Preface

Set somewhere in the world of the Bad Batch space time continuum.

A short tale of the 'What If' for the Bad Batch. A bit on the Darker Side of things, not the Force though, rather on the darker spectrum of angsty dark humour.

What if the Batch went along with Crosshair's offer and joined the empire after Kamino was… well, we all know what happened to it - BOOM!

When the Bad Batch enters the ranks of the Empire, only not as the supposed subservient soldiers everyone assumed them to be… But, did any of us really believe that they would behave like good soldiers, following orders?

Implied Crosshair/Hunter.

Joining the Imperial ranks can be fun!

"The Republic, the Empire… same same but different? We just might have to… rebel!'

"Join the empire, and you too, will have purpose again."

And so they did and now…

The Batchers were all back with Crosshair. All of them, together again. Only, they had joined the Empire too. And so now, they were all slowly but, surely, adapting to their new but rather odd situation.

"So, how does this empire thing work then?"

Echo asked the stupidest question, ever. Naturally.

But they all knew, Echo was kidding, of course.

Well, not perhaps Crosshair though, who was pretty proud of his accomplishment during his service in the Empire. And now, he had managed to bring his old squad finally to the fold. After having been apart for a while there, they were all together again. Working as a unit, being, well, a family. The Batch they were supposed to be.

It was just as Crosshair had imagined them to be.

But, then there were the stupidest questions they all seemed to be asking, each in turn. This time apparently it was Echo's turn.

"What do you mean, how does it work?"

Crosshair was not playing this game, not today!

He was far too wound up from the upon coming mission from Rampart and he needed them all to be on their best behaviour. After all, this was a proving point for the squad, for Clone Force 99. Reunited! That and the fact that it was Crosshair having recruited them. So, quite a lot to prove for his superiors.

Well, the imperials as Crosshair really never saw any of them superior to him.

"Well, what are the exceptions for us? Who is our boss? What do we wear? What kinds of missions are we going on? What of our weapons? Do we use the Marauder still?"

Echo started listing the follow-up questions to Crosshair, who was beginning to fume.

"I… it is me! I am your boss!"

Crosshair pointed out with a snarl. After all, he was the appointed Commander. the rest of them were not. None of them having been assigned imperial ranks. Not yet. They were all simply, troopers.

The rest of the Batchers exchanged glances just then. Clearly amused to hear this, little bit of news.

Then again, Crosshair was the Commander, and they were… well, the rogue element having been drafted into the ranks of the Empire. So, guess they needed to start at the bottom? Then again, Crosshair seemed to have a grip on this gig, and his command too. So, guess they could follow him?

"Okay, so what do we call you then?"

Hunter asked, trying hard not to sound too smirky. Even if he felt it. The laughter bubbling up. Then again, Crosshair seemed to be in his element as the leader. They had all witnessed it when having dealings with the sniper before joining him.

Crosshair gave his the best scowl possible before responding.

"Crosshair will do in private. But you will address me as Sir or Commander when we are out there."

It wasn't a request and they all knew it too. But the Batchers were all nothing if not flexible.

"So, what of Omega?"

They all turned to look at the youngling, as she would most likely not be allowed to take part in the missions now.

"We…" Crosshair had not thought so far, but he had some ideas. "We will think of something."

"Alrighty then. So, you want to take us on a tour? Around the base?"

Hunter asked sounding rather chipper, but he was itching to check out their new dwellings, for several reasons. None mentioned out loud though.

"A tour?"

Crosshair had his brow raised in surprise, not really sure why the others wanted to do that. Tour the imperial base.

"Yeah, you know, to get familiar with the place and all."

Hunter tried, giving a quick glance to the rest of them, again. As there sure seemed to be a lot that going on, knowing glances exchanged between the squad.

Crosshair simply stared at the five pairs of eyes glaring back at him and then, with a huff stated.

"Fine."

And so they did, take a tour of the base of the imperials. The Batchers rather interested in it all. Keeping on asking all kinds of silly questions from Crosshair during their tour. Really testing his nerves in the process. Then again, what had he excepted? Inviting his family to join the Empire?

Guess, Crosshair really had not thought the meaning of it through after all.

We love blowing things up!

'I like to blow things up, because I like to blow things up, and no manner of control chip will tell me any different!'

Several weeks the reunited Bad Batch had ran ops for the Empire.

But, it seemed, to Crosshair at least, that the Batchers just kept on bumbling up, constantly. While blowing up the so called 'wrong targets'. Crosshair was beginning to rethink the sanity of his squad as they seemed, well, incompetent was the word which entered his mind.

And it was also starting be at a point, where Crosshair was running out of explanations as to the rest of the Batchers abilities for his superiors. As to why they were making so many mistakes made during their missions. This of course, after Crosshair having sold them as the most elite squad to the commanding officers.

Not that many seemed to interested in the slight 'issues' Clone Force 99 had faced during their ops. As they were still the most competent team out there, compared to the plenty conscripted soldier teams running their own ops out there in the name of the Empire.

But still, Crosshair worried.

"Why did you blow it up? It was our base! Not the rebels!"

Crosshair was at the end of his wits. Berating Wrecker and Echo after having made a slight booboo.

"You told us to blow it up and we did."

Wrecker's direct response was there, without any remorse.

*Snicker* They all knew what they had done, of course, they always did. Crosshair knew it too, even if the imps were none the wiser. Still. This was not what they were supposed to do, right?

"I don't know how I am going to explain this to Rampart. You have put my career on the line here!"

Crosshair wasn't finding any of this, even the slightest bit amusing.

"Your career? I thought you wanted us to work together again, as a team."

Hunter pointed out, the sales pitch of Crosshair's fresh in his mind.

"No, yes, I mean of course! We are a team! But…"

Crosshair was tearing his hair, angst getting a hold of him, fast at that.

"Look, you were the one who sold us this gig. Even told us we had a future here. You did not specify what needed to be done. Did you?"

Hunter was not letting this one go either. Because Crosshair had not given them exact orders, not to blow up the imperials own stuff.

"You are doing these things on purpose!"

Crosshair was on to them, their little scheme. But could he really blame them?

"If we do, will you kick us out? Kill us?"

Hunter taunted Crosshair. Kind of playing with fire there too. But he totally trusted Crosshair, knowing he would not harm the Batchers.

Crosshair was silent for a moment, simply glaring at Hunter, knowing he too, was to blame for this. Things getting out of hand.

"No. No of course not."

Crosshair would not do that, not like the others had done to him. Leaving him behind and all. Not coming for him like he had for his Batch. And they were here now. Just like he had wanted.

No, Crosshair would once again make some excuse to Rampart, of what had happened. The little white lies and the half truths told to his superiors. There was nothing unusual to that. Nothing he had not done before. After all, it seemed to be the MO for the Empire anyway. Because Crosshair was not prepared to lose his family. Not again.

No, Crosshair knew now, that he would rather burn the Empire, the galaxy even, if he could hold on to his Batch. That much was for sure, if nothing else was.

Another day in paradise, I mean the Empire!

'Working in a slave mine would be lots more fun than this gig is!'

The mission was over and the squad had returned to their quarters.

The same quarters the Batch now all shared, with Crosshair no less. Apparently, it had been his choice for whatever reason, at least that his what he kept telling the others if and when asked.

In Tech's opinion, Crosshair had been on his own way too long, feeling lonely most likely.

And the clones, were not meant to be solitary. Having the Batch back… well, Crosshair did not want to be alone anymore it seemed. And so now, they all shared Crosshair's former quarters, even if it seemed a tad cramped despite the rooms being bigger than those they had shared in Kamino.

But luckily, there were separate bedrooms in the quarters and Crosshair was sharing one with Hunter.

While the others were busy prepping for the night, preparing to go to bed like their usual, Crosshair was doing quite the opposite. Hunter was the first one to notice what Crosshair was doing, having kept an eye on the man since their return from the mission.

But the more Hunter was observing Crosshair, the more confused he got. Deciding to finally comment on it as well. Because the more Hunter observed, the more curious he got of what Crosshair was prepping for.

"Um, Crosshair, are those heels you are wearing?"

"Yes, why?"

Crosshair did not seem too bothered by Hunter's comment at all.

"Well, um, those aren't standard military issue. Are they?"

Hunter was not of course privy to the fullest rules and regulations of the Empire. Not that he even cared to be.

But, he simply could not take his eyes off of the tall man. Already towering Hunter by that much without the rather high heels he had suddenly donned. Making Crosshair look, well even more perfect in his stance in Hunter's mind than he usually did.

"No, they are not. I am going to a party and the dress code is, well, casual."

Dressed in his blacks still, but with the heels on now, Crosshair turned back to the closet as he was clearly looking for something there.

"Um, what party?"

Hunter had not been informed of any kinds of activities taking place that evening. And so far, Crosshair had not been the one to go out during the nights either.

Hunter was feeling a tad of a jealous pang as clearly, the others were not invited to whatever kind of a party was going to happen. And Crosshair seemed, well, guess eager wasn't really the word, but willing to get going to whatever this shindig was about.

"The monthly officer's ball."

Crosshair simply stated over his shoulder, like it should have been obvious, even if he had not mentioned it to the others before this. Not that Hunter knew of anyway.

"Oh."

Was all Hunter managed as he kept an eye on Crosshair. And soon enough, was rewarded by a sight he had not expected to see. At all.

Crosshair had found what he was looking for. Or rather having decided between his choices. When he turned around, he was dressed in a long black figure hugging velvety dress and it looked perfect on the thin body of the sniper's.

Hunter could only stare. As he swallowed, hard, the visual in front of him something he was totally in awe of. Having never seen this side of Crosshair before. But, it was perfection in Hunter's mind just the same.

"What."

Crosshair could see the expression on Hunter's face, but he wasn't totally sure as to how to read it.

"Nothing."

Hunter only managed, but he could not tear his eyes away. And thinking of Crosshair, at the party, surrounded by all the imperial officers… assuming there were only a few clones there, command level ones… Hunter felt the jealousy rising more and more from deep within him.

"You don't like it."

Crosshair again, wasn't asking.

"No, no, it looks really good on you. Too good."

Hunter managed, the last two words spoken in a low whisper.

Because Hunter totally thought so. Only being jealous it wasn't for him Crosshair was dressing up rather for some faceless officers of the Empire. A scene then popping to his mind, with Crosshair flirting around with the imps at the party. Hunter trying to quickly push the thought back down with the rest of the dark thoughts.

Crosshair glared back at Hunter for a moment. Then simply nodded seeing Hunter was being earnest in his appraisal. Not that it mattered what Hunter thought of Crosshair's attire, did it? It wasn't for Hunter Crosshair was dressing up, rather for himself, feeling good to have something pretty on. Then again, perhaps he felt good in how Hunter had stared at him.

"Good. Then I will just put on some makeup and I am out of here for the night."

It sounded as if it was all common place for Crosshair to do all this, as he then disappeared into the fresher to finish up his preparation for the party.

Hunter looked at the closed door for a moment, his anger and frustration growing each passing moment. He then got up and walked the short distance to the refresher, not even bothering to knock as he entered.

"What is this party anyway and why weren't the rest of us invited?"

Hunter demanded to know.

Crosshair did not respond. He was applying some mascara, accentuating his long lashes, before applying lipstick. Crosshair only then looked at Hunter, through the mirror and a wicked smirk emerged out from nowhere before he cared to respond to the annoyingly sounding query of Hunter's.

"Why Hunter, if I didn't know any better I just might think you are being jealous. Of little old me no less."

Hunter simply glared at Crosshair. But he could not help staring at the man for several different reasons. One being, that he really was loving the way the tall man looked at the moment.

And the other. Well, Crosshair had been right on the credits. Hunter was jealous, of Crosshair going out to Force knew what kind of party and hanging out with the imps. Hunter, had never liked to share.

There was a time when Crosshair would have made this kind of an effort for Hunter's benefit. Hunter could only sigh as he watched the man he still loved prepare for the night.

"So, are you gonna tell me or not."

Crosshair continued his primming. But after a moment, with Hunter's mood becoming more gloomy, sour even each passing moment, Crosshair decided to ease the man's frustration.

"It's just a small party. For the clone officers here on base."

Crosshair revealed as much.

"We have it every month or so. Just for us to be able to dress up nicely, let our hair hang down, figuratively speaking of course. We simply have a few drinks with some laughs and then we sing."

"Sing? Since when do you sing?"

Hunter seemed somewhat relieved now. Having thought the worst, that there would be imps present. But other clones he could tolerate. But the singing bit was new though.

"Yes, well, I was challenged at one point and found out I was pretty good at it and liked it too. So, yeah, I sing, we sing."

Hunter looked even more surprised now. Not that he had not expected Crosshair to be unable to sing, having heard the man hum a few tunes in the past when he thought nobody was watching.

"Huh. Well, I bet Echo and Wrecker would have loved to have joined something like that."

Hunter simply stated, knowing the other two totally sang their hearts out sometimes. Too often even in Hunter's opinion. But it was all good.

Crosshair had completed his primping. Before he left though, Crosshair turned and placed a soft kiss on Hunter's lips. Surprising the man once again. Only this time, completely. Crosshair smiled briefly at Hunter before he turned to leave. Perhaps, Hunter would still get his chance after all.

And with that, Crosshair was out the door.

"Wow! Was that Crosshair looking mighty fine just now?"

Wrecker asked the slightly bewildered Hunter standing there where Crosshair had left him. In the middle of the general area of their quarters.

"Yeah."

"Where was he going."

Wrecker pried.

"Some party."

Hunter's tone was low with his eyes still on the closed door Crosshair had just walked out through.

"And we weren't invited."

Wrecker's tone sank too, always ready for a party or few, as he was.

"Don't worry, Wrecker, we'll get the next one."

Hunter tried, hoping it was the truth.

Commander, you've got some 'splaining to do!

'Falling from grace, specifically from the Empire's? Well, it might just be the best thing ever!'

Crosshair had been called-out to Rampart's office. He was steaming in his stance.

Knowing what was coming as despite most of their successful missions, ever since the Bad Batch had joined the Empire, there had been a lot of, well, mishaps too. And even if Crosshair had tried his best to cover most of them to his superiors, not all of them could be easily be explained away.

Such as not killing supposed insurgents. Firing at their own troops by accident… luckily or by design it had been the conscripted soldiers rather than any clones. Then there were the bunch of misplaced ordinance and other supplies. (Those which the Batchers had stolen and delegated to the rebels.)

The list was becoming longer each passing mission. And Crosshair was on to Hunter's and the rest of his squads little plan of doing their thing inside of the Empire, rather than being the good soldiers they were supposed to be.

Their willingness to join the Empire had been a big surprise to Crosshair. Having been totally exhilarated after supposedly convincing them to join the cause Crosshair had been so proud of.

And now? Well, Crosshair had finally figured out the reason behind it too. Not because they had seen the Empire as a great choice for them too. But, rather the fact, that they were helping their enemy. Or rather the Empire's enemy. The rebels.

Then again, surprisingly also to Crosshair, he had started caring less and less of what they were doing behind his back. Instead, he had turned a blind eye and then trying to cover their tracks the best he could and bring forth their victories instead to their commanding officers. Only now, Crosshair had been called in, and most likely this was not good news. At all.

"Commander."

Rampart tone was the annoying steady drawl he always used, even if his hair was on fire.

"Admiral."

Crosshair tried to keep calm, but the knew what was coming. Or at least he suspected as much. Then again, there had been all kinds of rumours going on all over the base. About the Empire wanting to downsize the number of clones serving them. And that could mean only one thing.

Rampart glared down at the data pad in front of him.

As Crosshair took a quick peek, trying to read what it was, it was becoming clear, that this, little chat he had been invited to, had nothing to do with him or his Batch. Not directly. Rather, the communique as far as Crosshair was able to read the upside down message, was about the decommissioning of the clones in general.

Project War Mantle as it was called, had reached is end stages.

The Admiral looked up and at Crosshair. His gaze the steady unreadable one.

"Guess, you have already surmised as to what this is all about."

Rampart paused and Crosshair stood frozen in his steps.

"Well, as unfortunate as it is for me to say, the order is quite clear."

Rampart then simply offered the pad for Crosshair to read, not that there was much new intel there. But it was from Palpatine's office and the message was quite clear.

Crosshair read it. Twice and then nodded. There were no further words to be said between them. But Crosshair's resolve was clear at the very moment.

"We need to leave. Right now."

Crosshair burst into their quarters, the rest of the squad doing whatever they were doing at the moment, seemingly calm and none of them speaking.

Hunter looked up and right at him. And much to Crosshair's surprise, Hunter did not seem fazed at all.

Hunter had already their plan in place. And suspected Crosshair was well aware of it. Now all that remained was to convince Crosshair to join them.

"We know."

Hunter looked right at Crosshair.

"We have been prepared for this for some time."

Crosshair looked at Hunter, his permascowl in place. But, then his features softened somewhat.

"You have a plan."

It wasn't a question.

"I do."

"The other clones?"

"Already taken care of."

"When do we leave?"

"The ship is prepped. All we need is your codes."

We are not going to take the fall for this!

'Decommissioning… it's such an ugly word. I prefer, retirement.'

"We need to leave, now! Crosshair, pick up your trash! We are outta this Gin Joint for good!"

Hunter gave the order. Or tried to.

"Just a god damned minute!"

Crosshair was still packing.

"What, are you doing? We don't have time for this any more."

"Do you really think I am going to leave all my nice getups behind. Do you?" Hunter could see Crosshair had packed the several gowns and the shoes in a large tote. Clearly, his most priced possessions. And his rifle naturally.

"Where are you going to wear those?"

Hunter had no idea why Crosshair even bothered. Even if he himself liked the dresses on Crosshair. Still, where would he get a chance to wear them again?

"Who knows where end up. They might turn out to be useful."

Crosshair gave Hunter a lopsided grin just then, sending all kinds of shivers down Hunter's spine.

"Yeah, they might."

Hunter then quickly made the effort to aid Crosshair with the rest of the stuff as they rushed the packing before heading out.

"I left a little present behind."

Wrecker was holding the detonator in his hand as the Batch was safely inside the Marauder, having left the imperial base in good time.

Crosshair glared at him, both in awe and well, whatever the hell else he was feeling at the moment.

"BOOM!"

Wrecker mimicked the sound of the detonation, a wide grin plastered on his face as he did. Only too ready to push the button of the detonator.

"What about all the regs?"

Crosshair sounded half worried. After all, he could even call a few of them his friends these days.

"I told them all to get the hell outta Dodge. That was the plan."

Hunter stated simply, as if it was nothing he had just said.

"Did they?"

Crosshair had his brow raised, not sure if he wanted to hear the response.

"Well I told them the base was going to blow up so, I hope so."

Hunter smirked, but he was clearly onto something more, which he wasn't sharing with Crosshair at the moment.

"I've detected several large size ships leaving the base. All clones."

Tech told the rest of them then, sounding his casual self even if internally, he was happy about it.

"Rats leaving the sinking ship."

Wrecker commented, not that it was meant as demeaning, rather a statement of fact. The imps having been dealt with a crippling blow.

"Amen!"

Echo simply stated, only too happy to leave the Empire finally behind.

"BOOM!"

Wrecker then repeated and soon enough, they heard and felt it too. The big blast blowing up most of the base. Leaving behind rubble and smoke in its wake.

They were far away from Coruscant. The Marauder in hyperspace. Packed to the hilt with whatever Tech and Echo had managed to scrape while preparing for the inevitable. The Bad Batch leaving the Empire.

Hunter and Wrecker were seated in the galley, when Crosshair came in and sat at the table with them. There was a moment of silence between them, before Hunter spoke.

"Any regrets?"

Hunter asked Crosshair.

"The Empire, the Rebellion, what's the difference?"

Crosshair sounded callous.

"So, none then?"

Wrecker tried to clarify.

"No. Why would there be?"

"I thought you loved the Empire."

Hunter knew different though, right now.

"It wasn't all that it could have been, before and certainly not now."

Crosshair said as much.

"Oh why not?"

Hunter was still pushing him though, perhaps needing Crosshair to say it out loud to be sure.

"Because none of you were there."

Crosshair admitted as much, his eyes on both Hunter and Wrecker now.

"Oh, Crosshair is becoming a big ole softy!"

Wrecker mocked him jokingly, but he was giddy just the same, that they had all left together. As was Hunter.

"Grow up Wrecker!"

They all laughed. The Empire in shambles, the Bad Batch together. Things were certainly all good in the little bubble of theirs.