Distress beacon activated

"We are getting a distress signal." Tech stated having been manning the helm for a while, despite the ship being in hyper space and on autopilot.

The others soon gathered around the cockpit, after hearing Tech calling out his findings. The squad had been flying back from finishing their latest mission for Cid. Dropping off the goods and picking up their reward. And now, on their way to the base of Rex's, which the Batch called their home.

That had been their plan, until the homing beacon had popped up on their scanners.

"We're in hyperspace, how is it even possible?" Hunter asked, curious as they were practically out in nowhere space, without any inhabited planets nearby.

"Where is it coming from?" Echo had already made his way to the co-pilot seat, checking the navigational console.

Tech punched in a few keys and brought up the holo image of the nearby systems they were flying through.

"A planet called Tauri 4." Tech pinpointed out the exact location and brought it to the holo map for everyone to see. "It is an ice planet, void of life." He added to clarify, or not, to the confusion of things.

"We have to respond." Omega was quick on her feet. "Someone is in trouble." Being the empathetic one she always was.

"I agree." Echo quipped. "Whomever it is, they clearly are in the wrong place and need our help."

Both sets of eyes were on Hunter now, only waiting for the Sergeant to give the order.

Tech was still concentrating on the readings and had made several new scans while the rest of them were debating whether to render assistance to whomever was down on the frozen planet.

"I am getting some curious readings." Tech's comment was rather vague.

"What do you mean curious readings?" Echo's question curt, never too happy to hear the trademark imprecise comments coming out of Tech, wanting them to be more clear at get go.

"Well," Tech punched in a few more keys before he nodded and turned to the several leaned in shipmates waiting for Tech only to finish his sentence and clarify what he really had meant.

"It seems that the distress beacon is that of a clone trooper. And old one for sure, but still, I have confirmed it is one to have been used years ago." Tech looked back at the rest of the crew staring back at him eyes wide.

"A clone trooper? Out here?" Wrecker was the first to react.

"Take the ship out of hyperspace." Hunter ordered. "Echo and Omega are right, we need to go and check out whomever is out there in need of help."

Crosshair rolled his eyes. "Tech clearly said it was an old distress beacon. Whomever is down there, could very well be dead. Long since passed."

Crosshair was being his usual cooperative self. But Echo and Omega gave him a stern glare, their nonverbal response could not have been more clear.

"Crosshair could be right." Tech defended him though. "It is an old signal and this planet, is far from any space routes. And need I remind you all, that we are running low on fuel."

Tech made a note of it again as they had made a detour picking up a package for Rex while already en route back. Not taking that into an account while still on Ord Mantell and taking on the go juice for the Marauder, and their reserves were indeed running low.

"We, are here. Using this space to fly through." Echo then reminded Tech. "Besides, running low on anything never stopped us before." He sounded possibly more grumpier than usual.

Echo was not taking this thing well. At all. The fact that Tech was the one speaking against going down to the planet in search of possible clones in distress. Regs, as the Batchers still referred to the regular clone troopers. And this was despite the very fact, that the squad had been assisting Rex in multiple ops saving several hundreds of clone troopers already. The regular clones, the regs.

"I was merely stating the facts, for your reference."

Tech could see the anger in Echo's eyes, something he did not like to see there. Knowing well, how much it meant for his partner to save all the clones they could. But then again, even Echo knew, they could not save them all. And not everyone wanted to be saved. Then again, this one or ones, were sending out the distress signal.

Echo sighed heavily. He was furious of course. After seeing all the damage the Empire had caused the clones they had started to phase out. Echo had been in a mood ever since they had started working with Rex on a larger scale. Saving the regs. Despite the small victories they had made along the way, it was simply too much to handle. For anyone.

Tech gave Echo and apologetic glance. Knowing, that Tech's simple fact stating had upset Echo. Or at least, added to the ever growing pile of things. Placing his hand on top of Echo's in a silent effort to let him know, Tech was still on his side and they were in this all, together.

"Tech, take the ship out hyperspace. We are going to check this signal out." Hunter stated again. "It's an order." He added just to be clear.

And with that the debate whether to get down on the planet or not, was over.

Cold as Hoth

"This is totally wonderful!" Omega exclaimed in utter awe as this was the first time she had actually seen a place so icy and frozen in time. "It's so… cold and it melts into water!"

Omega had grabbed a handful of the fluffy white substance and was watching it melt in the warmth of her palm. She stood there for a moment simply revelling in the moment of the miracle of that which was, snow.

"Come on Omega, put your gloves on before you yourself freeze." Hunter reminded the Kid of the dangers they might be facing if they weren't quick about their task ahead.

"Why would anyone want to come to this place?" Crosshair snarled, the cold seeping in to his bones. "It's karking freezing!"

Stating the obvious of course!

It was cold, because it was an ice planet. The temperatures way below zero constantly, the ice never melting. There were no stars heating the surface and the mode of the atmosphere was that of a constant dusky dim light.

The squad had their helmet lights on to be able to see where they were threading. As it was, they had left the Marauder a short distance away from where the signal was emanating from. As a precaution. Just in case there were hostiles lurking around. One could never be too careful with the Empire around.

"This way." Tech motioned running constant scans of the surrounding area. "It's not far as the beacon's signal is quite strong now."

As they moved forward in the snowy white scenery, they could see a mountain rising from the frozen ground. Covered, naturally, with the same stuff as the rest of the surroundings.

"The beacon's signal is originating from in there." Tech motioned to the peak now visible to them all. "I suspect there is some cave system inside, but the scanners aren't able to find anything tangible." Tech enlightened the others. "It seems, that our scans are blocked. The only thing penetrating through, is the beacon."

"Blocked?" Wrecker asked confused. "We are in the middle of nowhere and there is nothing or no one here. Why would anyone need to block anything?"

"Well, it could be a natural occurrence of course." Tech was thinking of the possibilities. "But my credits are on something or someone doing it on purpose."

"Oh goody!" Crosshair snarled.

Crosshair being not a happy camper as per his usual. But if it meant imperials lurking around, as they had hidden facilities all over the galaxy? After all, Crosshair was none to keen on having yet another unexpected and unprepared run-in with his former employers. It was different when there was a plan for rescue and all the backup they needed. But being here, in the middle of nowhere? Without too much in means to defend themselves? Well, suffice to say, Crosshair was not feeling it. At all.

"We need to see who is in there." Echo countered. "We have gone into worse situations with less support." Echo reminded them all then, and of whom they really were. "It is what we do."

"Alright, let's try to find an entrance then." Hunter wasn't about to leave someone behind either, not any more. And certainly not, if there was even a slight chance in saving them.

The Bad Batch had managed to find the way inside the mountain. It had been rather easy in the end, as the beacon's signal was the key. Tech having made a few speculative computations and finding the correct spot for their possible way inside. In the end, it had only been a matter of moving a large size, snow covered stone slate and then, they found themselves inside a cavernous structure. Which seemed to be carved there by someone rather than be of a natural formation.

"Tech?" Hunter was waiting for the man to finish his scans as they were all standing in what seemed to be the entryway to a long hallway leading deep into the mountain.

"Hold your horses Sarge, I am scanning." Tech simply informed Hunter.

It seemed that they had found more than they had bargained for. The mountain side was clear a construct of sorts. But for what, remained unknown. As they reached the inside of it, the scans were applicable to them. As whatever had been blocking them before, were only affecting the scans on the outside.

"Alright, I have some good news and some bad news." Tech glanced up from his hand held device. "Which do you want first?"

"Bad!" "Good!" The cacophony of the others divided responses filled the cave area they were currently occupying, echoing from the rock back at them.

"Good." Hunter clarified.

Hunter was, after all, the one making the decisions, even if it was sometimes difficult with everyone having their own strong opinions. The command structure rather flexible these days.

"Very well." Tech replied to him. "The good news is, that the beacon is definitely in this structure and it should be relatively easy to track it down, as the whatever it was blocking the scanners before is gone."

"And the bad news?" It was Echo asking, only too eager to have a look-see as to whom it was being in distress and needing help.

"Well," Tech checked his scanner again, but the results had not changed since the last time he had made the scans. Looking back at the waiting team, he revealed the bad news. "This structure, was built before the Imperial regime. And, if my readings are correct, this was a Separatist facility."

There was a moment of silence, each of them digesting the news Tech had just revealed.

"What does it mean for us, exactly?" Wrecker had lost the thread of this train of thought the others seemed to be still following.

"Well, I don't see it matters really." Echo did not care at this point whom had built or used the facility as the more important thing was the beacon, a clone trooper beacon sending the distress signal. "Our duty is to get to the troopers and get them out them out of here."

Echo was sure they would be find some there. After all, it would not have been the first time the Separatist had captured clone troopers and kept them captive. Perhaps someone had been left behind after the war had ended and those guarding them had fled ignoring their prisoners. Only hoping they would be found alive.

"I agree with Echo." Hunter said. "We need to go and see who it is we are dealign with. And rule out any false signal."

After all, if it was something left behind by accident, they needed to make sure the beacon was stopped from sending signals of ghosts from the past.

Something lost and found

The team had managed to hike across the spiralling hallways inside the mountain structure, finding it was indeed made rather than formed. Reminiscent of some sort of an outpost housing several storage rooms, barracks and only a few data areas. The technology seemed to have long since broken down. But as they tracked across the structure, they found a lift, which was still operative.

"It seems there are two floors beneath this one." Tech informed his findings once again.

"Alright, then we go and check them out." Hunter ordered. "Crosshair, Echo, you are with me for the second level. Tech, Wrecker and Omega, take the first level."

As they entered the lift, the first group was left off on the first underground level. Hunter and his group continued to the second one. Descending down and exiting the car, the three of them entered an area which had clearly served as some kind of a laboratory.

Moving carefully around the area, so not to trigger anything just in case. They could see the few consoles and bio beds there, all in various states of decay. As they moved on along the room, Crosshair found a door.

"Shall we check this out?" He asked.

"We'd better." Hunter told him.

Crosshair pressed the keys on the pad and the door hissed open. There was darkness behind it only.

"It looks like another corridor."

Crosshair directed his riffle light towards the inside so they could all see what was there. Which was pretty much nothing at first glance.

"Let's check it out anyway." Echo urged them.

"Fine." Hunter stated as they stepped inside one by one.

As they did, the lights started coming on. Walking along, in a neat single file formation they could see what the hallway was all about. It wasn't just another corridor, but a storage room of sorts. Only this one, was filled with humanoid bodies.

"I, this…" Hunter was baffled as were the other two. "Looks like a tomb."s

"Who are all these people?" Echo could not recognise any them, as clearly, they were not clones.

"Well, whomever they are, they certainly aren't alive anymore." Crosshair stated with a hint of sadness perhaps in his tone, respecting the corpses of those long since passed.

The life sign indicators had long since ceased to function and from the looks of them, the bodies were in various states of decay.

That was until the trio reached the very end of the line of the row of humanoids being kept inside their coffins. There was one pod there, which had a clear signal on it still.

"We found the beacon." Echo's voice was hoarse as he stepped closer to the one with the lights on.

As even if the murky substance of the pod was hiding the person inside to some extent, Echo had a gut feeling it was their missing trooper.

Echo, Crosshair and Hunter exchanged glances.

"Tech, you better get down there." Hunter commed Tech then. "We found what we were looking for."

It only took a few moments when the other three joined the group who had found the source of the distress signal. Both Tech and Echo were working on the panel to figure out how they could get the clone out from there, as clearly, the life sing monitor had indicated them to be alive inside the pod.

"I think I've got it." Tech finally said after some fashion of hacking the system. Finally figuring out how, with out the least amount of stress, to open the pod and get their trooper out. At least, they now assumed it was a clone as the distress signal was emanating from this exact pod.

"Here goes."

Tech tapped in the final string of commands and they all heard the hissing sound of the pod doors opening. The murky looking liquid being drained though the floor of the pod itself and leaving a half naked humanoid body exposed to the air, with their back facing the squad. Hanging from by a few strings in place.

"Wrecker, Crosshair! Help me to get him out." Echo was already halfway inside the pod, as what they could see, the body structure was reminiscent of a clone.

The three of them quickly freed the trooper and gently grabbed a hold of the body, taking it out of the pod and placing it onto the ground on their side, with their face turned towards the floor.

Tech applied his scans over the clone. "He is alive, but unconscious. But we need to get him some medical care sooner than later."

"Can we revive him?" Echo was eager to get the trooper back among the living.

"I would not advise that at them moment." Tech stated simply.

Knowing well, how worried Echo must be, seeing a trooper kept in such conditions and being left for dead. Not unlike what Echo himself had experienced. Even if it was under somewhat different circumstances. They were only too lucky this was the only clone who had been kept in the facility, as the rest of the pods only housed dead people, none of them clones.

"We need to figure out a way to bring him back to the ship." Hunter said.

"Maybe there is something we can use. Clothing, blankets, even a stretcher around here?" Echo wanted to leave the place as quickly as possible.

"Everyone start looking." Hunter ordered the team.

It did not take long for them to find the needed supplies. Blankets and a hover stretcher, which they could use to bring the clone back to the ship.

"Do you think this is enough to fend off the cold out there?" Omega asked seeing the clone having been all bundled up and lying on the stretcher with the efforts of Hunter, Crosshair and Wrecker.

Tech looked at the neat package then, nothing peeking out as there were several layers of protective covers on top of the clone.

"I would say so." Tech estimated.

"Alright everyone. Let's get move out." Hunter then ordered. "Wrecker, you know what to do."

Wrecker smirked and pulled out his backpack with the care package he carried with him, always.

"Sir, yes sir!"

Placing the several explosives as the squad quickly made their way out of. Leaving the facility intact was not an option.

Familiar faces in new places

The trip back to the Marauder had been quick and easy. Their patient strapped securely in the back of the ship while Tech and Echo remained with him, waiting to start checking the clone and making sure they were taken care off. As he needed fluids and Tech needed to make sure the clones vitals remain stable during the trip to the base.

But first things first and that was to leave the planet as soon as possible. Crosshair and Hunter were manning the helm while Wrecker stood ready with the detonator. Only waiting for the Marauder to get into a safe distance before he would blow the whole facility to kingdom come.

It did not take long before the Marauder reached the upper atmosphere and then, Wrecker pushed the button.

"Boom!" Wrecker simply exclaimed as they felt the tail end of the blast's shockwave shake the ship slightly.

Omega nodded to him. Only too glad to leave the icy planet behind as the snow did not seem nearly as intriguing as it had been. Not after finding the dead people in their tombs. Knowing it had most likely been some kind of an experiment lab for the Separatists, using their captives as test subjects for whatever purposes.

"We are entering hyperspace." Crosshair informed the others and soon enough, the familiar jolt could be felt and the shimmering light corridor appeared onto the viewport of the cockpit.

Meanwhile, Tech and Echo had started on their patient. Echo had placed a few portable heaters around the stretcher, ensuring that the clone would be warm enough. As they needed to remove the many layers of blankets Hunter and the other two had rolled around the man. Cutting each layer off as rolling the patient was not an option in his delicate condition.

It took a few moments before they had removed several layers off, leaving the last one to be removed. Their patient was still lying on his side, the last blanket covering most of his head. But before they started, Echo wanted to be sure it was warm enough for the clone to do so. Even if the two of them were starting to get a tad hot and sweaty.

"Will he be alright if we take this last one off of him?" Echo asked worried.

Tech smiled at his partner. Having seen the myriad of feelings Echo had experienced on this brief rescue mission of theirs. It had been far more personal for Echo than most of them this time around. And Tech was well aware of it. Knowing Echo so well by now and being rather tuned into his emotional array as it were. At least Tech liked to think so, as that was what being a good partner was all about in his mind.

"Don't worry. It is warm enough in here." Tech assured Echo. "His vitals albeit faint, are quite stable. But we need to make sure they stay that way and that is why I need to run proper scans on him to deduce what if anything we can do before we get to the base and him into proper medial care."

Echo nodded in response, feeling a bit better knowing quite well how good a medic Tech really was, among other things. Having made several improvements to Echo's own cybernetics and mostly taking care of them all whenever someone was injured.

"Alright, here goes nothing."

Echo started removing the last piece of cloth covering the clone. As he reached the final pieces, covering the face of the unconscious man, he could see the familiar features emerging from beneath the blanket. The beard was thick and covering half his face. His hair all grown out rather long, threads hanging on top of his features. Dark in colour like most regular clones. But there was no mistaking, this was definitely a clone.

"Let's move him on his back." Tech suggested.

As the two of them gently positioned the clone so that he was lying on his back, the airways unhindered and the lean body lax. His breathing was shallow but regular. Tech quickly started his scans again, checking each and every part of the man. There were several already healed wounds on him. Most likely from the experiments the clone had endured. But there was one particular scar on his chest, which looked like a healed blaster wound.

"Well, he is as good as he can be at the moment." Tech then told the worried looking Echo, who had only been waiting for Tech's scan results. "Of course there is no telling how long he was in there. But I would estimate a full recovery, once we get him under proper care." Tech let out a hint of a smile then, before adding. "He needs fluids of course so I will have to insert the cannula for that."

Echo nodded and let out a sigh of relief.

"That is good news." He then stated as he looked Tech do his thing.

But Echo kept on looking at the clone. There was something about the man there, Echo could not put his finger on. Of course, most regs looked alike, part form the distinguishing tattoos, scars and hairdos. But this one did not seem to have any on him. Nothing Echo could see.

"Any idea who he is?" Echo dared to hope, but of course it was impossible for either of them to figure that out with what little resources they had on the Marauder.

"I cannot say." Tech told him. "The scanner does not reveal his true age. And well, we really don't have an extensive database of all the clones the Kaminoans produced on board the Marauder."

Echo simply nodded. After all, it had been a stupid question to ask anyway.

After making sure their rescued clone was comfortable, Tech and Echo had relieved Hunter and Crosshair from the helm. They still had a long way to go and flying in hyperspace on autopilot had caused most of them to dose off after a rather exiting mission they had just had. Tech having offered to take the first watch at the conn so that Echo too, could take a nap. It took a moment for the overly exited man to do so. But finally, Echo too, had fallen sleep.

Echo was dreaming.

He was back on Kamino. With his old squad. The Dominos. They were on Coruscant. They were celebrating after having finally managed to beat their arrival team in the training games. And so, the whole squad had made their way to the bar, 79's, and were having celebratory drinks.

After a few more rounds, the group had taken to the dance floor. As the night progressed, and the music turned to a more slow and sedate beat, Echo and his batch mate, Fives, had found themselves dancing close to each other. Swaying to the music, their bodies touching.

It did not take too long before Fives had made the move and pulled Echo in close enough, their bodies practically moulding to each other. The nearness of the other nothing new, except now, it was not because of comfort or warmth. It was more than that. It was very seductive and filled with suggestion.

Echo had been surprised at first, of Five's boldness. But seeing the same feelings he himself harboured reflected in the other man's eyes. Fives, his best friend for a long time. And now, with the promise of something more between them hanging in the air. And so, during that night, the two of them had taken the first step towards the more.

The two of them clinging onto each other in the gentle sway of the music up until the late hours of the night. Then finally retiring to their barracks. It was there when they had shared their first passionate kiss, which had led to a night of exploration of each others bodies. And after that night, the two of them had been inseparable. Sharing each other in both love and passion like only lovers could do.

Echo woke up with a start.

Echo glanced around the cockpit, but found he was alone in there. But that was not what worried him. No, what Echo had realised, of the dream he had just had? Was not a dream, but a memory. And what had triggered said memory? And right now?

Echo glanced at the viewport. They were still in hyperspace. As he got up from his seat and looked back towards the aft, he could see the others still sleeping as the soft snoring filled the space. And something else too. It was Tech he could see, tending to their patient. Running his scanner over the clone they had just rescued.

Echo rushed to the rear to where Tech and their passenger was at.

Tech sensing Echo's arrival looked up from the scanner and a small smile emerged on his face. But it soon faded as Echo, without a word made his way to the clone's side and with his hand, started pushing the clone's hair away from his face.

"What are you doing?" Tech's worried tone was low so not to wake the others.

But seeing the frantic expression on Echo's face Tech got even more bothered of his partner's behaviour.

Echo was pushing aside the long threads on the clone's face, looking half crazed as he did so. After a moment of watching his actions, Tech placed a hand on top of Echo's, getting the man's attention.

"What's the matter love?" Tech asked him, searching for any signs of trouble in Echo's eyes.

Echo's eyes were wild and he did not say anything. But his glance moved towards the clones exposed face and as Tech followed it, he could see what it was that had gotten Echo so riled up.

Tech could see the tattoo there, clear as day. And even if he did not know the clone in question personally, Echo had told him all the stories.

"Fives." Tech stated, his voice low.

"Fives." Echo repeated, tears forming in is eyes. "We found Fives."

To be continued in part two of Old friends found in the strangest of places.