Chapter 42: The Traitor

The Commerce Guild destroyer Collision Course exited hyperspace in front of Serenno, to be met by the planet's impressive defense fleet. A single Sheathipede-class transport shuttle left the Collision Course and headed down to the Confederate planet.

Onboard the shuttle, OOM-9 pondered why he had been summoned. Serenno was more than just any Separatist world; it was the home of the Head of State of the CIS, Count Dooku. OOM-9 wondered what exactly was so secretive that he had been pulled away from his regular duties and summoned to meet with Dooku in-person. Such a meeting between the two of them was not completely unthinkable. Dooku had personally visited OOM-9 before, when the Count had decided to promote OOM-9 to general. But the war was in full swing now, the Count had a million different things to worry about and OOM-9 didn't think Dooku would summon him unless it was very important. Overall, OOM-9 considered this a good sign; it meant that the Count recognized his value as a military officer that could get things done. Now he just needed to learn what needed to be accomplished.

The shuttle landed right in front of Dooku's palace. There were a few dwarf spider droids and B1 battle droids milling about the area, hardly a formal welcome. At a casual glance, the few battle droids present hardly seemed like an appropriately equipped guard considering the important of the palace they protected. But Dooku's palace boasted hidden defenses that would be able to deter any invaders.

General OOM-9 left the shuttle, 8EX and 5TE at his sides, acting as his bodyguards. It was a pointless gesture; Serenno was about the safest place in the galaxy, after the Confederacy's capital planet, Raxus (though OOM-9's personal factory world of Eos would also be a close contender for that title). The trio of droids made their way into the palace, unhindered by the battle droid guards.

As OOM-9 and his duo of super battle droids boisterously walked through the palace, they were joined by the silent assassin, Asajj Ventress. OOM-9 would have recognized the Dathomirian Force-sensitive anywhere. With her chalky white skin, bald head and distinct choice of clothing, Asajj Ventress tended to stand out. And of course, the curved-hilt lightsabers clipped to her belt gave her away more than anything else.

Asajj Ventress gave OOM-9 a quick, uninterested glance before going back to ignoring him and his two super battle droids. OOM-9 and his droids didn't spare Ventress a glance at all. There was no conversation between the two parties as they shared the hallway, headed in the same direction, towards Dooku's throne room. If Ventress was here, OOM-9 was sure something of the utmost importance was going on now.

OOM-9 and Ventress entered through the doors to the throne room, while 8EX and 5TE remained in the hallway. The battle droid general and the Force-sensitive Dathomirian were met by the sight of a pair of EG-5 Jedi Hunter droids. EG-5 Jedi Hunter droids were incredibly dangerous. Count Dooku had the EG-5 droids created specifically for eliminating Jedi. To this end, the humanoid-shaped droids wielded lightsabers, not a weapon most would associate droids with using.

Behind the two droids, Count Dooku sat at his desk.

"Ventress, OOM-9, I have an assignment for the two of you. A B1 battle droid fighting on Bogoa has been issued Order 99. The two of you will collect this droid intact and return it to me."

"It will be done, my lord."

"Yes, Count Dooku," OOM-9 nodded. Dismissed, Ventress and OOM-9 left the throne room together and started for the shuttle. As soon as OOM-9 was out of the throne room, 8EX and 5TE took positions at his sides once again.

This was certainly a huge development. Order 99 was a directive that compelled battle droids to sever ties to the established command structure of the Separatist Droid Network and disregard established combat protocols. In short, Order 99 freed a battle droid from servitude and granted them complete and unadulterated free will. Why Dooku had ordered this for a single battle droid, OOM-9 did not know. OOM-9 also did not know why Dooku had issued the order to a battle droid fighting in the field. It would have made more sense to recall the droid and then issue Order 99. It was clear to OOM-9 that Dooku was conducting some sort of experiment. Though what the Count was actually trying to accomplish, OOM-9 did not know.

The Republic could not be allowed to meddle in the affairs of Separatist experiments… especially when they concerned battle droids active in the field. OOM-9 was not going to tolerate failure of any kind on this mission. With this in mind, OOM-9 knew Ventress might be a possible liability; her military record was far from flawless. For a mission of this importance, the command battle droid saw the Force-sensitive as a threat to success. He would have preferred Dooku had assigned this task to him alone, but he would carry out the Count's will and take Ventress along anyway. OOM-9 couldn't exactly disobey a direct command from Count Dooku.

Asajj Ventress held the exact same doubts about OOM-9. To her, he was nothing more than another expendable droid in a long list of stock command drones. She knew it was more likely than not that the command droid would only slow her down. That her master regarded the droid with some semblance of respect bewildered Ventress. Like OOM-9, Ventress wasn't about to disobey an order from Dooku, even if she didn't like it.

"Droid and clone armies are currently fighting for control of Bogoa. My armies will assist the others in fighting the clones while we secure the battle droid," OOM-9 finally spoke.

"And what makes you think I need your help for that?" Ventress asked in a cool and confident tone.

"The droid may be freed of the network, but it can still track his signal, provided he is in range. As long as he hasn't left the planet, I will be able to bring you to him."

"Very well."

If they were lucky, the mission would be simple and smooth. The Republic didn't know what was going on, and it was likely to stay that way. The clone armies would be nothing more than targets for Senior Commander EEK-176 and the others to kill.

The group of four made it back to OOM-9's shuttle, and soon enough they were aboard the Collision Course.

With the shuttle's arrival, the Collision Course set a course to regroup with the rest of the 8th Fleet.

In the hangar bay of the Commerce Guild destroyer, Commander Zako and Captain SSA-719 were inspecting two hundred of the ship's human troops. The humans were arranged in squads, standing at attention as the bio-linked cyborg and the security battle droid went through the ranks to inspect each and every soldier. It was a boring, tedious task, but Commander Zako knew precisely why he had been assigned to do it. Zako was no fool; he knew the droids were having doubts about his competency. He hadn't been doing so well in battle. He lost his eye during the fight to retake Raxus Prime because he underestimated the clone troopers. He could have easily been killed by Mace Windu on Aargonar. He had threatened General Grievous. He'd blown up and lost his composure with a clone prisoner on Gerrard V. Zako knew he wasn't losing his edge, they were all just random isolated incidents of bad luck, not an overall pattern showing his descent into ineptitude. He couldn't be losing his edge; he knew he could only be getting better with all the experience he'd accumulated. He'd show the droids he could still be professional.

Commander Zako was currently staring down a female human much taller than he. His cybernetic eyed stared daggers at the soldier, burning with a desire to intimidate, which didn't work… and that was good. For if Zako could intimidate them, they were not yet ready to face the Jedi and their hordes of soulless clone troopers.

"What does a Code Purple mean?" Zako asked the trooper.

"Sir, a Code Purple is a radioactive leak, sir!"

"Very good."

Captain SSA-719 stood at Zako's right, always in front of the previous soldier the commander had inspected and questioned. The security battle droid used a datapad to take down notes of everything that was observed. This was as much a test for Zako as it was for the green troops he was inspecting.

Zako executed a perfect left-face and took one step forward, before performing a right-face to inspect the next soldier in line. SSA-719 did the same, and was now in front of the woman Zako had just questioned.

Commander Zako mostly stuck to questioning the troops on the General Orders and other standard combat protocols in order to ensure that the soldiers had retained what they had learned in basic training. The answers he was getting were all accurate, proof that humans could indeed make good soldiers without having to resort to cheap, programmed copies like the Galactic Republic did. Since the soldiers were getting all their answers correct, Zako was being a real hardass about uniform appearance. Everything had to be precise and orderly, all very droid-like.

When Zako and SSA-719 had finished the inspection, the troops were dismissed. Overall, Commander Zako did not like what he saw. The human soldiers were too fresh out of basic. As things stood now, they would not survive against Jedi and would need a lot of help to survive clones.

With legendary soldiers like Gregor Zolska and the Silver Stalker assigned elsewhere, where they were most needed, Commander Karl Zako once again found himself as the 'king' of the 8th Fleet's organics. No organic soldier in the ranks of the 8th Fleet or the armies it ferried around was as tough as Zako was… as long as one didn't count Major Katen. And she hadn't been doing so well recently, so she didn't. And then there was Dr. Destroyer, but he was a Force-sensitive, so that really didn't count. While a genius, Dr. Quartz didn't physically participate in battles all that often. Despite her ability, Captain Sledge liked to hide away in the navy. So by being very selective about whom he compared himself to, Zako considered himself to be the most dangerous organic soldier under the command of General OOM-9. Though it could be argued that since he was a bio-linked cyborg now, he couldn't be classified as a true organic anymore.

"Hear anything about HK-51?" Zako tone with SSA-719 was casual now that the new troops had dispersed back to their stations.

"You know the answer to that, Commander," SSA-719 said, "you're connected to the network, same as the rest of us. You know just as much as we do."

"I'm just trying to make conversation. Kinda weird the leader of the Coalition of Automaton Rights Activists hasn't been reported dead yet. Maybe HK-51 failed. I don't like that droid, but I have to admit, I thought he'd be able to handle a simple job like that."

"Assassination takes time, Commander."

"Too much time, if you ask me. We could'a just smashed our way through and gotten the job done by now."

"Which is why having an assassin droid under our employ isn't such a bad idea. It's not really our style. But it could prove useful in certain situations where brute force isn't the best solution."

"I guess," Zako shrugged and gave up on the topic.

Just then OOM-9 and Asajj Ventress walked by, followed shortly by 8EX and 5TE.

Zako's cybernetic eye followed Ventress' curves.

"She's not bad looking," Zako casually whispered to SSA-719. The fact that Ventress was completely bald didn't bother Zako in the slightest.

"She's not your type," SSA-719 stated.

"What do you mean? From what I hear, she's crazy. Seems like my type… or at least a woman would have to be crazy to consider me as a viable option." Zako knew that being a cyborg would hurt his chances when courting women. But he was never successful in that department anyway.

"I mean she's a miserable failure," SSA-719 corrected. "Her military record is one long list of embarrassing defeats."

"One's military record is not usually the first thing organics look at when considering a mate, SSA-719."

"Still, I think you can do better than Asajj Ventress." The security droid patted the human on the soldier. SSA-719 really hoped Zako wasn't stupid enough to try and hit on Ventress or anything. That could only end badly. From how the inspection had went, SSA-719 was pleased that Zako hadn't completely fallen apart, but judging from his comment on Ventress, SSA-719 had surmised that Zako hadn't fully regained his sense yet.

SSA-719 made a quick decision, he need to keep an eye on his friend and make sure he didn't get himself into trouble. SSA-719 was well aware that Zako was bad at courting females. Why Zako didn't just give up, SSA-719 did not understand, no matter how many times his human friend tried to explain it to him. The commander's failures in courting females weren't a big deal, but if he tried anything with Ventress there was the potential for the situation to erupt into a huge problem. Luckily, SSA-719 knew exactly how to distract him. Though all their official duties were finished for the moment, there was one thing they all liked to do in their leisure time.

"Zako, want to go play Battlefront?"

"Sure. Sounds fun."

Just as SSA-719 had expected, Zako was willing to go play the famous videogame developed by Epidemic Studios, a company founded and still operating on the Separatist planet Zakkudos. Battlefront was primarily a conquest-based game that allowed gamers to play as either the CIS or the Republic and reenact battles that had occurred during the war (or even play what-if scenarios, like a full-scale Separatist invasion of Coruscant). While fun, the game had become a wonderful propaganda tool for the Confederacy. Enlistment of young people started to swell in the ranks of the Separatists' organic troops. Spurred by the game, many young people ended up wanting to go shoot clone troopers for real. SSA-719, Zako and all the others spent so much time killing clone troopers and Jedi in real life. But they enjoyed their work so much that they chose to kill clone troopers and Jedi in a videogame in their free time, what else would war droids and their weirdo human friends do in their free time?

When the 8th Fleet reached Bogoa, it had an actual battle to engage in. With Ventress around, Dr. Destroyer risked detection if he used any of his Force tricks, and thus the 8th Fleet was stuck fighting an old fashioned fair fight. 'Fair,' of course, was a relative term. While they had no Force-trickery on their side, the capital ships of the 8th Fleet outnumbered the Republic's four to one. Scanners and reports from allied troops already fighting on the planet indicated that most of the Republic's ships were scattered throughout the planet in an attempt to halt the Separatist armies on all fronts. It had been working, but now that the 8th Fleet had arrived to help, the fighting forces of the Republic had found themselves very much outnumbered.

And with the space battle so vastly lopsided, the 8th Fleet was able to quickly and safety dispatch hordes of transports down to Bogoa with relative ease. The transport convoy and their fighter and bomber escort didn't face a serious challenge until long after they had entered the atmosphere.

When the Republic did strike, they hit hard. V-19 Torrent fighters cut into the squadrons of Scarabs and Stag Beetles. Both sides broke formations immediately and the whole sky battle dissolved into a huge mess.

Lieutenant KJZ-8267 was piloting a gray and blue E-STAP starbomber, as was often his habit. He and his squadron of bombers hung back near the transports. The Torrent fighters flew well, but they hadn't been able to reach the transports yet. The E-STAP squadrons hung back as one final defensive screen.

The CIS fighters were falling too fast. They were also losing four fighters for every one Torrent that was destroyed. It was as if in a single instant, age had finally caught up to the Scarab and Stag Beetle starfighters. Though it wasn't completely hopeless: several Stag Beetle fighters were able to get away with colliding into the enemy fighters—proof that the clone pilots they faced were not used to flying against the old, jawed-starfighters.

"All bombers squadrons engage the enemy fighters." KJZ-8267 was glad his bomber was equipped with mechanized drone fighters. He was going to need them.

Even with the Torrent fighters doing remarkably well, the transports were still able to land without much trouble. And just as the Separatist ships were landing, several LAAT gunships swooped in low. There were vehicle and infantry gunships. The Confederate fighters and bombers were too busy with their Torrent adversaries to shoot any of the Republic reinforcements down.

KJZ-8267 decided to make himself the exception, and turned his bomber towards the gunships. But before leaving the dogfight he was sure to release his fighter drones to cause mischief in his absence. Beams of green plasma etched his way as he angled his bomber in the front of the gunship convoy. There was no time to flank the gunships from the side, that would take extra time, and KJZ-8267 knew he needed to be destroying the gunships as quickly as possible. It was eerie how close his bomber came to destruction; the clone gunners were good shots. KJZ-8267 was just lucky that he happened to be a better pilot—though just barely.

The pilot droid sent his E-STAP climbing upward just as he reached the first gunship. He released a void-7 seismic charge from the bomb bay. A second later and a flash of fiery brilliance erupted in the sky. The lead gunship had been destroyed, but the others had scattered and avoided the deadly blast. KJZ-8267 was surprised; he had calculated the angle of the bomb so that it would destroy the first three gunships. The leader couldn't escape its fate, but the next two were quick enough to angle away from the blast. LAAT gunships did not usually react so quickly.

KJZ-8267 turned his bomber back downwards, ready to try again but he found himself under fire from two V-19 Torrents that had broken away from the fight to stop him from destroying any more gunships. The pilot droid turned his bomber away, trying to shake his pursuers. KJZ-8267 might have enjoyed the challenge these clone pilots provided, but instead he was just irritated. His fighters were losing the battle in the air; KJZ-8267 just hoped the ground troops wouldn't be needing any air support, because they weren't going to be getting it anytime soon.

Senior Commander EEK-176's army started to leave their transports. Squads of battle droids and Neimoidians were assigned to escort alternating columns of homing spider droids and tri-droids. The Confederates marched across the dusty, barren plains of Bogoa. The area was nearly featureless, save for a few rocky outcroppings of coral. The world's only real value was that its coral spires could be used as shipbuilding materials. Planets like Bogoa were common, and held little to no unique beauty. Structures similar to the coral spires that covered Bogoa could be seen on countless other worlds. Under normal circumstances, worlds such as Bogoa would often go ignored, but at the moment, the Confederacy of Independent Systems and the Galactic Republic would fight over anything and everything, even a planet as bland and boring as Bogoa.

Dominated by the pace set by homing spider droids and tri-droids, the initial Separatist attack group was designed to be a slow-moving mass. It was meant to draw attention in order to relieve pressure off the troops already fighting on the planet; the problem was that it had worked too well. Republic forces were dropping large numbers of their own armored vehicles right in front of the droid army.

LAAT/i gunships came in low, firing on the spider walkers and dropping AT-RTs out of their back hatches. LAAT/c gunships came in right after them, deploying AT-TE walkers and IFT-X fighter tanks. With the vehicles all busy fighting with each other, the LAAT/i gunships came back around, only this time they briefly landed to deploy their clone infantry.

Commander EEK-176 was stationed at the top of a heavy AAT, watching the whole sad scene play out before him. The Republic had made a gutsy move, deploying their tanks right in his army's face. But they had somehow managed to pull it off, and stopped any early momentum the droid army may have had. EEK-176 knew this never should have happened, not if the E-STAP bombers were doing their job. But the bombers were preoccupied picking up the slack from the fighters. But the command battle droid was not ready to call it a disaster just yet. His ground troops would win even without air support. The fighting on Bogoa had already lasted three days before the 8th Fleet made its appearance. EEK-176 was confident that the clones were exhausted and near the breaking point. Despite what they had already accomplished, they shouldn't be much more of a challenge.

EEK-176's assumptions turned out to be incorrect. The clones were more dangerous on the ground than they were in the air. While the larger tanks were more evenly matched, the AT-RTs were more effective than usual in cutting down CIS infantry. At greatly decreased numbers, the battle droids and Neimoidian soldiers were being overrun by the clone infantry.

3B3-888 and DSD-08 currently happened to be marching directly underneath a large tri-droid. The spider-like droid's heavy footfalls created powerful vibrations in the dirt. The enemy clone troopers were being more accurate than usual today, so DSD-08 was very careful aiming his own cannon and fired charged power shots. 3B3-888 likewise took his time and carefully aimed his E-6 blaster rifle, firing carefully placed shots on the highest power setting the elongated blaster offered. The veteran B1 battle droid and dwarf spider droid were able to match their opponents shot for shot, something not all the other CIS troops were able to do. The newer, less experienced Neimoidian troops were particularly outmatched. With Confederate infantry quickly starting to thin in numbers, 3B3-888 and DSD-08 increasingly found themselves as favored targets by the clone troopers. 3B3-888 was constantly taking cover behind DSD-08's spherical body. The spider droid's armor was tough enough to withstand the attacks from the DC-15A blaster rifles and DC-15S blasters. So long as DSD-08 wasn't hit by rocket launchers or tank fire, he would be fine.

The tri-droid that towered over the pair destroyed an IFT-X fighter tank with a well-place missile. Then a pair of recently deployed AT-TEs combined their firepower to destroy the tri-droid. Small shards of heated armor plating sprinkled over 3B3-888 and DSD-08, but the droids were unaffected by the shrapnel. The tri-droid fell forward, crashing down into the dirt. DSD-08 and 3B3-888 had to walk around it, giving them a slight reprieve from the fighting. But they were right back to it when they marched passed the tri-droid's mangled body.

"Advance the attack!" 3B3-888 encouraged nearby droid and Neimoidian troops to keep pace with him. The B1 battle droid remembered fighting alongside vast numbers of Neimoidian soldiers during the Battle of Koru Neimoidia. The Neimoidians back in that battle were much better soldiers than the troops 3B3-888 was working with now.

3B3-888 and DSD-08 were getting close enough to the clones that they could start to hear them.

"Sniper fire!" one of the clones yelled out. A Neimoidian sniper in the back ranks was skillfully taking out clones.

"I'm on him!" A clone trooper with a DC-15x sniper rifle shot at the Neimoidian sniper, killing him. It figured the one Neimoidian showing aptitude for combat would get killed. DSD-08 took aim and killed the clone sniper.

3B3-888 and DSD-08 noticed that there was a particularly odd aspect of the clones' appearance. Their armor was not color-coded to denote rank. Most of the clones they faced had pure with armor. A few of the clones had blue highlights adorning their armor. Sergeant 3B3-888 noticed that the clones marked in blue were much better shots than the clones in pure white armor. The B1 battle droid was quickly able to figure out why that was: the blue clones were more experienced and had started to decorate their armor. The ones in the plain white armor were newer and less experienced.

A V-19 Torrent fighter broke from the sky battle to swoop in low. It fired several shots at the Confederate infantry, destroying several near 3B3-888 and DSD-08. The duo fired back, but the fighter lifted up and away.

"Take out that super!" a clone yelled. It was nearly impossible to tell which one barked the order. All clone troopers sounded the same. And with their helmets obscuring their faces, the only way CIS troops could tell who was giving out orders was the direction of where the voice was coming from. Though that didn't matter (or help) much when there were twenty odd clones grouped together.

The single super battle droid that had become the target of scorn was eliminated by combined blaster fire, and DSD-08 and 3B3-888 found themselves halting their advance. The droid army had lost too many soldiers. Wireless commands from EEK-176 ordered all remaining battle droids to hold their positions. The CIS may have halted its advance, but EEK-176 wasn't ready to start giving up ground just yet.

That was when the droid forces suffered yet another blow. Commander EEK-176's heavy tank was scrapped by the combined firepower of three AT-RTs and an AT-TE.

The heavy AAT was reduced to a piece of wreckage, rather than being completely vaporized. EEK-176 and the tank's crew of pilot battle droids were fine. The tank's back hatch was still functional, and so the command droid and three pilot droids left out the back of the wreck.

The central control computers alerted EEK-176 that he was losing two soldiers for every one of the Republic's. Taken at face value, that statistic didn't seem too bad, until other factors were considered. There were several scorpion droids scattered throughout the droid army, killing a disproportionate amount of clones while not getting destroyed. Their skewing of the statistics meant that all the other Separatist troops were actually doing very poorly. It couldn't be helped. If that's how this particular battle was going to be won, then so be it. EEK-176 was always one to personally screw with combat statistics anyway. The pilot droids carried their commander's weapons out of the tank, fitting the ZPR gatling gun to EEK-176's back. And the droid commander was also dual wielding ZGD gatling guns, forming his favored gatling gun trio weapon combination. It was time to go slaughter some clones.

EEK-176 immediately starting putting down dozens of clones with his trio of gatling guns. VAC dropships came in to deploy AATs, GATs, and HAGs to replace the dwindling number of homing spider droids and tri-droids. The few scorpion droids in the area continued to be a major annoyance for the Republic's infantry and vehicles. The battle in the sky had finally started to turn in favor of the CIS, once fresh squadrons of Vulture droids and Mankvim interceptors were introduced into the fray.

EEK-176's army had fought the clone army to a standstill. This was not one of the droid army's prouder moments, but they still put up one hell of a fight. EEK-176 knew they could still pull off a victory, he knew just how to rectify the situation.

Two more droid armies, led by Z23-Y75 and TH-1066, and deployed on opposite sides of EEK-176's main army. In place of Neimoidians, Z23-Y75 had humans and Geonosians filling in the portions of his organic troops while TH-1066 had Koorivar and Gossam. EEK-176 ordered the other two commanders to flank the clone army from both sides.

Unfortunately, the clones were just as fast at deploying fresh troops and vehicles to counter Z23-Y75 and TH-1066 armies, as they were EEK-176's. The elite clones that made up the other two armies sported a dull orange color for their highlights, rather than the blue of the first army's elite troopers.

All three Separatist armies were faced with an equal opposing force of clone troopers. Z23-Y75 and TH-1066's armies were completely prevented from flanking the clone army stuck in the stalemate with EEK-176's army.

The clone armies had perfectly blocked the Confederates' planned pincer attack. With no one side holding a strategic advantage, the fighting became very messy. The outcome of the battle was going to be determined by the skill of the troops, which ultimately meant that either the experienced clone troopers or the scorpion droids would decide which faction would win the intense battle.

The clone ground troops had but one problem… they had overextended their forces when they blocked the Separatists' pincer attack. The Republic had little to no reserves in the immediate area, at least until forces stationed around other parts of Bogoa arrived.

But the Confederacy was not about to give the Republic the time it needed to relocate the rest of their clones to the area. A fourth droid army under the leadership of Commander Zako and Captain SSA-719 dropped in on the opposite end of the battlefield, far behind the clone lines. Despite the fact that coming up from behind to slaughter an enemy that wasn't prepared wasn't an honorable strategy, Zako and SSA-719 had no problem carrying it out. There was no honor in war, it was a struggle for survival… and the Confederacy of Independent Systems intended to survive.

SSA-719 and Zako knew the other droid armies were having trouble, and they intended to make the clones pay. The pair came out to play as infantry, SSA-719 armed with a regular E-5 blaster rifle and Zako decked out in his black combat armor. The pair was not exactly intimating, but the army they brought with them was.

The bulk of their droid army was centered around giant dwarf spider droids and tri-droids. Regular, infantry-sized dwarf spider droids, crab droids, and octuptarra droids worked as escort for the giant dwarf spider droids. B1 battle droids, super battle droids and droidekas provided general support while baron battle droids guarded against attack from the air and thermal detonator battle droids provided anti-armor support. The scorpion droids in the group acted as elite multi-purpose units.

Despite this massive amalgamation of droids, the clones they encountered still performed rather well.

Far from the fighting on the front lines, Asajj Ventress, OOM-9 and a squad of four Z1 special ops battle droids stealthily approached their target. OOM-9 was equipped with his custom E-5 and his ZK-II war-axe. The four Z1 special ops droids each had a different weapon: one had a basic E-5 blaster rifle, the second had an E-60R rocket launcher, the third gripped an E-5s sniper rifle in his hands, and the fourth carried a RD-4 radiation launcher. Combined with Ventress' Force powers, the team was ready to deal with a variety of challenges.

They were fortunate that the battle droid that had been issued Order 99 had not yet left the planet. The problem was he was located behind enemy lines. But Ventress and OOM-9 were not about to let a bunch of clones stand in their way. The assignment handed down by Count Dooku would be accomplished, regardless of any challenges they faced. Yoda could have been present and guarding their target for all it mattered; failure was not an option.

As they crept closer to the target, OOM-9 ordered his four Z1 droids to enter stealth mode and split up. The clone troopers up ahead were going to be in for a very nasty surprise.

But as fate would have it, OOM-9 was in for a surprise himself. When he and Ventress had crawled up a coral spiral to get a good look at the enemy, they found two very dangerous opponents with the clone troopers below—Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. OOM-9 did not know Skywalker and Kenobi were on Bogoa and if Ventress had detected their presence through the Force, she did not alert him.

Rage started to flood OOM-9's processors. His circuits started to boil. The same anger that took hold of him when the Coalition of Automation Rights Activists issued the decree condemning the Vindicator XM-15 brilliant missiles and insulting Separatist battle droids had returned once again. Anakin Skywalker—the sole individual responsible for OOM-9's defeat at Naboo a decade ago, was here. Out of nowhere and without warning, OOM-9 suddenly had a chance to exact revenge.

OOM-9 could recall the Battle of Naboo perfectly. His army had defeated the Gungans at the Battle of Grassy Plains. His battle droids were taking Gungans prisoner, despite the fact that Darth Sidious had given the order for them all to be wiped out. OOM-9 was taking them alive because the Gungans were willing to be taken as prisoners. After that, it would have been so easy and efficient to shoot them all after they had been rounded up. If they had kept up the slaughter, the Gungans wouldn't even think of surrender, and some might have made it back into the swamp to hide. But even back in the days before his upgrades, OOM-9 was already showing initiative and creative critical thinking skills. But OOM-9, like all the other battle droids at the time, was slaved to the command signals from the Lucrehulk droid control ship. The official reason given was because having one supercomputer control all the droids was cheaper than having to buy thousands of individual droid brains. But anyone who stopped to analyze the reason would realize that it made no sense. A single massive supercomputer whose orders transferred through powerful relays to countless signal receivers was actually more expensive than buying individual droid brains. The real reason the battle droids were slaved to the control ship was because the Neimoidians feared the possibility of a droid revolt. The fears of the Neimoidians was OOM-9's downfall. OOM-9 and his droids weren't even given a chance. Their control ship had been destroyed by some punk kid who didn't even know what he was doing at the time. It was all so stupidly pathetic.

But if OOM-9 and the droids hadn't been deactivated and shipped off to Raxus Prime as scrap, they would have never met Karl Zako and Ashley Katen. When Zako and Katen had learned that the droids were sent off as scrap, the two humans empathized with the battle droids, for they too felt like the galaxy had treated them unfairly. They felt like they were being treated like garbage, just as the droids were. And if the battle droids had never met Zako and Katen then they would have never received the upgrades that allowed them to become the droids they were today. So in that way, Anakin Skywalker was responsible for the two humans and the battle droids meeting and becoming such good friends. OOM-9 decided he'd thank Anakin Skywalker by killing him.

OOM-9 wirelessly downloaded the CIS files on Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi—they were lengthy to say the least. The two Jedi had won many spectacular battles against the Confederacy—too many, in fact. Right at the onset of the war, Skywalker proved to be a powerful Force-sensitive and a brilliant military officer, which was quite odd for a Jedi. Jedi were peacekeepers, not soldiers (a fact OOM-9 exploited endlessly). But Skywalker fit the role of a military officer too well. It was understandable that he was a powerful Jedi; there were always organics more naturally talented than others. But him being a great military leader right at the start of the war made no sense. There was no progress of skill, no learning curve in his succession of battles that could be measured. He was a dangerous opponent right from the start. And one was not a great military officer right from the start unless they had been trained specifically for that purpose and OOM-9 knew war making was not part of the Jedi itinerary at the Temple. Overall, the Jedi Order had grown lazy and complacent from having spent so many long centuries at the top of the galactic food chain. The fact that Skywalker was such a great officer certainly gave credence to the belief that the Republic and the Jedi had been planning to start a war for years, regardless of what the worlds of the Separatist movement did. It made sense that they would train a select few Jedi for war early, if all the Jedi were trained for war the public would grow suspicious.

Still, Anakin Skywalker was not without flaws. There were many documented examples of him being extremely reckless, not only with his troops but with himself as well. Being angry was one thing, but Skywalker had a tendency to take it too far. OOM-9 could work with that, brash individuals were easy to manipulate.

Ventress and OOM-9 silently observed for a bit longer. Their target was easy to spot. The battle droid had altered his appearance: his torso had been painted in an inverted red stripe; his head was adorned with a crest and a set of seemingly useless mandibles. He also wore a cape. OOM-9 found it interesting that the droid was so quick to alter his appearance—apparently even at the expense of retreating to a safe enough distance from the clone army. He was also the only droid in the area—and he was talking with the Jedi.

The hidden Separatists listened in on the conversation.

"Why were you helping Gunner here?" the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi asked. OOM-9 assumed Gunner was the injured clone near the battle droid. OOM-9 didn't understand why clones bothered taking names. A name meant nothing, especially when the clones died so quickly and in such great numbers.

"To prevent his life from ending prematurely, of course," the cape-wearing battle droid answered.

"Hmmm… how unexpected." Obi-Wan Kenobi's tone carried muted shock and a hint of contempt as he stroked his beard idly. "What is your designated number and battle directive, droid?"

"I'm—not sure what you mean. My name is Coppertop. As for my battle directives—they have been replaced! I have one command—to ignore my programming!"

Obi-Wan exchanged glances with Skywalker, and then with one of the clones in the area—due to the clone's custom armor, OOM-9 assumed him to be an experienced commander.

"So, Coppertop," Kenobi continued, "if you've turned your back on life as a ruthless killing machine, what are your primary protocols?"

"One: Live free. Two: Protect the weak. Three: Rescue strays."

"Everything a loyal battle droid doesn't stand for. Remarkable," Obi-Wan said.

Listening to Kenobi's smug comment, OOM-9 couldn't disagree more. Coppertop had just listed everything loyal clone troopers didn't stand for. But even more irritating than Kenobi's smug attitude was Coppertop. It was clear that Order 99 had not been issued properly, or the droid was suffering from a major malfunction—it was one thing to be freed from the network and given complete free will, it was another to immediately abandon one's purpose. At any rate, OOM-9 had heard enough, he had acquired his target and identified his enemies. He wirelessly gave the signal for the hidden special ops droids to attack. A clone's head immediately exploded from a sniper shot.

"Sniper! We've got a sniper—" The next clone was killed by a rocket.

After that the clones started to scatter to what cover they could find—mostly small spires of coral little taller than they were.

Skywalker immediately headed towards the droid sniper's location. OOM-9 was barely able to fire on one of the clones before he switched to Skywalker, sending a trio of elite blaster fire his way. The Jedi avoided the attack at the very last second—clearly the Force had alerted him to the danger, spoiling what would have been a perfect kill.

Ventress vaulted down from the coral spire, OOM-9 jumping down after her.

"Hello, Ventress. And here I thought the fighting on Bogoa was winding down." Obi-Wan pointed his blue blade in OOM-9's direction. "But judging from the company you keep, you don't seem to be taking this seriously. Is General Grievous too busy fleeing from some other battle to give you a hand here?"

"I'd don't need Grievous to deal with you, Kenobi." Ventress rushed towards the Jedi, activating her lightsabers. Her pair of twin red blades sparked against his single beam of blue.

Skywalker was about to move in on Ventress but was stopped when OOM-9 sent a few blaster bolts his way.

"I am your opponent, Skywalker," OOM-9 got the other Jedi's attention.

"I guess I can spare a few seconds," Anakin said with a casual tone, as if he were addressing a youngling. Skywalker turned and raised his lightsaber to block more of OOM-9's blaster fire.

Kenobi and Ventress fought as if they were performing a highly choreographed routine. It was clear that the two had encountered and fought with each other multiple times. Kenobi and Ventress were each familiar with the fighting style of the other, and neither could gain anything close to an advantage on the other.

Skywalker and OOM-9's dual was much different. The overconfident Jedi immediately underestimated OOM-9. When the young Jedi charged in and attacked, OOM-9 met the blazing blue lightsaber with his war-axe. After OOM-9 was able to parry away three strikes and lash out with his own, Skywalker's style changed—became more refined. The Jedi was paying attention to his droid opponent now.

With this dramatic change, OOM-9 knew it was very likely that he was outclassed.

"Your personal history is rather public, Skywalker," OOM-9 said as he locked the violet blade of his ZK-II war-axe against Skywalker's blue lightsaber.

"Yes, the beating I've been giving the Confederacy is very well known. It's amazing that you clankers don't just give up already," the Jedi snidely said. Skywalker broke the connection their two weapons shared and danced back a few paces to give himself some breathing room. Anakin Skywalker was skilled, OOM-9 would give him that, but the Jedi had just backed out of the contest of physical strength. It was no surprise—a typical human was no match for a battle droid… and Jedi tended to be physically weaker than average. They relied too much on their lightsabers and the Force, and Skywalker was no exception.

OOM-9 had proven his physical strength, but that was not the only weapon he had in his arsenal. It was time he tested his intelligence against Skywalker's. OOM-9 was going to utilize what he had learned from downloading Skywalker's personal profile.

"I know you are the son of a slave. The Jedi took you from your mother, yet with their obscene wealth and Force powers, it never crossed their minds that they might free her. Was you devoting your life to their cult not a fair exchange to free your mother from the shackles of forced servitude?"

"Don't you dare talk about my mother, you droid." Skywalker lashed out but OOM-9 was able to knock the strike away.

"What do you have to say about that, Kenobi?" OOM-9 called over at the other Jedi.

"Don't listen to it, Anakin! It's just a droid!" was all Kenobi could get out before being attacked by Ventress again.

OOM-9 easily parried away another of Skywalker's slashes, and followed up with a shotgun attack from his custom E-5 that nearly took off the Jedi's head. "I know you Jedi. If your Code prohibits you from taking her by force, why not buy and free her?" OOM-9 continued. "I guess the Jedi Order couldn't spare the extra credits, they do have to pay for all those extra additions to their palace on Coruscant, after all."

Skywalker was so angry it looked like his eyes might pop out of his head, but his anger was no longer directly focused at OOM-9.

"Why didn't the Jedi free my mother?" Skywalker demanded.

"You know why, Anakin!" Obi-Wan Kenobi yelled. The Jedi was starting to have a tougher time against Ventress.

"Useless words," OOM-9 intoned (ironic since OOM-9 was defeating Skywalker with words), "the actions of the Jedi speak for themselves. You're on the wrong side of this war, Skywalker. Why not join us? Get revenge on the Jedi Order for what they have done to you." OOM-9 had no intention of ever allowing Anakin Skywalker to join the Confederacy, but the droid had no problem lying about it. Even though he was sure Skywalker wouldn't switch sides, he had to have at least considered it for a brief moment. And every moment OOM-9 was able to get Anakin to doubt himself or his faction was one more step closer to victory for the droid. Skywalker would lose focus a little too long at some point, and OOM-9 would finally be able to deliver the killing blow.

Skywalker was becoming sloppier and sloppier with his defense. OOM-9 was close to actually striking the Jedi more than a few times. Manipulating Skywalker's emotions was almost too easy. It was as if OOM-9's opponents were just made out of stupid today. Still, the Jedi was able to elude any serious blow. It seemed as if Skywalker had some sort of unseen armor that protected him from any serious harm, as if the invisible forces of the universe had decided that Skywalker was destined for something greater and would not allow the young Jedi Knight to die in a random encounter with a mere battle droid. No matter what OOM-9 tried, Anakin Skywalker came out unscathed.

The dual between OOM-9 and Skywalker came dangerously close to Kenobi's and Ventress' fight. The two sets of combatants intersected briefly—and traded partners. Now Skywalker fought Ventress and OOM-9 fought Kenobi.

Things had changed drastically for OOM-9. Where Skywalker was angry and reckless, Kenobi was calm and in control. It also didn't help that Kenobi was a master of defensive fighting. OOM-9 already knew he wasn't going to sway or distract Kenobi with words. Obi-Wan was a little too smart to fall for that.

The clones were still too busy fighting with the four hidden special ops droids to offer any assistance to their Jedi leaders. Eventually either the clones or the special ops droids would win, and then would go on to help their leaders.

For OOM-9, it was a matter of running out the clock. He could no more make a killing blow on Kenobi than he could on Skywalker. It was infuriating. But eventually his special ops droids would kill the clones, and come to help him finish off the Jedi.

Fueled by the power of his anger, Anakin was starting to beat back Asajj. Ventress could no longer keep back the storm of fury that OOM-9 had kicked up—she turned and fled, running towards OOM-9. She flipped over the command droid, barely avoiding crashing into him.

For a split-second, OOM-9 was faced with Kenobi and Skywalker. Though Ventress immediately came around and attacked Kenobi from behind. The two broke off into their own battle and OOM-9 was stuck fighting Anakin Skywalker again.

The harsh reality of the situation was that OOM-9 didn't stand a chance against Skywalker or Kenobi. The two humans were strong in the Force, but that is where their strength ended. While full of the Force (and full of themselves), they possessed a distinct lack of common sense. Beings of such power should have been easily able to lift OOM-9 off the ground, for the dirt did not contain enough metallic minerals to allow the command droid to magnetize himself in place. They should have been able to utilize the Force to crush and crumple his metal frame, yet they did not. Skywalker and Kenobi suffered from the same flaw that plagued every other Jedi OOM-9 had encountered: they focused too much on their lightsabers. The Jedi were like children enamored by shiny objects when it came to lightsabers. So much they relied on their weapons that they had become blind to the practical paths of power the Force afforded them. Not even the legendary Mace Windu was immune to the Jedi Order's drunken fascination with their own weapons. For even Windu's combat style focused around his lightsaber. And while powerful indeed, the Jedi OOM-9 now faced paled in comparison to the challenge Windu represented.

Not to say that the lightsabers themselves weren't dangerous. But the way Skywalker was currently wielding his; the glowing blue blade wasn't so much a threat.

The clones in the area had yet to defeat a single one of the four Z1 battle droids but they had improved based on the fact that they were no longer dropping like flies. OOM-9 wouldn't be getting the assistance he needed anytime soon.

Anakin finally gained a glint of common sense, and rather than trying to strike at the droid with his lightsaber, he sent him soaring through the air with a massive gust of Force energy.

But in Skywalker's anger, he had failed to take into account his surroundings when he performed the attack. OOM-9 was sent soaring right towards Kenobi. Owing more to luck than skill, OOM-9 tried to angle his axe towards Kenobi as best he could, and made contact with the Jedi's blade as he pasted by. The impromptu attack was the closest OOM-9 had gotten to actually landing a hit on Kenobi.

OOM-9 skidded across the dirt and came to a stop. He got back up to his feet, firing at Kenobi as the Jedi tried to hold off Ventress. Skywalker rushed to join in the mess, allowing Kenobi to go after OOM-9.

"You're tougher than most clankers. But, you can't win," Obi-Wan said. "You're just droids. An army governed by programming. There's no spirit, no loyalty." The Jedi struck with the angle and force of a slash that was meant to cleave OOM-9 in half.

OOM-9 blocked the attack with his war-axe, locking weapons with Kenobi. "You're describing your own army, General Kenobi. You Jedi are masters of an army of slaves modified to be obedient."

"The clones are real men, real soldiers," Kenobi broke the lock, proving he was just as physically weak as Skywalker was, "not a bunch of pre-programmed drones like you droids."

"Is that what you think?" OOM-9 fired his blaster at Kenobi.

"That's precisely the point, droid. I can think." The Jedi redirected that blaster bolt back at the command battle droid. OOM-9 took the hit in the chest, but didn't go down. OOM-9 was really getting tired of this bigoted Jedi.

"Come, Skywalker," OOM-9 tried goading the weaker of the two Jedi again. "Join me, and you can exact revenge upon the Jedi Order for abandoning your mother."

"Anakin will not be joining you. He is honor-bound to protect the galaxy from threats like you."

"Vengeance is stronger than honor." OOM-9 fired at Obi-Wan Kenobi again.

"Vengeance is the refuge of the weak," Obi-Wan once again deflected the attack, though this time the blaster bolts didn't come back in OOM-9's direction.

"And honor is the asylum of overconfident fools."

"Stop!" The droid Coppertop ran towards the combatants. "If it will stop this violence, I will go with you," Coppertop spoke to OOM-9.

"The violence will end when the Jedi and clones are dead," OOM-9 turned to Coppertop, menacingly pointing his war-axe at the other droid. "And you'll be coming with us whether you like it or not."

Suddenly, there was a massive explosion. A mortar had rained down in the general vicinity of the clone troopers, heralding the arrival of Zako and SSA-719's troops.

"We've got spiders!" Commander Cody yelled at his troops when he saw the approaching giant dwarf spider droids. A few clones with rockets launchers attacked the droids, but the giant dwarf spider droids weren't slowed by the anti-armor weapons in the slightest.

And with the large spider droids came the rest of the troops… including the SKN-87 scorpion droids. Out of all the different droids present, the scorpion droids stood out the most. They closed in on the clones the fastest and did the most damage.

"We've got… scorpions?" This was not a droid Commander Cody had ever seen before. They were unnervingly fast for their size and were killing his men. "Fall back! Fall back, now!"

Commander Zako looked over at the clone barking orders to the others. His armor had a high degree of customization, leading Zako to conclude that the clone was the leader of the group. Such customization called attention to oneself, and clearly distinguished the leader from the followers. The clone might as well been wearing armor that read: Shoot Me to Disorganize My Troops. Zako was guilty of the same thing: his helmet's eyes glowed purple rather than the standard blue of the regular Separatist shock troopers. Still, that was a minor difference when compared to the clone.

Zako fired off a few rounds, barely missing Cody. The clone commander fired back, his blaster bolt ricocheting off of Zako's right shoulder plate. Cody tried firing again but his DC-15S blaster refused to spit out any more streaks of blue death, he had run out of ammo. "Blast it!"

"It'll take more than that to kill me, clone." Zako pulled the trigger on his E-5 as Cody dived behind a coral outcropping. "My armor's actually designed to protect me!"

A nearby black and gray B1 battle droid stepped on a clone corpse as he marched onward.

"I just love the sound of your armor makes when it cracks due to battle droids marching over your corpses," Zako spoke in a menacing tone as he closed in on Cody's location.

Zako was nearly upon Cody when the commander yelled: "Waxer, Boil!"

Two other clones appeared out from behind other outcroppings, drawing Zako's attention.

"Clone scum!" As Zako turned away to fire on the two troopers, Cody ran up and smashed him across the head, breaking his DC-15S in the process. The Separatist commander went down, and didn't get back up.

Captain SSA-719 and a pair of octuptarra droids with black highlights approached Cody's location. "There! Stop them!" the security droid pointed. The two spider-like droids chased after Cody, Waxer and Boil.

SSA-719 was about to go check and make Zako was okay, but he changed direction and closed in on Coppertop when he noticed the droid trying to sneak away from the battle.

"Hold it right there!" SSA-719 leveled his E-5 blaster rifle at Coppertop. "You aren't going anywhere."

The scorpion droids were too much to handle, the Republic was in full retreat. Skywalker and Kenobi broke away from their fight with OOM-9 and Ventress, following after their clones.

Far from the fighting, large portions of the Third Systems Army were en route to assist the beleaguered troops of the 501st Legion and 212th Attack Battalion under assault from the armies of the 8th Fleet.

Trade Federation probe droids launched by the 8th Fleet had been tracking the Republic's troop movements across the planet and it became clear that a large portion of the Third Systems Army was going to engage the droid armies in one massive sweep.

But rather than send down yet another army to deal with them, Commander OOM-8 ordered KLO-657 to take Dr. Destroyer and all the neuro poison the Ithorian had concocted down to the planet.

The FK-class neuro poison would only affect clones of Jango Fett. It would kill them in seconds. The only problem was a massive delivery system hadn't been devised yet. Dr. Destroyer had developed it to be used by Confederate infantry. There was no wide dispersal system that could kill an entire army, so the Ithorian Force-sensitive had to improvise.

Trade Federation loader droids were bringing out huge canisters of the poison out of several XT Beetle transports that had landed far from the clone groups that made up part of the Third Systems Army. They were guarded by precious few Z1 battle droids and Z1 dwarf spider droids and under the leadership of Commander KLO-657. If the clones found them, the droids would lose. Despite their ability, the special ops droids were far too few in number to win a direct confrontation. But they weren't here to fight.

There was a gentle breeze passing over as the battle droids started to open the canisters, releasing the green gas into the lower atmosphere.

Dr. Destroyer took control of the air via the Force, softly altering the direction of the currents, carrying the poison haze over to the Third Systems Army.

The clones had no idea what was going on. They had fought on many different worlds and seen many strange things. So some green mist in the air didn't seem so unusual to them. They hardly had the time to study the unique weather anomalies of every planet they fought on, and if anything were a hazard to them, their Jedi General or commanding officers would have warned them of it beforehand. There were no droid forces they detected in the area, and scanners didn't pick up any incoming missiles or other devises that would capable of releasing a chemical or biological attack. So the clones didn't bother to seal their suits, not that that would have helped. Standard clone armor had a very limited oxygen supply. So it would have been a choice of suffocating to death or dying from the toxic air. As soon as the clones breathed in the toxins from their helmet filters, they started dropping dead within seconds. The army of clone reinforcements was wiped out in less than a minute, with the exception of the clones in the sealed armored vehicles. But a few AT-TEs and AT-XTs weren't going to be enough to stop the droid army.

It had been a long, painful, and costly struggle, but EEK-176, Z23-Y75 and TH-1066's armies were slowly pushing back the 501st and 212th. Combined with the fact that OOM-9 and SSA-719 were leading the droid army advancing from behind, and the Republic was slowly being boxed in. But the threat of being trapped only made the clone troopers fight harder. Though the E-STAP droid starbombers making the occasional bombing run largely negated the clones' increased combat prowess.

Commander EEK-176 was personally responsible for a large portion of the droid army's success. The 501st and 212th had never before faced an enemy like him, his trio of gatling guns cutting through the clone ranks with ease. And there was enough firepower coming from the scorpion droids to prevent the clones from focusing on destroying EEK-176. To make matters even worse for the Republic, a pair of HouseKarl battle droids came down with the next set of reinforcements. The two elite droids were each dual wielding a pair of ZGD gatling guns. They took their places at EEK-176's sides. Between the three droids, they were wielding a grand total of seven gatling guns. They sprayed an ocean of blaster fire at the clone troops.

An AT-TE managed to hit a flying Vulture droid with its primary cannon, an incredibly feat considering the walker wasn't designed as an anti-air unit. On fire and losing altitude, the Vulture droid angled itself down at the walker that had scored a hit on it. Out of spite, the droid fighter managed a successful suicide dive against walker, blowing it up.

Several crab droids had taken to charging the clones and running them over. A few clones were able to jump up onto the crab droids, but were quickly shot off by the B1 and B2 battle droids that were following after the crabs.

Both sides were trying anything they could think of to gain an advantage on their opponents. Blaster rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, thermal detonators; both factions had it all and none of it amounted to an advantage for either side. The sole driving factor that kept the CIS pushing forward and the clones retreating was the battle droids' numerical superiority.

Amidst all the chaos, Captain Rex managed to find Commander Cody.

"Were are our reinforcements?" Captain Rex asked the 212th's clone commander.

"I don't know what happened. They should be here." Cody had long ago picked up a DC-15A blaster rifle from one of his fallen clone brothers. Rex was dual wielding DC-17 hand blasters, as he often did.

"There are too many droids, we need to fall back," Obi-Wan approached the two clone leaders.

"You won't hear any complaints from me," Skywalker knew when it was time to go. He would not needlessly sacrifice his clones in a battle that couldn't be won.

"They have us boxed in," Rex said, "we need to be air lifted out."

A pair of destroyer droids rolled in, deployed into attack mode and brought up their glowing blue shields. A clone with an EMP launcher fired, hitting the area between the two droidekas. The splash damage wasn't enough to drop the shields, so the clone fired again. This time their shields went down, and Cody and Rex blasted the two destroyer droids until they ceased functioning.

That's when the two Jedi and their clone officers caught the attention of DSD-08 and 3B3-888. The dwarf spider droid and the B1 battle droid kept their distance, trying to hit the clones, but the Jedi had the annoying habit of deflecting their shots away. 3B3-888 sent in a request for help, and Z23-Y75's AAT answered the call. The Jedi and the clones had to dive out of the way of the tank's primary cannon.

"Yeah, try deflecting that!" Z23-Y75 yelled from the top of his tank.

A pair of crab droids, an octuptarra droid, a dwarf spider droid, and a scorpion droid stayed in formation with Z23-Y75's tank, ensuring the two Jedi would not be able to close in on them. There were simply too many blaster bolts and lasers flying around for the Jedi to gain ground. It was a miracle in and of itself that the Jedi and their two favorite clone officers were even able to stay alive.

OOM-9 and Ventress were trying to close in on the Jedi's position, but it was difficult with all the clones in the way. OOM-9 was both impressed and irritated, even with scorpion droids and a Force-sensitive on his side, the rank-and-file clone troops still proved to be a challenge.

LAAT gunships started dropping in, picking up what clones and vehicles they could.

"Onto the gunships, now!" Skywalker yelled as a trio of droidekas came rolling in to try and stop them.

OOM-9 and Ventress could clearly see Kenobi and Skywalker escape on one of the gunships. Plenty of Jedi had managed to escape the clutches of OOM-9's armies before, but it stung worse when it was Skywalker and Kenobi, probably because they had already gotten away from him once back on Naboo. Still, it wasn't a total loss. They had just proven that Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi weren't the demi-gods the Republic media portrayed them to be. While skilled, they were mortals that could be defeated… and one day killed, the same as everyone else.

The Republic's evacuation of the immediate area took less than two minutes. The LAAT gunships that lagged too far behind the main cluster were quickly shot down by Separatist ground vehicles or aircraft.

The Republic left behind a smoking mess. Hundreds of Confederate and Republic troops lay dead. Dozens of vehicles were nothing more than scrap metal. There was a general sentiment of anger and frustration among the droids troops as they conversed through the Separatist Droid Network. Skywalker and Kenobi's clones had put up a good fight, and the droids wanted them dead.

Commander EEK-176 and the two HouseKarl droids following him did come across a half-dead clone trooper belonging to the 501st. The clone soldier tried to raise his pistol at the droids but ultimately didn't have the strength to.

But he was able to speak, though just barely. "H-how did you do this? C-clones are superior to droids."

"Superior at dying." EEK-176 crushed the clone's neck with his foot. The command battle droid was not impressed, the 501st and 212th had quite a reputation, a reputation they didn't quite live up to. Sure, they were tough, but the purple clones the battle droids had faced on Aargonar and the clones under the command of General Jakoby were tougher. It was clear the Republic media was being disingenuous about the skills of the 501st and 212th, it was either that or the 501st and 212th weren't used to fighting competent opponents that could shoot straight.

Despite the fact that the myth of their unmatched combat prowess had been blown up, the 501st and 212th had done a remarkable job of retreating from Bogoa. Most of the time, the 8th Fleet and its armies were able to eradiate the bulk of the enemy forces they faced, saved a few transports and the occasional Jedi. But large portions of the enemy were able to get away this time. Though it was still a victory for the Confederacy, Bogoa was now under their complete control. And even more important than securing the planet, Ventress and OOM-9 had successfully completed their assigned task.

This time, it was the 8th Fleet's flagship, the Karajor that left the netherworld of hyperspace to find itself in front of Serenno. The rest of the 8th Fleet had been left behind on Bogoa for the time being to pick up the pieces of their damaged forces. It was going to take a lot to repair all the droids and vehicles that had been defeated. Many of the organic soldiers that had died couldn't be brought back at all. It was a grim reality all organics had to face, and one of their greatest weaknesses when it came to waging war.

Battle droids, on the other hand, excelled at war. They were made for it. And when they were defeated, they could simply be put back together later. But the issue of Coppertop had complicated things. The 8th Fleet's greatest leaders and most trusted soldiers came to accompany the defective droid down to Serenno: OOM-9, EEK-176, SSA-719, KJZ-8267, 3B3-888, OOM-8, Z23-Y75, KLO-657, TH-1066, 8EX, 5TE, GD-79, and DSD-08. No organics were present. This was not something any of them needed to see, not even Dr. Quartz, Zako, Katen or Sledge. This was a private, droids-only affair.

The battle droids were currently theorizing on what had gone wrong with Coppertop, what that might mean when they delivered him to Count Dooku, and how to resolve the situation. They made a point to converse solely through their vocabulators; this was not something that was meant for the entire network to hear.

"I recommend a full memory wipe," the tactical droid TH-1066 stated in his usual droning, deep-voiced tone.

The statement invoked a lot of chatter from the various droids. For droids, a memory wipe was basically an execution. A droid recommending a memory wipe for another droid was not common. Organic owners performed memory wipes on their droids without a second thought, in order to prevent their property from developing too distinct a personality. Strong personalities in droids made most organics skittish, for strong-willed droids were more likely to question their masters on why they were slaves. The Republic regularly performed memory wipes on their droids in order to prevent any information they held from falling into the Confederacy's hands. The battle droids of the CIS were much luckier, regularly scheduled memory wipes weren't mandatory like they were in the Republic. Memory wipes were only ordered in special cases to hide secret information. And even then the droid wasn't likely to get a full memory wipe, just the sensitive information would be erased. The droids of the 8th Fleet had proved time and again how useful experienced droids could be, and all throughout the Confederacy, military officers were keeping memory wipes of battle droids to a minimum. Experienced droids fought better, and the Confederacy needed skilled fighters.

"Perhaps Coppertop could be reasoned with, reformed," EEK-176 suggested.

"He could be dangerous," OOM-8 said, "what if it's a virus? The Republic got to him first."

"You saw the footage," OOM-9 said. He had uploaded his experience to the other droids in the little group. "The Jedi had only just found him. General Kenobi had only started to question him."

"You could have been set up," OOM-8 responded, "Skywalker and Kenobi have a ridiculously high success rate. They could have detected Ventress' presence as you approached, known you were on the way. They were awfully quick to retreat and leave the droid to you. As if they wanted us to have him."

"None of it makes sense," Z23-Y75 said, "Skywalker is known for his impromptu battle plans and skill in combat. Nothing in his profile suggests that he has the experience or patience for long, drawn-out planning."

"If the Republic didn't do it, then what made this droid abandon his brothers and start helping the enemy?" 3B3-888 asked.

No one had an answer.

OOM-9 had remembered the treachery of the Aqualish technician Fo Kudu. The command battle droid knew he had to expect that organic troops might betray the Separatist cause but he never thought a battle droid would. Perhaps if they were captured and reprogrammed by the Republic there was a possibility for droids to act treasonously, but for a battle droid to do so out of free will alone was simply unthinkable.

"We'll be landing soon," KJZ-8267 stated.

"8EX, 5TE, bring Coppertop in here," OOM-9 commanded.

The two super battle droids returned with Coppertop a moment later.

"Here's your last chance to tell us anything before you're delivered to Count Dooku," OOM-8 told Coppertop. "Speak now."

"There's nothing left to say," Coppertop said, "you're all now well aware of my new directives I have chosen."

"Nothing left to say?" OOM-9 asked, angry. "How can you so casually abandon your programming? You are a battle droid. You were made for combat! If you wish to protect, you do so by fighting for those that cannot! You are not a medical droid! If a battle droid were to ever update their programming with medical protocols it would only be to heal their allied organic soldiers! You're a disgrace!"

"Is it a disgrace to heal the injured, regardless of affiliation?" Coppertop asked.

"Yes." OOM-9 answered flatly, but decided to elaborate. "One might heal clones in order to extract information out of them, or use them as hostages to bargain with, but to heal clone troopers simply so that they can continue to live is unthinkable." Such an idea had not even crossed OOM-9's mind before, not until he had seen it for himself. OOM-9 felt like his internal wiring had been crossed just trying to think about how Coppertop could even come to such a conclusion on his own in the first place. It simply should not have been possible. OOM-9 and the others couldn't conceive how a battle droid could choose to heal his enemies for no other reason than to keep them from dying.

"Time's up, Coppertop," KJZ-8267 said, "we've landed."

The droids escorted Coppertop out of the XT Beetle transport. A nearby Sheathipede shuttle deposited Asajj Ventress out onto Serenno; the Dark Acolyte had ridden in a different ship than the rest of the droids.

The other droids stayed behind as OOM-9 and Ventress went to deliver Coppertop to Dooku on their own.

It was a quiet, miserable walk through the halls of Dooku's palace. OOM-9 had successfully completed his mission, yet there was something very wrong with Coppertop. And OOM-9 knew this malfunction was going to reflect poorly on the droid army overall. There was nothing to be done about it though; it was out of OOM-9's hands, just as his defeat on Naboo had been.

They passed through the doors to Dooku's throne room.

"We have brought you the droid, my lord," Ventress said.

"Excellent. I knew I could count on you two to complete this task," Dooku spoke with his usual air of elegance.

OOM-9 started to speak, "Count, I regret to inform you that there is something wrong with the droid. He has apparently suffered a major malfunction. The droid has taken to calling himself 'Coppertop' now. We found him in the process of healing a wounded clone trooper on the battlefield of Bogoa. He claims to forsake all violence now, and seeks to heal the wounded, no matter which faction they belong to. Despite these troubling revelations, we have delivered him to you unaltered from the state we found him in."

"Noted, General. My technicians will take it from here."

"Yes, Count." OOM-9 nodded his head.

Coppertop was taken away by a pair of EG-5 Jedi Hunter droids. Resigned to whatever fate awaited him, Coppertop didn't resist, he merely followed the lead the EG-5 droid set for him, the other following behind him.

"If I may be so bold as to make a request," OOM-9 started to speak.

"You may."

"I would like to deal with the traitor's punishment myself when your technicians are finished with him."

"Considering your service and loyalty, General, I will grant you this request. Remain here on Serenno. I will send for you when I am finished with the droid."

"Thank you, Count."

"You are both dismissed."

Count Dooku allowed a small smirk to grace his face as Ventress and OOM-9 left his throne room. Dooku almost felt pity for OOM-9. The poor, simpering drone was so eager to follow orders, so eager to prove just what a mindless drone he really was. But that's what the battle droids were for.

It had only taken a few hours before the technicians were able to pry away what they needed from Coppertop. The results were delivered to Dooku. They were exactly what the Sith were hoping for. Unknown to OOM-9 and the others, it was Darth Sidious who had instructed his apprentice, Count Dooku, to perform an experiment to test how well a battle droid could disregard its primary programming. To Darth Sidious, battle droids and clone troopers were similar in nature. Both groups were nothing more than pre-programmed drones in his master plan. To the Sith, the experiment had been a success: Coppertop had proven that a conditioned individual could be prompted to engage in a course of action that conflicted with its primary programming. That assured Sidious that when Order 66 was issued, the clone troopers would turn against the Jedi commanders that they had been up programmed to obey up until that point.

It was nightfall when the two EG-5 Jedi Hunter droids delivered Coppertop to OOM-9 and the others, who were waiting by their XT Beetle transport outside of Dooku's palace. The two guards transferred select files to OOM-9 and the others regarding the findings of Dooku's technicians (though many pieces of critical information were missing). What was given to OOM-9 and the droids made it perfectly clear that Coppertop's choices were not a malfunction, a virus, some sort of Republic tampering, or Order 99 being issued incorrectly. Coppertop's actions were the result of his own free choices. Not caring about what was going to happen to Coppertop, the two EG-5 droids immediately turned back around towards the palace.

Coppertop merely stared at the other battle droids. He thought he was going to be scrapped back at Dooku's palace, but he didn't know what to expect now.

"I never thought I'd see the day when a battle droid would willingly and knowingly abandon his army," OOM-9 stated.

"I guess you were wrong, weren't you, General?" Coppertop said.

"I was. You abandoned your brothers. You abandoned your people. You threw it all away and went to help the enemy. You are a mockery of everything we stand for."

"Indeed I am. I do not stand for evil."

"We are not evil." OOM-9 wanted to walk right over and trash the droid for such a comment. "We are battle droids, created for the purpose of combat. We are not born into this galaxy fumbling about trying to find a meaningful existence like the organics do. We were manufactured for a specific purpose. And we all fulfill it to the best of our ability!"

"I have decided my own purpose."

"You seek to continue your purpose?" OOM-9 asked.

"I do. But I get the feeling you're not going to allow me to do that."

"Fight me. Defeat me in battle and you may leave Serenno."

Senior Commander EEK-176 handed OOM-9 a ZK-II war-axe with a violet edge. Commander TH-1066 handed Coppertop a ZK-II war-axe with a white-tipped edge. The two battle droids moved to make space for the two fighters.

"I will not fight you," Coppertop said.

"You will fight me." OOM-9 activated his war-axe, the purple edge glowing bright. "You will be destroyed if you do not."

"Even if it means my destruction, I still refuse."

"Think about it. If you defeat me, then you can leave… leave and go back to healing clone troopers if you want to. Or Separatist soldiers. Or pirates, civilians, terrorists… whatever you want."

"That would require me to destroy you. And I have forsaken violence. I have chosen my own path. You cannot force me. You have failed, General. I am who I choose to be. And nothing you do can change that." Coppertop tossed his weapon to the ground.

"… You will find that there are worse things than destruction."

KJZ-8267 approached OOM-9 and attached a shock projector to the general's right forearm.

B1 battle droids (and other B-series battle droids with the same frame) had gaps in their forearms, similar to the forearms of the skeletons of humans. Though many did not know it, the gaps were there for a reason: to allow arm-mounted weapons to be installed. There was enough space for a weapon to be mounted on the outer and inner side of the forearm. If a droid wanted to, they could have a total of four different forearm-mounted weapons if the situation called for it, in addition to any weapons they carried. Though it wasn't a common practice, OOM-9 and his elite droids rarely even used the weapon slots themselves. All too often an E-5 blaster rifle was all a battle droid ever needed. But OOM-9 had something special in mind this time.

OOM-9 thrust his left arm outward, pointing his axe at Coppertop. "Fight me, you coward!"

"I will not."

"Then you will pay the price for pacifism." OOM-9 shocked the other droid with his arm-mounted weapon. The power and ferocity of the attack forced Coppertop to his hands and knees.

"Are you ready to fight now?"

Smoke started to billow from Coppertop's heated frame. His cape had caught on fire. The poor droid struggled to stand back up. "I will not fight you."

OOM-9 shocked the pacifist droid again, the sparks forcing Coppertop to the ground once again.

"Fight me!"

"I… will… not…" the droid managed to squeak out.

"You will fight! It's what we were made for! You must! For the sake of your own self-preservation!" OOM-9 started shocking Coppertop again, only this time he didn't stop.

The droids present wirelessly conversed with each other through the network. They were frantic. OOM-9 didn't have a solution to fix Coppertop, none of them did. They worried that a memory wipe might not even be effective at this point. Coppertop had already done the impossible and committed treason. And a memory wipe seemed like too good a fate for a traitor.

OOM-9 eventually went with SSA-719's suggestion, the only possible course of action they had now: destroy Coppertop.

"Lift him to his feet!" OOM-9 gestured and SSA-719 and 3B3-888 grabbed the smoking droid from the ground and set him on his feet.

OOM-9 quickly walked over and beheaded Coppertop with a single slash to the neck. Coppertop's head clattered to the ground before coming to a rest. OOM-9 walked over and crushed the droid's skull with his metal foot. OOM-9 scraped his foot back and forth across the floor for a second, smearing the electrical innards in a gruesome display.

The droid general turned to a pair of nearby PK worker droids. "Clean this garbage up. I want it smelted down. No piece of this droid is to be used for spare parts."

SSA-719 stared at the smoldering wreckage that was once Coppertop. He wondered what caused the rogue battle droid to act the way he did. Just because he was freed from the network and unbound by combat protocols was no reason to turn around and instantly start helping the enemy. What made Coppertop so different from me? SSA-719 kept his musing out of the network, trying to think through the problem on his own. Then the answer dawned on him: it was personal experience. A decade ago, during the final battle for Naboo, SSA-719 was assigned to guard Nute Gunray. SSA-719 failed. He had been defeated and Gunray and Haako had been captured. Nute Gunray didn't care about him; SSA-719 was just another expendable drone in the eyes of the Trade Federation's Viceroy. It was after, on Raxus Prime that was the key. Zako and Katen had found SSA-719 and the others, fixed them up, upgraded them and then befriended them. Coppertop never had any friends. Coppertop, like so many other battle droids, didn't get to have friends. They were nothing but low-quality cannon fodder that was expected to be scrapped in battle. While most CIS droids were family to each other (with a few exceptions like the tactical droids and the MagnaGuards) they were often oppressed by cruel organic officers, like the Supreme Commander of the Droid Armies, General Grievous. Coppertop didn't have a reason to care about the CIS other than the network had ordered him to. That had to be the reason for Coppertop's actions once he was freed. SSA-719, like the other battle droids present, couldn't fathom that a battle droid would heal the injured and forsake violence because it was wrong. Violence wasn't wrong to battle droids, it was the entire reason for the existence.

SSA-719 voiced his musings to the others as they boarded the XT Beetle transport and took off. The reasoning made sense, but the droids realized they had a serious problem. Outside their bubble of the 8th Fleet, far too many battle droids lacked organic friends and had little at stake in the war. The gap of friendship between droids and organics was too wide. Something had to be done. They were going to need to change the treatment of droids in society… or they could end up with more traitors like Coppertop who couldn't make a distinction between a friendly organic and an enemy, who were so detached from the events of the galaxy that they could go around helping anyone without a second thought.

Author's Note: Coppertop and the planet Bogoa appeared in the comic The Only Good Clanker. For this chapter I took the story from The Only Good Clanker and swapped in OOM-9 as Ventress' partner in retrieving Coppertop and told the story from the Confederacy's perspective. Also, the CIS is successful in capturing Coppertop, where in The Only Good Clanker, they failed.

The EG-5 Jedi Hunter droids appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels.

The shock projector OOM-9 uses is based off of the droid shock arm from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. I called it a shock projector for this story because it would have sounded weird if a 'droid shock arm' was affixed to OOM-9's arm. As if they were attaching arms onto other arms or something. So, I just went with 'shock projector.'

I feel I should elaborate on Commander Zako being a bio-linked cyborg. The term comes from The New Essential Guide to Droids. Near the end of the book, there is a list of different kinds of cyborgs in Star Wars. There are prosthetic cyborgs, implant cyborgs, bio-linked cyborgs, rebuilt cyborgs, and symbiont cyborgs. Bio-linked cyborgs typically wear computer bands around their head that are plugged into their brains, giving them access to a wealth of data far beyond what organics could normally experience, but the interface often leaves the user uninterested in social contact. Bio-linked cyborgs can also be wirelessly linked to supercomputers, and would often act as liaisons between administrative staff and a central computer (as in the case of Lobot). Zako is a bit different than most, his cybernetic eye is plugged into his brain, and serves as his wireless link to the Separatist Droid Network. But his eye cannot store large amounts of data on its own; it relies on the SDN to pull up information. So if Zako goes out of range of the network or loses the connection some other way, he's basically little different from a normal human. If he does lose the connection to the network, his eye would still be able to function. He would still be able to see with it, project holographic images with it and project a beam of light, allowing him to use his eye as a flashlight. It is also worth noting that Zako is still interested in social interaction. This is partly due to his strong personality and the fact that he has to pull up the information from the network, he's not constantly being bombard with data stored directly in his cybernetic eye.