The Bad Batch - Double the Danger
By Gun Roswell
Out from the shadows, something familiar lurks
Trust is such a fickle thing, now isn't it
Playing both sides, are we?
Flashbacks are a bitch! (but going there anyway :p)
If I stab you in the back, will you stab me back?
I can't believe you fell for that - it was so a trap!
Who the Sith is Commander Decker?
Enlightenment found - was there ever any doubt?
Crosshair's road from there to here
Turn-a-coats around every corner
Good news, bad news - they all travel at the same rate
Saving someone does not always mean salvation for them
Trouble in the horizon is arising
Endless missions without the option of failure
Leaving things to the very last minute?
Thank the Universe for small favours!
From there to here… and then what?
Let's get to work!
A few stolen moments between all the efforts done
Set some time after season one of the Bad Batch.
The Batchers are taking care of their own. Meaning their own little Batch. The five of them now. That, should be enough, for anyone, right? Even if the rest of the galaxy is in utter chaos and total turmoil?
So, another day and another regular run for Cid. Pick up a packet, off of a secluded planet and then haul it back to Cid's for the client to pick it up from there. Easy as pie, right?
Until it is not. As soon enough, the seemingly impartial squad of ex-soldiers find themselves involved in something they had not really been prepared to be a part of.
CrossHunt pairing, with a twist in the lime.
Out from the shadows, something familiar lurks
The package was waiting for them on the platform as per agreed when the Marauder made its neat landing on it. The place secluded, far from any imperial holds. The Batch was there to get what they had come for. It was their job after all, what they got paid for.
Stepping out of the ship, Hunter first, then the rest of them, in a neat single file. Not that they all needed to. But it was good to stretch their legs for a bit. It wasn't as if they were in a hurry after all. Tech had scanned the planet, deeming the place void of any other activity or life except for them. So, a break from the ship was good for them all to take.
Hunter let his eyes wander, scanning visually the immediate area. Seeing a half bombarded guard building on the left while the rest of the area was clear and deserted and in various stages of decay, having been some kind of a base a long time ago.
The intel on the pick-up was that of a package waiting for them inside the structure, tucked away from prying eyes. Not that there were any present there. But guess it was a precaution as any for whomever had put it there.
As they all approached the structure, Hunter suddenly signalled for them all to halt. He had sensed something, or rather, someone in there. A person?
Just then, a figure moved in the shadows. They all drew their blasters and aimed at the approaching figure.
"Don't shoot! I am unarmed!" The rather familiar sounding panicked voice shouted out to them.
As the figure emerged from the shack, the squad could all see, that it was a clone.
"You are here for me, right?" The clone asked, seemingly confused, staring at the barrels of the weapons aimed right at him.
"You, are the package?" Echo was the first to react.
"Yes." The clone replied, sounding earnest, but he looked pretty scared and shivering as the blasters were still aimed at him, his arms flying up quickly as a clear sign of surrender.
The Batchers exchanged surprised glances. As this had not been the pick-up any of them had expected to find there. A package of sorts being the key. And again, something which Cid clearly had neglected to mention to them, as to the content of said packaged being a human being.
"There was no mention of a reg, I mean a clone in the data file." Hunter clarified his stance on the surprise content of their pick-up.
"Well, I can't tell you what you were informed of. But I am the one you were supposed to pick-up and then take to a secure location." The reg did not seem to so frightened anymore, rather took a few steps closer, with his arms still raised. "Now, if you would care to lower your weapons…"
Hunter turned to the rest of the squad and nodded for them to do so.
"So, you are?" Hunter asked the reg, as he did not recognise the clone, not that he knew all clones personally anyway, as there had been so many of them.
"CT-4747." The clone almost saluted then, almost. His stance changing simnifically. "But they call me Decker." The reg said with a hint of a smirk on his face, being more relaxed now too.
Tech quickly made a few key strokes on his data pad and nodded to Hunter. He had checked the database of clones they had managed to download while visiting an imperial base at one point in time, housing a plethora of clone designations either working for the Empire or well, being imprisoned by them.
"Well, Decker, as you can imagine, this is somewhat of a surprise for us." Hunter tried, none to keen to be flying around with yet another reg deserting the Empire.
"Does it matter? Cargo is cargo, right?" Decker was unfazed by Hunter's attitude, his stance being that of a fearless commando rather than a scared cadet.
The expression Decker had housed earlier, that of fear and panic, was gone. It was like someone had hit a switch for it. Clearly, it had been an act. Making the reg seem more suspicious than earlier. Then again, it could have just been his training kicking in, as this reg, was no shiny. Not if his attitude and stance was any indication of it.
"No, no I guess it does not." Hunter started taking in the reg.
Hunter was about to say something else too as his suspicions of the reg had risen considerably after his change in attitude. But that was until Hunter's senses kicked into high gear again.
Hunter's eyes turned back to the structure wherefrom the reg had come out of. He drew his blaster again, alerting the others, which immediately followed Hunter's example.
"Hunter?" Wrecker asked in a low tone, seeing the Sarge all alert and on the prowl.
But hunter raised his arm and signalled the sign 'quiet' and Wrecker's mouth clamped shut on the spot.
Hunter moved past the reg and towards the building. Carefully, with his weapon aimed at whomever he suspected to be inside of there. Something which his heightened senses had been telling him.
"Come out, come out, whomever you are." Hunter singsonged, standing close to entrance, which was without a door at this point in time.
It took a few moments of waiting. But then, there was movement. The one Hunter had finally sensed. Most likely due to them wearing blockers and trying to be covert for people like Hunter not to be able to detect them.
As the person stepped out and into the light, there was a collective gasp filling the otherwise quite platform.
"Crosshair! is that really you?" Hunter asked as the man in front of him, so familiar but still, looking different in so many ways.
Despite the imperial armour, and helmet-less head, Crosshair's face was covered in a rather thick beard. His hair had grown long and it was held back in a loose tail. He looked nothing like the sleek and polished imperial Clone Commander they had seen him the last time around.
"Surprised?" The snarky question left Crosshair's lips. "You really shouldn't be."
"Why are you here?" Hunter sounded baffled meeting with Crosshair after all this time.
"A good question. But… I should be asking you the same thing."
Crosshair's usual tactics of replying with a question when in doubt, had not changed at least, even if the man's outlook had.
"What do you mean?" Hunter sounded somewhat taken aback.
As he did not really understand the question Crosshair had asked him. This was what the Batch did. Run ops, pick-ups and deliveries? Right?
"I thought you had gone all mercenary, running ops for your own survival and not caring what happened in the rest of galaxy." The scowl was in place matching the remark perfectly. It was intended as a jibe after all.
After all, Crosshair had never understood the sudden change of the others. In wanting to be something so small. Keeping it all in the family, the tight knit unit they seemed to be now. Being part of something bigger was noble and what soldiers did. And so, it was surprising to see them doing something, else.
"But you are… helping, a reg?" Hunter sounded disbelieving. "Or was this a setup, a trap for us to fall in?"
Hunter feared this was yet another trick of Crosshair's in trying to lure them into the imperial ranks. Or worse.
"Why do you always assume the worst from me?" Crosshair's face was unreadable now, but he wasn't making any moves either which suggested he was not trying to capture them after all.
"But you, you are still working for the Empire?" Hunter had to ask.
As it was, they had periodically kept tabs on Crosshairs whereabouts and what he was doing, just because. And the last they had heard, he was still the feared Clone Commander, Admiral Rampart's favourite. Or as some of the escaped clones called him as, Rampart's Lap Dog.
"What of it?" Another question instead of an answer.
"But…" Hunter had no retort back anymore.
As it was, this was completely against everything they had believed of Crosshair. Of what he had become. Of what he had wanted to do. Be a good soldier for the Empire. To follow any given order. Right?
There was a long moment of silence between the two former batch mates, before either of them spoke again.
"Why, you ask?" Crosshair finally decided to let Hunter of the hook and tell him, something at least. "Why am I helping the regs?" Crosshair's glare was burning into Hunter's eyes now. "Because no one else is helping them. Not since the Empire started phasing them down from service. Killing them off one by one." His voice like his glare was icy, freezing cold.
There was an eerie quiet on the platform again. All of them, even Decker, glaring at Crosshair. Either they did not believe what they were hearing. Or then, it was simply such a shock to hear those words coming out of the 'ever imperial, the Empire can do no wrong, Commander Crosshair' they had all thought their former family member had turned into.
"That is… why?… well… I" Hunter was babbling now, trying to wrap his head around what he had just head come out of Crosshair's mouth.
Clearly there was nothing malicious going on there at them moment. At least, Crosshair nor the reg, Decker, had made any effort in capturing the Bad Batch. So that was good. Hunter had not sensed anyone else there either. And Tech, who had been running constant scans during this whole revelation of a situation, simply shook his head when Hunter turned to look at him.
"Well, guess I can still surprise you then." Crosshair's tone was mocking Hunter.
"I am surprised, to say the least." Hunter admitted as much.
But he needed to know more. When had this change of heart happened? Why was Crosshair helping regs defect? Was Crosshair still working for the Empire? And was this all a great big ploy, a fanfare in front of something the Empire would soon deploy? And ultimately, could Hunter really trust Crosshair to let them go? Crosshair had not really given a straight answer to any of Hunter's questions, now had he?
"Guess, in the bigger picture of the whole, there are things which even the Empire cannot see going wrong." Crosshair replied cryptically.
Hunter realised something then. Something which Crosshair was trying to tell him in his own unique way. Only it was left for Hunter to interpret the best way he could. And what Hunter understood was, that despite being imperial, Crosshair did not stand for the eradication of the clones. No matter how he had felt of the regs before. Or at least, that was what Hunter decided to take out from this, this encounter.
"So, satisfied?" Crosshair needed to end this conversation sooner than later after all.
"No." Hunter stated flatly. "But it will have to do for now."
Crosshair glared at him for a moment longer before nodding and then adding. "Shoot me."
"What?" Hunter exclaimed. "Shoot you?" Hunter could not believe what he was hearing.
"Make it look good too." Crosshair ordered his former Sarge.
While Hunter stood there in disbelief, It was Decker who piped in. "He needs you shoot him so the imps will believe his story. Just in case he needs to tell them one."
Decker seemed to have a some inside information as to how Crosshair functioned during these, drop offs of the regs. As clearly this was not a first one the Clone Commander had done. Which raised an eyebrow or two for the others in question of whom Decker really was and why he was defecting now.
"Fine." Hunter stated and pulled his blaster again, placing it on stun.
"Stun won't do the trick." Crosshair remarked snidely.
"You need to make it look like there was a fire fight and he lost." Decker was giving his unsolicited advice again, clearly, no shiny this one was, of that Hunter was sure now.
Hunter turned to Decker with a scowl, Decker immediately understanding it was the not so subtle sign to 'shut the kark up' and only nodded to Hunter in understanding.
"How can I be sure you won't, well…" Hunter did want to kill Crosshair, naturally.
"How touching!" Crosshair snarled. "Just shoot me already and be done with it." Crosshair ordered Hunter, his tone more bating than anything.
Hunter shook his head, raised his blaster and aimed. A single shot, midriff. The blaster bolt hitting the imperial armour, sending Crosshair flying back and falling onto the ground limp.
Hunter glared at him for a moment. Wanting to go and check on Crosshair. But then it was Decker's voice which roused him from his thoughts again.
"We need to leave. Now!" Decker half ordered, sounding like a superior officer of theirs.
It did not take half a thought when they all scrambled to the Marauder. The others taking their seats while Tech and Echo manoeuvred the ship off of the platform, towards the atmosphere and out into space. After all, there was no telling whom would be coming for Crosshair as Hunter had seen his beacon activated the moment they had turned to leave.
Trust is such a fickle thing, now isn't it
"Decker, you've got some 'splaining to do!" Hunter had Decker cornered in his seat, with fierce eyes fixed on the other clone.
Decker glared right back at Hunter. As intently as the Sergeant glared at him, not fazed at all by Hunter's stance.
Clearly this, reg, was more than he had let on from the very first moment they had met him. Far from the timid looking tooka-cat they had originally seen him to be as soon as Decker had emerged from his hiding back on the planet where they had rescued him from.
But Hunter was on a warpath now and hell bent on finding out just what it was about Decker, which rubbed Hunter the wrong way. As it was, Hunter's suspicions had grown each passing moment the Marauder had flown in hyperspace. Ever since taking off basically. Flying the Batch and the reg to a safe location.
It did not help Hunter's mind set, that it had been Crosshair who had aided in the supposed deception of Decker's. It simply wasn't Crosshair's MO to do anything like that, not anymore. Crosshair was all Empire now. Right?
"You will tell me what I want to know. Right now! Or so help me, I will throw you out the airlock!"
Hunter sounded willing to follow up with his threat too. The closeness of his body to Decker's combined the angry flare of his nostrils speaking volumes as Hunter hissed the words out.
Decker simply remained silent, glaring at Hunter. Not budging one bit.
There was certainly something totally off about him. And that irked Hunter to no end. That of course did not go unnoticed for Decker as he wordlessly bated Hunter with his silence.
But, Hunter could play the game too. After all, it wasn't like he had not been conditioned to the tactics of interrogation since birth. Be that on either side of it.
"Fine. Be that way. See if I care." Hunter stated finally after he could no longer stare at Decker. "We'll just drop you off at some inhabited planet and be done with it."
It wasn't exactly the agreement, as they had a location they were they had supposed to be taking the package after pickup. Then again, Decker was certainly no simple package to be dropped off, now was he!
There was yet another moment of silence between the two.
Hunter had moved away from Decker, sitting opposite of the reg. Hunter was trying really hard to act all cool and calm. Still, Hunter could not help his gut feelings warning him about something.
There was so much more to Decker Hunter needed to know of before they reached Ord Mantell. It was were Hunter had decided to take Decker at this point. Wondering whether Cid was even aware the package was a person, let alone a clone, rather some thing of a piece of intel. And if not, she too would be pissed off at the lot of them for bringing Decker in.
But that could not be helped right now.
Hunter was considering their current options. Thinking they needed to contact Rex at least.
Knowing really nothing more of Decker, except that his CT number had cleared their check. But, Decker had been with Crosshair. Still an imp, last time they had checked. Which had lead Hunter to his current train of thought process. That of there being too many things wrong with the picture Decker and Crosshair had painted for the Batch. And so, once again, Hunter was irritated he had not been able to even begin in solving this mystery.
Hunter continued glaring at Decker with a permascowl on his face. Letting Decker know exactly how angry he was and how he felt of the reg at the very moment.
Nothing was said for a long while, as Decker gave it back as good as he got from Hunter.
That was until out of the blue, a rather wicked grin curled up on Decker's face. He let out a small chuckle before he spoke to Hunter.
"Crosshair told me you were persistent with your pray, Hunter."
That roused Hunter from his thoughts, surprised to hear Decker use his name.
After all, Hunter had not officially introduced himself or the Batch for that matter, to Decker. But he kept it to himself. Hunter's expression giving nothing away. With all the breadcrumbs dropping from Decker, it was becoming more and more clear, that Decker was no random reg Crosshair had helped to escape from the imps.
No, this one was far from it. And Hunter was intent on finding it out what or whom Decker really was. Right from the horses mouth. Even if it might take some doing to do just that. Wring it out the reg, who only seemed to reveal Hunter things when it suited him.
"So? You and Crosshair are what, best buddies now?" Hunter asked sarcastically.
The thought itself being totally absurd of course.
Crosshair did not have any friends. Well, not really. He did not like anyone. Part from his former batch mates and that had been a long time ago. A lifetime as far as Hunter was concerned as the change in Crosshair had been so rapid, none of them had really managed to react to it.
But, what did Hunter know. Crosshair had changed right in front of their very eyes when the inhibitor chip had first activated. After that, despite the supposed removal of the chip, at least according to Crosshair, he had still been all… Well, wrong. Not really the person they had known at all.
Okay so, Crosshair had been rigid and unyielding. Always. But, they had all gotten along. After all, they had all grown together, part from Echo. They had been a squad, a family and… well, whatever it was Crosshair and Hunter had been. Hunter had always thought he knew Crosshair and quite well too despite the cold exterior of Crosshair's.
But, ever since the chip it had all changed. And then there was the whole going back to the Empire thing after Kamino fell. And well, so? Hunter had been really hurt, emotionally of Crosshair's actions back then. Most likely as much as Crosshair had been of the Batch leaving him behind the first time around.
As it was, the vote was still out there. As to whom had been on the right and whom had been on the wrong about the whole betrayal slash leaving someone behind situation.
They had all been behaving badly.
But, now? Well, it seemed that Crosshair really had changed. Again. He even looked different. So, yet another surprise! And if this whole helping a reg defect the Empire was on the level? Then this was yet another twist of a turn on the continued saga of that which was Crosshair.
Decker was silent for moment, seemingly contemplating on Hunter's question. As if picking it apart and trying to find the nuances in the words left unsaid. Again, this was not the behaviour of a regular clone trooper. Rather someone with much experience. The ability to sniff out their enemy and what they were really saying rather then the words spoken out loud.
Then again, what did Hunter know?
Decker might have as well be equipped with similar kinds of senses Hunter himself possessed. Who knew what the Kaminoans had done to the clones after the imps took over the facility on Tipoca City before they decided to blow it all up to kingdom come!
"Well, guess we have…" Decker paused for a moment after he finally decided to respond. His eyes intent on Hunter's again. "Grown close." Decker's answer was somewhat ambiguous, but Hunter could read the fine print.
So, Crosshair had indeed moved out and moved on. That much was clear.
But it was also somewhat of a surprise to Hunter. After all, regs, part from a few selected members of the regular clones clan, Crosshair had never cared for them. Not that Hunter could blame him for it. As there had been plenty of issues with the regular clones in their past on Kamino while growing up.
Even if time had passed, hearing Crosshair having a new… whatever Decker was to him… Well, it hit in the core of Hunter's insides.
It had sounded like it was a personal after all, even an intimate relationship the two of them shared. And that stung, royally so, for Hunter to hear.
After all, Crosshair and Hunter had been close, ever since.. well, guess it was since their creation really. Batch mates, family, then even more after hitting puberty. Guess Hunter had always thought it was a given, that the two of them would always be together. Ever really having considered that would change.
But it had changed. Right after Order 66. And so, here he was, chatting up his, replacement?
"I see." Was all Hunter managed, as what else was there for him to say?
Decker was observing Hunter intently. Because whatever feelings and emotions Hunter was trying to hide, which he could usually do very well in mixed company. But clearly not succeeding in it in the presence of Decker.
"Yes, well. Suffice to say, Crosshair and I have been working together for a while now and we have," Decker's eyes averted for a moment and a slight chuckle escaped from him again. "Become close." Again that evasive response as to what the two of them had become.
"Working together?" Hunter did pick up on those words.
Because Hunter was certainly none too eager to hear about how close Decker and Crosshair had gotten. He still had his pride, sort of. And since Crosshair had decided to move on with his life, other than being the Empire's minion… Well, there was nothing Hunter could do. Could he?
"Yeah. I was part of the imperial army, at least for a while." Decker admitted then.
But the attitude had clearly changed in the reg.
As even if Decker had seemed like there would be no answers forthcoming from him. Playing the staring contest with Hunter and all. It seemed like Decker was going to reveal something after all.
But, Decker working for the imps was a simple fact, not such of a revelation. As it was the fact for most clones the Batch had helped Rex rescue from the Empire. That of the regs having been in the Empire's ranks and then deciding it was not what they wanted to do after all. Well, it was mostly so. Some were prisoners after becoming traitors at get go.
"And you had a change of heart?" Hunter's tone had changed too.
Hunter could not blame Decker. He knew he himself would have certainly had jumped ship, if he would have been forced to work for the imps. And, in a way Hunter had changed his mind. As the Bad Batch had been transferred to the Empire with all the other clones day one. Only to find themselves defecting the very few moments into the job.
"Well, my chip, did not activate." Decker admitted to Hunter, most likely deciding to give the Sarge a few new bread crumbs to chew on. "And it did not take long for me to see what the imps were really all about."
Decker paused for a moment, his mind going back to the missions he and his squad were ordered on. What they had all done in the name of the Empire? Well, it was not something Decker had signed up for and so, his decision to defect had easily been made. Only, it had not really been that easy, to leave the Empire.
Not like it had been to simply parade out the front door and wave his hand in goodbye.
"You were one of the lucky ones then." Hunter wasn't totally sure if that was the case, as the mental ramifications must have been worse that way.
"Heh, guess you can see it that way." Decker had not considered it as luck, but, at least, he still had his wits about him.
"So, you decided to jump ship then?" Hunter asked casually, now that they were finally talking rather than gritting teeth and glaring at each other.
Hunter, who was only too glad he was getting something out of the reg, rather than just the snide remarks and vague suggestions. But it made him wonder though, why it had taken this long for Decker to start opening up. After all, they were supposed to be on the same side, right?
"Well, it's not like it happened over night." Decker let out a small laugh. "It was brewing for a while there, before I realised what I needed to do." He went on, seemingly openly speaking about it now. "But, then I realised I was not alone in my opinion. About the Empire sucking and all."
Decker shook his head and laughed some more, as clearly, it was a coping mechanism for the reg. "I started probing, sending out feelers out there, to the other troopers, our kin. And then soon found out there were plenty of them in the ranks of the Empire, who were not totally on board with the imps agenda."
It was not coming as a surprise to Hunter. After all, they all knew it. The other Batchers, Rex, Gregor. Even Captain Howzer, who had defected way back when on Ryloth. Thankfully, Hunter and his squad had managed to rescue the Captain and his merry band of deserter clones. All of them working with Rex now.
"So, you decided to help the others to, desert the Empire?" Hunter had deduced as much.
"I did." Decker admitted. "And it worked too. For a while." Decker went all quiet again.
"Something happened?" Hunter asked.
Hunter having figured out the pauses usually meant Decker felt sad and something bad had happened there between the time he had reached his enlightenment. And despite his otherwise fun filled bravado, the reg seemed to have regrets too. Just like the rest of them did.
"Yeah. It did." Nothing more was forthcoming on that though. "But luckily for me, I met up with Crosshair. And well, one thing having led to the other, we kinda figured out we shared similar feelings for the imps and so…"
Decker was once again quiet, leaving Hunter to sigh heavily, as this was getting into territory he was not willing to touch. Not at the moment at least. It was all so, confusing. Crosshair's change of heart, once again.
"Well, suffice to say, Crosshair helped me get a few of the troopers out. But then, he stumbled on to some communiqué about a rogue clone trooper among the imperial ranks. And so, it was time for me to make my post haste exit." Decker had finally come to the end of his, supposed sad tale.
"What of Crosshair?" Hunter asked suddenly.
Hunter was worried now, as clearly, the man had decided to involve himself in business he should not have been involved in. Which was a surprise again for sure. But this was so out of character for Crosshair. Him having remained behind after helping someone. And many more it seemed, to escape the Empire's clutches. What if the imps found out about Crosshair's involvement?
"Make it look good."
The words spoken by Crosshair playing over and over in Hunter's mind.
Hunter was starting to wonder after hearing Decker's tale, whether leaving Crosshair behind, once again, had been the right thing to do. It seemed to be happening a lot, Hunter questioning himself about that. And the fact remained. That the imps did not take too kindly to double crossing soldiers after all.
Once again, leaving a very worried and confused Hunter deep within his own thoughts.
Playing both sides, are we?
"Like I said before, they won't suspect Crosshair of anything. We made sure of that." Decker tried to explained his position as best as he could to the other two listening in intently.
"If anything was to go wrong, Crosshair would blame it all on me. And then try to bring me in, unsuccessfully, of course." Decker went on, trying his very best to assure the listening duo of the fact that there really had been a grand plan behind his defection. "That, was always the plan."
"And so now, we implemented it. As the imps were getting way too close to the identity of the traitor clone who were helping the other clones to defect."
"Meaning you?" Hunter asked in clarification.
"Meaning me." Decker half smirked.
Surely not a mantle Decker was proud to wear, right? But then again, why not? After all, he was the one who had been doing good things for the sake of his brethren. Something these two other clones most likely knew nothing about.
"As it is, Crosshair is still Rampart's favourite. At least as far as the Admiral had been indicating his stance, giving praise to Crosshair and all."
A moment of pause as two sets of surprised eyebrows were raised, Rex's and Hunter's. After all, getting praise or rather receiving it, had never been the Batchers thing. Accolades!
"And Crosshair is still doing the Admiral's bidding. Mostly anyway." Decker added. "As it was, after things started kinda falling a part over there, we decided it was time for me to leave."
Decker was not happy, of leaving Crosshair behind. But then again, there was nothing he could do about it now. A plan was a plan, even if a faulty one. He could only hope, what he had told Hunter about Crosshair being safe was the truth.
Decker had managed to repeat most of the conversation he had already had with Hunter, back on the Marauder when Hunter had tried to interrogate the rescued clone. While trying to find out the truth behind Decker's desertion and what if anything would happen to Crosshair because of that.
As it was Hunter was worried the Empire might not believe Crosshair's story of how he had gotten shot and the reg getting away. Not at all. Because Crosshair was way too good of a soldier to get his pray get away, something Hunter knew to be true. Then again, perhaps the imps had not realised it, he could only hope.
But after Rex had arrived to Cid's Parlour, he had wanted to know everything Decker had shared with Hunter. And from the man himself. Hearsay, was not the best way to convey intel after all. Even if it was Hunter, whom Rex trusted, telling it all.
As it was, they had not wanted to endanger the base of Rex's operation. Just in case Decker was not being honest with them. A concern which Hunter had voiced to Rex as soon as he had placed the call to the Captain. And so, having Rex come to Ord Mantell was the safest way to go. For now.
After all, there were so many things off with the whole setup. Crosshair, Decker, it did not seem… Well, real. For neither of them to be doing what they claimed to be doing. Saving regs and being against the Empire, but still working for them. The whole double agent undercover gig was just so, done!
Hunter had decided to take Decker to Rex at first, not drop him off at the original delivery coordinates. And so, the Batch had brought Decker to Ord Mantell. And as suspected, Cid had been as surprised as the Batchers of the content of the package the squad had been assigned to pick up.
"Another clone! That's all I needed!" Cid had not been a happy camper. At all. "Luckily the client paid in advance!"
"I sure hope so." Decker had stated flatly with a hint of a snort present in his retort. "As I, am the client." He had then revealed much to the others surprise.
"You paid for your own rescue?" Echo had asked confused. "How was it even possible?"
"I have my ways." Decker's snide remark had not really explained anything at all.
"What ever!" Cid had huffed and puffed. "Just make sure he'll be on his way out, and sooner than later!" Cid demanded of the Batch.
After all, Ord Mantel was not the end location the client or rather Decker had ordered in the first place and if there was to be trouble, Cid wanted Decker gone.
"So, you are not going to take me where I want to go then?" Decker asked Hunter, suspecting it was the case.
"Not right away." Hunter had told him flatly. "There is someone I want you to meet, and to talk to first. To explain yourself."
"I see." Decker had had a suspicious glare on him, hearing the demands Hunter was making.
Decker hadn't been entirely sold on that suggestion. Of simply having a chat with whomever. But he did not really have any choice either. Being unarmed and without a transport to his name? He pretty much relied on the Bad Batch to take him where he needed to go. And so, for now, he was going along with Hunter's decision.
After all, he was not totally foreign to pulling tricks out of his sleeves where needed. And knowing that, well, he could always just pick up and leave and find his own way out.
"If you indeed are who you say you are… Then why are you so adamant in getting to that remote planet? The supposed delivery location the Bad Batch had been contracted to deliver you to?" Rex's question to Decker sounded suspicious enough.
"I've checked the planet and there is nothing there." Rex had done his research, naturally, before making his way to Ord Mantell.
Decker glared at the Clone Captain, which Rex had been introduced to him as. "Look, I don't know you." Decker paused glaring back at Rex, just like Hunter had warned Rex only Decker could do.
"And, I can't say I trust you no more than you trust me." Decker paused again, clearly assessing his opponent much like he had done with Hunter.
"And wherever I am headed? Well,"
Decker let out the snide chuckle Hunter suspected was his trade mark. The man doing it constantly, almost on cue.
That and the superior stance the clone had been displaying ever since the first impressions had faded away. Quickly. It was becoming clear to Hunter at least, but also Rex, that Decker had been high in the food chain even as a clone trooper. Most likely a Commander or even higher. But, neither of them had met Decker before. And Decker himself was not very forthcoming in that matter either.
"I don't really see how that is any of your concern." Decker stated to Rex flatly. "I do my thing, like the lot of you seem to be doing, whatever it is that you do."
Naturally, Decker had no idea whom Rex was. Nor what his priorities were. Not even what he was doing at the moment.
Apparently, Crosshair had had no idea that Rex was still alive. And so, he had not been privy to what Rex's motivations now were either. And by proxy Crosshair had not told Decker anything about the Captain either. Why would he have? Rex was dead in the eyes of the Empire after all. It was even on record.
As it was Crosshair only knew of the Batchers and their dealings. Them working now as mercenaries, to some extent at least. And so, Decker was aware of them as well. After all, Decker and Crosshair were close. Right?
"Fine." Rex replied curtly.
Rex simply yielding to the fact that this, Decker person, was not forthcoming with any intel at all. And certainly not a willing participant for anyone else's business. Nor Rex's own cause. As clearly, Decker was on his own path. And, not wanting to argue further with the trooper, deciding to end the somewhat awkward conversation.
It was quite clear, that Decker had made up his mind about Rex and the Bad Batch as well.
In Rex's mind also Crosshair had made his choice long ago. And if Hunter was worried about him, well, that was too little and too late now to change. As to what came to Decker himself? Well, with his attitude and uncooperativeness, Rex could do little about to make Decker tell them anything. And if he wanted to leave, it was his prerogative to do so. Rex was not in the business of torture after all.
"You can go."
Hunter gave Rex a confused and somewhat argumentative glance. Soon after motioning for Rex to step aside as Hunter wanted to have a word with him, clearly.
"Rex, you can't be serious about letting him go?" Hunter questioned Rex's decision.
"Hunter, he is not our prisoner. As so far, Decker has not done anything to warrant that. We cannot force him to stay or reveal us anything he does not want to."
Rex was right of course.
But the uneasiness in Hunter kept growing. It was one thing to know Crosshair was working for the Empire, where he was relatively safe. But, knowing now as he did. That Crosshair was working as a double agent. Well, sort of. And that raised the alarms in Hunter's mind as he was worrying about Crosshair's safety. His very life, if the Empire ever found out about what he had done.
Rex sensing the other man's worry and train of thought decided to share the concern he had, of both Crosshair and Decker.
"Look, Hunter, I know you worry about Crosshair. But, consider also this fact."
Rex paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts.
"That Decker and Crosshair are really working for the Empire and all of this," Rex motioned his hand in the air around them."had been a big fat ploy of theirs to infiltrate our cause."
Rex knew it might have sounded a tad paranoid. But that had to be considered too. As this was all a bit too perfect to be happening now. Just when their own cause, their small rebellion was starting to grow bigger and bigger each passing day.
Hunter looked at Rex and then in a low tone said to him. "I did consider that already."
Hunter paused and was thinking back to his previous suspicions. "But I don't think that is the case."
Hunter could see the doubt still on Rex's face. And there was simply nothing Hunter could do to change Rex's minds. After all, Crosshair and Rex had never been on the best of terms. Not really.
"Look, I now Crosshair tried to recruit us before. But this… this is different. He cannot know we are working for you. As it was quite obvious Crosshair thought we did not care about saving the regs."
Hunter knew Crosshair and he wasn't that good of a play actor to lie in such manner. Not to Hunter anyway.
Rex only nodded. He knew he needed to reconsider the situation they had at hand. But he needed also some distance of this all, and figure out their options before throwing in the towel over Decker's situation.
"Alright." Rex said to Hunter. "I will make a few more inquiries to my usual resources. Should have some more intel soon enough. Keep an eye on Decker while I do that."
Not that Rex needed to ask that, as Hunter was clearly not about to let Decker out of his sight. Not anytime soon anyway.
"Will do, Rex!" Hunter promised. "Will do Cap!"
Hunter mock saluted Rex then. Something of a thing made in jest between the two of them these days. As this wasn't a military operation after all, not really. And Rex wasn't Hunter's superior officer either. Not any more.
Flashbacks are a bitch! (but going there anyway :p)
Commander Crosshair - meet Commander Decker!
"They call me Decker."
The Clone Commander introduced himself with a fat grin on his face, expecting to find a vod with an equal amount enthusiasm to be working together with. After all, clones were all a friendly sort, one too happy to find another to work with, right?
"As I understood from Admiral Rampart, that the two of us will be working together for this particular mission. And if all goes well, many more!"
Great, another reg! Just what he needed!
Decker positively beamed at Crosshair, his face a huge big grin. Radiating the kind of a vibe Crosshair detested so much. The way too eager - we are all brothers - kind of energy Crosshair had simply never understood.
They, were not brothers. Shared DNA did not a family make!
Crosshair was not a happy camper. At all.
With his permascowl in place, meeting with he new Reg Commander he had been ordered to babysit! Well, those were not the exact words of Rampart's. But Crosshair had gotten the gist of the meaning behind the Admiral's slight smirk when telling Crosshair about the new additions arriving and him, having to watch over them.
They were all transfers. From across the galaxy. Several Clone Commanders and squads to be exact. Having served the Republic in the outer skirts of the galaxy for a long time. And now, becoming part of the imperial forces. And this one, this, Decker, as Crosshair had found out, had been dumped on Crosshair.
The formidable Commander with many wins under his belt as Rampart had let Crosshair know also. So, if he was so good at his job, why had Rampart assigned Crosshair to watch over him? Shouldn't Decker be out there doing his own thing, running his own ops and leave Crosshair do his job by himself?
Well, Crosshair had done plenty too for the Empire. So what was so special about this Decker?
There were plenty of other Commanders, other squads, not to mention missions Rampart could have assigned these new regs to work with. So why did it have to be his? Crosshair was not liking this one bit and Decker ever less.
After all. It was never a good sign if a superior officer pushed another high ranking officer to someone else's already established area of work. Crosshair could not really fathom what could've been the purpose of having two equally ranked leaders on one mission. Unless…
The paranoia was getting a hold Crosshair's brain again. Something which he had been workmen hard to rid off, push aside. But this one warranted such thoughts. Clearly. The theories starting to form inside of his somewhat twisted mind. After all, had he not done the best work possible so far?
So, what was Rampart up to? Really?
Crosshair glared at the new Commander, Decker, for a moment longer before responding to the reg.
Yeah, they were definitely not going to be on first name bases. Not today, for the love of Sith, not today! Not ever if Crosshair had his say about it.
A snide smirk curled up on Decker's lips. So, that was how it was going to be huh? The comment popping up inside of Decker's mind. As he was certainly not prepared to end up on the wrong end of the snipers barrel. Not on his first day on the job anyway.
Decker had heard the tales, like so many other of his brethren had. The tales of the Bad Batch. A squad of enhanced clones. Bread with desirable defects. To service in the war for all those missions the others could not. Well, that was an urban myth of course, to most clones. But Decker knew it to be true as he was standing right in front of one.
Well, Decker could not find too much to be desirable on this one at the moment.
Except for the fact how the clone looked.
All tall and lanky having a good several inches on Decker. Tooka like in his stance was the word popping up. Most likely ready to pounce at first sign of trouble. The toothpick hanging from the side of his lip, hands crossed over his body. Could have as well placed a do not enter sign there.
Upon closer inspection, Decker really liked what he saw.
But this Clone Commander? Well, he clearly had no fondness for Decker. And from his stance, most likely not for anyone else either. Or then, it was just his way of greeting people? Assessing them, seeing how much they could take?
Decker had read the file of course. As soon as they had been transferred to Coruscant and Decker had been called to the Admiral's office for a briefing. Having been assigned to a mission with another Clone Commander. Something which was hardly unfamiliar to Decker, having had run joint ops in the remote areas of the known galaxy. Both for the Republic and now as an extension, the Empire.
Nothing really changed, even with the war, seemingly over.
But Decker knew better. It made no difference as to whom was in charge. There was always a war going on somewhere and good soldiers needed to fight those wars. And Decker? Well, he was a good soldier. Highly trained as a commando. But after all the changes happening, with the imperial regime taking over… Decker had been 'promoted' to a Commander.
Whatever that meant these days, Decker was not really sure of.
But, what he knew of this Commander, Crosshair, was that the man was indeed a member of Clone Force 99 as they were officially called. But the only one currently in the imperial ranks. There was nothing officially stated of the rest of the gang. And Rampart had been somewhat tight-lipped about the squad's status too. But Decker had heard the rumours.
Of a clone squad going all rogue and raising all kinds of havoc out there much to the annoyance of the Empire.
Not that it was right of course. Well, who was to say what was right anymore. But, Decker could not help but admire their tenacity. Going out there solo, without much in backup. Surely, that had to count for something. Not that Decker would consider doing that. He was a soldier after all, serving a greater purpose. Right?
Decker was not totally sold on this Empire thing of course. But then again, he had not been totally into the decision making of the Republic either. There was always something, off about many things. But, it was not Decker's place to question any of it. Playing the part of a good soldier was what he was bread for and that would have to do. At least for now.
Decker had learnt, from the file, that Crosshair had been an excellent marksman. A sniper of the highest calibre, with the ability to pick a target from some ten clicks away. Never missing either. And apparently, he was able to see in the dark as well. So, no small wonder the enhanced clone was.
As Decker glared into to the even and odd coloured eyes of the clone, flickering in different hues whenever the light hit them. And, at the very moment, intently glaring right back at Decker. The depths of them… well, it was clear to see this was no ordinary clone.
As Decker found himself dwelling a tad too long in those very depths. Of the Commander's eyes…
Quickly shaking his head to drop off his glare of the other man.
As far as Commander Crosshair went, Rampart had spoken quite highly of the clone. Indicating that Decker, among the other transferred clone troopers should follow the Commander's excellent lead, as well as learn from him and his many great deeds he had done for the Empire. Because all good deeds apparently went rewarded. Whatever that meant, was a whole other matter.
The other side of the coin being of course, that none of the clones Decker had talked with since his arrival to the Coruscant base liked Crosshair. As apparently, the enhanced clone hated regs, as he called them. The the Commander was as snide as they came. And in general, had no love lost for anything or anyone except his work.
Still, considering the man was a sniper, the traits mostly went with the territory. Being a loner and all that. Then again, in Decker's experience, all clones were social creatures by nature, so, he was finding it odd this one was not.
But, Decker was pretty sure he could charm this, elusive Commander. In becoming his friend first and then, whatever else was in the offering. Making it even his mission to do just that. As it was the challenge after all, and Decker suddenly feeling it his duty on taking upon himself to accomplish. Never the one to shy away from those either.
Challenges. No, he loved them! Lived for them really.
Decker, after all, was an easy going man.
Blessed with great looks, even for a clone with the same face of many, housing the best features of his kin. With plenty of charm and great personality to boot. Not to toot his own horn, but those were adjectives people had been known to have described him with. Even his own squad loved him, despite being the Commander, their executive officer. But it did not matter as Decker liked to spend time with his team mates. Even having bedded a few of them.
Not that Decker did not have other options as well. Because there plenty of vode out there willing to share his bed. Still, it wasn't like Decker was hopping from one vod to the next. No, he still had his standards. And well, this Commander Crosshair was right there, on the very top of those standards Decker liked to keep.
And then there was the challenge of course he had set for himself. Because this one, like the others, would not be an easy one to accomplish. At all.
So, perhaps this was not as bad of an assignment after all! So far, there were perks trumping the cons in Decker's count.
"Yes, well, Commander."
Decker let out a small laugh, as usually rank was only used among the clones when in combat situations or being in the company of higher ranking officers.
"I was hoping we could be going through the plans for our first op together. See if there are any improvements to be made to them. Perhaps over a few drinks?"
Decker was always open to have his business meetings conducted in a less rigid environment, something he and the other vode were used to be doing rather than sitting in a boring office.
Crosshair's stance stiffened considerably. Going from the more feline stance the Commander had had when Decker had dropped into his office unannounced. He was standing all rigid suddenly. Taller, if even possible. With his eyes narrowed to an impossible extent and the scowl deepening even further.
It made Decker flinch a tad even if he was far from timid and did not really fear anyone. But there was something in the Commander's glare, which penetrated Decker in a way he had never been subject to.
It felt scary good.
The commando training Decker had been through had made Decker as tough as they came. When combatting an enemy. But mashing that to his jovial nature of his, he usually elicited nothing but friendliness and acceptance from others.
Apparently not from this specific clone.
There was a moment of awkward silence between them before Crosshair spoke, or rather snarled vehemently. His words spewing out through gritted teeth.
"I, made those plans. There is nothing wrong with them."
Crosshair's penetrating glare was on Decker for a moment longer.
Decker's eyes flew wide. It was not the reaction he had expected at all from the Commander.
After all, there was nothing wrong in having another set of eyes checking laid plans. Something Decker was used to doing with the other Commanders he had worked with. Clearly, this was going to be difficult on so many levels. This working with Commander Crosshair.
"And I, do not socialise, with regs."
And there it was. The dreaded word Decker had been warned about as well.
Reg. Like a curse word it was as it spitted out from the Commander's lips.
And so, what was there more to add to that remark?
Decker had come to meet Crosshair. Having wanted to get familiar with the other clone he was supposed to be working with. And not just for this one mission, but a host of others as well. Decker had come to the Commander, in good faith. Hoping to get on the clones good side as Crosshair had worked with the Admiral for a while now and knew the way of things around this place.
But, as it had turned out, unfortunately. Having become a fast trip to hell in a hand basket. And really fast too!
It was obvious to Decker after first impressions, that Commander Crosshair was indeed how the rumours had painted him to be. Even more so.
Rigid, unyielding, self absorbed, a reg-hater to name but a few traits of the sniper.
And no matter amount of otherwise great looks the man housed, the unfriendliness and standoffish attitude did nothing to help Decker in his, well, goal to become friends with the man. Not to mention anything else. As clearly, the two of them were not going to be friends. Or anything else for that matter.
Decker decided then and there, to chuck any plans of any kinds of challenges, sexual or otherwise out the nearest airlock.
Clearly, Decker had bitten way more than he could chew with this one. Apparently this enhanced clone was a bread of his own. And seeing Crosshair as he really was, first hand, Decker could only imagine what the rest of them were like.
The Bad Batchers.
Most likely even worse. A pack of Massiffs biting their way through the galaxy. No wonder they had taken off on their own. As nobody most likely wanted to work with them. Not even the Empire!
And this job? Well, it seemed that it was going to be a strictly unfriendly territory to work in. And Decker hated being there already. Not even having started one mission with he infamous Commander Crosshair.
If I stab you in the back, will you stab me back?
"What, are you doing?" Crosshair spat angrily after having yet another argument with Decker about the very mission they were currently on.
"We need to secure the perimeter." Decker snarled back. "We can't just bust in there and hope for the best."
The toing and froing between the two Commanders orders during the joint op had become rather tiresome as far as Decker was concerned. It seemed that the good Commander Crosshair was questioning each and every decision Decker made, to either counter Crosshair's or trying to put his own touch on the op. Not to mention the supposed plan for the mission being somewhat in a style of a 'let's get in there, do our thing and get out' was not exactly what Decker was used to either.
"It is secure. We have troopers getting in there from all sides." Crosshair snarled at the other clone.
"We haven't even checked who it is inside the structure. We are simply assuming those in there right now, are the actual insurgents were are looking for." Decker spat through gritted teeth.
The otherwise jovial man was far from being that. Jovial. Having been grinding his teeth so many times during this albeit brief but nerve wrecking mission he had taken on with Commander Crosshair was making Decker doubt if he would have a single tooth without damage when the mission was over.
It was simply that frustrating for Decker!
"Does it really matter?" Crosshair's venomous retort snapped back at him. "There are people in there and our orders were to execute the insurgents.
"Of course it matters!" Decker's voice rose a few octaves.
Decker was surprised by the callous demeanour the Commander and by proxy the Empire had.
As it was they had scanned the area alright, as by procedure, first thing when landing. Then easily finding their target location filled with the expected life signs. As it was another wise lifeless planet, they had made their assumptions base on that.
However, there was no indication these were the actual insurgents they were looking for. At least, it had not been validated. Not really in Decker's mind.
Crosshair's scowl was detectable despite the helmet covering his face.
"Our orders were quite clear. Get to the assigned location and take care of the insurgents." Crosshair stated flatly. "What part of that order is unclear to you?"
Decker was starting to get a headache. This was not what he had signed up for. Not that there really had been a choice given to him. It was either this, serving for the Empire or then, well, the alternative simply too unthinkable. Naturally, there were other options. But none of those had appealed to Decker. At least not at that time when he had been transferred to work under Rampart.
That was, until having had the pleasure of meeting Crosshair.
Well, Decker was totally starting to entertain the other options as well. First one popping to mind? To shoot Crosshair. But of course it was a fleeting thought caused by anger Decker was seething in. Not that Decker buried the thought. He rather let it simmer there, with the other things rattling in his brain at the very moment.
"Move in." Crosshair gave the order to the troopers without further discussion or debate.
As clearly, this was his mission and Decker was simply a tag-along.
It did not matter what Decker had tried to give as input to this, mess of a plan. As it was, Crosshair was hell bent on following the orders no matter whom it was they were killing. Something which was not sitting well with Decker, at all.
It did not take long before the blaster fire started.
And then, silence landed over the land. Crosshair and Decker both descended from their command post to the below structure the insurgents were at. Reaching it quickly. As the smoke of the weapons fire was clearing, the could see the bodies lying inside the building in heaps on top of each other. They had all died, with their guns still in their hands, never having the chance to retaliate, to fire back at their attackers.
As the troopers cleared the area, picking up the bodies and piling them before a burial. They were also checking the chain codes of the dead. Where they could find them, as not all were registered with the Empire.
One of the troopers then brought the collected data on a pad over to Crosshair and Decker.
"Commander. This is what we could find." Handing over the pad to Crosshair, naturally. "They're all there, as per expected."
The trooper looked at the Commander glaring back at him, as if doubting the troopers findings, his glare as intimidating as ever, even with the helmet on.
"Well, most of them are there." The trooper quickly added.
"Well, looks like it all checks out." Crosshair said then after quickly glancing at the list of names on the file, seeing them being the exact insurgents they had suspected to find there.
Without another word Crosshair shoved the pad to Decker's hand and stomped off. Heading back towards their waiting ship. After all, the mission was finished.
Decker was baffled. Of all that had just expired.
But thankfully, they had gotten lucky, this time around. As clearly, this guerrilla type war fare was something Decker himself was not inclined to implement. But, Decker also knew the Empire wanted results. And clearly Crosshair was the one delivering them. And so, whether this was the right course of action to follow? Well, Decker really had no answer for it.
"He did what?"
Decker was fuming now. Spewing the words through gritted teeth.
And, this was totally becoming his MO. But, Decker really could not believe what he was hearing from the Admiral no less! No matter if it had been the Emperor himself in front of him, Decker would have been behaving the exact same way.
Because never, in his long career, had any of the clone troopers he had ever had the pleasure of working with, no matter their rank, having gone behind the other's back! Filed a report about the inadequate qualities of another vod!
Sure, there had been mistakes made, by everyone in the past, they were soldiers, in a war. But the clone troopers had always been able to talk about those things amongst themselves. Not gone to a superior officer by default and then ratting anyone out!
"The Commander was quite clear." Rampart was his usual annoying calm self.
Rampart, obviously none too interested in the internal squabbles of the clones serving under him.
But, Crosshair was still Rampart's favourite. And since the Commander had raised his concerns of Decker and their mission? Well, Rampart needed to address them. As it was, Decker was still new around the place. So, giving him the benefit of the doubt, the Admiral had deiced to listen to the clone first before taking any kinds of drastic measures in regards.
"You were not following the Commander's orders, rather questioning his every decision." Rampart stated factually much to Decker's surprise.
That was not really how it had gone down.
Then again, Decker had been questioning Crosshair's decisions. On several occasions. But he had not gone against Crosshair either. Not really.
Still, even Rampart had to admit the plan had been a flimsy one at best. If he had even bothered to read it. Which Decker suspected Rampart had not. It was somewhat obvious, that Rampart was only interested in results, no matter the plan or the cost.
"I was, well…" Decker paused, thinking quickly on his feet of his current options and what to say.
"Whatever it was." Rampart cut Decker off mid sentence. "The Commander was not happy of the behaviour you demonstrated on the mission. Especially as you are still new around here, and not adapting as per expected."
Rampart was laying down the law for Decker now. "The Commander was quite adamant in letting you go." Rampart stated as much to Decker's surprise.
After all, they all knew what that meant. Decommissioning being key. Which meant, as good as dead. Decker's eyes shot wide. He was thinking back, quickly reeling the events in his mind. Had he really been that bad? Had it been out of line behaviour? Perhaps he had been overreacting a tad?
Decker was overwhelmed, but also determined to save his own shebs.
Because he did not want to be labeled as an uncooperative soldier either. Not on his first mission under the Admiral's command. Thinking back, he might just have been a little… Well? Whatever it was he had been, Decker knew he could do better. Adapt. After all, this was a whole new ball game he was playing now. And good soldiers, did adapt.
He needed to recover this, situation, and fast! The alternative too grim to even consider.
"I guess… guess I did not have a full understanding of how Commander Crosshair wanted to lead the mission."
It wasn't a total lie. But Decker was not going to give up. Not just yet. And he figured he really needed to try and have another 'chat' with Crosshair to clear the air. After all, if they were going to be working together, they needed to establish a few ground rules.
That was of course whether Rampart would still want to keep Decker around.
"I am sorry Sir, for what happened between myself and the Commander. And I promise it won't happen again!"
Decker was trying, really hard, kiss the Admiral's shebs.
There was a long pause, Rampart still glaring at Decker.
"Fine." Rampart finally said. "But in the future, I would prefer not to be bothered by any internal conflicts you clones may have."
Rampart gave Decker one final glance before averting his gaze to the pad on top of his desk. "Sort it out!"
And with that, Decker was dismissed. With both his skin and command intact.
"Yes, Admiral!" Decker saluted the man before taking his leave.
"Commander!" Decker shouted.
After seeing Crosshair walking in front of him in the corridor, having just left Rampart's office, Decker wanted to clear the air with the Commander. And the sooner the better.
Crosshair stopped in his steps and turned around.
The snarky question was spat out. Making Decker wonder if the Commander ever talked like a regular person or was it always in the way of the moody few syllable questions he threw at anyone wanting to talk to him.
"Wait up!" Decker quickly caught up with the distance between them, reaching Crosshair in no time. "I wanted to,"
Yeah there was really no way around it of Decker wanted to be on the Commander's good side. And that was to suck up his own pride and kiss as much shebs as possible.
As Decker, for whatever reason, which he really could not think of one right now… Butt the fact remained, that he wanted to be on Crosshair's side. Good or bad.
There was simply something about the other clone Decker had not managed to shake off. No matter how bad the behaviour of Crosshair's was towards him.
Decker had decided he was back to his original plan after all. That of the challenge. And maybe, the idea of it had changed slightly. But Decker was willing to put his best foot forward or die trying. Well, hoping of course it would not come to that.
"I apologise." Decker stated simply then, giving his best sincere stance for the Commander to see.
There was a long moment passing between the two Clone Commanders.
After a moment though, Decker could see the change on Crosshair's face. Even if really was nothing shown there. Well, almost nothing. Decker had managed to catch the faint and quickly fading surprise passing through the other man's face. Crosshair's eyes a dead give-away.
Finally, after the somewhat of a soft glaring contents between the two of them, Crosshair spoke.
As he was about to leave, he turned back to Decker.
"Don't let that happen again."
It was a warning and an order, if nothing else.
But Decker's face soon turned into a grin, watching the retreating form of the Commander's moving away in a slight sway.
Admiring the view, even if Decker was pretty sure it was all he was going to get to do as far as Crosshair was concerned. But, at least, Decker had managed to put a slight wedge in that otherwise impenetrable cold exterior of the Commander's.
And it was all the start Decker needed to move forward with his own challenge.
From now on, Decker was going to play the good soldier and go along with the Commander's plans. Indeed, Decker had made the wrong decision on how to proceed at first. But luckily, he had been able to recover from it. And gotten a second chance. Like Decker always did, being the luckiest vod alive.
Because it would be so much easier to make his own suggestions and improvements to their missions if done with honey rather than manure.
I can't believe you fell for that - it was so a trap!
After yet another successful mission accomplished together without any incident. At least not between the two Commanders in charge. Never mind some of the bumbling of the new recruits, the nat-born soldiers the Empire seemed to be adding to the fold a lot lately. Replacing some of the clone troopers in the field. Something which was rather annoying to both Commanders.
But could not be helped by either of them, even if their trust in the clones was better than for those walk-ins the Empire was sure were more… well, it was cost effective in their eyes and so, no more clones to be created even if the Kaminoan scientists had been secured before the destruction of Tipoca City. Still, it had not been really that surprising to Crosshair, as Rampart had revealed as much during his presence while talking with Tarkin about it.
But it irked Crosshair, just the same. Because in the end, the clones were superior to those conscripted recruits, who were mostly in it for the credits. And despite Crosshair's distaste in the regs, most of them anyway.
Still, good soldiers adapted to any situation.
After their little pep talk of the misunderstandings the two of them had had during their first mission, Crosshair and Decker had managed to form a rather good working relationship. It was mostly Decker's doing as Crosshair had not been the one to take the first step, being the bigger of them and all that. Why would he have? He was the superior of them and right, right? Still, no further complaints had been issued to the Admiral after their truce.
And on a more personal note. The bet Decker had finally managed to lure Crosshair into? Well, it was certainly by accident, that much was true. But, Crosshair had not backed down from the challenge either. Being sure he could win. Then only to have lost the bet. And so now, it was time to pay up.
Meaning the two of them were finally having those drinks Decker had suggested the first moment the two of them had met. That was the pay off. It had been a while ago that offer had been put on the table. But there was certainly a better understanding and perhaps somewhat of a friendship the two Commanders now shared.
It had certainly not been an easy road from there to here. Arguments still ensued between them.
But, Decker had been adamant to both please and tire down Crosshair and getting on his good side in the process. The rigid and unyielding man Crosshair was, not news by far to anyone who had ever met him. But simply because Decker, had never backed down from a challenge, even if this one had turned out to be one of the more difficult ones Decker had ever faced. Still, in Decker's opinion, it had been well worth it.
As it was, Decker had managed to sneak himself into Crosshair's personal life. Well, what constituted as such while working in the ranks of the Empire. None of them having that much time on their hands between missions. But, the two of them had managed to have a somewhat of an amicable relationship.
Working side by side. Crosshair even gone along with a few of the improvements Decker had suggested here and there. Sneaking in a few more radical ideas. And so, taking Decker's suggestions into account while planning their missions, now together. Well mostly so as Decker had been invited to take part in the planning process with Crosshair after a few weeks had passed with them working together successfully. Thus convincing Crosshair Decker wasn't entirely useless.
The missions now more on the side of saving lives, rather than killing off anyone whom they redeemed a traitor. The idea of saving resources for the Empire to use on Decker's side. Also rather checking their facts, before charging in with guns a blazing. Even if it meant imprisonment for some. It was still saving those very people, on some level at least. Until perhaps, they could be rehabilitated, their minds changed in favour of the Empire.
Whatever the way was, Decker preferred it this way. As it was, the Empire gained some free labour and while it was far from ideal, there was always a chance of pardon. At least in theory. And it was also something Decker could live with. For now at least. But there were also a few private moments the two of them did share. Like playing Sabacc together. Decker of course considered it a great honour to be invited to spend the time with Crosshair as he knew from a fact, that the Commander did not spend his time, with anyone.
It was also somewhat of a tactic which Decker had when biding his time with Crosshair. Part of the plan in getting close to him. Decker mostly let Crosshair win. Even if they were rather equally matched in the game. There were times where Decker could see the tell tale signs on the other clone. Something inherit to Decker, to be able to detect even a hint of hesitance in someone.
Decker never the loser in most games. Still, this was his way into the good ranks of Crosshair's.
And so, it had lead to other games between them as well. On the sparring range, the two of them running obstacles and competing with one another. Mostly equally matched as they had been for most things they did together. The shooting range not with counting, as that was Crosshair's domain. Decker had only laughed while Crosshair had beat him every single time, not minding losing at all.
The latest match for the two Commanders had been a covert training session. Crosshair and Decker both having their own teams playing a set against each other. The bet being the losing team leader having to pay a round of drinks for the winner. It had been a tight match, but in the end, with thanks to Decker's experience in such ops, his team had taken the win. And so, for losers - it was time to pay up!
"I can't believe I let you trick me into this one!" Crosshair snarled, never the one to admit a loss, not really.
Decker let out a chuckle as the two of them were headed to the bar where most clones liked to spend their leisure time for drinking, dancing and hook-ups too while on Coruscant. The 79's bar.
Crosshair had been easy to trick into it though. After all, he had a very competitive nature and Decker was pretty sure he could make Crosshair do plenty of things under the guile of having a friendly natured competition going on and a wager to match.
As it was, the more Decker actually had managed to lure himself into Crosshair's inner circle. Being that of the one, Crosshair. The more Decker had grown fond of the man. Despite his first impressions and the rather awkward and rough start to their, relationship. Decker really liked Crosshair. While most people around Crosshair did not, they did however respect the Commander, to some extent.
It seemed the more time had passed since their first meeting, the more mellow the other clone had gotten. Or at least, that was the impression Decker had gotten. It was odd, as it was almost as if something was loosening inside of Crosshair. And it wasn't simply the attitude change towards Decker either. Rather there was a slow but gradual change going on in the Commander. As to the what, Decker could not put a finger on.
Whatever it was, Decker liked what he was seeing and he knew now, that his initial infatuation for Crosshair had never really faded. Now, that Decker had actually gotten to know a little more about who Crosshair really was. Having spent a lot of time together with him, both on and off work, Decker was prepared to make his move.
And having drinks with the man?
Well, it was certainly a prelude for Decker to charm Crosshair. As it was, after the first round, Crosshair had actually laughed at one of Decker's jokes. Something which really did not happen. Ever. Lately though, when Decker had cracked one of his humours anecdotes, there was a slight grin at best to be seen on Crosshair's face.
Well, it was a hardy belly laugh Crosshair had let out after the joke.
And that was something Decker wanted to hear more of. It made the other man completely relaxed, his permascowl gone for the moment. Ad they had been chatting about idle things for a while longer than usual, as if they had been doing if for years.
"Another round?" Decker offered then.
"We agreed to the one." Crosshair's face was not without a hint of something coy there though.
"One more." Decker smirked and raised his hand to the waiter hovering close by.
The drinks soon arrived and the two of them continued with their comfortable evening with drinks and chatting. Decker was surprised of how loose a tongue Crosshair seemed to have all of a sudden. Then again, the alcohol could easily do such tricks to a person not used to drinking. Even if it was not that much they had consumed up and to that point. But Decker liked this side of the other clone.
There were plenty of laughs during the evening and as the night progressed, the crowds gathering and the music getting louder in the bar, Decker had managed to dare Crosshair onto the dance floor. Despite his initial objections, Decker finally convinced Crosshair to have a spin with him. Again appealing to the other man's vanity. Something which seemed to be the trigger of the moment.
Decker and Crosshair danced among the other vode, in the throng of bodies for a long while. Yet another surprise again for Decker. The fact that Crosshair had actually taken up on this particular venture too. But Decker knew he really should not have been surprised as clearly, after some time and fashion and a lot of effort, Decker was pushing all the right buttons of the Commander's.
The two of them having had spent quite some time dancing their hearts out with the bass filled music blasting in the now crowded bar. They both had a knack for it too. The rhythmic beat holding them there on the floor. Then again, they were both really enjoying the dancing as were they each other's company.
After some time, the music changed and slow beats started filling the airwaves. The music finding a more slower rhythm to dance to. Crosshair was about to take his leave off the dance floor. But Decker gently nudged Crosshair. And with his open arms suggestively motioned for Crosshair to lean in closer for the slow dance.
There was a moment of doubt flashing across Crosshair's features. But Decker kept his invite open for a moment longer. And then, whether because of the alcohol's effects or Decker's personal charms? Well, Decker liked to think it was the latter, naturally. Crosshair took on the offer and placed himself in the arms of Decker's. The two of them soon swaying in a tight embrace to the soft beats of the music like so many others around them.
The swaying on the dance floor, close to each other had not left either of them any room for doubts where the night would lead the two of them. The longer they had danced or rather swayed together, the closer their bodies had moved to each other. The closeness enough to heat up whatever was going on between them, sensations running rampant in both men.
For Decker, it was a simple conquest. Another body in a long line of vode he had bedded. At least, that was what he was telling himself. After all, what else did he need than a warm body in his bed every now and again. No, Decker was a soldier, dedicated to his work and did not need anything more than release to get him moving through the daily grind. Right?
For Crosshair, it was something familiar, something he had denied ever since having been forced to serve the Empire. Then later having rejoined of his own free will. Or perhaps, he was lead to believe so. Whatever the circumstances had been, Crosshair had lost more than his family when being left alone on the platform on Kamino. Crosshair had lost his lover too. And so, in Decker, Crosshair found a substitute for what he really craved. At least it was something he was trying to convince himself of.
The heated kissing had started as soon as Decker and Crosshair had reached Decker's quarters. Lips on lips, teeth clashing, tongues intertwined, hands clasping the other's body, trying to find purchase there in the warmth of the other.
Decker had Crosshair under his spell. Decker's mouth leaving no spot unexplored. Each exposed patch of skin getting kissed, licked and sucked. It did not take long, when the clothing was getting shed one by one, until only naked flesh touched the other's.
Decker pushed Crosshair gently towards the awaiting bed. Guiding the other man onto his back, then falling on top of Crosshair. Decker's lips back on Crosshair's kissing him passionately, before continuing his exploration of the bared nakedness. Making his way ever closer to the target waiting for his attention, teasing only, not yet touching, eliciting expletives from Crosshair. Words which would have made the faint hearted flush.
This was no longer the time for any kind of rational thought. The Empire, the rebellion, all others, all of that fading into the background from the bubble Decker and Crosshair now shared. A moment of respite, just for the two of them from the unruly galaxy around them.
Decker had found his spot, between the spread legs of the Commander's he had grown so fond of. With the encouragement of the other man's moans and needy comments of hurrying the Sith up. Decker was more than pleased with the effects he had on Crosshair. Finally deciding not to let the pleads go unattended. Decker let his lips take the first taste, then another, until he devoured the length of that which was Crosshair.
Who the Sith is Commander Decker?
"Execute Order 66."
The command echoed through the many comm channels now open for the clone troopers fighting the good fight for the Republic war against the Separatists. Only, on this day, there would be a Republic no more. Nor would there be many a Jedi left to fight alongside those whom had served them well. Because the command sent through the airwaves for all the clones to hear, would change history forever.
"What the kriff is going on?" Commander Decker shouted out confused, demanding answers from the troopers standing closest to him.
But all of them seemed to be frozen in time. All of them unmoving and staring into the nothingness in front of them. It was like something of a spell they were all under.
"What is this all about?" Decker was getting antsy, not understanding the order himself at all and trying to get some answers from anyone.
But there was no response. From any of them.
And as Decker glanced around him, it was like a scene from someone's nightmare. The troopers loyal to the Republic regime and all that which it entailed. Then, without warning, turning against the very commanders they had been serving only moments ago.
The blaster fire which ensued killing all of Jedi standing there in the range of their aim.
Decker could only watch. Confused, unmoving as his brethren committed horrid crimes.
But he was alone in his stance. While the 'Execute Order 66' was echoing still in his own head. Decker did not react. Clearly the order which had made the clones turn on the Jedi. The why still unclear to Decker. But he was not going to get his answer, not today.
The rest of the clone troopers following the clearly given order blindly.
What could Decker do? Run into the blaster fire in an effort to stop them? It was moot and only be sacrificing himself and for nothing. No, this was one battle he could neither fight against nor win. And it was becoming quite clear to him, that there would be no winners in the battle filed today, only losers.
So, with the terrible decision made, that of deciding to save himself.
To follow the lead of the others. Lie if he had to. But despite it all, Decker would not be the one pulling the trigger. Not against his commanders.
And so, with that choice made, Decker just stood there. With his blaster aimed, but never firing one single shot. Only waiting for it all to end. As it would all end, soon enough.
Well, Decker would take his place beside his brethren. Those who had commented the terrible crimes just now. Despite the doubt, the disgust and quilt, Decker would come out of this alive.
"Commander!" Decker was roused from his thoughts as his Lieutenant came rushing into the makeshift command centre.
"Lieutenant, what is it?" Decker asked, his mind still filled with the images of the past.
"We have located the insurgents nest." The Lieutenant replied rather proudly.
"That was fast." Decker praised him.
"Well, it's not like they are hiding. Seems the imperial scouts were right about the coordinates for once."
Decker shared his Lieutenant's frustration. Ever since the Commander had been given his new squad and having been ordered to the current location in the outer borders of the Empire. They had been chasing hunches and ghosts and the maybes. As mostly, what the imperials considered as an assessment of what could pass as an insurgent, was usually dead wrong. Because mostly whom Decker and his squad really faced were simple folk. Only wanting to live their lives in peace without the Empire's yoke around their necks.
Decker and his men served the Empire well though. But sometimes, the line between right and wrong was simply too thin. And Decker, was not about to repeat the same mistakes. Which they were in his mind. As that which had happened during Order 66. Killing those they had served, without much in proof of any wrong doing? Well, it had been a dark moment indeed for not just Decker but for all the clone troopers.
Something which Decker had never really figured out as to the why it had all happened. There was really no place to ask that as it was all hushed and secured information after the incident, as the newly formed Empire had put it. More like a massacre in Deckers mind, but he was not about to voice those opinions to anyone. Because he did not really trust that many people, not any more.
All of Decker's former squad members had been assigned to other platoons. And Decker himself had landed on a commission as a Commander where he was at now. In the far end of the galaxy with his new squad. Taking care of the Empire's business. Something which he was still thankful for, even if it was not the best place to be.
Good soldiers followed orders.
Then again, good men standing idly by when atrocities were conducted in the name of following orders did not a good solider make.
But, for Decker, it was a not a question in following the orders blindly. And suspecting the reason for his current position as well. As even if he had not disobeyed the order, not directly away. Order 66. He had not raised his weapon and shot to kill either. Whomever had seen it maybe, even made a note of it? Well, the guess was as good as any. As to the why Decker had not been arrested and hauled off the spot, and not court martialed and shot?
Well, It might haven been due to the simple reason, that Decker, was a special kind of a clone on his own right. And that had gotten him a get out of jail card.
He wasn't an enhanced clone by any means. Not like those Decker had only heard tall tales about from other troopers. It had been a long time since Decker had been on Kamino, having been shipped out almost as soon as they had redeemed him ready. And so, being privy to most things happening on Kamino, was not something for Decker to be had.
But, there were certain traits Decker possessed that had even surprised the Kaminoans. But they had kept it all quiet. As rather than decommissioning Decker, they had let him thrive. Which had been odd on its own. But most likely as one of the scientists there had taken pity on the specially skilled clone. At least, that was a theory Decker had formed later on.
And so thrive he had. Having gone though various special ops and tactical trainings out of Kamino and finally taking part in the commando training on Mandalore. Leaving Decker with multitude of talents. Decker had a several special instincts, as the scientist assigned to him liked to call them. One of them being able to read most people, detecting if they were lying or not. It wasn't exact science, but mostly, those so called defects worked for Decker.
The unfortunate result of being such a clone however was, that it had also rendered him an outcast among the other clones. Being shipped off Kamino while still fresh out of the tubes. So, there really was no brotherly bond for him, not like the many other clones had. But he had his squad members and the trust between them at least.
Still, the many skills and the even more rigorous training Decker had endured had left him in a position to be self sufficient. And so, when the war had finally started, Decker had been assigned to places around the galaxy the more redeemed officers and their crews never ventured to. Something of a punishment, but also a blessing in a disguise in a way. As sometimes, the battles were not nearly as bad as those fought in the more populated and dense areas around the galaxy.
It was also most likely those special abilities Decker had acquired during the creation which had made him who he was. The odd clone out. Which had lead to Decker not wanting to kill the Jedi.
But like so many times before. Decker's strong survival instincts had led him to go along with the others, Not singling himself from the rest of the clones who had followed the order. Wanting to be part of the group. Whatever it was which had stopped him on that day? Decker was both glad and regretful of the whole ordeal.
And now, with this new Empire, Decker had made a promise to himself.
Which was to try his very best not to harm any more innocent souls. And to only seek out those who really were verified insurgents, traitors and a threat to the Empire.
And so, with precision, a lot of investigation, with the good clone troopers serving alongside of him and Decker's own special skills, he had managed to achieve the impossible. Saving lives of those farmers and workers who wanted only to live their lives without trouble. And, along the way, Decker had gained allies from them.
And so, when those real insurgents, trouble makers really, were spotted, Decker having usually gotten wind of them before the imps were even privy of their existence. Which then again led to taking care of the problem before it had even gotten a chance to rise to such. Thus rendering excellent results without too much bloodshed. Most of the times.
There were still those, who resisted and then, well, then things turned out very different.
But, at least for now, Decker was satisfied of what he was doing, even if it was for the Empire. And sometimes drastic measures were needed.
But as all good things, Decker's fine deal in the middle of nowhere space was about to come to an abrupt end.
As it often was, any good deed done, never went unpunished.
And so it happened with Commander Decker's case as well. As having thought he was doing a great service as a loyal solider for the Empire. Which Decker at least pretended to be. Unfortunately, his success turned out to be his biggest failure.
As it was, the word of his great deeds had traveled far. All the way to Coruscant.
And so, the Empire desperate for good soldiers, those ones who were willing to do, what needed to be done for the good of the Empire. True leaders of the regime. Victory above all. And victories were indeed on the list of Commander Decker's. Unfortunately, his used methods were yet to be known to the ones having made the decision to call him to the capital of the Empire.
So, with great sadness, Decker said goodbye to his squad.
As they were to remain behind. Having been assigned with a new leader. But the men who had served with Decker at his current posting, had all looked up to him and followed his orders to the letter. They had never, not even once questioned his decisions, his choices. And Decker could only hope that whomever was taking his place, would at least try to do things the way he had been running them. For the good of them all.
"Well miss you Commander!" His Lieutenant, Decker's right hand man had stated, the emotions filling his voice when the two of them had hugged their goodbyes.
"I'll miss you too!" Decker had felt the tears stinging his own eyes then. "All of you."
He turned to look at this squad one more time. All of them standing in attention and saluting him. As Decker did them. These were all good soldiers, good men. It had indeed been an honour serving with them all.
"It has been an honour, Commander!"
It was not the first time Decker had said his goodbyes to those he had worked with and grown attached to. It seemed to have been the norm for him for so long. And now? Well, this had been the longest assignment Decker had been on, literally. Working with the same squad. And they had gotten under his skin, like he had under theirs.
Decker could only wish their new commanding officer to be good to them.
Decker was on his way to the capital of the Empire.
The ship flying through hyperspace, it would take several days for them to even reach the system. So, Decker had plenty of time on his hands. Something he really did not care for. As it meant he would be alone with his thoughts, his memories. And those were things Decker rather not dwell on. Not now, not ever.
Working for the Republic, despite being constantly ripped off one place for another. Even from people Decker had gotten comfortable with had been, fine. Something he had gotten used to. A life of solitude, even among many. But he had friends, of course, lovers, but never anything really close to his heart. Which had been, again fine.
But ever since Order 66, Decker had raised an invisible wall between himself and his brethren. As after having seen them turn against the Jedi, most of them anyway. So, now, being somewhat wary towards them. Keeping his distance to the others of his kind. But that too had changed after Decker finally getting the permanent posting and becoming friendly and even close to those he served with.
Decker was hardly a fan of the Empire. But what they had given him with him, had been a blessing.
But now, that too had changed. Even if he had tried to keep a low profile, he had been singled out once again. Albeit for the right reasons. But going into the heart of thing and working with the so called elite soldiers? His transfer, which according to the officer Decker had spoken with regarding it, was a non-negotiable one. Decker had checked that one too.
And so, much to Decker's chagrin, he was going to be part of the elite. And wasn't that a total kick in the shebs if anything ever had been!
Decker was having all the time in the galaxy while travelling to Coruscant. But being all alone with his thoughts was the beginning of the depression and pressure settling in once again. Something which Decker had fought so hard against ever since Order 66 had happened. And the cure having been to atone for his own wrong doings while working out there, saving others right after that.
Did Decker have any hope in continuing doing just that? Decker doubted it was going to be an option where he was going. And that knowledge depressed him more than anything in a long, long while.
But, Decker knew he would survive this ordeal too. He always did. Landing on his feet was inherit to Decker. The survival instinct in him pushing him on. And no amount of guilt would ever change that. Whether it was a good thing or not? Well, that was not something Decker was about to dwell on. Not internally nor with anyone else for that matter.
"Commander Decker." Rampart greeted him. "I have heard only good things of your many exploits. It is good to have you onboard." Rampart had the superior stance like most of the imps in charge did, the ones Decker had no particular fondness for. "You will be working with Commander Crosshair. One of our most successful Clone Commanders so far." Rampart went on. "I'll trust you will find this command very much to your satisfaction."
Of course, Rampart had it all wrong. About whom Decker was and what he had done for the Empire. But Decker was not about to correct him. As none of that mattered now. Decker had done what he had been able to do. But now, under the watchful eyes of these, these imps. Well, there was little good Decker could do now.
Decker, nodding only in agreement and hoping this, other Commander, Crosshair? Would not be a total Sithspit to work with.
Enlightenment found - was there ever any doubt?
After their first night together, Crosshair and Decker had certainly grown closer. As what had supposed to be a simple bout of relief in the ole hay quickly evolved to something more permanent. Not that it was discussed at length. It simply happened. With the two of them spending their nights together more often than not. Something to both of their surprise. It was an arrangement of convenience. At least, that was what both of them were telling themselves.
As Decker usually did not do, relationships.
But being with Crosshair, however felt good and comfortable. Not just for the sake of sex, but for all other aspects as well. They liked spending time with each other. And working together was certainly much easier now.
Decker had managed to do good as well. While having had convinced Crosshair to do some of his, well bidding. The similar way of working which Decker was used to with his former squad before his reassignment. The 'not killing so many people and still getting results' kind of thing.
It worked for a while even if Decker had his many doubts ever growing of what the Empire was, but still figuring he could at partially be the counter affect to all the bad. But then, something came to Deckers attention. Something which again made the underlying truth about the evilness of the Empire raise its ugly head again.
The fate of some of the clones the imperials deemed as traitors or unsuitable to the imperial regime. Something which Decker could not simply ignore. The question remaining, what would Decker do about it and did he have help to do what he was thinking of doing, even if the final decision was not really made.
More importantly, could Decker tell Crosshair about what he had found out? And if he did, would Crosshair believe him even?
The evidence was not easily obtained. Not any more as Decker had tried to dig into the databases, to find the information. But it seemed to have either vanished or then buried in so deep with layers of encryption upon it. And unfortunately way beyond Decker's level of expertise to break through all the security.
Then there was the lingering question: Could Decker trust Crosshair to help him? Or at least, turn a blind eye to the valiant efforts Decker was involved with?
Because at the point Decker had internally debated the choices, he found he had already reached the decision of what he was going to do. In the end, it really had been a no brainer as to what the right thing to do really was.
"Dank Farrik!" Decker cursed after having been trying to hack into the system for the umpteenth time. "I should really have tried to learn this stuff while I had the chance!"
Decker was frustrated as the Empire had tightened security even more so after the rumours had started about the clones. First off the one about the Empire phasing them down, exchanging the
clone troopers for nat-born conscripted soldiers. Then what followed was the unruly unhappiness within the ranks of the clones and that had spawned all kinds of conspiracy theories running rampant in the hallways of the imperial bases.
That of an uprising having begun to grow amongst the clone soldiers.
There was no uprising though. Not in the sense the Empire had concocted there to be.
However, Decker among two other officers had decide on starting an underground railroad of a thing. The purpose of aiding all those clones wanting to leave, to defect, become traitors, whatever the term was. To help them in their endeavours of getting the Sith out Dodge. With limited resources, it was a difficult task. But Decker felt it was better for the clones to get out there, even if on their own rather than to die. Anything was better than death, really.
Well, most things were. And freedom being the key here.
So, working with that thought and the fact that Decker and the other two officers, neither of them clones, had contacts out in the galaxy able to hook up the defectors with jobs and such once out there. Decker had found it odd that the two imperial officers, both of them high ranking civilian operatives working for the Admiral's offices, had contacted him. And then suggested what Decker had already pretty much decided to do on his own.
And so after some soul searching and such, Decker had decided to trust the two. And so, they had started their arduous work. And so far, that trust had not been unwarranted. They had helped some several tens of clones already. But, it was becoming more and more difficult to stage these escapes. As they needed to make it look like they had died while fighting the good fight. Killed in action, the most common deception. After all, the Empire's enemies were many and everywhere.
But then once again, even more disturbing news landed on Decker's desk. That of decommissioning clone cadets. Younglings, shinies as they had been fondly called in the good old days.
"Where are they kept at now?" Lantesh asked.
The half Human-Twi'lek. By the mere fact of them having a Human father who had been a high ranking officer in the former senate and a part of the close court of Palatine's. Lantesh had managed to get a job as a high level clerk and thus had access to plenty of information coming from the Emperor's offices through to the Admiral Rampart's. They were one of the two Decker had gotten recruited by to help in the now called clone rescue agenda.
"They were moved only yesterday to the holding area in the basement of this building. It's not as high security as the cellblocks are, but there are serval guards posted there." Denali responded.
Denali was a Human who had ended up working for Rampart's staff ever since the new Empire had been formed. She had, like Lantesh, made a name for herself during the Republic. Known as the senator maker back then, with a cunning attitude and great survival instincts, she had been a highly valued and sought after aid. But, having a sense of the future and the turmoil on the rise, she had made several comments in favour of the Empire. Landing a great portion within the newly formed Empire and enabling Denali to work on the inside.
Only, what she like Lantesh were doing now, could hardly benefit the Empire. Then again, neither of them regretted anything they did, if it meant saving lives. Not that neither of them had lost love for the imperials or their agenda, not after what they had witnessed.
"And they are to be moved two days from now?" Decker recapped what they had already discussed.
"Yes, that is the current plan." Denali said. "But as we all know how flaky the imperials are, that could very well change at a moments notice." Denali warned the other two.
"I have gotten confirmation from my source, that they are able to intercept the transport in the allotted time. But if it happens sooner, then they cannot guarantee anything."
Decker, whom had luckily accumulated several allies. Some of them, well, more on the shady side of things. And he was now collecting those favours said allies owed him.
"You said they are pirates?" Lantesh had not believed at first when Decker had told them about the kind of people he had helped while serving the Empire, among regular folk of course.
"Well, they like to think of themselves more like, independent contractors. But yeah, pirates is an accurate description for them." Decker snorted.
"And it will totally work for our benefit." Denali told the other two. "What better cover than having a transport vessel full of young clones to be kidnapped by pirates, their value as slaves alone! Well, the imperials will be sorry to see all that wasted potential go down the exhaust pipes, won't they!"
Denali let out a small chuckle as well. As even if this was all serious business, sometimes a small laugh got them through a bad situation, the absurdity of it all.
They had been lucky enough to find out about the two hundred odd cadets being shipped out. Decommissioning was such an ugly word. Especially where the clones were concerned. But the Empire while wasting manpower left and right! But had decided, in whatever wisdom was behind it, to use the young clones for labour and letting them die a slow and agonising death on some slave labour camp somewhere out there.
"So we can trust these, people then?" Lantesh still had their doubts.
"I know the leader." Decker said then. "And she is always true to her word. I have worked with her and the ragtag crew before. And so far, there has been an understanding, that betrayal is not an option." How Decker had come to this conclusion, was a whole other story.
"Alright. That is good to hear." Lantesh, while not totally sold of the idea of using pirates for this operation, trusted Decker's word.
After all, Denali and Lantesh had been working as double agents for a long while now. Ever since the Empire had become the one constant fact in the galaxy. But, both of them, having already known each other way before the Empire and being fast friends for as long a time. Having seen the signs of change rising, and then having made their decisions to do whatever needed to be done.
They had spotted Decker. As always being on the look out for someone who could aid their small cause. And so, having their eyes open for such recruits, naturally. Decker's records from his previous posting had been an interesting read to Lantesh and Denali. Able to read between the lines and then to see the very different way of command Decker had compared to the usual way the imperial Commanders worked. Having then observed Decker in the background while on Coruscant, the two of them had decided to approach him.
Decker and the two weren't the only ones working behind the scenes. As there were others as well, whom did not share the ideals of the Empire. But Denali and Lantesh were the leaders and the most involved ones. Having Decker the only clone currently in their secret ranks had been a win for them. After all, it was mostly clones the dynamic duo had been helping. It was logical as the clones were more inclined to trust one of their own.
The whole reason for the movement being the single fact that the Empire was now phasing down the clone troopers. None of the cadets or the younglings were ever going to be allowed to grow into the soldiers they should have become. And so, there was really nowhere to place them except, use as slaves by the Empire. Sell them to slavery to other independent establishments or worse, kill them all off.
"There is one more thing." Denali said to Decker then.
"Oh?" Decker was not worried as this was not the first round he had gone with these two and there usually was, the something else there.
"There is someone else, who has fallen out of favour of Rampart's and we have agreed to help them out as well." Denali stated rather cryptically.
"Well, that is hardly news." Decker smirked. "After all, I would say most clones in any kind of command have managed to do so at one point or another. Some still managing to crawl back to his favour. It seems to be one constant if nothing else is around here."
Decker himself having kept a low profile. Even while working with Crosshair. Letting the other Commander take all the credit for their missions together. And then Crosshair in turn becoming a favourite of the Admiral's. Well, it was a good place for Decker to be at. Because he was able to perform this… well, extra curricular activity.
Then again, Decker had thought of what could happen if he ever was found out.
Decker and Crosshair being involved personally might have seemed as an issue. They had kept it on the down and low however. And nobody knew about their little dalliance either. After all, it wasn't a relationship. Rather, a position of stress relief for both of them. At least, that was what Decker kept telling himself. And that was the story he would tell, if anyone asked.
"Yeah? But, here is where it get's a little complicated." Lantesh added.
Lantesh and Denali having already discussed the matter amongst themselves, were wary of having someone high on the food chain defecting. But they had planned to incorporate this escape together with the cadets. It would be more easily explained. At least they hoped so. As it was only proper procedure to have a high ranking officer present.
"I am listening." Decker was getting a tad worried now.
"Well, while the cadets are leaving on the transport, we need someone to shuttle this, person, out of here and then meet with the transport, before the pirates 'hit' it." Denali enlightened Decker.
"Is that all." Decker's brows were raised, high in surprise as this was not something he had expected, at all.
"Don't worry. We have thought of the how." Lantesh assured Decker.
"Well, I am feeling much better." Decker stated with a hint of sarcasm in his statement.
Decker had put a lot of faith in the two of them. Then again, so had Lantesh and Denali put in him as well. After having approached Decker and then offered him a position in their cause right off the bat.
"You will be in disguise and we have made all the needed paper work for it. So it will all be fine." Denali assured Decker. "As a ranking officer is supposed to monitor the whole process of delivery of the cadets anyway. And naturally, we managed to change the assignment files to have our person going instead."
"So, undercover ops?" Decker asked.
"Yes. Something you should be able to pull of easily. After all, to the imperials, all the clones look alike." Lantesh let out a laugh.
"Lucky us!" Decker stated in a flat tone.
Then again, it was true. As part from Crosshair, they were all pretty similar looking now in the Empire's service. As even their armour were all void of any paint, decorations or markings, except those of rank. A blank and faceless clone army they were indeed.
"Well, at least for this mission, it is good that you do. Because we can use that against them."
Denali had no such prejudice against the clones, naturally.
She was helping them as she had never really felt comfortable in using the clones in the war. Something she had already voiced during the Republic era. It had, in her opinion been a sugar coated way of using slaves. And now, seeing what the Empire was doing to those who had served without a say in it themselves? She had made her mission to try to free as many of them as possible. But it wasn't of course only clones they were helping to get out, but mostly it was, clones.
"No truer words were ever spoken." Decker agreed.
As it might have been seen either as a curse, but also now, while working under cover, it was a blessing, as Decker, could easily impersonate any one of his brethren.
Crosshair's road from there to here
While Crosshair had certainly had an established relationship with Hunter, which had abruptly come to a halt when Crosshair had turned on his batch. Or visa versa, that was all still highly debatable. Or was it? Crosshair was not totally sure of that fact either. Not any more. So many mistakes having been made, on both sides. So, guess it was moot to think about that now.
It seemed a lot of things Crosshair had held factual during and right after Order 66, those ideals now starting to falter. And new ideals and thoughts were replacing those old rigid and unyielding beliefs of his. Much as he himself was. Severe and unyielding. At least according to Tech. But now? Well, nothing seemed as black and white anymore. A lot of grey was starting to fill the horizon Crosshair was looking at, and that was happening in a good way.
Whatever the reason was behind Crosshair's new train of thought, was still unclear. The chip was long since gone. And the after effects of said chip? If there ever had been any, were starting to fade as well. Even if his own personality traits had been enhanced. And, as Crosshair was well aware of, he was not a nice and easy going person, at all.
But, it was sure that all of those traits had certainly been heightened during the chips activation. At least it felt that way to Crosshair at this point in time. His thinking having becoming much more clearer. More focused and more, well more of everything really each passing day. It was something totally new and quite scary as well. And Crosshair did not feel as tense and at the verge of lashing out each time something did not go his way.
And so, Crosshair was embracing the change, no matter how odd it felt to him.
Having been away from his Batch, his family and being on his own for a while. Well it was different to say the least. Having to make all his own decision, rather than relying on support from his Batch. But, it was also something of a proving point for Crosshair. Going solo. Growing on his own as a person, not depending on anyone but himself. Doing whatever felt best, for him. But while certainly having felt lonely and hurtful sometimes, the process had been good on many levels as well. The work being Crosshair's focal point. At least, it had felt good for a while.
That was until Decker had turned up. And that, had certainly changed Crosshair's world around once again. Having Decker on his side now, felt good, comfortable, safe. A surprise for sure, for the rigid and unyielding person Crosshair was.
Being with Decker was so different from being with Hunter and the other members of the Batch as well.
Despite having had a… well, reg, around. Echo. Crosshair having gotten used to the clone. Decker was still so far removed from the often times regulation quoting Arc trooper Echo had been in the beginning despite his horrid experiences in the hands of the Techno Union. But, in Echo's defence, the Batch had soon enough engulfed him into their fold and made the former reg one of their own. The change towards becoming a Bad Batcher had started in Echo as well, having turned to a bad ass Batcher on his own right.
And being so far removed from the norm himself, Crosshair was only too glad Decker was none of that either. Certainly not a reg, despite the term Crosshair still liked to use of him. At least, in his personal contemplation of them man. As it seemed to be happening more often that not. Decker filling his thoughts. Living there rent free, as the old adage went.
For Crosshair's change of heart, or at least, the doubts about whom and what he was these days? Well, it wasn't simple the fact that the offerings of the Empire were becoming less appealing. It was something else which had made him change. Or then, it because all of it causing Crosshair in wanting to become a, if not better and different person, as he did not dislike all the traits that made him, Crosshair. But perhaps, an improved version of himself.
Even if it had seemed at first, that serving the Empire was exactly what Crosshair had needed. The structure, the orders, the goals, the rigidness of it all. All of that having been something he had craved to fill the empty void having begun to grow inside of him all that time ago. Around the time his chip had activated possibly? Crosshair could not be sure of the when though.
And it wasn't like the Republic had not had a structure of doing things. But working with the Bad Batch was certainly different kind of order. Chaos more like it. Still, it had been good while it lasted. It had actually been great for a long while, thinking back, working together with his Batch.
Now, the offerings of the Empire did not seem so, well, necessary. All the work? Felt more like simply going through the motions really. The planning, the missions, while satisfying on some lower level, it all felt, well, rather hollow now. Still, a job was a job and good soldiers followed orders, right?
Felling the way Crosshair did, had started some time before Decker had joined in Admiral Rampart's ranks. Those thoughts filling Crosshair's mind late at night. The questions of right and wrong. But he had pushed them all away. Deep down, not daring to even go there most of the timed. Digging up the buried corpses of his lingering thoughts.
And so, Crosshair had carried on his duties. Following orders, like the good solider he was. Getting the praise he had never really wanted. And there it was. Rampart thinking quite highly of him. The Admiral's own words. Not something Crosshair had been prepared to hear. But they were spoken to him nevertheless. Accolades!
And so, the nightmares had started.
The daily grind moving alone on its own accord. Not much effort there. Doing his job, his squad following his or rather, Rampart's orders. All of them to the letter. They were good soldiers, most of them anyway.
But at night?
Well, needless to say, that sleep was scarce and even poor when Crosshair had managed to dose off for all of few precious hours each night. And then, his mood had started to change, for the worse. Chewing his toothpicks at a rate like never before. The constant nagging at the back of his mind. Crosshair even felt his own squad walking on eggshells around him at best of times.
And then, a ray of hope had shone into the womp rat's nest.
They had clashed at first. Their first mission a major disaster having been working together. Crosshair had wanted Decker gone. Having told Rampart as much, An ultimatum of sorts. After all, Crosshair was still the Admiral's favourite, so suspecting to have some leverage and say at least. Guess he had calculated that one wrong, as the Admiral had not been fazed by the threat.
But then, the Decker and Crosshair surprisingly finding common ground. Decker not being 'the reg' Crosshair had thought he would be after all. But rather someone whom Crosshair had found that the both of them could actually deal with the problems causing the friction between them. And by talking to each other no less! And from then on, their working relationship had gone from bad to tolerable to good.
And so, finding the one person who did not seem to dislike or even hate Crosshair. A reg no less! Well, it had lead to a loose friendship at first, and then gradually grown into something else.
And that something else? Well, it was by mutual non-verbal agreement, stress relief. At least, Decker had called it that, jokingly? Throwing it in the air one night while having drinks. Something they also seemed to do now, spending time with a drink or few. After all, they were friends. Decker had said as much. Then again, free time was scarce for the soldiers of the Empire. So, not a lot of free time on their hands. But they did spend most of it together. And most nights in the others bed too.
So, stress relief…
Crosshair had thought he could be on his own. Alone even after leaving his family behind. He had never been alone though. Not really. And this was the first time. And after the initial high had simmered, Crosshair had found it to be a lonely place, being alone and on his own. Missing his family each and every day. Missing the closeness of them all. Especially Hunter. Despite pushing all thoughts of them aside, it usually never helped. They kept popping back there, the Batchers.
And here was Decker.
Giving Crosshair something he had missed all along. A friend, a lover, something more?
Crosshair did not dare to think of it that way. The something more. After all, Decker was not the sort to settle down. He was not Hunter. Far from it. While Hunter was all about family, about having an established relationship, defined one at that. Decker only seemed to need the friendship, with all the benefits, but definitely none of the strings going along with such a relationship. Definitely no strings for Commander Decker! And guess, Crosshair was on board with that?
And certainly with the way things were going with Empire right now?
Not the time to be getting too attached to anyone.
The Empire was phasing down the clones and any one's turn could be next. Favourite or not. Crosshair had seen the data himself . He had heard the discussions between the two Admirals. He had seen all the evidence first hand. There was no doubt about it. Even if it had not been for his eyes, still, Crosshair had stumbled on it all. And, Crosshair knew now, that Hunter's words spoken to him on Kamino, had been true.
"They are only using you."
Crosshair had stated to wonder what his options were.
There really was no going back to his former family. After all, Crosshair had made it pretty clear back on Kamino last they had met, that they were all in the wrong. Hunter, was in the wrong. And Crosshair had made his choice. Lying in bed with the Empire. There was no way the Batch would ever welcome him back, not anymore.
There was also something Crosshair had noticed in Decker. Something which had happened recently. He seemed more, drawn. Their dalliances less frequent now. Not the Crosshair needed to be with the man every waking hour! They weren't together after all! And even if they were, they weren't joined at the hip!
But why then, did Crosshair miss Decker, when the reg was somewhere doing Sith knew what!
Crosshair's base paranoia sometimes took over still, despite the chip having been removed. Then again, guess it had always been there all along, those feelings of conspiracies, and whatnots, everyone being against Crosshair on some level at least. And so, conjuring scenarios about Decker having had enough of him and moving on. There were still plenty of regs around to choose from after all.
Crosshair had gotten wind of something else going on though.
There were rumours, floating among the clones, that something was brewing under the surface. This was nothing new of course. As those kinds of rumours had been around as long as the Empire had been there. But, lately, a lot of regs had gone missing. And Crosshair knew for a fact, that some of those disappearing instances were not the Empire's doing.
So, having carefully asked around, even if the regs had never really liked him and trusted even less. Still, having a drink or few in them had loosened a few tongues. And Crosshair had heard the stories. Of an operation going on, where clone troopers who were willing to leave of their own choice or those forced to leave, were being aided to 'disappear' by operatives inside the Empire.
After having heard these tales, Crosshair had decided to keep the intel to himself. Because as far as he knew, Admiral Rampart among many other ranking officers thought these were nothing but rumours. Crosshair having suspected the contrary, now having the confirmation otherwise. And so, tucking it away for now, keeping it as an option for himself even, if and when he would need such a plan.
Because even when serving the Empire well, no one was really safe and secure, not even the most favoured officers.
There was still the matter of Decker to solve though.
While they had made no vows to one and other. Promises to stay together through thick and thin. Crosshair wanted to know what it was that was going on with Decker and whether there was nothing more between them except the shared missions. And well, that was really what Crosshair needed to know, before making his own decisions.
Because if the changes were moving along faster than anticipated, Crosshair needed to know whom if anyone but himself he needed to consider, when the push came to shove and when it was time to leave the Empire, far behind in the dust.
Turn-a-coats around every corner
Crosshair had followed Decker, both of them landing in the hangar.
Having been stood up a few days in a row, Crosshair had decided was unusual even for Decker. Seeing Decker being the one who had constantly been nagging for the two of them to spend their night together. While it was mostly fine with Crosshair. More than fine really. There had been a week or so of silence from the other man. Of not having made any advances whatsoever. When Crosshair had finally invited Decker for a nightcap, he had turned Crosshair down, twice in a row.
With Crosshair's suspicions rising and deciding to figure out the reason behind this, quite odd behaviour of Decker's.
There were a few scenarios of course, playing in the paranoid mind of Crosshair's. One of them being that Decker had found someone else to spend his nights with. Not that Crosshair was jealous! Well, mostly not. Besides, it had been all casual between them, right? But, there were other things as well to consider.
While trying to find out what it was Decker was really hiding from him, Crosshair had gone after Decker, following the other clone with stealth across the base.
It had happened right after another excuse made by Decker to not to spend time with Crosshair after Crosshair had made a suggestion. After realising Decker was not on his way to his quarters as per his initial claim, rather headed somewhere else, Crosshair had made a quick decision in going after the other clone.
Several moments later, of following the other clone, Crosshair had ended up in the hangar.
It was rather late in the evening and there were no others there except the two guards on duty, nowhere two be seen though. Which in Crosshair's mind was typical for the hired help. Never around where needed.
Decker had disappeared into one of the smaller offices on the other side of the bay while Crosshair had hid in the shadows. Waiting for what was about to happen. After a moment Decker re-emerged. And much to Crosshair's surprise he was dressed in a uniform of an imperial solider. Those ones serving on the starships only, never going to actual battle. Which was odd in itself.
He looked like any other reg. But Crosshair could tell the difference. Easily.
A few moments more passed and Decker was standing close to the office, half hidden in the shadows, clearly waiting for something or rather someone to arrive.
Crosshair remained hidden too. Then, after a moment more had passed, he heard someone else approaching the bay. It was clear that it was the person Decker was waiting for as they moved in rather quietly.
As they reached the dimly lit area, Crosshair could see it was another reg.
But, the reg was with his back turned towards Crosshair and he could not see them properly and not able to recognise them either. Not that Crosshair new each and every reg personally. Why would he?
The two regs, Decker and the new arrival were chatting in a low register. And from what Crosshair could see, it was not a romantic interlude happening between them at all. Their stance, the way they stood from each other were clear indication of a less personal interlude.
No, it was definitely something else was going on between the two.
The something else, which Crosshair intended to find out. Right now.
"Commander Decker." Crosshair's tone was a low hiss, as he emerged from the shadows he had been hiding in, seeing the surprise on Decker's face as he approached the two.
Decker looked somewhat panicked too, as clearly, he should have checked his surroundings better than he had as he uttered."So yeah, this is not what it looks like."
Decker feared the worst now, as he had not intended for Crosshair to find out. Not this way anyway. As to the what Decker had figured Crosshair to have found out? Well, he kind of had an inkling of those choices. Or rather the one more important one.
But Crosshair did not budge from his stance, nor did the even try to throw any tantrums either.
"What exactly did you think I thought this looked like?"
Crosshair's tone as calm as it was snide. He nodded to Decker's and the other regs direction. The other reg still having his back turned to where Crosshair was standing. Close, but not close enough. Keeping his distance, just in case.
"Um.. Well… I…" Clearly an angry tooka had gotten Decker's tongue as he was unable to form any kind of coherent sentence.
Crosshair let out a heavy sigh. "You are helping regs to escape." It wasn't a question.
Because the evidence was there. Plain and simple and somehow staring Crosshair straight in the face. Something, which apparently Crosshair had known all along. A slight revelation to himself as well it certainly was.
Because Crosshair knew now, that deep down he had trusted Decker to not to betray him. At least not on a personal level. How Crosshair had known that? Well, it was still beyond him. But it was a gut feeling he had had. And trusting that feelings as he was now, only one option remained.
Decker was trying to save the clones.
As it was, Crosshair had seen this coming. It had been evident to happen. Something present there, most likely since the very beginning. The way Decker had played Crosshair during their missions. Making subtle changes to their plans. Saving people. And Crosshair had let him.
"Well, guess then… it is what it looks like." Decker had really no excuses to make, not any more.
Just then, the other clone turned around.
"If you are here to arrest someone, then it's me you want." The familiar voice sounded into Crosshair's ears.
"Commander Cody." Crosshair's low hiss stated.
He was surprised. It was not the reg Crosshair had expected to see there. Jumping ship. Becoming a deserter, a traitor in the eyes of the Empire. Then again, why not Commander Cody?
"Crosshair." Cody's voice was hoarse.
There was a long moment of stand still. All three of them staring at each other. None of them making a move. None of them trying to explain themselves or make any excuses either.
"Fine." Crosshair stated flatly, breaking the awkward silence.
Making the two regs look back at him, wide eyed. Both of them somewhat panicked even, not sure what the acknowledgement really had meant. And whether their numbers had been pulled up or not.
"I will help you."
"What made you change your mind?" Decker's voice was hoarse, swallowing hard as he spoke.
Decker had been once again surprised. Totally so. It seemed to be happening a lot lately. Crosshair surprising him. Not many could to that. Not to Decker. But, apparently this man, Crosshair seemed to be able to do that. Just as Decker had excepted something, here Crosshair was proving him wrong.
After all Crosshair was, well, Empire through and through. Well, mostly so, But there had been, subtle changes in him happening ever since Crosshair and Decker had started to… well, be together. Because that was what Decker saw it as. The two of them. Together. Despite his, well, slight deception. Being an aid to the traitors and all.
"Times change, opinions change." Crosshair simply replied to Decker's question without batting an eye. "Now, what is the plan here?"
"I, well, I was about to take the Commander out for a spin." Decker admitted as much, not revealing too much yet as he was still somewhat cautious of Crosshair.
"Fine. You go. I will cover for you here." Crosshair stated simply.
Decker, still not sure as to what was really going on. Or even what had prompted the sudden change in Crosshair. Regarding betraying the Empire. As it was what it was, betrayal. But, still thanking the Maker above.
As the alternative being? Well Decker did not even want to think about that now.
"Thank you, Crosshair." Commander Cody said as their eyes met.
Crosshair nodded and said to Cody. "Just take care of the rest of them, wandering out there."
It was becoming quite clear to the other two. The fact that Crosshair was well aware of the other clones having deserted rather than having died while on duty. Having been aided by someone to escape the clutches of the Empire. And then gone out there on their own. At least, Decker thought Crosshair did. Or he was pretty sure Crosshair knew and also that Decker was heavily involved in it all.
And Decker was right. Crosshair knew about it all. Right now at least. The rumours and evidence coming together into a neatly packaged solution for him.
Decker still surprised as he wanted to ask so many questions at the very moment. But that would have to wait. There was the mission he needed to finish before getting caught. Really getting caught by someone else.
"I will." Cody promised Crosshair, knowing well as to what Crosshair was referring to.
"We had better go." Decker said to Cody then.
But Crosshair had still one request for Cody. "Can you find out, if they are all right?"
Cody looked at him baffled for a moment, before he realised what Crosshair had meant. After all, the two of them had worked together. Both in the Republic and the Empire as well.
"I will find them." Cody promised knowing what it was Crosshair was asking for him to do. "And tell them you… said, hello?"
Cody waiting for any signs from Crosshair. Just in case there was some other message he wanted to convey to his Batch.
Crosshair only nodded, but added nothing more to the sentiment Cody had uttered.
There were so many things Crosshair wanted to tell his family. But none of that mattered now. Still, if anyone could keep them safe, it was Cody. As Crosshair feared for their safety, each passing day. As it was now, Crosshair was no longer hunting them down and therefore, was not privy to where they were or what their status even was.
As Cody and Decker were about to start towards the ship prepped and waiting for the two of them, Decker stepped back. He then quickly closed the short distance back to Crosshair. Leaning into the other man, he softly whispered close to Crosshair's ear.
"Thank you." Decker then gave a quick peck on Crosshair's lips and and before he turned to leave. "I will see you when I get back."
A brief smirk appeared on Crosshair's lips. "You had better!"
Decker had returned to Crosshair after yet another successful mission of freeing clones. Commander Cody being among them, safely on his way towards freedom.
While en route to deliver Cody to the ship filled with cadets, Decker had asked if Cody was privy to the rumours which had started among a few clones. That of there being some kind of organised uprising, a rebellion involving rogue clone troopers.
"I only know of the five, well, I guess four now. Clone Force 99." Cody had replied.
Cody had laughed as he had told Decker of Crosshair's former Batch, something which Decker was somewhat privy of, even if Crosshair had not really shared that much of them to him.
"But I doubt there is such a thing thought. I guess it is a fantasy, of so many these days." Cody had sadly added. "And sometimes those things take a life of their own."
The reason for Decker having been avoiding Crosshair had simply been the undercover missions Decker was now part of. Helping clones defect.
Not wanting to involve Crosshair in any of it. And it wasn't simply because Decker had not trusted Crosshair to keep his secret. Well partly, for sure. After all, they had not known each other that long and well, Decker still had his doubts about how imperial Crosshair really was.
But most of all, Decker had feared for Crosshair's life. After all, he was still, Rampart's favourite. And if the Admiral had gotten a wind of Crosshair helping the traitors? The ramifications would have been dire. Most likely more so than for any other clone.
But as soon as Decker was back, all his lingering fears and doubts were thrown out the nearest air lock as Crosshair had greeted the man with passionate kisses. Practically throwing himself on the other clone as soon as Decker had entered Crosshair's quarters. The following hours spent in passionate love making until the early morning hours.
"So, you missed me?" Decker asked coyly as the two of them lay languidly in the after glow on.
Crosshair was running his fingers, drawing light circular figures over Decker's chest. His mind mostly void of anything else except the two of them, limbs tangled together, skin on skin.
"You can say that." Crosshair did not want to lie. Not anymore. As denying his own feelings and emotions causing more trouble than what it was worth. And clearly, mutual trust being part of the problem. Hoping to rectify it now and so, being honest with Decker was a start.
There was a moment, a pause, before Decker spoke again.
"I missed you too. A lot." Decker admitted as much. "But I was so afraid."
Decker paused, his voice hoarse. Gulping, as clearly, it had been emotional for him too. The fear, the not telling Crosshair, all of it. Most of all, there was the more Decker wanted to tell Crosshair
"Of everything." Decker did not specify, but Crosshair knew what he meant.
"You don't have to be afraid. Not anymore." Crosshair glanced at Decker, their eyes meeting.
"Not at least for me betraying you." Crosshair was staring Decker right in the eyes. There was no deception found there, whatsoever.
"We are in this together now. You and me." Crosshair had a smile on his face, a rarity for sure, reserved for the special few, which now included Decker.
It had been more than simply assuring Decker. The fact that Crosshair would not rat Decker out to the imps. But also, an admission of sorts, of Crosshair's feelings for Decker more than anything else. Even if the exact words were not spoken, Decker knew that Crosshair had meant.
Decker leaned in for a kiss, then another. Soon enough, pushing Crosshair on his back, kissing him with a newly found fervour. And only pausing for a moment, while glaring deep into the eyes of his lover.
"I love you too."
The lingering residues of the chips control were all but gone from Crosshair's mind as he had begun to see everything more clearly now. After all, Crosshair had opted to aid Decker in his efforts to save clones deserting the Empire. After discussing the matter further, Crosshair had fully committed himself to the cause. A surprise to himself as well as anyone else who had ever known him, certainly.
Decker having been curious and wanting to know Crosshair better, the two of them then having chatted about everything but also Crosshair's change of heart and that of the inhibitor chips. Something which was kind of news to Decker and then having Crosshair explain it all to him. Including his own personal experience with said chips.
"You still have your inhibitor chip in place I gather?" Crosshair asked Decker, even if he was totally behaving against any kind of chip controlling of his mind.
"Guess I do." Decker had not removed it that much was sure, but it had never bothered him either, and it wasn't really something he had known to be a fact either.
"We can have it removed." Crosshair told him then.
"How?" Decker seemed surprise as it was the imps way to control the clones after all.
"I can hack a medical droid. Similar to how I had mine removed." Crosshair revealed then.
"You can do that?" Decker asked not sure how it was even possible.
"Of course I can." Having learnt a few tricks from Tech Crosshair had managed to use it to have his chip removed unbeknownst to the Admiral or anyone else. "I am a man of many talents after all." Crosshair snorted.
The two of them were comfortably lying on the bed after another blissful bout of sex. As it was, ever since the incident in the hangar, the two of them had returned to their routine of spending their nights together. Unless of course, Decker needed to go on one of his 'missions'.
Good news, bad news - they all travel at the same rate
"Decker, we need to talk." Crosshair's tone was clipped, low and panicked even.
But he tried to make it sound normal, even if it was seemingly difficult realising he needed to keep his act on the down and low just for the show of it.
"What is it?" Decker asked after Crosshair having burst into his office unannounced, which was nothing new per se.
Crosshair looked tense and rigid in his stance. His shoulders slumped and there was not a toothpick in sight. Something of a first which Decker noted, but did not mention it. But, this was not the usual outlook for Crosshair. Not anymore. And so, it was surprising for Decker to see Crosshair looking… well, distressed for the lack of a better term.
"Not here." Crosshair mouthed to Decker as kept on glancing around the immediate area, his eyes darting every which way.
Decker could see now, that Crosshair meant business. He was clearly worried the room might be bugged. And that was something they both shared as a concern. Both of them knowing well, that the Empire was always watching, listening, being alert. The only place safe were their private quarters after they had added scrambling devices in both their rooms.
After all, the Empire really did not expect there to be much talking while the clones were alone in their quarters. So most likely, the white noise loop activating whenever they entered the rooms, either alone or together was enough to keep the imps out of their private lives. Whatever they had which could be called as such.
Decker simply nodded his response and then mouthed. "My quarters, fifteen minutes?"
Crosshair nodded also in agreement but then stated out loud. "Nothing serious really. It's about the mission. Catch up with you later on?"
"Sure." Decker responded trying to keep his own voice even. "I have some paperwork to finish first." He tried to act all normal too for appearances sake.
Crosshair glanced at Decker for a moment longer, the fear in his eyes clearly visible there. Something which was making Decker a tad frightened as well. And the need to know the reason behind this, emotion was growing. As Crosshair usually kept his emotions in check and face as expressionless as possible. Decker could not wait to get to his rooms and find out what it was that had gotten Crosshair so wound up.
Crosshair left Decker's office, making his way to other man's quarters. Trying to be as casual and stealthy as possible while making his way there. Not wanting anyone to know he would be in Decker's quarters waiting for him.
Letting himself inside, keying the code and with that, activating the security measures the two of them had put in place for both their living areas. Checking even twice with his scanner they were turned on.
Crosshair then glanced around the small rooms, as if looking for something. But not really sure as to what it was he needed to find.
Crosshair was undecided whether to sit and wait or to stand and do the same.
Crosshair felt his own nerves getting the better of him and deciding to take a seat in the lounge chair there. As he did so, trying to find a comfortable position, which he usually did while the two of them shared drinks after their missions. Having become somewhat of a custom for the duo lately. But, as Crosshair sat there he started fidgeting about soon enough. Not feeling the comfort at all.
Bouncing up, Crosshair started pacing around in the living area of the quarters. Every now and again stopping to listen, if there were any sounds coming from the corridor leading to the rooms.
But there was nothing there.
Crosshair felt his paranoia increasing each passing moment Decker had not arrived. He kept on glaring at the time on his vambrace. But it did not really move any faster no matter how hard Crosshair kept on wishing it would.
Fifteen minutes. That was the time Decker had told Crosshair it would take.
Crosshair had been walking back and forth so many times, he was sure there were permanent dents on the floor from his footfalls.
Trying not to glare at the wrist too many times, while waiting for Decker to arrive. Crosshair only hoped nothing had happened to him meanwhile, as he once again glanced at the time, with only one minute to go before the allotted time as up. Decker was after all, nothing of not punctual.
And soon enough, Crosshair heard footsteps approaching the quarters. Soft and even, stealthy like.
Crosshair was on high alert.
Stepping beside the doorway, with his blaster drawn Crosshair stood without taking one single breath. Only waiting for whomever it was, friend or foe, approaching the quarters. The footfalls stopped right outside the door for a spell. And then, the key code was inserted into the panel.
Crosshair listened and waited, squeezing the trigger. Then, the door was pushed slightly ajar. A weapon poking in first.
Crosshair was faster and grabbed the blaster's by its barrel, getting a grip of it and pulling it away from the culprit's hands. His own weapon shoved close to the face of the arrival.
"I surrender!" The familiar voice told him then.
Decker emerged from the corridor with his hands held up.
Sighing and lowering his weapon, Crosshair quickly pulled the other man inside. And after glancing at the corridor, he closed the door behind them. Giving Decker his blaster back and holstering his own sidearm, Crosshair remained staring at Decker.
"Are you sure you weren't followed?" He then demanded.
"I am." Decker was not really sure what this was all about. The kind of cloak and dagger game. Something which was kind of suspected considering what they were both involved in now. But this was getting way overboard even for that.
Crosshair did not make a move towards Decker. Something which he usually did when the two of the were finally alone. Grabbing Decker for a kiss at least.
"The counter measures are on, right?" Decker asked then a tad irked he had not gotten his welcome kiss.
"They are." Crosshair simply stated as having checked them immediately upon his arrival, somewhat of a second nature now.
"So, you wanna tell me what this is all about then?" Decker asked, respecting Crosshair's need for space at the very moment, even if he missed the kisses they usually would be sharing right about now.
"You are in danger." Crosshair stated rather angrily.
But the anger wasn't directed at Decker however.
And it wasn't really news either.
After all, Decker had been in danger ever since the Empire had been formed. Having had his own way of doing things even in the beginning. And then continuing the same when being assigned to work under Rampart and with Crosshair.
But those were really minor things compared to what he and Crosshair were doing now. Helping the clones to desert the Empire. The words of traitor and double crosser coming to mind.
"How do you mean?" Decker asked.
"They are aware someone on the inside is helping the clones." Crosshair finally revealed.
And with they and them, Crosshair meant the imperials, the Admirals and higher ranking officers. Not the clones as currently, Commanders were the highest their kin had achieved in rank for the Empire.
"I see." Decker managed not sure what else there was to say to that.
"I saw the communique. It was on Rampart's desk." Crosshair revealed to Decker.
Crosshair having lurked around while waiting for the Admiral to arrive for their meeting and then having hacked into Rampart's data pad and seen it first hand.
"Anything specific there I should know about?" Decker was getting as worried as Crosshair now looked.
"They suspect a clone, ranking one at that, a Commander to be aiding the clones to escape."
Crosshair had managed to glimpse it through, not reading it fully as there had been no time. So he could not be sure of all the content there. But he had see enough to see their operation was in danger of being revealed.
"There were no ranks or names in there. But if they know about some of the ops we are running, it won't be long before they figure the rest of it out too."
"Anything about Lantesh or Denali?" Decker was worried about their cohorts, naturally.
"No, as far as I can tell. But I did not manage to read it fully either. Their main suspect is the clone officer." Crosshair sounded sure.
"So…" Decker paused. "Guess this it then, huh?"
Decker was at a loss of what their options really were. If the Empire had indeed gotten a sniff of what was going on right under their noses? Well, then it would not take long before they would find out whom it was doing all the traitorous deeds. And they would all be in danger.
"Yeah." Crosshair managed.
They had talked about the possibility of getting caught while doing what they had been doing, helping the clones defect and a few others as well. Knowing there might most likely be a price to be paid at the end, for doing good deeds. Usually there was.
As the one constant in the universe being that of no good deed ever going unpunished.
Still, the both of them had carried on, for a long while even. Managing to aid so many in the process. With the help of Denali and Lantesh. But now, it was all coming to an end.
There was a long pause. The two of them simply standing there, staring at nothing. Both their minds running rampant with all kinds of scenarios. Mostly bad and even worse of what would happen when the Empire would find them out.
But then, their eyes met and Decker made his move.
Taking the few steps and grabbing a hold of Crosshair, drawing him in for a desperate kiss.
Decker trying to convey all that he felt for Crosshair in that one action. Because even if it had felt like there was no escape, no way out from this mess they had created for themselves. The truth being that the imperial officers would find out eventually, whom it was who had been aiding the clones.
The Empire always did. After all, they had both been working on that side too.
Finally breaking the kiss Decker leaned his forehead into Crosshair's.
"There is something we can do." Decker finally said in a low tone.
As despite feeling desperate for a moment there, his analytical mind had been running those other kinds of scenarios there as well on autopilot. The ones analysing all possible options for a better outcome than the one on the table now.
"What is it?" Crosshair's voice was coarse - from the kiss, from the situation, from the lump in his throat at the very moment.
"We can give them their traitor." Decker simply stated.
"What?" Crosshair's voice rose several octaves.
"Me." Decker's eyes were fixed on Crosshair's.
"No." Crosshair sounded harsh. "Absolutely not!" He emphasised. "No! We are not going to do that." Crosshair was shaking his head. "There is no way, we are going to do that." Crosshair could not believe what he was hearing and could only rant negatives in objection because of that.
"Love, we have to." Decker half pleaded for Crosshair to understand his choice.
Decker knew if they were not going to give something, or rather someone to the imperials, they would go after Crosshair, Lantesh, Denali and the others helping the clones. And then the whole thing, their small cause, all of the good they had done, would be over. This way at least, the others would have a chance to continue after a while.
"They need an escape goat and I am the logical one." Decker seemed to have made up his mind.
"No." Crosshair pleaded also, something which he never did. "They will kill you." Crosshair glared into Decker's eyes, not willing to sacrifice him, even if it meant the cause would die. Or Decker would. "Or worse." Crosshair's voice was but a whisper.
"I am aware." Decker said then trying to sound casual about it, even if he was anything but. "But this would give the cause a fighting chance."
"No." Crosshair kept on repeating himself, like there was an echo in the room. "There has to be another way."
"Crosshair…" Decker tried again but was cut off.
"No, we have to find another way." Crosshair sounded angry now. Angry of how stubborn Decker seemed to be and totally ready to sacrifice himself.
"I don't know what it could be." Decker was at a loss as his only goal now was to protect the one he loved, Crosshair and the people which he respected and needed to survive to fight another day.
"We need to think of something." Crosshair was adamant and then said the words Decker was yet to hear from him. "I am not willing to lose you now. I can't." Crosshair was silent for a moment, hesitant even but then, thew words were out. "I love you."
Decker let out a small smile emerge then.
After all, Decker had been the first of them to speak out the words of love. And despite Crosshair having changed a lot during their time together. Even his outlook having changed. With the beard and the longer hair… Crosshair was still the rather stoic one. A man of few words. And certainly, confessing his feelings and emotions was never easy.
But now, Decker had gotten what he had kind of had waited even if he had known deep inside how Crosshair really felt for him.
"Well, guess that changes everything then." Decker joked and got a light slap on his arm for his comment.
"It should." Crosshair smirked.
"Well, guess we have to start thinking of what our options are then." Decker yielded.
Decker felt relieved to some extent, hoping they could figure out some kind of a scenario where they could come out on the top. Without dying, too much at least! A joke for sure.
But it was sometimes hard to deny anything from Crosshair as he was relentless in his pursuit. And certainly, Crosshair's declaration of love having been a good enough reason to rethink his options.
Crosshair was silent for a moment and then with a slight nod said. "I think there is an option to make you both the escape goat and get you out as well."
"How exactly do you think that could happen then?" Decker asked, seeing as clearly, Crosshair had some plan brewing in his mind.
"Well, there are a few contacts that I know of out there we could alert." Crosshair said.
As having kept his eyes open on some of the things happening around in the galaxy almost since the beginning after joining the Empire. Those outside the connections Decker had which they used to ship out the clones. To simply protect those resources, if something went wrong.
Because they needed someone completely separate from their current efforts to handle Decker's defection.. Just in case.
"What exactly is it you are proposing here?" Decker had an inkling of what Crosshair was thinking of doing.
"We are going to get you out of here. And then, I will tell Rampart I figured out what you had been doing only to have found out that you had already escaped." Crosshair stated, simply as that.
"No. Absolutely not. I am not leaving you behind." Decker put his foot down, horrified of the idea of leaving Crosshair with the Empire.
"It is the only way." Even if Crosshair was not happy about having to give up Decker, this was still the best option for both their survival along with the clone cause.
"But, we just started being together. Really being together." Decker sounded a tad clingy, a new trait for sure for the otherwise supposedly fancy free, albeit loving man.
Crosshair found this, rather adorable. Comfortable and heart warming even. As Hunter had simply let Crosshair go without too much of a fight. But here was Decker, doing the exact opposite.
"We will be that again." Crosshair promised. "But for now, we need to save you and the cause."
Decker was silent for a long moment, digesting the idea of Crosshair's. But in the end, Decker knew Crosshair was right. This plan was their best option for the short term at least. And it might just work too.
"So, this contact of yours? Do you trust them?" Decker asked.
"Well, I know the Jedi did. So, guess we can trust them too."
Crosshair knew it was all rather flimsy at best, the whole plan was. But, he needed this to succeed. Crosshair needed Decker to be safe. And then perhaps, somewhere along the line, Crosshair would be able follow his lead and be safe too. And finally free from the Empire.
Saving someone does not always mean salvation for them
Rescue, salvation - whatever name it has, there is always a good Samaritan there somewhere, lending a helping hand.
Present day, Rex's base
"Where did those clones you supposedly saved end up in?" Rex asked Decker.
The Captain was still being rather cautious where Decker was concerned. The somewhat of a grilling of him still going on. Even if the newly arrived clone had already explained the happenings since almost the very begging of his service for the Empire to the last day on the job before his defection. Several times over even to the group currently questioning him. Both sides of the so called discussion getting pretty tired of it. But Rex was relentless nevertheless. Wanting to be absolutely sure.
Rex had managed to contact a few of his associates though. Some of them whom had actually had some dealings with Decker. As Rex had then gotten confirmation Decker being whom he was and having been involved in aiding and abetting them to escape. One clone in particular who had been assisted by the Commander himself had nothing but high praises to sing of Decker when Rex had managed to talk with them.
Still, it was all just a little convenient in Rex's mind still. All this happening right now when news of the Empire down sizing the clones on a major scale had reached Rex and his team. But, Hunter seemed to be warming up to Decker as did Gregor. Howzer still being more on the cautious mind and siding with Rex. Of course, Rex had not revealed his findings about the Commander to Decker himself. Not just yet, rather trying to grill Decker a little more. Just in case.
"Wherever they wanted to." Decker simply stated. "They were all adults after all. Free will and all that. Well mostly. Those cadets though. They were all safely transported to a place the imps won't find them. That was made sure of by myself and one of my, um associates."
It was one thing Decker had been adamant about at least. And he knew where they were now, but did not want to reveal their local. Not yet anyway. Especially as this Rex person clearly had it in for Decker. So, guess it was out of spite as Decker had gotten the updates from them personally, keeping tabs on them for a while. Just because.
"You mean you abandoned them out there, on their own?" Howzer pushed on still.
"Well, there were several contacts we used for the transports and relocation of the defectors. Our concats were able to provide them all new identities and jobs. Even a safe place to live." Decker said for the umpteenth time.
Decker wasn't as sure of all of that now. Pretty sure, of most of them.
But their contacts were reliable! That much was sure. And some of the clones were relaying messages back to their helpers. And, all and all, it had still been the best option for the rescued clones as at least they were free from the Empire and not dead. Denali and Lantesh had trusted their contacts as had Decker his. Especially those Decker had worked with several times over. It was easy enough to check them all up anyway if Rex indeed needed the proof.
Decker had it all on record. The file hidden on a chip on his person. A precaution Decker and Crosshair had also managed to device when gotten deeper into the swing of things.
"We offer them a choice at least. To join us or leave to have a life on their own. But we also provide them the means to do so." Rex told Decker as much.
Being not totally sold or happy of Decker's and the other's little side gig. Then again, at least the clones were free if nothing else, right?
"Most of the clones remain here, with us. Fighting together for our own survival. All the clones survival." Rex sounded totally proud while delivering the last words to Decker.
After Rex's last words hit him, really got there deep, sinking into his brain. It finally dawned on Decker, whom Rex really was. And what he and his band of merry clones were actually doing.
Decker had heard the rumours of course. All the clones had.
But, as nobody had turned up to help them when Decker, Crosshair and the others had started running their little off the books ops. Well, Decker had chucked the tales of the all mighty clone rebellion as simply that of a rumour and a fantastic fantasy to be made into some holo vid.
The fact that actually something be was happening for the clones? Than that of simply a few errant rogue clones running hit and run ops against the all mighty Empire?
"You…" Decker's eyes were impossibly wide now. Looking very much surprised as he was figuring this out now. The pure dream of so many of their brethren. "You are…" Decker started and glanced around the others too. "All of you! Are the clone rebellion!"
Decker could not stop staring at Rex and then at the others whom were all looking right back at him.
"Well," Gregor had a coy smirk on his face though. "I wouldn't put it quite that way."
"No, I mean, you are. At least some of the troopers I've talked with were on and on about some organised clone uprising happening somewhere in the galaxy. I did not dare to hope of it though."
Decker paused and had to collect his thoughts as this was just all too fantastic. Not even Crosshair had known what his former Batch was up to. Decker continued as the eyes were all on him still.
"When I asked Commander Cody about it… Well, he did not think it was true either." Decker said then.
That got Rex's attention.
"You have seen… Cody?" He asked Decker, his voice lowering to an almost whisper.
"Yeah. He was there, in Coruscant when I got there. The Commander and Crosshair worked together before I got the post." Decker revealed then,
Because now, after hearing whom these people really were, Decker felt he could trust them. Now that he knew exactly whom they all were. Not just Crosshair's old Batch, but the rest of them too. They rumours no longer that, being rumours. Rather it was all true.
"So, he is working for the Empire then?" Rex sounded a little disappointed then.
"Well, he did. But we got him out. Because you know, he had started questioning the imps' methods and kinda fell out of favour." Decker laughed nervously then, as he too had done the exact same thing. "Like I did."
"Where is he now?" Rex asked, sounding more hopeful.
"The last I saw Cody, he was embarking the transport full of cadets." Decker said then, trusting Rex to have this information. "The cadets are safe as I said, but I cannot tell you if Cody went with them or moved on to somewhere else."
Rex only nodded, feeling a relieved to hear Cody was out of the Empire. But he still felt guilty about the whole ordeal. The two of them parting ways. Not knowing if the other was even alive, not since Order 66. Rex had heard rumours of course. But like Decker said, rumours were rumours, most of the time.
"Look, Decker…" Rex started, having come to some kind of conclusion where Commander Decker was concerned. "Most of what you are saying, well, it all checks up." Rex said then. "And we know you don't have your chip anymore." They had run the medical scans on him of course, right away as a matter of fact. "But, as you can imagine, we need to be really careful. About everything."
"Yeah, you're telling me." Decker snorted thinking back to their undercover ops. Crosshair and the others still continuing their cause. And Decker was fearing for their safety. "And yeah, Crosshair helped me remove the chip like he had done to himself too."
"So his chip was removed." It was Echo who commented first just before Hunter was able to.
"We thought he lied about it." Wrecker added his comment.
"No, it was removed." Decker said. "But guess there was some residue after the fact. Having some control over him. But that is all gone now."
Decker was reminded of the revelation of the whole ordeal with finding out about the chips in the first place. And also Crosshair's rather sad story with his time having to deal with the chip. Decker gave Hunter a glare, which wasn't a pleasant one either.
"Well, those chips have indeed caused a lot of trouble among our kin." Gregor sounded sad about it too. Because the whole thing as a sad and sordid situation after all. For all of them even if their chips had not activated for one reason or another.
There was a long pause, none of them speaking all of them reminded of the truth of what the Kaminoans had done to their kind.
"Look, Decker," Rex then started up again. "We both want the same thing." Rex then said. "And I would like to offer you the same choice I have given to the rest of the clones coming our way."
"But?" Decker wasn't stupid, hearing the condition creeping up on him.
"But, we need some assurances." Howzer piped on.
"What kind of assurances?" Decker asked.
"That you reveal where those cadets are kept in for one thing." Gregor, how was really starting to like and trust Decker as he spoke in a soft tone.
Decker had hoped to leave the younglings out of it all. The fighting and all. But, this rebellion, the people around him, were all involved with it too. And thinking about it? Well, it might just be a good thing for them all, even the youngling. Rather than each small fraction fighting their own little battles against the Empire. And there were still plenty of clones to be saved. Thinking back to his old squad then.
Unifying their forces, would be the way to make this succeed.
"On one condition." Decker said then
"What is it?" Rex asked.
"You help me rescue my old squad." Decker stated simply.
Rex looked at the man and then simply nodded.
"We have a deal?" Decker wanted to hear it.
"We do." Rex assured him.
Decker nodded and said then. "I have all the data you need. It's buried on a chip on in my left wrist."
"Clever." Tech simply stated while the others simply quirked their brows in surprise.
Decker was free to move about the base. He had been cleared, of being a double agent.
The deals made, about getting the clone cadets under the protective wing of Rex's cause in exchange for getting to Decker's former squad, somewhere in the far end of the galaxy still working for the Empire. But Decker knew they were all willing to jump ship, trusting it to be the case for them still, even after all this time having passed. They had indicted the willingness to follow Decker and shared his values. Unfortunately at the time, Decker had not been able to do anything for them, except to leave them behind and work with a new commanding officer. He could only hope they were still there, most of them anyway.
Just like Rex had stated - too many of them had died, and for what? Someone else's war.
Now, they needed to plan and coordinate their efforts. As Decker had several contacts out there Rex's cause could use. And working with the kind of resources Rex and his people had accumulated in a brief amount of time was certainly a major feat and an advantage.
Rex was also eager to find Cody. Apparently the two having been tight in the past. As to how much so? well, Decker had not really asked. He could make an educated guess though. The one thing being sure - Rex had seemed angry at first thinking Cody was working with the imps. But then hearing Cody was one of the defected clones, the light in the Captain's eyes had told plenty of tales to Decker.
There as still another matter which Decker needed to take care of. And he was starting to fear time was running out for him to do so. A hunch, a gut feeling? But Decker felt he had made a mistake while escaping alone. Leaving Crosshair behind.
While deep in thoughts of Crosshair, Decker felt a light touch on his shoulder. Turning around he could see Hunter standing there.
"Can I have a word?" Hunter asked.
"Sure." Decker said, surprised to see the other man more relaxed and less defensive now.
The two made their way to the nearby mess hall. Hunter thinking it was more comfortable there as the lunch hour had passed and it was empty at this hour. Grabbing two cafs from the dispenser Hunter motioned for Decker to take a seat.
"So, guess this is about Crosshair." Decker knew some of their story. How Crosshair and Hunter had been a couple before, well, before the chip had activated.
"Yes, well…" Hunter wasn't sure what to say really, even if he had through about what to ask from Decker.
"You are worried." Decker could tell, as he was worried too.
Hunter looked up. He was surprised of the insides of the other man. But then again, it was clear Decker was not really a reg either. Not really. Whatever it meant even these days as so many of the clones had moved beyond their conditioning. At least those they had rescued.
But as to whatever reason Hunter knew Decker to be something more? Well, it was a hunch, a gut feeling or simply his own heightened senses telling him that. Or all of them combined.
"I am." Hunter finally said after a moment. "If Crosshair is still continuing doing what the two of you did before, well, there is a good chance he will be found out."
Decker had revealed it all, their small op. Not naming other names of course. But Crosshair had been an obvious cohort ever since the Batchers had seen him there, on the platform helping Decker. Besides, Hunter had asked Crosshair as much back then.
"He is. Because Crosshair believes in the cause and he is as stubborn as a Sith." Decker had to laugh a little as absurd as it was, well? Crosshair really had taken the cause of helping of the regs as he still so fondly called the non-enhanced clones, to his chilly little heart. "And apparently helping the regs is his way of atoning for whatever he has done."
Hunter nodded. He could understand Crosshair wanting to redeem himself on some level. And clearly, from what Hunter had heard from Decker, as much of the bad things Crosshair had done had been the chips doing. Well, it had still been Crosshair under there somewhere doing aiding it.
But now, according to Decker, Crosshair was back to himself. Or at least, whatever version of himself Crosshair had become. Hunter could not know of course. But the way Decker talked about Crosshair, sent a great big pang right into Hunter's heart.
Hunter was feeling jealous.
"That is good news." Hunter said swallowing his feelings.
There was a moment of silence between the two again, both fiddling with their caf mugs.
"He never got over you, you know." Decker then said, his tone soft and low while talking about the more personal aspect of Crosshair.
Hunter looked at Decker, with a surprise expression written on his face. "No?"
"Yeah no." Decker shook his head.
"I mean, I know it's obvious that you figured out the two of us were, an item."
Decker was silent, his glance wandering again before he looked back up at Hunter.
"I do love him, I really do." Decker did not even blink as he was staring at Hunter as if challenging the other man.
"Yeah. I figured you did." Hunter's voice was equally as low.
Hunter wasn't interested in a challenge though. Because had already forfeited that fight, a long time ago. When deciding not to go after Crosshair, no matter the cost.
"I love him too." Hunter then admitted, getting Decker's attention again. "But I know now that it was a big mistake to leave him with the imps." Hunter paused. "My mistake."
Decker swallowed. As now that two of them had finally bonded, on some level at least. Because of Crosshair. Both of them being on the same level of understanding how the other felt about the sniper. But they also shared the concern for him.
"I agree." Decker simply admitted, thinking Hunter meant the more recent time, but then, a something occurred to him. "You meant, before." Decker wasn't really asking.
Hunter only nodded and then a silent spell descended on them again.
"We need to get him out." Hunter said after a moment his eyes back on Decker's.
"Indeed we do." Decker replied. "And if possible, the others there as well. Those heavily involved at least."
"I will talk with Rex." Hunter said then as the two of them had reached an agreement.
"Do you need my backup?" Decker felt good he had Hunter on his side at least.
"If you are up for it." Hunter gave Decker a slight grin.
"Count me in!"
Decker offered his arm in sealing the deal. Hunter took it, the familiar military grip tight as the two bonded some more over their mutual and more personal cause as well.
The question about Crosshair once again in the air. As Hunter was having the same argument once again with Rex.
"We can't just leave him there!" Hunter's voice was clipped, the volume louder than usual.
"You heard Decker." Rex tried to calm him down. "He is still considered working for them. The Empire!"
"Yeah, but for how long?" Hunter was afraid Crosshair's time was running out.
"Guess, that is a question for Crosshair to answer." Gregor stated then.
"But you said yourself, helping all those clones defect might not really be helping them all." Howzer pressed on.
"Well," Rex started.
"No, we need a plan. He needs to get out of there, Now." Hunter was adamant as he turned to look at Decker who nodded in agreement.
"Any suggestions as to how we could get to him?" Hunter asked Decker who had been quiet until now.
"Well, I need to contact my associates." Decker then said. "Like I said, we can trust them and they are still working with Crosshair and the others helping the clones desert."
"Alright." Rex finally yielded after a moment of contemplating the request."But we have minimal resources available currently due to all the rescue efforts running all over the galaxy."
"Well, I can pull in a few more resources." Decker said then.
Hunter and the rest of the Batchers seemed eager to get going already, but of course this needed to be a coordinated effort for all their sakes.
"Alright! Let's get to work then!" Rex gave the order, they had all been waiting for.
Trouble in the horizon is arising
Trouble always settles in - starting with baby steps, until it learns how to run!
Several weeks had passed and Decker was now fully incorporated in Rex's organisation.
Well, sort of as he was still under probation. That would last until Decker had proven himself to Rex. Whatever that criteria was, remained to be seen. But Decker was heavily involved in plenty of doings and plannings for various rescues and ops. And finally, having his say, or rather his and Hunter's request, which was to go and get Crosshair of the Empire. Even if Crosshair was obviously involved in a very good process of saving all those clones and others wanting to defect. Still the general consensus was that it was not safe any more for Crosshair to remain, nor was it for the other two, Lantesh and Denali.
The rumours and the chatter over the HoloNet of the Empire's plans growing more persistent each passing day, that of tightening their grasp over the galaxy and those opposing them. Some of the rescued clones having even connected with Rex and his crew had confirmed as much. Also validating the fact that there were more wanting out than remaining in the ranks, clone and nat-borns alike.
So, this mission in particular was a proving ground for Decker as much as it was a matter of a personal interest as well. Rex had promised to consider him for their cause on a more permanent level. As Decker after hearing whom Rex and his many clones really were, the rebellion of the clone fables. Their dreams even. He really wanted to be a part of this, clone uprising of a thing.
Naturally, Decker wasn't the only one who had a personal investment in this mission and its success. Hunter and the rest of the Bad Batch were as eager as Decker was to make sure they would get Crosshair back. The bad blood between the Batchers and their former crew mate all but forgotten now. The reasons and the mistakes made by both sides? Well, those were still all up in the air. But, after Decker's heart to heart with Hunter, it was clear that they all, especially Hunter regretted many things which had lead to Crosshair remaining with the Empire.
Decker could also now see some of the issues which might just have led Crosshair wanting to move away from his family. Some of the things he had witnessed while working closely with the Batch. But also seeing how they clashed with Crosshair as a person. Well, it was of course only Decker's opinion. Then again, he knew first hand how difficult Crosshair could be when he wanted to. Still, Crosshair was a changed man now, so who knew what was going to happen.
The only thing being sure for the moment being, that they needed to get Crosshair out from the imps grasp sooner than later. The rest would have to wait.
With the rescue efforts of Crosshair and whomever wanted leave the Empire being well on the way. The idea of getting out as many in one go as possible was on the table. But, there was the problem also of getting the word in for Crosshair and the others that they were coming for the rescue. As there really was no good way to contact him directly. So the need of using various channels in attempt to give the operatives inside a heads up was not the best way to assure the message would be delivered.
They had also started involving most of Deckers various associates out there in the galaxy in working with the rescue mission as well. As well for anyone able wanting to join in the cause, knowing there were plenty of disgruntled people all over everywhere. They needed all the possible allies they could get while going in blasters a-blazing, a full frontal confrontation between the imperial forces and 'the rebels'.
A moment of surely tipping their hand in the process. As so far, the rebel alliance was simply a rumour, told to scare kids at night, by the imps of course. Nothing real nor concrete as far as the Empire was concerned. Thinking them to be just a few rogue agents working against the Empire. How wrong they were!
Rex's cause being now a force of nature, growing in ranks each and every day.
And so, the planning was moving along in the now crowded conference room. Collecting data, picking up calls or otherwise planning the overall mission strategy. And it was looking good too. Decker's old friends contacting him back too, getting their needed resources and more. It seemed they had their massive rescue mission happening soon enough.
Well, part from managing to get in touch with the actual soon to be rescued ones - Crosshair, Denali and Lantesh, their primary goal. There was still no connection made whatsoever with them. Neither by Decker or the several crews having worked for them in the past, aiding in the rescue missions.
As it was at the moment, none of them had heard anything since around a week ago, when their last group of clones had been picked up by the pirates and their leader, Sora.
"So you say, that was the last message from them?" Decker was glaring at the holo image of his friend, Sora.
"Yes. It was a quick call. Crosshair seemed to be in a hurry. Or what seemed to be at that time. Then again, he is always tense, so I did not think any of it until now." Sora said.
"But you have assurance they have more clones lined up?" Rex had joined the conversation.
"Yeah, well, they sent us coordinates through a text comms only." Sora revealed. "But it a legit channel. The same they always use. There should be a bunch of them again."
Sora wasn't really worried, as they had handled plenty of clones and nat-borns sent their way. But the ever growing number of them had caused some difficulties in relocation and such. Luckily for Sora and her crew, Decker had joined forces with Rex and now, working together, they had better chances in getting all the rescued ones to secure locations after the fact.
"Well, guess we'll find out when we get there." Decker piped.
"We are starting to gather, all of us, at the coordinates you gave." Sora then informed.
As the small fleet starting to form consisting of all those wanting and having joined in this rescue mission. Then gathering in the same spacial coordinates before making the jump to the imperial space and hitting the Coruscant base together.
"We'll see you all there. Let's keep in touch if there is any new development." Decker told Sora.
"Aye!" Sora stated simply and the communications channel went silent.
There were worrying looks around the crew. Decker and Hunter being the most agitated ones of this very fact. But despite that, they were still pushing on. As they could infiltrate the imps base as a last resort to find Crosshair and the others, if they weren't coming out on their own accord. Something which would be dangerous for all of them. But the backup plan was for a minimal team, the Bad Batch with Decker to get in there and get Crosshair and the other two out.
But, no matter their many attempts, the silence on the communication lines between the rebels and the undercover agents remained without a response.
"I finally got a ping back on one of the imperial chatter boards I have been monitoring frequently." Tech sounded unusually worried delivering the news to the rest of them. "It's about Crosshair." Tech glanced up at his team mates.
"Well, what is it?" Echo demanded, the tension of the time sensitive mission having caught up with the Arc trooper, like it had with the rest of them.
"He is to be executed as a traitor." Tech's voice was shaky at best, audibly gulping as he read the intel, having double and triple checked the information to be sure.
"When?" Hunter's asked wide eyed, his voice hoarse and a rather panicked.
"In two days time." Tech's voice was hardly audible now, gulping again, trying to push the lump in his throat forming down.
"They are going to make an example of him. It is a public execution." Tech tried to sound normal, but the sadness was apparent in his otherwise no-nonsense timbre.
"We need to get him out." Hunter ranted. "Now!"
"How would you suggest we do just that?" Wrecker asked. "We were supposed to hit the Coruscant imperial base and if Crosshair is caught now, we don't even know where he is being held at."
"Crosshair is being held in a high security prison. That is on Coruscant as well." Tech went on, reading from his pad, having had hacked all the available data as soon as he had seen the message on the chatter board.
"We need, a diversion." Hunter had already recovered from his initial shock and was already planning his tactics because he needed to be clear headed for Crosshair's sake.
"It needs to be something big." Echo was fully onboard as well, his analytical mind taking precedence over the bad news.
"I, might have an idea." Decker interjected. "But we need to hasten our time table for that part."
"We are already on a time restraint here." Rex reminded the others then.
"I know we are. But, if we play our sabacc cards right, we could have our reinforcements here sooner than later." Decker's own mind was working in a hyper speed mode. "And we don't have to pull our other resources for this part either."
He glanced around the table seeing the glares all aimed at him now.
Decker had been talking hypothetically of course, but he had not led the others on about that fact.
Desperate times, desperate measures and all that!
As it was, Decker still had no idea of what had become of his former team mates. And getting them to Coruscant was going to push all the laws of physics out the airlock to be even able to get there in time.
But, Decker had a sixth sense about them. Having worked with his former squad the longest of any during his time as a soldier. And knowing the way he did, Decker was certain, that no new commander, nor the Empire, or even some control chip could have made them change.
Of course, it was all still a gamble.
"You mean your old squad, don't you." Hunter wasn't asking.
Since their initial chat, about Crosshair, the two of them, Hunter and Decker had kind grown closer.
They had found qualities in the other they liked and so, their late night chats had become somewhat of a norm for the two of them. Sharing their thoughts and ideas, not just about the missions and the rebellion they were working on together now. Decker having become a feature of the Bad Batch, running ops with them as well. But they were bonding on a personal level as well. Most likely because of their shared love for Crosshair.
"Yes." Decker responded simply.
"But you have no idea whether they are even interested in defecting the Empire." Gregor reminded Decker.
It had been a topic already discussed to some extent after Decker and wanted to go after them and save them too. After all, they were saving other clones, so why not Decker's former crew!
"And before you object, I know we discussed contacting them already, but this is a time sensitive mission. More so even now." Gregor had raised his hand in objection, knowing Decker all too well these days too.
"I know. But, I have a sense they are going to help us." Decker responded to Gregor's doubts.
Decker had never really explained his own defects, if that was what they really were, to the others. As the rest of the Batch, it was obvious that Decker had some traits, which were hardly unique to a regular clone. Then again, some of the clones, now that they were no longer subservient to any regime, had proven to have qualities, personal traits which were beyond the norm as well. Whether it was by design or something else, well, that still remained a mystery.
But Rex and the rest of his inner circle of the so called leaders, nothing official really, as it had happened quite naturally. The Batchers, Gregor and Howzer having been among the first to be saved. And so, this group had kind of formed the leadership part of their rebellious clone legion.
There were others taking part in the day to day planing of the missions of course, as the clones were divided to smaller groups and each having a leader of their own. Still, Rex liked to mix and match his troops depending on the mission at hand. Making sure those missions had the best skillsets needed. As the clones did have plenty of skills.
"Your, um, gut telling you that?" Echo being also quite familiar with Decker's traits said.
Echo having had a chance to observe them first hand while on a mission previously knew how well they really worked. Much like Hunter's or the rest of the Batchers did as well.
"Yeah." Decker drawled.
Decker furrowed his brow at the comment, but knowing Echo well now too, realised it wasn't a jibe directed at him rather a statement of fact.
"We don't have much of a choice." Hunter piped in. "We have our other sources prepped and ready to get to the clones as soon as we are ready to charge the base." Hunter reminded the others.
"And the undercover agents?" Howzer asked, as they had yet to figure out whether they had been found out as well. "Do we know of their fate?" Howzer asked. "We need to get to them at the same time we get Crosshair."
"We don't know what happened to them." Decker stated annoyed their grand plan was starting to fall apart. "Like we all know, there are too many moving parts, as we need to hit all at once and it's not going to be easy by any means."
Usually, most mission were not. But this one, was a particularly tricky one, because they were going to fly blind right into the very heart of the Empire.
"But do we know where execution will really happen?" Rex asked. "We are simply assuming it will be at their main base on Coruscant. But the prison is not located near it."
Rex wanted everyone to concentrate on the facts and not fly in there half-cocked, which infrequently did happen for the Batchers if the mission did not go according to plans.
Hunter turned to Tech then.
"Tech, can you try to hack in again and find out more. We need to know the exact location where they plan to bring Crosshair in for the," Hunter paused. "Execution."
Of course they had already tried a few times ever since the news broke, but it was getting more and more difficult as the imps had increased security several times over since the clones had started disappearing. And especially now.
"I can try again." Tech sighed having already used all his aces basically. "Echo, I need your help."
"Of course." Echo was willing and ready to do whatever was needed.
Echo knowing what was needed from him. Hooking himself up to the imperial network. And well, it usually meant danger for him. But Echo wasn't about to shy away now as the lives of so many were on the line, not to mention Crosshair's.
"Well. I guess we all have our orders then?" Rex glanced around the faces of his troopers.
As even with their plans being rather flimsy at best at the moment they still had options to explore. And so, having a renewed vigour of their mission and its success.
It was almost a unified acknowledgement followed by a few salutes. Even if they really had not that much of a military structure remaining among the ranks of the clone deserters. But, they were still all bread as soldiers, something which was hard to forget and go against either. Besides, it still worked at least on some level, using their given ranks. It was kind of second nature to them all.
"We have the location." Tech informed the others after him and Echo having done some hacking and after painstakingly trying several times over, they had succeeded.
"Where is Echo?" Hunter asked not seeing him with Tech.
"He, is in the infirmary." Tech sounded a tad guilty.
"What happened?" Hunter had a worried look on his face.
"Well, there was a feedback loop and before Echo could disengage…" Tech paused and sighed. "He got electrocuted."
"Tech!" Hunter's voice rose to an angry timbre.
"He will be alright. Only with a bad headache for a while." Tech assured Hunter.
Hunter gave Tech a glare. Then again, knowing Echo, he had most likely deliberately ignored his own wellbeing while trying to recover the intel they needed to save others.
"Alright, so where is it?" Hunter asked not wanting to waste precious time.
"It's on Coruscant." Tech revealed then. "They have set it all up on a remote base. They plan to record and broadcast the whole thing live through the galaxy. As a warning to others, clones and nat-borns alike trying to rebel against the Empire."
"That, well, it is a brilliant plan." Rex stated, even if he wasn't loving it, at all.
"Yeah." Hunter and Decker stated in a flat tone almost in unison.
"Strategically it is sound." Gregor backed Rex up.
"Well. Whatever the ideas is. That is one of our own there and we need to get him out." Hunter stated angrily.
"We do." Rex agreed of course.
Rex sounded a tad apologetic too. But then again, he had not been wrong about the idea behind it, it was an effective idea, having the shock value needed.
"So, now that we know of the location." Decker picked up their plans and enhanced the intel which Tech had uploaded regarding the target location onto the holo screen for the rest of them to see. "We have two locations we need to hit at the same time."
"We need to implement plans A and B simultaneously." Hunter added, picking up on Decker's ideas, as the two of them seemed to be more on the same page than not, in synch.
"We will be spread thin though." Rex reminded the two eager clones, Hunter and Decker, but they were right about the plan.
"We will, but my former squad will help. Creating the diversion we need." Decker assured them all, hoping only he was right about them.
"I know you already managed to contact them. But it is still a big if they will get there on time." Howzer piped, as he really did not trust Decker's former squad to simply drop the Empire and jump to their aid.
"They will come." Decker sounded adamant.
Decker had spoken with his former Lieutenant after managing to contact the squad after some doing. With thanks to a few of his contacts which Decker and his former squad had helped in the past. And what he had found out, was that the squad had managed to keep said contact safe a long time after their rescue even along others. As it turned out, the square was having their own little rescue ops going on. And so, knowing then absolutely, they would join Decker now.
"Well, if not, then we are in dire straights." Gregor voiced all their concerns.
"When have be ever not been?" Hunter asked the other clone Captain.
"You have a point my friend, you do have a point!" Gregor chuckled then.
"So. We are in an agreement then?" Rex had to verify before they all sprung out to their own tasks, knowing well how both Hunter and the rest of the Batch usually bounced out before the facts were agreed on, unfortunately also Decker being much the same.
"We are." Hunter and Decker respond in unison, then chuckling together.
"Good, then let's make the final preparations before heading out." Rex stated before dismissing the group.
Endless missions without the option of failure
Success is not a constant, failure usually is - unless you are prepared for plan F, as in being totally F….D!
"Are you sure they will come?" Hunter agonised pacing back and forth on the Marauder.
"They will be here, trust me." Decker assured Hunter with a hint of a smile, patting the man on the back gently while trying to make Hunter stop his pacing for a moment at least.
"Well, if they don't, our chances will lower considerably." Tech stated the obvious facts.
"I'm well aware of that." Decker replied to Tech.
Having become accustomed to each and every Batcher's particular behavioural quirk by now and trying not to quip back snidely each time they said or did something stupid in Decker's opinion, rather responding to the situation with cool and calm. Just like now.
"But I trust them. And know that they will come to our aid. No matter what." Decker was however becoming a tad frustrated of having to keep repeating himself, sighing heavily then.
"The place albeit remote, is still rather well guarded." Echo voiced his concerns as well. "We cannot take their fighters with just a single ship should they detect us on approach."
Echo was referring to the Marauder of course. As despite her manoeuvrability and with Tech at the helm, it was still one vessel against many and with minimal firepower on board with only the one cannon in the rear.
"That is where my old squad comes in." Decker reminded the team. "They have two ships and the other will aid the pirates while the second one will join us in creating the diversion for us to slip through undetected."
Decker counted out the agreement to his current team. The one they had already hammered down with Decker's former squad after having contacted them several times over during the planning of the overall missing having had to deploy their backup plan together with the main one now that Crosshair was under fire.
Omega having been left behind at their home base. As Hunter had deemed this to be a far too dangerous mission for her to partake in. Despite her ever growing role as a full fledges Batcher and a soldier even. Hunter having stated simply that there were plenty of mission for her to partake later on. And there were plenty of things she could contribute to on the base, having taken onto herself to learn plenty of new traits as well.
"We don't have long before we reach our destination." Tech stated being at the helm of the Marauder flying fast through hyperspace, pushing its limits to get there on time.
"Alright." Hunter responded. "When we drop out from hyperspace, there is not a whole lot of wiggle room before the imps detect us." Hunter reminded his troops.
"Don't worry." Gregor stated with a hint of a chuckle.
Gregor and Rex having joined the Batch and Decker for this specific part of the mission. Gregor was about to join Tech in taking the Marauder through the imperials defences. Having first hand knowledge of their strategies much like Decker did. But Gregor was a better pilot and almost as reckless as Tech was while flying a ship. So, getting the Marauder where they needed was Gregor's specialty. Especially while taking the route they were about to do.
"I still have a few aces down my vambrace." Gregor's permasmirk curling ever upwards stating it.
"It's not what I'm thinking, is it?" Howzer looked somewhat nauseous thinking back to having endured a few of Gregor's special manoeuvres in the past while the two of them were cadets.
Gregor quirked his eye brows suggestively and then rather coyly stated. "Maybe."
Gregor had a plan alright.
With thanks to Gregor's contacts, they had managed to get the proper disguises to infiltrate the facility where Crosshair was held before the execution was about to take place. It was also the same facility where the Empire would do the actual deed and broadcast it live across the galaxy.
"And remember to be real careful out there! This TK-trooper armour is a kinda of a shitty construct compared to the clone trooper armour and don't hold real good against blaster fire!" Gregor warned them while they were all getting dressed.
"Now you're telling us!" Hunter rolled his eyes.
Then again, there was no other option for them other than shoot their way in. Being not a good option at all, as stealth was the key word during the mission. At least until they had gotten to Crosshair.
Wrecker walked into the bunk room just then seeing Hunter, Decker, Echo, Rex, Gregor and Howzer dressed in the white and rather flimsy looking TK-Trooper armour.
"Woohoo! Look at you all!" Whistling and then chuckling at their new attire. "What a shame! Good that none of the other clones are here to see this!" He was mocking the other five all dressed up and ready to get moving. "Such a shame!" He mockingly tsk-tsked.
"Too bad we could not get one to fit your, um stature!" Rex threw back, feeling a tad offended even if it was nothing personal after all.
Making Wrecker stop his mocking on the spot. As being slightly body sensitive as Wrecker was, sometimes, and Rex having hit the right button there. Even if it had not been too nice of Rex to do so. But this was not the time for jokes or for being sensitive either. It was a life and death situation after all and all jokes aside, neither of them really took offence or the others comments as nerves were frail as it was.
Wrecker moving past the argument simply said. "Tech says we are closing in on the drop off. He can only hold the Marauder hidden for a while. Gregor, you'd better get up there."
Gregor nodded and made his way to the cockpit.
Echo and Tech had devised a temporary patch for the ships systems. Rendering the vessel invisible to the navigational scanners used by the Empire. But it would hold for only so long. So they needed to be quick about getting close to the base and then getting the Marauder a safe distance away during the rescue itself. Then again, anyone looking straight at the ship, could see it of course but that was a whole other story.
So, flying undercover, squiggling their way behind the old destroyed moon's fragments surrounding the part of the planet they were headed to. This was where Gregor came in. As he was the one going to steer the Marauder through the rocky road between them and their target location.
"Ready?" Rex asked the others then.
"As ready as can be." Decker replied.
"Any signs of our friends out there?" Hunter asked Wrecker then manning the scanners while Tech and Gregor were busy piloting the ship.
"They are here but keeping their distance. When they contacted us just a bit earlier the skipper simply said they were in position and waiting for our signal to make their move." Wrecker relayed the message which had come through only moments ago from their new allies.
Decker's old squad had arrived as promised.
They had exchanged comms briefly with the Marauder, trying to avoid detection to the very end. As they did not have the same defences as the Marauder did, stealth wise, the larger vessel was now hovering a safe distance away. Standing by and ready to strike when the order was given. As they were the diversion for the Marauder's crew. About to attack the imperials and so hoping the smaller ship would get inside undetected, while the imps were chasing them instead.
"Good. Then we should keep moving too." Rex said to the others.
With Wrecker in tow, they five of them quickly made their way to the cockpit where Tech and Gregor were piloting the ship towards the base.
The Marauder soon entered the debris field. Gregor having the controls while Tech aided him.
The manoeuvres Gregor was pulling were abrupt at best. But he was trying to avoid hitting too many of the still moving rocks out there. The path ahead being narrow at best. Sometimes though, it was unavoidable not to hit anything and the ship shook whenever a larger boulder managed to scrape the hull. Several times it happened too, as the passage was getting narrower the closer they got to their target.
"Could you try not to hit every damned rock out there!" Hunter finally growled the pressure of the mission getting to him like the rest of them, as they were so close, but still the pace was too slow to get there in Hunter's mind.
"Sorry!" Gregor wasn't offended at all as he knew what he was doing. "But it's going to get even tighter until we are able to break through." Gregor had a concentrated smirk on his face though, being most likely the only one of them having still a sense of cool and the calm about him.
Just then the Marauder swirled again, tilting to the left then back to the right, causing the crew standing loosing their footing. Luckily, Wrecker was there to grab both Rex and Howzer before they fell as Hunter, Echo and Decker had managed to grab a hold of something. Howzer, who had started to look rather green in the face got a worried look from Wrecker.
"You okay?" Wrecker asked the gulping Captain.
Nodding he managed to blurt simply. "I'll be fine." Gulping heavily though.
"We are approaching the drop zone." Tech informed them finally after a few more bouts of shaking and rattling and rolling. "I will inform the others they can start their approach." Meaning Decker's old crew of course.
"Ready?" Tech then asked the team standing behind him.
"Yeah, just take us close enough for us to jump out quickly." Hunter ordered then.
Wrecker and Gregor switched places as Wrecker and Tech were the ones staying behind in the Marauder.
Hunter and Echo, never having been a part of the Empire glared at the blasters used by the TK-Troopers.
"Do these really work?" Echo asked suspiciously.
"Well, they are nothing compared to the DC-17s, but I have modified them so they have more accurate aim than the regular models would have." Gregor assured the two.
"Let's just hope there are fewer guards there than estimated. Otherwise, well, if these weapons aren't working great, then we have a hard time in improvising on site." Rex then warned the others.
"They'll work." Gregor promised Rex, having made sure of it knowing how important this mission really was. Then again, weren't they all? "Besides, we have our vibroknives, right?"
Echo shook his head as he only had the one good working hand anyway.
"Part from Echo and Howzer, yes." Hunter responded.
Howzer was not as familiar with the usage of said knife and having decided there was no time to learn the fine intricacies of the weapon, trusting the blaster to work instead.
"Well, if something goes wrong, we'll improvise." Rex said then, taking a page from Hunter's book, having learnt some of the Sergeant's tactics and taken them to heart as well.
"I am fully on board with that!" Gregor piped and got a grin from Decker.
"Alright everyone, buckets on. We are ready for drop off!" Tech's voice sounded form the cockpit.
Tech was making the final approach and soon enough, the Marauder was hovering over the clearing, only a spell away from the base they were headed to.
"Looking good! Let's get a move on!" Rex gave the order.
They all got out of the ship one by one and immediately took off running towards the imperial hide out, clearly visible not too far away from where they had landed.
"Do you see him?" Hunter asked.
The six of them had infiltrated the base without too much fuss. They had managed to get to the cellblock level expecting to find Crosshair there. It would be the easiest and simplest way for them to get Crosshair out. But as so many times before, nothing could be as easy as that.
"Negative!" Howzer stated. "No sign of Crosshair in any of the cells."
Hunter was frustrated. So far the plan had gone greatly. But now, as they had expected to find Crosshair in one of the holding cells, they could only find empty ones instead.
"Echo, comp in and find out where they have taken him."
"On it." Echo removed a part of the armour on his arm and pushed the comp inside the computer. "They have already taken him up to the staging area." Echo then said.
"Staging area?" Rex repeated. "Must be what they call the place where the execution is to be held." He quickly deduced. "Guess it is only proper for their broadcasting purposes." Rex could not be sure of course but it sounded only practical having a stage in some area where the sad show would take place.
"We are too late!" Decker sounded defeated, worried they had already killed Crosshair.
With his eyes darting around every which way albeit hidden behind his helmet. But the others could easily 'see' the panic happening in the otherwise self-controlled man.
Sometimes as it was, the well preserved emotions and feelings were taking over Decker. Especially when someone he cared for was in danger. Guess it was a trade off for mostly being able to control himself no matter the situation.
Today, however, did not seem to be one of those times.
"No!" Hunter refused to believe they were so close only to be too late.
Placing a consoling hand on Decker's shoulder, Hunter tried to convey some of the positiveness he himself did not have in abundance either at this point in time of the mission. Then again, Hunter had to believe they were not too late and letting Decker sense the same as well. After a brief moment, Decker nodded.
"Let's move. We need to find the place and get there." Nodding to Echo who was already searching for the data having remained hooked up just in case.
"Level four." Echo said then. "Two floors up."
"Come on! We need to get moving, and fast!" Hunter ordered, the rest of the group following without any complaint as he took the lead.
The crew of the Marauder made their way quickly to the lift. Being dressed as TK-troopers, none of the imps the wiser as to whom they really were and why they were there. Simply thinking they were any other squad roaming the facility. As the six of them hastily ran across the long hallway and towards the so called staging area where they would, hopefully, find their missing batch mate.
The fake TK-troopers soon reached the staging area. Hunter, Decker, Echo, Rex, Gregor and Howzer, unrecognisable and blending in with the rest of the bland looking troopers. Glancing around and assessing the setting, they could all soon see the one they had been looking for. Right there, in the middle of the 'show arena' no less.
Standing bound by his hands. All beaten and bloodied. His head hanging in defeat.
With the seven TK-troopers taking their aim at him, while Rampart was standing a short distance away. The holo cameras all ready to record to the live witnesses around the galaxy. The broadcast of the moment. Starring the enemy of the Empire. The worst of them all, a traitorous clone commander soon to be executed for his crimes against the imperial regime.
Leaving things to the very last minute?
Crosshair's had gotten arrested and was being interrogated by Admiral Rampart (flashback)
"Did you really think you could do what you did? And for that to go unnoticed? By us?"
Rampart hissed his questions.
Having been ranting the few lines he seemed to have up his arsenal at the moment and rather repeatedly at that all the while pacing in front of Crosshair. Rampart's anger seething through every pore.
The comments and questions kept on pouring between the counting of each and every Vibrowhip lash hit Crosshair's back.
Strung up by his hands and arms. his feet just above the ground. Hanging in the air like a piece of raw meat. Crosshair's overgrown long hanging hair matting his face, stuck there from the sweat and blood still pouring freely from the earlier manhandling by the TK-troopers. Having had fun while using the former Commander as their personal punching bag.
The interrogation room was otherwise silent part from Rampart's voice and the swooshing sounds of the whip hitting flesh. Crosshair silent, never letting out even one complaint.
"Did you rally think, you could fool us? Pull one over us?
Rampart simply kept on ranting. Clearly loving his own voice. Very much so.
The spoken lines were becoming old though and really fast.
But it did not matter as Crosshair no longer heard the words of his former superior officer. Being submerged in the pain of his own punishment. The fact being, that Crosshair, had been caught and was now getting what he deserved for his betrayal.
Guess it had all been inevitable.
For the Empire to find out what was going on. And right under their noses no less.
Well, at least Crosshair and his cohorts had gotten so many out. Decker being one of them. Crosshair could take comfort in that at least. The only regret for him remaining though. That of never making peace with his batch, his family. Because he was facing death now. And his only wish denied. That of being able to see his family one more time.
"We were onto you! The very moment when that, that clone you helped escape appeared to this base. And then… well, we only needed to set a trap. For you."
That got Crosshair's attention though as he looked up and right at Rampart.
"Yes, yes!" Rampart was positively radiating with pride now, having had been able to catch the ultimate enemy of the Empire, at least he seemed to think so.
"It was you we wanted all along. The Traitor Clone!" Rampart's wicked grin plastered on his face.
The lashes kept on coming while being counted out loud. As one of the aids of the Admiral's was relentlessly doing his job. Taking some kind of perverse pleasure as well, having a clone to torture if his matching snide grin was any proof.
"Yes, it was fairly easy to set the trap once we figured out how you managed to hide from us for so long."
Clearly Rampart had things wrong, at least partially. But that did not help Crosshair. Not now.
Because it wasn't Crosshair who had actually started the whole clone rescue process, rather the other two had. Denali and Lantesh. Having Decker join with them and only later, had it been Crosshair.
Unfortunately, both of them were held for treason too.
That much Crosshair knew of. But not where they were held at the moment and what their punishment would be. Not that he was in a position to do anything about it either even if he knew.
Crosshair wasn't even sure if Rampart was aware of Decker being the one involved in the whole operation or simply one in the line of so many deserters. But that was neither here nor there. Decker was safe. As were so many other of his kin.
And so, Crosshair could at least die happy knowing that.
"All those clones, let loose on the galaxy." Rampart sighed, rather mockingly. "But, no worry! We will hunt them all down. Eventually."
Crosshair glared at the Admiral with a scowl the best he could muster under the circumstances.
It did not have any effect on Rampart of course.
But Crosshair did worry that the work they had done was for nought. Because, were the imperials really going after the clones who had escaped? Well, Crosshair could only hope there was some truth to the rebellion after all. The clone uprising he had heard so many rumours about. That would mean the clones and many others out there, would be safe from the Empire's grasp at least if they kept on fighting back.
Still, it was a mere rumour, a fantasy only. But it was the one thing left for Crosshair to believe in at the very moment.
"Yes! You really think we did not have a count of how many of them there were and where they went!" Rampart snidely remarked.
Crosshair could not tell if Rampart was lying or not. But there was no record left of any of it. Crosshair had made sure of it.
As per Tech's teachings, all the data Crosshair had managed to alter to cover up the rescued clones and others as well, had been booby-trapped. With his last act before being detained, knowing they were coming for him having gotten a heads up, was to activate said trap. Crosshair having then watched the data being wiped while the guards where on their way.
"Yes, we got it all worked out!" Rampart was taunting the doomed man.
The counting continued as the lashes ripped through what was left of the blacks covering Crosshair's back. He felt the blood trickling from the deep cut wounds on his skin. But they were only half way through and Rampart, was relentless.
This was personal for the Admiral after all. Crosshair having been his favourite. His lapdog as the others had mocked Crosshair so often of being.
Crosshair simply glared back at Rampart, despite the ever whooshing whip on his back. He looked defiant, not letting the Admiral see the pain nor the defeat within him.
No, Crosshair held his head up the best he could. His permascowl plastered on his face despite all the anger, the scorching pain gushing through his whole body. No matter what, Crosshair would not let Rampart break him. Not at least his spirit.
Crosshair would die proudly knowing what he had done and having no regrets for betraying the Empire.
"You seem unfazed by all of this." Rampart leaned in closer being face to face with Crosshair.
Crosshair's eyes were impossibly narrow as he glared back at Rampart.
"What do you care." He spat out in a low growl.
"Well, I don't." Rampart lied even if the displeasure was clear on his face.
Of course all of this, the torture, the lashing, it was all done for Rampart's benefit.
There was nothing new Rampart would learn from Crosshair from this sham of an interrogation. It was pure and plain torture devised for Rampart's viewing pleasure only. And he was quite pissed too. That his, well, formerly favourite Commander had gone behind his back and betrayed, him. Not the Empire. But Rampart.
"What do you want?" Crosshair just had to ask.
As so far, there had been no real questions asked. Rather Rampart going on and on about how bad Crosshair was and how he had screwed up and that all the clones he had saved were doomed anyway. Just like Crosshair himself was.
Rampart's eyes squinted in visible surprise.
"Nothing." He simply stated and moved away from Crosshair. "I already know everything I need to know."
Whether the Admiral did or not was a good as guess as any.
"But, your suffering." Rampart grinned again. "Is a small consolation price at least from all the trouble you have caused me." Rampart moved away from his prisoner.
The counting still continued for a while longer. And then, Crosshair having lost all sense of time completely, it all stopped. As did the counting as well.
"Let him loose." Rampart ordered after the lashing had finally completed its count down. "Put him in the brig to wait his execution."
The guards dragged the semi conscious former Commander out from the interrogation chamber. It seemed that there was no way out of this for Crosshair, as his associates had been detained as well. Awaiting for trial for what they had done.
Crosshair felt the pain. His whole body being on fire. But there was nothing he could do about any of it now. Only wait the inevitable to happen. Even if this was not the way he had pictured himself going out.
As he was dragged out of the chamber, his last wishes and hopes were sent out to the universe.
To keep his family safe.
There is nothing like a last minute save, right?
The fake TK-troopers soon reached the staging area, where they found what they were looking for. Right in the middle of the show arena no less. So far, the small squad of infiltrators in borrowed armour had gone unnoticed. But as soon as they'd start firing, the imperial troopers would figure out what was going on.
Crosshair was standing bound by his hands. Looking blooded and beaten. The seven TK-troopers taking their aim at him. The firing squad. All the while Rampart standing a distance away giving his speech to anyone who was listening in. The holo cameras recording the show of the one clone traitor for all the imperial subjects to see.
"We need to get to him." Hunter's voice crackled inside the other's helmets, as he was talking through their private channel.
"We can take the few guards around the area. But the firing squad might get trigger happy." Gregor warned then.
"So we split up." Echo suggested. "Three and three on either side."
"I agree. Three of us take the firing squad at the same time the other three take down the guards." Rex was onboard with that plan.
"We are outnumbered." Howzer commented, just in case the others had not noticed, which they had of course.
"Yeah?" Decker's voice came through. "We'll just have to take care of that then won't we." They all knew what he meant of course.
"We don't have a choice. They will shoot Crosshair the moment Rampart is done with his monologue!" Hunter was prepped and ready to pounce.
"Echo, Howzer, you are with me." Rex ordered then. "We'll take the guards." He glanced at the scene one more time. "Hunter, Decker, Gregor, you take the squad." Knowing they were the fastest and best armed of the six of them.
A bunch of nods and several affirmatives were stated then, letting Rex know they were all ready to attack the moment Rex gave the order.
"Let's go!" Rex ordered.
The six of them split into two groups quickly made their way stealthily across the space.
The TK-Troopers seemed to be concentrating on the fine speech of the Admiral's, rather than noticing anything going on around them. Nothing new there as the hired troopers usually never could multitask. Causing no issue for the six of them to take their places and then, after doing so, taking aim at the lot.
Once the shooting started, it only took mere moments before the imperial guards and the troopers of the firing squad were all lying on the floor. Quite dead. They had been completely surprised by the whole ordeal, never having seen it coming at all. Their own deaths. The blaster bolts and the vibroknife slashes taking care of them all.
As the six fake TK-troopers had taken care of the actual troopers, there was only Rampart, the holo cam operator, the sound person and Crosshair remaining standing. Of course it was all still going out. Live. The camera person never stopping recording.
Rex and Echo quickly secured the two technical personnel while Howzer and Gregor moved to Rampart, aiming their weapons at him. Hunter and Decker made their way to Crosshair, who looked at the approaching imperial troopers with confused surprise.
"It's us, Crosshair." Hunter told him then, the voice modulator distorting the familiar voice. "We are here to get you out."
Decker was already taking care of the shackles, removing them with his knife, while Hunter was checking the overall condition of Crosshair's.
The blood was covering half of his face. His once white beard now a reddish mess. Hunter gently moved Crosshair's long hanging hair away from his face to check if there were any immediate injuries. But part from the cuts and bruises, there was nothing life threatening visible there.
That as until Decker touched Crosshair's back, making the other man wince in pain.
Decker peeked under the blacks, as the imperials had been kind enough to dress Crosshair in clean ones before marching him in front of the firing squad. Decker shook his head slowly, nodding to Crosshair's back, indicating there was something wrong there. Hunter getting the idea, but there was nothing they could do now except to get Crosshair out.
"Come on, let's get moving." Hunter then ordered, as Decker and himself placed Crosshair between them, his arms on each of their shoulder and stared moving out from the chamber.
Gregor and Howzer were standing in front of the Admiral still. Who looked snidely at the two.
"So, you're here to kill me then?" Rampart asked with a snide expression on his face.
Gregor glanced at Rex, who shook his head from where he was standing by the two technicians making sure the broadcast continued until they were gone.
"Not today! Not. Today." Gregor simply replied.
And then with Howzer were about to retreat. That was until Howzer stepped back and with one swift move punched Rampart in his stomach with his blaster. Jabbing it there, real hard and then another punch in his face after Rampart bent into an agonising twist of his body.
Howzer looked at him for a moment and said. "That is less than you deserve." And then walked away, jogging after Gregor and the rest of them as they left the staging room.
The camera person having panned his holo imager towards the retreating forms and then stating to the live broadcast simply. "Looks like another win for the Rebellion!"
After stating that, he simply left and ran after the group who had rescued Crosshair.
"Hey wait up for me!" He shouted after them.
Rex and Echo who were at rear waited for the man to catch up with them.
"Can I come with you?" He asked, looking serious about it too.
Rex and Echo exchanged glances, Echo about to say something just then.
"I let the holo imagers run so the rest of the galaxy could see what a mess the imps really are when you started shooting and rescued the Commander." The camera man said then, a pleading look on his face.
"Fine." Rex then said. "But be quick about it. We need move fast!"
"Yes sir!" The man almost saluted Rex.
The group was on the move. Making good time on their way out of the building. But just as they were about to reach their egress, a bunch of troopers halted their progress.
"Stop!" The one in charge shouted to them.
They all stopped, quickly assessing their options.
"We'll take Crosshair out. You cover us." Hunter ordered the others.
"Roger that." Rex's voice came through. "Stay behind me." He ordered the technician.
Just like before, the TK-Troopers were slow to react. When the other four drew their blasters and started running towards the TK-Troopers much to the imps surprise, firing all the way to them, using their knives to finish them off, until none were left standing.
And so, with a few neatly directed knife slashes and several blaster shots, the whole squad was down. Again.
A tactic which seemed to be working where these conscripted soldiers were concerned.
Decker and Hunter were half running towards their rendezvous location, when a blaster shoot swooshed across the air. It flew past Hunter but he felt Crosshair jolt between him and Decker. Hunter turned to look and saw the blood prickling from his shoulder. Hunter could not tell how badly Crosshair had been really hit, but he slumped slightly after the impact.
"Tech, Wrecker, we need you right away." Hunter spoke over the comms opening a channel to the ship.
"We are on our way." Tech's voice came over the comms then.
Rex and the other four had already noticed the approaching new square of TK-Troopers and continued firing at them dropping several while others retreated for cover.
"Let's get moving. The ship will be here soon." Rex then urged his tram as they started running faster even to get away from the open area where they were easy targets for the imperial troopers.
As soon as Hunter, Decker with Crosshair hanging half limp between them reached the area of the landing site, they could already see the Marauder making her way down. The others were just a few steps away with their unexpected passenger.
"Tech, we are coming in hot." Hunter shouted over the comms, as they could hear firing behind them again. "Take off as soon as we are inside."
"Did you get him?" Wrecker's voice asked worried.
"We have Crosshair, but he is in a bad condition." Hunter replied.
Just then the Marauder landed and all of them immediately got inside. Hunter and Decker moving Crosshair in first, trying not to hurt him further. While the rest of them followed suit.
"Now Tech!" Hunter shouted after the last of them was inside, Rex having the rear and nodding to Hunter they were all present and counted for.
The Marauder took off with the imperial troopers firing at them. But they were already up and ready to get into hyperspace before any fighters were even launched.
"We are off." Tech informed their diversion having given the imperial fighters a run for it while the ground team had been working on the rescue.
"Roger that. We are on our way out of here too." The voice at the other end then replied.
"Thanks for the assist." Tech told them then.
"No problem! See you at the rendezvous coordinates!" And the channel was cut off as Tech took them into hyperspace and to safety, away from the imperials.
Hunter, Echo and Decker were all fussing over Crosshair, who was loosing blood rather rapidly from the shoot.
"We need to stop the bleeding." Echo was already on it, giving orders to the other two in effort to aid him in securing Crosshair's wound.
"There are bad looking welts on his back too. Looked rather fresh." Decker said then getting a look from Hunter as he did not know what if was Decker had seen there earlier.
"I will apply bacta on them as soon was we get this wound fixed." Echo stated simply doing the best triage work he could. Making the scans and then taking care of the bleeding wound. "The shoot missed his vital organs. Barely." Echo glanced at the other two. "Just a few centimetres and well…" Echo did not need to explain further, both getting the gist.
Crosshair was in and out of consciousness. The loss of blood and the torture from the past few days was all having a toll on him. But, between the lucid moments, he could see the helmet-less familiar faces around him. Knowing he was finally safe and with his family. His prayers to the Universe gone answered.
Thank the Universe for small favours!
"We've got incoming!"
Sora exclaimed over the open comms channel. Informing all the troops of their status while the rebel ships started their approach towards the planet from behind the shadows which had been their safe haven up until now.
Sora was in charge of the operation as per agreed with Rex and the others.
Decker having suggested it as Sora was the most experienced leader of the lot. And she also had the most experience of the dealings with the imps. Accumulated during hit and run ops such as this one was. To cover for the rescue mission on the other side of the planet.
Having aided Decker in his efforts in saving clones and staging fights against the imps to set the traps for the ships filled with rescues. Making it look like those ships were blown up or otherwise lost in the fire fight. Something of an illusion for sure and Sora was the magician pulling the rabbits out of a very large galactic hat. Thus bringing those wanting to leave into safety and leaving them dead in the eyes of the the Empire.
There were three ships in total with the pirates having two heavily modified larger ships and then one filled with half of Decker's old squad. All of them more than ready for the fight. The clones having arrived in two stolen imperial vessels, with one coming with Sora's team heading for the main base of the imperials while the other was aiding the Marauder in their rescue attempt of Crosshair.
"I see them." One of the gunner's closest to Sora acknowledged. "I've got these ones!" He assured Sora and fired immediately hitting two in the process while four flew by, only to be picked up the second gunner and by their sister ships cannons.
"We'll give you cover fire, Phoenix." The Lieutenant of the clone ship replied to Sora over the comms channel.
Being the smaller ship of the three and remaining at the rear in the formation, picking up the slack passing the two larger ships. All and all they had a good defence line for now at least.
Lieutenant Eager, Decker's former right hand man, was captaining the imperial cruiser which they had annexed before taking off from their now former base. After all, the squad would not be returning back there nor the Empire for that matter, all of them having become deserters now.
This was also causing some confusion for the imperials. As clearly they had thought the cruiser to be one of their own and not attacking it at first. That was until the cruiser opened fire towards the Tie-fighters. And then it wall changed rather quickly. A real battle landing on their laps.
"Thanks. Keep our rear clear and we'll be able to get those approaching ties away from our path." Sora said to Eager.
The firing kept on going for a while as the imperial Tie-fighters kept on attacking the two large size vessels having appeared to their radars basically out of nowhere. While the cruiser remained behind them.
There had been some rumours they might be running into a few shuttle craft while keeping up the illusion of an attack against the imps. That of fleeing clones, as the overall operation had become to a somewhat of an halt since the capture of the leaders.
"Keep your eyes pealed for any rogue craft out there. Those might be heading our way." Sora then reminded them all."
But so far there was no sign of any other ships but the fighters against the rebel ships.
"Any word from the members of your squad?" Sora asked Eager then, meaning the rest of the clones of his squad on the other cruiser having gone to aid the Marauder in their rescue efforts.
"Commander Cody let us know only a few moments ago that they had reached the rendezvous point. The Marauder having already dropped off the crew on the planet and being right in the middle of the rescue op as we speak."
After getting the final news, the comms had gone silent between the two missions going on on opposite sides of the planet. The situation being that of little if no information shared now that they were all out in the open. Keeping radio silence between the two missions before the rescue was over being a security measure just in case the imperials had manage to hack into their communications frequency.
"Good, should not be too long now." Sora said, feeling another jolt of fire hitting the hull of the Phoenix, the ships shields holding. "We just need to hold them occupied for a little while longer." She said it more to herself than for the others benefit.
"We have an incoming message. From an approaching shuttle…" Eager was surprised reading the message coming in. "It's one of ours…"
"Can't be!" Sora exclaimed. "We haven't launched any pods or other ships either. And there have been no signs of any rescues floating around either even if we were warned there could be a few."
Sora then got a brief shake of their head from the navigational officer having kept a keen eye on them during the mission.
"Well, they are definitely using our call sign." Eager told Sora.
"What are they saying?" Sora asked, not sure if this was some ploy by the imps or not.
"Two words. Denali and Lantesh?" Eager's voice read the words.
"Can't be." Sora was well aware by now, that their two inside agents along with Crosshair had been captured, and so, it could not really be them.
"We need to be cautious. Those were the two imperial officers who aided with the clone rescue project with the Commander. All three of them were captured by the imps." Sora had not heard otherwise and she was on full alert now.
"Oh." Eager simply said. "Well, we'll soon find out won't we. As they are on an approach towards our ship."
"Be careful. I want to see them as soon as you've got them." Sora warned Eager then.
"Don't worry, we'll be there to greet them alright!" Eager motioned for several clones to get their weapons ready and get to the airlock. "I'll send you the coms as soon as they are on board.
Denali's and Lantesh's rescue was a fluke at best.
The two having worked against the Empire, which was not up for debate on either side. And then having been detained on that very fact. Labeled as the traitors they were. Awaiting for their trial, which was at best a quick one with only one outcome. The sentence of being put to death.
If it hadn't been for the firefight and the confusion happening in the very base just as they were about to be hauled into interrogation, they could have not gotten out with their lives. That much was for sure. But, as all the TK-troopers having being called to duty, fighting against the insurgents attacking the base. They got a bit of a breather just then.
And so, luckily for the two of them, there were still plenty of people on the inside whom did not want to see either of them dead. As not all were for the Empire even if they were still a part of it all, believing there was some good been done also. At least some. And so, with that came an unexpected surprise to Denali and Lantesh. As an imperial officer, who had come to them in the nick of time. Only to be letting the doomed traitors out of their cell.
"Come on, we don't have a lot of time. The shuttle is waiting." She told the two looking back at her with wide surmised eyes.
"Why are you doing this?" As seeing the familiar officer, Tala, who had worked for Rampart for a while now, having never indicated their desire for helping the rebels or commenting on what the imperials did for the clones and other people as well. Basically anyone with a counter opinion as it was these days, was wrong.
"It is not right. You being executed for helping others to escape a place they don't want to be in." The young officer simply said.
"On that we are in agreement." Denali smiled at Tala, only too happy to see there were still a few level headed people inside the Empire.
"Now, we need to get going before the troopers realise something is going on down here." Tala urged the other two. "Although there is a Sith of a confusion happening out there. Ever since the three ships emerged out of nowhere." Tala explained.
"Three ships?" Lantesh asked surprised and then glanced at Denali. "Do we even dare to hope?"
Denali nodded eagerly. "We do. We have to."
As they were jogging towards the hangar and their salvation, Denali asked Tala the one question on her mind ever since the young woman had emerged to the cellblock.
"Can we count on you in the future as well?"
It was a sudden and unsolicited question for sure to be asked as they were just about to be saved by Tala. Risking herself and Denali knowing she should have been simply thankful for making out of there with her own life. But Denali had never been the one to hold back either.
Tala looked surprised, but she wasn't saying no either. Not right away anyway. Not saying anything really, simply keeping on moving.
They reached the hangar, Tala fussing the two of them into the shuttle.
"You do know how to fly this right?" She asked them then.
"Shouldn't be too hard!" Lantesh smirked, by they had some pilot training, so, knowing how to fly was within their abilities, luckily.
"So?" Denali pushed on.
"Yes." Tala simply said after a spell of silence. "I will try to help you." She promised her then.
"That is all I can ask." Denali said with a smile, giving the other woman a quick hug before getting into the ship.
"Now, you better get off before it's too late." Tala told them and was about to leave.
"What of you?" Lantesh asked.
"Don't worry. I will be fine." Tala assured them as she left the two standing at the ramp of the craft with a wave of her hand, disappearing into the shadows.
As Denali and Lantesh engaged the ship, it was a big surprise which was waiting for them there as well. As it was, the small craft was jam packed with clones.
"Surprise!" One of them greeted the arriving two.
"I can't believe you got here, safely too!" Denali greeted the familiar man, Aces.
"Tala helped. Otherwise none of us would be here." Aces explained. "She came to us right after the imps came for you." Aces went on. "We were already prepped as you know, so she hid us and well, here we are!"
"Here you are!" Denali patted Aces on his shoulder and smiled at the others there, with hopeful expressions on their faces, some of them so young they had not really seen battle yet even.
As it was Lantesh and Denali had been preparing the next set of clones to leave, unfortunately them getting caught had put a stop to all their efforts. Thankfully, Tala had stepped in.
"Thank the Maker!" Lantesh exclaimed. "Tala truly is a treasure!" Lantesh had not expected this, then again, there were still people around with good hearts and Tala was certainly one of them. "Now, any of you know how to pilot this thing?" As Lantesh gladly let the real pilots do the flying if possible.
Several hands rose up in unison.
"Alright! You and you. Let's go!" Lantesh ordered as the two clones took their positions and took the the shuttle out of the hangar and into space.
"We've got them. Sending holo images to you now." Eager told Sora over the comms channel.
As soon as she received the feed she let out a sigh of relief.
"It's them. We are good." Sora told Eager. "Thank the Force! It is really them!"
"Yeah and there is more." Eager had a wide grin in his face.
"What is it?" Sora asked then already happy of having the duo with them.
"There were quite a few clones with them as well." Eager stated glaring back at the many faces of his kin looking dazed but happy to have been rescued at last.
"That, that is great news!" Sora was totally grateful of this turn of events as well, as this mission was going better than excepted it seemed.
"So, guess we just hold the frontline until we get the word from the rescue team then." Eager sounded relived and rather elevated as well, feeling a sense of purpose as to what he and his crew was doing, and not for the Empire but truly helping others.
"Until they have completed their mission, yes." Sora replied Eager, with a wide grin.
The blaster fire continued between the imperials and the rebels, neither winning the fight. As that had never not the point either. Not for the rebels at least. Their only goal was to hold their ruse going as long as possible until the rescue part was over.
It all seemed to be going well for the rebels at the moment.
It was after all something which the pirates considered themselves to be as well. After all, Sora and her band of merry pirates had been kind of part of the cause ever since Decker had dragged them into their first mission. Aiding and abetting clones to escape from the imps. And even before that, Sora's crew had worked for Decker, aiding in several rather dubious missions, all done behind the backs of the imperials, naturally.
Not that Sora had needed much persuasion either.
As it was, ever since the Empire had taken over, their own way of living had been put to jeopardy. As it seemed that pirating was not as lucrative as it used to be. The imperials around every corner, demanding their cut of whatever the haul was! Frustrated in paying a large percentage of their income to the Empire's watchdogs had tipped the scale for Sora.
And so now, throwing in a wedge in edgewise wherever she could? Well, it was all a win for her and her crew. Besides, even if she had tried to remain impartial to the war between the Empire and basically everyone else in the galaxy being on the other side? Well, as the old adage stated, everyone chooses their side in the end, had applied to her and her crew as well.
Just as Sora had been lulled into a false sense of security. Thinking they could easily outmanoeuvre and outlast the imperial fighters blasting at them, as they did not have too long a time to keep the fight up anyway. The allotted window of the rescue was coming to an end and they needed only to keep up the ruse only for so long until they would get the ping from the other team.
Sora checked the timer on her wrist and then, she felt it.
The loud bang against the Phoenix's hull and mere seconds later, all the klaxons started blasting red in her face.
"Cap'n! We got a wee bit of a problem down here!" One of the crew, Otto, the chief engineer of the Phoenix, shouted over the comms channel from the ships engineering room.
"Dank Farrik!" Sora cursed, knowing well that a wee problem usually never was just that; wee. "I'll be right there."
Sora turned to the two other crewmen on the bridge. "You two keep on eye on those imps and shoot anyone else who tries to approach us." She ordered then.
Not that she really needed to as they were already on the task. The gunners having manned all the cannons both aft and bow of the Phoenix, the ship housing several of them in total.
As Sora reached the engineering, she could see what the wee problem really was. There was a gaping hole in the hull. A rather large one at that. The only thing holding the pressure of space and the crew not being sucked into said space, was a flimsy force field erected there by Otto and his engineering crew.
"This is a minor issue?" Sora snarked at Otto.
"Well, it could have been worse." The man simply stated, as not much really fazed the engineer these days.
"Worse? How?" Sora was not amused this time, at all.
"Well, I could have missed with the patch work and the whole ship would have imploded." Otto stated in his overtly calm manner.
"How do we fix this?" Sora asked never the one to shy away from a problem, which was most likely one of the reasons she was now working almost permanently for Decker and the rebels too.
"Well, I don't think we can." Otto said then much to Sora's annoyance, as usually, Otto always had some trick up his rolled-up sleeves to pull from. "They knew exactly were to hit us. If even a spark comes though that hole, the engines will blow."
"So, what you are saying here is…" Sora was afraid of the answer.
"What I am saying is, that another hit and we are… Poof! Goners!" Otto imitated the sound of an explosion to drive through his point of the direness of their situation.
Solar gulped, audibly too. "This is not good for our mission! At all!"
"We need to retreat." It was the only option for Sora to save her crew, as her people always came first no matter what.
"Yeah, well, what of the others?" Otto knowing the situation going on out there, the imperials still attacking their ships, of course. "They won't manage on their own." He reminded Sora.
"I know." Sora was torn.
After all, she wanted this mission to succeed as much as the rest of them did. But, the Phoenix was in dire straits now and could not handle taking further beating.
"We need to get away from here." Sora said then, having made her decision. "I will contact the clones and our sister crew." She told Otto and turned to leave, but then turned back, looking at the gaping hole on the side of her beloved ship. "Otto, try to do… you know, whatever." She could only hope that Otto could pull some miracle out of his sleeve after all.
Otto nodded slightly and sighed heavily before going back to work, trying to do the… something.
"Eager, we have a major problem here." Sora was on the comms to the clone ship.
Just then another volley of weapons fire could be heard from the outside of the ship. But luckily, the two pilots were able to evade in getting hit.
"We need to retreat. The Phoenix took a bad hit from the last round of fighters coming our way. There is gaping hole in engineering and cannot manage another hit." Sora recapped their bad status. "Our sister ship, the Aural will cover for us." Aural was smaller and less effective than the fully armed Phoenix was though.
Eager was quiet for a long moment, clearly thinking what their options were, before responding to Sora.
"You better retreat then. We can try to fend off the imps while you do." Eager sounded half assured, but he was wiling to fight to the bitter end just the same.
Eager wasn't really sure if they were able to hold the imperial fighters on their own with only the Aural's help, but they had to try at least. This was for their kin, the rebellion after all!
"Thanks." Sora simply said.
Knowing well what it would mean for the other two ships. They would be totally outmanned and outgunned against the imperial fighters as the Phoenix was the more heavily armed vessel of the three, having been the front of the ruse assault for the entire time so far.
"We can't let you explode either now can we." Eager sounded optimistic they could still prevail, he had to believe it.
"We'll get on our way then." Sora said simply.
"See you on the other side." Eager said and saluted Sora.
"See you, on the other side!" Sora half promised with a wave of her hand before the holo connection dropped.
That exchange however, leaving a sour taste in Sora's mouth. as the odds were still against them, and in large numbers too!
The Phoenix was preparing to leave the battle. All set and ready for a hyperspace jump, as Otto had managed to patch the hull in a fashion it would most likely hold for a while at least. Letting them jump to a safer place. As it did not have to be too far.
"Most likely?" Sora's voice sounded over the comms.
"I cannot guarantee she'll hold up. But I made the patchwork as best I could." Otto stated in his no-nonsense fashion.
"Fine." Was all Sora said. "Prepare for the jump." She then ordered the pilots.
The engines were ready and soon enough the second pilot said. "We are ready for the hyperspace jump."
"Hit it!" Sora ordered.
While sending out a prayer to the Universe at the same moment, to keep the ship and her crew safe and the others they would leave behind as well.
As the clone crew of the cruiser watched, the Phoenix made its way to the hyperspace corridor. Neither imploding nor anything other bad happening while doing so.
"They made it Sir." The clone seated at the helm watching the scanners told Eager.
"Good." Eager stated and kept on watching the viewport of the cruiser's bridge. "Now, we still have our job cut out for us, so keep those cannons firing."
"Aye!" The responses were explained to Captain of the clone ship.
As all the clones were willing to do their very best for the sake of this mission. For the rebellion!
It would take some doing of course. But they did not have too long to hold their position against the imperial fighters. Their task of keeping the imps away from the other location, where the rescue was taking place. Still, it was going to take a lot of effort.
It was then, when a third silent prayer was sent out to the Universe during this mission.
This time it was Eager, asking for a chance for his crew to return back safely from this mission.
After all, they had just defected from the evil Empire. Only to become a big part of a battle against the very imperials. But they all deserved their freedom. And so. Eager was asking for simply that.
Was that really too much, for the Universe to grant?
From there to here… and then what?
Life, death… the past, the future… all things that nature
As luck would have it, all of them had all returned back from the mission, mostly unscathed.
With several more of their kin having joining in the cause and even having saved those responsible for helping a lot of them escape. With no lives lost on this day for those daring to defend the rebellion and most of all, freedom. It could have not been more perfect of a mission. Old and new friends reunited and perhaps a few old relationships about to be rekindled. The way the Universe and the Force worked, was sometimes even a surprise for the believers.
Rex could see the familiar man getting off the cruiser. Blinking once, twice, not really believing what he was seeing. But it was true nevertheless. The familiar nickname simply blurted out without any kind of filter.
Cody wasn't any better, the familiar sensations all back the moment he spotted Rex. But, quickly gaining his sense of self and where and whom he was now. Cody stopped in his tracks just short of meeting up with Rex. Feeling a tad anxious seeing him after all this time. And well, being on opposite sides for a while there too.
"I had no idea you were, well, in on this."
Rex walked the last distance between them slowly. This was a huge surprise after all. Having had absolutely no idea Cody would be in on this mission. Nor that he was even alive still and having left the Empire behind.
"Yeah, well, guess it was too good an ops to pass by!" Cody stated rather coyly.
"How did you…" Rex paused and then knew the answer. "Gregor." Rex stated rather softly.
"Yeah, good old Gregs tracked me down and well, guess recruited me!" Cody let out a small laugh.
Rex only nodded. He was happy to see Cody alive and well, naturally. But also, being somewhat cautious as well. As Rex could not be sure about the other man's intentions and where he stood right now. Not really.
"So, you are… a free man now?" Rex probed, having almost reached Cody, but stopping just a few paces away from him as well.
"Yeah, guess I am." Another small laugh, something of a nervous one though. "Feels good." Cody said then.
Rex only nodded, as clearly, Gregor had failed to mention a few things to him. Especially about Cody. Still, Rex could not blame the man. Gregor did a lot of little and bigger things too, just to keep Rex happy. Rex could not help but love him for it.
"This… here… what you are doing…" Cody continued and paused as he glanced around the hangar and the debarking clones they had rescued alongside the double agents they had managed to pull out in the nick of time.
"It feels good. Right." Cody stated solemnly.
"It is." Rex nodded in agreement.
How could he not. After all, it was Rex's cause, he had started it all.
There was a long pause there, between the two before either spoke again. Watching on as saved clones were being guided towards the medical facility where they would all be examined and their chips removed. Rex's doctors having managed to device a quick and painless method to do that after some fashion of trial and error.
"So, you still have your chip?" Rex asked cautiously.
"No! No I had it removed as soon as it got out." Cody told him. "Got some help from Decker's friends too."
Rex nodded again, only too happy that was done at least.
"So, I guess I will hang around for a bit. You know, make sure there is no fuss with the new arrivals and all." Cody then said.
Sensing Rex keeping his distance for a reason and not really wanting Cody around for too long. Looking at anywhere else except Rex after stating that. Cody having hoped, well, something to happen. Especially after having that long chat with Gregor about it. But it looked like Rex was still angry at him.
And perhaps, there really was no going back home for Cody.
Then again, the clones he had joined for the mission. Decker's old squad. They had seemed happy to have him. At least Cody had felt at home with the lot. And if they decided to take off on their own, Cody suspected he could be welcomed with them at least.
Rex was sensing the tension between him and Cody.
But it wasn't because of the reasons Rex had thought before that the tension to be there.
Clearly Gregor had been the one to recruit Cody with good intentions. Having the Commander on board their cause would be a great advantage. And even if it had been behind Rex's back… Rex knew that Gregor has acted with good intentions only.
But, Rex knowing quite well the romantic softie Gregor really was, had an inkling there was another agenda behind it as well. Other from simply letting Cody have a glimpse of their operation and making him feel useful after leaving the Empire behind. Extending an open invitation to join them.
Rex and Gregor had known each other for a long time as had Cody the both of them. And so, the alternate motivation was also becoming clear for Rex. Especially after observing now, how Cody was giving him glances which had nothing to do with the operation or their cause whatsoever.
"How much did Gregs tell you?"
Rex decide to change the subject in an effort to brake the ice. Feeling it was time as too much of it having passed them by already. Too many things between them. Bad, good, the Republic, the Empire. And well, there were worse things than forgiveness, right?
Cody looked up at Rex again. This time caught in Rex's stare. Not really sure of Rex's question and whether it was about the rebel cause or an invite to a more personal conversation.
"Well, I guess in know most of it. I mean… what you are doing here…" Cody was trying to explain.
But, Cody was cut off by Rex who had closed the gap between them, standing right in front of Cody, just a breath away.
"I meant about Gregor, myself and well, Howzer." Rex explained his question further, suspecting Gregor had most likely blabbed about it all to Cody.
Cody was not surprised though. Even if he tried to act surprised. And yes, Cody knew about the throuple Rex, Gregor and Howzer were in now. Gregor having explained it to Cody when the two of them had talked about, well, a lot during their rather long call together. Much to Cody's pleasant surprise.
And, in wasn't a total surprise for Cody either Rex having partners, plural as in the past, him and Rex having had a rather open relationship and it had been Rex who had been the one having more than one serious partner even back then. Gregor being the featured one back then too.
There was lot of shared history between Cody, Rex and Gregor. Intimate and otherwise.
Besides, Cody knew well the lure Rex had. People levitating towards him on a personal level as well as on the professional one. Still, even if Cody had dared to hope, it did not mean all was forgiven and the two of them would be back together after everything which had happened.
"Yes! Oh. That." Rex let out a nervous chuckle. "It's not like it did not happen in the past either." Rex reminded Cody of their 'arrangement' while they were still, well, much younger and out the tubes as it were and even long after that too.
"Well," Cody started then.
But they both knew what a blabber mouth Gregor could be, especially about the more personal things, never being the one for secrets and this was no different. So, guess there was nothing more to add to what was going on. With Rex at least.
Cody however… Well, Rex, could not be sure what his priorities were right now. And whether he was really interested in coming back to them all, no matter what his glances were telling Rex.
"So, yeah, guess Gregs told me enough." Cody sounded rather coy again.
Cody was getting more bold even reminded of what Gregor had told him about Rex.
About the not knowing whether Cody had survived Order 66 or not. Rex having been upset and angry for Cody having remained with the Empire, chip or not. And then after hearing the rumours Cody was still alive. Rex only to having ended up blaming himself of not been able to help Cody, to change his mind about serving the imperial regime.
Gregor and Rex had had plenty of late night talks about the whole situation. And so, even if it had been behind Rex's back Gregor had acted, he had not really cared as both of them needed to get Cody back. For both their sakes.
And so, now?
"Well, it's what it is." Rex let out a small sigh, keeping Cody's gaze he went on. "We are a small group still and we find love where we can and with whom we can." Rex wasn't making any excuses, neither for taking on new lovers, and certainly not for having two.
Cody only nodded. Not really sure of the what if anything it would mean for him. So, Cody just stood there, looking everywhere else but Rex once again. Almost afraid to make eye contact even if it meant breaking the spell he was under, always, when Rex's eyes were on him. But mostly, Cody was afraid to find the the unspoken truth there.
That they were no longer, anything.
Rex stared at Cody for a long moment before saying what was really on his mind.
Because Rex had already done his contemplation of the situation. That of Cody and himself and whatever had happened to them.
The war ending. Order 66. The Empire. Their new rebellion.
All the things many of them had had to do to simply survive. It had not been an easy road, from there to here. For any of them. And Rex had lost so much already. So, with those very thoughts, Rex had made his decision.
Stepping right into Cody's personal space, Rex gently nudged Cody and then placed his palm under Cody's chin, pulling it upwards, their eyes connecting.
"I want you to stay. If you are willing." Rex spoke softly.
Cody could not believe what he was hearing. It was what he had hoped though. Redemption. An invite to come back. But still, now that it was actually happening, Cody could not believe it wasn't just some dream, some fantasy he had concocted in his head.
After a spell and a rather audible gulp, Cody knew it was all true. That Rex wanted him to stay.
"I… I want to stay." Cody finally managed, his voice coarse because of the large size lump forming in his throat.
Rex's lips curled into a soft smile. Still holding Cody's chin gently in his palm. The gentle touch making Cody shiver. The memories of the past of the two of of them flooding in, one by one. And so now, it was the here and happening right now.
"Good." Was all Rex needed to say before leaning into soft kiss.
Cody had finally come back home.
"Hey, you alright?" Decker noticed Crosshair stir from his sleep.
Decker was by Crosshair's bed side, never having left his side really. Not since getting Crosshair back from the imps.
The blaster shot which had hit Crosshair's shoulder having missed his heart by only so much, having knocked down the man for a moment there. Not to mention all the vibrowhip's cuts on his back, which were now treated by bacta among the other cuts and bruises sustained from the torture. Crosshair had bounced back soon enough with Echo taking care of the blaster wound on the Marauder on their way back. And now, he was resting in the med bay well on the way to recovery.
"Yeah, I am. Thanks." Crosshair sounded hoarse.
Crosshair felt drowsy still. The pain medicine causing the fatigue along with the overall status of being held and tortured and then finally rescued. The shot at the very end of his rescue not helping to his situation either. But Crosshair was on the mend and it felt good to be, safe.
Reaching with his hand towards Decker, only too glad to see him. As even if Crosshair had been lucid several times already. Having talked with Decker after his rescue. It was still a surprise each time Crosshair opened his eyes to see the other man there. The nightmare finally over and the two of them reunited.
Decker took the offered hand and leaned down for a kiss. Trying to be as gentle as possible to avoid the still healing cut on Crosshair's lip.
"Hunter wants to see you." Decker said in a soft tone after their kiss was broken off.
"I guessed as much."
Crosshair was none to keen on seeing any of his family, not right now even if they had all been instrumental in saving his life. Of course it would happen eventually. But the whole thing between the Batch and Crosshair simply felt too raw.
Decker, however, had been bringing up the subject each time they had chatted ever since Crosshair's rescue. Gently nudging him towards reconciliation. As Decker had no doubt there could not be one. After all, Decker had gotten to know the Batchers quite well, with their quirks and all. And while he still sided with Crosshair, pretty much so. Decker could see both sides of the squabble.
"So, what say you?" Decker had a hint of a smile on his face, knowing he was wearing down Crosshair with his constant queries of the same.
Decker knew Crosshair well enough to sense the other man's moods by now. And even if he clearly was not in the mood of seeing anyone but Decker or the medical personnel. Which was only out of necessity as Crosshair put it. Decker did not want to prolong the reunion of Crosshair and his Batch.
Too much had happened already and it was time to bury the vibro-axe. For good.
Crosshair held Decker's gaze for a moment.
Crosshair was only too glad to be reunited with his lover. Revelling in the moment of just the two of them. But also knowing that Decker was right. There was no use on dwelling in the past, the mistakes having been made. Not any more.
After all, Crosshair had been prepared to die. For the rebel cause, for his family, his loved ones. But they had come for him after all. All of them. And here Crosshair was, still alive. Surrounded by his kin, his family.
"Fine." Crosshair stated then, trying to sound snarky, failing miserably though.
Decker smiled widely and then leaned in for yet another kiss, drawing it a tad longer than he should have as Crosshair was still recuperating, with his split lip and all. Breaking off reluctantly, Decker gave Crosshair one more glance before he stating simply.
"I will get him."
And with that Decker left the private med bay room.
Getting out from the room, he found Hunter loitering in the hallway.
"Well?" Hunter asked nervously.
"Crosshair is waiting of you." Decker smiled at his friend.
Hunter only nodded and was about to get inside the private room Crosshair had been placed in. But before Hunter was allowed to go, Decker reached for him, grabbing his arm gently, getting Hunter's attention by doing so.
The two of them were quite friendly, even calling themselves friends now. Good friends, at least Decker liked to think so. Knowing the past, but also the present, quite well, Decker was only too glad to have Crosshair back in one piece at that. So, not wanting to stir things up either even if he wanted the reunion to happen.
"Hunter," Decker paused, searching for the right words for a moment. "Whatever Crosshair decides…" Decker paused, having Hunter's attention and eyes on him now. "I am on board with it." Decker stated then simply, letting the words sink into Hunter.
Hunter stood there for a moment, looking Decker deep into his eyes, seeing no malice nor challenge there. Just a statement of fact. Hunter knew of course how much Decker loved Crosshair. Something only matched by Hunter's own feelings for the sniper.
Hunter only nodded his response and as soon as Decker let go of him, he stepped inside the private room to have a chat, hopefully, with Crosshair.
Hunter took the few steps once inside and was standing right beside Crosshair's bed. His eyes on the man in a half seated position on the med bed.
"Hunter." Crosshair greeted him sounding almost polite.
It was their first meeting in a long while. Face to face and in a quiet place at least.
As between the time Crosshair had been facing the firing squad and the extended Batch charging in? Well, there really had not been much in chance of talking during the chaotic mess having been Crosshair's rescue from the Empire. Especially when getting shot too, before getting off the ground!
And since then?
Well, Crosshair had used his recuperation period as an excuse not to see anyone, mostly.
Rex, Howzer, Cody and Gregor had stopped by on several occasions. Many of the rescued clones had paid their respects as well. Also Denali and Lantesh had dropped by. So, it was all and all kind of a flimsy excuse. Because, basically everyone and their pet had been there to visit Crosshair. Except for Clone Force 99. As per request by Crosshair.
"How are you feeling?" Hunter repeated the same question Decker had, trying to act all casual as he had finally been granted the audience with Crosshair.
"Better! Now that I am no longer being held prisoner and waiting to be executed." It was a poor joke, but at least Crosshair was trying as he snorted at the end of his response.
"Yeah. There is that."
Hunter let a hint of a smile form on his face there too. After having missed the snarky remarks of Crosshair's for so long. It was somewhat refreshing and familiar to Hunter. But Crosshair looked and felt, so different now too. In so many ways. Not just the new look he had donned.
Hunter was also trying hard to figure out how to approach this whatever it was they were going to talk about. Because Hunter had practiced his 'speech' to Crosshair several times over in his own head. But now that he was finally there, he had no clue as to where to even begin.
All the cliches having been thought in the darkest moments of the night. 'Too many lost lives.' 'We are family no matter what.' 'Mistakes were made by all of us.' All the various thoughts and regrets having been weighed carefully inside of Hunter. Finally coming to one conclusion.
That Hunter was sorry, for all of it.
That Hunter wanted Crosshair back in any manner he was willing to come back to their lives.
Hunter decided to keep things on the small talk level for now.
"So, new hair huh!" Hunter was kind of liking Crosshair's longer hairstyle and the stylish looking beard he had donned as well, now that Crosshair was all cleaned up and not the bloody mess they had found him in. "The beard too! Looking, really sharp!" Hunter was trying to keep the mood light between them, giving compliments and all.
"Yes, well, guess it all goes with the new way of thinking too." Crosshair remarked then, keeping the tone in his usual snarky manner, albeit toned down. Really toned down, as Crosshair was not that man anymore, not really. "You know, helping regs and all. Having one as a boyfriend."
"Um yeah." Hunter had no comeback for that one.
As he coiled slightly at the use of the word, boyfriend. But it wasn't a secret, now was it! So, there was that. Hunter and Decker being best buds and all, he knew all of it.
"So, I heard you and Decker are quite friendly now." Crosshair commented then.
Of course the two of them had already managed to catch up. Decker having been a permanent fixture at Crosshair's side since the moment they had hauled Crosshair's shebs back to the Marauder after rescuing him. Decker having been updating Crosshair on what was going on at the base. As the two of them had not really been in touch since Decker's defection.
"He is a good man." Hunter stated honestly.
Hunter did appreciate the other man, even liked Decker. A lot. And if Hunter was totally honest, he found Decker's charms rather appealing too. And so, easily seeing how Decker and Crosshair had become an item.
"He is." Crosshair was also aware Hunter had been well informed about his and Decker's relationship as well.
"So guess you had quite the adventure then."
Hunter wasn't really sure, as to what about he could talk with Crosshair. His mind racing a mile a minute with all the ideas from before, rehearsed and otherwise.
So many things having happened between them. Crosshair and the Bad Batch.
And now that they finally had Crosshair back? Well, the one question remained still. That of if Crosshair would want to even stay. At least on the base. With their cause. Because Decker was there. A kind of a permanent member after getting the green light from Rex. Not there had been any doubt for that to happen.
And what of the Batch?
Would Crosshair be able to forgive them for leaving him behind? Even if it had kind of been by choice, at least the last time around. And what would their relationship be like from now on? Would they still be a family to Crosshair? Or just friends? Co-workers? Anything at all?
Hunter felt the heat rising on his cheeks and he was now totally avoiding eye contact with Crosshair.
"Hunter." Crosshair's voice was a low half whisper.
Hunter looked up as if ordered. And in a way he was. It was the way Crosshair usually addressed him when he wanted something from Hunter.
"What do you want?" Crosshair asked, surprising Hunter totally then with the blunt question, the double meaning implied there.
"Wha… how do you mean?" Hunter sounded confused as Sith, despite his senses telling him exactly what the rather open question had meant.
Crosshair let out a sigh and turned away for a spell. Then turning back to Hunter he locked with Hunter's eyes. Keeping the man there, in place. With an invisible tether. Hunter being unable to look away. Something which Crosshair had always managed to do to Hunter in the past.
"What are your intentions? Towards me?" Crosshair asked again, clarifying what he had meant.
Hunter had really not expected that exact question to have been dropped.
Not now or perhaps ever.
Then again, Hunter knew exactly what or rather whom he wanted. But did he have any right for any kind of intentions left? Hadn't he forfeit them all a long time ago?
When letting Crosshair walk away, or the other way around. Then again, shots had been fired, on either side. And excuses made too. So many excuses. On Hunter's side at least. Crosshair still had a good excuse for his own actions. Well sort of.
Hunter and Decker had talked about some of it. Of what had happened between the Batch and Crosshair.
And as bold and honest as Decker was, even if Hunter really was not. Most of the regrets Hunter still had popped up during the conversations in the early morning hours when neither of them could sleep.
It seemed that Hunter had been less than successful in hiding anything from Decker. The other man simply having a way of making people talk. Echo had complained about the same thing too to Hunter, while the Echo and Decker had had their bonding moment. Not that it had been much of a complaint though. Rather an acknowledgement of the fact that Decker got people to talk about things bothering them and he was quite willing to listen too. Even in giving advice without being asked. That part being a good thing remained open however.
Decker had become a much of a member of the Bad Batch as Crosshair had been in the time he had been running missions with them. Making friends with all of them.
In essence, all the Batchers loved Decker.
Still, what Crosshair was now asking? Well, what could Hunter tell him. That he was sorry? That he had made a huge mistake and should have gone after Crosshair sooner than later? That he loved Crosshair still, very much so? Were these even things Crosshair wanted to hear?
They were all true nevertheless.
Hunter was quiet for a long moment, but Crosshair was not letting this go either.
"I have no right for any such thing. Not any more." Hunter finally said with a heavy sigh, the weight of his remorse tightening around his chest.
Crosshair's eyes remained on Hunter, even if Hunter turned his own glance downward for a moment. Gulping, the lump in his throat causing soreness with its presence there. Closing his eyes. Gathering his bearings Hunter looked back at Crosshair.
"Besides, you have a better deal now." Hunter then reminded Crosshair of Decker.
Crosshair let out muffled and somewhat snide chuckle.
"Decker is not going anywhere." A kind of a smirk emerged on suddenly on Crosshair's lips.
Hunter looked at Crosshair for a spell, trying to figure out what the comment really meant. Then he remembered what Decker had told him just before Hunter had come to see Crosshair.
"Whatever he decides, I am on board with it."
It dawned on Hunter then, what the words had really meant. It was becoming obvious to Hunter that Decker and Crosshair had also talked about their relationship, Hunter's and Crosshair's. And most likely rather recently too. The words now getting a new meaning. Something which Hunter had honestly not even considered. How could he have?
Hunter had barely thought about anything really being possible between himself and Crosshair. Not any more, not after everything. Let alone…
Hunter wasn't a hundred percent sure if he had understood Crosshair correctly. But at this point, there was really nothing more he could lose. Not in the grand scheme of things anyway.
Crosshair was safe now, away from the Empire. Hunter had his Batch still and Rex's cause. If all they could be with Crosshair was friends or even colleagues, then fine. But Hunter needed to know if the meaning behind Crosshair's words really was what he thought them to be.
So, feeling bold he decided to ask.
"You still want, me?"
Crosshair only glared at Hunter, without much of an emotion on his face. Raising all kinds of alarms in Hunter. Had he really misinterpreted the meaning of what Crosshair was saying?
"Hunter, was there ever any doubt?" Crosshair finally asked him, letting the man off the hook.
Hunter stood there, glued to his spot, without being able to move for a spell. Digesting the words. And then, when they finally hit the back of his mind. Realising fully, what Crosshair was telling him.
A hint of a smile curled up on his lips.
"Yes." Hunter simply said, but, feeling daring, he leaned into Crosshair. "But, I am willing to give a try for whatever you want." Hunter's voice was a soft whisper.
Hunter was close enough to feel the breath of Crosshair's on his lips.
Feeling bolder each passing moment, Hunter closed the final gap between them. His lips on Crosshair's. The kiss probing and gentle, until it wasn't. Cuts and all but forgotten. Crosshair melded into the press of Hunter's lips, kissing back with more intent and demanding. Tongues darting out, intertwining with the others. The passion still there, after all this time.
If there had been any doubt in Hunter's mind left, it was all slowly fading. As the two former lovers were reacquainted with each other. Their kisses lasting for several moments, before they heard a slight cough behind them.
The doctor in charge having come to check on his patient, obviously at a bad moment. For him.
"Sorry to interrupt, but I need to check on my patient."
The high ranking clone medic, doctor as he now was. The one called Patches, was smiling at Hunter and Crosshair. Only to have the two glaring back at him in somewhat of an annoyance. But Patches being neither embarrassed nor fazed by the display in front of him or the glares directed at him. Simply housing a hint of a smirk on his face as he waited for the two to come to a full stop of their romantic interactions.
Hunter patted Crosshair on his arm and with a smile said simply. "I will check up with you later."
Crosshair could only nod, his heart rate still high. And knowing the doctor would most likely reprimand him of that. After all, he had already caught Crosshair kissing with Decker, several times. Crosshair simply could not get a break it seemed!
After Hunter had left Doctor Patches started his scans of Crosshair. The usual ones Doctor Patches conducted each interval. Making sure that 'the close to heart - missing only by that much - blaster bolt' hit did not have any repercussions. Being the great doctor that he was.
"So, you are very popular." Doctor Patches stated with a hint of a smirk. "Aren't you."
After all, there had been so many of the clones coming in to check on Crosshair. And even if he had hardly smooched with any of them, part from a few pecks on the cheek and the off hug, well, having two men kissing him was hardly being popular?
Crosshair simply glared at him, the half scowl adorning his face. Not having any kind of comeback. Something new to him again. But the doctor was used to it all. The supposedly intimidating glares and whatnots. And did not even flinch.
"Hey, it's fine! I can understand perfectly." Doctor Patches was checking Crosshair's pulse now. "We are a great bunch and choosing can be such a hassle!"
He then noticed the sudden spike in the readings, but only smirked and took the monitoring device off of Crosshair's chest.
Doctor Patches stepped away, having completed with his checks for the moment. But before he left he leaned into Crosshair and with a smirky whisper said.
"If you weren't reserved, I would have asked you out myself."
And with that, Doctor Patches walked out, leaving a very confused looking Crosshair behind.
Let's get to work!
The future so bright, gotta wear shades, or in this case, a helmet with a sun visor instead!
"So, where to next, Cap'n?" Echo was the one placing the million credit question on everyone's mind onto the table for their fearless leaded Rex to answer.
Not that there was any doubt as to what their mission was, the bigger picture of things. But, sometimes, the question needed to be asked, just the same. If for no other reason, than simply to remind them all, what and why they were all there for.
And today, they were all there. The leaders of the bigger picture of things.
Rex, Cody, Howzer, Gregor, Hunter, Echo, Crosshair, Decker, Tech, Wrecker, Omega, Lantesh and Denali, Eager and a few of his crew as well among other clone team leaders. Even Sora and two of her crew were present. The extended group of clones and a several nat-borns of the now so called leadership of the officially named Clone Rebellion.
The uprising, rebellion, having many names naturally. But it was taking flight now that they had joined forces with the rest of the former one off groups of the galaxy. Coordinating their efforts rather than each running their own little op in some corner of space.
Their future all up in the air. With all the possibilities and options to move along with.
There were thousands of clones having joined the rebel cause. Some of those rescued by Rex's crew and the rest the handiwork of Decker's and Crosshair's efforts while still with the Empire.
And now, they were also aware with thanks to Denali and Lantesh's intel, that of plenty of people on the inside working for the Empire willing to aid them in the future as well. People like Tala, who were aiding clones and other escape. Only not in such scale as it had been. Still, that could most likely change soon too.
As there were thousands and thousand more of their kin out there. Clone troopers still working for the Empire to be rescued as well. But also other people. Willing to fight against the Empire wanting the choking yoke off of their necks. Several uprisings already being staged all over the galaxy.
"Well." Rex paused, glancing proudly around the table seeing all of the familiar and new faces there, all of them willing to fight for the same cause. "I was thinking, that now as we have gotten so many new allies…" Rex nodded to Sora and her two crewmen among a few others. "We need to plan on how we can better coordinate our efforts."
"We need a bigger base for one." Gregor let out a small laugh then as clearly, the one they were now stationed in was beginning to be a tad crowded. "The living quarter situation is getting too small for one."
Gregor went on as having pretty much been in charge of assigning crew quarters for those wanting to stay, and it was most of them they had rescued. At least the clones whom seemed to have formed strong bonds with each other. Either the more family units or even platonic relationships and wanting to continued living with those closest to them.
"We don't have enough family units for one." Gregor reminded them all. "And the mess hall situation is not good either."
Their food supply was not really the problem, as the planet they were on provided some of it. But they did not have a large enough space for everyone to eat at. And despite having shifts even, it was still a hassle during most days. Even if part of the clones were out there running ops.
"We need some nice planet with farm land as some of the clones have suggested on having a total change of life and are willing to do the work." Gregor having been the go to person for any and all complaints as well, with Howzer's help of course. "Howzer and myself actually have a list of those volunteering to start digging in the dirt as it were." Getting a few chuckles from around the table then.
But it was no laughing matter as food was essential as was living space as well, naturally!
"I agree." Rex told him. "But I suggest we start scanning for some safe planet out of reach for the Empire where we can easily settle on."
"There are a few I and my crew could suggest." Sora chimed in. "After all, we have made a few observations while running our, um, ops out there."
There was a coy smirk on Sora's face. But what or whom she was? Well, it wasn't really a secret and nobody thought worse of her because of that either. Sora had helped, a lot.
"Good. Then we can start on that as soon as possible on that effort." Rex stated.
"It is good that we still have our allies inside the imperial bases too." Denali reminded them then.
"Yes, this officer, Tala. We can trust her?" Rex asked as he had only heard the gist of the officer.
"Tala Durith. Yes, I would say so." Denali replied sounding sure. "But it's always a gamble using anyone you don't really know."
"We need to start getting more of the clone troopers out from there. But we need to make sure this Tala is reliable and if possible, get someone on the inside to observe and help. At least for the first mission." Rex had already thought about the options and mentioned them to a few of the others as well.
"I would say you got plenty of volunteers for that." Hunter said.
Hunter having already discussed the matter with Rex and his crew. Volunteering not only himself but Tech and Echo. Adding a few other clones from Decker's old squad. Those whom had not been so close to the imperials, and so could easily work undetected. They had a small group of infiltrators already ready to start their undercover work.
After all, they could not very well send someone who had been rescued already. They would be most likely recognised. Besides, it wasn't mentally sound either to send anyone having escaped already back there. It would simply be cruel to do that to anyone. Even if a few had volunteered. Like Decker and Crosshair.
There were plenty of plans to be made for their future operations.
But as the crew was now growing in bulk, they needed more supplies. Food, weapons, ships. So, there was more than simple rescue missions and hit and run ops to cripple the Empire to do as well. This was becoming a large size community really. And Rex and the other leaders knew they needed to plant their roots on some suitable world out there, where they could be more self-sufficient and actually start living their lives as well.
"We know what our priorities are. And, there are plenty of people working on them as well. " Rex the reminded them all. "But, the most pressing issues need to go to the top before we can continue on the rescues on any larger scale."
"Well, we need more ships for one." Cody piped in. "Despite our best efforts, we don't really have large enough vessels to mount those bigger rescues."
"We could be hitting the smaller bases, where clone troopers are the majority of the soldiers." Eager suggested then, being well aware of those brethren still out there, half forgotten by the imps much as himself and his squad had been. "Those would be easiest to take on first."
"And there are ships there as well." Cody's eyes were glowing with interest immediately picking up on Eager's suggestion.
"So, guess you two have it all figured out already then? Getting the ships and troopers in one swell swoop?" Rex snorted at the duo glaring at each other, being clearly on the same wave length.
Rex was only too happy to have so many eager, pun intended, troopers working for their cause. As it was, the clones now working for the rebellion, most of them liberated from the Empire had brought plenty of intel with them as well. Some of it useable still, even if the Empire had tried to change their tactics after the clones had started feeling en masse.
"Well, if it's alright, myself and Eager here with Decker's help of course." Cody nodded to Decker then, whom returned the gesture. "We would like to take on this project." Cody said to Rex.
Cody, speaking on behalf of the other two, knowing they would be onboard with it. As it was, the other two, just like Cody knew still where to find these bases. And even if their roles had been reversed during the Republic days, now it was Rex who was the leader, so, Cody politely asking for permission to do something was the way to go.
"It's fine." Rex told Cody. "Just keep the rest of us posted and use as many resources as you need."
"What of the Coruscant base?" Howzer asked then. "Any news from Tala since you last saw her?" Howzer was talking to Crosshair, Denali and Lantesh, the three of them planning the infiltration op so far.
"We have actually." Crosshair revealed then.
Crosshair being in charge of the particular project. As it was, Rex had decided to give each and every capable Commander and Captain their own project to lead. Because there were so many moving parts and Rex could no longer handle them all by himself. Besides, Rex knew how capable they all were and so, sharing the load was a good choice to make.
"Tala contacted Denali here." Crosshair motioned at the former imperial officers. "We have word of several volunteers in addition to Tala who are ready to assist with the rescue efforts." Crosshair revealed. "Unfortunately, the scale of the operation isn't as big as it once was. Not yet anyway."
"Well, we need to get everyone they can help out from there." Rex simply respond. "I trust you, Hunter and the rest of the Batch among the other volunteers have things under control on this one."
"We have." Crosshair glanced at Hunter who simply nodded his agreement. "But like you said, we will not move along with it until we have the ship problem resolved. As it is using the Marauder is not ideal, her being a small vessel only. And if we do indeed get a larger group to transport at once, we need bigger vessels." Crosshair went on, having throughly planned the mission not wanting anything to go wrong especially as it was his Batch going in there. "As we already agreed, the pirate ships are compromised and it is better to use something else for these rescues missions."
As it was for Cody and Rex, Crosshair and Hunter had a pretty much similar situation as far as the switch in their command positions went. Albeit the burden of it was mostly shared between the two of them. While Decker was working with Cody and Eager on the other project.
"Very well." Rex had been well updated of the ongoing projects and seeing as all his underlings really had it all well figured out, he had no doubts about their missions not being able to continue to succeed in future as well.
"So, no further questions? From anyone?" Gregor always the backup for Rex, keeping tabs everyone got their say while Rex handled the main topics.
There were head shakes and some murmurs around the table, followed by silence only. Thus concluding the topics had been discussed and the questions having gotten answered. It was then only up to Rex to say the final words before concluding the meeting.
"Well, we have some of the priority tasks set for us for the immediate future." Rex then recapped their meeting results. "Now, we can only do so much at once. But, I have faith in each and every one of you." Rex's voice sounded a tad shaky then, feeling such pride for his troops and their cause, getting a lump in his throat for a moment there. "Now, let's get to work!"
The order sounded and the troopers all started shuffling out of the meeting room.
A few stolen moments between all the efforts done
* Domestic bliss, in the very midst of a galactic war of sorts, but the fires still burn, deep within each and every lover earned
"Howsy, be a dearie won't you and check that the tub isn't spilling over." Gregor asked Howzer as being busy himself with prepping the bedroom with scented candles and such, setting the mood for later.
"Will do hon!"
Howzer was already on the task without a hassle. Checking all was setup in the bathroom as well. Having placed a plethora candles there and a set of oils for the massages they were going to give to Rex.
After all, the three doting boyfriends wanted all to be perfect for Rex for tonight have planned the perfect evening for weeks now as they finally had some time off and planning on spending it together, part from Rex who was still missing, having a late meeting. Still. But, it was important work and they all knew it, even if it was difficult for Rex to sometimes let go.
Cody was in the small galley prepping the snacks and drinks for their evening. As it was, the trio had decided to give Rex, their beloved Rexy, an evening of rest and relaxation. A nice soak in the large tub which they could all fit in. With a relaxing massage, some great food and the perfect wine to go with. Followed by… well, wherever their night would lead them. Sex of course.
After all, it had been a while the four of them had some time off together from saving lives and whatnots. Still, none of them were complaining about it. They made it all work with their personal lives and with the rebellion as well.
And most importantly, this was a small gesture to reward their fearless leader for all the good Rex had done to all of them. It was Rex who had saved them all, in a manner of speaking.
Cody, Howzer and Gregor had managed to plan this special evening despite their hectic lives. Running around the galaxy on ops and missions and whatnots. Trying to make the galaxy a better place. At least to those nearest and dearest to them. Which was becoming to be a whole lot of clones and plenty of nat-borns as well. As so many out there were staring to wake up to the horrible things the Empire was doing to them and those around.
However the immediate family of Rexy's was still the three men prepping the evening for him and also the Batchers among several other clones Rex felt close to. The kind of an inner circle as some of them teasingly called it.
But tonight was bound to be a precious moment for all four of them. It would have most likely been that even without the special treatment the trio had planned. Still, it had all been worth the effort. For all of them.
"Hunter just pinged me. Rexy is finally on his way!" Gregor notified the other two. "Thankfully, we have everything prepped and ready." He glanced around seeing the setup on the counter and seeing the Howzer and Cody dressed casually, ready and waiting to service Rex as soon as he was home.
Gregor having gotten the heads up from Hunter and Decker who had been with Rex completing a few long term plans. And with the meeting running over as per usual. It was simply how it went with the hard working man Rex was.
Hunter and Decker had been informed of the plan and with the note to get Rex home as quickly as possible. It had taken some effort and quick thinking from the duo to make sure Rex would get back to his boyfriends as early as possible. And so, having done all the pre-work as best as they could and then only needing Rex's stamp of approval. Unfortunately Rex was quite thorough and the follow-up questions simply kept on pouring.
Decker and Hunter had exchanged glances in trying to figure some fake urgency to bring the meeting to an end. It took several moments and a few more glances exchanged between the two. But luckily, Hunter had managed to comm Echo and get him to ping back. Something about an emergency situation. And soon enough, Hunter's comms ping loudly.
"Oh sorry! It's Echo." Hunter excused the disturbance. "Looks like there is something wrong with Omega. Tummy ache." Hunter glanced at Rex who looked seemingly worried after hearing this.
"Is it bad?" Decker asked acting all worried too.
"Yeah, well, kids, you know. It usually is." Hunter sound serious.
Omega was still pretty much Hunter's kid more than the other's. And so, whenever there was some real issue with her, Hunter was the one she went to. Most of the time. Even if that was starting to change little by little.
"We'll, guess we are all finished here." Rex finally relented as there really was nothing to check anymore, simply Rex being Rex.
"Good! And sorry!" Hunter sounded all apologetic of the ordeal he himself had created.
"No, it's fine!" Rex assured him.
"Well, we should go then." Decker chimed.
Decker went with Hunter, naturally. As they lived together with Crosshair. And the rest of the Batch sharing family quarters together. All of them. With separate rooms of course.
"Hope Omega feels better." Rex said then and looked at the time. "I should get back home as well."
Realising in the moment, that he too had a family to get back to. Something which made Rex feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
"Have a good night!" Both Hunter and Decker wished him then.
Hunter sent out the ping to Gregor as soon as they had left Rex's office. Only hoping Rex would actually leave now too. Knowing the trio had prepared something special for their man for the evening.
"That was a really good idea! To have an Omega emergency." Decker chuckled at Hunter's quick plan while the two of them were walking back to their quarters, their shoulders touching.
"Well, Rex has a real soft spot for Omega. So, I had Echo text me back there was a situation going on. Just in case Rex wanted to check it for himself."
Decker pulled Hunter close for a hug and peck on the cheek. "Good thinking hon, real good thinking!"
The two of them really close ever since they had opted on having a shared relationship because of Crosshair. Both loving the sniper and well, along the way, Decker and Hunter had realised they loved each other too.
"We should plan a special night too. For the three of us." Decker said to Hunter.
"Well, we need to set it up somewhere else, as the others will never leave the quarters!" Hunter snorted,
The now extended Batch certainly was a tight knit group if any. But with two separate relationships going on in the house hold, with Tech and Echo having their own thing going on and Then of course Hunter, Decker and Crosshair having theirs. Despite their rather large quarters and each set having their own room too, it was still sometimes a tad crowded. Especially for special evenings.
"We can ask Gregor if he has something for us. At least for a night." Decker suggested then.
"That, my dear, is a very good idea." Hunter beamed, already staring to have a few ideas in his head on what they could do.
"He is here!" Howzer was by the door as the lookout.
The lights were switched off then. With everting already setup and simply waiting for the man of the hour to arrive.
Rex opened the door and was stunned to see darkness only greeting him. After all, he had kind of excepted to be able to spend some time with the other three. Knowing they would all be there. But then guessing they had gone to sleep already, Rex cursing internally for letting work keep him away from his loved ones once again.
Wowing to start doing better in said area, Rex stepped inside. He was about to switch on the lights, when suddenly several candle lights around the living area came to life. The mere surprise of the moment making Rex jump back at first. But looking around, it felt rather cosy. The room definitely looking romantic. Seductive even.
Rex felt hands on his body. Two sets. Touching him tentatively, slowly, gently. Clearly there for the reason to calm him down rather than anything else. But, be that the late hour and the long day behind, Rex felt more aroused of the roaming sets of hands than anything else. The tiredness of earlier all but gone.
"That feels really good." Rex managed then in a low timbre.
"Yeah?" It was Gregor's voice Rex heard close to his ear. "We have something even better waiting for you."
"Follow us." Howzer's voice whispered to Rex's other ear. "And we'll show you."
Howzer and Gregor guided Rex towards the direction of their boudoir. But much to Rex's surprise they passed it and moved towards the fresher instead. Thankfully, it a rather large one fitting in addition to the regular stuff a big size tub, which the four of them occasionally enjoyed soaking in together.
Gregor opened the door and like the living room, it was darkened except for the candle light. Giving the same kind of romantic feeling to it as per designed by the three men in Rex's life.
Rex spotted Cody sitting by the side of the tub, ready with the oils to be used to sooth the knots and kinks they knew Rex housed on his body despite the training regimen they all followed. Cody was already dressed down to nothing at all.
And soon Rex would be too. As Howzer and Gregor had started on getting Rex there. Their hands making a gentle but quick work of disrobing Rex. Never forgetting the soft caresses wherever more skin was exposed. Placing a few kisses here and there as well.
Gently guiding Rex to the tub, each man holding a hand like Rex was royalty, and guess he really was in a manner of speaking. Gregor and Howzer shed their robes and waited for Rex to settle before joining in.
Rex had settled into the tub right between Cody's legs who was ready to use his special set of aromatic oils to rub, rub, rub away the tension from Rex. At least from his upper body to start with.
While Cody was doing his miracle treatment, his magical hands loosening the knots and bolts in Rex's neck and back, Howzer and Gregor were pampering Rex with fruit, snacks and wine. Feeding Rex by hand, each and every piece carefully placed into Rex's mouth, fingers sliding with each bite size, gracing Rex's lips and tongue, sending shivers down his spine, travelling elsewhere of his body and finally settling in his groin.
It was all a mixture of sensations running rampant inside the Great Rexy. As on the other hand he was getting more relaxed and loose by Cody's treatment. And then, the feeding and wine, not to mention the gentle rubbing the two boys had started on his legs from the soles, making their way ever upwards. It was safe to say that the relaxed feeling did not last too long.
The dead give-away being their relaxation techniques were not working were most likely the soft sighs and low moans escaping from Rex's lips at the same time Howzer and Gregor reached the apex of Rex's lean legs. Their fingers running their magic there. Certainly no more of the soothing kind of a treatment. All the while Cody too having changed his tactics as well. Forgoing the pressure and kneading and moving to a more caressing method.
It did not matter in the end as Rex ended up being at the receiving end of some soulful lovin' from his partners. All of them working in unison to bring out whatever kinks and ailments might have remained inside of their man. Culminating to a glorious set of orgasmic bliss not just for Rex, but his small band of Rex's merry men.
Crosshair woke up with a start. He had been having a nightmare again. Stuck inside the dark brig, alone. Deep inside some long since forgotten facility in the basement floor of it. There was no-one else there but him. Screaming his head off for someone to come and get him. But no one ever came. It was his own screaming inside the the dream. which had woken him up in the end.
Crosshair was panting heavily.
"Hey, it's alright Cross. You are safe now. Here, with us." Hunter's voice soothed him.
"We've got you, love." Decker was right on his other side. "We've got you." Decker assured Crosshair as well.
Crosshair was still breathing heavily. But the soothing circles Hunter and Decker were running on his back were evening up the pulse and making Crosshair feel more like himself. The bad dream fading into the background, while something more pleasant was taking its place instead.
Hunter and Decker had realised early on the way to calm Crosshair whenever he would have one his nightmares. The best way to make him forget all about the bad dream was to take his mind off of it and give him something totally different to occupy his thoughts. Or rather, empty his mind completely.
Soon enough, the soothing motions over Crosshair's exposed skin were turning into more deliberate and probing ones. Moving away from his back, to his neck, to Crosshair's sides and towards his front. One of each partner's hand circling gently around Crosshair's chest. Nipping on his nipples, teasing them while the other two hands started roaming ever downwards. Flying across the taunt stomach with soft brushing touches, finally reaching his lean long legs.
"Feeling better?" Hunter's voice was a soft whisper against Crosshair's ear.
"I um…" Crosshair was already lost in the sensations of Decker's and Hunter's ministrations, the words getting harder to form.
Crosshair managed to urge them both then. As so far, the gentle touching had concentrated mostly on Crosshair's upper body. Only teasing his lower regions. But Crosshair's arousal was already becoming obvious.
"Getting a tad anxious there Cross aren't you?"
Decker let out a soft chuckle. He had always loved to tease Crosshair while trying to milk all the possible profanities eliciting from Crosshair soon enough if Decker did not comply to Crosshair's demands of moving faster.
Hunter while having found the teasing a tad… well, much in the beginning, had begun to enjoy the teasing game when it came to Crosshair. Turning soon into half ordering, half begging for the two of them to let him have his release if they did not adhere to what Crosshair wanted.
Not that there were any complaints after the fact from Crosshair, knowing the two lovers of his would take good care of him.
"You two started it!" Crosshair growled.
Having finally managed to form a sentence despite his current state of out of control and fully in the mercy of Hunter and Decker. But, nothing like a comeback bite wedged right in there.
"Guess we'd better finish what we'd started, now won't we!" Hunter had a wicked grin plastered on his face as he exchanged a glance with Decker.
"Yeah, guess we'd better!" Decker joined in his partner's sentiment, as after all, the teasing was satisfying only for so long.
Hunter and Decker both manoeuvred themselves each on either side of Crosshair's lower body. With their hands and mouths they were going to finish off what they had started. The soft gasp of Crosshair's turning to something much louder as his two lovers were working on getting rid of any and all nightmarish thoughts from his mind. The only ones filling the man's mind were those of holding off his release as long as possible until the inevitable and very glorious end.
The End (for now)