A short vignette set in between the original and new trilogies, just post-ROTS and very pre-ANH.

ALREADY DEAD / ANGEL

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I'm already dead- I just haven't hit the ground yet.

Already dead, looking into the face of an angel-

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We hit the clearing in the dense, rust-leaved trees at a slow run; three of us, the rear guard- me, Tosh and the Lieutenant. My ID is BB-3288; Tosh is DV-1064. We always end up on the rear guard 'cos alphabetically we're first. I hate being the rear guard.

We were making good time, trying to reach the front line. Trying to find some general called Vos and a group of Special Ops, like us; we're Beta Three, Special Ops; the Blues.

The rest of the unit was up ahead with Captain Dean and no sign of the enemy; all quiet.

Too quiet; you get a second sense for that kind of thing if you manage to live long enough. We were pretty close to the front lines now, so when we got the warning- that there were Separatist tag troops in our vicinity- we weren't really surprised. They'd sent us co-ordinates for the Front Line position and Beta Three; we weren't more than a few minutes away.

Captain Dean, our Unit Commander and the only non-clone, was telling everyone to be quiet; too many voices on the 'comm. Someone said there was a Jedi with the Separatists… someone always says that sooner or later. Too much chatter, Captain Dean said- quiet up…

And they did.

That was the last we heard from them- ever.

Took us about a minute to realise it was too quiet; no-one's that quiet unless they're lying low. The Lieutenant hunkered down and we did the same for a minute or two, waiting for the all-clear… and waiting…

Finally we set out along the co-ordinates we had, heading on the last known path.

When we heard the rustle of leaves ahead, we all backed into the greenery and kept quiet.

Familiar green low-visibility cammo stepped out of the shadows on the path, the other SO Unit coming toward us from maybe a hundred yards ahead; six 'troopers in forest green armour and leading them… leading them was an angel. Shock blond hair, sky blue eyes, like a summer day.

We stepped out of cover and she smiled- and damn, those summer eyes lit up her face like a sunburst.

I didn't see the rest; didn't see the dirty, baggy clothes she was wearing; standard army greens. Didn't see the spatter of crimson on them. Didn't really see the men she was leading; you know troopers; we all look the same.

She twisted about slightly as she saw me, smile breaking a second in surprise- but just a split-second, then she stepped confidently forward, hand out, gesturing; keep low- keep quiet.

"Lieutenant," She whispered in acknowledgment, stepping close to him. "You the rear guard?"

"Yes ma'am."

"You need to stay down. There's a Separatist tag group in this area. Rest of Beta group are at the front line just ahead."

She pointed in the direction she'd come, staggering back a half-step in the dense undergrowth. She turned back and I guess I caught her eye 'cos I was still just starin' at her. Dirty face; didn't matter though, she was still amazing. Her hair was caramel blond, cut short and curling every which way. She had a twig in it. She half-smiled, brushing at an insect near her face then turning to point back down the half-dark path. "Stay down; we're waiting for an all-clear signal. Keep your eyes peeled though…"

It was just the slightest move, the subtlest change in bodyweight then she wheeled back round-

The saber cut me from hip to shoulder. Took out Tosh and the Lieutenant on the backstroke, then was extuinguished, not a single shot fired.

They say your whole life rushes before your eyes. How the hell long do they think you have?

I saw a minute… less. Saw that last minute all over again…

I saw her walk out again, crystal clear.

Saw those baggy cammo's- too big; they didn't fit her right. Saw the spatter of blood on them.

Saw her twist slightly as she saw us- concealing the sabre hilt she held behind her body.

Saw her smile as she stepped forward to strike range, hand out as if in friendly warning. One hand; the other held her saber.

Saw the name on those baggy army cammo's; Beta Three. Cpt. Dean.

Saw her walk up to me; saw that split second she turned side-on to glance behind her- Saw the movement disguise her smoothly switching hands with the saber hilt behind her back, bringing her other hand up now so we'd seen both hands empty.

Saw her point back to draw our attention away from her.

Saw her take a half-step back to fine-tune her position now she was up close and there were all three of us in front of her.

Saw her casually bring her hand back and past her eyes, like she was swattin' a bug – to break my gaze when I didn't look away with the other two - then gesture, pointing back again to draw my eye.

She was already moving as I looked away to where she was pointing…

Man, she was fast…

By the time I turned back the blade was through my body. She caught the others on the same backswing, needing only to move one leg to reach us all, extuinguishing the saber before it was heard. Clean kill.

And I was still looking at those sky-blue eyes, framed by that halo of caramel-blond hair.

She was still smiling.

I'm dead- I just haven't hit the ground yet.

Looking into those angel eyes…