1. In Memory of LAJ_FETT: Please share your remembrances and condolences HERE

Saga - PT "I Come to Speak" | Mods' Time Trials; TCW Ensemble, One-Shot

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Mira_Jade , Aug 28, 2019.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: “I come to speak (for your dead mouths)”
    Author: Mira_Jade

    Genre: Drama, General (Angst, Horror, Humor, Friendship)
    Time Frame: Saga-PT; The Clone Wars (technically a canon compliant scene, but my Song!verse, let's be honest)
    Characters: Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker, Rex, Echo, Fives, Kix, Jesse

    Summary: When the 501st is dispatched to the Outer Rim world of Opachooine to destroy a Separatist cloning facility and rescue the kidnapped Kaminoan scientist Dao Ra, what starts as a mission like any other quickly takes a sharp turn for the worst. This war, Ahsoka Tano was quickly coming to find, was nothing like what she thought it would be as an initiate at the Temple.

    Notes: Hello, all! After watching all of the fabulous stories appear for this challenge, I was itching to write one myself. @Findswoman was kind enough to put together prompts for me to participate in the 48 hour tier for the Mods Time Trials with an unofficial entry.

    My truly fantastic prompts were:

    1. Your TVTrope is: As You Know
    2. Your weather forecast is: wintry mix
    3. Your random word is: chthonic – of or relating to the underworld; infernal
    4. Your required line of dialogue is: “I endeavor to give satisfaction.”
    5. Your picture prompt is:

    The idea for this story smacked into me, and I was able to churn out a rather long one-shot in answer. In retrospect, I probably should have spent a few chapters on this - and I'm cringing for not being able to edit as much as I'd normally like, you have to know, because of teh deadline. But, here we are. I'm going to own my typos with pride. Honestly, I'm just happy to have finished a piece from start to finish; it's been a while. :oops: 8-} This story started as a comedy, took a sharp turn for angst with a dash of horror (and a WARNING: there are a few hundred words of evil scientist-esque plot, with matching semi-graphic descriptions, about halfway through. It's on par with what you'd read in Frankenstein, if that's something you'd rather avoid I wanted to give you a head's up), and then climbed out to end at hurt/comfort and mush . . . so, yeah: a typical TCW adventure. I hope that you enjoy. [face_mischief] [face_love]

    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words. The title is a nick from Pablo Neruda's "From the Heights of Macchu Picchu," which was definitely my go-to mood while writing this.

    “I come to speak (for your dead mouths)”
    by Mira_Jade

    Snow broke over the armored shoulders of her companion in a spray of white, powdery crystals. Though she herself was admittedly far from impressed by almost everything that made up the winter-locked planet of Opachooine, Ahsoka Tano couldn’t help but bite back a smile for the look she knew her captain was turning on the ARC-trooper behind them, helmet or not.

    “It wasn’t me sir,” Fives held up his hands in a thwarting gesture before Rex could confront him in retaliation. “It was Echo.”

    “Sir!” Ahsoka didn’t know what was more amusing – the decidedly unimpressed vibe that pulsed from Rex in the Force for the antics of the younger clones, or the absolute horror that had leached into Echo’s voice for being impugned by Fives’ accusation. “You know that I would never dare! According to Code of GAR Regulations article 845, section 55, subsection 55-61, chapter 12, subchapter 3, part 41b, striking a superior officer outside of the parameters of combat exercises or sanctioned drills is strictly prohibited. Strictly prohibited. Those are words I take with the utmost seriousness, Captain.”

    Walking side by his side with his batcher on the narrow mountain pass, Fives huffed out a breath. “Yes, Echo,” his voice was thick with condensation, “everyone already knows that you swallowed the CGR whole, so there’s no need to show off with regurgitating regs.”

    “What do you mean? I did nothing of the sort,” miffed, Echo’s helmet tilted upwards. “I just happened to pay attention during our flash training, unlike others - ”

    “ - I should have left you both on Rishli,” Rex sighed heavily through his mouth to say. If he wasn’t kitted up in full gear, Ahsoka had the clear implication that he would have rubbed his temples in strained exasperation. “You know,” he mused aloud, “I still have the authority to rescind your promotions. It’s an option that’s looking better and better with each passing mission.”

    By his side, Kix gave a quiet chuckle. “You know, Captain, Admiral Yularen may have mentioned a need for volunteers to manually clean the heads aboard the Resolute.”

    “The whole septic system could use a thorough scrubbing, really,” Jesse easily continued for the medic. “And, seeing as how these two clearly have way too much time on their hands - ”

    - sir!?” Fives voice was laced with horror for merely the idea. “You know that would be a clear waste of our talents, to the utmost degree - ”

    “ - do I?” Jesse cut in with a wicked edge to his voice. “Because I can’t see half of what the Captain said he saw in the pair of you on Rishli. You need a few more scuffs on your armor, in my opinion. The latrine tanks will serve perfectly to put ‘em there.”

    “But,” Echo ignored the slight against his character in favor of pointing out logically, “aren’t there already droids for that? Why would Admiral Yularen need live hands for a system that’s already proven to work effectively?”

    A collective groan went through the squad of clones for that one. Even Ahsoka couldn’t quite hold back an amused trill for how earnestly Echo intended his words. It’d only been over a month since the two ARC-troopers were assigned to the legion, and she already well understood how Echo had earned his name – oh did she understand.

    Further ahead of them on the icy mountain path, Anakin held up a hand, dispelling the well meaning banter without saying a word aloud. “It’s okay, Rex, let them enjoy the snow,” he was easy to interject, looping back to the inception of the bickering. “It’s new to them.”

    Sure enough, it went without saying, the snow was the kindest thing Opachooine had to offer. If you liked that sort of scenery, of course. Surrounding them on all side, mountains rose in a majestic maw of white-capped glory, piercing the low lying cloud layers as twilight fell in some sunset they couldn’t see through the immediacy of the weather system. It was snowing – again – with little pelts of hail and freezing rain that pattered and tinkled against the plasteel armor the men wore. As for herself, she’d donned winter weather gear to keep her warm and dry, but she felt like she was suffocating in the thick poncho. She found it hard to breathe with her skin so wholly covered, even with her hood up and covering her montrals – stupid biology; she couldn’t wait until her crest was full-grown – and the low oxygen levels at this altitude wasn’t at all helping. Anakin had taken her aside before the start of the mission to ask her if she was capable of fulfilling her duties where the climate would be so stacked against her, but she’d insisted that she’d be fit for duty. She was fine.

    Really she was.

    Still, she didn’t understand why her men were so excited by the snow – it was just snow. It was cold and annoying and uncomfortably wet and messy when it melted; there was nothing else to be said. But Fives hadn’t been the only one to throw a snowball as they hiked through the mountain ways; they were all enthralled. Even Rex had looked down in surprise for the way the snow crushed and shifted underfoot when they first stepped off the shuttle. Ahsoka knew he’d never admit to how he’d curiously kicked at the fresh powder to watch the way the crystals had glittered to puff on the air when disturbed. But, he had.

    Ahsoka may not have shared their fascination for their scenery, but she did understand just why the mission was important. And she would never leave her men to deploy against this particular threat without her – she’d wear a whole ten more layers in a blinding blizzard if it meant that she geared up for this mission. It was just that simple.

    “There won’t be time to enjoy the snow for much longer,” sure enough, Echo pointed out exactly what everyone was trying not to think too hard about. “You know it’s not going to be easy taking the Separatist lab. And they have Dao Ra. Who knows what we’re going to find down there?”

    Just like that, the levity their party had managed to muster since leaving the shuttle behind withered and died a cold death. No one had forgotten; it was just that, sometimes, it was all they could do not to dwell on the looming bigger picture around them. This time, that picture included GAR intelligence discovering that the Separatists were trying to mimic the Kaminoans cloning program to breed organic soldiers of their own. Droid armies were good and all, but there was only so much a droid could be programmed to do – even the AI generals that presided over the Separatist armies still lacked the raw creativity of a truly sentient mind. However, it seemed that the Separatists were finding it . . . difficult to refine their product; their experiments were not going as planned. Ahsoka didn’t like pondering just what the word difficult may have encompassed when translating from report to reality.

    The Separatists' troubles had led to the kidnapping of Kaminoan scientist Dao Ra. The job of the 501st was now simple: extract Dao Ra, and see to the destruction of the Separatist cloning program. Yeah . . . just another day on the frontlines.

    That time, Fives elbowed his batcher without saying a word. There was nothing that could be said; the somber silence expressed it all. Ahsoka felt the grim pall that fell over their company like a weight settling over her skin, and she exhaled. Whatever they found down there . . . well, they would deal with it in due time.

    “Let’s not jump ahead to any conclusions,” Kix softened to say, but there was an edge of weariness to his voice. “We don’t know what Dao Ra has helped the Seppies create. Hopefully, we’re arriving just in time.”

    . . . just in time to destroy the lab alone, and not anything that lab may have produced. Ahsoka felt a shiver run up and down her spine that had nothing to do with the cold. She didn’t like the foreboding whisper she felt emanating from the Force in the slightest.

    “Let’s cut the chatter,” far too veteran in the war to share his medic's optimism, Rex only sighed. “We’re here.”

    Sure enough, further ahead on the mountain path, Anakin had paused. He circled a spot, thoughtfully nudging the path with the toe of his boot before he waved a hand. Aided by the Force, the snow flew away to reveal a circular access panel for the base they knew was somewhere deep underneath them in the mountain tunnels. Alright; this was it, then.

    The tunnels, when they made their way down, were dark and close around them. The caverns were natural, it seemed, carved out of a highly porous stone from some long dried, ancient source of water. The pathways had been reinforced with bands of durasteel, and stark industrial mining-grade lights lit their way before returning to darkness again as they passed. It was eerie, Ahsoka couldn’t help but think – the shadows and the flickering and retreating of the lights. Chthonic, Master Obi-Wan would call this place . . . it felt like she was walking through a tomb. The air she managed to breathe felt stale in her lungs.

    They took precautions as they went, jacking into the security system to disable the eyes that were undoubtedly lurking in the tunnels and jamming the sensors on all frequencies as they went, but still, their precautions weren’t absolute. Nothing ever went this smoothly for the 501st. The silence was deafening in its immensity as it stretched.

    “I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Snips,” Anakin muttered under his breath. Flanking his side, Ahsoka couldn’t help but let her hand fall to her own ‘saber.

    “Yeah, I’m right there with you, Skyguy.”

    They should have been found by now; they should have encountered some sort of security, even if just droids posted as sentries or out on routine patrols. There should have been something, anything more than the vast nothingness around them as they made their way deeper and deeper into the tunnels.

    It was, then, that they saw it: the carcass of a droid – multiple droids, it turned out, on closer inspection – littering the floor of the next cross-section of tunnels. They were . . . well, they were ripped apart, they were baffled to understand, torn from their metal limbs with their bolts flying and their wires frayed and left devoid of life. There weren’t any blaster marks showing where the droids may have possibly been destroyed by their own weapons – all except for those tell-tale marks scoring the walls, showing where the droids had fought back as best they could, but to no avail.

    . . . or, almost, it seemed.

    There was something organic amongst all of the debris littering the cavern floor. Something . . . or, rather, someone, she felt that same sense of foreboding from the Force twist at her, was lying there, lifeless in the dim glow of the lights as they flickered into view.

    It was the body of an adult Human male, she identified as they came closer. Kix gingerly turned the corpse over for a better look, and she felt the blood drain from her face for what they saw. He was definitely Human, or at the very least she supposed she could call it – him – Human enough. The man’s limbs were twisted and deformed, and his skin was dull and grey even without the pallor of death. His hair was shaggy and brittle, falling from his scalp in entire patches. Nothing on the poor creature’s face quite matched – the eyes were not even, with one being larger than the other; the nose was painfully crooked; the mouth bloated and slanted. And yet, within that patchwork countenance, a flicker of familiarity sparked when she looked at the color of his amber-brown eyes, now open and sightless in death. She looked, and, with a start, she knew -

    - Kix, although long conditioned by the horrors of battlefield triage, snatched his gloved hand back from the corpse as if burned. “Haran,” he cursed, visibly shaken. “Is that - ”

    But he couldn’t give his revulsion a voice. Not then; not yet. “Those karking osi'yaim'e,” Fives fumed behind her, and for once she could only agree with the ARC-trooper. No one said a word after that as they each processed what they were seeing.

    Somehow, Ahsoka duly worked through in her own mind, the Separatists had gotten a hold of Jango Fett’s biometrical data . . . and had created a mangled copy of what the Kaminoans had perfected as art. Her mind balked at the hows and whys of their doing so. Until: “Dao Ra was taken outside of Kamino,” Echo was the one to process next, his voice a small whisper of sound. “He wouldn’t have any genetic samples from our progenitor on hand with him. So, this . . . ”

    But, for once, even Echo couldn’t give voice to the obvious. Somehow – and how exactly that was carried out in the first place filled her mind with revulsion – they had tried to clone clones, a feat of science that even the Kaminoans were struggling to perfect with Jango Fett no longer available to serve as their template with readily available raw genetic material. To some extent – and most likely through Dao Ra’s instruction – they had been successful in some small way . . . and successful all too quickly. Ahsoka tried not to cringe, imagining what this clone had to go through to advance to maturity in a scant few months, rather than years. The Separatists hadn’t been willing to invest in the time lapsed growth process that even the Kaminoans had deemed necessary to create a final product that was as healthy physically as they were mentally. Just what, Ahsoka suddenly felt bile rise in her throat, and who would they find further in the tunnels?

    “That explains why there's been no security,” Anakin muttered. “I think we’re too late against the Separatists.”

    “That just leaves finding Dao Ra, then,” Jesse muttered. “If he’s even in one piece.”

    They had to find Dao Ra, she steeled herself, and then ensure the destruction of the Separatist laboratory . . . along with anything they may have created. Yet, no one dared speak that final part aloud.

    Instead, Anakin knelt down next to the Separatist clone. He stared for a long moment before reaching down to grasp something Ahsoka hadn’t noticed next to the body with his prosthetic hand. There was a small green vial – empty, as if it had rolled out of the clone’s grasp when he fell. Anakin lifted the vial closer to better inspect the glass, frowning all the while before he pocketed the item. Then, he turned his attention back to the clone. He sighed, deep and weary from his chest, before gently closing his mismatched eyelids with his organic hand. Her Master was shaking, she could tell; his shoulders were bowed as he gathered himself. Anakin never did well with the concept of owning, after all . . . with one sentient being deciding that the life of another was somehow less, worth anything only through their ability to serve their will. Ahsoka knew how much this war tore at him, in more ways than one.

    Yet, she didn’t know what to do to help – to reach out and fix what was obviously so broken before her. She felt so impossibility young then, and yet so incredibly old at the same time.

    “We’ll come back and dispose of his body properly,” Anakin finally composed himself. “Leave the droids.” It took him a long moment before he was steady enough to stand. When he did, there were shadows behind his usually bright blue eyes; in his irises something dark was burning. “Move out. Let’s see what’s left of the Separatists.”

    They marched down the tunnels in well practiced unison for their general’s order, their marching steps falling in time as the men closed in on the enemy like they were born and trained to do. Anakin was as the tip of a sphere, then, righteous rage igniting from him in a fervor that leeched out to infect the men with a matching zeal. Feeling every hunting instinct in her own heart expand into being, Ahsoka couldn’t help grip her lightsaber all the more tightly in hand.

    They came upon more scenes like the first, with whole masses of destroyed droids, and more than one clone casualty, left to lay fallen where they were. Some of the clones were even more twisted in appearance than the first, while others were in somewhat better condition. Some, she sickened to see, were even younger – much younger, with the Separatists obviously grudgingly understanding that there were some things about nature that you just couldn’t circumvent. Not in their entirety; not without consequences.

    How long ago were they throwing snowballs at each other on the surface of the mountain? Was there even daylight to be found beyond the nightmare in these tunnels? It all felt so far away.

    By the time they reached the operational center of the Separatist base, they still had yet to find a living soul, only the carnage left behind from the mass uprising the created had clearly leveled against their creators. There was no answers for them as they searched, only more and more questions.

    Their questions Dao Ra could answer – and would, when they finally found the Kaminoan scientist locked away in a storage bunker. He looked haggard, and even more pale than usual for his species. Beyond that, he was no more worse for the wear than they could tell.

    “You came,” Dao Ra said in that slow, thoughtful timber all of his people seemed to favor. “I thought that the Republic would send a rescue, yet had no proof to support my conclusions.”

    Looking at him, Ahsoka felt her skin crawl, no matter how she told herself to keep her mind open and her thoughts unbiased. She was a Padawan of the Jedi Order, and he was a living being in need of her help – and his wellbeing was her mission as an officer of the GAR, at that. Yet, she couldn’t help but press her mouth into a thin line as she stared him down. It was the only way she could avoid any more negative an expression.

    Even worse, she noticed, was the way her men held themselves so stiffly at parade-sharp attention before the scientist. They were always so . . . less than themselves whenever the cloners were around. While she wouldn’t call the impression fear – not that, not quite – it was nevertheless a clearly defined tension that banded the men and snagged at her senses in return, reverberating from Rex on down through the ranks to Echo. No one, she had to bite her own lip to keep herself from flashing her teeth, had the right to make her Captain – or any of her men – to feel as if they were less than sentient. Not a one of them would use their names as long as Dao Ra was around, she already knew, and she herself was loathe to address them by their numbers. Technically, their self-appointed appellations broke regulation, she knew, but not even Echo could bring himself to honor the letter of that particular law.

    Anakin, however, made no such attempt to veil his dislike. Instead, he ignored the Kaminoan’s gratitude – such as it was, and held up the little green vial that he’d taken from the ground next to the corpse of the Separatist clone. “This,” his voice thrummed with a power that shimmered across her senses, warning of his tenuous restraint. The broad line of his shoulders was taut with repressed emotion. “I want answers, and you’re going to give them to me. So, talk.”

    “Ah, that,” Dao Ra’s expression did not change, but the timbre of his voice dipped delicately in distaste – what passed as full blown disgust, for a Kaminoan. “That is the unfortunate result of the experiment that was . . . persuaded to lend my assistance to. The Separatist scientists were flawed with how they developed their soldiers, in too many ways for me to correct in the timeline they demanded. My assistance gave life to their endeavors, but imperfectly so, as you no doubt noticed. Flawed, every last one of their batches were. That,” he pointed at the vial Anakin held, “is a serum I produced to grant their stock what mental stability that I could, but clearly the product was,” he gave a slow gesture to encompass the chaos beyond his hiding place, “defective beyond repair. There was nothing to be done but escape the line of fire when violence inevitably broke out. I hid, trusting that the Republic would be here soon enough. And now, here you are.”

    The casual way he spoke of living, breathing men – each one with thoughts and feelings and a mind of their own, even if twisted and broken – moved something inside of Ahsoka that she couldn’t put back into place again. Dao Ra and his ilk were no better than the Separatists they fought against, she inwardly scathed with a resounding sense of certainty, and his apathy to the rights of sentient life sickened her. Yet . . .

    . . . here she was, standing as a Jedi and saving the life of this amoral scientist while the ones who truly needed her help were now far beyond reach of her aid. There was nothing she could do to help them now. What was even worse, she was currently leading the Kaminoans' products into battle to fight and lay down their lives, all because credits traded hands to purchase their birth and development. They were created for this, true; the clones they led could imagine nothing else from their lives, the Jedi usually comforted themselves when they didn't have any alternative answers to how to keep the Republic safe. Yet, in that moment, those platitudes didn't feel like enough. Not nearly.

    If she felt this way . . .

    Anakin, she thought, was just barely holding onto his control. It wasn’t what was expected of a Jedi Knight, she knew – the Masters of the Council would be troubled if they could feel what she felt then – and yet, in that moment, Ahsoka couldn’t begrudge him his anger for its righteousness. In that moment, she did not know what was she was supposed to feel.

    “What’s left of the Separatist’s stock?” Anakin asked, tersely biting off every word. Slowly, his fingers clenched and unclenched from their fists.

    “Only those still in the growth pods, I imagine,” Dao Ra answered. "The ones without my serum wouldn't have survived long, even if they survived the scourge of the droids." He stood then with a graceful motion, and looked down from his full height at the silent clone troopers still locked in rigid formation behind their general. “We must move quickly to sterilize the failed specimens. The product is defective, and must not be allowed to draw breath. You, Captain,” he moved to order Rex without Anakin’s consent, “have your men - ”

    “ - no,” Anakin swiftly cut the cloner off. “I will not have them execute their . . . their brothers. I will do it. Captain," he belayed Dao Ra's directions, "take the men and escort Dao Ra back to the shuttle. Go on without me, and secure him back on the Resolute. The Separatists could show up at any minute to investigate the radio silence from the base, and I want Dao Ra far from here by then; they have to know that something's gone wrong by now. I’ll comm in when I’m done and ready for an extraction.”

    Little liking his order, not in the slightest, Ahsoka stepped forward just as Rex did. “Master,” she protested, all without knowing exactly what she wanted to say. She only knew that this wasn’t right; this wasn’t fair – any of this. She wanted to fight without knowing how, or against whom, she should fight. “You don’t have to - ”

    “ - General,” clearly, she and Rex were in perfect accord; he didn’t want Anakin to put this on his own shoulders and more than she did. She let him go on, knowing that this was his fight was even more so than hers. “Putting the . . .” but in front of Dao Ra he clearly hesitated, and then curbed his words. His voice was tight as he amended, “putting the defective stock down is a mercy, and we’ll not shirk doing so if that’s your command. We only await your word to do so.”

    Dao Ra turned his slow, unblinking eyes from Rex to Anakin and then back again. “It is interesting, that a clone trooper produced by our facilities would ignore the orders of his superior officer once given. If you would like, General, we could recondition him for you and have him returned in as little as two day cycles. I understanding you balking at replacing the unit outright; if you are comfortable with this particular model, then a few simple recalibrations can easily - ”

    “ - Dao Ra,” Anakin’s voice was a whip crack, punctuating the rise of nauseous horror that had leapt into Ahsoka’s own throat. Standing between Anakin and her, Rex had gone very, very still. “I gave an order, and it will be followed, you don't have to doubt the loyalty of my captain." He carefully avoided saying Rex's name, but still refused to use his number. "As I said, you," he all but growled, “will be transported to the Resolute while I tie up our loose ends here on the ground. I am . . . accustomed to my captain,” his voice could have chipped stone with every word. “I’ll not have a thing about him changed.”

    Dao Ra tilted his long neck in a quizzical expression. “As you will it, General, of course.” He shook his head, exhaling a fluttery sound that Ahsoka thought may have been a sort of baffled bemusement – as if he was trying to understand the antics of a child. “Human attachments may be perplexing to us, but we are here to serve our customers. Do let us know if you change your mind, General.”

    Anakin didn't even dignify the scientist with an answer. “Commander Tano,” he hardly looked at her to say. “Escort Dao Ra out. I won’t be long behind you.”

    Master, she reached out to him across their bond, unwilling to leave things as they were, I don’t want to leave you here alone to -

    - Ahsoka, I can’t order them to do this; so, that leaves me. And no – before you say it, neither can you. You’re still a child – and in this, please let me shield you, even in a small way. I’ll not put a burden like this on you before you absolutely have to bear it.

    That wasn’t good enough, not nearly. Yet -

    - and I definitely won’t leave them alone with scum like that cloner. I need you to take point on this as long as Dao Ra is in our care – watch out for them, it’s the least we can do,
    Anakin’s voice was a burning thing in their bond where normally it was a warmth, bright and succoring like a young sun. He felt like storm clouds and deep sea eddies, so much so that he threatened to swallow even her own sense of self if she stayed connected to him for too long. It was easy to forget, sometimes, just how powerful her Master was when he was teasing and teaching and fighting by her side. Her 'saber suddenly felt impossibly heavy in her hand, even as she swayed from her conviction.

    Go, lead our men, Anakin sighed, undoubtedly noticing her concern. I’ll be okay.

    . . . okay. I don’t like it, but I know there isn’t any way to slice this that isn’t just completely awful, she grudgingly conceded. Yet . . . you know that I – that we – want to take care of you, too, right? We’re all in this together. No one’s alone, and that includes you, Master.

    Just barely, that dark flame banked, and she could feel the more familiar warmth of his affection shine through again. I know, Snips. I know. Now - go.

    “Alright then, you heard General Skywalker,” she looked at Anakin one last time before turning back towards her men. “Torrent Company, let’s move out. Escort formation around Dao La. I’ll take point; Captain, you have my six.”

    A chorus of sir yes sirs met her montrals. She hated every moment of the silence and the formality that followed. Her men would not speak from here on out unless spoken too as long as Dao Ra was around. Their easy camaraderie – the bonds that made them a unit in every sense of the word – was gone then. Instead, her men acted like they were nothing more than droids, programmed for a single purpose and to be forgotten when that purpose wasn’t needed and the parameters of their creation was met. Ahsoka didn’t just hate their circumstances – she loathed them. She knew that such feelings were unbecoming of a Jedi, and she was troubled, but she couldn’t help herself. Her men were hers to protect, and she wanted to protect them from everything – even the things about their creation that they just didn’t talk about, as if by ignoring they could pretend that they weren’t there in the first place.

    It was a long, terse hike back to the shuttle, and then an even more uncomfortable shuttle ride back to the Resolute. Once shipside, she was careful to leave Dao Ra with one of Admiral Yularen’s true-born aides. She wouldn’t saddle any of the vod’e with that Force-cursed cloner if she didn’t have to. By the time she finished reporting to the admiral, informing him of events on the ground and warning for the possibility of incoming Separatist activity, Anakin’s signal lit up on her wrist-comm. It was done, then. He was ready for extraction.

    She took Rex and Echo and Fives and Kix and Jesse back planetside with her again. They’d been all too quiet since retrieving Dao Ra, and she didn’t like the silence in the slightest. It buzzed against her montrals and made her restless in her boots. She thought that they would return to themselves again as soon as the Kaminoan was gone, but she was wrong. Apparently, it was naïve of her to think that her men would just snap back from a day when they had to confront the truth of their own existence so baldly. She fought a growl, remembering how easily Dao Ra had dismissed Rex’s autonomy and had suggested recalibration, as if he was a droid with a loose wire that needed fixing. For years they'd lived like that, she thought with an uncomfortable pang in her gut, watching their every word and action in order to be deemed a satisfactory product by their creators. Ahsoka, who’d grown safe and succored in the Jedi Temple, couldn’t even begin to imagine such a life.

    Of course they'd all been amazed to walk on snow for the first time, earlier that day. Of course they had thrown snowballs, even when knowing what – and who – they were most likely going to find in the Separatist laboratory below. She wished, then, that she had joined in on the fun. Then, she hadn’t been able to think past grumbling about the cold.

    So. There was only one thing left to do.

    She wasn’t going to wait around in a moody circle, waiting for Anakin to return from his awful, self-appointed mission. Instead, she called out, “Fives, flank me!” and she bent down, fast as a dune-snake, and scooped up a handful of snow. She met her mark: square on the bullseye of Rex’s chest-plate.

    Night had since fallen on Opachooine, and the moonlight from the now clear sky above glittered when the snow broke across the white of his armor in an explosion of delicate, powdery crystals. She smiled a sharp smile for the sight, feeling a burst of satisfaction bloom in her chest. Oh yeah – she should have tried that a lot sooner.

    Fives, of course, needed no more prompting than that, just as she knew he would. He was quick, even to her own enhanced senses, to shape one snowball, and then another and another. Rex didn't stand a chance.

    “Fives!” Echo squawked, alarmed for the sight. "Code of GAR Regulations article 845, section 55, subsection 55-61, chapter 12, subchapter 3, part 41b - "

    - we know, Echo!” Kix and Jesse interrupted to snap in unison.

    “Kara, but will you shut-up already. The commander made an order of it, and you know how much I endeavor to give satisfaction - ”

    And then a snowball struck the side of Fives helmet, interrupting him mid-sentence. Echo looked down at his hands as if they belonged to someone else, and then back to his batcher again. Even without seeing his eyes, she could imagine his flabbergasted expression. “I . . . I don't know what came over me. I didn’t mean to do that,” he stammered.

    “Oh, you really stepped in it now, vod,” Fives’ smirk was an audible sound through his helmet's mic as he bent down for another handful of snow. “Is there a regulation about striking a fellow trooper, Echo? Because, if not - ”

    “ - why yes, actually there is. Code of GAR Regulations article 845, section 55, subsection 55-61, chapter 12, subchapter 3, part 41c clearly states - ”

    Echo had it coming when four snowballs struck against his armor for that one – Ahsoka’s included.

    Yet, she should have known better – getting distracted by Echo and Fives’ silly bickering had left her blind to her captain’s retaliation for the first snowball she had thrown. And Rex clearly intended to make use of every advantage he had.

    When his snowball actually knocked her back into the snowbank behind her – eugh, the winter was the worst, and the icy footing wasn't even half of it – she blinked up at the starry sky, for a moment blindsided as her chest stung from the impact of the snowball. Beyond her, she could hear Fives’ give into a full belly laugh. “I know there is a reg for knocking out a commander,” he crowed, even as she rolled her eyes. "What were you saying about scrubbing the latrine tanks earlier, Captain? She outranks you, you know!"

    “So much for covering me, Fives!” Ahsoka called up from the snow. “I’m retiring you. I want a new ARC trooper.”

    When next she blinked, Rex was standing over her. “Commander? You okay down there?”

    He sounded honestly worried – and maybe even a little rueful, which she wouldn’t have at all. She was Ahsoka Tano: Jedi Padawan to the Hero Without Fear and a little snow was nothing to her. She was made of sterner stuff.

    Even if she was completely over Opachooine. Obviously.

    “Yeah yeah, I’m fine – you got in a lucky shot, so what? Now, help me up.”

    He was too trusting. Ahsoka smiled a sharp smile as Rex obediently reached down to help her up (and she internally winced, reminding herself not to phrase anything like an order that she didn’t have to from now on), and she instead yanked him down to tumble into the snow next to her. A sweep of her arm – aided by a burst of the Force – sent a wave of snow flying over her captain, effectively burying him.

    She proudly tilt her crest back as she let loose a victory trill. “Ha!” she very maturely shot up to her feet and stuck her tongue out. The bare sliver of Rex’s visor was visible through the snow, but she knew he saw her. “Beat that, Rexter!”

    But, then, she was treated to a very rare sound – Rex, it took her a moment to understand, was laughing. Honestly laughing, seemingly easy and without a care. It was a good sound, she decided, his joy. Somehow, it was different than the rest of her men, prompting warmth and contentment to bloom low in her belly. He was her best friend, she was quickly coming to understand. She never wanted to see the all too careful toy soldier he’d turned into around Dao Ra return again. He was her captain, just the way he was.

    When Anakin finally appeared on the mountain path – she could feel him as a depression in the Force, fatigued and grey to her senses with his simmering frustration and impotent rage – it was only the next logical thing to hit him with a snowball too. She wasn’t the only one to think so, and it ended up being all their men and her against Anakin. Even with such lopsided odds, it was still hard to tell who won in the end.

    Eventually, they returned to the Resolute soaked and freezing, but better off than they had been. As much as they were, they were ready to face whatever the war would demand of them next.

    ~MJ @};-
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2019
  2. Findswoman

    Findswoman Fanfic and Pancakes and Waffles Mod (in Pink) star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Ooh, this was just wonderful! Fantastic work with this collection of prompts, and very impressive mix of genres from humor (in the use of "as you know" right at the beginning and the Wodehouse quote in the mouth of Echo) to horror and drama (with some definitely chthonic imagery, and even that green salt shaker transformed into something sinister) to warm, sho'-nuff friendship-mush. Even though I don't know TCW all that well, I always enjoy reading your clones; you give them so much personality, dignity, and agency. And that's an especially important theme in this story, where you draw such a stark contrast between their dignity and Dao Ra's condescension—worse than condescension, really, as he clearly views them as less than sentient. ("Recalibrating" Rex? Really? Just... what the—? :mad: Though I see, too, how the title quote from Neruda fits in. Can't go wrong with Neruda! :D ) It's of course all the more heartrending that they feel they have to behave less than sentient (like "toy soldiers"—amazing way of putting it) when they're around him, and naturally that has no small emotional effect on them. But once the mission's accomplished, Ahsoka comes up with the perfect antidote—a nice, cathartic snowball fight! And of course, but of course, it ended up being Anakin vs. Errrbody—just perfect. :D You really aced this—took all these prompts above and beyond—thank you so much for writing and sharing! =D=
    Kahara and Mira_Jade like this.
  3. Oddly_Salacious

    Oddly_Salacious Jedi Grand Master star 1

    Dec 5, 2005
    Captivating. I read this from beginning to end without taking a sip of my morning coffee. Very well done, MJ.
    Kahara, Findswoman and Mira_Jade like this.
  4. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Nov 30, 2005
    Why didn't I read this earlier? [face_dunno] Anyway, I am so glad I read it now. What a ride!

    I love how you explore the humanity of the clones here. The idea that they have to come in and clean up such a nightmare of a situation is so horrible. The idea that someone thought it appropriate to send them there is even more of a nightmare. The cloner is unbelievably callous as to the emotions of the clones, but that's because he doesn't think of them as human beings.

    There really isn't much difference between clones and slaves, is there. No wonder Anakin is so disturbed by the situation.