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Saga Weak Link

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by gaarastar58, Sep 1, 2015.

  1. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    ARC trooper Fives, on detached assignment on Kamino to help train clone cadets, encounters a young clone cadet who has sustained a spinal injury during training. When he discovers the boy is to be terminated he embarks on a one-man mission to save him and nobody, not General Shaak Ti, his fellow brother clones or Admiral Tarkin will be able to stop him.


    Weak Link

    Fives hated the rain.

    From a purely military perspective it made his job difficult, turning soft ground into mud which dragged at troopers feet and bogged down tanks. He had fought his way through enough swamps and rainforests to become an expert on the damp. There was another part of him that hated the rain for a completely different reason. It never stopped raining on Kamino.

    The Kaminoans had forty two different words for rain. Right now it was svarin, drops as big as fists plummeting out of the sky and exploding on the metal deckplates of Tipoca City. The slightly curved surface of the deck guided the water towards drains so that it poured into the raging sea below. Fives, standing beneath the scant shelter offered by a metal overhang on the docking platform, wondered idly whether his dislike for rain stemmed from his genetic programming or if it was simply because he hated Kamino.

    The cruiser's repulsor lifts roared, heaving the massive ship into the sky. He stood at attention, following the barked command of the battalion sergeant major, and watched as the cruiser groaned away from the city, rising up through the clouds and out of sight.

    “Battalion fall OUT!”

    The trooper battalion around Fives broke up into platoons and marched after their sergeants towards their barracks and the promise of warmth. Fives watched them go. Nearly four hundred troopers in identical white armour had formed an honour guard for the departing ship and the three thousand rookie clones, known as ‘Shineys’, who had departed on board. Envy tugged at Fives' chest as he saw them leave. He wished more than anything that he was with them, back with his brothers in the 501st. He had been on detached duty on Kamino for helping oversee the final stages of training for the new 942nd battalion. It was important work but he wished he was back on the front line. That was what he was born for. War was his reason for existing.

    A group of clone troopers clad in white armour marched towards him, snapping a salute as the passed. Fives returned the salute. His ARC trooper armour, the mark of an elite clone, and the blue flashes of his battalion set him apart from his fellow brothers. Promoted during the attempted invasion of Kamino by Separatist forces he was the pinnacle of clone engineering and fighting efficiency. He was aware of the stares that shot in his direction and he reacted to them in much the same way that he would to a battle droids blaster fire. The awe of the cadets made him uneasy because he knew that not long ago he had been just like them: inexperienced and arrogant. He wondered what they would think if he told them he was the last surviving member of his training cadre. The other members of Domino squad were all dead. He was the last and looking into the eyes of a group of senior cadets on their way to battle drills he wondered how many of them would perish beneath a hail of battle droid cannon fire or be crushed by an oncoming tank or be burned alive by incendiary bombs. Fives had seen many of his brothers die. On the battlefield he could accept that, death was a reality of war, but back here on Kamino, surrounded by his younger brothers who had not yet tasted the acrid stench of battle it felt unfair.

    “ARC-5555?”

    Fives turned. The wide eyes of the Arconan bounty hunter El-Les blinked at him.

    “I have the training schedule for the next group of cadets. I thought you might like to take a look.” He handed a datapad to Fives.

    “Thanks sir.” Fives liked the Arconan better than some of the other bounty hunter instructors that the Kaminoans employed to oversee the training of clone cadets. El-Les always treated the clones he taught with respect and compassion, unusual traits for any bounty hunter. Fives supposed it had something to do with the Arconan need to be part of a group. They didn’t see themselves as individuals but part if a greater whole, something which the clones could identify with.

    “Thank you sir.”

    “I also wanted to say well done with that last group of cadets. Your lessons on battlefield tactics will help keep them alive.”

    “Luck will keep them alive better than my training.”

    El-Les’s head dipped and his face took on an expression that might have been a smile, although Fives found it difficult to interpret Arconan moods. “I thought clones didn’t believe in luck.”

    Fives shrugged. “I was no better skilled than the rest of Domino squad, but somehow I’m the only one left. I can’t think of any other way to explain it. I don’t believe in fate, so luck is the only thing I have left.”
    El-Les fell into step beside him and together they made their way down the long corridor towards the training centre. “I was very sorry to hear about CT-21-0408. He was an excellent soldier.”

    “He went down fighting. That’s everything a clone hopes for,” said Fives. CT-21-0408. Echo. He had been killed on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines and Fives still felt the hollowness of his loss. Echo’s death had made him the last survivor of Domino squad and even though he had his brothers in the 501st he couldn’t help feeling like he had lost the last of his true family. The boys that he had grown up with, trained alongside and fought for were gone.

    “You would have been proud of him sir. He fought his hardest right up until the end.”

    “Until his luck ran out?”

    Fives flashed his crooked smile at his old teacher. “It runs out for all of us eventually.”

    *​
    “Popper, watch the flank!”

    Fives ducked behind a rocky outcropping to avoid the massed fire of a droid repeater cannon. A clutch of battle droids had worked their way to the right of Fury squad and were in deep cover, pinning the clones down with a hail of blaster bolts. The squad huddled into the scant cover, risking quick shots at the enemy but if they didn’t move soon it would be all over.

    “CT-7874 I’m talking to you. Suppressing fire on those flankers, come on cadets move it!” Fives bit back his frustration. The cadets of Fury squad were moving too slow. They were responding to the movement of the enemy, moving forward with caution instead of advancing. Five had learned the hard way that in battle he needed to be proactive, not reactive as these cadets were allowing themselves to be. If this was a real battle and not merely a simulation the droids would wipe them out.

    “I want you lot out of cover and moving. Keen, you’re squad leader today, get your team out of this crossfire. Let me see some fury from Fury squad.”

    A smatter of enthusiastic affirmatives bellowed over his helmet comlink, followed by cadet CT-1100, nicknamed Keen, shouting orders to his men. Two cadets laid down fire on the droids while the rest primed grenades and lobbed them towards the droids. An explosion of electromagnetic energy spewed from the droids position and the firing ceased.

    “Good work cadets, now keep it up!” Fives hefted the weight of his training rifle, made to resemble a DC-15A blaster rifle. It felt familiar in his hands but he would have preferred his own pair of D-17 pistols. He raised his rifle to his shoulder and blasted a droid ahead. His job here was not to lead the squad but to observe how they operated as a unit. Other ARC troopers who oversaw cadets training liked to watch from the upper levels above the training area, but Fives liked to keep things up close and personal. Besides, he knew the presence of and ARC on their squad would make the cadets nervous and he wanted to see how they acted under pressure. So far he wasn’t impressed.

    “CT-7874, cut right and take out those repeaters.”

    “On my own?” What Fives could see of CT-7874 through the visor of his helmet didn't look enthusiastic.

    “You heard me Popper. Now get a move on.”

    “Come on Keen I'll get scorched.’

    Fives rolled his eyes. Scorched was the clone term for getting hit by a simulated blaster bolt. While not powerful enough to cause a significant injury, they were still pretty unpleasant and no cadet enjoyed the experience. Still that was no reason to question the orders of the squad leader. Very sloppy.

    “I'm not going to tell you again Popper. Go.”

    Popper glared at his squad leader but nodded and ran towards the droid gun emplacement, ducking from the blaster bolts flashing over his head. The rest of the squad followed Keen, moving towards their objective, a heavily fortified sentry box. They had to get close to plant their charges, real close, but at the rate Fury squad was moving they were going to run out of time.

    “Scooter, cut left, Brash go right.” Keen dashed out from cover and sprinted towards the base of the tower. The sentry box was on top, simulating an assault on a fixed enemy position. Fury squad were nearly there, but Fives felt they lacked the imagination he expected in a good clone trooper. It was the one thing that made then superior to the droids they fought but there was nothing original about Fury squads approach.

    Fives rolled into cover beside Keen. “Running out of time cadet.”

    “I know sir. We just need a few minutes to get into position.”

    “You don’t have a few minutes cadet. You’ve run out of minutes.”

    A shout of pain from the other end if the arena snatched at Fives attention. Popper was down, his one man assault on the repeater guns had failed as he was on the ground, blue highlights on his armour indicating direct hits from a simulated blaster bolt. That Ieft the squads flank wide open and the cadets huddled into their cover as the heavy repeating blaster fire opened up. Two more cadets were scorched and went down, leaving only two to get the job done. Fury squad had failed but that didn’t mean the exercise was finished. Battles didn’t stop when teammates were killed.

    “Orders cadet?” Fives turned to Keen.

    “Assention cables. I’ll go first. Then you and Chill can cover our rear.”

    Keen didn’t wait for an acknowledgement. He darted out and aimed his assention launcher. With a pop the grappling dart shot up towards the summit of the tower and Keen began to climb. Fives fired his rifle, bringing down two droids and then he grabbed the cable and hauled himself up. There were no footholds, he simply had to brace himself against the sheer wall and rely on his arms to get to the top. Gravity and the weight of his armour and equipment tugged at him.

    Overhead Keen cried out. Fives looked up to see him tumble backwards into open space. A blaster bolt from the repeater cannon had hit him in the back and the shock had made him let go of the cable. As the cadet fell, Fives threw himself out and grabbed at the cadet trying to break his fall. They weren’t high, but high enough that an awkward landing might seriously injure or even kill the younger clone. His hand caught hold of Keen's belt. The weight of the cadet wrenched Fives hand from the climbing cable and they plunged down together towards the ground.

    The impact smashed all the air out if Fives and he felt something crunch. The wave of pain told him that it wasn’t his armour that was broken. It was him. Panic flashed through his mind, the fear of an injury severe enough to take him from the battlefield.

    The noise of blaster fire ceased and the siren which marked then end of the exercise blared. Fives rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. His left arm hurt, and when he tried flexing the fingers on that hand he felt a spike of pain which raced all the way up to his shoulder.

    “Call a medic!”

    Fives smiled. That wasn’t something he'd expected to hear during his mission on Kamino.

    *​
    “You have been very lucky ARC-5555. A hairline fracture of the arm. You should be able to return to active duty in a couple of weeks.”

    Fives grunted his thanks to the Kaminoan doctor.

    “How about Keen?”

    “Cadet CT-1100 suffered some internal bleeding, but he will make a full recovery. No doubt your effort to break his fall prevented him from sustaining any serious injury.”

    “Good. How long do I have to stay in the infirmary?”

    “I have finished logging your paperwork. You may leave at any time. I recommend that you get plenty of rest.”

    “Thanks.” Fives watched the kaminoan out of the door and wiggled his fingers. The pain was still there but now that his arm was splinted it wasn’t so bad. He slid off the bed, shrugged off his wife infirmary robe and slipped back into the black under suit he wore beneath his armour. His gear had been returned to his barracks and Fives felt strangely naked without his armour and especially his helmet. He had spent half his life looking through the T-shaped visor of his bucket.

    He left his room and walked along the corridor. Kaminoans drifted past without sparing him a glance. A trooper on crutches hobbled by. Fives was uncomfortable here. No clone liked to think about their brothers who were wounded in battle and were unable to return to the field. Those with serious injuries found themselves in here in Tipoca City’s hospital and rehabilitation wing. Fives shuddered, imagining what it would be like to have his purpose taken away from him.

    He reached a data terminal and waited while a pair of Kaminoans finished working. Stepping up to the terminal he searched for cadet CT-1100’s location.

    He found Keen in one of the upper wards. The cadet was sitting up in bed, reading a field craft training manual. He looked up as Fives approached and saluted. Fives waved it away.

    “How are you feeling cadet?”

    “Fine sir,” Keen glanced at the sling on Fives’ arm. “You sir?”

    “I’ll live.” Fives slid into a seat next to the bed. “I can return to active duty in a couple of weeks.”

    “That’s good news.” Keen fidgeted with the datapad. “I wanted to thank you sir. If you hadn’t slowed me down I could be a lot worse off.”

    “Consider yourself lucky. If that had been real combat you’d be dead.”

    “Yes sir. I’m sorry we let you down.”

    “You let yourself down cadet. Next time I expect you to do better.”

    “We will sir.”

    “I know you will.” Fives’ expression softened. “That’s what makes us superior to droids, we have the ability to learn from our mistakes. We can adapt to new experiences in a way they can’t.”

    “Yes sir.”

    “So in future how will you adapt?”

    Keen cocked his eyebrow and grimaced, the same way all the clones did when they were trying to work out a problem. “We have to move faster next time. He got bogged down and that gave the enemy tactical advantage.”

    “Good. Yes, that was your first mistake. What was your second?”

    “Sending Popper off on his own to take out the repeaters. He couldn’t do it on his own and when he failed it left us exposed and fighting on two sides.”

    “Yes. Not securing your position before moving on is a basic mistake. Of course sometimes it will be necessary to send a trooper under your command into a situation you know he won’t survive. That’s all part of the job. But if you do make sure its for a damn good reason. If today’s simulation had been actual combat Popper would have been killed for nothing. We might be mass produced but that doesn’t mean our lives aren’t important.”

    “Yes sir.”

    “And you can cut that out. It's Fives. I may be an ARC trooper but I’m no officer. I started out exactly where you are. Don’t forget that.”

    Keen smiled. “Somehow I don’t think anyone from Fury squad will make ARC trooper.”

    “I wouldn’t be too sure. When I was a cadet I was a member of Domino squad. We weren’t the best. In fact the other squads used to joke that they enjoyed watching our simulations because it was fun to watch the dominoes fall. We used to argue and whine and moan at each other and it almost cost us everything.”

    “I find that hard to believe.”

    “Believe it. We were the worst squad in Tipoca City. Sure we could fight and fire a blaster but there’s more to being a soldier than that. In the end we realised the only way to win was if we trusted each other and worked as a unit.”

    “I think I understand.”

    “Good. Because if you and your squad don’t pull together you’re not going to make it. There is no place for weakness on the battlefield.”

    Fives got to his feet and looked down at the cadet. They shared the same face, but somehow Keen looked impossibly young to the battle-hardened ARC trooper. He just hoped the members of Fury squad had what it took.

    “One more thing: we aren’t just numbers. Next time I see you practising I had better hear you using each others names. “

    “They’re just nicknames.”

    “Perhaps, but they’re still yours and nobody can take that away from us,” said Fives. He nodded to the cadet and began to move off.

    “Fives?”

    “Something else cadet?”

    “One man sir.”

    Fives cracked a smile. “But the right man for the job.”

    He wasn’t sure why he had confided his squad's difficult past with Keen. Perhaps he saw something of himself in the cadets. That made him laugh. Of course there was something of him in Keen, just as there was some of Keen in him. They were brothers, genetically identical. But despite the Kaminoans skill in cloning, Fives had never met two clones who were exactly alike. They shared the same traits, namely a fearless resolve to get the job done, but there was much more to them than that.

    He glanced up at a holographic monitor, trying to work out the best way back to his quarters from here. The hospital was a maze of identical corridors. A couple of clones acting as orderlies pushed a gurney with a wounded clone on it. Fives nodded at them and tried to ignore the empty space where the clone's legs should have been.

    He moved on, wondering what the members of Domino squad would say if they could see him now. He imagined the sarcastic joke that Cutup would make. Of them all only Echo had lived to be promoted to ARC trooper alongside Fives. No doubt he would have told Fives to follow orders, get on with the job and stop worrying. He thought about his advice to Keen. Sometimes it was necessary to give your life in the line of duty. Hevy had made that sacrifice on the moon of Rishi fighting against Separatist forces. He had sacrificed his life to save his brothers.

    “It should have been you wearing this armour instead of me. You’d have know how to get these Fury cadets motivated.”

    He had spoken aloud, not expecting an answer from his dead brother, so he jerked with surprise when a voice spoke to him.

    “Hello?”

    Fives looked around the corridor, which was now deserted. “Hevy?”

    “In here.”

    One of the doors lining the corridor was ajar. Fives stepped up and pushed it open. He found himself in a small side room. A window overlooked Tipoca City, layered to muffle the battering rain which lashed against it. Inactive life support machinery hung from overhead supports. A single light hovered over the bed where a young clone lay looking up at him. The boy seemed around twelve, which in accelerated clone years meant he would be around five or six years old.

    “Hello cadet.”

    “Hello yourself.”

    “Are you alright?”

    “I was looking for the nurse.” The boy's eyes, brown like Fives’ caught on the insignia patch on the older clone's collar.

    “Are you an ARC trooper?”

    “That's right.”

    “Amazing.”

    “I’ll go get the nurse for you...” Fives glanced up at the name board over the boy’s bed. “CT-9993-67.”
    “My name is Dropkick. Can you help me, I just want a drink.”

    “Okay.” Fives moved to a water dispenser in the corner of the room and filled. “Here you go.”

    “I need you to hold it for me,” said Dropkick. “I can’t move my arms.”

    Fives grunted, for the first time taking note of the awkward way the kid was lying in the bed, rolled on his side with pillows wedged under him. His legs and arms appeared wasted and atrophied.
    “Maybe I should get the nurse...”

    “You don’t know how to hold a cup? I though ARC troopers were supposed to be smart.”

    Fives’ lip twitched. There weren’t many clones who would dare speak to a member of the ARC corps that way, but a legacy of their genetic template, Jango Fett, was a certain disregard for authority figures. He leaned over and held the cup to the boy’s lips. The young clone gulped down the water and licked his lips.

    “Thanks. I’m parched. They're never around when I need help.”

    “Who?”

    “The long necks.”

    “The Kaminoans?”

    “Yeah. They've got more important things to do than worry about me. They worry about clones who they can make better. What happened to you? “

    “Fell during a training simulation. Broke an arm.”

    “Did it hurt?”

    “Of course it did.”

    “Well I dunno, I’ve never broken a bone.”

    “So what happened to you?”

    “I was going over the assault course and fell. I fractured my spine and now I can’t move my arms or legs.”

    Fives felt his gut drop. The Kaminoans were wizards when it came to repairing battlefield injuries. With the proper rehabilitation a soldier could return to action even after suffering horrific injuries such as multiple amputation. Prosthetics and cloned organs ready for donation gave soldiers a chance to get back to the job they had been bred for, but there were some injuries even the Kaminoans couldn’t fix. He looked down at the young clone, realising that he would never get his chance to fight alongside his brothers. It was abhorrent. It was unfair.

    “Sorry.”

    “It's not your fault. It's just something that happened.”

    “How long have you been here?”

    “In hospital? A few months. I was in pretty bad shape for a while but the long necks have been trying some different treatments to make me better.”

    “That’s good.”

    “They haven’t worked.” A grin split Dropkick’s face. “But the worst thing is the boredom. There’s nothing to do and the long necks aren’t exactly big on conversation.”

    “It's not one of their strengths, no.” Fives fiddled with the frayed end of his sleeve. He put down the empty cup. “You get used to it though. There’s a lot of sitting doing nothing in between the excitement of fighting. That’s something the Kaminoans don’t teach us. You have to come up with ways to keep yourself busy.”

    “So what do you do, to stop being bored?”

    Fives sighed. “I don’t know. Train. Read terrible books. Play games.”

    “I used to play hoverball. That’s how I got my name.”

    “Dropkick. It’s a good name. I'm Fives. ARC-5555.”

    “It’s nice to meet you ARC trooper Fives. I don’t get many visitors.”

    “What about your squad mates?”

    “They drop by every so often but it’s awkward. I don’t think they know what to say to me.”

    Fives could relate to that. It felt very strange being close to this broken boy. It felt wrong. The bright intensity in the boy’s eyes was startling considering what he must have been through, and the unnatural stillness of his body spooked Fives.

    “I should really be getting back to barracks.”

    Dropkick’s face fell a bit. “Oh, yeah sure. It was nice talking to you Fives. I’ve never met an ARC trooper before.”

    “It was nice talking to you too.”

    “Maybe you could come back and visit me another day?”

    “Maybe,” Fives grunted. “If I spot the nurse on my way out I’ll tell her you were looking for her.”

    The pain in Fives’ arm throbbed with each step he took up the corridor away from Dropkick's room. An overwhelming sadness had settled over him, just as it had after, Echo had been killed. It was a lonely feeling, a feeling of helplessness and it was not something Fives was used to dealing with. In battle his training and experience allowed him a certain control over the situation. He could affect the outcome of a battle through his actions. But there was nothing he could do for Dropkick. Absolutely nothing.

    He stumbled into a Kaminoan nurse, almost knocking her over.

    “Kindly watch where you are going, trooper,” said the nurse in a haughty tone.

    “My apologies ma'am, I wasn’t looking. One of your patients asked me to find you.”

    “Which one?”

    The cadet in room 212, Dropkick.”

    “CT-9993-67?”

    “Yes ma'am.”

    “I will look in on him, thank you trooper.”

    “Excuse me, but can anything be done to help him?”

    “It's not my place to discuss patients medical history trooper.”

    “That's ARC trooper, ma’am.” Fives’ voice was stiff and he injected as much regimental force into it as he could. “I’m attached to the training corps and I just asked for a status report on one of my cadets.”

    The Kaminoan blinked her wide violet eyes and took an involuntary step back. “I apologise ARC trooper. I’m afraid there isn’t anything we can do for CT-9993-67. He has a high degree spinal separation. We had hoped to regenerate some of the nerves at his injury site but our attempts have been unsuccessful. He is likely to remain paralysed from the shoulders down.”

    The hollow clench in Fives’ stomach contracted another notch. “I see. Thank you.”

    The Kaminoan's long neck swayed and her eyes studied the ground. “It is a tragedy. Dropkick is especially bright, even for a clone. He would have made an excellent soldier.”

    “Perhaps we can still find a place for him. If his mind is sharp he may be able to fill another role.”

    “I’m afraid that will not be possible.” The Kaminoan seemed genuinely upset. “I'm afraid he’s been scheduled to be terminated.”



    To be continued...
     
  2. Admiral Volshe

    Admiral Volshe Chosen One star 10

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2012
    I love this. If this is your first short story ever...wowza! The descriptions were excellent, just the right amount of detail. The words you used were almost always perfect too - they portrayed the perfect emotion, a good reaction, or evoked the senses.
    The action scene was en pointe - the movement was very natural and I enjoyed it! The insight you give into Fives' mind is also great.

    Uh oh for Dropkick...I am anxious to see if he is alright.

    Please tag me in the next post if you are continuing this! @};-:D
     
    Ewok Poet and gaarastar58 like this.
  3. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Thanks for the feedback. I have written short stories before but this is the first Star Wars themed one in a long while! I'm glad you enjoyed the first part. I really wanted to get into the nitty gritty of Fives' character cause I felt like he got a lot more rebellious as the Clone Wars dragged on.

    Next part will be up soon!
     
    Ewok Poet and Admiral Volshe like this.
  4. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    “You may know how to fight ARC trooper Fives, but you do not know what it takes to win a war.” Tarkin leaned across the console, his eyes reflecting the pale light from the holoprojector like blue fire. “I do.”

    Hey y'all, Here is part II of a short story based around Fives' time as an instructor on Kamino, fighting to save the life of a young clone scheduled for termination. As always helpful critique and comments on how to improve are welcome!

    Enjoy!

    Weak Link - Part II

    What is a clone who cannot fight?

    Fives stared at the ceiling in his quarters. Part of the privilege of being an ARC trooper on temporary assignment was having a room to himself. In some ways it was a relief, a chance for quiet reflection but if he was honest with himself he missed being in the barracks with his fellow troopers in the 501st. He had slogged across dozens of worlds, sleeping in muddy ditches alongside his brothers, clad in full battle armour and ready every moment for an attack. This was just too damn comfortable. Light filtered in through the window. Fives didn’t like closing the blinds.

    “Scared of the dark fifty five fifty five?”

    Cutup had said that years ago in the barracks when Fives had refused to go to sleep in his bunk tube. He loathed the tight enclosed space. Privately Fives had worried that there had been some problem with his genetic make-up. Soldier clones shouldn’t be scared of the dark. Echo was the only one he could trust enough to speak to about his fears.

    “Don't worry brother, we all hate it,” he said. “It's part of who we are. We don’t like feeling like were trapped. We want to be out there doing our job.”

    Fives had always accepted his role as a soldier, as an expendable resource of war. He would die in battle, he was certain of that, and the prospect did not frighten him. It was why he was here. It was what he was meant for. It gave him purpose.

    Perhaps that was why Dropkick was to be terminated. He no longer had a purpose.

    With a groan Fives rolled off the bed and stood up. Rain squiggled down the window, lit by the occasional flashes of lightning out over the sea. He had never questioned himself like this before. It felt unpleasant, an itch he couldn’t scratch, a droid he couldn’t blast. He had come a long way from being that young boy scared of the dark, but all the battles he had fought and all the experience he had gained were of no use to him here.

    When he and the members of Domino squad shipped out Colt, the ARC trooper who had overseen the final stages of his training had told him that no training could prepare them for the moment they looked death in the eyes. For him that moment was long past and Fives had watched his brothers cut down around him, but at least he knew when his death came it would have some meaning. For Dropkick it would have none and he simply couldn’t accept that.

    His arm twinged with pain. He wished he could talk to someone about his doubts, but with Echo gone there was simply nobody he trusted enough. That was the part they didn’t teach at the academy. They didn’t teach clones about how it felt to be alone. Everything was centred around the team.

    If he had still been with his battalion he could have spoken to Rex. Of all the clones Fives served with he trusted Rex implicitly. But his captain was on the other side of the galaxy, probably fighting right now. Fives sighed. That was what he was good at. Fighting. That’s all he was good for.

    “What would you do Echo?”

    Fives pulled a face. He was talking to his dead brothers rather a lot lately. Besides, he knew exactly what Echo would have said. Follow orders.

    Fives straightened up. That’s right. Follow orders. Follow your training. His training did not teach him to sit and ponder problems. It taught him to act. He stooped and picked up his chest plate. The battle scarred armour glowed in the faint moonlight. He was an ARC trooper. It was time he started acting like one.

    *​
    Fives hesitated a moment before chiming the door. His armoured hand hovered over the door control and he pressed it before he lost his nerve. Despite being in combat countless times there was one thing which still made him nervous. Jedi.

    The door slid open and Jedi Master Shaak Ti appeared.

    “Fives. It’s good to see you. Is there something I can do for you?” Her eyes darted down and took in his armour and weapons. “Is there anything wrong?”
    “I'm sorry to disturb you so late General. If you’d like I can return later.”

    “Not at all Fives, I’m certain you would not have come if it wasn’t something important. Please come in.”

    Shaak Ti stepped back and motioned Fives inside. She moved with incredible grace, like a dancer, and her voice was soft and melodious. He glanced around the sparsely furnished room. A simple bed stood in the corner beneath the window and the only other piece of furniture was a desk with a computer terminal humming in it. Datapads lay in neat piles next to the terminal.

    “I was just reviewing the reports for the last batch of troopers. You have done impressive work.”

    “Thank you General,” said Fives. Properly she should have been referred to as Master Shaak Ti, but he felt more comfortable with the military title.
    “Now, what is it I can help you with?”

    “This afternoon while I was in the hospital wing I met a young cadet. He suffered a serious injury during training and was permanently paralysed. He won’t walk again.”
    “I was informed about this situation. How did you come to be involved? “

    Fives told her about his meeting with Dropkick and his conversation with the nurse. “The fact is General, I think Dropkick could be an asset to us. It’s not right that we should simply cast him aside. He can still be useful.”

    Shaak Ti sighed and sat down on the bed. She looked weary, thought Fives. He had fought alongside many Jedi and knew they weren’t the invincible supermen that he had imagined when he was a rookie cadet, yet it still surprised him when they seemed tired.

    “I’m afraid we have very few options in this case. Dropkick’s injuries mean that he can no longer fulfil his role as a soldier.”

    “So we’re just going to terminate him like he was a defective droid?”

    “There is an aspect you may not be taking into account. The republic does not have unlimited resources. We can barely afford to supply food and water and power to our citizens and every day more and more of our resources are diverted to support the war effort. If we support the clones who are in Dropkick’s situation they would be a significant drain on those resources.”

    Fives paced the cramped room. “I seem to remember an old Jedi saying that we should judge people not by how they treat the strong but how they treat the weakest in society.”

    “You are right of course, but you must understand that it is the purpose of every clone to fight.”

    “I know that. It's our job to fight and be slaughtered so that the citizens of the republic don’t have to.” Fives stopped his pacing and glared at the Jedi Master. “You Jedi like to pretend that you’re all compassion and selflessness but when it comes down to it you’re quite happy to sacrifice us to save yourselves.”

    Shaak Ti rose slowly from the bed and for a moment Fives half expected her to reach for her lightsaber. Instead she crossed to the window and stood looking out over there sea with her head bowed.

    “I’m sorry Fives. You are right. The sacrifices that you and your brothers make every day keep us all safe. I have always tried to treat you as individuals and not simply expendable soldiers.”

    “I know, and that’s the reason why me and my brothers respect you. But terminating... killing Dropkick is wrong.”

    “I think there are many who would be surprised by such compassion from someone whose sole purpose in life is wage war. I am not one of those people. I know how much you care for your brothers. But there is something else you may not be aware of. When I first arrived on Kamino it was common for defective or seriously injured clones to be reconditioned. One company was destroyed simply because their vision was not up to the Kaminoans exacting standards.

    “I put a stop to that. The Jedi set up work programmes so that colonies who could no longer fight still had a chance to be of use to the war effort. In this situation however my hands are tied.”

    “Why?”

    Shaak Ti moved in and laid a hand on Fives’ arm. “Because Dropkick himself was the one who asked to be terminated.”

    *​
    Fives didn’t bother waiting to be invited in. He barged through the door to Dropkick’s room, his armoured fist nearly tearing it from its hinges.

    “Good morning ARC trooper Fives.”

    Dropkick lay in the bed where Fives had left him the day before although this time he had been rolled over onto his other side looking for all the worlds like a hedonistic hutt after a particularly large meal.

    “Cadet.”

    “What’s up?”

    Now that Fives was here he found himself a bit lost. He had come in guns blazing but he had no idea how to talk to the young clone. “Mind if I sit down?”

    “It’s not like I could stop you.”

    Fives sank into the chair next to the bed and balanced his helmet on his knees. “I talked to the nurse yesterday about you. She told me about your condition.”

    “Terminal good humour. Yeah it's pretty lethal.”

    “I also spoke to General Shaak Ti. She informed me that you requested... That you asked to be terminated.”

    Dropkick gave him a look that was about as close to a shrug as it was possible to get for someone who can’t move their shoulders. “So?”

    “Why? You're an intelligent kid. You can still do a lot to help the war effort.”

    Dropkick’s head flopped against the pillow and he stared out to f the window, avoiding Fives’ gaze.”

    “You wouldn't understand.”

    “Try me.”

    “I just can’t live like this. I don’t want to grow up as an object of pity to my brothers. I don’t want to watch soldiers with my face march off to war without me. All my life I’ve been taught to be a soldier. It’s all I want and I can’t have it. And if I can’t have it then I don’t want anything. I don’t want to be a burden in my brothers.”

    “You won’t be a burden.”

    “Oh yeah? What’s the first lesson we get taught? Be strong. A unit is only as strong as its weakest member. Well right now I’m a pretty weak link in the chain.”

    Fives opened his mouth to argue, then shut it when he took in exactly what the boy was saying. Hadn’t he said the same things to Fury squad yesterday? Every clone knew that they had to rely on each other to survive and what good was a soldier who couldn’t fight?

    “Did you ever hear of a clone called 99?”
    Dropkick chewed his lip. “Wasn’t he that bad Batcher who worked as a maintenance clone? He died when the droids tried to invade us.”

    “That’s the clone. He looked like a rancor had used him as a chew toy and then bashed him against the ugly tree. We all treated him like he was nothing, a slave to clear up the mess we left behind. But that bad Batcher had more courage and heart and sense than most of the clones I’ve ever served with. Without him I would never have graduated.”

    “Seriously?”

    “Seriously. My squad was the worst group of cadets in Tipoca City. Everyone thought we were going to fail: our fellow clones, the bounty hunter instructors and even General Shaak Ti. But 99 believed in us. He got us to see how strong we could be, a clone who’d never picked up a weapon in his life except to lug it back down to storage.”

    Dropkick was looking at him now, his eyes wide. Fives grinned. “Yeah that sorry excuse for a clone was one of the best soldiers I ever served with, and he didn’t need to fight to prove how much he was worth. What I’m trying to say is there’s more to being useful than picking up a blaster and shooting a few clankers.”

    “Do you think I can still be useful?”

    Fives got to his feet, aware of how big he must seem to the boy clad in his battle armour. He filled the room. “We’ll find a way. Don’t worry.”

    “Fives?”

    “Yeah kid?”

    “Can you tell me some more stories?”

    “Like what?”

    “Tell me how you made ARC trooper.”

    “Well I guess I have the time. Alright. It was during the invasion of Kamino. Me and my squad mate Echo were stationed on our own as snipers. It was a dangerous assignment and we probably would’ve been killed if it hadn’t been for our friend 99...”

    *​
    “Battalion, SHUN!”

    Fives snapped to attention. He could taste the salt in the spray whipped up by the wind even through the filters of his helmet. He stood in line with a number of other ARC troopers and clone instructors. El-Les and Bric, the two bounty hunters, stood off to one side. They did not salute when the cruiser ramp lowered to the deck, and nor did Shaak Ti, although she at least bowed respectfully as the man wearing an admirals uniform stepped off the ramp.

    The last time Fives had seen this man he had been a captain. Obviously his heroism, if it could be called that, had paid off. Fives gritted his teeth. Had he lost Echo just so that this man could climb the promotion ladder? He knew that wasn’t the case. It had been a vital mission to the republic and Echo had given his life in the course of duty, but that didn’t stop Fives feeling bitter that this man was here and his best friend was not.

    “Admiral Tarkin. Welcome to Kamino,” said Shaak Ti.

    “Thank you Master Jedi.” Tarkin cast a lazy eye over the formed units. He was obviously a man used to military pomp. “I am here at the behest of the Supreme Chancellor to investigate the progress you have made with the army.”

    “I assure you my reports are very thorough.” The howling wind could not disguise the Chill in Shaak Ti's voice.

    “I am sure that they are, however the Chancellor is keen for me to bring him a first-hand account of what goes on here. I have to express my amazement that the Jedi have retained control of the training here on Kamino when this is clearly a military matter.”

    “Since the Jedi are leading the grand army of the republic it seems only natural that we should be the ones to oversee the training of that army.”

    “Perhaps. It remains to be seen if the Jedi will continue to command our forces. It would seem to be a direct contradiction to your self-assumed role as the peacekeepers of the galaxy.” Tarkin's smile did not reach his eyes. “But that is a debate for another day. Perhaps you would be so good as to acquaint me with your key personnel.”

    Tarkin remained quiet as the Jedi Master introduced her team of instructors. They ranged from Kaminoan technicians to older clones who oversaw the day to day training of individual units. Tarkin nodded respectfully to each one and exchanged a few words with El-Les and Bric, congratulating them on their training methods.

    “And these are ARC troopers on detached duty from their front line units. They help squads in the final stages if training to help gauge their combat effectiveness.”

    “Excellent.” Admiral Tarkin moved down the line, gazing into the faceless visor of each ARC trooper in turn, as though he could somehow see what was underneath. He paused in front of Fives.

    “We have met before.”

    “Yes sir. I was part of the team which assisted in your rescue from the citadel installation,” said Fives.

    “Ah yes, of course now I remember. You were extremely efficient. I’m glad that we have clones like you assisting in the training of new soldiers, although I suspect you’d rather be back in the front line?”

    “My job here is just as important sir.”

    “Well said trooper. What was your name again?”

    “ARC-5555, sir.”

    “I meant your name trooper.”

    “Fives, sir.”

    “How very appropriate. Well trooper Fives, I hope your skills as an instructor are as proficient as your ability in the field. I look forward to seeing you teach.”

    Tarkin moved off with Shaak Ti. Fives and his fellow clones stood to attention until they vanished out if sight. The sergeant major dismissed them and Fives headed towards the training wing. The Admiral had made him feel uneasy. He sensed there was something about the man. He possessed a calculating authority but there was something else behind his eyes, something like cruelty which made Fives' battle sense tingle with silent alarm. He shook the thought off. Tarkin was just another officer, nothing more, nothing less and at least he had taken the time to ask for his name instead of his number. It was probably just the memory of the Citadel mission that was blackening his thoughts.

    He turned left at an intersection, pausing to let a maintenance clone pushing a repulsor sled stacked with training equipment past. The clone nodded to him and Fives nodded back, his mind now focussed on training assignments for his cadre of cadets. His face hardened as he read Fury squads battle simulation results. Surely it was some kind of galactic joke that he would be landed with such a poorly performing unit. Oh the irony.

    *​
    “... and then Lightning, we call him Lightning cause he’s so slow, he looks straight at the Master Chief and he says... are you even listening to me?”

    Fives looked up. Dropkick pulled a face. “You’re not are you? I’m trying to tell you about the one time any of us ever got one up on the Master Chief and you aren’t even listening.”

    “Sorry. I was thinking about a group of cadets I’m training at the moment. They’re not doing too well.”

    “How come?”

    “They just don’t listen to each other and they make stupid mistakes, the kind of mistakes that get troops killed on the battlefield. If they don’t clean up their act I’m going to have no choice but to fail them.”

    “They do sound a bit hopeless. I bet my squad could teach them a thing or two.”

    Fives frowned. “You know that’s not such a bad idea. I need to make them see that they need to trust each other. I can’t make them do that but I can show them what a good team looks like.” He thumped a fist against his thigh plate. “I'm going to need your help cadet.”

    “My help?”

    “Oh yes. I can’t do this without you.”

    *​
    “Fury squad fall in!”

    Fives watched the dazed cadets tumble out of their cots and form a single rank in front of their equipment lockers.

    “Listen up Fury. I’ve been taking it easy on you lot. Well that stops now. I’ve never seen a more disgraceful unit. None of you are going to make trooper, never mind ARC trooper. I’m recommending that your squad be cut from the program. You’ll be assigned maintenance and repair duties. “

    A ripple of anger flashed across the face of every clone in Fury squad.

    “Permission to speak sir.”

    “Granted.”

    Keen stepped one pace forward and snapped to attention. “Give us another chance to prove ourselves.”

    “You have had all the chances you are going to get. Face it cadets, you simply aren’t up to the standard we need in this army. When I assess a cadet unit, I have to ask myself if I’d be happy to have them serve at my side, if I’d be willing to trust them with my life. I don’t have that kind of faith in you. To prove my point, I’ve prepared a little demonstration. Left TURN!”

    Fury squad moved as one.

    “Forward MARCH!”

    Fives led them out of the barracks. The curious faces of other clones peered down at them and a few jeers came their way. Fives had been talking loudly enough for most of them to hear his disappointment in Fury squads performance. He made no effort to stop the jeers. Fury squad deserved a little humiliation.

    They entered the training arena. Huge pits stretched off into the distance, each mimicking a different habitat for cadets to experience. Fives had spent his training struggling through waist deep snow or swamps while simulated blaster fire flashed over his head. Clones might come from the hatcheries, but his is where they were truly born.

    “Squad HALT!”

    Fury squad stood at the edge of a battle arena, the very same arena Fives had completed his final assessment, the place he had become a clone trooper. The grid could be configured in many different ways, with battle droids popping up out of the floor and gun emplacements high up, able to sweep the entire arena with blaster fire. At the far end the tower bristled with static blaster cannons and high up on its peak a single steel pole glowed red, daring any clone squad that entered the arena to try and capture it.

    “Hello ARC trooper Fives.”

    “Hello cadet. Is your squad ready?”

    “We were born ready.”

    Dropkick sat in a hoverchair, wearing his cadet uniform. His useless hands were curled on his knees and he controlled the chair using an eye-guided sensor unit mounted on it arm. He also wore a comlink over his ear.

    “Ready Shark squad?”

    “READY!”

    A platform rose at the fat end of the arena. On it the four remaining members of Shark squad raised their DC-15A blaster rifles and stood ready. The massive weapons looked ridiculous in the hands of the young cadets, all of whom were the same age as Dropkick, but they held them expertly and their faces showed grim determination. Fives had programmed the simulation himself and had made it deliberately hard. He wasn’t going to go easy on the young clones.

    “Begin simulation.”

    Blaster bolts lanced towards Shark squad. The young cadets scattered, zig zaging their way towards cover, firing as they moved. A couple of droids went down. Shark squad hunkered down behind a barrier wall, huddling together away from the storm of blaster bolts. Over the speaker in his helmet Fives heard their team leader shouting instructions.

    “Take out those towers. Watch the flank. Clankers on the left.”

    The squad responded to each command. They were young and inexperienced and they handled the cumbersome rifles with difficulty but they worked together, concentrating their fire on individual targets and obliterating them with calm efficiency.

    “Watch that crossfire boys,” Dropkick called a warning to his squad. From his position on the upper deck he had a better view of the enemy’s movements and he called out warnings and instructions to his unit on the arena floor.

    Fives watched the cadets advance. They were nowhere near as good as a fully trained trooper, but they kept moving, picking out and eliminating the droids in their path before moving onto the next target. Fives looked sideways at the cadets of Fury squad. They looked sick. This group of cadets half their age was showing them up.

    Dropkick directed them towards the easiest route to the tower and the group huddled at its base unhooking grappling cables from their belts while two cadets kept up a withering cover fire on the remaining droids. Fives heard the pop as the cadets fired their grappling hooks and started to climb. One of the cadets still on the ground caught a blaster bolt and went down. His teammate concentrated fire on the droid and put it out of action. The two climbing figures were struggling, pulling themselves up with every ounce of strength in their small bodies.

    “Come on Shark squad, not far to go, nearly there!” yelled Dropkick.

    The two cadets reached the top of the tower, hauled themselves over the edge and scrambled to capture the enemy flag. A siren blared and the simulation was over. The members of Shark squad, Dropkick included, roared with triumph.

    Fives thumped Dropkick on the shoulder. “Well done cadet.”

    “Thank you sir. Permission to rejoin my squad sir.”

    “You never left it cadet”

    Fives watched Dropkick manoeuvre the hoverchair around and head towards the lift which would take him down to his squad mates. He felt proud, the kind of proud he hadn’t since he had made ARC trooper. He turned back to Fury squad, who were all staring at the floor, shame etched on their faces.

    “I dare you to do better,” said Fives.

    Keen looked up at him. “We can do it sir. Just give us a chance.”

    “You have one chance. One last chance. Do I make myself clear? “

    “Sir yes sir! “

    “Go and get your gear. It’s time for Fury squad to get furious!”

    “Sir yes sir!”

    *​
    “I don’t know how you did it Fives, but I’m impressed.” El-Les’ expression was as genial as Fives had ever seen it.

    “I suppose it takes a screw-up to fix a bunch of screw-ups,” said Bric, the bounty hunter who had been Domino squad’s harshest critic back in Fives’ days as a raw cadet.
    Fives accepted the backhanded compliment with a curt nod. “They’ve still got a long way to go but at least they’re listening to each other now.”

    “Hopefully they continue to improve their performance,” said General Shaak Ti. “The time they took to complete the course was one of the slowest on record but they are finally moving in the right direction. Well done Fives.”

    “Thank you General, but the credit should go to the cadets of Shark squad. They were the ones who showed Fury squad what they were capable of.”
    “Yes. Their performance was exemplary, especially considering they were a team mate short.”

    “They had help,” said Fives. “Cadet Dropkick was an invaluable member of the team.”

    “Indeed.” Admiral Tarkin’s voice remained even. “It is such a tragedy that we will lose such a capable cadet.”

    “With respect Admiral I don’t see that there is any reason to lose cadet Dropkick, sir.”

    Tarkin moved to the centre of the room where the blue light from the holodisplay cast deep shadows on his skull-like face. His eyes became deep pools of gloom. “Master Shaak Ti has appraised me of the situation regarding cadet Dropkick. I’m afraid we have no choice but to proceed with his termination.”

    “If I proved anything today I proved that Dropkick can still be useful.”

    “And your actions are to be commended trooper.” Tarkin’s voice was cool. “However it is not merely a question of usefulness it is a question of the time and energy it would take to support a paralysed clone. He requires round the clock care from a team of specialist staff. He is a burden.”

    Fives bunched his fists, but Tarkin wasn’t finished. “The Kaminoans are forced to terminate defective embryos all the time.”

    “Dropkick isn’t an embryo,” hissed Fives through gritted teeth. “He is a living breathing boy.”

    “He is a clone. He is the property of the Galactic Republic.”

    Fives' fist hit the console so hard the smooth interface cracked. “He’s not a slave!”

    “Gentlemen.” Shaak Ti’s voice was quiet but forceful. “This is hardly the time or the place to discuss this matter.”

    “He was created to serve the Republic. Since he cannot be of service he is no longer of any use.”

    Fives felt his hand twitch towards the pistol at his hip.

    “Enough!”

    Shaak Ti’s voice hit Fives with physical force and he flinched away from it. He glared at Tarkin. The admiral’s calm demeanour sparked the hot rage already during inside of Fives. He didn’t know what it was like to watch their brothers slaughtered around them, to be used as a human shield, to be prepared to give his life to protect a society which would simply cast him aside if he was no longer useful. None of them did.

    Shaak Ti laid a hand on his arm. “Remember Fives, this was Dropkick’s decision too. This is what he wants.”

    “What if he’s changed his mind, what then?”

    “It makes no difference,” said Tarkin. “This is not something that can be changed.”

    “It will be very quick,” added Shaak Ti. “The Kaminoans will give him a chemical that will make him simply drift to sleep. He won’t be in any pain. It’ll be very humane...”
    “We’re not animals to be put down, general. It doesn’t matter how humane you are. It’s still murder and I won’t let you do it.”

    “You cannot stop it,” said Tarkin.

    Fives grinned. “Admiral, I am not someone you want to go to war with.”

    “You may know how to fight ARC trooper Fives, but you do not know what it takes to win a war.” Tarkin leaned across the console, his eyes reflecting the pale light from the holoprojector like blue fire. “I do.”

    “We’ll see.” Fives spun on his heel. “Permission to leave, General.”

    Shaak Ti’s expression was neutral. Damned Jedi. He really hated them sometimes. “Granted.”

    Fives stormed out of the training centre, doing his best to control his temper. It wasn’t easy. He hadn’t felt this angry since Echo was killed but at least then he had been in combat and had been able to focus on the job. He tried to turn his mind towards the training schedule for the next few days. The cadets were approaching a critical point in their training but he couldn’t concentrate on that. He stormed towards the barracks.

    He felt helpless. Useless. There was nothing he could do to help Dropkick, any more than he had been able to help Hevy or Droidbait or Cutup or Echo. In the end there was nothing he could do to save anyone. There was nobody left to turn to. He was on his own.

    “Fives?”

    “What, what is it now?” Fives whirled around.

    Keen took an involuntary step back. “I just wanted to say thank you, for believing in us.”

    Fives grunted. “You knew what you had to do. I just gave you a push in the right direction.”

    “Yes sir. Hopefully one day Fury squad will be good enough to stand next to you on the battlefield.”

    “That’s all I ever wanted. To fight.” Fives could feel the rage burning within him and the empty place where his brothers should be. “But no training can prepare you for what war is actually like. Nothing can make you ready to see your brothers die around you.”

    Fives stared into the cadet’s eyes. Genetic abnormalities often caused clone batches to deviate slightly from their template DNA and Keen’s eyes were a cloudy grey instead of brown. “I’m the last surviving member of my squad. All the people that I care about are dead and left behind on the battlefield. I’m all alone, waiting for the moment when I get cut down too in this pointless war. Have you ever wondered what it is we’re even fighting for?”

    “We’re fighting for the Republic.”

    “That’s a slogan, but what does that actually mean? When I die I want it to be for something, not just as a pawn in someone else’s war.”
    “I don’t understand.”

    Five felt his cheek pull. “I know. But you will one day.”

    “Are you okay sir?”

    “I’m fine.” Fives straightened up and smiled at the cadet. “But there’s something I have to do.”

    “Can I help?”

    “No. This is something I have to do on my own. Take care of yourself Keen.”

    Fives walked away, leaving Keen looking confused and worried. He decided not to go to the barracks but headed straight for his quarters. Once inside he locked the door and leaned against it, feeling the cool metal against the back of his head. He had failed too many of his brothers. He wouldn’t leave Dropkick behind, not even if he had to fight his way past every clone trooper in Tipoca City. He laughed.

    Might as well stick to what he knew best.


    Part III coming soon...
     
  5. skygawker

    skygawker Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2014
    Ooh, I really like this premise. You do a great job of writing Fives and the clones in general. Keep it up!
     
    Ewok Poet likes this.
  6. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Final Installment:

    A storm hit Tipoca City during the night. Fives felt the shudder of waves crashing against the support pylons through the deckplates. He didn’t sleep, and rose early to make ready. Dropkick’s termination was scheduled for this morning, and he had been given strict instructions to stay away. Fives could only imagine what Echo would have to say if he knew what he was about to do. Follow orders, he’d say. Follow orders. But right now his orders conflicted with every instinct and every fibre of his being.
    He strode down the wide corridor towards the hospital wing. He had donned his full battle armour and his D-17 pistols banged against his thighs as he walked. He heard the sound of his own breathing, amplified inside his helmet and the pounding of blood in his ears was deafening. All the battles he had fought, all the victories and all the defeats had brought him to this place. He felt oddly calm, just as he always did before going into combat.

    A pair of white-clad clone troopers stood guard at the main entrance to the hospital wing. One bearing the blue markings of a lieutenant stepped forward.

    “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you in.”

    “Don’t try to stop me sir.”

    “I’m sorry trooper, but I have my orders. We’ve been instructed by Admiral Tarkin to keep you out of the hospital wing.”

    “Did he tell you why?”

    “Those are my orders. I don’t need to ask for an explanation.”

    Fives cocked his head to one side. In the very beginning of the Jango Fett cloning programme ARC troopers were specially bred to possess advanced reasoning skills and exhibit a higher degree of independence to their fellow clones. As the war advanced and these ARC troops fell in battle, new ones had been selected from the best and brightest of the rank and file troopers. He wondered if it was his rebellious nature that had got him picked for ARC trooper, as much as his fighting skills.

    “Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, sir. I’m going inside.”

    The lieutenant raised his rifle. “I’m sorry trooper, but it’s time for you to leave.”

    Fives sighed. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”

    The lieutenant’s finger tightened reflexively, squeezing off a blaster bolt as Fives’ fist slammed into his stomach. He doubled up, all the air whooshing from his body despite his armour, and his visor met Fives’ knee on the way to the ground. The officer’s head snapped back and he was unconscious before he hit the deck.

    Fives whirled to face the second trooper, caught the long barrel of his rifle and twisted it away before the clone could take aim. The blade of his hand hammered into the vulnerable spot between helmet and pauldron and the trooper went down.

    Fives bent to check that they were both still breathing. He considered taking one of the dropped rifles but decided against it. He dragged the unconscious guards into an anteroom and snapped binders on their wrists.

    He met no resistance inside the hospital wing. The routine continued as normal, and he nodded to a pair of wounded clones as he walked passed, heading for the labs where the Kaminoans stored the chemical used for terminating defective clones.

    “Hey you!”

    Fives turned. Three security troopers were running in his direction.

    “You’re under arrest.”

    Fives didn’t bother with a reply. His instincts and training took over. He darted forward, grabbing the barrel of a DC-15 rifle and wrenching it from the grip of the trooper who held it. He swung the heavy blaster in a wide arc and smashed it into the face of a second trooper.

    A clone sergeant raised his blaster. Fives rolled and swung his improvised club into the sergeant’s leg, sweeping him off his feet. Dropping the blaster he leapt on top of the man and rammed an armoured fist into the soft flesh of the man’s windpipe.

    A blaster bolt sizzled over Fives’ shoulder. Three more troopers were sprinting towards him. He flicked his eyes at the smoking hole in the floor where the blaster bolt had struck. From this distance there was no way any clone could have missed. That had been his one and only warning shot. They wouldn’t miss twice.

    “Stand down or we will use deadly force.”

    Fives flexed his fingers. He was wearing his pistols. He could kill all of the troopers, but he didn’t want to. There had to be another way. That’s what Rex always said: try and look for an alternative…

    “On your knees, hands behind your head.”

    There had to be a way out of this. There had to be, he just needed to find it…

    A blaster bolt flashed past his helmet and struck the lead trooper in the chest. He collapsed with a muffled groan. The remaining troopers lifted the muzzles of their blasters but a storm of blue bolts filled the corridor. Fives dropped, ducking beneath the flashing energy. The security troopers went down beneath the massed fire. Rolling to one side Fives looked over his shoulder.

    “Thought you could maybe use a hand sir.” Keen leaned down and helped Fives to his feet. The rest of Fury squad ran forward and secured the fallen troopers. Fives saw they were carrying their training rifles. The troopers would be badly scorched but there would be no casualties.

    “What are you doing here?”

    “Lending a hand,” said Popper. “We had a talk with the members of Shark squad. They aren’t happy about what’s happening to their teammate.”
    “Somehow I thought you might try something like this,” added Keen. “We decided you might need some help.”

    “You could all be ejected from the program for this.”

    “Sir, I think we’re probably pretty fragged already,” said Keen, waving his blaster at the trussed up troopers on the ground. “Besides, we figured we’d rather get court-martialled for doing the right thing than sit in our barracks.”

    Fives looked around at the faces. His face. The cadets of Fury squad stared back, their faces grim but determined.

    “Alright. Let’s do this.” Fives stooped to pick up a dropped rifle. “Swap your weapons for the troopers’. Make sure they’re set to stun. No clone dies today, understood?”

    “SIR YES SIR!”

    “You look ready. Let’s go.”
    *​
    The chambers where the Kaminoans performed the sinister duty of terminating defective clones were located deep in the heart of Tipoca City where the hatcheries and hospital wing joined. Most clones avoided the area and Fives and Fury squad met no resistance as they advanced, rifles held at the ready.

    Fives was just starting to think they would encounter no opposition when a stun bolt zapped over his shoulder. Instinctively he flattened himself to the corridor wall and fired back without aiming, hoping to drive the shooter to find cover before he had a chance at a second shot. The cadets did the same and the hallway filled with the whine of stun bolts. The security troopers were gathered at an intersection, using the turn in the corridor as cover, much better than the scant protection offered by recessed doorways and flat walls that Fury squad were using.

    Fives pulled a flash-bang grenade from his belt. Good for scrambling a droids sensors for a few vital seconds, they were just as effective against clones, even though the troopers helmets were capable of filtering out some of the blast. He set the grenade to detonate on impact.

    “Cover me!” he called to Fury squad. The cadets poured fire down the corridor while Fives took a long step out and lobbed the grenade at their attackers. The metal sphere tumbled though the air, hit the floor and went off. Searing white light erupted along with a deafening blast of sound and the fire from the intersection ceased.

    “Come on!”

    Fives and Keen led the way, firing their blasters as they moved. It didn’t take long to secure the intersection. A few of the troopers had torn off their helmets and had their hands over their ears, blinking fuzzily up at the cadets.

    “Tie them up and hold this position. I’m going on to the lab.”

    “On your own?” said Popper

    “It’s what I’m trained for. Hold here and watch my back, I’m counting on you.”

    “We’ll get the job done sir.” Keen’s face was hard.

    “If they open up on you with blaster fire and not stun bolts don’t try to fight, give yourselves up and they won’t harm you.” Five looked around at the determined faces. They could all be court martialled for what they had done, maybe even shot, but he couldn’t think about that now. He had a job to do. “Today you aren’t cadets. Today you became soldiers and you’ve proved yourselves, at least you have to me.”

    The young clones looked at each other and if he didn’t know better he would have sworn their pride floated them a few inches off the floor.

    ‘Good luck Fives.”

    “Good luck yourself.”

    Fives moved cautiously towards the termination chamber. He had no idea what he would find ahead, there could be a battalion of troops waiting for him. He didn’t know much about what the Kaminoans did here, it wasn’t a subject he or any other clone dwelt on for long. Soldiers who suffered brain damage or injuries too horrific to repair were brought here, dressed in a simple white robe and escorted in by a doleful honour guard. Fives had heard stories, some of which he believed and others which he considered nonsense, about the clones the Kaminoans considered genetically abnormal. Whole batches of embryos were said to have been aborted if they deviated even slightly from the strict parameters of the genetic program. Sometimes a batch might be prone to developing heart conditions or other medical problems and these would be swiftly dealt with in order to keep the army pure. The monstrous power the Kaminoans wielded over their creations frightened Fives more than anything he had encountered on the battlefield.

    Taking a deep breath he keyed the door to the termination chamber.

    The room beyond was large. A complex lattice of pipes hung down from the high ceilings, no doubt leading to the hatcheries above. If a defective batch was identified they could be easily transferred to this chamber for abortion.

    Dropkick lay on a bed behind a glass partition, surrounded by a cluster of Kaminoans. He looked so small, his skin washed and pale in the bright light of the termination chamber, his hair combed neatly back from his scalp and for a moment Fives thought he was already gone. One of the Kaminoans leaned over and he saw her lips move. Dropkick opened his eyes and said something back but behind the soundproofed glass Fives couldn’t hear what they were saying. Shaak Ti and Admiral Tarkin stood on Fives’ side of the barrier observing the procedure. A pair of clones wearing ARC trooper armour flanked Tarkin and their faceless helmets twisted in Fives’ direction as he stepped into the room.

    “Fives wait,” said Shaak Ti, but Tarkin stepped across her.

    “Arrest him.”

    Something hit Fives hard in the back of the head. His knees hit the floor and he felt the weight of two men holding his arms in a duracrete grip. Another pair of ARC troopers had been standing either side of the door waiting for him. They yanked his arms into a lock and he grunted as they twisted his injured wrist. He strained his shoulders but the men tightened their grip.

    “Stand down ARC-5555,” said Tarkin in a voice of lazy authority.

    The ARC troopers weren’t messing around. An elbow dug into his neck, putting pressure on his carotid artery, threatening him with unconsciousness.

    “I can’t let you do it,” said Fives through gritted teeth.

    “Fives you have to listen to me...” Shaak Ti’s voice was drowned out by Tarkin’s

    “It's mutiny then.” Tarkin waved a dismissive hand. “Take ARC-5555 to the stockade. I will deal with him later.”

    “It’s Fives.”

    Tarkin raised an eyebrow. “I beg your pardon.”

    “My name. It's Fives.”

    The ARC trooper on his right was close enough for Fives to see his reflection in the expressionless faceplate. Fives shifted his weight from one knee to another and leaned back. The grip on his arms tightened. He threw himself forward, pulling the two men off balance. His shoulder hit the floor and he rolled, bringing his head up and butting one of the ARC troopers in the face. The man’s head snapped back and his hold on Fives’ arm loosened.

    Five moved with brutal efficiency. Twisting his arm free of the weakened grip he drove the palm of his hand into the second troopers chin. The ARC troopers recovered quickly, springing to their feet and dropping into fighting stances, but now Fives was on his feet too and his anger was raging and nothing could stop him now. He battered a series of vicious punches into the two clones, taking one down with a well aimed jab to the throat. He was almost blind now. All he could see were the faces of his fallen brothers and all he could hear were their screams as they died. Droidbait. Cutup. Hevy. Echo. And the others. So many he couldn’t begin to count them or remember their names, so many dead, all sharing the same face. His face. Dropkick’s face.

    The ARC troopers fell back before the ferocity of his attack. He was almost berserk, throwing kicks and punches at the three remaining clones. One of them brought up his rifle and took aim. Fives tore it out of his grip and smashed the butt into his helmet, cracking the trooper’s visor and sending him sprawling to the floor. Spinning the weapon he drove it into the stomach of another trooper, flicked the setting to stun and fired. At this close range even a stun setting could kill and the force of the bolt lifted the man off his feet.

    Fives was turning to face the last remaining trooper when an invisible wave of energy hit him with the force of a duracrete wall. Shaak Ti stood with her arm outstretched, her face set in a grim expression. The strength of the force push drove him to his knees.

    “Fives that’s enough. You’re too late...”

    He wasn’t listening. He was beyond listening. Beyond caring. The only thing he could hear was the creams of his dying brothers. The only thing he could see was Dropkick lying so pale and still on the other side of the glass. The only thing he could do was fight. And that’s what he did.

    Fives strained his shoulders, fighting against the invisible pressure Shaak Ti was exerting over him. He had seen Jedi in combat and knew what they were capable of, but they weren’t soldiers. They weren’t warriors. He was.

    It took a massive effort to raise his arm. He could feel the Jedi general tightening her grip, he felt her will overpowering him, tightening around his body like a massive fist. He lifted his hand and aimed his grappling gun. There was an audible pop and a thud as the cable fired and hit Shaak Ti in the chest. He felt her control snap and he was free. He exploded up from the floor, driving both fists into the belly of the ARC trooper standing over him, smashing all the breath from the man’s body.

    Fives reached down and drew one of his D-17 pistols from its holster, flicked off the safety catch and brought it up all in one smooth motion. Admiral Tarkin stared down the black eye of the barrel, his face serenely calm.

    “Call them off,” said Fives.

    “I'm afraid. I can’t do that.”

    Fives dug the blaster into Tarkin’s forehead. “Call them off.”

    “He can’t do it Fives.” He felt Shaak Ti’s hand on his shoulder. “The Kaminoans have already administered the treatment.”

    “It’s over trooper,” said Tarkin, and the bastard actually smiled. Fives felt his finger tighten on the trigger.

    Shaak Ti’s grip tightened. “Don’t do it Fives. This won’t help Dropkick. This was his decision, remember?”

    “I don’t care. It’s wrong.” Everything in Fives was telling him to pull the trigger. He had been genetically conditioned to obey orders but he couldn’t, not this time. He had let too many of his brothers down. He couldn’t fail again. He couldn’t...

    Slowly he lowered the weapon. As he did all the strength ebbed out of him, leaving behind only exhaustion and despair. He’d lost. After all his efforts he’d lost.

    He returned the pistol to its holster.

    The lab door opened and a platoon of clones marched in escorting the cadets of Fury squad. A clone sergeant saluted Admiral Tarkin and General Shaak Ti.

    “We have apprehended the mutineers sir.”

    “Did you sustain any casualties?” asked Shaak Ti.

    “Negative General. The cadets used stun bolts only. There were some minor injuries but no fatalities.”

    Tarkin stepped forward. “Take these defective clones to the stockade. I will arrange court martial proceedings.”

    “With all due respect Admiral, this is my command,” said Shaak Ti. She looked at the members if Fury squad. “Sergeant, please escort Fury squad back to their barracks.
    They are to remain confined there until I decide what disciplinary action to take against them.”

    “I must protest General! These are mutineers. They should be charged with treason and executed.”

    “I assure you Admiral there will be a full enquiry into today’s event and the members of Fury squad will receive a stiff punishment for their misguided actions today. However, they have also exemplified the fierce loyalty and courage we expect of all our soldiers and I must respect that.”

    “I will be lodging an official complaint with the Jedi council over this matter, and I will personally speak to Chancellor Palpatine.”

    “You do that. In the meantime, you are dismissed.”

    Tarkin opened his mouth but Shaak Ti turned to face him and he closed it again. She still outranked him. He nodded stiffly. “General.”

    The clones stood aside respectfully as Tarkin swept out if the room, then the cadets and their trooper guards about turned and marched after him. The ARC troopers were picking themselves up off the floor looking dazed. Shaak Ti turned to Fives.

    “I’m sorry things turned out this way.”

    “I couldn’t save him.” Fives stared at the ground. “I couldn’t save any of them.”

    “This was his decision. We have to respect that.”

    “Can I see him?”

    Shaak Ti tilted her head as though considering for a moment, then nodded. Fives tapped the control panel and a section of glass slid back. The Kaminoans turned to look at him.

    “Leave us,” said Shaak Ti.

    The Kaminoans bowed and left without a word. Shaak Ti turned to leave also. “Take as much time as you need.”

    Five approached the bed. He sensed the hum of power in the air coming from the massive Tipoca City generators just a few levels below his feet. A tray of surgical instruments lay out nearby. Probably the Kaminoans hoped to perform an autopsy to study the boy’s injury. Dropkick opened his eyes. The brightness in them was dim, and he blinked heavily as though fighting his sleep.

    “Hello ARC trooper Fives.”

    “Hello yourself.”

    “Master Shaak Ti said you wouldn’t be able to come and see me.”

    “As if they could stop me.”

    “I’m glad you came.”

    Fives' face was hot and fuzzy. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.”

    “You did.” Dropkick’s voice was faint. “You told me stories. I liked them.”

    “I could’ve done more. I was going to... I was going to save you.”

    “This was my choice. Besides, you sort of did save me.”

    “How?”

    “I was really thirsty.”

    Fives smiled his lopsided smile. “We’re brothers. Brothers look out for each other.”

    “Fives?”

    “Yeah kid?”

    “I’m scared.”

    “It’s alright, so am I.”

    “But you’re an ARC trooper. You can’t be scared.”

    “I am scared all the time Dropkick. Maybe that’s why I’ve outlived so many if my brothers. They were braver than me.”

    “I think you’re pretty brave.”

    “I think you are too.”

    “Fives?”

    “Can you tell me some more stories?”

    “Sure kid. Whatever you want.” Five pulled out a stool and sat next to the bed. There was something in the back of his throat which made it difficult to talk and his eyes prickled, but he forced a smile and began to speak.

    He talked for a long time and the boy listened, his eyes growing heavy. Soon he closed his eyes. Tugging off his glove, Fives laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder to let him know that he was still there and kept telling his story. He went on even after the boy’s breathing slowed and stopped and he lay still on the bed, his face calm and relaxed as though he was only sleeping.

    *​
    Fives lay in his bunk, staring up at the light playing on the ceiling cast by the turmoil of a Kaminoan storm. He was alone. Totally alone. He felt the full weight of his thirteen years crushing him. It almost made him smile. At thirteen most humans were still in school playing games of hoverball or grav-sleding. They didn’t know how harsh the galaxy was yet.

    The com unit on his desk bleeped.

    “ARC-5555 there is an incoming transmission for you.”

    Fives dragged himself to a sitting position. “Go.”

    Light stabbed up from the unit and formed into the blurry shape of a clone wearing battle scarred armour.

    “Hello Shiny.”

    “Captain Rex.” Fives couldn’t suppress a smile at seeing his friends face. “It’s good to see you.”

    “You too Fives.”

    “Are you still on the front?”

    “We’re resupplying near Ord Mantel. We’ve had some fierce fighting but nothing compared with what you’ve been through I think.”

    “You heard about what happened?”

    “Are you kidding? There are rumours from Kamino to Coruscant about it.”

    “They’re probably all true.”

    “So you really took on a battalion of ARC troopers with just a handful of cadets?”

    “It wasn’t a battalion. More like four.”

    “You should stick to the rumours, they sound more impressive.”

    Fives shifted uncomfortably. “What are the men saying?”

    “They respect what you did but not how you did it. We’re engineered to follow orders and what you did went against every instinct we’ve got.’

    “Can I ask you something Rex?”

    Rex shrugged “The Republic’s paying for this transmission, not me.”

    “Have you ever wondered how much of who we think we are is just genetic programming? We value our honour and comradeship above everything else but isn’t that just how we were designed?”

    “Sure it’s how we were designed, but that doesn’t make our sense of honour any less real.’ Rex scratched a hand over his closely-shaved scalp. One side of his skull was dotted with half-healed scabs from recent fighting. “The Kaminoan’s don’t have any sense of honour or loyalty. That all comes from us.”

    “Yeah… maybe.”

    “If we really were just the result of genetic programming and behavioural algorithms you would never have been able to break the rules the way you did. Whether the Kaminoan’s and the Jedi like it we’ve become more than the soldiers they created. We’ve become individuals.”

    Maybe Rex was right. The clones were not the automatons that the Kaminoan’s would prefer them to be, they were growing, evolving in ways no-one could have predicted. They were a race of indentured slaves to the Republic and Fives realised that he had a duty to protect his brothers, on the battlefield and off it.

    “In some ways that makes it harder,’ said Fives. “It would be much easier to just let go of CT-21-0408 or CT-9993-67. It’s much harder to let go of Echo and Dropkick.”
    “That’s part of being a soldier Fives. Watching the people we care about get killed. But we do it so that other people don’t have to go through that, to protect innocent people. That means something.”

    “What meaning was there in Dropkick’s death? What purpose did it serve?”

    Rex sighed, and for a moment Fives thought his friend seemed to have aged twenty years. Even in the flickering hologram he could see Rex’s face was gaunt and his shoulders slouched. “I wish I had an answer for you Fives. I wish I could make sense out of this whole damn war but I can’t anymore. I think if nothing else, meeting that boy will make you a better man. Learn from his bravery and fight for all your brothers. They’re your family, your home.”

    “When did you get so wise all of a sudden?”

    Rex smiled. “Must be getting old or something.”

    “Why did you call anyway?”

    “Ever heard of a planet called Umbara?”

    Fives rolled the name around in his head. “Gloomy place. Carnivorous plants. Unfriendly natives.”

    “That’s the one. General Kenobi and General Skywalker have been ordered to take it away from the Seps and to be honest I could use a good ARC trooper in my company. Figured you’d want to get away from Kamino for a while.”

    “Yeah, I could sure use a vacation. It might help to work of some tension on some clankers.”

    “Good. I want you on the first transport out here. The 501st needs you back. And Fives…”

    “Sir?”

    “You did the right thing Fives. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. They won’t truly be gone you know. Echo, Hevy, Dropkick. Not so long as you remember them.”

    “I know. Thanks Rex.”

    “Get out here as soon as you can. Rex out.”

    The hologram faded, leaving Fives in the darkness of his room. He looked out through the driving rain and over Tipoca City. Finally he was going back to where he belonged, back to the war. Back to the slaughter.

    “But who will there be to remember me?”
     
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  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Amazing characterization and seamless fits in to the CW timeline. =D= Very well written. laloga is another one with great CW fics. "The Fighting Kind" and "Worth Fighting For" are delightful reads featuring Rex, Fives and the others. @};-
     
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  8. gaarastar58

    gaarastar58 Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 19, 2010
    Thanks for the feedback! I remember watching the Krell story arc and thinking that Fives was a lot more independent and even rebellious than the other clones and he is a surprisingly fun character to write. I enjoyed the Clone Wars series because the whole morality of the clone army was never really touched on in the movies and they were my favourite characters.
     
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  9. CheckSix

    CheckSix Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 15, 2015
    Fantastic. I think it really sets things up well for the Fives we see in the Umbara arc. I love your story-telling style. It's vivid and precise, well balanced between dialogue, description, and insight into the characters. Honestly, I could read stories like this about the clones all day. Funny thing . . . I had a relatively neutral view of Fives (except in Rookies) for most of TCW, but I think this made him much more likeable for me. I especially like the references to Echo's loss and how it affected him. My favorite line: "You Jedi like to pretend that you’re all compassion and selflessness but when it comes down to it you’re quite happy to sacrifice us to save yourselves.” It honestly does seem that way for a lot of Jedi, so I thought this was actually a poignant and accurate observation. Very enjoyable story.
     
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  10. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Ugh. Tarkin [face_sick] The man is so infuriatingly obnoxious and you write him perfectly. But then I loved how Shaak Ti put him back in his place!

    This is again one of those stories where there is a lot to unpack, probably far too much for my tired brain on a Friday afternoon. It's difficult to combine credibly the idea that clones are *made* for a specific purpose, yet are individuals with distinct personalities in the true sense of the word. In this story you approached the themes of disability, PTSD, personal identity and bioethics with grace and delicacy from many different perspectives, and in doing so you gave Fives's character a lot of depth.
     
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