Product Fault

By Rookie-one

Rated PG-13 for minor violence

The first in a long string of incidents which leads to the replacement of Clonetroopers with Human-recruited Stormtroopers

Colonel Nal looked over the metal railing proudly; his narrow eyes taking into account the thousands of Clone Troopers that marched before him, the cold clanking of their boots sending shivers down his spine. He shuffled slightly, twisting his polished boot heel on the shiny floor, his mind suddenly a million miles away as he thought of the immense power the Empire now wielded with these armies of super soldiers. The Rebel alliance would not last long, even with the support of the Trade and mining federations, against such raw power.

He suddenly snapped back to attention as something caught the corner of his eye. It was a single Clone Trooper, marching away from his battle group, swerving erratically. The other Clone troopers did not react but instead continued their march, past the Combat regulator and out the door to the training grounds. The huge metal shield doors hissed shut behind them, and Nal frowned as he raised his head to look questionably at the technicians in the suspended control bay opposite him at the other side of the hall. They shrugged helplessly, randomly keying in commands into the command console to no effect. The second engineer raised his arms in defeat, and they all peered over the restricting railings at the Clone trooper twelve meters below.

He continued to march towards the wall, but when he was precisely one meter away he threw down his rifle. He stopped for a brief moment, and then threw him self against the wall. He rebounded off it hard, stumbling back, before rushing at the wall again, this time deliberately cracking his helmeted head against the hard steel. He staggered back after this particularly aggressive move, and then punched the wall with his right fist, repeatedly, until the white palm covering was cracked and broken, blood seeping through the vents. The strikes made hollow knocking sounds, as they echoed throughout the massive hall.

It was a deeply disturbing display, and Nal stumbled backwards, out the bay door and down the slim stairs onto the plant floor. There were several technicians and officers already running towards the demented soldier, and Nal increased his pace, his heart thudding in his chest. His throat was dry, and his chest felt strangely constricted.

He reached the outer ring of the flocking crowd, pushing his way through to the front. The clone trooper suddenly stopped and looked around. Blood dripped slowly from his destroyed hand, forming a little puddle beside his boot. He looked directly at Nal, and the lieutenant felt a chill run down his back, causing an involuntary twitch in his right leg.

No one spoke or moved until the Facility commanding officer stepped into the rough circle. He pointed at the Clone, and slowly opened his mouth, speaking in calm, clear tones.

"Tk-231, step away from the wall," he ordered, frowning as the clone remained unresponsive. The crowd that had accumulated looked questionably from the officer to the trooper. There was a thick layer of foreboding in the atmosphere, and Nal swallowed slowly, licking his lips as he cracked his knuckles without even thinking was he was doing. He peered expectantly at the Trooper, and then flicked his eyes over to the officer quickly.

The officer tried again, reaching out to place a palm on the trooper's shoulder.

"Tk-231, please step away from the-" He never finished, as the second his hand made contact, the Clone jerked backwards, drawing back his bloody fist and slamming it straight into the officers face. There was a sickening crunch of both cracking bone and plastisteel. Fragments of the Clones palm armor flew in all directions like shrapnel, as the officer spun around crazily and crashed to the floor. Blood jetted out in gouts as he held his face, eyes rolling wildly in his head.

For a second nobody moved, until the clone trooper made to jump onto the injured officer. Several technicians dived onto him, intercepting the trooper in mid air like an obscene sports tackle. There was another nauseating crunch of cracking bones, but the Clone went down, hard. He smashed his helmet off the steel floor, and it cracked right down the middle, although not splitting. He was clearly disorientated and dazed, as he shakily tried to climb to his feet.

A rifle butt suddenly flew across the air, making an empty whooshing sound, connecting with the Clones head with a reverberating crack. The helmet finally shattered, falling from the trooper's face like a kind of bizarre decay. His eyes were bloodshot and ringed with purple bruises; dark blood oozing from a mouth permanently twisted into an evil snarl. Once again he tried to rise, and was met again with a vicious swing from a rifle butt. His face seemed to explode. A fine jet blood sprayed outward, his nose cracking violently out of shape. He spun around, staggered forward on pure momentum and collapsed.

After what seemed an eternity of silence, Nal stepped forward uncertainly, nervously and involuntarily drumming his fingers on his pants. He stooped beside the fallen body, glancing behind him. Several dozen of the technicians were looking at him expectantly. The engineer with the Clone's discarded blaster rifle stood at the ready, rifle aimed at the fallen trooper, the heavy stock splashed with blood. He took several deep gulps of air, arms half poised in the air. HE grabbed and hauled the body over as fast as possible, then ripped away his hands as if he had just been shocked.

The clone trooper was unresponsive, as his head rolled over lazily to one side. His face was a mess of blood and bruises. Nal nodded his head slightly, and stood up slowly.

"Get a Medi-vac over here," he said wearily, removing his cap and running a hand through his cropped hair. He motioned to the blaster-wielding engineer, and jerked a thumb back towards the lifeless form on the ground. The engineer nodded knowingly and advanced towards the trooper, rifle still held in front of him. He stood over the body; rifle leveled at the torso.

Nal gave him a brief nod, and then strode past the thin wall of technicians that watched him with interest. A medical team, one of the aides holding a cloth up to his face, surrounded Major Cronor, who was still in a half-sitting position. It was already soaked through with blood. A large purple bruise was already forming around his lower eyelids and the bridge of his nose. Nal cringed inwardly as he thought of what the face looked like behind the rag. He knelt down beside one of the medical aides, acknowledging Cronor with a curt nod. The Medical Aide looked over at him and shook his head. "It must have been a damn hard punch," he whispered, "his nose is completely shattered. Pieces of cartilage have pierced the inner tough tissue multiple times."

He passed a hypo-termini needle to one of the other medical staff, who promptly eased it into Cronor's left cheek. The medical aide winced. "He sure isn't going to be looking pretty again for quite some time, I can tell you," he whispered again in a confidential tone. Nal nodded slowly. "Yeah," he replied knowingly, standing up and absently brushing down his pants. He walked over to the immobile Major, saluting lightly despite himself. Cronor looked at him sullenly, and opened his mouth to speak. A dribble of blood ran down his chin and hit the floor with a soft plink. He was missing several teeth, Nal noticed almost immediately.

"What-" he began in a cracked voice, before stopping and coughing hoarsely, "-the hell happened, Lieutenant Nal?"

Nal let his eyes drop to the floor, and shook his head. "I don't know," he stuttered eventually, "I have no idea what could have caused it. Faulty gene maybe." He looked at Cronor's ruined face again, before hastily adding "Sir."

Cronor didn't reply, and Nal dismissed himself, turning and walking back the way he had come, past the lifeless clone trooper, past the group of injured technicians that had intercepted him and into the service elevator. He went to his quarters, and didn't once look back, although something was indeed compelling him to do so; the very thought of the clone trooper, punching the wall, again, again and again, punching it so hard that his knuckles bled and his bones brokeā€¦.