Back into the Darkness I go
Whomever said going back would be easy, could not have been more wrong. But sometimes, admitting having been wrong, even if not, is easier than simply facing the uncertainty, out there in the wide of the galaxy.
"Did you really think you could escape, us?"
Admiral Rampart emphasising the word 'us', sounding totally smug when addressing the tied up Crosshair laying on the med bed in the imperial facility.
"You really should have known better by now."
The Admiral kept going with his monologue, clearly loving his own voice. Which really wasn't all that bad as far as villainous leaders went, being rather smooth in its timbre. Most of the time. And it was a great asset especially during the times Rampart wanted to lull his enemies into a false sense of security.
"You can never return to your batch, because you belong to us."
Rampart leaned down. Now face to face with Crosshair, glaring the clone right into his eyes.
Rampart's snarl palpable while making his point of ownership clear. He was the one without shackles after all. And his Commander? Lying flat on his back, yielding to the power Rampart and the Empire once again had over him.
"And with this new and improved chip, you will not even want to leave us, ever again."
Rampart's tone was as low as it could get. Being totally empowered by the technology the Empire's scientists had managed to improve upon. And soon he would have the subservient clone working for him again.
"That much you can be sure of."
Rampart moved away letting the droids complete their work. As the sooner they could finish, the sooner the Clone Commander would be back working for Rampart and the Empire. Something which Rampart never saw as a separate thing. He was as much part of the Empire as the Empire was of him. And Rampart could not have been more proud of what the Empire was doing for him.
All those countless worlds and people falling into place without resistance. Here, in the Empire Rampart had all the power he could have ever wanted. The Admiral turned to look at the screen with the status of the Commander's chip's activeness presented there. Smiling widely as the numbers increased each passing moment.
Yes, indeed, not even Tarkin could reprimand him now, not that Rampart really cared what Tarkin did. Not to much anyway. After all, Rampart had already made his own connections with those powers that be.
"Marvellous assets indeed they are!"
Rampart exclaimed, the meaning stated for both the enhanced inhibitor chip and his returned Clone Commander.
Crosshair was at a loss of a snarky come back.
In the past, he had managed to thrown them in there edgewise. But doubting this would be the case in the future. He was struggling already with the whole procedure to refit his new inhibitor chip. The pain shearing through his body. Having great difficulty to even think let alone speak. This was not really what Crosshair had thought would happen when he had returned.
Then again, guess the open armed welcome had been too much to ask!
Rampart chuckled as he watched the medical droids working on the Clone Commander. His Commander.
Indeed, Rampart had been furious after hearing of the stint the Commander had pulled while on Kamino. Still, he had welcomed the clone back to the fold, despite killing his squad of imperial troopers. They could easily be replaced.
The fact Crosshair had been aiding his former squad to escape remained though.
It had been a clear betrayal on the Commander's part. But, he had returned, of his own accord. Besides, Rampart would not so easily want to give up the enhanced clone. As it was a well known fact, that the Commander had proven to be a valuable asset.
Crosshair had almost believed the Admiral upon his return. The fact that he was forgiven and was ready to go back to work. Creating the much needed order in the constant chaos out there in the galaxy. Which Crosshair saw the Empire's work to be. Because sometimes more drastic measures were needed and Crosshair had been fine with implementing said measures. At least in the past. Killing civilians even, if it aided the imperial cause.
But then soon enough upon his return, Crosshair had found out the truth. It was not the really him Rampart wanted back, rather the ruthless version of the same. The one being controlled by that karking chip!
And so, Crosshair had once again fallen into the very trap of the Empire Hunter had warned him about. Only this time around, it was done voluntary!
"All you'll ever be to them, is a number." The words echoed inside of Crosshair's mind.
And so, the more the droids kept on recalibrating the chip's control device, the further Crosshair drifted away from his true self. Becoming the ruthless killer the Empire wanted him to be. Nothing more, nothing less. And it truly meant what Rampart had just stated.
Crosshair could never go back to his Batch again.
A lone tear fell down his cheek before he lost all consciousness.
"Commander, I would like you to meet your new squad."
Rampart introduced CT-9904 to the four conscripted soldiers, dressed in the black unblemished armour of the elite troopers and standing in line in the large size hangar bay waiting patiently for their Commander's inspection.
Standing in a neat file, they all saluted him. CT-9904 simply glared at them, his helmet off and a toothpick between his lips. What did they all except? For him to do the same?
Rampart simply ignored the bad behaviour. Which someone else might have stated of the Commander's stance towards his new squad. But Rampart really did not care. As long as the clone did his bidding, he could treat the underlings as he saw fit.
"Well, now that the pleasantries are all over, let's move on to your next mission details."
Rampart moved to the computer console with the holographic presentation already pulled up with the details shown for them them all to read. Both the Commander and his squad followed suit.
"This world, will be one of our most priced possession yet."
Rampart went on, raving of the three planet system at the very corner of the Outer Rim. It looked green and blue, because the lush forest covering it and clear blue seas filling half of the planets.
"Filled with unspoiled natural resources we so desperately need."
Rampart went on with his briefing. As clearly this was a resource he himself had found and was now about to lay claim to in the name of the Empire. His Empire as Rampart often referred to it as. Raising a few eyebrows, especially if it was a first time they heard it.
Not CT-9904 though. He had gotten used to it and really did not care.
CT-9904 tuned out of the croning of the Admiral's. Not caring less what was on the planet. The only thing he was programmed to do, was to finish the mission. To do the Empire's bidding. Whatever the reasons were behind, were all irrelevant.
The sooner they would leave, the faster they could finish the job and move on, to the next mission.
"So, you are all up to par as to what needs to be done on this mission." Rampart wasn't asking, not really.
Knowing that it was mostly to boost his own ego that he held these elaborate briefings to the soldiers leaving on missions. As most of the data the soldiers needed was already sent to their personal HUDs containing the maps, intel and all the needed mission directives.
But, Rampart loved to give these, lectures, to those he felt were lesser than him. Feeling superior.
After all, they could not really say no to him either. So Rampart did indeed have a captive audience. Always. And he also liked very much so, when the missions went according to plan. No failures were tolerated. So trusting the soldiers to use the files on their HUDs to best complete their tasks and make the Empire proud. To make Rampart proud of, well, their efforts.
"We are, Admiral."
The Commander replied in his usual non caring monotone. They always were, ready.
"Good. Then, you are dismissed."
Rampart dismissed the squad and their leader, taking his leave to do whatever he had on his agenda. After all, the Admiral was a very busy and important man in the eyes of the Empire.
The new squad members stood there for a moment, waiting for their Commander to give the order. But none was forthcoming. They started to fidget a tad, something the Commander noticed soon enough.
CT-9904's voice was a hissing snarl his toothpick changing its position from the left to the right side of his mouth in an angry motion.
"Should we leave now, Sir?"
One of the soldiers dared to ask, being a little confused about their situation. After all, this wasn't something covered in their fast-track training course nor in the manuals they had received. How to handle this, indifferent kind of a Commander.
"What else is there for us to do?"
The Commander remark was its usual snide and delivered with a hefty scowl before placing his helmet on as he started walking towards their shuttle craft.
The soldiers exchanged glances with each other, clearly not used to the leadership style of their new Commander. But nonetheless, they quickly ran after him and embarked the shuttle right behind CT-9904. Quite eager to get on their first mission.
As they had gotten situated inside the shuttle, the new soldiers each made a few glances towards their new Commander. But none of them dared to ask or comment on anything. After all, this was all new to them all. Fresh out of the training and joining the elite soldier squad.
Well, one of them as there were several currently the Empire had in place to deploy all across the galaxy. To the most dangerous regions usually. At least, that was the rumour these soldiers had heard while in the barracks. Whether it was true or not? Well, this mission could only tell.
So many traitors killed with only a few blaster shots!
Killing becomes easy, after some time and fashion. It becomes a simple action of squeezing the trigger and closing the eyes, as nothing really seen, is nothing spied, at least not to the memory, right?
The several imperials shuttle craft approached the planet to annex it in the name of the Empire. But it was the Commander's and his squad's task to take down a small settlement filled with insurgents resisting the expansion. Them all suspected of being armed and dangerous. That was what the squad had been told at least.
Insurgents. Traitors. Enemies to the Empire. The worst of the lot.
The shuttle landed and the troopers debarked following their Commander through the lush growth of the planet. Heading straight towards the settlement. Finding it with ease.
As the squad approached the village, they were surprised, somewhat, to find absolutely no resistance there whatsoever. Sure, the settlers had gathered to the gate's of their small village to greet the arrivals. But none of them were even armed.
The Commander raised his hand to signal "halt" for his crew.
The squad stopped in their footfalls. Surrounding their leader with their weapons drawn and aimed at the insurgents. All of them with their eyes honed in on the villagers, the traitors they had come to subdue.
"Who is your leader?" CT-9904's voice echoed in the silence of the stand still between the imperials and the residents of the planet.
"We don't have one." One of the villagers piped back.
CT-9904 sighed heavily and contemplated their options for a moment.
This was turning out to be another pain in the shebs kind of a mission. As these, simple folk, to put it mildly, were starting to give the Commander a headache. Clearly not understanding their position in the grand picture of things.
"Why are you here?" Another villager dared to ask him then.
"We are here to give you a choice." The Commander warned the villagers.
"A choice?" The first one to have spoken asked.
"Yes." CT-9904 simply stated. "Join the Empire." He paused for the affect. "Or perish."
The silence descended upon the place once again. Neither side speaking.
Only waiting for the other to make their move. Or speak. Whichever came first. After all, the villagers were hardly equipped to take on a well armed squad of soldiers never mind a full army.
One of the villagers finally broke the silence and spoke. Stating their opinion of the imperials with great conviction in their voice.
"The Empire has nothing to offer us. We," They motioned around them. "are simple farmers. What possible use could we be to the Empire?"
The villager tried to argue their stance."And, none of us, have any intention of joining the Empire."
The Commander seemed to contemplate the answer for a spell as well. But then, making his decision.
"Then, you will all die."
He motioned for his squad to prepare to fire. Their weapons aimed and ready, squeezing their triggers, ready to shoot to kill.
Just then, something unexpected happened.
Out of nowhere, someone, emerged.
Stepping right in front of the villagers, who had been standing in a half circle at the gates leading to their home. The lot taking a step back.
"Not today they won't." A strong voice boomed across the small battle field. "Not, today."
What or rather who had emerged out of thin air? Their face covered with a helmet. Dressed in a sort of an armour. Two gleaming swords drawn. They loomed in front of the villagers. Ready to defend them.
"Who, are you?" CT-9904 asked, not that he was excepting an answer, not really.
"Your enemy." The masked crusader simply stated.
Never loosing their stance. Ready and willing to take on the whole squad, with simply the two swords as their defence. And odd circumstance if any for the imperials it was.
"Fine. Then you will simply die with the rest of them." The Commander stated flatly.
The hand signal clear for his soldiers. To start firing.
And so it started. The excessive blaster fire of the troopers and their leader, aimed at the villagers and their supposed defender.
But, the more the soldiers kept on firing, the better the defender of the villagers was able to counter the blaster fire. The two metallic swords swinging in the air with a precision unlike ever seen before.
After a moment of unsuccessful combat, the Commander gave the order to cease firing.
CT9904 simply stood there glaring at his opponent.
Not really sure as to what to make of them. As he looked passed the defender, he noticed the villagers had all fled. Clearly, this had been the plan all along. For this, person, this fighter, to stall until the farmers could be able to get away safely.
"What, are you?" The Commander asked not really expecting an answer for that either.
The sword wielder seemed to be assessing their options.
Not answering the question. They quickly made a sideways glance. Seeing the villagers gone, as clearly had been the plan. And then, knowing their choices were low if none existent in defeating the squad of troopers standing in waiting.
They simply lowered their weapons.
Placing their swords in a position of non-defence, letting the Commander and the soldiers clearly see what they were doing while being deliberately slow and animate doing just that. Only hoping it was enough to deter them from firing.
They continued to place the swords down onto the ground. And slowly but surely raising their hands in surrender. After all, their task was done. The villagers were safe for now. Having fled to a place where the Empire would not find them. Not any time soon.
"I surrender." The swords person then simply stated, much to the troopers surprise.
The Commander glared at his opponent. Too confused to make any good decision at this point. So, the only option remaining was to take the swords wielder into custody and let the Admiral sort it all out.
The squad had hauled the swords wielder in front of Admiral Rampart. Pushing them onto their knees. Rampart was surprised to see a prisoner, as it wasn't something he had ordered after all. So, turning to the Commander for some answers.
"Why have you brought," Rampart moved closer to the prisoner glaring at them like they were a diseased rat caught by a tooka. "this, thing, back here?" He glared at CT-9904, trying to intimidate the clone.
Rampart was of course already privy of what had happened on the planet. After all, intel, with the droid spies all around and everywhere, travelled really fast to the powers that be.
"They surrendered to the Empire." The Commander simply replied.
"And the villagers?" Rampart was frustrated of the mission failure, as clearly this, was what it was. "What of them?"
Even if Rampart already knew what had happened to them. Or rather was confused as to where they had disappeared to. But nothing of the confusion was shown on his face.
"They escaped." CT-9904 responded simply.
"So. Instead of following my orders, not only did you let the villagers escape." Rampart paused for the effect. "But then decided to bring in this, this person as a prisoner?"
Rampart's voice was low and intimidating, but that did not faze the Commander one bit.
"As I said. They surrendered." The Commander was adamant.
Rampart loved to argue. Especially with CT-9904. Even if the Commander had clearly made a mistake. A big mistake. But Rampart wanted him to admit it.
"This prisoner, could be useful." CT-9904 simply stated. "They managed to counter our fire with just their swords."
Something the Commander considered to be quite a feat and even admirable. If he was out there giving compliments. Which he was not.
Rampart knew well, that the Commander was a brilliant soldier and usually, their instincts were right. One of the reasons he had wanted to keep the enhanced clone around despite his deception on Kamino.
"Yes. They clearly were not part of the settlement. Their skills as a warrior, different to anyone I have ever encountered."
CT-9904 could of course see some similarities to the Jedi he had fought alongside with. But also some to the Mandalorians in how well their prisoner had wielded their swords, clearly not Jedi weapons rather made from an as of yet unidentified metal alloy.
"Someone sent them there." The Commander then revealed his thought process behind the capture of the swords wielder rather than killing them on the spot.
Rampart was silent for a moment. His eyes wandering from the Commander to the prisoner before saying anything further.
"I can see your point." It was a big omission from Rampart, never the one to freely give out compliments.
After a moment of thought, Rampart returned back to his desk and sat down.
"We'll soon find out whether this hunch of yours was on the credits or not." He told the Commander.
"Take them away." Rampart ordered.
And with that they were all dismissed.
CT-9904 motioned for his squad to grab the prisoner and haul them to the brig.
The squad who had caught the swords wielder had escorted them to the cellblock.
Their swords were confiscated and before leaving them alone, the Commander had ordered the removal of their helmet as well. As their face was revealed, there seemed to be a slight surprise by them all as to the swords wielder's appearance. Clearly expecting to see something or someone else behind the mask. But, none of them mentioned anything about it.
And so, leaving the swords wielder to stew in their own misery, the troopers left. And so, all alone. Being held in the brig as a prisoner. They could only wait for whatever was to follow next.
The whole place had an eerie silence to it. As if they were the only one present there.
But, as they had been hauled the long way to the very last cell of the series of so many, they had seen several prisoners inside the other cells.
So, why was it all so quiet around there?
They had managed to take a few glances though. The other prisoners. But as they had looked, the others had all seemed so… lifeless. Their faces looking blank and haunted. As if the very essence of their being had been drained away and all that remained, were empty shells.
Whatever had happened to those prisoners out there, was going to happen to this one as well.
But, it was a small price to pay after all.
Saving those villagers from certain death. It was what they believed in. It was what they had been taught to believe in. What they had been trained to do.
Saving others, helping those who could not help themselves.
They had been in situations like this before. Getting caught. Still, always managing to escape. But, somehow, this time it all seemed different. This new Empire seemed more, malevolent than those whom had come before.
Escape might not even be possible, this time around.
With those thoughts of despair hanging above them, like heavy storm clouds, which there was no shelter from. A heavy sigh was let out. Yielding to their situation. As there was really nothing more they could do.
A moment passed, then another, before they started mediating. Preparing for the inevitable. But it would be with a clear and free mind at least.
When imprisoned, torture is just part of the whole deal, right?
You can either scream or simply keep quiet and suffer in silence - the pain will still be there, hurting like hell no matter how much you try to ignore it!
The ear piercing loud screams filled the otherwise quiet space.
Each time the electrical charge hit the body, it jerked at first. Just before the noises from deep within escaped with a force so loud, it could have easily made the windows crack if they weren't made out of materials which could easily withhold such pressures.
The screams lasted for a long while, as even the soldiers present were starting to look uncomfortable. But they were all ordered to stay. No matter what.
Even the Commander was present. A special request of Admiral Rampart's for his most favoured underlings to watch the fruits of their labour being all mushed up.
"You need to learn to take pride in your work." Rampart had commented. "We as the Empire have to make examples of these insurgents after all." He had noted again and again. "They won't give their secrets up easily. And so, we will force those secrets out of them." Rampart had remarked, with a devilish grin plastered on his face.
And so, here they were, the whole squad together among a few other soldiers acting as guards, watching the torture, or truth speaking as the Admiral called it, taking place.
The Commander simply glared at the display in front of him, never once , trying to simply tune out the noises.
While the enlisted soldiers seemed to be having trouble holding their lunches in, even if the emotions weren't visible, their helmets covering their sinful expressions of disgust as to what they were doing to the poor sod.
But, the Commander knew what the troopers beside him were feeling. He had seen first hand the end results, the effects of these so called teaching moments had on the imperial soldiers. Most of them ending up vomiting in the freshers soon after the session was over.
After all, the Commander had done it himself after the first few rounds until he had learnt how to tune it all out.
But, this was the Empire. And they were soldiers. Following their masters orders. Right?
The prisoner. The one they had just caught defending some worthless farmers was the target of this session. Their body strung up. Tied up from their wrists, their feet never touching the ground. The strain of the whole on those delicate parts. The limp body hanging without moving. Until yet another shock hit them. And the screams! So loud, nobody had believed it was even possible to produce such noises from a single entity.
And yet, they all watched on. Without any remorse?
Well there was plenty of that going around all of them.
But Rampart was right there and he could not have looked more happy. Certainly taking lots of pride in his handy work. Or rather those poor bastards of troopers who had been selected to issue the vibrowhip's blows.
They could not believe it until they heard it for themselves.
The sounds, emanating from somewhere deep within. It was definitely of their own doing. But still, no such noise had ever come out of them ever before. Whatever the method was used in trying to get intel out of them, wasn't just simple electricity. But something much worse was included in those lashes. Making their whole body feel like it was frying from the inside. At least if felt like burning, even if there were no visible scars. Not on the outside at least.
Whatever this Admiral, Rampart, thought they would tell him? Well, surprise! They would not.
Resisting torture, no matter how it effected their person, their body. They would not reveal anything. The body was the body. But their mind? Well, that was a whole different entity and as long as these imperials did not have the means to infiltrate their mind, their memories, their essence. Not in the way the Empire had clearly done with some of these soldiers standing there at this very moment.
But they, would never yield and tell anything to these, imperials.
The rumours were out there, naturally.
That of some of the former clone troopers having been forced to become subservients of the Empire due to some mind control the imperials had over them. But they had seen plenty of soldiers, not clones, who were willing to serve these, monsters. So scary, not even the worst child's cautionary tale could top. They had seen plenty of their work out there, in the wide galaxy. And it was nothing pretty or good.
So, if wedging even a small crack into their plans would help, they were willing to suffer for it.
And so, as yet another shockwave of electricity hit them. And they screamed again. So loudly a few of the non-helmeted officers placing their hands on top of their ears. Their faces telling how they really felt at the moment.
Because it was the screams, were the only way for them to cope with the bodily pain.
The Commander closed his eyes, even if he could no longer shut down the noise in his ears.
But he could simply no longer watch. No matter what inhibitor chip he had inside of him. It was all getting too much for him to bear. The doubts from somewhere before becoming more frequent.
And sometimes, the numbness relented. Mostly, it was just that though. Feeling nothing, following orders. Not caring of the who or what. Just marching on. It had been like that almost the moment he had made the choice to come back.
Or was it even before that?
It really did not matter any more. The before. The past. The future. It was all the same. He, was a soldier. And he, would follow the given orders. Continuing not caring about anything else.
They were back in the brig. Their body slack, their mind quite empty. Lying on the cot without moving. It was quite impossible to even move at the moment. Having been beaten up so throughly from the inside out.
There were no sensations left for them either - none of nausea, of pain. Simply existing.
And being alive. At least for now.
The preparations they had done before the soldiers had come for them had helped. But, it was only temporary. The worry being that the torture would continue soon again. And there was no time to bounce back.
As they cracked their eyes open they could see the food on the small tray beside their bed. But they would not eat. Could not.
As it was, any and all nourishment poured into the already beaten up body, would simple counter the preparations for enduring the torture. And so, it was either suffering through malnutrition or loosing their mind. The choice being rather obvious.
With the ancient method passed down by their teachers, to control the body and mind against these sorts of things. There simply was no room for anything other to be put into their body.
Right now though, they felt like all those teaching and preparations would not help them to endure what ever the Empire had planned for them. After all, the Admiral seemed adamant in finding out where the rebels, as he had called them, were keeping house.
But they would never reveal anything. The next option. The next rule rather. When faced without an option to escape, was to take their own life before succumbing to the torture and revealing information putting others in harm.
As it had been taught long ago - the need of the many always outweighed the need of the one.
There were so few means they could use, but they had some ideas. Still, it was not that time yet. As clearly, by bringing the food for them, the imperials would most likely give them some time to adjust before the next torture session. At least, that was the deduction they made from this action.
And so, with that thought in mind, they concentrate on their breathing. Controlling it to a level so low, it was close to being dead. Gaining some sense of self, a respite for a moment at least.
The torture continued. For three days in a row it had gone now.
They had been hauled out of their cell and subjected to the similar method each time. The intensity of it increasing during each session. The torture always lasted only until the time there was nothing left to scream out. No response from the limp body hanging there.
Rampart seemed to be getting more and more frustrated each passing day.
And the soldiers?
Well, it seemed there were less of them present each passing day. Most likely reporting in sick or whatever excuses they could muster. They, would have done so too. Not being able to watch any kind of torture if the roles were reversed.
But Rampart's gaze never faltered. Clearly enjoying it all. Very much so.
And when the shocking waves ended, they found themselves back in the brig once again.
Unmoving, unfeeling. A new plate of food by their side. The last offering being exchanged for a fresher one, which they again, did not touch. They could not. They still had fight left in them. The determination to survive this ordeal. Even if it was all fading, fast.
They felt a gaze on them.
They had not been sleeping, but their eyes were closed and their body unmoving. They had not slept since their arrival in this place, this facility, this prison. But, they were deep in a meditative state. Trying to focus any and all thoughts away from the pain in their vessel. The body which had suffered greatly of the torture.
Opening their eyes they could see the dark figure looming at the ray shield acting acting as the doorway and the fence to their prison cell. Having eyes on them. Intently watching. But not speaking. Not asking any questions. Yet.
"What do you want?" They finally broke the silence as clearly, the one watching them was not going away any time soon.
"Why aren't you eating?" It was a familiar voice. The one of the Commander's.
"Why do you care?" Their voice void of any venom as it seemed to have been lost somewhere there in the torture chamber.
The Commander simply glared at the prisoner. Not sure as to why he was even there. After all, this was just another rebel, an insurgent, an enemy of the Empire. Right?
"Please, leave me alone." Their voice was a soft whisper only, the energy drained from it, as there was really nothing left to share to the outside world.
The Commander stood there for a moment longer. Contemplating the whys of it all. Wondering what it was about this prisoner which had raised his awareness. On some level at least. Why this specific one had made him loose the small amount of precious sleep. Thinking about the rights and the wrongs of this whole, mission of sorts.
But then, the Commander did as he was asked. He left.
Thar be clones here Commander!
On the missions never ending, time on the wide road of the galaxy to be spending, but, with many a surprises onto the lap landing and familiar faces to be seen, life, can be so uncanny!
The day ahead was finally a break from the interrogations of prisoners having been held non stop for several days on end. At least it was for the Commander and his squad. A sigh of relief on so many levels. Seeing the effects it was having on his troopers.
Having been ordered to be present during all of them ever since the so called special prisoner, as Rampart called them, had arrived. There were certainly other prisoners housing the same title being kept under lock and key and being tortured with similar methods as well.
The interrogations happening either for the heck of it, or perhaps, the Admiral was really trying to find out something from them. But mostly, there was no real intel gained from any of these sessions.
The Commander suspected, it was becoming more of a sport for Rampart than anything else these days. Seeing his superior quickly spiralling towards the darkness while enjoying the act of torture more than the knowledge gained out from his subjects.
And it also seemed, that for some yet to be defined reason, this one specific prisoner had gotten under the Admiral's skin and so, the torture went on.
But, somehow, the same prisoner had also gotten under the Commander's skin.
The nightmares, had become more and more frequent for the CT-9904. Most recently, being about the prisoner he had caught himself. A mistake for sure on his part deciding to capture them rather to kill. As being interrogated, tortured being the proper term, by Rampart in the way the Commander could not even have imagined himself being possible.
The content of the bad dreams was becoming more and more graphic than anything he had endured before. Depicting scenes from the goings on in the so called torture chamber. Something which the prisoners and some of the guards had started calling Rampart's special room used to interrogate the captives with the most horrid methods.
There were other prisoners featured in the Commander's dreams as well. But mostly, they were about the one who had defended the villagers with their swords. Unusual as it had been then to observe someone wielding simple swords, but with such skill and precision and fending themselves from blaster shots rather easily too.
And now, this prisoner was paying the price for their actions and surrender to the Empire.
Luckily, today the Commander and his squad were going to put down yet another insurrection in a nearby system. So at least, he could take a break from Rampart's favourite activity for a moment and concentrate on less trivial matters as the Admiral had called their task much to the Commander's surprise. But it was their job, and they would do it no matter what.
Killing a few rebels. It seemed to have become, a never ending circle.
As the squad was en route to their target location, a new set of orders arrived from their Admiral. They were to converge to another location and to retrieve yet another target.
This one among many other similar changes happening lately had started making all kinds of alarms go off in CT-9904's mind.
The Admiral countering his own orders with a short notice had been happening frequently. Yet another odd behavioural quirk for the ever growing pile of Rampart's CT-9904 was keeping tabs on. It was something which was starting to raise questions in the Commander's own mind whether the Admiral was loosing it or not.
Then again, good soldiers followed orders, without a question. Right?
"Fine." The Commander snarled through gritted teeth at the blue image on the holo pad before cutting off the transmission.
Since when had the Commander and his 'elite squad' become a taxi service?
"We have a new assignment." The Commander then informed the pilot of the changes before returning to his squad. "Rampart wants us to retrieve some target he considers valuable."
"Yes, Commander." Was all he heard in response.
Compared to his formed squad, before their, well, untimely demise, these new recruits were nothing but a bunch of yes-people. Without any opinions of their own, following the orders without a question. Guess it was what the Empire wanted after all. But it was starting to get old, and really fast too. Only adding to the pile of bile already accumulated into CT-9904's ever-growing list of things making no sense whatsoever.
CT-9904 could really not pinpoint the exact time when this had happened.
The clear change in his own attitude, towards the Empire and what they were doing. Despite the chip, new and improved even, these different thoughts were becoming more and more frequent.
As it was, it had not been too long ago when CT-9904 had been absolutely sure this, serving the Empire, their cause, was the one place he belonged to. That it was his future. To be a part of something bigger.
Something had changed. As to the why and when? He could not tell.
Alas, now was not the time to look for those kinds of answers. They had a mission to complete. And to get a high valued asset and bring them back to Rampart.
The shuttle carrying the elite squad of the Empire and their leader landed on the platform of the hidden facility on the planet. Not unlike most of these kinds of places, being kept away from prying eyes.
There were two personnel in scientist uniforms to greet them when the arrived.
"Welcome to Galidraan IV." One of them greeted the Commander.
The Commander none to interested in the social interactions simply ignored the welcome and went straight to business.
"We are here for a pickup, not a sightseeing tour."
The scientists visibly taken aback from the abrupt comment of the Commander's simply nodded and said. "This way, please."
The Commander and the squad followed the scientists out of the hangar and towards the lab.
Not sure as to what they would find there. Perhaps some laboratory examples which needed a protected escort? There had been a few of those kinds of runs, that the Commander knew of, but never for this squad. Not yet anyway.
The Empire only trusted the elite soldiers for these types of special deliveries as they were called them and clearly, this qualified as such.
When they entered the lab, the surprise was clearly written on all their faces, even if the helmets covered their reactions, mostly.
Most of all, the surprise was for the Commander. Seeing the familiar faces of the clones. The regs, seated there. None of them speaking, only glaring into the thin air in front of them. It was clear this was not a simple lab experiment recovery, but human beings to be transported.
"These have just been thawed." The second scientist informed the Commander. "I'll take it Rampart needs them for some priority testing?"
The Commander was shocked, even if he did not let it show. "I wouldn't know." He simply responded.
But, CT-9904 had definitely felt the remorse running rampant inside of his very core. This was not right. No matter regs or not.
"Well, I will leave them to your custody then." The scientist told the Commander.
CT-9904 motioned for his squad to take the prisoners, who stood up and followed the soldiers without any sign of resistance. As they were all lead back to the shuttle and to their home base. For Rampart to have his play with them. Their fates pretty much sealed.
In the shuttle the clones, listless all of them, were silently sitting across the soldiers. The soldiers having their weapons aimed at the clones even if they were all shackled. They all looked mostly the same, without any distinguishing marks or tattoos on them. Most likely having been trained before the fall of Kamino and then transported off world by the imperials.
That was but with one exception.
The Commander only realised it when this clone had looked up. Briefly, glancing at the squad guarding them. There was a definite familiarity to this specific clone. Reg or not, and even if he did not have any specific markings or tattoos on him, CT-9904 was quite sure they had interacted before. Well, before the Empire.
But, the Commander could not very well ask him who he was. This was not a social gathering after all. And as they had received no data concerning the identities of these clones. CT-9904 would simply have to figure it out later.
As for some unknown reason, he needed to know whom this clone was.
The rest of the ride was quiet and uneventful, as the clones hardly even moved from their spots they had been placed on to. Arriving back to their base, the clones were escorted out of the shuttle and into the brig, like the rest of the prisoners used for experimentation among other things.
After their latest mission, the Commander, CT-9904, felt uneasy.
The headache was getting worse each passing moment. It was caused by the simple fact, that he was thinking again. Contemplating on all the things he had seen and done. The prisoners, the torture, the experiments. Even the adjustments having been made for his inhibitor chip.
It was all adding up to the point, when his own resistance was starting to rise its ugly head, no matter how hard he tried to push it all back. Deep back inside of him. It was nothing for CT-9904 to concern for after all. The Empire knew what they were doing. They always did.
The Commander was a good soldier, following orders after all.
CT-9904 had no room for thoughts like that, not anymore. He had made his choice, come Sith or high water. The Commander would stick with his choice.
Another night cycle, but sleep kept eluding CT-9904.
The happenings of the past few months playing like scenes from some horror holo vid in his head. Causing even further headaches in their wake. But what was he to do? The med pads were not helping any.
Perhaps going to the lab to ask for another adjustment for his chip would? That was really not an option. The white coats had tinkered enough with his brain already. And CT-9904 did not trust them as far as he could throw them. Having seen some of their handy work fail, royally so.
The Commander finally got up from his bed, leaving the barracks in the total darkness and silence of the base. The rest of his squad were sleeping seemingly soundly, if the low snoring was any indication.
CT-9904 wandered aimlessly through the darkened corridors as it was the standard night cycle lightning. Mimicking the changes of the planet above ground as the base was several tens of metres under ground.
CT-9904 moved along without his armour. After all, there was no battle to be fought at the moment. CT-9904's mind still processing all the things he had ran away from. The thoughts never leaving him alone. The single reason for him getting up and leaving his bunk.
Before he even realised it, he had ended up just outside the cellblock. With the two guards standing at the entrance.
Being the privileged elite squad Commander, the guards let him inside without a question. Simply nodding at him as he stepped inside.
Walking past the sleeping prisoners, CT-9904 was looking for someone. The one clone which he had recognised during the mission. And, soon enough, he found himself at the end of the long corridor. The same spot he had stood at a few days earlier.
The familiar prisoner occupying the one on the right side, while the clone, was on the left. It was uncanny and an unfamiliar feeling ran through CT-9904 just then.
He must have stood there for a moment in silence when he heard the prisoner caught earlier speaking. Clearly not sleeping, just like before.
"Why are you here again?"
"I am not sure." CT-9904 replied honestly as he turned to look at them, seated on the bed now.
But, unlike before, while being rather hostile, understandably, they got up and stepped the short distance to the energy shield. Standing right in front of the Commander. Staring at him, as even in the dim light, he could see their glare as clearly as day. It was as if the prisoner was reading him, somehow.
"You, are confused." They simply stated, without a hint of anger or malice in their voice.
There was no other answer to that comment, except to nod in agreement.
The two of them stood there for a moment longer, captive and their hunter staring at each other.
"You are having second thoughts about what is going on here." The prisoner was once again stating the truth.
"Yes." The Commander's voice was but a whisper, because the pain in his head was pounding again.
Just then, the clone in the opposite side cell moved. As either having woken up or simply having been awake and listening in to the exchange. But the Commander could see in their peripheral vision him stepping to the shield. And then he heard it.
"Crosshair?" The clone asked. "Is that really you?"
Old friends found in most peculiar places
Even if it hurts, a lot, the pain never subsiding, doing the right thing for someone else is the best option, at least, according to the rules of the universe.
Crosshair knew immediately whom it was calling out his given name.
Turning to the clone Crosshair simply stated the obvious. Because it was a big surprise, seeing the medic he had had some qualms with way back when.
"I thought you were dead."
Not that it had ever been confirmed. Then again, so many clones had been lost, killed in action. Or then simply having disappeared for one reason or another. And Kix's name had never turned up on any of the many lists they had seen back on Kamino for KIA troopers.
"Yeah, well, I guess I was. Dead."
Kix let out a small laugh as the situation was completely absurd to him as well.
"At least frozen for a while there. But, the imps apparently found a few of us hidden someplace in cryo tubes and decided to put us into good use."
Whatever that meant for him, Kix could not be sure as of yet. Then again, the lab rats back in the facility had kind of hinted on a few things.
The two clones simply stared at each other for a long while, seemingly being the trend for the night.
"I'm, sorry." Was all Crosshair managed to say to his fellow clone in the moment.
For what he was sorry, Crosshair could not say. Perhaps it was all of it. Being a pawn of the Empire, just like the rest of them were.
"Why are you sorry?"
Kix asked then, with a hint of spite in his voice. As it was the realisation of why he was inside the cell and Crosshair was not hitting the medic suddenly.
"Because you are free and I am not?"
Kix sounded even confrontational now. And so, the seemingly happy reunion quickly turning to a fight of a sort.
Crosshair wasn't prepared to fight though. Not now. Perhaps, not even at all. At least with other clones. But, the throbbing pain in his veins with his head about to burst, the longer he stood there was not making things easier for Crosshair.
But, all the forbidden thoughts were entering his mind and his condition worsened, visibly so.
"What? No snide come back?"
Kix was relentless though. His anger and frustration bursting forth, as it was aimed and with Kix lashing back at Crosshair. Being the Empire's representative. The worst kind, as he too was a clone.
"You do work for them - those kriffing imps don't you?"
Kix spat the words out through gritted teeth. His anger getting the best of him.
Crosshair only stood there, frozen in his steps. Taken aback of the attack of Kix's.
But then again, what had he expected? A warm reunion? They had never been good friends. But there was no answer for him to give for Kix. Because the other clone was right. Crosshair was working for the Empire. And it was his fault as well. All that which was happening here and out there as well.
"Yes. I do." Crosshair replied in a low almost apologetic timbre, something new for himself as well.
"But it wasn't my choice. Not the first time around." Crosshair revealed to Kix. "But I made a mistake." He admitted as much. "I placed my trust in them." Crosshair sounded sorry too while making his confession all of a sudden. "But, I was wrong." Shaking his head he stood there, looking at Kix.
Kix wasn't buying though, what it was Crosshair was trying to sell him. After all, Crosshair was the one on the better side of the force shield. Wasn't he. And whatever remorse he might have felt, well, it was a little too late!
"You are the one who is out there, enjoying your freedom while the rest of us are stuck in here. Pawns for the imps to do as they please with us."
Kix had yet to be subjected to any procedures as he had just arrived. But he had heard the others talking, those in the cells closest to him. And he knew they weren't just talking shit, but it was all true. Kix had seen some of them while having been escorted to his cell. And it had not been pretty either.
"None of us are free." The prisoner across from Kix spoke softly then.
Kix glanced at the other cell. As, for the time he had spent there in his cell, he had not seen the other prisoner move. Not even once. Luckily for both of them, they had been left to their own devices. For the time being at least.
But as soon as Crosshair had appeared, they had moved, gotten up and spoken out to him even.
"I thought you were dead there, you know, before." Kix admitted as much with a slight snort in his voice, knowing now he had been wrong in his assessment.
"Not yet." The other prisoner stated with a hint of mirth in their voice too. "But I doubt I have long to live if I remain here."
Kix only nodded to them and continued to glare at Crosshair.
"So, what are you going to do about it?" Kix's confrontational question was aimed at Crosshair.
Crosshair looked back at Kix. Seeing the myriad of emotions in the other clones eyes. Fear, anger, hope, even a sense of spite. Clearly, the medic had not lost his will for fight no matter what he had been through.
Crosshair started but did not manage to complete whatever he was trying to say. As the sheering pain sliced through his head, his hands flying on to cup the sides of his head, before collapsing onto to his knees still holding his head.
"Dammit!" The other prisoner exclaimed in panic. "It's that damned inhibitor chip!"
Kix looked baffled. He had been out of the loop for a while and did not know what they were talking about.
"What chip?" Kix asked confused.
"The one in all you clones." They enlightened Kix then. "They put them in all of you."
Neither of them able to help Crosshair both seemingly debating internally whether to call out to the guards or not. Then again, that would most likely not be a good option for the Commander.
"What do you want us to do?" They asked Crosshair.
Knowing if the guards were called in, the most likely scenario was that Crosshair would be hauled in for yet another recalibration. Having witnessed the same thing happening while being tested in the lab where other clones had been brought in for the procedure. They had asked the lab assistants there, who had freely shared the information with them.
It was always surprising what a little cooperation and a few well spoken words could do to most feeble minded people. After all, they, were not done fighting and having intel on the goings on around them was the first step towards freedom.
Crosshair was in too much pain right now, trying to fight the chip, which he was failing to do.
"I can help you. But you need to trust me." They offered then.
Crosshair heard the words and for a moment did not do anything. But then he managed to look up. And somehow, seeing the truth in the eyes of the prisoner, that they were in earnest.
"If you lower the shield." They clarified.
Crosshair gave them a glance of derision then. Like that was going to happen! He might have been in pain, horribly so. But he was not stupid.
The pain got worse again. Making Crosshair growl because of it.
A moment passed. It was all quiet in the cell block. And then, Crosshair finally managed to haul himself up from his position. Glancing at the prisoner one more time, his decision made. He unlocked the shield.
After all, there were guards at the entrance. So, no escape in case they would try.
They immediately moved to Crosshair, who was leaning against the wall for support. Aiding him inside of their cell and moving him to sit on the bed there before taking a seat beside him.
"Do you still trust me?"
They asked to be sure, as despite his actions, they too had read something in the Commander's eyes.
Crosshair nodded only slightly as the ache in his head was getting worse even if he had tried to empty his mind of any thoughts. But he deduced it was his actions which were causing the pain rather than his thoughts at the moment. Letting the ray shield down and fraternising with a prisoner.
They took Crosshair's hands in their own then and said to him simply. "Close your eyes."
Crosshair did as ordered. There was nothing more for him to try anyway, so why not trust them, right? If they would try to kill him? Well, guess it would be Crosshair's way out from it all?
There was a low hum, reverberating from deep within them. The sound so strong it felt like all the surfaces of the room reflected the noise, bouncing off and all around them.
Kix looked on at was going in a slight surprise at first, turning into an awe. Not really sure what it was they were doing, not really. But, he had heard the stories and was pretty sure it was what he had heard. Some kind of Force trick or sorts, even if the other prisoner was no Jedi.
They continued to level up the humming sound. Crosshair could feel it inside of him now. The only thing in there at the very moment. All thought, all pain. Evaporating.
After some time, the humming sound faded and stopped. Luckily for them, the guards had ignored them all. Most likely because they did not care of the goings on in the cell block or then they had fallen asleep. Whichever the case was, they had not shown up which was a good thing.
So, as they opened their eyes, they could see and feel Crosshair's pain gone. For now at least. After all, what they had done was only temporary. Something they had learnt from their teachers a long time ago. A method to control the pain, much like they did with their own too. Sans the noise of course, which was internal when healing themselves.
"How are you feeling?" They asked Crosshair.
"I am, better." Crosshair really had no other words, except. "Thank you."
After all, this was a prisoner he himself had hauled into this place, this cell to rot. Watched them being tortured. And now, they were helping him. Without any doubts. Without asking anything in return.
Or were they asking for something? Perhaps they really did not need to ask. Not really.
"Good." They smiled slightly.
Crosshair wasn't sure what his next move would be. But there was something forming in the back of his mind. Perhaps even having been there for a while. But, only now taking its shape.
"Now. It is up to you." They simply stated as if knowing what Crosshair was thinking of.
He was unmoving and only stared at the prisoner who had helped them.
"Zela." They said then earning another questioning look from Crosshair. "That, is my name,"
Crosshair nodded in undestanding.
"Kix." The medic quipped at Zela.
"Good to meet you, Kix." Zela said to him.
"So, what's your move?"
Kix half demanded from Crosshair having a sense of what Zela had meant with their comment to him, the next move being up to him to make.
Crosshair glanced at Kix and back to Zela.
"I will figure something out." Crosshair finally said.
Because Crosshair, had already made his decisions.
After all, the choice to be made had been an easy one. The action to follow, plain as the narrow nose on his face. Crosshair knew what he needed to do.
He rose from his seat. "I will come back." He said and then he stepped out of the cell, activating the shield again. "That is a promise."
As Crosshair walked away the two of them watched him go.
"Do you think we can trust him?" Kix asked from Zela.
"Yes." Zela told him, as if knowing something Kix did not.
"How can you be so sure?" Kix needed to know why Zela, a prisoner like himself, had helped the imperial soldier Crosshair now clearly was.
"He is, conflicted." Zela revealed to Kix as much. "Most of this." They motioned around them, meaning the overall situation for them and the galaxy even. "Is not his doing." Zela was looking at Kix, seeing the clear doubt present in the clones eyes.
"But you know him." It wasn't a question.
"Yeah, well, let's just say there was never any love lost between us." Kix's snide response to the statement.
"You are both clones though." Not a question, again. "Surely, there is some bond there?"
They had felt it earlier, from Crosshair. Knowing the reason he had come to see the other clone. The bond they had felt before, when serving with several clone troopers in the past. It had been so clear to them, even if most of the clones did not even realise there was one. Not really.
Kix wasn't really sure. The fact still remained. That of not all the clones were siding with the others of their kin. And certainly not Crosshair, if the past was any indication. But, Kix had seen them working on Crosshair's pain, doing their tricks and all. So, perhaps, there was some truth to their words after all.
"Still. I say we should give him a chance."
Zela was trying to assure Kix. Trying to ease the other's doubts. But sensing the man being torn between hope and fear. Nothing unusual there though.
"Well, I would not bet too many credits on him coming through for us."
Kix was not trusting Crosshair no matter what he had told them two. And no matter how much this, Force sensitive person was trying to assure him of.
Zela sounded calm and centred now, as they took a more comfortable position on the bunk. Closing their eyes once again, trying to reach that special state where they could continue to heal and relax themselves.
Following orders, despite increasing doubts
It is never easy, to go against one's nature, even when having been designed for the one thing only. But, good soldiers need to follow the given orders, no matter what!
The next day, the elite squad of the Commander's had been given another assignment by Admiral Rampart. A seemingly regular mission at that. Then again, weren't they all supposed to be that?
After the sleepless night once again. Despite the brief relief for his headaches, the encounter in the brig had had its toll on the Clone Commander. CT-9904. Crosshair.
Finding an old friend of sorts there. The clone medic, Kix, being one of the prisoners the squad had brought back on their latest mission. Then having been helped with this headaches by the other prisoner, Zela.
Crosshair felt overwhelmed.
It was obvious the two prisoners were putting their fate in his hands. Literally. The why quite unclear. It had been his squad having brought them both in. And it was Crosshair who had been ordered to watch the torture of Zela as well. Never interfering. Not even once.
But for now, there was little he could do to help them. Following orders was a must if was able to maintain at least some control of his own situation. Never mind anyone else's. And that meant going on the mission.
Packing themselves into the shuttle once again and heading out to space. The same old routine as per usual for all of them.
However, this mission, as it turned out, was far from ordinary.
While they were finally facing actual insurgents, instead of regular people simply defending their homes and livelihoods from the Empire. The squad run into some real trouble. The rebels having been armed to the teeth were there to greet them. It looked more like an ambush than anything else.
And the elite squad soon found themselves surrounded without means to escape.
"Surrender now or perish where you stand!" The voice from the rebel group leader boomed in the silence of the stand still place rather theatrically.
"What do you want us to do Commander?" One of the squad members asked, sounding terrified.
"We hold our position." CT-9904 told them.
Even if there really was no chance of escape nor to defeat the enemy. Not really.
"I have sent out a distress call."
It was true, of course. The Commander having acted as per training. But, the likelihood of anyone coming for them was slim at best.
"There are too many of them." Another soldier complained then, as one by one the new squad members seemed to be loosing it.
"Keep firing." The Commander ordered his troopers.
"We can't even see them all." Yet another soldier voiced their concern.
Sighing heavily, the Commander was frustrated of his situation, his squad. In another time and place, he would have been surrounded by competent soldiers knowing what to do and most likely getting out of their current bad situation. But today was not one of those times. Nevertheless, the squad kept on firing at their enemy and in turn, getting heavy fire back.
The Commander was trying to clear a path. Any path for them to get away from their current position. To find some better cover for them to retreat to. But the more he fired, the more the opponent threw back at them.
In the end, the Commander stood up trying to get a better view of the surroundings. If possible, to hit more of the rebels in rapid shot fire. But, just as the Commander had positioned himself. The aim set to fire upon several enemy soldiers in a rapid succession… He felt the hard pang in his chest.
Crosshair, had been shot.
Falling down onto to ground. His body limp. The excruciating pain all he could feel at the moment. The world around him quickly fading away. This was it! Thankfully, were his final thoughts. Because now, Crosshair was free from it all.
"Commander!" His team mates shouted as if that would help, bringing him back.
"Commander! Stay with us!" The begging voices around the limp body tried again.
It was the last words Crosshair could hear before being completely enveloped by the darkness. The cries of his squad mates shouting out to him, pleading for him to remain with them. But it did not help as the cries soon faded into the background. Because Crosshair, was gone.
"The troops are finally here! We have backup!"
The bleeps and rattles were the first sounds he could hear. It was still dark, all around him.
But the noises were rather persistent, constant even. The rhythm of them almost soothing. As he concentrated, he could hear few more soft noises in the background. Coming closer now. He tried to look who it was. Where he was. But he could not seem to be able to open his eyes.
Was someone speaking? To him?
Where was he? Was he dead? If so, why did he feel… conscious?
He tried to move, tried to struggle, but his body was unresponsive. Yet, there was no pain at all. Which clearly supported his first thought. That he was indeed, quite dead. And what he was hearing now, were just remnants of his past life. Auditory hallucinations.
"Do not try to move Commander." The voice came through loud and clear. "You have suffered major injury and need to stay put."
He wasn't sure if this was the truth he was hearing or just an illusion. But on some level, he accepted what he was hearing and remained unmoving.
He felt something then.
An injection perhaps? The faint hissing sound somewhere close sure sounded like it. He heard someone saying something to someone, just before he was once again consumed by the nothingness.
Sometime later, he regained consciousness again. Only this time it felt more real.
He was able to open his eyes and see the dimly lit place he was held in. It as a medical bay that much he could recognise. The rattles and noises were back and he was lying in a hospital bed. He was able to move ever so slightly. At least his head moved. He was able see the monitors right beside the bed alongside all the tubes he had been hooked up with to the various machines.
"You are awake!"
One of the lab assistants greeted him in their usual chipper manner. A thing which usually irritated the Sith out of him.
"Whe… where am I?" His voice coarse and the words getting stuck in his throat.
"You are in the medical bay. Back on base." The assistant told him then. "You were shot in the chest. Badly so." The assistant continued. "Luckily for you, the troopers reached you just in time."
It was a brief explanation of the events leading this, situation, for sure. But at least he knew now he was not dead. Not yet anyway. Something of a disappointment, in a way.
"How long?" Crosshair sounded urgent all of a sudden.
Because Crosshair had been shot and brought back to the base. It had most likely taken some time, days even for him to recover. The terrible though entering his mind suddenly. About what could have happened to the two prisoners and the rest of them. The ones who had trusted Crosshair to help them. No matter what.
"Two rotations." The assistant informed him and added. "Now, you need to rest to get better." And then simply walked away.
This was not good news. At all.
Panicked now, Crosshair needed to do something. To figure out what it was, before it was too late. Glancing around as best as he could, he was able to detect there was someone else close by. Lying on the med bed. Thanks to Crosshair's enhanced vision, he was able to see clearer already and what he saw there, shook him to the core.
On the bed not too far away, was one of those Crosshair was supposed to have been helping. Not getting shot on a mission. But really helping. Having half promised to do so. Despite his own doubts and fears.
And from the looks of it, Kix was also unconscious. Honing in his focus, he could see wounds on Kix's person. On his face and the visible parts of the body as well. Cursing internally, Crosshair was afraid it was too late after all for him to do anything.
There was no way for Crosshair to simply get up and leave. Or was there?
The more he tried to move, the worse the pain got. This time, it was not his head, rather the pain in his chest. Despite all the painkillers, Crosshair felt the stabbing pain each time he tried something more drastic. Like getting into a sitting position.
The tubes still holding Crosshair tight where there for a reason. The lab assistant had not given him any specifics of the injury. But from the feel of the pain and what Crosshair could remember, he had been shot in the chest. To the heart to be exact. Crosshair touched his chest. He could feel the fresh scarring of the wound still there. And knowing how advanced this medical facility really was, it must have been some blast if he still could still feel the injury. Not that the imps really wasted too much bacta on the clones anyway. And there were other methods to heal a patient.
But right now, Crosshair wanted to know what was going on with Kix.
Clearly, from what Crosshair could see from his perspective, those injuries visible were not self-inflicted. Besides, he doubted the clone would have caused any harm to himself. Not when there was a chance hanging in the air. A chance for escape.
Crosshair had kind of promised Kix that, hadn't he?
And Zela? The strange prisoner who had helped him cope with the inhibitor chips pain? Crosshair really had no idea whom or what they were. But it did not really matter. He needed to help them both. Crosshair owed them at least that. And perhaps himself too. To do something good for a change.
It took several moments for Crosshair managing the pain. Trying to even his breathing to be able to move.
He managed to bring them both down to a tolerable level. It might not last long. But, he wanted to check up on Kix. So, feeling daring, Crosshair manoeuvred himself to a seating position up on the bed. After some effort, he was up. But immediately regretted it, feeling dizzy.
The dosage of the painkillers was high enough and his functioning low. Not a good combo to go prancing around anywhere. Especially in a hospital gown with his butt hanging out. But at this very moment, Crosshair did not care as to whom he was flashing.
As of right now, Crosshair needed to check up on Kix.
Another few steps of pain filled effort and Crosshair was hovering above the clone seemingly asleep on the med bed.
Crosshair looked at Kix, seeing his suspicions very much confirmed. There were clear burn marks covering his torso and his arms. Lacerations on his face. This was either due to the torture Kix had endured or then, someone had beaten him up. Most likely being under orders from Rampart.
Crosshair had witnessed first hand the cruelty of the Admiral's. The imperial leader seemingly sedate and calm, especially during negotiations. But when the doors were closed for the public? Well, those exposed to the horror chamber as the soldiers serving under the Admiral had so aptly named it? It wasn't at all surprising to see Kix in the condition he was in right now.
If there had ever been any regrets in wanting to serve the Empire? Well, this one was certainly on the top of the list for Crosshair.
It was all such a shame and a great big waste.
And Crosshair felt that shame too, even if this was not his doing. Not really.
There were many things the Empire had managed to accomplished which were good. The underlying order of the galaxy. The opportunities out there for people. And keeping the peace. At least in Crosshair's opinion.
But, torture, especially to this extreme? Of course there were plenty of things Crosshair had done without remorse. Killing insurgents, rebels. Even his former squad. But this was the line he did not want to cross. And yet, he was still part of it too.
Having hovered for a moment there. Deep in thought, the pain all but forgotten, Crosshair was soon roused from his thoughts.
"What do you want?" Kix's question was spoken out harshly.
"What happened to you?" Crosshair needed to know.
"What do you care?" Kix continued with the same angry tone.
"Kix…" Crosshair was in a loss of words once again.
All of this. Seeing his fellow clones treated in undignified ways. The torture. All of it.
It was not right. No matter regs or not. Even if Crosshair himself had stated flat out, that the only clones which really mattered, where those of his Batch. But his mind had soon changed after returning to the Empire. Seeing the way the clones among other supposed insurgents were treated. The testing, the procedures done on them. And now this. Seeing someone he knew in a bad way. And just because?
"You clearly made you choice." Kix spat out angrily.
But what Kix did not realise, was that Crosshair was there as a patient as well. Kix's eyes still closed, the other sealed shut because of most likely having been punched there. Or worse.
"Kix, I am sorry." Crosshair tried.
"Yeah, I bet you are." Kix's voice filled with venom each passing moment he was subjected to Crosshair's presence.
Crosshair was silent for a moment, but he did so very much want Kix to believe he was on his side. He tried to figure out a way to make things right despite his own condition. It was an unfortunate setback. But Crosshair was also determined not to let it hinder his objective.
To free Kix and Zela. Maybe others too.
"Kix, I was shot. There was nothing I could do to prevent, this." Crosshair meant Kix's torture and whatever might have happened to Zela and the others while he was out of it.
It was then when Kix's good eye cracked open.
Of course Kix had felt Crosshair's presence even without looking. But he had not been able to determine how he was. Not that it had mattered. Not at first anyway.
But now as he looked up and right at Crosshair, Kix could see the hospital gown and the iv-tube on the other clone. It took a mere moment for Kix to change his tune in regards to his feelings for the overall situation.
"What happened to you?" Kix sounded rather worried now.
"There was an ambush. My squad got caught in the middle of it all. And well, I was shot."
Crosshair quickly explained, not wanting to go into too much detail. But feeling good he had gotten Kix's attention finally. The good kind of attention.
"You shouldn't be up."
Kix the ever medic could see the man could hardly stand. Nor should he have. Yet here Crosshair was. Hovering over Kix, white as a ghost trying to figure out what had happened to his fellow clone.
"I'm fine." Crosshair lied. He was far from fine. "Now, tell me what happened to you."
The game is a foot!
No matter how good a soldier one may just be, sometimes, even the invisible line, needs to be drawn and then never crossing it
Crosshair was getting the short version from Kix as to what had happened to him.
Kix had indeed been accosted. By three of Ramparts goons. It had been a test of his abilities, according to the Admiral, telling Kix of the same at a later point. It was something Crosshair knew the Admiral liked to pull on certain clones and a few other prisoners as well. Testing them, if they were any good to service him if they managed to survive the other 'treatments'.
And clearly, Kix had. Most of the clones had. Something which Crosshair was both proud and happy of. At least he was now. Having once again regained some control over his own mind.
Crosshair had also learnt that Zela had once again been hauled out for questioning. But that they had returned them rather quickly. Zela had been alive but not speaking one word to anyone after getting back to the cell. Clearly they were hurting.
All that had happened before Kix's incident. It had happened one rotation ago. Crosshair could only hope there would be some time for the two before Rampart would go another round with them. After all, the Admiral had plenty of resources to mess with, the cellblock getting almost crowded these days.
Crosshair was still in the med bay, but having left Kix's side. After all, they had agreed it was better if no one knew of their affiliation. Crosshair was only too relieved to see Kix feeling better and healing. Clearly the medical personnel was taking good care of him.
As it was, Admiral Rampart had redeemed the clone to be worthy of further study. Kix's words, which Rampart had thrown around when he had come to see the end results after the unprovoked attack ending in Kix beating the kark out of his opponents.
But, if Crosshair was going to help any of his new friends, he needed to get out of the situation he himself was in now.
Crosshair needed a secure location to do what needed to be done for him to be able to help the prisoners escape. And he also knew exactly, whom to contact.
Because even if the Empire did not know, Crosshair was privy to certain intel. That of the rebels.
He had inadvertently stumbled in on it while on one of their missions. Crosshair, for whatever reason at that moment, had decided to keep the information to himself. Even if it was dangerous to do so, especially when under the chips control. Call it a moment of clarity back then. But he had.
And so now, it was there for him to put into good use. Not for the Empire, but for the prisoners.
Getting weapons was going to be easy, at least gaining access to them. But smuggling them into the cellblock was a whole different scenario. Still, Crosshair knew it could be done. And besides, he was still the Commander after all. He still had some pull.
So, now, Crosshair only needed to convince the lab rats that he was feeling much better and they could release him to his barracks. They would most likely give him his own small room, at least until he was cleared for duty. Crosshair had seen it done for others soldiers recuperating so why not him.
And so, there it was. A half cooked plan.
With just a few simple details and so many moving parts in it. All of it with a high chance of things going totally wrong and really fast. So, business as usual!
But, even before the plan got off the ground, Crosshair felt exhilarated. After all, he was finally doing something worthy in a long, long while. And so, with that sense of self, Crosshair called for the lab assistant to come check him out. And if Crosshair was playing his cards right, to let him be discharged as well.
As it turned out, convincing the medical assistant did not take too much of an effort. A simple faked smile and a few carefully selected words of conviction and Crosshair was released from the med bay.
He was given time to recuperate of course, being the valued Commander, and all. And as suspected, Crosshair was warded with his own small bunk room for privacy for the duration of the healing process. It was all good as now Crosshair would be able to execute his plan without too much of interference, as he was off duty as well.
Luckily for Crosshair, the assistant had supplied him with potent pain killers. And they did keep the aches away, most of the time. The side affect of them being Crosshair feeling nauseated and dizzy while up and about. So he was simply trying to avoid too much movement. But there was another unexpected effect as well. The pain medicine seemed to inhibit the functionality of the control chip as well. And this was totally great news for Crosshair.
With thanks to Crosshair's charming personality, or rather intimidating demeanour, he had managed to acquire some intel of the prisoners as well. He had access to some intel he needed to be able to work. But the Empire kept most files under lock and key and giving them out like bread crumbs on a need to know bases only.
Not really the hacker himself and totally missing Tech and Echo at the very moment, but Crosshair had managed to get into some intel by himself. And now, all he needed was to access a secure comms channel to be able to contact someone who could be able to help him and the prisoners.
And that would take some doing.
Crosshair needed to get to a central computer to do just that.
After all, he needed to scramble the signal so the imps would not be able to locate the receiver. Plus Crosshair needed a high enough access code to get the comms out. And that was already under works. Having bribed one of the TK troopers close to a higher level operative, a pass key was on the way. At least, that was the plan. Unless the trooper had decided to double cross Crosshair.
As one never knew when working for the Empire, whom the friends really were. If any of them really were that. Friends.
"Zela?" Kix voice asked when they had brought him back to his cell. "Are you still with us?"
Zela turned to their side, still feeling the exhaustion and pain of the latest torture stint. But they were getting back to normal. Or whatever normal was considered for them.
"I am, alive." There was a sense of mirth in their voice though. "Barely." They paused for a spell. "They put me through the wringer this time around." They admitted as much, even if usually belittling what they had been through, sparing the more gory details from the others.
"Good. I was beginning to worry." Kix admitted as much. "Good to see you!" He then chimed.
"You too, my friend. You too."
After their first introduction, the two of them had developed somewhat of a rapport. Having both a mutual "friend" and a mutual goal had made the connection more meaningful as well, Which was to escape their current prison.
Kix moved closer to the shield, so he was able to see Zela, even if the lights were low. He wanted to know how badly they had been injured this time around.
"What happened to you?" Zela rose up from the bed and despite their own discomfort, walked to the shield as well.
"Someone, who did not agree with me." Kix snorted. "But I am fine now." He was, as the treatments had worded and the injuries were healing nicely. "And you should see the other three!"
It wasn't boasting, not really, just something to be said for his own sake, to keep up his own spirits.
"I was worried when those soldiers dragged you out and you did not come back." Zela admitted as much, but then they had had their own encounter with Rampart's minions.
"Yeah, apparently it was a test by our friend Rampart." Kix told Zela. "He likes to test us and whether we fit into his grand scheme of things." Kix explained what he had learnt while having his 'meeting' with the Admiral.
"Yeah? Well, I kind of heard similar comments from someone else too. Guess all those torture sessions have been some kind of test as well." Zela was thinking back to all that which Rampart and his goons had put them through.
"I have some good news though." Kix lowered his voice. "Our friend." He started and could see that Zela understood perfectly what he meant. "I talked with them in the infirmary." Kix then revealed but using vague remarks just the same. "And I think you were right. In your assessment of them I mean." Kix did not want to spill too much as there were ears all over the place.
Zela only nodded. "I had a hunch." Thinking for a moment. "Something I sensed from them early on."
It was something Zela had been trained to do after all. Sensing the moods, the stance, the demeanour, the very essence of another person. And they were usually on the mark too. Of course they had made a few mistakes, trusting those they really should not have. But Zela was only too happy that this time around, their insides had served them well.
Zela did not dare to ask as to why Crosshair had been in the med bay, because that could have put him in a difficult situation. If someone was listening. But they had known almost from the first time the Commander had shown remorse on their face. After seeing it for themselves, that he was the one who would help them to get away from this, Sith hole of a place.
Kix nodded to Zela and simply stated. "Indeed."
Crosshair was in position.
The trooper having come through for him after all. And now, he was standing by a remote computer console. Hidden from prying eyes in the far end of the machine room of the base.
Crosshair had made his best to conceal his signature and scramble to connection. And then, the blue glow of the holo pad indicated initiation of an active communications channel. The familiar face coming to view in the very glow of it.
"Crosshair?" The person on the receiving end asked looking quite surprised to see him. "Why are you calling me?" They demanded to know.
"I need your help, Rex." Crosshair told the Captain. "I am organising a jail break. And I could really use your assistance in pulling it through."
From enemies to frenemies to friends?
Sleeping with the enemy? Sometimes even adversaries are able to see eye to eye, especially when there is a common cause to consider, for them both
"My help?" Rex wasn't sure Crosshair was on the level with him.
After all, Rex was well versed of what had happened after Kamino had been destroyed and also of the very fact that the Bad Batch had not managed to convince Crosshair to rejoin them.
Apparently, Crosshair had been adamant in wanting to serve the Empire. And of his own accord no less. Having even removed his inhibitor chip at some point. Crosshair's own words, again.
Something which was totally confusing to Rex after hearing about all of it. And even more so, it was nothing Rex personally could understand any clone wanting to do. Ever. Not without the inhibitor chip anyway. But it seemed this one specific clone had wanted to do so.
"For what possible purpose would you need my help for?" Rex's voice had risen an octave.
Rex was totally baffled of this whole request of Crosshair's. Totally doubting it was an elaborate ruse at best. Most likely a trap being set. So, keeping on his toes for the moment. Even checking twice his location scrambling device was still working.
As it was just way out there, with all those things never having expected to happen.
And coming from Admiral Rampart's most favourite clone Commander? At least, that was the rumour going around. The Clone Commander who was Admiral Rampart's lapdog. Not a flattering title for the formidable sniper for sure.
Rex could not really wrap his mind around the whole holo call if he was honest.
Why now? Why him?
But, the fact remained. That of Crosshair contacting him.
So, keeping things on the level, Rex was trying very hard to be calm, cool and not to start ranting of all the things wrong with the Empire. Nor about what Crosshair had done was totally wrong. And why he had even bothered calling Rex in the first place. Because according to the imperial records, Rex was dead.
So, for now, deciding to give the benefit of the doubt and listen what Crosshair had to say. Even if his timbre sounded more restrained than Rex would have liked.
Crosshair was silent for a moment, as if sensing Rex's reluctance. But then again, what had he expected? For Rex to be happy to hear from Crosshair? To drop everything and run to his rescue?
Crosshair was trying to find the right words, but they were not coming easily to him. Not without falling back to his usual rather acerbic snarl. Because if Crosshair was to aid anyone out of the Empire's hold, let alone some prisoners, he needed the help. And Rex? Crosshair knew him to be quite capable to do just that. To help Crosshair rescue the others.
Crosshair had read all the files after all. Having seen only part of it himself while on missions helping subdue some of the insurrections taking place. But there was more which was not shared with the common commanders. But Crosshair had managed to get into those files nevertheless.
The ones filled with all the failures on the Empire's part in trying to capture the leaders of the so called rebellion. As it was, they had knowledge, not names. Rather profiles of those persons yet unknown who had helped not only clone troopers defecting the Empire, but also civilians in fighting against the Empire.
It had not taken long for Crosshair to fill in the missing pieces. As despite Rex's status of being KIA, Crosshair had suspected the reality to be quite different.
Crosshair had never shared this intel to his bosses though. Something, which had even surprised himself. As apparently, Crosshair still had some loyalty left in him for his fellow clones.
Even if it was going totally against his new and highly improved inhibitor chip. It seemed there still was something of himself deep there, inside of him. This holo call made to Rex and the willingness of helping others being the very signs of it.
So, trying to convince Rex now, Crosshair knew he needed to be on the level with the other clone. Something which had never come easily for Crosshair. But he needed to try for the others sake.
"The truth is, I have no explanation for anything at this point." Crosshair stated honestly.
"Except the fact that I know you are still among the living and helping those in need."
Before Rex had a chance to interject, Crosshair raised his hand and continued.
"I am contacting you over a secure channel. You should be able to confirm that yourself."
Not that Crosshair had no doubt Rex already having done so before even answering the call.
"And there are people here the Empire is holding as prisoner. Experimenting on them and well…"
Crosshair's voice got hoarse all of a sudden.
Crosshair had to pause as what he had witnessed so far, made his stomach churn. The bile in his throat building up. And it wasn't the first time either this had happened. Crosshair had literally vomited during those times having borne witness to the happenings in Rampart's torture chamber.
"I know all about that."
Rex revealed then. As clearly, the remorse was written all over Crosshair's face. Easily to be read by someone like Rex, who actually knew the other clone by now.
"I have heard the stories." Rex paused thinking back to what he had heard from others about their experiences being imprisoned by the imperials.
"And truth being told, I have met several of our clone brethren but also civilians alike, who have had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting the infamous Admiral Rampart." Rex said as much.
"Well, the stories are all true." Crosshair admitted.
Crosshair was not about to deny any of it, but also sounding apologetic about what the Empire was doing. After all, if one was not part of the solution, one was pretty much part of the problem, right?
"So, what would you like me to do about it?" Rex's voice was much calmer now, even if there was a hint of anger and doubt present there still.
Rex was still not entirely sure what it was Crosshair really excepted for him to do. After all, Rex usually did not burst into any imperial strong holds to get people out on a whim. Rather it was a matter of planning and careful consideration anything was really done to help anyone with the low resources he still had.
"Well, I don't really have a great plan and I am working on a strict schedule here too. As the prisoners most likely don't have too much time before Rampart either kills them, or then…"
Crosshair paused thinking back on Kix's situation. As clearly, he had shown great potential in the Admiral's eyes and most likely would be re-chipped with the new and improved model as clearly the old one was no longer working. Perhaps never had.
"I see." Rex responded then, thinking of his available resources. "How soon?" He asked then, not that he had made any promises. Not yet anyway.
"I am out of circulation at the moment." Crosshair told as much, not going into any detail.
"And I am able to get some weapons and a ship on a short notice." Crosshair told Rex as much.
"But getting the prisoners out? Well… that will most likely not be possible without a fire fight."
Crosshair was prepared to the fact, they needed to shoot their way out. And so, he was prepared to take all the prisoners in the same cellblock with him. Because the more of them there were, the easier to take the guards down.
Crosshair also had a plan of how many blasters he would be able to procure in a short amount of time. After all, he was still the Commander, albeit on sick leave. But having access to the armoury of course.
"Out of circulation?" Rex's curiosity peeked then, knowing it would take a lot for a clone to be just that. Because it usually meant some kind of major injury had happened.
"Did you get shot or something?" Was Rex's first guess.
With a small chuckle Crosshair replied with a question. "How did you know?"
"Well, guess there is nothing really holding us clones down except a very well aimed blaster shot." Rex smirked too. "And even then we get up and carry on!"
"Yeah! Well, that kind of happened, except I could not get up."
Crosshair was not making any excuses as to him having been shot. Neither revealing where and how badly.
"But, like I said. I can get the prisoners out, but I need to get them somewhere safe and really fast too after we leave this place."
"And that's where I come in." Rex simply stated, finally getting to the point.
"Exactly." Crosshair told the other clone.
As it was, Crosshair was sure he could rely on both Kix and Zela to aid him in the whole process.
Because if there was one more thing Crosshair was sure of, was the fact that neither of them had meant for Crosshair to sprint just the two of them out.
Crosshair knew well, that Kix would want to get all the clones held in the prison cells out too. And most likely Zela would want to take the civilians being held there with them too.
So, that meant several tens of people in total. A major jail break to say the least.
Some of them would be armed, most likely the clones. But the problem was that Crosshair could not be able to tell them anything. Not until it was time to leave. In essence, there were several moving parts to his plan and so many of them could go wrong quickly.
Deep down though, Crosshair knew he needed to try this. And if he was to fail? Well then he would die with the rest of the prisoners. Either way, he was going to leave the Empire.
"And the time?" Rex asked.
"Within a day." Crosshair knew it needed to happen, right now.
There was a moment of silence between them. The holo call's static only crackling.
"Look, if you are on the earnest. Which I have to believe you are. And I am not going to even ask of the reasoning you have behind this, all."
Rex paused then before he continued as if thinking what to do and say next.
"I will help you." Rex said then. "But, if you double cross me…"
"I will not."
Crosshair knew Rex had absolutely no reason to believe him. At all.
"I will contact you once we are on the move. Deal?"
Crosshair needed to get Rex behind him, otherwise he would have a bunch of people without a place to go to on his hand and the imps on their tail. That was of course, if they were successful in escaping in the first place.
So many ifs, buts and all the moving parts remained.
"Deal." Rex replied with an amount of certainty in his voice leaving no doubts for Crosshair he wasn't being earnest. "I will be waiting for your word then."
Rex was about to cut the connection when Crosshair added one more thing.
"There is someone here you know quite well too." Getting Rex's attention once again, waiting with anticipation as to the name.
"Kix is here."
Rex's eyes shot wide and mouth opened in total surprise.
"He is partly the reason I am doing this. Him and another prisoner." Crosshair told as much.
"Kix…" Rex repeated. "I thought… well, we all thought… he was dead." Rex's stated solemnly.
"Kix is very much alive. Turns out that the Empire had a bunch of clones frozen ever since the separatists were still around. Being partly one and the same organisation. And so, they thawed him with the rest of the bunch."
"That, that is great news." Rex was still trying to understand this piece of news.
"Yes, it is." Crosshair knew how close Rex had been with his men way back when. Kix being part of his inner circle.
"But, let's hope we will manage to pull out our escape so the two of you will be able to be reunited."
"You and me both." Rex said to Crosshair only and then, the connection was closed.
"The Heist" or how Crosshair stole a bunch of stuff
Nothing like the pre-heist jitters, giving one the much needed adrenaline and the ol' juices flowing before it is time… to execute the plan
"Kix!" Crosshair whispered in the darkened corridor beside the other clone's cell. "Are you up?"
He could see the man lying with his back turned towards the corridor.
"We need to talk."
Crosshair kept his voice low, half whispering. Afraid to catch the night cycle guards attention, even they had been half asleep when Crosshair had arrived to the cellblock.
Before Kix turned and got up, Zela was already wide awake. Not that they had been sleeping much anyway. Only dozing off here and there while deep in their trance for most of the time they had been a prisoner there.
"What's going on?" Zela asked the Commander.
"I have a plan." Crosshair told the duo then.
Not wanting to linger in there too long, as someone was always watching, he kept things brief.
"You do?" It was Kix who was standing at the force shield now.
"Yes. But I don't have any other details for you, except to be ready." Crosshair told the duo, both of them listening intently to what Crosshair was telling them.
"How soon?" Zela asked, knowing they did not have much time as both them and Kix were soon to be hauled for another round of "testing" as the Admiral called it.
"Quite soon." The Commander told them.
Crosshair was afraid to reveal too much. Not that he did not trust these two. Because he did. As much of this plan relied on their help as well. As it was, these two were the most capable of the lot to help. And they had also been the ones requesting, in a way, for Crosshair to help them leave the place.
"We'll be ready." Kix assured Crosshair.
"Good." Crosshair told him and turned to Zela as if sensing there was something, some doubt they had.
"What is it?" Crosshair asked seeing the expression there clear as day on Zela's face.
"Well, I am prepared for whatever, naturally." Zela snorted slightly. "But do you think you could do me a favour?"
"What is it?" Crosshair wasn't sure if there was time nor a place even for anything else except preparing for the escape attempt.
"My swords." Zela's voice sounded solemn. "I don't care about the rest of it. My gear and all. But if you can get my swords, I would appreciate it very much." Zela sounded half pleading of their request just then.
Crosshair had seen Zela in action, with their swords. And as they made the request, he knew right way it was something he needed to do for them. There was something special about the those weapons as it was with Zela themselves.
And so, Crosshair was going to try to get them back. They were most likely stored in the armoury anyway.
"I will try. I promise."
Crosshair had made yet another promise without thinking too much of the consequences.
Something totally counter to his nature, his very being. Something he never, ever did. And now, Crosshair had done it. Not only once, but twice now. Crosshair was afraid he would be turning into Hunter. Always making promises even if there was no basis for them to succeed.
The next few hours Crosshair was on the move like a man with a plan.
And a plan he did have. Albeit somewhat of a flimsy one. Still, trusting it would work, somehow. AsmCrosshair had been slowly but surely gathering all the needed things for the mission's success.
He had managed to haul an assortment of weapons into his current abode. But not only that, Crosshair had his eyes on a vessel for their escape. Only hoping the craft would remain available when the time came. As Crosshair could not very well go and book passage on the damned thing now could he?
How easy would this plan of his otherwise be?
Feeling confident that the plan would work, Crosshair had selected his time to act. Which was just after the night duty shift had taken over. As those troopers were usually less alert than the rest of the guards. During the night cycle the lights would be low too. A perfect cover for their escape.
The problem remained though, that Crosshair did not dare to visit the cell block before go time. As he had already paid enough attention to the prisoners there without a just reason. Not that he needed one. He was the Clone Commander after all, Rampart's favourite, right?
But, Crosshair knew as well as any of the others working for or being simple citizens even, that the Empire was always watching. Always.
Despite of being out of circulation for having gotten the major injury as an excuse, Crosshair was still keeping tabs on all the goings on around him.
His team having been assigned to another Commander for the moment, which was all fine as they were all good to work and they really needed all the experience they could get.
Crosshair did consider most of these conscripted soldiers to be mostly incompetent walk-ins rather than the highly trained clone troopers he had gotten used to working with. Like his own Batch. Well, not really his any more, now were they. Still. Crosshair considered them to be the best of the best. No matter what bad blood there was between them.
Besides, Crosshair really did not want to be kept out of the loop. It was windy at the top at the best of times and knowledge was a valuable asset after all. Just in case Rampart should have a sudden change of heart as well.
Because if Crosshair was really honest with himself, the Admiral, like most of the in charge kind of officers were…well, a bunch of crazy bastards. And not the good kind either.
And the kinds of mood swings they had were causing the plans and missions to change without consultation or guidance to the Commanders. Whom in turn needed to make adjustments to their operations constantly and with very short notice as well. Frustrating them to no end.
Not the best working conditions at all as Crosshair had found out himself.
Fickle, undependable, volatile, fitful and totally unstable. Just a few words coming to mind to describe the Admiral Crosshair had once sworn loyalty to.
Now, it seemed such a long time ago. With his mind having been changed and made up. Despite the inhibitor chip's control. As Crosshair was about to defect himself and become the one of those had been hunting.
An insurgent. A traitor. An enemy of the Empire, to name but a few.
And so, tapping on the data pad, Crosshair was catching up with the latest goings on with the Empire and his precious Admiral. Just before it was time to start moving.
There was not too much time left before the night shift would start and Crosshair needed to be prepared to move fast.
Thankfully, the pain medicines, albeit giving him a somewhat of a dizzy feeling, were keeping the pain under control. But also keeping his chip in check. Something which Crosshair was quite worried about. The chip activating suddenly. But knowing Zela had managed to help him before,
hoping they could do so again…
Crosshair was ready to go.
The time was upon. Crosshair needed to leave.
He had been fidgeting for the last two hours, only waiting for the moment to arrive. The hover cart ready, covered with a blanket. Now, he only needed to get it past the guards by the cell block and get the prisoners out.
A small feat, right?
Then again, Crosshair was a great shot. Stealth in his movements even when slightly off. Crosshair was an enhanced being, a true soldier. Most likely one of the very best of any trooper or solider currently on the base.
And so, having trust in himself and the flimsy plan. As there were lives on the line, most likely his own as well. Because as soon as Rampart became privy to his doings, well…
And Crosshair knew Rampart would become fully aware of what Crosshair had done. He always did. But somehow, that did not bother Crosshair. Not any more.
And so, Crosshair was on the move.
Making his way quickly through the corridors, in full kit and armed to the teeth.
Crosshair was dragging the hover cart behind him. He knew he needed to distract the guards somehow. Or then, kill them. If he did that, there would be less time to escape as the alarms would go off as soon as the guards life signs faded. It was a security measure put in place after a few attempts of prison break prior.
Luckily, Crosshair was privy to all the tricks, obstacles and measures of the base. Even if he wasn't supposed to know them all. After all, Rampart liked to keep things on a need to know basis for all his minions.
But having picked up a few tricks from Tech and Echo, Crosshair had managed to hack into several files he was not supposed to ever see. He had also made sure to download what he could onto a data rod tucked inside of his armour.
It was all good intel for anyone looking to push a few cogs in the machinery of the all mighty Empire's. After all, Crosshair needed some leverage. It would be a good bargaining chip when push came to shove. It usually was the case in Crosshair's own experience. And having learnt a few tricks while working for the imps as well. It had been a good move to make copying the data.
Besides, if they really managed to pull this escape off, then Crosshair too would be an enemy of the Empire. And that meant he would need to go into hiding along with the rest of them. There really was no place out there for Crosshair to go to anymore. Having pretty much had burnt all the bridges behind him.
And this one? Well it was certainly going to be a helluva bon fire!
There was also another motive behind having the data, knowing he himself could use it if needed. But for now, the important part was to get the show on the road.
Crosshair was making the trip in no time at all despite his own condition, reaching the cell blocks quickly.
The guards were there in place, lounging around as he had expected.
Crosshair had left the cart at the junction just outside the entrance to the brig. Crosshair could see the guards chatting. He had hoped for them to be half sleeping by now, letting him perhaps sneak inside unnoticed. A bad plan for sure, but still, there weren't too many options available either.
Thinking on his feet Crosshair knew the only way to get passed them at this hour was to either shoot them or…
Walking towards the two guards, removing his helmet and getting their attention Crosshair was prepared.
"Commander!" The other guard greeted him and clearly became more alert. "You are down here late." The guard wasn't really suspecting anything, not really, but they needed to make sure just the same.
"Rampart wants to interrogate one of the prisoners." Crosshair flat on lied.
The two guards exchanged glances. But as it was not unusual for the Admiral to get a fancy for some torture even in the middle of the night. So, turning to unlock the door the trooper let his guard down.
Crosshair acted quickly.
With one swift swoop he managed to inject the guard with sedatives he had swiped from the infirmary while getting his regular check-up. There was enough stuff there to bring down a large size rancor. The guard fell flat on his face. And as the other one turned to Crosshair it was already too late as the needle stuck to his side, the guard joining his mate on the floor quickly with a thud.
The cellblock doors now wide open. Crosshair quickly made his way to the junction, picking up the hover cart and hauling himself and it into the brig.
It was time to execute the second part of his, well, flimsy plan. Freeing all the prisoners.
Don't you recognise a jail break when you see one?
There is nothing like a good old fashioned jail break now is there?
The hassle inside of the brig started soon enough.
Crosshair ran through the long hallway of the cell block. Opening each door letting the prisoners out. Some of them confused as to what was going and what was wanted from them. It was rather chaotic. There had been not time to warn anyone. And some prisoners had not even believed the rumours when hearing about the plan from others there through the cell block grapevine.
Then again, when was a prison break not chaotic and messy?
"Everyone! Listen up! Pick up a weapon from the cart. Any weapon." Crosshair shouted to the confused looking troopers and nat-borns still standing around."Take anything you think you can use as a weapon and get out to the hallway." Crosshair ordered them all, trying to get them moving out.
Reaching the final ones at the end of the hallway. The cells housing Kix and Zela, who had already been alerted by the ruckus, the doors opening and prisoners moving about in a somewhat of a confused state. Despite Kix and Zela having managed to forewarn some of them about what was about to take place.
"What do you know! You actually came through for us." Kix snidely remarked, but it was more of a happy remark than anything else.
"I told you I would." Crosshair simply told the other clone. "Here."
Crosshair handed two blasters to Kix who picked them up gladly, letting his glance linger on the weapons for a moment. Getting the sensation, that this, prison break, was actually happening and might even succeed.
Crosshair turned to Zela next. He had a bag with him. Something Crosshair had been hauling into the cell blocks with among the plethora of things needed. Handing it over to Zela he looked rather pleased. There was also a hint of smile on his face just then. A first in a while, for sure.
"I thought you might want these back."
Zela took the offering and looked inside the bag. Taking out their precious swords and nodding in approval. Looking at them for a spell in a way someone would after having had a severed limb reattached. Feeling themselves becoming complete once again.
"Thanks!" Zela simply told Crosshair, voice coarse of the emotions filling them, but smiling at the gesture nevertheless having finally the swords returned.
"Now, let's move." Crosshair then ordered the two and whatever remaining prisoners were still waiting to leave.
Zela turned to look at the Commander, surprised to see him rather well and eager too, despite the chips's control of him and the injury he had only recently sustained.
"How are you feeling?" Zela simply asked.
"Better, thanks!" Crosshair managed at they were running towards the exit.
Zela simply nodded being the last of them to reach the hallway. Glancing back and making sure it was the case.
"All clear." Zela told Crosshair then.
"We need to get to the hangar bay."
Crosshair informed the waiting group. A mix of clones and nat-borns alike. All of them only waiting to leave the Shit hole behind. Turning to Kix and Zela Crosshair asked.
"Can you take the rear, make sure everyone will follow?"
He trusted the two to be the best of the lot to do so. As despite clone troopers among the prisoners, there was still some confusion and disorganisation going on.
"Will do!" Kix half saluted Crosshair then.
Crosshair nodded and moved past the crowd, taking the lead.
Crosshair gave the order. Knowing there was little time before the alarms would go off and more troopers would arrive. And they would try to prevent the prisoners from leaving the hard way. Mostly likely with the orders to shoot to kill.
Reaching the hangar bay was easy enough. With the alarms only starting to blast all around the base just a little after the group of escapes had managed to reach the area they wanted to go to.
But, with thanks to the loud noises of the flashing red klaxons blasting all over, the guards both on and off duty were alerted to the incident taking place.
As the team of rogues were close enough they could taste freedom, the soldiers started pouring in from each and every direction. Blocking their advancing.
It looked like they had gotten stuck between the wall of the hangar and guards honing in on them, from two directions.
And just there, right in front of them, were the ships. One of them being their getaway vessel.
"Hold your positions." Crosshair ordered the prisoners. "Fire only on my order."
Those who had picked up weapons brought in by Crosshair now flanked those prisoner who were in the worse shape because of whatever torture had taken place prior to their escape and could not defend themselves well.
Crosshair, Kix, Zela and several other clones were holding the front line. Standing with their blasters aimed against the two groups of soldiers moving towards the escapes.
With the soldiers intent quite clear. As they would be taking no more prisoners at this point.
"Drop your weapons."
The lead soldier gave the order to the escapes. Halting the rest of the imperial troopers with a hand signal from advancing at moment. Giving the prisoners a chance to surrender. Even if none of them believed they would not be shot even if they did do just that. Surrender.
"That, is a negative."
Crosshair calmly responded to the other commander, a TK-Trooper leader, not a clone.
It looked like none of the soldiers currently there were clones. Something which Crosshair had seen happening a lot lately. The clones being replaced by conscripted soldiers and the clones being imprisoned, sold to slavery or worse. At least, that was something he knew now, after reading the classified files.
"Commander." The commanding trooper's voice was low as he glared at Crosshair. "You really should not have done this."
It sounded like a warning. Which it was. The message was quite clear to Crosshair as well. The only option now for him, to escape or die trying. As all his cards had been placed on the table for the imperials to see.
"Well, we all make bad choices, don't we." Crosshair's remark bordered between mocking and deprecating, never letting his guard drop.
"You all…" The commander let his gaze roam across the board of the prisoners. "have only proven to have forfeited your lives." He paused then. "That is, if you don't surrender now." As if there was still a choice left for any of the prisoners.
They all knew though, that their options were all but used up.
As it was obvious the soldiers would kill them either way. Surrender or try to leave. They had al known the outcome. Ever since the time they had left the cell blocks. Therefore, surrender, was not an option.
They would either die here today. Together. Or endure a slow and agonising death being tortured by the imperials. There was no turning back now. Crosshair was not even about to ask if any of them had second thoughts. Because the decision had already been made.
A moment of silence fell upon the stand-off between the escapes and the imperials.
"Are you ready?" Crosshair's voice was hardly audible, but the clones and Zela heard him just fine, as did the rest of the members of the group.
There was a quick round of nods around, not that it mattered anyway. And then.
"Now!" Crosshair's voice boomed over the silence.
The prisoners started firing. Gunning down the soldiers who had been taken totally by surprise of the boldness of their captives.
The blaster fight was intense and lasted for several long moments. With Crosshair in his armour and Zela with their swords taking in the bulk of the fire aimed at the group. While the clones were busy at work firing and taking down the enemy soldiers.
The imperials were dropping like flies.
But unfortunately, some of their shots still landed on the escapes. Luckily, the TK-troopers had not hit any vital parts of the two nat-borns and the two clones, one of them being Kix, having been at the receiving end of those shots fired.
Zela having been the blocker alongside Crosshair, had managed to use their swords as reflectors for most of the weapons fire aimed at the group. But then, one of the blaster shots had somehow managed to get through and hit Zela in the thigh. But it did not stop Zela from doing their job. Protecting the others.
Soon enough, the soldiers were all down. Dead and lying on the floor of the hangar bay. The pent-up anger of being imprisoned had given them all the spite they needed to fight back. Extraordinary strength as it were. To push through the blockade. As it was now, none of them really had nothing to lose anymore.
Their lives for sure, but then, it was something which had been on the line all along.
Crosshair had seized firing after getting no more counter fire. He glanced around the overall area. Seeing the corpses of the imperial troopers lying on both sides of them. Looking around at his own troops. seeing some of them having been hit and bleeding without any protective armour.
"Is everyone alright?"
"Yes." A chorus of voices responded then from around him.
"We need to leave. There will be more soldiers coming for us soon enough." Crosshair quickly made a scan over the area and found the ship he had planned on taking.
"That, is out way out of here." Crosshair pointed at the midsize transport ship just ahead of them a few ships to the right of them.
They all gathered themselves and started half running towards the direction of the ship. Crosshair who had checked the ships status earlier, hoped it was still available and ready for take off as it had been then. But they would have to cross that bridge when they reached the vessel.
"Secure the vessel!" Crosshair shouted for Kix as the group had reached their target.
As it was, Kix was the one Crosshair knew to have pilot skills as the rest of the clones were not familiar to him. So, naturally ordering the former medic to make the preparations for take off.
One by one they all got inside, leaving Zela and Crosshair to hold the rear. As they could already see more soldiers pouring into the hangar bay and not wanting the ship to be shot down before they could even take off.
Crosshair shouted to the other clones, relaying the questions to Kix, who had taken the pilot seat as none of them were having personal comms on their person. Naturally.
"A few minutes." Came the answer back to him through the line.
Just then, the new batch of imps started verging in on their position.
"We don't have two minutes." Crosshair snarled aiming his weapon towards the approaching troopers while standing on the open ramp of transport ship.
But it could not be helped as the engines needed their time to get online before they would be able to take off.
"It's going to be a close call." Zela was already in positions beside Crosshair, their swords prepared to repel the incoming blaster fire.
"I've been through worse."
Crosshair simply commented. Not that he doubted Zela had not. As clearly, this person who was still very much of a mystery to Crosshair ever since the first time their paths had crossed, was a soldier as well.
The remark elicited a light chuckle from Zela, validating Crosshair's suspicions of the same.
"Haven't we all." Zela simply stated.
"We have incoming." Crosshair then relayed back to the ship.
"This is it." Zela stated simply as the first blaster shots hit their swords.
The fire fight started again. And for a few moments it looked like the small band of prisoners would be overrun by imps. As they kept on pouring all around the ship. No matter how many Crosshair managed to take down.
Crosshair and Zela were quickly joined by few other clones, standing in a neat file on the ramp, firing past each other and at the imps. While Kix and another clone were busy in getting the ship off of the ground. The sounds of blaster fire filling the air.
The imps just get pouring from everywhere. At least it looked like that to the few of them crowding the hatch of the ship trying to return fire as best as they could from the tight spot they were all crowding.
Just as it seemed the battle was about to be lost as the imperial troopers were closing in on the ship, the loud engine sounds practically boomed over the constant weapons fire.
"Get inside, now!" Crosshair ordered the clones and Zela as well, who seemed reluctant to follow this order. "You too!" Crosshair shouted to them.
"Not gonna leave you here alone." Zela shouted back to Crosshair. "We leave together or not at all."
The ship was about to take off. And the clone inside of the hatch waved for the two to get inside. Zela nodded for Crosshair to go in first. And reluctantly, he did so. It took mere seconds for Zela to do the exact same. The hatch closing behind them with a loud hiss, taking on the bulk of the fire from the outside.
All the while the firing outside of the ship continued, the group of prisoners were now inside and ready to take off. Leave the hell hole of an imperial base far behind them.
Kix steered the vessel out of the hangar bay. Aided by the other clone. They were prepared for a tail of course, as the imps were bound to follow them.
"I need someone to man the cannons."
Crosshair glanced at the several clones standing in a neat file close to him while the rest of the prisoners were seated on the chairs and some of them on the floor.
"I can do that, sir." One of the clones having his hand raised offered.
Crosshair simply nodded as the clone then made his way to the aft, taking his position in the gunners mount. Crosshair made his way to the cockpit.
"You are able to fly this ship, right?" He simply asked making sure if either clone needed to be replaced even if the duo had already managed to get the ship off the ground.
"We can." Kix replied securely for them both as had already gotten the hang of the imperial vessels controls. "Have flown a similar type before." Having a hint of a smirk on his face just then.
Crosshair only nodded. Feeling the exhaustion of the battle already getting to him, with his injuries still healing and all. Crosshair then glanced at Kix having been reminded the medic having gotten shot too.
"What of your wound?"
"It's just as flesh wound. I will be okay." Kix said seemingly unfazed of the whole ordeal.
"If you are sure."
Crosshair stared at Kix for a moment of trying to assess Kix's condition. But, eventually trusting Kix's own judgement on his abilities in handling pain. Crosshair then pulled out a small data chip from inside of his armour, giving it to Kix.
"Here are our destination coordinates."
Kix picked the chip from him and inserted it into the navigational console.
"We are good to go." Kix then said and as soon as he had said it, they felt a jolt on the vessel.
"Guess they bothered to come after us after all." The copilot clone snorted then.
"We'll keep them off our tails. You two handle the helm." Crosshair said and left to check on the clone who had offered to take over the cannons.
But before he was able to even reach the rear, he heard the firing from their vessel starting. As clearly the gunner clone had things under control. Not that Crosshair had suspected they would not. Regs or not, they were clones and good at what they were trained to do.
Crosshair remained standing in the middle of the ship. Intently watching the people he was about to get into safety. As at this point, Crosshair had to trust in that fact. That they had been successful in escaping. And as the ship kept on ascending, the firing still continuing. But, their opponents shots hardly hitting their craft any longer.
And so, Crosshair's faith in their little stint of escaping the imperials growing stronger each climb higher the transport ship made.
Getting away seemed impossible at first
Having faith in oneself and the others around, can be quite rewarding, most of the times
They had gotten away!
It was still quite unbelievable for them all to even fathom. But, the ship carrying them all was safely in hyperspace. Withe the imperial base having been left far behind and their heading set towards safety.
"Does anyone of you know how to scramble a ships signature?" Crosshair asked the regs who had gathered into the cockpit since leaving the imperial base.
"I can." One of them raised his hand. "I have some… experience." Two other clones snickering as if it was some inside joke which had just been told.
Crosshair raised his brow in suspicion.
"Oh, nothing like that!" The clone immediately objected as if he was someone stealing ships for living or something even more sinister. "Rather it was something I was trained to do and well, guess I kind of overused my prowess and then, I got caught." He then revealed to Crosshair.
"I see." Was all Crosshair stated even if he wasn't in on the joke. "So?"
"Right! On it, Sir!" The reg was up and off to the consoles starting on working on the task at hand.
Crosshair let his glance roam around the rest to the clones. Kix being the only one he knew of the bunch. But from what he had seen so far, he was impressed. And it took a lot to impress Crosshair these days.
"So, do you all have names?" Crosshair asked then.
The question, even the interest he was showing for the regs came as a total surprise even for himself for sure. But they were all in this together. And as far as Crosshair was now concerned, it was time to bury the vibro-ax. His distaste for the regs as it was. After all, they were all in the same boat. Being enemies in the eyes of the Empire and so, deciding on turning a new leaf, well, guess this was the first step for Crosshair to take. Learning the names of his fellow clones.
Crosshair was pretty sure most of them were so called shinies, fresh of the tubes. Well not really, but with no real battle experience under their belts. They all seemed so young and inexperienced at first glance. But what they might have lacked in experience, they had certainly come through for Crosshair and the rest of the bunch now fleeing the Empire.
Kix on the other hand had more than enough of experience. And whatever had happened to him before, having ended up frozen and at the hands of the Empire was something Crosshair suspected was a long tale. Perhaps he would hear it some day. But for now, their main goal was to get as far away from the imps as possible.
"I am Ivy." The one who had laughed the hardest told Crosshair. "He's Data."
Ivy pointed at the reg who had taken over the tinkering on the ships signature, clearly the name apt for the technically inclined clone. Something which reminded Crosshair of Tech…
"I'm Troll." One of them introduced, having a curly set of hair on top of his head.
"They call me Crash and this one is Stick."
The other clone was only waving his hand as they seemed to be joined from the hip to each other, another reminder from Crosshair's past for sure. Something of being cadets and being with the rest of his batch…
"I am Goal." The one who was seated at the copilots seat being seemingly older than the other five were.
There were plenty of clones still in the back, having remained with the nat-born escapes, aiding them as best they could with the injuries and all. Crosshair made a mental note to check up with them later on catch their names as well. Certainly, this was turning out to be quite the new start for Crosshair after all.
"Well, good to meet you all." Crosshair said in a most polite manner.
Something which got Kix to turn around and look at him. Really look at Crosshair. As it was odd behaviour for the clone with a permanent scowl plastered onto his face and the curt remarks being his trademark.
"I am Crosshair." He simply told them then.
Not that Crosshair did not suspect Kix having told the other clones all about him already. The good and the bad. Mostly bad as Kix and Crosshair had really never become friendly. At all. Perhaps that too would change now?
"You are a clone too?" Ivy asked curiously.
Glancing at Kix, as if it was what they had been talking about already, but the suspicion for the other clones remaining of the Commander's origins.
"Yes." Crosshair sighed. The toll of the mission and the injury still very much present and starting to take effect more so now as the urgency of their mission was dissipating. "I am a defective clone." Crosshair explained simply.
"Wow." Three of the regs sounded in awe, clearly, even if it was not news to them.
"But you worked for the Empire." Crash commented then.
As clearly, Crosshair seemed to have become the other clones point of interest at the very moment. A fascinating novelty perhaps. Nothing Crosshair wanted to be though.
"I did. But now, I am like you. A traitor to the Empire."
Crosshair hoped to end the conversation then and there. As he really did not like to talk about himself or what he had done. At all. Certainly not with regs. And well, not with anyone really. And, feeling the dizziness coming back, he knew he needed to sit down. Right away.
"Yeah, guess we are that." Troll smirked a little.
Crosshair felt the pain in his chest just then. And knew it was time to take another doze of the meds he had taken with him from the base.
"If you will excuse me."
Crosshair was still quite polite. A fact which made Kix once again simply look at him again. But then, seeing how white Crosshair's face had flushed into, Kix could easily recognise the pained expression on the other clone's face.
"Are you alright Crosshair?" Kix asked, the medic in him kicking in.
"I will be, soon enough." Crosshair told him as much and then left the cockpit, looking for a place to sit down and rest.
The other clones looked at him go and back at Kix who only shook his head to them. In the very meaning of leaving Crosshair be.
Crosshair walked the short distance towards the aft where he found some space to sit down. Finding Zela there, with a make shift bandaged covering their thigh. He looked at them for a moment and as Zela patted the floor beside them, Crosshair took the offered place.
"How are you feeling?" Zela asked immediately as clearly, Crosshair was not able to hide his pain, at all.
"I have been better." Crosshair simply replied.
He then pulled out the injection from his pocket and pressed it device against his neck. The familiar hissing sound coming out of it as the medicine was gushing through the skin. Crosshair's eyes rolled in his head for a moment, before the pain finally subsided into a minor inconvenient pounding.
He turned to look at Zela.
"Do you need any?" Crosshair offered.
"No, I will be fine."
Zela usually meditated for any kind of ailments they might have had. Never using drugs, as it was more effective that way. Never wanting to feel the numbing effect the medicines had on them.
"I will be able to heal soon enough." Zela simply told Crosshair.
"Guess you are not exactly an ordinary human either?" Crosshair asked them then with a hint of mirth in his voice.
"Well, whom of us really are ordinary?" Zela replied with a soft smile. "How's your chip?" Zela asked then, knowing it had been bothering Crosshair before and they had helped him in coping with it.
Guess that story too was long enough and for another time to be told.
"The meds are keeping it in check." Crosshair told Zela. "At least it has worked so far."
Crosshair was worried about it though. As the whole enhanced chip was unpredictable at beset, its effect on him and his wounds were already healing. So, only hoping he would be fine until they were out of space and the others were secure enough.
"Good." Zela told him while observing the man. "Let me know if you need any help."
Getting a slight nod from Crosshair, as the meds were taking their effect on him, causing a slight drowsiness and most likely, Crosshair would doze off at some point.
The two of them remained sitting in comfortable silence with the rest of the rescues now that they were finally free and headed to a safe place. Hopefully without any further incidents.
The stolen ship landed with its cargo of passengers to the secure location of Rex's base.
Stepping out one by one, they could all see the welcoming committee standing there waiting to greet them. The civilians were the first ones to leave the ship. Then the clones. While Kix, Crosshair and Zela remained at the rear of the lot. Waiting for all the others to safely disembark before they too followed. Crosshair being the last one out.
As Crosshair stepped out and to the platform, he could see Rex there. He was standing beside another clone Crosshair knew he should have recognised. And the way the reg was looking his way too, it was obvious they had met at some point. Most likely during some mission. But guess he would soon find that out too.
As Crosshair walked towards the meet and greet, he noticed Zela remaining a tad behind them all. Walking close to Crosshair as they closed in on the others.
"Are you alright?" It was Crosshair's turn to ask it.
"I am." Zela replied. "But I don't really know any of these people." Sounding seemingly worried.
They motioned at Rex and his men. The several clones with him. But also all the nat-borns, who had med packs and other equipment with them. Clearly expecting badly wounded among the escaped prisoners.
As it was, Zela was not afraid to fight the good fight. But, they had not met too many clones in their life and Zela not sure what this new cause was all about. Except apparently helping those who had escaped from under the Empire's yoke.
Guess that would be enough of a reason to trust them.
"Well, as far as I can tell you, you can trust them. Captain Rex is a good man." Crosshair assured Zela then.
As it was, Crosshair was more worried about himself and how these, well, supposed rebels would consider him as. After all, he still represented the Empire in some fashion still. Even carrying their armour and weapons. And not too long ago, having done their bidding.
Many of these people having most likely been on the receiving end of the Empire's wrath even if it had not been Crosshair personally being there against them. Still, Crosshair felt responsible for it all. The remorse growing each step of the way he was taking towards Rex and his people.
Kix and Rex were already hugging and crying.
A touching reunion it was, as clearly, there had been misconceptions on both sides of what had happened to the former friends and brothers in arms. Kix having been presumed dead and all. However, none of that mattered now as they had found each other after a long while.
The rest of the people were greeted warmly and taken into the med bay of the base for check-ups.
The clones however, were each getting a special greeting from Re along with the other clones standing there with him.
Even if it had already been rather obvious to Crosshair, that the rescued clones were mostly recently created clones. Most likely those younglings the Empire had shipped off Kamino before the destruction of it, for whatever purpose they had had in mind for them back then.
As it was, Rex certainly had no more knowledge of them than Crosshair or Kix had. Nothing until seeing them in the cell block after having been hauled there from various corners of the galaxy. And so, most of their backstories were still remaining a mystery.
Then finally, it was Crosshair's turn.
Rex's voice sounded rather hoarse, as he had been shedding tears just before. Mostly of joy as Rex really was the one to get his brethren together no mater what. And having so many returned, was certainly a reason to be happy, even if it meant a few tears of joy.
Crosshair did not make any move to hug or even offer his hand in greeting.
Frankly, Crosshair was afraid. Simple and clear as that.
After all, what he had done. Whom he had been. It was all coming crashing down on him at this very moment seeing all the familiar faces in front of him. The remorse inside of him like an avalanche, pulling him down with it.
It was Zela who nudged him forward slightly then, sensing the conflict inside the man.
"It's been a while."
Rex said to Crosshair, with a faint smile emerging on his face. Just before Rex made the move to step even closer and then, without warning, grabbing Crosshair by his arm rather warmly though, the familiar greeting taking place.
"Too long a while." Crosshair managed with a gravely timbre, the moment getting to him.
It took a moment, the two holding on to each other. There was no malice from Rex felt though, as clearly he was welcoming Crosshair with earnest intent. No matter what the past of Crosshair's was.
Just as the moment passed, Kix stepped to the side of Zela and placed an arm around their shoulder. Pulling Zela forward gently.
"This is Zela." Kix then introduced them to Rex. "Zela and Crosshair were the ones helping us spring out of the imps grasp."
It was true. As Zela had been the instigator of Crosshair's little stint. Most likely his consciousness in this particular case. Trigging the spark inside the clone to do the right thing. But they had also helped the other prisoners. In spirit if nothing else while being incarcerated themselves.
"Zela." Rex greeted them similarly he had done with Crosshair. "Good to have you with us."
"It's an honour, Sir." Zela told Rex then, the soldier in them shining through at the very moment.
"Sir, eh?" Rex asked with a hint of a smirk.
He was gently assessing the person standing in front of him.
After all, Zela was not dressed in any kind of armour. Most of their gear gone by now. Buried somewhere in the imperial archives.
But they did have the two swords poking out, even if tucked neatly in their back hold. It was becoming obvious to Rex, that this person, Zela, was a soldier of some kind. Their stance alone reminiscent of the same. And Kix clearly had certain fondness for Zela already as well. Trusting his judgment and so, trusting Zela was well.
"We are none too formal here. You can call me Rex."
Zela felt a relief wash over them. As after always being alert and cautious, alone and on the run, trust did not come easy for Zela. But they trusted Kix already, and Crosshair of course.
"Rex it is then." Zela smiled back at Rex.
Having seen the various injuries on the people arriving alongside Kix's arm and Zela's leg, Rex motioned for the remaining medics to come to them.
"We better get you sorted and patched up and then we can have a briefing." Rex told the trio as the other clones had already been escorted to the med bay, leaving the three of them remaining there on the platform.
They all nodded almost in unison. After all, they all needed medical attention to some extent.
Just as they were about to go, Rex stopped Crosshair gently.
"You still have your chip don't you?"
Rex did not sound too concerned as they already had the means to remove the inhibitor chips.
"Yes." Crosshair told him. "I," He paused trying to explain his current status the best he could.
"I got shot and the meds… well, Zela…"
Crosshair looked at Kix and Zela go with the medics, not sure if he could explain how Zela had helped him earlier. Deciding to keep it simple he said to Rex.
"The pain meds have helped keeping the control of the chip at bay." He clarified then. "At least until now."
"I see." Rex nodded in somewhat of an understanding. "But you don't mind if we remove it do you?"
Rex did not want to push Crosshair. Just in case it wasn't what he wanted. As Rex had heard the story from Hunter of what had happened and how Crosshair had wanted to return to the Empire of his own free will.
But now, it seemed to Rex, that something had changed in the enhanced clone and perhaps, it was time for Crosshair to put the Empire behind after all.
"No." It was a short and simple answer from Crosshair.
"Good." Rex smiled then. "We can do it right away, if you feel up to it." Rex stated as the two started towards the medical facility of the base.
You don't remember me, do you?
Old hook-ups lost and found, reminders of a past not really having been too bad?
Crosshair was in the med bay lying on the bed post surgery.
The chip now removed, for good Crosshair hoped. As two chips was by far enough for Crosshair to endure! Having the Empire out of his head, literally, was reward enough for his actions for saving the others. At least, that was Crosshair's thinking at the moment.
The wound in his chest having been checked to be sure there were no repercussions of having hauled himself halfway across the galaxy and enduring a fire fight despite been supposedly recovering. At least, the doctors had been adamant in a complete check-up having seen the condition Crosshair had been brought in to the medical bay. Almost at the verge of collapse when the excitement of the mission and reunion had finally dissipated.
Crosshair was feeling slightly better though, there was no denying that. More like himself than he had felt in a long while. A process which had most likely already started when Crosshair had decided to help the prisoners to escape. Crosshair mind was reeling though. About everything that had happened to him after Order 66. The regrets weighing heavily within. And despite his most recent actions, the future was all up in the air.
It was during this contemplative moment, when someone peaked through the curtain set around the med bed for some privacy.
The voice belonged to a rather familiar looking reg housing a big grin on his face as he greeted Crosshair with much enthusiasm.
Crosshair's voice was slightly pitched. Not having expected company at the very moment. Even if the rescued regs had half demanded in coming to visit him. As they then had. One by one pouring in a steady stream of visitors. Each of them making sure Crosshair was alright and never forgetting in thanking him for helping them either. It looked like Crosshair had procured himself quite the fan club of said regs. Something which in another life time could have been considered quite the joke. But not now. Because it had been a good thing Crosshair had done, not just for the clones but the other prisoners as well.
Crosshair soon realised the reg looked very familiar and someone he really should know, and so trying to jog his memory of whom it was looming close by.
As it was, the new chip had caused some of his memories to fade. As it was by design. The Empire wanting to purge the past of the clones as it were. But the doctor in charge of the removal on the base had assured Crosshair it would all come back to him. The memories. Eventually.
"You don't remember me do you." The man stated simply, never loosing the grin off his face though.
Crosshair pinched his memory. But despite seeing the clone standing right in front of him after entering the space inside of the curtain, the memory was still buried deep inside of the recesses of the mind.
"I am sorry. I know we have met?"
He wasn't really asking as clearly the reg knew Crosshair.
The reg smirked simply and was clearly unfazed by the lack of Crosshair's memory him. But he did move in closer without waiting for an invite.
"I didn't want to disturb you earlier, because of you having surgery and all. Rex said you were recovering still."
The reg elaborated his own actions, as if it had been a given thing for him to come and see Crosshair anyway.
Something in the regs smirk caused a surge of… a warm and familiar sensation run through Crosshair. Nothing he had felt since… Well, not since Order 66. The time way back when he had still been with the Batch. His Batch as they had been then.
Now? Well, guess that part of his life was all over now.
The reg took the chair close by and moved it so he was seated right beside Crosshair's bed. Clearly not even asking for permission. Again. Simply assuming it was all fine and good.
And honestly, Crosshair did not mind it at all. He was kind of intrigued by this, overconfident reg. The warm sensations washing over Crosshair the second time around as he glanced at the other man.
"Look," The reg paused, his eyes on Crosshair. "I know the chips are causing some memory loss." The reg chuckled a little. "Heck, I know what it's like. Not the chip, but the memory loss."
The reg laughed again, something he seemed to be doing, a lot. Making Crosshair's warm sensations flood through his whole body with gusto. A surprise it was for the former imperial Commander, truly.
"Well, let me enlighten you some."
The reg caught Crosshair's questioning gaze on his person. As clearly, he was at a loss of whom this chuckling man really was. Deciding it was time to let Crosshair of the hook, he then introduced himself.
"I am Gregor."
Of course! Crosshair had a flash of images from his past pouring through his mind at that very moment. A faint memory it was, but he knew now how the two of them had met each other.
"Back on Coruscant. The club. 79's."
Gregor reminded Crosshair of their initial meeting. And as he did, the images started coming to focus in Crosshair's mind.
"We hooked up." Gregor stated rather proudly.
Crosshair's mouth went dry all of a sudden. The tingles in his body intensified and the images unobtainable just moments before were now as clear in his memory as it had happened only yesterday. Crosshair gulped but kept his exterior cool. At least he hoped it was the case. His face hopefully at least some kind of baseline. But Gregor's intense stare on his own equal glare. There was nowhere to hide. For either of them. Not that he doubted that this, Gregor was a shy one if his behaviour was any indication of anything.
Crosshair finally spoke his voice totally coarse and with a hint of a flush on his face apppearing.
So much of being cool about things.
It was so sudden. The very reminder of something so good from his past being there, right in front of him at the moment.
Crosshair had tried hard not to dwell on his past after rejoining the Empire. And it had not really been that hard either, with thanks to the new chip. And now, after having a taste of redemption while helping the prisoners escape?
Well, Crosshair had hoped for some kind of change happening within himself and perhaps even in his life. Despite of his mind still dwelling on the darker side of things.
It was quite unexpected and was completely throwing Crosshair off his game.
Not that there really was much left of it.
After all, Crosshair was a man without a purpose now. Stripped off of his command. An insurgent, on the run. An enemy of the Empire, the worst of the lot. Someone to be shot on sight if he was ever to face his former employer again. Or worse if he got caught.
And with Crosshair's former family somewhere out there, not caring whether he lived or died. But, what had he excepted from them? To welcome him with open arms now that he was the saviour of others. Hardly! Not that he knew where they were now even. But Crosshair knew Rex knew. Even if it had not been spoken of. Not yet anyway.
Crosshair had been the one who had made the choice to go back to the Empire. And so, there was that and nothing more to consider where his old batch was concerned.
Zela of course who was still being treated for the extensive injuries suffered during the torture, was in bed rest close by. The two them having bonded on some level. At this point it seemed that Zela was the only one who really cared about Crosshair. On a personal level at least. But also understood some of his reasoning earlier. At least, that was the impression Crosshair had gotten after having managed a few chats with Zela since their time spent in the infirmary.
And, even if Crosshair's new fan club had kind of shown him something, which could be for Crosshair if he wanted to. Maybe. Then again, fame usually faded, fast. And the feats soon forgotten. Then again, perhaps not.
But this, this one reg? He was clearly something else!
"Well, that is a good thing." Gregor chuckled, something of the clones trademark it seemed. "Because I do remember you."
There was hint of something more in Gregor's smile than simply a remembrance of a few nights shared with each other. Something Crosshair had not seen since…
"I did not think I was that memorable."
Crosshair tone was flat, with a hint of self-deprecation in his tone. But, it wasn't all that was present there either. Perhaps even a glint of hope. As clearly, this reg, Gregor, had some kind of effect on Crosshair.
The laughter bursting out of Gregor was something which Crosshair had not excepted at all. It was full of mirth and it was nothing but kind. Leaving Crosshair completely surprised, baffled and well, somewhat confused too.
How could this, reg, possibly care about him or what had happened a long time ago, between the two of them.
"Don't sell yourself sort, Crosshair." Gregor positively beamed now. "I found you rather memorable and if memory serves, we had a great time, together."
Crosshair averted his gaze, he simply had to.
The sensations taking over his body were becoming harder to control as clearly, Gregor had not simply come to reminisce their sexual bout together, rather for whatever reason, regarded Crosshair worthy. Of what, he wasn't sure of. But perhaps the rather forthcoming reg could enlighten him on the fact as well.
"Well, I am glad you felt that way and felt it was necessary to come and tell me that too."
Crosshair's mood had changed from slightly elevated to something of a self loathing rather quickly. Thinking he really was not worth all the admiration the other man was shoving upon him. No. Crosshair had lost the right for all that when he had turned to the dark side and made his bed with the Empire.
The other clone quickly sensing the mood change and knowing the most likely reasons behind it.
After all, Gregor was far from stupid. Rex had warned him about the chips control even after the removal and whatever side effects there might be for a long while after the fact. Not to mention, that Crosshair had been working for the Empire a long while. Doing things none of the clones who had been freed from the imps control were proud of, no matter their circumstances.
As it was, Crosshair was not the only one who had had been in a similar situation. But then again, he was the only Commander, being promoted by the imps. The rest of them having been troopers, simply following their leaders orders.
And there was a long way to go before the healing could start, for any of them.
"Crosshair." Gregor voice was low and comforting. "I am sorry if I upset you." He apologised.
Once again, the other clone had managed to surprise Crosshair. This man seemed to be full of surprises.
"I, you did not upset me." Crosshair quickly corrected. "I am just, well, it's difficult to accept the fact that someone actual cares."
Crosshair was at a loss of words. Trying to explain himself as best he could. As clearly, Gregor had only good intentions towards him and Crosshair did not want to turn the man away either. Did he?
Besides Zela, Gregor seemed the only real friend Crosshair had on the base. At least, he thought that to be the case. Well, Kix and Rex maybe? The other rescued clones? There was a part of Crosshair which really did not trust any of them. Except Zela and now, Gregor?
Crosshair was getting more and more confused each passing moments. About where he really stood in the grand scheme of things with these, clones and others.
With Gregor, there was a shared and rather intimate history. But did that really count for anything?
Gregor's eyes were on Crosshair for a long frozen moment. Their gazes holding once again. Something was exchanged during that time. An understanding of sorts. Perhaps even more.
The moment broken, Gregor got up from his seat and leaned forward towards Crosshair's direction. Face to face, breath on breath. Gregor lingered over Crosshair for a spell.
Then, brushing his lips softly over Crosshair's, leaving the tingling sensations dancing on his skin. A promise of something perhaps? Gregor leaned back and a hint of a smile was coming back.
"I will come back and see you later." Gregor said before he turned to leave. But turning back, he added. "And Crosshair, you are so worthy."
And with that he was gone. Leaving an even more confused Crosshair behind.
It's a trap!
If there is one thing you can count on, is, that, there will always be some kind of an entrapment planned for those trying to run to freedom
The klaxons sounded. Rather noisily. Their red flashing lights reflected on each and every surface. The whole base on hight alert. Waking up everyone with ears to hear. And also those sleeping in the med bay.
"What's happening?" Someone asked.
"The Empire! They found us!" Another voice answered.
Crosshair had been deep in sleep. The meds causing the grogginess and the more deep slumber than he was used to. But at least, he was sleeping. Albeit sometimes, with really, really bad nightmares.
"What the kriff?" Crosshair growled as he felt a shake on his should just then.
It was Zela who had also woken up to the ruckus happening around them.
"The base is on high alert." Zela told the still groggy Crosshair. "The Empire! It's here." Their eyes wild fixed and glaring at the clone.
Was all Crosshair managed as the words Empire and here were finally registering by him.
"I don't know."
Zela was not exactly privy to the security measures of the base either. As they were, like Crosshair, pretty much an outsider there.
"I heard some of the shouting out there which woke me up. It seems there is a mole here?"
Zela was still unclear as to what they had really heard as it had all mixed in the dream they were having before waking up. But Zela was sure those words had been spoken by someone close by.
"We need to move. Now!" Zela urged Crosshair.
"Were are we going?" Crosshair asked being hauled up and about by Zela's strong arms.
Thankfully Crosshair had had the sense of dressing in pyjamas rather than the hospital gown he had been forced to use when in the imperial med bay. Having his body covered up to some extent at least, not wanting to flash any shinies at this hour.
"Armoury." Zela told him. "We need to find something to fight back with."
Crosshair simply let Zela lead him out the infirmary and into the corridors where various people were running amok. Or so it seemed as the civilians of the base were clearly clueless of what to do. Most of them not having any military experience at all.
"Do you even know where the armoury is?" Crosshair asked trying to clear his head, the meds still making him somewhat confused of his surroundings and what they were doing.
"Well, if I had to guess."
Zela had stopped for the moment. Trying to figure out where it could be at. Quickly making their mind up. Zela grabbed Crosshair again and was about to start moving towards one of the corridors void of anyone else, but Crosshair did not budge at first.
"How do you know it is that way?"
Crosshair was not sure they were headed in the right direction. Then again, he had little choice except to follow the exceptional person Zela was, as they had come through for him before. And with the fear of the imperials storming the base? Well, it was soon becoming incentive enough for Crosshair.
Zela's simply statement as they half dragged Crosshair to follow them as being on the move was better than simply standing around clueless only waiting for the inevitable. The imperial troopers.
The two arrived to what seemed to be a locked up area, with double doors leading to wherever it was.
"This is it." Zela informed Crosshair out of the blue, trusting their instinctive powers.
"And how are we going to get in?"
Crosshair had seen Tech hack into pretty much anything. But neither him nor Zela were savvy in that area, right?
"Hold on a sec." Zela said and went to work. "It shouldn't be too difficult."
It took a few moments and several unrepeatable curse words in Mando'a for Zela on the task. Once again surprising Crosshair with their actions. Something which seemed to be happening a lot lately for him. People surprising him. And soon enough, the lock clicked and the doors opened.
"See." Zela said. "Simple."
The two of them quickly entered the room seeing that it was the armoury indeed. Both of them picking up their weapons of choice. Zela taking two blasters and a few knives while Crosshair picked up a similar set-up.
"Ready?" Zela asked him then.
"Ready as I will ever be." Crosshair told them, his mind getting clearer by the minute, his training kicking in.
"Good, now let's go kick some imperial shebs." Zela told him with a grin.
The armed duo were on the move, running through the now empty corridors. It seemed the civilians had disappeared all together. As to the where, was a good question. After all, Rex or anyone else on the base had not really discussed any evacuation plans with the two of them.
It was then when they heard it. The weapons fire.
"This way!" Zela told him and started towards the noise.
"Great! Let's all run towards the blaster fire!"
Crosshair's fowl mood was back. But he was totally ready. To fight the imps.
It did not take long for them to reach the hangar bay, where all hell had broken loose.
There were imperial troopers there, firing at the personnel of the base. It was mostly clones firing back. It looked like the imps had managed to land a ship into the hangar and then started blasting their way into the base.
As they moved inside the hangar, both Crosshair and Zela immediately took their positions alongside the clones. Not even thinking for one fleeting moment of their own safety.
Crosshair spotted both Rex and Gregor there as well. Alongside Kix and several of the clones they had gotten out of the prison. Even a few nat-borns were there with guns a blazing. Everyone ready to defend their home from this, surprise invasion.
Both sides were shooting at the other.
The noise loud around them and there was no sense of the targets. Only firing at the enemy going on on both sides. Crosshair's muscle memory worked like a charm despite his somewhat diminished state. Each of the shots landing. But, even if he was successful in taking down the enemy soldiers, he could see from his peripheral vision some of the clones getting shot and some of them falling down.
Crosshair had no time to think about them now as the priority was to stop the invasion of the Empire.
But then, as he kept his eyes on the target despite the goings on around him, he could see something which made him loose his aim for a moment. One of the imps had gotten an aim and then Crosshair saw Gregor go down. A moment of loosing his self control.
Because someone he cared for, or could care for, had gotten hurt. It was like something from his past. A fire fight him and his Batch had been in and Hunter being shot…
This brief moment, Crosshair's eyes turned to look at how badly Gregor had been hit. That one moment of loosing his control of the situation cost him dearly though.
Before Crosshair knew what hit him, he was down on the ground. The pang of the impact of the blaster fire felt on his still healing body. And then, there was nothing but darkness around him.
The voice called out to him from outside the foggy haze he was engulfed in.
"Crosshair, can you hear me?"
It sounded so familiar. But he could not place it no matter how hard he tried.
"Wha… What happened?" Crosshair was finally coming to.
"You got, um, shot." Rex's voice boomed somewhere close by.
It was all coming back to him in a gush of images. The fire fight, the imps invading. All of it.
"The base? The Empire? Did we lose?"
Crosshair's final memory being that of his comrades falling down all around him and the imperial troopers closing in. Fast.
"It's secure. We are all safe."
It was Gregor hovering over him telling this.
"But, the imps…"
Crosshair felt the sting of a very bad headache just then. His hand flying to his forehead in an effort to push it back.
"Sorry 'bout that." Rex said sounding rather apologetic about it as he appear into Crosshair's sight of vision.
"Those stun settings might not cause much damage, but," Rex paused his explanation for a moment his eyes darting between Gregor and Crosshair. "you'll sure to have a headache for a while there."
Crosshair's confusion rate was rising each passing moment. With his own eyes trying to find purchase at Rex and Gregor, not really sure what he was told by them was even real.
"Look, we had to sure." Rex said. "It was a test to see if you had truly worked the imps out of your system." He then told Crosshair flat on.
It took several moments before the truth hit Crosshair. It had all been a ruse! For his benefit no less!
"You all tricked me."
Crosshair sounded somewhat angry, but could he really blame them?
"Well. Zela was not in on it either." Gregor the said as softly as possible. "Luckily we had switched the weapons in that specific armoury to training gear."
Crosshair and Zela's tones were unified. As they stated their supposed understanding rather flatly, the anger clear in both their voices.
There was a long moment of silence hanging in the room.
"I am sorry. But we had to test you. Both of you." Rex said as much. "And you passed! With flying colours!" He tried to lighten the mood.
"Yey us!" Was Zela's sarcastic response only.
Sensing the spite from both Crosshair and Zela, Rex decided it was best to let the two of them recover for the moment, before discussing the matter further.
"See you both in the morning."
Rex then said to the pair. Sounding somewhat hesitant though. Because he really did not except either of them being receptive for anything else at this point. Clearly irked of Rex's and his team's somewhat unusual method of proving the two of theirs loyalties.
"Yeah, morning." Crosshair snarled, none too happy of the turn of events.
Gregor looked really sad and sorry and gave one more glance at Crosshair before following Rex out of the med bay.
After the two clones had left the med bay, leaving Crosshair and Zela to their own devices, it was Zela who spoke first.
"Well, that was, new."
Zela was not sure as to what to make of it. After all, they did not know these people.
Crosshair wasn't too fond of their methods either. But then again, Crosshair had betrayed his brethren. Joined the Empire of his own accord.
And Zela? Well there was no one around who really knew them, now was there?
"So, what should we do?"
Zela was sensing the divide inside of Crosshair again. His doubts in regards where he stood with these other clones and their cause.
"I don't know."
Crosshair really did not know. What to do. What to tell Zela. Of anything really. All the better things so far, quickly fading into the background.
"So, we sleep on it then?"
Zela was pretty sure they would follow Crosshair's lead on this. As after all, these were his people. And so, guess it was up to Crosshair to decided the best course of action for them both. Because if there was one thing sure for Zela right now. It was the they trusted Crosshair. Zela had seen the inside of the clone and knew, whom he really was.
Was all Crosshair managed. The confusion hitting him hard.
Zela took his hand then and looked straight into Crosshair's eyes.
"I trust you Crosshair. Like I did back at the imps hold."
They paused looking for any signs the words were hitting their target.
"And whatever you decide, I trust it to be the best choice. And I will follow your lead wherever it might lead the two of us."
Crosshair had truly earned a friend in Zela. Something which warmed the pits of his chilly little heart. And then. There was Gregor, who had clearly looked sorry about the whole affair of staging the imperial coup of their base.
"Let's sleep on it and decide in the morning."
Crosshair was sounding more calm now. Then getting a nod from Zela in agreement.
"See you in the morning."
And with that Zela was gone. Getting back to their own bed, trusting this matter, like so many before, sorting itself out.
Thar be Beskar in here!
Sometimes things have a funny way of sorting themselves out after a dark night, that is, if you allow them to
It was already late in the morning when Zela had been called to Rex's office.
As Zela arrived there, they immediately could see the set of familiar swords on Rex's desk.
"I see you found my swords."
Zela noted then with a hint of sarcasm in their voice. Not exactly trusting this clone leader. Not now. Not yet. Especially after the stint of a supposed loyalty test he had pulled the night before.
Rex's glare were on Zela. Not really being sure of what to make of this, soldier of a person who had appeared out of nowhere basically. Not really.
Despite the clones Zela had helped rescuing having spoken quite highly of the sword swinging prisoner who had escaped with them. Not to mention, that Kix was singing his praises of Zela too.
The medic having had spent a lengthy time in the cell block with Zela. Getting to know them rather well. At least, that was Kix's claim when Rex had questioned him of their latest guest
Zela had also stood by Crosshair every step of the way. Especially during the fake siege of the base. Then again, that in itself had raised several red flags. The fact was still remaining though. That Rex would have loved nothing more than to welcome Zela to the fold. Despite the many doubts still lingering.
After all, Rex could use a skilled soldier like Zela, not to mention Crosshair, whose status Rex also had several questions to be answered before an official invite to join could be issued.
"We kept them safe for you."
Rex's simple reply, keeping his cool despite sensing the hostility coming from Zela at the very moment. Not that he could really lay blame on them. There were so many doubts on either side as to where their loyalties really laid. With big thanks to the Empire!
"They are pure Beskar."
There was a question there somewhere, even if Rex had not really asked it.
Zela simply replied, waiting only for the follow up question to drop.
As there would be more questions asked of their past even if Zela was none to keen in divulging any of it. Then again, if they were to join these, rebels? They guessed this was the case at least on some level, then the trust needed to be built. Something which never came easily.
"So, you are a Mandalorian then?"
Rex could not be sure of course. But it was a distinct possibility. As the Beskar in itself was a tell tale sign. After all, the Mandalorians did not share the precious metals willy nilly. And the craftsmanship of the swords was exquisite. Most likely having been crafted by a Mandalorian Armourer.
"Well, as far as some of them are concerned…"
Zela paused for a moment then, thinking back to the time of… well, the more better times in their past. Those of belonging, their tribe. But, so much had happened since then.
"I am not."
There was a hint of sadness but also some anger in that response.
"You were outcast?"
Rex had heard the stories of some of the more harsher sects of Mandalore of course. Shunning those who did not abide to the strict rules set by said creeds. With even a slight mistake leading to be rejected by the tribe.
"Something like that."
Zela kept their responses vague on purpose. As clearly this clone, this leader of this base, did not trust Zela. Not really as far as Zela could sense from the Captain at the very moment. And so, he had certainly not earned Zela's trust either nor the right for better answers.
Rex could see the hostility growing inside of the Mandalorian. And so, not expecting further and more detailed answers forthcoming soon. The test of their loyalties still weighing heavily on them having seen how pissed off Zela had been after finding out it had all been a ruse set up for the two of their benefits. Zela's and Crosshair's. Gregor and Kix had both warned Rex about the whole ordeal. Both clones having adamantly argued to Rex about not to go through with it.
But it could not be helped now. What was done was done.
And sometimes, mistakes were made. Besides, the Empire was far too strong and growing moe so. Rex needed to protect his people at all costs. Even if it meant a few hurt feelings in the process.
Clearly, both Zela and Crosshair had proven something to Rex by saving the prisoners. And as Kix had pretty much told Rex, Zela and Crosshair shared some kind of a weird connection from before he had arrived to the cell block. Whatever it was, Kix had not been able to clarify.
Rex then decided to go straight into business. As this, back and forth with the Mandalorian being none to productive. Not at this point anyway as things between the two of them now being rather raw.
Besides, Rex had already made up his mind.
"Well, what ever your past is…"
Rex paused, observing Zela before he continued, trying to be as polite as possible so not to stir the pot any more he already had.
"We welcome all those who are willing to stand against the Empire. Something which both you and Crosshair have proven with your actions."
Rex paused and kept on eye on Zela, observing their reactions of what he was telling them.
"Not only last night, but while aiding our people and others to escape."
Rex was totally thankful of course. Especially for bringing back several clone brethren. But he and the cause were committed to all people opposing the Empire. Not just clones. All of them.
"No need to thank me."
Zela stated calmly, not jumping the gun rather keeping a straight face despite the quite clear offer just having been placed on the table.
"As for Crosshair? Well I cannot say how he feels and what he decides to do."
It wasn't entirely true as Zela had already discussed their pending situation with Crosshair. Pretty much stating their opinion on the matter, this cause and well, the Captain in none too nice words. Getting a loud snort in the process from the former Commander. But, Zela had also let Crosshair know where they stood.
Rex sighed then and moved away from behind the desk. Taking a seat next to Zela. Wanting his recruiting to be a tad more on the personal level. As clearly, the rift between them was not getting any narrower. Clearly, the so called beside manner of Rex's lacking.
"Look, I know what happened last night was not… Well, it can be taken in many ways."
Rex was not trying to defend his actions, as the deed was already done. Besides, he was the leader and well, as stated, things needed to happen before trust was earned.
"It sure can."
Zela wasn't going to let Rex off easy either.
Rex's voice had gotten a few octaves lower. Keeping his gaze on Zela's, wanting the Mandalorian to read his sincerity in them.
"I can understand your anger. But consider my position."
Rex's tone was close to pleading or something similar. He was not about to let this, asset, walk out the door, no matter how they might have felt for Rex. Not without a fight. Rex wanted Zela to stay with their cause.
Having someone as talented as them, a Mandalorian no less fighting alongside their little rebellion? Well, there was simply no arguing against the lengths Rex was willing to go to have Zela remain with them.
Kix had managed to convince Rex of the same when the two of them had compared their notes of both Crosshair and Zela. And Rex had also seen first hand what Zela was capable of during the faked coup. All that weighing in heavily in his decision to ask them to join.
There was a moment of silence before Zela said anything.
"I will stay if Crosshair does."
After all there was a pact they had made. Sort of. And at this very moment, Zela trusted Crosshair best of them all. There was Kix of course, the clone they had gotten to know better. But the others? Well, that remained to be seen.
Having had the chance to see deep inside of Crosshair's mind. Whom the Commander really was while helping him with the chip's effect while still in the imperial base. Knowing then they could trust Crosshair, no matter what.
"But, I need to know one thing."
"And that is?"
Rex was waiting patiently now, because this was already positive news.
"That you will trust me. Or there is no point in me staying."
Zela's own demand was presented now. Laid on the table along the other offer.
"Simple as that?" Rex asked with a raised brow.
"Simple, as that." Zela responded without blinking.
There was a contemplative pause for Rex before he responded.
"Alright, then I need to talk with Crosshair."
Rex was surprised again of the trusting bond the two clearly seemed to share. But he was fine with it.
"If that is part of the deal to get you."
Rex wasn't asking, simply stating the agreed facts.
Zela then glanced at their swords with a certain yearning.
"You can take them."
Rex wasn't about to keep a soldier apart from their tools of trade, not now after getting the green light from the Mandalorian warrior. Even if there was no official admittance of the fact. Still, Rex liked the ring of the words in his mind. A Mandalorian warrior.
Zela simply nodded in response. Picking up the two weapons they valued more than most things in life. Well, the swords and other peoples lives of course. They were a solider after all. Defending others was what they did.
"So, we have a deal then?"
Rex had laid out the offer for Crosshair who was now staring back at him with a totally unreadable glare. Luckily though, it wasn't the permascowl Crosshair usually housed.
Crosshair was seated at the chair across from Rex, chewing on his toothpick. Naturally. Some things never changed, as Rex thought to himself smiling at the other clone simply because of that reason.
Finally, the decision been made.
After the somewhat heated exchange of words before any agreement was even voiced. Crosshair letting Rex know what he had really thought of the Captain's little stint of testing him and Zela. Whether they were trustworthy or not?
The argument then having followed by a few other comments of the same in none to kind words. Also mentioning the fact that Crosshair had risked his own life to rescue regs. This time using the word in a very much derogative way.
Crosshair had finally calmed down after several assurances received from Rex after letting the man vent first. Rex had also countered some of that which Crosshair had thrown at him. But keeping it mostly on a level none too upsetting. And then, the two finally settling on a truce.
After all, Crosshair and Zela had already made up their minds. In the early morning hours while discussing the matter after a restless night with little if no sleep. Not that either of them had told Rex that though.
"Good, then welcome on board!"
Rex offered his hand to Crosshair to seal the deal. Crosshair got up and took the offered hand shaking it in agreement.
After all, the choice made by Crosshair and Zela was not much of a big one to make.
They both knew what they needed to do and where. And this was the best place to start. It wasn't that there were too many choices out there for either of them. At least not Crosshair.
For Zela? Well, the Maker only knew. Because even if Zela and Crosshair had become fast friends, most of Zela's past was still a mystery to him as well.
After their separate meetings Rex, Crosshair and Zela had returned to the med bay. Both of them were having their final examinations before they could be released with a clean bill of health.
Having suffered various injuries in such a short amount of time, Crosshair had been in a worse shape he had ever been in. The shot to his chest, scrapes from the firefights and the stun blast from the fake invasion.
But, there was the matter of the major surgery to remove his chip also to consider. Still, having been confined to the med bay for several days, despite the several friendly visits from the clones he had rescued and Kix, not to mention Gregor. Plus the fact that Zela had kept him company. Crosshair still felt it was enough already.
So now, being on his best behaviour for the doctor examining him, trying to be as nice as possible and answering the questions, he really hoped they would let him out already!
"Well, it all checks out."
The doctor finally told Crosshair what he wanted to hear, after running several scans and test and double checking all the results.
"You are much better now. The headaches are gone. And provided you keep up with the rest and meds, I see no reason not to release you."
Crosshair's eyes fly wide, as he had quite expected the need to argue for his release. But clearly, being nice, at least sometimes, helped.
"Thank you, doctor."
Crosshair simply did not want to jinx anything by talking too much. If anything than his thanks.
"You are welcome." The doctor even smiled at him. "Check up in three days." The doctor then reminded Crosshair.
When Crosshair finally got out, Zela was waiting for him. They had been checked out earlier and given a clean bill of health as well. After all, they had not had nearly as bad injuries as Crosshair did. Well, not really as Zela had used their own abilities to heal in addition to what the doctors had provided for them.
"So, everything okay?"
Zela could already see the big grin on Crosshair's face, being a dead giveaway of what had expired with the doctors.
"Yeah, they cut me loose. Finally!"
Crosshair really did grinned. Something unusual for sure. But then again, he had been doing so many never before things lately, it was uncanny and almost becoming a bad habit too, he feared.
"Great! Then we should definitely celebrate."
Zela smirked too, as there really had not been too many options nor even reason for any kind of a celebration for either of them. Not lately anyway.
"That sounds nice."
Crosshair glanced at Zela, looking rather nervous, while the two of them were on their way to their assigned quarters.
"But, can we maybe take a rain check?"
Zela turned to him then. Housing coy look on their face, as they were already suspecting something was going on with the stoic man.
"Of course. So… something you want to tell me?"
Zela's singsongy question thrown right there out of the blue.
Crosshair stopped in his steps, his usual scowl returning quickly. As if trying to hide something from his friend. Surely a protective measure this time around. The scowl.
"What do you mean?"
Zela who was a few steps farther ahead, walked back and nudged Crosshair on his side in a friendly manner.
"Oh, come on Cross, you know what."
Crosshair was caught! Not that he had a secret. Not really. It was all just so new and well, he did not want to jinx this thing either.
"I have a…"
Crosshair was stuttering to find the right words for the thing he was partaking in.
"Well, kind of a, date."
Crosshair looked like the fathier having been caught in the headlights while he blurted the words.
A huge grin formed on Zela's face and then slapped Crosshair gently on his arm.
"I knew it."
Crosshair's brows knitted the scowl returning.
"Well, if you knew about it, then why did you ask?"
Zela shook their head finding Crosshair's secretive stance on the pending date rather amusing.
"It was hardly difficult to miss. The fact how much time you have been speeding together. Not to mention the giddy look you sport right after seeing him."
Crosshair moved his toothpick with his tongue to the other side in his mouth.
"Guess I need to practice on my sabacc face again. I seem to have lost my touch!"
Crosshair tried to pull up a straight face then. But the lips threatened to curl up, especially when the warm sensations of his affections kept crawling up. Crosshair was definitely feeling some kind of way!
Rumours, dates, and other trivial things
Trust, love, companionship, all of it, neatly bundled into someone very much admired
"So… the both of you? You are really in then?" Gregor asked Crosshair. "As in going to stay with us? For good?"
Gregor sounded totally hopeful as the rumours had already circulated around the base. They always did. About Crosshair and Zela giving the green light to Rex of his offer for them to remain with the group of, well, rebels.
It was a small space after all. With a tight knit group of vode and nat-borns alike. All of them with the infinite hunger for any kinds of juicy details of anything and anyone to be shared amongst them. And who could blame then, as there really was little entertainment wise to enjoy.
And at the very moment, the Clone Commander and his Mandalorian friend were hot news!
After all, it wasn't everyday a top level imperial trooper gone all rogue and a sword wielding mercenary graced their lives. And whether Crosshair and Zela liked it or not? As it turned out, the two of them had become rather famous among the natives there on the base.
It did not help their case any, that Kix and a few of the rescued clones, namely Troll, Crash and Stick had started telling all kinds of tales of the duos heroism during their great escape. Some of it true, some, well, exaggerated, a smidgen. As Kix had put it, it was their artistic license as story tellers to bend the truth, a little.
So, while Zela found the whole situation rather amusing, having become quite friendly even with many of the troopers, Crosshair was none too pleased of being famous or recognised. Despite him usually sticking out like a sore thumb among the lot of them. With his height and different outlook of the other clones, not that any of them cared, but they surely could spot him more easily. And spot they did. Everyone wanting to chat him up about his, exploits.
Zela, having a fan club of their own now as well, as Gregor teased them about it, had even promised to give some of the younger clones a few lessons. Training them in the fine arts of Mandalorian battle techniques. And guess the tooka had fallen out of the bag finally too. Zela admitting their origins. At least, when asked. And most of them had. Asked.
It was late in the evening. The others having already come and gone to their barracks after the days work had been completed and the dinner long since consumed.
Crosshair and Gregor were enjoying a quiet evening together. Enjoying drinks of the brew the locals had provided for those living on the base.
Something which they did, along with other kinds of produce from their farms, being against the Empire and sympathisers of the rebel cause. Knowing there was at least some protection, just in case the imps ever decided to come this far and onto their planet.
So, for now, there were just the two of them there. Sitting in the dimly lit space. The scene most likely designed by Gregor. At least Crosshair suspected as much. Not that Crosshair minded at all. Spending time with the man was something Crosshair enjoyed very much.
After all, the invitation for a date had come from Gregor as soon as Rex had told him and the others of Crosshair's decision to stay with them. Not that Gregor had not planned in having a date with him either way.
Gregor had even prepared a small speech in trying to convince him to stay, just in case Crosshair had decided the wrong way. Well, at least Gregor had thought there was only one good decision to make. And Crosshair had made it.
"Yeah, looks that way."
Crosshair was swirling the stout liquid in his mug, not that he did not find it to his taste. But it was an acquired taste jus the same.
Crosshair needed to be careful though with the drinking, as he had just gotten off the med bay and was still taking pain killers for his injuries and surgery. And so, consuming alcoholic beverages was not necessary a good thing.
But a drink or two would not harm him. Not more than getting shot in the chest or having a control chip in his brain had.
Gregor was positively beaming again. The reg seemed to have that kind of an aura around him, being always chipper and happy. Something totally opposite to Crosshair's less friendly and fun demeanour. But it did not seem to hinder their relationship one bit. Opposites attract and all that, apparently.
"Well, that makes me really happy."
Gregor never the one to mince words either. Speaking his truth without faltering.
Crosshair looked up at Gregor from his drink. Really looking now.
It seemed that Gregor was still as interested in Crosshair. Something which he had indicated during his several visits to the infirmary. Coming by whenever he could to chat up the other man. Something which was still hard for Crosshair to wrap his head around.
But Gregor had asked him out for drinks.
So, this was really a date? Not just some friendly bonding? Right?
Even if that would most likely bring the mood down, Crosshair needed to know, his tone more solemn now, than when they had chatted earlier.
Gregor was not fazed about the question however. Gregor knew how he felt for the other clone. But he also knew what he wanted. And that, was Crosshair.
So, speaking his truth out loud once again for Crosshair to hear.
"Look, I fully understand this is all hard for you. At least right now."
Gregor was speaking in a soft tone, straight from his heart, having moved his hand on top of Crosshair's.
"To understand that someone is interested in you. After all… well all of it."
Gregor did not want to bring up the Empire and whatever had happened since the Order 66. He knew most of it anyway. And besides, none of them were saints. Not one single one.
"But, I am. Totally so. I was already hooked, the first time around we met. Way back when."
It had been a while of course. And a lot had happened since. To both of them. But guess Gregor had always held the candle for Crosshair. Hoping that some day they would meet again.
Crosshair heard the words and they sounded nothing but earnest and spoken truthfully from the very heart of the other man. Crosshair had also regained most of his memories and was reminded of the few days of leave he had spent in this mans arms. Nothing but good memories they were too. So, there was that to consider as well.
Crosshair was quiet for a moment, his eyes never leaving Gregor's.
The options being momentarily contemplated. Crosshair knew Gregor on some level at least. They already shared history. And, Gregor was honest. Maybe too much so. But it was a welcome change for Crosshair. Besides, he felt quite drawn to Gregor. Reg or not, Gregor made Crosshair feel things he though was no longer possible.
Besides, the whole reg thing had already passed its meaning of being something said in anger or meant as a slander. No, the clones, all of them were good people as far as Crosshair was concerned these days. And they did deserve so much better. All of them.
And so, Crosshair did something unexpected. Something of a trend these days it seemed. The unexpected happening. And Crosshair making it happen.
Crosshair got up from his chair and moved to the other side of the table. Standing in front of Gregor, as if assessing the other man for a moment. At least, on some level. And then, Crosshair made his move.
Leaning down, Crosshair was face to face with Gregor. Their noses almost touching.
Their breaths meeting mid air. The warmth of the exhale on the others skin. The familiarity of the moment emerging from somewhere of their shared past.
Lips, close enough to touch. Hovering over the other man for a frozen spell in time.
Crosshair closed the gap. Placing his lips on Gregor's. A the kiss as soft as a whisper.
Breaking away, their eyes finding the others again. Assurance seen there. Daring for another then. This one lasting much longer. Yet being soft and questioning still.
The third one quickly morphing to a more demanding one. Their lips locked in an all compassing and passionate kiss.
Before Crosshair knew what was happening, Gregor had pulled him onto his lap. Holding onto Crosshair tightly, never breaking their lip lock.
The drinks all but forgotten as the heated kissing was soon followed by roaming hands familiarising each other's bodies. The air around them filled with soft gasps and moans.
Their heated kissing and touching having quickly turned into something much more in the mess hall. Deciding to make their way to Gregor's quarters to continue their re-familiarising of each other in a more private setting.
Stepping into the room, Crosshair quickly found himself pushed against the wall. With Gregor's mouth on his. Kissing Crosshair's with gusto and pawing his body in such a heated urge, there was no doubt left in Crosshair as to the why he had asked earlier.
Gregor wanted him and he wanted Gregor.
The clothes soon discarded. Gregor led Crosshair to the bed and laid him down gently. Getting on top of Crosshair, Gregor's mouth was all over his body. Kissing, nipping, tasting, it was like he could not get enough of Crosshair.
"What do you want?"
The coarse voice filled with passion and lust asked.
The answer simple as that. Nothing else was needed as the two lovers continued their exploration of the other. The galaxy around them fading fast from the safe bubble they had been submerged in.
Crosshair heard the familiar voice speaking to him through his half sleepy state, followed by a soft kiss on his exposed skin.
"Better than I have in a long while."
Crosshair felt good about himself. Finally. Something of a welcome felling after dwelling inside the darkness for far too long.
Crosshair leaned into the soft kiss of his lover's.
"Much, much better now." Crosshair was smiling even. "Thank you."
Crosshair wasn't lying either. As clearly Gregor was the one thing Crosshair seemed to have needed after it all. To get back to the lighter side. Continuing kissing the man he had become quite fond of, maybe even something more.
But it was all still new, so no need to name any of it. Not just yet.
Keep on fighting the good fight!
A cause worthy, is a cause worth fighting for, no matter what might be at stake
A few months had passed since their induction to the rebel cause.
Crosshair, Zela, Kix and the rest of the rescued clones had settled into the life on the base.
Taking part in the missions and throwing cogs into the huge machinery of the Evil Empire now making their best effort to expand all across the galaxy.
The missions being mostly successful. But there had been setbacks too.
Luckily, so far at least, mostly ending in minor injuries for the crews taking part. But their bigger failure was the one of not being able to rescue all the people wanting to leave the Empire. As it was becoming a huge undertaking for the still small group of rebels.
But as their rebel force kept on growing each day, the better and more resources were gained to pull the ever expanding missions. Saving all might not even be possible. But they could at least try to save as many as they could.
Zela had been drafted to become a full time trainer to some of the civilians alongside the clones. There were plenty nat-borns who had opted to stay on the base after them being rescued and to become part of the cause as well.
There were several new clones on the base as well, who also lacked in skills. As the Empire in their wisdom had removed them from Kamino without ever completing the training regime. It was most likely these clones were to become decommissioned if the rebels had not gotten to them first.
Crosshair's and Gregor's relationship had grown to a rather serious one. And then soon having become public knowledge as well. Gregor being the very tactile person he was, there really had been too many show and tell situations to be be able to hide the truth. And so, the lovers had simply admitted they were in a relationship to the rest of the crew.
They two also shared quarters as there really was no point in keeping one empty since more and more people were joining and needed the rooms. Having spent each night together ever since their first one all those months ago. The living arrangement suited the two of them just fine.
As clearly, Crosshair and Gregor were in love.
Something quite unexpected, at least for Crosshair. The unexpected part again. Even if Gregor insisted having fallen for the other man way back when they had first met.
Rex had also invited Crosshair and Zela into the inner circle. Both of them taking part in the planning and decision making, bringing a whole new perspective to the overall way of working.
Then there was the intel which Crosshair had copied before defecting the Empire. All of which they had put into good use. Some of the intel was still useful even if the Empire had already managed to change some tactics and locations.
As it turned out, this, rebel cause suited them both. Especially Crosshair, as he had a purpose once again, a sense of usefulness. Even if they were not the once ranked troopers anymore, they were all still fighting for a just cause.
There was one thing though, which still hung in the air for Crosshair.
That of meeting his former Batch. Rex of course had told him the squad were doing odd jobs for the cause. But, they had not really wanted to throw themselves fully into it, even if Rex knew Echo was pressing Hunter to do so. But, they were still pretty much independent even if the jobs were becoming more frequent. However, they had yet to visit the base since Crosshair had joined them.
Rex had informed Hunter and the rest of the Batch what had happened, naturally. But since Crosshair had not indicated any need to see them and there really had been no reason for the Batchers to come to the base, the matter had been left hanging.
On hold. As Hunter had put it. There was a lot of bad history between Crosshair and his former Batch. Rex had only brought the squad up once. And while Crosshair had not commented on it, Rex had not pushed the matter either.
But, it seemed that this too would change now.
Because Rex had needed to put the Batch on a mission to rescue yet another set of clones. As it was they were in danger having been deemed as insurgents by the Empire and having been incarcerated for a while now. And as there were quite a few rescue missions already going on, the resources were spread thin. Rex had called Hunter up and asked for the Batch's help on this one.
After all, it was someone the Batchers already knew from before. And so, for the rescue, they needed to intercept the transport moving the clones to another facility.
So far, the Bad Batch had been successful in doing just what had been ordered. And they were on the way back to the base with the six clone troopers and their Captain, finally freed from imprisonment of the Empire's.
The Havoc Marauder was landing on the platform.
Rex and Gregor were already there to meet them alongside Kix and two other medics. Something of a standard for each arriving group of people as there always were injured among them. Besides, a full physical was an order just the same for any new comer to the base.
Rex had told Crosshair his former Batch would be arriving, but he had not commented on it. Gregor had urged Crosshair however, to meet up with them. To talk with them all and clear the air. After all, they were as much part of the operation as the others were and most likely Crosshair would bump into them more often in the future. Possible even working with them too at some point.
Crosshair was standing at the entrance to the hangar bay when Zela stepped beside him.
"So, your family is here?"
Zela knew the story by now, at least Crosshair's side of things.
Crosshair's voice was more snarlier than it usually was these days.
"Yes. Your family."
Zela was not buying into the mood of their friend's. Not anymore knowing the clone quite well and sensing how he felt now. Scared.
"Maybe they were once." Crosshair sighed. "But, I doubt they feel that way about me anymore."
Even if Crosshair was on the mend. His mental self getting better each day, thanks to his new friends but mostly Gregor. Whose care and love had lit a fire inside of Crosshair to change for the better as well.
"Crosshair." Zela put their arm around him. "Whatever happened between you and them, is all in the past. If anyone can accept you, warts and all, they can."
Of course it was not as simple as that, but that was the gist of it. After all, most people on this base had done things they regretted. And still this family they all were now, accepted each other for what they thrived to become. Not, whom they had been.
"Yeah? Well, we'll see." Crosshair stated somewhat unconvinced.
But, Crosshair knew he needed to put this matter to rest. One way or another.
As he watched the Marauder touching base, the familiar hissing noises of the landing pads sounding across the hangar bay, Crosshair could see Gregor looking at him. The face pleading. How could Crosshair say no to that? Not easily that was for sure.
Another heavy sigh and a soft nudge from Zela, Crosshair started moving towards the ship.
Just as Crosshair reached the group of waiting people near where the Marauder had landed, he could see the hatch open. Crosshair stepped close to Gregor as he really needed the support of the other man. Simply being close to Gregor would give Crosshair what he needed right now.
There were a group of clones stepping out from the ship and the last of them, Crosshair recognised immediately.
"Howzer." Crosshair whispered.
"You know him?" Gregor asked curiously.
"I arrested him. Back on Ryloth." Crosshair admitted in a low voice.
"Well, guess there is some irony to the situation." Gregor let out a small snort. "Now he and his squad has been rescued by your former Batch."
Crosshair gave him the best scowl he could then, eliciting only a chuckle from Gregor as he was rarely fazed by them.
Rex moved to greet the arrivals and as did Kix and Gregor, while Crosshair remained where they had stood.
Soon after the Batch members poured out of the ship as well. Omega, Wrecker, Tech, Echo and last one out was Hunter. Crosshair was nailed to his spot and could not move even if there would have been a bantha stampede closing in on him.
As the greetings were exchanged and the Batchers mingled with the base people. But it was Howzer who noticed Crosshair first of them all. The Captain stood in his steps for a moment, simply staring at Crosshair.
But then, he stepped forward and caught up with where Crosshair was standing.
"So, you decided to leave the dark side behind then?"
Howzer did not seem hostile or even putting the blame on Crosshair for his actions.
"Yeah. It was time." Crosshair told the Captain simply.
"Well, guess it was lucky for me and the boys." Howzer turned to glance at the troopers being hugged and welcomed to the base. "As I understood, it was your intel which helped the Batch to locate us."
It was true. As much of the data Crosshair had downloaded from the imperial database had been put to good use. Among them, the locations of the several imprisoned clones. Howzer and his squad being among them.
"It was the least I could do." Crosshair simply stated.
"Well, thank you anyway." Howzer told him and offered his hand to Crosshair.
Taking it, the familiar Spartan greeting exchanged among the clones both of them were used to, the two of them made peace with each other then and there. Without too much of a hassle, at all.
Gregor and Rex had noticed the exchange between the two. But not just them, but also the Batch had seen whom it was Howzer was shaking hands with.
It did not take long, before Crosshair found himself face to face with his former family. Clone Force 99 had now gathered around him, all of them staring at their long lost family member.
"Crosshair." Omega stated in a soft tone.
"Yeah Kid, it's me." Crosshair had a slight smirk on his face.
As Omega remained in front of him, Crosshair knelt down so they were on face level.
"Look at you, with your fine armour and all." Crosshair noticed the Kid had gotten her own shell, reminiscent of the one he had worn while part of the group.
"I painted it to match yours." Omega told Crosshair as she had wanted to pay homage to her lost brother.
"Well, you wear it well." Crosshair simply stated and gave the girl a pat on her shoulder.
But Omega needed more than that and before Crosshair even realised with was going on, the girl had grabbed him into a tight hug.
"We have missed you." Omega's voice was a small whisper close to Crosshair's ear.
"Yeah?" Crosshair sounded surprised.
"Yes." Omega told him. "All of us." She revealed as much.
The two shared a bonding moment for a while longer before Omega felt Echo's hand on her shoulder. The meaning clear, which was to let go of Crosshair as the others wanted to greet him too.
There were no words. For now. All that was was needed were the hugs. The rest would come later. As the all of them, Echo, Tech, Wrecker and even Hunter surrounded Crosshair in a group hug.
While Rex and Kix had escorted Howzer and his troopers to the med bay for check up, Gregor had remained behind. He was quite protective of Crosshair. But seeing that he was in no trouble rather the contrary as his family had clearly missed him. As the group hug was over, Gregor moved close enough to greet the group properly.
After all, they had rescued him as well at one point.
"Good to see you Gregor." Hunter patted the man on his back as they shook hands.
"It's been a while." Gregor chuckled as it had been months the Batch had set foot on the base.
"Well, guess we all have been busy." Hunter nodded to Crosshair, as Rex had kept Hunter appraised of the snipers progress.
"You can say that again." Gregor grinned.
"So, what's new around here?"
Echo asked both Gregor and Crosshair. As even if the Batch knew some things of the happenings in the base, not each detail had been shared by Rex. Especially the more personal goings on.
"Well, guess there have been a few changes around here." Gregor hinted as much.
As Gregor then turned to look at Crosshair who looked back at him, the glances exchanged between the two. And the way Crosshair's lips turned to a soft smile, there really was not doubt with anyone standing there as to what the biggest change was all about.