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Saga - PT "Only the Hounds", Clone Wars era Vignettes & Short Stories, Updated 2/14

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Mira_Jade , Jan 15, 2017.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: "Only the Hounds"
    Author: Mira_Jade

    Length: Vignette & Short Story Collection
    Time Frame: Clone Wars era
    Genre: Drama, General (we're going to hit every mood, really)
    Characters: Ahsoka Tano, CT-7567 | Rex, Anakin Skywalker/Padmé Amidala & Ensemble

    Summary: A collection of missing moments and episode caps for the Clone Wars, primarily focused on Ahsoka and her men.


    Notes: So . . . I know that I am rather late for jumping on this particular bandwagon. For years I avoided watching the Clone Wars cartoon because I - rather arrogantly - believed that it would be the worst parts of the PT combined with an animation style that I, at first, did not find enjoyable to watch. I had my Karen Traviss books, and that was enough for me. :p . . . But, after continued nagging from a dear RL friend, I finally gave in and binge-watched the entire series over the last month. To put it shortly: I ate my words. I was honestly surprised with how much I enjoyed the plot and cast; my adoring Ahsoka's growth and character development completely blindsided me, while my falling in love with the boys of Torrent Company was, perhaps, more predictable to those who know me. ;) Yet, for all of the things I liked, I often found myself wishing that the writers would slow down and tell a more character driven story - no matter that they already tried to deepen what was still, primarily, a youth's action oriented series whenever they could. So, I took it upon myself to write a few missing scenes with a more adult perspective and aim for introspection. Now, here we are. :)


    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words. The title is a nod to e. e. cumming's "All in green my love went riding", which, in an ironic way, inspired my writing this further.






    Index

    01. "A Naming of Parts" I
    02. "A Naming of Parts" II
    03. "A Naming of Parts" III
    04. "A Naming of Parts" IV



    ~MJ @};-
     
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  2. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: "A Naming of Parts"
    Time Frame: Season 1, "Blue Shadow Virus" coda

    Summary: There were worse places in the galaxy to convalesce on than Naboo, that was for certain. Yet, idle hands tend to make for harmful thoughts, and there are more than a few to muddle through following their triumph over Dr. Nuvo Vindi.






    "A Naming of Parts: I"

    There were lights going out in the Force.

    Ahsoka Tano could sense them like stars in the infinite tapestry of space. Lifeforms both large and small shone against her immaterial awareness of the galaxy . . . burning . . . waxing . . . waning . . . and, all too often, flickering out into nothingness . . . disappearing. In the time it took to blink they left behind only emptiness, a whisper of memory where once, to the all-seeing eyes of the Force, there had been life standing as a beacon against the dark.

    Such a cycle was, in some ways, simply the ebb and flow of being; death, no matter how it wounded and tore at the living, was the natural end of all things. As Jedi, they were taught to accept that which was inevitable about the conclusion of their own physical existence; they were cautioned to remain compassionate but unattached to the passing of others, at that. For years, Ahsoka had thought to understand those teachings; she made the doctrines of the Order her own, and embraced them as absolute truths.

    . . . yet, all too often now as she grew in her mastery of the Force, she felt as if there were more lights blinking out than glowing with new birth. The adolescent lights that did struggle to grow were shadowed, at that - as if covered by some great cosmic pall as they brightened towards maturity. The time to come was only a hazy impression of grey and fuzzy off-white to her senses, no matter that she'd never really had an eye for visions - nothing when compared to the likes of Master Yoda. Yet . . . even with what she could see, the light struggled to peek through the overcast clouds of the future, and, at times, that notion of foreboding - a battle-sense she was learning to trust as surely as a second sight - troubled her.

    Our balance is off, a small voice inside of her whispered . . . the scales were tipped, and she felt as if she was scrambling to keep her footing against a too sharp incline on the wrong side of a fulcrum. Eventually, she would be able to hold on no longer, and she would fall.

    Such thoughts . . . such morbid contemplations were not the Jedi way. Ahsoka knew that, and, as such, she did her best to purge them from her mind the same she would any other unwanted thought. But there were times when she felt that the Force was screaming at her, wanting her to look, to understand . . . to feel all of those missing places blooming from the war and know -

    - with a start, Ahsoka remembered being trapped in Doctor Vindi's lab, breathing in the blue mist and waiting for her end to come. She had accepted her own death; she'd made peace with it, even, for there was comfort to be found in knowing of the uncountable scores of people they had saved by containing the plague. Theirs was a risk all true servants of the Republic were willing to take, and such had been her calling since birth.

    Yet . . . she had grown all too used to feeling the acute crack-sting of death in combat. She knew what it meant when the men she led flared impossibly bright and then flickered out completely; she had long since learned to protect herself against the cerebral onslaught of their passing . . . or, so she had thought. Yet, those were usually quick deaths – sudden and intense jolts to her senses that she merely accepted and cataloged in her turn. There, in that lab, to feel each and every soul trapped within struggle for life, to feel their suffering and pain and acceptance and be able to do nothing as they slowly, excruciatingly lost, one at a time -

    Her eyes flew open in the dark. With a sharp, painful sort of breath, Ahsoka sat upright in bed, resigned to the fact that her suddenly racing heartbeat would allow her no easy return to sleep. She pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes, trying to alleviate the pressure she could feel building behind her skull, but to no avail.

    Calm, calm, calm, she chanted at herself. She felt as a youngling, unable to center herself long enough to meditate; like a green initiate still unable to open herself to the will of the Force and allow its living energy to take the worst of her guilt and her mourning. She could not be a still pool in that moment, contemplative and serene, and Ahsoka was frustrated; she had learned better than that during the war.

    It was silly of her to not be able to find her rest, at that, she chided herself. Her private room in the Royal Hospital of Theed was comfortable enough – actually, it was more than comfortable. She would even go as far as to call it luxurious. She had a mattress softer than anything she had ever slept on before, and her blankets were cool against her skin without smothering her with a trapped heat – as too many human weaves seemed to do. Even in the dark, the warm tones and elegant arrangement of the room's décor was designed to sooth a recovering patient in a typical expression of Naboo aesthetics. The thin drapes from her very own balcony billowed in the sweet breeze of the late spring's night. She could hear the thunder of the nearby waterfalls and the music of the night-bugs; she could feel the swell of life beyond the stone walls surrounding her - life that, thanks to the efforts of her and hers, had been preserved from destruction once again.

    You are being ridiculous, Ahsoka huffed at herself. She should have been sleeping after a job well done, letting her body rest and recover from the shock of the virus. She should be content, filled with satisfaction, even, and yet . . .

    . . . all too often, she did not like closing her eyes any more. Who knew how many lights would go out while she laid there dreaming?

    Ahsoka huffed out a sigh, a sound that tapered off into a soft sort of plaintive trilling noise that pinged back only emptiness and nothing to her fledgling montrals. The echoing sensation caused an oppressive feeling of another sort to weigh heavily upon her chest, until, finally -

    - she was done with this, she made her decision with a muffled curse. Her body needed sleep, and if sleep would not come to her then she would go and find rest herself.

    Already feeling more centered as she found her feet, Ahsoka slipped from her room with a silent, loping stride. She passed by her master's room first, but she did not sense Anakin's presence within. She frowned, but was not too surprised: her Skyguy slept even less than the vod'e, and she knew that there was a chance that she would catch him while he was out on one of his nightly meanderings. She did not, however, want to be alone while waiting for him.

    Undeterred, she instead found her way to the communal hospital wing that the recovering troopers of the 501st shared. All of the beds in the ward were already taken by the men who had survived the virus, but she was persistent in her course. After grabbing a few blankets and an extra pillow from one of the supply closets, she made her way to the bare space of floor between Rex and Kix's beds. Yes, she decided with a happy little trill, this would do quite nicely. Her captain was asleep, she was pleased to see as she made her nest on the ground, but Kix was up - no matter the late hour - and scrolling through medical essays on a datapad. He raised a dark brow at her actions, but did not immediately move or say anything to stop her; it was not the first time she had crashed with the men in such a way, after all.

    “My room was too big,” Ahsoka finally answered his stare with a whisper. “My mattress swallowed me.”

    “How ever did you survive that?” Kix's drawl was low and teasing in response. But he put his 'pad down, she saw, as if -

    “ - no no no, don't get up,” she shook her head emphatically. “I'm comfortable right where I am. I'm not taking your bed.”

    Kix looked uncertain, but she was satisfied with the cozy little space she had made for herself – truly she was. Defiant in demonstrating her claim, she dropped down and spread out as if to mark her territory before the medic could try again to persuade her. She raised a white brow, silently communicating that if he wanted to trade places with her, he would have to physically move her from her spot. And she could hold on like a Felucian leech if she had to.

    He was still indecisive, she saw. “Go to sleep, Kix,” she solved his indecision by waving her hand in an imperious gesture. “That's an order, trooper.”

    “You can't order the medic when he's on medical business,” Kix snorted, ignoring her to tap the 'pad again. At least he did not look as if he was going to insist on her spot, she thought as the pale blue light illuminated his face with undertones. “I say with all due respect, of course . . . sir.”

    “Of course,” Ahsoka rolled her eyes. “With all due respect.”

    “How about the both of you go to sleep now?” a new voice interrupted from across the aisle. Ahsoka did not have to look up to see who spoke; the inflection in his voice was telling enough. Fives. “This face doesn't stay so beautiful all by itself, you know.”

    “Right,” Echo was the one to drowsily join the conversation and retort. “As if your snoring was not keeping us all awake before, vod - ”

    - there was a snapping sound, followed by a muffled 'umph' from Echo. A pillow striking flesh, Ahsoka well recognized. She shifted in her pile of bedding, for a moment wishing that she had thought to grab an extra pillow herself. Her lekku were oddly pinched against the floor when she thought about it.

    Wayii! Really, Fives?” Echo's voice was jolted into full awareness as he sat half upright to scathe at his batcher. “You're not a cadet any longer, you'd think that by now you'd have the maturity to - ”

    “ - the next man who says another word will find himself on 'fresher duty for as many five-days as it takes for me to remember that I am actually a nice man. Is that understood?”

    Rex did not open his eyes to casually deliver his threat; he did not even bother increasing the volume of his voice to ensure his words were heard. But his results were immediate and clear: a pin drop could be heard before a soft chorus of 'yes sirs' echoed back in the dark. Following, all was silent once more. Even Kix powered down his datapad for the night.

    Yet, Ahsoka could not help herself. She propped the weight of her upper body on her forearms and peered up at her captain in the vague city-light coming in from the windows. “So,” she could feel the tips of her teeth show with her smile, “since I'm not one of the 'men', does that mean - ”

    She was not truly unprepared when an extra pillow came down on her head with a lazy sort of force, and she smiled. Ah, perfect. She claimed the pillow for her nest, and was not at all surprised when Rex did not try to take it back again.

    “Perfect, Rexter,” she thanked him on a whisper. “That's just what I needed.”

    She settled in again, and this time when she whistled out a sigh, she felt an answering pulse of life vibrate against her montrals. She could hear her squad's heartbeats slow to drowsily pulse with sleep; she could feel an echo of their strong, healthy lungs as they breathed in the dark. The sensation was soothing - comfortable in its familiarity, even - as it rippled down her lekku, and she breathed out deeply with a fulfilled sense of belonging. Thus content, she closed her eyes, and let herself drift off to sleep.



    .

    .

    He was awakened gently, by the natural sunlight streaming down on his face.

    Or, at least, Rex blinked into wakefulness with the arrival of the dawn. He let his brow furrow to look through the wide, elegantly arched windows of the hospital ward to see streaks of pink and pale violet lightening the sky over the domes and winding waterways of Theed. It was a rare moment of simplistic beauty for him - and equally as rare for his simply being able to loiter in bed and enjoy the spectacle as it unfolded. There had been no sunrises on Kamino, after all - the natural light only made it through the thick canopy of stormclouds blanketing the watery world once or twice a year. In space, it was even harder to tell the day from the night, swallowed by the darkness as they were. Once they were deployed on fields of combat, he had even fewer opportunities to observe the natural world around him. Instead, there was only the pressing urge to see their current mission fulfilled and his men and Jedi seen through to the other side with as few casualties as possible.

    But now, for that one morning, there was no pressing urge for him to rise and slip immediately into his routine of drills and reports and war. There was no waiting battlefield, calling to him like a planet to its moon. Instead, there was just the dawn, and the drowsy contentment he still felt for a job well done.

    The only sound breaking the distant thunder of the falls was the distinct rumble of Fives' snoring – the ARC-trooper really did snore like a congested bantha, after all. As a gentle counterpoint, there was a delicate, almost whistling noise that passed for their commander's version of snoring – the sound was highly pitched and soft enough that without his enhanced senses, he would not have been able to register it. But it was a tell-tale sign that she was allowing herself to sleep, and sleep deeply. Good, he thought; he had worried about her being alone the last few nights of her recovery, after all. No doubt her body had given her but little choice on the matter as she slipped in and out of Jedi healing trances to better purge Vindi's toxin from her system; he well trusted Skywalker to care for his Padawan, but still, the thought had lingered in the back of his mind.

    It had been . . . surprising, the first time Ahsoka had stumbled into their barracks in a similar such fashion – that first five-day after leaving Tatooine behind for their next assignment. She had been almost incoherently tired and all too young - small, almost - as she curled up like a loth-cat in the corner of the dorm with her single blanket, seemingly oblivious to the few dozen men she had inadvertently startled into battle readiness with her arrival.

    “I just need to hear someone breathe when I sleep,” had been her tired mumble when they tried to coax her back to her own quarters. “Please, I just need to sleep.”

    And so, they had let her stay. Not a one of the vod'e would sleep themselves that night, of course, and more than a few of the men offered up pillows and blankets before Rex insisted she accept with a hard stare. “No sense in damaging your head-tails if you won't take a bed, sir.” And that had been that.

    Togruta are a clan species in the truest sense of the word,” Kix had hazarded an explanation the following morning over a very strong cup of caf. After being assigned a non-human commander, the medic had made it his personal duty to download and read every scrap of information about her species as he could possibly find. Kix had since come to know more about her biology and cellular structure than he reckoned even Ahsoka did. “A communal people; they are rarely alone, even to sleep. It's biology and instinct for our vod'ika, not preference. No doubt she'll grow out of it as she ages.

    Rex thought that he could understand that: Mandalorians were much the same way – the lone warrior without a clan was dar'manda, separate from their soul. While such was an adopted philosophy as much as it was a genetic inheritance from their progenitor, it was nonetheless one of the tenets of Resol'nare that Rex could identify with more so than most. He had never truly been alone once in his life, and did not much appreciate the state of being the few times he had come close to it.

    He had addressed the matter with his general after speaking with Kix, and was pleased by the tight-lipped expression Skywalker had given him in reply. For his Padawan to speak not of her needs out of a wish to be less of a burden that she perceived herself to be was not just plain foolishness, but also insulting to her Master. Skywalker had made sure that Ahsoka had a couch in the ready room to his quarters to use after that, and that had taken care of that.

    Rex was simply glad that his commander looked better now. He glanced down to see where the full, deep color had returned to the red-orange of her skin, and the blue stripes of her lekku were once again healthy and vibrant. He still did not like to think of how the color had drained from her as she fought the effects of Vindi's mist . . . with no physical foe to fight as she succumbed to the virus faster than was comforting to see. It was engrained into his deepest cells to care for his Jedi, and, what was more than that, this particular Jedi had gotten under his skin in the past five months since Christophsis. The idea of losing her in such a low, dishonorable way had been anathema to him - burning brighter than even his own fight with the virus tearing through his system at the time.

    It had been . . . second nature to catch her when the mist finally took consciousness from her, and then not to let her go as he waited for what he thought was the end. It was nothing he had ever been programed to do, or even shown in kind – but it was still human instinct to cradle her and run a soothing hand up and down her arm as tremors began to shake her body. He had taken off his gauntlets to better feel her skin, wanting to more easily communicate that she was not alone to where he knew that her mind was still aware, somewhere deep down inside of her being. Sharing his burden, Senator Amidala had done much the same; she had refused to let the girl's hand go, even as she herself started to succumb to the worst of the virus' effects.

    He . . . he almost did not believe it when his general came through with a cure for them – and yet, someday, he would stop being surprised each and every time Skywalker moved mountains where the senator was concerned.

    At the very least, to the great satisfaction of his soldier's heart, he hadn't been forced to lay down his life for a madman's plague – there was still more than time enough to find himself on the wrong side of a blaster bolt by the end of the war.

    But, until then, there was a certain peace to be found with the dawn, with knowing that his men were safe and recovering. He even had an inkling to try falling back asleep again, drowsy and content as he was, to -

    “ - Doctor Madacoo will be making his rounds in twenty minutes, clones,” came the crisp, dry tenor that Rex had come to associate with Orderly Ioll. “Up, up, up! Best be ready by then – we do not want to keep the good doctor waiting.”

    The lights, when they were abruptly flicked on, drowned out the rising sunlight from beyond. He blinked back spots as his vision protested the sudden change in intensity.

    “Come, come now, soldiers – up!” Ioll insisted, clapping his hands to better punctuate his words before turning from the ward, satisfied that his work was done.

    And, just like that, his soldier's mind was engaged, and Rex was fully awake. So much for sleeping in, he swallowed a sigh – but there was no use fighting orders, after all.

    He nevertheless heard an audible sigh from Kix - one that was slowly echoed by all of the men in the room. Fives propped himself up on his elbow, and blearily stared at the chrono next to his bedside. “Haran, it's not even 0600.” He let himself fall back, face first, into his pillow. “Are they serious?”

    “Why,” Jesse muttered groggily, even as he obediently sat up and started to stretch his arms over his head, “do I get the feeling that we are singled out to be first on the good doctor's itinerary?” He cracked his neck with an audible popping sound; the lingering after-effect of an old injury.

    “Maybe it's just Naboo hospitality?” Echo offered helpfully. His voice was already obnoxiously cheerful to start the day.

    “If that's what you want to call it,” Kix muttered underneath his breath. He caught Rex's eye with a significant look, and he fought the urge he had to frown in answer. He wouldn't where his men could see.

    “We should be pleased that we are being treated as such a priority,” Echo still reasoned positively. “It's a rather nice change, if I do say so myself.”

    Kix blinked – a loaded answer to Rex's eyes, but the medic was clearly hesitant to say anything to distort the younger clone's strangely optimistic view of the universe. Fives, however, had no such qualms as he peeked up to glare at his batcher.

    “If that's what you really think, sunshine, then I clearly missed out on whatever they filled your tank with,” he rolled his eyes to say. Dramatically, he let his head fall again. “Don't they know that we all took a dose of blue poison to save their lives? One more hour of shut-eye is not too crazy to ask for in return, I say.” He continued to mutter in Mando'a underneath his breath – not a most complimentary opinion of their hosts, to put it politely.

    And that was enough of that.

    “Alright then,” Rex turned a stern look on his men. “You heard Orderly Ioll – we're killing our twenty minutes, which means no more than three minutes in the 'freshers a piece. Fives,” he threw his last pillow at the corporal to get his attention, and then gestured sharply. “You're up first.”

    Fives looked as if he would protest, before clearly thinking the better of it. After a heartbeat, he pulled himself out of bed with a beleaguered sigh. Echo's subsequent offer to see about getting a pot of caf going was met with a rude gesture, however – no matter his compliance with orders. Rex finally did roll his eyes as he looked over at Kix.

    But the medic was paying but little attention to his brothers' antics, Rex saw. Instead, he was staring down at their commander with a soft, thoughtful expression on his face. Rex let out a breath through his nose, more annoyed that the doctor's early rounds would disturb her from her much needed rest, rather than them.

    “What should we do?” Kix asked on a low voice. “If all of this ruckus hasn't woken her yet, then . . .”

    “Let her sleep,” Rex did not need to think twice about his answer. “Stars know that the verd'ika has earned it.”

    Kix nodded, and after one more glance at the slumbering Padawan he stood from the opposite side of the bed – as soon as three minutes were up he'd have to start reminding Fives of his limit with the hot water, after all, and there was caf to be found. Rex got up himself a moment later, slowly stretching his muscles in an all too familiar routine as he looked about to make sure that his men were following orders.

    And, from the corner of his eye, he continued to watch the sun rise.






    Mando'a:

    Vod - Sibling
    Vod'e - Siblings/Siblinghood
    Vod'ika - Little sibling
    Verd'ika - Child soldier
    Haran - Hell
    Wayii - Good grief


    ~MJ @};-
     
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  3. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Thanks for the likes, guys! I hope that you continue to enjoy. :) [:D]




    "A Naming of Parts: II"

    For the first time in far too long, Anakin Skywalker woke naturally, without a wailing klaxon or surge of warning through the Force to jolt him into awareness for the day.

    Instead, he blinked to find the morning light a rich, buttery orange color as it spilled through the billowing drapes into the bedchamber of the hospital suite. The sun had almost completed its morning ascent, gilding the domes of Theed with gold and touching the blooming, late spring flowers with pink and saffron warmth. The birds were singing to the dawn; the thunder from the nearby cascades seemed to pulse in time to their song. Languidly, he stretched his arms against the cool bedsheets, allowing himself to enjoy the heady luxury of a real mattress instead of his practical ship-side berth or monastic quarters at the Temple, and found, with searching fingers -

    “ - you haven't slept properly in days, have you? A rabid gundark couldn't have moved you from that sleep,” was the soft, wry voice he heard when his fingertips found the anchoring warmth of his wife. She was still beside him, he understood with a feeling of belonging and home - a more beautiful greeting than anything the natural world could ever hope to compare with, by far. His presence in her bed was a rarity to the days of their marriage, at that - a stolen, treasured moment to be able to simply wake up together, the same as any other couple in the galaxy. He closed his eyes to feel her small fingers brush affectionately through his hair; a low sound vibrated in the back of his throat as he rested a heavy arm about her waist. Thus content, he did not much feel the need to open his eyes again.

    “When was the last time you slept – really slept?” Padmé rested her fingertips against his scalp, and he felt his brow unwittingly furrow. Her observation was not a passing concern, then.

    “Hm,” his voice was still heavy with sleep. “Well, when's the last time we were together?”

    He felt her fingers give a pointed little tug on his hair, and he cracked one eye open in time to see her raise a withering brow, little amused. But it was the truth. “So, close to a month?” Anakin answered his own question. “Give or take a five-day.”

    Exactly thirty-three days, he knew as well as breathing - but he did not let those words free, not that morning, when all was softness and new light around them.

    “You,” Padmé sighed through her nose, “are running yourself ragged, Ani.”

    “Says the woman working, when she should be resting herself,” Anakin finally lifted his head from the pillow to squint up at her. She was sitting upright against her own stack of pillows and tapping busily away at a datapad with her free hand. On the bedside table there was a pile of fresh flimsi and waiting datasheets, while her morning tea service had noticeably cooled. Did Sabé really sneak in and out on me? Was I really that exhausted? He frowned, at first little understanding what he was seeing.

    “Why are you working, anyway?” he asked as his brain found awareness enough to convey his observations into speech. “You shouldn't be working; you should be recovering.”

    “All of my official duties are being handled by Jar Jar for the time being. He's doing an adequate job, but you no doubt understand why I want to double check his work.” No matter that her words were dry, fondness softened Padmé's voice as she brought up another screen on the 'pad. The brown warmth of her gaze took on a sharp edge as she took in its contents and made her notes - no matter that her touch was still soothing as her fingers slipped from his hair to find his skin. He had not realized just how tense he was until she started expertly rubbing at one particularly impressive knot in the muscle sloping between his neck and right shoulder. He fought the urge he had to sigh in appreciation and let his head fall back against the pillow – he couldn't be distracted; he had an argument to make, after all.

    “At the very least,” Padmé continued, underlining a point of text, “my time spent . . . convalescing has given me time to work on my pet projects – projects that were sadly going ignored under my usual workload, otherwise. I can't just . . . loll away in bed while they go unaddressed. There's too much that needs to be done.”

    Made curious by the inflection in her tone, Anakin propped himself up on an elbow to look at the datapad she was currently scrolling through – A Summation of Proposals for the Rights of Artificially Induced Beings of Replicated Genetics Under Republic Law, the header said. Anakin fought the urge he had to make a face: the text was as dry and long-winded as its title suggested it to be. But, it was a subject he already closely followed as it was batted about by the Senate. Every topic, from a question as simple as: should a clone have claim to monetary compensation from the Republic? do they even have a right to personal belongings when they are no more than property themselves? to more serious matters such as: should clones even be counted as citizens of the Republic? Should they be allowed to vote; and, if so, for which system? Should they be allowed retirement or should they simply be deconstructed at the end of the war – and, if integration is approved, what kind of existence can they hope to expect in the private sector? All of that, and more, was debated and turned over in a ceaseless interplay of words without anyone truly deciding anything. The Committee for Clone Rights was one of the many legislative panels his wife chaired, and one, that -

    - interrupting his reflections, he caught a wave of strong feeling from Padmé's mind, bidding him to dip deeper into her consciousness and coast through her reflections alongside her. She was remembering her time in Dr. Vindi's lab, he understood with a frown. Through her own eyes he saw her calmly sitting in the blue mist once their foe was defeated and waiting for the end to come. She had interacted with clone troopers before that, of course – she had fought side by side with them, and had even given orders and been obeyed in return. But, she had never . . .

    . . . they have individual personalities, Padmé had cataloged while trapped down there. They may look the same, but they are every one as different as I am from Sabé. They have individual likes and dislikes, she understood as they chatted amongst themselves, endeavoring to keep up their spirits whilst waiting to die as the dutiful soldiers they were. They care for each other . . . she had slowly understood. What's more than that, they have the capacity to love. What could better meet the requirements of sentience and selfhood than that?

    She could still hear the soft, eerie lament they gave for the first of their company who fell to the virus, and then the second . . . she could still recall the tender, careful way the clone captain held Ahsoka when she finally lost consciousness, rubbing a soothing hand down her arm even as Padmé herself held on tight to the girl's hand and refused to let go. She could remember the medic - Kix, she believed he named himself - as he kept up a steady flow of words to distract her from her own nauseous pain as the virus burned its way through her system: Never had much of a mind for politics myself, ma'am. Leave me to patching up literal bodies – at least there's a logic to what I can and can't fix, there. To his stories from the front-lines she had shared hers from growing up on Naboo: I have one sister, she had said, and the clone had looked at her and echoed, only one, ma'am? as if that was something to be pitied . . . as if she, with her family and heritage and ability to choose was somehow lacking, while he was not.

    If even I had such assumptions about these men, then how do I change the minds of so many who don't truly understand? How do I fight for the men who, in turn, fight for us? . . . The Republic is complicate in slavery by its plainest definition, and I do not yet know how to fix it . . . At the very least, I can fight to guarantee some sort of life for them after, when this horrible war is finally done . . .

    As always, her determination made her stand out as a white light in the Force. Her burning glow illuminated the depths of his own being, calling out to him the same as a sun holding a planet in its thrall. His own jarring ripples and deep eddies seemed to sooth as he breathed in her belief and let himself fill on her light. Anakin shifted, moving his arm so that he could clasp Padmé's hand against his skin with his own organic hand and squeeze. He . . . he understood, and he loved her all the more so for her goodness and zeal. After a heartbeat, she wound her fingers through his to return the affection. She took in a deep breath, and closed her eyes to balance her thoughts – as if she took in as much strength from him as he did from her. When she opened her eyes to stare down the 'pad again there was such a righteous ferocity burning in her gaze that, for a moment, he almost pitied the unfortunate fool who would attempt to stand in her way.

    . . . well, almost, that was.

    A ping then sounded on her nightstand's intercom, interrupting his thoughts, and Padmé tapped the corner of her 'pad to allow the call through.

    “Milady, I regret to inform you of the time, but you will have company soon,” came Sabé's subtle reminder of their reality. As always, the faithful aide was discreet but pointed in her shielding her mistress and the message was clear: he did not have long before he had to leave.

    Padmé put the 'pad down, resigned to her duty. Anakin, however, had no such grace: he groaned as he flopped back down to bury his face in his pillow. He was yet unwilling to let her go.

    “Nuh uh,” he protested. Already his peaceful morning was winking away for the stark light of the day; he could feel it slipping from his grasp. “Just five more minutes, love, then we can get up - promise.”

    “We'll be the last ones up,” Padmé cautioned. Nevertheless, there was a note of fondness coloring her exasperation – Anakin zeroed in on that potential weakness with all of the tenacity of a hunting shriek-hawk. “The doctor will be by on his rounds soon, at that,” she reasoned, “and I cannot - ”

    “ - and who will care if you spend another hour in bed? You deserve the rest – even without the virus.” He felt his wife shift, and, perhaps somewhat childishly, he flexed his arm about her waist, holding her in place against him.

    “Queen Neeyutnee and her council will mind,” she gently chided as she squirmed to free herself. “They want to meet with me over breakfast to discus the growing number of refugees - ”

    “ - well, people were bound to find out about us eventually. Now's as good a time as any,” Anakin shrugged – ignoring, as always, the guilty little spike that shadowed her mind in response to his words. She hated the necessity of hiding their union from so many, he knew, and wondered if her self-perceived selfishness in keeping him for herself did more harm than good on a wider scale. Instinctively, he held her a little tighter at the thought; he tilted his head, and breathed in deep the fragrance of her hair.

    “Don't you have a Padawan to see to – and your men to check on?” Padmé gave a huff when she was unable to move him – Jedi strength and all that. She thumped a palm against his bare shoulder to better punctuate her words.

    “Ugh, the children can take care of themselves for a little while longer – they know better than to run with vibro-scissors by now. I just want five more minutes with my wife - ”

    “ - you are going to be terrible with children of your own, you know that, right?” Padmé tried shoving him again with a roll of her eyes. The words were so instinctive to retort that she did not even pause to first consider them. Yet, they were the same as dumping a pail of ice-water over him: they shocked him, and Anakin started to absorb their blow.

    His hold on her loosened in his distraction, and Padmé at last freed herself. As she moved to sit on the edge of the bed, he slowly sat upright himself. His ears rang as if he had just stood too close to the concussive bloom of an exploding grenade; his senses had to recover themselves from the onslaught. He was suddenly unsure of what to do with his hands as he tapped his fingers against the mattress; he found himself wanting for movement. He let his wife go, watching as she reached for a robe to cover her loose gown; beyond the warm cocoon of their bed, the air was slightly chilly from the open balcony.

    “You . . . you want children?” the words were very small as they slipped from his mouth . . . as if by saying them any more loudly he would fracture the fragile reality of their meaning. Children . . . children. The idea caused a giddy, almost dizzying sensation to stoke to life within his heart. He blinked to glimpse a pair of large, luminous brown eyes blinking from a tiny face in a ghosting vision. He could hear with his future self's ears as the girl happily babbled in the nonsense way of toddling babes, already imperiously waving her sticky little hands to flash her mother's impish smile to absolve herself of all mischief. While, next to her . . .

    - our daughter, he knew the Force allowed him to glimpse. Our son. Anakin felt blindsided by the vision, weak-kneed and unable to properly breathe as a yearning so strong and fierce seemingly took hold of his every cell and refused to let him go. He . . . he wanted that future, he knew then. He wanted that stolen glimpse of a family as much as he had ever wanted freedom and the skies as a child, and, now . . .

    “Do you want children, Padmé?” he asked again, more seriously this time. His wife stood very still by the edge of the bed, he saw, and her troubled expression gave him pause. He felt that same flash of worry guilt from her mind, and knew that, then . . .

    “Eventually . . . someday? Yes, I've always wanted a family of my own,” Padmé revealed on an exhale. She sounded almost miserable for admitting as such, however, and he heard: he is the Chosen One . . . he is supposed to bring balance to the Force . . . he belongs to all, for the good of all . . . but I want him with me in every possible way – stars help me, but I do – and if that makes me selfish, if that makes me avaricious . . .

    Well, then . . . so be it.

    For a moment, the almost blinding brilliance of her inner light flickered - but Anakin would not allow that. Not on a morning such as this.

    “I don't know - if parenting is anything like managing an apprentice, it's impossible, really. Maybe we'd be better off without it.” Anakin flopped back onto the pillows to punctuate his words with an exaggerated sigh. He ran his hands over his face to clear the sleep from his eyes, opting for humor to bring them back from the precipice they had just peered over – when the war was over, then they could figure out how to come clean about their marriage and enjoy everything else that entailed. A son . . . a daughter. “Ahsoka's headstrong and impulsive; she has zero instinct for danger and its relevance to her well-being. Not to mention that she has the worst case of selective hearing since -”

    “ - since yourself?” Padmé's eyes all but sparkled to tease in return. She understood his diversion, and was grateful for it. “I seem to remember a Padawan, who, within hours of being reacquainted with me, spent quite a bit of time . . . oh, how should I put this delicately? . . . complaining about how his Master didn't understand him . . . does that sound at all familiar?”

    “Well . . . Obi-Wan is always saying that the Force works in mysterious ways,” Anakin grumbled. It was as far as he would agree with her outright. “He thinks that Ahsoka is some sort of cosmic justice for 'everything I put him through.' Whatever that means.”

    For that, Padmé gave a small, tinkling laugh – and the sound went straight to Anakin's heart. “She's going to turn out fine, Anakin, you'll see.” As always, she managed to understand the heart of the matter and moved to address its deepest seed. “You're an excellent teacher if what I saw down in that lab is any indication. She's only benefited from learning from you, and our children will be just as lucky if and when we do have them.”

    He caught another glimpse of memory from her mind: of Ahsoka burning with resolve as she tried to sooth her men, even as she herself fell to the worse of the virus. The determination - the affection, even - she was able to inspire in return was telling enough, and Padmé had learned a lot from that small observation alone.

    As always, Anakin felt a swell of pride fill him for how much his Padawan had grown in so short a period of time. He had not wanted the responsibility of minding a child when he himself had only just earned his freedom from Obi-Wan as a Knight – just as he knew that his men had been initially uneasy about following the orders of one so young on an active battlefield. Those worries, at least, had proven to be for naught; he . . . he'd read the reports . . . he knew what the war had done to other Padawans. The transition from peacekeeper to soldier was not a line easily crossed for a great many, but his Snips took to combat like a sand-viper to the Dune Sea. In part, he knew that was due to her heritage - Togruta were a fierce people even during times of peace, after all - and yet, a larger part of that, he had been told by closely observant Masters, was due to his guidance and instruction. Ahsoka had already matured in leaps and bounds since Christophsis – never mind her brash edge that still wanted for quite a bit of refinement – and, far from him to say that Master Yoda was right with the intuition to pair them together . . .

    . . . he did have a soft, special space in his heart for his apprentice. If he was completely honest with himself, he knew that he felt warmer on his darkest days for having her in his life.

    Yet, his wife's memories brought him back to his original argument. Steeling himself, he dug in his heels for another verbal battle, and tried again:

    “Which is why I feel compelled to remind you, again, that you almost died,” as always, the thought was a breathless sort of pain all on its own. But no . . . no. He had fought against that fate, and prevailed over it - just as he ever would. "You came so close to - "

    “ - yes, almost,” Padmé agreed matter-of-factly. She sounded remarkably unmoved by his concerns - frustratingly so. “In light of my near death experience, my wishes should be obeyed, wouldn't you say?”

    It was his own luck for loving a politician, really: she was too good at arguing. Anakin rolled his eyes, frustrated with his own thick tongue – a gesture that went unseen as Padmé turn her back on him to head for her suite's private 'fresher. Somewhere, he could not help but fight the feeling that Obi-Wan was laughing at him – his former Master was always trying to impress on him the finer points of negotiation, after all. Now he wished that he had listened better.

    “Be that as it may,” Anakin nevertheless tried again through gritted teeth, “could you at least compromise with me a little, Senator -”

    “- well, I do need to shower . . . and so do you, General.” Padmé's eyes glittered mischievously as she paused by the doorway to throw a glance back at him. “You could come with me to make sure that I don't . . . over-exert myself. Would that be acceptable?”

    Well . . . if she put it like that. He was suddenly very awake, and staying in bed did not seem nearly as appealing as it had before.

    “You make a strong argument, milady,” Anakin found himself powerless to resist. He could feel a grin turn sharp on his face. “But I believe that I can agree to those terms.”



    ~MJ @};-
     
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  4. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    What a gorgeously detailed scene. I love all the color imagery - the golden domes of the city, the orange-yellow morning light. The description of the room in Theed (Padmé's hospital room, I assume) brings in all the peace and elegance that such a place would convey. Anakin's reluctance to get up, even when they are about to be walked in on, is typical of his stubbornness, but she's stubborn too in refusing to put off administrative duties even as she convalesces.

    The layering here - the consideration of those who work for them, who work alongside of them - is interesting. Are clones worthy of being considered "real people?" Should they be "decomissioned" when their usefulness is over? Anakin's consideration of his role as master to Ahsoka. Even the dutiful Sabé's service to Padmé shows the way that the couple, even with their elevated status as politician and war hero, still care deeply for those around them.

    The crux of the story, though, comes as a consequence of Padmé's off-hand comment about Anakin's ability as a father. He apparently has never thought of himself in that way, maybe because he never had the luxury of a father himself. He tries to equate being a father with being a master, even though he understands that it isn't the same. Then, when he glimpses through the Force, a peek at what his life might be with his son and his daughter - it's bittersweet and ironic. He sees the potential father he could be. The Force lets him glimpse what it would be like if they had actually done what Padmé wanted, to go back to the Lake Country and raise their children in peace and love. Of course, this isn't what happens. It's a promise broken. How much more tragic it is to think that Anakin once saw his future like that, and then believed for so many years that his children were gone with their mother.

    A beautiful glimpse into Anakin and Padmé's world.
     
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  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    First of all, I have to thank you so much for the kind words! They quite made my day to read. :D [:D]

    And then, for all that they may be bending the rules, there is such a strong sense of duty and service that defines both Anakin and Padme. If not, they would have left their responsibilities behind to be together without looking back a long time ago. For me, their compassion for others is such a strong part of their respective characters, and it was interesting to explore here. (Especially where the clones are concerned, I have so many thoughts on that matter that this collection is a good way to exorcise them all. :p)

    Exactly. I can't even begin to tell you how easily that scene just wrote itself - I couldn't seem to stop once I started! It's just . . . tragic, seeing how much love and hope there was in their relationship at this point time, all the while knowing how it all turns out . . .

    . . . although you mention an interesting thing with Anakin's force vision being a what-if. My response to the Celtic Challenge takes that particular idea and runs with it - but, I have to finish it, first. [face_whistling]

    Once again, I thank you so very much for reading and taking the time to leave your thoughts. Your comment was so very appreciated! :)


    I also have to give a big ol' thank-you to everyone who left likes, as well. I appreciate you all, and hope that you continue to enjoy. [:D]
     
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  6. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    "A Naming of Parts: III"

    The hospital staff did not quite know what to make of them.

    By then, Rex was accustomed to the stares . . . the whispers. They only induced an itching sort of awareness, reminding him that he was an object of curiosity to many in the galaxy. From his deployment onwards, he'd quickly learned to develop a practiced indifference to civilians pretending that they weren't trying to sneak glances between he and his brothers whenever they could. He supposed that it could be unnerving: a room full of identical men, all perfectly alike but for what they did to set themselves apart, to those who did not know any better. What was familiar to him was an oddity for most, and he had learned to hold himself still and keep his silence until the novelty of their replicated faces wore off.

    It was more of a rarity to encounter those who were uneasy, not because they were clones, so much as they were living weapons – tools, essentially, bred and groomed for the violent necessity of war. That outlook, he'd come to find, was something unique to Naboo and worlds like it. Their love of peace ran deep in their culture; it was the cornerstone of their thinking, and evident in their every way of living. The people of Naboo were artists and poets and philosophers; their cities were all beauty and grace acting in harmony with the natural world, with not a hard line of design anywhere to be found. The planet had no standing army, even after its brush with Trade Federation occupation some years ago. Naboo offered no support to the war effort in military terms, only a welcome to those refugees displaced by its violence and a strong voice for cessation of the conflict through diplomacy in the Senate.

    . . . yet, for the unnatural soldiers who did fight, who did dedicate their lives to combat and the art of its waging . . . for those who were created, not by the natural order of the universe, but by the arrogance of science and sentiental greed for profit . . .

    Why put so many of our resources towards patching them up? They're just returning to the front-lines to be fodder for the droids. Not a one of them will even be alive in three months' time - I would bet credits on that. To give them what should be going to those displaced by their war . . . it doesn't sit right with me.

    More than once, he heard the hospital staff whisper similar such words from the hall right beyond their ward. They did not realizing how advanced their hearing truly was - or, like the droids they were unwittingly being compared to, perhaps it was assumed that they simply would not care if they did hear.

    Though their words prompted him to frown, they did not wound him . . . not really. Rather, Rex took a fierce satisfaction in his duty, in knowing that he was the best of the best, even by the high standards of his brothers. He had been hand-picked by the chancellor himself to lead the 501st, and he served his general well - nothing that anyone else could say would ever take that away from him. His life was dedicated to something greater than himself, and he was proud of that. He was fortunate, even, in knowing his place in life and making it so irrevocably his own.

    The cogs taking up space in this galaxy flounder about searching for fulfillment, but they are distracted by greedy, individualistic desires for families and secular careers and material possessions. They give in all too easily to vice; war brings out only the worst in them – not the best. You, however, will be different, he could still remember his drill sergeant saying - a tall, broad-shouldered Mandalorian woman whom they had only referred to as She'eta for fifty. She was only a number to them . . . a loud, imposing, ori'beskaryc of a number. During those five years of intensive combat training, Rex had never once seen her face, only the familiar T-shape of her visor and the deep scarlet border surrounding it. At times he'd wondered if she even had a face - there were days when he was certain that she was nothing more than sound and fists and fury.

    You will own nothing; you will want for nothing; you will love nothing – you will be bound only to your brothers and to your orders. For that, be grateful: the galaxy is nothing but misery and drudgery for those searching for purpose in life, for meaning. That, my verda, will never be you.

    For years, he'd known those words as inalienable truths, irrefutable and absolute. He still did, to a large degree. Only, now . . .

    . . . now, he knew more of what and who he was fighting for. His purpose remained the same, only, it was augmented by practical knowledge and deepened by experience. And, as for the attachments his sergeant had so scathed as burdens for others to bear . . .

    . . . well, his devotion to his brothers remained the same. That scope may have grown to encompass his Jedi, as well - but in that too there was breeding and training at play. He had been conditioned to do nothing else, and he simply accepted his affection as an accessory to his being no less vital than his armor and carried on with his duty. Sometimes, he wondered what Sergeant She'eta would say about that.

    Yet, even so . . . no amount of genetic tampering or intensive training could dim the ire he felt for being looked through, rather than at. Even his sergeant, for all that she'd ever called them by their numbers, had looked them square in the eye to hurl her orders. He could always feel the weight of her stare through her visor; he'd never felt less than human in her gaze.

    Doctor Gorp Madacoo of Naboo, Rex quickly understood, was no Sergeant She'eta.

    Their attending physician was a middle-aged human male of average build and average height. He carried himself proudly, regally, even - no matter that there was nothing remarkable about his features except for the shrewd grey of his eyes and the carefully maintained beard he wore of his greying blonde hair. He had a very square jaw with flat cheekbones and blunt orbital bones; a strong skull and facial structure like that well protected the brain within, and it would require a good amount of force to knock him unconscious. His face was a fighter's face. Initially, Rex had been inclined to respect the doctor for that alone.

    . . . and only that, unfortunately.

    The doctor was flanked by a flock of interns: two human males, and one human female. There was only one non-human in the group, a female Gungan with purplish skin peeking out from the pale yellow-cream of her scrubs. Rex listed the interns as one through three in his mind; he didn't bother recalling their names - except for the Gungan. Her name was Sa Sa Dess, and she was one of the first Gungan graduates of Theed's Medical University, he had since learned. So far, she had been the only native to privately thank his men for their bravery in keeping the Blue Shadow Virus contained, and she made eye contact with them at all times. A healer from a long line of warriors, she had briefly explained, she was honored to aid in their recovery. In her gaze, Rex thought to espy a kind spirit.

    For the rest of them, Rex was uncomfortably reminded of the Kaminoan technicians back home. It was common knowledge amongst the clone ranks to avoid the infirmary at all costs, and that instinct was an old, deeply engrained one in their psyches. There was only so much tinkering the long-necks would do before they scrapped their product entirely, after all – the same as a potter demolishing an ill formed pot to reuse the clay – in the interest of quality control. He'd known too many men who were injured on live training exercises and never returned to the field to learn from their mistakes in the next round. Sometimes, in the new batches of upcoming troopers, he wondered how many of his lost brothers he saw staring back from their eyes.

    No matter the soothing peace of Theed's hospital when compared to the harsh, clinical whites of Tipoca's medical labs, Rex understood why Kix was currently sitting so very, very still as the doctor and his interns looked down at him. His lieutenant’s spine was impeccably straight, and his shoulders were rigidly thrown back with a military precision as he made eye contact with his superior without staring - there was no room for error where medical personnel was concerned, after all.

    “ - that's because we metabolize quickly,” even so, Rex clearly recognized his brother's chatter as a sign of nerves as Kix answered the doctor's passive interest in their quick recovery. “Our immune systems are built to deal with the most common of human ailments before they are even an issue – we wouldn't be much use in the field otherwise, would we? And soldiers who carry malignant bacteria from one planet to the next could do more harm than good if - ”

    “ - yes, yes, I understand,” Madacoo waved his hand dismissively. “You do not have to explain it to me.”

    Kix look mildly affronted, and his brow furrowed in a way that Rex recognized as his passion for his hard-earned medical knowledge rising higher than his trepidation. But, before he could speak, the doctor pushed on with his examination. “Now, 6116, about your symptoms - ”

    “ - you may call me Kix, Doctor,” Kix clearly hesitated before offering. “In fact, I'd rather prefer it.”

    “CT-6116,” Madacoo ignored him to continue, not once looking up from his medical chart to say. “I would prefer you to speak only to answer the questions I ask, as I ask them, if you don't mind.”

    “Yes . . . of course,” it took Kix a heartbeat before he grudgingly conceded. “My apologies, sir.”

    “Very good,” Madacoo dryly approved, still not looking up from the chart. “Now, tell me about your symptoms.”

    Rex felt his jaw clench as Kix dutifully listed his ailments and their progression in a careful monotone, and then he looked away. No matter the ire peeking through his calm, he was careful not to lose his posture as he stood at stiff attention beside the interns – unwilling as he was to be seen to himself until his men were cared for. He cast an eye about, taking in his company. Across the aisle from Kix, Echo and Jesse had already been seen to, while Fives was currently attempting to make small-talk with his nurse. Rex gave the ARC-trooper a look that went unnoticed, and fought the urge he had to sigh outright. No matter the beauty of Naboo, he was already looking forward to leaving it behind; at least the lack of civilians ship-side would be a peaceful blessing in its own right.

    Nurse Ceré Janera was the primary nurse stationed to their ward - a short, softly rounded young woman with a prettily freckled face and glossy brown curls pulled back into a simple twist at the base of her skull. Punctuating her otherwise professional demeanor, she had a full, warm smile that reached her eyes with its intensity, and she had an easy, friendly way of speaking that immediately put her patients at ease.

    Rex had liked her from the beginning; Fives did even more so.

    “I just need to take your vitals,” Janera said then, delicately leaning over Fives to accomplish her task.

    “As you wish, ma'am,” Fives flashed her an almost devilish smile as he leaned in closer. His voice was a low rumble of sound as he added, “you'll find that I am excellent at taking orders.”

    She gave a droll snort, but not before a blush darkened her cheeks at his words. Rex caught the way her eyes swept thoughtfully down over the obvious definition of his soldier's physique before she shook her head as if to clear it. Fives too caught the look, and the edges of his grin turned sharp.

    But, Nurse Janera was too professional to banter back with him, Rex was pleased to observe, and as soon as she was done with Fives she turned and crossed the room to help Orderly Ioll with the breakfast cart he was wheeling in. Once her back was turned, Echo reached over to swat at his batcher with a perturbed expression.

    “Ow,” Fives complained, dramatically rubbing at his abused arm. “What was that for this time?”

    “It's not only clichéd to flirt with the nursing staff, you sheb, but inappropriate as well,” Echo hissed in an undertone, clearly not wanting his words to be overheard. “Even you should know better than that.”

    “What does her being a nurse have to do with anything?” Fives looked honestly perplexed as he matched his voice in pitch. “Watch her eyes – she was interested in me. You know that I wouldn't bother her otherwise.”

    Some things, Rex knew to take the younger clone's word for. For being so newly deployed from Kamino, Fives had already put quite a dent in exploring the particulars of sentient relationships during their moments of R&R between missions. He had yet to develop a particular preference or taste, just a fascination for touch and connection beyond the familiarity of his brothers. While most of the Kaminoans' programing proved true in the vod'e, and there was simply a . . . lack of interest in such matters, for others, nature stubbornly found its way, and Fives was a prime example of that - much to Rex's exasperation, at times . . . such as right then.

    “Let her be a professional, Corporal,” Rex nonetheless stepped back from flanking the interns to agree with Echo's judgment. “It's against hospital policy for her to trade nerf eyes with a patient, no doubt.”

    “Nerf eyes?” Fives seemed insulted by the phrasing. “Captain, I'll have you know that when I make eyes at someone, it is most certainly not - ”

    - but he quickly swallowed his words when Madacoo turned to him next, and whatever he had been about to say was lost for the time being. Instead he carefully straightened his spine with as best an imitation of parade attention he could still give while seated on his hospital bed. Off to his side, Echo was still shaking his head, and Fives tried his best to glare from the corner of his eyes will still looking dutifully ahead at the doctor.

    Rex turned, certain that they would find nothing amiss with Fives but for what couldn't be helped by medicine, and looked around again.

    This time, his eyes were taken by Ahsoka's return to the ward, already dressed in her usual attire and ready to start the day. Earlier, the doctor had been . . . less than pleased to find her preferred sleeping arrangement from the night before, and had insisted with a constrained politeness that she return back to her own room. Madacoo's offended sensibilities had been as irksome as they were insulting, and Rex was not the only one of the vod'e who'd felt the need to come to her aid.

    She's a growing Togruta, sir,” Kix had carefully tried to explain. As ever, it was a fine line for a clone to walk when disagreeing with anyone in medical, but he would cross it for his commander. “She prefers companionship when she sleeps, especially when she's under stress.”

    Companionship, I see,” Madacoo snorted as if it was a foul word. His mouth thinned in distaste, and Rex did not at all like the look in his eyes as he glowered down at where Ahsoka was still obliviously sleeping. Her soft little trilling noises had tapered off with the doctor's arrival; she was regaining consciousness on her own, no doubt from all of the movement and noise.

    Well, this is not some backwater Outer Rim outpost,” Madacoo finally bristled to decide. “There are rules to be observed in polite society, and a Jedi apprentice should endeavor to uphold them more so than most – Padawan Tano!” The doctor raised his voice to snap her name, and, just like that, Ahsoka was instantly startled to awareness. Her eyes flew open and her hands reached out for where Rex knew she usually had her lightsaber tucked away while she slept.

    Her lekku initially flashed alarm and surprise as she blinked, and Rex felt his hands itch as irritation coursed through his veins. He felt the strong urge to make a fist, but instead slowly relaxed his fingers, one at a time. He breathed in deeply, and let the moment pass.

    Padawan Tano -” Madacoo started when he was certain he had her attention.

    “ - are you doing your rounds already?” Ahsoka, however, did not let him speak. Her tone was groggy, but awareness was quick to return to her voice as she took in her surroundings. The white markings over her eyes furrowed as she glanced up to find a chrono. The sun had only just crested its rise, and the light was gaining in intensity as it spilled through the windows. She made a face, clearly dismayed by the early hour.

    “Someone had to be first,” Madacoo sniffed to say. “I have pressing demands on my time throughout the day, and this was when I could best fit your clones into my schedule. You, however, should go back to your room; I will find you on my rounds later.”

    Ahsoka, Rex had been pleased to see, took little liking to the idea. “I'd rather stay,” she slowly disagreed. “If my men are up, then I will -”

    “ - you need rest, Padawan Tano; you have been through quite an ordeal and your body is still recovering. Surely there will be time enough for your . . . men, later.”

    In response, her lekku fairly rippled with annoyance. The blue chevrons sharpened in a way that said that she was piqued and wished to argue, but was yet unsure of just how to argue. For all of her rank and mounting battlefield experience, she was still a youth addressing an elder, and she clearly wished to show no disrespect to their hosts. At the same time, she was irked by the doctor's condescension, and she would stand up for herself and her men.

    Before she could find her words, however, he decided to check her course – for, at the very least, he did agree with the doctor on one thing. “We won't run off on you, Commander,” Rex found himself saying. “You should take advantage of what rest you can – who knows when R&R like this will come again?”

    His words were dry, and Ahsoka cracked a grudging grin that matched his tone. “I'll be back later, then, Rex,” she submitted after a pause. She only looked at him, rather than the doctor.

    “I didn't doubt it for a moment, sir.”

    She found her feet, and flashed a small smile at each of them in turn as she made to leave. Rex felt a moment's pressure against his shoulder – a now familiar sign of a Jedi's Force-nudge, and the last of his own annoyance faded away at the tell-tale gesture of affection. He knew a further, somewhat irrational burst of satisfaction for the irked expression on Madacoo's face as Ahsoka left without a further word, and that had been that.

    Now, out of her hospital gown and back in her Jedi ensemble in a clear statement of her recovery, Ahsoka looked better than she had in days. Her coloring was again healthy and vibrant, and though there was a faint dampening to her usual exuberance that spoke of her lingering fatigue, it was slight enough to not worry him overly much. She flashed a grin in greeting, and Rex nodded his head to return it.

    She did not bother interrupting Madacoo's examination of Fives, but instead went to the bed furthest in the ward. Rex found himself falling in line behind her, a sinking feeling in his stomach as she paused to stare down at the clone sleeping there. After a heartbeat, she made a decision and carefully sat on the foot of the bed, swinging her legs up to sit cross-legged while being mindful not to disturb the comatose man already lying there. She gave a sigh – a soft, sad little trilling noise, and Rex felt the despondency behind it in its entirety.

    Arpat had been their shiny on the mission - a promising rookie fresh from Kamino, called up through the ranks to fill in the holes of their needless losses suffered at Orto Plutonia. Behind Crack and Barr – their two casualties, he had fallen to the blue mist hard and fast. So far the antidote had been slow to work on him; the virus' progress had been halted, the best they could tell, but he still lingered in a coma. The physicians could not figure out what was preventing his recovery, and the research they had available to go on was scarce to aid them – the plague had been done away with years ago, after all, and when it struck, it usually left no survivors behind to nurse back to health. They were blindly trudging through new territory, with no intel available to help them navigate.

    “Has there been any change?” Ahsoka asked as he folded his arms to stand beside her.

    “No,” Rex did not need to glance to the steadily beeping monitors to tell her that.

    Ahsoka breathed out through her nose, but he merely confirmed what she already knew. She closed her eyes and rested her right hand over Arpat's. A long moment passed, and her expression furrowed with concentration before smoothing. Her fingertips pressed against Arpat's skin as she opened her eyes. “I can feel him . . . he's still in there, just under a cloud. I can't reach him . . . but I know he's there.”

    The Jedi and their ways, Rex felt an old, marveling awe that never quite wore off through exposure. He wasn't quite sure what to say to that, however, so he simply offered her what sympathy he could in a glance and waited for her to collect herself. She tilted her head to stare at Arpat, and Rex briefly wondered what she saw. The rookie's face looked young, even to his own eyes; his hair was still cut by Kaminoan regulations, and he had no tell-tale markings to set him apart from his brothers. He had yet to add one brushstroke to his armor . . . he hadn't had the time to figure out who he wanted to be.

    The knowledge made him feel . . . heavy. He felt old in his bones . . . much older than his chronological age had any right to feel. It felt as a burden to hold his shoulders straight.

    A moment passed, and Rex said in lieu of distraction, “I did not expect to see you back here so soon, Commander.” The words were as close as he could come to chiding a superior officer.

    “I couldn't sleep,” Ahsoka shrugged to answer the unspoken. “Though I did try. And,” her eyes brightened as she peeked up at him. Her grin turned cheeky. “I smelled food. I want to take advantage of what I can before we all return to military rations - even if it is just hospital food.”

    After dining on the tasteless, perfectly nutritious menu Kamino had sported for years, Rex could not understand how Ahsoka – and even Skywalker, at times – could turn up their noses to what he and his brothers considered to be amazingly diverse and flavorful fare. He had not realized that the galaxy was so . . . full of tastes and smells and sights before leaving Tipoca City behind, and he still enjoyed being surprised by new sensory input. There was so much to learn, so much to see – the sheer scope of it was impossible, really.

    Hospital food, he supposed, was another thing they would have to agree to disagree on. Especially here in Theed.

    “I think that I smelled Corellian waffles as I passed, though,” Ahsoka's look turned teasing to remark. “And nerf sausage.”

    Rex carefully schooled his expression in response to her words. He would not glance over to the breakfast cart like a still growing cadet . . . even if his stomach did rumble at the thought. Upon returning to Coruscant after one particularly grueling mission shortly after Christophsis, Skywalker had introduced his apprentice and captain to a place called Dexter's Diner – a now hallowed spot to the men of the 501st – owned and operated by a gregarious Besalisk of the same name. Rex had tried waffles for the first time there, and had to fight to politely finish his meal without scarfing them down as he'd truly wished to. The grinning Besalisk had somehow known, however, and before he was even finished with his first serving, there was another plate hot and ready for him.

    Don't stand on ceremony, boy – fill out your bones! I'm used to feeding growing Jedi, after all. Ask this 'un here how many plates of Panna cakes he finished the first time Kenobi brought him 'round - half-starved, skinny little thing he was then, if you can believe it!To which his general had merely rolled his eyes and refused to look up from smothering his current plate of hotcakes with zoochberries and carbosyrup to respond. Dex had laughed long and hard at that, and after a sheepish look Rex did indeed finish that second plate too. And then a third – advanced metabolism, and all that.

    He had been in good company, however – Ahsoka had gone through two massive helpings of nerf steak and gartro eggs, herself. Rex was still not quite sure where she had put it all.

    But, before he could comment on the memory, they were joined by the doctor and his flock of interns.

    Madacoo frowned to see Ahsoka's reappearance, Rex saw, but she was clearly unconcerned for his opinion. She merely got down from the bed after squeezing Arpat's hand one last time, and stood at attention next to Rex. She crossed her arms over her chest, and raised a brow to invite the doctor to go about his examination.

    “Is there any change, doctor?” No matter her physically standing her ground, her tone of voice was respectful as she invited him to speak.

    Madacoo sighed, but did not again challenge her presence in the ward – not as he clearly wished to. Instead, Rex watched as he pulled up Arpat's chart on his datapad and shrewdly glanced between it and the vital monitors. For all of his personal opinions where Madacoo was concerned, Rex reminded himself of the physician's experience and skill. His brother could be in no better hands.

    Kix came to stand by his left side as Madacoo collected his thoughts. The medic peered at their comatose vod and his unencouraging vitals with no small amount of concern pinching his face. He ever did attach himself to the shinies, Rex knew – more so than most of the ranking officers in the 501st. Kix himself had been researching Arpat's condition, at that; Rex briefly wondered if anything had come of his reading.

    “The latest scans show no reduction in the swelling of his brain,” Madacoo finally revealed. His mouth was grim to utter the words, but Rex could read the resignation in the lines of his face: he was preparing to surrender the field. “The virus deprived his major blood vessels of an adequate supply of oxygen for too long, and the effects of the hypoxia are not abating. In cases like these, we can only continue with our oxygen therapy and hope for the best.”

    Hope . . . even in Rex's limited experience, he knew what that meant in medical terms.

    Ahsoka frowned, that same troubled thought clearly echoed in her expression. She bit her lip to stare down at Arpat, yet unwilling to let her trooper go. Rex could sense Kix shifting his weight, as if bracing himself to engage an opposing line. He only had an inkling that the medic was readying himself to speak, when -

    “ - sir, could I offer an opinion?”

    Madacoo frowned, but he looked Kix's way and raised a paling blonde brow to say, “Yes, 6116?” The interns, aside from Sa Sa Dess, continued to look down at their own 'pads, Rex noticed. He wondered how many were focusing on Arpat's case.

    “I have been researching Arpat's condition, and I may have come across an idea,” Kix carefully chose his words. “In cases of edema due to oxygen loss, it is possible that therapeutic hypothermia may be used to reduce the swelling. I have read that strides have been made with using medicinal grade carbon freezing pods for - ”

    “ - you read?” Madacoo gave a dry snort to interrupt. “On the holonet? Give a man a datapad and he thinks he's a neurosurgeon. Are you a licensed and practicing doctor, CT-6116, to reach this conclusion?”

    “No . . . but I am a combat medic,” Kix's voice filled with an unmistakable pride to claim. “I am trained in battlefield triage, primarily, but I have augmented my conditioning with further study and - ”

    “ - then,” Madacoo did not give him a chance to finish, “kindly allow the real doctors to practice medicine here. This is the Royal Hospital of Theed, we do not entertain ideas of unproven and experimental methods such as - ”

    “ - eh, excusen me, Dr. Madacoo, but if isa may be speaken?”

    Backup for Kix came from an unexpected source. Rex blinked, surprised but not shocked when the Gungan stepped forward from the flock of interns to address her mentor.

    “Yes, Dr. Dess?” after a long pause, Madacoo allowed her to continue.

    “The medic be speaken rightly – mesa too have done reasearchen, and foun' an Umgul hospital that be doen mucha the same work with therapy freezen. Umgul City General be willen to lease a pod - ”

    “ - lease?” Madacoo was quick to zero in on that one key word. Even if they were able to convince the doctor of the treatment's medical validity, Rex thought he knew what Arpat's survival would come down to. Umgul was close enough to Naboo, but any sort of interplanetary shipment of sensitive technology was risky with the warring state of the galaxy, and there would be a shiny credit to pay . . . too shiny, for the life of just one clone.

    “ - da technology isa new,” Dess revealed grudgingly. “Deysa be expecten mui compensate'n.”

    Madacoo sighed, and, to his credit, he looked weary as he looked up to meet his student's eyes. His voice was soft to say, “And how much will that cost the people of Naboo when our resources are already stretched as thin as they are? With the population of refugees we are hosting, we need to be cautious in our spending. Republic grants for humanitarian aid are not what they once were, and we need to make do with what means we have.”

    “But if it works, you'll have saved a life,” even so, Kix had to try one last time. No matter the strength of his words, Rex knew that has brother had already accepted defeat: it was apparent in the line of his shoulders. “His is a life, I may add, that was endangered in protecting the whole of your planet and further systems from - ”

    “ - while the people of Naboo are indebted to the GAR, I cannot waste Her Majesty's resources any further than her good graces have already extended,” Madacoo breathed out on a sharp exhale. “You are here as a courtesy to Senator Amidala, but, unfortunately, there is a limit to our generosity in these difficult times. I am sorry to say that we will continue with the traditional treatment, and the traditional treatment only. That is my final judgment on the matter.”

    . . . nothing more could be said than that, then. The doctor's words were resolute. Final.

    After a parting glance at his patient, and one last hard stare at Kix, Madacoo turned on his heel and left Arpat's bedside behind. Sa Sa Dess, Rex saw, was slower to turn, and her large, golden eyes were filled with sorrow as she looked down at the comatose clone. It wasn't her fault, he wanted her to know – and he even understood Madacoo's viewpoint, no matter that he liked it but little. The good of the many outweighed the good of the one . . . especially when that one had been bred specifically to serve and die for the good of the many. It was a simple equation to solve, even if its conclusion rankled.

    “This doesn't feel right,” even so, Ahsoka echoed his thoughts as she sat down next to Arpat. Once again, she placed a comforting hand over his own. The unhealthy pallor of his skin was all too obvious next to the warm sienna tone of hers. “I can still feel him . . . he's scrambling to come back, and to not be able to give him a hand and help pull him up . . .”

    The paling of her lekku spoke all too loudly of her frustration and chagrin. It was easier, all too much so, to engage a foe on the battlefield. Here, to be helpless to fight what was taking one of their own . . . it didn't sit well. There were no routs to take, no regrouping to stage after a tactical retreat; there was just the bitter acceptance of loss.

    Dess, Rex saw, still sported a hard look as she carefully observed the scene. Where they may have felt an overwhelming sense of impotence for the situation, he could only imagine how she felt. This was her battleground, the body and its ways were her area of expertise, and to be able to do nothing but step back and watch . . .

    “Captain,” he heard Madacoo call then. “You are the only one I have not seen to, and my time is valuable right now.”

    Rex was canny enough to know a command when he heard one. He looked at Ahsoka one last time, and found her eyes narrowing as she glanced at the doctor. “I'll sit with Arpat,” she firmly decided. “He needs to know that he's not alone.”

    That was that, then. He inclined his head, resigned. “Thank-you, Commander.”

    For the time being, he knew with a sense of resignation, that was all there was to be done. Following a step behind Dess, he returned to his own bed to dutifully submit to the doctor's examination. Even so, he kept a careful eye turned towards his sleeping brother whenever he could . . . and watched as he breathed.





    Mando'a:

    Vod - Sibling
    Vod'e - Siblings/Siblinghood
    Verda - Soldiers, archaic term
    Sheb - Backside
    Ori'beskaryc - Hard case, even by Mandalorian standards


    Medical Disclaimer - I have no medical experience to speak of, my hypothetical case here is based on watching too many hospital dramas and reading on WebMD, so if there's anything I glaringly butchered, please feel free to let me know so that I can set it straight in the text. Funnily enough, though, therapeutic hypothermia is a real treatment being studied for cases like Arpat's. Science and the body is fascinating, I have to say!



    ~MJ @};-
     
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  7. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    As always, I thank you guys for the likes! [:D] Now, here we go with a post twice the length I wanted anything in this collection to be - but then, I couldn't quite figure out where to cut the muse off, so I decided to just let her go. ;) I hope that you enjoy. :)





    "A Naming of Parts: IV"

    It was quiet in the ward . . . too quiet, really.

    After breakfast - where her boys proved their recovery by displaying impressively hearty appetites - the rest of the morning passed slowly, without incident. Theed was a calm city, and its hospital was hushed with a peaceful serenity to match. Her body felt . . . empty, almost, without the now familiar thrum of adrenaline or promise of movement to come. Her montrals hummed as if searching for conflict, convinced as her instincts were that it was imperative to remain attentive and alert at all times. In just a few short months, Ahsoka had been irrevocably conditioned by the front-lines, so much so that she did not immediately know how to compose herself in a moment of peace. Her self-awareness was . . . unsettling, to say the least. It was not becoming of a Jedi, and her deficiency troubled her.

    She frowned against her thoughts, and stared at the datapad before her. With her time being swallowed by the war, her studies had faltered; she was weeks behind on her essays and falling short of the quota of exams she needed to pass in order to stay on schedule for her knighthood. To make matters worse, she'd never quite been an ideal student to begin with. While she excelled at the physical aspects of her Temple training, she ever had to force herself to pay attention to the academics and philosophies presented by the Order. She struggled with the finer, more delicate aspects of the Force, and she had not lately taken the time to focus on and hone her shortcomings. While she was thankful for Anakin's guidance, and knew how far she'd come as his Padawan, the fact of the matter remained that she did not have a Master who was regularly reminding her to keep up on her education. The burden of self-instruction fell to her own shoulders, mostly.

    Yet . . . no matter how she tried to focus, concentrating on The Balance of Ashla and Bogan in the Tythoni Je'daii Order as Relates to the Great Force Wars was causing a headache to bloom behind her temples. She could not give the text her full attention. Instead, Ahsoka found herself switching to an open tab of Mando'a phrases in order to do something constructive with her time. At least she was still learning that way.

    Fighting the urge to fidget from where she sat perched on the hospital bed closest to Arpat's, she cast her eyes around as she rolled a new word on the back of her tongue, speaking in a high enough register so as not to disturb her human companions overly much. Sitting in a visitor's chair by the vital monitors, Kix was still scrolling through one medical essay after another. If the treatment he'd found was too costly, too experimental, then he would simply find another. She could feel his determination as a bright splash of vibrant color in the Force. In a chair by his side, Jesse was sketching on a pad of flimsiplast. He'd already filled a couple of pages – first doodling their view of the gardens, and then sketching wispy portraits of the medical staff. Ahsoka even saw her own likeness in the book, coming to life with a deceiving realism from the penstrokes dancing across the page. Jesse had a unique gift, there was no doubt about that, and his skills were widely coveted by the vod'e to decorate armor and transports and even their own bodies. Tattoos were quickly growing in popularity amongst the ranks as expressions of individuality, which Ahsoka thought she could understand – human bodies were curiously plain and unadorned. They had to bedeck themselves one way or another to stand apart.

    She then glanced to where Rex too was busily typing away on a 'pad; though, less interestingly, he was using the downtime to catch up on reports for the battalion. Though she knew that the majority of the paperwork he muddled through was technically Anakin's responsibility, her Master could sometimes be . . . lackadaisical about the finer points of command. Rex often did the grunt work, while Anakin signed his name at the end to give an appearance of following protocol. The extra duty ranked very highly on Rex's list of: Things Cody Does Not Have to do For General Kenobi, Ahsoka had once heard Kix tease. This time, she'd offered to help before being firmly told to mind her own reading. Rex could be just as pointed as Obi-Wan with encouraging her to keep up on her studies, and she'd tried to heed his advice . . . at first, anyway.

    Echo and Fives had grown snippy with the forced downtime, and rather than listening to them bicker, Rex had sent them to run laps outside the hospital about an hour ago. If the younger two clones couldn't appreciate the rest, then he'd make sure that they were tired enough to have no choice but to do so when they were done. After twenty-four hours in quarantine, and then another seventy-two hours of bed-rest, Ahsoka thought that they were glad for the fresh air and exercise. A part of her even wished to join them in their 'punishment'. The bright sunlight shining through the arched windows was calling her; she could all but smell the sweetness of the natural breeze.

    . . . well, she would have joined them if she didn't have the riveting Ashla and Bogan in the Tythoni Je'daii Order to muddle through, that was. Rex had given her a look when she made to stand and follow them, and, guiltily, she had tried to resume her reading again . . . but with little success.

    With a sigh, Ahsoka switched back to the tab that held her studies, and forced herself to focus on the droning chronicle, until -

    “ - now this is a depressing sight. Eugh, it's as lifeless as the Jundland Wastes in here.”

    Anakin's voice was a bold splash of sound in the silence, and Ahsoka perked up at his arrival. She had yet to see him that day – not with his first dining with Queen Neeyutnee and her council and then immediately being sucked into strategy sessions after breakfast to plot their next step in the war. It was now well after noon, and she wondered if he had news to share.

    Just as she happily turned to welcome her Master, the clones all made to stand at once and -

    “ - no, no. Come on, you guys – shouldn't you know me better by now? At ease.” Anakin rolled his eyes and waved his hand. Only the last two magical words had his men cautiously taking their seats again, no matter that their postures remained ramrod straight. Not a single trooper relaxed; even after months of serving together, their formal training from Kamino still held – painfully so, at times.

    Judging by the glint in her Master's eye, Ahsoka knew that it was only a mater of time before Anakin succeeded with his own form of reconditioning, however. She had every confidence in Anakin's stubbornness outlasting that of the clones' - eventually.

    For the time being, Anakin simply shook his head and gave a slow chuckle. “I'd ask how you're all doing, but I know that you wouldn't tell me if you were anything less than a hundred percent. Thankfully, I have Dr. Madacoo's . . . dry report to fill in the blanks for me.”

    Hearing that, Kix leaned forward in his seat and helpfully offered, “If there's anything in particular you are looking for, sir - ”

    “ - I'm teasing, Kix. Please, when I said at ease, I meant it.” Anakin waved his hand again before frowning to look down at the still comatose clone on the bed between them. Ahsoka watched as his jaw clenched; he had to force his inorganic hand to relax from its fist. “But, in all seriousness,” he somberly continued, “how's our rookie doing? Has there been any change?”

    Kix hesitated to reply, and glanced down, clearly searching for his words. Before he could answer in the negative, Anakin exhaled through his nose and said, “I was afraid of that.” He wouldn't make the medic say it aloud if he didn't have to. “I was told about your suggestion for treatment . . . I'm sorry that it wasn't approved.”

    In reply, Kix's brow furrowed - as if he was puzzled that his general would apologize for something so beyond his control. After all, in the end . . . if Arpat didn't make it, he would simply be one more in a long line of soldiers who'd fallen fulfilling the purpose they were created for. He couldn't quite process the idea – not yet. But that was okay, Ahsoka thought; someday he would.

    Now, all of the men stared at Anakin as he walked over to Arpat's bedside. The Jedi Knight paused to look down on his trooper, a hard edge shadowing the planes of his face. The expression held for a long moment before Anakin returned his attention to the group as a whole and said, “With the exception of Arpat, the rest of you have been cleared by Dr. Madacoo. We'll try to avoid any major skirmishes over the next five-day, of course, but you've been approved for light exercise. Tomorrow at 0900, we'll be taking a supply transport to meet up with the Resolute – then, we'll ship out to join Generals Windu and Kenobi in the Ryloth system to help free the planet from Separatist occupation. It's time to get our hands dirty, gentlemen. But I figured that, by then, you'll be itching for some action - won't you?”

    Ahsoka could feel the hum of anticipation that rolled through the group of soldiers as if it were a wave tugged forward by a moon's tide. Their eagerness triggered an ancient instinct in her own blood, even, and she fought the urge she had to bare the sharp points of her teeth in a huntress' grin. Instead she breathed in, and out, and did her best to give her emotions over to the Force. It was, as always, a tricky balance to keep.

    Anakin's mouth formed a slashing sort of smile to match; he'd felt it too. “I thought you'd thank me," his tone was dry. "Yet, until then: you're driving me crazy just sitting here. Go on - get some fresh air, stretch your legs. I don't care what you do, but don't just loiter about here and . . .” but even his brash words faltered, and he hesitated. He ran a hand through his hair, yet Ahsoka could hear the don't sit here and watch your brother die as clearly as if he had spoken it aloud. They all could.

    “Sir . . .” Rex searched for the words to voice what all his men were thinking, but Anakin gave another dismissive gesture, interrupting him.

    “Give me the 'pad, Rex,” Anakin held out an expectant hand. “I'll finish the reports.”

    Rex raised a clearly disbelieving brow. Even so, he politely refrained from voicing his doubts aloud.

    “Yes, I do know how to file my own paperwork – thanks for the vote of confidence,” Anakin plucked the unspoken thought from the air. “Now, let me be the general, Captain.”

    No clone could ignore a direct order like that: Rex handed over the datapad. Anakin nodded smartly, his satisfaction plain.

    “Good," he approved. "Now then, I'll take my turn sitting with Arpat. He won't be alone,” Anakin added when they still hesitated to leave. “You,” he fixed Kix with a hard stare, “will not read anything new in the next hour that you haven't been able to figure out before. And you,” he turned to her, “there will be time enough for . . .” he peered over to glance at her 'pad and made a face, “The Balance of Ashla and Bogan in the Tythoni Je'daii Order as Relates to the Great Force Wars later. Yikes, but you can thank me now for saving you from that, Snips.”

    Seated the closest to her, Ahsoka felt where Rex stifled a sigh. She could hear a clear echo of Master Obi-Wan's disapproval in her mind, at that, but she felt only a moment's guilt for being released from her studies. She really did want to get up and stretch her legs, after all. The fresh air was calling her.

    “Now, I don't want to see you for at least an hour – any of you,” Anakin waved his hand. “You're dismissed.”

    Slowly, very slowly, the troopers all stood. They still clearly looked to Rex, and when, after only a further moment's hesitation, their captain turned, they too filed out behind him. Ahsoka got down from the hospital bed, and skipped out after them.

    Pausing by the exit, she glanced back in time to notice that Anakin was not watching them leave. Instead, her Master was still standing by Arpat's side. He had a heavy hand resting on the young clone's shoulders; his head was inclined, and his eyes were closed. In that moment, he looked years older than his two decades should have allowed, and his usually proud bearing was slumped. The sight caused something low and mournful to whisper through her chest before she at last turned to follow her men, determined to clear her mind and think no more on that which she could not change . . .

    . . . for a little while, at least.



    .

    .

    Beyond the hospital walls, the beauty of the late spring's day was overwhelmingly inviting.

    Ahsoka let loose a happy trill and felt an influx of life return to her montrals – pulsing back from the fluttering birds in the trees to the loth-cat napping in the afternoon shade to her own men all filling their lungs on the fresh, sweet air. It was a warm day, perhaps unseasonably so, and the sunlight danced over her skin in welcoming waves, both dappled through the leafy canopy of the fruit trees and unfiltered in the clearings of low tiered flowerbeds in turns.

    Naboo, she thought as they walked through the gardens that separated the hospital from Theed University, was quite possibly one of the loveliest planets she had yet to see in her travels. Then again, many of the planets in the Outer Rim were . . . well, either bizarrely exotic or seedy hodgepodges of . . . less than polite civilization. She'd seen much of the strange and wondrous, along with the downtrodden and the war-torn, but she'd seen very few planets designed simply for beauty's sake while acting in such harmony with the natural world. It was a . . . refreshing change of aesthetics, and she soaked up her surroundings while knowing not when she'd have such a chance to do so again.

    The troopers took up positions flanking her out of habit, and she had to constantly slow her stride so that Rex walked beside her, and not behind her and to her right. They weren't on duty, and she didn't want to feel like their commanding officer just then. She simply wanted to enjoy the day – much as, she suspected, her men also did. Naboo, she knew from their wide-eyed, wondering signatures in the Force, was quite different from Kamino in every possible way. Even after months spent away from their planet of origin, they were still curious for new sights and new experiences, and Naboo definitely counted as positives for both.

    . . . well, minus the whole nearly dying from a weaponized plague, that was. But that was just schematics.

    It wasn't long before they were lapped by Fives and Echo – who, predictably enough, were far from censured by their punishment. Rather, they were bright-eyed and boisterous from the exercise. They neatly fell in line behind Kix and Jesse, and immediately started chatting about the new things they had seen while exploring. They were fascinated by the popped a'corn they had discovered from one of the park vendors, and were equally as wondrous for the colorful scalefish they had been able to feed in the ponds. There was not a fish on Kamino who was so . . . friendly, she was told. Quite the opposite, actually. Ahsoka listened to their chatter with a growing smile, feeling her inner balance return with every step they took.

    It was not until they were some ways from the hospital, following where the gardens curved around one of the surging waterways, that they rounded a corner, and she heard an exclamation of:

    “Meshgeroya!”

    She blinked, momentarily taken aback as her brain processed the word. Yet, it was one of the first translations Ahsoka had learned from her troopers: bolo-ball. Apparently, a Mandalorian obsession with limmie was programed deep into the vod'e. Or, maybe it was just a thing for all sentient males – her Master too was often checking scores and watching highlights whenever he thought he had a moment to do so. Anakin's preference for the Outer Rim league made him a lone pillar amongst the men, and he was often teased for his 'misplaced loyalties.' Admiral Yularen participated in a fantasy league with the other fleet officers – which was about all he could do with his support of the Inner Rim league, and even Master Kenobi was known to break down and participate when the clones played in the hangar-bays to pass the long hours in hyperspace. No matter that the troopers' version of the game was a little . . . rougher, than the sport was usually played, Obi-Wan always managed to keep up – and he tended to score a questionable foul or two of his own every match, at that.

    Then again, Ahsoka amended, she too enjoyed playing the game – and there was a certain thrill to watching it. So, maybe it wasn't a male thing so much as it was a sentient thing.

    Where the hospital grounds gave way to the open, green campus of Theed University, there was a mid-sized group of students loosely broken up into two teams. They were all pleasantly chatting with each other as they stretched and sipped on water bottles, while one girl kicked a bolo-ball back and forth to her teammate to warm up.

    The group was a diverse one for a city of primarily human inhabitants. Yet, as a Mid Rim planet, Naboo boasted a significant proportion of non-humans studying when compared to most of the Core worlds' universities. Bolstering those numbers had been a goal of Padmé's reign as queen, Anakin had recently told her, and her efforts were still slowly paying off even some years later. The group was predominantly human, but there was a pair of Gungans, and a Bothan and Sullustian from Naboo's relatively neighboring planets in the Mid Rim. One of the 'captains,' she thought to pick out the team dynamics, was a female Gran with pink-orange skin contrasting with her burgundy and gold THEED UNI jersey. The others wore a conglomeration of mismatched jerseys and sports gear, with color coded bandannas wrapped around their heads or tied at their wrists to denote their team affiliations – either red or blue.

    They were short on numbers to have an official match, Ahsoka spied next. Yet, even as the thought crossed her mind she heard:

    “Hey, are you guys getting ready for a game? Do you need more players to make a proper go of it?”

    Ahsoka blinked as Fives happily jogged up to the two chatting captains. Unlike most of the vod'e – who only preferred the company of their own, and rarely engaged with civilians unless for mission purposes – Fives was cheerful and outgoing amongst strangers. He had an engaging personality, and he made new friends easily. Even so, that did not prevent the initially wary stance his brothers took – nor did it prevent the perplexed expressions from forming on the players' faces as they looked behind Fives to see one matching face after another staring back at them. The students hid their dawning understanding and subsequent curiosity better than most, however, and the Gran woman met Fives' eyes levelly, with all three of her own.

    “You guys are interested in bolo-ball?” she asked politely. If all she knew about clones came from reports on the HoloNet, then Ahsoka thought to understand the question in her voice.

    “Does it rain on Kamino?” Fives couldn't keep his smile from widening to return. “There's not a one of us who doesn't like the sport – and that's putting it mildly.”

    The second team captain was a human male - or, Ahsoka corrected herself, a near-human male with dark brown skin and pale, yellow-green eyes. His long, thick hair was a shade of yellow-white, tightly bound in braids down his back. Those braids were neatly gathered together by a sensible tie, giving him an air that was both professional and expressive all at once. He had a wide mouth that smiled easily, and his eyes were bright.

    “They look like they could play with the best of them, Asa,” he rumbled with a deep voice. “What do you think?”

    “I think that we may not be enough for them,” the Gran - Asa - made a little baying sound that was her people's version of amusement. “They look to be a match for professional players.”

    “If only we were blessed with such a calling,” Fives shook his head with mock regret. “But, fish have to swim and birds have to fly – so we make due with our roles.” There was a false modesty to his voice, clearly heard by all.

    “So the holonews would say,” the second captain replied drolly. “Well, what club do you follow, then?”

    “Oh, that's easy: Mandalore may have gone soft, but the Jaigs have not,” Fives clasped a closed fist over his heart. “There's not a one of us who doesn't cheer come game-day.”

    “Not bad, the Jaigs – though sometimes I wish they were,” the near-human approved. “It's the Umguli Aces for me – my cousin's an up and coming striker on this year's team, so I have an added incentive to follow them.”

    Fives' eyes narrowed in a way that Ahsoka recognized as thoughtful contemplation, and then he smiled. “You're clearly from good stock,” he approved. “You're Kashton Krek's cousin, I reckon then?”

    “Kaukus Krek – that's me. Kashton got all of the brawn, and I got the brains in the family. My mother would be horrified to know that I've found a pitch here – she thought that she was keeping me away from the sport by sending me off to school.”

    “Limmie finds all who search for it,” Fives agreed with an almost reverential tone. “Your cousin may be a shiny, but he'll be a star soon enough. He was a challenge the last time we played, and I do not look forward to facing him again in the Mid Rim finals.”

    “Not that it'll matter much, either way,” Asa broke in to tease. “The Outer Rim looks poised to take the pot this year - again. We'll just be filling seats in the end.”

    “At least it's better than watching the Coruscanti Sentinels struggle to fill their stadium game in and game out,” Fives shook his head in exaggerated lamentation. “The glory of limmie is wasted on our fair capitol.”

    For that, Kaukus gave a laugh. “I like you,” the Umguli clapped Fives on the back. “And we certainly have the room for as many of you who want to play – I'm sure that Asa will agree with me.” He looked back behind the ARC-trooper, and took in the now eagerly waiting clones. “What are you lot called?” Kaukus asked politely - clearly not willing to assume that they only had numbers, but not wanting to cause offense if they did.

    “Oh, you can call me Fives,” Fives tapped the '5' tattooed on his brow to introduce himself, wanting to give their potential teammates a way to tell them apart. “Then, mister regulation cut and shave here is my batcher, Echo. The two with the skull-wide tats are Kix and Jesse, respectively. The blonde who never smiles there is our captain, Rex.” His grin turned beaming, and Ahsoka could feel his pride as he introduced her last, “The lady is our commander, Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano.”

    Ahsoka felt as the eyes on the field swung towards her; all at once, curiosity hummed through the group like a live current being activated. She offered a hesitant grin and waved to say, “That's me: guilty,” in an awkward attempt to break through the sudden awe and tension as it built.

    “Wait a minute - professional soldiers and a Jedi?” a human student – a young male with generic blonde-brown hair and a traditionally handsome face - stepped forward from the group of players to protest. “You can't seriously be considering letting them play; that's not fair to the rest of us.”

    Ah . . . so that would be the point of tension Ahsoka felt. She fought the urge she had to frown, and kept her expression carefully neutral. Her troopers matched her with varying degrees of success.

    “Are you scared of a challenge, Habril?” Asa turned towards the human to ask. Her mouth dipped in an expression of displeasure.

    “No – no, of course not,” the man - Habril - reflexively denied. “But, that doesn't mean - ”

    “ - there's six of them,” Kaukus too frowned to point out. “We could play a proper game with them included – eleven on eleven.”

    “But she's a Jedi,” Habril still saw fit to protest, jabbing a finger at her. A few of the other humans slowly shook their heads to agree. They cast furtive glances to gauge the opinions of their fellow teammates, and found strength in their numbers. “She's worth ten players all on her own.”

    “Oh, but she's just a Padawan,” Fives gave a disarming grin. “Look at her: she's barely a half-sized Jedi.”

    Ahsoka made a mental note to find her ARC-trooper on the pitch for that comment; the resulting penalty would be worth it. But his ploy worked: more than one tense face grudgingly relaxed. A few even smiled.

    “I can promise not to use the Force,” she held her hands out in a placating gesture to offer. “It's what I usually do when we play ship-side, after all – that way no team has too much of an advantage over the other.”

    “Most of the time,” she heard Jesse cough, and was happy when Kix subtly elbowed his brother to silence him. He was not helping.

    Still, Ahsoka saw the hesitation that remained. So she thought of another condition – certain that Obi-Wan would be proud of her attempt to negotiate. “If you're still unsure, one team can have just me and Rex, and the other team can have the other four troopers – it's a fair division of talent that way, wouldn't you say?”

    Jesse snorted, again, and this time Echo elbowed him with a glare.

    “She's telling the truth about not using the Force,” Asa validated her claim – and the Gran's ability to scent emotions seemed to be enough for most of the doubters. One by one, they yielded. “Personally, I know that I'm more than okay with it – why should we keep all the fun to ourselves? This is Naboo, after all. We have a reputation to uphold.”

    Habril still looked skeptical – but he'd lost the support of his teammates, Ahsoka was pleased to see. She had not realized just how much she truly wanted to play until the invitation was officially extended. Now, she all but danced on her toes for the expectant energy she could feel coursing through her veins.

    “All right, then, it's settled – you're all in,” Asa clapped her hands together when she heard no further protest. “Come on, now - I know that a few of us have evening classes coming up, so lets get started.”

    Following, the teams were quickly divided – and Ahsoka rolled her eyes to see Habril assign himself to the same team as she and Rex. He clearly didn't want to play against her perceived advantage, so he would make sure that he benefited from her skills. Along with Asa as their captain, they also got the Bothan on their team – a small, black furred male named Roosk. The rest of their team was human, and primarily natives of Naboo. Ahsoka frowned to see so many of Habril's previous supporters standing on their side, but put that thought from her mind as soon as it formed. She just wanted to enjoy herself, and she would believe the same of everyone else on the field until she was given a reason to think otherwise.

    Ahsoka wrapped her blue bandanna around her wrist, and waited for the game to start.

    She didn't have to wait long: shortly following, the red team won the kick-off, and she threw herself into the game with a zeal she normally reserved for the fervor of combat and its like. It felt good to be able to run and flex her muscles – gloriously so. Even those few, much needed days in bed had left her restless, and she now enjoyed the freedom and challenge of the exercise. The familiar burn of exertion was a welcome one, and the thrum of adrenaline in her blood was an old friend to her soul – one she was glad to greet while not fleeing blaster-fire or advancing on an enemy line.

    As always, it was an interesting challenge to play without using the Force, but she took advantage of the opportunity she then had to hone her natural abilities. A steady stream of high pitched trills fed back a plethora of information to her montrals, and her spatial awareness kept her apprised of the shifting dynamics of the field at all times. Just as potent a weapon, she used her sharp vision to track the ball the same as she would stalking prey through the tall grasses on Shili. Some things went deeper than training and experience, and she trusted her instincts – in this matter, they rarely failed her.

    What she could not help but feel through the Force was the second set of eyes she always kept on her men. They were exclamation points of joy and exhilaration to her senses; iridescent marks of color, brightly flaring as they applied themselves to the physical demands of the game and overcame the challenge it presented. The youngest two clones were clear and dazzling to her immaterial vision; together they were two parts of the same whole, and, at times, it was hard for her to tell where one began and the other one ended. She mainly left them to Rex – who played the role of defender with aplomb in his simple strategy of: get the ball to Ahsoka whenever possible. He had taught Echo and Fives a great deal of what they knew, but not everything he knew, and she had to swallow her laughter for Fives' playful indignation over losing the ball to his captain – again. Rex could be downright sneaky when he wanted to be, and he always enjoyed taking others by surprise – a part of him, Ahsoka would bet, didn't even realize that he was showing off for how naturally it came to him. But then, he held his rank in the 501st for a reason.

    Meanwhile, Jesse played with a crackling sort of intensity that paired perfectly with Kix's cool, laser-beamed focus and exacting footwork. Even Ahsoka did not realize that she had lost the ball to the medic until Kix tackled it from her, and then it was being passed in the opposite direction and they were running back down the field again. She felt her team surge at her side – the whole of her team, from Asa's leaping athleticism to the sheer speed of Roosk and the mingled points of grit and determination she could feel rise and fall from the humans, each one in their turn.

    The first half of the game passed without a score – a clear sign of a good match. By the time they were deep into the second half, they knew each other well enough to send good-natured trash talk flying. Even the clones opened up to their civilian teammates, just as the civilians accepted the clones when they proved to be no different from themselves. They quickly grew comfortable, one with the other, and Ahsoka could not remember being so simply happy in a long, long time.

    The only cloud on an otherwise sunny moment was Habril. The human was good – almost to the point of arrogance good, but he did not want to share the ball; not with Asa or Roosk, not with Rex, and most certainly not with her. Until, finally, his refusing to pass her the ball opened up a clear opportunity for Fives to tackle the ball from him. With a powerful kick, the ARC-trooper passed the ball to Kaukus, and the Umguli then slammed the ball into their net before their goalie even had time to react to the play. The point went to the red team, and they were down by one.

    “If you played with your team,” Asa's bleat was frustrated as she pinned Habril with her tri-eyed stare, “and not against them, that wouldn't have happened.”

    Habril's response was a frown that pulled away from his teeth, but he said nothing more as the ball was put into play again. With their time waning, the red team played with an electric sort of intensity to press their advantage, while the blue team desperately tried to score a point to at least bring the game to a draw. Ahsoka found herself focusing all the more so, losing herself in the rhythm of Asa's clever footwork and Roosk's zipping speed and Rex's bold determination, until:

    She saw her opportunity, sensing the lay of the field and anticipating how it would shift to yield her a goal. She had a shot, and she would take it. Wordlessly reading her intentions, Rex trusted her instincts and passed her the ball, when -

    - Ahsoka was stunned to feel someone tackle her from behind, and her own teammate slid into her to swipe the ball and make a play of his own. She had not guarded herself against such a move, and she lost her balance from the violence of the play. Without the Force to steady herself she hit the ground hard as Habril took the ball from her and instead took aim with his stolen shot.

    She knew that the goalie deflected his attempt to score from the cheering of the red team. For a moment, she couldn't do anything but blink up at the sky, disoriented and perhaps still recovering from the virus for how long it took her to find her breath again. She wasn't hurt, just stunned, and her skin was rubbed a little raw from where her bare elbows had slid across the grass. Ahsoka could feel her indignation burn as Rex gave her a hand up, and she tried to swallow her ire before she turned on Habril. She didn't want to give into her anger; not for the likes of him.

    But her restraint was rewarded – her team was already moving in to stand up for her. As the captain, Asa wasted no time in exclaiming, “What, by Oda's third eye was that, Habril?” She shoved the human back a step to punctuate her words.

    “That was not the actions of a teammate; there was no honor in your play,” Roosk too defended her. The usually quiet Bothan spoke with a deliberate hiss, and his soft words were clearly heard by all.

    “That just takes away our joy of winning – I don't want to be called the victor because of backhanded shavit like that,” Kaukus folded his arms to add. “Go on, Habril – you won't find a welcome here again.”

    Habril looked around, his head still arrogantly held high. But, even his supporters from earlier were looking at him crossly, and he found not one sympathetic face. He stepped forward, as if he would speak, but then caught wind of the low, dangerous tension emanating from the clones. No one took cheap shots at their Jedi like that on their watch, and Ahsoka could feel their leashed tempers strain against their bonds. Five identical pairs of eyes fixed on Habril with a matching warning, and the sleeping prey-sense in Habril's human genes gave him pause. For the time being, the vod'e were checked by Habril's civilian status, but they only waited for him to give them an excuse. Perhaps understanding the thin ice he stood on, Habril wisely took a step back.

    “Fine,” he seethed instead. “If you'd rather play with these freaks, then I'm out of here anyway. Come on, guys, let's go.” He jerked his head, but not a one of his earlier friends followed him. A few even looked sympathetically Ahsoka's way; they now stood as easily by the clones as they did by their own schoolmates. One hour, one game, had been enough to change their minds, and they allowed their opinions to grow.

    Habril gave a disgusted role of his eyes, and with a muttered oath he turned to stalk away. One of the Gungans spat on the ground behind him.

    Her men continued to glare at Habril's back until he was out of sight. Gently, Ahsoka reached out and nudged Rex with the Force. Stand down, the brief tap said. I'm okay. Finally, Rex let loose a deep breath, but his hands remained clenched in the shapes of fists. His posture did not relax in the slightest.

    “I am sorry for Habril,” Ahsoka recognized one of Habril's previous supporters. The human girl had a sheepish look on her face, and she offered what a smile she could. “He has . . . reasons for not liking the war, but that was uncalled for. If you want, I can step off the red team, and you can finish the match fairly? We've enjoyed playing with you.”

    Ahsoka flashed a smile at the hesitant offer, feeling as the ripples in the group soothed to her senses. “There's really no need to apologize for him. But I thank you anyway,” she assured, but she paused at the thought of finishing the game. Now that her body was at rest, she was tired, she was self-aware enough to know. If she had to, she could finish the game, and she wanted to, at that. Yet . . .

    . . . briefly, she wondered if bolo-ball counted as light exercise by Dr. Madacoo's standards. She fought the urge she had to wince, little relishing the lecture she instinctively felt was coming.

    “Are you up for finishing the game, Commander?” Kix was the one who spoke – he had been watching her closely throughout the match, and she knew that he'd picked up on what she'd tried to hide. Rex too was watching her with a careful expression, no matter that he wouldn't question her in front of the others. Kix had the medical excuse for that, and he'd leave it to his brother. She stood up straighter, and willed the color to return to her lekku – traitorous little tattle-talers that they were.

    “You know what,” before she could answer, Kaukus cast an eye between them and picked up on the unspoken, “the game was a draw to me, anyway. It probably would have been, too, if not for Habril. You guys played a good match, and we enjoyed ourselves. Thank-you.”

    He held a hand out, and she reached to shake it. It was a moved mirrored by both teams as they walked up and down the line, giving their well-wishes and goodbyes.

    “It's been a pleasure,” Fives said, taking Kaukus' hand last. He pulled him by the forearm into a Mandalorian soldier's half-embrace, and the Umguli clapped his back to return the affection. “We'll remember you whenever we see the Aces play.”

    “And maybe I'll remember to root for the Jaigs every once in a while,” Kaukus' eyes glittered. “Just remember that you have friends on Naboo, now – you'll have to look us up if you're ever back in the sector.”

    “Will do, Krek,” Fives inclined his head with a salute, even while knowing as well as she: most likely, not a one of them would last the war through to do so. Yet, the sentiment behind the words was bright, and she watched as her men filled on the warmth it inspired. Their contentment caused a matching lightness to lift her own heart, and, tired but satisfied, they turned from the students and started the long walk back to the hospital ward.



    ~MJ @};-
     
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  8. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    I never really followed the Clone Wars series, mostly because I couldn't stand Anakin. I can't even feel sorry for him. But I really liked this. Love the way you're giving the different clones a rich inner life and hints that the programming to turn them into mindless, obedient drones maaaaybe didn't quite work. I'm not quite sure what limmie is (soccer equivalent?) but it was great to see them all competing and mingling with the civilians. I do want someone to give Madacoo a torpedo where the sun doesn't shine... O:)
     
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