Beta: A huge thank you to Cariel for beta reading this for me! *glomps*
Disclaimer: Not mine. None of it.
Author's notes: This tale is not entirely accurate to canon and does bear influence from the novels. This tale also takes place during the events of Aftermath.
Cody's hands shook, but he did not allow himself to think about why. He knew it had to be done it was the only way. A coward always ran. He was no coward. The insignias that decorated his helmet and armour spoke of his courage. However, brave men never kill children or the innocent. Such lines were never crossed by men with honour, not even in war. If there was one thing General Kenobi had taught them, it was that.
Where did that leave him now? What did that make him?
Cody swallowed the bile and took another sloppy gulp from his bottle of Corellian spirits. All that remained now was liquid courage and the memories. The past never seemed brighter or more pleasant than it did now.
Rex had been right all along. They did have it easy with General Kenobi. Under his leadership, they were men, not cannon fodder, bound by morals and codes of conduct. The horrors they had experienced on the front during the war was nothing compared to what Lord Vader and the Empire demanded of them now.
Through bleary eyes, Cody could almost see the bodies of the dead against the walls of the war room, mother's and younglings, nameless faces whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. General Kenobi would never have made such demands of his men. It would never have crossed his mind. Everything that Obi-Wan was, Lord Vader was not.
Order 66 had broke many of the men. It was Order 37 that broke Commander Cody and his troops. Morale was at an all time low. Suicides were not uncommon neither was the rising addictions to spice, alcohol, and painkillers. They were falling apart at the seams. There was no end in sight. Even Commander Rex, ever stoic and blindly loyal, now had his vices: icoti and the strange rosary of teeth and beads that no one was supposed to know about.
Cody reached for the bottle and misjudged the distance, causing it to knock over. Crimson liquid spilled over the tactical table, droplets of red splashing against the floor and staining the durasteel.
Vader will be displeased.
The absurdity of it all made Cody laugh. The galaxy was falling apart and all he could think about was Anakin, Darth Vader's reaction to his intoxicated state. It was the blank stare of one of Cody's victims that he had exterminated during the village's raid that caused the harsh laughter to catch in his throat. The old crone's eyes watched him intently, just as she had when he had lined her up along with her family before the ditch they had been forced to dig. There had been no judgment, no hatred, only compassion and unspoken forgiveness.
When he grabbed her arm, there had been no cry of shock, no screams of fear. She held is gaze with a calm that was both inviting and unnerving. A sad smile crept into her features as Cody found himself helpless to look away.
'This is not your fault, child. None of it is.'
Cody never forgot her words and the weight they carried. She was the only one who knew the truth and he had killed her.
The days that followed were just a blur. Memories of the lifeless bodies of women and the elderly--living shields to the younglings who huddled beneath them--were drowned with Correllian spirits. They always surfaced with a vengeance along with the painful hangovers in the morning. By evening, it would repeat itself all over again, anything to silence the screams and to erase the invisible stares of their victims. But there would be no escaping the truth no matter how fast and far Cody ran.
Now they had been given a new mission. Lord Vader claimed it was a choice mission, one requiring the skill and leadership of only the finest. Rex later said that it had been a compliment disguised as a warning.
Cody could not bring himself to care, not anymore. He knew what was to come and knew what it would mean. It might have been a different planet, but it would be the same mission. They would unleash the same horrors, silence the same screams, and burn the bodies of the dead just as they had done before. He could go on as he had done before: bury the doubts beneath the platitudes of his training and the potent mix of Corellian spirits or he could face the dead with what little dignity he had left.
He was not so deluded to think that his actions would have any effect on the big picture. The cycle would continue; it always did. Cody could only hope that his final actions would buy their victims enough time to run.
His fingers fumbled as he cursed his drunken state. He hated himself most when he was like this, but it was the only escape left. The Clone Commander struggled to prepare the message he had intended to send earlier but could not because of interference. It was not entirely coherent but its meaning was clear.
With a deep sigh he pushed the send button and waited with baited breath for the encrypted message to reach the one suspect that they had been ordered to destroy. The message was promptly received and, as Cody hoped, no reply was given.
The time had finally come to complete what he had started.
The laser pistol felt solid, comforting, in his calloused hands. There was no guilt felt at his betrayal only liberation. A sense of peace poured over him. Cody knew that he was facing the end. The barrel of the blaster was cold and inviting as it pressed against his flushed temple. It was the first time since the execution of Order 66 that Cody felt certain about anything. The empty faces of the dead stared at him in silent agreement. It was better to face the truth in death than to live with the lies.
The laser pistol thrummed with life as a slow smile crept into Cody's features.
Now he was finally free.