huge chunks of the building that had been ripped away by impaling droid ships; scorch marks and carbon scouring that still colored the interior of the hangar. I wonder how much worse it is inside?

    When he saw the Prime Minister – flanked by a few members of his staff – it took all of his willpower to keep from stopping in his tracks. They can tell, he thought the Jedi lead them towards the slender Kaminaoans. They will remember me. They'll know I'm defective. He took a deep breath, trying to set the anxiety aside.

    Master Kalinda Halcyon. It is a pleasure to meet you.” Lama Su gave a supple bow as he looked down at the dark-haired woman who met his gaze with a calm that Weave found himself envying. “Thank you for coming so quickly.”

    The Jedi bowed as well. “I only hope that we can help.”

    Lama Su lifted his arm and indicated that they should follow him. As he walked, he spoke to the Jedi, telling her of the missing scientist and his work.

    Everything looks the same, but feels so different. Weave cast his eyes around the city and felt a familiar thrill of revulsion spear him. As the Prime Minister lead them into the main building, they passed a squad of younger clones, perhaps seven standard years, still gangly and awkward even as they gaped at him, his brothers and the Jedi; they were silent, their postures stiff and formal. Weave wondered if they had names or if they still thought of themselves as numbers.

    The rain that pounded against the exterior was hardly noticeable once the group was inside, but he could still hear it, sometimes even in his dreams.

    The corridors were bright and gleaming, untouched by the war unless they'd been the first to be repaired. Lama Su lead them through the transparent walkways towards an area where Weave had never been – the labs – and he felt his curiosity level growing despite his agitation at being back. I always wondered about their labs....imagined them countless times. What kind of place is it where we were created?

    He cast a glance at the Jedi and noted how her eyes were wide, flicking from side to side with the erratic nature of someone who was becoming overwhelmed. “What is all this?” He saw her hands clench at her sides even as her voice was calm. They were passing beneath the room where all clones began their lives and here she made no attempt to hide her stare as her head tilted to take it all in. Rows upon rows of decanting jars seemed to spiral above their position, each containing a fetus. Even with huge sections of the rotundas that held the cloning vats missing, it was a dizzying sight.

    Lama Su glanced around, the movement casual. “The decanting chamber, Master Jedi. You are fortunate to arrive now....just last week we finished our repairs from the most recent Separatist attack.” From here he launched into an explanation of the cloning process with the smooth intonation of a memorized speech. Kalinda's steps faltered, though the Prime Minister seemed not to notice, and Weave watched Stonewall's hand extend to brush hers; she turned to him with an expression that Weave identified as fear and again, something that he could not name passed between them. He saw her features smooth and she gave a minuscule nod to the captain before she looked ahead once more.


    It took every ounce of concentration that Kali possessed to keep her voice calm as she spoke to Lama Su, who seemed too absorbed in his own lecture to notice that she was distressed by the sight of the thousands upon thousands of jars. Filled with possibilities. With beings exactly like Stone and the others. This is where their lives began. She shuddered. They had passed a group of teenagers on the way inside, young boys with Stonewall's eyes who stared at the Jedi and her men with nothing short of reverence.

    It's not a surprise. I know that this is where they've come from...but why is it so hard for me to see firsthand? Her chest tightened; moments later she felt Stone's gentle touch against her skin, along with a soothing current of Force-energy and she allowed him to calm her.

    Kali. It's okay. His thoughts were filled with compassion and she was struck with the realization that he understood better than she did that this was difficult for her.

    My valiant soldier. You know me far too well.

    She could see his smile in her mind's eye. I wouldn't have it any other way. And this place isn't all bad...there's good things too. If we have time, I'll show you. After all, I've seen your home. It was true; months ago, during their first bit of real leave, Kali had brought him to the Jedi Temple, though she had a feeling that this experience would be quite different.

    Before she could reply, they reached the labs. Like every other area in this facility, it was massive and open, consisting of transparent walls and rows of bright lights that illumined each scientists' workstation. About two thirds of the stations were filled with Kaminoans, either sitting before large screens as they entered data and worked with formulas, or bent over microscopes and other gleaming machines. Save for the occasional movement of a chair or shuffle of flimsi, it was almost unnaturally quiet, but Kali could feel the attention of the Kaminoans upon her group.

    Lama Su lead them past the cubicles until they reached one that was cordoned-off and unlit. “We kept it as it was found, just in case,” the Prime Minister said. “No one other than myself and a member of maintenance has been in the area.” After activating the the light, he folded his hands and stood back as Kali slipped into the cubicle.

    There was nothing initially noteworthy about the space. Like every other, it was sparse and free of clutter, though after a moment of concentration she sensed a lingering resentment in the air, a stale sense of dissatisfaction. Not much to go on, though. It could mean any number of things. She looked at the Prime Minister. “Have you gone through his files or checked his comm station for transmissions?”

    Lama Su shook his head. “All of our scientists' work is kept on the main computer and only accessible with an individualized code. Nothing can be deleted or moved without our knowledge. The same goes for all transmissions made from Tipoca City. However, he did have some....other research.” Here the Kaminoan seemed to grow uncomfortable and Kali felt a thrill of alarm.

    Other research?”

    Creon Dai was...innovative in many ways,” Lama Su replied. “But he had a propensity for obsession. Much of his research was geared towards cybernetics.”

    Kalinda's brows knitted. “I was unaware that the Kaminoans worked in that area.”

    Lama Su shifted and she sensed a flare of embarrassment from him, which did nothing to set her at ease. “Creon is brilliant, if a bit misguided,” he finally said. “He was passionate about his work, though I never believed him capable of any real harm. Personally, I feel that his disappearance is merely a ploy to convince me to allow him greater freedom, though I am curious how he managed to leave. None of our ships are missing.”

    Kali glanced back at Weave. “If he was able to delete anything, could you find it?”

    Even as Weave opened his mouth to reply, Lama Su shook his head, lifting his arms while he spoke to illustrate his point with a dismissive gesture at the clones. “Master Halcyon....there is nothing that any of them can do in this instance. If that were the case, we would be more than able to handle the matter internally.”

    Biting back the first comment that came to her mind, Kali smiled up at him. “Of course. However, you could not handle the situation, which is why you called the Jedi, and the Jedi called me. Weave.” She nodded as he stepped forward. “Do you think you can do a little digging?”

    Certainly, General.” She sensed a flare of unease from him and glanced at the Prime Minister.

    I think I'd like to speak to the maintenance member you mentioned, then look around a little bit on my own, if you don't mind,” she said. “My men will call me if they find anything here, but very often the Force can lead a Jedi to an alternate solution.” She kept her words vague, hoping that he would simply leave them alone.

    Indeed, Lama Su seemed eager to do just that. “Very well; I shall have the maintenance clone meet with you at once. Please contact me if you require anything further.” As he turned and exited, she noted again how graceful the Kaminoan's movements were: smooth as glass and wholly unperturbed.

    Taking a deep breath, Kali looked at her men. “Something's not right here,” she said, the Mando'a words coming out halting and slow. It was useful to communicate with when she didn't want others to overhear. “Weave; you think you can slice into the communications? I get the sense that Creon didn't leave here just to prove a point to anyone, and since we know he didn't take a transport, it stands to reason that he was picked up. I'd also like to know what he was working on that bothered our friend so much. Trax, I'd like you to remain here and help him if he needs it.”

    She wasn't sure if she'd gotten all the words right, but the meaning must have come across, as Weave nodded and approached the station. “Crest, Milo: I want you guys to ask around. Perhaps your brothers know something off the record. The sooner we figure out what's going on, the sooner we can leave,” she added.

    Sure thing, boss,” Crest replied, giving her a salute. Weave and Traxis nodded but said nothing; soon enough the group had split up.

    Kali and Stone made their way to the corridor outside of the lab's entrance, where it seemed that Lama Su had already made good on his word, as a hunched, bent figure was waiting for them. At their approached, he straightened and Kali realized with a start that it was an old clone. “General Halcyon, Captain,” he said as he saluted. “How can I be of service?”

    For a split-second she didn't respond as she took him in, noting how his features were twisted and wrinkled as that of a man four times his age. And how old is he? The eldest clones are no more than about twelve years at this point. “Thank you....?”

    He gave her a disarmingly open smile, as if nothing she could have asked would have made him any happier. “General. My name's Trig. Please excuse my appearance, sir...I'm what's known as a 'bad batcher.'” The words were spoken without malice or embarrassment but she felt heat creep to her cheeks when she realized that he had not missed her shocked expression.

    Glad to meet you, Trig,” she said, extending her hand. He glanced at it, then returned the motion. His skin was fragile as parchment. She indicated Stone, who removed his helmet to tuck it beneath his arm. “This is Captain Stonewall. The Prime Minister tells us that you were the one who discovered that Creon Dai was missing: can you tell me exactly what happened?”

    Though his eyes flicked to Stonewall's hair he made no comment. “Not much to tell, General. I was emptying the garbage at night, as usual, when I noticed that his space was already cleaned. Most of the Kaminoans are a tidy bunch, you see, but not him. He was....” He paused, searching for the right word. “Well, not. Had other things on his mind, I suppose.” At this, Kali felt a ripple of agitation from him.

    Like what?” she asked, keeping her tone light. “Lama Su mentioned that he dabbled in cybernetics.”

    Dabbled.” Trig said the word with disdain and glanced around them, his eyes darting. “Have you seen the armory?” he said suddenly, his expression brightening as he indicated a nearby hallway. “It's been updated since the most recent attack on Kamino. New security measures and all.”

    Stonewall shook his head. “As I recall, it left a bit to be desired.”

    Trig nodded and waved them along. “I'll show you.” His gait was shuffling and awkward but he was quick.

    As they walked, Kali brushed Stone's mind. What's all this about? What's he so afraid of?

    I'm not sure. But he definitely wants to get away from those labs. Can't say I blame him.

    They followed Trig down another corridor before he paused. “Sorry about that, General,” he said. “Just...well, I'm not a fan of that particular sector.” His voice was shaking; she could feel a potent mixture of fear and anger emanating from him.

    Kali touched his sleeve, sending him a measure of calm. “It's fine, Trig. Thank you for being honest with me, but what's wrong?” She met his eyes and noted how – superficially anyway – they were the same as Stonewall's. But completely different. I'd know his face anywhere, among a thousand of his brothers.

    Trig stared at her hand on his arm; it was his turn to be shocked. Finally he looked back at her. “He took them,” he said, his voice a whisper. “He took my brothers and they never came back. No one knows what happened, but sometimes I could hear them....” His eyes closed and Kali felt a thrill of dread even as she squeezed his arm.

    It's okay.'s important that you tell me what you know, Trig. We're trying to help all of your brothers.”

    He nodded and took a breath. “I went in to empty the trash; his notes, his was all gone. Usually he had it scattered about and he'd get rather disgruntled – as much as they ever do – if you tried to tidy it. But the station was cleaned out. And I thought, 'good riddance.'” Trig frowned. “My apologies, General Halcyon. It's not my place...”

    No need, brother,” Stonewall said. He'd been silent, but she could feel his attention shifting between herself and Trig, who looked at him as though he only just recalled the captain was there. “Speak your mind. We're here to help.”

    Kalinda nodded. “What do you mean 'he took your brothers?'”

    The older clone took another breath. “He'd put in requests; they'd send groups of brothers to see him, and they never came back. I don't know what happened and I don't want to.” He shuddered and Kali realized that he had told them everything he knew.

    Thank you, Trig,” she said, giving him a smile. “I really appreciate your help.” As she lifted her hand he nodded, regaining his composure and giving her a salute once more.

    Any time, General.” He nodded to Stone once before slipping off.

    The moment he was gone, Kalinda felt Stonewall's hand on her shoulder, concern emanating from him. “How old was he?”

    Sometimes the accelerated aging doesn't work as it should, hence the 'bad batch' reference,” he replied, his voice quiet. “Trig is younger than me.”

    She shivered. “You can tell?”

    He's a brother.” It was explanation enough.

    Kali took another breath and tried not to shiver again. It never felt like a reality before this. How long does Stone have until...that?

    He shifted beside her. “I intend to make the most of the time I do have, Kali. I'm not dead, yet.” She felt a trail of nervousness from him and she met his eyes, though she didn't know what to say. However, he shook his head, the feeling fading away in light of a new focus. “Come on; let me give you a proper tour.” He lead her out of the hallway and they began to walk through the strange, transparent walkways; she noticed that he kept her away from the decanting chamber and they headed down an opaque corridor. Neither one spoke for several minutes until he paused before a wide set of doors, his thoughts expectant.

    What's this?”

    He activated the door. “Barracks. This was my section.”

    It was a long room, well-lit, as was every place she'd seen so far, with a series of what looked like rounded cubby-holes along one side, ladders placed between every other column. Below them were lockers and benches, everything in the same shade of palest gray, almost as white as the clones' armor and Kalinda suddenly felt very cold.

    There were a few adult clones around; she felt their attention on her and Stone though they tried to seem nonchalant as they went about the business of cleaning armor and arranging their lockers. Stonewall brought her to a section about a third of the way down and pointed up. “There. The top one....home sweet home.” He gave her a smile which she tried to return. “It may not look like much, but it served its purpose,” he added.

    Served its purpose. The words made her shudder even as she looked at the small, circular indent in the wall, identical to every other one in the room. “Can I see it?” She watched as he glanced at the other clones, who were now clustered together and very obviously talking about them. “Never mind,” she amended. “I don't want to cause too much of a stir.”

    Stone shook his head. “I've got this.” He left her side and walked up to the other clones, who immediately snapped to attention, standing in a straight line. “At ease, lads,” he said in a friendly tone. “Just giving the general a tour. She's curious about our home...Jedi business, you know. Mind giving us a little space?” The others looked at her and radiated awe. Despite herself, Kali felt a smile tug at the corner of her mouth as they saluted one more time and filed out of the room, their steps in unison. Stonewall returned to her and indicated the ladder that lead to the top chamber. “After you.”

    It was not as bad as she'd been expecting, though it still felt a bit claustrophobic. While Stonewall remained on the ladder, Kali laid down and studied the screen above her head. “I'm guessing that this wasn't for entertainment purposes?”

    He laughed. “Hardly. The sleep cycle is one of the most effective times for the brain to process and assimilate information. Any lessons or training that we had during the day could be repeated on the screen...though we did get to choose which lessons we got to repeat. See that green button? Give it a push and you can see the last thing that the owner of this bunk was looking at.”

    Kali reached for the button and was immediately assaulted by blinding light and sound of blaster-fire. It looked to be from the viewpoint of one of the clone's helmets, and it felt as though she'd been tossed into the middle of a firefight.

    It was chaos.

    Shouts filled the small chamber and she couldn't take her eyes off of the images that appeared to be some of the drills that Stone had told her about. Armored clones, identical but for the numbers on their arms, were running alongside her, shouting to one another as they ducked and rolled, dodging the fire of the droids that were circling them. She saw two clones fall to the ground and not rise even as the owner of the perspective hurried on. His goal came into view: a small door at the opposite end of the massive chamber. Someone shouted into his comm but she could only make out a few words over the huffing breath that echoed in the small bunk.


    ....cover me, will you?”

    There's too many.....”

    There was another blinding flash of light, then the screen went black.

    Kali closed her eyes and sat up, forgetting where she was for a moment and smacking her forehead on the top of the bunk hard enough to blur her vision. The next thing she knew, Stonewall was hunched beside her, his arms around her shoulders even as he whispered her name. “Kali...I'm sorry. I should have checked first.” There was hardly any room in the compartment with both of them inside and she felt as though the entire room beyond was pressing down on her.

    Stone-” She took a deep breath and looked at him, unsure how to vocalize her thoughts. Finally she swallowed and nodded to the hatch. “I need some fresh air.”


    You don't like it either, do you?” Traxis' voice startled Weave from his concentration. The scarred clone was leaning against one of the bare walls of the cubicle, his eyes on the floor.

    Weave shrugged. It had taken a bit of digging, but he'd managed to uncover some transmission codes that didn't match up with any of the normal Kaminoans' and he was currently trying to extract the messages themselves. “Not really.” He left it at that.

    Traxis nodded and glanced at him. “Almost done?”



    There was silence for several minutes while Weave worked, thankful that his brother was not chatty. If Crest were here I'd have a migraine by now. It was bad enough to be back, though he had to admit, the labs were interesting – at first. He'd always been curious about them but he never thought he'd get an opportunity to actually see the place where his life began. In reality they were a little disappointing. Who knows why I thought they'd be special? Just a lab, like any other. Just a place to conduct business. A series of codes caught his eye and he paused, studying them.

    What is it?”

    Weave shook his head. “Could be nothing, but it looks like a pattern similar to ones I've seen the Seps use. See that sequence there?”

    Traxis glanced at the screen before shaking his head. “Looks like gibberish to me. You just had that look, you know? That, 'I'm-on-to-something' look that you get.”

    I don't have a 'look.'” Weave frowned as he studied at the screen.

    The scarred clone snorted and resumed his position against the wall. “Right. And I'm a Jedi.” There was silence for a while longer before Traxis spoke again. “Why?”

    I'm kind of busy, in case you haven't noticed....” Weave trailed off as his curiosity got the better of him. Of course, I have to ask now. “Why what?”
    Why didn't you want to come back?”

    It was not an unreasonable question, but he didn't feel like going into it. “Why didn't you?”

    Traxis shrugged and pretended to examine a nearby wall. “I hate this kriffing place. It reminds me of things I wish I didn't remember.” His eyes narrowed even as they grew distant and when he spoke again it was in Mando'a. “I didn't know it would feel this way to return.”

    Again there was silence, though it was more of a withheld breath than a lag in conversation. Finally Weave sighed. “I asked too many questions. They wanted to recondition me.” He didn't elaborate because it wasn't needed.

    Traxis nodded. They may have been speaking of the weather to an untrained ear. Mando'a was useful like that. Finally the scarred clone glanced back at him. “I'm glad they didn't. You're pretty handy to have around.” As if on cue, the pattern seemed to fall into place before Weave's eyes and he felt a small smile creep to his face. Traxis made a noise of assent. “See? You do have a look.”


    When they left the lab area, Crest gave a sigh of relief before glancing at Milo. “Glad to be out of there. That place creeped me out something fierce.”

    Milo nodded. “Me too. Where should we start?” They paused at one of the transparent walkways to remove their buckets and survey the area below them. It looks the same, Milo thought with a frown. Why does it feel so different? He watched a group of brothers – in off-duty garb – make their way to the mess hall, their eyes on him and Crest. I'm not a 'shiny' any more. At least compared to them. He looked at his brother and indicated their direction.

    Ah, the mess,” Crest said as they began to walk. “Such fond memories of perfectly-balanced, nutritional food with absolutely no taste whatsoever. Remember the green cubes? They were always my favorite.”

    Really? I always liked the blue ones,” Milo replied with a chuckle.

    Crest sighed and shook his head. “I always knew there was something deficient about you, Mi.”

    The mess hall was crowded, more so than Milo ever recalled it being. It's a little strange to be around so many brothers now, after spending so much time with just a small group. Indeed, the buzz from the familiar voices – the same voice, to an outsider – was almost a drone and he felt a bit disoriented for a moment while he and Crest stood at the doorway and just watched. The clones around them stared and Milo straightened almost involuntarily. Crest seemed to be surveying the room with care; after a moment he moved to the closest group of brothers and slid down beside them at the long, white table.

    At ease, gentlemen,” he said as they stiffened and saluted. “We're just here to chat.” He glanced at Milo, who took the seat opposite him.

    The others relaxed a fraction and looked at one another. Finally, the one nearest to Crest spoke. “Sir. You came with the Jedi?”

    Crest nodded. “Sure did. We're looking into the missing aiwha-bait. Any of you fellows know about it?”

    They exchanged glances but said nothing for several moments. Finally, the one who had spoken initially indicated a clone a few tables down. “I think Veto made a mention about his squad seeing something....” He gave Crest a strange look. “Sir, why isn't the Jedi doing this?”

    What makes you think she isn't? They can read minds, you know.” Crest's tone was deadpan and he tapped the side of his head, keeping his expression solemn. The younger clones tensed and began to look around the room with wariness.

    Thanks for the info,” Milo said as he got to his feet. “Good luck out there....shinies.” He couldn't resist tacking the word on, though when he and Crest were out of earshot he glared at his brother. “Why'd you say that about the General?”

    The bald clone shrugged. “Keeps 'em on their toes. Besides, you weren't much better.”

    At this, Milo grinned. “Yeah. I know. Couldn't help it.”

    Veto was slightly older than the clones they'd just spoken with, perhaps nine standard years. Practically ready to ship out. His eyes flicked back and forth between Crest and Milo as they went through the conversation again, though it was several moments before he made a reply.

    Creon Dai?”

    Crest reached for one of the green cubes on Veto's plate and popped it in his mouth, ignoring the affronted look from the other clone. “Yep. Tall, skinny, pale, head like a cotton swab....sound familiar?”

    Don't mind him,” Milo interrupted. “He thinks he's funny. The brother back there said that your squad might've seen him before he disappeared?” He shot Crest a glare while the bald clone chewed on the cube, pulling a face as he did so.

    There were a few moments of silence before Veto nodded. “It was late. We were on patrol in the north-east sector....just a drill, you know? He passed by us. Looked like he was going to the hangar, though I didn't think much of it at the time.” He cast Milo a nervous glance. “Why? What's going on?”

    Milo looked at Crest, who was still chewing. “It's difficult to say. Right now we're just trying to connect-the-navpoints.”

    Sir?” Veto's face was blank.

    I guess they don't know that idiom. Milo shook his head. “We're just gathering intel at the moment.” He glanced at Crest, who had finally finished the cube and was grimacing. “Told you: blue was better.”

    As Crest gave him a look, another clone spoke up. “I was on maintenance duty that night,” he said. “And while I wasn't in the hangar at the time, I did catch a glimpse of a ship that was not Kaminoan.”

    Milo and Crest focused on the clone. “What's your name?” Milo asked.

    He had the look of someone who regretted speaking, though his throat cleared before he answered. “Er...just a number, sirs. But it's CT-25-1331.”

    What kind of ship was it?” Crest's voice was calm, though his eyes were intent.

    The other clone paused, his brow furrowing in thought. “Not sure, sir. Haven't seen one like it.” He described the vessel as Milo and Crest exchanged glances.

    When he'd finished, Milo tilted his head. “Didn't you tell that to the Kaminoans?”

    CT-25-1331 shrugged. “Why? No ship can get on or off of this planet without them knowing.” Around him, clones nodded in agreement even as Crest shook his head.

    They're not perfect, by any means,” he said.

    But thanks for telling us,” Milo added as they rose to leave. “You've been a big help.”

    Crest nodded, then grinned. “For that, you deserve a about 'Chatterbox?'”

    The clone blanched even as Crest chuckled, though none of the others seemed amused. Milo sighed and shook his head. “Come on, Crest. Let's go. Thanks again, vod.” He nodded once more to the other clone, who still seemed perplexed as he watched them go.


    Milo paused and turned. “Means 'brother' in Mando'a. You know...Mandalorian language?” The younger clones gaped at him and he sighed. Shinies. “Don't worry about it.”

    Crest waved. “See you around, Chatterbox.”
  5. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Five: Waiting In the Wings

    Creon Dai stepped aboard the Separatist ship Indelible and extended himself to his full height for the first time since he'd left Kamino, resolving never again to set foot on any vessel that could not accommodate him. Ventress stalked ahead, leading them to the bridge where one of the tactical droids awaited the pale woman's orders. “Caradoc system,” she said.

    At once, mistress.” The droid's voice was nasally and mechanical, but Creon was more concerned with the servos that kept the thing upright. Aside from the droids that the clones trained with, he had never encountered a Separatist machine and already he was compiling information, adding it to the vast database in his mind.

    Intriguing plating at the front. Ventilation, perhaps? Or some other purpose? And its visual receptors indicate that it has enhanced, perhaps even telescopic vision. His train of thought was interrupted by one of the spindly battle-droids.

    Let me show you to your quarters, sir.”

    Creon tilted his head at the device, ignoring its words as he studied the thing. They were useless bunches of scrap for the most part, though he never ceased to be fascinated by many bipedal species' tendency to create machines in their own images. Hubris, or practicality?

    A glance to his left showed him that Ventress was watching his every movement. “You will be notified once we reach the system. In the meantime, you should prepare the holding cell where you intend to keep the clones.” It was difficult for him to discern her tone, as Human voices were often so inflected with meaning that the words themselves were rendered muddled and pointless. However, the sharpness to her gaze indicated that she was displeased with something.

    I have never seen droids such as this at such close proximity,” he said. “The samples that the were used on Kamino were poor substitutes.”

    She narrowed her eyes further. “You should go.” The words came out almost as a hiss, and he could feel the press of a foreign consciousness onto his own.

    The Force. It must be. Curiosity piqued him and he found that he was unwilling to push her into further ire, especially if he wanted to learn more about the nebulous, pervasive energy from her, so he nodded and followed the droid down one of the dark corridors of the ship.


    The storm had passed but Kali could still see clouds at the edges of the horizon. She inhaled; the action brought her the scent of rain and saltwater along with a faint thrill of electricity. As she stood beside Stonewall at the outer edges of the building which housed the barracks, she could see the ocean that stretched across the planet undulating hundreds of meters below their feet. In the distance there was a break in the clouds and a shot of sunlight struggled to pierce the barrier.

    Though he was not touching her, she felt Stone's steady presence in the Force as surely as if his arm was around her waist. “It's beautiful.” Her voice sounded normal now, for which she was thankful.

    I'll never get tired of it. The sea, I mean,” he added, looking at her. “The Kaminoans hate the ocean. They do everything they can to shut it out, to keep themselves separate from it, but it does what it wants regardless of their efforts.” At this he smiled.

    Kali nodded as she exhaled. It was better out here; she could breathe. After a few more moments she felt a flare of regret from Stone and looked at him. “I know it may not seem like it right now, but I'm glad that you showed me your....home. I needed to see it, I think.”


    Again she inhaled and tasted salt on the back of her tongue. “I'm not entirely sure right now. It's just a feeling I have.” They stood together for a while longer before she felt a new presence. Turning, Kali noticed a clone boy – perhaps five standard years, though he looked twice that age – watching them with unconcealed fascination. He was dressed in the ubiquitous crimson and blue uniform that she'd seen the others wearing and his hair was clipped close to his head.

    She smiled. “Hello there.”

    At her words, Stone turned as well and caught the gaze of the boy, who seemed to remember something as he snapped to attention, saluting the Jedi and the clone captain. “At ease,” Stonewall said, glancing at Kali. He motioned for the boy to approach them, which he did after only a slight hesitation, coming to stand before Stonewall though his eyes kept darting to Kalinda.

    What's your name?” she asked, keeping her tone gentle.

    His brow furrowed and he looked at Stonewall. “Sir. My designation is CT-27-7677. Sir.”

    Kali was struck by his voice, a younger version of Stone's. But that's what he is, essentially. That's how Stonewall was as a child. How all of them were. She took a breath and felt something clenching inside her heart.

    I think she meant your nickname, lad,” Stone replied. “I'm CC-3077, but my friends call me Stonewall.”

    The boy shook his head. “I'm just that number, sir.” He looked down in disappointment and she felt shame rising from him; the emotion filling her with sorrow.

    Kali knelt before him and met his almost-golden eyes. “It's okay, CT,” she replied with a smile. “Do you want to see something interesting?” His eyes widened and he nodded. She took a seat at the edge of the platform, beckoning to the boy to do the same while Stone stood beside her, emanating curiosity for all that he remained silent. A few more shafts of sunlight had made their way past the cloud cover and were glinting off of the ocean below their dangling feet.

    Kali concentrated.

    It was not so difficult, despite the fact that she was hundreds of meters away from the water, though she had an inkling that Stonewall's presence was fortifying her to a degree. Her hands lifted even as a bubble of seawater about the size of a clone trooper's helmet drifted up from below to hover in the air before the boy. Some of the sunlight was caught by the wavering liquid; the patterns reflected across his and Kali's faces, streaking them with the muted light as the boy's mouth dropped open.

    She felt Stone's surprise through the Force, fading quickly into admiration and love. Always love. Kali smiled again and focused on the bubble. Gradually it began to separate, sending tiny flecks of moisture against her skin as it did so; within several minutes the single orb had become half a dozen points of shimmering, watery light as the strength of the sun increased. One of the bubbles danced near the boy's face and he reached his left hand up as if to touch it, though he checked himself and cast an uncertain look at Stonewall, who lifted a brow.

    I wouldn't pass up the chance.”

    Grinning, the boy lifted both hands and cupped the sphere of ocean, studying it even as it barely brushed his skin before making a sound of wonder.

    She was then aware of Stonewall kneeling beside her, his hand on her shoulder; again, she felt strength filling her even as they watched the clone cadet who looked for all the world like any other child, and for an instant she was gripped with a new, nameless longing. Finally he looked back at the Jedi, his smile wide. “Thank you, sir.” Refracted light flickered on his face.

    Kali inhaled deeply and brought the bubbles of water back together; once the orb was solitary she maneuvered it above Stonewall's head, smiling as the boy began to giggle. “Something ought to get rid of that hair color. What do you think, CT? Should I?”

    Stone gave a resigned sigh. “Not that it matters what I think, but I wish you wouldn't.”

    She ignored him and raised her brow at the boy, who seemed genuinely torn, though at last he shook his head. “No, sir.”

    Nodding, Kali allowed the bubble to dissipate over the ocean before winking at Stonewall. “You're much nicer than me,” she said to the clone child. “I would have drenched him.”

    Thanks. I'll remember that.” Despite the threat of an impending soak, Stone's voice was warm and the trio shared a laugh.


    General, we lost her trail.” Gree's voice was even despite the fact that he was the bearer of bad news as he approached the Jedi Master on the bridge, his helmet tucked beneath his arm.

    Luminara found it to be one of the better aspects of his nature: he never let emotion taint his words even though she knew it was not so for his thoughts, which were often passionate and intense, especially when it came to his love of learning. However, she knew firsthand that no matter how he may have felt, he would do his duty. She trusted him; it was one of the reasons why he was so valuable to her. In combat, she told herself. As a valued associate. Nothing more. “We know that she did not disappear into the void; there are not so many places in this region of the galaxy where she could be. I have a feeling that she will make her presence known soon enough.”

    An ominous thought, to be sure, but she was unconcerned. The woman is wild and reckless, even though she has guidance from Dooku. She will make a mistake and we will be there when she does. Another look at Gree showed her that he was not convinced. “The only thing that we can do for now is wait, Commander. I understand that it is difficult, but patience is a necessity at times.”

    He nodded. “Understood, sir. It's just...” There was a pause and she felt frustration from him as he continued, his eyes narrowing in thought. “Well, no soldier likes to feel helpless. We're taught never to waste a moment with inaction.”

    She smiled. “A wise sentiment, indeed.” Though he only nodded in reply, the pleasure he took from her words was tangible and real as if he had returned the look in kind.


    The four clones met in the hangar where their ship had landed before Weave called Kalinda. She sounded amused, as if she'd just been laughing at something. “What's the word?”

    He glanced at the others; they'd all compared notes and the pieces were falling into place. “We have a speculation,” he said. “Nothing definitive, but I suppose that's where you come in, Gen – Kalinda. We're at the Wayfarer, but we can meet you and the captain at your location.”

    That won't be necessary; we're not far. See you in a minute.”

    Weave signed off and ran a hand through his hair even as he looked around. I won't be sorry to leave this place.

    As if reading his mind, Milo crossed his arms as he spoke. “It's weird being back, isn't it? I mean, I know that this is technically our home but it doesn't feel that way any longer.” He glanced at Crest. “Was it me, or were those guys in the mess hall acting strange?”

    It's always you,” the bald clone replied, though after a moment he shook his head. “But I know what you mean. I don't remember it being so...” He shrugged. “Weird. I guess that's the only word for it.”

    Traxis shook his head. “I wish we were already gone.”

    Weave was spared from adding to the conversation when Kalinda and Stonewall appeared at the entrance to the hangar. The group met in the middle and her dark eyes met each of theirs in turn. “Learn anything interesting?”

    The others looked to Weave, who nodded slowly. “I think so. Based on what I can tell, our wayward scientist did make contact with some Separatists, though I can't tell to whom or where. However...” he pulled out a datastick. “It seems as though it wasn't simply an attempt by the Seps to get information. I think they wanted him.” He paused and the word hung in the air.

    Kalinda frowned. “In what regard?”

    I'm not sure exactly,” Weave replied. “But I think that he was planning on sharing his research with whomever he left with. His cybernetic research, I mean.”

    The Jedi and the captain exchanged glances before she looked at Crest. “Did you guys find anything out?”

    One of the units that was on patrol the night Creon disappeared remembered a ship,” Milo said. “It didn't ring a bell to me, but I thought that you might know.” He described the vessel but Kalinda shook her head.

    It sounds vaguely familiar, but ships aren't really my forté....” She trailed off and looked around the area. “ was this hangar, wasn't it?”

    Weave and the others followed her gaze; Milo nodded. “You're right, General. What do you-” He was cut off as she began to walk around the area, her head swiveling around as if she was following a scent, Stonewall at her side. After a brief hesitation the others followed in her wake and soon the entire group was circling through the vast space. If he wasn't so curious as to why she was doing what she was doing, Weave would have found the situation comical.

    At one point she paused and met the captain's eyes; something passed between them and her own eyes widened, though she nodded once and began the search again. No one spoke, though Weave was brimming with questions. Finally she stopped at the halfway point in the room and nodded to herself before looking up at them. “This isn't good.”

    You're killing us, boss,” Crest said. “What was that all about?”

    She shook her head and frowned. “This is really not good. Please prep the Wayfarer...we'll probably have to leave the minute I get back.” At this she turned to head back into the facility, though Stonewall caught her arm.

    Do you want me to...?” He held her gaze and she nodded.

    Thank you. I'll only be a second.” The words were weighted and Stonewall nodded as he released her and watched as she disappeared through the doors.

    The moment she was out of sight, the clone captain looked at the others who were staring at him, nonplussed. “You heard her: get the ship ready. I'll join you in a moment.”

    What are you going to do?” Traxis asked.

    Stonewall indicated his comlink. “I get to play messenger.”


    Kalinda all but flew down the transparent corridors, but her mind was racing faster than her feet. Ventress. Of course...I should have figured that out earlier. Wherever there's trouble, that woman isn't far behind. But that was only part of the reason for her haste as she made her way to Lama Su's office, pausing only to speak with one of his aides; soon he met her just outside the administrative section, his smooth gait a stark contrast to her own harried steps.

    Master Halcyon. Is something the matter?” His words were glass as Kali looked up at him.

    What are you doing to find the missing children?”

    He blinked once. “Children? Ah, the eight units near the Pelgrin system?”

    Right. The units,” she said, her voice sharp. “What are you doing to find them? What was their last known location, exactly? Can you send me the report?”

    The report is for formality's sake,” the Prime Minister replied. “I can assure you that everything that could be done to find the units has been done, Master Jedi. We do not 'lose' our products.” He gave her a smile that one would give a complaining child. “Please do not trouble yourself over such a trivial matter. These things happen from time to time; the losses are still within acceptable parameters.”

    It was a struggle to keep her voice as monotone as his when she inhaled and met his gaze. “Send me the report anyway, if you don't mind. I will be looking into the matter of the 'missing products.' Thank you for your hospitality.” With that she turned on her heel and hurried away from him, keeping her eyes ahead.


    While the others prepped the ship, Stonewall remained in the hangar and entered the code that would open a secure channel to the Jedi Temple, straightening as the image of Obi-Wan Kenobi appeared at his wrist. They looked at each other for one moment before Stone spoke. “It's not good.”

    Somehow I'm not surprised.” Kenobi's dry tone was familiar and almost easy, reminding Stonewall that, despite their mild confrontation on the planet of Aruna some months ago, the two men had come to an understanding of a sort.

    The clone captain frowned. “From what we can tell, Creon was in contact with the Separatists, though it seems that they're more interested in his cybernetic research then his knowledge of clone genetics.”

    General Kenobi nodded but his face was grim. “Cybernetics? That's troubling news.”

    There's more.” Stone paused and pitched his voice lower, though there was no one else around to hear his next words. “Kali sensed another presence. Ventress.” The name came out almost as a growl, so Stonewall took a deep breath to calm himself. “We don't know where she might have taken Creon, but we do have a description of her ship.”

    Kenobi nodded again, his hand in his beard as was his custom. “Where is she now?”

    Of course he meant Kali. Stone glanced at the door that lead to the city. “She had an....errand to run. Should be back any moment.”

    Please have her call Coruscant when she returns. For now, I ask that you contact Luminara Unduli aboard the Tranquility. It seems as though you will be rendezvousing after all.” His tone was wry and Stone couldn't hide his confusion. At the captain's expression, the Jedi shook his head and lifted his brow. “Ask her about it. I'm certain that she has a lot to say on the matter. May the Force be with you, Stonewall.”

    And you, Obi-Wan,” Stone replied. The transmission ended and he glanced up at the sound of footsteps echoing through the hangar as Kali approached. They met before the ship and he could sense her distress, though it was distant and unfocused. “Did you find out what you needed to?”

    She met his gaze; her dark eyes were hard. “I did. Let's get a move on. I don't want to spend another minute on this world.”
  6. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Six: Estimation

    It only took a few minutes before Milo had them above the atmosphere of Kamino, but Obi-Wan wasn't in the Council chambers any longer when Kalinda called Coruscant. A flash of apprehension rippled through her as she saw the familiar figure of Mace Windu appear, though she kept it at bay. “Kalinda,” he said by way of greeting. “Obi-Wan informed me of your findings. We had a suspicion that that the Separatists were involved in Creon Dai's disappearance; Luminara Unduli has been tracking Ventress' movements for a few days now. You are to rendezvous with her ship as soon as possible: I do not want Ventress or Creon escaping.”

    Kali kept her features neutral as she replied. “Sounds good, Master. But there's another situation that I must look into when we're done with this: the missing clone cadets.”

    Mace sighed and leaned back in his chair. “A thorough search was made, Kalinda, but there's no evidence that they are even alive. In any case, you and your team will be needed elsewhere.”

    Heat rose in her cheeks. “The Kaminoans claimed that they searched, but how can we be sure? How can you give up so easily?” She was aware that the others were listening to the conversation though none of them, save Stone at her side, tried to make it known. It was an effort to keep her voice calm, especially when all she could see in her mind's eye was a little boy on Kamino who'd looked for all the world like a miniature soldier. She took another breath. “Master, I know that the war is not going as well as we hope, but surely it's not too much to ask for the Jedi investigate the matter further?”

    Mace Windu studied her for several moments and she noticed that his eyes moved to Stone more than once. Finally he spoke. “We'll discuss it after you bring Creon into custody.” Even through a hologram his gaze was firm and she knew him well enough to know when to back down.

    However, that did not mean that she was going to. “I'd like to discuss it now.” She did her best to meet his eyes without letting her resolve waver. I'm not a Padawan any longer.

    What would you have us do, Kalinda? There is no one that we can spare at the moment.” His face had taken on the blank expression that meant he was holding in a very potent combination of emotions, and she was a bit taken aback, even more so when he sighed and spoke again. “We will look into it as soon as we can. That's the best I can do.”

    She nodded. “Then it will have to be enough.” Though he's been strict, he's never let me down in the end. I need to trust him.

    After he gave her Luminara's contact information, the transmission ended. The Wayfarer was silent for several moments until she felt Stone's arm around her shoulders; only then did she realize that she was shaking. “It will be okay,” he said in her ear as her gaze fell to the floor.

    How do you know?” Her voice was almost a whisper.

    He gave her shoulder a squeeze. “Just a feeling I have.”


    Luminara was in her quarters attempting to meditate when Gree's voice sounded at her wrist. “General Unduli. We're receiving a transmission from General Halcyon, sir.”

    She rose in one fluid motion and nodded. “Thank you, Commander. I'll be there in a moment.”

    When she reached the bridge, Gree was standing at attention with his arms behind his back. The moment that Luminara approached the console she nodded at him and he activated the transmitter. Hands clasped before her, she stood next to the commander as Kalinda Halcyon's familiar form appeared before them. She looks a bit different, though I suppose it's to be expected after several years. “Knight Halcyon, it's good to see you.”

    You as well, Luminara,” the dark-haired woman replied. “I hear we have a common goal.”

    The Mirialan woman's head tilted as she regarded her fellow Jedi and when she spoke her voice was even. “I suppose we should join forces for now. You are on Kamino?”

    Just left, actually,” Kalinda replied, her eyes flicking off-camera at an unseen point. “Where are you?”

    Close enough to meet you within a few hours,” Luminara said after she gave their position. “We'll pick you up. In the meantime, you can remain where you are. I know that your ship is not the most efficient for rapid travel.”

    After a moment's hesitation Kalinda gave a slight bow. “Well, save for a recurring issue with the alluvial dampers, it's served its purpose so far. But we'd appreciate the lift, anyway.” A smile crossed her face. “Actually, it'll be good to be able to take a proper shower: the water reclamation on this thing leaves a lot to be desired. See you soon.”

    The image faded and Luminara felt her shoulders relax. Beside her she felt Gree's bewilderment and she cast him a look. “Is something wrong, Commander?”

    He had the air of a man who did not want to answer that question, but she knew he would not refuse her. “Not really, General, though I see what you meant about General Halcyon being more informal.” He frowned. “Sir. It's not my place to speculate. My apologies.”

    No need to apologize for answering a question,” she replied. After a moment's silence she raised her brow at him. “General Halcyon and I are very different in our methods; perhaps you should think of working with her and her squad as a learning experience, if it sets you more at ease.”

    Amusement flickered from him as the commander nodded and gave her a salute. “Will do, General.”


    When Kalinda signed off she took a deep breath and met the captain's eyes before looking at the others. “Guys? Can you come here for a second?”

    Milo set the autopilot and they gathered around her at the small table in the ship's midsection. She drummed her fingers on the hard surface for a moment, her eyes falling to each of them while she considered her words. Weave cast a glance at Stone, to see if he knew what she was going to say, but the captain's expression was neutral and his eyes were fixed on the Jedi. Strange. She looks a little...uncomfortable.

    At last she spoke. “If someone were to ask me about 'my style of leadership,' I'd have to say that I feel it's best to let people find their own ways, and I like to believe that this way of thinking has – in part – helped us work so well together. I think that we've turned into an excellent team because each of you has really had a chance to come into your own.”

    She paused again and looked down at her hands. “Luminara – General Unduli – is one of the most respected and talented Jedi Masters alive right now, and with good reason. However, her methods are very different from my own and I just want to advise you all of that fact.”

    Milo frowned. “How do you mean, General?”

    Kalinda smiled at him. “You mean besides the fact that I've been pushing you to call me by my name and not my title?” Her eyes moved to Stone and Weave felt the room tense.

    Ah. Of course. Should have seen this coming.

    Stonewall cleared his throat and they shared a look. “Besides our relationship, you do run a bit more informal than other generals, from what I understand,” he said. “But it's nothing new, Kali. We've worked with other Jedi before.” He was referring – most recently, anyway – to Obi-Wan Kenobi, though admittedly those had been vastly different circumstances.

    But Kalinda shook her head. “Not like this, Stone. Not like Luminara. We're very different – we've never quite gotten along as we should – and I have a feeling that she'll be a bit...taken aback at the way we all interact.”

    So, are you saying that you want us to be more formal?” Milo's brows were furrowed.

    I'm just trying to give you a heads-up. If she does have an issue with anything I imagine it will be relegated to me, as you are all technically under my command.”

    Crest shook his head. “I think we'll manage, boss. At least we'll be able to get off this know, one thing I learned from going back to Kamino is that we – as a group – don't smell all that great right now.”

    Always with the quips,” Traxis said with a groan. “Is everything one big joke to you?” Crest raised his brow and the scarred clone shook his head. “Nevermind...don't answer that.”

    Smarter than you look, I see.”


    Stonewall had been a little surprised when Kali wanted to have another training session with him that night after they were alone in their cabin. When he vocalized the thought to her she frowned even as she placed her saber on the bed between them. “Why? The others aren't on to us, as far as your Force abilities go.”

    Shouldn't we start at least pretending that I'm no different than any other clone before we join forces with General Unduli and the 41st?”

    But you are different, Stone.” She nudged the hilt towards him.

    He sighed, absently skimming a hand across his hair. “That's the problem, isn't it?”

    Is it?” There was an waver to her tone but he shook his head.

    I just think it will be better if they don't know, for now. It's a lot for them to get used to, isn't it? First you and this.” He moved his hand and the hilt of the saber lifted from the bed, hovering and rotating slowly in the air between them.

    Kali ignored the saber and studied him. “For them to get used to?” He met her eyes but said nothing and she nodded after a moment. “I think you might be surprised, Stone. Remember how well they took everything on Florrum? They already knew about you and I, despite our best efforts to keep things under the radar.”

    He shook his head. “But this is different.” After a slight hesitation he reached for the saber, wrapping his hand around the grip. He didn't activate the blade, only studied the weapon as he spoke. “This is a whole other game.” The Force-energy still hummed in his veins, though he had long since gotten used to the sensation, but now it was a constant, tangible reminder that he was...unique.

    She was quiet for a moment, her dark eyes distant before she looked at him once more. “Stonewall, I respect your decision, though I don't agree with it, as I've learned the hard way that hiding from yourself is a dangerous road to travel. But-” her hand was on his cheek, the movement so swift he didn't realize it until he felt the warm press of her skin. “You are different, now. I know it's hard. I know it's strange. And we will figure out why. In the meantime, you just have to accept it and do the best you can.” Her voice grew quiet as her eyes held his. “You aren't....sorry that it happened, are you?”

    It was not what he expected and for a moment he could see the vulnerability in her gaze. He placed the saber on the bed and put his hand over hers. “It is strange, Kali. But I don't regret any of it...none at all. It's just harder to adjust to than I imagined.” Absently he kissed her palm. “I love you; that's what it all comes down to for me. And for that I'm nothing but happy.” It was true, though he still felt a nagging uncertainty when he thought about his Force-abilities, for all that he tried to push the doubt to the side.

    She nodded and he could sense her relief. After another moment he cleared his throat. “What about General Unduli? I don't want you to have to deal with any more trouble right now because of me. If she is as different as you've indicated, it might be better for you if I kept my head down.”

    I'm not planning on advertising our relationship, or your abilities, Stone. But if she finds out, then she finds out, especially since we have to go to the Council sooner or later.” Suddenly she was leaning against him, her arms around his neck as she studied him. “You're the special one, you know. And I realize that you may not agree, but it's something you're going to have to trust me on. Now, stop procrastinating and get to work.”

    Stone kissed her cheek even as he held her close. “If you say so. I just-” he frowned as he gathered his thoughts before meeting her eyes. “I know that Kamino was hard for you, Kali, and I don't want you to have even more thrown on your plate right now.” He watched as her expression shifted so he ran a hand along the side of her face and gave her a smile. “And I'm not trying to procrastinate, by the way. Don't even know the meaning of the word.” As he'd hoped, this elicited an answering smile from her even as he kissed her again and the earlier topic was forgotten for the time being.

    Ultimately, she didn't let him get out of practice, though it was a far more pleasant session than trying to push a lightsaber around.


    General Halcyon's ship met up with the Tranquility the following day and Gree felt that he was prepared for practically anything. As was custom, he stood beside General Unduli in the hangar while the small, ragged-looking transport landed before them. Moments later the hatch opened and he found himself tensing, though he couldn't have said why.

    The Jedi came out first, followed closely by Captain Stonewall – Gree always made it a point to learn the names of new officers, even temporary members – and the other members of the squad. They walked in standard formation but the commander was instantly struck by something that felt out of place about them as they made their way to the Mirialan Jedi. They look normal, but something's not right. Something's off. He couldn't put a name to it; it was just a feeling that he had. At that thought he smiled beneath his bucket. I've been around Jedi for far too long.

    As the women greeted one another, he noted that General Halcyon was a little shorter than General Unduli, with dark hair that she had gathered back into a plait; she was dressed in traditional Jedi garb that – he felt – lacked the elegance of the Mirialan woman who stood beside him. Where did that thought come from?

    General Halcyon, this is Commander Gree.”

    At the general's words he gave a crisp salute expecting the dark-haired Jedi to nod or give some other indication that she acknowledged his presence; however, she threw him for a loop when she reached for his hand, shaking it with a firm grasp. “Good to meet you, Commander. I've heard excellent things about the 41st and we all look forward to working with you and your men.”

    Flummoxed, he managed to murmur some nicety before she released his hand, after which Gree straightened his shoulders and turned his attention back to the squad as the Jedi spoke again; after a few moments of quiet conversation, General Halcyon gestured to her men, giving their names as she did so.

    Word had trickled through that they were calling themselves “Shadow Squad,” and he wondered at the epithet. Not particularly creative. Or even necessary. But still...special ops fellows become their own breed, I guess. The captain was outfitted in a red-striped set of armor, with both a kama and pauldron, which Gree had always found a bit cumbersome though he'd heard other brothers espouse their usefulness. At the mention of their names, each clone removed his bucket and saluted the General; Gree could see that their armor had been recently cleaned, which, he supposed, was a mark of respect. Perhaps I was wrong. They're not so different.

    Then Captain Stonewall removed his own helmet, revealing a head of bright purple hair that was almost florescent in the light of the hangar. What in the blazes....? Gree couldn't help but stare at the captain and was thankful that he had kept his own helmet on during the introductions. Why in the stars is she letting him run around like that? Doesn't he care how strange he looks? How unprofessional?

    A surreptitious glance at General Unduli showed that she had made no reaction to the clone trooper's hair, though he supposed it was not unexpected. Jedi have far more pressing matters to concern themselves with. Perhaps General Halcyon simply doesn't mind. The thought was strange, as he couldn't imagine his own CO allowing him to do the same thing. But it's a matter of pride, he thought. As well as matter of uniformity and cohesion. Something like that sets him apart from the others. It's distracting, to say the least.

    After several more moments General Unduli inclined her head towards the doors to the hangar and the other Jedi nodded, turning to her men. “Luminara and I have some things to discuss. Why don't you guys go with Commander Gree and get settled? Thanks again for the lift,” she said to the Mirialan Jedi. “You have no idea how cramped the Wayfarer was starting to feel.” There was a wryness to her voice that Gree didn't understand, though he let it go as he saluted the Jedi and nodded to the members of Shadow.

    As he turned to leave, he caught the captain and the Jedi exchanging a look that he couldn't interpret, though the moment passed almost immediately and he led them out of the hangar.


    Kali watched Stone and the others exit the hangar and sighed inwardly. This is going to be a bit more difficult than I imagined. I've gotten so used to being able to be with him when I want, though I know that's not the best way to carry on in this situation. She glanced at Luminara and gave her a smile. “You look well.”

    As do you. Apparently wartime agrees with us both.” The Jedi Master gestured to the closest turbolift and the two women began to walk. As they rode to the bridge, Luminara gave her an appraising look. “I have to ask....the hair?”

    Though Kali knew what she was talking about, she couldn't help herself as she ran her fingers across her own braid. “I cut off a lot of it after Japarran, though it's grown a bit more since. It's a lot cooler.”

    You know what I meant, Kalinda.”

    Does it matter? It's just hair, Lu.” Her nickname for the Mirialan Jedi slipped out involuntarily and she noted how the other woman seemed to flinch from the familiar title. “They got rather excited about the recent bolo-ball finals, and I didn't see the harm in it. Not that I'm a fan,” she added. “But at the end of the day, Stone does his job with or without purple hair, so I saw no reason to stop him.” Other than the fact that he looks ridiculous. And now I have to defend his hair to Luminara? He owes me for this.

    At this thought she felt a smile creep to her face and Luminara shot her an odd glance. “As you say, though I have to admit, it isn't something that I would allow.”

    Well, that's how we're different, I suppose,” Kali replied. “How's Barriss? She's nearly a Knight, isn't she?”

    Luminara nodded. “Not yet, but soon. She's been given an assignment by the Council; I'm sure she would send her regards.”

    They rode the rest of the way in silence. When they reached the bridge Luminara lead her to one of the tactical rooms at the outer edge of the area and soon they were standing before a glowing projection of this section of the galaxy. “Our last sighting of Ventress was in this area, near Sullust, though it seems she found the time to journey to Kamino and pick up a new passenger.”

    No sign of her since?”

    Luminara shook her head. “However, I have a feeling that she will make her presence known soon enough. It is unlike her to come out of hiding unless she has a reason.” She paused and glanced at Kalinda. “You were taken captive by her, were you not?”

    I was, though it was well over a year ago at this point,” Kali replied as she studied the map. “On Basrah. Stone and I managed to escape with my shield.” It had been a harrowing experience for both of them and she shivered at the memory. That was the first time he ever held me, though it was only so that I could throw all of my concentration on my Force shield. Who knew what it would grow into? She looked at Luminara again. “While Obi-Wan and Anakin kept her attention on them, Stone and I were able to slip away unnoticed.”

    The other woman nodded. “I read the report. Your shield it still viable?”

    I haven't had much cause to use it recently, but I believe so.” The presence of the Force was a vibrant hum within her body, magnified since the mission to Aruna. It hasn't faded back to normal yet. In fact, it only seems to be stronger, especially when Stone's around. She took a breath. “I can teach it to you, if you want, though I tried with Obi-Wan and Kit, to no success.”

    Perhaps.” Luminara paused and Kali felt her stomach drop. “You may not be aware of it, Kalinda, but there has been much talk about you and your squad in recent months. You've caused quite a stir, you know.”

    What kind of talk?”

    Luminara made a gesture of indifference. “Mostly idle speculation. There are not many Jedi who are acting in the capacity that you are, and none that I know of who have worked so closely for so long with such a small group of clones. It's natural for certain....rumors to begin.”

    Kalinda sighed. “Rumors? Well, I suppose I can guess what's being said.” First Master Altis and now Luminara...and who says that Jedi are too moral to spread gossip? “You know, I'm starting to realize how isolated I've been from the rest of the wars. Have you ever been to Kamino?” The other woman shook her head and Kali frowned. “It was unsettling to see thousands of clones – of men – being grown in jars.”

    Surely it wasn't a surprise to you? We were all briefed on the cloning process. Commander Gree has told me a little of it as well.”

    I know, but seeing it firsthand like that was disturbing, on many levels.” A chill came over her as she recalled her visit to the barracks and the video from the unnamed trooper's helmet, as well as the withered face of the 'bad batcher,'Trig. I can't believe he was younger than Stone. He looked like his grandfather. How long will it be before Stone's body betrays him? Will he live long enough to see the end of the war? Will any of them?

    Luminara missed nothing. “I understand that it may seem strange to you, Kalinda, as you haven't dealt with as many clones as other Jedi, but the fact remains that they were created to fight for the Republic. They are serving their purpose, as are we.”

    And what happens after the war is over and the Republic no longer has use of its soldiers?” Kali frowned. “I don't know of any provisions that have been made for them, do you?”

    It seems that such a day is far off,” the Mirialan woman replied. “But I'm certain that, when the time comes, they will be taken care of. Public sentiment for the clones is increasing.”

    Unable to stop the questions that kept leaping through her mind, Kali ran a hand through her hair. “Is it? I was under the impression that most people don't consider them anything but flesh-droids. They're not even proper citizens.”

    Luminara shook her head. “I don't have all the answers, Kalinda. For now, speculation will do us no good.”

    Kali was silent for a moment before she looked back at the holo-map. “Where do you think Ventress will rear her bald head?”

    Luminara followed her gaze. “If only I had the power to predict such a thing.” She took a breath. “You mentioned a shower?” Kali nodded and the other woman gestured to the lift. “I'll show you to your quarters, if you like. I imagine there's not much we can do at the moment.” The Jedi stepped through the corridors until they reached the officers' cabins on one of the lower decks. The cabin was not large, though it was equipped with basic necessities, and Kali surveyed the room before she glanced back at the Mirialan woman.

    You have no idea how nice it will be to take a proper shower,” she said. “I've been living with five men for so long, I've almost forgotten what it's like to walk into the 'fresher and not find the seat up. But the guys are very....mindful of my privacy.” Naturally, those words lead her to a very Stonewall-specific memory that she had no desire to share, though she felt her cheeks warm, giving her emotions away for all that the other woman made no comment.

    I can only imagine.” Luminara raised a brow at her. “I'd like to have a briefing with you and your captain once you have settled in,” she said. “Will half an hour be sufficient?”

    Kalinda nodded. “Sounds good. I'll see you soon, Lu. Luminara.” She flashed her an apologetic look at the use of her nickname. “Thank you.”
  7. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Seven: Disparity

    As Creon watched the small moon appear in the viewport, it occurred to him that this would be the first planet he'd ever visited outside of his homeworld. The thought was not met with wonder or excitement, but rather an indifferent kind of acknowledgment. It is a necessary step to procure the subjects for my research, but I hope the process does not take too long. I am anxious to get to work. Having finally decided to leave his quarters, he stood on the bridge of the Separatist ship beside the pale woman – Ventress, he told himself – and took in the sight of the new world.

    The moon of Caradoc orbited a gas giant – Pirdia – somewhere in the Mid-Rim, though he was unsure exactly where they were located at the moment. Navigation had never interested him in any real way, though he supposed that was due in part to the recalcitrant nature of his people. It appeared to be mostly green, which intrigued him. He had not taken the time to look over the moon's specifications before now, but the presence of so much green indicated that there was much vegetation, which was not something that had been seen on Kamino in many, many generations. Creon looked at the Human woman beside him. “What are your plans?”

    She did not respond for several moments, as if debating whether or not to speak to him. “There is a small settlement along the equator whose inhabitants have been known to shelter traitorous Separatist agents as they betray the Confederacy.” She gave a cold smile. “We are going to pay them a visit.”

    And you are certain that the Republic will respond with force?” Creon did not try to keep the doubt from his voice. “I need those clones.”

    Pale eyes turned to him and he felt a strange sensation in his mind, as though someone was attempting to sap his resolve. The Force. There must be some way to integrate that ability with my research.

    When Ventress spoke again, there was no room for doubt. “You will have your subjects, but you should keep in mind that there is such a thing as 'too much' curiosity.” She looked back at the viewport and gave a command to the droid at the helm. Moments later the ship began to make its way to the equator of the planet.

    Creon shook his head. The sensation was gone, along with it the unsettling feeling; now he only felt intrigued by the experience. However, he examined the woman surreptitiously as a thought occurred to him. “They will send a Jedi with the clones, will they not?”

    She looked back at him and he noted that one of her brows had lifted. “Perhaps. The Jedi are overly fond of their toy soldiers and will seek to protect them even as they send them to their deaths.”

    How does one go about detaining a Force-user?” Even though his mind was whirring, Creon did not miss the gleam of satisfaction in the pale woman's eyes.


    Stonewall and his brothers followed Gree through the ship until they reached the barracks where he assumed they were to stay while aboard the Tranquility. Through what little he could tell with the Force, Gree was not exactly pleased with the clone captain, his squad, or Kalinda. I'm sure the hair doesn't help. Perhaps I should have dyed it back after all. He watched as his brothers slipped into the barracks before he glanced at the commander.

    You have a question, Captain?”

    Sort of,” Stone replied, keeping his tone polite. “More of an explanation, really. About the hair. I realize it's a bit....out of place. I'm not sure if you keep up with bolo-ball, but the finals were held recently and I wanted to show my support for Eltair.”

    There was a hissing sound as Gree unsealed his own bucket and the two clones regarded each other. The commander had hair in a similar style to Weave's and Stone remembered that – to many clones – the twin strips were a memorial of sorts to their fallen comrades. No matter what else, we're brothers. Surely we can work through all the other nonsense.

    I didn't hear a 'sir' in any of that.” Gree's voice was sharp. His chin lifted and his eyes on Stonewall were discerning.

    Maybe not. “My apologies, sir,” Stone replied.

    The commander nodded, clipped his helmet to his belt and crossed his arms. “I know that you've been used to operating in a particular manner, Captain, but I want you understand that while you and your squad are on this ship, you are under my command, and I like things done a certain way. Is that clear?”

    Stonewall tamped down the flare of irritation at the commander's words. No need to get annoyed. He's just doing his job. “Certainly, sir. However, we are both ultimately under the command of the Generals, and the Jedi that I've been working with for well over a year also prefers things done a certain way. I respectfully ask that you keep that in mind. Sir.”

    Before Gree could reply, there was a shout of acknowledgment from within the barracks. “Weave? Is that you? I'd thought I'd seen the last of you at Ryloth!” At the mention of his brother's name, Stonewall turned to see the squad medic being greeted by another clone.

    Weave's expression wavered between welcome and trepidation, though ultimately he smiled. “Good to see you too, Blink.” They clasped forearms before Weave began to introduce the newcomer to the rest of Shadow Squad.

    Stonewall glanced at Gree. “Permission to step away?”

    There was a long pause before the commander replied. “Granted. I'll contact you once General Unduli schedules the briefing.” With that he turned and exited the barracks.


    It was not that Weave didn't want to see Blink, one of the only brothers he'd known since his earliest days on Kamino. I feel like I was finally about to shake all of those memories off, and now it's like I can't get away. He sighed inwardly as he made the necessary introductions.

    Nice to meet you,” Crest said with his customary grin. “Like the hair – or lack thereof. It's all the rage from what I hear.”

    Blink smiled and tilted his head; the light reflected off of his hairless skull. “It's easy on the upkeep,” he replied. After a few more moments he looked up as the captain approached. Immediately, Blink's spine straightened as he came to attention, his feet planting on the ground with his chin held high.

    Weave nearly laughed until he realized that the other clones in the barracks were doing the same thing, much to Stonewall's amusement. I'd almost forgotten that we're supposed to do that.

    The clone captain shook his head and reached for Blink's hand. “At ease. Nice to meet you...Blink? Any friend of Weave's is a friend of mine.”

    Blink stared at him for a moment before his shoulders relaxed and he nodded. “Good to hear, Captain. Glad to have you along for the ride, sir.”

    Glad to be here.” Stonewall looked at his squad. “What say we take a few minutes and enjoy the comforts that this cruiser has to offer? We've been sharing a 'fresher for far too long,” he added, glancing at Blink, who pointed across the room.

    Sir. 'Freshers are down that corridor. I'd hurry, though. Some of the others are in a drill session right now and they'll be wanting them when they get back.”

    Noted.” Stonewall tilted his chin. “Come on, guys. Let's go.” Weave paused as the others moved to follow the captain, who looked back at him. “Not coming?”

    Weave glanced at Blink, who lifted his brow. “In a minute, Captain, if you don't mind.” Stonewall nodded and continued walking.

    Think that you're ready to wash that stuff out yet?” Weave smiled as he heard Crest's voice fading as they left the room.

    Not until we find out the final score, vod...”

    Blink gave a small shake of his head and looked at him. “Your captain seems a little...unorthodox. Commander Gree said something about you special ops fellows being unusual, but he almost looked surprised when I saluted him.” The bald clone chuckled even as he gave Weave an appraising look.

    There were only a few other clones in the barracks at this time, none of whom seemed overly concerned with Weave and Blink, so the former took a seat on a nearby bunk, his brother coming to sit across from him. “We tend to run a bit more informal than most,” Weave said after a moment. “Though it goes back to how Ka – General Halcyon prefers things.”

    Ah. I've heard much the same thing,” Blink replied with a nod. “General Unduli does run a tight ship, but I've never been more confident in anyone's abilities than hers. In my opinion, there is no greater Jedi in the entire galaxy.” His voice was filled with awe and respect.

    These words cast Weave's memory back to many of the situations that Shadow Squad had found themselves in and he recalled that, though she may not have had the answers, Kalinda always did her best to find the best possible solution as well as keep himself and his brothers safe. “I know how you feel,” he said at last. “Our general's...” He trailed off in thought for a moment before giving a small shake of his head and looking back at Blink. “Determined.”

    Blink frowned. “I've heard other things as well,” he said at last. At Weave's look he shrugged. “Just rumors, you know?”

    What kind of rumors?” He had an inkling but wanted to hear it from his brother, who was looking uncomfortable with the entire conversation.

    You and your questions....” Finally Blink sighed. “Look, it's just idle gossip, but some of the guys who have spoken with others – some in the 501st, some other divisions – have said that there's something going on between General Halcyon and Captain Stonewall. Something that's not quite...professional.” He held up his hands. “Just a rumor, you know?”

    Weave felt a flash of anger, though he wasn't sure at whom it was directed. Those who are spreading the gossip? The captain, for letting it get out of hand? He decided to feign ignorance, for now. “ you remember when that fellow from Beta squad – what was his name? Snatch or Snitch or something – anyway; do you remember when he said all that stuff about General Shaak Ti?”

    It was 'Catch,' I think,” Blink said with a nod. “Some people will say anything to get attention, I suppose.”

    As Weave had expected, this elicited a bout of reminiscing about 'old times,' and he hoped that the matter of Kalinda and Stonewall would be dropped; however, he still felt a nameless anger tugging at his heart and it bothered him that he could not quantify it.


    The shower was fantastic, but Kalinda mentally reprimanded herself for dropping her guard around Luminara as she had done. I need to be more mindful of myself around her...she's in charge here, and I need to act more professional.

    Kali knew that it was just Luminara's nature to be dispassionate, to keep herself separate even from her friends. The woman exemplified the Jedi Order's edict of non-attachment. But at what cost? I've always found strength in my friendships. And my love. Even though with Obi-Wan it sometimes caused me pain, ultimately I'm glad I experienced it. I would never want to forget anything. She cast her mind to Stonewall and gave a quiet sigh as she dressed in a fresh set of clothes that Luminara had no doubt provided.

    It had only been about twenty minutes, so she had some time to spare before the briefing, though she found the idea odd. I know it's protocol, but still. We all know why we're here. Why do we need to have a discussion about it? She activated her comlink to voice-only. “Stone?”

    There was a moment before he replied in his most professional tone. “General Halcyon.”

    Blast...he's not alone. “Captain, are you ready to go to Master Unduli's briefing?”

    Nearly, sir,” he replied and she found herself grinning at the formality of his voice. “Just finishing up in the barracks.”

    Great.” She paused, deliberating. It was tempting to see if they could find a few spare moments together, but she realized that was probably not the wisest course of action. “I'll see you there,” she said at last, but she couldn't stop herself from adding: “And Captain? Master Unduli spoke to me about your hair. Perhaps after the briefing we can revisit the issue.”

    Kali could discern the smile in his voice, though she imagined that he was trying not to. “As you say, General Halcyon. Sir.”

    She ended the transmission and shook her head. I'll wager he tacked that on just to annoy me. I'll get him back. A glance at her chrono showed that it was time to leave so she exited her quarters and made her way to the tactical room where the briefing was to take place. Minutes later she met Stonewall just outside the door. They exchanged a glance before he stepped aside so that she could enter first.

    Luminara and Commander Gree were already present and Kali immediately sensed a flicker of irritation from the other clone as she and Stone entered, though it faded almost instantly. Aside from the standard translucent charts and workstations that were scattered about, there was also a large holo-projector at the center of the room, which the other Jedi and her officer were facing. Kali moved to stand across from her while Stone took his customary place at her right side, opposite Gree, whose eyes, Kali noticed, flicked to Stone's hair and again she felt a flare of annoyance from the commander.

    Luminara nodded to her commander, who pulled up an image of the section of space where they were currently located. He began going over the facts of their mission and Kali sighed inwardly as she gazed at the rotating image. Memories of Kamino kept resurfacing in her mind and she found herself thinking back to the clone boy that she'd entertained with the bubble of seawater. It was nice to see him act like a 'regular' kid. I don't think that any of them were ever allowed to be children. Not that Jedi were much better, but Jonas always made sure that I got to play a little bit when I was younger. How many of the clones can say that?

    Is there a problem, Knight Halcyon?” Luminara's voice made her look up.

    Kali gave a polite smile. “Of course not, Master. I was just thinking about Creon Dai's research on seems that he was interested in cybernetics more so than genetics. According to the Prime Minister, he was passionate about his work...if that was the main reason for his alignment with the Separatists, I can only imagine what they're trying to do.”

    It is pointless to speculate until we have genuine proof,” Luminara said. “Though I-” she paused as her comlink began to chirp. “What is it?”

    Emergency transmission from a nearby system, General.” It was one of the clones on the bridge. “Shall I patch it through, sir?”

    The Jedi Master answered in the affirmative and in the next moment the image of an elder Rodian male appeared before them at the holo-projector. “This is administrator Thy Tello of the Omega community on Caradoc. If anyone is out there, we require immediate assistance: a Separatist gunship has just appeared in orbit and is beginning to send down droid transports....” There was a tremendous booming sound; he winced and glanced at some distant point. “They're attacking our settlement without rhyme or reason...please, you must send help!” After a few more seconds of garbled words the transmission ended.

    Transmission originated from one of Pirdia's moons, General,” Gree said as he ran his eyes over the encryption codes. “Caradoc. Small, sparsely populated, though it has been a haven for several Separatist defectors who wish asylum.”

    Is there no one else nearby who can assist us?” Kali asked.

    The commander paused to check before he shook his head. “Negative, General Halcyon. The nearest Republic ship is well over eight hours away.” He glanced up, a wry look on his face. “The good news is, there doesn't appear to be more than one Seppie ship involved.”

    The Jedi exchanged glances and Kali noted that Luminara seemed to have reached a similar conclusion. Ventress. It was just too much of a coincidence. “This is a trap, isn't it?”

    The Mirialan Jedi gave a small smile at Kali's remark. “Possibly, but we must offer those citizens protection if we can. We shall not go in blindly, at any rate.” Luminara nodded and called the helm, ordering them to set a course for the moon. “We'll need to prepare for a ground assault, Gree,” she said. “But before we do, I want to know exactly what we're up against....”

    She began listing technical aspects of the Separatist ship even as Kalinda felt a thrill of apprehension at the words “ground assault.” Aside from Basrah, I haven't been involved in a 'real' battle. The realization was distressing but she cast the feeling aside. “Where can we be of most assistance, Luminara?”

    My boys are more than able to help, Commander,” Stonewall added, his shoulders squaring. “Just tell us where you want us.” He radiated calm assurance and Kali realized that out of everyone in the room, she was the least experienced with the mechanics of warfare.

    Luminara seemed to sense her feelings even as she nodded to Stonewall. “Thank you, Captain. I'm sure that Gree will find a place for you and your squad. Kalinda; you and I shall focus our energies on Ventress – if she is present – as well as ensure the safety of the civilians.”

    A cold feeling of dread clenched in Kali's gut as a thought occurred to her. “And the troops? It's my understanding that a Jedi's role is to draw as much fire from them as we can.”

    Indeed, that is one of the many roles that we play,” Luminara replied. “Though our main objectives will be to collect Ventress and protect the settlers, it is also up to us to protect as many of the soldiers as we can while they do their jobs.” Here she cast a brief look at the commander beside her, and if Kali had not known any better, she would have thought that there was something in the Mirialan woman's gaze besides impartiality.


    After a trip to the 'freshers, his brothers had elected to go to the mess hall; Weave and Blink decided to accompany them. Several more of General Unduli's men met them there and for a little while it was pleasant to be part of a larger group again. Crest was in his element, sharing some of the more entertaining details of their past missions, though he was prone to hyperbole. “There were at least three hundred of the kriffing things, headed right for us.”

    One of Blink's comrades shook his head. “And they were invisible? Get out...” Beside him, some of the others muttered in agreement and rolled their eyes.

    It's true,” Milo added, sitting up. “There was some kind of special shield that prevented us from seeing them.”

    Crest nodded; his voice had dropped and taken on a dramatic tone as he narrated. “So: it's just the five of us against a whole mess of these 'stealth-droids.' Obviously, Shadow Squad could handle it, but we're not going to turn down help if it comes when the boss showed up with the pirate gang-”

    Blink glanced at Weave who sighed. “Yeah, pirates. Trust me, he couldn't make this kind of thing up.”


    Oh.” This caused Weave to sit up and look at his brothers, none of whom were paying him any mind while Crest and Milo were enthusiastically re-enacting their battle on Florrum. “General Halcyon...Crest calls her 'boss.'” He shrugged at Blink's expression of astonishment. “I know it's a bit unusual, but she prefers it that way.”

    His friend shook his head. When he spoke, his voice was pitched so that only the two of them could hear. “It's more than unusual, Weave. It's wildly inappropriate. I mean, despite what I've heard about General Halcyon's interactions with her soldiers, I would think that you of all people would know the dangers of acting....abnormally.” He shot Crest a glare, though the other clone didn't seem to notice.

    Weave frowned. “I follow orders, Blink, just like you. She told us not to call her 'General' all the time, so that's what we do. It's not my place to speculate as to why.” This wasn't entirely true, but it was true enough. She's grown close to us, as we have to her. I don't know of any other Jedi who has done so.

    It's still odd,” Blink replied. “And you'd better not let Commander Gree hear you say that.” He looked at Weave, considering. “At least it seems like you've stopped asking so many questions. I always told you that wouldn't lead you to a good end.”

    At the mention of this, Weave felt an instinctual flash of fear course through him before he tamped it down. You're not on Kamino any longer. No one's going to 'recondition' you for being curious. That thought gave him some comfort and he took a deep breath, looking back at his squad-mates. Crest had moved on from the Florrum incident and was reliving another mission when Weave's comm lit up, revealing the captain's form.

    Get the lads together, would you? We've got a bit of a situation.”


    Stonewall's brow furrowed. “Ventress. We're on the way to Caradoc to rescue some innocents from that....” He shook his head and continued. “Ground assault. Be ready.”

    Weave nodded and looked up as – in the next moment – an alarm began to wail, which caused all of the others to spring to their feet. Blink cast him a glance and grinned, all other things between them forgotten in the light of the pending battle. “Into the fray again, eh brother?”
  8. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Eight: Unto the Breach

    It's been a while since I was in one of these things. Can't say I missed it. Stonewall tightened his grip on the dangling handle of the LAAT/i and glanced out of a nearby slit in the bulkhead that served as a window. Flashes of bright green and blue were the only things that indicated the marshy terrain of the planet below; occasionally he caught a glimpse of the sun reflected on water, the flare of light was blinding when it met his eyes even behind his visor. The other members of Shadow Squad were nearby, along with Commander Gree and both Jedi. No one spoke above the whining of the engines and the hum of the transport's vibration beneath their feet.

    A glance beside him confirmed what he'd already assessed: Kali was nervous. More so than he'd seen her in a long time; one of her hands clutched the handle above her head with white knuckles and the other was gripping the hilt of her blaster. The shallow rise and fall of her chest showed that her breath was short and her skin looked a shade more pale than normal. Everything had happened so quickly since they'd gotten the emergency transmission that they hadn't had a chance to talk, but he'd sensed her apprehension at the very first mention of a ground assault. She hasn't seen any true battles, he remembered. Basrah was kind of tame and since then we've been immersed in our own missions...nothing close to this scale.

    Though he was not entirely comfortable doing so in the presence of the Jedi Master, he tried to send a measure of comfort to her using the Force. Kali, it will be okay. She made no reply, but he saw her nod and her hand dropped from the blaster to hang at her side. The transport slowed as it approached the ground, shuddering to a halt as it landed. A red glow from an overhead light filled the space between them as the doors prepared to open. He wanted to reach for her, but kept the feeling in check. Now simply wasn't the time. But he hated seeing her so distraught; often he felt an overwhelming urge to protect her, despite the fact that she was a Jedi. I love you.

    Her eyes closed for a moment before she looked up at him. I love you too, Stone. There was a breath of silence before everything turned green as the blast doors opened and the battle began.

    The first few moments were frenetic, almost overloading his senses: the ground shivered beneath his feet as the soldiers rushed to collide with the droids that were already firing at the edge of the nearby settlement; he could hear the organized chaos of the other clones as they began shouting directions, curses and encouragement through the comm channels; the HUD of his helmet was alight with a steady stream of information that his brain was trained to assimilate immediately, as it could mean the difference between life and death.

    But these thoughts were fleeting as blaster-fire erupted around him in shots of blue and red. His training kicked in in an instant and he settled into an almost easy rhythm of firing, ducking, dodging, and firing again, keeping Kalinda and the rest of his men within his sight at all times. While he rushed alongside his brothers, he could make out tall, slender trees draped with graying moss in the distance, though around his immediate area there was little more than a few scrubby bushes scattered through the grass. Beyond the settlement there were patches of water – brackish and fetid, according to his HUD – and he briefly wondered if he'd be able to smell the salt in the air had his helmet not been over his face.

    The Jedi had separated, as there had been no sign of Ventress, and they were each attempting to place themselves between the settlement and the droid battalion; despite the rampant adrenaline-fueled excitement in the air around him, he could sense Kali's hesitation as she fired on a pair of incoming super battle droids with her blaster. As much as he wanted to stand by her side it was impractical to do so now, so he did the next best thing that he could: he sent her a coil of Force-energy, hoping to fortify her to a degree even while he himself was set upon by a thick cluster of tinnies.

    The action drained him a little more than he would have liked, but it was a small price to pay when he glanced back at her and noted that her movements were more fluid, that she seemed more composed; she'd even drawn her saber and was working both weapons with a calm confidence that caused him to smile behind his helmet. That's my girl. The thought made him chuckle even as he soon caught sight of another group of supers heading for his squad. Keep your mind on the task at hand, soldier.


    It was as he remembered, but Weave couldn't decide if that was a comfort or a curse. Running and ducking, dodging bright crimson blaster-fire even as he sent his own volleys into the swarm of droids that always seemed to spring up out of the ground. He was aware of his brothers beside him – Shadow Squad was sticking together out of habit – as well as Blink and a few others. Trax seemed to be in his element, firing both blasters at the incoming clankers with a kind of grim elegance, muttering Mando'a curses as he did so. Crest had pulled out a grenade, pausing for a moment to aim it at the area where it would do the most damage: a trio of droidekas that were incoming from the north. The explosion that bloomed from the device was deadened by Weave's helmet.

    However, while he'd been distracted a group of the super battle droids had managed to corner him between two copses of scrubby trees. For several moments he fumbled, inches away from panic, until one of the droids was hit with a single arc of blue and collapsed to the dirt. “Thanks, Milo,” he called.

    Two more droids fell before the other clone answered. “Anytime, brother.” Weave admired Milo's efficient destruction of the supers; the younger clone only needed one shot to take out the clustered tinnies, hitting them in their most vulnerable jointed areas. There were an uncommon lot of them and Weave felt apprehension slice through him again though he tried to ignore the feeling.

    Get a hold of're a soldier. This is what you were bred for, trained to do. But still, he could feel himself becoming overwhelmed, even with Milo and the others nearby.

    And then Stonewall was beside him, adding his own measure of skill to their squad and Weave let out a sigh of relief as the droids began to be pressed back.

    A flash of green and yellow caught his eye; the two Jedi had met and were moving in tandem almost beyond his field of vision, their sabers a faint blur against the bright sky. Despite the chaos, he noted how Stonewall kept Kalinda in his line of sight at all times, even as he fired on the approaching enemies.

    Suddenly he heard the tell-tale sound of more lightsabers being drawn and he felt fear clutch at his heart as he watched the unmistakable figure of Asajj Ventress appear near the Jedi's position. She said something to the Jedi – he couldn't make it out through the noise of battle – but neither replied as they moved to engage her.

    But his attention could only remain elsewhere for so long. He noticed another group of supers approaching his position and raised his deece to take them out, glad to have his brothers at his side. “Incoming,” Crest shouted, pulling out another grenade. “Everybody duck if you want to keep your head!” Weave and Blink leaped away just in time, landing a few meters away from the others. The plastoid armor kept him insulated from the edges of the blast and he smiled to himself as he heard Crest whoop with satisfaction when several droid parts rained down around them, hitting the churned and flattened grass with dull thuds.

    Beside him, he could make out Blink firing as well, his movements confident. However, his friend did not see a droideka coming directly for him from the side, so Weave lunged forward to stop the thing before it reached Blink. Relying solely on a lifetime of training and drills, he broke free of Shadow Squad and raced for the rolling droid, sliding below it to level a shot at close range, which was the only way to destroy the things, and scurrying away once he did so. As it sputtered and died he turned to make his way back, but he was stopped dead in his tracks by a multi-troop transport that had landed on the ground between him, Blink, a few others he did not know, and the rest of the group.

    The doors opened and Weave's stomach dropped as he watched several battle-droids emerge, but before he could react they lifted small dart-guns and aimed at the clones. Immediately, Weave's vision began to blur and he cursed as he fell to his knees, dizziness overtaking him. I recognize that sedative...Kaminoan saber-darts. Part of his brain registered the sight of Captain Stonewall and Commander Gree rushing towards him, so he tried to shout at them to stay back but his voice refused to work properly, especially after he collapsed to the ground.

    Gree's heel bumped into something; a quick glance showed him that it was Captain Stonewall. They stood back to back for several minutes, firing on the incoming droids, though part of Gree's attention was on General Unduli and the other Jedi as they fought Ventress. As always, he marveled at her skill and her grace, even as she was engaged in the heat of battle. Comparatively, General Halcyon's movements were shaky and weak, though he did note that she got a shot in with her blaster-pistol before it fell from her hand.

    Never seen a Jedi with a blaster?” The captain's voice was more of a grunt at this point, but it was to be expected.

    Gree fired on a nearby super and shook his head as it tilted to one side but did not fall. “Not really how it's done. Why use a blaster when you have a lightsaber?”

    The captain finished it off. “Why limit yourself to one or the other?” Before Gree could respond, the whine of a transport met their ears and both men looked up to see a MTT land in the midst of the battle beside a group of nearby clones. “Weave.” The captain's voice was edged with fear and Gree recognized the name as belonging to one of his squad.

    They're taking them – alive?” He recognized one of his own men – Blink – being dragged aboard the transport and the two men exchanged looks. Whatever the reason, it can't be good. We're their commanding officers and their brothers. We have to try and save them if we can. Gree nodded and lifted his deece, shouting at one of his men nearby to cover them as he and Stonewall plunged toward the ship.

    They reached the area moments later and began firing on the droids that had taken their brothers; it was then that Gree felt a twinge of pain at the soft patch of space between his armored plating. His head felt thick and his legs turned to blocks of lead just before his world went black.


    For several moments Kalinda couldn't hear anything besides the scream of blaster fire and the huff of her breath even as she drew her pistol, the sounds were matched by the desperate tattoo of her own heartbeat when she realized just how far out of her league she was. Fear gripped her, for all that she tried to push it aside; it made her hands shake and she knew that her aim was poor. I don't know if I can do this. Thoughts like these were paralyzing so she worked to get a hold of herself and settle into the Force, allowing it to guide her motions.

    That was when she felt it: a cascade of calming energy that heartened her almost as much as if she'd felt Stonewall's warm embrace. It filled her with strength. Kali smiled and took a breath as her trembling stilled and her aim was true again. After a moment she called her lightsaber to her hand and found that she was able to wield both weapons, ensuring that any droid who came too close could be felled by the glowing blade. Soon she fell into a rhythm of ducking and deflecting the bolts of plasma, able to send them back to their originators which caused the droids to collapse in a smoldering pile.

    Each victory, though small, was something to be thankful for.

    By contrast, Luminara was a controlled blur and Kalinda had to admire her form: her precision and strength were undaunted no matter how many enemies came upon her. The Mirialan Jedi moved her body as though her saber was merely an extension and Kalinda understood just how inadequate her own form was in comparison. But there was no time to linger on such thoughts as the droids kept coming and Kali was determined to keep as many of the clones safe as she could.

    It was difficult.

    It was much, much worse than Basrah.

    Gradually she became aware of Stonewall at the edges of her field of vision and she realized that he was keeping an eye on her in his own way. Don't worry about me anymore. Take care of yourself and the others. Keep the guys safe. Nearby she watched as two clone troopers were felled by a pair of burly B2 droids, so she sent them back with a push of the Force.

    You can do this, Kali. His thoughts were calm even as the storm of battle was raging around them both. He radiated certainty and she felt herself becoming stronger because of it.

    Kalinda.” Luminara's voice brought her back to the moment and Kali glanced over at the sound of lightsabers being ignited.

    Not her again. Kali turned and stood beside Luminara as Asajj Ventress came into view, her pale eyes narrowing as she prowled towards the other women.

    You may as well surrender now, Jedi,” Ventress spat as she lunged for Kali. “And offer up the heads of your precious soldier-slaves as well...otherwise you're just prolonging the inevitable.” Kalinda managed to block her attack, though she could feel the other woman's ferocity was about to overwhelm her. Not a moment too soon, Luminara appeared at her side and caused Ventress to lift her blades and step back. The moment of respite was not to last; even as the Jedi lunged, the darksider danced away from them and grabbed a clone trooper who happened to be nearby, wrapping his upper torso in her grasp and angling both of her blades at his throat. “Come closer and I'll see to it that you have yet another casualty.”

    Release him,” Kali said, her voice cracked and hoarse. “What purpose will his death serve you?” She could feel a mixture of fear and anger rippling off of the struggling clone and she briefly wondered if he had a name.

    The bald woman looked at the Jedi before she smiled down at the clone. “I should ask you the same question, Jedi.” With that she closed her blades around the trooper's neck and his body collapsed to the dirt.

    Kalinda felt her blood turn to ice even as it beat in her veins. Her jaw clenched and without thinking she lifted her pistol and fired at Ventress, who slid out of the way in time to avoid a direct hit; however, her arm was caught in the edge of the bolt of energy and Kali noted the singe of her opponent's skin with satisfaction even as the bald woman's face twisted in anger. Kali was able to get in one more shot before the blaster was ripped from her hand, but Luminara was there as well and together they were able to press the darksider back further still.

    Though she felt anger welling within her, Kali was able to keep her mind clear, to let the emotion sweep through her as she moved. Out of the corner of her eye she saw more clones fall and more than once she had to lift her feet to avoid tripping over a fallen body that she tried not to think about too hard.

    And then Ventress' attitude transformed. Her eyes flicked behind Kalinda and Luminara for a split second before she looked back at them and parted her lips in a feral grin. “We're done here,” she snarled. “For now.” There was a moment of tumbling confusion as Kali and Luminara were shoved backward by a massive Force push while Ventress leaped out of sight.

    Moments later Kali heard the hum of an engine and she gritted her teeth in frustration. She got away...again. As she scrabbled to her feet she heard the approach of metallic footsteps; turning, she saw a new line of droids. Sweat coated her entire body and her knee was aching but she raised her saber and shot a look at Luminara, who met her gaze with serenity. Kali caught a flash of metal out of the corner of her eye and called her pistol to her hand just before the two women launched themselves at the approaching army.

    When the smoke cleared, Milo realized that it was worse than he'd originally thought. Crest was beside him; the group had managed to stick together even as the captain and Weave had gotten separated. He couldn't see either of them and his attention was split between finding his brothers and finding his Jedi. Several meters away he could make out Traxis as he helped another clone off the ground; the unnamed brother was gesturing towards the sky and Milo wondered what they were talking about.

    Where is she?” There was no levity in Crest's voice and Milo shook his head.

    I don't know.”

    Traxis came jogging up. “We need to find her now. Apparently that MTT that landed in the middle of everything did more than just drop off a new round of clankers. The captain and Weave are gone, as are Commander Gree, Weave's buddy, and a few others.” He pulled off his helmet and looked around, squinting through the dust.

    Milo felt his throat tighten at the words, but he nodded and scanned the area again. A strange movement in a patch of briars caught his eye. “What's that?” He pointed and they jogged over, breathing a collective sigh of relief once they realized that it was their Jedi. She was lying amidst the wreckage of what appeared to be five smoldering supers; if it had not been for the rise and fall of her chest Milo might have mistaken her for dead. As it was she was bruised and battered enough to make his throat tighten as he knelt beside her. “General Halcyon?” She didn't respond to him at first as she groaned and began to sit up, the movement unsteady and he noted that there was a gash on her arm. He tried again. “Kalinda? You're injured.”

    Dark eyes opened and met his; her gaze was filled with sorrow. “Milo?”

    Yes, General,” he said, kneeling beside her. “Crest and Traxis are here as well.”

    Trax was all business as he crouched next to her, his eyes scanning the ground for a moment before he uncovered her pistol from a patch of dirt. “Can you walk?”

    I think so.” She tried to stand but stumbled to her knees so Milo reached for her hand. On a whim he lifted her, startled at how insubstantial she seemed. He thought she might object but she just looked around. “Where are Stone and Weave?”

    The three clones exchanged glances and her eyes closed for a moment, her face drawn in concentration. Crest put a hand on her shoulder even as Milo began to carry her back to the other Jedi. “They were taken,” he said in a soft voice. “Alive. We don't know why.” He paused and shook his head. “We'll get them back, boss.”

    No one takes our brothers like that,” Traxis added.

    Milo nodded but said nothing. She had closed her eyes again; as he carried her back to the others he looked down and noticed that her face was streaked with tears.

    Finally. The Kaminoan nodded in silent satisfaction as the droids began to bring his subjects aboard the Indelible. “Take them to the holding cell and be certain that they are properly secured.” They were Human, but the clones had been given much strength and Creon Dai was not willing to take any more chances. He counted half a dozen units in all, two of whom were outfitted with painted armor that indicated they were higher-ranking officers. Those units were more independent, if I recall. They might be more difficult to contain than the others. “Ensure that the two with the markings are given additional tranquilizers.”

    The medical-grade droid he'd addressed responded in the affirmative and followed the others down the dark corridor. As Creon moved to follow them, he heard a soft whish of fabric and turned to see the lithe form of Ventress beside him. “You didn't manage to acquire one of the Jedi?”

    She gave him a glare and he noticed that she was streaked with dirt and sweat, and that there was a scorch mark on her upper arm. “You should be grateful of the subjects you did receive,” she answered, her tone cool. “The Jedi are not as simple to scoop up as their pet clones, though I can assure you, it will happen.”

    Again he noted the aberrant press of the Force against his mind, but he ignored the feeling. “As you say. I do not want to wait any longer.” He did not give her a chance to respond as he turned and followed the path that the droids had taken down the corridor to the holding cell that had been prepared for the clones. Even as he felt the ship began to move, he stood aside and watched as the droids secured the units.

    Half a dozen. It was not quite as many as he had hoped, but he remembered that the younger units had been brought to the proper lab at Perdax, so these would have to do for now. The adult clones on Kamino did not take to the modifications quite as well as I'd like, but perhaps if I am not as encumbered by the ethics of the others in Tipoca City, I can rectify that. After Creon ensured that the units were being properly contained he pulled out a datapad and began making his initial notes.

    As he stood before a cell, one of the clones within – an officer in red-striped armor with oddly-tinted hair – stirred and lifted his head, his eyes briefly flicking to Creon's before the medical-droid who was securing his bonds injected him with another dose of tranquilizers.

    Willful creatures. Creon's eyes narrowed as the clone's head slumped against his chest. “Don't overdo it,” he said to the droid. “If its heart stops, the unit is no longer viable.” The droid made no response, but he knew that it had heeded his words. Some things were obedient, at any rate.


    Weave was aware only that he was dreaming.

    He was on Kamino; judging from the flash-training session he was engaged in, he seemed to be about five standard years old. The simulation was a miasma of images and sounds designed to lodge in his brain and stick there until he died. Seated at his station, the young clone kept his gaze fixed on the screen before him though his mind was elsewhere.

    The night before he and another brother – Blink – had sneaked out of their barracks to make an illicit trip to the cafeteria. However, on the way back, Weave had insisted that they take a detour to a nearby landing platform so that he could see the stars, as there was a rare break in the storms that usually seemed to never end.

    We're going to get in so much trouble for this.” Blink's voice was not quite a whisper, but it carried anyway. “You know that it's against the rules for us to be outside without a chaperone, but you keep doing it – even by yourself. You've been caught too many times.”

    Weave ignored him and moved to the edge of the area, his head craned up so that he could take in the night sky. The Kaminoans were remarkably stingy when it came to energy use, so there were few lights obscuring the stars and he thought he could look forever. After a moment he took a seat at the edge of the platform and dangled his legs over the ocean, leaning back on his palms so that he could get a better look. “How many do you think there are?”

    Blink stood beside him, arms crossed at his chest. “I don't know, Weave, and I don't care. Let's just go.” His voice sounded small in the night, especially laid against the brushing of the waves beneath them.

    How many do you think we'll get to see? I'd like to see them all.”

    If we live that long.” His brother spoke the words as if he was bored, as if Weave had asked him what color his uniform was. “Remind me never to come out here with you again. Look, we really should get back inside.”

    But he could not take his eyes off of the sky. “Why?”

    Because we'll get in trouble if we don't.”

    Why are we here?” Weave made a helpless gesture, unsure as to the reason he'd voiced the question, or what it even meant.

    Blink gave a long-suffering sigh. “Because we walked here.” He glanced at the doorway and tensed. “Oh no....”

    The tone of his brother's voice made Weave sit up and twist around to see the lithe figure of one of the Kaminoans approaching them. None of them ever looked angry or even agitated, but this one seemed mildly annoyed as she glided to the young clones. “You are not supposed to be here,” she said as the boys scrambled to stand at attention. “You will come inside at once.” Without waiting to see if they would follow, she turned back for the entrance.

    Blink followed.

    Weave looked at the stars.

    Come on,” his brother hissed at him. “You're going to get us in so much trouble.”

    At his words the Kaminoan turned and looked at Weave. “What is your designation?”

    There was a pause before he replied. “CT-22-3993.”

    Why are you here?”

    Weave looked up one last time. “I don't know.” He looked back at her. “Why are we here?”

    The Kaminoan tilted her head and studied him for a long moment before she nodded as if to herself. “I see.” She lifted her comm and called someone, using the strange language that the Kaminoans were careful to keep from the young, impressionable clones who learned fast and remembered everything. Several minutes later a few more of the Kaminoans appeared, and Weave felt his stomach churn as they approached him. Part of his brain screamed at him to run but he remained frozen in place, unable to look away from their large eyes even as he felt their hands close about his arms.

    The last things he saw before he awoke were the stars.

    A/N: The title for this chapter was taken from Act Three, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Henry V. Also, from here on out, things will be getting a bit darker, so the caveat from the beginning is in full effect. (I'm notoriously squeamish, so think "suspense" rather than "gore," but still. FYI. ;))​
    Thanks for reading! :)

  9. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Nine: Black and Blue

    Luminara knelt among the clones and listened as they shouted to one another; their identical voices blended together in a strange harmony as they called out numbers and names, listing fallen comrades while they pulled those who had survived from the remaining shards of battle. Beneath her palms one of them groaned and she realized that he would not survive his wounds, so she sent him a tendril of calm energy, hoping to give him some peace in the final moments of his brief life. Her hands were gritty and bloodstained; she watched his eyelids flutter just before his body stilled. There is no death, there is the Force.

    She rose and moved to the next man.

    Several minutes later she was aware of Kalinda and her squad approaching. As she looked up she felt a flash of alarm when she saw that one of the clones was carrying the Jedi, though she could still sense the dark-haired woman through the Force. Pausing only to ensure that the clone she'd been aiding was comfortable, Luminara stepped towards Kalinda and said the other woman's name as she took in her condition: she was bruised, battered and there was a gash in her left arm, but otherwise she was whole.

    Milo, I'm okay. You can put me down.” Kalinda looked up at the clone who held her; after a slight hesitation he nodded and set her on her feet. She glanced at Luminara before turning to the others who had followed in her wake. “We need to find out everything we can about the transport that took Stone and Weave. I want you to ask everyone, see if anyone got a location-”

    Luminara cleared her throat and lifted her brow when Kalinda turned to her. “I'll inform the Tranquility; if they spotted a ship, they will let us know. In the meantime, we must tend the wounded and check in with those whom we were called to protect.” She nodded to the cluster of houses in the distance, situated amidst rows of the slender cypress trees and patches of scrub brush, all of which were starting to be cast in a gold glow from the setting sun, though the air was still thick and heavy with dust.

    There was a moment of tense silence while Kalinda absorbed her words; finally she turned to her men. “While you're helping with your injured brothers, please see if you can't find something out.” As they nodded and slipped away, she looked back at Luminara. “They took your commander as well.”

    Gree? I hadn't realized. Even as she felt a flash of anxiety twinge her hands she resisted the urge to glance around the battlefield in search of his tell-tale green armor. “We have a job to do now, Kalinda.” At the other woman's expression she shook her head. “You must let them go. If it is at all possible to find them, we will, but for now we must complete our mission.”

    Then let's not waste any more time,” Kalinda said. The dark-haired Jedi's jaw was set and she didn't seem to notice that blood was seeping through the sleeve of her tunic.

    You need medical attention.”

    Kalinda shook her head. “I know....later. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can find out what happened and get them back.”


    The trio eventually returned to the brother that Traxis had spoken to, a scarred, sturdy-looking fellow named Buck, who was helping to load injured clones aboard several waiting stretchers that had been brought in with the troop carriers. Milo and the other members of Shadow Squad moved to help him and for several minutes they were quiet as they worked. A glance around reiterated to Milo that it had been worse than he'd first realized and he felt a pang over the loss of those who had fallen even as he heard the whine of another LAAT/i descending; looking up, he squinted as the vehicle blocked out the sun when it crossed his field of vision.

    After they'd finished loading the next group of wounded men he glanced at the other clone, who had removed his bucket to wipe his forehead. “You saw the ship that took our brothers?”

    Buck looked older, his face was lined and pitted with old scars. One of his eyes was completely silver and Milo realized with a start that it was a replacement to one that had been lost. “Yeah. Bunch of clankers jumped out and grabbed them – after hitting them with darts or something – it was hard to make out exactly what happened.” He spat on the ground. “Traxis said your captain and Commander Gree were taken?”

    And several others,” Crest said. “Alive.”

    Buck shook his head. “For now. Who knows what the Seps have in store for them?” He frowned at the looks that came over the others' faces. “What did you expect? We were made for this war...we're disposable.” He shrugged and gestured to the white-armored bodies that were scattered through the dirt around them. ”You think your Jedi General is going to run after them?”

    Our general will do whatever it takes to get them back,” Milo said, lifting his chin. “She won't abandon them, no matter what.” He glanced at Crest and Trax, who nodded in unison, though Buck let out a snort of derision as he turned away.

    Sure thing, shiny. Whatever you say. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take care of the brothers I can help.”


    The settlement was hardly more than a collection of houses, a few markets and a boating dock at the edge of a small, brackish lake; Thy Tello, the Rodian who had made the original transmission, came to greet the Jedi, several green-skinned members of his species trailing him. “We cannot thank you enough for your help,” he said as he met the two women. “Our people are eternally grateful to you, Master Jedi.”

    Thank the men who laid down their lives for you,” Kali replied. It was an effort to keep her voice calm but she was trying. In any case, she could not get Stone's face out of her mind. “Are you all okay? Anyone injured?” Tello shook his head and Kalinda nodded. “Great. Let's go.” She felt a hand on her non-injured arm and glanced at Luminara, who was looking at her with a trace of annoyance.

    The Mirialan woman turned to Tello. “We would like to look around and make sure that all is well before we leave. The former members of the Confederacy have been granted clemency, and are still under the protection of the Republic, so I must ensure that they are safe.” He nodded and indicated that they should follow.

    Kali bit back her impatience as she fell in step beside Luminara; after a moment she tried again to reach Stone through the Force but was met only with a void. It's not like he's trying to shut me out, it's just that he's not there. Dread tugged at her mind but she refused to give into the fear. He's alive. He must be alive. I will never believe otherwise until I have proof.

    Luminara cast her a curious look, but Kali ignored her and stared pointedly ahead, keeping her eyes on the settlement. Tello lead them to the center of the small village and Kalinda studied the area: it was not remarkable in any way, like the rest of the planet. A good place to hide, I suppose. Luminara asked Tello a question and the two began to talk in low, serious tones and after a few minutes, Kali meandered away. The people were mostly Rodians, given the proximity to their homeworld, though she saw a few Ithorians and one or two Weequay. There was a particularly large cluster of individuals around a holo-screen inside one of the shops. She paused to glance at the screen through the window and noticed what they were watching.

    It was a replay of the end of the bolo-ball finals. Kali watched as the referee placed large, golden medals around the necks of the purple-outfitted team and felt grief flood her mind. She was unaware how long she stood there until she felt a hand on her arm.


    Eltair won the finals.” Her voice was trapped between a whisper and a choke.

    After a moment's pause, Luminara drew her away from the house, steering Kali towards the outskirts of the village behind a thick patch of brush. They stood between the settlement and the battlefield and Kalinda felt the other woman's gaze on her even as she felt her mind being searched, so she made no attempt to hide her feelings for Stone. It doesn't matter anymore. Kali took a deep breath and met Luminara's widening eyes. “The man I love has been taken and I have to get him back.”

    The man you love?” Kali nodded and the Mirialan woman blinked and shook her head as if to clear it. When she spoke again, her tone was carefully neutral but Kali could sense her bewilderment. “I suspect a lecture on attachment will not be effective at the moment.”

    Despite herself, Kalinda laughed. “Well, I have my own theories on that matter.” At Luminara's raised brow she sighed. “Which you don't share, I know. But I must find him and Weave, and the others. Regardless of how I feel about Stonewall, they're all under our protection. We have to do everything we can to keep them safe.”

    That is our role, to an extent,” the other woman replied with a nod. “But we don't know where or for what purpose they've been taken.” She gave a deep inhale and frowned. “The only thing we do know is that Ventress is a part of it.”

    Kalinda lifted her hand to her forehead, shading here eyes as she searched the sky. “And Creon Dai, I'd guess, if they were still together.” An icy realization started to form in her gut as she recalled Trig's words on Kamino. He took my brothers and they never came back. No one knows what happened, but sometimes I could hear them....

    It felt like all of the blood was draining from her face. “He's going to-” She looked at Luminara, not wanting to even speak the words, though the other woman's steady gaze brought her a measure of composure. “He's a cyberneticist. He might have taken them on.”

    She tried not to shudder and she noted that the Mirialan Jedi seemed to grow a bit more pale at her words; however, when Luminara spoke, her voice was controlled. “You said as much on the Tranquility, but we have no way to confirm that – it may just be a ploy of some kind; Ventress was obviously toying with us during the battle. And....we don't know if they are even alive.”

    They are,” Kali said, her eyes closing. “They are alive.”

    Luminara put a hand on her arm. “Just because you wish it does not make it so, Kali.” The use of her nickname made the dark-haired Jedi look up. “Some things are not as we would have them to be, no matter how much we might desire them. That is why we are not allowed to form such bonds with others.” For a moment her voice was filled with sorrow and Kali was reminded of how much responsibility rested on the other woman's shoulders. “It is a difficult path we walk, Kalinda. But a necessary one.”

    Kalinda shook her head and frowned. “I don't know if I can believe that right now. All I know is that there are good men – who have done no wrong in their lives – who are in a great deal of danger right now, and we must do anything we can to help them.” She met Luminara's gaze again. “I can't give up hope....I have to go for him.” With those words she felt a flood of calm overtake her and she began to walk back to the battlefield.

    What exactly are you going to do, Kalinda?” Luminara's voice sounded small as she moved farther away.

    Kalinda turned back once. “I'm going to take care of those under my command. You should do whatever you think is right.”


    Every muscle in his body should have hurt, but all Stonewall could feel was a numbness that sapped his strength and muddled his mind. His mouth felt like sandpaper and his arms and legs were tightly bound though he was seated upright, leaning against the bulkhead. At one point he opened his eyes and lifted his head to see a slender Kaminoan regarding him with the calculating cold way they had; then he'd heard the whirr of a medical droid as it approached him and placed another hypospray against his neck. Again, darkness.

    The next time he opened his eyes he figured the brunt of the meds had worn off and no one had come back to check on him. No, us. He looked around the small cell he was in and realized that he was not alone. Weave...alive? Stone felt a thrill of relief at the rhythmic rise and fall of his brother's chest, though his wrists and ankles were also bound. Turning his head, he noticed Gree on his other side, also unconscious, as well as two more clones that he didn't recognize. And that last fellow is Weave's friend from the Tranquility...Blink.

    There was a noise outside the door and Stonewall dropped his head to his chest, thinking to feign sleep until he could get a better sense of what was going on. The door opened and he felt his heartbeat speed up despite his efforts to remain calm. Since his eyes were closed he could not see who entered the room even as the space beyond his eyelids brightened, but he would know that graceful tread anywhere. Aiwha-bait. A Kaminoan....Creon Dai, I suppose. Stone couldn't stop his jaw from tightening a fraction, though he was able to still his mind, drawing upon his practice meditation sessions with Kali.

    The footsteps started at one end of the line of clones and moved down. Stonewall tried to relax his mind and picture Kali. I don't know if you can hear me, but if you can, I'm here. I'm okay. He swallowed as Creon stopped in front of him. We need your help.


    Weave awoke from his dream and into a nightmare. Immediately upon coming out of the depths of his unconscious he saw the Kaminoan, and for a few frantic seconds his brain shut down and he was aware of only a shuddering terror that made his skin jerk like that of a fly-stung animal. Creon Dai – he assumed – was bending over Captain Stonewall, examining him with fascination, though at Weave's sudden movements he turned to regard the clone.

    After a moment he lifted a voice recorder to his mouth and spoke into it, his eyes flickering to Weave and the others. “Units are slowly coming out of their medicated condition. I am reluctant to risk further sedation until we reach Perdax, for their bodies are not equipped to handle the state for overlong periods of time. Past examples indicate that units who are too sedated will not respond properly to the implants and modifications.”

    While he spoke, Weave looked at Stonewall, whom he realized was awake, though he was trying to appear otherwise. He almost looks like he's meditating. Some of the panic had receded and Weave found that he was able to think a little more clearly. A glance next to him showed Blink, his head lolling to one side, as well as Commander Gree and two of his men, all of whom were unconscious still.

    Creon Dai was still speaking into his device, his tone filling with excitement. “I look forward to putting my theories on the nanogene droid to the test; this new alliance with Count Dooku will allow my talents to fully grow and become superlative. Additionally, the preparation of my new lab and the gathering of the younger units will also prove greatly beneficial to the tenor of my work.” He loomed over Stonewall, who seemed to reach a decision. Weave watched as his captain looked up and met the Kaminoan's eyes.

    Where are you taking us?”

    Creon shook his head. “You should not be talking. Save your strength....” he pulled a device from his belt and scanned the captain's armor. “CC-3077.”

    Stonewall shook his head. “Where are you taking us?”

    For one moment Weave wondered if Creon was going to strike the captain, but it was a passing thought. The Kaminoans were many things, but they were not violent. It's a waste of energy, after all.

    That is not your concern any longer. You should be pleased that you don't have to die in front of a blaster cannon. As soon as we cross through the asteroid belt, you will get a chance to be something far greater than the sum of your parts.”

    At these words, Stonewall muttered something in Mando'a, though he said nothing else, only seemed to grow calm and quiet once more. Rather than move away, however, Creon studied him for a moment before he turned for the door and stepped out. It slammed shut with a hollow sound that echoed in the small cell; at the noise, Stonewall's eyes lifted and he met Weave's gaze. “Are you okay?”

    Weave managed a nod. “More or less. You?”

    Fan-kriffing-tastic.” Stone's voice was grim as he looked to Gree beside him and began nudging the commander with his shoulder. “Commander? Commander Gree?”

    After a few moments the green-armored clone groaned and lifted his head, his eyes blinking as he took in the scene before he turned to Stonewall. “Where...what happened?”

    We're on a Separatist ship, being held by the Kaminoan scientist we were looking for, heading for an unknown destination.” Stonewall lifted his brow at Gree's expression. “Frankly, sir, I've been better.”

    While the Commander began to try and wake the men next to him, Weave caught Stonewall's eye. “The younger units...did you hear that? And what was all that about an asteroid belt?”

    The captain shook his head, his expression was guarded. “I'm not sure. See if you can't get your friend to wake up. I want to make sure that everyone's okay.”

    It was a relief to have something else to think about, so Weave looked at Blink and began nudging the other clone with the toe of his boot. “Blink?” He watched as the other clone stirred, his eyes opening after several long minutes. Weave sighed with relief even as Blink's head began jerking around to take in their predicament.

    What...?” Blink's expression changed from fear to grim acceptance as he listened to Weave's explanation and he nodded once. “So that's it, then. That's how it's going to end.”

    Nothing's over yet,” Stonewall said from across the room. “We're still alive. That's got to count for something.”

    Gree shook his head. “Do you really think that's a good thing?”

    At his words, Weave's mind was cast back to the Kaminoan and he shuddered. 'You will get a chance to be something far greater than the sum of your parts.' The realization was starting to creep in through his fear and he swallowed; his throat felt dry. Implants. Modifications. He can't mean....Weave met Stone's eyes and they shared a grim look.

    What?” Gree had noted the silent exchange. “What is it?” The other clones straightened and leaned forward even as Stonewall took a deep breath.

    But it was Weave who spoke. “Creon Dai is a cyberneticist: his research on Kamino was geared towards adding mechanical parts to clones in order to make them....better.” He felt his mouth curl with distaste at the thought. “From what I could tell, he deals with everything from ocular enhancement to skeletal reinforcements.”

    One of the other clones shifted in his bonds. “That sounds bad.”

    Weave gave a hollow laugh. “Yeah. You could say that.” Beside him, he felt Blink shudder as the others were murmuring to one another.

    Finally Stonewall and Gree exchanged looks and the commander cleared his throat. “Quiet down. The captain's right; we're not dead yet. If there's a way to get out of this...” He trailed off as they heard footsteps approaching outside of the room. Everyone grew silent and still as the door was activated and the lithe figure of Creon Dai stepped into the room once more, a datapad in his hand. A single medical droid followed, as well as four bulky supers, their mechanical arms lifted almost expectantly as if they awaited his orders.

    Those two,” Creon said, indicating Stonewall and Commander Gree. “Sedate them – not too much – and bring them to the next room. It will be easier if they are separated from the rest.”

    Weave could only watch as the droids approached Stonewall, whose entire body had gone very still at Creon's words. He didn't even appear to be breathing until one of the droids came close to him, which was when he tilted his head up and opened his eyes; somehow the droid was sent careening across the room with a satisfying, metallic clatter. However, the effort was futile and he seemed to realize it, though Weave had no idea what had happened. It's almost like he used the Force. The realization stunned him, but he had little time to dwell on it as the other droids approached the captain and held him down while they shot him with another dose of tranqs; Weave watched in dismay as his captain's head fell forward and his body slumped.

    Creon seemed curious, though he said nothing. As the droids moved to Gree, he gave them a dark look but they did not allow him the chance to try and fight back as they injected him.

    After the two clones were secure the droids – including the one that Stone had 'pushed' – removed them from the cell, allowing the door to slam shut behind them. For a moment, Weave could hear the sounds of their bodies being dragged off as he looked at Blink, who was staring at the door in shock. “What are we going to do?”

    The officers had brought them a measure of comfort, but they were gone. His gut was churning and Weave shook his head. “I don't know.”


    A/N: I'm a little unsure of how Luminara's coming across; it's not that she doesn't care about the clones, but she has a broader focus than Kali in this instance. Hopefully she doesn't appear too cold-hearted.

    Thanks for reading! :)
  10. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Ten: Something to Hold On To

    You are acting reckless, Kalinda. You are letting your emotional attachment to the captain cloud your judgment.” After her fellow Jedi's outburst, Luminara had stood for a moment before she moved to catch up with the dark-haired woman who did not appear to be listening. She has not changed that much, after all. Still too attached, still too emotional. Despite herself, the Mirialan Jedi felt annoyance ripple through her as the two women hurried back to the battlefield. “I had hoped that you would have matured beyond those tendencies.”

    This made Kalinda pause, her pace resuming after only a split-second. “And I had thought that maybe this war would have taught you to be more sympathetic.” They reached the edge of the place where the clones had fought and she lifted her comlink. “Guys? We need to get back to the Tranquility. How's the situation here?” Even as she spoke, her eyes scanned the area; it seemed as though all of the dead and wounded had been collected and brought aboard the cruiser. Only a few clones were left, checking through the wreckage of droids and salvaging what equipment they could.

    Looks about as good as it's going to get, boss. The last few transports are about to leave.”

    Great. Get back to the Tranquility as soon as you can. Do a scan from the bridge to see if – by some miracle – you can get a lock on any of the tracking chips in their armor; I'll find you and we can proceed from there.” As the transmission ended she looked at Luminara. “Say whatever you think is necessary. All I ask is that you do it after.” Her tone held no room for argument and Luminara was struck by the certainty of her gaze.

    The Jedi Master took a deep breath to bring herself a measure of calm; unbidden, an image of Gree had sprang to her mind, sending a flash of alarm through her that she quelled in instant as she organized her thoughts. It was too much of a coincidence for Ventress to appear just long enough to distract us from the others being taken. She frowned. “Very well,” the Mirialan Jedi said at last. “We will operate under the assumption that Ventress, Creon and the clones are together. The question now is where to find them? I doubt that your men will be able to locate their tracking chips.””

    The dark-haired woman stepped towards the nearest transport. “Leave that to me.”

    Luminara followed, ignoring the faint flare of impatience as they both stepped aboard. “What do you mean? What are you talking about, Kalinda?” The doors shut, encasing them in darkness as the LAAT/i began to lift off, pressing her feet to the floor with the motion. There were only a few other clones aboard – Shadow Squad was not among them – and Luminara got the distinct impression that everyone was listening to the Jedi's hushed conversation.

    Later. I'll tell you later.” The other woman's voice was a whisper.

    A frown creased Luminara's face, though she nodded. “I can hardly wait.”


    When Stonewall woke again, everything was more muddled and it was difficult for him to concentrate. His brain felt thick and gelatinous, and his limbs were stiff and sore from being bound for so long; but he could still feel the Force, so all was not lost. Beside him, Gree was unconscious again and the wo men were in another holding cell, lying on the duranium floor. He tried to sit up, but his body would not respond to his commands, so he relented for the moment and tried to focus his thoughts. He took several deep breaths to push aside his anxiety and pierce the haze in his mind, to reach Kali through the Force.

    His concentration was broken when he heard the door open again and Creon Dai strode into the room, eying the clones with curiosity. “You are awake already? Remarkable.” He lifted his recorder and began speaking into it, though Stone found that he didn't much care for whatever it was the Kaminoan was saying as he struggled to sit up. Finally he managed, though the effort made his head swim as the blood shifted in his body. Creon seemed almost amused as he watched the captain's exertions. “You are quite resilient. I think I can accomplish great things with you.” He spared a glance to Gree before looking back at Stonewall. “Perhaps skeletal reinforcement. I think you might be able to withstand the transition with the nanogene droids.”

    Stone found his voice, though his words were slurred from the copious amount of drugs. “Go crink yourself, di'kut.” It wasn't the most eloquent choice of words, but he was pleased to see that the Kaminoan looked annoyed, though his features smoothed after an instant.

    We'll see how you fare when we reach-”

    He was cut off by a female presence at the door. “Do not tell them where we are going, you fool.” Stonewall winced at the familiar voice and felt his stomach tighten, even though he recalled Creon's earlier words about an asteroid belt and some place called Perdax.

    Creon shook his head. “What difference does it make?”

    Asajj Ventress could not be seen, but her voice was recognizable enough. “It's common sense with prisoners of any kind.” The Kaminoan still looked perplexed and she spoke again, albeit with more impatience than before. “The droids will see to it that they are kept quiet until we finish our journey. For now, you will remain in your quarters.” She paused and Stonewall felt her scrutiny through the Force, so he closed off his mind from her; it was not unlike the time on Aruna he'd tried to shut Obi-Wan out, except her consciousness was sharp and acrid, settling against his own like a falling knife. Despite this, he sensed no indication that she realized his abilities, which was heartening.

    She doesn't know I can use the Force. Perhaps that's our advantage. The presence dimmed as she left, and Creon Dai sighed and glanced at Stonewall with a last look before stepping out of the the room. Stone waited several minutes until after the footsteps had faded before he tried to contact Kali again. Kalinda....if you can hear me, they're taking us to Perdax. Ventress is here as well. He wracked his brain to try and remember exactly where the planet was, but he'd never heard of it.

    In the end, he just resorted to the same thought, over and over, shouting the litany in his mind. Ventress. Perdax. Asteroid belt.


    The two other clones were named Tackle and Chip. Weave committed their names to his memory as he had done with every brother that he met, though he couldn't help but wonder if any of them would make it out of this alive.

    What are we going to do?” Chip was younger than the others, his skin unblemished by scars and his armor free of nicks and carbon scouring.

    Beside him, Tackle looked at the door where the officers had been taken only minutes ago. “I think the captain had the right idea with trying to take out those tinnies, though I'm not sure how he managed it.” He was a little more battle-worn than his brothers and his voice was rough.

    Does it matter?” Weave asked. “You really think we stand a chance against a ship full of droids while we're in this state?” He nodded to the door. “They took us alive for a reason.”

    You really think they mean to....experiment on us, or whatever you were talking about?” It was apparent that Blink was trying to keep his voice calm, but they could all hear the tremor.

    I think it's the most logical assumption.” Weave frowned. He, too, felt the clenching fear in his chest, but with Stonewall gone, he felt that it was his job to try and keep the others calm. “But we can't give in to despair. Our mission was to capture Creon, so I know that General Halcyon will come for us as well.”

    Tackle raised his brow and regarded Weave. “You think so, do you? Why would a Jedi bother over a few clones?”

    That bald witch is here,” Chip replied. “They wanted to capture her, didn't they? General Unduli might come for her.”

    Blink frowned and looked at the floor. “Even if they do come for Ventress, there's no saying that the Jedi will bother with us. I know I wouldn't.” At the others expressions he shrugged. “It's not prudent to risk more lives for a rescue mission.”

    I know that Kalinda will come for us,” Weave shot back. The others gaped at his use of the Jedi's name, but he found that he didn't care. “I know she will.”

    How do you know?” Blink glared at him like he'd done some wrong and Weave paused, unsure as to whether he should tell the captain's secret to these men who were – for all intents and purposes – strangers.

    Finally he shook his head. “I just do. She has never abandoned us. She won't start now.”

    Tackle heaved a sigh and tried to test his bonds. “Newbies.”


    You're so innocent,” the other clone replied as he looked at Weave. “You really believe that the Jedi will rescue us in a blaze of glory, don't you? Why? Why would a Jedi bother?” Weave's mouth opened but no sound came out and Tackle nodded. “Exactly. We're disposable. We're numbers. They talk about compassion and justice, but at the end of the day we're cannon fodder and they're the heroes of the's not fair, but that's how it is. Now,” he strained against his bonds again and sighed. “If I'm going to die here, it's going to be while I take out as many of those clankers as I can. It'll be a sunny day on Kamino before I let that aiwha-bait work on me.”

    His speech had seemed to hearten Chip and Blink in an odd way, though Weave could only taste bitterness in the back of his throat at the other clone's words. What if he's right? What if she doesn't come for us? He knew that doubt was a dangerous thing, a breath away from despair, but he could not quell the feeling, anyway.

    It was proof enough that he was learning to be more tactful that Milo did not vocalize his first thought as he and his brothers stepped aboard the Tranquility, which was that he really wished Weave was there. He's always the go-to guy as far as this tech stuff goes. The three clones broke into a jog as they made their way to the bridge. When they reached their destination, Crest took the lead and approached one of the clones stationed at the scanners.

    General Halcyon's orders,” he said to the unarmored brother. “We're to scan for the clones that have been taken by that rogue Seppie ship that you may or may not have noticed.”

    The clone shook his head. “We caught a glimpse of one, but didn't get a lock before it jumped to hyperspace. We had other things to worry about.” However, he stepped aside while Milo attempted the scan. All clones had a tracking chip embedded in their armor for situations such as these, though they were notoriously inaccurate.

    But we still have to try. The console gave him an almost angry chirp. “No go. I can't tell if they're disabled, not working, or if we're too far away.” He tried to keep the frustration out of his voice.

    The three squad-mates cast each other grim looks before Crest nodded and lifted his wrist comm, the dark-haired Jedi's voice sounding a moment later. “Yes?”

    Crest shook his head, though the transmission was voice-only. “Sorry, boss.”

    Thanks, guys. It was worth a shot. We're nearly me at the Wayfarer, please.” Her voice sounded strange and distant, and Milo didn't need the Force to guess that she was frightened.


    Though Stone had made an effort to keep the fear from his thoughts, Kali could feel it through the Force as palpable as if it were her own. Seated on the bed in her quarters, aboard Shadow Squad's transport, she took a deep breath. I have to keep calm. That's the only way I can help anyone. If she concentrated she could feel his presence, pulling her towards him like a compass. Stonewall. Don't worry. I'm coming for you and the rest. Just hang in there.

    She was dimly aware of the others coming aboard, of their curiosity as they searched for her, but she ignored them, as she plucked Stone's thoughts from the distance between them. Ventress. Perdax. Asteroid belt. The words were choked, smudged.

    Her heartbeat picked up and she glanced around as if seeing her and Stone's room on the ship for the first time. Finally she shook her head and raised her comlink. “Luminara? She is there. She's with the clones. We must get to someplace called Perdax immediately.” At her words, there was a tentative knock on the door; she raised her hand and waved it open it to reveal the three remaining members of her team, all of whom were watching her intently.

    There was a pause before the Jedi Master replied. “And how do you know this, Kalinda?”

    It doesn't matter right now,” she said, rising from the bed and moving towards the others. “We have to leave immediately. Every moment we deliberate is wasted time that these men don't have.” At her words, the clones' expressions had grown alarmed though they still said nothing as Luminara answered.

    Very well. Where is this place?”

    Perdax? I have no idea....” Kali trailed off and concentrated, not on Stone's mind, but his presence in the Force, on the pull of his consciousness to her own. It was vague, but it was better than nothing. She held up her comlink again and was able to give a general direction, though she knew that it would suffice for only a little while; already she could feel their connection growing weaker. I only hope that's from the actual distance between us and not from anything that's happening to him.

    When Luminara spoke again, her voice held a warning tone. “I would like to talk with you, Kalinda. Please meet me in your quarters immediately.”

    Can't wait.” Kali said as she signed off, though she was relieved to feel that the Tranquility was starting to move. She looked up and met the startled gazes of her men. I'm sorry, Stone. I know you wanted to keep it a secret, but they deserve to know. “Come with me,” she said as she made to step into the galley. “I don't want to have to explain all this twice.”

    Without a word, the followed her off of the Wayfarer and to her quarters. Luminara was there, naturally, and though she raised her brow in surprise to see the clones that trailed behind Kali, she made no comment. Outside of the small viewport she could see the stars streaking by. The moment the door closed behind them, Kalinda took a deep breath before she spoke. “After our mission to Aruna some months ago, Stonewall developed a sensitivity to the Force.” She paused to let the words sink in; from Traxis, Crest and Milo she felt astonishment and curiosity.

    Though Luminara was hiding her emotions well, Kali could detect that she was also startled at the revelation. “He can access the Force?”

    We're not sure how or why, but we think it has something to do with the fact that I love him. On that mission, I realized that – for me, anyway – love and the Force are linked; once I understood how I felt for him, he was able to use the Force.” She took another breath and glanced at his brothers, who were openly gaping at her now in a way that would have been amusing in any other circumstance. “I don't know why this is possible, but his ability grows stronger with each passing day. I've been training him in meditation and....other techniques ever since, and he's learning at an incredible rate.”

    That's what we do,” Crest managed to say, though he shook his head in wonder. “Sir,” he added, seeing Luminara's eyes flick to him before she looked back at Kali.

    You are certain?”

    Certain of what? That I love him? Absolutely. That he can use the Force?” Kali exhaled as she nodded. “We've been able to communicate through the Force for some time....and I can sense him as clearly as if he were a Jedi. It's how I know where they're being taken. It's how I know that Asajj Ventress is on their ship.” She held Luminara's gaze, noting the bewilderment on the other woman's face. “I just don't know where Perdax is.”

    Luminara blinked. “I've never heard of it. But if you can....sense your captain through the Force, then it might not matter quite so much.” There was silence for several moments while she studied Kalinda and her men before she spoke again, addressing the clones. “Would you please go to the helm and inform them that they should remain in contact with Kalinda? I'd also like you to use the instruments in the tactical room to see if you can't locate this planet.”

    Kali nodded to them. “Thanks, guys.” She watched as they filed out of the room before she looked back to Luminara again. “Fire at will.”

    But the Mirialan Jedi was silent for several minutes, her gaze on the stars beyond the window. Finally she looked at Kalinda, and the dark-haired Jedi was startled to see the sorrow in the other woman's gaze, though it faded when she spoke. “I'm not going to lecture you, Kalinda. It is very clear that you've made a decision that no amount of argument from me will be able to change. Given the circumstances, I think it best to leave my comments to the side, at least until we complete our mission. However-” Kali winced at this word. “-if what you say is true and your captain is now Force-sensitive – for whatever reason – then the Council must be informed.”

    I know. Believe it or not, I'm planning on telling them. I just wanted to know a little more before I said anything.” She ran her hands through her hair; both women still filthy from the battle and her arm was starting to throb. Perhaps it's been hurting the whole time and I'm only now noticing.

    Luminara sighed; for a moment she looked as tired and afraid as Kali felt, but again the feeling passed when she spoke. “You love him?” Images of Stonewall flooded Kali's mind, memories of their brief time together and she found herself unable to speak, so she nodded. The Jedi Master glanced at Kalinda's arm. “You need to get that taken care of.”

    Kalinda met Luminara's gaze. “I will. Thank you.”


    Creon Dai watched as Perdax came into view. Retrofitted from one of the Trade Federation's crescent-shaped Lucrehulk-class battleships, the station was fixed in the orbit of an uninhabited system well in the Outer Rim, far from the prying eyes of the Republic. Beside him, the small image of Count Dooku seemed to regard the station as well, though Creon knew that he could not see it. “It has been outfitted as we discussed, my friend,” he said. “Your labs are prepared and fully functional and a team is waiting to collect your subjects once the Indelible docks.”

    Excellent.” The Kaminoan looked down at the holographic image. “However, I would like to discuss the matter of acquiring a Force user. With their already enhanced natural abilities, the potential of what I could accomplish is limitless.” He glanced towards the pale woman who stood to the other side of the hologram. “Your agent has not been particularly helpful in this regard. I'm told that there were two Jedi in the battle where the units were collected, yet she made no effort to bring them to me.”

    Dooku's eyes flicked to Ventress, who met his gaze without blinking. “Is this true?”

    I was unwilling to risk further delay by attempting to capture the Jedi at that time,” Ventress said, her eyes narrowing as she gave a wave of her hand to indicate Creon. “Furthermore, I do not take orders from this...but if you order me, Master, I will do so.”

    Dooku looked back at Creon, who lifted his shoulders. “You have enough subjects. I would like to know if you can accomplish what you say you can before detaining my agent any further.”

    Creon made a sound of irritation. “It was my understanding that a Sith is more than capable of handling a few Jedi, Count.” What else are they good for, if not to detain a Force-user for my work? I was promised to have every advantage, every opportunity.

    I look forward to your success, my friend,” Dooku said, ignoring Creon's words. “Keep me up to date.” He looked back at Ventres. “When he is settled, report to me and we'll discuss your next mission.”

    She gave a low bow as the transmission ended.
  11. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    A/N: The next few chapters get pretty grim, so consider this a warning. Though, if you've been following along, you can guess what's coming...


    Chapter Eleven: Across the Stars

    The bulky B2 droids took no chances with Stonewall, a fact that gave him a grim kind of satisfaction, though it meant that there was no way for him to escape or make a hostile move of any kind against the damn things as they removed him from the Separatist ship and brought the clones aboard what he assumed was Perdax. It looks like a droid ship, not a planet. He had not been able to get a look at the exterior, but he'd studied the layout of the enemy vessels enough to know a Trade Federation ship when he was dragged across one.

    Gree was still beside him; along with another dose of sedative, they'd kept the clones firmly bound and were bringing them to a section of the ship that looked like it had been refitted as a laboratory of some kind. The room was large enough to have been used for storage of most goods, though it was not a hangar; it had been outfitted with a series of sharp, intense lights as well as several long, metallic tables covered with various medical instruments. There had once been wide windows along one edge, but they had been covered with layers of duraplast, making the room feel almost claustrophobic despite its size. To one side there were an assortment of medical-grade droids, standing about as tall as a Human with three legs and arm-like extensions with various uncomfortable-looking ends.

    The other clones had already been brought in and were clearly still sedated, as the droids seemed to have little trouble securing them to the far wall to a series of braces that kept their hands above their heads, and their bodies pressed close to the wall with thick straps around their torsos. The fact that they were at least alive gave Stonewall a tiny bit of comfort. “Weave,” he called to his brother as he was placed beside Gree, bound like the others, though he appeared to be awake. “Are you guys okay?”

    Weave made no reply, his eyes darting across the lab as he strained against the bonds; Stone realized that his brother was panicking, so he tried to send him a current of calming Force energy, as he'd done with Kali. Gradually, he could see Weave relax, until his head fell to the side and his eyes closed. Kriff. I overdid it. Stone frowned, but there was nothing he could do at the moment, especially when the Kaminoan swept into the room to survey the droids' handiwork.

    Bring that one to the center of the room,” he said, indicating one of Gree's men.

    Chip.” Gree's voice was quiet and Stone glanced over to see the commander's eyes on their brother, a smooth-faced, younger looking clone who tensed as the droids approached him. The moment that they released him from the wall, he gave a shout and attempted to pummel the closest one with his shoulder, though there were too many supers for him to fight effectively against as they forced him towards the Kaminoan.

    Stonewall's heart was hammering in his chest, but he couldn't move, couldn't do anything besides watch helplessly as Chip struggled in earnest now even as Creon began to work over him, after he injected the clone with something. More tranquilizers? Stonewall was hopeful, but the feeling faded quickly after a few minutes when Chip let out a groan, shifting on the table, the sounds of his elbows and heels hitting the metallic surface echoing in the vast room. What's going on? What did he do?

    As if in response, he suddenly felt something emanating from Chip that he could only think of as alien. Foreign and strange and...wrong. Stone's eyes closed. He could feel the terror and pain of his brother through the Force so on impulse, he sent Chip a bout of calming energy, as much as he could muster, and the clone quieted. Creon seemed not to notice, and the feeling of alien continued.

    It went on for hours. Stonewall used every bit of his concentration and focus to keep Chip calm and quiet even as he tried to allay the other man's pain, though in the end it proved to be for nothing, as he felt the flicker of life from his brother begin to fade before it was gone.

    The Kaminoan cursed in his native tongue and stared over the lifeless clone body for several moments before snapping a command at the droids, who had remained to assist him. Gree had been looking from Stone to Chip during the process, though he made no comment to the clone captain; instead he murmured a few words in Mando'a as they watched Chip's body be lifted and removed from the room.

    Beside Stonewall, Weave stirred, and the Kaminoan's gaze lifted to the remaining clones.


    At first he went quietly.

    But once he realized that he was not being led back to the barracks, that he was being taken to another section of Tipoca City, Weave began to struggle, to fight. He kicked, twisted, tried to bite. He became a small storm of a boy, a gust of wind, a coil of frothing sea. He shouted. Something had come over him and he wished he were made of an ocean wave; he wanted to slam against the Kaminoans and destroy them like they were about to do to him.

    They brought Weave to a small chamber and he knew that they were going to kill him. Others had spoken in hushed tones about “reconditioning,” which was a word that they all knew meant the end for any clone. When he saw the table, when his eyes squinted in the gleaming lights, some rational part of his brain urged him to be still, to be quiet. He was not a storm, he was not a gust of wind or an ocean wave. He was only a number, but he was also alive. And he very much wanted to stay that way.

    So Weave changed. He looked up at the Kaminoans who had led him and asked, in a small voice, what was happening.

    You are repeatedly disobedient. You always ask too many questions.” Their responses were smooth and glossy.

    He nodded. “I'm sorry.” His mind raced to think of a reason, a way to explain his behavior in a way that would allow him to live. He looked up at the nearest Kaminoan, the one who was guiding him to the table. “The storms,” he said. “They give me nightmares sometimes.” It was true, many of the clones experienced such things from the constant barrage of bad weather.

    The Kaminoan looked down at him. “That is no excuse for your actions.” Weave's stomach dropped.

    However, the second Kaminoan sighed and looked at the first. “Are you certain? We've lost too many of them recently. The Prime Minister has been watching our division carefully....” There was much he did not say, but the other one seemed to understand. Weave tried very hard not to look too interested in their conversation.

    The margins of loss are still within acceptable parameters.” The first Kaminoan did not seem convinced.

    But the second one shook his head and looked at Weave for several long moments, finally picking up an unfamiliar instrument from the lone table in the painfully white room. He twirled it idly in his hands while he spoke. “You will not ask any more questions. Is that clear?” He watched as Weave nodded, then looked at his companion. “This one is adequate. And I have no wish to remain here any longer.”

    Weave hardly breathed; he wished he could stop his heart from its furious pounding that he thought was echoing in the room. But he was silent.

    The first Kaminoan hesitated, though eventually she nodded. “Very well. Let's just take the unit back to the others and be done with it for now.”

    The next day, when Blink asked him what had happened, Weave didn't answer. He didn't speak for three weeks after the incident, though his brain would not be still.


    Luminara, it's good to see you again.” Obi-Wan Kenobi's voice filled Luminara's quarters after she'd left Kalinda's room. “I assume you have a development to report?”

    Are you aware that the clone captain that Kalinda has been working with has developed a sensitivity to the Force?” She watched as Obi-Wan's face stilled, though he nodded after a moment.

    His hand went to his beard. “I am.”

    Then you are also aware that she has developed an attachment to the clone?”

    Obi-Wan shifted in his chair and did not reply for several seconds before he nodded again. “I left the matter to Kalinda's discretion, Luminara. She wanted to better understand the nature of Captain Stonewall's sudden Force abilities before she went to the Council. As far as her feelings for him go...” He paused. “Well, again, I agreed to let her proceed as she felt was best with the matter. Surely you are not concerned with one Jedi's...affection for a clone? It is not uncommon for those who work together in similar circumstances to develop such feelings.”

    Is he defending her actions? Luminara took a breath. “I see. You and Kalinda have always been close, so I suppose I should not be startled by your perspective. However, her actions go against the Code, Obi-Wan, no matter how harmless you would make them out to be.”

    He shook his head. “I feel that there is more going on than we know, Luminara. I made the decision to let her handle the matter as she saw fit, and I stand by that. If you wish to speak to the others, you are free to do so, but I think that there are more pressing concerns right now.”

    There was a finality in his voice that left little room for argument, and Luminara decided that it would not be constructive to press the matter with him any further. “As you say. In any case, we are en route to intercept both Creon Dai and Asajj Ventress, if Kalinda's 'source' is correct. I wanted to keep the Council informed.”

    Kalinda's 'source?'”

    She can speak to the captain through the Force,” Luminara replied, working to keep her tone neutral. “I take it that you were not aware of that?”

    Obi-Wan's eyebrows lifted, though he said nothing for a moment. Finally he nodded. “Of course. Please continue to keep us informed, Luminara. May the Force be with you.” The transmission ended and she took a deep breath, trying to clear her mind of the agitation that was stirring within her.

    Why does it bother me so? He's correct that we have other things to concern ourselves with, and it is not my responsibility to ensure that Kalinda's actions are in line with the Order. She is an adult and a Jedi Knight; she is the only one capable of making her own decisions, for good or ill. Her shoulders were tight and she was starting to feel fatigued from the day's efforts; after she checked in with the helm to ensure that they were on course, she showered and changed into a fresh set of robes. But despite her outward visage of calm, her thoughts kept returning to one individual.

    Gree is in the custody of Creon Dai and Ventress. If Kalinda is correct, they are still alive and bound to be the subjects of the Kaminoan's 'research.' She felt a shiver pass through her, though she quelled the feeling in the next instant.

    It will do no good for me to become sentimental now. At this thought she frowned. Sentimental? Over Gree? He's a valued associate, nothing more. We work well together...he's an asset. But the words were not ringing as true as they should have, and again she was filled with doubt. And even as she slipped on her hood and circled her belt around her waist, she could hear Kalinda's voice in the back of her mind: 'They're all under our protection. We have to do everything we can to keep them safe.'


    The three members of Shadow Squad were silent until they reached the turbolift, which was when Crest glanced at his brothers. “”

    Unexpectedly, Traxis let out a bark of laughter. “I'll say.”

    The captain can...use the Force?” Milo frowned as he watched the instrument panel indicate the levels they were passing. “I've never heard of a Force-sensitive clone.”

    Me either. I knew he was hiding something from us,” Crest replied, shaking his head. “That di'kut...he should know better by now.”

    I wonder what all he can do?” Milo asked. “Do you think he'll get a lightsaber?”

    Traxis shrugged. “As long as his head doesn't get too big for his bucket, I don't care what in the kriff he can do.” The lift paused and they stepped out onto the bridge. No one paid them any mind as they went to the tactical room, and Milo began pulling up star charts on the holomaps while Crest and Traxis continued their discussion.

    The bald clone shook his head. “You're thinking too small, Trax. This could be huge. I mean, two Force-users in our squad? How amazing would that be? No one would be able to stop us.”

    Let's just worry about getting our brothers back alive,” Traxis said as he nodded to Milo. “Any luck?”

    Milo shook his head. “Wouldn't mind some help, but Perdax doesn't seem to be a known planet.” He frowned. “I wonder how it happened?”

    Traxis shrugged. “Who knows how the Force works, exactly?”

    I'd have thought a Jedi would,” Crest replied. “Considering they make it their life's work to study it and all.”

    General Halcyon?” Milo lifted his comm and watched as the Jedi's form appeared at his wrist. She looked as if she was sitting in the infirmary, her arm was lifted and a clone medic was spraying bacta across her skin.


    He sighed. “Perdax isn't a planet, as far as I can tell....unless someone erased it from the Republic database.” He recalled her saying once that a similar thing had happened with Kamino in the Jedi Archives.

    She nodded and glanced at the clone beside her. “I'll try to contact him again...though it's getting a little harder.” He could tell that she was worried, though she tried to hide it as she thanked the medic and got to her feet. “I'll call you guys when I do. In the meantime, could you please try and figure out what's been going on with the dampers on the Wayfarer? I have a feeling we'll need it pretty soon.”

    After she signed off, Traxis let out a huff of air. “Back down to the hangar. I swear....that woman will be the death of me.”


    Kali didn't want to waste any more time, so she found an empty room in the infirmary and settled down at the edge of the bed to attempt to contact Stonewall again. It was an effort to quiet her thoughts and push her worry aside, but after several minutes of careful breathing, she was able to relax enough to extend her awareness out to the man she loved. Stone?


    It was like shouting across a chasm, but she was determined. Are you okay?

    Her chest tightened when he did not answer right away, but she released the feeling. After a moment he replied. I am. Not the others. It was difficult to get even a simple idea across and she could feel how tenuous their connection was.

    Another breath. What happened?

    He killed Chip. There was overwhelming grief in Stone's thoughts. We were helpless.

    Where are you?

    There was a pause before he replied. Lucrehulk. Not sure where, but I don't-

    Her hands clenched as Stonewall's presence abruptly vanished. Stone? Stonewall? Kali's breath grew short, but she forced herself to remain calm and tried again to reach out to him.

    She was met with nothing.

    After a few minutes she opened her eyes and looked around the room. It was sparse and spare, outfitted with only a cot and a few dark and silent instruments. Fear hammered in her chest, but she refused to let it take over her as she rose and headed for the door. Stonewall, if you can still hear me, we're on the way.


    Gree held his breath until the aiwha-bait left the room; as soon as the doors closed he looked at Captain Stonewall. “What's going on?” They were beside one another, close enough to speak without being overheard by the others.

    The clone captain said nothing for several minutes before he seemed to reach a conclusion. “The Jedi are on their way,” he said, his words deliberate. “They're coming for us.”

    The commander gritted his teeth, as the answer had only brought more questions to his mind. “How do you know?”

    Another maddening pause. “I just do.”

    All sense of formality had been dropped, given the circumstances, though a wry part of Gree's mind made a mental note to reprimand him for the lack of propriety later. If we have a later, that is. He shook his head. “Captain....I want answers. Please,” he added, his eyes closing briefly as he thought of Chip. “I need to know.”

    I've been in communication with Kalinda.” Stonewall's voice was quiet and his eyes were distant.


    The captain sighed. “Through the Force, Commander. I've been speaking with her through the Force.” He cast Gree a knowing look. “Before you ask: I'm not exactly sure about why I can use the Force, or even how it came to be, but it's there and I wanted to take advantage of it in some way.”

    As that had been his next question, Gree was quiet for a moment, considering the information before he looked back at Stonewall. Oddly enough, it was not the revelation that the other clone could use the Force that shocked him the most, though he reasoned that it might have just been too much to absorb at the moment. “Kalinda?”

    I love her.”

    The words were small but they were stunning. Now, Gree gaped at him. “You love her?”

    After giving him a look that – for a moment – resembled pity, Stonewall nodded. “More than anything else in this galaxy, Commander. But the best part is that she loves me as well. It's unlikely, I know,” he actually laughed. “But there it is: I love her.”

    It was enough to take his mind off their predicament for a few moments while he thought it over some more. “I don't understand, Captain. How did it happen?”

    For me?” Stonewall managed a shrug, despite his bonds. “I'm not sure. All I know is that – pretty much from the first moment I looked at her, spoke to her – I couldn't keep myself away, even when I didn't really know what was happening.” He smiled, his eyes distant as he recalled some memory. “Eventually, I realized what it was that I was feeling.”

    And what about her? I thought that Jedi weren't allowed to love.”

    Here, Stonewall laughed again; Gree was struck by the joy in his brother's voice despite everything else they were facing. “The moment that she told me she loved me was....” He paused and took a deep breath. “I can't even explain it. 'Happy' isn't strong enough. She fills me with strength. She makes me want to be better all the time. When we're together, there's no place I'd rather be.” He was quiet for a moment before he looked back at the commander. “She's everything to me.”

    It was too much. Gree shook his head, though when he spoke his voice was uncertain. “You sound like a traitor. Our duty is to the Republic, above all else.” Isn't it? It was a strange thought.

    Again, the maddening look of near-pity as the Captain replied, without a moment's hesitation. “Then call me a traitor, because I've found something actually worth fighting for, Gree.”

    The commander was spared from replying to this when Weave groaned and lifted his head from his place beside the clone captain. Stonewall twisted his head and looked at his brother, who was glancing around the room and blinking rapidly. “It wasn't a nightmare, was it?”

    No, vod.” Stonewall's voice was quiet. “I'm afraid not. But Kali's on her way. In fact....” He trailed off and his eyes became unfocused and glazed.

    Gree leaned over as much as he could. “What's going on with him?”

    I'm not sure, sir,” Weave replied. “Captain?”

    From his place beside Gree, Tackle cleared his throat. “I think we're about to have company again, Commander.” There were footsteps outside the door before it slid open once more to reveal the lithe figure of Creon Dai, who instantly caused all of the clones to tense as they followed his movements. The Kaminoan slipped over to them, his movements held the fluidity of water. He came to rest before the officers, meeting their gazes with large, opaque eyes.

    Gree held his head up and did his best to stare down Creon. Beside him, Stonewall still appeared to be in some kind of trance and Gree silently prayed to whatever gods would listen to him for his brother to snap out of it. But he kept still.

    Creon Dai studied him a moment more, then turned to the doorway, where another figure stood by that they had all missed somehow. “Well?”

    Asajj Ventress moved across the chamber, her motions at once serpentine and smooth. “You have a good instinct, though you should have told me sooner,” she said as she came to stand before the clone captain. “I can feel him accessing the Force. It's no wonder he was able to push that droid to the side.” There was a smile in her tone that made Gree shiver.

    The Kaminoan's voice was pleased. “Excellent. Perhaps I don't need the Jedi after all. Can you tell how strong it is with him? I have no way to quantify such things.”

    She studied Stonewall for a moment before stepping closer to him, her mouth twisting in a smile. “I thought I felt the presence of another Force-user, if only a mild one,” she said in a sibilant tone, running her hand along Stone's cheek, smiling when his eyes snapped open and he flinched from her touch. “How strange....a Force-sensitive clone. What are we going to do with you?”

    There was fear, real fear in Stonewall's eyes for a split-second, though Gree watched it recede as quickly as it had come as his jaw tightened and he said nothing. Good job, soldier. Gree glared at the bald woman even as she remained focused on the captain. “Leave him alone, Separatist scum.”

    Her pale eyes flicked to him. “Brave words, little soldier.” She continued to caress the captain's cheek.

    Anger and revulsion streaked through the commander. “Then untie him and at least make it a fair fight.”

    I'm with him.” Stonewall's voice was calm as he managed to hold the darksider's gaze.

    But Ventress was intrigued. She cast a look at the Kaminoan. “Give me a moment alone with him...I will have the answers you seek.”

    My work....”

    Can wait,” she replied, shaking her head. “Go. You will be notified when I am done.”

    Creon still seemed to hesitate, though after a moment he nodded and slipped out of the room. Ventress turned her attention back to the clone captain, who met her gaze as the door slid shut, leaving the room in silence.


    A/N: I'm so sorry, Chip.
  12. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    A/N: This chapter's pretty intense...just a warning.


    Chapter Twelve: Fragile Things

    For what felt like the thousandth time that day, Milo wished that Weave was there. Not that he himself wasn't useful with the Wayfarer, but his brother's practical knowledge far exceeded his own. Presently, Milo and Traxis were crowded inside the engine compartment, sorting through a multitude of wires and circuits and attempting to work out the issue with the dampers.

    It was not going well.

    Several sparks flew from beneath the hydrospanner in Trax's grip and he uttered a swift curse in Mando'a as he snatched his hand back. The tool clattered to the floor and he grumbled as he bent to retrieve it. “This is why I prefer blasters.”

    No need to delve into the psychology behind that,” Crest replied from his vantage point above them. “Need any more tools?”

    You need a swift kick in the shebs.” Traxis swore as he dropped the spanner again.

    Milo sighed. “Actually, yeah. I think Weave had a magnetic grip or something in our room for this kind of scenario. Care to take a look?”

    As the bald clone nodded and slipped off, Milo glanced at his brother. “I wish Weave was here.”

    Me too.” Traxis frowned at the tool in his hand. “He's the one who knows about all this nonsense.”

    There was a question on the tip of Milo's tongue, but he was uncertain whether or not to voice it. Finally he cleared his throat. “Do you really think that the general will be able to save him and the captain?”

    At this, the scarred clone looked down. “I want to. But...” He frowned. “I want to,” he said again, meeting Milo's eyes. “I really do.”

    Check this out.” Crest's voice made them both look up to see their brother holding up a pair of slender greaves and gauntlets made of tawny plastoid. “Found it under his bunk.”

    Milo tilted his head. “They're too small for us....” His eyes widened; they all seemed to reach the same conclusion at once.

    Crest studied the armor. “It's for the boss. It must be. Cap's been saying forever that he's going to get her some proper armor...I guess Weave took the initiative.” He took a deep breath. “I suppose I should let her know. If she's planning on going to the narglatch's den, she'll probably want some gear.” He tossed the magnetic strip to Milo before lifting his comm.

    However, before he could call her, the Jedi appeared before him. “An asteroid belt.” At Crest's look she clarified. “Stone said something about an asteroid belt. We're on the right track...but...” She frowned and put a hand to her head. “Something's wrong. Crest...can you look into that? I know it's a long shot.”

    Sure thing. I'm kind of useless right now anyway.”

    Now?” Traxis' utterance made Milo grin to himself.

    The dark-haired Jedi nodded, though her eyes slid to the items beneath Crest's arm. “What's all that?”

    Er...” Crest paused. “Found it in Weave's bunk. It's too small for any of us.”

    She stilled, though after a moment she nodded. “I see. Look, I'll be down in a few minutes, but I need to speak with Luminara again. How's the ship coming?” Crest angled the comm so that she could see the other two clones.

    Stubborn and temperamental,” Traxis called amidst more clattering. “And I don't want to hear it, baldy.”

    Despite himself, Milo smiled again. “We're about done, I think.”

    The Jedi nodded. It was difficult to read her expression through the hologram, but he thought that she looked sad for a moment, though it passed. “Thanks, guys. I'll see you soon.”


    As soon as she ended the transmission with Crest, Kalinda hurried to Luminara's quarters, pausing only to announce her presence with the chime at the door. Though she figured the Jedi Master could sense her, it was the polite thing to do. Once the door slid open, she entered the room to find the Mirialan woman rising to her feet after what appeared to be a mediation session. “What is it?”

    He's gone. I can't sense him any longer.” Kali began pacing across the room. “Ventress is there as well. If she's realized that he's Force-sensitive...” A shudder passed through her body, and she could not hold still.

    Luminara put a hand on her arm, effectively stopping the dark-haired woman. “You must not give into your fear, Kalinda. You must keep your focus.” Kali could feel that the Jedi Master was attempting to send her calming energy, a small thing in the wake of her concern for Stone and the others.

    But even so, she was a Jedi. She nodded; after glancing around she sat on the edge of the bunk and took several deep breaths as Luminara sat beside her. After several moments, Kalinda met the other woman's eyes. “What are we doing, Lu?” She watched as Luminara's forehead creased, though she did not respond as Kali continued. “I mean the Jedi. What are we doing?”

    Could you clarify?”

    Kali rubbed her forehead. “Master Windu has said that we are peace-keepers, not soldiers. We were never supposed to become as involved in this war as we have been....but look at us.” She gestured to the ship. “Leading ground assaults, planning that what peace-keepers do?”

    Luminara shook her head. “This war was thrust upon the galaxy and it is our duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Would you have others die so that you could stay safe?”

    Of course not, but it's more than that.” Kali frowned and hugged her arms to her sides as she looked at the Mirialan Jedi. “I worry what the true cost of this war will be....what the true cost to the Jedi Order has already been.”

    In what regard?” Luminara's tone was nothing besides calm, though Kali could tell that she was listening to and considering every word.

    Kalinda was silent for a moment. At first her thoughts were with a young boy on Kamino, though they soon drifted closer to home. Weave made me armor...I know he did. I wonder if Stone asked him to, as he's mentioned it before. They're all so considerate, so kind. They all deserve so much more. When she spoke again, her voice was quiet. “I know you're going to say that I'm too attached,” she said, lifting her eyes to the other woman. “And you're right, I suppose. My heart is so wrapped up with them, I can't remain as detached as I should. But...” Her eyes closed again. “It's wrong to use them in this way.”

    Luminara took a deep breath, a signal to Kali that she was collecting her thoughts. “I understand what you mean,” she said at last. “It pains me a great deal to see them fall, but it is ultimately for the greater good. You must understand that.” She placed a hand on Kali's arm. “It was a terrible choice that the Council made, but a necessary one, especially considering the safety of the rest of the Republic.”

    There was silence for a few moments before Kali shook her head; when she spoke, her voice held a cautious edge. “What if it was the wrong choice? ” Her words with Ventress' on Caradoc came back to her and she closed her eyes, briefly. “They deserve better. They deserve more.”

    She hesitated. “Kali, I do agree with you: they do not deserve their fates...but war would have come regardless, so the Council did the only thing that they could have done.” As she spoke, Luminara lifted her fingers as if the gesture alone could quell the other woman's doubt. “At the end of all things, our lives are insignificant next to the population of the entire galaxy.”

    It was then that Kali's comlink began to chirp, so she swiped at her eyes as Milo's image appeared before her. “What's up, Mi?”

    She could feel his excitement even through the hologram. “We found it.”


    In the worst possible way, Stonewall was snapped out of his attempt to reach Kali through the Force, his eyes opening to see the pale-skinned face of Asajj Ventress as she smiled at him. To either side, he could feel his brothers' fear and anger towards the darksider, but he refused to give way to either even as he felt her mind reach out to his, probing, questing. He threw up his mental wall and held her eyes, noting with no small amount of satisfaction that they narrowed in frustration.

    The sound of her sabers being ignited made everyone – himself included – start. The blades hummed almost hungrily as she held them to either side of his face, causing his vision to be awash in crimson. He could feel their heat on his cheeks, smell the faint singing of the hair that he hadn't had a chance to shave as the energy beams rested centimeters above his skin. Her face was close to his and when she spoke, her voice blended with the sound of the sabers.

    You seem familiar. Have we met before?”

    I shot you, harpy. After Basrah, after you tortured Kali. The memory was painful and he didn't need the distraction, so after a few moments of debate he decided that it was better to keep silent. Stonewall took a breath and continued to meet her gaze, noting the anger that he could see welling within her at his quiescence.

    But she merely laughed after a moment and stepped away from him, deactivating her sabers and shaking her head as though he were a misbehaving child. “Keep your silence, then. I have other ways to occupy myself.” She smiled and sauntered towards Tackle, who visibly tensed, pulling back in his bonds as she approached. “Another brave soldier of the Republic.” She ran a hand across Tackle's shoulders and he winced. “So strong. So certain.” She cast Stonewall a knowing look before one of her sabers was ignited again, the blade aimed at Tackle's heart. “Why is it that you can use the Force?”

    Stonewall felt Blink, Gree and Weave's attention slide to him, though he only had eyes for Ventress. “I don't know.”

    Her eyes narrowed and the blade moved closer to Tackle's chest even as he pressed himself farther back. “You're a bad liar, little soldier. Tell me.”

    Tackle's fear was tangible in the Force for all that the clone remained silent. Stonewall's eyes closed. “I don't know how or why. All I know is that I can.” He took a deep breath. “It's the truth.”

    She studied him for several long moments before lifting her saber from Tackle's heart; the clone sagged in his bonds with relief as she moved back over to Stonewall. “You're remarkably adept at hiding from me,” she said to him. “How did that come to be? Did you simply wake up one morning and realize that you had the gift of the Force?” The hilt of her saber was still in her hand and she toyed with it for a few moments as she studied him.

    I can't tell her about Kali. All it would do is give her leverage, more power over the Jedi. But if I don't tell her, she may very well kill every one of my brothers. He swallowed. It was growing warmer in the room and he could feel sweat beading at his forehead. “It was sudden,” he said at last. “But I can't explain it any better than that.”

    It was not the answer that she wanted.

    Within an instant, both of her sabers were ignited. She stood directly before him, arms extended on either side of her so that the blades were leveled against Gree and Weave's throats. “Your 'brothers' are commonplace,” she whispered, close to his face. “If I kill them all right now it would be a small matter to acquire more within the hour. But you are special. Perhaps I should take you for my Master? You would be wasted on the Kaminoan fool.”

    There's one thing we can agree on, anyway. Stonewall tried to close his mind to the fear in his brothers' minds as he looked at her.

    Just tell her.” Blink's voice was hoarse. “Tell her whatever she wants to know. Just make it stop.” Ventress' head inclined in the direction of his brother, but she made no reply, instead boring her eyes into Stonewall's.

    You have no power,” he said at last. “None. Unless we give it to you.” He was not sure where the words had come from, but they seemed to strike something within her as her eyes narrowed again.

    However, she smiled at him in the next moment and when she spoke her tone was mocking. “Did the Force tell you that? Or perhaps your Jedi general?” Her eyes widened and he knew that his eyes had given something away. “The Jedi. Of course. That's where we know one another.” She let out a giggle of delight and brought her sabers back to her side, deactivating and clipping them to her belt in one fluid motion even as she ran another cold hand along the side of his face. “The Jedi that I held on my was well over a year ago now, wasn't it?”

    The blow happened so fast he didn't have time to react until he could see lights dancing before his eyes. Something warm trickled down the side of his face, but he kept quiet even as she struck him again. “The weak, dark-haired Jedi with her little Force-shield. I remember now.” Ventress examined her hands almost absently while she spoke, as if checking for damage. “But I wonder what the connection is between you?”

    She looked up – as if startled – then glanced at Blink, who shrank away from her gaze. Stonewall could feel her actions in the Force; she was searching his brother's mind. Finding nothing, she moved to Weave, who stared at her but kept his silence. For a moment everything was quiet, but she smiled and let out another chuckle. “Thank you, my brave soldier,” she said as Weave's gaze lowered. She looked at Stonewall again and he felt chilled by her smile. “Perhaps Creon will have some more Force-users for his research.” She did not spare any of the clones another look as she strode out of the room.

    When the doors shut again, Stonewall turned to Weave, who looked stricken. “What did she learn?”

    I'm sorry,” he whispered, his eyes still closed. “I'm so sorry.”


    Luminara watched the dark-haired woman's demeanor change in an instant. “You found Perdax?”

    One of her men answered in the affirmative. “Based on your information and the Captain's mention of the asteroids, we learned that it's near the Varonat system. I've sent the coordinates to the helm already. We should be there within about ten hours.”

    Good work...?”

    It's Milo,” Kali replied, glancing at Luminara. “She's right, Milo. Thank you...all of you. You're all getting medals once we get back to the Core.” The relief was evident in her voice.

    Milo shook his head. “As long as we get our brothers back, that's enough for me. The Wayfarer's ready to go as well, General.”

    Kalinda.” Her voice was firm and she winked at Luminara, who shook her head. I will never understand her.

    The clone paused, then nodded. “The ship's ready to go...Kalinda.”

    Thank you,” she replied. “I'll let you know the next step as soon as we do. Give the others a hug for me, okay?” Without waiting for his reply she ended the communication, took a deep breath, and looked at Luminara. “Any ideas?”

    The Mirialan Jedi stood and began to walk around the room, her hands before her. “We have three objectives: to apprehend Ventress, Creon Dai, and to rescue our men – if we can. The wisest course of action would be a stealth mission, but given the size of this vessel, I doubt that will be possible.”

    If I can get aboard, I can use my shield to keep out of sight.” Kalinda had also risen, the two women were facing each other as they spoke.

    Milo said that your ship is functional again, correct?”

    Kalinda nodded, her eyes meeting Luminara's. “If there was enough of a distraction, I might be able to sneak's not a very military-looking craft, after all. One might even mistake it for a piece of junk, if one was not paying enough attention.” She grinned as Luminara nodded.

    I think that I can manage a distraction,” the Jedi Master replied, a faint smile curving her face. “Though I cannot guarantee any length of time for you aboard the station. But Ventress....” She frowned. “Ventress is too formidable of an opponent for you to handle on your own, Kalinda.”

    We don't have many other options,” Kali replied. “This is your ship; you've been tracking her movements. It makes sense that you would be the one to confront her.”

    The Jedi Master was quiet for several moments before she looked at Kalinda again. “You realize that she may have already killed them?”

    Kali's eyes closed for a moment and she nodded. “I know. I want to believe that I would know if he were dead, but I can't assume anything any more. But still, I have to act as if he's still alive. In any case, Creon Dai is there, and it's my mission to bring him into custody.” She met Luminara's gaze. “I know it's not an ideal situation.”

    Are they ever?” The two women shared a smile before Kalinda nodded to her comlink. Luminara sighed. “I suppose I can come to your rescue at the last minute, should events come to that.”

    Kalinda smiled. “Well, some things don't change, I guess.” She raised her comm and called her men. “Hey guys? We've got a plan.”


    Before Stonewall could reply, the door opened and the Kaminoan stepped into the room again, his eyes on the clones. Weave felt his stomach twist at the look in the captain's eyes, though the sensation paled as he watched Creon approach him, several more of the medical-grade droids in his wake. The Kaminoan glanced at the clone captain and gave a long-suffering sigh before he nodded to Weave. “This one. Bring him to the table.” The droids moved to him; he could feel the straps loosening on his body and wondered if there was any way that he could get out of this. But they injected him with something – he tried to identify it, to no avail – and he felt his limbs grow dull and heavy even as he was unbound, lifted and carried across the room.

    Weave's mouth opened as he tried to form words but no sound came out. They placed him on the long table and shone the lights in his eyes. He squinted, tried to turn his head, but he couldn't move, he could hardly breathe. He tried to shout, he tried to struggle. But it was like fighting the pull of a tide, facing a massive onslaught of storm winds and lightning; he was helpless as Creon Dai leaned over him. Part of his brain knew that he was panicking, but he couldn't stop. Weave tried to breathe but his lungs weren't working right and his throat was sore as if he'd been shouting, though he didn't recall doing so. There was a dull sensation against his forehead and he shut his eyes against the incredibly strong light.

    And then he felt strength filling him, a calm that broke through the cloud of panic and fear in his mind and allowed him to breathe. It was almost like he had stepped out of his own body for the sake of his sanity. He remembered how to feign quietude. He had done it before, though he realized that he didn't have to, now. He was calm. It was not an act. Somehow. His heartbeat slowed to a crawl, but he was not afraid any longer.

    The worst was happening and there was nothing he could do.
  13. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Thirteen: Seeking Shelter

    Perhaps the proper thing to do would have been to have the rest of her squad meet her in the tactical room, but Kalinda felt a longing to be within the familiar bulkhead of the Wayfarer, so after she left Luminara's quarters she made her way back to the hangar. Again, she tried to reach Stonewall, but the connection was tenuous and wavering, as if he were.....No. She shook her head. I won't give in to fear again. As she exited the turbolift, she noticed a viewport to her left that allowed her to see the stars streaming by. We're going as fast as we can to reach them. It will have to be enough.

    When she reached the hangar, it was quiet, save for a few of the members of the 41st who were performing their normal duties. She hurried to the Wayfarer, anxious to see the rest of her squad.

    They were there and she relaxed as her eyes fell across their familiar forms: Milo at the helm, checking the navacomputer; Traxis tending his weapons; Crest seated at the table, examining an unfamiliar set of plastoid armor. Despite all appearances, she could feel their tension as surely as if it were her own, so she took a breath to calm herself. As much for them as for me. She cleared her throat. “I want you all to know that you have a choice.”

    This made them all pause what they were doing and turn to her almost in unison, their confusion evident. She sighed. I had a feeling they'd react this way. “What I'm going to may very well be a suicide mission, and I want you all to know that you are not obligated to accompany me.”

    They exchanged glances. Finally Crest stood up and brought her the armor. “Weave made this,” he said as he held the pieces out to her. “It's too small for any of us so we think it's for you.” He met her eyes. “And it'll be a cold day on Mustafar before I let you go in after them alone, Kalinda.”

    She gave him a smile that he returned before she looked at the others. “Milo? Trax? You guys feel this way, too?”

    Traxis snorted and lifted his pistols. “Do you really have to ask?”

    I'm in,” Milo said as well. “One hundred percent. Always.”

    Kali nodded. She took a seat next to Crest and began fiddling with the armor. “We have ten hours,” she said as she tried to work out how to attach the greaves to her boots. “It's too much time and not nearly enough. How do you fasten these things, anyway?” After a few minutes of fumbling she managed to fit the pieces around her legs, noting how she now had the added protection of armor around her knees, as the greaves reached up higher then the tops of her boots. The gauntlets were easier to attach; they would have felt odd over her bare arms but Weave had taken the time to install some type of padding that made the armor rest comfortably against her skin.

    There was a stencil of the Jedi Order, the wide wings encircling a star, near the elbow of the right gauntlet, intricately done in a copper-colored ink. Once she was satisfied that everything was in place, she stood up and looked at the others. “How does it look?”

    Crest grinned. “Fan-kriffing-tastic.”


    It was the worst kind of helplessness: to be able to do nothing besides try and send his brother the same kind of calm energy that he had tried to do with Chip. Finally, Weave quieted, though Stone could still feel his presence in the Force, so he knew that he was not dead, though he couldn't see what Creon was doing to him besides the occasional glint of metal.

    Beside him, Gree's gaze was riveted on the scene, though he occasionally glanced at Stonewall, who wondered if the commander was aware of what he was trying to do. However, he didn't put too much effort into worrying about what the other officer wast thinking, as he was too busy trying to keep Weave calm.

    Before, when Stonewall had accessed the Force with Kalinda, it had been pleasant, if strange. He had learned that the Force could be used in a number of ways, particularly in the sharing of sensations, emotions and memories among users. On his own he'd been able to create a wall in his mind that prevented anyone else from entering, though he was trying to figure out how to block the thoughts of others from his own. The more he learned, the stronger he grew, which also meant that he was more susceptible to outside emotions as well. This type of exchange was easy with Kali because it was a constant source of joy to him to know that he could offer her comfort or respite when she needed it, as well as receive the same type of energies from her.

    It was different with Weave.

    When he'd first been taken, the other clone's terror was almost palpable and it took every ounce of concentration and focus that Stonewall possessed to not give into the furious, pounding fear that was emanating from his brother. If I get out of this, I'm going to make sure she teaches me how to control all this better. As it was, he felt ineffective and weak, especially after his encounter with Ventress. It was as if the bald woman had sapped him of the brunt of his strength, and he felt very tired.

    You're doing something.” Gree's voice was quiet, matter-of-fact. Distant. It was easier to shut down rather than think too hard about what was happening to their brother.

    Stonewall swallowed. “I'm trying.” He looked back up at Gree. “How long has it been?”

    The commander shook his head. “I'm not sure, exactly. I think about five hours.” He shifted in his bonds and they shared a look.

    From either side of the officers, Blink and Tackle shot each other nervous glances. “We're next, aren't we?” Tackle's voice was hoarse. “I didn't think it would end this way. I wish I had died on Caradoc.”

    Gree shook his head. “Enough of that talk. We're not dead yet, soldier. You need to keep your wits about you. We've been trained to deal with anything.”

    Stonewall reached through the Force and tried to contact Kalinda again, but it was difficult. He was so tired, his mind felt like a damp rag that had been wrung of all water. As it was, he could barely keep his brother calm.

    At last it was over.

    The droids brought Weave back towards his brothers along the wall; after they'd ensured that his bonds were secure, they left him atop the rolling, metallic table while Creon made notes on his datapad,and stepped out of the door. The light flickered, then dimmed as the droids left as well, leaving the clones alone in the shadowed room. Stonewall strained against his bonds again and tried to get a look at his brother but it was impossible to make anything out in the faint light.

    Blink, you're closer,” he said, pitching his voice low though the room was empty except for them. “Can you see him?” The other clone studied Weave's prone form for several moments before he made a quiet sound of disbelief. Stone's jaw tightened. “What is it?” Beside him, he could feel Gree's attention as well as Tackle's.

    Blink looked back at his brothers and shook his head. “I'm not sure, Captain. I...he's alive, but...”

    But what?” It was an effort to keep the fear from his voice.

    The bald clone's eyes closed briefly. “He's....he's not Weave anymore.”


    Creon Dai slipped out of his lab and all but floated towards the command center, where he could route a transmission to the Count to share his good news. Even without the nanogene droids, it worked. It was a success. The thoughts slid around his mind again and again, and he felt elated. When he reached the room, he entered the code that would allow him access and slid in, noting with surprise that Ventress was there already, speaking with Dooku's hologram at the center of the vast chamber, her back to the wide stretch of windows as she knelt.

    ...Force-sensitive clone? You are sure?” The Count sounded skeptical.

    I tested him myself, Master.”

    Dooku nodded and looked thoughtful for a moment. “Such a thing has never been heard of. How strong is he with the Force?”

    Ventress smiled. “He is strong enough to block me out of his mind, though not strong enough to defeat me or free himself and the others.”

    And do you know how such a thing happened?”

    She paused and glanced at Creon, who had come across the raised walkway to stand beside her. “What do you want?”

    I have good news.”

    Dooku nodded to him. “Yes?” Creon took a breath before he launched into the procedure and descriptions of his methods, though after a few minutes the count held up his hand, his expression indicating that he was displeased with the onslaught of words.

    Creon paused to collect his thoughts. “One of them did not survive, due to the fact that his system was unable to handle the implantation of the nanogene droids – I feel that the younger ones will take to those better – but the second unit that I modified without using the nanos has lived through the process.” His spine straightened and he felt pride flood him. “That unit is now equipped with an ocular enhancement device that will allow it to see farther and better than any others of its kind. Assuming it survives the night, I can begin retrofitting the limb replacements that we discussed, as well as continuing to modify the remaining ones. Once I am finished with them, they will make highly advanced combat units for you.”

    Excellent news,” Dooku said with another nod. “Your work is commendable, my friend.” He looked at Ventress, who had been glaring at Creon. “My dear girl, are you growing bored?” His tone was slightly chiding and Ventress tensed.

    Of course not, Master,” she replied. “But I believe that the Force-sensitive clone's ability is somehow linked to a Jedi that I encountered over a year ago. She is no doubt on her way to retrieve him.” There was an implication in her tone that Creon did not entirely grasp as all Human voices sounded the same to him after a while.

    However, the Count seemed to understand, so after a moment he nodded. “Very well. You will collect another subject for our friend here.” He looked back at Creon. “The Force-sensitive clone is an anomaly that must be left intact for my Master. You are not to make any modifications on him. Additionally, you will cease the use of the nanogene droids; they seem to do more harm than good. Simply modify the clones that you have and deliver them to me.”

    For a moment the Kaminoan thought he had misheard, but after he realized what the Count had said, he experienced an almost blinding flash of fury that he was hard-pressed to tamp down. “You told me that I was in charge of this project, Count. I have worked for too long on these devices to relent now. Do not think you can dictate my actions-”

    When Dooku spoke again, his tone held no room for debate, and Creon wondered how such a pathetic species could have such a singular effect on him. “You are here at my Master's invitation, my friend. It would be no small matter to have you removed from our custody and deposited on the nearest Republic world, where I'm told there is a rather significant price on your head. You will obey my commands and proceed as we discussed.”

    That is not what I agreed to. That is not why I left Kamino.” Even as he said the words, the realization broke over him like a wave. I cannot allow myself to be bound by yet another set of arbitrary dictates. His hands clenched at his sides.

    Dooku raised his brow but did not reply as he looked back at Ventress. “Inform me once you have the Jedi.” His image flickered and died.

    Ventress gave a dismissive glance at Creon before she exited the room. “You seem disappointed, Creon. Don't'll be able to continue your little project soon enough.” She gave him a final smirk before she stepped out the door.

    The Kaminoan stood in the darkness for some time, the only illumination in the area was from the soft glow of several of the security consoles. He looked at the holotransmitter and considered his options, but there was no one he could call. After a moment he sighed and glanced at his chronometer. It's late. I should rest, as it's been a long day, and tomorrow promises to be even longer. But he was not tired, particularly when the anger that was coursing through his veins gave way to cold calculation.

    The Count's words echoed Lama Su's, days ago on Kamino, and he realized that he had traded one form of bondage for another. The thought stung. I thought it was the right course of action to align with the Separatists, though now I see it was merely a gambit, and a foolish one at that. His thoughts turned to the beautiful, gleaming lab and of all his privileges, but he knew that they paled in the wake of his one desire that was never staunched.

    Freedom. I must be free to enact my own plans, to perform my own ideas. With this thought, an idea formed and he turned on his heel and left the room.


    Consciousness lifted Weave awake by the scruff of his neck while his feet dragged in his dreams. At first it was only sensations: the cold brush of metal to the back of his skull; a heaviness in his limbs and on his chest; a throbbing pain in his head. Slowly he became more aware and his mind began to sort out the jumble of impressions. He was lying on a table, which accounted for the metal. He was drugged, thus the heaviness. The headache....

    Weave tried to rub his forehead, but his arm refused to move. A quiet grunt escaped him as he repeated the effort, but it was futile and only made his head ache more. I'm so tired. Why am I so tired? He inhaled and tried to remember what had happened, but all he could recall was telling himself to relax and to be calm. Over and over.

    No. The captain. It was apparent after a moment's thought. Stonewall's voice was not at all like his own, though an outsider would never have been able to tell them apart. But why could I hear his voice in my head? Questions spiraled within him and he decided that he would try to open his eyes. The room was dark and his vision was....wrong. No depth perception, he realized after a moment. Only one eye is working. He should have been frightened at this thought, but he was tired and sore, and he could still feel an overlay of calm energy that had settled over him like a blanket. He blinked; because he was lying on his back everything looked different, but he got his bearings after a few minutes. He tried to turn his head to find his brothers.

    He did. Something metallic scraped the table when he moved his face; he frowned, but ignored it for the moment, suddenly gripped with a desire to see the captain and Blink and all the rest. He could make them out in the dim light, faint shapes that could have been his own shadow. His mouth opened to speak, but no sound came out.

    Weave?” It was Stonewall's voice, a mixture of relief and worry.

    Weave tried to respond, but his voice wasn't working, so he only nodded. The metallic scraping sounded again and his eyebrows knitted, which resulted in more pain.

    Stonewall spoke again. “If you can hear me, vod, tap the table twice.”

    That's an odd thing to say. But as his mouth was apparently malfunctioning he lifted his index finger on his right hand and did so. The small sound echoed. He tried to speak again, concentrating very hard on forming the words and convincing his voice to work. “Captain?”

    Again, the relief in his brother's tone was evident. “I'm here, vod. We're all here. Are you in pain?”

    It was still difficult to talk, but now that he knew he still could, he was determined. “I'm sorry, Stonewall.”

    There was a moment's hesitation before the captain spoke again. “Weave, you have nothing to be sorry for. And you didn't answer my question, soldier.”

    A smile, even a small one, was painful, but he managed. “Kind of.” He winced. “My head....”

    Silence. Then Blink spoke, though it was not to him. “Can you see it? Can you see what that crinking aiwha-bait did to him?”

    But Stonewall ignored the words and Weave could tell the force of his brother's attention was on him by the tone of his voice. “Weave, I need to tell you something, but it's bad.”

    Is it why I can't see properly?”

    Blink let out a hiss of surprise, which Weave found amusing. “Too smart for his own good.”

    Hush.” It was Gree. “Let the captain speak.”

    Stonewall's voice again. “Listen to me, vod. Creon did something to you. I can't really tell what, but it has to do with your eye. Your left eye. I think....” The pause made Weave's heartbeat pick up, for all that he could tell his brother was working to keep calm. “I think he gave you an implant.”

    Surprisingly, Weave relaxed. Knowledge, while not necessarily pleasant, was better than ignorance, better than the vast, blank chasm of the unknown. If he had the knowledge, he could work with the data. He squinted in the darkness, trying to make out the captain's form, wishing that he had the convenience of the HUD in his helmet.

    And then it happened. He could see the entire room clearly, but not at all like he was used to. It was more than his HUD ever showed, better. He could read the heat-signatures of his brothers, see every line and crease in the bulkhead. Hell, I think I can almost see the molecules in the air. Blink and Tackle sucked in their breath, and he watched as Stonewall's face changed from relief to fear, then back to a visage of calm. He didn't look at Gree. “What is it?” The novelty was wearing off with their expressions. “What did he do to me?”

    Stonewall swallowed and met his gaze. “I'm not sure,” he admitted. “But you're going to be fine, vod.”

    How do you know?” Weave knew his voice was shaking, but he couldn't help it. He hated being helpless almost as much as he hated being ignorant. But even as he spoke he felt a flood of calm overtake his mind.

    I just do.” Stonewall's voice was weary and Gree looked at him, whispered something that Weave couldn't catch. The captain shook his head. “I'm fine.” Beside him, Weave could make out Blink's horrified expression, and for a wild moment he wished that Crest was there to make some quip or joke that would ease the tension. Wit was never his strength.

    He thought of Traxis and Milo as well and realized that he had no clue if any of them had survived the battle at Caradoc. It feels like years ago, now. And Kalinda. He could see her wry grin in his mind's eye and remembered her questioning him about his “project.” Will I ever get to give her the armor? I hope the captain isn't angry that I did it without asking him...I just thought she could use it. She always tries to keep us safe, happy even. It seemed like the right thing to do to reciprocate.

    He opened his mouth to express all of this to Stonewall, when the door slid open, revealing a shaft of light that pieced the darkness like a blade.


    It was very, very late when the transmission came through. Luminara was on the bridge, watching the stars recede when the Jedi Temple called her. Obi-Wan's voice cut through the quiet as she raised her comm, patched into the main system. “What is it?”

    The transmission was voice-only, but she could sense his worry regardless. “We've received a transmission from Ventress, to be routed to Kalinda. Is she...?”

    She's with her men in the hangar,” Luminara replied. “I can have you patched through to her.”

    No.” Obi-Wan's tone was sharp and he took a breath as if to steady himself. “No, Luminara. Please go to her. She...she will need a friend. Call when you decide how you'd like to proceed.” The transmission ended and Luminara frowned.

    It is unlike him to be so....agitated. She nodded to the deck officer and made her way to the nearest turbolift. As soon as she began her descent, she called Kalinda to pass on Obi-Wan's request. Her fellow Jedi was seated at the small table in the Wayfarer's galley, playing what appeared to be a round of sabacc with her clones, though at Luminara's words her body grew very still. “I'm moments away,” the Mirialan Jedi said. “Unless you want to meet in your quarters?”

    Kalinda glanced at her men; they met her gaze and something passed between them that Luminara did not understand. “No.” Her voice was unnaturally calm. “We'll see you here.” Her imaged died.

    The dark-haired Jedi met Luminara at the hatch of her ship, the clones behind her. Luminara took a moment to absorb the fact that Kalinda was wearing modified clone armor at her legs and arms though neither woman commented on the garb. They sat at the table, the clones stood beside Kalinda while Luminara activated the message. The bald clone – Crest, she thought – put a hand on the Jedi's shoulder.

    Asajj Ventress appeared, lithe and smiling into the viewer's eyes as she spoke. “Greetings, little Jedi. I never had the pleasure of learning your name until now: Kalinda Halcyon. It seems that we have unfinished business to take care of, especially since we have a similar acquaintance.” The image flickered as a clone soldier was brought into view by a droid. Luminara noted that the clone whose hand was on Kalinda's shoulder tightened his grip, though she could sense that there was nothing but camaraderie in the action.

    The clone captain – Luminara could clearly make him out now – stared ahead, his eyes unblinking. His face was bruised and battered, but he was alive. Ventress stood beside him and ran her fingers along the contours of his cheeks. “Your captain's secret is out, my dear, and my master is most interested in seeing just what he's capable of. Who knows, perhaps he can become my apprentice?” She chuckled and patted the clone's head, who, to his credit, kept his gaze straight ahead and his expression neutral.

    In any case,” Ventress went on, her tone almost bored. “I thought you might like to know my intentions with him. You should also know that the others are not all dead, though I can't say for certain whether it will remain that way. For all of his posturing, the Kaminoan seems rather inept at keeping the units alive.” She chuckled again, as if privy to some private joke.

    Kalinda's palms had moved to flatten themselves against the table.

    Ventress knelt beside the captain and caressed his jaw, noting with satisfaction when he flinched and tried to pull back. Out of the corner of her eye, Luminara could see Kalinda's face pale. “So what will you do, Kalinda Halcyon? Will you come for your brave soldier?” Ventress smiled then, a true smile. “I think you will. I think you cannot help but come for the man that you love.” The word was spoken with scorn and Kalinda's jaw tightened. Ventress shrugged and stood up. “Either way, their blood will be on your hands. May the Force be with you,” she added in a mocking tone.

    The transmission ended.
  14. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Fourteen: The Ties That Bind

    Everyone looked at Kalinda. At some point, Milo had placed his hand on her other shoulder, as if he and Crest were holding her in place while Traxis stood at her back, arms folded across his chest. The image of the captain on his knees had made Milo grit his teeth, though he took a deep breath to calm himself while he waited for Kalinda to speak.

    Nothing's changed.” Her voice was quiet, but steady as she looked at the other Jedi. “We have a plan; I see no reason to deviate from it.”

    General Unduli shook her head. “I don't like her goading us in this fashion, Kalinda.” Milo noted that she said us and not you, though it was obvious that the message was for the dark-haired Jedi. “She wants you to come for him. It's obviously a set-up of some kind.”

    Kalinda shook her head. “I can't see that it's all that different from before. We both know that there was little chance of us sneaking up to them.” She took a breath and Milo felt her shoulder sag.

    We're with you, Kalinda,” he said in his most reassuring voice. “No matter what.”

    Crest nodded. “Can't you use that shield thing of yours? It was pretty handy, if I recall.”

    If the general found their behavior at all informal, she kept it to herself as she looked at Kalinda. “Ventress is aware of your technique, isn't she?”

    She is, to an extent,” the dark-haired Jedi replied. “She's aware that I can protect myself from her saber, but not....” Her eyes lit up and she looked up at the clones. “She doesn't know that I can hide us. I never used that aspect of it with her.”

    Hide?” General Unduli's brows furrowed.

    But it was Milo who answered. “It's the most amazing thing, General. Kalinda used it on Japarran-”

    And Florrum,” Crest interjected.

    She can use it to sneak us through the station,” Milo continued, feeling excitement welling within him. “I you think you can?” He looked back down at Kalinda, whose expression he couldn't read.

    She was quiet for a few moments before she nodded. “Yes, though it would take a lot of my focus and energy to keep all four of us under the radar, so to speak.”

    What if we split up?” Crest asked. “One of us goes with you, the other two find another add an element of surprise to the party?”

    Milo shook his head. “I don't like it, Crest.”

    Distraction is a good tactic,” Traxis added. “But I don't like dividing our forces, either.”

    Crest gave a low chuckle. “I guess our distraction needs a distraction of its own.”

    Guys,” Kalinda said, raising her hand and casting a look to General Unduli, who had been listening to the exchange with interest. “I didn't say I couldn't do it; but it's not going to be easy.”

    Traxis let out a bark of laughter. “Well, we're planning on infiltrating a secret Separatist station to rescue our brothers from a mad Kaminoan and a bloodthirsty Force-witch. None of that says 'easy' to me. This is just icing on the uj-cake.”

    It was enough to elicit a chuckle, though the air was still tense. Kalinda and General Unduli exchanged looks, and Milo got the sense that they were communicating silently in typical Jedi fashion. Finally the Mirialan Jedi let out a deep breath. “I see that we do not have many options. However, I think I have a way to make your part of the mission a little easier.” It was here that General Unduli gave Kalinda a knowing look.

    I'm all ears.”

    General Unduli studied her clasped hands before her for a moment before she replied. “Something that Gree was working on may prove to be most useful in this instance.” Her eyes lifted and she explained the device; Kalinda drummed her fingers on the table while she took in the information.

    It sounds risky, but it could work if we're careful. Milo glanced at Crest, who looked a bit lost.

    Finally Kalinda nodded, giving the other woman a tight smile. “Sounds like we have a plan.”

    Traxis glanced at his chrono. “If we're going to pull this little stunt off, we should get the Wayfarer prepped. Only a few more hours 'til we reach Perdax.”

    General Unduli lifted a brow at Kalinda, who met her gaze with curiosity. “You have a valiant group of men in your command, Kalinda, if a bit unusual.”

    Despite everything, Milo felt a glow of pride at her words, though it intensified when Kalinda nodded and smiled up at them. “I know. Believe me, I know.”


    Of all the things that he had experienced in his short life, helplessness was by far the worst. As he watched Ventress toy with the clone captain while she recorded her transmission, Gree thought that there was nothing that he wanted quite so much as the ability to move his arms so that he could punch the twisted excuse for a humanoid in her pale, smirking face. He's odd and different, but he's my brother and he deserves better than this. Gree felt his muscles straining against the bonds that held him in place. It occurred to him that none of the droids had bothered to tranquilize the clones in many hours and he wondered if that was intentional or not.

    When she finished her recording, Ventress laid her hands against Stonewall's face again and he let out a hiss of pain; Gree realized that it was bad enough for him to be unable to resist the medical droids that again secure his bonds along the wall, though he noted that the captain kept his muscles as flexed as he could while exhaling deeply. Smart. Keep the restraints as loose as you can. It wasn't much use, not really, but it was heartening nevertheless. Ventress paused only to skim her hand along Stonewall's chest before she meandered out of the room, the droids in her wake.

    The door closed and Weave's voice spoke through the darkness, still disoriented and vague. “Captain? Are you okay?” There were faint lights on his implant that glowed blue in the darkness.

    Stonewall let out a sharp exhale that could have almost been a laugh. “Yeah, Weave. I'm great. You?”

    I've been better.” The two men shared a chuckle before Stonewall met Gree's eyes.

    What did she do?” He didn't really want to know, but if it would affect the other officer he figured that he should find out.

    Stonewall swallowed. “I'm not sure, but it was....” He shook his head. “I'm okay.”

    Gree nodded. “Have you noticed they haven't been drugging us? I wonder why?” The captain shook his head and they said nothing for several minutes as each man tried to fit the small victories together to form a plan. Finally, Gree looked at him. “Your...Jedi? Is she still coming?”

    The captain did not hesitate. “No doubt in my mind.” His voice was warm, and he let out another exhale. “Kali.” The name was spoken to himself like an affirmation. He met Gree's eyes. “I'm too fatigued to try and call her again, but I know that she's on her way.”

    How?” It was Blink, who had missed the earlier conversation about the Stonewall's Force ability being linked to the Jedi's feelings for him.

    Gree didn't feel like catching him up. “General Halcyon is committed to her men,” he said, feeling a pang even as he said the words. “She's coming. That's all you need to know.” Would General Unduli come for me? Unexpectedly, Stonewall met his eyes and he was struck by the look they held. He really does love her. I never thought it could happen. He took a breath and nodded. “Well, I'm tired of just sitting around. There must be something we can do.”

    I'd like to blast that aiwha-bait, kriffing, shabuir....” Tackle's voice was dark as he muttered.

    I think we can all agree on that, but right now we need a plan, not empty threats,” Gree replied, glancing at Stonewall again. “I'm open to suggestions.”

    The other man shifted in his bonds and Gree could tell that they were not really loose enough to do anything. “I'm not sure I can work myself free...perhaps, if I had a few hours. In the meantime...” He took a deep breath and frowned.

    Gree nodded, understanding. There's not much we can do but wait. His teeth gritted. No soldier likes waiting around. None of us like being helpless. But I don't know what else we can do. Despair welled within him, though he tried to tamp it down. It won't do any good to get all despondent now. But still. He glanced at the others. “Right. Well, we should conserve our strength if we can. Try and sleep.” He made sure that his voice left no room for argument and was pleased when, a few moments later, Tackle and Blink's breathing grew quiet and steady.

    Beside him, Stonewall stirred and Gree could tell that he was still trying to slip out of the bonds. “That's an order, Captain,” he said, pitching his voice low. The other man took a breath as if he were about to object, but he nodded and indicated Weave instead. It was difficult to tell if the other clone was awake or asleep, but Gree spoke anyway. “And you too, Weave. We won't do anyone any good if we're exhausted.”

    The metallic scraping sound was disturbing, but it meant that Weave was nodding. After a few moments the room was filled with the quiet sounds of his brothers sleeping and Gree felt the tension in his body ease, just a little. He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. I should try and take my own advice. Easier said than done.


    Are you sure you want to fly us in, Kalinda?” Milo's voice beside her at the co-pilot's seat was tentative, especially as he said her name but Kali couldn't bring herself to smile at him as she focused on the helm, guiding the Wayfarer away from the Tranquility and approaching the asteroid belt that clustered around the station.

    She exhaled and shook her head. “I need to do something, Mi.” He nodded but said nothing further so she glanced behind her at the others. “How's it coming?”

    Traxis held up several blasters that he was preparing to strap to various holsters that he'd attached to his armor. “I'm going to be a walking armory. If any of our brothers can wield a weapon when we reach them, they'll have options.”

    She nodded. “Crest?”

    I've got every EMP and flash-bang that I can carry, Kalinda. The boys of the 41st were very obliging in that regard.” He paused and hefted his pack. “Time for some thrilling heroics.”

    Kali took another breath as she searched for a suitable location to set down. It was unusual but not difficult to land a ship on an asteroid, and she was soon able to find an appropriate spot where they could wait for the next phase of the plan to take effect. The sound of booted feet approached her and she felt the presence of the guys at her back as everyone watched the ship descend. The ship settled down with ease and everyone gave a collective sigh. In the distance, beyond the scattered chunks of rock and ice, she could make out what appeared to be a Trade Federation ship and she knew that it was the lab they'd been searching for.

    Closing her eyes, she tried to reach Stonewall through the Force again, but it was almost impossible. His energy was a dull flicker and he did not respond to her “calls.” She swallowed. He's alive. That's what matters. Where there's life, there's hope. “Now we get to wait.”

    Traxis echoed her thoughts. “I kriffing hate waiting.”

    Don't we all know it?” Crest replied.

    Well, there's not much else we can do now,” Milo added with a look at Kalinda. “Let's just make sure we're ready when General Unduli gives the signal.”

    She glanced at him. He's come a long way from the 'shiny' that I met last year. They all have. It's astonishing, in a way, but also completely expected. That's what happens to people...they grow, they learn. They become 'more' than what they were before. Her mind reached back to the boy on Kamino and she took another deep breath, but it was not so much to calm herself as it was a reflection of her thought process. But they aren't any different than the others; all of the clones are capable of the same things, of the same growth and humanity. I wonder if the Republic has forgotten that. I wonder if anyone ever knew it in the first place.

    Crest's voice was quiet as he spoke to her. “Don't worry, Kalinda. We'll get him and Weave back...and we can go right back to giving our dear Captain hell about his ridiculous hair.”

    At his words, Kali felt her eyes prick but she kept her emotions incheck, instead watching Perdax rotate almost lazily in the distance. It was both a warning and an invitation, and she closed her eyes and focused on her breathing again to gather her strength. I'll need it, she thought as she felt the Force flowing through her veins. Every bit.


    Luminara studied Perdax with a critical eye as the Tranquility approached the station. The enormous, broken-circle shape of the Lucrehulk-class battleship was not known for being particularly impenetrable, but she was unwilling to risk anything where Asajj Ventress was concerned. Overconfidence in my own skills was nearly my downfall at our last meeting and I refuse to underestimate her abilities again. She thought over their plan and frowned. It was not the most certain thing, but then, they rarely were. The war had turned caution into a luxury that no one could afford, while overwhelming risk had become a constant necessity.

    She glanced at the clone who was stationed at the helm. “Open a channel.” Moments later, a battle droid appeared on the viewscreen before her, its head twitching almost nervously as it took in the Jedi Master before it. Luminara did not give the machine a moment to speak. “This is Luminara Unduli of the Jedi Council. I wish to speak with Asajj Ventress at once.”

    The droid's head swiveled but it said nothing to her as it entered a command into the console at which it was seated. Luminara folded her hands and waited. When she was younger, she may have fidgeted with the device in her palm, but now she did not have a need for such trivialities. She took a few calming breaths. It will work because it must work, she thought as the metallic object warmed beneath the press of her skin. It must. Unbidden, an image of Gree came to her mind; patiently bent over the tiny device while he worked and she smiled despite herself.

    At last, Ventress appeared, her face a mask of calm arrogance. “General Unduli,” she purred. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

    Luminara waited a heartbeat before responding, allowing her voice to remain calm and cool. “You are in custody of the Kaminoan scientist Creon Dai. I have come to retrieve him and arrest you.”

    The darksider's laugh was sibilant. “Is that so? You and what army? Not those pathetic cloned men that you Jedi are so fond of, I hope? They are not so resilient, it seems.”

    I don't need an army to defeat you, Ventress,” Luminara replied. “Your own overconfidence will be your downfall.”

    Ventress chuckled again, though her eyes narrowed as she seemed to search the area around Luminara, who gave a tiny nod to the clone at the communications array, though she kept her expression neutral. “Where is Kalinda Halcyon? I assumed she'd be nearby to come rescue her pet clone.”

    She is not here. You have only myself to worry about.” She watched in satisfaction as the screen began to flicker, though she continued speaking. “You will surrender now, Ventress, while you are still able. I can offer you a fair trial if you come without resistance.” She could hear the darksider muttering to the droids around her, as the transmission's audio was uncorrupted even as the vid feed flickered further and further. Finally, the pale-skinned woman looked back at Luminara, who could see the frustration in her eyes. She allowed herself a very small smirk. “Is there a problem with your communication system, child? I can't see your lovely face any longer.”

    Your Republic technology is failing you, Jedi,” Ventress replied, though the signal was now relegated to voice-only at this point.

    Luminara remained in place for a few moments more before she began to move, speaking into her comlink as she slid Gree's device into her pocket. “Let us not quibble over the minutiae, Ventress. We were discussing your imminent surrender....”


    Stonewall was exhausted, but sleep eluded him. His attention was strung in too many directions and he felt as though he was being pulled apart at the seams; it had been an arduous task to relax the others enough so that they could sleep, with Gree and Weave being the most resistant to his efforts. He still couldn't reach Kali, especially not after Ventress had....he shuddered at the memory. The touch of her mind to his was noxious and disgusting and he realized again how much he missed Kali's bright presence. Kalinda. His eyes closed. Maybe if I try one more time.


    His brain was full, overloaded with a strain that he thought no amount of rest would be able to lift. The marks that the darksider had left on his face ached dully, as did his entire body from being kept in such an uncomfortable fashion for so long and his head was throbbing. But the quiet, steady breathing of his brothers was a comfort in the darkness while he tried to relax his muscles, even though he didn't think he could let down his mental guards.

    I can't tell if that....creature did something to me, or if I'm just tired. He couldn't think of Ventress as a woman, couldn't quantify her in the same category that he considered Kali.

    Stone frowned. Thinking of Ventress was not helpful, so he let his thoughts drift back to Kalinda. He could still feel her lips against his, her soft skin beneath his hands and hear the quiet murmur of her voice in his ears. I love you, Stonewall. The knowledge filled him with strength and he found that it was easier to breathe.

    I can't reach her through the Force, but I know she's there. I know she's coming for us. I just wish I could do something besides wait. Gradually, his muscles relaxed, the sinew of his arms and legs loosened just enough for a little more of the tension to ease and he felt calm trickle in his mind again. I can do this. He looked at his brothers, his gaze falling on Weave last. I can do this. I must.


    A/N: Anyone catch that “Firefly” reference? :p
  15. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Fifteen: Things Discarded

    Kalinda couldn't help the grin that came over her face at Luminara's words. “There's the signal: 'lovely face,' indeed. And I thought she didn't have a sense of humor.” She nodded to Milo and they began to ease the ship through the asteroids, making their way toward Perdax. It was good to have something to take her mind off of Stonewall and the others, at least on the surface. The lingering worry about him did not fade even though it was not at the forefront of her attention.

    Do you think this will work?” Milo's voice was quiet as he watched the station grow closer.

    I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. She gave him a tight smile. “I hope so.” It seemed to be enough for him, so he nodded and checked the console again.

    I'm not picking up any scanners sweeping our area,” he said. “Maybe luck is on our side.”

    Behind them, Traxis hissed, but it was Crest who spoke. “It's bad luck to say stuff like that, you know.” He sighed. “Shinies, I swear.” Milo rolled his eyes but made no response.

    Kalinda urged the ship closer, keeping the movement of the vessel slightly wobbly and erratic, as though they were another chunk of space debris. She realized that she was holding her breath, so she expelled the air in a long sigh. Her fingers were stiff and she forced the muscles to relax, as piloting a spacecraft of any kind while so tense was never a good idea. The gap between her and Stonewall was closing with the space between the Wayfarer and Perdax, but she was unwilling to divert her focus away from the task at hand. Soon, she told herself as the transport glided towards the station. We'll be there soon.

    Crest had leaned over Milo to observe. “There it is,” he murmured, indicating a small alcove in the side of the ship. “That's where they dump their garbage.”

    Minimal security on models like this,” Traxis added. “But we won't go unnoticed forever.”

    Hopefully it will be long enough,” Milo said.

    The ship sidled up to the station and everyone breathed a sigh of relief once the docking clamps activated and they were stationary. Kali activated her comm channel to voice only and they listened.

    Luminara was speaking. “...not going to make this offer again, Ventress. The Republic is prepared to offer you a shortened sentence if you agree to come with me and stand trial for your actions.” Her tone was calm, but Kali could hear the faintest huff of breath that indicated the other woman was running; she could only tell because she knew to listen for the sound.

    Asajj Ventress' reply was swift and venomous; Kali could almost see her pacing as she had done when she'd held the Jedi prisoner. “Your precious Republic means nothing to me, Jedi.”

    After shutting off the comm, Kali nodded to the others, who were waiting by the hatch. “She's still occupied. We might be able to pull this off.” She rose and checked again that her blaster and saber were at her hip before heading to the doors. For a moment the four of them stood together and she took comfort in their steady presences around her. Like Stone's, but completely different in their own ways. She took a breath and tried to focus on Stone's energy. Like a distant beacon, like a compass, she was pulled to him, inexorable as the tide to a moon. He was alive and he was waiting for her. Stone, I'm here. I'm coming. I love you.

    Kali. His reply was weak but she could feel the brush of relief anyway. I love you, too. We're here. She thought that he tried to send her an image of his location, but it was dark and jumbled.

    Hang on, my valiant soldier. We'll be there soon. Her eyes opened and her hand moved to her pistol.

    Traxis leaned forward and spoke in her ear. “Let's do this, Kalinda.”


    The only way to pull it off was to keep talking and hold Ventress' attention without making her angry enough to sever the connection. It was not easy. Luminara wished briefly that she was as seasoned a negotiator as Obi-Wan, but she let the feeling pass. He's far too likely to goad her to the breaking point. Useful in battle, but not at a time like this. She slipped into the nearest turbolift that would take her to the escape pods as Ventress continued to berate her and her commitment to the Jedi Order.

    You are weak-willed fools, too easily blinded by your own arrogance to see the error of your ways....”

    It was growing a bit tedious, actually. Luminara had hardly been able to get a word in edgewise for the past few minutes. Finally the darksider paused and the Mirialan Jedi cleared her throat. “And what of one who allows herself to be coerced and used for the fulfillment of her master's plan, the culmination of which will offer her no reward or benefit? You speak as though you are free to make your own choices, Asajj, but you are a prisoner to the Dark Side and to those whom you follow.”

    The turbolift paused and she slipped out, keeping her steps silent and mentally thanking Gree with each passing moment. However, Ventress did not reply and she felt a stir of foreboding within her. If I say anything, it will give them away. She slipped into the nearest pod, which had been prepped for her by one of Gree's men who even now were preparing for an assault on the station.

    Finally, the darksider's voice sounded, though it was quick and mocking. “A ship has just docked with this station.” She gave a churlish laugh. “Did you really think that you could distract me so easily? Did you really think this little ploy of yours would work? You speak of arrogance, Jedi, yet you embody it.”

    Luminara had never prided herself on being an actress, but she was pleased with her performance in the next moment. “Asajj, please. We can still resolve this peacefully....” She nodded to herself at the bald woman's crackling laughter.

    You are a fool.”

    The transmission ended and Luminara glanced at her the console of the pod with a hint of satisfaction in her eyes.


    Traxis uttered a curse in Mando'a when the alarms began to wail, but Milo kept silent, instead moving closer to Kalinda as they made their way through the droid ship. Like every other clone, he had studied the layout of Trade Federation ships, but the Jedi seemed to be following her own path as she lead them along the flashing red corridors. “Quiet, Trax,” he hissed to the scarred clone. “Let her concentrate.”

    Reflex,” his brother said, casting a look at the Jedi even as he lifted one of his blasters. They were slipping down a long hallway that curved to the right, following the line of the station. The sound of clanking metal gave the droids away before they were in visual range and Milo tensed automatically. Kalinda paused and lifted her hand, her face a mask of concentration and calm. The air rippled around them as if super-heated, but he could make out beads of sweat forming on her forehead that indicated the effort she was making.

    The Force. She's using the Force. Though he was growing more and more comfortable with calling her by her name, the Force was still something of a marvel. I wonder what the captain will be able to do with it? The thought of Stonewall made him square his shoulders as he kept close to the Jedi. Best way to help him is to keep my mind on the mission.

    This is unreal,” Crest muttered as they stood to one side and let the B1 droids pass. “Absolutely insane.” His voice held a grin as he looked at Milo. “We have the best Jedi out of the whole lot of them.”

    As much as he wanted to agree, now wasn't the time. Milo shushed his brother and indicated Kalinda, who was tight-lipped with concentration. It can't be easy to keep us all under cover like this. At last the droids passed and he watched her shoulders relax as she released a breath. The air stilled and she lifted her blaster as the group began to move again.

    They had gone perhaps another fifteen minutes, passing under the clanking noses of two more patrols when she stopped suddenly, her hand lifting, every muscle tense. “What is it?” Milo whispered.

    He felt a flare of anxiety at her expression. “Ventress.”

    Finally,” Traxis muttered. “I was wondering what took her so long. What a di'kut.”

    Crest's voice was chiding. “That's no way to speak about our hostess, Trax.”

    Kalinda rolled her eyes but kept her face on the door ahead of them. “What's behind that door, do you think?”

    Milo relaxed a tiny bit at the answer he knew. “Storage room, most likely. At least on the schematics I've studied.”

    She's there as well.” Kalinda's voice was calm. “Crest, do you think you could knock, please? The shield should keep us safe, for the most part.”

    For the most part?” The bald clone glanced at her as he lifted a grenade.

    She flashed him a knowing look. “Well, that's what the fancy armor is for, isn't it?”

    They all watched the grenade fly through the air, landing with a thud against the bulkhead and remaining in place. “A daub of silicon,” Crest whispered to Milo's look. “They tend to be rather slidey without it.”

    The explosion bloomed a vibrant red and orange in the corridor, and Milo could feel the heat from the blast, but it was mild as if he was far away. A glance at Kalinda showed that her face was set in a satisfied look of determination as her eyes were on the smoldering doorway, both her blaster and saber raised, though the latter was not yet ignited. Smoke filled the area, colored red by the flickering alarm lights. From the crimson miasma, twin beams of light seemed to spring forth on their own, and Milo lifted his blaster and began firing as Asajj Ventress swept into view.


    Creon nearly jumped out of his skin when the alarm sounded, though after several moments he realized that it had nothing to do with him, a thought that gave him no small amount of satisfaction. A welcome distraction for that pale-skinned Human and her leash-bearer, Dooku, wherever he is. He watched as the droids brought the last of the younger units aboard his shuttle, nodding to himself that they were all tranquilized and secured in the stasis pods he'd selected this particular vessel for. Every bit of his research was safely stowed aboard as well, along with all of the equipment that the droids could move.

    I don't like leaving this place, but I will not be bound by those fools any longer. He glanced behind him at the corridor, glowing red from the emergency lights. It seemed like an adequate place to conduct my work. If only those Humans had not been so short-sighted. Despite his disdain for them, he could not quell the shudder of revulsion at the thought of the Sith and his minion; the reality of their affect on him was not far gone in his memory.

    A B2 droid approached him. “The supplies you wanted have been brought aboard, sir. However, there are reports of Republic troops infiltrating the station. The commander is engaging them.”

    Of course,” he nodded. “Now, follow me. There is one last thing that I must do.” He turned and made his way back to the surgical lab, where the adult units were being stored. Though he could feel urgency propelling him on, Creon Dai moved like a stormcloud over the sky, graceful and with a single-mindedness that made other species look at the Kaminoans with awe. The door to the lab slid open with his code and he watched as the entire room brightened, throwing the clones on the far side in stark relief. He looked at the droids. “I want everything you can salvage from this room – intact and unbroken – within the next five minutes, then brought to the transport. You,” he nodded to the closest droid. “Come with me.”

    Immediately the machines sprang to life and began moving to the instruments, collecting what they could while he crossed the room to the clones, who watched him with their dull, Human eyes. He felt a flickering pity for the creatures, as it was not their fault that they were inferior, but it faded in the light of his own desire for freedom. He uttered instructions to the droid, who moved to the clone at the farthest right and began unfastening the bonds that held it in place.

    The clones in the center – the officers – gaped at him. “What are you doing?” The one in the green-striped armor was incredulous.

    Creon debated. Normally he didn't feel the need to speak with the subjects of his inquiry, but it was a question that he had asked himself often during the past few hours. “You can serve me no further purpose now,” he said at last, watching as the first clone fell free from its bonds and crumpled to the floor. “And I do not have the resources to contain you and the other units that I currently have in my possession, but I would like to think that you will offer my hosts a bit of chaos following your release – which will make things easier for me.”

    The purple-haired officer met his eyes. “Other units?”

    The younger ones,” Creon said, his voice dismissive as he stood over the clone that he'd given the ocular implant to. It will be a shame to leave this one behind. I didn't have time to properly test it.

    The clone's eye opened and Creon felt a twinge of satisfaction as the implant's lights brightened, showing that the neural connections were intact and whole. “What did you do to me?”

    It took a moment for Creon to realize that the unit was speaking to him, so he chuckled. “I made you more.

    There was a quiet thud as another clone behind him was freed of its bonds. Creon glanced back to see that this one appeared to also be too weak to rise immediately, though it was looking at him with a murderous gaze. Emotional Humans. Sentimental and small-minded, the lot of them.

    I'll wring your neck myself, you blasted-” the clone tried to lunge at him but was felled by a single shot of blaster-fire from the small weapon at Creon's side.

    Perhaps I've been around them for too long, after all, to have begun carrying armament. He nodded to the droid. “The one that lives can free the others. We're leaving.” In the background, his other droids had done their task. The alarms were still wailing. With a final look at the clone he'd enhanced, he slipped out of the room and made his way back to his ship.

    Creon didn't realize that his heart was pounding until he was sliding in the seat beside the droid pilot. He stretched his head up to its full height and smiled as the droid entered the coordinates for the nearest hyperlane. Behind him, he could see the somnolent forms of the younger clones, stasis-bound and waiting for his brilliance to reach them. I do regret the fact that I was unable to study a Force-sensitive, he thought as the station receded behind him. But that is a small matter, in the grand view. The galaxy is ripe with their ilk. I can always begin again.


    Kalinda had steeled herself for a difficult battle, so she was not surprised when she found herself in the middle of one. Asajj Ventress ignored the clones' blaster-fire as if the shrieking plasma bolts were honeybees, instead launching herself at the Jedi Knight. It was too close for her pistol to be useful, so Kali used her saber to block the darksider's blades at the last moment, feeling their heat singe her face. Ventress leaped around the clones, her steps a dance as she evaded and blocked their fire while still managing to make Kalinda work hard to defend herself.

    And defense was all she could do. She knew that she was no match for this woman's power, but her main concern at this point was keeping her men alive long enough for the rest of their plan to be put into action. We just have to get to Stonewall and the others. As if on cue she heard Stone's voice in her mind, astonished and weary.

    Kali. I'm coming.

    Confusion rippled through her even as she ducked to avoid the sweep of Ventress' sabers. What? How?'re in no condition to-

    I'm coming to help you. His thoughts were filled with determination, though she could almost feel his exhaustion as her own. It was disorienting; for a moment she could see what he was seeing, feel what he was feeling: stumbling, weak limbs that refused to work properly, a cold floor against his cheek.

    She looked at Traxis. “They're in the lab...they need help.” Crimson blades tried to bite at her and she ducked again. “Go help your brothers.”

    What about you?” Milo was by her side though she pushed him away with the Force at the last minute as Ventress lunged between them. In the distance she could hear the sound of a cadre of battledroids approaching.

    Kali gritted her teeth. Any minute, Lu. That'd be nice. “I'm okay for now. Just get to them.” Beyond her, Ventress made some flippant comment that Kalinda had no patience for. “Please, guys,” she said. “Help them. I don't want to order you.”

    You don't have to,” Crest said. “Come on, Trax. Milo...”

    Yup.” He stayed by her side even as the others raced off at the next opportunity. Ventress let them go as she stalked Kali and Milo like a predator, her pale eyes were fierce and almost hungry. Milo caught Kali's look and she could hear the smile in his voice even from behind his helmet. “I'm not leaving you alone, Kalinda. The captain would kill me for sure if I did.”

    She was too tired to argue. Ventress circled them and Kali lifted her saber, taking comfort in the hum and the heft. “Thanks, Mi.”
  16. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Sixteen: Everything and Then Some

    Weave exhaled as his bonds were released and he sat up slowly, scanning the room with interest even as his brothers were talking amongst themselves. Creon took all of the equipment. I suppose he's not planning on hanging around with Ventress any longer.

    Can you walk?” Stonewall's voice was concerned but Weave could tell that the captain was trying to remain calm. It was an interesting question, at any rate.

    He scrutinized his own legs. They look the same. No modifications there. “I think so.” He moved to the edge of the table and reached for the floor. The moment he was fully upright, the pain in his head increased exponentially and he hissed, his hand automatically going to his forehead.

    Instead of skin, his fingers touched metal on the left side of his face. The pain flared – stronger this time – and he could feel his blood beating in his skull. What did he do to me? It had not been real until now and he felt his knees giving out.

    But the captain was there on one side, Blink on the other, each offering him support so the could stand. Weave closed his eyes but he could still feel the press of metal on his skin. He wanted to claw his face, but knew that would be futile. Behind his eyelids he could still see the flashing red lights and hear the piercing claxon of the alarm.

    When he opened his eyes again, Gree was kneeling at Tackle's body. “He's alive, but he needs medical attention immediately.”

    We need to move out,” Stonewall said. “Vod, can you walk at all? Tackle's unconscious – we'll have to carry him.”

    It hurt to nod but Weave managed; again, he felt a flood of calm overtake his mind and he straightened even as Stonewall slipped away towards Tackle. “Let's get the kriff out of here.”

    Still at his shoulder, Blink laughed. “There's one thing we can all agree on.”

    Weak from their ordeal, the clones made a slow, stumbling way to the door. However, the sound of booted feet greeted them, a beautiful melody of familiarity as Crest and Traxis entered the room. “So you did run off together,” Crest said, coming to support Weave's other side without a moment's hesitation. “Kalinda won't be pleased.”

    At the mention of the Jedi's name Stonewall tensed, but Traxis answered the question before he could ask it. “She's with Milo. They're fighting Ventress.”

    I know... and I have to help her.” The captain made to rush out of the door, but he stumbled even as Crest called to him.

    You don't think we'd come charging in here without a plan, do you?”

    Stonewall looked back at his brother. “I can't lose her again.” But even as he said the words he cast a glance at Weave, who could make out the diverging urges in the captain's expression. Duty. Desire. But he was weak – they all were weak – and his face was strained with exhaustion.

    Pragmatic as ever, Traxis began pulling blasters from holsters on his body. “Here. Everyone arm yourselves, at least. The rest of the 41st should be arriving soon, but until then....”

    I'm no good right now, I can't really walk,” Weave admitted. “But I'll be okay. I can stay with Tackle until it's safe. Stonewall: go to her.” Even as he said the words, he felt fear and anxiety rising within him, but he pushed it back down.

    Gree cleared his throat, reminding them all that he was the ranking officer present. “Weave and Blink: stay with Tackle and keep him safe until we return. The rest of you, come with me; we're going to assist the Jedi.” The others nodded, though Weave could see that they were anxious even as they accepted the weapons from the scarred clone.

    When he stepped forward to take a weapon from his brother, a shaft of red light caught him and Traxis' eyes widened, causing Weave to wince at the fear that he saw reflected in his brother's gaze.

    Weave? What in the....?”

    Crest looked at him as well, but said nothing. Stonewall shook his head. “Later. We need to move, now.” He shot Weave an almost guilty look before he moved out of the room, Gree and the others following.

    Blink had taken Tackle's body and they moved behind one of the tables, careful to keep cover. The moment that Stonewall was out of sight, Weave felt a crippling fear overwhelm him as he touched a fingertip to his face. It was all he could do to breathe. Beside him, Blink put a hand on his shoulder.

    Calm down, vod,” he murmured. “Nothing you can do about all that right now.” He lifted his blaster and angled it towards the door.

    What did he do to me? What have I become? It was almost more than he could bear.


    Single-minded, Stonewall staggered through the corridors. He was behind Gree, Crest and Traxis, but he was only peripherally aware of the other clones as he ran; all of his focus, every bit of his remaining energy was centered on Kalinda's presence in the Force.

    She was losing her fight.

    Kali. Hang on. He gritted his teeth. After so much time drugged and bound it had been difficult to run at first, but his muscles had not forgotten the movements that were necessary to bring him to her. The blaster that Trax had given him was charged and ready to go. He passed Gree.

    They burst into the scene: red smoke, twin crimson blades and a single yellow blade. There were plenty of droids that Milo was doing his best to fend off while the two Force-users clashed. Gree shouted an order and the other clones began firing on the tinnies, but Stonewall turned his attention to Ventress. Kali's shock at seeing him standing was evident, though it shifted into relief that he was standing. Stonewall tried to push Ventress back with the Force, but she brushed off his attempts like one would an insect.

    Don't be a hero, Stone,” Kali called. “You're in no condition to-” She was cut off as the darksider lunged at her, the ferocity of the attack throwing Kali to her knees. Ventress raised her blades to sever the life of everything he loved.

    Stonewall was exhausted but he was not broken, so he reached within himself and tugged on the last vestiges of his strength before he offered them to her. I told you once that I would give you everything, if you'd let me, Kali. I meant it. Determined to see her unharmed, he then imagined a shield around her, a field of protective energy that would keep her safe when his arms could not be around her body. Before the blackness, before the swell of unconsciousness overtook him, he noted with no small amount of satisfaction that Ventress' sabers did not fulfill their mistress' desire and that the woman he loved was alive, rising once more to face her foe.


    Luminara felt the battle in the Force before she saw it. The clones' sudden, intense determination to take action after being helpless for so long and Kalinda's certain defeat as surely as her clone captain's refusal to let her succumb; these things struck her even as she raced to offer assistance. However, the thing that made her steps quicken further was one pillar of sheer determination and struggle for survival. Gree. Stubborn, brilliant, loyal Gree. He was there and he needed her help. So she came.

    A shout into her comm was all that was needed to ensure that the other members of the 41st who had been standing by on the Tranquility were notified that now was when they were needed. She entered the corridor and had to take a split second to absorb the sight that was laid bare before her: droids surrounded the area, being fired on by the clones. They had formed a loose perimeter around the site of the Force-users' battle and were doing their best to keep the press of droids at bay. The space was tight, but not enough to prevent the swing of a lightsaber, and the clones were fanned out of range of the bite of the blades.

    Even through the haze of smoke and bolts of plasma she could make out her commander and for a small moment she allowed herself a measure of comfort in knowing that he was alive. She thought that she saw him look her way, but in the chaos of red lights and blue blaster bolts it was impossible to tell for certain.

    Besides, she did have more pressing concerns at the moment.

    Beyond the clones, Kalinda was foundering, but it was not as much of a struggle as it should have been. While it was clear that Ventress was stronger, faster, and far more deadly, there was something about Kalinda that gave her pause, as the dark-haired Jedi moved with an intensity that Luminara had not seen in the other woman before. There was a strength within her motions that belied any kind of weakness in her knee or lack of skill. Beside her on the ground lay a clone trooper – her captain – who was still.

    She's protecting him, Luminara realized as she leaped forward to join the fray. She's keeping him safe.

    It was a fleeting thought. Luminara lifted her saber and decapitated several of the larger battle droids as she somersaulted over them to join Kalinda, who spared her a single glance when the Mirialan woman landed beside her. “Glad you could join us.”

    Always a pleasure.” But Luminara was not looking at her fellow Jedi; her gaze was on Ventress, whose chest was heaving even as her eyes had widened in surprise as she took in her new opponent. She recovered after an instant and angled her body like an arrow, aiming at the Jedi's heart.

    Her voice was a hiss of breath that could almost have been a gasp. “You will fall again, Jedi. You know that you are no match for me.”

    Luminara smiled. Before she lunged, she reached out and caught at the hem of Gree's mind, taking heart in his focus and concentration. Then her bright blade flashed against Ventress' red, piercing the crimson haze that surrounded them.

    The two women soon formed an unspoken plan, of a sort. Luminara kept most of the darksider's attention, leaping above her and angling her green blade towards her opponent. Her movements were precise, controlled but strong. It's a matter of time. We can win this. We must. She set her expression into one of passive calm and lunged again. Kalinda held her place before her fallen captain, never allowing Ventress to come between them while still offering her own strength to the fight.

    And it was still not an easy one. Ventress, even caught off guard, was more than a match for the Jedi, but Luminara could tell that they were wearing her down; in the background she could hear the tattoo of booted feet as the reinforcements arrived to aid their brothers' battle, after which the clanking of droids grew weak and sporadic.

    For all of her bravado, for all of her taunting and coercion, Ventress was ultimately a coward, which was – Luminara had always supposed – why she was able to survive in the galaxy for so long. Minutes after the reinforcements arrived, as Luminara and Kali pressed their attack, the darksider lifted a small device from her belt and tossed it into the clones; the Jedi hardly had time to shout a warning to their soldiers. The object erupted in a spray of heat and fire, knocking down droids and clones alike and creating enough of a distraction for Ventress to make her escape, disappearing into the haze.

    When the smoke cleared Luminara looked for Gree and noted with relief that he was rising from a crouch to make a slow, limping way over to the Jedi's position. “General Unduli,” he said as he stood before her. “Thank you for coming.” Relief was evident in his tone; then he turned to several of his officers, instructing them to begin the process of picking up the pieces in the aftermath of battle.

    When the commander looked back at her, there was a pause, a string of words that remained unspoken between them. Luminara nodded. “You're quite welcome, Gree, but I should thank you.”

    His head tilted. “Sir?”

    But Luminara didn't reply, as her gaze had fallen on Kalinda and her squad, who were crouched around the captain. The Jedi's expression was unreadable as Luminara approached her. “Kalinda....”

    He's alive,” she said. Her eyes had not left his face. “Barely. We need to get him to the infirmary.” After a pause she looked up at one of her other men. “Weave? And the others”

    In the lab,” the clone said. “He wasn't in any condition to fight. But he's alive...Blink's with him. Tackle needs a medic.”

    Did you see Creon?”

    Gree answered. “General Halcyon; we believe that the Kaminoan has vacated the station.”

    How do you know?” Luminara asked.

    Because he's the one who released us, sir. Said he wanted us to be a distraction while he made his escape.” The commander's tone was wary; the clones nearby looked around as if any moment the Kaminoan would appear out of thin air even as they began to collect their wounded.

    The Jedi exchanged glances before Kalinda looked back at her men. “Check every inch of this station; I want to know for sure. And see if you can't disable the control room – I don't want any droids surprising us while General Unduli's men get their comrades back to the ship.”

    The clone who'd spoken to her hefted his pack, his voice almost gleeful. “Are you giving me permission to detonate the control room?”

    Kalinda looked at the captain again, her hand on his cheek. “I don't care how you do it, Crest. Just make it go away.”


    Any calm that he'd felt before was shattered and he almost couldn't remember a time before blind panic. Weave squeezed his eyes shut to block out all sight, to prevent himself from seeing what the implant was trying to show him. I can't live like this. I can't do this. I can't be this way anymore. He was aware of a hand holding his arm, of a voice that was his own but not his own shouting in his ear, telling him to be calm, to hold still, that everything would be okay. Weave wanted to believe, but he had to know. He needed facts, not speculation.

    And then he felt another hand against his cheek, pressing against both his own skin and the implant; calm trickled through him, soothing and quiet and somehow wholly different than anything he had ever experienced. A moment later he could breathe again and he held still.

    Weave, you need to relax.” It was Kalinda. He tried to open his eyes, but she pressed her fingers – warm and gentle – against his skin. “I promise that you will be okay,” she said in Mando'a. “We're going to move you to the Tranquility, but you must hold still and stay calm.” Her tone was easy. She could have been speaking about the weather.

    He tried to nod but his body would not obey his mind. He felt her hand against his cheek and he forced his eyes to open, to meet hers; he was startled to see that she was crying. “I can't do this,” he whispered. “Please don't make me do this anymore.”

    She nodded and leaned close to him. “I promise, Weave.” Her hand against his cheek was warm even as someone else pressed a hypospray to his skin; as he drifted into unconsciousness, part of his mind wondered if this was what it felt like to have a sister.


    I kriffing hate this part,” Traxis muttered as they crept down the corridor. “Cleanup.” He said the word like a curse.

    It's the most logical thing for us to do now,” Milo pointed out as he peered within a side room. “And with that bald witch and the aiwha-bait gone, the Jedi have to take care of our brothers.” This made them all grow quiet for a few minutes as they thought of Captain Stonewall, Weave, and the others who even now were being transported to the infirmary aboard the Tranquility. “What do you think he did to Weave?” Traxis had only caught a brief glimpse, but his description had been vivid.

    The scarred clone lifted his blaster and surveyed another empty room that they'd come across. “I don't know...but I swear I'll make that long-necked shabuir pay.”

    Look,” Crest said suddenly. “I think we found it.” Indeed, they had come across their destination: the central control panel that fed orders to all of the battle droids aboard the station. “This will make our lives easier,” he added as he stepped to the unit and began setting his charges. The three men were silent while their brother worked before the bald clone cleared his throat. “I'll join you, Trax. When you take out that Kaminoan, I mean.”

    A few moments later, he stood up and they hurried out of the room; it wasn't entirely necessary to run, but they all seemed to feel the need for haste, so they moved as quickly as they could. The following explosion rippled Perdax as if a wave was breaking against its hull, though was relegated only to the spherical center area.

    Afterward, they made their way around the perimeter of the ship, checking for any sign of Creon. At one point while Crest and Traxis had moved on, Milo pushed open the door to a small, smoldering room and peered inside to see what he assumed was the remains of some kind of work area, though it was little more than a charred mess now. He stepped forward and heard a crunching sound beneath his feet; looking down, he noticed a discarded datapad.

    It might be too far gone, but maybe not. Perhaps it will have some useful intel, at any rate. He managed to clip it to his belt before he heard Traxis over their comm channel.

    What're you doing, shiny? Picking flowers? Shake a leg, already.”

    Milo sighed and turned for the door. Shiny. I'm never going to live that down, am I?


    It was over as quickly as it had begun, but Kalinda did not feel relieved as she followed the stretchers that carried Tackle, Stonewall and Weave to the infirmary aboard the Tranquility. Weave's words echoed in her mind and she bit back the swell of anger that she'd felt when she'd seen what Creon Dai had done to the quiet, gentle man that she'd met over a year ago.

    Tackle, the other clone they'd been taken with, was placed in a bacta tank immediately but the medics had no clue what to do with Weave, so she watched as they bandaged his face and left him to sleep. On the surface he looked peaceful, but she could feel the agitation seeping from his mind like smoke under a closed door. I don't know if this is something he can recover from.

    For a while, Kali stood to one side of the room and watched the rise and fall of Stone's chest as the medical officers finished patching up his nicks and bruises, remnants of his encounter with the darksider. He gave me everything he had, just as he'd promised. That was how I was able to stand against Ventress for so long. The medics wanted to sedate him as well, but she ordered them to let him be, sensing that he had too many toxins in his body; she could tell that he needed rest above all else.

    Her gaze fell to the small viewport that was situated along the far wall of the room. Outside, she could see the rush of stars that indicated they had entered the hyperlane that would carry them back to the Core. Beyond the viewport were hundreds of thousands of men just like Stonewall and Weave, men who were faced with death and pain each day, men who most likely did not have someone who considered them anything more than expendable resources.

    Again her thoughts returned to Ventress' words and she shivered. What purpose does any of this serve, in the end? If they had died, what would it have been in aid of? She wanted to shut off her brain, to stop the relentless surge of questions and doubts that had begun since this mission started, but the thoughts continued to circle within her mind.

    The medics finished their task and slipped out of the room, leaving her alone with the two clones. She moved to stand by Stonewall and pressed her hand to his chest, feeling his steady heartbeat beneath her palm. The sensation made some of the tension leave her body and she released a breath. He's fine. He'll be fine.

    An unfamiliar presence at the door to the infirmary made her turn; one of Luminara's men was standing at the threshold, uncertainty trailing from him. It took her a moment, but she recognized him from the lab on Perdax when she'd gone to find Weave. “Blink?”

    Yes, General Halcyon,” he replied, saluting her.

    She noticed that the motion made him wince so she shook her head and nodded towards Weave's sleeping form. “The medics think he's going to be okay,” she said. “Except they aren't sure what Creon did to him, and to be honest, neither am I.”

    Blink stepped into the room as though she were a live bomb; after a moment he went to Weave's bedside and regarded his brother before Kali moved to join him. “I've known him since we were boys on Kamino, sir,” he said at last. “Never thought he'd end up like this.” The words were murmured, as if not meant for any ears but his own.

    Kalinda glanced at him; he looked the same as all the others, yet his spirit was utterly foreign to her. He was bald, like Crest, but he lacked the merriment that flashed in the ordnance man's eyes and his demeanor was serious. “Thank you for staying with him,” she said at last, putting a hand on his arm, causing him to meet her eyes. “I'm glad he had a friend nearby.”

    Thank Commander Gree as well, sir,” he said. “He kept everyone as calm as as possible, given the circumstances.” There were a dozen questions brought to her mind by that sentence, but Kalinda decided not to press him for more information, as he looked a little stricken. “Weave was always too damn curious,” Blink added, his jaw tightening. “That's why they almost reconditioned him back on Kamino. When that....aiwha -bait took him...I knew. I knew it would break him.” His voice was hard and she could feel agitation rippling off of him even as he stood still beside her.

    But she found it hard to care about that in light of his words. “Weave was almost reconditioned?” It was only due to years of training that her own voice was schooled to calm.

    Blink nodded. “Yes, General.”


    She was struck by the confusion in Blink's eyes as he looked at her, as if he had no idea why anyone would ask such a thing. “Because he asked too many questions, sir.”

    It wasn't nearly enough of an answer for her, but she could tell that Blink was growing too agitated to keep discussing the matter, so she let it go even as she removed her hand from his arm and smoothed the blanket around Weave's upper torso. After a few minutes she looked at him again. “Thank you.”

    Again, he was visibly confused. “General?”

    She shook her head and patted his arm once more. “Just...thank you, Blink.”

    After a moment he nodded again. “Yes, General Halcyon.”


    Gree bit back a sigh of annoyance as the medic studied his chart. “Well?”

    You need rest, sir,” the clone replied, his voice blending with the quiet, beeping cadence of the nearby monitor. “I don't feel comfortable with you being up and about so soon after such an ordeal as you've described.”

    I'm fine,” Gree replied, making to get to his feet. “Really. A good night's sleep – in my own bunk – and I'll be good as new.” He reached for his armor that had been neatly stacked on a table in the curtained area. The medic pursed his lips but did not argue once the commander gave him a level stare. “The others that were brought in, where are they?” He bent to attach his greaves.

    Sir. In the critical care wing. Out the door, to the left.” The medic straightened his back and saluted as Gree snapped on the remaining bits of his armor and got to his feet.

    The commander nodded. “Thanks....?”'s Jab, sir. I'm new.” At Gree's raised brow the medic sighed. “I know. Not the best name for a medical officer. Sir.”

    Gree shook his head, reaching out to slap the fellow on the back. “Not at all. I can appreciate irony, Jab. Thanks for everything.” With that he slipped out of the room and made his way down the hall. Several other troopers passed him, each stopping to salute; he nodded but did not pause until he reached the appropriate section.

    As he stood for a moment, trying to figure out which door lead to his goal, one on the far end of the corridor slid open to reveal the dark-haired Jedi. She did not see him as she made her way down the hall. Gree waited until she disappeared into a nearby 'fresher before going to the door from which she'd come. Inside were two beds; he could make out an unconscious Weave in one, his face carefully bandaged to conceal the implant that Creon Dai had given him. In the other bed he could see Captain Stonewall, who appeared to be sleeping as well.

    He looks...okay. A little more banged up than I remember. The fluorescent lighting cast everything in stark relief, enhancing every shadow that he could see. A few steps brought him to the captain's side and he continued to study the other man.

    We have the same face, but we're so different. He recalled his brother's expression when he mentioned General Halcyon's name. He loves her. He really does. It was still a strange thought and as Gree glanced over the captain's chart he tried to wrap his mind around it. Love. He loves her. He says she loves him. How does he know for sure?

    The thought crossed his mind that he could wake Stonewall up and question him further about his relationship with the Jedi, though it was fleeting and he wasn't sure why he was so curious. It's not as if I would ever find myself in the same situation. I'm not like him.


    Gree blinked in surprise as the captain spoke, effectively snapping him out of his reverie. “Stonewall?”

    There was silence for a moment as he watched his brother's eyes open once, focus on him, then close briefly. “They're not the same.”

    Excuse me?”

    Stonewall looked at him again and gave a long, slow exhale. “Love and duty, Gree. They're not the same, but you can stay true to both. It's not easy, but it's possible.” His words were bleary and hushed and Gree recalled how exhausted the other man had been on Perdax.

    He shook his head. “You should rest.”

    But his brother gave a quiet chuckle, wincing with the motion. “Is that an order, sir?”

    No, Captain.” Gree sighed; for several moments there was only the sound of the machines in the room before he spoke again. “I'm not like you, Stonewall.”

    You are...I'm not special.” The words faded as the captain's eyes closed, though he spoke one last time before he fell asleep again. “I just found something worth fighting for.”
  17. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Seventeen: Lost and Found

    Surprisingly, Kalinda was not in the infirmary with her captain, which was the first place that Luminara checked when she found an opportunity several hours into their journey to the Core. However, when she entered the appropriate room she found the other Jedi's squad; they were seated at a table they'd dragged in, playing sabacc and – she supposed – keeping an eye on their comrades. The moment they noticed her, she was greeted by the scraping of chairs as they rose into a hasty but unified salute, which she returned with a nod before she approached the bedside of the clone that Creon had 'modified.'

    At ease, gentlemen,” she said, noting with amusement how they remained more or less at attention; she could feel their anxiety. “How is he?” The clone's face was bandaged, preventing her from seeing exactly what had been done, but she could well imagine.

    The bald one – Crest – looked uncertain. “We're not sure, General. He's...uneasy. Restless.”

    Kalinda says that he's afraid,” Milo added. “I don't blame him. Sir.”

    When we reach Coruscant, you can be assured that he will receive the best possible care,” Luminara said, suddenly struck with a desire to ensure that they did not worry. She smiled at them, an expression that they returned after a moment. “I want to thank you all for your bravery today,” she added “Without your aid, things might not have gone so well, though I am....sorry that your comrades were harmed.”

    Milo nodded. “Thank you, General. We did the best we could.” He shared a look with the others before they glanced back at their brother.

    Turning to the other bedside, Luminara studied the somnolent Captain Stonewall. He looked the same as any other clone, though she could tell that the marks Ventress had left on him werenot all on the surface of his skin. What is it about him that inspired such feelings in Kalinda? She was reluctant to consider the word love, though she was unsure why.

    If you're looking for Kalinda, she's in the mess,” the scarred clone, Traxis, said. At Luminara's look, he flickered uncertainty, but clarified. “She needed to eat something, sir.”

    Though he did not say as much, Luminara could hear the implication in his voice, that they had urged the Jedi to leave the infirmary. And why did she start having them call her by her name? I will never understand her. Rather than voice her thoughts, Luminara nodded to them one more time as she exited the room.

    Sure enough, the dark-haired Jedi was in the mess hall, seated alone in a quiet corner of the room, staring at a plate of military rations that it looked like she hadn't touched. When she felt Luminara's presence she looked up and gave the other woman a half-hearted smile as the Mirialan Jedi slid in the seat across from her.

    How's Gree?”

    As she'd been prepared to speak first, the words startled Luminara but Kalinda wasn't looking at her as she scraped her fork along the plate. “Gree is...well enough, I suppose. According to the medic who treated him, he just needs a few days' rest before he's good as new.”

    The dark-haired Jedi nodded and selected a portion of what appeared to be some kind of pasta slathered in bright orange sauce. She studied the food for a moment before taking a bite, wrinkling her nose at the taste. “I'm glad. From what I can gather he was instrumental in keeping them together, and his device really did save the day.” Her eyes met Luminara's. “Will you thank him for me?”

    Certainly.” There was quiet for a moment while Kalinda ate a few more bites. Finally Luminara sighed. “How did you do it?” At Kalinda's look she clarified. “Keep Ventress at bay. I could feel that you were losing the battle, then something changed. What happened?”

    Silence. Then Kali set her fork down and put her elbows on the table as she met Luminara's gaze. “Stonewall told me once – a long time ago – that he would give me everything he could if I'd let him. He's a man of his word.” She was quiet for several moments and Luminara could feel sorrow rippling from the other woman. “He...gave me his strength through the Force,” she said at last.

    Luminara considered this for a moment before she replied. “We should be back on Coruscant by tomorrow evening.” She gave the other woman a knowing look. “From what I could tell of Ventress' transmission, Obi-Wan was the only one who was on-hand to receive it. You understand why the rest of the Council must be informed about your captain's abilities, Kalinda. A matter of this importance can't be kept from them any longer.”

    Kalinda shook her head. “I know. The moment we reach the Temple, I'm going to talk to them.” She took a breath and met the Jedi Master's eyes. “I need some answers of my own, anyway.”

    Though she kept her voice calm, Luminara felt a thrill of apprehension at the words. “Keep in mind that you ask difficult questions.”

    The dark-haired Jedi made no reply as she picked up the fork again. It was quiet in the mess; only a few clones were about at this hour and Kalinda's gaze was upon them for several moments before she spoke again. “Thank you,” she said at last. “For coming to our rescue. For going along with that crazy plan and for being....a friend.”

    It was not the last thing that Luminara had expected to hear, but it was a surprise, nonetheless. “You're welcome.” On an impulse, she reached for the fork and speared a piece of noodle, chewing on it thoughtfully. “This really is terrible, isn't it?”

    I wasn't going to say anything.” She met Luminara's eyes and the two women shared a quiet smile.

    The Jedi Master was unsure how to voice the question that lingered in her thoughts as she passed the fork back to the other woman. She could feel the apprehension seeping from Kalinda, her thoughts centered on one clone in particular. “You love him a great deal, then?”

    I do.” She did not seem thrown by the sudden change of topic and she met Luminara's gaze without hesitation. “More than I ever imagined was possible. I know how that must sound to you, but I can't – I won't – hide how I feel. Never again.”

    Luminara nodded slowly, though her eyes flicked down to her folded hands. “I respect you for your conviction, Kalinda, though I don't see how it will benefit you in any way.”

    There was silence for a few minutes before Kalinda spoke again, her voice soft. “What do you think they'll do? Will you be there?”

    I wasn't planning on it,” Luminara replied. “But if they request my presence I can be.” She studied the dark-haired woman. “You are afraid they'll reassign you to another squad.”

    Surprisingly, Kalinda laughed. “That's one of the things on my mind, yes. But I'm also....” She frowned and studied the food on her plate for a moment. “I need answers,” she said again. “I need to know....well, a lot of things. I hope they can help.” She gave the Mirialan woman a sad smile.

    Luminara took a deep breath. “I don't know if they will have the answers that you seek, Kali, but I wish you luck.”

    Kalinda nodded and checked her chrono. “I think it's been long enough to at least say I made an effort to eat something. I'm going back. Maybe I'll make them come here and eat some of”

    You should be proud of the team that you've assembled, Kalinda,” Luminara said as they got to their feet. “They are a bit informal for my liking, but quite extraordinary, otherwise.”

    Kalinda smiled at her, and Luminara was struck by the sudden happiness in the other woman's expression, despite everything else that had happened. “I know.”

    After they parted ways, Luminara made her way to her quarters, though at the last minute she changed her mind and lifted her comlink. “Commander?”

    His reply was immediate. “General Unduli.”

    I'd like to meet with you to discuss the mission,” she said. “You have been released from the infirmary, correct?”

    Yes, General. I was just on my way to the barracks. However, I'd be glad to meet with you instead, sir.” If she had not known better, she would have detected a hint of anxiousness in his voice.

    Luminara considered the matter. “Very well. I'll see you on the observation deck in a few moments.” It was not the traditional space for a de-briefing, a little-used relic from days of peace long since forgotten, but it had a panoramic view of the stars and she thought that he would like it.

    The chamber was not large, especially compared to the command bridge or even the tactical room, but the entire half of one side was taken up with a massive window that overlooked the webbing of the stars as the Tranquility slipped through hyperspace. There were no tables and only one or two chairs aside from several crates of miscellaneous equipment that had been stored here; it was dark, save for the glow of space beyond. Gree was already there, standing before the window with an expression that bordered on longing, though when he noticed her approach he turned and saluted, keeping his helmet tucked under his arm with his free hand.

    Rather than speak right away she moved to stand beside him and for a time they watched the swirl of hyperspace. Though he was silent she felt his attention on her as surely as if he'd been staring; she could sense a miasma of questions shifting within him, for all that he remained silent. Finally she spoke. “Your modifications to our comm system were an integral part of the rescue. Your brothers owe you their lives.”

    Ventress escaped – again,” he replied, shaking his head. “As did Creon Dai. With all due respect, General, I failed.” There was an edge of remorse in his voice, but she could tell that he was working to keep his tone neutral.

    She thought of Kalinda and her steadfast assurance that her feelings for the clone captain gave her strength. But I am not like her. I cannot allow myself such emotional luxuries. Gree's tension beside her was palpable but she mostly wondered at her own.

    So Luminara put a hand on his armor and met his eyes, at once so familiar and so utterly foreign. “You lived to see another day, Gree. To me, that is victory enough.” She kept her hand in place, noting how his eyes flickered once to her skin before meeting her face again as she continued. “I have grown accustomed to our working together, Gree. It would have been....difficult to lose you.”

    There was warmth in her voice, a hint of genuine affection that she allowed to slip through the normal barriers. He stared at her, unblinking, for several moments before he swallowed and nodded, though he said nothing for a while. Finally he spoke. “Thank you...Luminara.” The words were quiet but solid and he held her gaze a moment longer before she lifted her hand and turned back to the window.

    Together, they watched the stars.


    When Stonewall awoke, he initially was aware of only two things. The first was pain; in his head, in his arms and legs, in the core of his spirit. It was laced with thick exhaustion, though upon careful reflection he knew that it would fade with time. At any rate, it meant that he was alive and for that he was grateful, as he had so much to live for.

    The second thing was warmth. Something was curled beside him in the slender bed, something that had molded to the shape of his body and wrapped him in an embrace. “Kali.” He murmured her name and opened his eyes to see her dark ones looking up at him from her place at his side; his gaze immediately fell on her arm, which was bandaged. “What happened? Are you okay?”

    I've been better,” she said after a pause. “How do you feel?”

    A deep inhale gave him another moment to assess his condition. Tired, sore. A bit weak. Bent a little, but not broken. He looked at her again. “Not great, but I'll live.”

    Best news I've heard all day,” she replied. For a moment they regarded one another and he got the sense that she was studying him. Wincing, he recalled his treatment at the hands of Ventress; he could feel the pain where she'd struck him and wondered what proportion of his face was purple and blue.

    How bad do I look?”

    She smiled and put her head on his chest. “I don't mind the bruises so much, Stone. It's that hair I have a problem with.”

    He smiled as well. After another moment he glanced at Weave in the bed beside him. Someone had wrapped a strip of cloth around his brother's face, obscuring the implant that he knew was there. “How is he?”

    Afraid.” Kalinda sighed; he felt the movement of her body against his. There was a bitterness to her tone that he caught, but did not quite understand. “Blink told me that he was fine until you guys left....then he started panicking. It seemed to happen all at once.”

    Stonewallfelt a stab of remorse so he closed his eyes and moved his arm around her shoulders, as it was comforting to hold her. “That's my fault, I think.” He didn't need to see her look to know that she wanted more. Another breath. “When Creon took Chip, I felt helpless – we all did – but I knew that there was one thing I could do. I used the Force to calm him down, to ease some of the pain that he felt.” He shivered and Kali pressed herself closer to him. “Weave...he was terrified when the droids came for him. I mean, just falling apart. I couldn't stand it.”

    She looked up at him again. “So you used the Force? And when you stopped, when you left to help me....”

    He nodded, closing his eyes. I'm so sorry, Weave. “I chose you,” he said at last. “I chose to go to you and leave him.”

    Kali didn't say anything for a moment, but he felt her kiss against his chest. “You did what you felt was right, Stone. I'm sure he will understand.” She gave another sigh and rubbed at her forehead. “So, I suppose it would be pretty harsh of me to tell you what an utter di'kut you were to almost kill yourself on my account, wouldn't it?”

    He didn't respond at first as he pulled her close. “If it meant keeping you safe, I would have given my life, Kali.”

    I don't want you to.” Her voice was strange; he studied her and realized that her eyes were slightly red and swollen. “I don't want any of you to give your lives – for me or for anyone.” She gave him a tired smile and he felt a flicker of apprehension as he smoothed a stray bit of hair from her face.

    What is it?”

    She laid against his chest again. “We should be back on Coruscant by tomorrow. I'm going to tell the Council.”

    About us or about me being able to use the Force? Or both?” For all the times she'd told him that she was an adult, capable of making her own choices, he couldn't help but feel a flash of concern for her, and, if he was truthful, for himself. I don't think I could bear to lose her. That's probably not a good way to feel about a Jedi, especially for a soldier. Especially during a war, when there is so much uncertainty. There were an entire host of “what ifs” that ran through his mind and he wrapped his arm tighter around her as if it would help.

    Kali closed her eyes and he wondered if she was listening to his heartbeat as she liked to do. “Both.” Another moment passed and she glanced up at him. “I have a few questions of my own for them, as well.”

    There was something in her tone that made him peer down at her. “What does that mean?”

    She did not reply immediately and he could tell that she was considering her words. He waited. Finally she sighed and he realized that she was looking at him with an acute sorrow that rippled off of her in waves. “Stone,” she said at last, her voice quiet. “Do you ever wish that things were different?”

    Different in what way?”

    He felt her sigh again and when she answered him, her voice was hushed. “Do you think that you and your brothers are...slaves to the Jedi?”

    For a moment he was too stunned to form a coherent reply. Finally he shook his head and looked down at her, startled to realize that she was studying him with an intensity he'd never seen. “Slaves?” The word was strange on his tongue.

    You were all trained from birth to be perfect soldiers,” she said. “You've been....programmed for war and nothing else....and the Jedi send your brothers to die by the thousands, seemingly without regard for your lives.” She closed her eyes. “We've used you to serve our own ends. We're no better than Creon.”

    He shook his head. “Kali...that's not how I see it. For one thing, the Jedi keep us as safe as possible during each battle – at least, the Jedi that I've worked with – who knows how much worse it would be without them? And the Jedi think of us as individuals when to most Republic citizens, we're little more than flesh-droids. You think the Kaminoans ever cared to see that we got names? Do you think that Lama Su would have let me dye my hair this ridiculous color?” She smiled and he felt heartened as he continued. “The Jedi are nothing like Creon. The Jedi had about as much choice in the war as we did. In the end, we are all servants of the Republic.”

    But that doesn't change the fact that you and your brothers were still bred to be what you are,” she replied. “They manipulated your genetic code to make you age so fast and to get rid of your free will; when someone – like Weave – asked too many questions...” She shivered and he rubbed her arm. “Duty or isn't right. ”

    Stonewall shook his head again. “You of all people should know better. All this time, you've been telling me – telling all of us – that we're more than our training, we're more than our genetics and our propensity for firing blasters.” He touched her cheek, noting the brightness in her eyes that seemed to have been cropping up more and more of late. “Because of your faith in me, I know my true worth. I know that I'm capable of more, and I intend to make the full use of what time I do have. That's a greater gift than anything else in the galaxy, Kali'ka.”

    Her head tilted. “What?”

    He smiled. “Mando'a. It means, 'my beloved Kali.'” She rested her head against his chest once more and they were quiet for a few minutes before he spoke again. “Do you think the Council will...reassign you?”

    They can try, for all the good it will do them. I'm not going anywhere, Stone.” She turned and regarded him. “I want to be where you are. That much I know to be true, at least.”

    It was enough to make his shoulders relax and he nodded. “Good to know we're on the same page.”

    Kali'ka,” she said. “I like it.” She smiled at him. “ would be 'Stone'ika?'”

    Doesn't have quite the same ring to it.”

    She laughed. “A nickname for your nickname to your nickname....might be going to far.”

    I think I'd agree with you, there.” Stonewall sighed and kissed her forehead; when he spoke again, his voice was serious. “Creon took the younger clones when he fled. I'm sorry we couldn't stop him.” He felt her tense beside him, felt the ripple of sorrow and anger from her, though it could have been his own.

    We'll find them,” she whispered. “I promise you, I will find them.”

    Gradually, his thoughts turned elsewhere and he cast another glance at Weave before looking down at her. “I need to be better,” he said. At her look of confusion he elaborated. “With the Force, I mean. I need to learn more, I need to be able to do more, especially if I want to help my brothers. I've been avoiding it, pretending that I'm no different then them, but I can't live like that any longer.”

    She nodded. “I'll show you, Stone. I'll teach you everything I can.” She kissed his chest. “What else is there?”

    Despite everything, he smiled. You know me too well. “ Ventress.” He winced even as he said her name. “She...invaded my mind. I could feel her in my brain – not at all like you or even Obi-Wan – but bizarre and awful. I need to learn how stop such an attack.” He laughed, helplessly. “Otherwise, what good am I?”

    Stonewall, you are an entire universe of good.” She sat up and met his eyes. “You just need time and training. What was it you told me once about the younger clones? The only difference between you is experience.”

    He inhaled and nodded. “Thank you.” They studied one another for a moment before she smiled at him. “What?”

    Eltair. They won.”

    He felt a huge grin spread across his face. “Really? What was the score?” She gave him a blank look and he shook his head. “Never mind. did you know?”

    She leaned up to kiss him. “I have my ways. Will you get rid of that hair, now?”


    Though he had never been one for eavesdropping, Weave could not help but listen to the conversation of the Jedi and the clone captain in the bed beside him. “...he was terrified when the droids came for him. I mean, just falling apart. I couldn't stand it.”

    I remember that, I think. His time aboard Perdax was muddled and hazy, but he could recall the fear that he'd felt when the droids had brought him to Creon, especially since it reminded him so much of his youth on Kamino, of his near-reconditioning by the clones' “caretakers.”

    So you used the Force? And when you stopped, when you left to help me....” Kalinda's voice was quiet and Weave could hear her concern.

    The captain sounded stricken. “I chose you. I chose to go to you and leave him.”

    Ah. Weave frowned; it was difficult to remember, but he was trying. But I told him to go to's what I would have wanted to do if our roles were switched. He opened his mouth to say this, but Kalinda beat him to the punch.

    You did what you felt was right, Stone. I'm sure he will understand.” There was a surety in her voice that comforted him, as if she always knew just what to say to make a situation better.

    He gathered his strength and pushed past the muzzy haze of the tranqs that he'd been given so that he could speak, but their talk turned to other things and he sank back into the silence, listening. It wasn't their words that he focused on, but rather the pitch and timber of their voices; it was comforting to hear them. After a while they were silent and he risked a glance to see if they were sleeping. However, he couldn't make anything out from the angle, so he strained to listen. Nothing.

    On a whim, he reached up and pulled back the cloth that had been placed over his implant so that he could focus on the bed beside him. The device came to life and he was able to see what was going on, which was, as he'd imagined, that they had fallen asleep on the small bed. Despite their injuries, they both looked peaceful and he again felt a pang of longing as he tilted his head and felt the odd sensation of metal skimming the fabric of the pillow.

    The memory of his brothers' expressions when they had seen him for the first time haunted his thoughts; no one had given him a mirror yet – he'd been unconscious pretty much from the first moment he'd been brought on board – but he knew their faces enough to know that it was bad. It may be possible for someone like Stonewall or Crest or any of the others to find that kind of happiness...but not me. Not now. Who would want me, now? Sorrow was a bitter thing that stuck in his throat, so he swallowed it down, tried to push it aside and just go back to sleep.

    Weave did not dream.
  18. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Eighteen: Worlds Collide

    I wonder if I'll ever not be nervous when I come here.

    For the umpteenth time in her memory, Kalinda stood outside the Jedi Council chambers, awaiting permission to enter. However, she did not feel the normal, admittedly selfish apprehension of wondering what would happen to her once she walked through the doors, as there were other, bigger things on her mind. Her heart was beating a rapid tattoo, but it was adrenaline-based, fueled by an emotion that she likened to fear; she was trying to rein it in so that she could speak calmly and without emotion, as she knew it would be necessary to do if she had any hope of getting the answers that she sought.

    To distract herself she glanced out the window and watched Coruscant sparkle in the evening hours. Life never stops here, even as the wars rage on outside this world. I wonder how many of the citizens are even aware of it?

    From within the chamber, she felt Obi-Wan's brush against her mind and took comfort in the fact that her friend would be attending the session; he was partly aware of her situation and she knew that she could trust him to stand by her. But there are some things that even Master Kenobi can't fix, for all that he would like to. The thought made her stomach turn.

    A chime indicated that she was permitted to enter. Kali stepped through the doors.

    It was not a full Council session – she didn't think that there had been one since the beginning of the wars – but it was enough. Mace Windu and Yoda held their traditional seats at the right-hand section of the room, while Obi-Wan and Luminara were seated beside one another facing the door. There were no other members present, which she decided was a good thing, as she was not sure how long her composure would stand up to her former Master, who even now was scrutinizing her with the dark gaze that made her feel like a youngling.

    But I'm not a kid any more, she thought as she met his eyes. I'm a Jedi Knight. I'm a grown woman. And I have a bad feeling that I'm right – about this, at any rate. She stood at the center of the room and kept her arms loose at her sides as she faced the senior members of the Council, wondering if she was supposed to speak first.

    Master Yoda spared her from making the decision. “Much talk about you, there has been, Kalinda.” His large eyes were fixed on her and his voice was neutral. “Glad we are, that you have elected to speak with us.”

    Mace was not so passive. “What is the nature of your relationship with the clone, Captain Stonewall?”

    Good old Mace, right to the point. Kali met his eyes. “I love him.” Perhaps when she was younger she might have imagined that such a statement would elicit gasps from the Council members, followed by a hushed murmur of astonishment and darting eyes. But she was not a child and these were some of the greatest Jedi that the Order had ever seen; no one was prone to such outbursts. She did not offer any further explanation as she continued to meet her old Master's gaze.

    You love him?” Mace repeated her words, which made her wonder if she really had caught him off guard. It was not his way to stall for time.

    She nodded, then decided to move the conversation along. “More than I thought was possible, Masters. And he returns the sentiment.” She took a breath and glanced at Obi-Wan, who remained motionless, though she could see in his gaze that he was with her. “I realize that this relationship goes against the Order's edict of non-attachment, but before you say anything you should know that something has resulted from the situation that I was not expecting.”

    Which is?” Her old Master sounded skeptical, though Yoda said nothing as he regarded her.

    He has become Force-sensitive.”

    At her words, Obi-Wan sat up. “I can confirm this,” he said, not looking at Kalinda. “It began after our joined mission to the planet Aruna some months ago. He is able to access and use the Force, though I'm at a loss as to why.” He glanced at Kali at last. “You didn't find that out, did you?” She shook her head; for a moment they shared a look and she felt the bond of their friendship offer her comfort.

    Mace Windu exhaled and laced his fingers together as he stared at Kali. She could feel his attention on her, sifting through her emotions, so she thought of Stonewall and allowed herself to feel the glow of happiness that resulted from the action. After a moment he leaned back in his chair with a heaviness that startled her.

    No one spoke for a few moments before Luminara cleared her throat. “I was also witness to the captain's....abilities,” she said. “He was able to lend his strength to Knight Halcyon during our altercation with Asajj Ventress, which allowed me time to reach her. I believe that Kalinda would have succumbed to Ventress' attack had he not done so.” Her voice was calm, neutral, but Kalinda felt a flicker of affection from the other woman.

    Thank you, she thought, meeting Luminara's eyes.

    Yoda and Master Windu exchanged glances before looking back at Kali. “We would like to see this for ourselves,” Mace said.

    He's still recovering from his encounter with Creon Dai,” Kali replied. “Unless you want to visit him in the GAR sickbay, you'll have to wait a few days.”

    To her surprise, Yoda nodded. “Then visit, one of us will. Tomorrow morning.” He glanced at Mace, who seemed equally startled, though he hid it well with only a nod.

    Kali took another breath. “He's asked to be trained in some of the basic ways of the Force, Masters, and I've agreed to teach him what I can.”

    Though unique, his situation is, a Jedi he will never be.”

    But he deserves the knowledge,” Kali replied, glancing at the diminutive Jedi Master. “And you must be curious to learn what he's capable of...I know I am.” She tried to keep the hopeful tone in her voice to a minimum.

    You are aware that you cannot continue your relationship with him?” Mace said to her. “It's attachment and it is forbidden. I feel that it is in your best interest if you are formally reprimanded, as well as assigned to work with a new squad.”

    This was nearing what she'd been waiting for. Kalinda took a deep breath. “I know the rules, Mace. I understand they're in place for a number of reasons, and I respect them, I do. But I've also come to understand that – at least for me – shutting myself off from those feelings, from love, is a road that I can't afford to travel.” She glanced at Obi-Wan again. “During our last mission to Aruna....I lost the use of the Force.”

    Master Windu nodded. “You mentioned that in your report. As I recall, it was a temporary loss that you linked with a vision that you had in an old temple?” His tone was skeptical and she reflected that her retelling of the whole affair had been a bit vague.

    Love.” Kali let the word rest in the air for a moment. “The Force is linked with love, for me anyway.” She watched their faces change from confusion to disbelief. “I still don't understand it all, but I'm trying. Maybe when the war is over I can look into it....but that's not what's important right now.”

    She took another breath and tried to relax her hands. “Until recently, I haven't really understood the Jedi Order's role in this conflict; I was isolated from the worst of it with the missions that myself and my squad were given,” She faltered here, and had to take a moment to gather her thoughts. “One of the reasons that I came before you today is to ask you why.”

    She let the word hang in the air, noting the currents of surprise and curiosity that rippled between the other Jedi. Obi-Wan's attention was on her, though he made no attempt to call her through the Force as Mace Windu and Yoda exchanged glances before looking back at her.

    Why, what?” Mace said at last.

    Kali turned to him. “Why did the Jedi accept use of the clones in the first place? Why do we continue to use them in a war that they have no stake in? Why didn't we try to find another solution – any other solution – than to use a genetically altered army to fight this war?” Her fists had balled and she was trembling again, though after a moment she was able to collect herself so that she could speak the next words without emotion. “These things make me wonder if the Jedi Order has lost its way.”

    Explain this feeling further, you should,” Yoda said, his tone kind and quiet, which nearly made her rethink her statement, as she had braced herself for an onslaught of Mace's indignation.

    She lifted her hand to indicate the space beyond the window. “Out there are thousands upon thousands of innocent men whose sole purpose for being created was to fight a war that has nothing to do with them. They were not born. They were decanted in jars and raised – not as children – but as soldiers. They spend every moment of their unnaturally shortened lives in service to an entity that doesn't even consider them citizens.”

    Mace shifted in his seat. “The Jedi are doing our duty to keep the peace. It may not be in the fashion that we would wish, but it is necessary for the safety of the Republic citizens, whom we all serve.” He leaned forward. “What would you have done differently, Kalinda? How would you have proceeded, had the decision rested in your hands?”

    Sometimes the hardest choice is the only choice, Kali,” Obi-Wan said. There was remorse in his voice. “Do you think that the Senate would take as much consideration for the clones as we have? Do you think that the average Republic citizen minds their losses so much?”

    Kali swallowed. “I don't doubt that we had to find a way to handle this conflict, but using the clones in this fashion should never have been an option. If the Jedi Order has taught me anything, it's that there is always another solution to even the thorniest problem.”

    I will reiterate what I told you before, Kalinda,” Luminara said. “It was a terrible choice, but we were forced to make it.” Kali glanced at the other woman and she realized that the rift had remained, despite their time together.

    There are some things that you and I will never agree on, Lu,” she replied. “I fear this is one of them.” She looked back at Mace and Yoda. “It's wrong to use them like this. You know that, don't you?” The fear that she'd felt before had not faded; it had sharpened, turning the edges of her wavering resolve to flint; the accompanying feeling of sorrow cut her to the quick. “You know it.” Her voice had faded to a whisper.

    Clouded, your vision is, by the feelings you have for the captain,” Yoda said with his customary gentleness.

    She was quiet for a moment before replying. “I respectfully disagree, Master. Perhaps the fact that I love Stonewall has opened my eyes to the reality that he and his brothers face.” How is what I feel for him wrong? Love leads to compassion. Love leads to strength. There should be more love in our lives, not less. She shook her head, unable to voice the thoughts; instead she sighed again. “They deserve so much more than the roles they've been forced into.”

    Obi-Wan spoke next, his voice was quiet as if they were the only ones present. He knew her better than any one else in the room, after all. “What are you going to do, Kali?”

    For a moment they shared a look and she felt her resolve wavering yet again. Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps my judgment is clouded. But then she saw Stonewall and his brothers in her mind's eye: she recalled the rows of decanting jars; she thought of the boy on Kamino who, for one moment, looked like the child that he was rather than the soldier that he was being grown into; she heard Weave on Perdax, begging her to release him from his forced duty. No. I'm right. I know it. She took another breath.

    If I have a choice, I will not be parted from those under my command. And I don't want to abandon the Republic, or the Jedi, for if I do, it won't make anything better for those I love.” Allowing her words to sink in a moment longer she met Mace's eyes again. “I know that you must take some kind of action, but you should know that I will continue to do what I think is right. It's what you taught me, after all, Master.”


    Mace's eyes remained locked on hers, but for once she did not quell under his gaze. Rather, she thought again of Stonewall and allowed her feelings for him to surface; underneath it all, however, was a formed conviction and a strengthening resolve, though neither was a comfort. I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff. One step away from the unknown. She took another breath and felt the Force gathering within her, a constant companion, a compass showing her the correct path. It gave her hope. After what felt like hours, Mace sighed and glanced at the floor beneath his feet, the motion almost startling Kali into asking if he was well.

    When he looked back at her, his gaze held acceptance, and – she thought – a tiny gleam of pride. “We will discuss this matter at a later time,” he said at last. “For now, I wish to assess Captain Stonewall's prowess in the Force. Tomorrow morning, I shall meet you in the infirmary to do so. Is that satisfactory?”

    It was the first time that she could remember him asking her permission to do anything, so she was wrong-footed for a moment. Finally she nodded, giving him a bow.

    Yoda sensed her remaining concerns before she voiced them. “Discuss we will, the matter of your attachment to the clone captain. Informed of our decision, you will be.”

    It was not a reassuring statement, but he left her no room for further debate; she bowed again before exiting the room and making her way down to the main area of the Temple, intent on returning to Stonewall and the others, who were awaiting her. However, she was stopped almost mid-stride when she heard Obi-Wan's voice in her mind.

    Will you hold still for one moment? The annoyance in his tone was mundane enough to make her smile, so she paused beside a massive column to wait for him. Several minutes later he exited a nearby turbolift and approached her, an unreadable expression on his face.

    She cleared her throat. “That went well.”

    He ran a hand through his hair, though she could see the faint smile that played on his mouth. “Which Council meeting were you in?” He sighed and looked at her. “I should know you well enough to realize that you will never cease to surprise me.”

    I'll take that as a compliment.”

    Obi-Wan looked pensive. “Are you going to leave the Order, Kali?” His voice was soft and his gaze on her was uneasy.

    She was quiet for a long moment before she replied. “I don't want to, Ben. I really don't want to. But...” She spread her hands. “I meant what I said up there. Every word. And I don't know if I can reconcile how I feel with how the Order is acting....I need to think on it.” She looked at him again. “Did any of what I said make sense?”

    It did.” But he still looked upset. She thought that he wanted to embrace her, or at least take her hands, but he kept still. “Blast this kriffing war,” he muttered at last, his eyebrows narrowing.

    It was the last thing that she expected to hear from Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master and High General, and she found herself smiling at him. “I don't think that Council members are allowed to swear.”

    It's a necessary evil sometimes.” He smiled as well, though it was edged with remorse. “I left in the middle of a debate to come talk to you. I had to know...”

    She shook her head. “Being a Jedi is all I've ever known or wanted. It's just...” She frowned and looked at her feet. “I always thought they – Mace and Yoda and the rest of the Council – were right, all the time, and that it was me who was wrong – about a lot of things. But now...” She met his eyes. “Now I think it might be the other way around – about this, anyway – and it's....unsettling, to say the least.”

    I don't think you are asking questions for which there are simple answers. In any case, they won't reassign you, Kali. Of that I can promise you.” She lifted her brow and he gave a hollow laugh. “After everything we went through on Aruna? You know me better than that.”

    Kali nodded. “Thank you, Ben. That means a lot.”

    But he continued, his eyes fixed on hers, refusing to let her drop her gaze. “You must have faith in the Council, Kali. They did not make the decision to enter the war lightly, you know. Nor do they treat the losses of the clones casually.”

    At these words she shook her head. “I want to believe that...but I feel like the entire order of my world has been thrown off.” She felt her eyes pricking and began to blink. “It's's all wrong. Why don't they see it? Am I crazy?”

    He embraced her then, the gesture filled with warmth. “You're not crazy, Kali. But I don't have an answer for you, otherwise.” They stood together for a moment and she felt herself growing more calm. Finally he stepped away, running a hand through his beard as he regarded her. “I noticed that you and Luminara reached a kind of understanding.”

    I'm not sure,” she replied. “I respect her, and I think she does me, but we're so different. In any case, things would not have gone as well as they did without her help, so I'm grateful, regardless.”

    She does respect you,” he said. “Kali, everyone in that room respects you, in their own ways.” He pitched his words low and solemn, and she nodded though she hugged her arms to her sides.

    Obi-Wan, I have to go,” she said after a moment. “The others are waiting for me.” She said goodbye and turned to leave, though he caught her arm.

    Kali...promise me you'll come back.”

    For a moment she was stunned; the words were spoken with fear, real fear that he would lose her. Will our friendship be another casualty of the war? No. I won't let that happen, no matter what. She blinked once and nodded. “I promise, Ben.” He nodded as well and released her. As she hurried out of the Temple she was aware of his gaze on her retreating form and again she felt a thrill of loss, though it was made bittersweet by the knowledge that she was going home.


    There was silence for a moment after Obi-Wan hastily excused himself to go after Kalinda, leaving Luminara alone with Mace Windu and Yoda, who had been in the middle of speaking. Mace sighed and smoothed his hands over his skull while Yoda looked thoughtfully in the direction their comrade had gone.

    Luminara took a breath. “What is going to happen with Knight Halcyon and her squad?”

    I can't see how she should be allowed to remain with them,” Master Windu replied. “Can you? She's attached to the captain; we cannot permit such a thing.”

    Nodding, Luminara thought back to her time with Kalinda on the Tranquility and on the moon of Caradoc, recalling the other woman's devotion to her men – and it was not just because she felt that she was in love with one of them. Indeed, she had done everything to ensure that those in her command were safe and in return, her men had become more than just good soldiers. She wondered what would happen if all clones were treated as Kalinda dealt with those under her leadership.

    How would things be different with Gree? The thought of her commander was enough to make her realize that she had to say something in Kali's defense. Not for her, but for those she serves with. It would be wrong to separate them now.

    She met Mace's eyes. “As long as I've known her, Kalinda has struggled with her emotions and during this mission I was witness to the fact that she continues to do so. However,” she paused and took a breath. “I also noticed that the emotional bonds she formed with the members of her squad provided her – and them as well – with strength. I have rarely come across a group of soldiers who were so creative and proficient, and I believe that it is due to her relationship with them.”

    Are you suggesting that we allow her to remain with the squad?” Mace sounded incredulous. “I'd have thought that you, of all people, would be against such a thing.”

    She has changed,” Luminara replied. “I did not believe it at first, but I see it now. I think she is a better Jedi now than she has ever been. Though I don't agree with many of her ideas, I understand how her bonds have given her strength.”

    Mace Windu shook his head. “Be that as it may, we cannot allow her to continue serving in this capacity, especially since we know that she has formed an attachment to the clone captain.”

    Luminara was quiet for a few moments, thinking over her next words. “On Caradoc,” she said at last. “After Gree and the others were taken, Kalinda said something to me that has not left my mind: she told me to do whatever I thought was right. I am one person, Masters. I have only my own perspective, and it is not infallible. However, I feel that it would be an error to separate her from the squad at this time, particularly when her relationship with the clone captain has brought out his Force-abilities – for whatever reason.”

    After I assess his ability, Captain Stonewall and his men can be assigned to another Jedi. Perhaps it was the wrong decision to allow her to take the role she has. Her nature is not suited to such activities; she should return to the Temple to teach the next generation of Jedi.” Mace's voice was hard, but there was a distinct edge of concern for his former Padawan.

    Yoda cleared his throat, causing the other Jedi to look back at him. He held their gazes for several moments, allowing the emotions that had arisen from the discussion a chance to recede before he spoke. “Correct, Master Windu is, about the issue of attachment,” he said, looking at Luminara with unblinking eyes. “Forbidden, it is, with good reason.”

    She felt something clench in her heart, though she worked to release it into the Force. “Yes, Master. I am not contesting that fact.”

    However,” his eyes fell on Mace, who steepled his fingers together with an expectant air. “Fully understand the connection between the captain's use of the Force and Kalinda's bond with him, we do not. Unwise, it would be, to sever the connection before a greater understanding, we have. Much potential for good there could be from this situation. More time, we should give her. And let go of your Padawan, you must.” He leaned back into his chair and waited.

    Luminara met Mace's eyes; they shared a look that was equally frustrated and respectful, though they each nodded. “Very well,” Mace said at last. “I will defer to your judgment, Master. If the captain is able to use the Force as she claims, then she will not be reassigned.”

    Yoda nodded; at that moment each of the Jedi glanced at the door as Obi-Wan returned, his features carefully schooled to remain neutral. He strode across the room to take his seat before looking around at the others. “Forgive my sudden...departure,” he said, folding his hands before him. “There was a question for which I needed an answer.”

    Find it, did you?” Yoda's eyes missed nothing and Luminara watched the bearded Jedi nod slowly, though there was sorrow in his thoughts.

    I did.” He paused and looked around again. “Shall we continue our discussion?”

    Mace Windu sighed and glanced at Luminara. “No need. It's been decided – for the most part.”

    A/N: One more chapter to go! Then on to the next story in the trilogy, Bastion. [face_dancing]
  19. laloga

    laloga Jedi Knight star 2

    Jul 28, 2011
    Chapter Nineteen: No Turning Back

    Truth be told, Stonewall should have been done with lying around the infirmary hooked up to a beeping machine and having an endless parade of bland food brought to him on trays, and in part he was, for all that Kali was insistent that he rest. After a few hours in a bacta tank he had recovered from his visible wounds, and she'd promised to show him how to begin using the Force to heal himself. It was an strange concept, the idea that he could mend torn flesh and seal damaged nerve-endings using the strange energy, but he knew that it would prove to be an incredibly useful skill when and if he became proficient with it.

    But still, he was reluctant to leave the sickbay for another reason.


    His brother had always been quiet, but there was an edge to his reticence now that bordered on depression. He's been through a horrible trauma. It's to be expected, I suppose, Stonewall thought as he sat at the edge of his bed and played a round of sabacc with Crest, Traxis and Milo, who had all been given permission to stay with their brothers; his understanding was that Kalinda had been adamant that they remain if they chose and none of the medical officers had refuted her orders.

    Crest was losing, though he was being obnoxiously cheerful about it. “This hand stinks so bad, it smells worse than the insides of a tauntaun.” From their places around the little table that they'd pushed between the beds, he and Milo chortled at the joke while Trax rolled his eyes.

    Stonewall glanced at Weave, who was seated on his own bed, trying to repair a datapad that Milo had found aboard Perdax. One side of his face was wrapped to conceal the implant that Creon had given him, though Stone could see a faint outline of flickering lights. “You think you want to join the next round, vod?” he asked. Weave shook his head, his eyes not lifting from the device.

    The others exchanged glances but said nothing. After a few more minutes, Stone felt a familiar presence in the Force and looked towards the door. Crest lifted a brow. “I can always tell when the boss is coming around, because you get that big, dopey grin on your face.”

    Stone ignored him as Kali entered the room. Their eyes met and he noted the sorrow in her gaze, though he could sense that her resolve had strengthened. How'd it go?

    She moved around the others to stand beside him, running her eyes across the machines that he was still hooked up to before she replied in kind. About as well as I expected. He nodded and reached for her hand, savoring the press of her skin against his. After a moment she cleared her throat and looked at Weave. “How's it going?”

    He actually looked up for her, though it was fleeting. “Okay.”

    She slipped out of Stonewall's grasp and moved to his brother. “I never did thank you for the armor,” she said as she stood by his bed. “It's perfect. One hundred percent.” She smiled at him and he lifted his eyes again.

    I'm glad.” The words were spoken without emotion and he made no further comment; after a moment she gave a quiet sigh and returned to Stone's side.

    You sure I can't talk you into getting rid of the purple before it washes out on its own?” He raised a brow and she clarified. “Master Windu is coming to pay you a visit tomorrow. He wants to assess your strength in the Force.”

    At these words, all of the clones tensed, but Stonewall only nodded. “Sounds good. Do you know what it'll entail?”

    She shook her head. “There are a number of 'tests' that can be performed. Most likely he'll want a blood sample – to perform a midichlorian count – and probably ask you to identify some things that he's thinking of.”

    Think he'll bring flowers?” Crest asked, leaning the chair on its rear legs while Traxis shuffled the sabacc deck. “It's the polite thing to do, after all.”

    Milo looked at Kalinda. “Should we be here when he comes, or not?”

    She watched Crest's tilting chair with amusement. “I don't have a problem with it and I don't see why he would, but I don't blame you if you want to be elsewhere.” There was a brief silence before Crest let out a yelp as his chair began to fall backwards, though it stopped just before slamming him against the floor. For a moment he hovered about seven centimeters from the tiles before the chair began to lift again, gradually righting itself.

    Hey, cut it out,” he said, glaring at her even as he gripped the seat. “That's not funny!”

    Even as she was clearly biting her tongue to keep from laughing, Kali gave him her most innocent look. “I'm not doing anything.”

    Stonewall brought the chair back to the correct position with a mild wave of his hand. “Keep your mind on the mission.” The other clones regarded him for a moment before Traxis snorted and threw down the cards, scattering them across the table.

    We're in for it now,” he said. “Just promise me that you'll confine your new abilities to decimating any Seppies we come across, okay? I didn't imagine you – of all people – as a prankster.”

    Milo's eyes were wide as he glanced from Kali to Stonewall, the former of whom was looking at the captain in a way that still made his heart rate increase. “Is he going to get a lightsaber?”

    Kali raised a brow. “I don't know. Do you want one?”

    I'd certainly rather learn to fight with it than just toss the hilt around the air. “I suppose it's the next logical step.” He smiled at her and she returned the look; for a moment he was lost to her gaze, though Crest cleared his throat.

    Doesn't anyone want to know what I think?”

    Not really,” Traxis replied as he began to collect the cards once more.

    There were a few seconds of silence before everyone glanced at Weave, who'd remained quiet for the exchange. Sensing the others' gazes on him, he looked up and met Stonewall's eyes. “If anyone can handle it, you can, Captain.” The words were spoken almost monotone and Stonewall detected notes of grief and bitterness in his brother's emotions, though they were not focused on anyone in the room.

    Beside him, Kali tensed and he was struck with a sense of apprehension from her. She cleared her throat, the sound of which made all of the clones look her way. “I want you all to know how grateful I am to have worked with you for as long as I have,” she began, meeting each of their eyes one by one. “You've taught me so much and I really feel that we make a good team, despite our differences. But things might be changing...soon.”

    Milo sat up. “What do you mean?” His anxious expression was mirrored in the faces of the others.

    She gave him a sad smile. “I went before the Jedi Council today, Mi. They know about myself and Stonewall, and his ability to use the Force. Specifically, they know that I've formed an...attachment to him, which is forbidden.”

    And?” Traxis leaned forward, the cards forgotten.

    I'm not sure what's going to happen,” she admitted. “But it's possible that they will reassign me to another squad, or pull me out of the war effort altogether. Obi-Wan assured me that won't happen, but...” Her hand made a vague gesture. “In any case, I wanted you all to really understand how much I've come to care for you, and how honored I am to have been able to stand beside each of you. I've never had a 'real' family,” she added, her shoulders tensing. “And I know that you haven't either. But I've come to think of you all as my family, of a sort.” Here she smiled at Stone, who released a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He felt a need to be on his feet, so he slid out of the bed with care, as his muscles were still tight and a little sore. Kali watched him without comment, though he could see that she noticed his hesitant movements even as he stood beside her.

    Family,” Crest said, his mouth forming the word as if it were in an unfamiliar language. “Don't really know what all it entails, but I could see that.” He chuckled. “Of course, if we're brothers, then you're like our sister, now. Lucky you.”

    I agree,” she replied with another smile. “Lucky me, indeed.”

    Traxis and Milo exchanged glances, but it was Milo who spoke. “Do you really think of us like a family, Kalinda?” His face was open and earnest. Kali nodded.

    From what I've seen, a family is something you can be born into,” she replied. “But I think that it's also something that you make for yourself, perhaps out of necessity; it makes you stronger, keeps you stable when everything else around you is falling apart. When I think of you guys, I don't think of men who are soldiers, who can fire a deece or lay a charge or follow any order...I think...” She paused and formed the next word with deliberation. “Vode.” With this she cast a glance at Stone for confirmation that she'd gotten it right. Brothers. He nodded. The others were silent.

    For the most part. “Except him, I guess.” Crest's voice was wry and he indicated Stonewall. “I think I know the word you want to use for him.”

    She grinned up at the captain. “There are quite a few words I think could apply to you, Stone.”

    Is one of them 'hungry?'” he asked. “Because I could eat something that doesn't come in a cube form. Even some of your cooking.” She gave his arm a playful nudge and he smiled at the gleam in her eye.

    Don't get him started on ration cubes,” Milo said as Crest's mouth opened. “Please.”

    Traxis had picked up the cards again and began to shuffle them. “I second that.”

    Stonewall's eyes fell on Weave, who'd been listening to the conversation; though his face was not turned to the others, his hand had stilled above the datapad and he appeared to be in deep thought. Finally he looked up, his unbandaged eye focused on the group. “Thank you, Kalinda. For everything.” He cleared his throat. “And I'm glad you liked the armor.”

    She pressed herself to Stonewall's side as she smiled at them. “I really do have the best squad out of the GAR.”

    Crest gave a dramatic sigh. “Now you're making me blush.”

    So can we play another hand or what?” Traxis said, holding up the cards. “I'm on a winning streak.”

    Not like Dremm, then?” Milo replied with a grin as he shifted in his seat. “I heard that the score was a solid thirteen to nine.”

    The bald clone rolled his eyes as he picked up his cards. “Yeah, just wait 'til next year.”

    Beside him, Kali was still tense and – he thought – a bit nervous, so Stonewall reached to her through the Force. You never cease to surprise me, and even though I don't always understand you, Kali, I love you anyway.

    After a moment she looked back at him; her eyes were bright but he could see that she was relieved. “Did the medic say it was okay for you to be on your feet already? You still look a little pale.”

    I'm all better,” he replied with a smile. “Care to test the fact?” She laughed and leaned up to him even as Crest made a gagging sound.

    Again with the PDA...I'm going to report you both.”

    Kali smiled at Stonewall before she kissed him. “Too late. It's already been done.”


    True to his word, Mace Windu met Kali and Stone in the infirmary the next day. Stone had insisted on dressing in his full armor rather than just the body-glove; his bucket remained nearby on the bed and he refused to do anything other than stand at attention while they waited for the Jedi Master. I don't blame him, Kali thought as she stood beside the captain. I just don't want him getting any worse.

    I'm fine,” he murmured. “You need to relax.”

    She took a breath and nodded. His hand sought hers and he gave it a squeeze before dropping it as the Master of the Order entered the room. Weave and the others had elected to leave for the duration of the “test” and despite the fact that she was curious as to their whereabouts, she found that she was too apprehensive to dwell on it as her old Master walked towards them. Kali bowed while Stonewall saluted; Mace studied the clone captain.

    After a moment Stonewall met the Jedi's gaze and Kali knew that something was passing between them but was not privy to it, so she waited in silence. Finally Mace nodded and pulled a small device out of his pocket. Stone extended his hand and allowed the Jedi to take a sample of his blood to be analyzed. The Jedi Master then indicated the clone's helmet. “Can you bring that to me?”

    Stonewall turned and regarded the piece of equipment. A few seconds later, it began to rise in the air and make its way towards the Jedi, whose brow lifted as he watched. Kalinda felt a glow of pride but kept her expression neutral. The helmet hovered in front of Mace for a moment before the Jedi nodded, then Stone reached for it and set it in the crook of his arm.

    Impressive,” Mace said at last, crossing his arms to study the clone captain. “And you don't know how this came to be?”

    Kalinda looked from one man to the other. Is that really it? A little bit of telepathy and some telekinetics?

    No, General.” Stonewall's voice was measured. “All I know is that it started in earnest after our mission to Aruna, though we could communicate before that, sir.”

    Master Windu cast a look at Kalinda. “Communicate through the Force?”

    That started....oh, about nine months ago?” She glanced at Stone, who confirmed with a single nod.

    The Jedi Master looked thoughtful before he spoke again. “Kalinda, you should know that I don't support your offer to train Captain Stonewall in the basic principles of the Force. However,” he added as she opened her mouth to object. “Other members of the Council spoke quite adamantly on your behalf, so it will be allowed. Additionally, you and your squad will remain together. For now.” He met her eyes. “And I must stress that this is an internal affair of the Order. No one outside of this room and the Jedi Council is to know of your....abilities, Captain.”

    It's a bit late for that, General Windu,” Stonewall said. “My men are aware.”

    Kalinda smiled at her old Master. “It's awfully hard to keep a secret like this on such a tiny ship, you know.”

    Very well.” Mace frowned and she was struck by how tired he looked in the unforgiving light of the infirmary. He shook his head and looked at her again. “Never a dull moment with you.”

    I do my best to make your life interesting.”

    And again, you've succeeded.” He paused and glanced at her hip. “Ah. Obi-Wan said you'd started carrying a blaster. I hope you haven't neglected your saber.” Though the words were spoken in his usual solemn tone she detected a hint of amusement in his voice.

    She patted the weapon in question. “Of course not, Master.” After a pause she looked at him again. “So...will we be receiving another mission? There's still the matter of those missing clone children-”

    We'll see,” Mace replied. “There are other, more pressing things right now, Kalinda. For now, your orders are to focus on other issues. You will be notified with specifics.”

    It was difficult to suppress her anxiety about the lost cadets, but she was unwilling to push her luck. “Looking forward to it.”

    He nodded again and turned to leave. However, just as he stepped over the threshold she felt a ripple of warning in the Force and in the next moment, two things happened at once: Mace Windu ignited his saber and lunged for the clone captain, crossing the room with a single, fluid leap while Stonewall called Kali's own saber to his hand, ignited it, and blocked the senior Jedi's mock-attack. The blades hummed when the two men faced each other before Mace nodded and sheathed his saber, clipping the hilt to his belt as Stone deactivated hers and gave it back to her.

    He studied the captain for another moment before nodding to his hair. “Nice color.”

    Should have seen that coming. Now he'll never get rid of it. She tried not to sigh. “Please don't encourage him, Mace.”

    Stonewall glanced at Kali and lifted his brow, though he said nothing to her, only saluted the Jedi Master again. “Thank you, General.”

    When the Jedi had gone, Stonewall looked at Kali again, his eyes wide. “That” He sounded awed. “He trained you?”

    She nodded. “Hard to believe, isn't it?”


    Their orders came later that afternoon via Obi-Wan: there had been rumors of several smaller droid foundries being established in the Mid-Rim which they were to investigate and, if possible, destroy. Naturally, the men of Shadow Squad were pleased, but Kalinda felt only a sense of hopelessness, particularly when she watched Weave or thought about the missing clone cadets. Creon Dai. It was not in her nature to seek revenge, but she wanted very much to bring him to justice and see the cadets to safety. Presuming, of course, that they're still alive and that the entire thing isn't a wild bantha chase.

    You're too close to the matter, Kali,” Obi-Wan sounded infuriatingly composed through the comm channel he'd managed to reach her on just before shipping off-world to join Anakin on the front lines. “It was decided that another Jedi should track down Creon.”

    And the missing boys?”

    Obi-Wan sighed. “From what your men reported, they can be found together, correct?”

    Kalinda didn't reply. Finally she nodded. “As you say. But I'll be keeping tabs on...who's looking, again?”

    The task hasn't been assigned yet, but I'll let you know who to harass.” She could hear the faint smile in his voice.

    Thank you.”

    There was a pause before he spoke again. “Where are you?”

    She looked around her quarters: the room felt more sparse since she'd been here last, especially with all of her instruments and spare clothing aboard the Wayfarer, which had served as her home the last several months. Everything looked very...beige. Muted. “At the Temple.” She took a breath. “Good luck out there. Say hello to Anakin and Ahsoka for me....and stay safe.”

    Tell that to the droids,” he replied in a dry tone. “But you as well, Kali. And give my regards to your squad.”

    After they signed off, she stood at the center of the living area for a few minutes before she began her search. First she went to the drawers of her desk, moving stacks of old datapads and worn flimsinovels to the side; following that she checked the dresser, then the stand by the bed; still finding nothing she knitted her brows in frustration before moving to the kitchen and peering in each drawer and cupboard, though that turned out to be futile as well.

    Finally she stood in the center of the room again, studying the area and trying to think what she might have done with the blasted thing. Her eyes scanned every piece of furniture, every section of floor before falling onto her bed, partially visible through the door that lead to the living area. A few quick steps lead her to the mattress, which she lifted and smiled at the sight that met her eyes.

    The lightsaber she'd built when she was a Padawan was just as she remembered and she called it to her hand, flicking her thumb to ignite the glowing blue blade with a hiss. For a moment she watched the pulsing beam of energy, giving the hilt a few swings just to ensure that it was still balanced properly. Satisfied, she deactivated the blade and clipped the saber to her belt, beside her usual one. She moved to the door of her quarters and stood for a few more seconds, surveying the room where she'd spent most of her adult life.

    Kalinda rested her hand on the sabers at her belt before taking a deep breath and activating the door. The moment she stepped over the threshold, she didn't look back.

    To be continued...
    A/N: Look for Part II of the Eye Of the Storm trilogy, Bastion, soon! Thanks for reading!:)