Disclaimer: I don't own any of this. Credit goes to George Lucas, LucasArts, and Karen Traviss.
Note: I originally wrote this first part in three sections (each titled), and I decided to combine them since they were so short. This first part sets up the squad and Amiel, and the next parts setup the bigger plot. Hope you like it. Reviews are very much welcome! This whole series has actually been written in a completely different writing style from how I usually write. So I appreciate any feedback--things you hate, like, and stuff about characters would be great! Okay. I'll be quiet now. :)
He was invincible. At least, he was supposed to be. You grow up learning one thing over and over again and you become--there's a word for it--indoctrinated. All it takes is one slip, and your world shatters.
She thought she could escape what was left of her world by hiding in the barracks. It was the first place she went once the ship released the soldiers. She sat rigidly on the bed and took out her datapad, her chest clenching tight when she saw the message, the grim reality that she had been trying to hide from.
Vannevar, M. Jedi Master. KIA.
The datapad dropped from her hands, rolled off of her lap, and hit the permacrete floor with a crunch. Mechanically, she stood and went into the refresher. She let her robe drop to the floor, then she peeled out of her tunic, the fabric caked with dark blood. It was his blood because she had been right there when the explosion happened. He saw her in his last moments.
He was supposed to be invincible. He was supposed to finish her training.
The shower turned on with the push of a button and she stepped in, closing the stall door behind her. The water was frigid and she let it stay frigid for a few seconds. She shivered, wrapped her arms around herself, and wept. It wasn't hard for her, merely a Padawan, to let her thoughts spiral, to think on things that were not allowed to be thought. Like how Master Vannevar was the first man under the age of thirty to ever talk to her, and how he had violet eyes.
The water turned off after five minutes as the conservation programming dictated. Stepping numbly out of the stall, she dried herself and took out her clean tunic, leaving the bloodied one on the floor. Some semblance of Vannevar was still on that fabric, and she couldn't do away with it. Maybe not ever.
There was a knock on the door, then a clone came in. He was a commando named Oni who had served with her and Master Vannevar, and he radiated authority. "Amiel?" he asked. He wasn't wearing his helmet and his brown eyes were hard and full of determination despite losing his Jedi commander.
Amiel looked plainly at Oni, waiting for him to speak.
"We've been reassigned a new CO. I suppose she will also be your new Master." Amiel looked as if she was about to weep. Oni, a sergeant and much brighter than the Padawan, became confused. "Amiel?" he asked again.
"I thought it was only clones who died," Amiel whispered.
Oni straightened rigidly, the muscles around his jaws tensing. Voice devoid of resentment, Amiel could only detect the dark cloud in the Force that, for a brief moment, nearly engulfed him. "Everyone dies," said Oni. He turned and left. The sound of the door closing resonated in Amiel's chest.
Amiel sat in the mess hall and feigned eating. The squad sat with her and went on about something or other, tired and willing to forget what had happened. But not Amiel. Food and thoughts alike nauseated her.
"Hey," Jatne said, nodding at the Padawan. "You're going to pass out if you don't eat."
Amiel's eyes settled on Jatne for a moment, but she said nothing. Oni didn't look up from his tray as he scarfed down his food.
"Let her do what she wants. If she wants to rot, then she'll rot," Gev muttered. "Di'kut."
"Stop using that stupid language!" Amiel barked.
The four commandos all seemed to freeze in place, each of their eyes--all the isame/i--orienting on the Padawan. Morj seemed about ready to throttle her.
"Calm down," Gev retorted, one eyebrow arched.
"Is this about your Master?" Jatne asked. He wasn't asking out of concern. It was curiosity.
"Yes, you idiot! Can't you clones figure out emotions? My Master is dead!"
None of the commandos knew what to say or do, but each of them managed to form a new opinion about teenaged girls. The squad looked to Jatne to continue the conversation, as he had involuntarily volunteered himself to do so.
"Well, first off," Jatne said slowly, "we're not emotionless droids. And you're lecturing the wrong folks if you think you're going to out-drama us. We know what it's like. We're on the same team here."
Amiel fell silent and looked down at her lap. She was going to burst into tears at any moment, and the squad seemed to be holding its breath for it.
"How about instead of yelling at us, you let us help you?" Jatne asked. Morj seemed to give him a look that said no-I'd-rather-clean-'freshers.
Amiel stood up and walked out of the mess hall.
"That went splendidly," Gev said. He took a long swig of water. "I think I'm starting to miss General Vannevar, too."
"Poor shabuir," Oni said ambiguously enough to lack sarcasm.
"I hope she deserts," Morj grumbled, mouth full.
Jatne heaved a sigh and rested his chin on his hand.
Oni pointed his fork at Jatne. "You've got that look on your face--the 'I'm trying to make up for something' look. Drop it."
Jatne frowned. "But don't you feel bad? What about when Mal--"
Morj dropped his fork and Jatne realized he had said something wrong. He fell silent.
Jatne stood in front of the door to Amiel's room, which was adjacent to the squad's. They could hear her sobbing even if she didn't want them to, and Oni had to put a stop to it.
"Go talk to her," he had said to Jatne.
"What? But you're the squad leader!"
Gev and Morj watched them like a holodrama.
"Yeah, and that's an order," Oni said, almost proud of himself for saving his own skin from a teenaged girl. "We can't have the Padawan in that sort of state when the new CO comes in. It's irresponsible."
"You have a big mouth, Jat'ika," Gev chuckled.
Now he was standing in front of the door. He had been waiting there for a couple of minutes, and chances were that the Padawan could already sense him. Or maybe she couldn't. He didn't know. He didn't care, either--he would rather see the girl shipped off than crack under the pressure. Not because he cared about what happened to her, but because he didn't want to be there when she broke. It was a delicate situation, and Jatne didn't handle things that were delicate. That was Morj's job.
Finally, Jatne knocked. The sniffling in the room silenced. "Come in," she said wearily.
Jatne stepped in sheepishly.
"Hi, Morj," Amiel said.
Jatne forced a laugh. "It's Jatne, actually."
Amiel covered her face with her hands and shook her head. "Sorry! It's just--your imprints--the Force... I thought you were Morj."
The bottom lid of Jatne's eye twitched just slightly, a minor indication of annoyance that he picked up. He was about to say something when Amiel spoke first.
"I'm sorry. Tell the squad I'm sorry."
Jatne let out a long breath, his chest depressing as the muscles relaxed. "Don't worry about it. Everyone's first battle is shoddy and it always leaves you feeling bad." Jatne wished he were lying because he was raised to be perfect. But the truth was, Geonosis was a disaster.
"I'm sorry I called you names. I thought nobody would understand, but I've been blind. I can sense the burdens that you carry, and I can't even comprehend them." Amiel let out a soft sigh, and her long eyelashes settled momentarily on the tops of her cheeks. A young girl mixed up in problems way above her head. Her hazel eyes fixed on him earnestly. "What happened to you, Jatne?"
Jatne let himself lean backwards, the back of his armor clanking softly with the door in resignation. She had already sensed the turmoil he tried to conceal. "Lost half my squad on Geonosis. Sev and I... they had two openings in two different squads, so we got split up. I see him sometimes, but Dem and Reg--we'll never see them again."
Amiel nodded. "So Oni's squad lost someone to have room for you."
"Yes. His name was Mal."
Amiel's brow furrowed. "That was Master Vannevar's first name."
Jatne grinned and shrugged. "Small galaxy." Then Jatne went out on a limb. "What was your Master like? I only saw him a few times."
Amiel wrung her hands in her lap as she spoke. "He was... very kind," she said. She had to work to say "was." "And he was a good teacher. He didn't care that my lightsaber technique is bad, and he always told me that I 'could only get better.' I wish he was still here."
Jatne nodded. He missed Dem and Reg terribly, but "wishing" got a person nowhere.
"I told Oni that I thought only clones died. I'm such a fool." Amiel shook her head. "I shouldn't be thinking these things and acting out. This anger... I've never felt it before."
"It's natural to feel angry about things you can't control."
"It's not Jedi."
"I don't know anything about being a Jedi," Jatne said. "But I've always been taught to tackle my problems head-on. I don't see how avoiding them solves anything."
Amiel simply stared at him, seemingly more hopeless than before. She looked so young--perhaps only a few years older than his biological age.
"Maybe your new Master will have better insight than me. I'm just a clone."
"You're a soldier. And you're very kind for coming to check on me, even after I said horrible things." Amiel looked embarrassed. Jatne was the second man under the age of thirty who had ever been nice to her.
One corner of Jatne's mouth raised slightly. Another old habit he picked up because sometimes situations called for something that wasn't quite a smile. "I should be going," Jatne said.
"Wait!" Amiel had bolted upright. Maybe she didn't want him to leave. "What's a... dee-koot?"
"It's someone who forgets to wear pants," Jatne explained, then he hurried back to the squad.